Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Quit My Credit Cards...And Not Looking Back

In October I knew I had gone too far into debt with my credit cards. I had the classic signs; carrying a balance, struggling to pay off the debt, and struggling to not reach for my card at every possible opportunity.

I was addicted to credit. And I had to quit it before it decided to quit me.

My plan was to keep my cards out of reach and out of sight. So I started by sealing every credit card I own in an envelope. I kept it in my purse for 1 week. ..Just in case I needed them..

After that, the envelope went into the freezer (after a failed attempt to give it to someone-who threw it in a cupboard, like that'll stop me!), where it has been ever since. I took a giant leap of faith and made the first big step in my life to financial freedom.

I would love to tell you how much the debt was, but I will just say it was about 4 months worth of not caring how much or what I put on my cards. The hardest part was figuring out how I was going to pay off the debt, while still being able to eat and put gas in my car. My game plan was to cut off all excess spending-no mall, no pedis, no extracurricular 'activities' with friends-not until this debt was paid. I gave myself until the end of December; 3 months. I would use all of my 'extra' income from my side jobs to pay for food and gas and then every other penny I earned would go towards this irresponsible debt I had accumulated

I won't lie-I was scared. I had come to rely on having the money available when I needed it. All of a sudden I had to plan on when I could spend the little money I would have to make sure I managed it correctly. It was difficult at first. The first time I went grocery shopping I start shaking when I took out $100 cash and just 'gave it away'. I went home and started crying, thinking I was poor and would never feel the comfort of cash flow ever again. Once I recovered, I realized that it wasn't that bad. I had my first success; buying groceries for under $100! Usually I didn't care if I put a few extra things in my cart, but now I had a goal to ALWAYS be under $100 when I buy groceries and since then I've succeeded every time (without going more often!).

My next challenge was that first craving to spend. Those who love their plastic know what I'm talking about; going to the mall, getting an iced coffee and buying anything that you love! It took me until the end of November for it to get really bad. I mean, really, really bad. I was afraid to go into any store by myself because I thought I would buy excessive amounts of things I didn't need. The urge was strong! And I made smart decisions to avoid spending-I started reading to take my mind off things, I would go to the gym, or just stay home and bake (it was that time of year too!). I brought a 'chaperone' to the grocery store or anywhere else I went. And he knew that I was not allowed to buy things I didn't need-he made me stick to it! Looking back, I'm proud that I was able to avoid spending all my cash on crap I didn't want or need. But I also realized that it sucks when I can't just do what I think feels so right and normal..But it was only for a few months, and then I could have a 'mall budget'.

When I was alone and very tempted, I reminded myself of my goal. I reminded myself that I won't be starved of shopping forever, just until I corrected my finances and learned to manage my money better. For someone who was never taught the essential money management skills needed, this was going to be a learning experience.

In November I started reading a book called Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman. I will tell you right now that you need to read this book. 'Nuff said.

The book helped me to stay focused on my goal, and to look beyond this goal to reach others that I had in mind. Ditching my credit cards was the first step, this book helped me to decide what, when and where the others would fall into place. ..I would go further into detail, but this is an entirely separate post.

Another trick I used to manage the money I did have for expenses was the envelope system. I labeled an envelope for each expense; groceries, gas, going out. When I put cash in, or took cash out, I wrote it down. That way once I put my budgeted amount in, I could use any extra money for the going out envelope. Once all of that money was gone, I was done spending for the month. It is a system I will use in the future-it works and it helps me visualize my money leaving my pocket and going into someone else's.

Even though my balance is paid off, I still have frozen credit cards. I don't know if I'll ever unfreeze them, but I do know that if I do, I will have rules for me to follow with them. A few that I know I'll enforce are; don't carry my card on me all the time, have limits on what I can use the card for (no mall trips) and make sure that I can pay for everything I put on my plastic.

It seems like October was forever ago, but now when I check my account balances online, I smile because I know that a few months ago, I was dreading the numbers I saw, and now I can't wait to see my numbers grow in a [positive] way.

I rewarded myself for reaching my goal by spending ONLY money given to me for Christmas at the mall. I found I had a hard time spending all of it. :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Back and Ready to Write

Ok-6 months is a long time to take an unexpected hiatus from my blog. I would say I have excuses, like being too busy, getting distracted, or having something better to do..But honestly, I think I just decided one week I didn't want to write anything and left it at that.

So what happened all summer and fall while I was away?? I went to Chicago, I did 4 months of personal training and now I'm rockin' healthy (I mean...hot?), I discovered I love being a part of planning weddings, I changed my viewpoint on credit cards, saving vs. spending and got my money on track, I started two more very part-time jobs, I hosted Thanksgiving at my house and most recently, I have been sick on and off all fall. When I wasn't sick, I was exhausted. ...Needless to say I've been busy!

So here we are the day before Christmas Eve and I'm at work. And it's slow; slow = boring. But at the end of the day I get to go for my monthly massage, go to the gym, buy groceries for Christmas and wait while inches of snow falls from the sky while I'm cozied up in my house!

I think since this is more of a 'Hey, welcome back' post I'm going to celebrate it with a 'what I've learned' for the Year's End. If you don't care to listen to how wise I've become this year, then you can leave now. Thanks for stopping by! :)

First, reflecting on an entire year is a total chore! Think back to last January, do you know anything you learned last January? I'm sure you learned something, but do you remember that it was in January? Did you use it at all throughout the year? Probably not, so most of this will probably occur this summer or fall.. But I'll do my best!

So this year I went to Savannah with my Mom. We had so much fun! Throughout the rest of the year I had a lot of personal bonding moments with her, this mostly stemmed from the difficult year she had; her husband had 3 surgeries, one including a massive heart attack. But at Thanksgiving I realized that even though my Mom may not be perfect and send me gift packages and have great fashion style, she's still my Mom and we are so much alike. For the first time in my life, I'm happy that my mom and I are close and have so many of the same personality traits and qualities about us. I can't wait for the next Mother Daughter Trip!

At the beginning of this year I was very organized-One of the things I did was start tracking my student loans. Every quarter I calculated out how much principal vs. interest I paid and I figured out how long it will take me to pay off my loans. The $52,000 debt I started with at the beginning of the year is now under $48,500. Because of the increases in payments I made, and a little help from finaid.org, I will have all of my students loans paid off in about 6.5 years. That will be a total of 8 years to pay off a massive amount of debt that I HATE having to pay each month. For those of you who have less than this in debt to pay-consider yourselves lucky and pay as much as you can each month!

