Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alternative Career Path? Here's Your Apron!

I am not just a mother. I adore my children, but they do not define me.

A couple days ago I wrote to a friend in the publishing industry about where a fledgeling writer with as little experience as I have might find a good jumping point. I'm not delusional- if he had to tell me "Sorry kid, come back when you've got some experience," or "Maybe when you've been through a bit more school." I was perfectly prepared to not take it personaly. After several days of radio silence, I knew the answer wasn't good, but nothing could have prepared me for what he told me.
Try a mommy blog. 
Now, let's be fair. He was thinking job/money/I've-got-two-little-kids. What's more, there are thousands of excellent blogs by stay-at-home-moms writing about their idealic forays in domesticity. That's exactly my point. I'm not like that nor can I be like that!  I'd just as soon crack open a can of Spaghetti-Os for my picky little tyrants as work for three hours on a meal they won't touch even though I snuck the vegetables in so they can't see. I don't have instagram(yet); half of my photos are stock!  I spend as much time on housework as I do on anything else and it's still no where near ever done, so I try to devote at least 1/4 of my cleaning time to tricks, corner-cutting, and scheming to avoid said housework. I adore my children and my devotion to them is absolute, but they are separate people only strengthening in independence, while I will still be green in my prime when they're legal adults.
Probably something to do with knitting, where you've got cred. 
Yes, I am a knitter. Yes, I've designed. Yes, I'm not bad. I'm also not spectacular. Knitting blogs are the number one topic in blogging. And what's more- I'm going to say it- a lot are boooooooring. What else can you expect from numbers so high? Anyway, how would I ever expect to gain experience as a writer - professionally- in that kind of environment? I'm not even super crafty! And most importantly:
There's more to my life than being a stay-at-home-mom! I do have other interests! 
Maybe it's that I've been being a mommy for five years instead of gaining experience through networking that would traditionally start with school. Maybe it's that he doesn't know me as well as I thought he did. Maybe our culture is infected to the marrow with male chauvanism. Or maybe I just need to get a job till next semester.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Still Waiting for the New Screen

I paced the floor waiting for the post to deliver my new laptop screen. I'd waited for weeks; it had to come today.  An overweight man pushing the far end of middleage took the chance to chide me from the back of my imagination. "We're all over-connected today! You live your life in front of a screen. What did kids do before Facebook?" I stopped, looked back to images of my mother in my four year old gaze. How did she do it? She talked on our sky blue rotary phone and later the cream dial wall-mount.  She untwisted the tangling coils ritualisticly. She watched movies, watched the coverage of videogame wars in the middle east. She met with neighbors daily.  I followed under foot. I made up elaborate storylines for Barbie Dolls and My Little Ponies, picked dandilions and came when I was called.

I realized that so many objects, both significant and mundane, present in those memories had all but dissappeared. All week I've walked past stacks of phone books in plastic bags, ignored on porches across the city. Who uses a phonebook anymore? There's DexOnline! Not to mention 411. Television? Movies? In nearly seven years we've done without a connection, opting for Netflix and Hulu. My parents subscribed to the local newspaper and watched the nightly broadcast religiously. Today we tap into Google News. Having grown up with a radio in every room and each subsiquent car, their absense has been filled seamlessly with Spotify, Pandora, and even my local station has 24 hour streaming. The mention of handwritten memos vs. emails would be redundant at this point. And where my mother needed our next door neighbor to keep up on the latest gossip, I've got Facebook.  The very cosmos of information that existed in the 20th century has today been consolidated to a single device.

So where does that put me, during 2012, as I wait for my new screen to arrive? Not simply back 10 or 20 years. I've got a three pound aluminum paperweight and a boredom unseen since the industrial revolution.

Written after hours on Jason's other work computer. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In the Mean Time- a Book Review

It's been a bit of a tough week, realizing that I won't be able to go to school this semester after all. I had hoped to work out a monthly-payment plan with BHCC, but apparently all payment plans require 50% of total costs up front, as of registration week. I can afford 20-25% per month, which makes more sense to us too.

I've been scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas. My search engine is exhausted of results for content farms that require little experience. My plasma is not market quality. There aren't many options for employment for 3 nights a week or fewer, especially within walking or T distance. And frankly, the whole prospect of college, when we're already trying to pay off student debt is a bit overwhelming unto itself. That's why I perused through the college guides at the Coop bookstore last night, and picked up Debt Free U by Zac Bissonette. 

