Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Plan a Wedding and Stay Sane

wedding self care
In my previous post, I discussed the various cost saving measures my husband and I used during our wedding planning process. This was by far the easiest part of planning our wedding!

Today, reflect on our wedding again and provide tips on how you can survive with your sanity intact! My husband and I made it, so you can too!


Tip #1: While wedding planning, insignificant details suddenly become significant. In the end, they really don't matter.
When we started planning this wedding, I was well aware that it would be lots of work. What I failed to realize was the amount of detail involved. Right from the start I was told that I "needed" things from floor length tablecloths, wooden dance floor, uplighting, Chiavari chairs, knee length or floor length bridesmaids dresses (depending on who I was talking to), matching bridesmaid accessories, Catholic Ceremony, etc. Such advice was often accompanied with warnings if I didn't listen (i.e. "Your pictures will look bad!" "You decorations will look cheap!" "You'll look ugly/fat/old/young/90s/tacky/dated!" "Your guests will be bored/angry/hungry/confused/annoyed/hot/cold/sober/drunk/thirsty/etc!" "People will judge you!" "You'll convert to another religion!" "You'll regret it!")

Thinking back, there were so many hours wasted debating people on and researching insignificant details like tablecloth colors, napkin folds, decorations, makeup colors, uplighting, and seating arrangements. These are certainly hours of my life I certainly would like back, as in the end I'm sure 95% of the people at our wedding didn't notice/care about these things.


Tip #2: When you're told, "It's your wedding, do what you want," there's always going to be with a caveat. Ignore the caveat and trust your abilities.
While I was frequently told, "It's your wedding, do what you want," I often feel like people were really telling me, "Do what you want as long as I personally find it aesthetically pleasing." For instance, I was told that my wedding dress of choice was too simple and looked like a "bridesmaid dress", then asked to try on a gaudy sequin covered gown 10 sizes too large for me and being told it was a perfect fit. Later, I was told my attire looked "dated".

Keeping our wedding true to us was certainly a big challenge, and never in my life have I felt so insecure because everything from my decision making abilities down to my looks seemed to be under the magnifying glass at all times. At one point, I was even told that my demeanor was "too calm". It really felt like the world had their doubts and wanted us to fail.

In the end, my husband and I dealt by taking an "us against the world" approach to our wedding and not allowing unwanted opinions to change what we wanted. If anything, the doubt motivated us even more to throw the most enjoyable event possible for our loved ones. I learned to confident in my decisions and ignore any person, forum, or blog that told me that my tastes were tacky, ugly, and/or dated. While our wedding isn't exactly Pinterest worthy, I'm happy with how everything looked and felt great in my wedding outfit. Yes, I'm some people did have nitpicks (with other probably still waiting to tell me their "feedback") about the wedding, food, and my looks/attire, but so what? In the end, I'm glad my husband and I didn't cave to trends and conventions and can proudly say that we had a wedding that was true to ourselves.


Tip #3: Find support from different sources
Weddings certainly have the ability to teach you about the people in your social circles. While there were a few outlying incidents, I was generally wowed by the positivity and support from many of my family members and friends.

I also found support through online forums like Weddingwire.Com, which allowed me to ask questions and commiserate with fellow brides. What I liked best about the site was that most brides there provided honest and constructive feedback in a manner that was supportive, understanding, and non-judgmental. This extra outlet kept me from overwhelming my own social circles, as their lives are busy enough without me burdening them with my wedding woes.


Tip #4: Treat your wedding party and vendors with respect
Just because someone is your bridesmaid/groomsman does not mean that you own them until after your wedding day. Most likely, there are people you've selected because they're you're closest family/friends, so I find it just wrong to treat them like personal assistants. While our wedding party did offer to help out, my husband and I tried to keep their tasks to a minimum so they could enjoy the day. Ultimately, this wedding is just one day our of the (hopefully) many we will spend together in our lifetimes.

Similarly, while providing paid services, don't forget that vendors are people too. Treat them well from the start and they will return the favor. Also, don't forget gratuity always and positive online reviews for good service! My husband and I were lucky enough to work with wonderful vendors over the course of a year, and one of the saddest parts of this wedding being over is no longer getting to interact with them regularly.


