Monday, December 31, 2018

Life in 2018

I wrote a record-low two posts in 2018 before this one. I still enjoy this medium for self-reflection, though I use it rarely now.

I mentioned just a few things that I expected for 2018:

Make monthly resolutions
I completely failed at this. I think I'll try again in 2019, but with a better plan. I hope!

Start my dream job
Yes! It's been more of a roller coaster than I expected, though. More on that below.

New job for Jon
Yes! He ended up changing jobs right after I did, and it's been a complete 180 for him. It's a great company and an incredible fit for his personality and skills. It's a great reminder that if your job sucks and you're depressed about it, there's probably someplace out there where you can shine. I'm so glad he's found that in his new job.

Big family trip
Yes! We had an awesome time traveling with several nieces and nephews for a week over the summer. They are wonderful people.

Big gardening plans
Yes! We put in a rain garden and a lot more native plants. I love puttering in the garden.

Many things about this year were predictable, but they certainly weren't boring. I worked really hard. Probably too hard (Jon would say definitely too hard). For the first half of the year, I was also working on a carryover project from my last job. Seeing that through was a lot of extra work, and it was a relief to have it finished. However, I was pretty crushed by my new boss's response to it. He thought it was so... unimportant. I've learned that it's very difficult when he and I don't see eye to eye, and I had a few particularly stressful incidents with him. I hadn't anticipated this kind of conflict, and there were definitely several times when I regretted leaving my other job when I did because of the stress with my new boss. I spent 4 years working mostly for and with badass women who gave me just enough guidance and independence to flourish. There's a different dynamic with my new job and I have struggled at times to understand how I best fit into the team. I feel it's on the upswing now, but I expect there will be other rough patches. I've contemplated getting a therapist or a coach or both.

I spent part of the year feeling somewhat socially isolated and feeling like I needed more quality social time with friends. We decided to throw a holiday party for the first time since leaving Big City and that was a big success. Although that itself wasn't a time when I got to have lots of the kinds of conversations I was craving, it was helpful for encouraging some new friendships.

My weight has crept up slowly for the last couple of years, and I know I've been less active this year. I need to eat a little less and be more active (the recipe for almost every weight loss plan ever). Sigh.

I didn't travel nearly as much for work in 2018 as I did in 2017 and 2016. I had just 3 work trips, and only one was international. We did a fair number of weekend driving trips to see friends or family, and that one big family trip.

I got a holiday card out this year for the first time since 2014. In years past part of my hang up was having "the photo" for the card. We've never had a professional family portrait, but sometimes Jon takes one that we pose for. I decided last holiday season that this year I should just pick some photos and get something done rather than getting hung up on "the photo". I had the cards made pretty early, but since last sending cards in 2014, it seemed half our list had moved, died, or added new family members, so updating it took quite a while and we didn't get cards out until Christmas Eve. Next year should be easier!

Adele gets more and more awesome. She's in kindergarten this year (Montessori) and her math skills are exploding. She's doing some simple mental addition and subtraction with ease. She's starting to read a little, learned to ride a pedal bike, loves to play and invent games, and tells people she's a scientist.

All in all we've had a good year and cannot possibly complain about our lot in life. The country and world... oof. I'm really hoping for some improvement (modest, realistically) on a number of fronts in 2019 with a change in congress, but I know we're just halfway to 2020 and how much more important that will be for political change in the US.

As usual, I'll post my expectations for 2019 and some goals in January.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Starting my dream job!

This has been a long time in the making, but I'm about to start my dream job.

Back in 2015, I mentioned at the end of the year that I had envisioned my nearish-term dream job. I talked about it with a few close colleagues of mine, and then got up the guts to tell the person whose buy-in was absolutely essential to make it happen. We talked about it some, but there wasn't much to be done at that point except talk about it hypothetically.

Over the next two years, we kept talking. Before leaving my job at Exciting Non-Profit (ENP), we talked about a lot of organizational strategy, and I pushed with my questions until I realized that I hit the limits of their thinking and planning. I saw directions that I thought they needed to go, but I didn't know how to help them get there.

When I changed jobs in 2016, I shifted focus considerably, away from direct involvement in the type of work I had been doing at ENP and wanted to return to later. The new job had a specific emphasis on professional development, so I told my boss about my career aspirations. I was super nervous about choosing such a specific job at which to target my skills development, but she was amazingly supportive. I started talking with other people about it, and giving that dream a voice. I wrote about it when those feelings were fresh, just when I was starting to commit to the dream in some sense.

I feel like I should take a moment here to write about what a cool experience the last year and a half has been. I haven't written about my work nearly as much as I did in my job at ENP. I think it's mostly because it has been much less stressful! I haven't had looming anxiety about getting laid off (this job has always been a short-term thing) and I haven't suffered under leadership decision paralysis (well, not too much). I managed to keep a foot in my previous work on the side while exploring this new area.

