Monday, July 30, 2012

Take Extra Vitamins & Go To Bed Early!

Time to add to my saga of the difficult boss. My supervisor told me last week that I need to check with her before I ever call my doctor or dentist. She said that she needs to provide me with a list of suggested dates and times that work for her before I call to schedule any appointments. She mentioned that she has changed her own dental appointment fifteen times because of work commitments. I jokingly said "I guess nobody in this office can ever get sick" and she advised me to start taking extra vitamins and going to bed as early as possible.

Does she not see the type of environment she is creating? One where the employees health and well being comes second to work? If that is her personal choice, to sacrifice her own health, that is fine. But she cannot make that choice about my health, and my well being. It's outrageous. Not to mention how difficult it can often be to schedule a medical appointment to begin with! Many offices only perform certain procedures on certain days. My doctors schedules will not always (if ever) coincide perfectly with my supervisors! And if I need medical attention I plan on calling my doctor or dentist immediately. I have to make myself a priority, I don't give an expletive if it inconveniences my office! It's not like we are working in a life or death field where one day off here and there is fatal. We work at a college, everything will be okay.

This latest development is discouraging as I am trying to get pregnant. I do not plan on telling my boss about a pregnancy until I absolutely have to. Therefore, if I need to go see my doctor, I wouldn't want to tell her the reason behind my appointment. And I'm sure pregnancy comes with many appointments. I hope my husband and I did conceive this month, but I also dread dealing with it in my current workplace, especially if I have the misfortune of a difficult pregnancy or even just sickness in early pregnancy.

I wish the powers that be at my institution could see what it is like to work under this supervisor. I feel stuck in a bad situation that only has the potential to get worse as the fall semester quickly approaches.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pondering a Master's

For several years now I have been casually considering continuing my education by getting a master's degree. I think a few fears have held me back from really pursuing graduate school. The first big fear is that I am not smart enough, or just wouldn't be able to handle it! The second is financial, I always told myself I would pay off my first degree before starting a second.

I also think when I finally finished my bachelor's degree I just needed a break! I was not a traditional undergrad student wrapping  up my education in a neat four years straight out of high school. I had many bumps in the road, including leaving college at one point and thinking I may never finish my education. I did go back in my mid-twenties, after transferring to a new school, and added a sizable commute to my experience (3 hours in the car every day). After all of that I deserved a rest!

Now that I am working in higher education, the thought of a master's degree is ever-present. I google institutions within a drivable distance often and am always seeking out online or distance programs as well.

One of my issues is that my interests are a little scattered. I have looked into a master's in communications, because my bachelor's is in communications. I have also looked at various degrees in writing and editing (I have seen them called several different things) because they are lifelong interests of mine. Along the lines of my love for writing is a MA in English, something I hadn't considered until very recently. MA in English programs seem to vary widely as well. I am not so much interested in literature, as I am in writing in general, learning to edit, and teaching others to write. Public relations, marketing, publishing, professional writing, and corporate communications programs have all sparked my interest to some extent.

Education is also something I consider as a field of study, as well as counseling. Education and counseling are not because I exclusively want to be a teacher or a counselor. I have had a few experiences in my life (including teaching dance for five years) where I have worked with young girls (elementary and middle school ages). Either of those degrees may help me pursue that interest in the future. I also see a degree in counseling come up in job postings quite often.

My undergraduate degree, which I enjoyed thoroughly, was through my university's "visual and communication arts" department. It included study of writing, art, photography, film, graphic design, web design, and visual communication theory. However, I initially began my undergraduate study at a different university as a mass communication major which was more journalism and media focused. I took classes such as media law and ethics, sports writing, and public relations writing, and worked or interned in television, radio and at several newspapers. I enjoyed my time in mass communication, but not as much as the more visual and creative communications program that I graduated from. I know that I need to narrow my focus and really think hard about my future.

I envy the women I know who finished a master's degree before starting a family, or in some cases before even getting married. I have a husband and two stepchildren to think about, not to mention the fact that we are trying to add to our family. I also have a full-time job, which I need to keep, and I carry the health insurance benefits for my family as well. I don't have the luxury of being able to commit my life 100% to the pursuit of a graduate degree. I know it is possible, and I know people do it all the time, I just need to figure out how to make it work for my own personal situation. I am lucky in that I have a husband who will support me in my pursuits.

I have seen programs that are 100% online, programs that are only on weekends, some that are two days a week. Others are more traditional, a full load of classes, during the day mostly, taken in person on campus. The latter probably won't work for me, unless I found the right degree program and my husband and I moved to live close to the university of choice.

All of the choices are overwhelming, and I haven't even begun to consider how I would fund graduate school. I do think a master's degree could improve my job outlook in the future. And that is what is really important, aside from the fact that I love learning, I want to better myself and ultimately better my family's life.

Who should I talk to to figure this out? Admissions at individual schools can only answer questions about their particular programs, and that's not what I'm looking for at this stage. I need help figuring out the right questions to ask in order to decide if a master's is for me, and if so, which direction I should go in.

Any advice? I'd also love to hear from women who balanced grad school with working full time or moms who started or finished grad school while growing their families.


Extra Credit - If you know of any great programs in my areas of interest in the Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, D.C. area that I should look into, please let me know!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

4 Months In ...

Is higher education the right field for me? I'm four months into my new job now and I'm still not sure I can answer that question. For one, I haven't been through an entire academic year yet. Some jobs might be easy to read after four months, but I truly won't understand mine until I have been through a full academic year from start to finish. I have only seen half of a spring semester and part of summer so far.

I did complete my first major task successfully - working with student leaders during four summer orientation sessions. I was clueless and unprepared when given the assignment, but now that it is over I can proudly say I did it well. Next year, if I am still in this role, will be a breeze. My stress level has lowered a little now that that particular project is behind me, but I am still a little anxious about the upcoming fall semester (more unknowns and new tasks).

Most days I think this is not the job for me. I don't know if it's the position, the field, the university, or my supervisor, or some combination that make me doubt this job. Would I be happier doing a different job in a different department? Would I love this role under a new supervisor? Am I meant for this work, but just not meshing with the culture of this particular university? Or is higher education just not my thing?

I'm not going anywhere anytime soon because of the stress of job searching, needing insurance and a paycheck, and wanting to start a family soon. I also don't want to leave after a few months and be viewed as a 'job hopper' in the future. In the meantime I will be constantly evaluating my job and what I want to do with my life.

I also can't think about work without thinking about family. I want a career that offers flexibility and family friendliness. Work is not my life. I don't think it ever will be. Work is what I need to do to live my life. I want a job that provides excellent benefits such as insurance and plenty of vacation and sick days. I want a salary that can support my family and the lifestyle we want to lead. I want room to grow, move up, and earn more so I can continue to better the lives of myself and my family.

How do you evaluate whether a job or career field is the right fit for you?


Monday, July 9, 2012

Eating for Conceiving

After being on hold for a few months due to my job change, my husband and I will start trying to get pregnant again this month. I still go back and forth often about feeling "ready" to parent. When I am feeling ready, I want to hurry things along! That leads to a lot of googling and research on how to increase my chances of getting pregnant quickly.

One of the best sources on this subject that I have come across is the Nurses' Health Study (discussed in this babyzone article). This article, and others, have lead me to the decision to replace low and non-fat dairy items in my diet with full fat dairy. Previously, I was eating a lot of reduced fat dairy every day - yogurt, string cheese, milk, etc. The Nurses' Health Study showed that women who ate low fat or no fat dairy products had more difficulty conceiving, while those who enjoyed at least one serving of full fat dairy had less difficulty conceiving.

I found it very difficult to find full fat dairy at my grocery store (aside from cheese)! Eventually I found Dannon's Pure yogurt. The texture and taste is different from the low fat yogurt I've been enjoying for years. And with a higher calorie count, I need to keep an eye on what else I eat throughout the day. I also purchased regular string cheese and full fat block cheese. We still have fat free milk in the house, but I only use that for cereal, so I'll just try to indulge less.

Full fat dairy aside, what else am I trying?

*Taking prenatal vitamins & B6
*Eating as many fruits and veggies as possible, as well as whole grains, nuts and beans (I'm a vegetarian)
*Drinking lot's of water
*Exercising regularly (hopefully daily)
*Reducing my caffeine intake - I'm a coffee lover and recently switched to 1/2 caff. I want to keep it to 2 cups or less daily
*Limiting or eliminating alcohol? I already drink very little. However, there is a debate in our home now, because my husband believes the occasional glass of wine helps to de-stress me.

After all is said and done, I will never know if any specific change to my diet lead to a pregnancy. My husband, who is often very wise, doesn't believe low-fat dairy kept us from conceiving during previous attempts. His theory? It just wasn't the right time yet.

Do you eat or avoid certain foods in hopes of getting pregnant?


Sunday, July 8, 2012

No Loan & July Goals

The loan is a no go.

I had applied for a loan, with the intention of paying off debt. Unfortunately I do not qualify for a loan. I applied alone because I have a better credit score than my husband, as well as less debt. However, I learned this past week that my income is just too low. To get a loan I would need a co-signer. Since my husband can't co-sign that would mean asking family for help - not really an option for us. We really want to take care of our financial obligations on our own, without involving family. I can ask for less money (we wanted a $9,000 loan) but the banker I spoke with made the good point that unless the amount of the loan truly wipes out ALL of the debt and gives us a clean slate, it's probably not worthwhile.

