Thursday, December 31, 2009

Four Month Review

I just had my four-month review this morning. Can you believe I have been working here for four months? I guess that is what happens when you have nearly three months of training.

Overall, it went well. My supervisor gave me lots of compliments. She said I am on pace or ahead of pace in the learning curve for the job, that I draft very well for four months with only minor adjustments needed, that I have closed the most cases in my unit, that I am good at catching all of the little technical things that tend to mess up cases for inexperienced adjudicators, and most importantly, that I seem to understand the correct approach to cases and think through to their conclusions from the get-go. I would hope I was able to write well, solve problems, and think things through to their conclusions after 3 years in graduate school :-)

Of course there was also the negative, only one actually. In these evaluations you either meet expectations on each item, or fail to meet expectations. I failed to meet expectations on one item only, "response to feedback." LOL. My supervisor said she was torn on whether or not to mark this against me, since she sees most of my "poor" response to feedback as the "why?" questioning that is necessary for learning. However, she said that there was one particular incedent that made her need to mark me off on it. I know exactly what incedent that was. It was very early in being in this unit and there is one helper in my unit that I have struggled to learn to communicate well in written form with. Here is how the event went (not exact words, but the same tone)

Me: I cannot get ahold of the clmt, I have spoke with her grandmother and she is out of state for Thanksgiving. How should I proceed?
Her: Send her a call in letter, and send her third party a call in letter.
Me: I sent her a call in letter. I did not send the third party letter because her grandmother is the third party, and I can reach her on the phone easily, and she is clearly reading the clmts mail.
Her: Its policy to send a third party letter, we must ask her to assist in this matter and it must include closeout language. It does not matter if she is reading the clmts mail because we cannot assume that is true. Send the third party call in letter. Note, we have to do a lot of things as a matter of procedure that you may not feel to be productive or that you may feel to be overkill and believe me, I wouldn't suggest that you do something extra that doesn't need to be done. Nobody likes extra work.
Me: I input a third party call in letter, please review.

Apparently this was bad. To me, it was part of the learning curve. What I learned from this interaction was the following:
(1) Send third party call in letters when you cannot get a hold of the clmt.
(2) Be careful in wording things.

The end. If I had worded this differently, for example, "is the third party letter necessary? I have had contact with her previously and she is reading the claimants mail" it would not even have been an issue. The question would have been answered (hopefully with less bolding and less underlining and less personal offense), and I would not be seen as "non responsive to feedback. Lesson taken.

But, as I said, overall, I am exceeding my supervisors expectations.

A Christmas Story (2009)

I never posted about my Christmas and I wanted to squeeze it in here before the holiday season ended (for me, that would be tomorrow).

The Christmas blizzard of 2009 started midnight on Christmas Eve (12am the 24th, just to be clear). By Christmas eve morning there was at least 8 inches of powdery fluff. It continuted snowing, and the temperature began to rise. We stayed home all day Christmas eve. My brother and his GF came over and hung out and then eventually made it home, we had a good time. The roads stayed clear enough for LEKT and her DH to arrive around midnight without too much issue.

The snow kept coming.

Christmas morning we woke up to at least another 8 inches, but this time there was nothing even remotely close to "powder" about it. I got up and headed straight out into it, wearing boots, jacket, gloves, hat, scarf, and pajama pants. It was some of the thickests, wettest snow I have ever have seen. This made it horrible to shovel (I helped Dad out by shoveling the stairs that could not be snow-blowed), but excellent for sculpting. I made a snowman, a snow horse, and a snow monster (named Snessie - like a Lochness monster). Back inside I was SOPPING wet, even under my jacket. I think by that time there was rain mixed in. My Dad remained outside snowblowing and shoveling our very long driveway (have a length estimate Dad?). He was afraid to use the plow because he did not want to tear up the ground. My brother meanwhile was over at his own house snowblowing a 1/8 of a mile of driveway. Around 10:30am his snowblower ran out of gas and he had to make a run for it - a driveway cleared 5-feet wide for a 6-ft wide truck, and an unplowed road. They did make it over without incedent!! Because all of the snow, we did not start opening presents until past 11:30, when normally this activity would begin before 9am, but it was loads of fun. We took a break in the middle to start cooking dinner. I think when all the presents were unwrapped, everyone was happy with their Christmas haul, and happy to all be together. Christmas dinner was excellent (Sauerbraten), and the snow just kept coming. It kept snowing until Sunday morning actually. My dad spent ALL DAY Saturday clearing snow both at our house and my brothers.

