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I’ve Moved!

From now on Blog posts will be made on my NEW Official website at

LITTLEZOTZ.COM

It was finally the right time to take that last big step toward becoming a “true” professional.  (Not that I wasn’t before…  But now I look the part too!)

SEE YOU THERE!!

–Lauren*

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

People I Know: Roxy “Balboa” Richardson

Roxy “Balboa” Richardson is a professional Muay Thai fighter, nutritional expert, and entrepreneur.  Starting out with the famous RoxyFit gym, she’s moved on to a bigger and better adventure with her new business: Function 5 Fitness.  In this interview, Roxy talks about how she got started, what’s next, and what you can do if you want to follow in her footsteps!

Roxy "Balboa" Richardson

Roxy "Balboa" Richardson

How I Know Roxy

I first met Roxy when I was working for the company behind Champions of Champions Elite.  I became a nearly instant fan girl (so much so that my co-workers teased me mercilessly).  I interviewed her a couple times since then.  I follow Roxy’s Blogs and adore her stances on nutrition (particularly when she points out the fact that soy is evil!–Something I myself have been touting for years).

It’s obvious that Roxy is a very “strong” woman (I don’t even know who’s reading this, but I’d say that she can probably kick your butt), but she’s also a woman.  By that I mean that she’s very feminine (she gushes about her boyfriend, talks about her cats, and isn’t afraid to wear a lil pink skirt).  She isn’t one of those women who feels they have to overcompensate.  You know the type: A woman pretending to be a “man” to be “tough.”  Roxy actually is tough.  She’s the REAL DEAL.  A legitimately strong woman, inside and out.  And I couldn’t admire her more for it.

Roxy and Kimura (the Function 5 Fitness gym cat!)

Roxy and Kimura (the Function 5 Fitness gym cat!)

My Interview with Roxy “Balboa” Richardson

What do you do?

I have a few titles and passions. I’m the type of person who loves work and loves to stay busy  I’m the co-owner of Function 5 Fitness where I am a personal trainer (ACE, CrossFit), Muay Thai coach, and nutritional counselor (FDN, CMTA).  In addition I write health and fitness articles and am expanding my business, Function 5 Health, to tour with my nutrition seminars. I’m also still an active professional Muay Thai fighter.

How did you start?

I started my interest in fitness and health because I got involved in Muay Thai fighting. I was 24 at the time, so this wasn’t my first career path, but I fell in love with the sport and wanted to make it my life. Since then I have developed a strong nerdy passion for all things fitness and holistic nutrition. I really wish I had gone to school for science (my degree is in communications and psychology). I’m really a very big geek now.

What’s your favorite part of what you do?

I really enjoy working with people and seeing them progress. Watching a client reach their goals is incredibly rewarding. If make a 1% permanent change in someone’s life that’s awesome. I also enjoy the fact that part of my job as an athlete feels like play time to me.  I know fighters that don’t love training, but love to fight. I’m one of the ones that love the rigors and trials of daily training, the challenge fuels me.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into doing what you do?

If you want to be a trainer or gym owner make sure you LOVE it 100%. The work is constant, the energy required is more than you think and you are responsible for the well being of others . It’s not something you should attempt half-assed just because you want to support your acting gig on the side.  It’s a lifestyle – you have to want to live at the gym. Same goes for fighting.  Never do it because you want the money (there is little or none in the beginning) or it’s cool. Expect to pay more than you earn as an amateur fighter… and never make that money back fighting pro if you choose to fight Muay Thai as a sport. I fight because I have a fire in my that won’t let me sit on the bench. I have to get in there and keep at it, when that fire dies I’ll retire, but until then it brings me so much pleasure.

What’s next for you/your business?

I’m continuing to grow things here at F5 Fitness we are in our first year so there is lot of room for growth and every day is exciting. I’m looking forward to touring more with my nutrition seminars and also taking a fight in late summer or fall – but no firm details yet.

Roxy having a brief moment of relaxation

Roxy having a brief moment of relaxation

LINKS for More ROXY “BALBOA” RICHARDSON

Official Website

Facebook

Tumblr

Twitter

Roxy Balboa straight right

I just LOVE this picture

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in People I Know

 

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Loving My Nook

Last Christmas, I was given what I consider “the best gift ever” (other than, you know, the gift of life…): A Nook from Barnes and Noble.  My Nook never ceases to impress and delight me.  I use it daily and I highly recommend it.  Why?  Strap in, Folks; this is going to be a long one!