Even though I've had a very specific job in mind, this experience has radically broadened my perception of what I can do with my career.

I've learned how to be effective in a totally new professional space with new organizations and new key players. I got to work with some incredibly talented people and definitely felt many times like I was punching above my weight. I was flattered that my work had their attention at all. I watched some great leadership in action, and I started taking notes. Seriously, I started writing down things they did. I watched many awesome women diplomatically negotiate difficult, influential personalities.  One woman did a remarkable job of leading a group by laying out the social contract for their deliberations and inviting everyone's feedback and buy-in. I had great working relationships with my closest colleagues. And on top of all that, my job had awesome travel opportunities...almost too many. I traveled to seven different countries and four different states in 18 months (10 trips in all).

Once I got the hang of the new field of work (about 6 months in!), I could imagine myself continuing in that career. I see plenty of opportunities to make an impact and I honed some of the knowledge and skills to make a difference. There are exciting things happening, and I am sad to be stepping out just as many things are taking off.

But I never wavered much from the dream job I first articulated in 2015. I went to all of these meetings and professional development sessions with two minds: one on applications to my current position, and one on applications to my dream job. Many times my mind was buzzing with ideas for the latter. It's like everything that I absorbed was filtered through "how can I use this for my dream job?" I observed every meeting and workshop not only for content, but for process. How did they organize the committees? What tools are they using?

Over many months of conversations, my ideas about what I would want to work on evolved. I realized more and more that I had a unique skill set and perspective to bring to the team I wanted to work with. I thought I was going to have to find the funding to make this happen, but then an opportunity came up a bit sooner than I was prepared for. After deliberating with many people about the timing, I decided to go for it.

That person who I anxiously told about my ambitions in 2015 is about to become my boss. This is happening!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018...let's do some big things

I'm writing this much later than I would have liked, but still trying to squeeze my thoughts for the year into January—barely!

Last year, a friend of mine did monthly resolutions instead of year-long ones. I find this idea appealing, though I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do each month. February is really the only one I have figured out.

February is going to be about getting my email under control. My goal is to get to inbox zero for my personal email and basically stay there. I am recruiting an accountability buddy who I can check in with.

My friend said she liked best the monthly resolutions that involved a daily action rather than less habit-forming ones, but I think I'll probably have a mix of both. I like the idea of setting a goal of tackling a big, looming, one-off thing in a particular month.

There are other big things to look forward to in 2018, especially related to jobs.

I am going to start my dream job! More on that next month. *grins*

Jon is also going to change jobs, though he hasn't found his dream job yet. His current job is a terrible fit and he's actively looking for other opportunities.

We have a big trip planned with our nieces and nephews over the summer and I have big gardening plans.

I am still discouraged about the state of our country and world, but I am trying to find hope and make change in the places where I can.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflections on 2017

In January, I wrote my goals and expectations for the year. When I started grad school in 2007, I also wrote my career and life goals for 2017. Over the summer I wrote a post reflecting on a decade of blogging, but I'd like to take this opportunity to reflect on both sets of goals/expectations for this year. 

I'll start with what I wrote in 2007. In short, I described my career objective to become a professor a place like Small Friendly College, which would include teaching, research with undergrads, occasionally leading foreign study programs, and doing some kind of science outreach. I knew I needed good teaching experience, international experience, and to write my own grants to support my research. I got the grants and the international experience, but not so much teaching experience (in part because I was successful with fellowship applications). My decision to steer away from the liberal arts college professor path was motivated in part by wanting to be geographically narrow (to be near Jon's family eventually) and in part by realizing (mostly from conversations with SFC faculty) that I wasn't going to be terribly competitive for those jobs without a much stronger teaching and research record.

I've been able to play to the same interests articulated above and strengths I developed in grad school in unexpected ways and chart a very different path than the small-liberal-arts-college-professor way. There is a strong international component to my current work. My interest in outreach and an unconventional science communication opportunity helped my land my first real job as a PhD. It's really all of my side interests and ancillary skills from grad school that have gotten me to here, rather than my research itself. I suppose I expected the same to be true as a professor, so I've just applied it differently.

I'm most proud of my self-awareness in 2007:
At this point in time my ideal job is quite specific, and I’m not even sure it exists. However, the breadth of what I want to do to is great enough that I would be happy to pursue other careers that fulfill some, if not all, of my interests in other ways. I will remain open to other options that I can’t even imagine yet.

Not bad, huh?