Speaking of Money, right around the time I ditched my blog I also started to carry a balance on my credit card...I KNOW!! It's awful! By October I had decided to take away all of my credit cards. After a failed attempt to have my boyfriend hide them from me (he put them in the cupboard...right in front of me), I decided to freeze them. Now, I can proudly say that after 3 months of being dead broke, and only having 2 withdrawal breakdowns, I have my debt paid off. I also have a wonderfully growing savings account for my new car because of my new sense of financial responsibility. As far as ever getting rights to those cards back....maabye when I travel, and they go right back in the freezer!

One of my biggest accomplishments for me this year is repairing and building my relationship with my sister. We don't get along because I disagree with so many decisions she made in the last 5 years. Because of that, and her great ability to be so stubborn, we were not even conversing for about 10 months-We didn't decide not to talk to each other, it was just we both knew it wouldn't end well if we did... But in July I discovered she had set a wedding date, to take place in Oregon, and I had a sudden fear that she might not want me there...Luckily, my fear was just paranoia, but it also showed me that my actions would have been responsible for it, had that happened. So conversing commenced and now we hold happy conversations, after her attempting to plan her wedding on her own, she took my offer of help to be her wedding planner and VOILA! Not only am I invited to the wedding, but without me there couldn't be a (fabulous) wedding! I sent tons of gifts and goodies to her family for Christmas and I can't wait to get out there next summer and give her a giant hug! I can be difficult when I disagree on something, but I'm glad that I will always have my sisters to put up with it! :)

I spent a third of my year with a personal trainer. The reason: my pants weren't fitting and I was seeing a small, but noticeable, tiny muffin top....uck! So instead of torturing myself by starvation, or thinking that I'm perfect the way I am, I enlisted for someone else to tell me what I need to do to keep my body healthy, happy and clean. It wasn't a complete torture fest, but I learned alot about muscle and its uncanny ability to burn calories and fat..and while I saw a large reduction in the waist over the 4 month period, I did not see much of a reduction in my hips and thighs...I was born with them and they are wonderful and it just takes the best pants to make others feel that way as well. :) Not to mention I lost 25% of what body fat I had and love how my clothes fit me, gained 6 pounds and no longer weigh myself. EVER. Exercise and Diet is the only way to lose weight (inches)and to feel great. I learned to accept the way my body chooses to be-when its slim and healthy.

So I have more jobs now..I'm babysitting for two families-this job I did for the extra money, it is still for the extra money. The other job is being a Speech Coach for a local high school Speech Team. I was in Discussion when I was in school and did very well. I miss it still and decided if I can find someone to hire me than I would do it. So far it has been a lot of fun! I mostly decided to take on these jobs, obviously for extra money, but also because I discovered there aren't alot of students that want to take private music lessons this year. I'm sure its more of a cost-saving measure, but it put a hamper on my budget so I had to accommodate to that. Side jobs are a great way to make some extra money!

This fall I also auditioned for a community band-of course, I am waay out of shape and didn't get into the band, but I did get on the sub-list....hopefully next year I can try again. I did notice that my right arm is still responding negatively to my clarinet. It's just more patience and work to be done before I'm 'healed'..

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Donating a Pint of O Positive

In college I donated blood a couple of times. Although, I tried about 4 times total. But I kept getting declined; my iron levels weren't up to their standards. So this time around, I was going to make sure my iron levels were top notch.

Most of you aren't aware of this, but last year I decided to attempt being a vegetarian. This worked and I enjoyed it, until I moved in with my meat-eating, picky-eater boyfriend. Since then I don't eat a lot of beef, but I'll enjoy chicken and every once in a while, venison.

In lieu of this diet, I decided the best way to boost my iron is to eat beef. And lots of it! I made hamburgers for dinner the night before I donated. And then the next morning I ate another hamburger a few hours before my appointment. Needless to say, my blood was a very dark red when they pricked my finger. And later on, my tummy was a little upset about all the beef-next time I'll stick to broccoli. :)

The last time I was able to donate blood everything went perfect, I hardly even bruised. I gave my blood, ate my cookie and went to class...Where I then became dizzy and had to leave and lay down for a while. That was about 4 years ago.

This day, was a little different. I never watch the needle go in, its bad enough being able to feel it! And shortly after I stopped flowing. The attendant was turning the needle to try and get it to flow again. All I could think about what that my vein collapsed and afterwards I would have a badly bruised painful arm. I was not enjoying myself at this point.

After a minute or so, the attendant fixed the needle-my vein had temporarily flattened! Once the blood started flowing again I thought my arm was going to collapse from the fast rush of blood into the bag. From then on everything went according to plan. Afterwards, I took my time to eat a few cookies and some chex mix then went on my way back to work. (mostly) Pain free and I didn't have to do anything but sit there for 12 minutes. :)

Donating blood doesn't take a very long time-the whole process lasted just under an hour for me-yet, only 5% of people donate in this country. 5%! 37% of Americans are eligible to donate, yet a majority of us don't.

Do you know if you're eligible? It's very easy to find out-if you haven't left the country, don't use drugs, haven't gotten a new tattoo in 12 months and don't have AIDS your pretty much eligible (some health conditions may prohibit you from donating).

Get out and DONATE today!! It's easy, you get free food afterward and it is a great way to give back to your community! So bring a friend and give it a try! Your local area has a donation center-just google it!

I know in 56 days I will be returning to donate another pint. :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Special K Challenge

Today I'm starting the Special K Challenge.

What it is: I replace two of my meals with the special k bars and cereal and add two snacks, special k brand, into my day. I eat my third meal as normal. I do this for 2 weeks. fruits and vegetables are ok to eat as additional snacks.

What it should accomplish: I should lose 6 lbs. and be able to jump start myself into healthier eating.

Ok, so I'm not a junk-food fanatic or anything like that..I'm more like a cheese, bread and overly processed food fanatic, lately.. I decided to do this challenge to get my discipline in order and get back on track.

keep in mind this is not a long-term weight loss solution and will require a change in diet and exercise after the challenge to prevent gaining the lost weight.

