Major Misadventure Alert: Peanut The Puppy

Peanut at five weeks.

Since my last post, things have been pretty busy around the Bondie-Lybrink apartment. Austin starts a new job on Monday, I’ve gained several clients in the past week, and we’re bringing a new member into our little clan.

In my last update, I mentioned our interest in getting a puppy.

After researching several breeders, shelters, and cities, we found a five-week-old miniature schnauzer ready for adoption.

Before meeting her, we talked names. We came up with half a dozen crappy ones like Fluffy. We came up with some semi-decent ones like Bailey. But we came down to a couple great ones – Oreo and Peanut. Considering the puppy we wanted was black and silver, we went with Peanut.

We weren’t sure it was going to fit but, after meeting her, it felt right.

Adopting a puppy from a breeder can be difficult. If you’re willing to wait, it’s usually better to adopt a puppy from a nearby shelter – if one becomes available. That way, you can save a life and gain a companion at the same time (not to mention save hundreds of dollars).

Unfortunately, this wasn’t an option for us. A puppy is a huge time commitment. By the time we decided the timing was right, we had a matter of months before our schedule became impossible to warrant a baby. Because we needed such a specific breed for our apartment complex and emotional therapy training, we chose to go with a breeder.

If you have to work with a breeder, be cautious. The practice of inbreeding for show quality animals is still alive and thriving. While you want an AKC-registered animal to guarantee legitimacy and safe breeding practices, you don’t want to work with a breeder who only cares about the show quality of your pet. You need to be more concerned with health and overall happiness.

Some warning signs of bad breeders?

  • They don’t ask many questions about your home, your plans, or your experience.
  • They don’t answer your questions.
  • They don’t have proper documentation or a contract.
  • They don’t keep their animals in a safe environment.
  • They won’t let you visit your pet regularly.

Luckily, we found an experienced and welcoming breeder in Onsted, Michigan. She and her husband keep miniature schnauzers as pets and genuinely love the breed. She was happy to answer all of our questions and asked a few questions of her own. We felt comfortable and prepared.

We also felt lucky. The vast majority of miniature schnauzer breeders have waiting lists for their litters. It could be months, or even a year, before an AKC-registered puppy is available for adoption.  Our breeder is less experienced with technology and doesn’t have a professional website – meaning my hours of research digging through the depths of the web gave us an edge.

On our way to meet Peanut for the first time, we were nervous. We had just decided to get a puppy two days prior. I had only spoken to the breeder once before deciding to drive to Onsted to meet her (and her puppies). It had been a long weekend of discussing finances, responsibilities, paperwork, and registration. We’d spent several days justifying our decision to loved ones and friends.

To be honest, we were still unsure ourselves – as anyone is when making a huge (and life changing) decision.

But, when it comes to Austin and I make big life decisions, we have a tendency to get “vibes”. The first time we looked at a house, we felt physically nauseous. It was too much, too soon. The first time we saw our apartment complex, we were overwhelmed by how “right” it felt. We trust those gut instincts, especially when they match (which they usually do).

Peanut at six weeks (bottom).

So, we told ourselves, we would go with our gut.

When we met Peanut, all of our fears and worries and doubts disappeared.

She was precious and adorable. I was worried I would cry, thinking about Mitzi and what I went through last year when we lost her. But, somehow, it felt okay. I couldn’t stop smiling, and neither could Austin.

We felt comfortable with the breeder, who was happy to hold Peanut for a deposit. We were told she could come home with us in three weeks – on April 1st.

We placed the deposit, chose a blue collar, and fell in love.

Peanut at seven weeks.

Two weeks later, we went back to visit again. This time, Peanut was up and playing with her siblings. While she was still sleepy (like before), she was much bigger and walking on her own. She played with a few toys, but mostly sat curled up in our arms.

In four days, we go back to visit again. But, this time, we get to bring Peanut home with us.

We have so many questions and so much to learn. We’ve shopped for a hairbrush, a leash, food, toys, a crate, dishes, and treats. We’ve spent hours talking about training methods, puppy classes, and doggy day care.

This is going to be one hell of a misadventure, readers. A puppy, a wedding, graduation, and a family vacation all in one year.

You’re going to want to stay tuned for this.

Until next time,

Cassie

Volunteering at Potter Park Zoo

Recently, Austin and I were accepted into the volunteer program at Potter Park Zoo – one of our favorite places in Lansing.

We went to orientation and learned quite a few things about the zoo. I’d like to share some of them with you, mostly because I want everyone to know why PPZ is so great.