I also wrote about wanting to start a family:
I do plan to start a family by 2017. I am not sure exactly how children will fit into the picture, nor can I realistically expect things to go as planned. But if I could choose, I’d like to have two children relatively close together to minimize the pre-school time period. When in my career I try to have children will depend on my research plans and post doc opportunities. Perhaps I will try to have kids between finishing field work and defending.
I did strategically aim to give birth between my dissertation defense and the end of my NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which worked out pretty well, except for the part where I almost died and then had a pretty rough start to motherhood while trying to find a job. We've decided to only have one child instead of the two we'd originally intended, but I'm feeling ok with that. Given the state of the world, it doesn't seem like the right decision for us to choose to have another child.

For my goals defined at the beginning of this year I wrote:
This year is not about being wildly aspirational—it's about modest changes to try and protect us (in the immediate and broader sense) in uncertain times.
I did well on the goals and elaborated on several in a post earlier in the year.

Help Jon get a new, full-time job with benefits
DONE. He's not wild about the workplace culture, but it's ok. He's keeping an eye out for other opportunities.

Get Adele a passport and renew mine

Clear my inbox every month
Nope. I completely failed at this and my work email has now gotten a bit unwieldy too. I've practically given up on my personal email. I need to find a strategy that works for me, but in the short term I'm just procrastinating on it.

Celebrate my blogiversary (10 years!)
Kind of. I wrote a reflection on a decade of blogging, but I didn't get it printed like I considered. I didn't find a way to print it that was easy and satisfying enough. I'd still like to do that someday. Suggestions welcome!

Read four books
DONE! I read a book about my field of work which included many people I know personally, which was pretty cool. I also read How to Raise A Wild Child because I want to make sure that Adele is well-connected to nature.

Pay off our car

Pay off all of Jon's course/credit card debt

Shorten the repayment term on my student loans
Nope. We have instead put more emphasis on saving for retirement. I'll re-evaluate the situation in 2018.

Carbon offsets
DONE. We've been paying a monthly fee based on our calculated carbon emissions from 2016. I am guessing 2017 would be comparable for us so I think we'll continue at the same rates for 2018.

Switch to electricity from renewable sources

Organizations we'll newly support with monthly contributions:
-Southern Poverty Law Center

In terms of broad expectations for the year, I wrote:
I am less optimistic about 2017 than I have been...maybe ever. I am deeply concerned about Trump becoming president tomorrow and I honestly expect the world and its people to be in worse shape at the end of 2017 than now. I expect my family (immediate and extended) to weather this year due to our position of privilege (employed, mostly urban, socially connected, highly educated, white), but even still I expect our lives to be diminished.

I am afraid I hit the nail on the head. My immediate family is doing fine, but the world feels much less safe with the insanity of nuclear brinksmanship from two insecure leaders, no new gun control measures despite escalating casualties in mass shootings, and the mainstreaming of white supremacists. We continue to ignore the paths for action on climate change, despite suffering extensive damages from hurricanes, flooding, droughts, and fires exacerbated by our inaction. Measures making the dysfunctional health care system we have even worse and tax changes that will disproportionately benefit the incredibly wealthy and wreck the federal budget make me less optimistic for a thriving future of broadly shared prosperity in our country. I am sad for our country and the world.

I expect some big changes again in 2018, particularly with my career. As usual, I'll share more in a separate post after the new year.

Farewell, 2017!

Monday, September 4, 2017

It's like The Moth but for science!

I must be so late to the game on this one, but I recently discovered The Story Collider podcast and I love it! People tell stories about science, and it's a lot of scientists telling the stories.

It has been around since 2010! What have I been doing with my life?!?! I anticipate a lot more Story Collider keeping my ears occupied in the future.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A decade of blogging

I started blogging 10 years ago, right before starting grad school. This blog chronicled 6.5 years of grad school (approximately 13,507 hours of work) and the 3.5 years since officially graduating. During that time, I lost 3 close family members, got married, spent over a year doing field work in Africa, got a dog, had a baby, moved to a new city, and had three different jobs as a PhD. This has been an eventful decade.

For the first few years, I blogged several times per month (or even several times per week). It was an opportunity for me to reflect on my experiences and practice writing. Looking back on many of my early posts in the writing of this, I am struck as much by the things that haven't changed as much as the things that have. I still love Small Friendly College just as much as in 2007 (and the post made me teary again). I see major parts my current self in these older writings. In some cases, I captured events that I see now had outsized importance in shaping my current career, like a workshop on science communication and an interdisciplinary project. There are threads and early hints of the ideas and concepts that are hugely important to my present work, which makes me feel like I'm in the right place now in my career.

