Thanks for the Memories: Part II

Ok, here is the report on my 10 Year High School Reunion. It was fantastic. There were people there that I really loved spending every day with while we were in school, some of which I have not seen since the All-Knighter (our school’s post-graduation lock-in). Most of the students from my graduating class, did in fact go to college together. I went away and lost touch with a lot of these people. It was really great to see how people have grown up over the last ten years and how they have not.

Expectations vs. Reality: I am not going to pretend there was not still a bit of cattiness that ten years did nothing to heal. My high school nemesis and I are still nemeses, though, I am not sure I would actually want that to change. I have had other rivals over the years, but she was my first and that is special. There was a clear winner at this year’s reunion. I am sure everyone who was there would agree on who that is. This person blew everyone else out of the water and they knew it. We all knew who it would be going in, we are all aware of it now. And it could not have happened to a better person. I am not sure I would say there was a clear loser. There were a lot of people who are still struggling in one area of their lives or another. Lame jobs, no jobs, living in a crummy city, living with their parents, things like that. Ten years is not really enough time to get it all together. We are all still trying to figure it out.

It was great to reconnect with some of these people. There are a few old friends that I reconnected with that I may, really and truly, stay in touch with this time around. There are a few people that I reconnected with that I will not speak to until the 20 year reunion, if then. Which, makes me a little sad. There were a few people there that I really miss having in my life, but there is not really a place for them. There are a few people that I may do a better job of keeping up with, but we will never have the kind of relationship we once did. There are also a few people that it does not matter one bit. We may see each other only once a decade from here on out, but it will be as though no time has passed at all.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years, but a lot hasn’t. And I like it that way. Being surrounded by a group of people who are exactly your age, who were raised in the same community as you can be a really helpful gauge. Seeing these people made me realize that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am not falling behind my peers with concern to my life goals. I didn’t show up as the only person who was still working on becoming a real life adult. I was on par with everyone else.

Going into this reunion, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. There were people there I did not expect to see, which was awesome. There were people who did not show up that I really wish would have been there. Maybe next time. For those of you who are on the fence about going to your reunion, I highly recommend it. Time sometimes will leave us with only the bad memories or certain periods of life. I think that spending a few hours with people from your past may help remind you of all the good times that were had. Granted, if you really hated every second of high school, you may want to skip it. The Queen Bee is still the Queen Bee with her worker bees trailing behind her. The football players are still the football players making dirty jokes and high-fiving one another. The smart kids are still smarter than you, many of which will be huddled in a corner calling each other doctor for the whole of the evening giggling. And me, in the middle of it all, being perfectly happy where I am.

Happiness Is… Saving for a Rainy Day

The area I am focusing on for August with my Happiness Project is saving money. I feel like this is the case for most people, but for me, money is the number one area of stress and frustration in my life. For the month, I am going to work on a few goals that will hopefully alleviate some of my stress within the area.

I am by no means reinventing the wheel with my goals for the month, but I am hoping that having more specific goals will help me to focus on what I can change. One of the hardest things about money is that, while there is a lot I can change and control, there is a lot I cannot. Things happen. Hopefully, by the end of the month, I will have a plan that will also allow me to save more in case of surprises and not be devastated every time I have to take my car to the mechanic.

My goals for August are to:

Create a Budget: I have had success with budgets before. I know there are people that have a really hard time sticking to them, and what I have found works the best for me is the envelopes of cash. I don’t typically make a habit of carrying cash, but seeing an empty envelope and knowing that I cannot spend anymore money for the month is something I can understand. The bank card that links to a mysterious amount of money does not work well for me. There are times I refuse to check it because I get nervous about what I will find. Obviously this is not ok. The cash has worked for me before, and I am guessing it will work for me again. It takes some serious forethought, but if I can get organized this month, I should be able to continue to use this method.

Create Specific Goals: One of the things people say is most helpful when trying to better your financial situation is to make specific and attainable goals. This way it is not some amorphous thing you are trying to do. I am trying to save up money so I can move to Los Angeles. This month, I plan to figure out what that number needs to be. I would also like to save up a bit of money to take a few trips. I am going to need to go to LA to scope out living situations. I also need to get back to both New York and Chicago at some point this year to visit some friends. to accomplish all of this, I am hoping to price check these trips and see what I need to do to make them happen.

