Where Logic Meets Love

How We're Saving Money

Friday, December 11, 2009

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How We're Saving Money | Faith Permeating Life
The ideas for blog posts are piling up in my mind faster than I have time to write. Here's one that's been in the queue the longest.

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In my downtime at work, I've been trying to learn as many things as I can, particularly related to the various programs we teach in our workshops for faculty. I came across one of Google's many variations, called the Tip Jar, where people submit and vote on money-saving tips. I've lately become obsessed with saving money and getting free stuff (yet another blog post in the queue), so I decided to read all the highest rated tips to see what Mike and I could implement in our life.

Here's the weird thing: We already do all of them.

Through some combination of our mutual desire for a simple lifestyle, my compulsive reading of books and articles on everything, including financial stuff, and just good ideas we've come up with along the way, we actually save money in every one of the areas these tips touched on. There was literally only one new thing I read about, which was filling a gallon jug while the shower is warming up in the morning and using it to water your plants/garden/etc. Seeing as we live in a third-floor apartment and own no plants (except a small flower recently given as a housewarming gift, which I am slowly but surely killing by never remembering to water it), this isn't exactly practical for us right now, but I have no doubt that once we're in a house we will combine this tip with the use of a showerhead we already want to buy that automatically "pauses" the water flow once it's warm enough for a shower.

Unlike Mike's prediction, we didn't go into marriage and instantly live really cheaply. We never lived expensively, but we've been slowly and intelligently pruning our spending so that we went from spending slightly more than we were bringing in, to breaking even, to -- last month, for November -- bringing in $700 more than we spent. (All of that will, of course, be immediately absorbed into Mike's tuition payment due this month, but it's still something.)

I thought maybe it would be helpful for me to compile a list of all these things for the benefit of the handful of people who stumble across this blog. So, here is my attempt, followed by some thoughts.

1) Our local library is excellent. I've basically stopped buying books because I have such a backlog of books I want to read that are all at the library. More than that, though, our library has a collection of movies and TV shows on DVD (all free to borrow) that are somehow exactly Mike's favorite kind of movies and TV shows, and he recently discovered that they have Wii games as well. Books, movies, and video games -- that sums up our entertainment pretty well, all for free.

2) Mike hooked up all of our electronics -- TV, Wii, DVD player, sound system, and modem -- so they're controlled by a single switch, and I eventually managed to convince him to turn off the switch when we weren't using it. Our electricity bill dropped amazingly. We're both gone during the day at work, and at my parents' all day Sunday, so everything's on for a total of about 3 hours each evening, and part of the day Saturday. This is one of the benefits of being in an apartment -- everything's pretty much in one spot, and we don't have to pay heating or water, just electricity.

3) Going along with that, we barely watch TV. Mike used to use the TV to unwind when he got home, and somehow with moving in here and not having things hooked up right for a while, he broke the habit. We only turn the TV on to watch a specific show (right now, only Lie To Me, and his shows, 24 and Lost, start soon) or to watch a movie. Plus, as I said, we're not home that much anyway, and when we are, we have things to get done. Once Mike gets his weekends back, our schedule may change somewhat, but I don't think we'll watch that much more TV. Needless to say, we don't have cable.

4) We have a $50 limit per month on eating out and entertainment. Surprisingly, this has not been much of a problem (the only issue is that Mike will insist on going out early in the month and then lament that we can't go out at the end of the month, but that's his problem!). We've had friends over for dinner at our apartment at least one per month -- three of my friends and one of his friends, plus we had a Halloween party, and my little sister spent the night one weekend. Also, because we spend Sundays at my parents' house, we usually go out to eat with them or order take-out, so we get our weekly dose of that without spending money (yes, we are spoiled).

5) Speaking of being at my parents' house, we've started bringing our laundry there every weekend, so we haven't paid for laundry in over a month. My mom doesn't mind at all because of all the work I'm doing for her on the family home videos, and she even insists on helping me fold it sometimes. I told her I'm more than happy to be paid for my time in laundry detergent :)

6) We only subscribe to two magazines, one of which my mom bought for us to support my sister's school fundraiser, and one which we got for free with our Coke Rewards points (which, in turn, were free thanks to friends who drank a lot of Coke and didn't want to set up their own accounts). We still have lots of Coke points, so we'll probably renew it in a year with more of the same.

7) When we moved in here, we sorted through a lot of stuff and piled up everything we didn't want. Some of it, the stuff we'll use in a house, is stored in my parents' basements, a lot of it went to Goodwill, and a handful of things we sold on eBay for a total of $60. I've started lending out or giving away books whenever I can, just to clear out some space. This in itself isn't necessarily money-saving, but by being in an I-have-too-much-stuff mindset rather than an I-need-more-stuff mindset, I don't feel much pressure to buy new things. And anything I feel that I do need, I put on my birthday/Christmas list.

8) I have a really organized system for tracking our spending. We have a big binder with dividers by category (Gas, Groceries, Rent, etc.) and notebook paper in each section. At the beginning of each month, I write the new month name and year at the top of the next piece of paper, and then all receipts in that category for that month get taped in that section. I add up totals at the bottom of each filled page. I have a spreadsheet in the front of the binder with a list of categories. At the end of each month, I go through our bank and credit card statements and match them against the binder to make sure we're not missing any receipts, then add up the totals for each category. Both our paychecks are direct deposit, so I can quickly add up our income and fill that in as well. So every cent we earn and spend is recorded, without much effort, and after December I'm going to look at the past six months and actually draw up spending limits for each category, so we can have a more consistent idea of how much we will spend each month.

9) We each get $10 a month for our personal allowances, which we can save or spend. This is basically on a trust system -- we each keep track of how much we have left in our own personal accounts. I use a Google Doc; Mike keeps it in his head, which isn't that difficult given that he pretty much spends his $10 every month, so he only has to remember how much of the $10 he's spent so far. Any gift money can go in our personal account as well. This is probably the biggest thing that has cut down on Mike's spending tendencies, because rather than having our whole income to work with and justifying to me every purchase he wants to make, he knows exactly how much money he has to do with as he likes, and when it's gone, it's gone, until the next month. Anything that has a category, like haircuts, or is a mutually made purchase, like furniture, he knows there's money for, and anything else he has to decide whether it's worth using part of his $10 for.

10) All of our bills are paid online, so we don't ever spend on postage to pay them. I did make Mailing a separate category, but only because I've been sending surprise gifts to friends over the past few months, and that's almost all of our spending in that category. Because we get an e-mail when our statements are ready, I can pop them right into my Google To-Do List, so they're always paid in plenty of time (and we pay our credit card off in full every month, so we have no interest). I also check our bank and credit card activity online every few days, so I can see right away if something isn't right. We get points from our bank card and cash back on our credit card, both of which are awesome (see the aforementioned future post for more on this).

11) Before we even started putting together our wedding gift registry, we made a decision that we didn't want to use paper towels/napkins/plates/etc. We have a ton of cloth napkins and washcloths, and we don't ever have to spend money at the grocery store on any paper products except toilet paper. We have so many Tupperware containers they're kind of taking over one of our kitchen cabinets, but I rarely have to throw away much from my lunch except maybe a banana peel and occasionally a granola bar wrapper. I have a water bottle and a thermos that I use at work -- I've become pretty averse to anything disposable.

12) We -- mostly Mike -- cook a lot, so we aren't usually eating stuff like one-time boxed or frozen meals, which saves a lot of grocery money. He usually cooks enough to have leftovers for at least a night, and when it's my turn to cook I usually make pasta because I love pasta and it's easy, and it also happens to be a cheap meal. We do buy a lot of frozen Steamfresh vegetables (as well as fresh vegetables), but that's because we honestly wouldn't get enough vegetables if we had to cook a side of fresh vegetables ourselves. Neither of us drinks coffee, and we've both mostly stopped drinking pop/soda/whatever you call it, which helps save money as well. Mostly we just drink a lot of water, and with meals sometimes have milk or V8 Fusion.

Those are the basics -- I also do other stuff to get discounts and free stuff, but I'll talk about that another time.

What I found most interesting, going through this "Tip Jar," is the kinds of things that people have to work to cut down on or cut out of their lives. I don't know how we would maintain the earning:spending ratio we have if we had cable TV, subscribed to a bunch of magazines, stopped at Starbucks every morning, smoked, drank, and went out to eat every weekend, yet I get the sense that these are people's most frequent "money-eaters." One of the tips that amused me was:

"Eliminate some cable service. Note that I'm not recommending getting rid of cable completely, although that's certainly a way to save money."

It has such a cautious tone, as if expecting people to be extremely defensive about their cable. And yet, I know that people are. I'm so grateful to have built a lifestyle that doesn't require cable TV. Probably even more than that, I'm grateful to have a husband whose view is so closely aligned with my own when it comes to all these things. And I'm grateful to have a family who lives close by who is willing to buy us dinner and let us do laundry for free in exchange for free video editing work and some quality time together.

Some other ones that amused me:

"Use ALL the surface of paper towels. You can save a lot of trees."
"Bring your lunch to work twice a week to save around 40% on those lunches out."


How are you saving money? What are your biggest money-eaters?