I love my Nook

"I'm sorry, Honey; I'm leaving you for Nook..."

The Top 10 Things I Love About My Nook

  1. E-books are cheaper.  Even when they’re listed as the same price, e-books are actually cheaper because you don’t need to pay shipping!
  2. E-books don’t take up as much space.  I often like to think of just how HEAVY my Nook would be if all of the books in it were “real” books instead of e-books.  I’d need to buy a separate house just to shelve them all!
  3. Get books instantly.  A while back I needed to write a review on WordPress for Dummies.  The rub?  I didn’t actually own that book and the article was due that same week!  In the old days, this would have presented a real problem.  With my Nook, I was able to get the book instantly, read it, and write my review.
  4. Durable.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a total klutz.  I am so grateful that the Nook is so durable.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve dropped it (mostly because I have a habit of falling asleep with it).
  5. Super long battery life!  Like I said at the beginning of this entry, I use my Nook daily… But I only have to charge it once a week (sometimes less!)
  6. It reads PDF files.  This is one of the things that makes the Nook great for work as well as pleasure.  How many times has your boss sent you a PDF file to read?  I used to get terrible headaches trying to read page after page on my computer, but now I just load any PDF files I’m given onto my Nook (with no backlight and an anti-glare screen!) and I’m headache-free!
  7. Free books!  Just type in “0.00” into Barnes and Noble’s website search and you’ll have more choices for free literature than you’ll know what to do with!
  8. Memory space.  The Nook comes with 2GB of memory; however, you can add in an additional memory card for even MORE space.  (I have a 16GB memory card installed).
  9. Internet browser.  It’s not the best Internet browser…but does it really have to be?  It’s an e-reader!  If you want an Internet browser, use your computer (or your phone).  I adore this feature though.  It’s perfect for when I need to quickly check my e-mail (letters from my mom, work emergencies, etc) and don’t want to turn on my computer.  Or when I’m playing a computer game that takes up the full screen and don’t want to stop to check my e-mail.
  10. Great Customer Service.  On the occasions when I’ve had questions, I’ve always been provided with fantastic Customer Service.

Steff’s Thoughts

Steff loves Nook too!

Steff loves Nook too!

I know this is highly unusual, but, when I started talking about how great my Nook is, my best gal Steff Turner joined in on the Nook Love and dished about how great she thinks hers is.  We have the exact same model, but we use it in different ways.  Here are a few of her favorite Nook features:

  • Customizable with custom backgrounds.  Steff likes to use Nook-Look to make her Nook’s wallpaper extra cool.  The Nook itself is also customizable!  If you don’t like its original white, there are custom backs and frames you can buy.  Steff’s Nook is orange.
  • Supports audio books and music.  Steff says, “You can put audio books onto the Nook as long as they are in mp3 format. They will play in order, like a track listing on an album.  Many audio books come on CDs or can be downloaded and if they are not already in MP3 format, they can be converted easily.”
  • Games.  The Nook comes preloaded with Sodoku and chess.  Perfect for waiting around at the DMV!
  • Try before you buy.  Barnes and Noble lets you read excerpts of their books before you decide to buy one.
  • You can download books NOT from Barnes and Noble.  Unlike some e-readers who will remain nameless, the Nook does not discriminate against a book simply because it’s not from Barnes and Noble.
  • Free books at Google Books.  Related to the above, Steff says, “I’ve been reading almost exclusively free published books for the last 6 months!”
  • Everything that I said.  Steff also agrees with everything that I said above in my Top 10 list.  What a pal!

Special Steff Tip: “A great program to manage all your free Nook stuff—and convert some file types to others—is Calibre.  They are the only free-to-use service I have ever donated money to because I was so pleased with their product.”

A Book to Get

Blogging Book

This book is less than a dollar!

As long as I’m dragging one friend into this entry, what’s one more, right?  Adam W. Warner of WP Pro Business (that place I write articles for sometimes) has a couple of e-books up on Barnes and Noble’s website.  And one of them is only 99 cents!  I’ve read both of these books (and even contributed to one of them) and they’re both worth purchasing.  Check ‘em out HERE!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Working from Home: The Bad

Those of you who tuned in last week already know all the things I consider utterly wonderful about working from home.  But what about the icky horrible things?  Every job has some.  Even if you’re working from home.