Before starting this diet I did a little googling to see what others said about it. Apparently, people were always hungry on this diet (too few calories?) and only lost an average of 4 lbs.

So while searching the grocery store for the products, I decided I was going to further personalize my challenge.

My Special K Challenge: Although the actual challenge provides a list of their specific brand to eat, when I looked at the nutrition labels I wasn't very excited.
-the 'snack protein bars' only had 1 gram of protein and not a lot of fiber.
This would explain why people were always hungry during the challenge. I opted to exchange the snack bars for other bars that had higher protein and fiber. In turn these also have less sugar and unnecessary filler in them.

-The 'meal bars' have a high amount of sugar.
I decided this was acceptable because it was sugar, and not high fructose corn syrup (don't believe the commercials!).

-I bought a lot of fruits and vegetables.
This will give me fiber and other nutrients I need in order to keep my body functioning at a high level while not feeling like I'm starving.

-I bought a multi-vitamin.
Although I should take this every day, I decided to start now, I'm concerned that the bars don't have the nutrients I need. Nutrients and fluids are what keeps our bodies alive, in addition to (not just) carbs and protein.

My Goals: As far as weight loss, I'm hoping to lose about 3 lbs. I'm going to continue to be as active as I normally would be and I'm not going to allow myself to starve (hence the fruits and vegetables). After the challenge I want to be able to have more discipline in choosing foods that are good for me as opposed to foods my brain craves.

I'll keep everyone posted on my progress.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When is Enough Really Enough?

I keep telling myself, "Stop planning, stop thinking you don't have enough to do..."

But I can't help it. I'm whelmed on most days and yesterday I was overwhelmed. Just driving home without feeling the walls around me crash down was difficult. Every red light I had to wait at was torture. I just wanted to crawl into bed and relinquish my control over the my little, busy world.

And then I remembered that I've felt this before. During college. During that time in my life, I experienced several moments where life was just a little too much for me.

So here I am again, spread just a little too thin and ready to make a change in this progression towards collapse.

I realized it a little over a week ago, no matter what is going on with my life I always think I can make room for something else to do.

I keep thinking that I am capable of going to work 45 hours a week, babysitting every other weekend, cleaning my house (regularly), practicing my clarinet, going to the gym 4 times a week, getting enough sleep, socializing with friends (who stay up late!), update my blog and then finding time for myself...much less time for my significant other and I to get 'personal'. This has left me exhausted! Since last week I've decided to start going to the gym in the morning to meet my 'goal'. I'm over tired from getting up that early. I also decided to cut back on caffeine, this whole week I've been a crabby mess. And the really unfortunate part, is that I haven't socialized; I've become a hermit and I think its effecting my socializing skills.

I know there are people that are okay with this kind of 'stress' and constantly having something to do. I honestly do thrive on it, when it isn't too much, but this! This is too much.

It's time to take back the control in my life, I can't allow myself to keep overwhelming my schedule just because I can.

But where do I begin? Honestly, any activities that provide income need to stay. Exercise and socializing need to stay. I need to keep my house clean...Give up my blog?? It doesn't really consume that much time, and I usually post on the fly. I never put a decent amount of research into anything I post(I'm just that smart??). I haven't even managed to find decent time for my clarinet....or my significant other..

oh, woe is me. Maybe it was the caffeine withdrawal and exhaustion. Maybe I'm not really that busy, more like I'm unable to relax when I can.

We'll see how I manage. Right now Saturday is completely open, I think I'll make a start by keeping it that way.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Job Hopping isn't Always Good

I am 22 years old, two years out of college and almost arriving at my 2 year at my current job. As I read about how unique and original my generation is, I find it disconcerting. We are supposed to be unique and original, yet we are all following similar paths to one another. Maybe its time to not follow the 'trend'...

Gen-Y started a trend. They started to job hop about every 18 months. Then Everyone who enjoys Gen-Y said, "This is different." "This is the new norm."

I beg to differ. I haven't job hopped, and although I have thought about it and sent out a few applications here and there, I'm still at my current job. And I honestly plan to be here for a while. Maybe you should consider staying put yourself. Let me explain why:

1. Staying at your first job for a substantial length in time can give you experience, and portray on your resume that you do want to find a company that you can see a future in.

One of the reasons the company hired me and I 'hired' the company was because they wanted someone that can grow with the company and I wanted a company that can give me the hours, pay and benefits that I wanted. More recently, I discovered that my resume can continue to grow and provide substantial experience if I stay at the company.

2. Job-hopping does not provide stability.

In our twenties, no one can be sure they know exactly what they want in a career. This is why job-hopping may be good for you. Job-hopping may allow you to 'gain experience' in several different areas, but it doesn't necessarily provide stability like some may say. For example; you left a company that was growing, but wasn't quite big enough to give you the opportunities you needed, so you left. You went to a company that was able to provide what you needed, but given the economy they were suffering. Suffering to the point of needing to lay off some of their 'extra' employees. Being the newbie, that most likely means you. Now you don't have a job, or stability.

3. Investing in a company makes the company want to invest in you.

Staying with a company for more than 2-4 years shows the company that you are invested in them. You work hard their the companies success, which in turn provides you success. With this hard work and returned success, you get reward. Staying with the company provides you the opportunity to ask for the raise, or the promotion. Or even to ask the company if they can meet your career goals, if they want to invest in you, they will do everything in their power to meet those goals. Though you have worked for everything you've gained, you also didn't have to send out applications and go through the interview process to get to where you want to be.

4. Over time, it will pay off or you will leave.

Although I don't think consistent job-hopping is 'healthy' for your career, I do understand that it has to be done. But I think it is absolutely necessary for a person to do the best they can to find a company worth investing in. If it turns out that two years later, it just doesn't work out-then changing jobs would be worth your time. It is selfish and immoral to think that once a job runs dry on experience and your 'growth' flat lines that its time to move on. Consider the possibility: When you interview for a job, you should have your long-term and short-term career goals in mind. Don't take a job with a company that you know won't be able to provide what you need to accomplish your goals. Not only would it be a waste of time and money for the company, it takes away time you could've used to pursue your goals faster and more efficiently. If gaining experience is your goal, be a contractor. If you want to be promoted to Snr. Manager, you need to stick around long enough to get the reputation you need to be promoted or hired to that position. If you don't want to be promoted, and have experience under your belt, find a company that will pay off.