What Life of Pi Says about Gay Marriage (or Why I'm Still Catholic)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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What Life of Pi Says about Gay Marriage (or Why I'm Still Catholic) | Faith Permeating Life
I had a conversation with a friend the other night about the book Life of Pi. He complained about the first part of the book being too religion-focused, which made it difficult for him to get through it to the "adventure" part of the book. I said what I liked about it was how it created this challenge with the idea that a person could consider themselves part of three different religions. His response was that he already assumed that (that you could practice three religions), so he didn't gain anything from it.

This made me think about why what Pi does -- practice three religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) -- is seen as so outrageous and clashes so strongly with our traditional conceptions of religion.

What I think is so beautiful about this book and this character is that it forces the reader to draw a distinction between two very different aspects of religion: belief and worship. When looking at religion as a belief system, it becomes impossible to adhere strongly to these three religions. You cannot simultaneously believe that Jesus was and was not the Messiah. You'd have to pick and choose what you believe from each religion.

If, however, you view religion as a mode of worship, then the contradiction vanishes. You can, as Pi does, worship one God in multiple ways. You can find Him in the temple, the church, and the mosque. And in this way, you are provided with an expanded ability to worship and to experience God. You can listen to the words of not only Jesus but Moses, Muhammad, and others, to learn more about God and find more connection to Him. You can be taught more ways to pray, both with others and by yourself.

I explain this difference -- between belief and worship as offerings of organized religion -- to explain why I am choosing to remain Catholic despite extreme anger and embarrassment at certain Catholic authorities' words and actions. I have, in my Google Reader, a feed of every news article that comes through Google News about gay marriage. It saddens and angers me every time I read about a Catholic diocese contributing money to "fight" gay marriage, particularly those churches who passed around signature sheets and collection plates during Mass to aid in this fight. I was appalled to read about the archdiocese of DC threatening to stop social services if gay marriage passed, out of "fear" that they might have to provide benefits to same-sex partners.

Yesterday a statement from the U.S. bishops came out condemning gay marriage and issuing the vague and oft-repeated claim that it was destructive to "traditional marriage." I had been subscribed to a blog of a woman about my age who was also newly married, Catholic, and practicing NFP, and I enjoyed reading about the similarities in our lives. When she published a blog post praises the bishops' decision, however, (and adding, "Way to go, Maine!") I unsubscribed. I don't think my unsubscribing will affect her in the slightest bit, but reading those words so disturbed me that I didn't want to read anything else she might have to say about same-sex marriage being a danger to our society or a detriment to traditional marriage.

So why remain Catholic, and why keep giving money to the church? I'll answer the latter question first. Because no diocese in Illinois has pissed me off yet, and because I think our priest deserves to get paid if I'm going to keep attending our church, and because he seems pretty liberal and possibly not a personal believer in the "evilness" of gay marriage. (On the other hand, apparently our church is conservative enough that even though we clearly filled out our registration to say "Mr. & Mrs. Michael and Jessica ______ and listed me as the "head of house," we still got our envelopes that said "Mr. & Mrs. Michael ______.") Also, I believe in tithing because I believe that it is an act of faith, and if the money is used for unjust purposes without my knowledge, then that sin is on the spender, not on me.

The first question, why I remain Catholic, brings me back to the point I made at the beginning of this post. I am not Catholic because I need an organized religion to tell me what to believe. I am Catholic because I find that Mass is the method of worship that resonates most with my heart.

I spent a summer traveling the country with a Christian organization and going to all kinds of different worship services, and I missed going to Mass. When Mike and I went to visit one of my friends at a different college and went to her worship service, we went to Starbucks afterward while she was teaching Sunday School, and the first thing Mike said to me was, "I'm so glad we're Catholic." To which I responded, "Me too." It had nothing to do with anything in particular preached during the service, just in the method by which it was carried out. People accuse Catholics of not really participating in church because we just go through a ritual, but you know what? We stand and sit and recite prayers together, we hold hands, we shake each other's hand and give hugs. At this service I could have sat there and slept through the entire thing and no one would have noticed, that's how disconnected I felt from what was going on. Catholicism is how I best connect with, experience, and worship God.

If you understand that about me, you understand why I am completely open to other people belonging to different religions or different denominations of Christianity. If I were Catholic because I believed that the Catholic Church's teachings were the one right way to think about God, then I wouldn't and couldn't be so accepting. But I don't think there's one right way to think about God or talk to God or pray to God or worship God or experience God. This is what works for me. I would much prefer someone to be a devout Muslim than a forced-into-it distant uncomfortable Christian.

I believe the Catholic Church will get its act together on the gay marriage issue eventually, even if it takes 100 years or so. Nothing I do is going to change the fact that the Church does things really, really slowly.

Update: Here are some other posts explaining my views on gay marriage.
...And Then the Bishops Threw a Tantrum
What Is Marriage For, Really?
Also check out A Resource Guide to Christianity and Homosexuality

A Quick Update on Life

Saturday, November 7, 2009

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I was able to successfully start putting my family's home videos on DVDs, and I am SO excited about it. I have the first six years done so far, for a total of 9 DVDs. I go over to my parents' house every Sunday to work on them while Mike is at work. My sister sits and watches me sometimes, and my mom and even occasionally my dad will sit with me and figure out who people are (I make labels pop up briefly on the screen) and where we were and what certain events were called. It's probably my favorite day of the week. My sister keeps asking if she's been born yet, but the rate of one year's movies a week, she probably won't be born until sometime after Christmas :)

Life is good. Marriage is good. Mike is his usual self, which is one part infuriating to about nine parts patient, loving, and thoughtful. I fully expect him to remain so throughout the rest of our lives. We are currently planning out the house we want to build for ourselves in about 10 years. How that will fit in with having kids, his career, etc. My parents still appear not to grasp the concept of my being the primary breadwinner. Oh, and speaking of my career, with all the layoffs happening in publishing, I've pretty much decided that ideally I would like to stay in higher education and do as much freelance editing as I can. I think that would be a good balance for me.

My sister's spending the night here tonight, so I need to get things picked up a bit and run some errands. I like having a normal, routine life.

On Tithing and Trusting God

Monday, September 21, 2009

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On Tithing and Trusting God | Faith Permeating Life
In Donald Miller's "Blue Like Jazz," he talks about the importance of tithing. Traditionally, this refers to giving 10% of your income to the church. Ever since reading that book, I'd decided that once I had a steady, measurable income, I would do this. In the book he explains some good reasons for doing this, the main point being to trust in God. It's a tangible way to remember and acknowledge that our lives belong to God.

He stresses in the book that choosing to tithe is not dependent on your personal situation. He talks about living paycheck-to-paycheck and still choosing to tithe, and a check would always arrive from some freelance job he'd done right when he needed it. I never really saw this as being particularly applicable to me, since I don't freelance and my income is pretty much set.

Nonetheless, even though Mike and I were spending what we were making before beginning to tithe, I wanted to make a commitment to doing so. We sat down and figured out about how much we were bringing in per month and what 10% would be. We decided to split it, half to church and half to charity, including the $30 a month that goes to my World Vision child. It's funny how rich it suddenly makes you feel when you have x number of dollars to spend and are trying to come up with who to give it away to. We donated at church and afterward gave $20 to the Knights of Columbus Tootsie Roll drive.

That night, we went to my friend's birthday dinner. We had already spent $40 of our $50 "eating out and entertainment" budget for the month, forgetting we had this dinner coming up, and so we were trying to conserve how much we spent, knowing we'd be over budget regardless. Then, amazingly, the restaurant took 40% of our table's bill because they'd taken so long to seat us even though we had a reservation. Then, even more amazingly, my friend's boyfriend picked up the entire tab (a) because it had been cut almost in half and (b) because he had -- get this -- won the lottery ("not the big one, but the next biggest one") that week. We chipped in $3 total to give our waiter an extra tip.

Then, this morning, Mike needed to buy a 10-pass for the train, and we came up with exactly the right amount of cash (they don't take credit). He then told me the only reason he had that much cash on him (he never has cash) is because this woman had tipped him at work. He's a host -- he doesn't get tips. He was ringing out a carry-out order and the woman decided to tip him for it. Even then, it wouldn't have been cash except he didn't notice that she'd added a tip to her credit card charge until it was too late, and so she paid him the tip in cash instead.

I don't believe God is a slot machine or a credit card with cashback rewards. But I believe that God doused me in belief this weekend because I trusted in Him. And so, regardless of our financial situation, I remain committed to tithing 10% of our income. I trust God to take care of us, not so we can be crazy, but because we are being responsible with our money. Responsible and faithful. And I do believe God rewards that. Though maybe not always so obviously :)

Why I Should Feel Guilty about My Job (But Don't)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

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Why I Should Feel Guilty about My Job (But Don't) | Faith Permeating Life
I'm starting to acknowledge and let go of the guilt I feel about enjoying my job so much. There are legitimate (I suppose) reasons I should not be enjoying my job:
  1. I have a lot of downtime. It is not a constantly challenging position. I am the kind of person who likes to be challenged, and when I don't have something to work on, I find projects for myself, like sorting through all the files left by the person before me or going through their database of faculty and staff and changing everybody's phone numbers to reflect the area code change that was made this spring. This does not seem like the most valuable use of my time, given what I know I'm capable of doing (see: the past five years of my life).
  2. I feel like I should be helping a lot of people. Like I should have a job that has a significant impact on a lot of people. This is one of the things that draws me to textbooks -- I want to edit textbooks because I feel that it's more valuable than editing fiction, since it can actually affect people's abilities to learn. In my job, I help, at most, three people. But mostly just one.
  3. This is not the field I want to be in. Yes, I enjoy being in the higher education environment, but my "ultimate goal" is publishing. I should be doing something that gets me closer to that goal.
  4. I have a master's degree, and I'm doing a job that requires, at most, a bachelor's degree. My master's degree doesn't get me more money or more benefits or anything, and I'm not really using anything I learned in grad school to complete the tasks given to me as part of my job.

