Thursday, April 17, 2014

Writer's block

Sometimes, I sit down to write a blog post and feel like I have literally nothing to say. Maybe it seems like this happens frequently, because I often blather on about nothing in particular around these parts, but most of the time my blathering is semi-planned or constructed. Days like today, though, the blinking cursor just kind of mocks me.

It's times like this that I wonder whether Verbal Mélange has a shelf life, an expiration date. My three-year bloggiversary came and went with little fanfare, and while on one hand it seems like an accomplishment (three years of committing to a thing!), it also kind of seems like a pretty weird thing to celebrate (three years of talking about and posting pictures of myself!). The reason behind the lack of fanfare--because if there's anything I love, it's making a big deal out of things--is that April is triple anniversary month for me, and two of the three (my start date with my current job and more importantly, Matt's and my dating-anniversary) land at the end of the month. So I tend to mentally lump the blog anniversary at the end too, even though it's really in the beginning.

Anyway, where I was going before that tangent about anniversaries: I've been doing a lot of thinking about VM and what it is now vs. what I originally envisioned it to be vs. what it's evolving into. But that's a post for another day, I think.

So much for said "writer's block," I suppose. Funny how that works.

And just to give your eyeballs a little visual stimulation, here's a fairly nondescript representation of what I've been wearing a lot lately: plain tee, cardi, slacks, flats. Warm weather, where art thou?

4-17-14a

4-17-14b

4-17-14c

4-17-14d
t-shirt: Old Navy
cardi, flats: Target
slacks: thrifted
necklace: Jane.com

Man, girls have it so easy for business casual wear, it isn't even funny. "Business casual" for dudes means ties and Oxfords, but I can wear a t-shirt as long as I dress it up with layers and a statement necklace. I kind of love it. (And to guys who may be tempted to complain about the unfairness of this double standard, I have two phrases for you: "gender pay gap" and "glass ceiling.")

Monday, April 14, 2014

I get easily and randomly overwhelmed

So I spent most of my lunch break today pinning various silk flowers from afloral.com to a hidden Pinterest board (because probably no one following me cares to see a billion variations of the same anemone/peony/dahlia/ranunculus clusters, amiright?) and now I feel completely overwhelmed by flowers. I mean, I know I'd be spending $1,000+ more if I go with a professional florist, especially because our wedding is the same weekend as Mother's Day. But seriously, I know nothing about how to make a floral arrangement look good. And now I'm a teensy bit freaked out at the prospect of figuring it out. Halp.

In other news, I found an older, colder-weather outfit in my queue of outfit photos. Originally this post was supposed to have a "thank god that's behind us" slant, but the forecast for tomorrow includes an inch of snow and I basically am just about ready to give up on the hope of ever seeing a live tulip in my yard again.

4-14-14a

4-14-14b

4-14-14c

4-14-14d
sweater, slacks: thrifted
blouse: The Limited via Discount Fashion Warehouse
flats: Target
necklace: Etsy

But, as I promised Sydney on Instagram, I shan't complain. After all, our temp range tomorrow is gonna be a whopping 40/28 Fahrenheit, which is a bit warmer than her 1/-6 Celsius. But (and this is not complaining) seriously. Nature. Wat r u doing? Nature. Stahp.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How to learn patience. Also, a little storytime.

Step 1. Find a Thing you really, really want.

Step 2. Realize that you have to wait X number of days to have Thing.

Step 3. Resign yourself to the established waiting period. Try to find distractions, or try to forget about Thing in the meantime.

Step 4. Jump for joy when Thing Day arrives!

Step 5. Realize you still can't have Thing.

Step 6. Go back to Step 2. Repeat as necessary.

In my case, Thing is my scooter. I bought it in January and put it in the garage and the back of my mind, where it's waited patiently for The Longest Winter Ever (capital letters necessary) to end. But the friend who sold it to me hasn't actually used the thing in more than a year, so it needs a lot of initial maintenance. So far we've charged the battery, filled her up with gas and fresh motor oil, and sprayed some cleaner into the carburetor. She tries to start, but just won't turn over. Our next step is to change the spark plug, but if that doesn't work, I have to wait until next weekend for my friend's "scooter guy" to get back in town and clean the carb out proper. I get that this is all part of standard maintenance, but I'm not very good with the whole patience thing. Especially when it's gorgeous outside and I'm still relying on public transportation and/or exorbitant parking fees to get to work.

So, distraction time! Short-attention-span-powers, ACTIVATE!

