Category Archives: The organized life

The Heartbleed Bug takes over your internets!

Standard

Mashable Article: The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now

Another craze has hit the web, and this time it looks bad for users of a LOT of common websites. The Hearbleed bug is the newest cyberthreat, or so says news outlets like the BBC (my go-to even for US news). This new cyber-threat has resulted in a breach of security of many major websites, resulting in news outlets to recommend a mass change in passwords. Check out the above article to see if any website account you have has been affected (most likely that’s a yes).

My advice: If you’re like me and don’t change your passwords that often (I do really like having them memorized…), then it’s probably about time you change your passwords anyway. As daunting and tedious as it sounds, spend a couple of hours going through all your accounts and making new passwords. I understand that it’ll take a long time, I did it this morning. What did I get out of it? Other than a major headache (or possibly my first migraine?) and a bunch of websites that I can’t remember my password to, I now am content to know that (at least for today.. probably) my secure accounts will remain secure.

Don’t know how to make a secure password? Google it. Or just click here: Tips for creating a strong password– Microsoft.com

If you’re like me and want to have a little more information about this cyber heart-breaker, check out these BBC* articles about the Heartbleed Bug:

Heartbleed Bug: What you need to know

Heartbleed Bug creates confusion on the internet

*I shamelessly promote using the BBC as your new source, even in the US. It’s got great international news that covers worldwide, and is a very reliable, fairly unbiased and well-written source. Here’s there homepage, check it out.

Playing House

Standard

It’s been a while since I’ve done a serious “Life Lessons” post frankly because I couldn’t think of anything to add. Sure, I’ve been keeping myself busy with little projects here and there, but I don’t want every post on this blog to be about a new cooking adventure, my writing, or the craft projects I’ve been doing. This started out as a blog to talk about advice and my own learning about how to “be an adult”, and I want to make sure it stays true to that topic.

To tie up some loose ends:

  1. No I did not meet my March writing goal. I didn’t even get halfway there. I’m having some existential issues with books two and three and also rethinking my editing of book 1, so I got sidetracked from the writing part. I signed up for Camp Nano this month, so we’ll see if I can meet my 30k word goal.
  2. I have been busy with projects. Cooking is the main one; I recently prided myself on making jello shots in clementine skins, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, and a veggie pizza that actually holds together. In the crafts department, I made a towel robe out of oversized towels for my boyfriend, but after sizing it to him I need to go back and cut it WAY down (apparently when I don’t see him I think he’s a giant…). ** I’ll post some photos in another blog**
  3. I am currently house/pet sitting for my parents while they are out-of-town. Which is the inspiration for this blog.

The Grown-Up Test aka House-sitting.

So my parents are off in Europe for two weeks to do the second part of the Camino de Santiago. They walked the first part last year and will do the last part next year. So, while they are gone, I essentially am the caretaker of the house; care for the cats, make sure the house doesn’t get destroyed by the cats, do all the cooking, cleaning, and maintenance, and in general keep things going like normal. Here are some things I’ve been learning in the past week or so:

  1. Going to the grocery store is actually fun. I can honestly say that I usually HATE grocery shopping. It’s always crowded, the prices are always more than I want to pay, I always forget to buy something, and I always feel slightly judged by the cashier for buying beer (plus the inevitable “you can’t be old enough for this, can you?” before I pull out my ID, and then the awkward “well, you’ll always look young for your age” comment). It’s just an ordeal. But after you’ve been stuck alone in the house for a few days with only your cats to talk to (I do realize how lame that sounds), going ANYWHERE with people is fun. And to get the ingredients for the recipe you’ve been wanting to try for days? Amazing.
  2. Just because you’re at home with nothing to do doesn’t mean you do nothing. So I kind of blew off my own advice for a few days. I had just gotten back from a vacation with my boyfriend when my parents left, and all I felt like doing was sleeping and watching TV. But after a couple of days watching TV and not changing out of my PJs, I realized how lazy I was being. And it wasn’t just my conscience scolding me for being a bum, I felt terrible. I was always tired, but I didn’t sleep well at night. I felt like I was gaining weight. My brain felt fuzzy, and no matter how bored I felt I couldn’t get myself to do something productive like read a book or write. No matter how cool it may seem of be able to sit around watching TV all day in your PJs, eating junk food, etc…. it’s not. I stopped that pretty fast and set a loose schedule for my days.
  3. Time flies when you’re doing things. So before, when I was just watching TV and doing nothing productive, it seemed like the day took forever to go by. It was one crappy daytime TV show after another, and it was boring. But once I started to actually do things with my day, the time went by faster. Morning breakfast, exercise and shower took until almost eleven. After lunch I either read, work on a puzzle, or work on some craft/cooking project. Before I knew it, it was dark. Then it’s dinner and then  I can allow myself to veg out by the TV for a few hours before bed.
  4. Animals are a HUGE responsibility. This is really something I already knew, but wanted to emphasize it even more. Our pets are like family, and we make sure they’re taken care of. But it’s constant hard work. I know a lot of people who adopted pets before realizing how much of a responsibility they were, and the pets don’t get the proper care because of it. Honestly, I’d recommend waiting until at least after you graduate college and have a job to consider a pet. They need food, water, toys, and care products that take a lot of money. They need constant attention (even cats) and love. If you’re not ready to dedicate your time, money and attention to them, don’t adopt them. I love my cats, but my mom is really the one that cares for them usually. And when my parents left, I was shocked at how much attention the cats needed– the first few days they kept me up at night because I didn’t play with them enough to tire them out (that and they were worried about why my parents had left them). I love the cats, but they are a lot of work. (Also, it makes me sympathetic for mothers everywhere. I find myself constantly yelling “Don’t scratch that!”, “Don’t eat that!”, “Stop fighting with your sister!”)
  5. Being safe doesn’t mean being crazy. Being alone in a big house at night is never very fun. Besides the cats being noisy and annoying when I tried to sleep, I was constantly worried about the house. My parents moved into the house last summer, so it’s still pretty new to me and I’m learning all the normal bumps and creaks of the house at night. I’d get myself worked up over some little noise that was probably a cat, and go downstairs with all the lights on to recheck the door locks and the alarm. Yes it’s important to check the locks before going to bed and make sure the alarm is on. But every little noise is not someone breaking in, just relax and go to sleep.
  6. Screening your calls makes life a lot easier. So I do this already on my cell phone. If I’m not expecting a call and I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. If it’s important, they will leave a message. I have been doing this at the house while I’ve been here alone, and out of the 2-3 calls a day we’ve gotten, only 1 (total) has bothered to leave a message. Obviously the others were telemarketers and not worth my time on the phone.

Now obviously this experience hasn’t given me insight into everything that I’ll have to do and worry about as an adult. There are bills and taxes and those pesky jobs… but I have learned that if I decide one day to become a stay-at-home wife/mom, I can not only manage it, but have fun doing it. I love cooking for my boyfriend (he stayed over the weekend so I cooked him pizza and jalapeno poppers) and I can manage my days to be productive. It’s all about self-discipline, structure, and the drive to have an adventure everyday whether with a new craft, a new recipe, or just continuing a project.

Scheduling your Life

Standard

As I’ve already said, it’s easy to fall into a slump. But lying around in your PJs all day watching reruns of Star Trek: Next Generation and eating Doritos by the bag is NOT acceptable. You don’t want to be that lazy life-suck that your parents become embarrassed to discuss.

(Rule #1) STICK TO A SCHEDULE: Like I said yesterday, you don’t need to plan out every second of every day. But you do need to figure out a vague daily schedule. Wake up around 8 or 9 (that’s AM, not PM), make your bed, do daily exercise and/or shower, get dressed in your big boy/girl clothes (no PJs after 10am and before 9pm!) and then start your day. Have an idea of one or two things you want to get done during the day. In general for me, that includes checking my email and replying to any questions or interview inquiries from places I’ve applied, doing a solid hour or two of job search and research including applications and tweaking my cover letters and resume. Having a goal for the day is what will get you going, and it may be what gets you a job too, because…

(Rule #2) GET INTO PROJECTS AND HOBBIES: From gradspot.com’s Guide to Life After College, “The worst thing that you can do while job hunting is to do nothing but look for employment” (Klein, Schonberger, Schultz, and Hoen, page 41). I am so glad that I read this before going to some of my interviews recently, I can’t tell you how many times an interviewer has asked “What have you been doing since you graduated” or “What do you like to do in your spare time?”. As the book says, “…if you spend your time enhancing your story by keeping active and learning new skills, you’ve now presented yourself as someone who is motivated and multi-faceted…” (Klein, Schonberger, Schultz, and Hoen, page 41).

You don’t have to go pay for language classes or take up full-time volunteering. In my case, I have several projects and hobbies that I spend my (scheduled) time working on. They include writing and planning this blog, learning to bake and trying new recipes, making hand-made cards, and working on writing a novel (see my crafts and creativity blog for more on my cards, cooking, and writing. I’ll be updating successes especially of my novel here as well.)