Despite all this, I really enjoy my job. I love the people I work with, my job creates almost zero stress for me, and I look forward to going to work every day. I make enough money that Mike and I should be able to make through the next year until he finds a job, and still have some savings left over (we're spending about what we're bringing in each month, not counting his school expenses, which are essentially coming out of our wedding gift money).

Here's what I'm figuring out, in response to the "rational" complaints I should have about my job, above.
  1. I busted my ass practically all day, every day for at least a decade of my life while I was in school. I mean, probably since I was in sixth grade, I have not had a ton of free time in my life. I now have a job where I don't have to bring any work home with me. Ever. I get an hour lunch break every day, whenever I want it, and I spend that time reading while I eat. I read on the train. I am flying through books faster than I have since I was a little kid and used to bring home a huge stack of library books each week. And Mike's about to start classes and bring home homework and between classes and internship and work will be busy seven days a week, so my responsibilities at home are going to pick up a lot. Even if I can't exactly run errands during my downtime at work, I can still get done anything that needs to be done electronically, and I don't get any stress from my job, so I will be better able to handle stress that comes from home.
  2. I don't have to help a lot of people through my job. My boss is in charge of a ton of people. She makes decisions that affect lots of people. And if I can make her job easier, take some stress off her, and catch some mistakes or go the extra step to make something happen, then I've done some good. And nothing is stopping me from volunteering or donating or doing any of those types of things. Our library is closing for a few weeks, but when it opens back up again I plan to start volunteering there. And Mike and I planned out how much we want to give to charity each month (more on this another time).
  3. One of the alumni I e-mailed with when I was looking for jobs told me that she did a job just like what I have now and ended up in publishing eventually. And once I have a better handle on what my at-home schedule is going to be like, I may try again pursuing freelance opportunities. Maybe not this year. Maybe I'll wait until Mike has a full-time job, which should be no more than a year away, and then start freelancing. A one-year gap in publishing involvement is not going to kill my chances, plus I'm doing some proofreading-type work at my job now, which has to count for something.
  4. I actually came to terms with this last point while reading The Poisonwood Bible. Two of the characters, who live in the Congo, come to the United States to get college degrees and then go back to the Congo and back to having almost nothing to eat and living in a shack and all that. And I didn't understand the point of getting their degrees at first. The degrees "count" for nothing where they are. They don't help them earn any more money and they don't help them survive any better. Then I understood that they had come solely for the education -- the reason we're all supposed to want to go to school in the first place -- so they could teach their neighbors some more efficient ways of living and growing food. And I thought to myself, I essentially got my bachelor's and master's degrees for free. Particularly my master's degree, which only added a year to my schooling plus I got paid to teach. And so if in the end all I got out of it was education -- so what? That's OK. I learned about the importance of communication in every aspect of life, and that by itself has the power to improve my quality of life for as long as I live. I know it's helped my marriage. And even if my master's degree doesn't change my salary, it's not like it's a bad salary. I could have found a job where the master's degree did count for more money and still end up not making as much as I do. So what does it matter?
So I am perfectly content with my job right now, and if anyone wants to tell me that I'm wasting my intelligence or that I should be pushing for a job in publishing or whatever they think my life should be right now, well, that's their opinion. Not mine.

An Open Letter to the Woman in Front of Me in Church Today

Saturday, September 19, 2009

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An Open Letter to the Woman in Front of Me in Church Today | Faith Permeating Life
Dear woman in front of me at church today,

You have a very well-behaved son. He was quiet, he didn't seem overly distracted, and he stood and kneeled and sat when he was supposed to. In fact, the only thing that was disrupting my "churchgoing experience" was you. I still can't figure out why exactly you were hissing at him or grabbing him every five minutes, but the only thing I could gather was that you didn't think he was being holy enough because he wasn't sitting up straight or because he was tapping his fingers together or because he put his head down during the prayers like maybe he was sleeping -- or maybe he was praying.

But I'll tell you that even if you succeed in whatever your goal is, making him sit up straight and hold his head just right and sing and not act bored for even a second, you will not have saved his soul. If you place all your emphasis on his outward appearance, then in the end, that's all you're going to get. If he loves you or respects you or fears you enough he will eventually do everything you say, and then get the hell out of there and turn his back on God as soon as he's 18. Who knows, maybe you don't care about that. Maybe you do just care about appearances. In which case, I will repeat that you were being a heck of a lot more annoying than he was.

I would gladly sit behind your son in church again, but I wouldn't want to sit behind you again. On the other hand, if you let him be himself, if you let him put his head down or tap his fingers because he's bored, then maybe he'll be thinking about video games or sex or food, but maybe he'll get to thinking about God. Maybe some part of the priest's homily will seep into his brain and he'll get to thinking about it late at night when he's lying in bed. But if you spend all of church poking him and reprimanding him, then everytime he thinks about God he will think about church and he will have a negative feeling, and that will color everything he believes about God.

Sincerely,

The woman behind you in church today

Married Life

Sunday, August 30, 2009

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Married Life | Faith Permeating Life
July went very, very quickly. I moved into the new apartment, was without Internet for quite a while, started a new job in the midst of still moving in, did an insane trip to Columbus over a weekend for which we were in Ohio for literally 24 hours, and then managed with much stress to wrap up details in the last two weeks of wedding planning.

And then I got married. And it was the most perfect wedding I could have ever imagined.

It still blows me away when I think about the vast number of guests who have told us (or my parents/Mike's parents/Mike's brother/etc) that it was the BEST wedding they'd ever been to. How did that happen? I know we can't take credit for all of it, that's for sure. I mean, I am happy with the decisions we made along the way, the fact that we made almost all of them together, and the fact that we almost aggressively didn't care about things we thought were not important to the wedding. We also were blessed to get the very best -- the very best reception place was magically available for our date, the very best DJ was available that day, and the most awesome priest came all the way from Ohio to do a fabulous job with the wedding. And all of those were factors.

I think what it really came down to, though, was -- and I realized this on my wedding day more than ever -- we have amazing friends and family. The DJ said it was the best crowd he'd ever worked with. Everyone fit together beautifully; people made friends with people they'd never met before. By the end of the night the son of my dad's high school best friend had spent most of the reception with Mike's coworkers from college, and one of the groomsmen had hit it off amazingly with Mike's cousin who he hadn't seen in forever. I'm not sure if the wedding ceremony just put people in a good mood or if there were just far more people than I'd ever imagined who find something to get excited about in my and Mike's relationship. Mike and I discussed this after a lot of people told us that we inspired them or something like that, and we decided that even if we aren't up to whatever standards people are seeing us at, if our relationship can provide something positive for another person, so be it.

The support system of our attendants, a smaller and stronger subset of the above "friends and family," was definitely a huge factor in the success of the day as well. I said it probably a hundred times, but I seriously had the most amazing matron of honor any girl could ever ask for. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, and really wasn't, because of what a great friend she's been all these years, but I don't know how I would have made it through the week before the wedding without her. Ok, now I'm starting to cry and I have to stop. My attendants, collectively, were amazing as well. Each of them played a role, whether it was Cat keeping me grounded or Ladan or Susan making me laugh hysterically when I needed it. We have amazing friends.

I will never forget when we got to the playground to take pictures, and even though it was drizzling, everyone just burst out of the limo and went to play on the playground. Taking pictures with our friends was incredibly fun, and you can see that on our faces in the pictures. Another great moment was when we got to the reception place and the photographer was taking pictures of Mike and me in front of the limo -- all our attendants got in a circle and went around introducing themselves and how they knew Mike or me. They all bonded with each other. It was amazing.

Enough about the wedding.

The past month has really been great. I love my job, I love our apartment, and I especially love my husband and love our relationship. Part of me can't help waiting for the other shoe to drop -- the "honeymoon" to end. But at the same time, I don't feel like we're on cloud nine and everything's all picturesque. Yeah, we're still enjoying some things that are new, like being able to kiss, but other than that I don't really feel like things are a whole lot different than they've been for the past five years. I mean, we spent five years doing things a lot of couples don't do, like discussing our opinions on practically everything, but especially about how we want to live our lives, raise our children, etc., and we've also spent that time not only figuring out how to communicate with each other but actually having involved conversations about the way we communicate (what happens when you put a communication major and a psychology major together, I guess). That's not a guard against arguments -- we've still had our share of disagreements over the past month -- but it keeps them from turning into full-blown fights.

Will we still fight? Yes. But what I learned in my interpersonal communication class is that, all other factors aside (age at marriage, race, SES, whether parents divorced, etc.), what determines whether a couple stays together and is happy in their marriage is how they communicate with one another. My fear when we got married was that I was going to fall into a schema for how I thought married people should communicate, and we would fall into the destructive cycles that so many couples fall into and for which we've had plenty of models. And there's no guarantee that won't happen in the future. But what I've found is that when we got married, I automatically became more on my guard against being sarcastic, or stonewalling, or any of those bad traits I've seen in other marriages. And I discovered right away that if I was unhappy about something, using humor to approach the situation, which is what I'd often done in the past, was a bad way to do it. Example (not one that's been an issue, but the only thing that comes to mind): As much as I might initially think that a lighthearted "D'you think you could wash your dishes out every once in a while?" with a smile to show it's not a big deal to me would be the best way to deal with a situation, that still comes across as an attack, and a sarcastic one at that. If I simply said, genuinely, "I would really appreciate it if you would wash your dishes out as you use them so they don't stack up in the sink," then this would give him an opportunity to respond equally as genuinely if he had a legitimate reason not to, whereas the typical and easiest way to respond to a sarcastic question is defensiveness, one of the things that breaks down a relationship.

It also seems to me that another thing that "ends the honeymoon" for married couples is when they discover something new and unacceptable about their spouse. There wasn't much opportunity for that in our relationship. Any and all deep, dark secrets came out in the first six months of our relationship and were worked through, successfully, by the time we were married. And we'd spent a summer living together with his aunt, as well as practically lived together when we had apartments next door to each other at school sophomore year, so we'd already met and conquered things like different methods for doing dishes or how I hate to have anyone watch me cook if they're not cooking with me. We didn't have to learn to compromise after we got married; we'd been doing it for a long time.

If anything, the new things I've discovered about my husband have been very positive. Until he starts school he's been at home a lot of days while I'm working, and I've found that, left with a to-do list (that we created together! I'm not that bad), he will do a lot more things on there than I would have anticipated. Yes, he still watches a lot of TV, but I don't really care about that as long as I don't come home and find that he's ignored everything he had to do that day. And yesterday he actually asked me if I would leave him the grocery shopping for Monday rather than doing it today while he was at work. He said he enjoys shopping, that it gets him out of the house. He even uses the little chart I made for the fridge where you mark stuff as we run out of it, and he keeps a running list of extra stuff to buy on the to-do pad on the side of the fridge. He also cooks every night -- very well, I might add.

Does the apartment still get messy? Yes. But I discovered yesterday, when I went to pick it up, that it only took about 10 minutes, plus 10 minutes for sorting and filing the paperwork on the table. This is what I've always said -- I don't mind living with mess as long as we're organized, because then everything has a place and can be put away easily. And that's exactly what happened.

Maybe I'm idealistic and this all won't last. I hope that's not the case. I know things are going to get more stressful when Mike starts school again. He will then be busy every day of the week, literally, and a lot more is going to fall on my shoulders to do on the weekends or on my lunch break at work. But at that point a lot of the big stuff will be taken care of, like all the name and address change things that had to get straightened out this past month, and all the other wedding wrap-up things we've been doing, and we shouldn't be missing too many essentials in our household anymore, so I'm just praying that will simplify things a bit :)

But of course, I'd better use my spare time today and get a lot of that stuff done!

Aaaaah Moving Stress!

Friday, July 10, 2009

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To some extent, I'm thankful that I'm moving so close to the start of my new job, because the stress of moving has almost entirely usurped the stress of starting my job. The stress of moving also encompasses the stress of attempting to get done everything I possibly can before moving.

Mike and I finished our 18 photo albums of the 3200 digital prints from the last 5 years (plus my mom's 400 or so duplicates of her own pictures that we added to the pile). It was a huge relief to have that done. Unfortunately, labeling that many pictures caused me to strain a muscle in my hand, which has made it exasperatingly difficult to attempt to do things like pack. As of this morning, however, it seems to be mostly healed.

It turns out that the files in iMovie weren't corrupted; instead, the entire program is broken, basically. So even loading completely new videos on the computer and importing them iMovie doesn't fix the problem that they're impossible to work with in the Project window. Last time I called Apple Care, when this happened on my own computer, they gave me some B.S. response, as did the guy when I took my laptop into the Genius Bar, but when Mike called for my parents' computer, they took him seriously. So I would like him to call again to tell them that the whole program is busted and maybe they can send us another copy of the software or make a patch or something, but he thinks they're not going to be able to do anything, so apparently the solution is to just ignore it and/or wait a year until the next version comes out. In other words, I will have to try my luck calling them today, since I'm moving out tomorrow.

I talked my dad into not having the driveway resurfaced this week, which it turns out we couldn't have had done anyway because 1) it rained and 2) the company forgot to tell my dad he needed to get a permit first. So that simplifies things a lot, since we were going to have to park the moving truck on the street and carry things across the front lawn to it. Also, I recruited three friends to help on Saturday, which is awesome because my brother is leaving for the weekend and Mike is at work most of the day Saturday.

In wedding news, we're down to about 80 missing RSVPs, with 190 guests accepted. I don't think we're ever going to get down to zero missing RSVPs because people are dumb and don't respond to phone calls/texts/e-mails asking if they're coming, and this makes me a little nervous that somebody's going to show up without telling us they're coming. You wouldn't think so, but just last night I was talking to Mike's grandma, who asked, among other things, why her nephew and his wife didn't get an invitation to our rehearsal dinner even though they're coming to the wedding. I said, because we had no idea they were coming to the wedding! They never RSVPed! Sheesh.

Lots of packing still to do today. I have this fear of bringing boxes of miscellaneous items into our apartment because I'm so determined to organize everything, but I think it's going to have to happen, and I'm just going to keep a box open to chuck stuff in that I want to donate or put in storage at my parents' house. Fortunately there are still a few weeks until Mike moves in, so we have a few weeks to bring stuff back and forth between our apartment and my parents' house as needed. Of course, we can do that after we're married as well, but my dream is to have the apartment beautifully organized by the time Mike moves in. I don't mind Mike being messy as long as everything has a place I can put it back in; he doesn't mind me being obsessively organized as long as I don't get on his case about not keeping everything in its place. So it works.

Also, it's probably going to take a few days to get the Internet setup installed, so I will have three whole days after moving in before starting work to just organize the apartment and get myself ready to start work. We won't have all the furniture yet -- we still need a bookshelf, a computer desk, a dresser, a nightstand, and a TV stand from Mike's mom's house -- but I can at least group things where they're going to go.

Aaaah everything happening at once!

Finish Line! (and Budgeting)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

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I made it to July 1! I am no longer strictly on the anti-candida diet. I've decided that even if I didn't 100% fix whatever's wrong with my body, my body ought to be in a lot better shape than it was two months ago simply from eating well, exercising often, drinking lots of water, taking vitamins, all of that. All things I plan to continue doing.

I went to the dermatologist on Monday. She said most of what she saw on my face was redness from acne that was there, and she said that should fade. So my face, and to some extent my chest, should look a lot better in my wedding dress than if I hadn't started the Retin-A. The dermatologist is moving to Pennsylvania, and I'm moving, obviously, so the plan now is to just use my prescription stuff until it runs out maybe six months from now, and then find a dermatologist around the area where I'll be living if I feel I need to.

I'm really trying not to stress about getting things done. It just feels like there's so much to get done in so little time. But I know it will work out. Even after I start working, Mike can take care of wedding stuff, just like he did when I was in Ohio. And yes, I want to get these video projects and these photo projects done before I move out and start work, but if that doesn't happen, I will find time to finish them after I move. Or even after we get married, as much as I'd like our albums to be done before the flood of wedding photos.

Mike and I worked out an estimated monthly and yearly budget yesterday. For the past year, whenever I've talked about being concerned about money (usually in the context of trying to get him to look for another job), his response has always been that we're going to live very simply and we would be fine (to which my response was that he was underestimating how much our cost of living would be). So when we put together the budget, we put in basically the minimum that we would need to spend, assuming things like several hundred dollars a year for car maintenance/repair, assuming the need to buy clothing or shoes at some point in the year, etc. And we came out $4,000 more than my annual salary. Hmmmmm, see why I'm worried now?? In actuality, I'm not too worried, because I know we'll have some income from his weekend job and we'll get some money from the wedding, and we have enough in savings that we will have an emergency fund, we just won't be able to sock away lots of savings the way he kept insisting we would be able to. We'll need to cut coupons, and we're both looking into transit reimbursement from our school and work, which is a big part of our budget. We'll be able to make through the next year fine, and after that Mike will have a salary as well. What I don't want to do is make temporary sacrifices and then increase spending once we have that second income.

Deep breath. Big sigh. All will be fine.

Updates on Everything

Saturday, June 27, 2009

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Updates on everything:

Job: I called and accepted. No problem getting the week of the honeymoon off. They're super nice there. Even offered to see if I could fill out my hiring paperwork with my married name to save the hassle of changing it a few weeks later, but of course that wouldn't work because I don't exist with my married name at the Social Security office yet. I spent an hour or so the other night working out the daily commute for Mike and me--we'll be driving to the train station together and taking the train to the city before going our separate ways.

