Monday, November 29, 2010

Office supplies to the (working mom's) rescue

My husband has all the fashion savvy in our family -- I'm more of an I-don't-care-as-along-as-all-of-the-important-bits-are-covered-ista. Which means that I'm much more likely than he is to discover a fashion disaster after I'm already at the office. But that doesn't mean I can't fix it.

A couple of years ago, I hemmed a pair of embarrassingly long pants while I was at my desk at work -- while I was wearing them. I am proud to say that did not accidentally sew my cuff to my sock (don't laugh, I've done it before) (oh, fine, go ahead and laugh, it's funny), and I still think it was an example of one of my finer moments in multitasking.

I happened to have planned ahead that time and brought a small sewing kit to work with me. But how often do I happen to have a sewing kit when a clothing conundrum strikes at work? Almost never, that's how often.

So, in general, it's office supplies to the rescue for me. Here are five ways that the stuff in your desk drawer can save the day -- and you don't have to be MacGyver to make it happen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cheerios promotes literacy by putting books in cereal boxes

A recent survey by General Mills has found that nine out of 10 moms believe that kids from all income levels have access to books through their schools and local libraries. Four out of 10 replied that they don't think there's a disparity in access to books between middle- and lower-income kids -- in spite of research that shows that lower-income kids lose literary skills over the summer months while middle-income kids actually make small gains.

In order to promote literacy and increase children's access to good reading materials, General Mills is tucking copies of five different books inside boxes of Cheerios from now until whenever supplies run out. Their Spoonfuls of Stories program is in its ninth year; the books are written in English and Spanish and are aimed at children ages 3 through 8.

Please join me over at Shine!

Sorry for the week-long silence, but I've started a new job, and posting may be a bit light while I find my footing. After 16 years at the Boston Globe, I've left the newspaper biz -- though not journalism! -- and joined the team at Yahoo!'s Shine, where I'm the Senior Editor in Shine's Manage Your Life section. (I'm especially amped because I started blogging for Manage Your Life when Shine launched in 2008, when the section was called Work + Money.) So, please stop by and see what Shine has to offer! Who couldn't use a little help managing her life?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Covering the cost of college

According to Sallie Mae's national study, "How America Pays for College 2010" (conducted by the folks at Gallup), the average U.S. family covers almost a quarter of college costs with scholarships and grants -- but that's rarely enough to pay the entire bill. The average scholarship was about $7,800; according to data from The College Board, the average cost per year at a public four-year college is about $9,000 -- about $35,000 per year for some private four-year colleges. And that's for undergraduates.

The study of more than 1,600 undergraduate students (age 18 to 24) and their parents also found that 43 percent of families received scholarships for the previous academic year, up from 40 percent the year before. And for those who are looking ahead to next year, Sallie Mae's free scholarship search currently has more than 1 million scholarships -- $6 billion worth -- to which you can apply between now and February 2011.

My oldest stepdaughter hits college the same year my youngest son hits kindergarten -- year after next -- so tuition, scholarships, loans, and grants are high on our list of "Things We Really Should Be Thinking About Right Now, Or Perhaps Yesterday." November is, apparently, National Scholarship Month, and to that end Sallie Mae is offering parents and high school students a chance to chat with author and scholarship expert Kelly Tanabe tomorrow (Wednesday, Nov. 17) from 9 to 10 pm. (EST). The chat will take place on Sallie Mae's Facebook page, so you can sign up to participate or lurk at their wall as you see fit.

Tanabe is the co-author of 12 books on the college admissions process and on paying for college; her latest book is The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2011. I asked Erica Eriksdotter at Sallie Mae for some tips for parents who are looking to pay for college soon; during the chat, Tanabe will be addressing ideas like these and many others. Here's what she shared with me:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Newsflash! Working moms: Your kids will be just fine

Working moms, you can breathe that sigh of relief now: A study drawing from 50 years of research supports what most of us have known all along: In spite of well-publicized reports to the contrary, infants and toddlers with working moms grow up to be just fine.

The study, which appears in the American Psychological Association's publication, Psychological Bulletin, looked at 69 other studies from 1960 to 2010 and focused on academic and behavioral outcomes. What it didn't find -- evidence to support the things working moms typically feel guilty about, including the idea that kids suffer because their moms work -- is as significant as what it did find: the fact that early maternial employment (before the child reached age 3) "was associated with higher achievement and fewer internalizing behaviors" like anxiety and depression.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can taking a step backward secure your career?

In sewing, there's a really important type of stitch called a back tack. It's created when you sew a seam forward on a sewing machine, then a little bit back on itself, and then forward again -- a step taken backward in order to keep an entire long line of work from falling apart.

We back tack in life, too. It's just harder to accept, because we can feel the backward step, but not necessarily the securing of the seam. And in our careers, especially as women, sometimes the backwards steps feel like defeat instead of reinforcement.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Attachment parenting: Empowering or imprisoning for women?

The latest celebrity to fan the flames of the Mommy Wars is famed feminist Erica Jong, who wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend saying that Attachment Parenting amounts to "a prison for mothers," representing "as much of a backlash against women's freedom as the right-to-life movement."

Katie Allison Granju, who blogs at MamaPundit and is the author of Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child, fired back in a guest post at The New York Times' Motherlode blog, suggesting that Jong "quit blaming mothers for the things the feminist movement has yet left undone."

And the rest of us, feminists or not, are caught in the crossfire -- again. Instead of simply agreeing that what works for one family might not work for another, we're back to slinging barbs about blame.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Office etiquette: How to treat your coworkers

When I started working at my main job, I was fresh out of college, younger than some of the interns, and perpetually worried about being taken seriously. So I made sure to dress a little more formally than I had to, kept my long hair up in a severe-looking bun, and was extra-careful about my work. But still, if I had a dollar for every time an older coworker asked me to copy, collate, or fetch something for them that first year, my 401(k) would be a whole lot bigger than it is now.

I remember a coworker who, back in the mid-1990s, told me that I reminded him of all the women who wouldn't date him when he was in college and treated me accordingly. Others asked me how I'd managed to get hired so young (no, nepotism was not involved, though hard work and luck and good advice were). I'd cringe a bit whenever someone asked me how old I was, not because it was an inappropriate question (though it is) but because I hated the way anything I did after that would be judged and downgraded.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

5 things to do with all that Halloween candy

The costumes have been put away (or, at my house, tossed somewhere in the vicinity of the dress-up box). The pumpkins are still sitting on the front step, faces mostly removed, masquerading as "Harvest Decorations" -- in spite of the fact that I don't decorate. The only thing left to tackle is the 100 or so pounds of Halloween candy that's sitting on my countertop.

My husband has been steadily chipping away at the mountain of Almond Joys, and my 4-year-old has told us in no uncertain terms that the Kit Kats are "the very best treats EVER." My 6-year-old is fond of fruity, gummy, chewy things. But everything else? Is fair game.

Aside from bringing it all into the office -- and incurring the wrath of your coworkers, who are probably trying to get rid of all of their candy -- here are five tricks for using up all of those Halloween treats: