Free time and anxieties

The schedule is one of the great thing about my new job. There’s no worrying about having a project sprung on me and having to cancel evening plans. It’s really important for me to be able to schedule my time as much as possible so I don’t get exhausted and end up sick. (I basically have to schedule downtime to prevent running out of steam.)

Since I finished my MBA coursework, I have been adjusting to having free time, especially on the weekends. My commute eats up basically all my free time during the week, so the difference is not so extreme yet. I’ve been working on paying off some debt I incurred during the six months I was unemployed. While I was getting my budgeting software back up and running, I reviewed my student loan situation. Thankfully, my MBA debt is not that bad, due to some employer reimbursement and some scholarships. Still, I’m getting the itch to try to start paying them off faster than just making the minimum payments. I’ve also been coming to the realization that even a small apartment might be out of my price range for a while.

The free time coupled with the desire to pay of debt and build up savings has had me thinking about ways to pick up a part time job. Even bringing in $200 a month would be a huge help toward my student loans.

MEANWHILE… The job market seems to be getting worse and worse. Friends on both coasts are dealing with layoffs and furloughs and all kinds of crap. My own dad recently got word that he’s spared from this round of layoffs, but he’s being cut back to four days a week instead of five. That’s a 20% reduction in pay and no guarantee of being safe from layoffs down the road.

So I’m feeling very lucky to have landed my job before hiring froze. I’m grateful that I’m in an organization where people don’t really get laid off, with a career path including planned promotions for the next 3 years. But I am so, so stressed about my parents’ situation. I am the doof who has moved back in with them 3 times since college. I’m the one who has asked them to pay for things like medication when I couldn’t afford the co-pays. I’m living under their roof right now, rent free, chipping in with groceries and chores.

They haven’t asked me for anything. But I am stressing and I’ve been doing some big time reflection on my move out timeline. Right now, I think the best thing (not perfect thing) for all of us would be for me to plan to stay at least another few months. This would allow me to pay rent, which would help my parents until my dad can get a part time job (or win the lottery). I would also be able to save money and pay down debt.

Oy.

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MBA Completion Party!


On Saturday, March 2 I completed my final exam for my last MBA course (Economics). It was extremely memorable, because it was a timed, online exam and the power got shut off with 30 minutes left to go. I ended up going into total survival mode and rushed out the door to use the free restaurant wifi down the street. I barely changed out of my pajamas and didn’t even stop to brush my teeth properly. It was really gross, but I knew every second counted. I got the exam done with about 2 minutes to spare, so I guess that’s all that really matters!

Technically my graduation will be in May. The courses in the MBA program are 8 weeks long, where normal undergrad classes are 16 weeks. So MBA students can complete two sessions in a single semester. My classmates are in their second Spring 2013 class right now and they will finish in early May. Therefore, I have to wait.

I did not want to wait to celebrate though! I’ve been taking classes for my MBA (or undergrad pre-requisites) since summer 2009. So I rented space from a lovely local restaurant and threw myself a dinner party and invited a bunch of friends. It was fabulous and I am so happy I got to hang out with some awesome people and eat delicious food. I often lament the difficulty of making adult friends, but I realized that basically everyone in the room (aside from 3 family members, and one friend from middle school years) was a friend I’d made post undergrad.


Martha’s Vineyard

This past week I drove up to Martha’s Vineyard with my mom to celebrate her birthday. It’s a big milestone, which I’m not allowed to announce to the public. She named me after Carly Simon, and we’ve always wanted to go to Martha’s Vineyard, but typically spend our beach time at Virginia Beach, or occasionally the Outer Banks, or (thanks to a generous friend with a vacation home) Florida.

Our Rental Cottage

Our Rental Cottage

I started planning the trip in January, keeping it a surprise from Mom up until about a month before. I booked a lovely cottage a bit out off the main tourist area in Oak Bluffs. We drove up Saturday, spent a night in a hotel we found along the way in RI, then caught the vehicle ferry on Sunday and drove around a bit before checking in to the house.

We spent a lot of time relaxing. The island is fairly small, about 25 miles across as far as I know, but there are several different towns. We visited most of them within the first two days, to get an idea of places we wanted to visit again, and scope out the different beaches. Oak Bluffs, where we stayed is famous for the gingerbread cottages. People used to literally camp out in that area for religious revivals. Eventually they built a permanent place of worship and permanent houses. The houses have a lot of character and are really big out by the waterfront, but very tiny and close together built in concentric circles around the Tabernacle. We wound up their on our last night, due to a wrong turn, and it was sort of magical. Tiny little storybook cottages, at dusk, all decorated with fancy colors and trim. Adorable porches and lovely landscaping. Some even had kerosene lanterns (which I was told have caused fires in the past).

Gingerbread Cottages

Gingerbread Cottages

We spent all our beach time in Oak Bluffs, down from the ferry dock. Sadly none of the public beaches have bathhouses, or restrooms, or even little foot showers like they do in Virginia Beach. Oak Bluffs had a public restroom a few blocks away, so that’s why we stayed there. The water is calm (we only had small waves one day when storms were on the way in) and surprisingly clear. There are a lot of rocks on the beach and very few shells, but once you get out into the water, the sand is smooth. There are a few sandbars, so you can go out fairly far and still only be in waist deep. One day I even found a live conch!

Midnight Farm

Midnight Farm, the shop Carly Simon co-owns

Two other towns are Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. These towns are fairly similar, both offering several blocks of shops, restaurants, and pretty houses. They both have waterfronts and beach areas. Every single harbor in the Vineyard had tons of beautiful sailboats of all sizes. I think I preferred Vineyard Haven over Edgartown. Some shops appear in multiple locations, like the famous Black Dog which sells anything you can imagine with their logo. They also have a bakery cafe in Vineyard Haven that got great reviews, but didn’t look impressive to me.

ArtCliff Breakfast

ArtCliff Breakfast

Vineyard Haven is home to the awesome ArtCliff Diner, which is open from 7 am until 2 pm and serves breakfast that is delicious – homey but with enough of a twist to put it miles above Cracker Barrel and other chains. They have a real chef running things. They have specials like seafood risotto. We went their twice to eat and once on our way to catch the ferry home to grab giant scones to go. They make sweet potato scones as big as a salad plate and as light as a cloud, with mouthwatering honey butter. I’m seriously making myself sad just thinking about not getting to eat there again.

We also went to two different farmer’s markets, one in Vineyard Haven and one in West Tisbury. We scored a savory chicken pie, which made a great (cheap) dinner one night. We weren’t in the market for vegetables, or jam, or alpaca-wool products, but all that stuff was for sale too. The West Tisbury market was my favorite, for ambiance, but we actually didn’t buy anything there.

Sunset at Menemsha

Sunset at Menemsha

Lobstah!

Lobstah!

One night we drove to Menemsha to watch the sunset. This is a popular activity and the parking lot was nearly full almost an hour before sundown. There are two little seafood shacks nearby and another one (serving more fried foods) just down the road. People get their take out, bring wine (you can drink on the beaches, which is fun) and enjoy the show. This was a nice relaxing evening.

Me and Mom at Aquinnah Cliffs

Me and Mom at Aquinnah Cliffs

Aquinnah Cliffs

Aquinnah Cliffs

A little further out from Menemsha is Aquinnah (also known as Gay Head) which has the famous cliffs. They also have a beach, and a few seafood shacks, along with a couple souvenir shops. There is a Native American Cultural Center, but it was closed when we were there. The gift shops sell some Native products, especially Wampum, which is made from the purple and white shells of the quahog. In the past, these beads were actually used as money for trade.

Chappaquiddick

Chappaquiddick

We took a trip to Chappaquiddick on one of our last days on the island. You have to take an extremely short ferry ride over from Edgartown. It probably took 5 minutes. The area is very secluded and great for hiking and biking (we mainly drove around and walked a little bit). There are several beaches for swimming and at least one that is just for fishing. I found wild blueberries and ate a handful with no ill effects aside from about 10 mosquito bites I got in the are. We sat on the beach and ate sandwiches that we brought in a coolers.

We drove home early Sunday morning and had exceptional luck with the traffic until we ran into the storm that hit most of the east coast. It seemed to follow us and was really scary. At times I could barely see. I never actually had to stop and we made it home safe and sound. I would much rather have rain on the way home than on vacation, so we got very lucky there!

Mom's Birthday

Mom's Birthday

The trip was a splurge for a special occasion, but I really hope I can go back again someday.


On Jobs

I did not mean to neglect this new blog so quickly. I have a half-written post about how I bought a new car, but honestly, my mind has been elsewhere. The day I took delivery of my new car was the day my dad lost his job.

I don’t live with my parents, but they live nearby and I spend a lot of time with them. My dad didn’t know that I’d traded in my old car for a newer model (with the exact same monthly payments, which is why I did something so uncharacteristic in the first place) until I drove it over to their house a week ago. I didn’t know he had lost his job until Wednesday, when I guessed something had happened.

Mom and I spent the weekend picking up job applications for part time jobs. My mom and I are both very much action people. I don’t know if I will be able to work a 40+ hour a week job, go to night school (for my MBA) and work a weekend job. But I know I can try. And I know it will make me feel better, personally, to know I’m doing what I can to make money to help out. Sitting home will only stress me out. I need to be doing something.

I’m not trying to find freelance work at this point, because those projects always tend to drag on and on and on. I need something with set hours where I can leave on time (or reasonably thereabout) and get on with the rest of my life.

Dad has three months of full severance pay. So at this point, they have not lost any money. But mom and I both watch the days tick away into weeks, and then, very soon, months. We’re doing what we can now. And we’re trying not to let dad (or my younger brother) know how freaked out we really are.