Like I’ve said before, having a project or hobby that you spend a lot of time and effort doing is interview gold. When asked the question about what I’ve been doing and what my hobbies are, I know can proudly say that “As you can see on my resume, I participate in National Novel Writing Month in November, an online writing contest that challenges members to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Since graduating I’ve been working on the novel, which currently consists of one and a half books and a total of 200,000 words.” It’s damn impressive, and I know it. Sure, most of those words were done in the past 3 November’s and I’ve only gotten around 8,000 words written since I graduated. But it’s something I’ve been working on, and it’s something that will show the interviewer that I have a life outside of the job search and am someone who can bring more than the average bland skills of a new-graduate to the job. It is also something that makes me stand out, which is always a good thing during an interview. (Case in point: I recently received a rejection email. What surprised me was the interviewer remembered my novel, and in closing, told me he wanted to a copy of my book when I got it published. I may not have gotten the job, but I stood out enough to be remembered.)

So pick something you enjoy to do more of, find a new hobby or project that will challenge you and make you work hard. Keep yourself busy, and the time will pass.

If you’d like to know more about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), go here. There is more than just the contest in November, and if you’re interested but worried about being able to keep up the word count, there is a huge community of forums for members. You can also contact me, I’d love a writing buddy!

**Citation: Schonberger, Chris, Stuart Schultz, Tory Hoen, and David J. Klein. Gradspot.com’s Guide to Life after College. New York: MG Prep, 2010. Print.**

Life at Home

Standard

Living at home may seem like a hard adjustment after being relatively independent while at school. Your hours may differ from your parents, you may feel limited by obligation (or house rules) in what you can do and when. But here’s the thing: your parents don’t have to let you stay at their house, so you need to suck up big time. To successfully live at home and keep your sanity you have to…

(Rule #1) THANK YOUR PARENTS. A LOT: If you’re like me, your parents are absolutely awesome. They wouldn’t dream of charging you rent (at least while you don’t have a job), they’re fun to hang out with, they take you out to dinner, buy you anything you need from Target (emphasis on need), and don’t set strict rules. Sure, it’s expected I don’t go out after dark without telling them, or spend every night out drinking with friends, or ask them to take me clothes shopping or pay for those cute heels I saw on Amazon. But within all reason, my parents let me make my own choices and do what I need to do.

That’s not to say that I don’t have responsibilities around the house. Just like before I left for college, I have chores I’m expected to do: keep my room from exploding, do my own laundry, clean my bathroom when it needs it, and generally help keep the house in order. Now that I’m older and know how to cook, I’m also expected to help my mom make meals– something that I enjoy and would do anyway.

So here’s a second part to rule #1: DON’T BE A S**T HEAD. Even if like me, you don’t have significant responsibilities around the house, don’t take advantage of your parents’ hospitality. They’re helping you out during a rut in the road, but if you expect them to do everything for you and you do nothing for them, they will remember. Case in point: I recently saw an episode of “Property Virgins” (a house-hunting show based in Atlanta) and was disgusted to see a girl my age moving out of her parents house. What offended me was her reason for leaving: her parents complained that she went out too late at night to drink and party, and that she kept her laundry lying around the hallway. It turned out she bought a place she couldn’t afford, but her parents were so eager to get her out of the house that they paid the remainder.

In addition to helping out around the house and keeping your stuff secluded to your room, a great way to show that you’re thankful for your parents’ hospitality is to just spend time with them. I make it a rule to only be out of the house for dinner a maximum of three nights a week– this includes the typical two nights of the weekend I stay over at my boyfriend’s place. I know a lot of people have a more active social life than I do, which is great, but remember whose home you come back to every night. Have dinner with your parents whenever you can, watch a movie or TV with them at night, play board games or scrabble like when you were younger. Even if your parents don’t have a lot of free time, a good meal or a nice beer/glass of wine/ cocktail after work with them is enough time to show them that you care what’s going on with them, and that you’re happy that you’re home.

(Rule #2) THE WAY TO CONVINCE AN EMPLOYER YOU’RE MATURE AND RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO HIRE, IS TO FIRST BELIEVE IT YOURSELF: Honestly; just keep yourself neat, contained and organized mentally and physically. Act like the adult that you are and not the kid you were the last time you lived at home. And here’s one thing I’ve learned during the month and a half I’ve been at home: Getting bored, fat, and lazy is easier than you think!

Part 1: GET YOURSELF ORGANIZED. Mentally and physically, just take a breath and get yourself in focus. Organize your computer files, clean our your closet, give away anything from your pre-college and college life that you don’t need anymore. This is a transition time for a reason. Use it.

