Lately I’ve found myself involved in several conversations about student loan debt, debt in general, and the difficulty of being young, fresh out of college, and making a living. These conversations have been fascinating because they have been so relevant. My husband and I are on a tight budget, and we’ve spent the few months we’ve been married looking for ways to make our money work for us and to start paying down some of our debt, the bulk of which is student loans. What budgeting has meant for us is that we’ve had to choose our priorities. For example, we both owe money on our cars but we have made having them a priority. That means we might have to delay other purchases. We’d love to replace all of our living room furniture, but that’s our motivation to pay off something else before we buy a new couch. Paying our rent, utilities, and making payments on our loans doesn’t leave room for a lot of extra, but we have to work with what we’ve got. It also means we have to keep working where we’re working for now, even if I’d rather quit my job and teach immigrants English for free, or something equally fulfilling and low-paying. All of these things give us incentive to work until we’re able to buy new furniture or work for something that makes us happy but pays poorly.

We are definitely not the only people who find themselves facing substantial debt. I’ve come across a myriad of articles lately that talk about people who are unable to make the minimum payments on their student loans, and I’ve heard friends complain about the difficulties. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not as much fun as living with my parents and not worrying about where their money was coming from as long as some of it came to me, but I also think there should be more of a presence of people who are actually making ends meet. What I’ve seen in the news is mostly people with obscure degrees who racked up thousands of dollars in debt and can’t find a job. What I don’t see is people with obscure degrees saying, “I found a job. It’s not what I want to do, but it pays the bills for now.” I’ve also not seen people saying, “I got a great job with my degree, and I’m paying off my debt!” I would love to hear more stories of people who have found themselves out of college, in debt, and learning to make it work. These people could share their advice, their successes, and their failures to encourage the rest of us to keep going and give us helpful advice on how to manage.

This morning I received an encouraging email from an organization called Zero Bound. They are currently in launch mode and looking for support, and this concept is amazing: “Zero Bound helps students and alumni reduce debt through sponsored volunteerism . . . pay it down by paying it forward.” What better way to get a jump on student loan payments than by helping someone else?! I’m very excited to see how this works, and I would encourage you to sign up if you have debt, and donate if you can. Instead of sad stories about debt, I would love to hear stories about people who accrued debt and found it worthwhile when they paid it off and started doing what they love.

Are you in student loan debt? How is the payoff going?

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Christmas Cheer, Delivery Delight, and A Business Update

It feels like Christmas has come early! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I started selling Avon to help fund my Arabic courses and other future adventures. My first order was delivered yesterday, and as I’ve started delivering orders I am convinced Santa Claus must love his job! Let me acknowledge these people paid for these products, so I am not like Santa because I give them away; however, delivering them is 15 kinds of fun. I know some of my customers have had the same reaction I did to receiving what they purchased. To give you an idea, I contemplated taking a shower as soon as I got home and unpacked the box because I bought new shampoo and I wanted to try it out. I settled instead for painting my nails with one of my new polishes. In case you were wondering, my nails are lovely, and my hair feels, smells, and looks pretty good!

When I buy things that have to be delivered, there is a kind of anticipation that builds. I get to think about my new eyeliner while I’m waiting for it, and when it gets here I’m WAY more excited than I would be if I just bought the eyeliner from a store. And that goes for anything. I bought my Christmas presents online last year, and when they got here I couldn’t wait to give them away! It’s possible the joy of receiving deliveries will someday fade, but so far there is no better feeling than a box on my front steps waiting for me to come home and open it!

As a business update, I made roughly $7 profit on my first order. That’s mainly because I bought a lot of things for myself that I would have bought elsewhere (i.e. shampoo) and because I needed to buy a few business supplies to be ready to distribute orders and sell in my next campaign. I’m not quite to the price of an Arabic class, but I’m growing my business and can hopefully only go up from here! Either way, now that I know the joy of delivering Avon orders, I’m excited to keep going.

I wish you all much happiness and many front porch deliveries. Happy almost-Labor Day!

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A Moment of Celebration

Since I’m not very good at most video games and don’t have the attention span to improve, I rarely hold the high score in anything. The exception to this is Letter Bubbles. I recently regained my place at the top of the leaderboard in the Classic and Insane modes. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to me it is a sweet, sweet victory, and here is where I choose to share my moment of glory. Thank you for listening, and see below for proof.