Now, I could ramble on about work ethic and commitment to a bigger cause than your career in terms of staying with a company, but I do believe that is outdated. I do believe that job-hopping doesn't necessarily mean you have a weak work ethic. It is absurd for anyone to think that we go to work everyday and think, "Today I'm going to serve a greater purpose than crossing off my to-do list and keeping my boss happy." It just doesn't happen.

Recently, I did ask my company if they can meet my career goals. I work in an office that doesn't have ladders to climb or departments to rotate through. Our job openings are few and far between. I know they can't meet my goals unless a certain position opens up, but I was told that they would do everything they could to provide the experience I want. Of course, if it turns out that isn't enough and I can't wait for that job-opening, than leaving will become more of an option.

So, without job-hopping, I have a stable, growing career with a company that agrees with my ethics and morals AND they want to invest in me. By them telling me they would do everything they could to allow me to continue to grow, I know they want to make an investment in me. In return, I will continue to invest my time, energy and work ethic into them.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why the SpongeBob/Burger King Ad is Wrong

I saw this last night while watching South Park, which is not necessarily the best kids show in the world. I couldn't believe what I saw. If you haven't seen it, you must. Here is a link to YouTube, after you're done watching it, come back and finish reading this post.


First off, I like SpongeBob SquarePants. I used to watch it with my nephew when both of us were younger. But I wouldn't say it was the best show for kids. It has some fowl ideas in it; like the fact that the starfish is so absolutely dumb it makes me feel fumb watching him. But its ok entertainment.

Burger King, isn't somewhere I would go to get a healthy meal, but I never thought the company would make an advertisement so disgusting that is aimed right to kids. I know, I know, "Parents are so over-protective, why do they have to be so paranoid?" But over-protection and paranoia is not the point here. The point is that these companies are advertising sex appeal, de-humanizing the woman body and are trying to sell kids' meals while doing it. I could just imagine my 10 year-old nephew starting to sing this song after seeing it and then wanting to go get nasty Burger King food while doing it.

Think about it, and watch the commercial again if you need to; the men on the show consist of ugly weirdos looking at butts, a king costume and cartoons. The women are dressed in tight 'sexy' clothes with 'squares' on their rear ends dancing around and shaking their 'thang'. At one point the king measures a woman's square rear end. This isn't appropriate for anyone, let alone kids.

On top of this, if you remember the original video and song, you know it starts out with two girls bashing a girl for having a huge rear end (i.e. self-esteem issues ladies!) and then you hear this rapper talking about how he loves to have sex with women who have big rear ends. And not just a single woman, but ANY women. Now, I'm not religious or very conservative, I have had more than one partner, but advertising that having sex with anyone isn't very positive for kids. And it isn't very positive for little girls to already be thinking about how their bodies look.

This commercial is wrong because it is teaching boys to fantasize about the female body and not appreciate her personality. It teaches girls to be conscientious about their body and can cause self-esteem issues. This commercial is wrong because it teaches kids under the age of twelve that sex is okay, a woman doesn't deserve respect and that nasty, fried food is good for you.

Burger King and SpongeBob SquarePants should be ashamed of their actions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

LinkedIn; Really In or Really Not?

A few months ago I opened an account with LinkedIn. I had never heard of it before that day, in fact I only found it because my friend had mentioned it.

And now, today, I realize that I should probably delete the account or actually use it. I logged on, delved into my curiosity and did a few searches to see what I thought about it. In my journey of discovery I decided that this site could be extremely useful to me. On the site, I'm given the opportunity to basically post my resume for anyone to see it. People and companies can search for me (or anyone with a few key characteristics) and I can look at companies, job openings and specific people. Why didn't anyone think of this before?

There are a few drawbacks to it; In order for a member to see all of the search results, or give more than a handful of requests, one has to pay for it (oh man!). For a site that I'm just getting my feet wet with, I don't think I really want to pay for it-I do have a budget!

And I think this is also a good time to point out the social media aspect of it; I think it could go too far. The site is for connecting on a business level. There are no walls to post on, I can't upload a gazillion pictures or create a crazy background on my page. In fact, the information that I can include on my page is limited to essentially what my resume has on it and a few paragraphs about myself. Even though there is a section for you to post your presentations and the projects you are currently working on, it isn't a place for you to write about how terrible you think politics are, or how you're completely stressed out about work and just want to spend the day at home.

I know, right now you are thinking that I have no idea what I'm talking about, but trust me. This blog, when discussing topics such as LinkedIn and how to make a boring day interesting, is social media. But when I blog about how I have no time to blog and I'm doing nothing but making excuses and apologies, is not social media. That is more like a way for me to discuss my personal thoughts and ideas. Don't confuse the two. Blogger.com is for social media, livejournal.com is for personal thoughts and ideas, just for a comparison example.

So let's look back at LinkedIn with social media. Is networking comparable to social media? They are close, but not one-in-the-same. A network allows people to connect and share resources and information, while social media is the act and ability through technology of creating the content of information that allows people to interact with it. I know, you're confused. So let's go over this again in short-hand.

Social Media; the act and ability through technology to create content.
Networking; Allowing people to connect and share resources and information.
LinkedIn: A site that allows people to connect and share information.

This doesn't mean that through networking you are able to find a blog and therefore share social media with a connection on LinkedIn. Don't get me wrong, the two can go together like pie and ice cream, but they are completely separate (like pie is different from ice cream).

In the end, LinkedIn is useful, but not for pouring your heart out or trying to tell a large number of people why you think LinkedIn is useful.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Money, recital and more working...

My 'nonexistence' on my blog has a reason-for those that have read it, I apologize. As usual, I have been too busy for my own good. But change is coming quickly, well, not quickly enough.

In 6 weeks my life will seem to be less busy, I hope. I have a lot of events and ideas being planned right now, and once May comes most, if not all, of these ideas will have unfolded.

First: My first student recital. Since I've never done this before I'm doing everything from scratch, except for the teaching portion. But I've managed to keep my budget low! My accompanist is only $20/student, which brings the total under $100. I decided to create my own invites, flyers and programs for the production. However, I splurged on the invites and had them printed on super awesome paper! I don't know if this will make a drastic difference, but what the heck, why not? That means I will have to be creative when it comes to the program. The flyers will not be an issue, they're flyers. They can be cheap! The only other purchase I should have to make for this event is the beverage for the reception. My students are going to be asked to bring cookies, brownies and cupcakes. What? I can't bake that much AND host a recital! It is happening at a retirement home, so the audience is pretty much already provided, and family will be there of course!