Candida: Who knows anymore. I think I'm kidding myself if I say that the throat-clearing I'm doing nowadays is significantly improved from before I started the diet. I'm supposed to go off it in a few days. Now that I will have health insurance soon, I think I'll go be poked and prodded at the doctor and see what s/he can make of it. At least I'll know I tried it my way first.

Acne: Going to the dermatologist on Monday. I feel like everything magically cleared up in the past 24 hours, which I'm concerned is temporary and will only last long enough for the dermatologist to see me and send me on my way. My chest area still has bumps, but they don't seem as noticeable anymore. And my face has some red spots, but I think those are mostly scars from earlier years of picking at my face. So I guess, assuming this lasts, the progress here is good.

Wedding: I've given up on getting the priest stuff straightened out before the home church priest retires. Either the school priest's phone is broken again or he just sucks at returning phone calls. Mike's been awesome about going shopping for wedding stuff--I think we've bought everything we needed to buy, and night before last we ordered all of our gifts for our attendants (which I'm hoping turn out awesome). The main things on my to-do list right now involve people returning phone calls: The priest. The reception coordinator. The florist. The babysitter. And the wedding coordinator at church needs to send me electronic copies of our music so I can put the worship aides together. We're going out of town next week for the Fourth of July weekend and I have a feeling things are going to kick into major high gear with wedding stuff once we get back. Particularly since I'll be moving and starting my job soon after. Eek!

Projects: iMovie corrupted the file that had my home videos, so I took a break from that project since I'll have to start over with labeling everything. Instead, Mike and I organized and dated all of our electronic copies of our digital pictures from the time we started college to now, and then got all 3200 pictures printed and bought 18 albums to put them in. We picked them up yesterday and started getting them sorted and labeled so they'll be ready to go in albums. I'm going to work on that tonight while he's out at his bachelor party :)

Time to switch out laundry loads and then read my benefits info from my new job. Life never slows down!

I Have a Job!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

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What a busy past week!!

Biggest news: I got offered the job I interviewed for last week. THANK GOD! I'm actually really excited about it because I think it will be a very fun environment to work in. I'm going to have two weeks to train with the person in the position now, which eases my nerves a little bit about my ability to do the job. I haven't accepted yet because I want to make sure I get together any questions I have and ask them those (including whether it will be a problem to take off the week for my honeymoon). But the salary offered is about the highest I was hoping for for my first job out of school, which helps me feel better about our ability to support ourselves during Mike's second year of school.

My best friend (one of my best friends!) got married this past weekend. The ceremony and reception were absolutely beautiful and perfect for the two of them. They've been dating for about 8 years (since high school) so it wasn't at all weird to think about them as married because they've been permanently paired in my mind for so long. Three other friends and I sang "The Prayer" at the ceremony, and we were all very happy with how it went.

I took a one-day break from my anti-candida diet so that I could enjoy their wedding cake (which was really, really good!!). That night I was clearing my throat incessantly, which I'm thinking may be because of the food, but could also be because I was losing my voice anyway from singing for about four straight hours the day before (minus the 45 minutes we were stuck in traffic on the way to the rehearsal) and talking in a loud restaurant for the rehearsal dinner. I was losing my talking voice and clearing my throat at the wedding in the morning from all of that the night before, so really I have no idea what's going on. I went back on the Internet and got frustrated like I usually do by all the contradictory information about candida. I told Mike I would go off the diet July 1, but I think I'm going to have to stay somewhat on the diet just to keep the throat thing under control for a while, at least until I get health insurance back and can go to the doctor to get another opinion.

Now that my friend's wedding is done, we've kicked wedding planning into high gear in my house. Mike and I bought a ton of stuff last week (guestbook, ribbon for the cake, placecards, thank-you notes, gift bags for our attendants' gifts) and my mom picked up the cake topper we wanted yesterday. I made Mike make decisions on all the guests whose addresses we still didn't have (either find a new way to get their address or we're taking them off the list), and I've started our seating chart. We got everything straightened out (more or less) with the reception place, so we at least have a correct floor plan put together. At some point I need to add some more detail to my master schedule and get that to all our vendors so we can make sure everything's straight in everyone's minds.

The VHS-DVD project is on hold because the files apparently got corrupted in iMovie, so I'm probably going to have to redo all the projects. I started on a new project, which is getting all of my and Mike's digital pictures from college printed so I can get them in albums and get pictures of my friends' weddings in albums before our wedding. I don't know if it will happen, but that's the goal.

Overall things are good but very, very busy!!

Yesterday was Hell, Today is a New Day

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

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I am glad that the hellish day that was yesterday is over.

The morning, thankfully, was not that bad, aside from having to wake up at 6:30am. I pretty much had a nervous breakdown the night before because I was completely exhausted and had no idea how to get where I was going the next day. Mike was an angel and gave me incredibly detailed instructions, including printing off a map that included all legs of my trip. He dropped me off at the train station at 8; I took the train into the city, walked a few blocks to the L, swiped his card right where he told me to, took the L two stops over, walked a few blocks, and then took his suggestion to stop and catch my breath at a coffee shop. There was a Dunkin Donuts on the way, and the woman behind the counter gave me a cup of water, for which I was very grateful, and then a whole crowd of people came in so I wasn't awkward that I just took my free water and sat at one of their three chairs for the next 15 minutes.

The interview itself went fine; I don't know what they thought of me or what the other candidates are like, but I didn't walk out of there feeling like I said anything stupid or forgot to say something important. I said "um" more than I wanted to and probably more than I even realized, but I think my other nonverbals -- eye contact, posture, hand gestures -- were good. I asked a good number of questions. They said the projected start date is mid-July, which would be perfect as long as they don't mind me taking that week off for my honeymoon. But who knows if they'll even offer it to me.

Mike had spent a long time at home fighting with our error-ing GPS system, so he got there later than planned, which was fine because I just walked to Millennium Park and read, and we couldn't pick up the bed until noon anyway. We got there, loaded the bed on the truck, covered it with a tarp in case of rain, strapped it down, paid the person we were buying it from, and got on the road. No problems there.

Then we spent over two hours in stop-dead traffic because there was an accident. And it started pouring rain. The mattress, fortunately, didn't get that wet, thanks to the tarp, but the box spring underneath it got soaked on the sides. When we got home, we pulled in the garage, hoping the rain would let up while we ate lunch, which it didn't, so we carried the bed through the rain and into the house. We managed, with much difficulty and some paint scratches, to get the bed frame down to the basement, but the mattress and box spring wouldn't fit around the bend in the stairs.

...Edit...Too much bitching about other people...

Today I'm going to make myself some breakfast, do Wii Fit, shower, work on my family videos, and then get the hell out of here and go help my friend whose wedding is on Saturday. I still have 24 days until I move out. I'm just trying to conceptualize that time as the time I have left to finish these video projects.

Now the Internet's not working. Awesome.

I try not to wish for time to pass quickly given that life is short (for the extended explanation, see the movie Click), but I can't help but feel that I'm going to be in such a better place mentally and emotionally in about two months when I have an apartment, a job, and a husband.

EDIT: Just opened what I thought was finally the floor plan and the wine lists from the reception coordinator. It was only the floor plan -- and it was wrong!! It wasn't even close to what we talked about! Plus she said she was going to send us several options, and all she sent us was one copy of a floor plan that's not what we talked about! Aaaah!

Wedding Stress Will Be the Death of Me

Sunday, June 14, 2009

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Wedding Stress Will Be the Death of Me | Faith Permeating Life
Mike and I had a nice, quick trip to Ohio and got to see his mom. We also got to see -- and stay with -- one of my bridesmaids, a friend from college I lived with for the past three years. We stayed up late talking and I realized how much I missed living with her. We had great conversations this past year when it was just the two of us in one house.

Good developments with the job search: Got a call for a face-to-face interview on Tuesday for the job I had a phone interview for last week. I applied for a job and sent in requests for freelance projects to a few places yesterday. I talked to a freelance editor yesterday who said it's possible to freelance while having a full-time job if you take on one project at a time and don't have other commitments (like kids) that could interfere with making deadline. I don't have any proof of any real competencies (like a degree in math) that would sell me as a copyeditor, so she suggested I start out asking for proofreading jobs and then show them I can catch content errors as well.

Frustrations with wedding planning: Home church priest, who is retiring in a few weeks, called last week to say we were missing paperwork. As far as I can tell, most of what we're missing, the school priest (who's presiding at our wedding) has, which he's been compiling because everyone we talked to at the home church (the staff, not the priest) said that was fine, whatever the school priest wanted to do. Home church priest gets annoyed at us for not telling him anything, not having the right paperwork, whatever. We say, we're going to Ohio and meeting with the school priest, we'll get the paperwork. Try for a week to get a hold of the school priest. Finally get a hold of him Thursday night, he's been out of town for a week and his phone was broken. Says he doesn't need to meet with us again, but will call the home church priest first thing in the morning, get a list of everything he needs, and drop it in the mail ASAP. He says he'll call me in the morning if there's any problem or any reason we need to come see him before we leave Ohio. Friday afternoon, we leave and drive back to Chicago. Saturday (yesterday) afternoon, go to church, see the home church priest, ask if the school priest called, he says NO and is not happy. So now what???

