Good For You

Eight Things I Learned In NYC

First of all, thanks to everyone who was so supportive about my dropping a big bomb then going on vacation. I didn't plan it that way. I wanted to give my employer time to pass the news along to the people who needed to know before I blogged about it. Everyone has been so supportive, and being that this life change is hard (you know, in an exciting way), it is nice to know people are rooting for me.

Nyc-central-park So clearly NYC is a good time even when you aren't with a couple people who have known you since you were 10 years old. We didn't waste too much time sleeping both because we wanted to hang out together and because there was so much we wanted to do.

Some lessons learned:

1. Rent is so out of control that it pays to stay put for years. The rent controlled apartment in NYC is crazy; I had no clue. It's clear why people stay in one place, even if it is crappy. One of Laura's friends has lived in the same townhouse since the 70s and is now paying a couple hundred a month in rent for a place across the street from a famous actress.

2. If you carry everyting you bought up five flights of stairs, I bed you'd buy less…and think twice about getting rid of anything. Laura has this dresser she thinks of getting rid of but a couple of days of up and down and I get why it's easy to not acquire so many posessions. Maybe that would be a good test for if you should buy something: would I carry this up five flights of stairs?

Nyc-cafe 3. Our culture is driven by the relatively few and relatively rich. A walk down 5th Avenue and a comparitive look around at your fellow normal people can easily confirm that. So now I think, do I want some dress because I like it or because that chic looking woman looks fantastic in it? Good question…

4. Not everything is more expensive in a city. Cheaper produce and more expensive prepackaged crackers. Cheaper take out food, more expensive sit down menus. It seems variable, and not inherently more expensive like I thought.

5. Bringing snacks with me when traveling makes me less crazy. That $4 box of meal bars saved my butt several times this week from becoming Crazy Blood Sugar Lady…and buying expensive snacks.

6. Shameless promotion never hurts. Laura threw a party with friends. One of the attenders launched a blog last week and is already getting amazing traffic. What's his secret? "I make all my friends Facebook or Twitter my posts." Hmm, I never thought to ask. He urged me to be pushyer. Dude has a point, and blog hits to back it up.

Nyc-pretzel 7. Cheap entertainment will probably be your favorite part of your vacation. We played MASH while waiting for the Statten Island Ferry. We read the New York Post and laughed at the funny stories. I ate a pretzel in Central Park. We shared a Coke and personal stories in the Museum of Natural History cafe. These are the things we will remember more then anything.

8. Save money, sleep on an air mattress. I joked around before I left that I could see this trip turning into some touching coming of age story called "Once Upon An Air Mattress" or "An Air Mattress In Manhattan". To be honest, I can't think of a cheaper or more fun way to go on vacation then to visit friends.

So thanks to Laura for the hospitality and Robby for being a great travel buddy. And chances are, you also probably know someone in New York City. So visit if you can; you'll love it!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Three Things I Learned Booking A Last Minute Plane Ticket

I'm not sure if I mentioned this yet but my friend Robby and I are flying to NYC for a long long weekend (a long weekend would be like a Friday to a Monday but we're leaving on Wednesday so I think the extra "long" fits in there). Robby and I are visiting our other friend Laura, who is a sophisticated citified lady that has been living in Manhattan for years now. We are leaving Wednesday afternoon. Yee-haw!

In looking at the bus/train schedules and budgets about a month ago, we actually ended up booking a flight  since they are fairly cheap now (our tickets were $250 round trip). I still think the rush of booking a plane ticket can top any high out there, but I did learn a few things in booking this ticket a few weeks ago.

1. Yapta will probably never refund me ever, but it did make me feel better. Yapta is a free fare tracking website. In addition to tracking airfare, if you have already booked a ticket, you can register with the website and if the price drops below a certain point you get a refund on the difference.

