Friday, January 28, 2011

Pluralism; or, Insight from The Bachelor

I’m going to tell you about my first assignment for my MPA program, which I turned in on Wednesday, and which has served as a sort of psychological block to writing anything for fun. For someone who delivers such interesting lectures, our prof assigned us terrible topic- something about discussing the theory of political pluralism, how it affects public administrators, and how they have to cope with the subsequent environm,…..  fakfa;gjkfhhhhv  vhhhhhhhhb;.ghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh oh sorry, that was my forehead squarely hitting the keyboard. Never mind that the professor, in three 4 hour-long classes, had never once uttered the word “pluralism,” and the one reading assignment related to it was super-dense and untouched by yours truly until last Sunday around noon. Of course, on said Sunday around noon, the proposition of a hike in Griffith Park with my brother, Heather and Nico the wonderdoodle sounded like a much needed break from those initial two pages I had so diligently poured over.

Cut to Sunday evening. Interior. A blond woman sits alone by a dark window in a bright yellow kitchen at a laptop. She makes a salad. She starts to type.

Cue crying.

So, yeah, I sorta had an embarassing breakdown at my breakfast nook Sunday night. It was pathetic. But for about ½ hour, I was convinced that a) I’d never manage to complete a 5 paged double-spaced paper; b) I was the same procrastinating mess I’ve always been since I could remember, or at least, since pagers were en vogue; and c) under the perfect storm of circumstances, I could’ve hacked off my right f-ing hand too, Aron Ralston!! 

Before I fell too far into the vortex, I called my beau, he graciously talked me down from the brink, and suddenly I was singing, “I know that everything, know that everything, know that everything….everything’s gonna be fine.” I started typing, and somehow, started explaining the theory of pluralism as I vaguely understood it.

I had a major moment of realization during this process, something akin to what I like to imagine the rose-less women on the Bachelor must feel like when watching themselves on TV 6 months after it’s all said and done. That realization being, despite what we'd like to believe about ourselves, we're all a little nuts. Sometimes the crazy just hits and there's just not much you can do about it but let it run its course. I can't judge these women, because they are me.


At least I keep my "crazy" confined to my Los Feliz kitchen (and occasionally my boyfriend's closet- don't ask). On a positive note, our professor mentioned that 5 page paper would probably be the toughest assignment of our whole program. Not as tough as competing for a vapid blond man with a trust fund, but tough nonetheless.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thirty and Fabulous

“If anyone were to be called fabulous, it would be Louise.”

This was uttered during my dear friend Louise’s 30th birthday extravaganza by a gal who by any definition is fabulous herself (Cassidy- and your fancy pants!). But Cassidy was right. One of my resolutions relates to mindful socializing, and Louise is a master of the craft. Louise’s birthday party was a social tour-de-force, which she pulled together in the midst of 60+ hour work-weeks of doing brain scans and other things I don’t understand, not to mention her heavy load of social commitments and normal-person obligations like baby showers. Having a social calendar that rivals Paris Hilton’s, which seems an overwhelming burden to most, is something that Louise not only manages, but manages with grace. In celebration of 30 years going strong, she hosted a fantastic gathering of friends for an international wine tasting festival at Hollywood & Highland, a *fancy* theme party on a double-decker bus (yes, not just a party, but a THEME party on a double-decker bus), an hour of dancing in a club in LA, and a massive photo-shoot at the permanent street lamp installation at LACMA. All in one night.

And managed to look like this:

Now that’s what I call Fabulous.

Although most of the places/events we visited were not brand new to me (I had the fortune of going to the Eat Drink Play wine event last year with Louise and we made a cameo on this year’s flyer)…

…I had never been to the lamp posts outside LACMA, and I took some joyous and whimsical pictures of the revelers. I put my new camera to good use that night, and even though I haven’t read the manual yet, the device is so sophisticated that I could point and shoot and get cool photos. 

Dave's fancy.
LA Story.

We're nothing if not discerning.
"I can't believe the bus is at capacity!" "Duh, darling."

Busby's was never so fancy.

