Work late or work at home?

Today it is 6:30pm and I’m still at work. Which I suppose by most people’s standards isn’t too late, except I got in at around 7:30am and I have at least another 30 minutes of work to do and this is a regular occurrence for me.

For the past few years I’ve had a hard time with my work/home balance. See as a graduate student and a post-doctoral researcher, this balance didn’t really exist. You were expected to spend your whole life working. Work and home were the same thing. You ate, drank, breathed, became your research. And that was fine… for those 7.5 years I did it.

But now I have a “real job” and have had it for 2.5 years now. And well, now, I want a separation between work and home.

I want to come home and not think about what I have to do the next day. Not work on lecture notes. Not grade papers. Not read journal articles. Not… well… work.

So this year I’ve tried to adopt the policy that work gets done at work and home gets done at home. Which is fine… except now instead of leaving at a “normal hour” and accepting that I’ll have some work to do at home, I leave later and later as I try to get everything done before I get home. Mr Woodpecker is exceptionally forgiving of my coming home at 6pm… 7pm… but when 8pm rolls around his stomach really starts to complain.

But then when I do get home I get 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time with him. No worries about work or my day.

But I get less time with him in the evening. And that’s just a bummer.

It feels like either way I lose. I lose time when I’m with him or my home life becomes my work life.

Am I the only one who has this problem? How do you balance your home-life/work-life in a job that doesn’t end at 5pm?

Working at Kohl’s

I’m finally past training at Kohl’s and am REALLY enjoying working there. The people I work with are super nice and the management has been great to me so far. Everyone is so helpful and willing to answer all the questions I have, also every has such a positive attitude, which is very awesome. I’m also getting really good hours and they have (so far) been really willing to work with my schedule (which is really open, but still, it is nice that they’re so accommodating to my life).

The awesome thing is that I get paid every Friday. So as soon as my Kohl’s money hits my bank account *BOOM* I put that money on my credit card. So this week it was only $53 (1 day of orientation, 1 day of training). The next one will also be small (1 day of training, 1 day of work). However next week I’m scheduled for 21 hours and the week after I’m schedule for 20.

So far I’ve helped close once (2nd day of training) which was *not* fun. Having to put all of the stuff back on the racks that customers don’t end up buying takes me so long because I have no clue where anything goes. So it takes me half an hour to put away the same number of items that experienced employees can do in like ten minutes. I know this takes time and practice, but I really just prefer doing things I’m good at (I know, I know, how  can I get good at it if I don’t do it?)

I’m glad that I’m getting so many hours and can’t wait to work more. I’ve helped so far 2 students and 1 coworker – it was awkward – but that’s the price I pay for working at a store just a few blocks from my school. I’m just glad for the extra income to help pay down this debt. At this rate it will be gone in no time! (I’m expecting great things 😉 )

My new job!

In my post “Six Months to Freedom” I told you all about Mr Woodpecker and I’s plan to eliminate our credit card debt in 6 months.

Part of the plan to pay off this debt in 6 months involved me getting a seasonal job. I applied for around 8 jobs online. Within the day I heard back from Kohl’s. I was in for an interview on the following Thursday. On Saturday they called my references. On Sunday they called to offer me a position. Wednesday I came in for orientation and following Thursday I started training. I’ll be working Point of Sale (POS), which means I have to solicit credit cards. But I also get to talk with people, which I love. It doesn’t pay super awesome, but it is higher than minimum wage. I’m just happy to have  a job. So far I like my manager a lot, which is great. I am still in training, so we’ll see how I like the job once I start working more hours.

I also put an ad up on Craigslist for tutoring and a girl contacted me. I offered a rate of $40/hr. We met a few days later for 2 hours. A very easy $80 made. She is a great person to tutor, very smart, just is taking her Chemistry class online and needs a little guidance. Hopefully we’ll be meeting a few more times before the end of the semester. (Don’t worry, she attends a different school than the one that I teach at, so there is no conflict of interest.)