Tip #5: Something will go wrong on your wedding day, but it will be okay!
My coworker relayed these words of wisdom to me on my last day of work before the wedding. Indeed, despite months of painstaking planning, there were still things that went wrong! While there were no major disasters, there were definitely a few near misses and rough patches throughout the day. However, our wedding day didn't fall apart, plenty of things went right, and I haven't heard too many complaints.


Tip #6: Don't expect your wedding day to be the best day of your life
Not only is there so much expectation for weddings to be "perfect", but there's the myth that it's supposed to be the "happiest day of your life". At this point, it's safe to say that the week leading up to the wedding was miserable and exhausting. While our wedding day was great, it was far from the happiest day of our lives as there was so much organized chaos happening around us. In fact, it took several weeks and the arrival of wedding photos for the adrenaline to fully wear down, though these series of blog posts has caused some of those old feelings to resurface.

It's okay if your wedding day isn't the best day ever! If fact, that was my expectation going into this event, as how sad would it be if my life reached its peak on my wedding day? Now that I'm married, my desire is to make even happier memories together with the hope that our best days are yet to come.


Tip #7: Don't forget your relationship...and yourself!
With all the work surrounding weddings, it's sometimes easy to forget the reason for having one! From the beginning, I knew that my husband didn't care as much about "the convention of marriage" as in his mind, we were already committed to each other. I accepted this and hence did most of the planning work. However, as the work increased and the wedding date approached, our lives and free time became consumed with everything wedding related.

Realizing that we were increasingly exhausted and miserable, we made changes like evening walks where no wedding talk was allowed and date nights at our favorite restaurants. Feeling my body start to to break down between the stress of work and wedding planning, I made concerted efforts to sleep early, stay hydrated, and relax when I could. While I'm already familiar with the importance of self-care thanks to my career, I had to be even more mindful of my physical and emotional health during this taxing wedding process. No wedding is worth sacrificing health.


For those who had relaxing wedding experiences, I congratulate you on being extremely lucky! For everyone else, please remember to stay true to yourself, trust your abilities, and that this is only one day out of an entire lifetime! While I'm thankful to have had a wonderful wedding, my husband and I are ecstatic and relieved to have moved on from that part of our lives, and mostly to have some free time again!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My (not so) Cheap Wedding



frugal weddingWhen I turned 18, my parents threw me a Debut Party, which is essentially the Philippine version of a quincinera. It was a lavish event held in a local hotel ballroom and attended by 200 of my closest family and friends.

While I am thankful for the experience, I've known since then that if I were to get married, I'd want a smaller, simpler, and less costly wedding. What I didn't realize was the amount of work it would take to accomplish that.

According to costofweddings.com, the average wedding in the United States costs $26,645, with couples in my area spending between $31,112 and $51,853. While not enough for a house down payment in the Bay Area these days, this is money that could easily be spent on vacations, house renovation, and college tuition for any future children. My husband, who still isn't a fan of the pageantry and societal expectations surrounding marriage, preferred to elope or have a courthouse ceremony.  Coming from a culture that places extreme importance on marriage, I knew my family would never forgive me if we did either.

Thus, we went ahead with planning a "standard wedding" (I use the word "standard" loosely because we did not adhere to my culture's tradition of getting married in a Catholic church). Through it all, we kept the following in mind:
1) Keep to the budget as much as possible, but don't stiff the guests and vendors
2) Treat this as a thank you party for family/friends who've supported us through the years and are willing to attend (see #1 below)
3) Stay true to ourselves, only compromising on things we don't care about much

How did we manage this without blowing our budget? Here are some (sometimes controversial) cost saving measures we enacted:


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #1: Have a destination wedding outside the Bay Area
Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a relative's wedding in the Philippines. This relative had a wedding at a resort and rented rooms for the guests. It was more like a mini-vacation with my family, and I wanted that sort of feel for my own wedding.

After vacationing there two years ago, we opted to have our wedding in Mount Shasta, a beautiful mountain town roughly 4 hours away from the Bay Area. Thanks to the lower cost of living in Mount Shasta City, we were able to find an affordable venue/caterer that would have easily cost twice as much locally. The other plus was cabins on site!