So after putting in the information, I see my fare has to drop to $80 before I'd get a cent. (Yeah, like it'll do that!) On the upside, the weekly Yapta email has show the price steadily climbing. It leaves me thinking, well, at least I didn't pay $400 for the ticket I guess…

2. Flexible dates would have rocked. Robby is on a school schedule but looking at the average ticket price the weekend before and the weekend after, we would have saved some money. Oh well, I'd rather have Robby along but it's good to know airlines take advantage of things like school vacations.

3. It's cheap for a reason. Yeah, Laguardia tickets were so much cheaper then JFK…why? Oh, because it's the "far" airport. Oh well, I certainly don't mind a little extra traveling (Laura found us a cheapish car service and even a coupon code for us to use, score!) As with most things, cheap comes with a catch (in our case, some extra travel).

All in all, I could never be one of those last minute standby flight passengers (I'm too type A for that) but it is good to know that some flexibility combined with planning will get me out of town cheaply…and man, could I use this vacation!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Financial Advice From Nonfinancial Places

I was perusing meat at the grocery store the other day when I overheard two youngish guys talking with each other (Late high school? Early college? Hard to say):

"Dude, I telling you, you buy a chicken and roast and then you can eat it for like a week. It's really cheap… I do it all the time!" (FYI: While the actual quote is slightly paraphrased due to my moderately terrible memory, he actually did say "dude"!)

Fast forward to yesterday at lunch when I'm checking out's advice column Miss information. She usually gives, uh hum, not so financial advice. You know the advice I'm talking about: the "should I break up with my boyfriend" sprinkled with the occasional what-the-heck physical problem that could effect a romantic relationship. This week though, the leading question was financial in nature. (She even has some good tips to avoid online fraud from it. Click here to check them out.)

Even Real Simple tried to slip me some advice between its glossy pictures of well-composed food photographs and ads for cleaning products. It's kind of weird how we're all obessed with money now.

Do you find yourself hearing advice about saving money from odd places too? I'd especially love to hear stuff you've overheard!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Mr. Fooster, Traveling on a Whim

When I first moved to my current apartment, my friend Sarah sent me a small package. Included in the package was a book called "Mr. Fooster, Traveling on a Whim". I called to thank her but I'll admit that I was not in a great state of mind to read and enjoy this book. So it sat on my dresser for two months. I finally picked up one night and read the whole thing cover to cover. I stayed up way past my bedtime but it was worth it.

Fooster It's one of those "new life lesson every time you read it" type of books but here's a few things that I got out of it so far (don't worry, I won't spoil the book):

1. Mr. Fooster walks through life in a general direction but is open to whatever he comes across whether it is a smiling katydid or a large stinky bug. It is this way of looking at life that makes him content.

2. At one point, he gets stuck in his life (though to be fair he remains observant and gets what he can out of it). After a time, symbolically he realizes that he can get himself out.

3. Then faced with difficulty or danger, Mr. Fooster doesn't worry or overreact. A solution eventually appears, sometimes in an unlikely place that gets him out of a sticky situation.

Any of this sound familiar? Exactly.

"Mr. Fooster, Traveling on a Whim" is an excellent gift book and one which I refer to often, if only to remind myself of those semi-simple important lessons that I seem to have to relearn over and over.

If you check out the Mr. Forster website, you can have the book read to you the chapter by chapter by author Tom Corwin. With the audio are the illustrations that appear in the book in a Flash format (the book is illustrated by Craig Frazier). It is quite an excellent presentation, even when taken seperately from the book.

Chili mambo to you!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

What The Heck Do My Friends Do All Day?

Do you know what your friends do for a living? I thought I did until approximately Tuesday night. I was on the phone with one of my best friends. She was talking about her job when I had an epiphany. I had no idea where Ally was working or even what she was doing.