Additional frustrations: Reception coordinator promises a month ago to send us bill, floor plan, wine list. She forgets. I e-mail her. She mails us the bill only, which is for way more than they said. My mom calls her. She doesn't appear to see an issue with their wildly misleading us on the cost, promises to send us the floor plan and wine list. Still nothing. My mom keeps trying to mentally seat people at the reception as she finds out who's feuding and what not, and I really want to start putting together a seating chart, but I have no floor plan to base it on. So far we have 96 accepted, 57 declined, and almost 300 who haven't RSVP'd yet.

I've started having wedding dreams. Night before last, I dreamt about my friend's wedding that's coming up this weekend. It was 1:45pm and the wedding was at 2pm and 45 minutes away from our house (her wedding's actually at 10am, ours is at 2pm), I couldn't get my family out of the house to leave, I couldn't leave on my own because my dad had the invitation with the address, which he couldn't find, and he was trying to carry on a conversation with me about the news, utterly unconcerned that I was missing my best friend's wedding that I was supposed to be singing at, that would probably be over by the time we got there.

Then last night I had a dream that it was the day of our wedding and the entire bridal party was hanging out at our house. I was already dressed for some reason, and I had to go fix something in the basement, and nobody else would help me, and eventually Mike came down and helped me, and then I realized he wasn't supposed to see me in my dress but at that point it didn't really matter. I woke up and went back to sleep, and I dreamt about the rehearsal dinner, which was in this giant school-cafeteria-type room and my aunt was mad at me about something, and I was looking for my brother because I hadn't seen him in forever. (He's gone for the weekend, maybe that's why.) Anyway -- very weird. I need to call my friend and see how she's doing. I'm waiting to burden her with any matron of honor duties until she gets back from her honeymoon :)

Oh, Mike and I made a pumpkin pie last night. I've really wanted to make a dessert for myself since my mom keeps baking stuff I can't eat (she made cookies yesterday), but I just haven't had the time or energy. It had to set overnight and it's chilling in the fridge now, but hopefully I can eat it as soon as Mike gets home from work!

Current countdowns:
I can eat normally again: 17 days
I move out: 27 days
I get married: 48 days

Good News!

Monday, June 8, 2009

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My phone interview seemed to go well today. I should know in the next week if they want me to come in for a face-to-face interview. I felt like I gave good answers to the questions. They didn't ask me a lot of "typical" questions, except for how I handle frustration/stress, so those will probably come in the face-to-face interview. They said they'll make the decision in the next few weeks, so that at least leaves the possibility of hearing about another job by then just to have a comparison. But we shall see.

Mike was awesome and did a practice interview with me this morning. On the phone. In the same house. Because he's that awesome.

I was out shopping with my mom this morning (found lots of delicious snack foods I can have! yay!) and was clearing my throat a lot, which hasn't happened in forever. That gave me hope that the candida die-off has started. Of course, this also caused me to start losing my voice, and I thought that was going to mean hell for my phone interview. But my voice was fine by the time I did the interview. It would make sense if my die-off was starting now, because from what I've read it generally takes at least a month, plus I just starting taking Candida QuickCleanse, so that should have started killing off all the weakened candida. So if that's the case, hooray! I'm still going to stay on the diet until the end of the month, but I hope this means I won't have to worry about going back to eating certain foods.

I'm probably not going to eat the way I did before the diet ever again. I'm too conscious now of everything that's in different food, especially processed food. Most likely the changes to my diet will be things like eating fruit and pasta again. And bread. My mom made banana bread again today. Smells sooooo good.

We got a call today that we can come put a deposit down on our apartment. They had to do some minor repair work and it will be ready by the weekend, so we're probably going to go on Saturday. They're being very laid-back about everything, which is awesome because it means that my dad doesn't have to co-sign our lease, he just had to sign to guarantee payments. So as soon as I have a job (which could be soon!), I can just start paying our rent payments.

Also, somebody from Mike's school is selling a barely-used queen bed (frame, boxspring, mattress) for $250. We're going tomorrow to give her half as a deposit and then will pick it up when she moves out in a couple of weeks. Now all we're missing is a good dining room table, but we decided to just use the free one from my parents with some folding chairs and then buy one once I'm moved in, so we only have to move it once.

The DVDs have been giving me minor problems, but I hope to have them fixed soon!

As Normal As Things Can Be

Sunday, June 7, 2009

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Things are getting back to normal a bit. The painters are gone, so I could start doing Wii Fit again, except I majorly pulled a muscle or something in my leg so I can barely walk on it, much less test my balance on the Wii. Boo. But I'm going to try to get back into my schedule of 1 hour Chicago Manual of Style, 1 hour of Distributed Proofreaders a day.

The breakfast went really well yesterday. In some ways I actually feel like it was practice for my interview tomorrow because I was able to bring up different stories at appropriate times and tell them briefly and coherently, which is what I tried to teach my students to do when talking about past jobs or projects on an interview. There were six other members there, some employed full time and some not, and we mostly talked about social media. I actually felt very comfortable jumping into the conversation with ideas or things I'd read or heard about. I also got a couple leads on places to possibly apply, and one of the co-leaders said she'd send me information on the people in the organization who work there or have contacts there. I sent e-mails last night to a few people I'd met so I hopefully don't lose those connections.

When Mike got home from work, we went with my parents back to the apartment we liked so we could put in an application. My parents were very happy with the area and the complex, and when we found out we couldn't get the smaller 1BR apt. in a building with indoor stairs, we opted for the bigger 1BR (still cheaper than anyplace else we looked), which made my mom feel better. So we actually have an address now, which is an amazing thing. We set the move-in date for July 11th, since we'll be out of town the weekend before, and the weekend after Mike and I are going to his mom's house, so we can rent a U-Haul and get all of his old furniture while we're there. When we got home we re-did the construction paper diagram and moved our paper furniture around for a while to get a setup we were pretty happy with.

We picked up the $25 tables when we got back from the apartment, and they are great. We spent a long time looking online for dining room sets -- we have a little kitchen table, but no chairs, that we can take from my parents, but now that we have a bigger apartment we can fit a bigger table. We found one for $60 from someone in the area, so I e-mailed to ask if we could just look at it. They didn't post dimensions, but it fits six chairs, so it's gotta be decent.

My mom got a call yesterday from our parish priest that we're apparently missing a bunch of paperwork for the wedding that nobody told us we needed to do, and it wasn't in any of the materials the church gave us. Fortunately we still have time, but we need things like certified copies of our baptismal certificates, which we already got and gave to the priest who's actually doing the ceremony, so I don't know if we need to order more copies, or what.

Additionally, we finally received the (very late) info from the reception place, and it didn't have half of the stuff it was supposed to. We were supposed to get wine lists, floor plans, etc., and all we got was a bill, which was for way more than they had indicated it was going to be. My mom called our contact there, who I'm sure is out or busy for the weekend, so hopefully we'll hear back tomorrow.

Now that I have a moving date, I mentally divided up projects that I can do after I move and those that have to be done here, and basically I'm going to focus solely on getting our home videos onto DVDs before I move. I'm having an issue with iDVD that apparently other people are too (movie starts playing before the menu even though it's set not to), but can't find any answers. I can still get the tapes onto the computer, though. Yay projects!

Whatever -- I'm Cranky

Friday, June 5, 2009

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Whatever -- I'm Cranky | Faith Permeating Life
Things are moving forward.

Mike and I looked at apartments today. We found three that we liked, and the one that had the highest ratings on apartmentratings.com (80% -- unheard of!) was also the cheapest and in a nice area, so duh, we're going to take it. My mom was obsessing over how small the bedroom was on the floor plan and trying to compare it to other apartments even though we'd already 100% made our decision. Mike made a construction paper floor plan with little furniture to show that everything fits. We are getting from my parents a double bed (until we can afford our own queen), a couch, a dining room table, and two DVD shelves (all stuff they're getting rid of because they like to buy new stuff); from Mike's old bedroom stuff there's a computer desk, a dresser, a nightstand, and a bookshelf; and we found a coffee table and end table set online for $25, which is basically all we were missing.

On the way home from looking at apartments we started talking about budgeting. We decided that even though I don't have a monthly income yet, we can figure out approximately how much our monthly expenses would be and how much I would need to make for us to be able to put away some savings every month. That should help me set standards for my salary negotiation as well.

I'm starting to feel this growing anxiety in the pit of my stomach, and I'm not entirely sure where it's coming from. I know part of it is the fact that I have this networking breakfast tomorrow morning that I'm horribly nervous about because I want to make a good impression to hopefully help me land a job (not to mention that I will have to find something I can eat on this diet). My hope is that they don't get new members very often so they will ask me lots of questions. Answering questions I can do. Thinking of thoughtful questions to ask other people, I suck at.

My job search in general is psyching me out a little bit. I'm starting to get anxious about my phone interview on Monday, and I figured out today that since I graduated I have applied, on average, to one job every two days. One job every two days! And only one interview! This makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong. Considering that, as part of my teaching job, I read everything I could get my hands on for an entire school year regarding job-hunting advice, if there's something I'm not doing, or doing wrong, I can't imagine what it is.

Also, despite Mike's insistence that my face looks better, I think it looks like crap, and I have a giant pimple on my forehead.

And even though I have this "super-healthy" lifestyle, my menstrual cycle has decided to become massively f-ed up this month.