Get a real job

How many times have YOU had this conversation...?

The Top 8 Worst Things About Working from Home

  1. Cabin fever.  All you think about at work is how you can’t wait to get home…  But what if you already are home?  Having no escape can be very stressful.  Now, there are things that can help with this: For instance, don’t work in your bedroom. (Create a home office, if possible!).  Keep your areas to relax and your areas to work in separate.  I, unfortunately, don’t have that kind of space right now; but, as soon as we move out, I plan to employ these tactics myself!  (And I can’t wait).

  2. Working from home doesn’t command the respect it deserves.  As shown in my illustration above, many people don’t consider working from home a “real” job.  No, not even if you make more than they do.  You’ll also have to learn how to say “no.”  A lot.  People will assume that, since you work from home, you’re free to help them move, chat for hours online, go out to the movies on a weeknight, and any number of other things.  But, you’re not.  And be prepared for the lesser of them to not understand and for the worst of them to resent you for it.

  3. Distractions.  I always try to get everything done in the early morning/afternoon when my roommates are out.  Once they come home, it’s loud talking, loud music, unwanted guests, and any number of other distracting shenanigans.  My guy is an artist (and also works at home) so he understands—but if you live with anyone else, especially if they’re one of the “norms” with an outside-of-the-house job, they’re just not going to get it.  No, not even if you explain it to them.

  4. It requires HUGE amounts of self-discipline.  There are many people who complain about “distractions” when working at home, but they’re usually referring to their own lack of self-discipline.  Personally, if I lived alone, or just with my guy, I would not only thrive but probably never stop working.  There’s no one breathing down your neck to get the job done which means that it’s all up to you.  You have to be diligent.  It sounds really lame, but I think my martial arts training helped me a little with this aspect of my work-from-home career…

  5. The work hours: They never end!  Yes, I have steady “hours” for my WTR job…but what about all the other jobs I do on the side?  Or my own projects (like this article you’re reading now!)?  Quite often I’m writing from the moment I wake up until the moment I crawl under the covers.  (Of course, this isn’t always the case–some weeks are worse than others–and with proper use of my dayplanner I can usually manage things all right)

  6. The final outcome is all that matters.  When your boss/client can’t see you, they have no idea how many hours you’ve put in or how much hard work and research you’ve done: All that matters is the final product—because it’s all they can see!  It might seem unfair, but can you really blame them?

  7. Even if you’re supremely organized with your work area, other areas of your home may suffer.  I did my laundry on Saturday…it’s still not folded and put away.  (Hey, at least it’s clean!)

  8. So. Much. Pressure.  Everything, all the time, it’s all up to me and only meeeeeeeee!  No job lasts forever.  If I get hurt on the job, I’m the one who has to pay for it.  There are no vacations, no bonuses, and no pats on the back.  It’s also up to me to do all my own marketing, bookkeeping, filing, and cleaning: It’s all up to me.  I am my own business now…and the only one running this business is myself.

Epilogue

When I mentioned that I was doing a sequel to my “Working from Home” article, this time talking about all the problems that come with it, my friend’s mom scoffed and said “luxury problems…”  While that’s not exactly true (a lack of respect and heaping amounts of stress aren’t what I’d call “luxury”), she does have a point: Working from home is pretty dang sweet.  And, if you go back and look, my list of GOOD things about working from home is longer than the list of bad things.

I know I’ve got it good.  However, if I weren’t insanely disciplined, that might be another story.  Not everyone thrives when working from home.  And it’s always good to know the whole story before leaping into anything.  Hopefully that’s what I’ve illustrated here for anyone out there thinking about quitting their “real” job.😉

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Working from Home: The Good

Now that I work from home, I’m constantly getting asked what the best and worst aspects are!  I decided to dedicate two full articles to the subject.  This week’s post focuses on the good.

Working from Home

Working from Home

The Top 10 BEST Things About Working from Home

  1. Our cat isn’t suffering from separation anxiety anymore.  From October-December of 2010, my guy and I were working outside our home…and it drove our cat absolutely insane.  Now that we’re home for most of the hours in the day, even if we head out, he no longer panics thinking we’re never coming back.  For those of you with “real” (human) children, staying at home will give you more time with them too!