4-10-14a

4-10-14b

4-10-14c

4-10-14d
shirt: secondhand
cardi: thrifted
skinnies: H&M
boots: gifted (via Old Navy)

In other news, warmer temps also mean the return of cute clothes! Spring florals, skirts, cute sandals, here I come! I busted out the first of my springwear--a floral shirt-- by mixing it in with some fall/winter attire that's about to go back into storage. (I'm looking at you, boots.)

Storytime: I got this shirt from my friend Hayley. She and her husband moved from an apartment to a house, and like me every time I move, she found a bunch of stuff she didn't want to pack and unpack. Most of it was clothes, so I told her to drop it off at my house and I'd take whatever I didn't want to the thrift store.

She showed up with literally 20 bags of clothes, bedding, appliances, purses and even a dog bed. We do not have a dog.

Needless to say, I donated more than I kept. Fortunately, Volunteers of America was scheduled to do a neighborhood pickup the next week, so it all just sat in my living room until pickup day. Matt wasn't thrilled, but I considered it a price worth paying for otherwise free clothes. Hayley got rid of her stuff, I got new stuff and nobody had to schlepp to Goodwill. Everybody wins! Except Matt. He got nothing. The end.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wear Blue

In the U.S., April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In Ohio, we've extended that to Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, and included a statewide "Wear Blue" day to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect prevention. (I believe other states do a "wear blue" day as well, but I'm not sure on all those details. Feel free to share info in the comments!)

Anyway, in Ohio, April 9 is Wear Blue day. I didn't have time for a proper photo shoot this morning, but I wanted to post today's outfit on Wear Blue day, so you guys get another cell phone selfie, complete with my messy lovely closet in the background.

Untitled

The reason I'm participating in a "wear this color on this day" event, which I usually don't bother with, is because I work closely with Ohio's child protective services (among other agencies). It's a cause that I get paid to support, yes, but it's also a cause that I really do believe in. Child abuse and neglect are preventable. All it takes is one person going out of their way to notice the warning signs and to report them.

Here's the part where I go into a slightly dangerous mix of work and play. Sorry, guys. But this is important.

If you live in Ohio and suspect child abuse, you can report it (anonymously or not--your choice) by calling 855-OH-CHILD. You can also call the police directly; they will coordinate with your local children's services agency to investigate. No child should have to suffer abuse or neglect. You have the power to help make sure they don't.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why hello there

Glad to see you stuck around! I apologize once more for my absence, but it was certainly needed. I was working on three story assignments for two publications, and the third (which I submitted yesterday) was possibly one of the hardest stories I've ever had to write. Not because it was a particularly difficult subject matter, but because it was one that is very near and dear to my heart and not injecting all sorts of personal bias into the story was nearly impossible. (It was about the Columbus Pride festival and parade, if you're curious. I'll be sure to post a link when it's live in June.)

I also got my motorcycle permit this past weekend, and I am SO FREAKING STOKED to start riding my new (to me) scooter around town! I mentioned it briefly back in January when I bought it, but haven't really talked about it yet because having the thing sit in my garage for the past three months has been literal torture and not talking about it helped me not obsess about it in my head :)

Anywho, I'm very excited to start doing outfit photos again (I skipped a lot lately because time spent picking outfits seemed like a waste compared to all the writing I had to do--I've been wearing a lot of slacks-and-tee-shirts-I-hope-no-one-notices-I'm-underdressed-for-work-type outfits lately. And it's April, so I will have some fun blogiversary content coming up, probably.

In the meantime, here's a quick snap of a new addition to my jewelry collection! The outfit I wore this with is entirely unremarkable, so I didn't shoot it, but I got about half a dozen compliments on the necklace. Which is a lot, compared to the usual 0 sartorial compliments I get on the average day.

Untitled

So shiny!

It's from Nordstrom, but I won it in a giveaway hosted by Bri of Work Clothes, I Suppose. If you like my blog, you'll probably like hers, so check it out! Lots of lovely work outfits and some wedding planning stuff thrown in sometimes.

Now, off to edit the one or two outfit posts left in my queue and start brainstorming new ideas!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fiscal Fridays: How I'm managing a surprise $1,550 car repair bill

So I mentioned a major car repair last week and kind of let it drop since. I debated about writing a blog post about the whole ordeal, as I tend to whine a lot when I talk about it. But this thing is such a major event, as is the fact that I'm not completely ruined by it, and I feel like huge repair bills are a totally relatable experience for anyone who's driving an older car. So here's what's going down.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you might remember that I followed Dave Ramsey's advice from the book Total Money Makeover to get my debt paid off. (More on that if you're interested.) And part of his TMM was that when you're preparing to pay off your debts, first save up $1,000 to cover emergency expenses. Then you can focus on paying down your debts and if something crazy pops up, you have something socked away to cover it. After you become debt-free, you're supposed to build that savings to the sum of three to six months' worth of living expenses.

