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    • Candy on Budget Crisis, Red Tape and teenage crushes...
      “@Shawn - Money can apparently buy a LOT of happiness - and it seems to come in the form of pills and smoke-able items. *sigh* (yeah, sure you didn'”
    • Shawn Powers on Budget Crisis, Red Tape and teenage crushes...
      “It always amazes me the number of overdoses and suicides in the celebrity death pool. I mean, I know, "Money can't buy happiness" -- but you'd think ”
    • Candy on Phooey on social media privacy
      “Justin - ah, so you keep separate accounts - how much bleeds over though? Do you think people pay attention to DuckDuckBlue? Or just to JustinRyan? Do”
    • Justin on Phooey on social media privacy
      “I doubt I have to tell you, but I'm in the "let it all hang out" camp. (Despite vicious rumors of being obsessively private.) My feeling is, I am wh”
    • Candy on Phooey on social media privacy
      “I guess my point is... if an employer is going to delve that deeply into someone's stuff as to look back through their wife's silly twitter account, d”

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

PostHeaderIcon When the boss is away…

… the OffAssist crew will play jump into action!

As many of you know, I was out last year with an emergency neck fusion. A week in the hospital and three months of recovery with a limited work schedule. It was an eye-opening experience and there were SO many things that I was glad that we had set up for cases just such as this and many things we changed so that should it happen again, it would be smoother. While the 3 months recovery from that was really tough, I’m kind of glad it happened. It really allowed me to look back afterwards and realize how great my team really is and how willing they are to step up to the plate. It also made me realize that I may not be as needed in every single daily aspect. Which was good because, at this stage in my business, there’s no way for me to be.

This is why I only had a minor freak out when I found out last month that I will be undergoing a double lumbar fusion on July 31st. I’m not sure if having all this time to prepare was good or bad, to be honest. It definitely gave me time to set everything up for the team and our clients, but also gave me more time to fret over it a bit. The recovery period will be very similar to my neck fusion and this time, because it’s not through the ER and not over a holiday weekend, I’ll only be in the hospital overnight. Yeah, for back surgery. Crazy.

So, I’ll spend the next few months recovering. I have someone checking my email and mail. I have the team ready to handle everything for clients that is coming up. I have someone that can fly in to help me if I need it. I have friends standing by in case I need anything. I have told all of our clients that I’ll be out and prepared my family as much as possible. I just have to finish a few major projects and then focus on recovery.

… now to just stay out of my email and other communications when I’m under heavy medication <blush>…

PostHeaderIcon Getting Naked

Not that kind of naked!

Our founder and fearless leader, Candy Beauchamp, was recently interviewed over at The Naked VARuth Martin‘s blog about the simple unadorned realities of being an online virtual professional.

For a little naked truth about the realities of life as a virtual assistant, check out the interview here.

Most of us at OffAssist have kids who have long since seen through Santa, but Candy first met Ruth through her holiday business that offers personalized letters from Santa, UWriteSanta.com. If your kids are still young enough for the magic of the man in red, check it out!

PostHeaderIcon A Note from Candy

Dear clients, colleagues, and friends –

As many of you know, I suffered a neck injury late last month and I was admitted to the hospital last week. Now, after surgical intervention, I am home and healing.

This is a difficult post for me to write because most of you know what a workaholic I often am, but… I will be on a severely reduced work schedule over the next 12 weeks.

I will not be working at all for the next several days, and then only an hour or two per day over the next few months. Yes, I have a desk job, but sitting at a desk all day is a big strain on your neck. My team is in place and they’re working hard to ensure that everyone is taken care of in a timely manner. I ~know~ this is the absolute worst timing, with tax season coming to a close, but please know I’m doing everything I can to ensure things go smoothly.

A few things to note:

  • I can only sit at my desk for very short periods of time, so I am trying to reduce my email clutter during this time. I’m asking my clients to reach out to their account manager directly, when possible. I am available, on a limited basis, so cc me or contact me directly when needed.
  • Lanel Taylor will be stepping in as project manager and will be overseeing a lot of the day-to-day operations of OffAssist. Her email address is lanel@offassist.com.
  • Patty Dost is my VA — she handles my schedule. You can use the schedule me link that many of you have, but we will be severely limiting that, so please don’t use the tool until next week when Patty and I have ironed out how this is going to work. Her email is patty@offassist.com.
  • For those clients that I usually handle personally, I will, most likely, be training one of our team members to handle the account so that they do not fall behind. I’m asking them for patience while this happens.
  • For those of you for whom OffAssist handles payroll, have no fear, it is being handled. We also have to get out quarterly reports. IF these go out late–and we are doing our utmost best to ensure that does not happen–rest assured that I will send a letter to the agency explaining the circumstances. Most will accept this without a problem. If there is an issue, OffAssist will pay any late fees that may be attached as a result.
  • Our clients’ quarterly internal financial reports are going to be delayed a week or two while we internally reorganize. If you need them sooner, please reach out to your account manager and accept my apologies.