I'm going to bed so I'm not exhausted for this breakfast tomorrow. Maybe things will look better from tomorrow.

Diets Make Me Hungry!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

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Diets Make Me Hungry! | Faith Permeating Life
I feel like I'm perpetually hungry, and my choices of available food are limited. In a way I guess this is a blessing because I can't just absentmindedly snack all day long, but on the other hand my mom has been baking and buying all this delicious stuff, like chocolate chip banana bread muffins, mini cinnamon rolls, giant blueberry muffins, etc. I really miss baked goods. Even bread. I have to keep reminding myself that this is two months out of my entire life, and I only have 27 days of the diet left. I will definitely have a greater appreciation for food when I go off the diet. Even tonight at Subway, all I could get was a very basic salad, adding my own sugar-free dressing at home, and I devoured the entire thing until my stomach hurt. Now I'm hungry again.

I spend all day doing stuff, yet I feel like I've done nothing at the end of the day. Today my mom and I went to compare the different groom vest colors to my wedding dress (the very nice woman at the dress shop showed us that Mike needs an ivory shirt as well as an ivory vest). Then I mostly worked on transferring VHS tapes onto the iMac the rest of the day, while working on my iTunes library and doing an hour of Distributed Proofreaders. I e-mailed our wedding coordinator at the reception place to get all the info we're missing. I applied for yet another job. What do I have to show for it all at the end of the day? Not much.

Tomorrow I plan to make the business cards I need for a networking breakfast I'm going to on Saturday. Then I'll at least have something tangible to show Mike when he gets home from work. I have other projects that I need his help with, but I'm going to wait until he's done with his finals next week. Then he'll just be working at Bob Evans most of the week and not have anything to do in the evenings. I will be sitting at home all day as usual. Or maybe I'll land a job in the next week. Who knows? I still have that interview on Monday.

Yay, Mike's home!

Time is Flying By as I Sit Patiently

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

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Time is Flying By as I Sit Patiently | Faith Permeating Life
I've gotten a little bit off-track with stuff. Due to wedding/other events, I ate intelligently but not strictly on my diet for three days, and the throat clearing came back. I ran out of some of my vitamins and other supplements. We're having the family room painted due to everyone coming here for the wedding, so the TV where I do Wii Fit is under plastic dropcloths. But I should be back on track soon, and I have been accomplishing things, so that's good.

My friend's wedding was nice. The whole thing seemed kind of unreal, and I can't really think of my friend as married yet. People kept asking if we were "getting ideas" for our own wedding, but the answer was, not really. We have most everything planned. If anything, there were a few moments where I was grateful we're doing things the way we are (e.g., having vegetarian options for dinner, doing the cake cutting where the cake is visible to everyone, not choreographing our dances).

It turned out I did not mishear the woman on the phone, and the phone interview was not yesterday, so it is on June 8th. I feel I will be very prepared by then. Mike has a final on June 10th that I'm going to help him study for in the next week, so we can prep for my interview too. Maybe I'll land another interview in the next week, too . . . well, I can hope.

I sent out seven more invitations today to people whose addresses we just got or whose I found. So far we have 64 accepted, 40 declined, waiting on 345. Our deadline is July 1, so I have a feeling we'll get a rush at the end of the month. Then I can start on the seating chart. For that I need the floor plan from our coordinator at the reception place, who I'm pretty sure forgot about us, so I need to e-mail her tomorrow. Tomorrow my mom and I are also borrowing white and ivory vests from our very nice local Men's Wearhouse to take to the bridal shop to compare to my dress, because neither of us can remember the exact shade well enough, and Mike is afraid if his vest is whiter than my off-white dress it will make my dress look dull. He is very thoughtful.

Supposedly we're going to look at apartments on Friday. I really hope we just find something that we can run with. I can't wait to move out of here.

In 60 days we'll be married!

First Interview!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

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First Interview!! | Faith Permeating Life
I got a phone interview! It's in a week and a half, although I'm paranoid that I misheard the woman when she said June 8th and that it's actually June 1st. So I'm going to prep just in case it's this Monday. It's for an office assistant position at a university downtown, which seems like a good fit for me. Not my dream job, obviously, but that's fine with me. It's just nice to know that I'm at least capable of landing an interview.

Mike and I were supposed to go look at apartments this morning, but apparently I don't wake up to his alarm, and he decided to turn off his alarm and go back to sleep, so we both woke up at 11. He was very sweet about it, took full responsibility, and offered to make me breakfast. He also said we could do something off the wedding to-do list with the time until he had to leave for work, so he sent some more we-need-your-address e-mails and we picked out our attendant gifts. I then stayed in my pajamas until about 5:15pm, semi-finished my dad's side family tree (it printed out at 9 sheets wide, 2 sheets high), and then showered and got dressed for my friend's rehearsal dinner.

There wasn't much option about what to eat at the dinner, and I'd forgotten to eat lunch, so I basically just relied at blissful ignorance and took my fill. It did give me a taste (no pun intended) of what eating after the diet might be like, though, because while I wasn't hyper-conscious of the sugar content of the food, I did try to make smart decisions down the line (corn vs. wheat tortilla, skip the potatoes) so as not to set myself back too far. My tongue seems to be worsening somewhat (after having improved), but I'm reminding myself that the whole reason I went on this diet in the first place is that I was sick of the incessant throat-clearing, and that seems much improved.

The VCR--Mac cord (Elgato Video Capture) came in the mail today, and Mike and I tried it out with an old home video he had with him. It's super easy to use -- you just play the tape in the VCR and it shows up on the Mac screen like at TV, with a "Record" button on the computer that records it all into an editable digital video file. I'm really excited to turn all of my family's old home videos into DVDs. There seriously are not enough hours in the day to work on all the projects I want to work on. I am through the I's in updating year and composer info for my iTunes library. I'll probably stay up a while longer and work on it until Mike gets home -- he went out with a group of my guy friends after the dinner to do who-knows-what. Hope he's having fun!

The first of my high school friends gets married tomorrow -- I can't believe it!

A Job-Hunting Deadline

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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I have a new deadline to find a job: July 1.

My mom pointed out that most apartment leases start on the first of the month, and since we don't want one that starts on our wedding date, we need to move into an apartment on July 1. In all likelihood, I will have steady income by then, but if not, my parents will pay our rent until I find a job. And we may need to get on a waiting list soon for a July 1 apartment. Mike and I looked online for highly rated apartments and found some decent ones in the area for about $750/mo, which seems like a good price, at least for the year that we'll only have one of us really working. Mike jokingly asked why I get to be the one to move out, but he knows that my mom is driving me up the wall.

I finally remembered to call the dentist about the teeth I got filled a month ago that are still hurting me when I bite on them, and I got an appointment for tomorrow, which is good because my insurance is up on Sunday. Mike also took my prescription for more acne meds into the pharmacy this morning when he went to pick up his asthma meds. How is it the end of the month already? My friend's wedding is on Saturday. That's so weird.

Mike and I put together are "must-play" and "play-if-possible" playlists for the wedding a few nights ago, and my dad and I picked out our father-daughter dance song. We also had to fill out for the DJ the order of the pairs of bridesmaids and groomsmen, meaning we were forced to sit down and figure that out. It took probably half an hour, but we came up with an arrangement that we were both happy with. My male best friend and his female best friend are going to be standing right next to our matron of honor and best man, which I think is perfect. My little sister is right between the two of my friends she knows the best (other than my matron of honor, whom she knows very well); my two tall friends are in the middle together so neither of them feels awkward next to all my short bridesmaids; and, even though Mike insisted it wouldn't be a problem, his three best friends from grade school/high school have a buffer guy in between each of them so they don't give each other the giggles like they are apt to do in church.

Yesterday Mike and I talked about whether I should be following up more with the companies I applied to. My experience is that, other than the career place, people really don't want you to call them. At one place HR won't take outside calls; at another the website explicitly says not to call; at another I got the rebuff I recorded last entry. And with this economy, I would imagine they're getting bombarded with calls more than ever. The career advice columns and such always says don't call HR, call the hiring manager, but it's nearly impossible to get a hold of the hiring manager's number, and the front desk won't give it to you. It seems like the career advice columns are generally geared toward people in sales or that type of job. So I have to stand out in other ways. How? I thought my resume and cover letter, but even the best drafts of those can't give me years of experience I don't have.

Still, I shall persevere!

Conceptualizing the Future

Sunday, May 24, 2009

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Conceptualizing the Future | Faith Permeating Life
The weather's starting to settle in a nice low 70s range, so I put the cushions on the porch swing on our back deck and have starting bringing my computer out here. It makes me feel like I'm at least getting out of the house somewhat :)

I'm starting to feel like every time I submit a job application, it's just going into a big black hole. I haven't gotten so much as a phone call from a single place I've applied. I'm trying to remind myself that this doesn't mean it's worthless to apply to jobs, because how else am I going to get one? I hate that everyone says it's "who you know." Because I don't really know anyone who is doing anything remotely related to what I want to do. And the two connections I made, the companies aren't hiring, even though I'd apparently be perfect for the positions they would have if they were hiring.