I am excited about the new job. I’m excited about getting this date paid off. So far this month we’ve paid about $1000 on the credit card, it is a great start to this 6 months of insane, gazelle intensity.


Last Friday I received my contract for the 2011/2012 school year.

I was disappointed (to say the least) when I opened it. It was a 10-month contract for $53,800. The amount was up $2,800 (only a 5.5% increase when I was told 10%).  I was expecting at least a $5,000 increase based on the conversation that I’d have with the dean of our college.

Also, it was still a 10-month contract, which I was sort of expecting – but when I found out that the other new professor in the department ALSO got a 10-month contract for no extra work, well, I got a little angry.

I took the weekend and a day or two to think about it and resolved that I’m going to attempt to negotiate my contract.

I feel a little greedy doing it, but I also am putting in a lot more work above and beyond what most people in my similar position are doing.

What I plan on doing is returning my contract unsigned, with the changes that I want, and a letter of explanation.

So what am I going to ask for?

I think I’m going to ask for either my base salary (no raise) on an 11-month contract (+1 month for being chair, +1 month for my extra iniatives in the department – which is the reason the other faculty member got an extra month). This would bring me to $56,100. I don’t think this is unreasonable.

Actually, let me rephrase, I’ll settle for that number above.

I’ll ASK for an 11-month contract with the raise amount. This would be $59,180. I don’t actually expect to get this much. While I would LOVE to have that much I don’t see it happening.

I plan to make clear in my letter to the Vice President that the first month is for chair duties and the second month is for the projects that I want to see happen in the department including (but not limited to):

  • Starting an American Chemical Society student chapter here on campus. I’ve already made steps towards making this happen and have even devised a plan to integrate students from the local community college to increase transfers from that school.
  • Starting an Honor’s section of General Chemistry in tandem to the “regular” General Chemistry to attract more honor’s students. This year 3 of my 25 General Chem students are Honor’s students. Next year that number will be up to around 10. When 1/2-1/3 of your class is an Honor’s student it helps to provide them a little more bang in the class. I am planning on offering them a 30 minute weekly seminar where we go more in depth to the topics we cover in class and really start to show them the connections. This would take the form of an Honor’s Contract that they’d make with me. I’m VERY excited about doing this, but also I recognize that it will take time from my class prep and chair duties.
  • A complete revamping of the Chemistry curriculum for upper division students. Right now our class offerings are inefficient to the upper division students. I want to revamp the upper division classes to they get a breadth of chemistry knowledge rather than in depth study of just 4 topics. Both myself and the other Chemistry professor see this as a great option, it will just take planning and initiative to make it happen. Both of which are expected to come from me.
  • Starting a monthly “Science Saturday” for local 4th – 6th graders on campus to expose them to our program at a younger age. I see this as a way to get our undergrads connected to the science in a fun way AND to bring future students to campus. We’ll offer this as a free program that we’ll fund through soap sales in December from the Chemistry department and plant sales in the spring from the Biology department. As well, we have a grant to start the initial program.
  • Starting a summer research program on campus including:
    • Grant writing to fund summer research (including faculty summer salary compensation)
    • Time investment in finding research collaborators (will spend two weeks this summer with a collaborator brainstorming grant ideas on my own dime)
    • Time investment in getting preliminary results of said research during the summer

I personally want all of these things to become sustaining entities or well on their way to being sustaining by the end of the next academic school year. All of these are things that will better our department and increase student enrollment over time, but without the monetary compensation for my efforts it will be difficult to motivate myself to do these things in addition to teaching and chair duties – especially since most of these activities would take place during my weekend and summer time.

I also want to make it clear that the additional 11th month in the contract would only be expected as long as I am continuing to make progress on these goals with the end point expectation being that eventually I would procure summer research funding that would pay for my own summer salary and stipends for students.

So – I have to ask. Do you guys think I’m being unreasonable? Should I just take what is being offered or try to fight  for what I think is fair? Keeping in mind of course the fact that our school is in a huge financial hole right now.