After the recital has passed, I will post about what I could have done better and changes I'll make for next year!

Second: I have *another* job. :) My cash flow is not where I would like it so I searched for a month or more for another job. And I found it! It is very part-time, every other weekend. I will be babysitting two adorable little kids and the family's two dogs. I'm very excited about this, especially since bedtime is early so I can do other things, like working on some blog articles, or reading..You know, a little work, a little relaxing :).

Third: I've been crunching numbers on my budget. I'm determined to be able to save $600/month in order to buy an awesome car next summer. With this new job, that will be possible. In order to live more comfortably, I am trying to get 2-4 students for the summer as well, I think this might be more of a challenge!

In other news...

I'm going to my Alma Mater's Jazz Fest next month! Go JAZZ!
My grandparents have their 50th Wedding Anniversary next month!
AND!! I'm planning my first trip to Vegas. That will take place in June.

Easter is also coming up quick, but not as quick as Spring which officially starts TOMORROW!!

I've already worn a skirt this year and my white, pasty legs have already recieved comments about how awesome they look (must be from all the running I did this winter).

So-so news:
I tried to play my clarinet, and ended up playing a little too much. I stressed my arms. This was two weeks ago, and they are still a little sore and tight. So I've been avoiding typing. Then last week I pulled some muscles in my shoulder and that has been tremendously annoying and painful.

Now do you get why I haven't been posting...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Does $25 Really Make A Difference

I was discussing with my lovely housemate the other day about getting rid of cable for the summer. He works a lot because its his busy time and I plan on being too busy for my own good. After talking about how much cable actually costs, it would only save about $25 for each of us. So then we started asking ourselves if that was even worth the savings. In the end we decided it wasn't.

Please, keep in mind that we have not been hugely effected by the recession. We both have our jobs and the hours and pay have remained the same as it was pre-recession. The things we have noticed that are effecting us is how expensive groceries are and the prices at our favorites restaurants have gone up a little. Even most of our friends still have their jobs and aren't largely effected by the recession. To us, convenience is still worth the extra $25 a month.

Don't get me wrong, even though we haven't really been effected, my budget is still be squeezed for every last penny I can find. The reason; financial goals and student loan debt. My housemate is also trying to cut back in order to try and save more.
I have to pose the questions:
"How do you manage your budget in a recession?"
"What amount is too much?"
"How do I control my habit to shop?"
Let's start with the second question just for humor. When it comes to cable TV, the extra $25 a month for it is worth it. When it comes to pants, $25 more is a ton of extra money. No way will I buy those! But if they cost a total of $25, that's a steal. $25 to fill my gas tank is a little on the spendy side but $25 for a week worth of healthy groceries is amazing. It all depends on what you are buying and how long it will be around.

The third question is difficult. In fact, right now I don't have an answer because this is something I am struggling with tremendously. Great example: Online shopping, if I look at clothes online, I have more desire to go to the store and buy it. Temptation is ridiculous. When I was younger, I was never able to go shopping unless school was starting soon. Could this be what fuels my weakness?? Who knows. But I do know that I have a few keys things to save when I do shop; Although I look online, I don't buy online (very often), I go to the clearance racks first and try things on, then browse the store (most of the time). This way I can see what will be on sale in the future. If I really don't want to spend money, I try to bring my housemate with me(rarely does he want to go). He always keeps me from spending money-because he never buys anything at the mall. EVER.

The first question; the whopper question. Honestly, the only way to effectively manage your budget is to track it, establish your limits on spending, auto-deduct part of your paycheck to your savings and stick to it! Its hard to follow a budget if you don't have one. So get one. Every month check your figures and make sure they are accurate. Excel is amazing, learn to love it.

In all honesty, you should pay me $25 for this advise. After all, it will make a difference in your life long-term. *wink wink*

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Student Loan Debt:: Not as Scary as You Might Think

Dmitri Martin is hilarious. If you have yet to see him on Comedy Central on Wednesdays, please, do it as soon as possible.

Ok, back to the subject at hand; What would you do if you had so many student loans, you didn't know where they were all taken out and what the amounts were? Last night while talking at the bar with a few friends, one of my dear friends found out she wasn't paying a student loan and it went to collection, she didn't even knew she had it. She also began to explain that she had about twelve different loans and she doesn't even know where to send money to pay them all. Something about a lack of organization and structure in her life..

This posed a very interesting question; Would it be easier for her to ask her parents to take out a personal loan for the full amount of her student loans and she would pay them back? Or should she suck it up, get organized and pay them individually?

While those options are a possibility, here are a few of the solutions we came up with:

1. First and foremost, figure out where all your loans are from, minimum payments, balances and interest rates.
2. Check your credit ASAP (she had a collection agency call her-there could be more in the future).
3. Once you have all of the information, figure out the interest rate you need to have in order to break even or save money. This is essential when it comes to consolidating. *shown below
4. If her parents agree to her idea, go ahead with it. But be sure to keep one or two loans in her name to help her build credit.
5. If parents say no, look into other options. Like...
a. Consolidate loans that are private, consolidate government loans, consolidate personal loans (keeping in mind the interest you need to reach). This will downsize the number of loans she has.
6. If nothing else works, hire an assistant to track your expenses and pay your bills. :)

Point blank; if you have loans out that you don't have organized, get organized. Find a friend that is great at it and have him/her help you out. Information is power, and knowing everything about your loans and what loans would work best for you are essential to saving money in your future.

Although my friend isn't organized and admittedly says she can't keep track of multiple payments each month, its something she has to do better at.

If you aren't sure how to figure out what interest rate you need to save money when consolidating here is how in shorthand:

Principal Amount X % = $$ (Do this for each loan)
Add up $$ for each loan
Now, add up the principal for all of your loans.
$$/Principal= % needed to break even/save money.

Here is an example:
3 Loans;
8,000 @ 5.5%
5,000 @ 6.0%
10,000 @ 6.0 %

$8,000 X 5.5 = $440
$5,000 X 6.0 = $300
$10,000 X 6.0 = $600

600 + 300 + 440= 1340

8000+5000+10000 =23000

1340/23000 = 5.82 %

This is not that difficult. Especially if you have a calculator.

