Saturday, December 31, 2011

SWG Coffee Social: Thanks For A Great 2011

The problem with round-up and thank you posts is that it is too easy to forget someone.  For example the inspiration for my post SWG Coffee Social: The Weekly Roundup Post was Classy Career Girl and her Monday Motivation: Your Weekly Career Links.  Every Monday Anna posts a collection of career related links she's discovered around the web. They are the perfect way to start my week.  When her weekly post appeared in my reader the Monday following my roundup post, I realized I had forgotten her. I would now like to give a big thank you to Classy Career Girl for providing me with a little motivation each week.
I also want to point out Classy Career Girl's post 2012 Countdown where she lists her 2011 accomplishments. Many of the items Anna listed are good examples of things you should do if you would like to turn your blog into a business.

I would also like to thank:

- Webb From the Garden Bench my most frequent commenter.  Just when I begin to think my latest post is the biggest dud ever, along comes Webb with a fantastic comment adding new perspective, information and insight to my post. She is also there to offer support and advice when I need it.  Thank you Webb, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. 

- A big Thank You to every one of you who commented on my blog this year, my blog would not be the same without you.

- Grace of GRACEful Retirement for including my blog on her blogroll.  Nicole and Maggie mentioned in the comments on SWG Coffee Social: The Weekly Roundup Post that they get to my blog via Grace's blogroll. I have since reviewed my stats and realized more readers come to my blog via Grace’s blog roll than any other source. Thank you Grace for including me and improving my blog's traffic.

- Thanks to all the other bloggers who have added me to your blogroll. Also, if you are a blogger who blogs about issues that are of interest to women let me know I would be happy to add you to my blogroll.

- Sarah at Citizen Reader for linking to my post Band Discussion: How did you get into nonfiction? in her Tuesday Articles: Viva nonfiction! I was honored to be included in her post. Her link made this post one of my most popular of the year. Thank you Sarah and also thanks for keeping my nonfiction TBR list full.
- Also thank you to Nicole and Maggie and everyone else who has linked to my posts in 2011.
- Thank you to each and every one of you who took time out of your busy schedule to read my posts.  I wish all of you a Happy and Healthy 2012.  Thanks again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Three Amazing Books I Read in 2011

Lisa Bloom wrote in her book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World:
If you can't name three amazing books you've read in the last year, you're not reading enough.*
I am happy to say I had no trouble coming up with three this year. They are:

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx:
LeBlanc was introduced to the characters in the book while covering the drug trial of 'Boy' George, a 23 year old drug dealer, who ends up sentenced to life without parole. Through George, LeBanc meets Jessica one of his girlfriends and spends the next 11 years documenting Jessica’s life along with other family members living in their impoverished Bronx neighborhood. The book includes the obstacles, daily chaos and violence the members of this family encounter as they go about living their lives. I previously wrote about this book here.

The characters in this book stayed with me months after finishing the book. So much so that whenever I hear the name Foxy or Coco I immediately think of them. This book not only belongs on my list of amazing books for the year, but of all time.

Matt Taibbi’s  Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America:
In my post Searching for the Truth, I wrote this was the most eye-opening book about what is really going on in this country that I have ever read. The book provides a somber picture of the financial and political situation in the US after the 2008 crisis including why Alan Greenspan is the biggest asshole in the world, the truth about the mortgage crisis, the commodities bubble, health care reform and Goldman Sachs. While I found the entire book to be an important read, the chapter I talked about the most throughout the year was “The Trillion Dollar Band-aid.” In order to get health care reform passed Obama had to pander to the pharmaceutical corporations and the health industry. Also, he was unable to change or repeal the McCarran Ferguson Act, a law originally intended to be temporary, that exempts the business of insurance from most federal regulation, including federal anti-trust laws — including the laws against collusion or price fixing. So basically insurance PPO's in the Milwaukee area are going to continue to be a monopoly with the ability to charge the consumer exorbitant prices and there will be nothing we can do about it.

Iris Chang's The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II:
I read this book after seeing it listed on both Lisa Bloom's recommended reading list and on Sarah at Citizen Reader's list of 100 Bestish Nonfiction Titles: History.  This book tells of the horrific tragedy that occurred in what was then called Nanking, China during the Japanese invasion in 1937; hundreds of thousands of Chinese were raped, tortured and murdered by Japanese soldiers. Though I am embarrassed to admit I had not heard of Nanking or the atrocities that occurred there prior to reading the book this may not be my entirely my fault. Despite strong evidence that the order to kill was a military order and that the emperor and government were likely aware of the policy, many Nanking perpetrators not only went unpunished after the war, but went on to play key roles in Japanese government and business. In the years following the war, Nanking and what occurred there was down played by the media, the history books and even by China itself. 

* Lisa Blooms amazing reads were The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Making Women Count: Ending the Year on a Low Note

Last year around this time I read a little book by Susan Bulkeley Butler called Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World. I was so inspired by the book's message (Butler re-assesses how far we’ve come – and how far we have to go) that I made it my 2011 blog goal to Make Women Count. Looking back on my blog postings throughout the year I have to admit many of them were down right depressing.  Here is a sampling:

Shadeism:  I discover that discrimination still exists between lighter-skinned and darker-skinned members in the same community. Mothers along with their daughters, some as young as six, continue to use potentially harmful skin lightening creams. The question has to be asked, "Don't women already have enough to deal with?"

I am Guilty of Gender Bias - In the midst of my Making Women Count Project, I am disappointed with myself when I automatically and wrongly assume a woman I was introduced to is the subordinate and the man she is with the manager.

Muslim Women Reformers - Ida Lichter’s book Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression I read of the horrific plight of Muslim women and the brave women reformers who risk everything including their lives to fight for social and political rights.

Should Employee Report Sexual Harassment - In this true story, both the female employee and her female manager are afraid to report sexual harassment for fear of retaliation while their male manager continues to grope, intimidate and harass them. 

The Body Project - In Joan Jacobs Brumberg's book The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls I read increasingly since the early 1900s middle-class adolescent girls and women went from developing their inner beauty to working on their body; so much so that their bodies have become a project.

Gender Wealth Gap - In Mariko Chang's book Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It I learn that although women are making advances in the pay gap they still drastically drag in the wealth gap owning only 36% as much wealth as a man owns.

Lisa Bloom Preaches to the Choir - In Lisa Bloom's book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World I learn twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize and that twenty-three percent would rather lose their ability to read than their figures. Come on ladies please stop spending so much time watching reality TV and start spending more time reading.

Then last night I viewed this enlightening video:

In the video Sheryl Sandberg informs us we still have a real problem:
Women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States in 1981. Since then, we have slowly and steadily made progress, earning increasingly more of the college degrees, taking more of the entry-level jobs, going into previously male-dominated fields, moving up each step of the ladder. But there is one big exception to this improvement -- the top jobs. Thirty years later, we have not come close to holding our proportional share of positions of power in any industry.

More alarmingly, the numbers at the top are no longer improving. In the 2008 election, women lost seats in Congress for the first time in three decades. Across the corporate sector, women have held 15 to 16 percent of the C-level jobs and Board seats since 2002. Globally, only nine of 190 countries are led by women. So even as people worry about boys falling behind girls in education and write articles with headlines like "The End of Men," we have to acknowledge that men still run the world. Our revolution has stalled.
For me the lowest point of the video was Sheryl's revelation that:
My generation really sadly is not going to change the numbers at the top.  They are just not moving.  We are not going to get to 50% of the population.  In my generation we are not going to get to the 50% of women at the top in any industry.
What generation is Sheryl talking about? Sheryl Sandberg was born August 28, 1969 and is seven years younger than me.  She is right though; my generation and those of you who are a few years younger are not going to achieve this. We had too far to go:

I remember my female dorm mate back in 1981, a civil engineering major whose professor advised her to change her major because women were not qualified to be engineers.  She stuck it out though, coming home in tears more than once after being publicly ridiculed in class.  He gave her a "D."  She graduated five years later with a B.S. in Engineering. I haven't kept up with her, so I don't know where she is now, but I do know she struggled to even become an engineer.

Which brings me to Rebecca Traister's book Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women one of my last reads of 2011 recommended by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness. I don't particularly enjoy politics, so I really struggled to finish this one; especially the chapters covering the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Since Kim mentioned she enjoyed the chapters after Hillary was out of the race a little bit better I forced myself to soldier on. In the end Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, and became the first woman ever to win a presidential primary contest - a fact down played by the media  Though with her loss to Barack Obama, many first wave feminists also lost hope of seeing a woman elected president in their lifetime.

The book brought home the realization that both sexism and racism still exist in America and played a role in the 2008 election. Both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were victims of sexism.  Plus, feminists questioned whether a Sarah Palin win would actually be harmful for feminism. Here is what Lafferty had to say about Sarah Palin in the Daily Beast:

Not believing in abortion personally was one thing. But preventing other women from exerting full control over their bodies and health, assessing their value as lesser than the value of the fetuses they carried, was, it seemed to me and many others, fundamentally anti-feminist and anti-female.

Other interesting tidbits:
Michelle Obama has been forced to tone down her power and brain to better suit the media's demand for a more subdued and traditional first lady.

And as to Hillary – it was easier to embrace this woman in a state of diminished power, once she had lost the big prize, when she was no longer threatening the chances of the cool guy.

In conclusion:
As the title of this blog post indicates my Making Women Count project is ending the year on a low note, although I am energized to hear Sheryl Sandberg state she is hopeful that future generations can achieve the 50%.  While revisiting my initial Making Women Count post, I realized that despite the depressing revelations and disappointing results Making Women Count continues to be important goal for me. I have decided to continue with the project in 2012.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

SWG Coffee Social: Making a Difference

This week I'd like to call attention to a couple of organizations/bloggers I came across this week who are making a difference in the lives of women.

Ann Daly a former women's studies professor and fem-evangelist announced she is currently serving on the panel of judges for Talbots Charitable Foundation Scholarship Program. Yes Talbots the retailer and marketer of women's classic clothing. Ann (who is also an inspiring blogger) has asked us to get the word out:

This year Talbots will be awarding $200,000 in scholarships, including seventeen $10,000 awards and one $30,000 Nancy Talbots Scholarship.  Applications are due by January 3, 2012. Click here to apply.

The Artworks Projects founded by Leslie Thomas uses design and the arts to raise awareness of and educate the public about significant human rights and environmental issues. In its first five years of existence, AWP’s agenda includes projects exposing genocide, extreme sexual violence against women, the global shortage of potable water, forced labor and human trafficking, and ethnic cleansing and anti-democracy actions. AWP selects topics which are the most intractable, the least covered in the mainstream media, and the most abusive for victims. Talk about taking on the tough issues. To get involved or to donate click here.

If you are looking to read a book or two on activism check out One Green Panet's 14 must read books for activists a list Brooks J Young directed me to on her twitter account. Brooks is an author, activist and author herself. She is executive director of Touching Heart, a support program for women and children escaping domestic violence and has also written a book, "Where God Took My Soul: A Memoir." Her story will both empower and enlighten women who are walking in the same footsteps that lead to the destruction of lives and families. To learn more about Brooks click here.

Are there any organizations or bloggers making a difference in the lives of women that you'd like to call attention to today?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Determining my Myers-Briggs Score

In my post Penelope Trunk Gives a Wake-Up Call I mentioned one of the first steps to achieving career satisfaction is to know your Myers-Briggs score. My problem was I had taken six different on-line Myers-Briggs assessments and had received six different scores.

How I discovered my real score?
I googled "best" Myers-Briggs book and discovered Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger's book Do What You Are. Unfortunately this book does not include the assessment. Apparently the authentic Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test is copyrighted and available only through organizations, counselors and therapists approved by the Myers and Briggs Foundation. The book does describe each of the 8 personality traits in detail along with providing examples. After a process that included comparing my previous six Myers-Briggs scores with the examples in the book and asking my husband for his opinion I came up with ISFJ.

The book includes profiles of people who enjoy their jobs for each personality type. While reading Monty’s profile (a stressed 44-year old ISFJ who was an over-worked tax accountant with an inability to say no until he became a sole practitioner CPA, working exclusively for nonprofit organizations), I had an aha moment I am an ISFJ. In addition to reading the strengths and weaknesses for ISFJ in the book I found Portrait of an ISFJ on the Personality Page website to be quite helpful.

What did I learn?
I discovered I prefer working in a highly structured, traditional organization with a clear mission. I am more comfortable working one-on-one, helping others or with other people who share my personal values and beliefs. I am hard working, loyal sometimes to a fault and prefer staying in my comfort zone. I also don't like presenting my work to a group without adequate time to prepare well in advance, have a hard time saying no and am a reluctant manager.

I found it interesting how many of the above items I touched on in previous blog posts:
What is next?
I am considering getting a certified professional to interpret my score. I’d like to discuss whether I should pursue an alternative job in accounting that better fits my personality, make a complete career change or just stay where I am at. Have you done this? Did you find it helpful? Do you feel knowing your Myers-Briggs score has made a difference in your life and career?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Saturday Inspiration: Freda du Faur

Today in history, Freda du Faur climbed Mount Cook in New Zealand in a record six hours. She was the first woman to scale the peak and the first unmarried woman to climb in New Zealand. NOTICE SHE IS WEARING A SKIRT although according to Wikipedia she had on knickerbockers and long puttees underneath.

If you would like to learn more about Freda du Faur and her mountaineering feats she did write a book called The conquest of Mount Cook and other climbs; an account of four seasons' mountaineering on the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

Who or what inspires you today?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Wisdom

This weekend I've decided to participate in Hot Coco's Weekend Wisdom Blog Hop. Participants are to answer one of three questions.  I am choosing:

What did you learn this week that made a difference in your life, and could make a difference in someone else's?

I have to admit I’ve been a having a difficult time lately. I wake up at odd hours like 4:00 a.m. and am unable to fall back to sleep. I'm irritable. I wrote about losing my cool here. Then this week I got uncharacteristically upset when management announced a new training program based on the book Who Moved My Cheese? Unable to control my emotion, I expressed what a colossal waste of time and money this would be. Even my boss who usually backs me up couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let this one go. I find myself unable to control how my brain works. On Friday, I had two difficult meetings along with an important project due. By the end of the day I was asking questions that didn’t make sense, began addressing co-workers by the wrong names and even told a salesman a co-worker was absent when she was clearly sitting at her desk.*

When my husband (who can tell my mood by looking into my eyes) asked what is wrong and that I seem so edgy lately, I realized I've had enough. Similar to the smoker who wakes up one morning and realizes they’ve had enough and its time to quit, I realized I no longer want to be like this. I am tired of being angry all the time. I let little annoyances fester into obsessions; the girl at the gym who never stops talking and invades my space, the manager who discounts all ideas that are not his or the one who boasts about how smart he is. Plus, I'm not feeling up to all the cooking and cleaning that comes with hosting Thanksgiving.

I told a friend my New Year’s resolution was going to be working on not getting so upset over trivial things. In 2012 I turn 50. I don’t want to be this angry middle-aged woman. Surprisingly she answered with:
That is so weird. I just told another friend that my New Year’s resolution is to relax and not get worked up about things that don’t really matter. Mellow out and take things slower. Stop killing myself for my ungrateful kids and start doing more for myself. I want more out of life. We were talking about all the ailments we have as we get older and I told her what your doctor told you that time “embrace the new you”. I still think that is sadly hilarious and true.**
Then it hit me, I along with my friends are experiencing the symptoms of menopause. During this crazy time, when I can’t control what is going on with my body I am going to need the support of friends or possibly a good therapist more than ever. I have always taken great pride in my ability to control my emotions and was able to work uninterrupted for many hours. A healthy diet and exercise program is not going to be enough. Perhaps recognizing that I have a problem and committing to change will make a difference.

* The appearance of fine lines on my face along with my perpetually chapped lips is not helping my mood.

**This was my doctor’s response when I asked her what I could do about my belly fat.

If you would like to learn more about my thoughts on business books see my post Can reading a book transform you or your business from good to great?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Be informed about Social Security

Both of my parents were eligible for a mere pittance in Social Security benefits at age 65 despite working together on the family farm 31 years before they divorced. My dad worked exclusively on the farm his entire life except for a brief stint with the army reserves. I found this hard to believe. I remember the farm not generating much income when I was small, but I thought it did fairly well once my younger siblings were in high school. How could this be?

Filing a Federal Income Tax return has nothing to do with Social Security:
My family's farm was owned by my grandparents. My father received a monthly allowance which my parents recorded as income when they filed their joint income tax return. The problem is filing an income tax return has nothing to do with the assignment of Social Security. The Social Security portion of a self-employment tax return is filed on a form called Schedule SE. So first my grandfather's name and Social Security number were listed on the Schedule SE and after his death my grandmothers. This meant all of the farm earnings and credits were posted to my grandparent’s accounts and none to my parents. This is an important lesson for anyone jointly running a family business, if you plan on one day collecting Social Security benefits make sure your portion of the business profits are filed on a separate Schedule SE with your name and social security number.

You need to remain married ten years in order to collect on your ex-spouse's Social Security account:
A marriage must last ten years before a divorced person may be eligible for an ex’s Social Security benefit. So if you’ve been married 9 years and ten months hold on for another two months if you want to one day tap into your spouse’s Social Security account. Note you will need to be unmarried to collect these benefits and at least 62 years old.

Read the obituaries:
If you were married to your ex for more than ten years make sure you read the obituaries. Once an ex-spouse has died you are eligible for a divorced survivor benefit. This benefit will be 100% of the deceased ex-spouse's benefit. If you remarry after age 60, you can still receive the survivor benefit.

My dad may be eligible for a spousal benefit:
My Mother, who worked before she was married, returned to work after her divorce and is still working at age 74. Her Social Security benefits continue to increase, as she makes additional contributions. Plus on a side note, her Social Security benefit was no longer subject to income tax once she turned 70 years old. It just occurred to me that my dad could probably collect a higher Social Security benefit if he applied for spousal benefits. He is eligible for 50% of her benefit which is probably more than he receives now. He could also be eligible for free Medicare Part A benefits based on her earnings record, since I doubt he has accumulated enough Social Security credits to be eligible for Medicare on his own. If she were to die before him he would be eligible for the higher deceased ex-spouse benefit.

He was such a jerk towards her throughout their marriage and divorce proceedings though I don’t think I can bring myself to tell him this.

See also:
Do you review your Social Security statements?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

SWG Coffee Social: The Weekly Roundup Post

Welcome to the 2nd week of The SWG Coffee Social.  This week I want to talk about how to meet other bloggers. Since I blog on a variety of topics; work, finance, books or whatever happens to be on my mind when I write my weekly post, I typically avoid blog carnivals. A blog carnival is a compilation of blog links usually centered around a previously determined topic posted on the carnival organizer's site. Many carnivals have a new host each week. Carnivals are an excellent way to promote your blog and to meet other bloggers in your niche.