(P.S. – It should be noted that I know for a fact that another school in the same family of school’s is DESPERATELY trying to fill a Chemistry position for the Fall. It is in Nashville, which would not be a bad location, and could be  a huge bargaining chip in my favor. I don’t want to leave, but just saying the pieces are out there for an exceptionally successful negotiation.)

Summer Plans

I know it is really early to start thinking about summer. But the idle hands I’ve felt the past week has made me realize that I seriously need to make sure that I have a plan for this summer. Three months off – nothing to do – recipe for disaster! My idle hands won’t be able to contain my boredom. And my budget can’t afford a 3 month trip around South America like I’d like to do. 😉

My goals are to both occupy my time AND to earn some extra money to pay off my debt. So I’ve started coming up with some options, from more likely to least likely:

  1. Sit at home bored all summer. This seems the most likely if I don’t figure out some other plan for myself in the summer. Bonus: I have access to a pool just 1/2 a block away.
  2. Teach a summer class locally. In February I’ll start sending out emails to the local community colleges asking if they have any positions (click here to see  how to get an adjunct position at a community college). I can offer a class at my school, but I have to get 7 students in it to be able to teach it. The chance of that happening is low from what other faculty members have told me. But not impossible. I can also see about helping with some of the adult education classes we offer. They fill up very quick and I have sat in the one I could help teach and know that I’m perfectly able to teach the science portion of that class. So there are quite a few options here that I’ll explore.
  3. Research position. I’ve had a few people offer to have me in their labs over the summer. One in Kansas – a quick half hour drive away. Another in Ohio (one of my collaborators that I’ve published two papers with so far). The last in Switzerland. These would be good career decision moves, but I’d likely not get paid. The would be mainly to develop projects for writing grants that we’d later get funding for – and thus I’d LATER get paid for. No immediate financial gain, but high potential for long term career growth. The last two (Ohio and Switzerland) would cost me quite a bit since I’d have to stay somewhere else, pay for travel expenses, and find something to do with the dog. But they’re still not terrible options. Also, Switzerland I’d be able to do some vacationing on the weekends and work with one of my close friends who is an Assistant Professor there. Two huge bonuses, even though not cost effective in the least.
  4. Grade AP exams. Thanks to the inspiration from TeacHer Finance on this one, I submitted my application to the AP testing center to be a grader for the Chemistry exam. My application was accepted for review, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be chosen to actually grade. If I do get selected I’ll spend June 12 – 18 in sunny Daytone, FL.  I’d get my travel reimbursed and room and board for the time I was there. Also, a stipend – TeacHer got $1,200 for grading Human Geography.
  5. Random job. I could try for some random job in Kansas City over the summer. I could renew my life guarding certification. Work some retail gig for minimum. Something, oh something… Just to keep busy and give me a few extra bucks.
  6. Teaching position at a community college in another location. One way to vacation is to do a working vacation. I am thinking I could apply for an adjunct position at a school in a place where I would also like to vacation in my “off time” – I’m thinking Florida for scuba diving or California to stay with my friends for a while or even Connecticut to hang out with my dear friend Okturn Delmoniq. The salary I get for teaching would pay for my housing while I’m there and I can use my normal “living expenses” money to pay for touristy things. It would be a lot more difficult to get an adjunct position in a place I don’t live – but since I have contacts in San Diego already it wouldn’t be impossible there (I’ve taught at 4 different schools there already).
  7. Summer dive master position. I’ve mentioned on this blog that I’m a Dive Master. It is one of my passions and something that I wish I had more money to invest in to. I’d love to take 2-3 vacations a year dedicated to diving, but in recent years have only been able to manage a trip every other year. I could take this free summer opportunity to find myself a summer Dive Master position. This is essentially the same idea as getting a teaching position at a vacation destination, but I’d probably get paid less, work harder – AND get a great tan. Also, I’d get my fill of under water adventures which sounds pretty awesome to me.
  8. Plan and successfully execute a bank heist. With three months of non-stop planning I think I may be able to successfully find a way to rob a bank with no traces left behind. This is both profitable and will keep me occupied. Please understand – I’m fully joking about this. =)

So there are the options folks – I have a lot of avenues to pursue and will probably try all of them with an equal amount of gumption (with the exceptions of #1 and #8) to see which ones work out to be the best for me.