Fancy, squared.

I also took a bunch of pics inside the wine tasting event, and discovered that the hired professional photographers were using the same exact same camera I have! (Canon Rebel T2i- score, Dave!!)

I want to be fancy too.
Although it was difficult to juggle my purse, camera and wine glass at once, I discovered a brilliant alternative for next year:

Wine Holsters
Now that is fabulous. I’m a big fan of pragmatic booze totes (remember my Cinco-de-Mayo suspenders with the built-in shot glasses? Awesome, because I don’t!). However, this type of holster poses less of a risk to my health and social well-being, and I plan to invest in one for my next wine tasting. Apparently they are available at Bev-Mo.

Competing interests. Dave watches in horror.

Last Friday, in preparation for her party, Lou and I met in downtown LA’s fashion district, a *new place* for both of us, and located some props for the “Oh, Lou Fancy, huh?” theme. 

Uno, dos, muchos!!

Deep discounts on rainbow-bright afro wigs.
There were goodies galore (obvi), but the real find was the do-it-yourself quinceañera outlet and its bountiful supply of long satin gloves and $5 boas. Fabulous!

The day of the party, we ventured to another *new location* for us in LA, The Dry Bar on the Sunset Strip in WeHo, and got our hair done in ridiculously fancy styles. What they lacked in punctuality, they made up for in hospitality, and we sipped on peach sparkling wine the entire time.

Oh, Lou's Fancy!!!
So while Louise’s whole 30th birthday event correlated loosely to a couple of my resolutions and goals for the new year, it’s impact was certainly broader and more meaningful. It felt fabulous to celebrate my dear friend, and fabulous to be surrounded by so many people (50+) that cared so much about her too. She knocked the whole “twenty-nine, 30” milestone out of the park, and set a great example for the rest of us on how to turn 30 with fire, guts, grit, and more than enough flair to spare.

At the stroke of midnight on January 16, the bus started clamoring for a speech from the birthday girl. Above the music, the shouting, the top-hats, the Miller High Life’s and the swaying of the bus as it sauntered down the city streets, Louise said, “I used to think I’d feel different when I turned thirty, but now, I think I just feel different about thirty.”

Bravo to my fabulous friend.

Between a Rock and Hard Place

The more you know...

This $5.99 Firefly Ridge Cabernet is accompanying me as I watch James Franco hallucinate and drink piss from a camelback in 127 Hours... it's a screening copy I got from my brother, who works in the industry, so I'm snugly on my couch in my pj's.

For whatever reason, this wine is priced at $5.99 at major grocery stores, down from $15.99. It's a great value- may not be transcendant, but definitely quaffable.

The movie, 127 Hours, really isn't that bad, graphically speaking. The only time I felt queasy was during the piss-drinking scene. Ughghghghg. But no matter what he does (aside from that), James Franco can never be nauseating. Trust me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pay Day!

After what has felt like an eternity of having an embarrassingly low balance in my bank account (like, so low I probably couldn’t buy a cocktail anywhere downtown), it’s pay day! Every other Wednesday always feels so good. My tank is full again. I have re-entered the land of the living.

As I learned last year, having a strict “no credit” policy results in some estimating and guesswork that for the most part, works just fine, but occasionally, leaves me scraping by for a week after paying off a fatty bill or going out to a happy hour that turned into several. This particular week, it got pretty low. 

While I’d like to pretend that I opened the sole item of canned food I have in my barren cupboard in an effort to eat better (the author of the 4 Hour Body  and everyone else who knows anything about nutrition always says to eat more beans and legumes), I actually ate this for lunch on Tuesday. Yep. But it’s not as tragic as it looks- I heated up about half the can in the microwave, added salsa, salt and pepper, and ended up with a palatable (and cheap) meal. But it’s pretty embarrassing for someone who makes a decent living, like me, to have to do this.