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A New (ad)Venture

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve been taking Arabic at the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute. Unfortunately, I’m still paying for those four years of schooling I’ve already had, and taking Arabic gets expensive. Maybe someday I’ll have a job that pays me to learn new languages, but until then I’ve decided to look for a way to pay for these classes that will still allow me to keep up with student loan payments and, more importantly, the grocery bill. That’s why I’ve started selling Avon.

If you are unfamiliar with the Avon brand, it is a company that sells cosmetics, jewelry, accessories, and home products through representatives who use catalogs and online sales to reach their customers. Avon recruits female sales representatives whose passion for the products is a major tool in their sales. The founder was a door-to-door book salesman who saw potential in the women he often encountered in his work to earn money in a way that allowed them to keep up with what was already going on in their lives. That was 125 years ago, and Avon is still going strong.

My expectations in selling Avon are fairly modest. I’d like to earn enough to not have to worry about my next language course every term. If there is a little left over after that goal is met, I’m just one step closer to paying off college debt, and I might get the occasional new pair of shoes. All in all, I like the Avon products, and I really am excited to be a representative.

This is not a sales post (though you are welcome to shop my online store). Instead, I’m curious to see how this venture works out, and it seems important to chronicle it as part of my post-college escapades and attempts to better myself. I’m looking forward to seeing where things go!

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Review: Girls of Riyadh

Girls of Riyadh caused a stir when it was published in Lebanon in 2005 in the original Arabic. Through a series of emails, released weekly, Rajaa Alsanea chronicles the stories of her narrator’s four friends Sadeem, Gamrah, Michelle, and Lamees. These women are well educated and well traveled, but they live in the Saudi Arabian society where marriages are arranged by families. They have little to no say in whom they will marry, but that does not stop them from falling in love, often with someone whom they cannot have. Throughout the novel, the girls try to love in the context of their society, some with success and others with heartbreaking failure.

The culture of this story is so far removed from my American understandings, and that makes this book all the more fascinating and all the more heart-wrenching. I take for granted my abilities to make my own decisions and not be ostracized by family or society. One of the most fascinating things about Girls of Riyadh was the lack of direct commentary from the author. Alsanea does not pass judgment and say this way of life and this culture are good or bad; instead, she shows the effects of this culture on these girls and lets the reader judge. Though it is fairly clear the narrator does not like seeing her friends hurt by their families, their lovers, or their society, she also comes to the defense of the culture at times and acknowledges instances when things have turned out for the better because of this system in which they live.

Unfortunately, the English is only a translation, and both author and translator mention the difficulties involved in carrying the dialects over to the English version. With even my limited knowledge of Arabic, I know this would be a challenge, so I think there is some level of information that is lost on the reader in the English version. Despite that, it is a beautifully written book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

If you’d like to purchase Girls of Riyadh, click here.

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If you haven’t heard of Goodreads, you’re missing out. You can keep track of all the books you’ve read, see what your friends are reading and how they like it, and get recommendations based on what you’ve liked.

I have fallen in love with this site and with the iPhone app. Nick and I went to the book store this weekend and we could just scan the barcodes and easily add to our list of books we want to read. It’s also really cool to see what your friends are reading and what they liked. If you know you have similar tastes to another reader, you’ll never be without a good book suggestion. I would love to see what more people are reading, so if you’re already a member or decide to sign up, find me!

We’ve been using the Nashville Public Library like fiends, so be on the lookout for book reviews!

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It has been a very long time since you’ve heard from me here, and for that I apologize. But since then, I’ve been busy, so here’s a quick update:

Shortly after my last post, I got engaged to a wonderful, wonderful guy. He surprised me with the front of a family dinner and instead I got a patio with candles, flower petals, and fireworks!


We were married in May, and we are enjoying wedded bliss.

THANK YOU to Cassie Nicole Photography for the beautiful wedding and engagement photos.


But I’ve been up to more than just getting married. In January, I started taking Arabic classes at the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute. I just finished up round two, and it’s been pretty awesome. Why Arabic? I’m not quite sure yet. For one thing, I was bored. It seemed like a good way to occupy my time. My dream job is still not a concrete thing, but I like to talk, and I like to learn new languages, so maybe my dream job will appear after I learn a few more and become an asset to somebody who needs English/Spanish/Arabic speakers. I’m REALLY good at remembering animal names, so maybe I’ll find a zoo that needs a very specific trilingual tour guide.

