Monday, April 27, 2009

When to Make the "Announcement"

If you knew me as a child, then you probably remember that I was constantly changing my mind. Strangely, as an adult, my friends have told me, "When you say you're going to do something, you do it." I was shocked the first time I heard this. I am still teased by my close family for my notorious reversal of decisions. I have taught myself in the last seven years to only make a big announcement when your mind is made up. This trick works, and leads people to believe that I am a "go getter."

When I decided to train for a marathon, it was a private decision. It wasn't until I read a book or two, joined a training website, and actually started to train, that I knew I was going to complete this race. I also had to choose which marathon to run. After carefully researching which climates would be best in the next five months, (this was the time I needed to train), and what would be close to my family, I chose Columbus. Remember, I lived in Boston at the time. When I knew for sure, I sent an e-mail to my family and friends, letting them know that I would be running the Columbus Marathon on October 18th. Presenting this news meant I had to do it.

Because of my ever-changing mind, I only gave six days notice when I decided to move from Cleveland to Madison. You probably know that I had been thinking about the move for a long time. Some days, I thought, "I will be stuck in Cleveland forever," and other days, I was so wanting to get in the car and move. Few people knew that I was imagining life in Madison. Those who did, knew it for quite some time.

My reasoning is simple. If you start to tell people what you are going to do all of the time, and never act on it, you start to feel a sense of failure. When I went through the list of clients, family, co-workers, and friends, letting them know that I was moving that Saturday, I explained, "This is the way I do things. When I am done, I am done." There are a lot of people I know who have talked about that "move" they are going to do for years now, and I never see them going anywhere. I don't want to be like that. I can't stand when someone says they are "retiring in May" and they never retire. Or even when someone says they are having you for dinner on Saturday. Then they call you that morning to tell you they are "too tired - let's go out instead." Unreliable.

Here are examples of the things you will never hear me say:

"He's the One."

"I can't wait to have kids."

"I am staying here forever."

"I am getting a second dog."

You may here me say:

"I am not staying here, and I am moving in three days."

"I got a second dog."

"I got hitched." (Winston-Style)

I recommend that you only make that "announcement" when the decision is made and the deal is sealed. For someone like myself, who is so open, my conclusions are private until the verdict is 100%.

So when do you make the announcement, you ask? After you sign the papers. This doesn't mean that I approve of someone close to me telling me that they are pregnant by greeting me with a huge belly... Just after the first trimester. There is a difference.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Routines & The Looking Glass Self

As of lately, I find myself joking about people who are "anal" and who have a routine. Perhaps I fall victim to this. I often refer to the "Looking Glass Self" - a sociology term I learned in college. I define this by saying that you see yourself the way others see you. In turn, you behave a certain way, believing that people do see you under this light.

In turn, I am told that I am the one with the routine. What?! Me? Everyone who knows me, including my colleagues and any guy I have ever gone on one date with will say I am "ditsy" and sort of "all over the place." At least this is how I see myself.

This brings up the looking glass self argument. One of the first times I went out with my boyfriend, when we were just friends (that lasted all of a few hours) - I asked him (you know me, the thinker) "How do you see me?" And he gave me this pretty close description of how I would describe myself. And I thought, "Ok - he totally gets me." Just to elaborate on that point - On Sunday night, we were making dinner. I said to him:

"So, this was a really great weekend. I really had a nice time with you. Did you have a good weekend?"

He says, "Yeah. It was fun. On a scale of one-ten, how would you rate it?"

I said, "Hmm..... a seven or eight? It wasn't a ten because..."

He says, "I know. Let me guess. A ten would have involved doing something outside with your dog and then having brunch at Marigold. "

And I thought to myself, "He gets me. He totally gets me." And the funny thing is - he did want to do something outside with the dog on Saturday. And we did plan on going to Marigold. I was tired of doing outdoor dog hikes. My dog went about seven days in a row with trips to the park. I needed the break from it. And, when we walked out the door to go to Marigold, we both wanted Mediterranean food. So, he gets me. And we would have done what he thought was a "ten." I just wanted something different. Or should I say we both wanted something different, so I don't gloss over him in the details....

Now, a ten would have been a crazy and wild night out. Because I love those. Especially when it is nice out. I got pretty close to that, though. All in all, the weekend was good.

On to my routine business. I think it's laughable that anyone would accuse me of having a routine because, I am not always paying attention to details and I am flexible. If you tell me that we are going to Chicago instead of Milwaukee in a moment's notice, I don't care. So, to say I have routines is ironic. But I do.