Which leads me to a related issue that I think might illustrate how difficult it is for poor people to stop being poor, especially when they're prone to disorganization. Bear with me. So Monday night, I really needed a glass or two of red wine after work. I had remnants of other booze in the apartment, like some gin and tequila, but I just wasn’t feeling it. It’s damn near freezing every night lately, and I needed that warm, dense, intelligent goodness that only red wine can really deliver. Due to not having gone food shopping in weeks (but I can now!), my wine fridge was pretty vacant. The lone bottle still chilling was a $32 bottle of Sangiovese that I bought the last time I went wine tasting in the Solvang/Lompoc/Sideways region. It’s an Italian varietal that’s grown in the Santa Ynez Valley, and it’s delicious. I'd been saving it for something more purposeful than a post-work wind-down in my pajamas with pita chips, hummus, and my latest Netflix as company. Yes, I had been.

So on my way home from work Monday night, I decided to stop at Ralphs on Western and Hollywood and use my last $10 to buy a more reasonably-priced bottle of wine (knowing I’d get paid on Wednesday and could eat the beans on Tuesday). But at the check-out, I got carded. I opened by wallet. My drivers license wasn’t there, and I remembered that I had put it in my “going-out purse” that matched the outfit I wore Saturday night, and that this purse was either back at my apartment or lodged in an unknown region of my boyfriend’s house. In that moment, I looked totally old and worn out in my black pea coat and dark-rimmed glasses, and still, the woman wouldn’t sell me the bottle of
wine. I supposed this is a flattering thing to have happen on the precipice of my 30th birthday, even though I know that the checkers are supposed to card anyone who looks like they’re not eligible for medicare.

I sighed, used my $6 Ralphs rewards coupon to pay for the hummus, and left.

When I got home, I couldn’t find my purse, or my ID, and so I cracked open the bottle of the Undici, and enjoyed a glass with Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

R.I.P. Undici

How does this relate to poor people? Well, if I had my shit together, I would have bought cheaper wine last week to have in my fridge for situations like Monday night. However, I couldn’t afford to buy any wine, cheap or not cheap, last week. When I went to buy cheap wine, knowing I was close to pay day, I was sabotaged by my own carelessness, which I imagine plagues everyone from time to time. I was therefore forced to open the bottle of expensive wine (yes, forced!), which only hurts my wallet in the long run. 

The lesson is that being too poor to afford to do things right results in incurring bigger long-term costs. If you can’t afford regular, basic maintenance on your automobile, it will break down faster and lead to expensive repairs. If you overdraw your checking account, you get slapped with a $35 fee. If you can’t afford a down payment for a house, you waste your money paying rent for your entire life to someone else. If you can’t afford to buy a $100 package of 5 spray tans, you have to buy individual spray tans for $25 each. I could go on, but you get the idea. If you start from behind, it's especially hard to catch up, and if you're mildly or chronically disorganized on top of it, forget about it.

I could take this analogy even further by explaining that the debacle with my ID card represents the red tape and bureaucracy that poor people face when trying to do the right thing… but I think it’s best I stop.

Brewing coffee and good humor.
I have some good news to share too- I exercised twice already (Sunday and Tuesday), I used a coffee mug all week and even MADE my own coffee to save money, I attended my second MPA class and did (most of) the reading, and finally, I paid a visit to my credit union to start getting my financial ish in order so that I never have to sacrifice good wine in moments of weakness again.

What I did was simple- I had already opened a free checking account with the credit union last year, and I’ve been diverting a tiny amount of each paycheck to the account. I walked into the bank on my lunch break, sat down with Brenda, the friendly and capable account manager for 15 minutes, and walked out with the following accomplished:

-       my debit card now has a code I can remember
-       over half of my pay check will be diverted to my credit union account starting at the end of the month, which gives me time to switch all my automatic deductions and account info for online bill pay
-       $100 from each check will be sent to a “Christmas” account. I will be charged $10 as a penalty per transaction if I withdraw anything from it before November.

Divorcing Chase can’t happen overnight, but this was the equivalent of one of us moving out and separating our books. It felt fabulous.