Find Alternative Sources of Income: My jobs right now can be a little precarious. One in particular. I hope to speak with my boss and see if I can’t bump up the number of hours I work each week. I also am hoping to find something else I can do to supplement my income. I dogsit sometimes, but that is not as lucrative in the city where I am currently living as it has been in cities past. I may try to pick up some more clients, but I am still looking into ideas for an Etsy shop. I am not really sure how stable that is either. But, there is surely something out there that I can be doing in my spare time to make some additional funds. Hopefully something I enjoy doing.

There you have it, the plan for August. I will report back at the end of the month to let you know how it all went. Hopefully by spending some time working on this area of my life, I can significantly reduce my stress and create a little more happiness in my life.

Happiness Is… Getting Creative: Part II

So, in case you missed it, I am doing a Happiness Project this year. This post is the conclusion to my first month, Happiness Is… Getting Creative. For more info on my project, or the Happiness Project concept by Gretchen Rubin, follow the links to my previous posts or to Gretchen Rubin’s website to start on your own Happiness Project.

July has proved to be a much busier month than I had intended. I feel like I was constantly on the road or preparing to hit the road. I had about 4 days this entire month where I was not working or traveling. And those days off were primarily spent packing, unpacking or cleaning. All of this to say, I did not have a whole lot of time to sit in a coffee shop and stew in creative juices. I do feel like I spent a large chunk of this month doing creative things, just not the things I was hoping I would do. So, here is the update.

My first goal was to spend time everyday sketching. I did spend some time drawing, but not daily. I found it challenging to draw something when I had nothing in particular to draw. I will start designing some shows here soon, so that will hopefully give me a little push to work on this a little more. Last weekend, I went to a museum in Pittsburg that specifically showcases the Cartoon Arts, called the ToonSeum. They were previewing an exhibit on Superheroes which is going to be fantastic. In the front of the museum, they have a little bookstore where I picked up a book I have been wanting for a while. It is called How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way written by Stan Lee and John Buscema. I will say, since making this purchase, I have been drawing most every day as I have been working my way through the book. So, maybe what I really needed was something that would interest me and teach me new techniques that maybe I will prefer to what I was taught previously. We shall see.

My second goal was to start an Etsy shop. The problem here is that I still have no idea what I would want to sell in my shop. Until I do, it seems like a terrible idea to start a shop. I have only really done crafting that was specifically geared toward gifts or things that I needed to get done. Maybe next month I can do a little more soul searching as to what I might actually want to make and sell. If anyone has any ideas, PLEASE, send them my way.

My third and final goal for July was to start writing a novel. Which I did. I have started one. Writing is challenging in itself. You have to sit and focus on just one thing at a time, which I really struggle with. I like to be doing at least two things at once at any given moment. Writing a few blog posts every week requires an hour here and there. Writing a novel requires hours upon hours of just sitting and writing. We will see where this goes, but if my attention span for this month is any indication, it will be a very long time before I have anything nearing completion. Now I fully understand why people have to take a year off to write or go to a secluded cabin and stuff like that. Distractions are the enemy of writing.

I would say that my Happiness Project for July was not quantifiably successful, but I still feel pretty good about it. I am heading in a good direction, which I am guessing is all I am going to be able to ask for some months. Monday I will continue this project with Month 2, so stay tuned.

Thanks for the Memories: Part I

10 Years

July has been quite a trip down memory lane. I have been traveling quite a bit and on these trips I have seen a lot of friends from past lives. Last weekend, one of my very best friends from high school got married and our little group of four was all together for the first time in several years. And, to cap it all off, my 10 year high school reunion is Saturday. This post is to serve as kind of a before and after for our reunion. I honestly have no idea what to expect. I do not know who will be showing up and who will pass on the event. I have not really kept up with most of my graduating class save for a handful of friends who have kept in touch and random run-ins over the past 10 years. I am not on Facebook, so that adds an element of surprise that most people will not experience.