In some ways, I don't think I've changed substantially, but I've learned so much about myself in the last 10 years. I've grown. I wrote in 2009 that I needed to be more of a badass. I most definitely am. My moments of greatest badass-ness are probably still finishing my dissertation before my daughter was born, then giving birth to her and going through (and recovering from) serious complications. To finish my dissertation, I toughed it out and kept my eye on the prize with intense focus to the exclusion of everything else non-essential. When recovering from childbirth, I refused to accept my limited mobility and searched and read until I found the right people and resources to help me heal. During grad school, and especially during field work, I became aware of my common mental traps and I'm much better at avoiding them now that I know the signs (like being indecisive). I am nothing if not resourceful, and as my personal networks and knowledge have grown, I have an ever-growing pool of ideas to draw upon. This last year in my new job has especially helped me realize and appreciate the breadth and depth of skills and networks I have, and given me many more ideas for how I can leverage them to do good and awesome things. I, too, can stand on the shoulders of giants—in life as well as in research.

My favorite genre of books is scientist memoirs (e.g. Richard Feynman), especially field biologists (e.g. Jane Goodall and Robert Sapolsky). I love reading about the adventures that happen in the pursuit of science. I love reading about how they live their science-y lives, what their families think, how they raised kids, what went wrong, and how they overcame adversity. Their stories have helped me imagine what my life could be. Blogs by scientists about their lives scratched a similar itch.

Blogging was also a community, and the other women in science bloggers were my mentors. I learned so much from them. I read blogs of more advanced students describing drama in their committees (I learned years later that managing your committee is a classic example of "managing up"). I read about postdocs applying for faculty positions. I read stories of scientists in all career stages struggling with chronic health issues, infertility, and difficult relationships. I was unquestionably better prepared to be a good graduate student and navigate the potential job market afterwards as a result of the science blog community. I'd like to throw some nonspecific thanks out into the universe to the dozens (hundreds?) of bloggers from whom I gleaned wisdom and advice. Thank you!

While blogging during grad school, I accidentally discovered the identities of a few bloggers I followed, and a few people discovered me (one person anonymously and mysteriously tried to "out" me). I made real life friends because of this blog, and it was a way to re-connect with a handful of trusted people that I invited to read it. A few of you are still reading. Thanks for following my sometimes vague and pseudonymized adventures!

I watched, always with sadness, when other bloggers decided to call it quits for one reason or another. More often, they didn't have closure and just stopped writing, or I just stopped reading. Probably kind of like this—I stopped writing so often. In part I blame the declining popularity of RSS and therefore the declining options for good feed readers. Somewhere along the migration from one feed reader to another, I lost track. It has been a long time since I regularly read other people's blogs, so my blogging is overwhelmingly an introspective exercise.

It would probably be fitting, after a decade of blogging as an "aspiring ecologist", to declare this the end. But I imagine I'll still want to blog occasionally, and I'm frankly not motivated enough to set up another blog, so I'll stick with what I've got. Those of you who are friends in real life know where to find me, and if you've been reading this for years and still don't know who I am but want to be friends in real life, drop me a note.

I'm excited about the next 10 years. I've got big ideas that have been simmering for a while now. With the right combination of preparation and luck (there's always luck), it could be awesome. Or, more likely, I'll end up doing something 10 years from now that I can't even imagine at present. Let's see where the next decade goes!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Five whole months into the year

This is my first blog post in the current presidency. I clearly lost track of time and didn't realize the last time I blogged was January 19. I even blew right by my blogiversary, which was apparently May 17. I had it in my head as June, but I think that's because that was when I figured out how to blog as Karina Anirak (I had a brief stint under a different account). TEN YEARS. I basically started my graduate education TEN years ago.

There are a couple of things I have on my mind lately to blog about, but for now I want to do just a short check in on my goals/expectations for 2017.

Help Jon get a new, full-time job with benefits
"This is the most important thing that needs to happen this year and it will make all of the financial goals below much easier!" DONE! There was a bit of a false start a few months back, but he now has a full time salaried job with opportunity for advancement. Once he finishes the trial period, he'll be eligible for benefits too. This is a huge first for us to have TWO predictable, livable incomes. 

Get Adele a passport and renew mine
DONE! We're all set for about 5 more years.

Clear my inbox every month
"I granted myself email amnesty at the beginning of the year and I think I need to do it on a regular basis." I think I did it once so far this year... but it really needs to happen. Ugh.

Celebrate my blogiversary (10 years!)
"I want to do something special to celebrate...maybe get this printed as a book!" Not yet! I think I'll write a 10 year reflection post by the June 22 date of my first non-introductory blog post. I have a lot to reflect on, including these goals for 2017 that I wrote in 2007! I just stumbled across it looking through my oldest posts; I had completely forgotten. 

Read four books
I've read one so far. I know I can do this if I buckle down.