Then I began to think about other friends and I realize I only have vague ideas of what most of them do during the majority of their waking hours. I see an experiment coming on…

I wanted to see how accurate I was so I e-mailed a few of my friends and asked them to send me 2-3 sentences about what they do for living meanwhile I wrote from what I thought their jobs were. Below is a comparison of the two:

I thought: Randy teaches English in Quebec and a few other odd jobs.
Actuality: "I teach small groups of Francophone business professionals English. I also do print design on the side and for cleaning and upkeeping the house I live in I get to live rent free!"
Conclusion: I had no idea about the print design gig, or that it paid for his room and board.
Accuracy level: 50%

I thought: Ally works for some company having to do with feminism and goes to grad school.
Actuality: "I work for a feminist nonprofit in Cambridge call The Center for New Words, which puts on free and low-cost events all over the city in support of women's voices. What this means basically is that I run discussion groups on relevant feminist topics with guest speakers, book groups, and author events. I put on a couple of events a week and spend the rest of my time doing promotion, finding space for events, contacting publishers and agents, collaborating with community partners, etc."
Conclusion: Ally does way more events and way less theoretical stuff then I thought.
Accuracy level: 30%

I thought: Hannah works for the government on disease prevention programs in South and/or Central America.
Actuality: "My job is currently as a technical officer in the area of immunizations of the Pan American Health Organization (an international public health agency). What I do at my job really tends to vary but generally it is a lot of writing, reading and collecting data/following up on the status of projects. Because PAHO has many country offices in Latin America and the Caribbean, we interact a lot with them through email and on the phone, providing technical assistance for projects, providing them with data and responding to other requests. My boss is the focal point for several topics such as Vaccination Week in the Americas, a big initiative this month, and topics related to flu, yellow fever and hepatitis vaccine so what I work on generally relates to those topics."
Conclusion: I may never understand what Hannah does but that's why she went to Yale I guess!
Accuracy level: 60%

Hugh G*. (Hugh G. is a fake name and I'll let you fill in what he wanted for his fake last name to be yourselves)
I thought: Hugh G. makes maps with GIS software.
Actuality: "My primary responsibility is to orthorectify raw nadir aerial photography based on "triangular irregular network" hulls interpolated from stereocompiled topographic data.  Once orthorectified, I  merge the imagery into a composite photomosaic which is radiometrically balanced and parceled into a logical schema based on client specification. I also am responsible for converting stereocompiled cadastral data into a topologically correct geodatabase feature class, including FGDC-compliant metadata.
In other words: I correct aerial photos for terrain, and convert CAD data to GIS.
Or, even simpler: I make maps."
Conclusion: Hugh G. is a big nerd… and maybe when I describe my job I should throw in some jargon to sound smart.
Accuracy level: 80% (since I had no idea he worked directly with aerial photos)

Towanda* (Towanda wanted to see what anonymous name I'd come up with for her)
I thought: Towanda creates math curriculum and trains teachers in the latest math teaching methods at a textbook company.
Actuality: I'm a research assistant at a non-profit education research and development company. Basically, I work on mathematics curricula and on educating teachers. I'm an all-round handy-girl: I write, I edit, I do graphics layout (sort-of), I evaluate, and I send lots of emails. Oh, and I get to work with students and teachers about once a month.
Conculsion: Sorry to everyone else but this sounds like the best job of them all! (Maybe a tie with Randy)
Accuracy level: 80%

It was interesting to find out what some of my friends do all day, but mostly interesting how our jobs don't really seem to matter much in our social lives…you know, unless you work at a newspaper and everyone expects you to always know what's going on.

Oh and if you're my friend and want to tell me what  you do, I'd be happy to read it in the comments!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Some Thoughts On Getting Through

Without getting into it, this weekend kind of kicked my butt. I know, happens to everyone. I don't like writing when I feel like this because I think everyone can kind of sense it.

I keep this poem posted next to my bed. I took a poetry class in college and we read a lot of Mary Oliver. I was looking her up a few months ago when I found this poem. I read it when I feel I'm losing focus, and I read it most every day anyway. Here's hoping it can keep you strong too.

The Journey by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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