Here is what I remember from high school. I don’t really feel like our class was particularly “clique-y”. I know there are surely people who disagree, but I never felt particularly persecuted. I was not what anyone would call popular and, honestly, I am not sure how well liked I was. I was a drama kid, choir kid, honors student. My number one goal was getting into college out of state, but not enough to waste all of my time studying. I was an A-student for the most part, but got a few B’s here and there in classes that required more attention than I was willing to give.

What you need to know going into this week with me is that I LOVED high school. I went to every football game with my face decked out in gold glitter. I was in every school play. I got to school every morning about an hour before classes started and stayed hours after everyday for extracurricular activities. My senior year, I was the president of the Drama Club, a member of two choirs, French Club, National Honors Society, Volunteer Knights. Yes, I was one of those kids.

I loved high school, and then I left my hometown as soon as I possibly could and never looked back. Come Saturday, we shall see how I feel about high school now. An evening of reminiscing with people that I wish I had kept up with, with people I forgot about, with people I didn’t know I missed, and with people that I hoped I would never have to see again. I truly have no idea what to expect. I am nervous and excited.

I do know that no matter what happens, the person who was by my side every second of every day during high school (and middle school and elementary school), will be by my side once again on Saturday. So whatever we have to face, we will face together. Best Friends Forever.

30 Is the New Black

I am still twenty-something, but I am closer to thirty now than I ever have been. And to be clear, that is very close. When I starting researching the topic of turning 30, I came across a TEDTalk that has sparked a great deal of conversation. It is called “Why 30 Is Not the New 20” given by the Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Twenty-Somethings, Dr. Meg Jay. In the talk, she wants to convey to twenty-somethings that this decade of you life totally counts. It is not a time for waiting for your life to begin, it is a major developmental period. I read a number of follow up articles all talking about the twenty-somethings of today (considered a part of the Millennial Generation, ugh.) and how we are selfish and lazy and have nothing to show for our lives.

Do you want to know what a person approaching 30 really needs to hear? That they have nothing to show for themselves. As though this was not a difficult enough time.

Reading all of these articles about twenty-somethings and turning thirty made me much angrier than I expected. First off, I am totally pissed that I am considered a part of the Millennial Generation. I refuse to accept this as I hate those kids as much as everyone else does. I am aware that I am not quite a GenXer, but I am not a Millennial either. This is a whole other topic that I will address in a future post as I am a little to heated to write about it now.

I am also irritated about how flippant people seem to be about us twenty-somethings. Yes, many of us are currently living back at home with our parents. Let’s not pretend for a second that this is an awesome set up and I am loving it. I am not Will Farrell’s character in Wedding Crashers. I hate it, but it is the rational responsible choice for me right now. I am trying to save up money, pay off my debt and keep a decent amount in savings. I, like many in my generation, am drowning in student loans; because, none of us were prepared for this amount of debt the day we graduated from college and entered the real world. Especially when it all went a little like this:

“Congratulations, here’s you diploma, better go get a job. Oh yeah, and here is the bill for the tens of thousands of dollars you owe us, don’t worry, you can pay this back over the next thirty years. One more thing, turns out we destroyed the economy while you were away at school, so… best of luck. P.S. We are also cleaning out Social Security, so there will be nothing left when you retire.”

Screw you, Baby Boomers. Screw you.

I am in my late twenties. I have by no means “made it” and I will not have everything I want out of life by the time I am thirty. I will not have much that I want out of life by the time I am thirty. I will have an education, which I spent exactly half of my twenties working on. I will have the beginnings of a career in a field I am deeply passionate about, which is what I spent (most of) the other half on. I will also have gone through some serious rough patches that momentarily derailed me. I will have known what it means to not be able to pay my rent, to have bills piling up and no money to pay them. I will know how to find odd jobs quickly to scrounge the money I need to make through a month. And how to ask for help (yes, from my wonderful parents) when I really need it. I will have known what it takes to pull myself out of serious financial debt. I will have known what it means to be clinically depressed and what it takes to come out on the other side. I will have had a series of relationships great and small and have a better idea of what I am actually looking for in a permanent partner. I will be on my way to having a career that I will love, not a job that I hate. Though I will certainly know what it is to have a job(s) that I hate.