I have found the next best thing to a blog carnival for discovering other bloggers are weekly roundup posts. I have found many of my favorite bloggers through these types of posts. Here are four bloggers I read who post weekly roundups guaranteed to provide stimulating reading:

Trent Hamm, a personal finance writer, posts a weekly roundup edition on his blog The Simple Dollar.

Nicole and Maggie who work in academia and also write about personal finance provide a Link Love post each week on their blog Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured.

Rhea a 50-something blogger who examines mid-life crisis and ennui in America posts a Friday Links Variety Show on her blog The Boomer Chronicles.

Delia Lloyd of Real Delia who writes about finding yourself in adulthood writes a Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend.

Speaking of weekly lists, Nicole Abdou of Destination Unknown writes a weekly list of Things I Have Learned This Week. Her lessons are inspirational and insightful.  I met Nicole through the LBS tea party and she has written a guest post for this site. You can read her post I've lost my job. Now What? here.

How do you meet other bloggers? Do you participate in carnivals? Do you read weekly roundups? What blogs do you recommend reading this week?

Enjoy your Saturday and Happy Reading.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Lisa Bloom Preaches to the Choir

I hadn't planned on reading Lisa Bloom’s book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World when I picked up a copy from the library. I was only interested in perusing the recommended reading list Alyssa of Socra Teas mentioned in her review of the book. I wasn’t familiar with Lisa Bloom and based on the photo-shopped picture of her printed on the book’s cover I didn’t think she’d have anything to say I didn’t already know.

So I was pleasantly surprised to learn how smart and accomplished Lisa Bloom actually is. She is an award-winning journalist, legal analyst, and trial attorney, a graduate of Yale Law School and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UCLA. Once I started reading I couldn’t put the book down.

The book is divided into two sections.

The first half explains the problem:
In just one generation women have made huge strides in education (girls now outperform boys in elementary, middle, and high schools; we graduate from college, professional, and graduate schools in greater numbers than males), while our brains have become devalued.

Twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize.

Twenty-three percent would rather lose their ability to read than their figures.

We spend our time watching reality TV, reading tabloids and getting the latest beauty treatments including plastic surgery. Even our news is filled with fluffy pieces; Lindsey Lohan’s latest arrest gets prime time coverage right along with the war in Afghanistan.

Americans know more about Angelina Jolie’s baby bump and her relationship with Brad Pitt than about her humanitarian work. Bloom includes four pages detailing Jolie’s charity work most of which has never been covered by the American media.

She included interesting facts such as:
The United States has a higher ratio of maternal deaths than at least forty other countries even though we spend more money per capita for maternity care than any other country. Yet 38 percent of Americans believe that our health care system is “above average” or “the best in the world.” (Pg. 36)

We imprison far more of our population than any other country in the world. We incarcerate more of our own population, in raw numbers, than China, a notoriously punitive country with more than four times our population. (Pg. 42)

According to the National Endowment for the Arts in its comprehensive 2004 study, To Read or Not to Read, one-third of high-school graduates never read another book for the rest of his life. (Pg. 48)

In the second half of the book she offers solutions:

READ - 80% of the American population didn’t read a book last year

Set aside the tabloids and read books, books that challenge you. If you can’t name three amazing books you’ve read in the past year, you’re not reading enough. Every now and then pick up a book that argues against your point of view, or a novel you wouldn't normally read. You might find your mind changes, or you might find your position more firm than it was before, but either way, you're exercising your mind.

She recommends reading the NY Times plus your hometown paper daily.

Final Thoughts:
Although I wholeheartedly agree with Bloom’s message I feel she was preaching to the choir. If you currently are not a book reader, you are not going to read THIS book and suddenly give up reality TV and celebrity web-surfing in favor of book reading. That is even if you adopt her recommendation to hire someone to clean your house so you have more free time.*

If you have an interest in the dumbing-down of America or are wondering how to find more time to read you may enjoy this book. Another caveat Bloom did write this book from a liberal viewpoint if that bothers you, you probably will not enjoy this book.

*I found it amusing Mary Kay Ash also recommends hiring a cleaning person in her book Mary Kay.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:
Ten Nonfiction Books That Help Us Understand the World

Saturday, November 05, 2011

SWG Coffee Social: An Introduction

For the past several months I have spent every Saturday participating in The Lady Blogger Society Social Tea Party. The tea party was a blog hop designed to gain exposure for your blog and to meet other bloggers. I enjoyed this particular blog hop because it was professional, took place on Saturdays (I work during the week), and didn’t require that I answer questions or create a blog post.

Now that The Lady Blogger Society has new owners who, for the time being, have decided not to continue the tea party. Saturdays are no longer the same and I have been struggling with how to fill this void. I have come up with the:

SWG Coffee Social

I realized what I missed most about the tea party was meeting all the great bloggers. The SWG Coffee Social isn’t going to be a blog hop or a meme, I am going to use these Saturday posts to introduce some of my favorite bloggers and hope that in return you will introduce me to some of yours by providing a link in the comments.

This week I want to introduce three of my former tea party participants:

Monica of Monica's Tangled Web:
Monica is an incredible writer who keeps me enthralled with her tangled webs especially The Road Not Taken - A Book In Progress. Monica and I are similar in that we are close in age, book lovers and dog owners. She is creative so be prepared to be inspired and entertained.

Bella of One Sister's Rant:
For Bella, blogging is her humble attempt to find answers to life’s confusing, irritating, frustrating and what she is convinced, are rhetorical questions. If that isn’t enough to entice you to stop in, she is also quite funny check out her post The Return Of The Speedo?  She has a partner in crime - her dog named Roxy Lee.

I also want to point out a blogger who was inspired into action by the documentary Miss Representation:
Heidi Rettig in her post Miss Representation Documentary: How Women are Portrayed in the Media tells us how she now responds to tweets that under represent women:
Each one I see I re-tweet and then respond to the author asking them if they have seen the film and suggesting a more gender neutral headline that is respectful to the accomplishments of the person in focus – woman or man.

As theatre people, writers, artists, filmmakers, it is within our control to influence how others see and understand women’s roles in society. What conversations have you had about this issue when making your own work?
Thanks for taking action Heidi.

