It's not just for students anymore....

Follow me while I follow my husband to the Midwest and try to navigate the "Partner" world at one of US News and World Report's Top 5 MBA Programs in the country.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm Baaaack!

Okay, so it’s been awhile, I know. I could make excuses (I had bronchitis for over a month, this past weekend was the first weekend I was in Chicago in 4 weeks, I have been busy planning my summer, I haven’t felt like blogging….), but let’s just pretend this hiatus never happened and start over ;).

So what’s been going on in the life of business school partners at Booth? Well, we’ve all been preparing for the summer. Most students have their internships lined up (big hugs for those who don’t), and this means big (albeit temporary) changes for most of us. As I might have (grudgingly) mentioned, I have a job here in Chicago and just can’t pick up and take 10 weeks off in the middle of the summer. What does that mean? It means Cam will be living the bachelor life in NYC, Henry is off to puppy summer camp with Cam’s mom in Connecticut, and I’ll be a swinging (okay, couch lounging quasi-wino) single in hot Chicago.

The prospect of spending the summer alone here elicits varied feelings from those of us being left. Some are panicking, some are (secretly) relieved, some are sad, and some, like me, feel a mixture of all the above. Cam and I have probably done the whole long-distance thing a lot more than most people our age. Cam was a camp counselor in Maine during our first summer together, we went to different colleges and studied abroad in different countries, Cam’s first year as a management consultant had him traveling to the exciting destination of York, Pennsylvania four days a week for the whole year, and when we lived in Australia, we moved to Sydney only to have Cam’s job be moved to Melbourne for most of the six months we were there. Does this mean I like living in a different city from my husband? Absolutely not. Going to bed alone, having no one to say goodbye to in the morning, eating dinner by myself….not fun. However, I’m choosing, for now (ask me again in a few weeks when Cam is packing and I’m getting Henry ready for a summer away from home), to focus on the positives: I won’t have to cook dinner every night; I’ll be able to go out in the city without having to rush home to Henry; the apartment might actually stay clean for longer than 5 hours; I’ll be able to sleep until my alarm without Henry waking me up; I’ll be able to exercise again with all of my extra time. Those are good things, right? Not to mention all the wine I’ll be drinking with my other abandoned friends during the week ;).

I also have plans almost EVERY weekend to either see Cam and Henry or have visitors here, so the 10 weeks is going to fly by. And at the end? Our trip to Europe! The light at the end of the long separated summer tunnel.

I will say that one thing I’ve learned through all of our forced separations is that it’s a shame to wish your summer or your week or your life away. I wait ALL winter for summer to come, and even though this situation is far from ideal, these are 10 weeks I’m not getting back! I’m sure there will be days when I’ll want to scream “End, you damn summer, end!” But…. I’m going to try not to do that. It’s summer! I say, go outside, have a margarita, meet some friends, and toast the husbands who are far away trying to better themselves for the good of our futures.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

“Live like a CEO when you’re a student…..” Part II

When you were little, did you ever ask your parents, “How much money do you make?” only to have them tell you that isn’t a polite question? And thus began our awkward relationship with money. We try to make it, save it, spend it, and donate it, but we rarely are allowed to talk about it in any specific terms. This is especially odd in the business school environment. They are all taking lots of finance classes and most of the students are here to learn how to make more money than they made before (or at least get the fancy degree to aid in this “get more money” scheme). How much did they make before? Who the heck knows! We’re not allowed to talk about it!

This is the main reason why not having loans is awkward for me and Cam. For some reason, while it is definitely a faux pas to discuss money, it is completely okay to talk about borrowed money. People might not discuss their loan amounts, but they freely discuss what a struggle it’s going to be to pay back their loans or ask questions of a large group about the ins and outs of the loan process. It’s assumed that everyone has loans; I think it’s actually a way that most of the new students and partners bond when they first arrive here: “Man, the economy better pick up so that we can pay these crazy loans back!” or “We’re just poor students living on loans!”

But, what about the few of us who aren’t part of that group? If someone asks me if the loans just come into our bank account every month, what should I say? I don’t know? Honestly, I don’t know, so that wouldn’t be a lie…or do I just come out and say that we don’t have loans, so I’m not the best person to ask? The problem is, once word is out that we have no loans, we become the dreaded “other.” We aren’t like everyone else; we don’t have to worry about money. The “Oooh, you don’t have loans? You’re so lucky….” comments start, and the guessing begins. Our families are probably loaded! I secretly won the lottery 2 years ago! We’re actually 45 years old and have been saving for 20 years!

The boring truth? Cam saved a LOT while he worked, we didn’t have a car in Boston, and we lived below our means for 5 years. Cam also received a bit of inheritance when his grandmother died, and that went straight to the business school fund. Booooring. And what this really means is that we have to watch our money and spending at least as much as everyone else does. Besides what I make at my job, we don’t have money coming in every quarter; when our savings runs out, it’s gone.