Mount Shasta City California
Mount Shasta


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #2: Cut the guest list
Next to having a low-cost wedding, what was important to my husband and I was that we had a wedding with no more than 100 guests. While my parents advised me to simply "not invite people", we knew that this was completely unrealistic and a local wedding would likely result in 200+ guests.


Having our wedding 4 hours away helped keep our numbers well below 100. The only down side is that the guest list was heavily skewed to my side, while only a few of my husband's family could make the drive. I suppose having a destination wedding may have worked too well in cutting the guest list!


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #3: DIY (Do It Yourself) everything
When I first started planning the wedding, I was told that details and decorations were how I could really personalize everything. To be frank, elaborate decor was the least of my priorities and wanted to spend as little as possible on it. Since my mom loves that sort of thing, I purchased artificial flowers in bulk and let my mom take over the decorating.

This freed up time for my husband and I to focus on details we cared about, like printing our own invitations and making personalized favors for our guests. While ambitious and time consuming, there was definitely a sense of accomplishment knowing that we were able to pull it off. In the end, my mom did a wonderful job with the decor and our guests seemed to appreciate the personalized favors.

diy do it yourself
Pumpkins grown by my parents


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #4: Buy instead of rent.
Wedding planning opened my eyes on the costs of renting things like table linens, chairs, and tables. While doing some comparison shopping, I realized that it was cheaper to buy cloth table napkins than to rent them, plus I get to keep the napkins. I am now the proud owner of 100 burnt orange cloth napkins to use for future Thanksgiving and Halloween dinners!

Wedding Cost Saving Measure #5: Shop early and shop around!
Next to crafting, most of my time was spent comparison shopping. I would definitely recommend booking venues and vendors as soon as possible, as you'll likely be competing with other couples with the same wedding date. Though my husband and I started looking less than a year before our wedding, we were fortunate enough to find a reasonably priced photographer, videographer, cake maker, and DJ. Make sure to check multiple sites as we found our videographer through WeddingWire.com and our photographer through Craigslist.

Once our venue and vendors were booked, it was time to focus on clothing and decor. Bridesmaids dresses were ordered from Weddington Way during a sale. We watched Slickdeals regularly waiting for sales on gift cards and wedding necessities. One trick we used was to buy gift cards for places like Macys, Ebay, and Sephora at a discount, then use said gift cards during a sale. My parents and I lost track of the number of times we visited various craft stores, each with a 50% Off One Item coupon in tow.


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #6: Take advantage of cash back websites and credit cards.
We not only purchased things on sale, but also made sure to use cash back sites for additional savings. To decide which cash back site to go through for a particular online store, we used CashBackWatch.com, which compares rates at the major cash back sites.

Credit cards often offer cash back as well. My husband was fortunate enough to have a credit card which offered 5% cash back on all restaurants during our wedding. This saved us a decent amount on rehearsal and wedding dinner costs.


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #7: BYOB (Bring your own bottle)
When deciding what wines to get, we realized that bringing our own wine and paying the corkage was cheaper than using the wine provided by the venue. Shopping for wine was one of the funner parts of the wedding planning process as we would hunt for bargain wines at places like Bevmo and Grocery Outlet and try them with our dinner. Bringing our own wine worked out pretty well since all our wines cost less than $5 each, including a Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Moscato which proved to be a hit with our guests.


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #8: Pay for what's important to you, not for what is expected
When we first started wedding planning, we were frequently told that we "needed" things like a wedding planner, wooden dance floor, chair covers, ceiling drapes, doves (the birds), aisle runner, 10 appetizers per person, open bar, etc. We had none of these and didn't miss it. Every wedding is different, but if you find that the sole reason you've paying for a service is because you think it's expected, then you can probably put that money towards something else.


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #9: Ditch the wedding planner
Early on, we were advised to get a wedding planner so we could be "relaxed" on our wedding day. Unfortunately, even the most affordable wedding planner started in the 4 figures. Could we justify the cost?

I'm a social worker and a discharge planner. I like to help and the type of person that would prefer to do things herself instead of burdening other people. I wanted to find my own vendors, come up with a timeline, delegate tasks, and be involved during my own wedding day. These things make me happy.