  • The zoo is active in three American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) programs.
  • The zoo specializes in educational programs, including the BIG Zoo Lesson that helps teach conservation and sensitivity to the natural world and the Zoo and Aquarium Science course that educates high school students about career opportunities in animal science.
  • The zoo is home to year-round animals and, thus, is open annually. In fact, the zoo is only closed a handful of days throughout the year.

Potter Park Zoo started out as a gift from James and Sarah Potter in 1915. A bear, deer, and raccoons were transferred from Moores Park in 1920.  That was the beginning.

In the 1930s, Monkey Island and the Bird House (along with a few small moats) were built. Monkey Island has since been removed. Following the Great Depression, the Feline and Primate Building was built, along with the main park pavilion.

In 2002, a new animal care facility was opened. It serves as a surgery, nursery, and recovery area. There is also a full-time vet on staff.

In 2017, the zoo is home to a vast number of animals, including bald eagles, otters (with a beautiful story that you should ask me about next time you see me), a tiger, several lions, a rhino, spider monkeys, kangaroos, moose, lemurs, and so much more.

In our opinion, you get all of the thrill of the Detroit Zoo with a third of the walking time and a third of the crowd. You also get far more shade (more trees) and a beautiful park that you can explore once you leave the zoo.

Our first volunteer day involved raking and gardening. We were preparing a stage area for a big upcoming event (expect to hear more about that before May hits). It was really fun to work amongst a rhino, a couple of meerkats, and a lion.

I think my favorite part was turning around, rake in hand, to find myself face-to-face with a peacock.

I’m afraid of peacocks.

It was a great time.

This year is such a big year for us. We’re getting married, I’m graduating, we’re going on vacation, I’m turning twenty-one, and we’re topping it off with a puppy. Having the zoo for volunteer hours and recreational time is not only exciting for us, but it’s a nice break from our daily routine.

A few big announcements before I sign off?

I am officially going to graduate in December. My financial aid came through and everything is looking great. Next year will be my first full year as a full-time freelance writer with nothing to stand in my way – plus a degree in hand. And believe me, there were times when the people in my life didn’t think I’d end up with that degree. They certainly didn’t think I’d end up graduating early.

We also made the decision to get a puppy. And not just a puppy. A miniature schnauzer.

If you’ve been following my blog for more than a few months, you know that my family lost our miniature schnauzer Mitzi last June. I loved my baby more than I think anyone will ever know. I still do. But this whole idea started when I watched a few old videos I had of her – and I realized that I’ve been trying desperately to come up with the right dog breed when the right one has been sitting in front of me all along.

Mitzi was loyal and kind and sweet. She was adventurous and fun. She was everything I want in a dog. And it will be hard not to compare. And it will be hard not to miss her or feel like I’m replacing her somehow. But I think, in the end, this is a good choice.

Some people might think it sounds crazy – getting a dog, I mean. We have four guinea pigs already and our two bedroom apartment isn’t getting any bigger. But with Austin working full-time and my career only getting more stressful, I need an emotional support dog again. It’s really that simple. Besides, raising a puppy is good practice – right?

I’m open to suggestions about training a puppy to live in an apartment. We are looking into local training courses (puppy kindergarten). I’m also ready to hear advice from anyone who has trained a miniature schnauzer before.

We have our eye on a little girl who was born less than two weeks ago. She won’t be able to come home until mid-April, but we’ll know for sure by my next post if she’s going to be the one. We get to meet her this week.

If not, the search will start again. If you know any small (and adorable) breeds that are great for apartment living, let me know. We won’t be in an apartment forever, but I don’t want to deprive a bigger dog from an active puppy-hood.

Advice about working with breeders is also welcome.

I think that’s everything for now.

More (mis)adventures next week!

Cassie

Me Too

Tonight, I read an article that talked about how incredible it feels when someone says “me too.”

I’m hoping, when I describe this experience, someone else might say “me too.”

I’ve been a student at three different colleges. I started at NYU – a huge university in the heart of Manhattan. During my time there, I was miserable. I wasn’t like most of the other students. I didn’t make real friends, despite my attempts (my coworker Khalifa and my roommate Mara were the exceptions to that rule).

I spent the majority of my time in my dorm room, wishing I was somewhere else. When I wasn’t going out on cringe worthy dates in my desperate attempt to be less alone, I was convincing myself that time would help me fit in. It didn’t.

This was the first time, during college, that I did not identify with college students. In fact, I did not identify with anyone in Manhattan. Never in my life had I felt peer pressured to break my morals. In New York, my potential friends and my horrific dates took turns betting how long it would take for me to take my first underage drink.