 

Those are the main business notes as this point and you are welcome to stop reading here. For those of you who have asked, “What happened?!” there are details below. Fair warning, you may not really want to know all this!

I went to see my doctor on Monday, April 2nd, because I had excruciating pain running through my neck, behind my shoulder, and down my arm, which was then going numb. The pain got worse and worse. I had an MRI on Tuesday the 3rd and by the night of the 4th I was dry heaving from the pain. I emailed my doctor late that night and she called me at 8am on Thursday.

Apparently, the MRI indicated I had a badly herniated disc and it was causing a nerve to be pinched. She instructed me to go to the Emergency Room immediately; she would call ahead because the pain was going to get worse–something I really didn’t think was possible at that point. Boy was I wrong!

By the time I got to the ER, I was in bad shape; the pain had gotten so bad that I went into shock. I was admitted to the hospital and put on IV pain medication–which only helped for about 2 hours. Because the medicine could only be administered every 4 hours, I ended up alternating two different drugs, one every two hours.

I can honestly say that nerve pain is the absolute worst thing I’ve ever experienced. At least with childbirth, there’s an end in sight (and a nice take-home prize).

On Friday the 6th, we decided to try a steroid injection/epidural. By Sunday it was evident that I either had to have surgical intervention or stay in the hospital for 2-3 weeks so they could control the pain while I continued to try the injections. I opted for surgery, which occurred on Monday, April 9th.

It was an ACDF Surgery — Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion.

I now have a lovely 1-inch incision on the front of my neck where they went in and moved my esophagus, arteries and muscles until they got to my spine. The surgeon removed all of the disc material between C5 and C6, freeing the nerve that was being pinched by the herniated disc. He put a spacer between C5 and C6 and screwed a metal plate on both bones to hold it all in place while the spacer fuses with my bone (in theory).

Per the doc, I am not supposed to work for approximately 12 weeks. However, since I have a desk job, he said that while I cannot work at all this week (April 9-16) I may work VERY, VERY, VERY part-time next week and for a few weeks after. Realistically, I won’t be working much at all for at least a month. The surgical pain is severe and the post-op pain meds knock me out, I cannot scarcely move my head, and I randomly fall asleep. Most importantly, I want to give this thing the best possible chance of fusing like it’s supposed to. If it doesn’t fuse within a year they will have to redo the surgery.

The good news is that the original nerve pain resolved immediately.

The bad news? My neck is very weak and I’m still in a fair amount of pain–but at least I’m home!

Honestly? I’m afraid of the future. It is very hard to force myself to rest so that this fusion can take effect like it should.

Thank you all for the good wishes, thoughts, prayers, and flowers*. It is times like these when we see the true worth of the people we surround ourselves with and I am grateful that I have all of you in my life.
 

candys headshot Candy Beauchamp, Chief Number Cruncher
OffAssist, LLC
Phone/Fax: (877) 226-3925 Ext 101
Real Bookkeeping. Virtual Assistance.
Add me to Skype
Schedule time with me
Learn more about me:
Personally: candybeauchamp.com
My VA project – 2 Minutes With A VA
I am on a severely reduced work schedule due to a neck injury. Please allow 2-5 days for a response. I appreciate your patience during this difficult time.

*Thank you to all of you who have sent flowers!  They’ve meant so much to me, particularly while I was stuck in the hospital while friends stepped up to make sure my kids had a good Easter and I spent the days in bed wishing I was anywhere else.  That said — poor Tom is running around doing everything these days since my awake periods and range of motion are both tiny right now — and he’s still teaching full-time.  I’d like to ask that, as lovely as they are, please don’t send any more flowers — Tom has enough to do caring for me and the kids and I don’t want him to feel bad if he forgets to water something.

PostHeaderIcon Speak Up!