Am I whining? Poor us!! We’re the misfits who don’t have to pay back thousands of dollars after school is over! Boo-hoo!!! No, seriously, we are very grateful that we won’t be in debt after this, and I know how fortunate we are. None of it would bother me if I felt like we were allowed to say it and not sound like we’re bragging. We get it – most people were not able to save as much as we were, and without loans, they wouldn’t be here. We were lucky and were able to save, but I’m still not sure if I am ready to admit that to the general Booth population. Maybe next time someone asks me about loans, I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear. “Phones? Yeah, we still have lame phones – no IPhones for us!!”:)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's a Dog's Life?

Lately, I’ve been thinking my husband is really living the good life! People are always saying dogs have the best lives, so I thought I would do a little comparison of Cam’s life vs. Henry’s life:

Guests: If someone knocks on the door, Henry has to run over and bark and protect us against stranger danger. Cam usually stays in his office and waits for me to answer it.

Recycling: Henry keeps a very close eye on the recycling. If anything new goes in the bin, he must run right over to “sort” it (the picture above is Henry diligently sorting our recycling). Cam waits until the recycling is overflowing and I “remind” him to take it out before he has anything to do with it.

Bathing: When it’s time for Henry to have a bath, we sneak up on him, run into the bathroom, lock the door, and put him directly under the showerhead. He has no idea what’s happening to him until it’s too late! We then turn him into a drowned rat before turning the dreaded hair dryer on him. Cam takes a shower every day of his own accord – and if he doesn’t, I certainly don’t toss him in the tub with no warning.

Dishes: If I open the dishwasher to put in a dirty dish, Henry has to run RIGHT over to inspect that dish and help clean it off. Cam rarely opens the dishwasher.

Protection: When we take Henry outside or for a walk, he has to be constantly on guard making sure that no ne’er-do-wells sneak up on us and try to attack. He has to bark and lunge at them, trying his mightiest to protect us. When Cam goes outside, he is usually friendly towards these strangers and even tries to keep Henry from doing his duty – making Henry’s job even harder!

Food: We feed Henry 1/3 cup of food twice a day. He has to watch as we eat turkey, steak and chicken and hope that maybe we’ll give him some leftovers. Cam eats whatever he wants. I bake him brownies every week, and I certainly don’t moderate the amount he consumes…

Bathroom: If Henry needs to use the bathroom, he has to hope that we are going to take him out at the appropriate time. He can whine and pace near the door, but if we don’t see him, he’s out of luck! I won’t go into Cam’s bathroom time, but it’s certainly not limited.

Sleeping: Poor Henry tries to sleep all the time, but he looks so cute that we often just scoop him off the ground and wake him up. We can’t help it! He’s too cute! Now that Henry is older and sleeping through the night, Cam usually can sleep as long as he wants on the weekends. If Henry wants to get up, I, for some reason, am the one to get out of bed to be with him.

Work: Henry takes his stick chewing work very seriously. He collects many sticks from outside and brings them in to chew until they are mere toothpicks. Nothing can stop or distract him! Cam’s focus is certainly not as fixed. He will read his course packs but often stop to check out ESPN or He will go to class, but that is only 3-4 times a week.

Clearly, the life of a puppy is much more trying than the life of a student. “It’s a dog’s life?” Come on! Try, “It’s a B-school student’s life!”

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Live like a CEO when you're a student...."

On the bus this morning, I was trying to plan how we were going to pay off our current credit card bill. We went to New Orleans for an abbreviated Spring Break (I’ve gotta work, people!), Cam’s tuition bill needs to be paid, he just bought a lot of his books (FOUR classes this term equals a LOT of money towards books and course packs), I just authorized payment on a trip to Europe for the end of the summer, and maybe I bought a few things online this month. Maybe. At any rate, this credit card bill is definitely on the high side for us.

Sounds like we’re really livin’ the life, huh? Vacations and online shopping (with dinners out and plane tickets home thrown in) and we’re just two people on one (not huge) salary living the way we did when we had two salaries, right? Not quite. For one thing, Chicago is a lot cheaper than Boston, and we moved to one of the cheapest viable neighborhoods in the city to save money. No luxury high rises for us! We park on the street, which is free (aside from the occasional ticket…). We cook roughly 18 out of 21 meals a week. We outlet or sale shop almost exclusively, and I’ve become mildly obsessed with coupons (those CVS coupons are so great! And I love!). If we go out to eat, I try to use Groupons or Chicago Half Off instead of paying full price. Perhaps I’ve even become cheap….

Yes, we still go on vacation, and I’m certainly not one to say no to the occasional glass of wine and dinner out. But we look around and wonder how some of our fellow students are living the way it appears they are living. Fancy apartment buildings, multiple (often fancy) cars, dinner out 5 nights a week, 12 day treks to Europe and the Caribbean, expensive parties and Booth events, weekend trips to NYC….and a lot of these students don’t have a working partner like Cam does! What the heck? Something like 95% of people who come here take out loans…so what am I missing? People can oft be heard repeating this quote that all admissions officers like to remind the students: “Live like a CEO when you’re a student, and you’ll be living like a student when you’re a CEO.” You definitely hear people saying this….but you rarely see people taking it to heart.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait, didn’t she say a few paragraphs ago that she just returned from a trip to New Orleans and is planning a European trip for the summer? Sounds like she’s doing the same thing as all of these high rollers she’s confused about!” Okay, full disclosure (and Cam will not be happy that I’m revealing this): we don’t have loans. We had saved up for Cam to attend school for 2 years, and we figured that if I got a job, we’d be tight but okay while he went to school. And then, he was awarded a substantial fellowship (we're very fortunate!), so it turns out we had saved about twice as much as we needed. Later this week, I’ll write about why this has been pretty awkward at times during our first two terms in Chicago.