My next school was LCC – a community college with classes in my hometown. It was a stepping stone to MSU and my first experience with online classes. I discovered a new kind of college. One that didn’t require me to identify as a college student. I got my own car. I started my own career. I moved on.

Then came MSU – a public university in Michigan. I started my first semester as a commuter with in-person classes. I almost failed a class because I missed so often. Why? Because my anxiety skyrocketed on campus. I avoided it whenever possible. I did my work at home. I started seeing a counselor. No one could tell me what was wrong with me.

Why did, I well-known overachiever, hate being on a college campus? I was paranoid and nervous. My hands shook. I prayed I wouldn’t see anyone I knew from high school. I hoped no one would stare. I felt like an intruder.

After that experience, I moved into my first apartment in West Lansing. No more long commutes. I took mostly online classes. I was close to campus. Still, I avoided it. I no longer felt the need to identify as a college student. I wasn’t one. I’m not one. And I freaking love my life.

I work hard on my education. I spend hours learning every single week. I don’t mean to brag, but my grades kick some serious ass.

But I’m not a college student.

Today, I had to take a test on campus. It had been literal months since I’d entered a school building. My classmates ignored me. And, even though everyone around me was perfectly normal, I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb. I kept my head down.

Next to me, in the testing room, were two blonde girls obsessing over their nails and spring break in Florida. My stomach sank. My thoughts raced.

I am not one of these people. And everyone knows it.

Me and my laptop (which seemed normal at home) that weighed twice as much as everyone else’s in the room. My and my worn out winter boots that didn’t hold a candle to their Uggs. Me and my un-lined eyes and naked face. Me and my not-size-two body.

The test started. There were more than four hundred people in the room. I finished first, in nine minutes. I scored a 90% and walked out while the people around me stared.

I am educated. But I am not a college student.

So what am I?

-3/2/2017

Planning a Low Budget Wedding and The Art of Freelancing

boat2

I want to start off this post by apologizing for how late I’m writing. I suppose I could schedule this to go out in the morning – but it might be nice for everyone to wake up and have a new post in their inbox.

I guess we’ll see how that goes.

My primary focus in this post is twofold. First, I’m going to talk about freelancing and dispel some extremely stupid myths. Then, I’m going to share a little information about the wedding, and how we’re planning to celebrate our big day by spending less than $5000.

I’ll lead off with a post I made on Facebook about fifteen minutes ago.

“I am so sick of professional freelancers lying about the industry rate to get followers on their money-grubbing blogs.

For anyone interested in the writing field, do NOT believe anyone who tells you that you shouldn’t “get out of bed for anything worth less than a hundred dollars.” I promise you, no one is giving you that much money for one article.

Freelancing isn’t easy. There is plenty of debate about fair and professional rates.

To help you out:

$0.01 per word is an entry level rate.

$0.02 per word is a stepping stone.

$0.03 per word is for experienced writers.

$0.04+ per word is for top notch professionals

Rarely will a long-term client pay more than $0.10 per word – and even that is rare.

Educate yourself before applying. If you listen to the vast majority of writing bloggers (who are only trying to make a quick buck themselves), you’ll get laughed out of every interview.

Expect $10-$20 per 500 word article. On occasion, clients may pay up to $50. This is all assuming you aren’t writing pieces that require extensive field work and research for a professional newspaper or magazine – in which case, several weeks of work will earn you up to $1000.

Believe it or not, these rates add up when you compare the hourly requirement to complete the job. In fact, it is often more lucrative NOT to shoot for these high payouts – because many publications may not accept or publish your submission. Which means no payment at all.

Freelancing requires hard word and dedication. You will write 20,000+ words per week. You will work long hours. There is no “easy way out.” But you know what? If you do it right, you’ll have a career that lasts a lifetime.

Just some words of advice.”

In my personal opinion, the bloggers who advertise rates of $1 per word are simply looking to sell something. They want readers to pay for subscriptions to special “tools” and “resources” that will help them earn “top dollar.” But this “top dollar” is unrealistic and, frankly, unfair.

These unrealistic expectations divide the freelance community into “dreamers” and”doers.” The “dreamers” talk a big talk – but they rarely make the six figures they claim. And, if they do, it has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with marketing/advertising on their promotional blog pages.

The “doers” are the writers applying on a daily basis to freelance jobs offered on Upwork, Craigslist, Guru, and more. They are the individuals across the nation who charge reasonable rates ($0.03-$0.10 per word) and earn a fair income.