One of the most hilarious parts of my wedding day was the look of horror on the vendors' faces when I tried to do something like move a chair or pick up trash off the ground. Like I said, it's the social worker in me. Would hiring a wedding planner and making our wedding party do more work have been less stressful?  Of course, but I would have felt immensely guilty about the extra money spent and making others do work I could have easily done myself. Plus with the money saved we were able to hire a videographer and get extra beer/appetizers.


Wedding Cost Saving Measure #10: Know your guests
Lots of wedding websites have calculators on the amount of alcohol and appetizers to serve. While they were valuable for planning purposes, what's most useful is knowing your guests' preferences and habits.

For instance, the calculators advised us to get 6-8 appetizers per person. I was also advised to up the appetizers because "people overeat at weddings". My parents - knowing that our family does not eat a lot - advised me to serve fewer appetizers to avoid paying for wasted leftovers. In the end, we cut down to about 4 appetizers per person and even had some leftovers.

When deciding whether to have open bar, we looked at our guest list and realized that most of our family and friends are beer and wine (specifically sweet wine) drinkers. We opted for having a beer/cider/wine-only bar with a variety of choices. No one seemed to miss the liquor and our guests seemed to especially like the sweet wine.


In the end, our wedding cost well below the United States average. While this isn't saying much, considering I know people who've had weddings for under a thousand, our guests were well-fed and seemed to genuinely have a blast, which was most important to me. Of course we could have saved much more by eloping or having a courthouse ceremony, but ultimately, there's still something to be said for throwing a party for all your favorite people.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Return to Blogging 2016

Wow, it's been over a year since my last post! I'm still here, but had to take a blogging hiatus due to my time being consumed by other things. Here's a brief synopsis of my past year:

Got Married.

After seven years, my now husband popped the question that would result in one of the most whirlwind years of our lives. I'll be blogging about our wedding in subsequent posts, but in short, all of our free time was consumed by wedding planning and other related wedding events for most of 2016.

In other news, I've finally moved out of my parents' house and am adjusting to living with my husband. Job-wise, I'm still working as a medical social worker, but am looking into part-time income streams such as blogging and even crafting (thanks to skills acquired while wedding planning).

I have no idea what direction I want to take this blog, but right now the most important thing is that I start writing again. We'll see where this goes!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Road Trip 2015: San Diego Comic-Con!

It's been an amazing month!

This past weekend, I returned from a road trip to Comic-Con and the Southwest United States. While I'm sad that it's over and exhausted from all the driving, I'm thankful to have been able to take this vacation and am already planning my next one! Over the next few weeks, I'll be recapping my trip, starting with San Diego Comic-Con!

Comic-Con Logo

 
Comic-Con: Preview Night

After months of anticipation and excitement, it was now time for one of my favorite weekends of the year: Comic-Con 2015!!! As veteran attendees are well aware, attending Comic-Con takes luck, good budgeting, lots of planning, and serious dedication. In fact, I started planning for this year's trip nearly a year ago, when I booked my hotel room (and 2 backups in case straggler friends joined me). Half a year later, I survived preregistration and ended up with a coveted 4-day pass with preview night. I consider myself extremely lucky and hope that this luck continues in future years.

My trip to Comic-Con started on the morning of Preview Night when I loaded up my rental car and left my house at 5am for the 8 hour drive to San Diego. Overall, it was a fairly smooth ride minus the traffic, construction, and aggressive drivers in Los Angeles. I've heard horror stories about driving in LA but didn't believe them until I was cut off and nearly struck by a Mercedes with a license plate that read "ACT FAST". Not okay!

Despite some Southern California traffic, I managed to make it to San Diego by 1:30pm. After refilling the rental car with gas, checking into my hotel, and returning the rental car, I boarded the shuttle bus for San Diego's Gaslamp District.

Gaslamp Quarter Archway
Gaslamp Quarter Archway
This year was my first year staying outside of the Gaslamp District. While I missed the proximity to the convention center and the action, the frequent shuttle bus pickups seemed to mitigate that. It also helped that I was paying less for my private hotel room than any Gaslamp hostel shared with 3-5 strangers.

