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.

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.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Planes, Trains and Rental Cars

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while; life kind of got in the way of blogging this past week and a half. I was really busy getting ready for Admit Weekend (thank goodness that’s over!) and then we unexpectedly had to travel back East, as Cam’s grandmother passed away (one of my least favorite euphemisms. I hate euphemisms in general, but “passed away?” What does that even mean? I just want to say straight out, “she died,” but you have to worry about offending other people! It’s my relative, okay? Anyway….). Back when we lived in Boston, we would have just rented a car and driven down to Connecticut. Now, we have to book last minute flights (while trying not to disrupt Cam’s class schedule), find Henry a puppy sitter, rent a car (LOVE Priceline!), and somehow get to O’Hare from Hyde Park without either missing our flight or spending $200. Ah, the joys of living far away from “home.”

For me and Cam, this has been one of the biggest adjustments in coming to Chicago for business school. My parents and brother and his sister all live in Massachusetts, Cam’s mom and my best friend live in Connecticut, and my sister lives in NYC – all back on the East Coast. I’m used to going home for Thanksgiving, spending the weekend with my sister in New York, driving to Maine with my brother to see my grandparents, and going to Cam’s mom’s for a visit with her and my best friend. I’m not accustomed to planning these activities months in advance around Cam’s ever-changing school schedule and my limited vacation time. We lived in Sydney for six months in 2006, but we had a very different mindset then: we were there and we were staying there for six months. And then we were coming back. Two years is a very different story.

So, how do you stay in touch with friends and family without spending your meager life savings and half your life traveling? It depends who you’re dealing with. I talk to my mom on the phone, email with my dad, Facebook (a lot!) with my best friend, gchat with my sister, and sometimes we even video chat. Anne (my sister) got a new guinea pig, Sprinkles, and I’ve never met her. So, we make sure that cousins Henry and Sprinkles get to know each other remotely ;). These are the (ridiculous) ways that we make sure our families stay connected while living far apart. Hey, whatever works, right?