I am completely new to the world of loans and had no idea what my chances truly were. I learned from the process. For instance, I had the bank explain to me in simple terms why I was denied. Basically they look at a ratio of income vs. obligations. Long story short my income is too low. My obligations include rent (the full amount - $850) because my name is on our rental lease, and my student loan payments. Banks want your obligations to be 40% or less of your income. In my case, I was over 65%. Too big of a risk for the bank. I also don't own anything (car, home, etc.) so there is nothing to make the bank feel secure in loaning money to me.

It is disappointing to be denied, only because we thought the loan was a great idea for paying off our debt. But we must move forward.

Here are my goals for July:

*Figure out how to afford paying for the children to fly across the country, visit with us for as long as possible, and fly them back (in August). Try to enjoy the visit and not suffer too much financially due to it. Hopefully we will not have to drain our limited savings to accomplish this.

*As part of the above goal my husband will work with a travel agent.

*Call the state of California and get on a payment plan for tax debt.

*Continue tracking spending daily.

*Continue being conscious of spending on food.

*Sneak at least $5 into savings. A small amount, but better than nothing.

*Search the apartment and find something to sell to make extra money.

*Work on a budget to start using in August and beyond.

We will get through these tight financial times. By making good choices and staying positive we will get to a better place!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

An untruth.

I have unfortunately been dealing with what I have been describing as a hostile environment at work. I have only been in my new job for just under four months and I have already been reduced to tears at my desk (not a proud moment, wish I was a little tougher).

I recently took the courageous route and brought the topic up to my boss's boss. I felt this was risky, but necessary.

The worst part of this conversation with my boss's boss was a comment about a former co-worker of mine. I only had one other co-worker in my office, who left for a new job in May. Boss's boss told me this person disliked working with me and found me "condescending." Hearing this was hurtful, but also confusing. I have racked my brain all weekend, going over my relationship with this co-worker and replaying all of our interactions. Something felt very wrong to me. I couldn't think of a time or an incident where this accusation could have been true. Especially since I felt like this co-worker and I became friends while working together! We joked a lot, shared parts of our personal lives, chatted online, texted, because Facebook friends. We went to a conference together with one other person and had a blast. We only vented to each other a lot about our difficult boss.We have talked several times since she left our office and it has always been very positve and friendly.

This evening I finally worked up the courage to text my former co-worker and ask her to be brutually honest about working with me. I made it clear that if I did treat her poorly at all, that I really wanted to know about it so I could sincerely apologize. Her response was "Never. Not even close." When I explained the situation to her she was shocked and surprised. She described the comments as a "bizarre lie." She made it very clear to me (as I already knew from our many, many conversations in person while we worked together) that our supervisor and the way she treated us was 80% of the reason she began looking for other jobs.

I feel better and worse at the same time. I am under the impression that my supervisor is lying about me, to protect herself. It is a terrible feeling and nothing I have ever dealt with. I am most angry at the fact that I doubted myself. I let this singular untrue comment get under my skin and I wondered for too long if there was any truth inside it. I am not a condescending, difficult to work with person, far from it. I am the bubbly, smiley, kind co-worker.

I have a meeting scheduled with both my supervisor and her boss on Monday afternoon. We are supposed to work through our issues and discuss how we can do a better job of communicating with each other. I am not looking forward to it at all. I feel ganged up on and lied to. I don't feel secure in my job, even though I know I am a hard worker, who is intelligent, creative, dedicated and enthusiastic.

I have never been in a situation like this. Even if the meeting tomorrow goes pretty well and communication improves, I don't know how long I will be able to work in this department under these individuals. I can't trust people who tell hurtful lies about me.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Nice timing universe!

After feeling proud and hopeful yesterday about our current debt payoff plan I made the mistake of checking the mail. Two envelopes from the California State Tax Board. And my heart sinks.

The state tax debt I have previously discussed is for Virginia, so this is an additional debt to add to our list. We knew California would need to be dealt with eventually, but hoped it would be on our own time. You cannot hide from the government and the debt is owed. My husband will need to contact them and work out a payment plan. Hopefully the monthly payment amount won't be too high so we can still reach some other goals.

Add $4,333.67 to our total. I thought we would be 100% done with our debt in less than three years, probably not anymore. Trying my hardest not to let this make me feel defeated. The timing was almost laughable. I was literally on the phone with my husband discussing our plans for the loan and how excited we will be to be debt free soon when I put my hands on the mail.

Real funny universe! I don't appreciate your timing at all.