We had a second big dinner on Sunday, thanks to my request for my Mom's stuffing. It was tasty. My family has a slight food obsession, but I don't mind. I will, however, be working on portion control in the new year. :-)

Overall it was a great Christmas and a great visit to Duluth. I personally love blizzards, though, for the most part I am not the one spending entire days clearing snow, but that is the price of living in the country where driveways are so long. Columbus eased my return by having some snow of its own, which was nice.

Petty Vent

It appears by being gone for ten days I forfeit all rights to see my friends or host anything for New Years and Bowl games :-(

Thats not entirely true. I was going to host New Years Eve, then DH told me he wanted to host the game. I told my friends M&R this, so R decided to host New Years Eve so I was free to host the next night. Then I come to find out that there is already a get together that M new about, meaning no one is available. Why on earth M did not tell me that, I don't know. Probably because we are not officially invited to the get together. It still would have been nice to know, and I am not sure whether the lack of invitation is because they actually don't want to invite us or because they assume we will manage to get some people for our own party. Which we won't. Either way, I am feeling really petty and left out at the moment.

This too shall pass. I just needed to get it out of my system, but now its out, and thats good because pettiness is no way to end (or start) a year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Old New Year's Resolutions

How did I do on my New Years Resolutions from last year? I promised you a post!

Here they are, and how I did:

(1) Menu Planning - Start using it! Stop eating out so much! Cook more! -- Mixed results - I did some menu planning but never consistently. I think we probably ate out even MORE.

(2) Work Out - I did this very well when I was still at OSU with the gym membership but completely failed once I was without a free state of the art gym.

(3) Read more for Pleasure I would say 100+ books is a bit more :-)

(4) Stop Chewing my Nails- Total success!!

(5) Figure Out what I am Doing with my Life-- I figured out what I was not doing!! And that is a big step forward.

End of the Decade (3)

1 minute ago... I was watching The Parent Trap
1 hour ago... I was reading a message board
1 day ago... I was settling back into Columbus after 10 days in Duluth
1 month ago... I was driving around Kansas for Thanksgiving
1 year ago... prepping for my first (and, as it turned out, only) quarter as a lecturer
1 decade ago... I was a sophomore in high school, convinced I had the world figured out.
1 lifetime ago... I think I was in revolutionary in Russia

5 minutes ago... I was finding a blanket to wrap up in.
5 hours ago... I was just getting off work, headed for the grocery store.
5 days ago... I was in a blizzard in Duluth, having Christmas eve with my family.
5 monthes ago... I was happily unemployed, enjoying my time.
5 years ago... I was a Junior in college getting prepared to leave for a semester to Austria.

End of the Decade (2)

I have several end of the year posts I always make, and here is the second.

The instructions are simple:
Post the first line sof the first entry of each month of the past year.

I intended to post my resolutions today, but I am not in the mood to do it today. New Years Eve was pleasant, a nice quite evening in. We watched the ball drop, said cheers to the New Year, and called my parents from the future (they were still way back their in 2008).

This weekend was of course one of my favorite weekends of the year- Super Bowl Weekend! There are four major reasons I LOVE the Super Bowl.

I walk into the classroom where my economics course is held five minutes before class starts, feeling late because the classroom fills up so far. Luckily there are two desks available around where I normally sit

So, I have been hinting that I have some important news, and here it finally is. I have decided after much thought that I do not want or need to get my PhD in Political Science (or anything else right now for that matter).

