76. The waiting game, i.e. how I got a job in academia.

Hey, guess what? I got a new job! My official title is “Director of First Year Chemistry Laboratories/Instructor”. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to say which specific university I work at, but I can tell you it’s in Milwaukee. I started yesterday, and I think it’s going to be a great fit for my personality, much more so than working at a bench top. I am in charge of running/developing the first year lab curriculum, training and evaluating teaching assistants, and teaching courses during the spring and summer terms. Basically, I get to do exactly what I’ve wanted to do since I started college in 2003!

I know a lot of people struggle with the job application process after getting their PhD. Personally, I had no idea how to go about getting a position in academia that allowed me to teach without having to run my own lab. (I should note that these positions are few and far between, and I just happened to be applying at exactly the right time.) Though this post isn’t typically what I write about, I thought maybe the process I went through might help someone else on their career path.

There is always an opportunity to use an IASIP meme. ALWAYS.

In order to teach at the college level full-time, you are going to need teaching experience. I know that’s sometimes easier said than done, but it’s not impossible! Since I did my PhD at a free-standing medical college (i.e. one not attached to an institution with undergraduate programs), there were no in-house opportunities to teach college students. I ended up applying to a small college about 25 minutes from Milwaukee that was looking for adjunct lab instructors. Although they were looking for someone with a Masters degree, I was able to justify my application by pointing out the fact that I had finished all of my graduate coursework and had three years of research experience, which is about what you would have upon completion of a Masters degree. I got the job, and continued to teach there (off and on) through graduation and my 2.5 years as a postdoctoral fellow (about 4 years total).

Speaking of being a postdoc…it just wasn’t for me.  The whole “publish or perish” mantra, being expected (in general) to work 6 to 7 days a week on a mediocre salary, the idea that women in research who enjoy dressing fashionably or doing their makeup and hair were not “serious” about their careers…it drove me nuts and stressed me out.  I could tell you LOADS of stories about times I felt insulted or demeaned, and the worst part is that it came from colleagues and other PIs, NEVER from my own bosses! (Aside: I seriously LOVED both my grad mentor and my postdoc advisor.  They were both kind, supportive, amazing people, and I would work for either of them again in a heartbeat if it didn’t require to me to work at the bench.) I will say that the majority of people that I worked with or encountered were fantastic people, but it’s always the ones who are awful sticking in our memories, right?  Anyway, after about a year of research projects not working out and feeling isolated (most of my time was spent working by myself), I decided to start looking for a new job.

This brings me to my next point about the job search: Look early and look often, especially if you don’t want to have to relocate for a new job. My husband and I weren’t financially in a position to pack up and move across country, so I limited my search to southeastern Wisconsin.  I checked about once a week for about a year before I found postings for which I was [mostly] qualified.  I applied to several positions, some of them in academia, some not. I interviewed for three positions at different companies.  I was offered one job, but declined because the environment would have been terrible (and the lady was f*cking nuts…that’s a different story).  I was also “offered” a part-time teaching position at a community college, but I basically got told that I would just be put into a pool of other instructors and would only be called upon if one of the regular instructors went on leave or quit.  Uh, no thanks.

I applied to my current position on December 7th, 2014, about 2 weeks after the position had been posted. There was no closing date on the listing (this is not the norm for academic positions), so I contacted HR to make sure they had received all of my application materials after about 3 weeks without hearing anything back. I got no response.

Fast forward about TWO MONTHS.  I get an email from the department administrator.  She says she’s going through all the applications, and mine is missing a reference letter. I freak out and email my boss at my part-time teaching gig.  He says he “forgot” to send it, so I “politely” ask him to send it that day.  I don’t hear anything from her for about another week, so I email to make sure the department received his ridiculously delinquent letter.  We did, she says, and now your application is complete.  That was it.  I didn’t hear anything for a while after that, so I just assumed they weren’t interested in me and continued looking for jobs.

Fast forward again.  On March 9, 2015…yes, THREE MONTHS after my initial application…I get an email from the department chair.  I made the first cut!  He wanted to do a phone interview sometime that week, which we did.  I thought it went pretty well, and he said he would contact me within two weeks to let me know whether the search committee wanted to bring me in for a formal interview.  Three weeks went by.  I felt awkward emailing AGAIN, but I did.  He informed me that a faculty member had passed away suddenly and he was helping to cover her classes for the remainder of the semester; he said he’d be in touch shortly with the committee’s decision.  Another two weeks passed.