Pay off our car

Pay off all of Jon's course/credit card debt
We just paid off one of the cards at the end of its 0% APR period, and the other one ends in October. We're almost there! Our credit scores have been noticeably recovering from carrying pretty high balances (thankfully all at 0%).

Shorten the repayment term on my student loans
"Once we're sure we have the credit card debt paid for, then we can shorten the repayment term for my student loans to pay it down aggressively..." Not there yet.

Carbon offsets
"The easiest way to do this is probably by estimating our emissions and spreading it out over monthly payments." DONE! I added up all of our air travel and other emissions estimates from 2016 and now we pay a monthly fee to a carbon offset company.

Switch to electricity from renewable sources
"This will take a bit of research, which is the biggest hurdle." Turns out direct mail works sometimes, because we went with the company that sent us mail about the opportunity to switch to wind power, and they seemed ok. DONE!

Organizations we'll newly support with monthly contributions:
-wikipedia (we have given to them in the past, but lapsed)
-Pro-Publica (nonprofit investigative journalism)
-An organization that very efficiently transfers donations to extremely poor people (I believe that wealth inequality is a huge problem)
-Southern Poverty Law Center
DONE! On January 20, we set up modest ($5-10) recurring monthly donations to all of these.

With Jon getting a salaried job, many other things are falling into place. Perhaps next month I'll think about whether or not to stretch myself a little more in some of these areas since we've already met most of the goals.

I have a pretty good work life balance since starting my new job, and if anything this spring I've been stressed out by my non-work commitments that should count for some kind of "fun". That has toned down thankfully in the last few weeks, but as ever I am trying to find the balance. Adele turned four and is almost done with school for the year. We currently have an international student from Small Friendly College who decided it was too risky to return home for the summer living in our basement for a couple of months while he does an internship. The fear is that they wouldn't renew his visa to let him back in the country for the fall semester, so he stayed here. I'm sad that's the world we live in, but glad that we can help in some small way. Onward!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Looking ahead to 2017

I enjoy my tradition of reflecting each year on my goals and expectations for the year ahead. Usually I focus mostly on goals, but this year I want to devote more space to expectations in general. I am less optimistic about 2017 than I have been...maybe ever. I am deeply concerned about Trump becoming president tomorrow and I honestly expect the world and its people to be in worse shape at the end of 2017 than now. I expect my family (immediate and extended) to weather this year due to our position of privilege (employed, mostly urban, socially connected, highly educated, white), but even still I expect our lives to be diminished. Republicans in congress, Trump, and his political appointees intend to seriously mess with many things that are personally and professionally important to me (e.g. the Endangered Species Act, everything related to climate change being a real and present danger upon which we should act, protected lands), not to mention their intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But I'm not about to let these things happen easily, so part of my goals are related to civic activism. For starters, I'm attending a Women's March this weekend.

Help Jon get a new, full-time job with benefits
Applying for jobs sucks. remember. It was super discouraging. I am doing what I can do support Jon in his career-change job search. This is the most important thing that needs to happen this year and it will make all of the financial goals below much easier!

Get Adele a passport and renew mine
This is among the more paranoid goals that I've ever had, but I want us to be able to leave the country if necessary. My passport expires next year and I have a lull in international travel for the next couple of months, so I need to take this opportunity to renew it. We already filed the paperwork for Adele. Jon's is good for about 5 more years. It would also be great if we could go visit my family in Canada sometime soon.

Clear my inbox every month
I granted myself email amnesty at the beginning of the year and I think I need to do it on a regular basis. I need to let go of more things that I'd like to do but just can't find the time. I can hardly find the time to do the other important things I want to need to do. I need more ruthless prioritization.

Celebrate my blogiversary (10 years!)
I've been blogging for almost a decade! WHAT. My blogging frequency has radically changed over the last few years, but I still enjoy the focus and outlet this platform offers. I want to do something special to celebrate...maybe get this printed as a book!

Read four books
Let's see if I can meet this modest goal this year!

Pay off our car
We are one small payment away from this! So. close.

Pay off all of Jon's course/credit card debt
We've been making steady progress, but we need to step it up to pay them off before our 0% interest period expires. This is the #1 priority when Jon gets a new job. We should be able to do this.

Shorten the repayment term on my student loans
Once we're sure we have the credit card debt paid for, then we can shorten the repayment term for my student loans to pay it down aggressively (Navient sucks, so apparently that's the best way to automatically increase your monthly payment). Oddly, our car loan has a lower interest rate so ideally, we would have been paying less on that loan and more on the student loan, but the terms aren't flexible like that, so we're waiting to be able to pay down the student loans.

Carbon offsets
In the face of Republican governance that does not believe in climate change, I think this is more important than ever. The easiest way to do this is probably by estimating our emissions and spreading it out over monthly payments.