One of the things many women in business have trouble with is dealing with conflict in a positive manner and learning to negotiate for themselves without coming across as difficult to work with.

We know someone who knows a thing or two about these situations.  Pattie Porter (aka the Texas Conflict Coach), is hosting a two-day, “Women and Negotiation,”  workshop in June aimed at helping women find ways to speak up for themselves and deal with conflict in a healthy way.

Check out details about the workshop, “Women and Negotiation,” here.  For more information on Pattie and what she does you can check out her profile in the March 2009 OffAssist newsletter.  Want to go straight to the source?  Check out Pattie’s main home on the web, www.conflictconnections.com.

PostHeaderIcon Hired someone recently?

If you have hired someone recently, you could be eligible for a tax credit as well as not having to pay the employer’s portion of the social security tax… first, this is just my own understanding, you should check with your tax adviser of course.

If you hired them after Feb 3, 2010 and before January 1, 2011 and they had not worked for more than 40 hours the previous 60 days, you may qualify for a tax break (this includes laid off employees) through the newly passed HIRE Act. Basically, you do not have to pay the 6.2% social security tax for the first 52 weeks they are employed by you and you could be eligible for a $1000 tax break on your federal tax return.

For more information about the HIRE Act, please follow the links below:
IRS Site – http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=220326,00.html
Intuit Site – http://payroll.intuit.com/federal_hire_act/index.jsp?cid=social_payroll_prpay_landing_hire

If you have an employee that qualifies for this, they will need to complete a W11. A copy of the W-11 form can be obtained at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw11.pdf

It’s important to note that you cannot hire a relative and take the credit. I found a great write up from Taxgirl’s blog (always full of good info if you’re a business/accounting geek).

PostHeaderIcon A simple little takeaway from the Statesman

I’m a huge fan of our local newspaper here in Austin, The Austin American Statesman. However, I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually touched a newspaper. I’m skeeved out by newsprint. It comes off on your fingers and smudges and well, I’m a diva deep down, I suppose. Aside from that, I prefer to grab my news online, in smaller bites or through my Kindle (yes, I subscribe).

Oh, I could get it from any number of news outlets here in Central Texas, but I’ve stayed pretty true to the Statesman. Why? Simply because they care. It shows in their reporting, and it has for many years. BUT, there’s also a secret reason I adore my local paper. Twitter. No, I’m not kidding. Take a look at their Twitter stream and you’ll see why. There’s no RSS flood of news stories every hour (like some of the news stations – oy!), there’s no starched little headlines. There’s some guy there with his computer or phone or whatever and he’s talking WITH us. He’s telling us what’s going on – and this, my friends, is the part that most other news outlets don’t get – they are replying. If you type in @statesman blah blah blah into Twitter, you can bet they will reply to you. Even if it’s “Oh great, glad you liked that photo” or “yeah, yeah, we’ve had the weather wrong for 3 days now”. I like that they are human on there. The guy running it has a sense of humor. Shocking, I know.

I attended the Statesman’s social media awards over the weekend while I was out at SXSWi where they did tell us that they aren’t struggling like most of the other newspapers out there (and if you read anything about publishing, you know it’s pretty scary out there). I was a little surprised, but in some ways I wasn’t really all that surprised. They get it. They do it right. Not just online, but in the paper itself. I always feel the human element, the fact that they’re listening to their readers.

Anyway… I took away that we all need to do that. To listen to our customers, our readers, our clients, our partners, whomever it is out there that we are trying to reach. I will admit that I’m guilty of getting bogged down in numbers and reports that I sometimes forget that there’s a real human being behind all that mess. Not a bad take away for a simple little ceremony.

PostHeaderIcon Budget Crisis, Red Tape and teenage crushes…

Okay, first, the random – I heard this morning from Twitter that Corey Haim died this morning, looks like it’s true, being reported by CBS as well as TMZ as of the time I’m writing this. So sad. The Coreys were my teenage crush. One of them was going go swoop down in my small town in South Carolina and take me to Hollywood to live with them where we’d live happily ever after. What? It could have happened! My thoughts are with his family, it appears to be an overdose. Sigh, they always are, aren’t they? So very sad.

Oh yeah, business blog… need to stop reliving my youth… heh.

I saw a post on Brad Farris’ blog this morning about the various budget crisis that are popping up again. I commented on my thoughts, but I really am sick of the waste that goes on. You’d think with that many supposed smart people running something, they could put together and stick to a workable budget. It’s ridiculous that they simply don’t.