I finally got the good news on April 20th (yep, we’re over the FOUR MONTH mark now) that the department wanted to bring me on campus for a full-day interview.  My interview was on May 7, 2015, FIVE MONTHS after my application was submitted.  Overall, it went down like this:

1. Arrived at department and met with chair for a tour.
2. Individual meetings with two different faculty members.
3. Gave a teaching demonstration.
4. Had lunch with graduate students.
5. Individual meetings with three additional faculty members.
6. Met with search committee (department chair plus two more faculty members).

The interview went so, so well.  I seriously walked back to the parking garage feeling like a rock star!  They must have felt the same vibe, because I was given a job offer relatively quickly: my interview was on Thursday, another candidate interviewed on Monday, and they offered me the job on Wednesday.  Woohoo!

I did negotiate a slightly higher salary than what was suggested in my initial offer letter.  It felt a little awkward, but definitely worth it as they gave me an extra 5% over the first offer.  IF YOU THINK YOUR EDUCATION AND/OR EXPERIENCE IS WORTH MORE MONEY, ASK FOR IT.  The worse they can say is no, and, as long as you are tactful and give a thorough, thoughtful explanation for the request, they’re not going to rescind the job offer; they did choose you over the other candidates, after all. I also had to consider that all of my future raises would be a much smaller percentage in comparison to this initial boost in salary (I’m getting a 25% bump overall!), so I wanted to start as high as possible right from the start. There is already disparity in salaries between men and women, and I recently read the majority of women don’t even think to ask for more money because we have it drilled into our heads that it’s rude to speak up. Don’t let it be you!  Get it, girl.

After negotiations, I received the “official” offer letter and contract, which included my start date. I’m really excited to start over from scratch at a job that actually makes me want to get out of bed in the morning!

I apologize for the novel, folks, but I do hope this helped someone (anyone!).  Please make sure to send me questions if you have any, I’d be happy to speak with you AT LENGTH about the whole process.  I mean, if you’re not exhausted after reading this post. 😉


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74. Published on Yahoo! (plus, response to snarky comments)

So, remember when I wrote that tutorial for my bridal sash?  And then it got published to The Knot’s website and I freaked out?  Well, it’s happened again.  Yesterday, Yahoo! Makers reposted the Knot’s article to their site, and I’ve had so many new visitors.  Hi, there!  It’s nice to meet you.  Welcome to my craziness.  *waves frantically while flashing a cheesy/creepy grin*

Here’s the link to the Yahoo! piece: https://www.yahoo.com/makers/make-these-6-diy-wedding-day-accessories-108117394615.html

However, I made the huge mistake of reading the comments.  Why do I do this to myself?!  It never ceases to amaze me that some people just always have something rude to say and often will go out of their way to do so.  I don’t normally call people out over the internet, but I’m just so tired of seeing awful comments after EVERY article I read. *puts on snappy comeback hat* (Don’t worry, it’s a freaking FABULOUS hat.)

Exhibit A:

“You know what brides to be??? Sorry to be a negative nancy, no one is really going to remember your wedding but you, your groom, the parents and maybe the wedding party. They may remember that they think you spent way too much on stupid stuff. The only things I remember about the last few weddings I went to are the FOOD. Our niece’s wedding dinner was fantastic. The one before her’s? Horrible food- cold, over cooked, bland. That people remember. Skip the silly butterfly releases, overly ornate decorations, and go back to the basics. Get a pretty dress, find the best caterer you can afford, and get some serious pre-marital counseling. It’ll serve you better in the long run.” – Nancy

Gee, “Nancy”, thanks for letting me know that the whole purpose of my wedding is to throw a party for YOU!  And here I thought it was about getting our families together in one room to witness our commitment to each other.  But, hey, it’s no skin off my back.  I had a GREAT time at my wedding, and I’m sure that our guests did, too.  The food was good, the music was good, and the venue was beautiful.  I loved my dress and all the things that I made, and even if no one else remembers them, I do!  And it makes me smile! EVERY. DAMN. TIME.

Exhibit B:

“Unimpressed. Seems like a pain to make these when you can buy something better looking for not a lot of money.” – Kat

Actually, the sash I made literally took me 5 minutes and saved me about $200 on something I will definitely only use once.  Not a pain at all and seriously the easiest wedding project I took on.  And, frankly, I made the sash I made because I liked it, not to impress anyone else.  I just put a tutorial out there in case anyone might want to do the same thing.  You might have realized that if you had actually looked at my blog, but whatevs, only cool people come here anyway.  *z-snaps all up in yo’ face*

Exhibit C:

“Here’s some advice: Don’t go overboard. The only thing ANY of your guests will notice or care about is the food. They aren’t going to remember your dress, your hair, what the colors were, the ceremony, the music …. NOTHING. Twenty minutes after it’s over, poof … so is their memory. Unless, of course, the food sucked and there wasn’t enough of it. THAT they will remember for years.” – Karen

Again with the food.  Is that really all you care about when attending someone’s wedding?!  What if all I could afford to serve was cake and lemonade?  I would love to hear this woman’s response on that one.