Now I am going to sit back drink my coffee and read all the great blog posts built up in my reader.  Don't forget to let me know what blogs you are reading today...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My boss doesn’t listen to my ideas

Dancing Bear left the following comment on my post a personal attack at work:
The line between a personal attack and a very critical conversation is unclear to me. My boss, who claims it is never personal, sometimes does not listen at all and then makes a strong declaration that an idea or opinion I have expressed is not valid, while the accuracy of his perception is "obvious". To me using ridicule is a personal attack in disguise. In response I recently responded with the question "don't you listen" as part of my response and I was told this was completely inappropriate, that it was a personal attack. I am distraught!

It appears to me you and your boss are caught in a finger pointing contest, “That was a personal attack,” “No it wasn’t you don’t listen.” So, lets forget about that aspect of your comment altogether. Here are the facts as I see them:

Out of frustration you blurted “Don’t you listen?” to your boss after he criticized one of your ideas. Your frustration is a result of his continuously dismissing your ideas to the point of ridicule.

First, you told your boss he doesn’t listen. That probably wasn’t the best thing to say. No manager likes to be openly criticized especially an arrogant one. Managers prefer employees that make them feel good about themselves. (You probably should apologize for your comment or at least mumble something like I didn't really mean that. You do still have to work for this guy)

I can’t determine from your scenario if your boss is a bad manager or if you are being a nuisance.

Here are some questions I want you to consider:

How does your manager treat your co-workers?
Does he reject their ideas and ridicule them as well? If yes, he is most likely the problem. If not, it could be you.

How long have you been with the company?
Sometimes new employees come into a company too strong. They try to implement all of their great ideas before they understand how things are really done stepping on toes in the process.

How long has your manager been with the company?
If he has been with the company for years he may not be open to change or new ideas.

Before you present your next idea ask yourself the following questions:
Do I have a solution?
Bosses notoriously tune out employees that come to them with a problem and don’t offer a solution. Make sure the solution is viable. My department has come up with several great solutions that don’t involve them. Who should clean the office? The owner’s wife. Who should pick up the slack? Monica in our Minneapolis store.

Is your idea a priority? Is the timing right?
My department has had several great ideas over the past couple of years, but currently our company’s main focus is making money and keeping the business afloat. I’ve heard our owner say more than once, “Yes, that would be nice, but not right now.”

Is your idea important to anyone other than you?
We once had a receptionist full of ideas to make her job easier. One was to buy a mail cart. She would place a folder with our mail in the cart and we could retrieve it ourselves throughout the day. Her idea was great for her, but the President of our company does not the time or the desire to track down his own mail.

Two suggestions to make sure your idea was heard:
Repeat your idea and your manager’s response at the end of the meeting:
“If I understand correctly you agree I need a new computer, but I have to wait until the budget is finished in December.”

Follow up with an email:
To summarize our 10:00 meeting we will not be ordering new computers due to budget constraints. We will revisit next year.

Did I interpret Dancing Bear’s problem correctly or did I miss the boat entirely? Let me know what you think?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Can an appreciation for classical music be learned?

I have often thought there is not a musical bone in my body. I did not grow up with music playing in my house, I did not learn to play a musical instrument when I was young and at church there was no singing coming from my family’s pew.

In my husband’s family each of his aunts and uncles played an instrument, his mom dreamed of changing her name to Iris and moving to Nashville to be a country singer and family events culminated with record playing or singing of their favorite tunes.

Needless to say my husband is a music aficionado. He listens to all types of music from alternative rock, pop folk, alternative country, contemporary jazz and new age. After attending a holiday party at the Milwaukee Performing Arts Center a few years ago that included a performance by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra he began listening to classical music.

We now attend one or two MSO performances each year. After the first couple of concerts I found myself enjoying the music, but wished I could appreciate it more. Then I stumbled upon this video in one of Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar's Ten Pieces of Inspiration posts:

Last night we attended the MSO's "Basilica Series: The Eight Seasons" at The Basilica of St. Josephat. The performance included:

Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending, Romance for Violin and Orchestra

Piazzolla Las Cuatro Estaciones PorteƱas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires)
Vivaldi The Four Seasons

In response to my original question can an appreciation of classical music be learned? I have to answer with an emphatic yes.  If you have any doubts watch the video and learn for yourself.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gender Wealth Gap is the Greater Problem

I read Mariko Chang's Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It for a personal finance book club.

Chang begins the book by informing us the gender wage gap appears to be closing. Women now earn 77.8 cents for every dollar men earn (an all time high) and women under 25 working full-time earn 95% of what their male peers earn. Women also make up 47% of the work force.

While I still can’t get excited about a 78% pay gap, compare that to this - women own 36% as much wealth; for every dollar a man owns a woman own 36 cents. Chang calls this the wealth gap. In the long run it is wealth, the value of assets minus debts, not earnings that is more important. Wealth is what sends your children to college, allows you to start your own business, and helps you make ends meet when you lose your job or your hours are slashed. Also consider with everything else being equal, women will need to support themselves an average of six years longer than men.

What factors contribute to the wealth gap?
Chang attributes the wealth gap to women’s inability to tap into the wealth escalator:
The variety of legal, institutional, and societal mechanisms that help some convert income into wealth at a much faster pace than is possible by savings alone. (Pg. 38)

The wealth escalator includes:
Work fringe benefits such as life and health insurance, paid vacation and sick days, and retirement contributions. Women are more likely to work in part-time jobs or in industries that do not offer fringe benefits such as the service sector.

The tax code has provisions more beneficial to those with higher earnings – capital gain tax rates and mortgage interest deductions.

Government benefits such as unemployment benefits which have minimum earnings thresholds. Women generally receive less of a benefit because they have lower earnings to begin with.

Also interesting to note, some government programs discourage asset accumulation. For example with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) people lose benefits if they have managed to save or if they own an automobile whose value surpasses the vehicle asset limit.

The Debt Anchor:
Women tend to have more debt than men, higher interest rates on their debts and are more likely to fall victim to predatory lending practices.

Women are more likely to be single parents and in divorce most likely to have custody of the children. Even those who receive child support have less money to save and invest. Also mothers face stereotypes in the workplace, whereas men experience a wage increase with fatherhood. Mothers receive a 4% wage penalty for the first child and a 12% penalty for each additional child.