Switch to electricity from renewable sources
The Republican love affair with fossil fuels makes me concerned about renewable energy, so I want to commit us to buying our electricity from renewable sources. This will take a big of research, which is the biggest hurdle.

Organizations we'll newly support with monthly contributions:
-wikipedia (we have given to them in the past, but lapsed)
-Pro-Publica (nonprofit investigative journalism)
-An organization that very efficiently transfers donations to extremely poor people (I believe that wealth inequality is a huge problem)
-Southern Poverty Law Center

Looking at these all, they are pretty boring. If this year is boring, I'll be satisfied. This year is not about being wildly aspirational—it's about modest changes to try and protect us (in the immediate and broader sense) in uncertain times. There's a chance that I will change jobs this year, but I suspect not. There's a small chance that we could end the year debt-free, but I suspect not.

Let's do this, 2017. More than ever before, we need to be the change we wish to see in the world and stand up for what is just. All of us. Every day.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Looking back on 2016

Overall, 2016 was an exciting year for our family. The good outweighed the bad for us, but I know many people rightfully had very different experiences of 2016. Each year in January I like to set a few goals and in December I like to review the year so here's a look back.

Here were my goals and expectations for 2016:

Read at least 4 books
I read 3, one of which was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. One was about a fruit (took me all year to finish—not exactly a riveting page turner but I wanted to finish it), and the other was an odd aforementioned field biologist memoir. As in 2015, I also read a lot of online news (print media to a lesser extent), but that doesn't offer the satisfaction of completing a book. I still have an ever-growing stack I want to read.

Make our backyard more playable.
Yes! We got it fenced and erected a makeshift play structure. Much improved!

Make peace with having one child.
Last year I wrote, "By the end of this year I'd like to confidently and happily say we're "one and done" if anyone asks." It took me most of the year, but I'm there. I might elaborate on this in a later post.


Get another job offer.
I got four offers, including my first choice! It was hard to leave my great boss and interesting workplace, but this new position is a great opportunity for professional growth. It was also a raise!

Fix up my website
I hardly did anything beyond the bare minimum, and thankfully it wasn't necessary. But in 2017 I think it needs attention again in preparation for another career move.


Get more life insurance
Didn't do this and didn't really investigate it. Probably should go on the list for 2017.

Move retirement investments & Jon's HSA to accounts with lower fees
We made progress on the Roth IRA investments but not the HSA. We moved all of my IRA out of  Pax World and into a lower-fee socially responsible index fund with some in another low-fee index fund.

Refinance or at least change the repayment term on my student loans
Due to other things that happened this year (see below), it didn't make sense to work aggressively on paying down my loans yet but I think we will be able to in 2017.

What else did I think would happen in 2016? 
-Adele is going to start preschool somewhere, hopefully at a Montessori school. 
Yes! She is at a wonderful Montessori school that we love, and it is mercifully costing us less than her daycare.

-Jon has been working on some long-term projects that will hopefully start earning more money this year. 
Yes! He's published now, but we're still waiting on the first royalty check and it's really more a labor of love than a money maker. Another project that took a lot of time and energy this year should be much smoother sailing next year and more profitable too.

-We're planning a fun trip this summer with my parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. 
We did this and it was wonderful. We explored a different part of the country and it worked well for the five of us to travel together.

-There's a chance I might get to travel somewhere exciting for work for a few days, which I would welcome.
Oh boy did I ever. I way underestimated this one. I went on TWO exciting trips before I left my old job and I've been on 3 trips to 3 different countries since I started in September. The recent travel has been a bit too much and I am looking forward to less travel in the immediate future, but I'm sure there will be at least 2 more work-related trips in the first half of 2017.

-If I do travel for more than a few days in a row this year, I think Adele will probably wean. 
Even with all of my traveling, she hasn't weaned. I'm fine with that.

-I don't foresee other big events or changes in 2016 right now, but I know that life can throw you a curve ball at any time. 
I knew there were decent odds that I might change jobs this past year, but when I wrote my goals we hadn't anticipated Jon make a big career change. We basically sent him back to school for a semester and took on debt to do it. Since we had excellent credit, we put the tuition on credit cards with 0% interest for 15-18 months. It was definitely a gamble, but the whole reason for sending him was so that he will be well-trained for jobs with much higher starting salaries. We put a couple of other big expenses on the 0% cards, including the aforementioned vacation with my parents. We unquestionably lived beyond our means this year, albeit in (mostly) calculated ways. 2017 should be the year of setting the balance straight (more on that in another post).

The last noteworthy thing to happen in 2016 was that my grandmother passed away on New Year's Eve. It was not unexpected and she had been mentally ready to go for a long time, but it is still a big change for my family, especially my parents.