Last night, a friend of mine (Hi, Dy!) and I were laughing because we got a letter in the mail this week. Do you want to know what that letter was for? That letter was from the Census Bureau to tell us that we were going to get another letter from them and to be on the look out for it. Yes, my friends, we got a letter telling us they were sending us a letter. I really wonder how many of those taxpayer dollars went to that. Could we, like, feed a starving kid or two instead? Really?

And then, there’s just the ridiculous. I saw an article this morning from The Austin American Statesman. Apparently some nosy neighbor down in South Austin decided to be a pain in the butt and reported a good number of their neighbors (like 50 of them) for random code violations. What are these heinous acts? Oh, they converted their garages to living spaces – TWENTY or more years ago. Oh, they added a professionally installed carport – TWENTY years ago. Seriously? And the people who issue the permits so the neighbors can try to stop being fined? Yeah, those people only work half days, apparently. Really, Austin, is this type of red tape necessary? There really should be some sort of statute of limitations or something. Completely ridiculous. Hopefully some local attorney with a big heart (yes, they do exist) or something will step in and help these people. It’s one thing if it’s a matter of filing for $123 permit that should’ve been done TWENTY years ago, but it’s another if you’re talking about widening a driveway or tearing down a usable carport!

My point? I don’t really have one. It was just one of those mornings that seemed to remind me that people really are crazy.

PostHeaderIcon Austin Leading in Economic Recovery

Don’t get me wrong, I love all of my clients, but this is my 12th year living here in Austin (yes, I realize I never get to be “from” here, always a transplant) and I’ve come to absolutely love this town, the people, the businesses… just everything.

Oh, I never would have believed I’d become one of those people until I actually lived here. There’s something about walking into a local business in Austin. It’s like nothing you can explain. San Francisco has it’s own vibe (I’ve been there and I think I’d totally live there if not here) – BUT – Austin definitely has it’s own drummer, folks 🙂 This was driven home for me lately when I went to find a used clarinet for my son to start to learn to play on. We were referred to a little local shop, Play It Again Music, and the lady in there spent over an hour with us, showing my son what he needed to know. All for a little $200 used clarinet. If you’ve never been to a funky little Austin shop before, you must find one immediately *laughing*

So, when I see things like this video over at CNN, it makes me smile and it makes me pretty darn proud to be from this crazy little big city.  Many thanks to my long-time local client, Robert Grunnah over at Castle Hill Investments, for sending this link to me – check out their blog too.

For those of that live here, the fact that Austin is leading in this economic recovery is no big surprise. Oh, we felt it here, don’t get me wrong, but I think we didn’t feel it quite as bad as some other parts of the country.

Go, Austin, Go! And keep being weird… that’s why I stick around (even if I do tend to stick to my far far Northwest suburban area) 😉

PS – I just saw an article from The Austin-American Statesman that Facebook is opening an Austin office. WooHoo!

PostHeaderIcon JP Morgan Chase Moratorium on Foreclosures

It got a bit lost in all the election hubbub, so I thought I’d mention it now. JP Morgan Chase, the bank who bailed out/bought Washington Mutual, has changed how they are handling mortgages, particularly those inherited from the banks that failed. In the meantime, they have issued a 90-day moratorium on foreclosure while they implement the new plan.

The cynic in me can’t help but notice the great PR for JP Morgan Chase:

We may have to foreclose down the line, but it’ll be after the holiday season so we’re not kicking anyone to curb at Christmas/Hanukkah/the Winter Solstice/Kwanzaa, et al. Go us!

More details from JPMC (can these merged banks please pick just ONE name! lol) at CNNMoney.com, here.

For a real-world explanation that boils it down for homeowners, check out this recent NPR interview.

PostHeaderIcon Goodnight Sweet GUI…

Do you remember the first time you encountered Windows, specifically a 3.x version?

When all of a sudden you could navigate your computer visually instead using a bunch of commands–although those still worked for those who needed time to adjust.

For better or for worse, no matter what you think of Windows, it was a HUGE moment in user-driven computing. And now the early versions are finally gone for good. As of November 1, 2008 Microsoft stopped issuing licenses for all Windows 3.x products. For more details, check out BBC News’ article on the subject.

Am I the only one surprised that this just happened? I haven’t actually SEEN a computer with Win 3.x since, uh…. 1999.