Well, I did indeed manage to get my transcript here on time, and I went and took a test this morning to see if I can move along to the next part of the process of becoming a Disabilities Claims Adjudicator. They evaluate people's claims for disability benefits.

I mentioned before I was doing a reading challenge. It ended yesterday. I read 22 books for a total of 245 points. Completing the challenge would have been 550 points... so I did not quite make it to that but I reached my goal of 200. Here is my official participation certificate!

I was going to be writing today about the fact I finally planted my garden, or the beautiful weather, or the Rock Band party last night. Instead I get to write about the fact that one of my friends from undergraduate, Ian Rucker, killed himself.

Well, its clear "tree" is the favorite and I can't say I blame you guys. They are all beautiful though, eh? But I was thinking, what I really envision eventually for the family room is three vertical pictures of China in black and white hung above the sofa. So, I played around and turned Tree into a vertical picture.

It is hard to believe that Summer is coming to an end. It was a really good summer. I got to travel and see my friends B&R get married in St Louis, spend two weeks in Duluth and be a bridesmaid in my sister's wedding, and see a wedding of a good friend here in Columbus.

I spend the bulk of this weekend up in Burton, Ohio with my older sister. She is there doing an internship in large-animal medicine

I am not quite sure how time passes so quickly and all my good intentions to post about things slip out the window with it. I had a nice long Halloween post in my head, and I almost just posted it last Sunday but decided to wait until I had time to get pictures on here, and guess what, that has not happened. Here,then, is a text version of my Halloween

I love shopping for other people. Even ridiculous little stuff.
The lights on all the little trees outside Target make me smile.
The lights in downtown Worthington make me smile more,
even laugh with joy!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

End of the Decade (1)

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
- left school
- held a real, full time job
- was a bridesmaid in my sisters wedding (never been a bridesmaid)
- cooked a turkey

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I will write a whole other post about this!!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My cousins had a pretty baby girl, and some of my new friends here in Columbus (nesties) gave birth!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Our friend from Undergraduate committed suicide.

5. What countries did you spend time in this year?
Just America, but I got to go to Arizona and spend some time in the desert, which was mostly new to me!

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Both of us working the same job all year :-)

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
May 31st - Ben and Renee's wedding
June 12th - Laurelyn's wedding
Sept 14th - My first day at work!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Quitting graduate school. (especially considering my biggest failure last yr was not deciding what to do with my life)

9. What was your biggest failure?
I gained a lot of weight, and failed to maintain any vague sense of organization

10. Did you suffer any serious injury or illness?
I was diagnosed Hypothyroid, but its not that bad.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
PS3 to play Rock Band on :-) Plane tickets to come home for Christmas.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Both my older sister and SIL for graduating their programs

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and/or depressed?
The main thing that depressed me this year was the (often ridiculous) resistance to providing some kind of health care for those who cannot afford insurance or are not lucky enough to have a job that provides it.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage and savings, and lots of little luxuries

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Leaving grad school, our travels to Arizona, the three weddings we went to, coming home for the Holidays

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Pink's "So What" and anything from Rock Band

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier
b) thinner or fatter? fatter
c) richer or poorer? richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I had written more, spent more time keeping organized, and used our deck more.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At my parents house in the middle of a blizzard. It was Perfect.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
I am totally in love, there is no more need for falling :-)

22. What are the main websites you used?
Gmail, Columbus Nesties message board, facebook, blogspot

23. Did you write anything worth reading this year?
Maybe a poem or two, thats about it though.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
My TV viewing was significantly cut. I never got back into any scripted shows since the writers strike and in general find that TV has not been keeping my interest. My favorite show is NFL Football!!

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I try to avoid hating people, it never brings anything good.