Now block off some time to sit down, look at all of your loans and your credit and figure out if you can save more money on your giant pile of debt obtained through getting a degree.

Once you have that figured out, open Excel and start to track it. Track your payments, how much principal you pay and how much your interest rate fluctuates (if it does). Tracking your loan can help you see how much you really do pay each month (and year) and give you a motivational boost to pay more than the minimum amount (as long as there isn't a penalty).

As for my friend, well, I'll get working on her sooner or later. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Evil Culprit of Technologies: Overuse Syndrome

Over-Use Syndrome, Tendinitis, Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel.

All of these things entail one thing; Your tendons are swollen and typing or mousing is the most painful experience in the world! Have you experienced this? It usually starts with your fingers or wrists becoming fatigued and sore, your hands get cold and possibly even numb sometimes.

Being diagnosed with any of these can be catastrophic for anyone who spends a significant amount of time on the computer, lifting boxes or heavy objects, cooking or anything that requires strength and force from your lower arms.

As a musician, it can ruin a career. In fact, it did (yours truly), it has to many and it will to many more. For office workers, it creates a challenge just to get through that one email that needs to be sent out.

When I first was told I had tendinitis, I figured it only applied to painting walls. I was so wrong. Once my senior year of college started, it came back ten times worse. My busy schedule of writing papers, taking notes and most important; preparing my Senior Recital came to a stop. I struggled not only with this terrible condition but I also suffered the worst cold in my life; it came back 4 times. I was left in bed for days and my work piled up. 'Catching Up' required coaxing my friends into typing my papers as I told them what to type, I struggled with my Clarinet Professor to convince him that practicing at rehearsal and for my recital was impossible. I tried and tried and tried for 5 weeks to manage my life. I began to think that I wouldn't be able to graduate.

I had to sacrifice so much; blogging, carrying my books to school (even on the shoulder; everything made it worse), lifting weights, I even had to drop out of the several performance groups I was in. I felt betrayed by my professors and peers. No one believed I actually had this much pain in so much of my daily activities. I kept pushing myself, I didn't want to stay in college another year and I certainly didn't want to let anyone down, especially myself.

I did go to the Doctor several times. Each time they told me to rest my arms and take advil to keep the swelling down. So I tried as much as possible. It didn't work.

In the end (which isn't the end), I did graduate but not before I ruined my reputation for being a hard working, talented musician.

Since leaving College in May 2007, I've seen a physical therapist for 10 months, A specialist for 4 months, I've had EMG's and MRI's done, I've seen an Orthopedic Dr., had cortisone shots and have spend countless hours in pain and hopelessness on overcoming this. Although I have made significant progress; at work I no longer need breaks from the computer, I can do minimal weight lifting and can practice my clarinet an hour a week (in College I would play an average of 6 hours a day!), I still can't beat this condition.

Managing the pain and swelling finally became possible last summer when I started seeing a Chiropractor and a Massage Therapist. Since then I have built strength and I fully believe I can overcome this.
It's been 2.5 years since this started. I have sacrificed a career in music, my confidence has faltered and simple things like opening a jar of pickles was impossible at one point in my adult life.

No one should have to go through this, yet so few people are aware of the symptoms and warning signs to the onset of this condition. And they certainly don't know how to avoid developing any one of the conditions listed above either. So here is some advice for those willing to take it;

Take breaks from your computer; for every 45 minutes take at least 5 minutes away.
Lift Weights on a regular basis. Keep your shoulders, upper and lower arms strong.
Use a stress ball to strengthen your fingers and hands.
Keep great posture; pull your shoulders back, keep your neck straight (not hunched) and keep your wrists straight when your at the computer; if they are bent it causes stress on the tendons.
Stretch your arms, shoulders and wrists. Its ok if it feels stiff, just do it everyday.
If you start to feel tired or sore, take a few moments and do something else, like a short walk. Don't work through the pain, even if you take advil.

I can't guarantee that following these recommendations will completely take the risk out for developing a condition, but it will certainly help. Our bodies weren't made to sit at a computer all day and we certainly weren't made for typing the way we do. Keep yourself healthy and your work will continue to get done without the added stress of pain in your hands, wrist or arms.

Like I said, it completely changed my life. At one point I thought my life would be miserable forever. But I have persevered, and will continue to do so until its gone.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Live As An Admin is Not Always About Work

I have to admit, when I decided to do this blog, I didn't put a lot of thought into the specifics of the purpose of the blog. I knew I wanted to help other beginning Admins to adjust and advance their career. But what I didn't realize was that an Admin lives and breaths what his/her job is all about.

I love doing my job because I take care of the details, as well as the big projects (like a Christmas Party). I enjoy doing all of this at home as well. So even if I'm not organizing my office paperwork at home, I am organizing my personal bills, recipes, and to-do lists at home. I don't stop organizing and planning and doing things once I go home because I love doing those sorts of things.

The life of an admin is about their entire life, not just at work.
So where does this leave my newly found and mostly ignored blog?

I'm tweaking it a little bit, instead of focusing on just admin at work, I will also incorporate admin at home and tips and tricks of an organized admin.

I'm hoping this will not only make this blog more accessible to more people, but also get me into writing more often and about more interesting things. So please, if you read this blog and like what you see, let me know! Comments are excellent and then I know I will be going in the right direction; helping you!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sometimes all you need is to cook

Why do people cook? Why do people buy unprepared food and prepare them to eat?

This is simple. Food is awesome! And if you eat the right kind of food, its even better! Food is necessary for us to function properly, just like sleep. Not eating properly will not only show in your physical appearance but will also show with your attitude, energy and ability to work for long periods of time.

Here is a day's worth of food, it is all easy to prepare and enjoyable to eat!

Breakfast: (5 minutes)
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 Cup fresh strawberries, washed trimmed and sliced
1 cup yogurt
Place in bowl and eat. (if you want to buy frozen fruit, heat it in the microwave for 25 seconds then put yogurt on top of it, the warmth of the fruit will mix excellent with the yogurt.

Take on the go: Put in plastic container and take to work to eat there. Either way, eat it.