If you are looking at my tax returns, it probably looks like I am one of those twenty-something slacker kids who can’t seem to get her life together. I do not have much to show for my twenties, but that is because what I have accomplished in my twenties is not necessarily quantifiable. You call us the slacker generation. Just wait. I may be sitting here in my bedroom in my parent’s house, working multiple jobs, none of which are in my field, but I am coming. I am not lazy, I am plotting my next move. I haven’t gone after what I want because I have seen people try and fail and I will not make those same mistakes (lack of preparation and financing being the primary issues). I know exactly what I want and I know exactly how to get it.

Turning thirty sounded scary before I started researching for this piece. I, too, felt I had nothing to show for my twenties. What I have learned is that I do not need to prove myself to the previous generations. I don’t want to accomplish what they have accomplished because what the hell have they accomplished? If you have everything you ever wanted by the time you are thirty, 1. What are you going to do for the remaining 2/3 of your lives? and 2. You can’t have wanted all that much out of life if you were able to get it all in ONE DECADE. Do you want to know what the previous generations have accomplished? They have destroyed our economy. They have destroyed our environment. And now they are trying to make us look like the bad guys? No worries, you all feel free to retire, soak up the rest of Social Security, and we will clean up the mess you left for us.

I may have nothing to show for the past ten years of my life (other than my multiple degrees), but check back in ten years. Thirty is not scary because that is when the hard work will start to pay off. That is when people will finally see what we are capable of. That is when the previous generations will see what we have been up to for the last ten years.

To see the TEDTalk:

To read some more on the topic:

NPR: TED Radio Hour: The Next Greatest Generation Hosted by Guy Raz

New York Times: What Is It About 20-Somethings? by By Robin Marantz Henig

Toronto Star: Why 30 Is the New 20 by Sarah Barmak

Huffington Post: I’m 30… Now What? by Andrew Cristi

AskMen: Turning 30 by Peter Hoare

It’s Not My Party, But I’ll Cry If I Want To

Tomorrow is my birthday. It falls on a Thursday this year and I have taken the entire weekend off work. Not for a weekend of birthday festivities. No, I am going to a wedding. Now, at this stage of life, we are all going to a ton of weddings each summer. Occasionally, these weddings will be out of town and require travel. This can be very expensive, so I try to limit these trips to the weddings of people I really like. I prefer to go only to the weddings of people I really like, but sometimes finding an excuse is hard. You can’t exactly say to a bride, “I would totally go to your wedding, if only you weren’t about to marry the world’s greatest douchebag. Plus, I would really rather not have to spend the money to go to your wedding when everyone knows your marriage will never last…”

Now, I know what you are probably thinking, “Man, it really sucks that you have to spend you whole birthday weekend at this wedding.” My response, “No, it does not.” Why? Because this is a couple I really like. I am no stranger when it comes to weddings. Some are really and truly terrible. Some are awesome. Want to know what you need to have an awesome wedding? You guests have to believe that you are an awesome couple and that they did not just drop $50 – $1000 for a marriage that will only last 7 years TOPS. Weddings are the best when I really like BOTH the bride and the groom. If I really like one and do not like the other (or do not know the other), I am far less excited. Sometimes there is not time for me to meet all of the future spouses of my friends before the big day, and the ceremony will tell me everything I need to know about whether or not I think the marriage will last. If the bride does not cry (goes double if the groom does), if I do not cry, if the ceremony is sterile. Things like that.

When you are growing up, people are always telling you not to worry about what your friends think. If they are your friends, they will like the people you like. This is utter and complete bullshit. If all of your friends hate your significant other, there is a problem. Either you have crummy friends who do not know you very well, or you are in a terrible relationship. My guess is the latter. It is also possible that your friends do not know your significant other very well, and I suggest you remedy that. Your friends are the very first test, and I believe, the most important one.

I am not one to train boyfriends. I believe if you want to be with someone, you have to accept them “as is”. I am not one to “test” them either, but there are a few things that I believe are a good way to determine whether or not they are right for a permanent position. I call them tests, but in reality they are just opportunities to see a red flag. The first one is you friends. If your friends really like someone you are with, that is a good sign. If they think they are less than stellar, that is a pretty sizable red flag.