My first order of business was going to the volunteer station at the Marriott Hotel to pick up a volunteer badge and my swag bag for the weekend. This year was my 2nd year volunteering for Comic-Con, which allows me to see the inner workings of the convention. Another perk of volunteering is that you get a free pass for each day you volunteer at least three hours, something I will take advantage of in the event of a sell-out during future Comic-Con badge sales.

Batman vs. Superman Comic-Con Swag Bag
My Swag Bag! Note: Check for any damage before you leave the room. I broke the middle snap after leaving and they would not exchange my bag for another!
Next, I made my way over to Sails Pavilion inside the main convention center to pick up my paid badge, then wandered around 5th Avenue collecting free stuff. I lucked our early as I ended up with some fun swag from Sharknado 3. Later, I joined the sea of people waiting for Preview Night to start. Surprisingly, they opened the doors 30 minutes early!

Shardnado 3 Handsaw
Sharknado 3 swag to add to my foam chainsaw from last year's Sharknado 2!
Typically, I spend Preview Night collecting as much swag as possible since popular booths tend to run out early. My first stop was the FOX booth, which was handing out poster tubes (which were round this year as opposed to the awful triangular ones which scratched everyone last year). Next was the Lionsgate booth, which was handing out posters and pins from the upcoming Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 movie. After that, I made a beeline to the WB booth which was handing out movie tickets, magazines, and shirts/sweatshirts. I ended up with a sweatshirt from the show Supernatural.

After the mad rush for swag, I spent the rest of the evening wandering the exhibit hall. Due to its massive size, it's impossible to see everything in one day!  After having tacos for dinner from Valentines, I hopped the shuttle and turned in for the evening!


Comic-Con: Day One

After scarfing down a free hotel breakfast of waffles, eggs, and sausage it was time to hop on board the shuttle for Comic-Con Day Two! Today, my plan was to focus on the off-site activities.

My first stop was the Petco Fun Zone, which had a number of interactive exhibits including a virtual reality film screening, Snoopy Dog House, and drop tower ride. I didn't stay too long, but managed to get free sunglasses and some samples of pizza bites before I left.

My next stop was Adult Swim on the Green, which was basically a midway with a bunch of carnival games like ring toss, skeeball, and plinko. As much as I love carnival games, I hate having to pay to play, so I was definitely a fan of free games with prizes. In fact, I ended up getting a grand prize in the plinko game which I traded in for an Adult Swim water bottle. As much as I wanted a giant stuffed animal, I knew I was driving to Louisiana after this and didn't want to take up all the car space this early into my trip!

Adult Swim UFO
Adult Swim UFO display
Afterwards, I walked along the waterfront, passing thousands of people who were camped out to watch the next day's Hall H panels, headlined by The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars. After swinging by a waterfront exhibit of drones you can now purchase, I walked past another group of  hundreds of people in line for a Lego raffle. 

Eventually, I made it to the Marriott Hotel and checked out the Nintendo Lounge, which had video game demos and places where people could rest and play on their handheld devices.

Upon leaving the Nintendo Lounge, I wandered around the Gaslamp for a while then ducked into La Fiesta on 5th Avenue, which had decent happy hour specials for margaritas and carne asada fries. I was treated to one of the best strawberry margaritas I've ever tasted.

Carne Asada Fries
$6 Carne Asada Fries
Next, I made my way to Nerd HQ, which is a small, free convention that runs in conjunction with Comic-Con. After playing some games and checking out the video game demos, it was back to wandering the streets of San Diego and an ice cream snack!

Scream Queens Ice Cream
Free Ice Cream!
While wandering the Gaslamp, I ran into promoters for the show "Vikings", who were giving away plastic drinking horns that get you discounts at different restaurants. After finding a restaurant that offered more than just Budweiser or Coors, I had a dinner of 50 cent chicken wings and a half-priced pint of beer at Eat Village Tavern + Bowl prior to hopping the shuttle to the hotel.


Comic-Con: Day Two

Knowing that I virtually had no chance of making it into Hall H without camping out overnight, I slept in and spent the morning exploring the exhibit hall and a "Fear the Walking Dead" exhibit at the nearby Hilton Hotel. Not wanting to miss the Marvel TV panels, I made my way to Ballroom 20 an hour and a half early and caught the latter end of "The 100" panel and "The Minority Report" panel (which treated us to a showing of the first 20 minutes of the pilot episode).