I didn’t do ANY of the things I did because I was trying to “impress” my guests.  I did it because it was what we wanted to remember! Of course no one is going to care about your wedding as much as you do, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire budget on food and entertainment if that’s not what you want to do.  I guess everyone just wants to be an “expert” in wedding etiquette

Do what you want.  It’s your wedding.  If someone wants to get her panties in a bunch because your decorations are overkill or your food isn’t “up to par”, let her…and then go on with your awesomely wonderful day! #byefelicia

THANK YOU to everyone who has been supportive of my posts…I do it because it’s fun and I just want to share what I do!  I know not everyone will like my tutorials or projects, but I definitely appreciate when you go out of your way to tell me that you do. 🙂

In conclusion:



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72. DIY Wedding: Table Runners

So, I haven’t done one of these posts in a LONG time.  We’ll be married three years this May, and I still have a few of these left up my sleeve.  I got an email the other day asking about our table runners and whether I had written up a tutorial for them…and I haven’t.  I decided to write up some easy instructions in case anyone else was interested!

DIY Fabric Table Runners

First, I picked out some fabric.  I decided to go with cotton, mostly because the print I happened to like was on cotton fabric, but also because it’s the easiest to iron and sew.  I purchased my fabric from fabric.com.


I ended up making about a dozen table runners, each measuring 13″ x 72″ (please note: these are the final measurements AFTER the sewing was finished).  You can make yours narrower or wider, but this worked out well for me because the fabric I chose was 42″ wide and fit three runners across perfectly.

I cut out long rectangles measuring 14″ x 73″.  Next, I ironed a 1/2″ hem down each of the longer sides and sewed a seam down each side.  Then, I repeated this process on each of the shorter sides.  Finally, I ironed the table runners and rolled them up until we were ready to use them.  THAT’S IT.  Easy peasy.


If you have basic sewing machine skills, and you know your way around a tape measure and scissors, this project should be a piece of cake.  It just takes up a chunk of your time!

Thanks for reading, I’ll try to post the last of my wedding projects over the next few weeks!


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61. Before and After: Vintage Dressers

So…yeah.  I’ve been really terrible at keeping up with this blog lately.  I blame the nice weather!  And going to the gym.  Both fabulous excuses, if you ask me.

Here’s the next post in my furniture series: a lovely makeover involving a set of vintage dressers.  Vintage Kroehler dressers!  That I found on Craigslist for $65.  (You know I’m patting myself on the back over here…)

Here’s what they looked like when we first got them home.

vintage dressers

vintage dressers

vintage dressers
I sanded them and gave them a couple of coats of Behr Popped Corn, which is a nice “warm” white.  I also gave them a bit of distressing with a sanding block and a cheese knife shaped like a miniature meat cleaver.  My tools known no bounds.

Don’t they look perty?

vintage dressers

vintage dressers
I’d eventually like to switch out the hardware to something a little more modern, but they work for now.  Drawer pulls are expensive, and mama’s gots bills ta pay!

Happy Monday, fools.


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60. Before and After: Antique China Cabinet

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I’ll be joining the festivities later this evening, but first, a blog post.

I promised to make last week all about furniture.  I failed to keep this promise and only wrote one post.  Shame on me!  Let’s try this again.  Hopefully I’ll find the time to write up everything on my list!

Today’s before and after is a lovely antique china cabinet I found on Craigslist.  The young lady who sold it to me only wanted $35!

antique china cabinetIt’s hard to tell from the photo, but the wood was not exactly in great shape.  I decided to paint the cabinet, and decided on a deep turquoise from Behr called “Caribe”.

behr caribe

Source: Home Depot

Jason ended up being the one who painted this cabinet; I had a lot of projects going on at that time, and we just wanted to get them DONE.  I think he did an excellent job.

antique china cabinetThis cabinet got painted almost two years ago.  I use it for storing all my yarn and knitting accessories, and the fact that it didn’t have a handle was super annoying.  Last month, I went back to Home Depot and bought an antique-style cabinet pull, drilled a few holes in the door, and installed the handle.  Much, much better.

antique china cabinetYou’ll notice that the paint job has gotten quite a few dings.  We moved since acquiring the cabinet, and it’s moved around a bit in our new place.  Battle scars, my friends.  Battle scars.  I think they add a bit of character, so I probably won’t fix them.  I also don’t have any more of this paint, so I’m sure that also has something to do with my lack of caring.

before and after antique china cabinetI seriously cannot believe it took me so long to show you this cabinet!  The worst case of procrastination if I ever saw one.  Make sure to check back tomorrow, because I’ll be showing you another furniture makeover: a set of vintage dressers!