Chang proposes suggestions to address the unequal burdens and consequences of care-giving, so that women who work just as hard as men and can be given equal wealth building opportunities. She points out we are only one of two industrialized countries without a national paid maternity (Australia is the other country).

My thoughts:
Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It is a slim book packed with important information that deserves more recognition than it has received. Every woman should be aware of the facts in this book. I had a difficult time finding a copy of this book and from the comments of my fellow book club participants others did as well. Let’s get the word out and on a final note let’s make sure our daughter’s have the tools and knowledge they need to navigate the financial world.

I want to close with the quote Marika Chang included at the beginning of chapter two:

My Aunt… died by a fall from her horse when she was riding out to take the air in Bombay. The news of my legacy reached me one night about the same time that the act was passed that gave votes to women. A solicitor’s letter fell into the post-box and when I opened it I found that she had left me five hundred pounds a year for ever.
Of the two-the vote and the money, I own, seemed infinitely the more important.
- Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Miss Representation

Miss Representation 8 min. Trailer 8/23/11 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.


If you haven't seen this yet, watch it. After you’ve watched it hop over to Darryle Pollack’s blog and read her post Miss Rrepresentation: When will women wise up and rise up?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Penelope Trunk gives wake-up call

I’ve fell for the promises “Find Your Passion,” “Get Unstuck,” “Follow your Bliss” all in five easy steps. Unfortunately, I’ve read the books, performed the exercises (well sort of) and attended the conferences. Where did they get me? Right back to where I started - stuck. That is until I listened to the interview Steven Roy had with Penelope Trunk. I learned more about goal setting in this one interview than with all the books and conferences combined.

Steven Roy is a 40-year old blogger who feels trapped in his day job. He hates working for someone else and wants to have his own business preferably something online. His goal is to be able to spend more time with his two young daughters. He writes the blog Ending the Grind and occasionally posts podcasts of his interviews with other bloggers.

Penelope Trunk is the author of the book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success and writes at the Penelope Trunk Blog. It was in her post how to know what to look for that she linked to her interview with Steven.

At first Penelope’s response to Steven’s lack of any real goal seemed a bit brazen. Then I read some of her old blog posts on goal setting. The questions she asked Steven were nothing new. She has given advice on how to set goals and how to know ourselves over and over again. She became frustrated with Steven's lack of insight into how he wanted to live his life. For me the success of the interview is hearing a real life example of what you need to do and the questions you need to ask yourself to define your goals.

Penelope points out these are not goals:
Doing whatever it takes
To be home to spend time with your children. (This is the end result of a goal)
Building a blog readership (Not a good way to make money)
To be independently wealthy (This is for 5th graders)

To start with you have to be honest with your self and know where your strongest skills are.

Know your Myers Briggs score:
You can take the test for free here and here.
Since I get a different Myers Briggs result with each new test I take, I prefer the StrengthsFinder 2.0 though you do need to purchase Tom Rath's book StrengthsFinder 2.0 to take the assessment (you need the access key provided in the book).

Determine if you are inwardly or outwardly motivated:
According to Wikipedia:
Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure.

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the individual. Common extrinsic motivations are rewards like money and grades, coercion and threat of punishment. Competition is in general extrinsic because it encourages the performer to win and beat others, not to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity.

Why is this important for Steve? Externally motivated people are not particularly good bloggers.

Determine what you want to do with your days:
Everyone has to work eight hours a day. If you have a family to support, you have to work eight hours a day. What do you want to do with your time? Talk to people, market, write? How can you make those eight hours good?

To determine what you want to do look at someone’s life:
Don’t look for a career look for a life. There is no way to know what career you’d be happy in without doing it. Look at people’s life. How can you do what they do to have their life? A business and a life go hand in hand.

When you own your own business you are actually trading employers for clients. Clients can be much more demanding than an employer. If you lose a big client you can be out of business.  Think about all the time spent marketing new clients; most entrepreneurs work many more hours than eight hours a day. Is this the life you want?

How much risk can you handle:
Steve has a family and a wife who stays home with the kids.  If he quits his day job he will no longer have employer sponsored medical insurance, sick days, holiday pay or vacation time. He will be responsible for self employment tax and paying quarterly income tax estimates. I have heard that before you quit your day job your side business should be generating double your current salary.  Plus, remember half of all businesses fail within the first four years. I have known business owners who have mortgaged their homes, drained their 401(k) accounts and charged up their credit cards to start a business that eventually failed.

Learn about yourself by looking at your actions:
Penelope thinks Steve likes his job, if he didn't like it he would change it right now.  This one really hit home with me.  I talk about changing careers and quitting my day job all the time, but I never do anything about it.  Why? I like certain aspects of my day job more than the thought of changing jobs or careers.  I've hated my job in the past and have done whatever it took to find a new job. I think Steve's situation is similar, if he really hated his job he would move in with his in-laws and quit his job right now.

Lastly, Penelope gave advice on how to be a successful blogger:
Nobody wants to know how great you are. To be successful you need to add value to people’s lives. People want to watch you change.  People want to watch how others live their life and learn from it. Don't spend time on a blog if you don't know why you are writing it.

Writing a blog is a lousy way to make money:
Penelope wrote for free for seven years before she was able to make enough money to support her family.  A better way to make money online is to have a great landing page and understand Google. All the markets are search driven right now.  Use adWords and adsense; sell something to people that is under-monetized.

After listening to the interview this is what I think Steven should do:
I couldn't help but think of all those hours he spends working on his blog; his goal is to spend more time with his daughters. Why doesn't he use this time to be with them? His gripes are that he is not able to walk them to the bus stop in the morning or take time off to attend their activities. It sounds to me like he needs a job that is flexible.  Once he determines how he wants to spend his days - talking to people, marketing, or writing, he should seek out people who do this type of work with a flexible schedule. Then determine how to do what they do. He could use his blog to brainstorm his ideas and to network.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Discovering my strengths
How to pull yourself out of a slump
Who are you meant to be?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

A personal finance book for women

I recently was asked to recommend a list of personal finance books for women. I had a couple of titles in mind, but decided to ask my local librarian for additional suggestions. She recommended Susan L. Hirshman's Does This Make My Assets Look Fat?: A Woman's Guide to Finding Financial Empowerment and Success. Recalling that Citizen Reader liked this book, I decided to check it out.