Behold! Honest banking!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Resolutions III, IV & V: Think, Live, Play

Part III: Exercising the Grey Cells

Not all of my goals for 2011 are skin-deep; some are aimed at flexing my brain and trying to improve my mental acuity (side note: I’m feeling foggy as I write this). Because my exercising has become more or less habitual, I think that these goals below are going to be the most challenging for me to stick with.

10)    Successfully complete at least one semester of MPA program; make a decision about continuing with it.

Cal State Northridge is offering a two-year Master’s of Public Administration program literally in the basement below my office. It seems too convenient to pass up. I am still a bit uncommitted, given that I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my career and I’m hesitant about adding another extracurricular Master’s degree to my resume. I finally decided, with the generous support of my dad and stepmom, that I would try at least one semester and see how it goes. Maybe I can rack up a degree a decade!! Kidding.

Last Wednesday night, I had my first class. It was surprisingly enjoyable. I say “surprisingly,” because I’ve never seriously studied government, policy, business, management, or anything else that is remotely practical. The class is composed of a diverse variety of students, most of them in the public sector but some in the private sector. We’ve got the a superintendent from the Los Angeles Animal Shelter, a tax collector, a communications director from a school district, police officers, engineers, a foreign affairs officer from the Philippines and an investigator from the Coroner’s Office. Pretty cool, huh?

Ask a Mexican!
11)    Estudiar el español.

Being fluent in Spanish is a life-long dream of mine that seems to always stay *just* out of reach. Even when I studied abroad during college in Madrid, the semester ended right as I was starting to get my sea legs and feel comfortable navigating that tongue. I used to work in the restaurant industry, and was able to practice the language with some of my co-workers, but now that I’m a desk jockey and everyone who speaks Spanish is also American or totally bilingual, I almost never use it. “Jenny, do you mind if I awkwardly speak to you in broken Spanish when I need to ask about a recruitment for the Library?” Um, not gonna happen.

For years, I thought that the answer was living abroad. I may never get the opportunity to do that, and I have stopped using it as an excuse for my inertia. While I won’t become fluent living in the States, I can certainly enhance my proficiency by putting the skills I do have to practice. Much like my exercise strategy, I need to find a way to consistently keep Spanish in my life.    

12)    Do Rosetta Stone French program.

My boyfriend owns the beginning French program, and I’ve “been meaning” to try it for two years. I’m not sure if this goal is too ambitious, given that I want to make Spanish a priority this year. I may reconsider this. Maybe French will be 2012. 

Yes, it is.
13)    Participate in book club.

Yet another long-standing goal of mine. I think it’s finally coming to fruition, as a friend of mine invited me to one in early February.

Part IV: Homestead

This topic is pretty mundane, but the new year has motivated me to finally get my clutter in order and stop tripping over my shoes in the morning. Everything will be easier to get to, to find, and to clean. Messy bed, messy head, right? 

14)    Organize my apartment

It’s funny how you have to buy things for your things. I spent about $150 at Bed, Bath and Beyond the first Sunday of the new year solely on containers and contraptions for organization. I’ve already made some great strides on this goal- I have a shoe rack, a scarf rack, a purse rack, a bathroom rack, and other goodies that are reducing my agita.

I’m sure all you gals can appreciate how easy it looks to use my blow dryer. I really should have taken a “before” picture of this mess. Everything was in a huge pile.

15) Hang all my pictures.

I have several framed pictures and posters tucked away behind my closet door, collecting dust. I need to get them up and on the walls! On that note, I want to get prints made of family and friends and add them to my collection of wall gear. 

16) Print a huge poster for wall above bed.

While I usually don’t think twice about earthquake preparedness, I am aware that it’s a dangerous proposition to hang anything of substance above your bed. Partially for that reason, but mostly because I’m lazy, the walls in my bedroom are naked. I finally thought of a creative solution- have a photograph printed into a huge poster. One of my friends is an enviable travel fanatic and photographer (while being a lawyer by day), and he takes the BEST pictures. Here is one I’m considering blowing up from his trip to Japan where he took pictures of monkeys lounging in hot springs:

Monkey Onsen. Not pictured: Monkey Massage Parlor.
17) Clean regularly.

