Category Archives: Work

Come to Ann Arbor, Get a Wedding Dress

As I discussed in my wedding dress post, I purchased my previously-worn wedding dress from a not-for-profit, volunteer-run shop called The Brides Project in Ann Arbor.  Dresses are donated second-hand by brides or donated new by boutiques or designers that have overstock.  (To manage inventory and make sure that the dresses have some market value, they typically only accept styles from the past 5 years.)  All proceeds from the dress sales (which are priced at least 50% off the true retail price or more depending on the condition) benefit the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.

tbp

(Photo from thebridesproject.org)

A) I had so much fun working with my two bridal consultants at the shop (open by appointment only for now), B) I was impressed by the selection and range of sizes and styles available, C) I was touched that so many people had donated their dresses, and D) I loved the idea of benefiting a good cause in buying this dress, that I just had to sign up to become a bridal consultant myself!

I had my training a few weeks ago: half at the Cancer Support Community (CSC) itself and half at The Brides Project (TBP).  I went in initially interested in being a bridal consultant at The Brides Project wedding boutique, which would mean helping brides try on and pick out dresses (yesssss, so fun!!!), and I did sign up to do that.  But being the volunteering overachiever that I am (I just get really excited about projects, okay?) I may have checked the boxes for all sorts of other volunteer opportunities too: yoga teacher at the CSC, photographer/blogger/social media correspondent for The Brides Project, dress intake/inventory/processing assistant, special events volunteer (the CSC holds a number of annual events such as an Ann Arbor version of Amazing Race, so you know I had to sign up for that!!).

I hadn’t realized that the CSC is a national organization and this is the local chapter, which is great because it means they have national resources but local autonomy to create programming that meets their members’ needs.  They offer so much, all for free, to those in all stages of cancer/remission, as well as to loved ones and care givers who are either dealing currently with the effects of cancer or have lost someone from cancer.  Not only do they have support and grief groups, they also hold weekly yoga and meditation classes, kids karate, nutrition and cooking demonstrations, knitting circles and “walks with docs” where a different volunteer doctor will host a nature walk through one of Ann Arbor’s parks, where members can informally ask questions or chat with him or her.  Here is a seriously touching video on the Kids Kicking Cancer karate class, which was started at Children’s Hospital of Michigan; I was trying not to cry watching this during the training!  There are lots of other videos out there if you google “Kids Kicking Cancer youtube”.

At first, I will be a bridal consultant trainee, which means that I will shadow a more experienced consultant on appointments.  I will do this until I feel comfortable dropping the trainee designation to become a full-fledged bridal consultant able to run appointments myself.  Every bride is given a two-hour appointment, and they try to only schedule one bride at a time so that she can have the run of the store.  They also typically schedule two consultants for every appointment so that one can help with the trying on and one can run/return dresses to and from the racks.  They are very good about creating a true bridal boutique experience with great customer service and selection.  You don’t feel like you are shopping in a second-hand store by any means.

Since the shop is run out of donated space, The Brides Project has had to move locations a fair amount since its inception, as landlords tend to want to lease out space to a paying tenant if possible.  The current location isn’t quite large enough to house all the dress inventory that they’ve collected, so they decided to experiment with a weekend trunk show held at the main offices of CSC.

The trunk show was my first hands-on training experience, and it was fantastic.  They opened up the CSC (a larger space than TBP) from 10-4 on Saturday and Sunday.  Even given the crazy snowstorm going on all weekend, 42 brides came through the door.  We helped them pick dresses that suited their styles and try on the gowns, advised them on how they could be tailored, and closed the sales.  The mood was upbeat and fun, with music pumping and families swooning and clicking away with their cameras.  They raised $8400 for the CSC over a goal of $5000, and sold 21 dresses, which is typically what they sell in a month!  Most of the brides came to the show because they had heard about it through social media and word of mouth, and I hope that the event will have a ripple effect on TBP’s brand recognition in the community.

Already the show has created a demand for weekend appointments at the shop through February.  Two other consultants and I helped a bride, who had lost her mom to cancer when she was young, find a great dress last Saturday (you know someone loves the dress when she cries seeing herself in it! So touching!), and I’m scheduled to meet with brides both days this weekend and the following weekend.  I can’t say enough about how much fun it is combing through dresses, swooning at new arrivals and fancy designers, and seeing the look on brides faces when they know it’s the one (or definitely NOT the one).