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59. Before and After: Vintage Desk

I’ve decided to dedicate this week to furniture.  There are actually several finished projects in my flat that I haven’t showed you!  How terrible of me.  Today, I’ll show you the newest addition to our household, a beautiful vintage desk for my husband, Jason.

My husband recently started working from home, and he was in need of a new desk.  A real desk.  Something better than the cheapo Ikea tables we had sutured together like Frankenfurniture.  I stopped by our local ReStore on Friday afternoon, and found this handsome fella.

vintage desk furniture makeover
He was a bit tired and had some broken hardware, but overall in great condition and very sturdy.  The price tag said $40, but lucky for me green tags were 20% off.  The final cost was $33.79 including tax.

I couldn’t bring this guy home that night (I had a performance with my dear friend Lex Allen), but I made a pit stop at Home Depot on the way home to pick out some paint.  I decided on “Curry Powder” for the main body and “Ethiopia” for the drawer fronts, both colors by Behr.

I bought a quart of the main color and a tester for the drawer fronts.  The total for paint was $19.24.  I wanted to buy new hardware while I was there, but I wasn’t able to measure the current hardware in order to purchase the correct size.

Jason and I picked up the desk on Saturday morning, along with some hardware from Home Depot.  Four new drawer pulls came out to $21.04, bringing the grand total for the desk to $74.07.  A steal, if you ask me.

I got to work as soon as we got home.  Jason helped me sand all the surfaces with medium grit sanding blocks.  After wiping off all the dust, I gave the main body of the desk three coats of paint; the drawer fronts got two coats.  I let the desk sit overnight to cure before adding the new hardware and moving it to its “permanent” position.

I really love how it turned out, don’t you?

vintage desk furniture makeovervintage desk furniture makeovervintage desk furniture makeovervintage desk furniture makeover
Make sure to come back all this week to see my other furniture transformations!  I’ll also be posting tutorials for our platform bed (finally!) and a cute ottoman I built from scratch.

Happy Monday!

vintage desk furniture makeover


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57. Knitting: Double Knit Gingham Neck Warmer (free pattern!)

Remember that nifty new knitting project I showed you a few weeks ago?  Well, it’s all finished and I wrote up the pattern.  I considered putting it up for sale, but I ultimately decided it should be free!  This is the first pattern I’ve written in a while, so I thought it would be nice to give it to the knitting masses for nothing in return except awesome finished products.

So, without further ado, here it is!

Double Knit Gingham Neck Warmer

***Please note:  This pattern is worked in double knitting.  Although it is a good beginner project for this technique, I suggest you do a little practicing before diving into this pattern.  There is an excellent tutorial here. (Skip to about 2:55 to see the actual double knitting technique.)***

Knitpicks Swish DK in coal (2 skeins) and white (1 skein*)
16″ size US7 circular needle
stitch marker
tapestry needle

*If you do not reuse the white from the gauge swatch, you will need 2 skeins.  I had very little white yarn leftover at the end.

18 sts x 25 rows = 4″ in double knit St st (UNBLOCKED)

Finished measurements = 8″ tall x 22″ circumference (UNBLOCKED)

St st = stocking stitch
CO = cast on
pm = place marker
kfb = knit in front and back; knit into the front and back of the same stitch
ssk = slip slip knit; slip 2 stitches as if to knit, then knit together through the back of the loops

CO 96 sts using the i-cord cast on method and coal yarn (or the darkest color yarn you will be working with); pm and join to begin working in the round.

Round 1 (double knit setup row):  Kfb to end. 192 sts.

Round 2:  Working in double knit, begin row 1 of the chart below.  Repeat this 16 stitch pattern to the end of row.

gingham knitting chart

Rounds 3-18: Work in St st according to chart.

Round 19-36: Work a full repeat the chart pattern.

Round 37-45: Complete chart row 1 through row 9 ONLY.

Round 46: Using coal yarn only, work one row in double knit.  Leave white yarn at inside of work.

Round 47: Continuing with coal yarn, ssk to end. 96 sts.

Bind off stitches using the i-cord bind off method.  Weave in ends.

gingham neck warmer pattern

And there you have it: a super chic (and completely reversible!) neck warmer that will keep you toasty and fashionable at the same time! Please let me know what you think, and feel free to ask me questions below! Happy knitting. 🙂

gingham neck warmer pattern

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