This is certainly too boring to write about, but it’s a goal of mine for 2011 and publicizing it will increase the chances that I actually do it. I hate cleaning more than I hate exercising, but the pay off is just as good.

I really can’t bring myself to pay for a maid when my apartment is small and so low-maintenance. I should really be able to put on the gloves and do this. So as a measurable goal, I’m going to commit to doing a deep clean the first Sunday of the month. I already did it on January 2- so far so good! I nearly passed out from the bleach fumes in my bathroom, but it’s been well worth it. 

18) Use a reusable coffee cup.

I don’t know where else this goal fits in. I’ve been buying coffee before work each morning. I know it’s a luxury, and I know I should probably make my own, but for reasons I can’t really explain, I love buying it on my way to work. I started feeling irresponsible with the waste I was creating each day from the disposable coffee cups, so I decided to bring my own. I was lucky enough to snag one during the Christmas Eve White Elephant game (certainly a more pragmatic steal than the stuffed squirrel), and I’ve been using it religiously! It’s great, because not only do you get a 10 cent discount, but they typically charge you for a small.

Part V: Mindful Fun

I received two dominant party-monster genes from my parents, and I certainly don't have a hard time having fun, or even too much fun. This year, I want to harness some of that red-blooded Irish energy and direct it toward a higher-purpose. Bottoms up!

19) Take good pictures.

My generous beau gave me a digital SLR Canon camera for Christmas. It’s amazing.
The timing is totally right on this, too. I used to be the reliable shutter bug for my group of friends in college, and even after, and then at some point I just got sick of it. I was never satisfied with the results I got from my cameras, even though they were quality brands, so I started relying on others to capture the good times. Now I’m ready to get back in the ring. First I need to read the manual. All of it. Maybe I should work on two goals at once and read the Spanish version. 

20) Go to one new restaurant/bar/activity per week.

Living in LA, sometimes I’m downright intimidated by all that’s out there to do, and all that I’m missing, or think I’m missing. Driving down Sunset Boulevard alone is dizzying- Oooh look, it’s a Danish modern furniture store! A Flamenco restaurant! An indie movie theater! It’s overwhelming. I live right in the heart of Los Feliz Village, I work in Pasadena, and have friends and family all over the basin; yet I find myself returning again and again to the same bars, restaurants and theaters, not often straying beyond the well-worn circuit.
I heart LA
This year, I’ve decided to do “something new” each week. That’s how the idea for this online journal started, actually. Because I’m pretty busy with work and washing my hair, I don’t want this goal to be too daunting. Anything can count, from a coffee shop to a public park. It doesn’t have to be expensive or quirky, just a patch of LA that is new to me.

Another benefit is that this will give me the experience of traveling while doing the daily grind. Los Angeles is a dazzling place, and if I approach it with curiosity and enthusiasm like I would Paris or New York or Budapest, then I think I can enhance my perspective about work and life. I’m not just waking up before dawn every morning to get my pay check, I’m living in one of the best cities in the world. 

21) Re-connect with cousins.

This should be an easy one- my brother and I are organizing a get-together with our cousins at the end of the month. I haven’t seen some of them in years (other than through facebook) and putting off a get-together until one of us youngest gets married doesn't seem the best strategy. So I need to stop being lazy and start making plans. Putting energy into staying in contact with my small group of cousins (there are 6 of us total, and we all live in Southern California) is a serious goal of mine. I miss them and want them in my life.

Well, this entry concludes my official goals, resolutions and what-have-you’s for the next year in my life. Stay tuned for my progress!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Resolutions Part II: Let's Get Physical

I have a few basic resolutions for maintaining and improving my bod', but I like achievable goals. I won't pretend I’ll ever have an ass you can bounce a quarter off of, but after 29 years, 16 of which have been consumed with thinking about the size of said ass, I know what I need to do to keep things in order. Plus, I think hitting 30 is supposed to be a bummer for your metabolism, and the red wine isn't going to drink itself, so...

5)    Do an exercise class at least twice a week.