You know what? It’s more than a fair income. 30,000 words per week at $0.04 per word? You do the math. That’s more weekly income than many liberal arts graduates dream of making in their first year out of school.

I know most of my followers aren’t freelance writers. But if you know anyone interested in the craft, please share this post with them. It will save more than one headache – I promise. And this is coming from someone with six years of firsthand experience.

This is a fantastic (and accurate) article on the matter:

http://leavingworkbehind.com/how-much-should-freelance-writers-charge-per-word/

This one is a little less realistic. But it makes a valid point about the varying degrees of writing:

https://www.clearvoice.com/faq-how-much-should-i-pay-a-freelance-writer/

I say all of this on Misadventures because, between writing for this blog, I attempted to start a new blog called The Realistic Freelancer. You can read several blog posts now, but I think I’m either going to take the website down or make it a collaborative project between Austin, Olivia, and I (although I haven’t even asked them yet).

Alright. I’ve said my peace about freelancing. And we’ve hit more than seven hundred words – so let’s talk weddings.

At first, Austin and I wanted to get married at Kensington Metro Park. We chose a shelter and decided to go all-in for our fall outdoor wedding. We wanted to BBQ. We wanted to bring our own music. We wanted to have an open concept ceremony with our reception in a pavilion. We wanted casual dress – no dresses or suits other than the wedding party. We wanted 60-75 guests. Our budget was $2500 or less (discluding the cake and dress – which my mother and sister have graciously offered to handle as our wedding present).

It seemed reasonable. But the closer the time came to make Save The Dates, the more nervous I felt.

When you choose an outdoor venue, you risk everything. If it rained on the day of our wedding, we’d either have to cancel and hope to reschedule (losing at least one third of our guests) or we’d have to hold the ceremony under a pavilion. We’d also have to find a way to bring a stereo system to a place with no outlets, because a live band or a professional DJ certainly didn’t fit into our budget. We’d have to ask guests to help prepare the meal BBQ style – which could be fun but disastrous in the rain. We’d also have to handle our own chair rentals, archway rental, and chair coverings – if we wanted them. Along with any other decorations.

For me, the incredibly low-stress wedding we wanted was supplying a MASSIVE headache. I feared we’d have to make so many sacrifices in terms of entertainment and decorations that it wouldn’t end up feeling like a wedding at all.

Enter Princess.

I woke up about a week ago – having pushed wedding plans FAR back in my mind. And I saw a video on Facebook advertising weddings on a boat on the Grand River in Grand Ledge. The wedding would include a cruise. The total price covered food, basic decorations, and space. It covered wait staff and cake cutting. And, best of all, the reception was indoors.

After convincing Austin, I called for a quote. I talked to a woman, Sandy, who ended up being the nicest person I think I’ve ever met. She told me the prices for the Michigan Princess (the boat on the Grand River). Then, she told me the prices for the Detroit Princess (the boat on the Detroit River).

Let me share some of the big differences between the two.

  • The Michigan Princess is a single-level boat with one area for private events. Our party would rent the entire boat for six hours. The Detroit Princess is a five-story mega boat with a designated area for small private events on the fourth deck. Our party would have early access to the boat, plus full access for guests from 4:30-11.
  • Both boats cruise for two and a half hours, but the Michigan Princess is located in a more rural area. Less to see. The Detroit Princess provides some gorgeous views.
  • On the Michigan Princess, food is handled on a per plate basis. On the Detroit Princess, food is handled on a per person basis with a buffet and an option for unlimited beverages.
  • On the Detroit Princess, we can get married on the observation deck – giving us the outdoor wedding space we dreamed about with an indoor option, should the weather not cooperate. On the Michigan Princess, we can get married indoors.

These are just some of the major differences. It also came down to price and location. It might be nice to get married twenty minutes down the road – but it doesn’t feel as magical. It doesn’t feel as special. With the Detroit Princess, it’s something new and interesting. We both really like that. And that’s why we chose it and sealed our wedding date – September 30th.

Of course, it’s going to be more expensive. Not significantly. I’ll stick to what I said before. Our total wedding budget is under $5000. And, with this location, we can pay as we go. No dipping into our savings and wanting to die. I like that plan. Everything is upfront and included. The only costs we have to concerns ourselves with are Austin’s suit, hotel costs (if we decide to stay downtown the night before), invitations, and additionally decorations if we want them.

Well, that and Jack’s band (Yakety Brass) – a five instrument band that is going to play swing/jazz music during the cruise portion of the evening.