So what am I criticizing people for? Look, we’re still trying not to spend beyond our means. We want to buy a house when Cam graduates, and every dollar we can save now means that I’ll get a nicer house later :). I also kind of worry about some of these people; even with fabulous jobs, paying off these huge loans won’t be easy! Why spend more than you absolutely need? I understand that “this is the time” to travel and have fun, but there is a way to do it responsibly. I guess I just want us all to be livin’ like CEO’s post-graduation. Or at least like above average middle managers ;).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Grade Non-Disclosure. Non. NON!!!

It’s finals week here at Booth, and that means a lot of extra stress at my house.

Me: “Whatchya doing?”

Cam: “Taking practice tests.”

Me: “TestS?”

Cam: “Yes, testSSSS”

Me: “Are you timing yourself?”
Cam: “No, I usually finish way before the time limit.”
(I raise one eyebrow.)
Me: “So doesn’t that mean you can probably stop taking them?”

Cam: “No!”
Me: “Well, are you getting most of the answers right?”

Cam: “Maybe….”

And therein lies the problem I have with all of this added stress. He studies until he is an expert at Financial Statements or Business Networks, and no one is even going to see his hard-earned grades! Booth employs grade non-disclosure, which means potential employers can’t ask for your transcripts or see your grades. The purpose of this policy is to foster a collaborative and less cut-throat educational environment, but it can also be seen as a “we just have to pass!” kind of rule. For some people. NOT for Cam.

Grade non-disclosure has had zero effect on his study habits. He still strives for A’s and to be well ahead of (i.e. throwing off) the curve. While fellow students were at the bar by 7am Saturday morning to celebrate St. Patty’s Day early, Cam didn’t drink Friday night so that he would be ready to put in his 5 hour weekend study day. Whhhyyyyy???

I understand wanting to be on the Dean’s List, as that can go on your resume for all to see. However, you don’t need a 4.0 to be on the Dean’s List! Why can’t he lighten up?

Because. Just because! That’s the way he is. That’s how he got here in the first place – by always trying to be the best, even if no one was watching. So, as much as it often pains and annoys me, I let him stress and go crazy with his practice tests and all day trips to the library. I let him read parts of the book no one ever assigned, do more than his fair share of the group work and construct “cheat” sheets with so much information crammed onto the page you would need a magnifying glass to read any of it. At least we’re getting our money’s worth, right? And while future employers might not get to see his straight A transcript, we’ll both know what’s on there. And we can always brag to our mothers :).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Something has been "weighing" on me....

Okay, you’ll have to forgive the pun, as I didn’t want to name this post “Business School is making me fat.” However, that is probably a more accurate title.

Back in Boston, I went to the gym three times a week and often walked the mile and a half home after. I didn’t like it, but the gym was across the street from my office, so I had to walk by every day and think “Boy, I should really go to the gym!” I ended up just feeling guilty if I didn’t go, so I went. Cam never had time to go to the gym because of his work and commuting schedule. When it was nice out, he would run on the weekends (5 miles!! He never worked out but could just run 5 miles! How annoying is that?), but he never really watched what he ate or exercised on a regular basis. Of course, his weight hardly fluctuated and he always fit in all of his clothes.

Oh, how things change. I joined the University gym in the middle of September (spouses get a fabulous rate - $110 for the year). The gym is literally across the street from our apartment; it’s probably a 3 minute walk. How many times have I been to this fabulous gym? Zero. How many times have I worked out since July? Zero. How much less do I eat? No less. In fact, I’m eating jelly beans right now.

What the f#*@ happened? Well, my commute means that if I come straight home, I still get home 45 minutes later than I used to. I also feel as though I need to get home because Cam and Henry are usually there, and I feel that they are waiting for me. Lastly, my social life during the weekdays has significantly picked up and getting a real gym schedule set just seems impossible.

Yes, these are all excuses. I could work out during lunch (there is a great gym in our building that is inexpensive); Cam and Henry would gladly (?) wait an extra hour to see me at night; I certainly go home from work about three times a week with no social engagements. Business school has just made me lazy!!!

Cam, on the other hand, is able to work out when he wants (which isn’t that often), and I make him a pan of brownies to eat every week. A PAN. EVERY WEEK. And what has this done to his weight? He’s lost 10 pounds since we moved here.

I give up. I hope that I’ll get this together when Cam and Henry are gone this summer. For now, I’ll just keep blaming business school for making my pants too tight.