I talked with BF about a lot of these options today at lunch and he (of course) preferred the ones that involved me staying close. And while I would like to stay near just because it is CHEAPER and closer to him, that doesn’t mean that I feel exclusively like that’s what I want to do. He also commented that he had been thinking that if we did ever decide to have kids that he would definitely have to be the one to stay home with them since he doesn’t have issues going stir crazy like I do. He’s thinking about us having kids? How… cute?

Idle Hands

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One of perks of being in academia is time off. I get a month off over Christmas break. I get three months off during the summer. Yes, I still have some things that I need to do, like prepare for the next semester. Preview text books. Etc. But  without having to go in to the office, meet with students, prepare lectures, go to meetings, ect. In short, I have about two full days of work to do in the period of a month.

This sounds great – in theory. But lemme tell you, all the time in the world and absolutely no responsibilities can be a huge pain in the ass.

I am sitting in my pajamas reading blogs in my bed until 1pm. Then I fix myself a PB&J sandwich and play CityVille while watching Netflix until I get hungry for dinner. Then I’ll go take a shower, wonder what to make for dinner, go buy something to eat. Fix it for BF and I and we’ll sit on the couch doing whatever (movies, TV, videogames, board games) in the evening. In short, I’m doing nothing… All. Day. Long.

Yes, this is a dream…. for about two days. After day three I started getting anxious. After day four I started getting a little crazy. By day five I was turning in to a desperate housewife. I started focusing my thoughts on placating my boredom with shopping (mainly groceries and Christmas gifts). Planning menus and then being angry when my sister or BF didn’t want one of the things I fixed. Focusing on every little thing around the house that needed to be done. Why or WHY did my sister not fold that towel the proper way? In short, I have gone slightly nuts and not like myself in the least. I can totally see how easy it would be for me to fall in to a desperate, depressed housewife with little to no time or effort.

I’ve realized two things:

  1. I  absolutely will have to find myself a job over the summer. I can barely keep myself sane for a week currently, there is no way I’d survive an entire summer.
  2. I need to keep myself busy now. I have quite a few different things I want to work on. So I’ve decided that each day I’m going to give myself a task to do and I can’t “veg” until my task is complete. That way I won’t do the “I’ll put it off till later” routine since I have “all the time in the world.”

So a few ideas of what I need to do each day are as follows:

  • Always make sure to wake up at a reasonable time. 9am at the latest. Also, go to bed before midnight.
  • Each day work on something for one of my classes. Write syllabi, prepare lecture material, prepare online class pages, work on webpage. One of those things a day should take an hour or two of work on the week days.
  • Go running every day with Jack. If it is icy or snowy then go to the gym to run.
  • Read at least 100 pages in a book – I’ve gotten way too far behind in my pleasure reading and I miss it desperately.
  • Don’t turn on the tv or screw around websites until the above are done.

I thought having all of this time off would be awesome, but without the money to go on vacation with my time off, life is very, very boring… and who I become with idle hands is also a little frightening!

I need help….

I’ve spent the last few weeks doing nothing but fantasizing about leaving my job.

It is so impractical to do so – for more than just monetary reasons. I know that to get a great job in the future I need to be successful in the position I’m in now.

But all I can think about is leaving. I’m miserable at work. I’m miserable in this town. Hell, I’m miserable in this state.

I need to get back to a big city, with people that I know and care about, in a job that doesn’t drain me at the end of the day and makes me want to come back the next.

I just need to GET OUT.

I need encouragement… so I don’t do something really rash and quit and never come back…. because as much as I would LIKE to do that I certainly can’t afford it financially or career-wise.

But there is another voice in the back of my head telling me that you only live once…. so why are you wasting it being miserable?