I hope all of my readers are ready for a new chapter in your own lives in 2017. I am thinking about my goals and expectations and will post them soon. Cheers!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year in review...delayed

I really love reflecting on the closing year and then looking ahead to the next, and I hate not getting it done before the ball drops, but it's just not going to happen this year. My mom just called to tell me that my Grandma just died (not unexpectedly, but still). I know 2016 has been awful in a lot of ways for a lot of people. I am thankful that it has mostly been a good year for us, but this is a sad way to (nearly) end it. We're hosting a party tonight which will go ahead as planned, so I need this last bit of 2016 to get myself ready (especially mentally) and entertain friends.

Hope you are all celebrating with people you love. Stay tuned for more from me soon!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Using my new job to get to my dream job

I'm trying on the idea of talking about my dream job and really trying to make it a reality. The idea has been forming over the last several months and I've talked about it with a few trusted people, but I haven't really committed to it. I'm starting to think seriously, and put into writing, how I can use my new job to get to my dream job.

I've spent a month now in my new position. I'm still swimming in names and acronyms and trying to find my footing. It's in a new field for me where I'm outside my comfort zone and expect to learn quite a bit. I'll get to travel a LOT more than in my last job—I have 3 big trips in the next 3 months! But the best thing about my new position is that it's temporary (1-2 years) and they expect us to make use of the time, connections, and opportunities to find our next career move.

So I have this dream job that grew out of my last job. I can imagine all of these ways in which I could help expand and grow this movement and community that I'm really invested in. I think it would be personally satisfying and fun, but there's no one (that I know of right now) who can hire me to do this. Part of the task would be finding the funding to make it possible, which sounds stressful and insecure from a purely financial perspective. I'd be something like an entrepreneur, but more like for a non-profit (turns out non-profit entrepreneurs are a thing). I wouldn't be starting something new, but I'd be trying to make an existing thing much bigger. I think I can do it, but I'm also slightly afraid of the amount of responsibility I would take on and the influence I'd have.

There are two big ways in which I can leverage my current position to set myself up for my dream job. The first is by gaining a better understanding of the funding environment and opportunities. The second is to learn more about different organizational structures to determine what would be best to implement at the dream job. Additionally, I have the freedom and support to explore the broader community and make useful connections in other organizations.

The dilemma I've had recently is that this is, in some ways, a very narrow vision for what I could do with my skills, especially considering all of the professional connections that I'll make in this new position. I'm afraid to some extent of pigeon-holing myself by not thinking more broadly. I know that my current job will open doors and likely lead to opportunities that I can't even imagine right now.

Still, it's been a long time since I've had such a clear vision of what I want. When I decided to go to grad school, my goal was to become a professor at a small liberal arts college. I knew that goal might change, but the goal gave me something to aim for. Perhaps I should think of this the same way. The only problem is that I'll surely have to close metaphorical doors at some point on the road to my dream job or risk letting people down and hindering the movement rather than helping it.

I hope the necessary vagueness of my descriptions still convey the essence of what I'm thinking through. It always helps me to blog it through. Suggestions welcome!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Leaving and feeling appreciated

Today was my last day at my job and I start my new job tomorrow. The last couple of weeks have been hectic since I finally gave notice after knowing for quite a while that I would leave in August. I held out as long as possible in the hopes that they might finally review my job description and give me a retroactive raise (although this possibility had been mentioned earlier in the year, it finally became clear that it wasn't going to happen soon enough for me to benefit). I am sad to leave my wonderful colleagues and the exciting mission-driven work they do.

During the last two years there, I've fluctuated between feelings of awe at how many different people I get to work with and feeling unnecessarily isolated and unsupported. But what is clear now that I'm leaving is that I worked with and/or got to know a LOT of people around here.

My boss organized a terrific going away party for me and I was floored by how many people showed up. She said such kind things with specific examples of my work and ways in which I went above and beyond. Another person who spoke appreciated my uncommon perspective in our organization and the other praised the relationship I've built with a partner organization. My boss said that hiring me was the best thing she'd done in her time there, and perhaps in her entire career. I hope that one day I can be as good of a boss to someone else as she has been to me.

It is also immensely gratifying to look back at what I helped do in just over two years. Especially this year, I played a crucial role in a huge project that was a near-perfect fit for me. Somewhere I read the tip to make an email label called "feel good' that you use when people say nice things that make you feel good about your work. I just went through all of my "feel good" tags to transfer them to my personal email and it's so rewarding to be reminded of the outcomes of my work.