I’m excited to continue helping brides and have even offered to staff some afternoon hours to keep the shop open for walk-ins…there goes that volunteer-overdrive again.  So come visit me in Ann Arbor and together we’ll find the perfect dress!

Some Interesting Finds and Follow Ups

As a follow up to my post, “I Thought Quitting a Job Should Equal LESS Work”, I’ve come across some nifty tidbits that those of you who are still gainfully employed may find useful if you too ever decide to quit!

3. What happens to my 401k? (Rollover or leave it as is? Do I accumulate higher fees by leaving it in place when I’m not with the company anymore?)
I called T. Rowe Price and shockingly there are no fees associated with my 401k plan, even pass-through ones from my former employer. Additionally, the expense ratio on the mutual fund doesn’t increase beyond the current 78 basis points. So I’ve decided to keep it where it is for now, and I can always do something else with it later.

4. What happens to my employee stock purchase plan?        I looked up my Fidelity account online (where our ESPP is held) and basically they just cashed me out of what I had been accumulating in the ESPP year-to-date into a cash account. So now I just need to empty that Fidelity account into some other account, or leave it where it is and earn 0%. Sounds like a wash at this moment in time.

9. Using my HSA – just keep using the debit card? How do I track it if I can’t get on the employee website?         Yes! Just keep using the card and I can get on the website afterall! There is, however, a new $4.00/month service charge. Yuck.  ALSO, for those who are using a limited flexible spending account (FSA), this is super interesting: You can withdraw whatever amount you indicated for the whole year for qualified purposes, on Jan 1.  Okay, you knew that.  But if you then LEAVE the company, you DO NOT have to pay anyone back for the difference of what you spent versus what you have put into the account year-to-date (as your deposits are spread out over each paycheck).  I guess this is somehow the flip side of “use-it-or-lose-it” since you lose whatever funds are left in the account unused at the end of the year.  In reading up on this, it seems that this is a risk-shifting product whereby the employer takes on the risk that you will use all the designated funds in the account.  They win if you leave money sitting there at the end of the year.  I read one story online about someone who designated the max dollar amount allowed for the FSA, got lasik eye surgery in early January, got reimbursed up to that max dollar amount even though they had only paid in say 1/12th, and then quit shortly thereafter.  Essentially, they got a greatly reduced eye surgery!  What a racket.  So, moral of the story: if you are thinking about leaving your job, use up whatever’s left in your FSA before you go!

Can You Pay My Bills?

Can you pay my bills? / Can you pay my telephone bills? / Do you pay my automo’ bills? / If you did then maybe we could chill ~ Destiny’s Child “Bills, Bills, Bills”

I feel like I’m living in a Destiny’s Child song from 1999!  Having quit any sort of paying job, what’s really starting to sink in the most (even more than thinking about looking for a new job) is that I literally cannot pay for anything anymore.  Well, not exactly true; I do have savings, but that’s not operating cashflow for everyday expenditures!  So I can’t pay for ongoing expenses and entertainment and shopping I should say.

It’s really weird and hard to start relying on Mark to pay for EVERYTHING!  We used to take turns paying for dinners out, groceries, cab rides and most other things.  I paid the BGE and water bills, and he paid Comcast.  Now I’m not even bringing my credit card to dinner because what’s the point?

We even split our furniture.  I bought our deck furniture…and Mark bought everything else 🙂

Well, I DO own all of our artwork (obviously the important and necessary things in life) and some furniture that I brought with me from home.  So if we ever broke up, I wouldn’t have a couch, but I would have some paintings from which I could make a wooden bench?!?

I haven’t been totally reliant on anyone since living off of my parents in college – and that was just a normal extension of growing up and the status quo…And when $150/month in spending money could get you groceries, dinners at Chipotle, a pair of new shoes on sale at J. Crew.com and a case of beer to keep in the fridge because when you go out, other people will buy you beer.  What a rude awakening moving out of College Park to find that beer is actually more than $1/bottle at the bar and it isn’t quite as easy to get strangers to purchase it for you – not cool!!