B20 Panel
Ballroom 20
Next were the panels for "Agent Carter" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."! While we didn't get any free swag or exclusive previews (since they haven't started filming this season yet), it was great to see the cast interact with each other and tease possible spoilers!

After a disappointingly small happy hour/dinner at a downtown tapas restaurant, I went over to the hospitality suite in the Manchester Grand Hyatt. Here, I was treated to free chips, garlic dip, vegetables, candy, and soda!

Snacks from Comic-Con Hospitality Suite
Free snacks from the hospitality suite!
Later, I walked over to the Midway Museum for a free party hosted by CraveOnline. I'm not a big fan of partying, dancing, and paying full price for drinks, so I pretty much just checked out the museum and left. It's not every day you're allowed aboard a carrier vessel!

View of San Diego from USS Midway
View from the USS Midway

Comic-Con: Day Three

Today was the day I designated as my volunteer day so I could be guaranteed a spot on next year's volunteer list. After checking in for my shift, I was sent to a room filled with volunteers to await assignment. Later, I was sent to another part of the convention center as "standby" in case my services were needed. In the end, I wasn't needed and completed my volunteer shift without having to do much. Not too shabby for a free day at Comic-Con!

After wandering the exhibit hall and grabbing more swag, I went to Lou and Mickey's to grab a free drink for downloading the Webtoons app. Afterwards was happy hour dinner at the Coyote Ugly. Next was the LA Digital Party at the Altitude Sky Lounge.

View of Petco Park
View from Altitude Sky Lounge!
Thanks to some luck and persistence, I managed to get into a William Shatner event at a Gaslamp art gallery! While I wasn't able to talk to him or get autographs, it was worth it being in the same room as him. For those of you who don't already know, I'm an avid Star Trek fan and actually cosplayed in a TOS uniform!

Star Trek TOS Uniforms
I wore a blue version of the red uniform. I work in the medical field after all!
Saturday night of Comic-Con is when the Masquerade takes place, showcasing the best cosplays made by people all over the world. While many people crammed into Ballroom 20 to watch the event, I opted for the live stream from Sails Pavilion. Influencing my decision was that the Sails Pavilion showing had free food, including fancy cupcakes!

Chips, Cupcakes, Cheese
Masquerade Party Food!

Comic-Con: Day Four

Day four is typically my least favorite day of Comic-Con. By then, most of the main events are over and everyone is packing up to leave. I pretty much spent the day wandering the exhibit hall and grabbing last minute freebies from vendors clearing stock.

Unlike previous years, I left the exhibit hall an hour early. This was to stake out a window spot at Dublin Square Irish Pub for happy hour and watch the massive exodus of people once Comic-Con ended.

View from Dublin Square Irish Pub
Awaiting the end of Comic-Con
As down as I get when Comic-Con ends, this year's sadness was tempered by the fact that I was headed to New Orleans next! Additionally, the end of Comic-Con 2015 means that it's time to plan Comic-Con 2016! As of now, I've managed to book lodging for next year and am actively looking for better deals. The planning and anticipation are half the fun!

View from San Diego Convention Center

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Same Sex Marriage Legalized in the United States

Rainbow Piggie Bank
Welcome to the 21st century, America.

Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 vote that the Constitution guarantees a right to same sex marriage. In the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were." While I'm somewhat disturbed that the ability to determine a group's rights hinged on a single vote, I'm pleased with the final result.

It's been a long road to finally get same sex couples the rights they deserve. In 2008, I took to the streets to protest when California voters legalized discrimination by passing Proposition 8. Four years later, a U.S. appeals court ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional ultimately leading to the issue being sent to the U.S. Supreme Court for a final decision. Hard to believe that it's been 7 years, but in this country change is slow.

While we've finally eradicated this dark mark of legalized discrimination against same sex couples, the battle is not over yet. Since Friday's ruling, I've observed numerous individuals (mostly religious) around me and on social media express disagreement with the ruling, along with derogatory and stereotypical statements about LGBTs in general. Additionally, certain states and counties have already made efforts to deny marriage licenses to same sex couples (though I'm sure their efforts will be futile).