I became debt-free last year, but hadn't managed to build up that savings account yet. And then the wedding vendor deposits started rolling in. And I had to dip into my savings to cover them. As of right now, I have about $500 in that savings account. As of the day my bill came in, I also had about the same amount taken out of my personal line of credit at my credit union. (That's like a credit card, only with a super-super-low interest rate and it's not a card--it's an account I have to request a check from.) I borrowed from the LOC to cover some wedding expenses instead of draining my savings because frankly, the idea of having nothing in my savings account was petrifying.

Obviously, the situation wasn't ideal.

My original plan had been to finish paying off that LOC, build that savings back up and then buy the furniture I mentioned last week. I was on track to do all of that by mid-June.

And then I got the call from the repair garage.

They informed me that the initial quote of $1,460 didn't include taxes (which I was too distraught to really comprehend or even hear at the time). My actual total bill was about $1,550. Now, as I mentioned, I didn't have that in my bank account. I'll admit I panicked at first. It was really, really scary to hear. I even looked my car up on Kelley's Blue Book to see if it'd be easier to just sell the dang thing, use the cash for a down payment on a new(er) vehicle, and start fresh. Looking back, I am really glad I wasn't that stupid. Nothing makes money problems worse than adding new debt.

But I'm still left with a huge repair bill and not enough money to pay it. So here's my plan: I'll pay the bill up front using money from my LOC (because garage's payment plans are APR nightmares compared to the 4% rate my LOC offers). Then in April and May, I'll use the money I had earmarked for furniture to pay the LOC back down and get that savings back up to $1,000. Barring any other major unexpected expenses, I should be able to do both of those before the end of May.

Now, what have we learned?

1. That the $1,000 savings account balance should be non-negotiable. If I had had that much saved up, I would have had to borrow less on my LOC and in turn would have paid less interest. Fortunately, my interest rate is so low that it's not a huge concern, but any interest paid is essentially just money that's been thrown away.

2. I should just assume that my car will break down in some way, shape or form on a fairly regular basis. Since I bought it in July 2010, it has needed a new master cylinder ($300), a new clutch ($1,200), new front tires ($200), new brakes and pads on all four wheels ($600), and now this power steering system/new back tires ($1,500). Not to mention the smaller incidentals: new front and back wiper blades, a fuse for my highbeams, headlights and license plate lights. And I haven't even touched two other things. One just drives me crazy, but doesn't affect performance: The lock actuator in one door makes a really loud grinding/buzzing sound every time I lock the car. The other is one of those "ticking time bombs" that I need to fix ASAP: The emergency brake is starting to wear out. This is especially vital because I drive stick, and need to put the e-brake on every time I park. Guess what I'm doing this summer, after my emergency fund is replenished?

3. If you're buying a used car that's already five years old when you buy it and the tag says "As-is; no warranty," you should RUN LIKE THE WIND BECAUSE THAT THING IS A WALLET LEECH WAITING TO ATTACK. Seriously. In four years, I've dumped nearly half the original purchase cost of the car back into it in repairs/replacements. And I still have more repairs to make.

Ok, so this turned into one big whine. Sorry about that. But hopefully someone out there found some useful nugget of financial information in this massive rant. Even if it's just to run away from wallet leeches on the dealer's lot.

Monday, March 31, 2014

It's deadline week!

So naturally, I'll be a bit quiet around here. And to illustrate why, I'm using the art and words of Hyperbole and a Half's Allie Brosh. (I really hope this doesn't violate copyright or anything, as this is excerpted from Allie's book, which is awesome incidentally; I found the images on Imgur. Allie, if my posting this makes you sad, please let me know and I'll take it down immediately after I stop squealing over the fact that one of my favorite writers/cartoonists contacted me. Also to my readers, that's not an affiliate link to buy the book, it's just a regular link, but I think you should buy it anyway because it is amazing.)

part 1

Around this time I typically give up, telling myself lies like "I work better under pressure anyway" and "This will be really easy to knock out in half the time you were given to write it." (If my editor happens to be reading this, please know that I actually started this one wayyy earlier than I usually do with stories...I may even turn in the first two of my three stories early. So that's good!)

part 2

Here's where I parcel out the work I have remaining and realize I'm going to be dropping absolutely everything for the next several days, or in this case, week.

part 3

I'd also like to point out that in the nearly 10 years I've been writing for print sources and websites, I have yet to actually miss a deadline. So that's good, too.

Disclaimer: None of those drawings are mine. Not one. Please don't think I'm stealing or being otherwise sneaky. If you like that content, buy Allie's book or visit her blog. Because they rock.