26. What was the best book you read?
This question is VERY difficult since I read over 100 books this year. Lets go with The Unbearable Lightness of Being as my academic pick, The Help as my popular pick I would recommend to everyone, The Book Thief as my Young Adult Pick and House of Leaves as my creepy as heck pick.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Rock Band continuously introduces me to new artists, or artists I should know and do not. I don't really have one that stands out though.

28. What did you want and get?
Lots!! PS3, Nintendo DS, Everything I got for Christmas pretty much, lots of good parties, time in Duluth, time off (pleasantly unemployed!!)

29. What did you want and not get? Nothing comes to mind.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
I feel like I saw lots of good movies this year. I have to admit I am obsessed with New Moon, The Princess and the Frog for kids movies, Zombieland for Comedy, but as a more serious pick lets say Inglorious Bastards

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Hmm. Ah yes! We were at Ben and Renee's wedding rehearsal and bachelorette party!!

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More job security/stability for DH

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Presentable Casual

34. What kept you sane?
I feel like I did not need nearly as much help to stay sane this year, things were just easier out of graduate school.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
It does not really change. I like Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt and Vin Diesel's voice. LOL. Maybe add the Twilight boys if that is not too creepy.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I already told you all, health care.

37. Who did you miss?
Everyone who does not live in Columbus!!

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Met some new Nesties who are pretty cool!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009 ?
You have to do what makes you happy. Patience is a virtue.

40. What word or phrase sums up this year?
Life is Good!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I'm dreaming of a snowed in Christmas...

Its snowing!! 6 inches and counting. My dad shoveled the sidewalk at 7:40am and then went out to feed the horses. I got bored about a half hour later and went to follow him and see what was up. His footprints out to the barn looked as if they had been there a long time and some were completely erased by the drifting snow. This weather is supposed to keep up until Saturday morning, making for a VERY white Christmas. I am excited, nothing like a good blizzard! Of course, I also hope that my sister and brother, who are currently actually closer in (or in) Duluth manage to make it out here for tonight/tomorrow!! I personally plan to stay warm and cozy inside, next to the Christmas tree, under the stockings :0) [that is, stay inside except when my sense of freedom and adventure having me wandering outside!]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

There is no place like Home for the Holidays...

I am long over due for a post. Since last posting I spent a weekend up in Burton with Laurelyn, worked another week, had a Rock Band party, went to Trivia, and most significantly of course - flew home for the holidays!!

Last Friday we flew from Columbus to Minneapolis in a packed flight next to a man who was clearly very excited to be headed for Minnesota. At the Twin Cities Airport my mom and little sister met us and we headed north. The last five days have been wonderful. Its so fun being here and its amazing how being here makes things like work seem so irrelevant. It has been a whirlwind of eating and activities here, but also plenty of downtime for just chatting or reading. I have been shopping twice (I think everyone here has their shopping done now), ate chinese, greek, homemade sourdough cookies, and of course lots of cookies (including the most amazing soft ginger cookies dipped in coffee, my new favorite), decorated the Christmas tree, watched a few Christmas movies, made a Nutcracker puzzle, and smiled and laughed a lot. Last night we watched the movie Bolt at my brothers house, it is quite amusing. We are expecting a snow storm shortly, I am excited.

Hope everyone is having a nice Christmas season!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mirth on Yule

I bought some alphabet magnets for the metal cabinet in my office. I only bought one set, meaning one of each letter. This limits what I can do with them greatly! To just write my own name I would need FOUR sets. So, anyways, I was trying to come up with a holiday message to write, which was quite difficult indeed. I ended up writing "Mirth on Yule"... note the lack of repeating letters! So, much Mirth on Yule to you!! I like the term Yule in general. After all, it is from Yule that we get Christmas trees, wreaths, holly, candles, misletoe, and carols for our holiday season! (there also is old Yule traditions concerning elves, peace, and charity!).

In other news, I was working on something today when I made this obvious but excellent observation: I would rather be doing this than doing what I did in Grad School (and therefore what I would be doing as a young professor, because really they are not that different). And that, my friends, is worth all the eggnog in the world!! :-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Its the Hap-Happiest Season of All!!