But this now is an active change in my behavior, whereas that was just the norm.  Strange to no longer whip out my credit card for food and no longer cut checks for bills.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still charging things on my credit card, but I’m not yet used to the fact that I won’t actually be shelling out any cash for these items when the credit card bill comes.  And come it has….sitting in my inbox waiting for me to click “Make Payment.”

I haven’t sat down with Mark and figured out how he’s actually going to pay my credit cards.  I have it set up so that I go in and pay it from my linked checking account now.  Do I unlink my account and link up his?  Do I still go into my account each month and send the payment, but just from his account?  Do we set up auto-debit from his checking account to pay?  And what about the fact that now I’ve gone from one credit card to two cards: a Nordstrom Visa that I’ve had forever, and a Delta Amex on which we can accumulate Delta miles – helpful since Detroit is a Delta hub.  I just received my first statement email from Amex and I’m not even sure I remember the password to log into the account!  I would love to cut it back down to one card, but I’ve already found that one Amex can’t suffice in world where a lot of companies still prefer Visa or MasterCard.

And what about general shopping?  I don’t think I’m a huge spendthrift and I typically weigh my purchases in advance, but what if there’s just a random shirt or dress I want one day?  I know Mark would say “It’s fine, it’s fine, whatever you want,” which is lovely music to my ears, but it’s still very odd to me to spend his money on randomness and doesn’t quite seem right.

Since I’ve been working, I’ve been reliant on myself, and if I wanted a shirt or a dress, I thought about if I could afford it, and if I reeeeeeallllly wanted it, and if so, then went ahead and purchased it.  Now I feel like there’s a second layer of “really-needing-really-wanting-is-it-useful?”-ness.

Married friends keep telling me it’s fine and all money becomes “our” money sooner or later and it’s normal.  I’m sure that’s true, and I hope I’m just in a transition phase where the actual changing of habits is what’s making me feel weird.

Either way, I’m sure I won’t be unemployed forever and I’ll be back to my normal shopping habits in no time.  And until then, thank you Mark 🙂 xoxoxo

Being Inspired by Volunteerism

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do work-wise when I get out to Ann Arbor.  There are numerous options and areas of interest that I could pursue from banking, to teaching yoga, to not-for-profit work.

For the summer, I’m trying to get an idea of the “office side” of fundraising for an organization for which I’ve been volunteering over a number of years and for which I serve on the Advisory Board.  I’m currently posted in the Development Office at Stella Maris – a long-term care facility in Baltimore County.  I’m helping out with preparations for their annual crab feast fundraiser that raises money for hospice (end-of-life) care, along with researching potential grant opportunities through larger foundations for the facility in general.

In my research, I have discovered that a lot of these foundations focus on youth and education – certainly worthy and important causes.  But I am disheartened by the dearth of foundations that show a dedicated interest in the elderly.  Maybe I just haven’t found them yet?  (Please send me suggestions if you know of any!)  I get that helping kids is a feel good and inspiring purpose and that helping old folks isn’t quite as sexy, but shouldn’t we focus a bit on the old folks?  We’re all going to be old folks one day (hopefully we live that long).  Maybe people don’t like to think about aging, and reading grant proposals for the elderly forces us realize that we are getting older – Quick, pass me that anti-wrinkle cream!

From what I’ve seen, the staff members at Stella Maris are so caring and so welcoming.  Everyone says hello to one another in the hallways, including all of the residents, who seem to be smiling all the time, even as they are being pushed in a wheelchair up from medical services.  And a lot of the residents actually volunteer at the facility!  They visit hospice patients, bring their dogs around to cheer people up, and even stuff envelopes in the office.  You can tell the whole community is working toward a common goal, and the administration and staff are excellent at engaging the families of residents and patients, as well as the broader community.  It’s gratifying to see donations and hear calls that come from constituents in memory of friends and family who have passed away at Stella Maris that always seem so positive and full of glowing reviews and “thank you”s.  (And I’ve only been there a week!)

So, as I research potential job opportunities, it is hard to narrow down and pinpoint what would make me happiest.  I could easily see myself working in the finance or fundraising arm of a not-for-profit.