  2. No more driving/riding/taking the bus/walking to work!  We’ve saved so very much on gasoline.  And it saves time!  (No more accounting for “travel time”)

  3. No more annoying co-workers. As shown in my illustration above, my main co-worker is our cat.  And my favorite person (my guy).  Except on weekends when my roomies are home all day, I no longer have to deal with someone in the cube next to mine cranking up their music (which was always, without fail, decidedly not my taste).  No more office parties.  No more office politics.  I’m free.  Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

  4. Flexible work hours.  I decide what to do and when.  I have regular hours for my job at WTR, but they were hours I chose for myself.  And I choose when and how to do my side projects.  I’m also the primary cook for my lil family and the one in charge of scooping the cat’s litter box.  Plus there’s always cleaning, bill paying, socializing, and grocery shopping to do!  It all has to be fit into the day somehow, and I’m the one who gets to decide how.

  5. I get to wear what I want.  No more suits, disgustingly bright polyester t-shirts (Del Taco, I’m talking to you), or uniforms in general…  If I want to dress up, I dress up; if I don’t, I don’t.  It’s wonderful.  If I’m feeling ill and all I want to wear is my comfiest p-jams, I can.  (Yes, unless I’m running a super high fever, I still work when I’m sick—I’m just that hardcore)

  6. I can get new equipment when I want/need it.  Raise your hand if you’re at a job where you have to report to the hierarchy whenever you need new office supplies!  Been there, done that.  If I need more pens, a stapler, or a new laptop—I go out and get it.  No more waiting around for someone, somewhere, deep in the bowels of an office building, to remember that “Oh yeah…Lauren asked for a new computer mouse about 2 weeks ago…”  (That darn thing was broken and the job ended before I ever got a new one!)

  7. I eat better.  Now that I’m at home, I get to cook all of my own meals.  Which, as we all know, are much healthier than going out to Jack in the Box or living off of whatever you can microwave in the office break room.

  8. I get to listen to the music I want to listen to.  At my last job, my co-worker was more than happy to “share” her music—which I hated.  I love listening to music: It puts me in a better mood, thereby increasing my productivity, and it helps me to stay focused.  But that only works if it’s music I like.  Now that I’m home, I get to listen to my own tunes.  But I still use headphones.  Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you get a free pass to be rude!

  9. All the gold stars go to me!  Ever had a co-worker take credit for your job well done?  I have and it really “grinded my gears.”  Now that I’m the only one doing the work, I’m the only one who gets the credit.  And if my work is good, I’m the one who gets the praise.

  10. Variety.  If you’re a writer (like I am) or a designer or an artist or any number of other jobs…  Your clients and projects are constantly changing.  And you get to go on all these adventures from the comfort of your own home! The idea that “you don’t have to deal with customers!” is a myth. My clients are customers. The only difference is, I don’t have to deal with them in person anymore. And that is very, very nice.

Tune in next Wednesday for my list of the worst parts of working from home!

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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What Martial Arts Taught Me About Freelancing

I spent just shy of 18 years studying Martial Arts (at Fred Villari’s Studios of Self-Defense in Glendale, CA).  While I wasn’t especially surprised that it ended up saving my life once, I was surprised that so much of what I learned transferred over to my freelance writing career…

Armen Heroian and Lauren R. Tharp

Master Armen Heroian and me

Rules of the School

My “system”/school of Martial Arts training has its students live by 5 “Rules”/words:  Effort, Etiquette, Sincerity, Character, and Self-Control.

These Rules continue to influence not only my life, but my professional career.

Effort

Definition: 1.) Strenuous use of energy. 2.) Attempt.

What it Means to Me:  Try.  Really try.  As Wayne Gretsky once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”  Or, as I prefer, “You better work hard or you might as well quit!” as said by the lyrical wordsmith M.C Hammer.  We all know that “the only failure is to not try.”  This applies to your business as well.  No matter how daunting a task may seem, if you accepted to do it, then you should give it all you’ve got!  Make the effort.  Don’t be lazy.

Etiquette

Definition: Rules of correct behavior.

What it Means to Me:  Don’t be a jerk.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Manners!  All that good stuff.  Also, the rules of “correct behavior” tend to adapt and change depending on what crowd you’re with.  Learn how to best blend in with those you’re working for/with by socializing with them.

Sincerity

Definition: Without having pretence or deceit.