I love shopping for other people. Even ridiculous little stuff.
The lights on all the little trees outside Target make me smile.
The lights in downtown Worthington make me smile more,
even laugh with joy!
Our Christmas tree is pretty as can be!
I am writing the annual Christmas poem.

Life is good.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I guess it is finally time or me to prioritize getting up a post about my Thanksgiving weekend! I spend all day at work on the computer, I don't want to spend all night on it as well. This means my internet time is limited and I have to prioritize. Well, I am super excited about the winter reading challenge (of course), so I have been spending my breaks and lunch planning what I am going to read instead of updating my blog. But, here we go finally :-)

Last Tuesday DH and I headed off to a Thanksgiving tour of the midwest. We got off to a late start because DH had to work late. Things are VERY busy at work for him right now, and very stressful. They are testing a new project that someone else put together and it is not working at all. Anyways, we did not get on the road until nearly 9pm. MIL totally did not believe DH when he called and told her we were just leaving! Anyways, we did eventually make it to St Louis, around 3am. We also reiterated the lesson that I should drive the last leg of the trip to St Louis. DH gets lost in St Louis EVERY TIME we are there. Its funny since he spent 3 years living there and I only spent 3 months, but I guess my sense of direction is just that much better.

Anyways, Wednesay it was more driving! This time a caravan headed for Kansas. St Louis to KC I drove with MIL and FIL drove with SIL and DH. Enough acronyms? It could get worse!! Anyways, it was uneventful - too bright of a day to be driving! After KC, DH joined our car. It was good company the entire way, and went surprisingly quick. We reached Witchita around 5:30pm, where we met up with UIL... LOL Uncle in Law? Lets call him Unkin and his wife Auntin. Anyways, they arrived just before us. We went out to TGIFridays and I ate a delicious steak while Unkin interrogated SIL about her boyfriend, which was both interesting and amusing. We wiled away the rest of the evening watching Survivorman and relaxing. We determing the Survivorman technique of survival is "find fresh water and starve yourself for seven days".

Thursday - Turkey Day!! - the morning was spent in the endless shower rotation, then some more cousins visited. We headed over to the designated Turkey house around 11:30 where DH's cousins served us an excellent meal and entertained us with their adorable, and extremely energetic kids (2 and 3 years old). We spent the afternoon watching football, harrasing the kids, and playing some game. In the evening we watched Night at the Museum and Love Actually on TV.

Friday morning it was off to discover just how flat Kansas is. I thought Eastern Kansas is flat, turns out the second you get West of Witchita it gets MUCH flatter. We went out about 15 miles west of the city to visit a Hawk rescue that one of DHs uncles is involved in. It was pretty neat, we got to see about 12 different birds up close. We then headed back to TGIFridays for lunch with a couple of family members we had missed. Once that was accomplished it was into the car again, heading for the other side of the IL family. (FILs relatives are in Witchita, MILs relatives in Southeast Kansas). It was a pleasant 2 hr drive with good conversation. Down in Independence, KS we enjoyed chili and each others company.

Saturday morning DH and I took off bright and early to meet a friend from college in Springfield MO for lunch. He actually is the guy who used to live with us here in Columbus. Things are going well for him, but he is very busy with working. We made the obligatory stop at GameStop where he, as tradition goes, bought us a game - Borderlands (for Aaron actually, I am not interested). We spend the rest of the day driving back to St Louis. Saturday night we went and visited our other best friends from college, B&R. I had my first concrete from Fritz's (northern St Louis stand by), pistachio with pretzel, delicious.

Sunday featured yummy french toast made by FIL (the only time I ever have french toast is when I visit the ILs, and it is always so good. I should learn to make it!), and then back in the car. We arrived in Columbus around 7:30pm. Grim and the cats were very happy to see us.

So... the conclusion?
5 Days we were gone
5 States we drove through
3 Cities we stayed in
18 Relatives visited
3 Friends visited
1300+ miles drives