It Was Pure Bliss

I needed to come in to work early this morning to get some stuff set up. I rolled in to work at 7am and set myself up and started doing some work.

And for the next hour and 5 minutes, I was the most blissfully happy that I have been at work in a long, long time.

My music playing, no one else around, getting science done.

Then some of my coworkers showed up and ruined the mood – but man, that is one of the few times in the last year I have felt happy at work. I should come in early more often, it was nice just being by myself.

This is a rare thing in a work environment where people are here until 2 in the morning – 7 days a week. I should take advantage while I still can. =)

“The Talk”

Remember I talked about the job in San Diego that I was thinking of applying for?

I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking about this job, working on some of my application material, and considering whether this is truly something I want to apply for. The main trouble I have is that my fellowship ends July 2011 and the project that I’m currently working on won’t be done in the next 5 months. I want the position, but the timing is off by one year.

Eventually I decided that I should apply. If they really want me there is a possibility that they could hold the position a year for me. If they don’t want me, then I know I’ll be able to get an honest evaluation of how my application looks to a search committee of the type school I want to be at.

The only bad thing that could happen is if they insist I have to start August 2010, and I have to choose between my position here and the position there. I’m not 100% positive which side would win.

Anyway, after deciding that applying was the best thing to do, the next issue was talking to my boss. This afternoon I went into his office. We had a chat about the student I’m mentoring, how my research is going, a paper we’re writing, the seminar that afternoon – and then at the end of the conversation I mentioned the position and how I wanted to apply for it.

He supported the idea. He said he would write me a letter of recommendation and would support my decision to apply. He also told me that I was a great teacher and that I was smart to look at schools with a greater teaching emphasis. I explained why I thought I would be successful at this school in terms of research and he agreed with my assessment.

Then he told me that he didn’t think I should start until 2011. I agreed with this. To quote him: “I’ve been planning on you leaving in 2011, I think you’ll be in a great position to get a great job for the 2011 school year” (okay, a bit paraphrased, but that was the gist). And you know, I don’t disagree with him on this. The timing is one year off.

So the hardest part of this process (as far as I’m concerned) is over. I have my bosses full knowledge and support. I have already contacted one of my collaborators for a letter of support, which he promised to write. I just need to call my graduate advisor to talk to him about a letter of recommendation and a possible collaboration.

I also need a statement of teaching philosophy and a research proposal to apply. I’ve written the teaching philosophy and have had one other person read it. He liked it but said it was a bit rambly (not surprised there – have you read this blog?)

I’ve started writing the research proposal, but it is awful. I have the ideas, but my proposal reads like a 10 year old wrote it. So I’ll focus on that over the weekend and hopefully get it in a place where someone can proof it for me early next week. The goal would be to send out my application material by the 15th of March. I’ll let my letters of recommendation know this on Monday.

I’m so excited I’m giddy. The idea of possibly getting a position at this school is just about my dream job. My life will be very different and this blog will be consumed with new issues of moving, a new salary, new responsibilities, a new city with a higher cost of living. But at the end of the day that is where I want to be. My heart is there, and thus it is my home.

The Numbers Are In!

I got a notice today that my reimbursement for my trip to Chicago was going through with the final numbers that I’ll be reimbursed. Recall that I calculated that I would get reimbursed $929. My total expenses for the trip were $768.

WELL… I’m actually getting back:  $1017.75

A near full $100 OVER what I thought I would receive. Lucky me!

I’m getting 267.30 for my car related expenses (I hypothesized it would be $269 – so I was pretty close there!)

I’m getting back exactly what I paid for my hotel ($460.70).

And for my per diem expenses I’m getting $289.75 (a full $90 over my predicted reimbursement of $200).

So I’ve decided that I’m going to do the following with the reimbursement money:

1) Refund my emergency fund, since I paid for the trip with the E-fund

2) Get the oil changed on the car – since it is time (hopefully there will be no other mechanical issues to fix, though you never know)

3) Put the rest on my credit card