After work today, my boyfriend (see honey - I don't gloss over you) and I went to a dog park that I had never been to. I was planning on going to the usual one, when he suggested we go to a different one. We had a great time, my dog ran like crazy and everyone was friendly. I was so hungry for a piece of pizza by the end of our dog park trip. I suggested we go for a pizza. We stopped at this family run place that I had never been to. As we were eating, I said, "I bet next Wednesday, you will text me during work and we will plan to go to the same dog park. Then, we will stop here on our way home. " He didn't agree. So we will see.

On the same note, two Thursdays ago, I was working late. A friend texted me to go out for drinks. We agreed to meet around nine for delicious cocktails at this awesome bar. I had a fantastic time. The following Thursday, I just assumed we would do it again.

Now, here comes the fabulous outdoor farmer's market. And it is just a given that I am there. And, my other "routineish" problem is my running. My boyfriend makes fun of me because I have to run before I go to work. I do have my running routine. I won't argue that.

Oh, and then there is Sunday. I am infamous in the family for having my "day off from running on Sunday." That is a routine as well. I guess. For being so flighty, I am into my routines.

I will wrap up with some "routine-like" examples:

-One Saturday, I went to my aunt and uncle's farmhouse for the night and so I did it the following weekend. I had to end the visit with a breakfast at this excellent general store both times.

-One Wednesday, my boyfriend and I babysat for my nephew. We picked up a pizza to have for dinner. We did the same thing a few Wednesdays ago. (Add a niece into the equation. And a pizza)

-Friday afternoons, you will always find me at the dog park with a beer. Regardless of the weather.

-Tuesday mornings, you will find me at Barriques.

-I almost always leave my house at 8:10 AM for work.

-Sunday mornings, I like walking my dog to Barriques and tying her up while I get my coffee. Then, I walk around the square. I usually follow this up with a trip to Mother Fools, aka Mother Freaks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Minimizing the Little I Have

A while back, I wrote a little posting on how to simplify things. Well, for whatever reason, I recently found myself working through my condo ensuring that everything is as simple as possible. Someone once told me that a person's car keys are a good indicator of how simple their life is. For example, if your keys look like a janitor's, your life is messy (no pun intended).

When I first moved here, I asked my Uncle what stores existed around town so that I could discard the little store card key chain things. I never finished that project - I don't know why. My key chain was messy looking. Real messy. I never liked it. For whatever reason, I kept it as is. I finally got that taken care of over the weekend. It is so nice and neat looking now. It instigated a complete investigation of what I have around my place that I am not currently using.

I am proud to say that I have very little I needed to discard, but here is what I removed from my dwelling:
-A candle w/ a broken wick
-Some paperwork on an old account that I have since closed
-An alarm clock
-A hair clip I have never used
-My birthday cards from 3/25/09
-I also recycled all outdated magazines & several old newspapers

I have the rule that if I don't use it, I discard it. I am 100% abiding by this rule. However, I have two items I am unclear of what to do with. One is a coffee maker. Although I drink a cup of coffee every day, I enjoy buying it. Even though it does cost me approximately $576.70 annually, there is something to be said about going into a coffee shop and experiencing that morning cup. However, I feel like there may come a day where I decide to brew it at home. So, the best thing I could think to do is to unplug it and put it away. Now I have more counter space and my electric bill may go down.

This brings me to the topic of being environmentally wise. I am always reading ways to "Go Green," and I read something the other day that made me think twice. You never think about the fact that your electric bill may decrease if you have less things plugged in. (At least I never think about it). And when I noticed that my coffee maker has been plugged in for about three months and it has been unused, I was ashamed of myself. It's taking up space and I am using energy I don't need to be wasting. How embarrassing.

So, besides minimizing your things, please minimize your energy usage. I walked my space and unplugged things that have no business being plugged in. (a bare power strip - which is now in storage, my toaster oven, etc). I will let you know the results of my next electric bill. The one I received today was around $41.00.

Now, back to your possessions. Remember, if you do NOT use it, do not keep it. Always stick to the one year rule. If you have not used it in one year, you never will. And, how does your key chain look?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Self-Employment Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be

For whatever reason, a lot of people have a difficult time comprehending that I was self-employed as a real estate agent. As I have explained in the past, I owned my own business. If I didn't feel like going to work - I didn't. If I wanted to take a week of vacation, I just did it. No questions asked.