Lunch: (w/cooked chix; 5 min, w/o cooked chix, 35 min)
1 1/2 cups green lettuce (I recommend dark green lettuce, it has more nutrients)
1/2 cup baby tomatoes
6 slices of cucumber, with skin
4-5 ounces chicken (this will need to be prepared before hand)
1/4 cup croutons (or more if you like a good crunch in every bite)
2 Tablespoons of your favorite dressing

If the chicken is also pre-cut in bite-sized chunks even better. Throw it together, drizzle with your dressing right before you eat it. This always leaves me very satisfied and it is healthy as long as you keep the salad dressing to a minimum. (also, you can add or sub any of these ingredients to make a filling healthy salad)

Popcorn mini bags!

Dinner: (20 min)
4-8 Ounces of linguine pasta (if you want leftovers, you can use any kind of pasta you have)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 lb. Asparagus, cut in 1-inch length pieces
1 cup baby tomatoes, cut in half
3 ounces Feta cheese

Your favorite garlic or cheesy bread.

Cook pasta according to packaging. Drain and place back in pot. In the meantime heat oil over medium heat. Once heated, add garlic clove and cook for 2-3 minutes (do not burn). Add Asparagus and cook 3-5 min; until soft but a little crunchy. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Add pasta and heat together. Crumble feta cheese on top of dish. Serve.

Dessert: (15 min, plus 2 hours to chill in fridge) (to eat, 5 minutes)
1 box of no-bake cheesecake
fresh blueberries and blackberries (or your favorite)
Hershey's dark chocolate syrup (the kind used for ice cream)

Prepare cheesecake according to packaging. Place muffin wrappers in a muffin tin. Press the cheesecake crumble into the bottom of each muffin wrapper, then fill with cheesecake mix. Refigerate for 2 hours. Before you eat; ddd a few of each kind of fruit on top and drizzle chocolate syrup over the top. Eat. Makes 18-24 cheesecake muffins-so share with friends.

The best part about a day's worth of food is that it can all be bought in the grocery store for under $40. The salad ingredients will last you 3-5 days, the breakfast (depending how much you buy) will last 5 days. Dinner depends on how much you make, I wouldn't make more than 3 days worth.

This is an excellent way to save money and still eat healthy. The next time you are in the grocery and reach for the frozen meals, not sure what its really going to taste like, just remember that it only takes one google search to find the perfect food for your body, brain and wallet!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why my blog currently sucks!

So I started this blog thinking that I needed to start writing more. This I hoped would lead to thinking more and being more motivated in my professional growth. I also hoped this blog would inspire me.

I think my timing is bad.

So far I've had this post for several weeks, yet I barely have 5 decent entries.

My timing is certainly bad.

It isn't that I don't have anything to write about and it isn't that I'm unmotivated or not interested in continuing this blog. I just don't have time right now. Very key sentence.

I just don't have time right now.
Well, any determined person would tell me to make time. And I agree. I can make time for the gym, for sleeping, for seeing friends. So why can't I make time for this blog?

Well, instead of rambling off my excuses I'll explain something. Time is like money. You can only budget so many different things before you realize you don't have enough money for everything.
Here's an example. Say you have $5 and you were in a candy store. Now say you wanted to try 6 things, and you really really wanted to try all of them. They all looked enticing and delicious. But here's the catch, each thing or piece of candy is $1. You have to spend at least $1 on each piece. So you have to pick and choose. You can't have it all.
Another example. Your in an art gallery and you only have 30 minutes. There are 4 exhibits, each takes 10 minutes. Since you absolutely love all the exhibits and you want to check them all out, you either have to speed through all of them and not really enjoy any of the exhibits or you have to pick which three you will go to and thoroughly enjoy instead.

This is the dilemna I'm having. Only this isn't just applying to my blog. This also applies to my entire life. Even though I want to go to the gym 4 days a week I settle for at least 3 days and hope I find time for another day somewhere. I want to start practicing my clarinet several times a week but time doesn't really permit me to. I would love, absolutely love to get eight hours of sleep a night. That NEVER happens. Last night I got five hours. Five hours! And I still didn't get everything done.

So back to the subject at hand, I'm not trying to make my blog suck. The stresses of everyday life are overwhelming at the moment and as soon as I figure out a better routine for my life, my posts will either remain in my head or be very short and maybe not that great.

I've heard the phrase 'patience is a virtue'. Which it honestly is. Keep this in mind when it comes to this blog. Some of the greatest things in life take the longest to accomplish. :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Creating My Brand

I have a brand. It sounds odd and maybe a little more complicated than I'd like, but a brand is a brand. I didn't actually 'brand' my body. I also didn't create a 'name brand' for myself. I created a fabulous reason why I am essential to any office that is looking to hire an Executive Assistant.

For the last few months I've been reading a forum called Brazen Careerist. This is where I first heard of branding oneself. I thought it was strange and in no way applied to me. I'm not an entrepreneur, or self-employed (entirely). So why would I need to brand myself? Why would anyone need to brand themselves if they don't fall into the two above stated categories?

I discovered what my brand is yesterday afternoon after looking at some job postings (this is what I do in my spare time) and it just clicked. In order to become an Exec. Admin, within the next few years, I needed to give employers a good reason to hire someone who is young, slightly inexperienced, not necessarily polished in professionalism and a little quirky at times. My brand was going to do just that.

My brand takes any characteristics about me that might be negative and turned into a positive:

I'm a young administrative professional. I do not necessarily have extensive skills or knowledge in my profession, and I'm not seasoned in what we assistants do in our offices all day. But I'm up to date with what companies are looking for. I have a 'I'll figure it out if I don't know' attitude and I'm part of the generation that is leading business into a new decade. I'm self sufficient and ready to learn at my fullest potential. These are the qualities to look for an an Executive Assistant, proficiency tests are outdated, loyalty to a company doesn't add any value to a resume. If you want confidence, creativity and enthusiasm in an Executive Assistant, then look towards the younger generation. Look towards me.

Honestly, I'm not sure if this is what Brazen would call a 'brand'. Of all the posts on the site talking about 'creating your brand', I have yet to see anyone's example.

