Monday, January 31, 2011

Motivated, and It Feels So Good

Just finished with Interview #3, for company #2, and it felt pretty good. In fact, it felt great, especially because I finally (!) got to use my portfolio and share my previous projects with the interview panel. I bring it every time, but for some reason-- probably because the interviews are so tightly scheduled and there is hardly time to breathe after the questions are all done-- I have never really used it. This time, I actually pulled out examples from my portfolio and passed them around the table when they were pertinent to the question asked. For example, one question had to do with scheduling and coordinating a large-scale conference. I flipped through my binder and withdrew a couple of pages (I had them inside clear page protectors): one that helped to show how I organized the vendor list, one that was a "schedule of events," and one that was a flyer in English/Spanish. The panel was very impressed, particularly by my method of using color and my organizing skills.

At the end of the interview, I mentioned that I had brought the portfolio with additional examples of my skills, and they asked if they could pass it around the table. One member went out of her way to speak up about a flowchart I had created, saying that she really liked how I had designed the chart with color, a legend to explain various symbols, and a clear and concise way of describing the referral process in a visual manner. It was so nice to get that feedback! And now that I've done it once, I'm confident that I can bring out my portfolio again during the next interview... which is tomorrow morning. Can't wait to see what they say!

Friday, January 28, 2011

2nd Interview... plus?

The second interview for the HR position went well... in fact, as I was being escorted to the next room for the skills test, the interviewer who was walking with me leaned in and whispered "Great job, you did great" and smiled at me. What a confidence boost! Then I went in to take the two-part skills test, and as I was getting started on the first section, the other candidate was finishing up hers-- very poorly. I felt a little bad for her, because the HR staff person came in just as the other candidate was starting a flurry of typing and said "Time's up!" in this cheerful voice, to which the woman replied "Oh, I was just starting to get the hang of it!" Oops. As I worked on mine, I realized that she didn't actually understand the assignment, because no typing was required; you could do it all (and in order to finish in time, you really *had* to) using cut and paste. Oops, is right... but that was another confidence booster, for sure.

The other thing that's boosting my confidence is that this afternoon, before heading off to the interview, I got a phone call from a school district that wants me to come in for an interview on Tuesday. That means I'll have interviewed with three different companies in the span of one week... which increases the odds of my getting at least one job offer by quite a bit, right? I'm pretty happy about it. The first company (that I already interviewed for twice) is actually having one more interview before they make a decision. The other two companies usually make their choice that same day and then make the job offer the next day or shortly thereafter. So, if it all works out well, I should be getting an offer of employment from at least *one* of these places by next Friday. Looks like this year is going to be the one!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interviews Galore!

So, I went to an interview on Tuesday for a position in Stockton... it was the first time in my life that I've been invited to attend a "speed interview." Yes, it's almost exactly what it sounds like; speed dating format, interview setting. I thought that it would be extremely awkward, but it ended up being a process I really enjoyed. The strangeness comes into play when you realize that you are going to get about a 3-minute interaction time with each interview panel member. It feels odd somehow to move from station to station, answering a question as succinctly and thoroughly as possible and then moving on to the next person in line. But when you think about it, it's actually more one-on-one time than you get in a panel interview, where you sit across the table from a committee of five to ten (or more, in some cases) interviewers. At least in this speed interviewing scenario, you get time to personally connect with every interviewer, and so you get to make an impression-- good or bad-- with each one, face to face, instead of across a huge conference table.

Anyway, must have done well, because later that afternoon they called me back for Round 2! My second interview is on Friday afternoon. They'll be doing a regular panel interview, followed by a skills test. I guess the universe heard I was trying to get a job, because on the same day (Tuesday) that I went to the Round 1 interview and got a call-back, I also got a call from another job opportunity; they want me to interview on Monday morning! Isn't that crazy? I think the time has finally come... the world is ready for me to be back in the office. At least I hope so!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Job Possibility...

Now that we're nearing the end of our rope, I think I may have stumbled across a legitimate job opportunity. I don't want to say too much, because I have this ridiculous idea of possibly jinxing myself, but let's just say that it might work out. And it might work out to the tune of still getting part of the summer off, too...