Susan L. Hirshman, a wealth strategist and CPA has written a book using dieting strategies as a metaphor for successful money management.

What I liked:
I liked Hirshman’s evaluation phase. Normally, I skip over the personal evaluation sections in money management books, but this one was easy to follow and worth doing. Hirshman stresses the importance of knowing what you have, what you can expect to save and what it is that you want to have. She recommends doing this analysis every five years (every three if you are near or in retirement). I also liked that she indicates items like cars and furniture are not assets.

The book is current, published in 2010 it covers the 2008 recession and the housing market collapse. Hirshman points out that a house is a place to live not an investment.

Hirshman does an excellent job explaining risk and the difference between diversification and asset allocation.
A portfolio that is diversified does not necessarily mean that it is well allocated, because you may have lots of different investments but allocation or the balance between the asset classes is not optimum. (Pg. 88)
She recommends rebalancing your investments on a yearly basis.

The book explains the different types of investments; stocks, bonds, ETF’s, and annuities. It includes a section on insurance and why we may need various insurance products. I liked that Hirshman gave the drawbacks and criticisms of investments (e.g. variable annuities) before giving her opinion.

What I didn’t like:
I thought the diet analogies weren’t necessary and at times out of place and down right annoying. I understand the need for a personal finance book for women; women earn less, take more time off from work and live longer etc, but are separate books really necessary to explain basic financial concepts?

Hirshman recommends rolling your 401(k) from a previous employer into your new employer’s 401(k) plan. Granted rolling this account into any plan is preferable to cashing it out, Hirshman should have told the reader many 401(k) plans have high fees and are limited in their investment options. Opening an individual IRA may be a better option.

Overall the book is a comprehensive introduction to personal finance. I would have recommended it as a book to purchase for future reference, but despite including a glossary of terms there isn't an index. As I wrote this review I wanted to go back and re-read a couple of items and was frustrated by the lack of an index.

As to my list of personal finance books for women, to date I have only two other titles:
Suse Orman’s Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny

Vicki Robin's Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Do you have a favorite personal finance book I should recommend?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How do I know my 401(k) assets are safe from my company?

Here are some of the questions I have received over the years from employees concerned about their 401(k) assets:

Are my 401(k) assets safe from my company? Can my company withdraw monies from my account to pay company debts? Can they use my 401(k) account as collateral for a loan? What if my company goes bankrupt? Can my assets be seized along with the company’s? How can I be sure my company is forwarding my money to the mutual fund company on a timely basis or at all?

I usually answer by explaining that a 401(k) account is a separate entity from the company. This account is heavily regulated and can not be accessed by the company. I also tell them our 401(k) account is audited each year and as a part of this audit we must prove employee assets were transferred within Department of Labor guidelines. Currently our payroll company transfers employee deductions directly to our plan’s 3rd party administer shortly after our payroll has been run.

There was an informative article in today’s Milwaukee Journal that answers most of these questions: How safe is your 401(k)? by 401(k) adviser Michael J. Francis.

Francis explains Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA, to safeguard qualified retirement plan assets in 1974. This act was a result of the demise of the Studebaker Motor Co. and the questionable business dealings of Jimmy Hoffa Sr. If you don’t know the story I highly recommend you read the article.

Francis informs us of ERISA's protections:
ERISA requires when your 401(k) contribution is withdrawn from your paycheck that the funds be deposited in a trust account, separate from your employer's assets and separate from any financial institution's assets.

This requirement protects you in the event your employer, or the financial institution that holds your retirement assets, runs into financial trouble.

This rule also protects 401(k) savings if you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of filing personal bankruptcy. This risk has always been an issue for business owners and professionals subject to malpractice lawsuits, but more people are benefiting from this protection in today's difficult real estate market.

There are two creditors, however, that even ERISA cannot protect you from: the IRS and a former spouse. The law states that if you owe either of these parties money, they can collect by a forced liquidation of your 401(k) account.
For a more informative answer to the basic responsibilities regarding timely 401(k) deposits I turned to the United States Department of Labor:
The deductions from employees’ paychecks for contribution to the plan must be deposited with the plan as soon as reasonably possible, but no later than the 15th business day of the month following the payday. If you can reasonably make the deposits in a shorter time frame, you need to make the deposits at that time.

For plans with fewer than 100 participants, salary reduction contributions deposited with the plan no later than the 7th business day following withholding by the employer will be considered contributed in compliance with the law.
On the US DOL website I also discovered What you should know about your 401(k) plan a comprehensive publication covering everything you should know about your 401(k) plan. To protect yourself the DOL recommends you should review regularly:
  • Make sure you have received the plan’s Summary Plan Description and read it for information on how your plan works. Read other documents you receive from your plan to make sure that you keep up with any plan changes, and check that the information on your benefit statement is accurate.
  • If you are in a defined contribution plan, ask for information on the investment choices available in the plan, and find out when and how you can change your plan account investments. 
  • If you suspect errors in your plan information, contact your plan administrator or the human resources department.  
  • If there have been changes in your personal information, such as marriage, divorce or change of address, contact your plan administrator or the human resources department.
  • Keep your plan documents in a safe place in case questions arise in the future.
Here are Ten Warning Signs your 401(k)Contributions are Being Misused:
  • Your 401(k) or individual account statement is consistently late or comes at irregular intervals
  • Your account balance does not appear to be accurate
  • Your employer failed to transmit your contribution to the plan on a timely basis
  • A significant drop in account balance that cannot be explained by normal market ups and downs
  • 401(k) or individual account statement shows your contribution from your paycheck was not made
  • Investments listed on your statement are not what you authorized
  • Former employees are having trouble getting their benefits paid on time or in the correct amounts
  • Unusual transactions, such as a loan to the employer, a corporate officer, or one of the plan trustees
  • Frequent and unexplained changes in investment managers or consultants
  • Your employer has recently experienced severe financial difficulty
 If you suspect a problem the DOL recommends:
Starting with your employer and/or plan administrator. If you find an error or have a question, in most cases, you can start by looking for information in your Summary Plan Description. In addition, you can contact your employer and/or the plan administrator and ask them to explain what has happened and/or make a correction.
If that does not resolve the problem:
Contact the Department of Labor’s EBSA for questions about ERISA, help in obtaining a benefit, or:
  • If you believe your claim to benefits has been unjustly denied or that your benefit was calculated incorrectly;
  • If you have information that plan assets are being mismanaged or misused;
  • If you think the plan fiduciaries are acting improperly; or
  • If you think your employer has been late in depositing your contributions

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Anger in the workplace

I lost my temper with an employee last week. I was working with a manager from another department first thing in the morning when I spotted her. I turned and said, “By the way Sue I need the numbers for the XYZ report as soon as possible.” She responded with, “A good morning would be nice.” Sue has a reputation for being rude and difficult to work with. Many days employees will try to engage her in pleasantries (such as saying good morning) only to be completely ignored. I wrote about her previously here. She doesn’t work for me, but she does create some of the spreadsheets I work with and provides me with numbers for her department. She doesn't consider the work she does for me a priority and I struggle to get the information I need on a timely basis. I finished working with the other manager and stormed over to her desk proclaiming, “You should talk about Good Morning, we are lucky to get a good morning out of you once every six months.” She stomped off muttering something under her breath.