All of this to say, if I really like the couple, I don’t mind going to their wedding. If I really love the couple, then I don’t mind going to their wedding, on the weekend of my birthday, dropping a few hundred dollars on travel, and spending several hours making their wedding gift. In the case of this weekend, I couldn’t be more excited. So next time you feel dread about going to someone’s wedding, think about why. Is there a big read flag that you are seeing that the couple seems to be blind to? Do you really dislike either the bride or the groom? If this is the case, it is probably best to not go.

Are You Watching This?

Girl Meets World

In case you are unaware, there is a new TV show on the Disney Channel called Girl Meets World. It is, as you may have guessed, a spin-off of much beloved TGIF show Boy Meets World that ran on ABC from 1993 – 2000. The series is set in New York City where Cory and Topanga now live, happily married with two children. It centers around their oldest child, Riley, who is in the seventh grade at John Quincy Adams Middle School (named for John Adams High School where her parents went).

The show, only two episodes in, clearly follows the same general outline as the original series. At the center, one kid from a ridiculously happy nuclear family, the troubled best friend from a broken home with absentee parents, the school teacher who teaches life lessons with a little bit of history thrown in, and even the overly confident super nerd with one weird name. The new show also promises guest stars from the original show. William Daniels (Mr. Feeny) appeared in the Series Premiere. Lee Norris (Stuart Minkus) will be seen in a shortly upcoming episode. And this picture was recently released:

girl-meets-world-shawn-returns

So get excited for this in an upcoming Holiday episode which will include William Russ (Alan Matthews), Betsy Randle (Amy Matthews), and Rider Strong (obviously Shawn Hunter). Other familiar faces are also promised (proposed) for later in the season as well as the series including the long awaited return of Mr. Turner.

The show is clearly intended for younger viewers as you can see it on the Disney Channel, but as our generation is known for its over attachment to nostalgia, they are clearly catering to the fans of the original series. Like shows for younger audiences in the 90s, each episode is trying to teach kids a greater life lesson. The guest stars are coming, which is clearly for those of us who loved the show growing up and not for the new audience who has no idea who Mr. Feeny is. And, thankfully, Cory has not changed one bit.

The series premiere was cute, but the references to the “world” were a little overbearing at times. Pilots are always difficult as they are trying to establish an entire series in 30 minutes. The second episode was completely adorable and harkened back to the days when Cory was still trying to figure out how to talk to girls and Shawn was still trying to figure out how to get Cory to talk to girls. It’s sweet and brings back memories of one of the most beloved shows of our childhood. At least check it out.

Here are a couple of trailers to show you just what I have been talking about.

How to Waste Time

My original plan for today was to do a DIY Project. I have had this project planned for months. I bought all of the supplies weeks ago. It was a really simple project and it would not take a very long time to complete. I have been setting aside time to work on it for a while now but kept putting it off because I would have plenty of time to do it later. Last night, I started the project and was not able to finish before I had to go to bed. Apparently the nights of staying up until a project is completed are long gone. Also, it was my own deadline, my own project that I was making for myself. I would have tried to buck up and finish it tonight, but I actually have to finish making a gift for someone that I need done by early next week, so this project will just be further delayed until it is time to post another DIY project. It may be a while…

So, instead of showing you step by step, how to make this mystery item, I am going to tell you, step by step, how I managed to waste so very much time.

In truth, I probably overbooked myself. Last Friday was a major holiday. Which, for most people, meant that the holiday weekend became extremely packed with festivals and barbecues and hours by the pool. Plus I had to work a ton. I even went out of town for a business trip for the first part of this week. There was not really a whole heck of a lot of time to finish everything I needed to do. And, like any time in my life where I am super busy and need to use any free time effectively, I did other things instead.

I decided it was time to clean out my closet. For some inexplicable reason (I am sure there is some actual psychological reason for this) whenever I begin feeling stressed, I clean. When I feel really stressed, I really clean. So last week, instead of working on this project, finishing up a mandatory online training session, or packing for my business trip, I decided I should take on what would become a three day task of cleaning out my closet. Now, my closet is not one that is full to the brim with clothes. My closet is where I shove anything I do not want on the floor of my bedroom: clothes, shoes, travel stuff, books, magazines, receipts, bills, junk mail, tools, office supplies, etc. Pretty much anything gets shoved in that closet. I did not have time for this.