As a social worker, I have to be understanding of others' cultural and religious beliefs. However, I struggle when those belief systems involve supporting legislation that segregates and treats certain populations as sub-human. My hope is that with further education, these people will open their eyes and realize that we are all humans and hence should be treated with dignity and granted the same rights.

Congratulations, America! You did well this time!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Burnout Prevention: Epic Road Trip 2015!

Road Trip 2015
July is fast approaching, meaning it's time for my third annual trip to San Diego for Comic-Con! Thanks to convention scheduling, Comic-Con is extra early this year (July 8-July 12). I'm not ready!

To add to the July excitement, my friends at TSG.tv are hosting a Mario Marathon from July 17-24 to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Initially, my intention was to Amtrak down to Texas after Comic-Con. However, after finding out that a number of my friends are road-tripping south, I decided to take advantage of the time between Comic-Con and Mario Marathon and take a road trip of my own!

Here's my itinerary thus far:
  • San Diego (for Comic-Con)
  • El Paso, Texas
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Dallas, Texas (Mario Marathon)
  • Santa Fe/Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Santa Barbara, California
In the next few weeks, I'll try to post about my planning process from packing, arranging transportation, to booking the cheapest lodging possible (including some free hotels). This is probably one of my most ambitious trips yet, and it's certainly been a learning experience. It's also been an exhausting one as I've spent most of my free time and many late nights working on my itinerary and packing. Travel planning is a lot of work, but I'm hoping that it all pays off next month!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Social Workers are Ridiculously Underpaid

social workers are underpaid
I try not to gripe about my salary too much. As a medical social worker in California, I know my salary is above average compared to the rest of the country, allowing me to do things that many other social workers cannot do. While I make nowhere near what people with engineering, medical/nursing, and business degrees make, with the exception of housing woes I am actually doing alright.

However, I find it hard to stay quiet when it comes to unfair pay disparities within my profession. Social workers are mandated by their Code of Ethics to combat social injustice. One platitude frequently touted by the profession is "Equal Pay for Equal Work". While this statement is typically used to advocate for gender pay equality, I feel that it can also be applied to pushing for fair wages for social workers, especially those in the hospital setting.

As many medical social workers know, our jobs overlap heavily with nurse case managers. In fact, I perform many of the same discharge planning duties as RN case managers. With the exception of a few variations (i.e. RN case managers having to perform insurance review tasks and social workers handling most crisis situations), RN case managers and social workers are so similar that they are often grouped into the same department. Unfortunately, their pay is vastly different.

According to payscale.com, the average RN case manager salary is $66,000. The average medical social worker salary is $49,992. Or course, this varies on location. In the Bay Area, medical social worker salaries are higher and nursing salaries are much, much higher.

Recently, a coworker disclosed that a nurse case manager friend at another hospital recently received a five-figure bonus for good work. On top of that, she quoted a six-figure base salary that is more than double my hourly salary

Later I was looking at a complex case manager job postings which require either an RN or MSW degree. In a discussion with another coworker who works at other hospitals, I found out that MSWs still get paid significantly less than RN case managers despite performing identical duties and having the title "case manager".

I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel somewhat demoralized, especially compounded with my family support. I realize that nursing school is difficult, but so is getting a masters degree in social work. What continues to baffle me why a masters in social work deserves half the salary of an RN case manager with an associates or bachelors degree, especially when our job functions overlap so much.

I definitely understand why nurses earn what they do, and their salaries are fair given the cost of living around here (but ridiculously low everywhere outside of California). As I was writing this, I went back and reread my past post on nursing salaries to remind myself of the rationale behind why nurses are paid so much more. To be honest, until social workers unionize or our leadership stands up for us, then I'm not sure what can be done to fix our wages. On an individual level, if I demand an RN case manager salary for the work I do, I'm sure I'd get replaced by a social worker willing to work for much less.

So how do I cope with this on a daily basis? In the words of Peggy Carter, "I know my value". Going into social work, I knew that I would be overworked and underpaid. Even though others are getting paid much more for doing the same work, I find satisfaction in the work I do and the people I help on a daily basis. Making less does not make social work a lesser profession, nor does it make me a lesser person. I am much more than my paycheck.