I do think that this experience with Stella Maris, coupled with my healthcare banking work, has helped me see how much I love interacting with people and trying to have a positive effect in their lives.  When I see patients in the hallway and they are smiling, it just makes me happy to know they are happy there and being well cared for.  You feel like you might be doing something in some small way to improve their lives…even if it’s just trying to raise money to renovate old bathrooms because the current tubs are tricky and unsafe to get into and out of if you just aren’t that spry anymore…or perhaps by raising awareness as to the need for people to give their time and money by writing a blog about it 🙂

I hope that someday soon our society will start shifting its focus toward care for the elderly.  With the aging population and growth of that demographic, we need to ensure that all of our loved ones are, and will be, taken care of in the best manner possible.  The need for grants and donations will only grow, and hopefully future foundation and community leaders will turn their attention to the elderly.  Because that will all be us one day and wouldn’t it be scary if there aren’t resources out there to take care of us.

Last Day/First Day

Shed a tear for change, square your shoulders and don’t look back ~ Dad 6/14/13

It’s 2pm on a weekday afternoon, and I’m home, not at work.  What a strange feeling.  Today was my last day of work at M&T Bank, where I’ve worked for the past 6 years.  Strange not to have a Blackberry; strange not to have a work email to check constantly; strange to have given up my badge, computer and corporate card.  Not as freeing as I thought it was going to be….maybe it’ll sink in in a few minutes….so now, what to do in the meantime?

Oh right!  I guess it’s time to start that blog!  lol

Over the past month, my life that was just chugging along nicely and quietly has completely been shaken up in a number of new and wonderful ways.  Mark, my boyfriend of almost 7 years, got a new job in Ann Arbor Michigan.  Never having actually been to Michigan, I was like, “Sure, take it, sounds like a great idea.”  Then it hit me like 2 weeks later: we are actually moving to Michigan. Ummmmm…..W.T.F.

Right.  Leaving Baltimore, where I’ve lived practically my whole life, to upend to the Midwest where I hear the snow is ridiculous.  

And I am SO not a cold weather kinda girl….How is that going to work?  TBD…but I DO know it will involve one of those floor-length North Face down puffer coats.  If anyone has one to sell, I’m offering to buy!

So I named this blog “Next Stop: TBD” for many reasons, which I will get into eventually over time, but basically, I feel like I’ve been answering the never-ending stream of questions lately with “TBD”.  As in, I have no idea.

Where are you going to live?  Corporate housing to start, and then I’m sure we’ll find something to rent, but I have no idea where really, so I guess it’s TBD

What are you going to do for work there?  Well, they have banks there (I know, I was just as shocked as you are), and apparently like 30 yoga studios, and various not-for-profits that probably need volunteers or fundraisers, so something, but TBD when I get there.

When are you leaving for good?  Well I have tickets to the Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake concert on August 8th in Baltimore, so sometime after that, TBD.  (Although this is now looking more and more like the weekend of August 10th)

Are you going to get married/when/where/where’s the ring?  Yes, yes, we’re getting there, everyone calm down.  But the responsibility of picking a ring/deciding where to buy it/or have it made/negotiate pricing has now been delegated to me, and I gotta say, it’s super overwhelming and just thinking about it makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and whimper.  No wonder Mark hadn’t asked me to marry him prior to this….the whole process is exhausting and a pain in the tuchis!  All of that to say that everything regarding this part of my life is TBD.  Except Mark.  He’s D.

(On a side note, I just need to gush a minute about the sweetness/thoughtfulness that is Mark.  Although it wasn’t a get-down-on-one-knee-fireworks-surprise-extravaganza kind of proposal (which, btw, I fully expect once the ring is selected, purchased and delivered), Mark did ask to pick me up early from work one Thursday to go to dinner at my parents’ house, where we had decided we were going to break the big move news.  When I got into the car, he said, “We’re going to make a stop first.”  Having a big hunch as to what he was thinking, I said, “Wheeeerrrrreee??” wink wink.  And he said, “I’m not sure how this new job or this move is going to go, and I don’t know where we will end up in the end, but I AM sure about you.”  Awww so cute.)

Okay, well on with the rest of the story.  But really I think that’s about enough for now.  Time to go have a celebratory beer and write my yoga class for tomorrow.  Because it just feels like a normal day, and it still hasn’t hit me.