Now begins a new and very different chapter. But who know, maybe I'll be back there later. Time will tell!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A new job and other changes on the horizon

I've signed a contract—I'm starting a new job in September! I haven't given notice yet officially so please don't say anything publicly if you know me in real life, but my boss and close colleagues know I'm leaving. I have mixed feelings about it for a variety of reasons, but I think it's the right thing for me to do at this point in my career. 

We're also very excited that Adele will begin Montessori school in the fall and even more excited that it's going to be less expensive than daycare! She's so ready. 

Jon's programming course wrapped up well and he's been applying for jobs. Really hoping he finds a good one! 

As expected, spring was hectic. We had a lot of help from my mother-in-law with daycare pickups and some overnight stays for Adele during the end of Jon's course and my crazy time at work. We went on a great vacation with my parents and then I traveled for work. My garden and houseplants need some attention! Thankfully, we don't have much planned for July and August and my work is settling down. I'm trying not to say yes to too many things.

I thought this would be a good time halfway through the year to check in on my goals for 2016. How am I doing? 

Read at least 4 books
I finished one back in January but nothing since then. I'm behind! Time to get reading.

Make our backyard more playable.
Done! We fenced it and immediately started spending more time out there. Definitely the right decision. Still plenty of yard projects to do, but we cleared the biggest hurdle.

Make peace with having one child.
I'm working on it.


Get another job offer.
Yes! One I accepted! See above.

Fix up my website
No, I managed to get a new job with only minimal changes to my website. Still needs an overhaul!


Get more life insurance
No progress on this front.

Move retirement investments & Jon's HSA to accounts with lower fees
No real progress on this one either, but I may spend some time on it this weekend.

Refinance or at least change the repayment term on my student loans
Jon's course really changed the calculus on this one. I wasn't expecting we'd take on a lot more debt this year. For the time being, it makes sense for us to continue making the same payments on my student loans until we pay off Jon's course. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

April showers bring…everything.

For the at least the fourth year in a row, April seems to be consistently eventful and/or hectic. Oh wait, you mean it's May already?!

Work is insanely busy right now. I tried to take Friday off and ended up taking only half of Friday off. I got more than 30 new emails on Friday afternoon. If I don't stay right on top of my emails, they very quickly pile up—and that's just work. My personal email is like a precarious stack of snail mail that I aspire to deal with but mostly just ignore. I've said yes to too many things, both personally and professionally. I want to do them, but I'm running short of hours in the day and having to do some ruthless prioritization. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I think about the dissertation home stretch and try to take some inspiration from that. Similar to then, I'm working towards a very specific goal and deadline. I can see the end in sight which is why I can justify pushing myself to do a ridiculous number of things.

I thought I'd do some work tonight, but instead I've just procrastinated. Maybe I needed a night to veg out with some tv, ice cream, Facebook bingeing, and blogging (OMG, this sounds like a sentence a childless person would write. The beauty of early bedtimes—when they work!). And now I even went back and read my posts from April of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. It's the month of getting fellowships, getting married, insanely time-consuming field work, defending my dissertation, crushing rejection, and at least one successful interview.

Work is good, just really busy. More changes were announced but nothing that directly affects my job. Still don't know what I'll do when work slows in July, but now I'm getting positive signs for the future of my project, so that's something good at least. I also may get another offer soon.

I'm really looking forward to a vacation in June. A real vacation where I don't answer any work emails and barely even check them. Imagine that!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Updates on job prospects and school

Lots has happened since I wrote about our exciting spring. It's living up to expectations!

On the job hunting front, both of my interviews went well enough that I have more coming up soon. I've realized that the timing is going to be a little frustrating because I think I will have to make a decision about another job offer before I really know in which direction my job is headed, but I think I just have to accept that reality. For now I'm trying to go with the flow and explore my options.

It turns out I might also have more options than I thought within my organization. I ended up in conversation today with a colleague who wants to create a new position and thinks I'd be perfect for it. Really, incredibly flattering and exciting. This whole conversation happened at someone else's going away party so it was very informal. I told her that I am considering outside positions and I'm going to talk with her more soon.

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by another colleague (I don't actually know them well at all; they're more like work acquaintances) who said she thought I'd be great for a vague position that some people have talked about creating to expand an existing project. I took that as an encouraging sign.

Jon's course is going very well and the program has a great history of placing its students when they finish. So far he hasn't needed to spend 60 hours/week on it which has been a relief. His mom has been frequently doing daycare pickup and helped on days without daycare. My mom is coming to stay with us next week to help out during an especially busy week for both of us. We're very thankful to have family help!

We have some progress on preschool options next year for our almost-3-year old, but no certainty yet (except several places where she will NOT go).

Between my job prospects, Jon's course, and Adele's preschool possibilities, there's plenty to weigh and resolve in the next 6-8 weeks.