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.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Heading into an intense spring

Since I wrote my goals for 2016, we made a major decision. Jon is about to start an intensive programming course with the goal of being able to earn more money in his freelance work while continuing to work on his long-term projects. It's a serious financial investment on our part and it's going to be a huge demand on his time. They estimate that most people in the course spend ~60 hours/week on it. For twelve weeks. Working about 10 hours/week on top of that. I think this is going to be Jon's version of my dissertation home stretch. We're trying to be mentally prepared for it to suck for us and remind ourselves that it has an end. My mother-in-law is going to help out as much as she can with daycare pick ups to give us more flexibility at the end of the day. We can do this!

In other news, during the next 3 months we'll hopefully find out where Adele will go to preschool next year and I might get a job offer. I had two interviews recently and one was great. The other one… meh.  We'll see.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Goals for 2016

I'm a little late on this again but I really like setting goals for the year, even if I don't achieve all of them. Since I started doing this in 2008, I think I've gotten better at setting realistic goals and focusing on what's important. I've been thinking about these for a while now and revising the list (that's part of the reason for the delay). So without any more preamble, I present my resolutions for 2016!

Read at least 4 books
I feel like this is kind of a silly goal, but I'm not sure I completed a book at all in 2015. I do a lot of reading online (mostly newsie-ish pieces) but it's been too long since I've read a whole book. I've got a stack of them next to my bed, and I'd like to finish that stack by the end of the year. I'm already almost finished with an odd little memoir of an entomologist that I got for Christmas (have I written before about how field biologist memoirs are my favorite literary genre?).

Make our backyard more playable.
I want our yard to be a fun and inviting play place for Adele. The first crucial step is getting it fully fenced. I wanted to do that in 2015, but the estimate came in a bit higher than I thought. Once we get that done, I can start some landscaping projects to make it more friendly for wildlife, kids, and our dog.

Make peace with having one child.
I wanted two and always imagined two (and so did Jon), but having gone through a frightening birth and a difficult recovery, Jon is set on one and it probably makes much more sense for us for plenty of reasons (especially financially). And honestly the older Adele gets, the less excited I am about returning to pregnancy and baby stages, but it does still make me sad. As most of my friends now are having their second or third, of course I'm excited for them but this jealousy also creeps in and manifests in strange ways. I've been giving away or moving baby stuff to "deep storage" for the next family member and that helps. By the end of this year I'd like to confidently and happily say we're "one and done" if anyone asks.


Get another job offer.
It still feels very possible that I'll lose my job this year. If not, I'm not sure if I'll want to leave it, but I at least need to put some effort into exploring other options. I learned that the crappy circumstances in my workplace were much worse than I realized for much of last year. All of the anxiety I had about not having support for my project was completely justified. I think there are some power struggles happening and I could be a casualty of that. My day-to-day work is fine (as it has been pretty much all along) but these undercurrents of mistrust and insecurity undermine our ability to be effective. I expect that something big will change for my career this year, one way or another.

Fix up my website
I haven't done much with it since I got this job, but if I want to explore other options, it would help to spruce it up. I think I need to move to a whole different platform so it's not just a matter of making some updates to text. It's time for serious changes that might be complicated so I've been putting it off.


There are a few kind of mundane but important things I'd like to do this year for our finances. Honestly the only reason I'm boring the internet with these is so that I've written it down somewhere and will actually feel pressure to get it done.

Get more life insurance
Jon and I both got term life insurance around the time we got married in 2009. We haven't increased it or made any other changes since our daughter was born, but I think it's time to increase it since she would need to be supported too.

Move retirement investments & Jon's HSA to accounts with lower fees
We have our modest retirement savings is in Roth IRAs with Pax World because we don't want to invest in weapons manufacturing, but I think there are other socially responsible options that have lower expense ratios. There's plenty of other things I'd like to exclude (private prisons and fossil fuels being highest on the list) but I need to choose my battles (ha!) or we won't have any retirement savings because I'll be too paralyzed by all of the options. As for Jon's HSA, it's something we opened a few years ago and at the time it was damn near impossible to comparison shop HSAs to find one with low fees, so we're paying $2.50/mo (Elizabeth Warren should add HSAs to a long list of financial products that need greater consumer protections). (As an aside, I think HSAs are total BS with incentives in all of the wrong places and I'd much rather just have single-payer health care).

Refinance or at least change the repayment term on my student loans
Since my loans were in deferment for several years of graduate school, we're still paying off my Bachelor's degree. A few years ago my loans were sold to Sallie Mae (now Navient) and I hate them so much because they make it unnecessarily difficult for me to make extra payments that reduce the loan principal rather than just pushing back the payment date. I recently learned (through some effectively targeted Facebook ads) that I could refinance my student loans. I never even knew that was a possibility. Our car loan has a lower interest rate than my student loans, so I'm going to look into it. In the end, it might be better to just reduce the repayment term on my current loans to pay them off sooner (thus paying less in interest overall). We should be able to pay more towards my student loans now and we're only about a year from paying off the car.

All of these money things are just tedious because they involve some amount of research and form-filing and it's kind of complicated. So, I need to make time to do it. Maybe I could tackle one of these each quarter.

What else do I think will happen in 2016? 
Adele is going to start preschool somewhere, hopefully at a Montessori school. She's so ready; we wish she could start now but no programs start new students mid-year. Jon has been working on some long-term projects that will hopefully start earning more money this year. We're planning a fun trip this summer with my parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. There's a chance I might get to travel somewhere exciting for work for a few days, which I would welcome. After a few years of not wanting to travel much, I'm starting to get the itch again. I'm missing field work. I think it's highly unlikely I'll ever do as much as I did for my dissertation again, but I wouldn't mind leading a short course/trip in the next few years. If I do travel for more than a few days in a row this year, I think Adele will probably wean. I decided 2 years ago that if we were only going to have one child, then she can breastfeed as long as she wants. I'm still in no hurry to wean but I know I don't make much milk anymore. 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 am thankful every day for our health and safety.

May you all try to make our world a better place, however you can! Cheers to 2016!