Part 2: MAKE A SCHEDULE. (I’ll talk more about this later) I’m not talking about a planner like your crazy type-A friends had back in high school with every second of every hour of every day booked with studying or extracurriculars or volunteer work. No one in our situation can do that with their life, things change too suddenly; job interviews pop up last-minute, you see an opportunity to get some volunteer experience, family errands take longer than planned. It’s just life. What I am saying is that it’s too easy to just be the lazy unemployed bum; last up and first to bed, eating cheese balls out of the container three meals a day in your bathrobe and pajamas while you lay on the couch watching TV all day (if you get the reference, I salute you). If nothing else, set an alarm that you’ll wake up to at a decent hour (Think: between 8 and 9 am) and change into real grown-up clothes and at least have a daily chore or goal to get done.

Subpart 1: GET IN SHAPE. For me, this is a great time to get in shape, so I try to get myself outside to run first thing in the morning 3 to 4 days a week. I have two fitness apps on my Kindle Fire that push me 4 days a week to achieve more crunches and push-ups. Whatever your fitness level, having no set work schedule is a great opportunity to force yourself into better shape.

Subpart 2: PROJECTS. The golden ticket to impressing any interviewer is to have some awesome thing that you do outside of your job search. Even if you don’t think it’s all that awesome, the interviewer will be impressed that you’re actually doing something with your life and that your interests aren’t limited to finding a way to secure a salary. Again, I’ll talk a lot more about this later, but just remember that having hobbies and projects don’t just kill time, but they make you a more interesting person , which makes you more likely to get remembered and then hired.

(Rule #3) MANAGE THE PURGATORY CONUNDRUM: If you’re like me, you have a lot of friends who have already graduated. They all have jobs and have moved on, and you don’t get to talk to them much, When you do, you feel like they are part of the real world, and you’re still stuck behind. Also, if you’re like me, you have a lot of friends who are still in school. Whether it’s undergrad or grad school, it’s still the same. You still hang out, but it’s like you’re completely different animals now. They’re always talking about their classes or the next frat party, while you’re worrying about your swiftly dwindling bank account and whether you’ll be able to afford the next round. This is the purgatory conundrum: you feel like you’ve grown out of the college lifestyle, but because you can’t be self-sufficient and independent yet, you don’t feel like you belong with others who have graduated. You hate making small-talk at check-outs because inevitably it leads to something about jobs or school, and you just don’t want to talk about it. I mean, it’s mortifying to admit to a complete stranger that, “Yes I graduated from X prestigious university. No I don’t have a job, I’m living with my parents.”

So here’s what I’ve decided: the purgatory conundrum is inevitable. But you don’t have to let it weigh you down. After an awful night in tears over this feeling of not belonging anywhere, I picked myself up and made a promise. Instead of focusing on feeling like I don’t belong, I have to focus on how I can make myself belong. That means doing what I can to make myself independent (lots of job applications, whether the job is something I want to do for a career or not) and keeping myself from sinking into feeling sorry for myself. I have to be in control, I have to help myself. (And who needs to hang out with a bunch of rowdy drunk college kids anyway? They can buy their own rounds, thanks. I’ll just have a glass of wine at home with my parents :).)

(Rule #4) TAKE ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT: No matter who it’s from, not all advice is right or right for you (including what’s in here, though I hope you’ll find it helpful). From Charles Wheelan’s 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said, “You’re parents don’t want what’s best for you.” I translate that to ‘You’re friends–family–self-help-book–random-person-at-the-checkout don’t want what’s best for you’. And by that Wheelan means this: those who give advice don’t want what’s best for you, they want what’s good for you. As he says, “No parent wants to watch a child flounder or fail. There is a natural instinct to protect children from risk and discomfort– and therefore to urge safe choices.” (Wheelan page 90).  No one knows you better than you. At this stage you are constantly barraged with advice from people who mean well. I’m not saying ignore it, I’m simply saying think it through and decided if that bit of advice will work for you.

Case in point: many recent grad self-help books advise taking a month or several months or even a year to travel the world. While I would love to travel (see my travel blog here), I can’t justify putting my life on hold to travel. I’d be alone, and I’d be spending money that I would rather see stay safely in my saving’s account until I want to do something important, like buy a house or a car, get married or have kids. Some people can live day-to-day and spend their money like that. I can’t. So that goes in with the good advice that just isn’t quite right for me.

So when you unwrap the post graduation presents and find a self-help book, or go to a family gathering and have your ear talked off by your aunt who just knows that if you submit 4 applications a day you’ll have a job by next Tuesday here’s my (the irony) advice. Smile, say thank you and mean it– they mean what they say and do to be helpful and it just might be, then store the piece of advice in your brain for later consideration. Read the self-help books, and know that the author is meaning the best for you, but only take from it what will move you further toward whatever goal you want to achieve in your career and life

**Citation: Wheelan, Charles J. 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.**