In 2010, I dumped my expensive and annoying gym and found an exercise routine that I’m actually sticking to: classes at independent studios. I may not go as often as I think I should, but at least I’m consistently going. And I can tell a difference. I don't hate the way I look in (most) pictures, I can fit into (most) of my jeans, and as inauthentic as this may sound, I actually improved my overall mood last year by getting my sweat on a couple times a week. Adam Carolla used to say that anyone who feels mildly depressed needs to go for an extended power walk everyday while listening to classical music on their iPod, and they'll pull themselves out of it. He's so right. And so dreamy.

What a Feeling
Anyway, I will showcase the Heart Beat House in Atwater Village in an upcoming post, but I’ll just say now that it’s an AWESOME find and provides a down-to-earth and effective alternative to the mind-numbing cardio machines at the gym. On Mondays, I go to a class called “Awesome 80s Dance Party.” Yep, true story. We jump around to 80s music, do a silly dance routine, and then end with 80s-inspired mat work with light weights. This, I can do.


6)    Eliminate tricep flab.

Due to my efforts with attending exercise classes at indie studios, I’ve already made some progress in this arena. I don’t eat chicken, and I don’t want to resemble one when I wave. My brother is a long-time fitness dude, and he claims that women get to a point where it’s no longer possible to get rid of upper arm fat. Yikes!! So if I don’t take care of this at 30 years old, when will I?? Here's what I don't want in my next decade:


7)    Get my face in order.

I thought I had my awesome adult acne under control by switching to Yaz and religiously using Cetaphil. Recently, however, my bumps and spots are returning, and this time they’re not discriminating against the upper 2/3 of my face. I have already done some groundwork for this goal by switching to a PPO (no more annoying referrals) and bumping up the amount I set aside for my Flexible Spending Account. I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist in Beverly Hills who I'm hoping will be my derma-life-mate and hatch a plan for annihilating my acne AND an getting me on an anti-aging regime. My face is a war with too many fronts. Zits and wrinkles- welcome to my life.

8)    Take a series of beginning Salsa classes with my boyfriend.

This is admittedly a carry-over goal from 2010. I adore salsa dancing, and I want to expose him to it just in case my naive optimism pans out and he decides he's found his calling as a salsero. It's like when my stepmom used to tell us to "just take one bite and try it" when we suspiciously eyed our vegetables. Now, 20 years later, I eat broccoli like a champ! Anyway, D claims to be open to the idea of taking salsa lessons together- so I better strike while the iron is caliente.

9)    Ski, again.

Oh, skiing. This goal should probably fall under a different theme, given that I’m doing it as a means toward a social end, not a physical one. Knowing how to ski is something the woman I think I should be knows how to do. All sophisticated adults, and some that aren’t so sophisticated, seem to have at least a rudimentary ability to ski. Ski trips are part of my culture and I should get with the program, or I’ll miss out on all the fun, be a wet blanket, or both.

I have skied exactly twice- once when I was eleven, at the encouragement of my good-natured father, and I was freaked out, cold, and snotty the entire time. I skied again when I was 28, at the encouragement of my good-natured boyfriend,  and I was freaked out, cold, and snotty the entire time. Okay, not totally true. I did okay, especially when it came to the après-ski. A hard-earned happy hour in the snow!! A Mammoth trip with friends is already in the works for the end of the month, so this goal should be easy to check off. 

Let's go body, let's go!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Resolutions, Goals, and What-have-yous Part 1: Must be the Money!

No matter how much I make, I seem to spend even more. Sound familiar? I want to be in a better position, financially, at the end of my 30th year than I am now. Here are my 2011 resolutions that will make Susie Orman proud. Some of this may be TMI- people aren't in the habit of publicly sharing their money woes. I feel like I need to shed some light on this issue that has plagued my 20s, stop feeling ashamed, and git-r-done.

1) Do not charge anything unless it’s an absolute emergency. Seeing Willie Nelson at the Greek does not count as an emergency.