So, enough of that! I'll definitely keep you updated. As to the other jobs, I've so far heard back from two more in the negatory, so we'll just keep on truckin' until we get some good news. And I tell you this: I hope it happens soon, because times are getting pretty tight around here!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Good job news! For someone else...

My sister got a job! She left her very well-paying job with a local utilities company in 2009, when her husband was transferred to a US military facility in Kansas. Unfortunately, not long after packing up and moving out there, things fell apart, and their relationship ended. Since then, she has been looking for work and looking to pick her life back up, and it has been quite a struggle. She moved back to Modesto to live with my parents in April of 2010, and it was great for all of us to get the chance to rebuild a relationship that had been pretty severely damaged for some time. She recently got a call from a former co-worker, who asked, with tentative hope and a bit of wariness, whether or not my sister was currently employed or interested in coming back to work for the company. It was a second chance-- and she jumped at it.

It's taken a few weeks to get it all settled, but last night she was officially offered a job with the company. The wonderful thing is that she will actually be in a better position this time, because she'll be working in a different group and with two people she truly respects and enjoys being around (when she left, the job was actually a big stress factor because she was in a group that was pretty hostile and unhappy). And the best part? Her salary is right back up where it was when she left. We're truly so happy for her; it's an amazing thing when life decides that it's time you were given a second chance to do the right thing and make better choices. I hope our time is on the way, too!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Budget Superhero(ine)

I found what may end up being my next big purchase next month. The proceeds all go to the Make A Wish Foundation, but the benefits are all for me-- an excellent and useful budgeting analysis tool that can help me get my financial crisis under control and get our family on track to seeing some of our goals in life actually come true.

The budgeting tool was developed by the owner of the Fabulously Broke blog. I found her website by chance the other day, and I think I might have a slight crush on her already. Mostly because she is ten years younger than me but already making her dreams and goals become a reality because she is taking control of her spending and really thinking deeply about what is important to her in life; another pair of shoes, or a secure retirement? A night out on the town or a significant savings account? Well, in her case, she decided that it's okay to have both, and you can-- as long as you are managing your expenses and income with a lot of forethought and planning.

Can't wait to jump on the Fabulously Broke Bandwagon!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Taxes, Shmaxes


Just got my Form 1099-G listing my unemployment income from the EDD, so I guess all we have to do now is get Joel's tax information together and then we're ready to hit up our favorite H&R tax lady and get it done. This is especially good timing because we just got a notice in the mail from the IRS stating that they appreciate our correspondence from March 2008 and believe that we never filed our 2006 tax return. This is strange because I happen to have a copy of that return in my hot little hands as we speak. It's also strange because the state just recently contacted me saying that I never actually filed our 2008 tax return, although they acknowledge that we did file our 2007 & 2009-- even though all three tax years were mailed in the same envelope because H&R submitted amendments for 2007 & 2008 when we filed our 2009 taxes. So how can they have received two out of the three forms, when we sent them everything in one big packet?? This is beginning to feel like a bigger scam than it already is. :(

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nursemaid's Elbow

Or in other words, a dislocated elbow joint. According to the doctor we saw this morning, they called it "Nursemaid's Elbow" originally because children would get this injury when their nursemaid's yanked on their arms to pull them along. In fact, it's the most common childhood orthopedic complaint, and happens all the time with children usually between the ages of two and five years old. Part of the reason it's so easy to injure the elbow area on a young child is because of the way their bodies are growing and changing. As they get older, the ligament strengthens, so it's very uncommon to have a partial dislocation of the elbow after age five.