I have also recently decided to rewatch all of Lost. The show is now in syndication and I caught a few episodes on TV. Random episodes that I caught here and there. I had absolutely no idea what the heck was going on. I also have never seen the show again after watching the finale. I guess now is as good a time as any to start from the beginning to see if it all holds up in light of how it ended. I am only about halfway through, so I have no answer for you as of yet. To be clear, when I start watching an entire series, I tend to watch episodes whenever possible. So this has taken up quite a bit of time. I am a major multi-tasker, so I am almost always doing something else while I am watching TV, but there are times I just lay on my bed and watch the last few minutes of an episode before I get back to working on whatever it is that I should be working on. And then the whole next episode…

Then there are, of course, the general day to day distractions. Games on my phone that I get obsessed with. Playing with my dogPinterest. Reading random articles. Learning French. Going through my Twitter feed. Taking BuzzFeed Quizzes. Planning trips that I cannot afford to take. You know, things like that. Everything but crack this book I have been meaning to read since I bought it in May, but it is over 700 pages, so that may also not happen for a while.

It is true that you need some mindless distractions, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed. I have finished everything I had to get done this week, so no harm done. Plus, it turns out, while I am out of town next weekend, some of my extended family is taking over the upstairs of my house (including my bedroom and bathroom) for a weekend visit. So the unintended cleaning spree may have been a necessity anyway.

So there you have it. I hope no one was waiting with baited breath for a new DIY project… There will definitely be one in the next month. I have to finish the next project as it about to be someone’s wedding gift, but that won’t get posted until after their gifts have been opened so as not to ruin the surprise. Sorry you ended up with another post of just me spewing thoughts at you. But, as I have told you since the beginning, you get what you pay for.

Feels Like Home to Me

The Benefits of Corporate Chains

Corporate

I have been traveling quite a bit lately. For business, for pleasure, for weddings. I love traveling for any reason. I am still not at a point in my life where I feel like I have a permanent home base, so spending a substantial amount of time on the road does not bother me. I like to explore new areas, see parts of the world that I have yet to see. I love hotels, I love airports, I love rental cars. I love to travel.

The downside of travel is the lack of the familiar. Strange, because, that is also the upside, but sometimes you just need to go somewhere that reminds you of home. Having spent, arguably, my most formative years in Nashville where people firmly believe that buying local is the only way to go, I tend to avoid corporate chains. I prefer local coffee shops, boutique clothing stores, restaurants that are not franchised. However, having spent so much time on the road as of late, I have come to appreciate these major national chains and what they can offer.

When I am having kind of a lousy day, the first place I head is to Target. I love Target. You walk in and the first thing you see is Women’s Clothing. Then accessories. Then Shoes. Every time. Bright happy colors. I can walk around for hours and often will buy nothing. But Target, in every city I have ever lived has been my happy place.

Starbucks is another one. Just about everywhere you go, there will be at least on Starbucks. Not all coffee is created equal and there is nothing worse than traveling to some unknown coffee shop and settling in only to discover that the coffee is not what you were hoping for. At Starbucks, it is always the same. For better or worse. You know the vibe of a Starbucks, you know before you walk in what you are walking in to. You know how loud the music will be, how comfortable the seating is. When you need something familiar, a Starbucks will not let you down.

I took a trip with my family a few years back. We went on a seven day cruise and then spent three days in New York City. We got of the boat in Manhattan and headed to Times Square where we were staying. We were exhausted and hungry. Where did we go to eat? The Olive Garden. After a week of weird cruise ship food and four people crammed into one tiny cabin, we all just needed a little familiar before we dove into the second part of vacation. I got the same thing I always get at Olive Garden and it was delicious. And exactly what I needed.

Now, I am in no way saying that you should not seek out the cool local places when you travel. Please, explore the towns you are visiting, but when life is in constant flux and home is somewhere that does not fully exist, it is nice to know that I can find a sense of the familiar wherever I may be.