And I am blaming my blogging absence on the ghost of my real estate past. I made a decision this morning while I was running. After about seven years of usually trying to figure out why I need to get out of my latest relationship, I decided to think about my tax situation and how much it sucks. And I decided that I shouldn't have renewed my Ohio real estate license on March 25th. I spent about two hours filling out the forms after completing my 30 hours of continuing education that I paid for. Then, come to find out that my real estate office insists that I continue to pay for my MLS membership of $180/semi-annually. When I paid in October, I literally threw $180 away. What a waste. Come tax time and nobody seems to understand why mine are so complicated. All those great, large paychecks, yet I still owe more and more money.

Let me spell it out for all of you: 1099!!!! What don't you understand about that? SELF-EMPLOYED. So, the next time someone asks me about my health insurance/life insurance/free office - I will throw up. I was SELF EMPLOYED, people!! I paid a desk fee. I paid for my real estate ads. I paid for my continuing education. I paid, I paid, I paid. Do you want to see my 2008 tax file? It's 16" wide with a lot of papers and receipts called deductions! Unless you make a lot of money while being self-employed, I cannot believe I am saying this - Don't do it!!

Here are the pros:

Our generation works to live, so being self-employed is perfect a lot of the time
You can choose your own hours (sort of)
You can take off whenever you want (sort of)
You will never get fired (sort of)
The sky is the limit (sort of)
You are your own boss (sort of)

What do I mean by the "sort ofs?" Well, your clients sort of run the show. They want you here and now. They need you at midnight to talk them through negotiations. They will refer you to more people. So, they are your boss.

Being self-employed, do you know how many people screwed me over? A lot. And I think I am a decent person
You are always worried about every detail of your business
I had to pay for my own crappy health insurance
I had to pay for my own retirement plan
I had to pay for a ton of gasoline at $60 a fill-up
I had to give a percentage of my commission to the brokerage
I still owed money to Uncle Sam last year
There is no regular paycheck

So this is why I recommend that you get a job with an employer:

I was actually jealous of my friends who received regular paychecks and were required to go into an office at a regular set time on a daily basis. They also were guaranteed all those lovely benefits I dreamed of. And I could tell at 5:30 or whenever, they felt like they had put their time in. They looked gratified. Me? I never felt that way. And of course, their taxes are so much easier than mine. So get a job with a W2.

You know, there is something to be said about a job where you can go in for eight or nine hours, do the best you can and enjoy the quality of the end of the day, however you unwind. Yes, sometimes I stay late. Occasionally I check my e-mails late at night for work related things. I don't mind doing any of that. I know I am getting a paycheck. I know the amount and when it's coming. And I have a job with a W2 that I finally look forward to doing. Almost eight years out of college.

Even though you may think it sounds lovely to work for yourself, don't do it!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Madison Film Festival

About three weeks ago, I read all of the movie reviews for Madison's film festival. This took about an hour to do. I love films and I especially like those non-mainstream ones. I love french films and I enjoy a lot of other foreign movies and interesting documentaries. This film festival is right up my alley. After reading through the reviews, I decided to pick six to eight movies to see in a four day span. The festival starts on a Thursday and ends on Sunday night.

Once you mark all of the movies you are interested in attending, you have to figure out all of their dates/times/theaters/lengths. After this, you have to rule some of them out. I then put together an excel spreadsheet and ordered the tickets online. Let me tell you, that part took about two hours. Yes, the planning was long. But, it was well worth it.

I have just wrapped up the weekend with the sixth and final film, "Fear Me Not." This is a Danish suspense with excellent acting. Out of the six, this is on the top of my list. An "almost perfect" husband and father starts to alter his behavior after participating in a drug study for an anti-depressant. Bonus - his lake house and the furniture throughout all the scenes are eye catching.

"Beaches of Agnes" is an extremely clever and cute tail told by the famous french director, Agnes Varda. She documents her life and films with brilliant sequences and artsy details. She is an artistic genius and somehow is able to tell her story without sounding overconfident. It's very cute. Oh, and obviously, it is in french.

"Light Bulb" was my least favorite film. It probably didn't help that in between that film and the one before it, I had a six hour window where my friends and I decided to visit a new restaurant and bar in town called The Bayou. It attempts to recreate a New Orleans feel. With that in mind, I downed a few hurricanes and proceeded to the student Union to sit and look out at the lake over a pitcher of Spotted Cow. So, let's just say that I was slightly drowsy during "Light Bulb." This is supposedly based on a true story of some guys who are down on their jobs, always trying to invent something, lose everything they have, until something finally - well - you get the picture.