I told everyone that if I wasn't hired by the time I graduated, I'd freelance until I found a job. I think I was banking too much on the one company that said they'd put me in their freelance rotation -- I haven't heard anything from them, either. I should be going after more freelance jobs, probably, but I spent a solid two weeks trying to track down a single freelance job last summer with no success, and I figure that with all the layoffs going on right now, any company that wants a freelancer can pick from a pool of experienced laid-off copyeditors.

Except for saving up money, I don't really need to find a job until right before Mike and I are married. And honestly, I'm enjoying this time off right now. It's allowing me to do things I didn't have time to do before, like trace our whole family tree, organize my entire music library, and learn -- really learn -- the Chicago Manual of Style. I'm also planning to write an article based on my master's thesis findings and print/compile all of my and Mike's digital pictures from all of college into photo albums (over Christmas break, we ordered, labeled, and put into albums all his pictures from birth to the summer after high school graduation). My mom also reminded me that a lot of my friends who graduated last year with jobs more or less lined up still didn't start work until July, August, or even October.

Mike and I have our Natural Family Planning class today. I'm really nervous, which is stupid. Because I already know a lot about it and have been charting my cycles forever, we're doing an Update class, so it'll probably be all couples who have been practicing NFP for a while now. And even though I've been charting for two years, I've never been forced to make any decisions based on my charts, like, can we have sex now? The upside, I suppose, is that we'll get to hear the challenges and strategies of couples who know what they're doing.

I haven't been able to think about life beyond the wedding yet because I haven't been able to picture what it will be like. I don't know where we'll be living. I don't know what I'll be doing every day. I can't mentally construct a future life for us out of nothing, so I can't conceptualize anything different than how things are right now. Mike and I are basically living together now since we're both living with my parents, so the only difference is we'll get to sleep together, but I can't even picture where that will be since we don't have a bed yet!

Being Unintentionally Healthy

Friday, May 22, 2009

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Being Unintentionally Healthy | Faith Permeating Life
I found a ring!! I was seriously getting worried that all 2mm rings were going to be super-flat, but this one is perfect! It looks like it was made to go with my engagement ring. We found it at Kohl's, where it was something like 60% off, plus my mom had a 20% off coupon because she has a Kohl's card, so I ended up getting a $200 ring for $72. Score!

I was thinking this morning that I'm not really sure how I could possibly be healthier right now, lifestyle-wise. I'm eating basically a sugar-free diet; I exercise 30 minutes every morning; I get 7-9 hours of sleep a night; I'm taking a multivitamin plus extra vitamin C and D, iron, acidophilus and probiotics, and SF722 (yeast fighter); and I drink probably 100 ounces of water a day. Heck, I even floss every day. I'm not a "health nut" by any stretch of the imagination, although my eating habits will probably be somewhat different than before once I'm off this diet, but all of these different pieces of my life -- drinking more water, getting a Wii Fit, taking supplements, and now this anti-candida diet -- have all converged at this point in my life. I'm not even under any major stress right now, because wedding planning hasn't been stressful and I'm not panicking about not finding a job.

I say this because it frustrates me when things get offhandedly blamed on lifestyle. Mike and I are going to a Natural Family Planning class on Sunday, and I got the organization's magazine a few days ago. One of the big challenges with NFP is irregular cycles -- if you don't get a clear indication from your body that you've ovulated, you may get mixed messages and appear to be fertile for an entire cycle (i.e., no sex allowed if you're not prepared for children). The solutions they gave are basically to live healthier -- get more sleep, drink more water, be less stressed. If I'm doing all this, this is a guarantee against irregular cycles? I doubt it. Or the fact that I had three little cavities when I went to the dentist a few weeks ago. If there's anything more I could possibly be doing to take care of my teeth, I don't know about it. Or when people say you don't need medicine for acne, just eat better, drink more water, and eliminate stress. Tell that to my pimples.

Also, a lot of people who have gone on the anti-candida diet report "increased energy" and just generally feeling better. People say the same thing about getting more sleep or exercising more. I assume people must have felt pretty crappy before, because I haven't noticed any sudden surges in energy or feeling good. I just feel pretty much the same as always, which is fairly good, with enough energy to tackle all the projects I want to do but not enough time in the day to do them all :) I guess maybe it's a good thing I don't have so much energy that I'm antsy.

Anyway, speaking of projects, I've finished the genogram of my maternal grandmother's family based on our 1996 reunion records, and now I need to call my great-aunt, who originally organized the reunion and gathered all the info, and see if she has any updated info. I would really love to interview her like I did my grandparents and Mike's grandparents, but I haven't come up with an easy way to do it yet.

Health and Wedding Updates

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

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Correction: The acne on my chest has gotten worse.

I'm thinking it's just dried out, so I'm going to try doing the acne cream every other day and putting moisturizer on every day. It's bad enough to have acne visible in my wedding dress, but I don't want to be red/blotchy/peeling/etc.

My tongue is looking moderately better, so that's some encouragement that my diet is worth it. At the moment I'm planning to stay on it for two full months, but part of me is thinking I'll probably take a break from it for my friend's wedding June 20. I already have to miss part of my other friend's bachelorette party (the going-out-to-dinner part) and probably not enjoy much of anything to eat at her rehearsal dinner and wedding the week of May 30, and I don't want to remember both of my friends' weddings as being times when I couldn't eat anything they were offering me!

The video project is complete; the CD project is still underway (and will be for quite some time); and I've begun a new project as well. Mike has to make a genogram (basically a family tree) for a class, and so I used the software he got to make my own genogram, which required me to dig up a lot of family records we have. For my paternal grandfather's family and my maternal grandmother's family, we have a ton of information, so I'm planning to make separate genograms for both of these lineages as well (since there's no way all the info would fit on mine).

I did e-mail that woman at the library, though I'm not really expecting a response. I applied for another job today, an editorial assistant position with an academic journal, which I think I would really enjoy. Well, I pretty much think I'd enjoy any job I've applied for because I only apply for jobs I'm interested in. I just wish I would land at least one interview! I'm reassuring myself by thinking, well, I've only been seriously applying for jobs since I got home 2 1/2 weeks ago, and some companies can take several weeks to make a decision, so . . .

My mom and I (and my unwilling sister) went to Wal-Mart and Target tonight to see if they had the kind of wedding band I'm looking for, but no luck. Target had nothing, and Wal-Mart's only 2mm band is very flat, like the one I tried on at Kay. The problem is that my engagement ring is thin (like 1mm-2mm) but tall, especially at the top, where it's most visible, so it has a thickness off the finger of more than 1mm. The thinnest wedding bands they make are 2mm wide, but all the ones I've seen couldn't be more than .5mm thick, if that, so they almost look like they fit inside my (slightly loose) engagement ring, which is no good. We couldn't convince my whining sister to go to any more stores, so my mom and I are going to go to the mall while my sister's at school tomorrow.

Oh! We received our first wedding present in the mail on Monday. We wrote the thank-you right away, but are sending all of them out after the wedding. This way people don't know we've opened the gifts before the wedding, and also our thank-you cards say "Thank you for joining us" and have our married name so they're kind of meant to go out after the wedding. We have to buy some different cards to send to people who send us gifts but aren't attending the wedding.

73 days until the wedding! So far 48 guests have accepted and 19 declined -- let's hope the RSVPs keep coming steadily!

Projects! Hooray!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

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I did a phone call follow-up on a job this morning. It was really nerve-racking, but I knew I had to because it's for a career counselor position and all career counselors teach that you have to make follow-up calls after you apply, so I figured I had no shot at the position unless they knew that I knew that. The good news was that because it is a career center, they didn't do what the first place I practice-followed-up with did, which was basically shut me down and say, "Everything is done through the website and I have no information on the position. Goodbye." The receptionist transferred me to the director, who said they were reviewing resumes and would do phone screens within the week. And she double-checked my name, which is a good sign!

In other good news, my face appears to be clearing up somewhat. I mentioned it somewhat tentatively when I was getting ready for bed, and Mike said he thought it looked way better. My chest, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be changing, which is unfortunate since my wedding dress is a halter. But the dermatologist said I might not see a difference for 6-8 weeks in either place, so I can give it some time.

I've created a kind of schedule for myself so my days aren't so unstructured. I get up somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30, eat breakfast, rack up 30 Wii Fit points, and shower. Then I complete at least one thing on my to-do list, which can either be applying for a job or something else if there's no job to apply for. Then I work on this flashcards I'm making to learn Chicago Manual of Style better, and then spend some time on Distributed Proofreaders. Once I've done all this, I can work on whatever I want to -- my "fun" project (in quotes because Mike thinks it's weird that I find this enjoyable) at the moment is, now that we have ALL of my CDs and ALL of his CDs imported into my computer, going through and including correct release dates and composers for all of them (and artists, if that got screwed up the first time).

Once my family gets their new iMac, and our Video Capture cord shows up, the next big project is going to be getting all of my family's old VHS tapes onto DVDs with menus and all that. That is going to be very fun for me. For some reason I greatly enjoy time-consuming tasks that have something awesome to show for it in the end. I wish there was a well-paying career where I could do projects like this. The closest thing I can think of is working at a library, but there's nothing I'm really qualified for at any of the libraries in the area. There is a cataloging associate job that sounds like something I would enjoy if I were qualified for it. I think I'll e-mail the person in charge and ask if there's any way I could volunteer and just learn the cataloging system.
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