In any case, it's easily treatable and our doctor was able to manipulate Ethan's arm back into place in just moments. Within half an hour, he was moving his arm around without crying out. Within an hour, he was climbing all over the house like our favorite little monkey. It happened yesterday evening when we were all walking together, hand in hand; usually, we swing him together while we're walking, and that's a very typical way to get this injury. This time, I had actually just let go of his right hand when he sort of dropped his body to the ground, as if he was expecting to have us lift him up. That sudden movement was all it took. So our poor boy suffered through the night with his owie, calling for mom every few minutes, and this morning we took him in to get fixed up. Now, he keeps saying "all better" and even "thanks, doctor!" while he scoots and jumps and clambers around the place. That's my boy. ;)

Potty Training, Part 2

I think we're going to go ahead and start trying again on the potty training. Probably at the end of this week, after brushing up on the techniques again, so that we can be ready to give it a good try this weekend. It just keeps getting more and more expensive to buy diapers, plus I'd love for him to be at least on the potty training path when I have to go back to work. If we've at least given him the basics and he is starting to learn how to head to the bathroom when it's time, I'll feel like we've accomplished something. Time to put this "stay-at-home-mother" thing to its best use and get this potty show on the road!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shower Time

First of all, let me just say this: Showers are awesome! My new favorites are the walk-in or walk-through showers, like these below...
walkthru shower

The other day, I was getting ready to take a shower and invited Ethan in, as usual, to join me. He usually just plays in the water while I shampoo and so on, and then I wash his hair and body afterwards. We use it as a time to practice naming body parts, too, although he doesn't always want to play "This is my knee!" or practice using the soap; he'd rather just pour water in and out of his toy bucket instead. Anyhow, the other day I was preparing for our shower time when my husband walked in the room. Ethan leapt into his dad's arms and turned back around to me, pointing at me and saying "Hmm!" in a very peremptory manner.
walkthru shower2

Not sure what he meant, I assumed he wanted me to come over to him and his dad for a group hug. Nope! He pushed me away as I got closer and thrust out his finger again, pointing at me with the sort of mute meaning and determination that only a toddler can display. I asked him, "Do you want mommy?" And he shook his head immediately, pointing repeatedly at me. I think he finally understood that I was confused, because he pointed at me, then pointed at his shirt and pulled at it, and then went back to pointing in my direction again. Aha! I pulled at my shirt and asked him, "Do you want mommy to take off her shirt?" A huge smile of relief crossed his face and he said "Mm-hmm!"

He kept pointing until I had taken off every item of clothing. Yes, that's right, my son was directing me to strip. After I finished, he pulled the door closed and left with his dad... allowing me that rarest of luxuries, a shower all to myself. I guess it would have been a lot simpler for him to just say "No" when I asked if he wanted to go take a shower, but this way was much more fun-- and I can't wait to bust out this story when he gets older! No, no, just kidding; or am I?

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I feel like I live my life in a series of extreme moments. I can't seem to be even-keeled, ride the slow train or drift on a gentle wave. No, for me it's either all or nothing. It's either passion, or emptiness. Rage, or joy, or desperation, but never just a simple contentment with life. It's what I'd like to train myself to do-- to be happy with less and to stop always "wanting" so much or so often-- but I'm constantly fighting my own instincts. My inner voice says that I'm giving up or quitting if I try to be content with how things are. My internal BS-meter goes off when I tell myself I long for peace or stillness; how can I believe myself, when I know what I *really* want is passion, excitement, mystery, romance, action, and all of those other things that exist far away from the quiet center of the world?

Lately, especially, it seems even more difficult to stay balanced. My moods bounce all over the place; one minute, I'm watching Ethan play with a train. The next, I'm over-reacting to something my husband says and stomping out of the room. One moment, I'm reading a well-loved book. The next, I'm practically immobilized with sadness, loneliness, and bleak visions of an empty future. It's been so long since I've felt completely alive in my own skin that I can hardly remember what it's like. It's as if someone slipped me a drugged drink, only they laced it with a serum that started turning me into a robot, one day at a time.


The sad thing is, I almost *want* to be a robot. It seems easier to not feel anything than to feel sad or angry or dissatisfied all the time, and I'd probably be a lot more fun to be around if I wasn't always blowing up at the slightest provocation. I'm nervous, though; I'm afraid of being a loud or explosive mom and wife, but I'm also afraid of being an emotionless zombie. I wish I knew how to feel things, but not feel them so much that every emotion has to burst through my frame in order to be felt, like someone transforming into a werewolf... It's like my feelings lie just millimeters beneath a tissue-paper skin, and all it takes is a touch or even a strong breeze to pierce the thin boundary between me and the world. Isn't there a stable medium somewhere between emotional maniac and unemotional robot??