But, in order to meet that budget, we had to make some serious guest list cuts. We’ll only be inviting very close family and friends – and even then we have to make some sacrifices to keep our number around fifty people. We’ve always wanted a small wedding, but this makes it extreme. We’ll have to see how it pans out when we send Save The Dates next week.

I’m almost at 1500 words – again – so I’m going to stop writing for your sanity and mine.

Talk soon. Even if I can’t invite all of my followers – I’m really glad I came back to share these experiences with you.

Cassie

School, Work, and Announcements

Have you ever found yourself on a work kick? It’s one of those incredible, rare weeks when you are completely focused for days. Absolutely nothing phases you. Rather than saying no, you find yourself saying yes. Rather than procrastinating, you find yourself doing more work than necessary.

It’s been one of those weeks.

Unfortunately, that kick is starting to wind down. I’m hoping to reach that point again in the coming week (believe me, I need it), but writers have absolutely no control over kicks. The words either come to you or they don’t.

It seems that my work kicks happen most often during the school year, when learning new things and experimenting with new ideas helps me focus on my writing. It also helps that I spend half of my time avoiding schoolwork by doing freelance work, and the other half of my time avoiding freelance work by doing schoolwork.

They have a tendency to complement one another.

Anyway, with all of that being said, I haven’t had a chance to update my blog in a few days. And that’s not so great – because I have about a million things to share.

This month is shaping up to be my busiest month in the history of my freelance writing career. I’m jugging two major clients and three minor clients, all while taking four high-level college courses. Add four guinea pigs, a fiance, and a workout schedule – and I’m just missing the partridge in a pear tree.

Luckily, with Austin between jobs, I have some assistance in the freelance world – and maybe even another partner. With three of us (Austin, Olivia, and I), we’re going to have some pretty great brainstorming sessions.

Freelancing is a lucrative but lonely career. It’s difficult to socialize from a laptop, especially when you have to work six or seven days a week. But having a partner, or even a team, is about much more than socialization. It’s about building a career.

Usually freelancers experience something called “feast or famine”. Essentially, this phenomenon means we have six clients and tons of expendable income one month. Then, the next month, we have one client and a constant headache.

Having a partner (or a team) gives freelancers the opportunity to utilize excess work during “feast months” that can help create stability during “famine months”.

As writers, we have a limit. There’s only so much we can do. Olivia and I find ourselves turning away multiple clients a week (sometimes a day) during our high months. Having someone else to take those jobs not only increases our client pool and job opportunities during low months, but it gives us the chance to spread the wealth. And it works exponentially.

Right now, I’m working on legal articles, articles about sewing machines, articles for various companies in Georgia, product descriptions, product reviews, and articles about loans. Fun, right?

It sounds boring on a blog, but my work is far more interesting than it seems. And trust me, I’m full of useful information that I’ll probably never, ever use.

Alright. So, that’s work.

School is pretty exciting, too. I’m forcing myself to take handwritten notes (woot). I’m also doing one class per day, four days per week.

One of my classes hasn’t technically started yet. We’re waiting for approval from the school. In the meantime, I’ve ordered my textbooks and started the reading. That class is a journalism seminar about management in the field. It complements my management course.

I’m also taking another media course. This one relates to technology specifics like processing power, memory, and bandwidth. It doesn’t sound too interesting, but it opens the door for media classes about economics and media ethics – which I’d really like to take before I graduate next year.

Finally, I’m taking a course about creativity and entrepreneurship. I’m pretty excited to see what I’m going to learn this semester. For me, learning is one of the best experiences in life. I actually feel disappointed when I think about finishing school next spring.

Fortunately, there are other learning opportunities in Lansing. This semester, I’m planning on attending a few seminars at the Delta Township Library and a few entrepreneurship lectures at MSU. Some are open to the public – some aren’t. But exploring these venues will help me figure out where my community will be once I get my degree.

I think that’s just about everything I have to share right now. I’m going to be writing another post in the next week or so with some movie reviews (we’ve been to see an awful lot of movies lately – I might as well put my knowledge to use somewhere).

Oh! I almost forgot the reason I wanted to make a post so badly this week.

Austin and I are getting married this year.

After some soul searching, we decided moving up the wedding will give us more time to focus on building our savings after graduation next spring. Besides – we’re ready. We’ve been ready.

It’s pretty insane to think that, by this time next year, I’ll be a married woman. If any of my readers have advice about outdoor, low budget, fall weddings – please feel free to share. I’m excited to see what we come up with.

Thanks for reading, as always,

Cassie

No Place Like Home

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