Prior to that, I really enjoyed the documentary, "The Way We Get By." Three senior citizens in Bangor, Maine, volunteer at the airport, greeting returning soldiers from Iraq. It explores the lives of the three elderly volunteers. It doesn't really depict the stories of the returning troops. It makes you think about the kindness of strangers, growing old and the state of our country, among other things. Each soldier seemed genuinely appreciative to be greeted by these strangers, even though some of them were incredibly anxious to talk to their children or grieve over a friend who didn't make it back. A wonderful piece.

"Food Inc." God. Where do I start? I have been a vegetarian for 19 years, having had a few steaks. Which I will never do again. The industrialization of the food business is appalling. And if you can watch that movie and still eat meat, I don't know how. The government has turned our food into a profitable business, putting our health at risk. I know I have mentioned the importance of participating in community supported agriculture, but after seeing this film, I am not opposed to dedicating an entire blog posting on "Food Inc." Unfortunately, it's been a non-issue for presidential campaigners and it needs to be brought to our President's attention. I am so thankful for the food choices I have in Madison.

"Darius Goes West" is a bittersweet and thoughtful documentary about several more fortunate boys who decide to take Darius, a teenage boy with Muscular Dystrophy across the country to have his wheelchair "pimped" by MTV. Darius has never even left the county he has grown up in. These boys are really special and for a young boy who has grown up in the projects, he appreciates everything he sees. Tears in his eyes as he takes in the beauty of the Grand Canyon. How many teenage boys do you know who understand the goodness of what they see? The relationships formed and the generosity of many involved in this film make it a tender journey to watch.

Now that I have reviewed all of these movies and spent about three hours planning my "film tour," I am going to have to see if the Wisconsin Film Festival will hire me next year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm Really Not that Nosy

I love being interviewed. Clearly, I like talking about myself. But I am not a narcissist, because I enjoy hearing others talk about themselves. And one time, someone accused me of being nosy. If you know me well enough, then you know that I am not attempting to pry into your affairs. That is not what's going on. I am genuinely interested because I like to learn about people to develop all of my theories.

For example, I may ask all about your job - You work for a start-up? What are the benefits? What are your hours? How long have you worked there? Is it true...? I heard....? Of course I want to know these things. I am constantly networking. I need to put this data into my brain. And I can develop my theories on you based on your answers. So, you tell me that you are working 12 hours days? Then I start to inquire about your personal life. Do you date? Do you live alone? What's the relationship with your family? Then I can assume that you are working long hours because of family issues that you have chosen to ignore, or what have you. Then, I want to be your friend. Please note - this is exaggerated.

It all comes down to this. First, I diagnose. Then, I decide if I want you around. It's that simple. (Or that complex).

Now, I love meeting people who are interested. I also truly enjoy interesting people. And there is a difference. Those who are interested are more selfless than those who are not. Interesting people are people I find to be the opposite of plain and boring and they are typically more worldly than the average Joe. I love meeting new, interested people, because then we can interview each other. Interested people are not given enough credit. Who wants to go to an Easter dinner and not be asked a single question about their background? Then again, there are social gatherings I have gone to where I have been interrogated. Here is the difference:

1. An uninterested Person:

"I went to a new hair salon last week. He charged me $125 for a cut, and I swear all he did was move the scissors in the air."

(They don't give a damn about you. They just go on about nothing in particular)

2. An Interested Person:

" What did your sister name the baby? Is her middle name after her Grandmother?"

(I think this is a perfectly normal and nice question to ask)

3. A Nosy Person (Who may interrogate):

"So, do you have a boyfriend? Is he the one? You're very thin. How do you stay so thin? Do you eat?"

(They don't really even care half the time. Neither do they listen much for the response. They're really only asking so they can tell their friends your relationship status and whether or not you have some type of eating disorder. They obviously aren't on facebook)

Now the interrogator is also uninteresting to me, meaning their questions are superficial. Let's talk about your genealogy or how you climbed a mountain or something.

So instead of mistaking me for asking a lot of questions, know that I am very interested because I am doing my research. The data is collected and stored in my bank. It is then used in a very resourceful way at a later date. It is because of these questions that I have fixed up many couples, raised money for charities, made my own money, helped out some friends and introduced lonely people to their friends, among other things. So, I am not being nosy when I ask you the details of your failing mother/daughter relationship. I am interested. Not to be confused with interesting.....