I am proud to say that I broke my charging habit in 2010, also with a NY resolution. I was fairly successful at not charging much of anything last year, save for two or three times when I tooled out, left my debit card at a bar, and couldn’t get to a bank because I was en route to an out-of-town wedding and trying not to throw up in my friend’s Prius. Okay, that was only once, and to be fair, it was on my 29th birthday. Most of the year, I lived like Americans did before I was born, and waited until payday to pay my bills, buy my plane tickets, go out to happy hour.

Because I always have a balance on at least one of my cards, I need to permanently let go of the lofty notion that I can eventually “earn points” by charging everything I buy and paying off the balance each month. Although I know I am a repeated failure at this scheme, I still hang on to the hope that one day, I, too, can fly to Paris for free just because I charged my groceries and GEICO bill. I can leave that sort of thing to my fiscally responsible boyfriend, who has accumulated so many Starwood rewards points that he could live in a bungalow on stilts in the Maldives for a month.
This could be you.

2) Create a separate savings account for Christmas gifts.

Christmas is always a kick in my finance’s sack. We are a family that is heavy into gift-giving, and on December 1, 2010, my anti-charging diet flew right out the door and I merrily swiped my way to conspicuous consumption. Not this year. My credit union (more below) is so awesome that they have devised a way for people without discipline, like me, to save for the holidays. They have a savings account that matures in November and charges you a fee for early withdrawal. Brilliant!

3) Break up with Chase. 

Did you know that Chase (formerly WaMu) is going to start charging for “Free Checking Accounts?” It wouldn’t effect me, but still; it’s the principle. I’ve been wanting to extricate myself from Chase for awhile, and this year, I’m going to flash the big evil bank the deuces and commit 100% to my locally run, not-for-profit credit union. This is more of a pain in the ass than it sounds, as it requires changing my automatic deductions and account information for everything I pay electronically, from student loans to Netflix. It will be well worth it, though, as I can feel better about where I'm storing my money when I'm not spending it.

4) Eliminate all credit card debt except for my Credit Union Visa.

I want to be in a position where I don’t have to panic or clean houses if I get laid off. Also, in two years, I want to take time off in a serious, around-the-world kind of way, so it’s imperative I pay down as much debt as possible. Herewith, I share with you my grueling pay-down schedule. Note that most of these balances are a result of my Christmas binging.

o      1/12/11 pay off Chase Visa card in full ($796)
o      1/26/11 pay Macy’s Card in full ($300?)
o      2/9/11 pay half of Amazon card ($750)
o      3/9/11 pay other half of Amazon card ($750)
o      4/6/11 pay entire balance on Jet Blue Amex card ($700ish).

Once these unseemly beasts are tamed, I will tackle the biggest balance I have, which is fortunately on my low-interest credit union card. It's about $5,700 right now, and I want to knock that bitch down to $3,000 by the end of 2011. Si se puede!!

This is a strict schedule, yes, but I’ve learned that if I pay my bills on pay day, I live within my means for the next two weeks, even if it requires fewer dinners out and avoiding DSW. 

Just say "No."
 Next up, resolutions for my soon-to-be 30 year-old body.

Happy New Year

I’m turning 30 on March 26, 2011, and I want to remember this year as being the one where I kick ass and take names. I don’t want to let this birthday pass quietly- I’m going to take a running start and leap into this damn decade with confidence, vigor and if I can help it, without the chub on my triceps flapping. To this aim, I created resolutions, like most people do. They’re not particularly original or inspiring. They mostly involve my looks and my money. However, unlike most people, I’m going to chronicle my progress toward my goals in this pseudo-public forum. You don’t have to be interested, you just have to possibly exist. That way, I’ll feel like I’m breaking a gym date if I don’t post regularly. Also, I’ll have a handy personal journal I can look at and reflect on when I’m, you know, even older.

First, I’ll post about the goals I’ve come up with for self-improvement in 2011. They kind of revolve around a few major themes: money, body, brain and home. The rest of my posts will be proof of my progress, and anything else that seems particularly noteworthy about my life as I turn 30, and stay 30. I’m in a good place at 29, but I know it can only get better. Let's get it on!