Desire = Suffering?

I'm not sure, but I may need to become slightly more Buddhist than I am now. I need to learn how to not want so much... to eliminate desire and erase need, so that I can transcend that part of me that spends so much time suffering because it is always dissatisfied.

"In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering. Ignorance, in comparison, relates to not seeing the world as it actually is. Without the capacity for mental concentration and insight, Buddhism explains, one's mind is left undeveloped, unable to grasp the true nature of things. Vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger, derive from this ignorance." Thank you, PBS, for making this concept a little more relatable.
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Toy Story Love

Ethan has finally sat through his first full-length movie: Toy Story 3. And he was absolutely mesmerized the whole time... it was pretty neat to see, actually. He was quiet, sitting still, and focused on the screen, breaking every so often to say "Oh, no!" or "Buzz, Woody" or, when it got a little scary, scooting closer to mommy. The movie itself was a bit dark, and I actually got teary-eyed at a couple of parts. Ethan loved it, though, which is all that matters. A couple of days later, we watched the first Toy Story, and he loved that one too. I guess we've got a winner on our hands!

Unemployment Update: 2011

I'm now officially on the Fed-ed extension for my unemployment benefits. What this means is that I've exhausted my state benefits, and am now receiving federal benefits. My biweekly amount is lower than it was, but I'll be getting it for about another three to four months if I satisfy their requirements each week. They basically require three employer contacts (in search of work) per week, with name of person contacted, address of business, date contact occurred, and so on. It's pretty intensive, but then it's really just documenting what I've already been doing for two years now, so it's not like I have to drastically change my job search tactics.

I already have file folders overflowing with job applications that I've filled out and sent in; I keep the apps stapled to the job description so that I can keep track of exactly what I applied for (and why!) in case I get called in for an interview. A lot of times, they remove the job description after the position announcement closes, so if you're not careful you can go in to an interview desperately trying to remember the specific job duties listed in the original announcement. I also save each cover letter I write, and save copies of different types of resumes geared towards a wide range of fields; for example, administrative/managerial, office/clerical, social service/nonprofit, education/academic, and so on. It helps to have the letters and resumes organized already, so that I just have to make a few detail changes before attaching it to the application.

And with that, WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE HIRE ME ALREADY?!?!? Sheesh! This is starting to get ridiculous.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas 2010

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We spent Christmas Eve at my parents' house, and had a great time there with my sisters. We had the most delicious, tender, well-seasoned filet mignon roast-- talk about splurging on beautiful food! thanks mom & dad-- and kept it pretty low-key with the rest of the meal. Our usual holiday get-togethers end up with multiple dishes that don't even get touched, because we always end up making too much food... this time, however, we appear to have learned our lesson, and made just enough for about a day of leftovers. Yummy, yummy leftovers for french dip sandwiches with creamy horseradish sauce. This is me, in a luscious food daze, dreaming about meat...


But I digress. We also enjoyed watching Ethan really get into Christmas this year. He seems to be starting to understand it a little better, and it was fun to see him react to the gifts and the ornaments and the whole shebang.

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Then again, some of us also enjoyed opening up Ethan's gifts! Adrienne fell in love immediately with the overstuffed goat that Elena gave Ethan. I think she might want to adopt it when he's not looking.


As for Ethan, I think he was happiest just kicking back with some cookies, watching the family spend time together around him.


He has a new habit that began on the day we held his birthday party, and it makes us all want to laugh and cry at the same time. He looks around at everyone and starts saying "Happy happy happy!!" in this excited voice, with his arms waving around and his body tensed in pure joy... That is the beauty of childhood that we forget as grow older; the ability to express without fear or shame the genuine emotions that are glowing inside you. Happy Christmas, indeed.