What it Means to Me:  Be honest.  There have been times that I’ve been described as “painfully honest;” but, trust me, I’d rather be brutal in my honesty than to live my life as a liar.  Living your life and handling your business dealings with honesty and integrity will not only make your life easier (the truth is easier to keep track of than a web of lies!), but it can also save your butt if something goes awry!  I had an incident a few months ago where a client was trying to give me grief.  The main thing that saved me?  The truth.

Character

Definition: 1.) Qualities making a person or thing what he, she, or it is. 2.) Moral strength. 3.) Person in a novel, play, etc. 4.) Letter or sign used in writing, printing, etc. 5.) Noticeable or eccentric person. 6.) Reputation

What it Means to Me:  Be yourself.  Or even “be true” to yourself.  For me, this Rule is very connected to the Rule of Sincerity…  Never compromise your principles or who you are for anyone—not even if they’re paying you!

Self-Control

Definition: Ability to control one’s own behavior.

What it Means to Me:  One time, during a test, I was near-to-tears with frustration because I couldn’t do everything that was expected of me.  It was because of my bad hip—a birth defect I had no control over.  I was making the Effort, but because I couldn’t succeed, I thought it meant nothing.  I thought that I wasn’t exemplifying the 5 Rules of the School.  That’s when Master Dannon told me something I will never forget: “By not doing something that hurts you, you’re showing Self-Control by knowing your own limitations.”  I always try to keep this in mind with my work.  By knowing my own limitations—by exhibiting some Self-Control—I’m able to not get overwhelmed by my projects…which lets me put in the required Effort to do my best work for the clients I do choose to work for.  It all comes full circle.

Master Dannon Moore with Lauren R. Tharp

Master Dannon became a Master on the same day I became a black belt

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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People I Know: Ramiro Roman, Jr.

Starting now, the first post of every month is going to be an interview with someone I know, in a segment I like to call “People I Know.”  These people each have something unique to offer–writers, artists, and entrepreneurs–and I think you will enjoy learning from what they have to say.  My first guest: Comic book artist, Ramiro Roman, Jr.

Ramiro Roman, Jr.

Ramiro Roman, Jr.

How I Know Ramiro

I first came across Ramiro’s website online when I was around 16 years old.  I was an instant fan!  Eventually it turned out that someone else I was acquainted with knew Ramiro (one of those “small world” incidences that happen so often in life) and we met officially/in person in 2004.  We became friends (and eventually more), but I always remained a fan.  His artwork is truly inspired and his advice never ceased to give me strength when I decided to give up on the “conventional” route and follow my dreams.

"This is the World of SKINCUBE" by Ramiro Roman, Jr.

"This is the World of SKINCUBE" by Ramiro Roman, Jr.

My Interview with Ramiro Roman, Jr.

What do you do?

I am a comic book artist.

How did you start?

When I was a kid, I was really into movies and I liked to draw and come up with stories. I also used to read a lot of comics. But it wasn’t until I came across the reprints of the old EC Comics that I realized, “You can do comics that don’t have superheroes?” And off I went. I first started drawing them seriously after a friend of mine had shown me how easy it was to make your own comics. There was no stopping me after that.

What’s your favourite part of what you do?

Aside from seeing an idea come together, I think I mostly like the reactions people get when reading a story I did. Hearing someone else’s interpretation of the work. It’s never what you intended the story or characters to convey, and that always fascinates me.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into doing what you do?

Stop talking about it and just do it already. If you’re not going to, you’re probably not very talented to begin with. You don’t need school. It helps a lot, but you really don’t. The internet is a great learning tool. Don’t try so hard to be like “the pros”. But, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. There will always be a billion different ways to do something, so relax. Also, don’t listen to your parents. They are wrong. Everyone around you is wrong. If you really work hard and persist, everything is possible.

What’s next for you/your business?

I’m currently writing/drawing a new comic. It is a sequel to an older work of mine.

SKINCUBE TWO

A panel from Ramiro's comic SKINCUBE TWO

LINKS for More RAMIRO ROMAN, JR.

Much of Ramiro’s artwork is very macabre and not for the “light-hearted.”  (or light-stomached…).  Fair warning.

Official Website (NSFW)

DeviantArt

Corpse Candy

Ramiro was the artist for Corpse Candy's "Edible People" album cover

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2011 in People I Know

 

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