If, in a brand, we are supposed to present ourselves as our brand, I would say my brand would be presented with hair down and slightly styled, wearing a nice fitting black suit and a bright colored shirt underneath to standout. (Since I'm female) My makeup would not stand out in anyway and carry natural hues that highlight the best parts of my face, no lipstick. I'm a chap stick sort of girl. Pointy black shoes would meet the hem of my suit pants and flatter me well, no high waters. Upon greeting anyone I would offer confidence, lean into a handshake with a genuine smile. From there would begin the conversation. I would be well spoken and direct, but also add some humor and provide insightful, genuine information about myself.

Is that closer? Of course, during the conversation I would pursue why I'm perfect for the job. And that would relate back to my brand.

In the end, I think a brand is more for personal purposes. Now that I've discovered my brand, I will be able to focus myself in job interviews, and as my career grows. I don't ever see myself pitching my brand to an employer or any other professional that I would meet with. Knowing what my brand is will reflect in my personality, persistence and professionalism.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Three Important Functions to Everyday Survival

Every morning when I get to work at a bright and early time of 7:15, I do three things.

First, I must have food. Food, obviously, is my most important task. Without food I get crabby and when I get crabby, I suck at my overtly easy job. I also believe food is what can make or break a day. If I skip breakfast (which really is THE most important meal of the day), I tend to ‘graze’ on junk all day and not get anything done. So eat breakfast. I usually eat something light, like fruit. Today I have a craving for eggs and hash browns, but I don’t have time for that.

Then, as my computer loads my inbox and I log in to every application I will need for the day I check my bank accounts. I’m not entirely sure why I still check this so frequently. When I first moved out on my own after college I was paranoid that I would run out of money. I think checking it once a day isn’t as bad as then, back then I was checking it multiple times a day (the balance never changed either). I’ve learned through my parents that money is very important when it comes to certain things. When I was younger, we never had the extra money to go to the mall. Now, I create a budget for doing just that. If I didn’t know that I had enough money for all of my bills and everything else I wanted to do, I would be punching my panic button in hopes for an emergency rescue. I’m not a fan of being poor, so I don’t intend on being that way.

The third thing I do, I put lotion on my hands. It keeps me feeling womanly; every girl has to embrace it some way. This is one simple way I do. (Pedicures are amazing for this as well)

One thing I avoid trying to do everyday is drink coffee. Caffeine can have two side effects; I am motivated and energized to get stuff done, or I become frustrated, crabby and shaky. So, unless my head is nodding, I don’t drink coffee. Diet coke is my weakness after 10 am.

I do not choose this because I think it will stunt my growth, I do it because without coffee I feel more energized and relaxed about stressful situations. I don't 'crash' in the afternoon and need to run to the break room to grab more caffeine. I don't need coffee, or caffeine for everyday survival.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a routine girl. I live by doing everyday things a certain way. I believe a routine shows capability to be un-routine. It shows responsibility. It does not show personality or creativity. That is what the rest of your life is for. If you don't believe me consider this: During the holidays I have more time off work and I have more personal plans to attend to. During this time, my routine is thrown off course. Which, I enjoyed the break and it was very easy to do. Now that I am back at work and back into my routine, I'm having a difficult time putting it back in place. It's been three days and I still can't fall asleep early enough, I haven't gone to the gym and I've been napping every night after work (because I can't sleep, and I can't sleep because I nap). Its easier to throw out order and have chaos than to create order amongst chaos. Routine is good. Especially when it disappears for a while.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Year can create annoying Co-Workers

Am I the only person that doesn't have enough patience in the office? Usually co-workers are helpful and enjoyable. Since the 'New Year' it seems as though every co-worker wants to be on top of everything. In order for them to do so, they have to ask me a million questions about the simplest of things (things they don't and never have worried about before). Then when I tell them the answers, they look at me like I don't really know what I'm talking about. It is extremely annoying.

I know part if this skepticism is created based on my age. I am the youngest in the office. By at least 8 years. I understand that sometimes people judge others based on things like age, weight, sex and they don't mean to. It's how society has developed our judgement. But honestly, I'm getting tired of it. On top of the age, I also hold what some would think is a 'pointless position'. These are the people that think all I do is answer the phone and look pretty. One time I was assisting the owner while his assistant was out and he sat at my desk while I typed emails for him. A few people walked by and gave me a confusing look that could translate into a few different thoughts:
A. Is she in trouble?
B. Why is the owner talking to the 'secretary' (not my job title) or
C. She does more work than answer the phones?

This is an everyday struggle for an admin. I'm young, I'm in an entry-level (not even to some people) position. But what they don't see is that I have a lot of responsibility, I am ambitious, I'm intelligent. I want more and will get more. I am awesome.

People forget that everyone starts somewhere. I happen to be here. And until I decide where to move to next, I'm here. Learning and growing.

So what do I do to overcome this obvious judgement? Most of the time I ignore it. If I'm running low on patience I start to get that edge in my voice. It screams authority and confidence. Usually, that ends the dilemna.

I'm sure everyone will cool down once the month is over with.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Welcome to My Site

First and foremost, I apologize for the immediate lack of detail and direction on my blog page.  I came up with the idea today while I was waiting to leave work.  Which, is also what this blog will be circling around.  

Here's my story:

At the age of fifteen I had high hopes to one day become a famous clarinet player and be able to travel the world performing professionally.  During college I struggled with the idea of giving that up and teaching instead.  This was dramatically changed when I auditioned for the National Wind Ensemble, and got in!  After performing in Carnegie Hall at the age of 20 I decided I was not a teacher afterall and began my pursuit for a professional performing career.  At the beginning of my Senior year in College, I developed tendinitis in my arms.  This was the beginning of the end of my music career.  
Since I could no longer go to Graduate School and pursuit my hopes and dreams, I graduated college and went home.  I landed an administrative job at an amazing company and have been working there ever since, all the while still struggling with tendinitis. 
So how did I end up writing on this newly created blog?  Well, I came across a website called Brazen Careerist and thus began my desire to write my thoughts down for others to read.  I then developed my '5-year career plan' aka my desire to one day to assist the President of a Company.   In deciding this, I had no idea how hard it would be to gain the expertise and knowledge to obtain this goal.  So, I came up with a website to directly help younger admins develop their skills to one day be promoted.  

I must admit, I really have no idea what I'm doing.  But here is what I know;  this industry is based mostly on experience, and if I can share my experiences, than my followers can gain some insight and direction for their budding careers.  From there, this site will become a resource.  Hopefully a good one at that.

Sit back and enjoy, at least read any of the other blogs I've posted since this.