I’m not going to overload you with everything that’s happened since my last post. But there will be more to come on the books I’ve read and what I’m doing, so be sure to check back!

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Righting the Wrong Side of the Bed

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I have a tiny twin bed, so I’m not entirely sure how you can wake up on the wrong side seeing as there is really no choosing a side, but I digress. The point is, I haven’t slept enough and today I woke up grumpy.

I started off embracing this, but I recognize the injustice of that. It’s not very nice to my friends with whom I ate breakfast. Or my coworkers. Or the people I’ll run into on the street today.

So I’m acknowledging it, and I’m moving on. I’ve got no reason to complain, and I should probably protect the relationships in my life. I’m looking at pictures of adorable animals and attempting to ignore the crazy people that call my office. I’m having dinner with people I love, and I want to enjoy them and allow them to enjoy being with me.

What do you do to make your bad days better?

Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

It feels like Donald Miller has been a big presence in my life for a while, even though A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is the first of his books I’ve read. I say this because I feel like the only person in my group of friends and acquaintances who hasn’t read Blue Like Jazz. I own a Spanish copy and have heard nothing but praise for it, but I haven’t gotten around to it. I also attended and now work at a university where Miller himself has spoken about “living a better story,” the theme of A Million Miles. Having finally broken out of my Donald Miller ignorance, I would like to read more.

A Million Miles is a memoir that focuses on Miller’s personal experiences all the while urging the reader to think about his own story. He asks us to consider our own lives and where we’re going. Are we creating memorable scenes in our stories? Would anyone want to watch our movie? He talks about the moments that matter and why, and he looks at life as a progression of events, describing how and why some events stick out to us. His big question is, how do we take control of our stories and write them to be interesting, engaging, and meaningful?

The book is relevant on a number of levels. At minimum it’s an interesting read for a writer who is concerned with story, how we write, or why we connect with the retelling of a series of events. But more importantly, the book is something for all humans to consider. We as authors get to decide what kind of story we are writing and whether and how we will be remembered.

In honor of A Million Miles, I present to you a story. This Big Nasty Couch from Craigslist is living its own story. You can be the critic to decide what kind of story it’s living.

And if you’re interested in purchasing A Million Miles in a Thousand Years you can do so here.

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Review: The Career Journey

Ram Iyer’s The Career Journey offers practical advice for entry level employees to advance in their careers. It isn’t a formula for success, and Iyer makes no guarantees anything will come of his advice, but he attempts to teach things the entry level employee will learn on her own before the employee has to learn those things the hard way. Ultimately, the book should be taken as an overview for someone starting his career of things to consider and how to go about getting what he wants.

The advice in the book is solid if the reader’s goals align with the destination of The Career Journey. If what you’re looking for is career success–defined by a higher position in some form of business and in an organization you like–Iyer’s plan is as good as any. He offers personal experiences, case studies, and advice from other writers to show how scenarios can play out and what can be gained by making some important career moves and decisions. Iyer discusses the importance of finding the job that fits what you’re good at and like to do, personal branding and perception, continued education, and the fundamentals of how businesses work. By laying out the fundamentals, he gives the readers a chance to create a strategy to get where they want to be.

For my own purposes, a lot of what I read sounded awful–not the writing, just the subject. I think what I learned is that I don’t like reading about business. I don’t want my job to be my life and I’m not overly concerned with making more than enough money to be comfortable; however, even with my own aversion to business-y writing there was some useful advice in the book. Perhaps most helpful was Iyer’s “C-Zone,” where a person’s talents, passions, and the organization for which he works come together. This is the optimal place for an employee to be, and it is where she will be most effective. The first step in Iyer’s plan is figuring out where your C-Zone is, how to get there, and how to advance within it. Even I can wrap my head around that and recognize its importance.

Completely unrelated to the subject matter, but important to note: this book could have been edited better. If you’re like me and get distracted by lack of continuity, the occasional typo, or poor phrasing that should have been caught you’ll notice some of that in this book. But if you read my writing you’ll notice I make the same mistakes, and if you can handle it, go for it. If you’re an editor, please know the importance of what you do is recognized and appreciated.

Ultimately, if you’re like me and you don’t know what you want to do with your life this book is worth a read. If you do know what you want to do with your life but don’t know exactly how you want to go about it, you might like it as well. If you’re interested in buying it, you can find the Amazon link here.

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