I've thumbed through a number of college finance books before and found that they mostly explained nauseousness like how to calculate an Expected Family Contribution and how to take out a Parents PLUS Loan. What attracted me to Debt Free U was that I don't want to take out a student loan. I can't! Student debt is the highest debt in the country today, and it's the hardest kind to get out of. Plus, in this market, it's foolish to say that student debt is leverage against earnings after graduation. Whatever. That's exactly what this book purports- that student loans are bad for quality of life over all, unnecessary to pay for school, and inside are instructions to do without them. What's more, Bissonette published the book as a Senior at the University of Massachusetts with a job at AOL Money & Finance. Alright, I thought, I'll bite. 

It's a quick read- I can tell you that much. It's kept me plenty entertained with quips throughout like "FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid-but for our purposes let's think of it as Federal Assault on Family Savings Accounts." There are plenty of studies and statistics, or a lack thereof, to support the things the book claims, as well as anecdotes to keep the faith. 

What Debt Free U  has going for it is sound financial advice. A college education is necessary, and as it shows, doable. If it means getting a second job or going to community college for two years, it's necessary and doable. The pages are full of ideas of just how to make that happen, and already my head is brewing. I particularly enjoyed the suggestions for part time work. Bissonnette also provides a wealth of suggestions for how to get the most out of the college experience from "How to Deal With Professors," to "[Networking] Like a Pro." 

I did find some of the logic a bit naive, however. One example was the topic of  "Finding the college that fits." Bissonette claims the entire notion is a myth- that a college is a college is a college. He sights findings that there is no study showing that one college is better than another at educating its students. But first, just because we don't know if one is better than the other, doesn't mean they're all the same. That's a bit obvious. Second, one doesn't take into consideration that colleges are little microcultures all their own. I reject the idea completely that college life is exactly the same all across the country. I know this because I went to BYU-Idaho (the most concentrated example of campus-wide-culture in the country) and it was anything but a good fit. Did I make friends? Yes. Did I have good classes? A couple. Did it fit me? Hell, no! There are a number of reason contributing to my first failure as a student, but were all other circumstances set aside, I'd rather jab out my eyes than go back. What's more, I know a number of people who were unhappy with their college careers at one point or another because the school they attended (often for financial responsibility) was not a "good fit." I also look to a good friend and mentor who attended and paid for the graduate school of his dreams, solely for the enrichment and quality of life he knew he'd get. "It was my choice, my money," he once wrote," and I haven't regretted a penny of it."

So will the book save me $100,000 in fees? Not likely. In fact, many of the suggestions, such as going community college first, I'm already taking. But it's got my mind flowing with ideas of where I can save and what I can do to get started paying for school without a loan. If nothing else, it was an entertaining read, and I'll probably sell my snowboard after this, so I'll at least get my $16 back.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sugar in the Gas Tank

Sometimes, no matter what we do, it just doesn't seem to be enough.

I spent last week running back and forth between Central Sq, Downtown, and Charlestown, rushing to arrive, just to wait in a line for hours on end. I managed to get my driver's license, apply for school at the community college, take and ace the College Placement Tests, and register for classes.  Each task took (plus or minus) four hours to complete. I did this with two small children- one still at home and the other who has to be picked up from school and is still too young to be without supervision. I was feeling pretty accomplished right up until I got a significant bit of information from the Financial Aid Office; my FAFSA funds wouldn't be available until next semester.

Talk about slamming the breaks. I might be able to take one class if we can work something out. I'd be knitting away my remorse, but it just seems so superfluous.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Welcome Back, Student!

Last night I returned from over three weeks in Idaho with family. Within two days of the trip, someone stepped on my computer screen (which now looks something like a butterfly wing) and my camera went dead (of course I forgot the charger). We spend a lot of time with family, many of which we hadn't seen in over a year. We also spent one week with Jason's cousins playing Do You Worship Cthulhu and Cargo Noir. There was no internet. It was quite fun, but it's something one would have to experience for oneself to understand.  My one regret is that I couldn't get a picture of the abomination of a truck that the neighbors were driving- the cab was literally five feet off the ground! That's Idaho for ya. Other than that, there wasn't much to report. 

One thing to note, however, is an important conversation between Jason and I. "Jason," I said, "I'm ready to go back to school." And before I'd finished the sentence he was saying,
"Alright, let's do it. When can you sign up?"
A lesser man would've said some crap about the money.
Of course, we talked about that. I'm going to sign up at Bunker Hill Community College for this semester (class starts Jan. 23). If I get my G.E.s out of the way there, I can establish a good GPA (which my last semester at school massacred) while taking a huge chunk off the costs. Afterward, I'm going to apply to Simmons College. I'm already so excited- I spent the last week of my trip working on my application essay! Access is the only thing that's keeping me from sporting a school sweatshirt! I know, it's dorky, but I'm ready. I want to go to school, and I'm doing it! Whoot! Happy New Start!

What are you looking forward to in the New Year? What are your goals?