I went to her manager and asked him to have Sue email me the numbers I needed A.S.A.P. They were emailed to me within a couple of minutes. I ran into another manager while still worked up, telling him what had occurred and proclaiming I’ve had it with Sue I am pulling my spreadsheets from her and giving them to someone else.

First he high-fived me for standing up to her. Then he patted me on the back and told me to calm down, “You know this is a women thing. Women can’t work together and they never forgive.”

At the time I wasn’t in the mood to start another argument, but what does both Sue and I being women have to do with anything. When I lost my temper it was because I am a woman (by the way I can count on one hand the number of times I have lost my cool with an employee). Or the fact that Sue is rude to everyone is because she is a woman. When one of the other managers (who loses his cool all the time) gets angry people don't say it is because he is a guy they say, "Oh that is just the way Scott is."

Did my angry outburst accomplish anything?
I did get my report and I made the point that I am not going to sit back and take rude behavior anymore, but my relationship with Sue is now more strained than ever. Now when she sees me she turns her head or walks the other way. I will have figure out how to work with her all over again. Work relationships shouldn't have to be this hard. I refuse to apologize.

The real problem:
The real problem is that Sue has been allowed to treat her co-workers poorly for years with no repercussions. Her manager refuses to acknowledge that she is a problem. My own manager always says we don’t have to like each other we just have to learn how to work with each other. I think learning how to work with each other should include treating each other with courtesy and respect.

For another take on anger in the workplace see FrauTech's post where she asks: Can anger be an effective tool in the workplace? Or is it always out of line?

What are your thoughts on anger in the workplace?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I've lost my job. Now what?

A guest post by Nicole Abdou:

“You've got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you're not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.” ~Steven D. Woodhull (U.S. geologist, 1976-)

Something happened in late July that I thought I would never recover from – I lost my job. My greatest fear was realized as soon as my two managers walked into my office. One of them was based out of Atlanta, the other out of Tampa. When they entered my office unannounced, I knew it was over.

I handled it as well as I possibly could – I smiled, I thanked them for their patience, I wish the company luck, and I gathered my things. In less than 15 minutes, everything I had worked for was over. My purpose, or so I thought- was lost.

I went home and the best way I can describe my feeling was numb. I felt numb and shocked. I felt betrayed and humiliated. I just sat there, staring at the wall, and the once talkative, hyperactive girl, was now super calm and super void of any visual emotion. I went to bed wondering if this would change my life in a way I would not recover from.

Surprisingly, I awoke with a sense of calm and my head was clear. I knew, without a doubt, life WOULD be different, but it is entirely up to me which path I will take. I could lay in bed, feeling sorry for myself, waiting for people to come and console me – but the truth of the matter is, I am a grown woman with almost 20 years experience and a great education – I needed to pull myself up by my boot straps and make a plan.

That morning I made a list that would change my outlook for the rest of the time I was waiting for my “career life” to begin again. This list was broken into three different categories:

1. What I wanted.
2. What I needed.
3. What I could eliminate from my life.

Once I set a mini-plan in motion, I felt like I had a little more control over the situation.

For example, here are my top 3 in each category:

1. Get out of Non Profit.
2. Learn Arabic
3. Exercise More

1. Start the unemployment process
2. Organize my job search in a special notebook
3. Budget wisely

1. Unnecessary expenses: (ex. Gym Membership, etc.)
2. Annoying Conference Calls (that was more humorous than an actuality)
3. Waking up at 6am

Again, some of the list making was mainly humorous, but it did allow me to put life back in perspective.

Look – I’m not going to sugar coat it, unemployment is HARD. I will admit, I am on a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but one thing remains the same – it’s up to me how I react to things. I got the messy part out of the way first (unemployment, turning receipts to my old job, making sure the loose ends were tied, canceling my gym membership, filing a deferment for my student loans.) Once that was done, I could get to the business of a job search.

I spent about 3 days updating my resume and constantly applying for jobs. I made a point to wake up by 8am, and have a little to-do list. I would spend up to 3 hours searching and applying for jobs, and about another hour organizing something in the house. I made a point to call at least one friend a day, just to get that emotional support we all need. But planning out my day, and being smart about how I spent my time, this has given me the opportunity to not dwell on what went wrong.

If there is one piece of advice I can give you, just to weather the “unemployment storm,” is to focus on your next big move. This is actually a blessing in disguise! I know, I know.. hard to imagine it. But here is YOUR chance to be strategic. Find that next “it thing” you want to do – Go back to school, start your own business, or find that company that really fits your work/life style.

More importantly, take some time for you. No, I don’t recommend just lying around and crying, (though an evening or so of this can be quite therapeutic!) Read that book that is lying on your night stand, write in your journal, take a free class at your public library – just DO SOMETHING. If you have a spiritual side, then pray. If you prefer communing with nature – go for a hike. This is your time to soul search.

Focus. Plan. Eat Ice Cream on occasion. Pray. Talk it out. Cry if you have to. But move forward. Do what you have to do to get to the next part. I assure you, when we fast forward 1 year from now – it will all make sense.

Good luck!

Nicole Abdou, 38, is the author of Destination Unknown and former Communications Director. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her Egyptian husband. Traveling, photography, and Zumba take up her free time. In her blog, Destination Unknown , Nicole tackles every day issues from: Unemployment, to living in a multi-cultural marriage, to growing up in the south, and anything else that strikes her fancy!

She can be contacted at: Her blog: