November 9, 2016

Why do you need flexibility?

Over at Ask a Manager, one of the threads touched on the fact that non-parents need to have scheduling flexibility, just as much as parents do. I had noticed people tend to assume that flexibility applies to parents, mostly, or that the reasons tends to be related to kids.

And it’s true that we need it as parents for when our kids get sick, or when our kids get us sick, or they have doctor’s appointments, school plays, break an actual leg, get called to the principal’s office. (In other words, for totally unfun things.) But there are plenty of times my schedule flexibility is important for entirely non-kid related reasons.

  • Seamus has a vet appointment.
  • I have a dentist or doctor or physical therapy appointment.
  • We desperately need groceries.
  • My body just completely gave out and I might still be typing but it’s all gibberish.
  • Sometimes, you just need a 3 hour lunch.
  • I have a secret mission that PiC can’t know about, almost always a surprise for him.

PiC also enjoyed schedule flexibility long before we had a kid, and will always love it for:

  • Midday workouts.
  • Craigslist purchases and sales.
  • Taking the car to the shop
  • Meeting up with a friend who’s in town just for the day
  • Bringing me donuts.
  • Making his Halloween costume.
  • Sometimes he has to take a 3 hour lunch with me.

None of these reasons have ever negatively impacted our work over the long run. We don’t abuse the ability to do our work on our own time, and it makes our lives a lot easier, which makes us happier people. Happier people overall means happier colleagues in the workplace and how isn’t that a good thing?

:: Tell me, do you have any schedule flexibility with your work? How did you get there? What do you use or need your flexibility for?

October 5, 2016

Unlocking the mystery of my next job

HappyWorkI’ve hit a rut

Our current work and life arrangements are pretty comfortable. The work is flexible and particularly good for me when I’m perpetually sick. I can get the work done as long as I have a phone, an internet connection, and a computer. These are all good things.

They are, no doubt about it.

The “but” you hear coming…

I’ve always enjoyed the act of work, my satisfaction is rarely about the work itself, so when the balance tips away from “fulfilling accomplishments” and towards “frustration everywhere”, it’s time to make an exit plan.

I now advise myself, and anyone who asks, to construct an exit plan based on finding their next level of happy instead of waiting until the magic is well and truly gone. Those are two very different mentalities, and the latter is by far the easier. I know this, because I’ve worked jobs til I was well into the Bitter Zone and it was a world away from leaving when I had a better opportunity beckon. People who leave jobs in a blaze of fury imagine it to be glorious, and to be sure, when you’re young there’s something satisfying about taking a walk when you’re fed up but that’s just the illusion of control. Real control is reading the signs long  before you burn out and strategically making the choice to leave on your terms.

We’re coming up on my 20th year in the workforce and something unusual’s happening. Every time I read another job description, nothing happens. No spark, no interest, nothing. It’s impossible to work up even a facade of enthusiasm for going into an office or to a work site. Perhaps it’s because of this stage of life where I want to have at least this much flexibility to do my work without sacrificing my family or even the Exceptional Levels of Tired of late.

Starting at a new-to-me company comes with a host of obligations to prove myself and build new relationships. That’s par for the course but I just don’t much feel like golfing.

I’m not actually ready to leave, for the most part my job is great. It’s just that I need some kind of change and I don’t know what it is yet. Until I do, figuring out what I’m looking for will either answer the question, the problem will resolve itself over time, or I’ll be inspired.

Navja Sol and The Secret to Being Happy with Your Job: I figured out that biggest mistake I’d been making was asking “What job would I want?” instead of “What do I want out of my job?”

Andrea Emerson and If you want to quit your job this year, do this: …your goals must be firmly rooted in your WHY if they stand any chance of survival.”

What do I want out of my next job?

Tangible benefits and structure

  • Telecommuting
  • Absolute schedule flexibility
  • Generous sick and vacation leave
  • An annual equipment budget

The work itself

  • Primarily online
  • A minimum of people time (meetings, phone calls)
  • Needs to have meaning to me
  • Contribute to the world in some positive way

What is my why?

It’ll be 20 years I’ve been working and most of that time has been about career-building.

Now that has to co-exist with building a life with my family. I didn’t work my butt off up til now so that I’d have the privilege of carrying on working and missing the most important moments and years of my baby’s life, or with my partner, or with our four-leggers.

Every decent parent wants to give their kids what they didn’t have. What I didn’t have is a mile long but I’m no fool to overcompensate on everything. What ze will get, if I can swing it, are the two most important things that I missed: more access to books and time with hir parents.

My childhood is marked more by milestones that my parents didn’t witness, lessons and activities that they didn’t see. I thrived even without them but definitely felt the lack. Without being helicopter parents, I’d like our kid to have the option of having us there more than not.

What I want for myself is to have and be an example of a happy functional marriage so JuggerBaby knows that you can choose a partner and live well as a team, if you’re so inclined.

What does a great future look like?

The same thing as what I want to give JuggerBaby, really. More reading and more time with loved ones. It’d be awesome if that could happen while surrounded by a somewhat larger but very cozy home of our own that’s got a private yard where we can throw balls for Seamus, an office and a library, but isn’t too big overall and doesn’t cost three souls and a half plus property taxes. That’s totally obtainable here in the Bay Area, right?

… ok you can stop laughing now.

:: What’s your next great job look like? What does it let you do in your life that you can’t do now?

April 25, 2016

Curating this closet for my best life

 Operation: Dress like an adult. Does your professional wardrobe come up to snuff? When's the last time you thought about it? A closet catastrophe in search of style with comfort

I read Katherine’s post on dressing as a new mom with a tinge of guilt. Never a fashion plate, I took some meanhearted comments about baby weight heard when I was still pregnant too much to heart, and went far in the opposite direction of refusing to give a hoot about worrying over dressing well when I had a baby to keep alive, a career to also keep alive, and so on. “Getting dressed” didn’t mean very much more than changing from one set of comfy pajamas to the next, on harder days, and into cargo pants and tees on the easier ones.

There’s a happy medium between not caring about how you look and being obsessed with your appearance to the exclusion of all substantive things. My life fits in the middle, caring when it matters to me, and leaving it the rest of the time, but I’d left that by the wayside.

The casual nature of my job didn’t help. The SF-standard CEO in tee-shirts and flipflops isn’t just a stereotype! To make matters worse, I’m digging through a wardrobe that still has clothes dating back to 1999. Because I might go somewhere warm again, someday! And it still fits! And… no, that doesn’t mean I should still wear them. For someone who came from having very little, discarding things that still “work” is a hard notion to wrap my head around.

Now that I’m out walking more, dressing down and even sloppily is my camouflage, protection against the street harassment. I can’t walk across the street with LB alone without being harassed, and this isn’t one of the worst neighborhoods in town.

I’ll keep dressing in “ugly” camo for those jaunts because life is too busy to waste time wishing fiery deaths upon that worthless scum that catcalls, stalks and harasses women on the street. For the rest of the time, though…

An essential part of being a professional, secondary to high performance, is presenting myself professionally.

It’s time to shape up. It’s never been easy to put together a wardrobe that looks professional but can be worn day to day. Like Cloud, I’ve never had lofty ambitions in the fashion arena. I don’t need to be fashionable, I need to be not frumpy. Finding where that coincides with my need for comfort and low maintenance level, is the challenge.

We’re not in a position to replace my entire wardrobe in one go, now that I’ve paid off Uncle Sam for the year, but I wouldn’t do anything without an action plan either.

First, the purge

I’m starting the process by ruthlessly digging out the sartorial deadweight.

Those old sweaters that I bought back when I was cold all the time and was just desperate for warmth, any warmth. Like a bear facing winter, I was adding layers with cardigans that did the job but nothing for my appearance. Same for the long sleeve shirts that are now too tight in the arms. PSA: Lifting a 25 lb weight between 1-6 hours a day will do something to your biceps. I’m guessing that Hulking out of my sleeves isn’t the current look. But whatever the look is, I like my blood circulating, thank you very much.

Pants are problematic. I’m staring down a pile of pants, they’re all a little bit off. Those jeans are 19 years old and look like it. These jeans are a breath too tight. The newest pair of jeans are too long and loose. The older jeans are tight but the right length. It feels like the best thing to do would be to toss all the oldest and start over but I can’t bring myself to do that. I don’t have a good replacement yet and I’ve learned the hard way not to go purging willy-nilly. As Donna and her commenters pointed out, ever so timely with this post, it’s not a good idea to go overboard. Then again, I have a bit of history with breaking my pants with new jobs. It’d be better to lose an old pair than new when I move on!

There are about a dozen geeky tees that I refuse to let go of. These have a place in my life but we need to do better. This has sparked the thought that I need to design a business casual line of geek-inspired clothing to replace the geeky tees that aren’t interview or boardroom ready. Would I be my only customer? I could live with that.

Next… I need help!

If I were tall and willowy and Gina Torres: everything she wore in the first few seasons of Suits, get in my closet! Kerry Washington’s styling in Scandal is also impeccable. If I were way cooler than I am, I’d be cool with the wardrobe for Maggie Q from Nikita. But not their shoes. I can’t do any of their heels.

Then again, none of their clothes are kid-friendly. I wore a nice blouse and slacks to a parent volunteer thing and came home with three kinds of fluids on me from kids who used my shoulder as a landing pad for their drippy faces. There’s always one kid who thinks I’m their person.

Naturally, I’m none of the above. I’m short, slim to the point of being skinny. My knees (and every other joint from the hips on down) are a no-heels-zone. They need support and cushion, it’s not optional. The ideal uniform is easy to put together, baby friendly, me-the-klutz friendly, and travel friendly.

If we still lived in the southern half of the state, this Polka Dot Silk Wrap Dress and this silk chain link print shift would be in my shopping cart just waiting for a great sale. But if 60 degrees doesn’t feel like freezing anymore, it’s still not warm, I don’t care what you say. I know you’re laughing at me, Canadians – I’m at peace with that.

In truly temperate weather, I’m in a cotton shirt, jeans or stretchy slacks, a draping light cardigan or sweater. I love my Bobeau fleece and Caslon drape neck zip cardigans. They don’t sell the zip cardigans anymore so I’m glad I gave into the temptation to buy it in both colors. In cold weather, I have one great winter coat but my ability to go from light to heavy layering is limited.

Shoes are typically flats or flipflops or sneakers. I’d love more classic styles but loafers and other similar shoes often look like clown shoes on me. Alternate suggestions?

In real life, I adore Jean’s and Kelly’s styles. Also Wendy’s. They’re even close to my body type. But as you can see, they’re far more polished, and oftentimes fancier, than I.

On second thought…

It turns out the act of writing this out is clarifying. When I started writing, it was mostly a mess. But I’m starting to see that my ideal style looks put-together and feels great to lounge and work in. That’s not impossible! Right?

My idea of matching colors is appalling, let’s get that out in the open right now. I think the general rule of thumb here is to remove all pieces that aren’t in a complementary color palette and restrict any new clothes to a simple color palette. Does anyone know how you do that?

I gravitate toward dark greens, blues, black. They’re easy, combined with white, though white is not awesome for me with an over-active child to chase and feed. Is tan and beige a good alternative? I really like the look of a crisp white blouse but probably that life isn’t for me.

Every so often, a bright color grabs my attention and I can’t resist. That’s one root of my current crisis. For example, I went wild and bought dark red slacks a while back. I like them but they seem to go with exactly one blouse. Like pantry cooking, people will helpfully suggest several combinations, but I currently own none of those other pieces!

That means I need a list of acceptable colors that would go with the basics that I already own. Ideally, I should be able to mix and match all tops and bottoms.

Now that I have a semblance of a game plan, I’m eager to start making this work.

Sidebar: Though we don’t dress each other, PiC and I share a similarly relaxed approach to style but it’s so much easier for him to look effortlessly business casual. Why is men’s clothing so much simpler?

:: What’s your style, how long did it take to refine? How did you figure out the color and the matching pieces thing? Who do you rely on for advice about this stuff?

:: The comment was “She still has ‘baby weight’. It’s been two years! I’d kill myself if I still had baby weight two years later.” I’m used to hearing horrible comments about women and their weight but that got my goat.

April 18, 2016

Did we anger the technology gods?

Technology: Can't live without it, can't seem to keep it alive! The day it was like Skynet took over and shut me down.My tech boom and the day it all went south

We aren’t early adopters.

Setting up new gadgets, or paying for them, isn’t fun the way it was when I was 13. Or was it 15? Honestly, I can’t remember when communication technology first crept into our lives, but I was part of the generation that adopted pagers for fun at $3/month. We’ve come a long way since then, with the smartphones and the touchscreen computers, and the phablets.

(Can’t you just hear the old age settling in? Or is that creaking our bones?) Either way, new technology here is unusual, but we can’t seem to survive without it.

It was a big deal when PiC surprised me with an iPad so that I could still work on days that my fingers had checked out of Hotel California.

It was a huge deal when we graduated from only upgrading our phones when offered a cheapie free phone in exchange for a renewed contract (remember that?), to buying the exact one that he wanted.

It was the biggest deal to buy a new laptop, only the third one I’d bought in 16 years, that was exactly what I wanted and needed for all my work and personal-work life.

Riding high on the clouds of “high” tech is exactly where they want you

…when the machines turn!

First, it was the brand new laptop. Less than a month old, but more than the 3 weeks to qualify for a return, the laptop randomly, and without warning, turned off.

At first I chalked it up to carelessness, obviously I’d let the battery run down. Right? After leaving it plugged in overnight, satisfied it had had more than enough time to get a full charge, I cracked my knuckles (mentally) and set in for a good day of work. Only to sit in front of a black screen, head cocked, wondering if it was just me.

It was and it wasn’t. In expert-speak I believe this is called “The computer hates you-itis”. Something was seriously wrong and thankfully, I had sprung for the premium service plan: parts and labor and in-home service, for three years. Responses were guaranteed within 2 days.

What they didn’t tell me was the policy only guaranteed that they would acknowledge you had a problem in 48 hours, they didn’t say that they would fix that dang thing in that time. Great!

Resigned to waiting 5-7 business days for the hardware to be shipped to the service tech, who would then schlep it to our house to actually revive my computer, I started to work on my old laptop, Backup #1.

Backup #1 had gotten the memo, though, and ten minutes in, the fan started rumbling like it was going to implode. Or explode. The jury’s still out on which would be worse. Shaking my head, I pulled out an even older laptop and, transported back a decade to Win 95, tried to get some work done. Except its ability to keep more than two tabs open has been long-lost to the mists of time.

iPad? I could work on the iPad! Except all my passwords were locked up in Dead Computer. In 1-3 minute bursts, I coaxed Backup #1 to give up the passwords, one painful bout at a time. But of course, the iPad decided that it wanted charging and by the way, it also didn’t feel like letting me view attachments.

That was Backup #3 down. Doubtfully, I hauled out an old netbook that only ran Win 7 starter, and if you can imagine a tiny computer laughing in your face, that was Backup #4.

Driven into the arms of Apple

Desperate to get some work done, any work done, at this point, I commandeered PiC’s old MacBook.

Quick background: Once upon a time, I was the indifferent owner of an iPhone and a MacBook. They worked ok. Well, except the iPhone – both I and the Genius Bar are convinced that thing was possessed – but generally, the user interface was ok and they lasted a long while. After they died a relatively dignified death, though, going back to PC and Android was a breath of fresh air. I’m neither an Apple fanatic or a PC devotee, I just want a thing that works and lasts years.

The transition was simultaneously a huge relief and almost equal frustration. There are basic programs on PC that make my work flow more easily that just aren’t available to Apple users. My Apple-sworn friends helped me with substitutes but none were as useful as my originals. There are not so basic programs I’d have to buy again for the MacBook that I just didn’t want to spend the extra money for.

But the computer turned on and stayed on and, at this point, that was about as high as my blighted expectations could rise.

For a long horrible moment, I wondered if I’d have to spring for a new Mac ($$$$) and buy a whole new Apple set-up ($$$). We could pull the money out of savings but we’re just catching up after several huge expenses from the end of last year and the beginning of this. Then I told myself, Self, don’t get ahead of yourself. You’re just stressed and stresseder. Let’s see what happens with the repair and go from there.

Then my phone died.

My soul wept. Actual tears may have been shed. I can’t remember, I went into a sort of fugue state at that point.

I had to wait five weeks for that repair.

The Mac was available, and working for those five weeks, thank goodness. Y’all, if I had one more backup computer die on me I would have lost my mind, bought three brand new computers, and burned every one of the others in a massive sacrifice to Electronica, the god of broken technology.

I can sort of laugh about it now that the primary computer has been repaired. Sort of.

Backups #2 and #4 for sale are still being listed for sale as old scrap or whatever it takes, and putting that money aside for New Backup #2 because who here trusts my computers anymore?

:: Has Skynet ever taken over your day?

It feels like I keep overpaying for my gear, even though I do usually hunt down bargains, because I’m looking for quality too. Do you have any super reliable ultrabook (I need very lightweight gear) or phone recommendations? Is there a secret to gear that works?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and, *

April 13, 2016

24 hours, Part 3: tissues, sleep, and taking turns

24 hours, Part 3: coparenting, petri dishes, and self-careEveryone is down. I repeat, everyone is down.

PiC’s taken to bed with a high fever, LB’s the one who brought home the fever and is still sick, and I’m pretty broken as well. Seamus is the only one still going on all pistons. You’d think he’d have more concern for his survival in this situation. Instead, he steadfastly sticks by us with an air of unconcern.

LB has been waking around 3 am, right at 6 hours past Motrin o’clock, crying pitifully. Ze’s congested, and burning up again. I stumble around prepping the syringe of Motrin and a small bottle of milk. Ze will be thirsty and hungry to boot. PiC’s woken up and came to refresh the humidifier, cuddling LB so I can administer the dose and changes hir diaper. My heart breaks for hir small hiccups and cries as ze struggles to find a way to be comfortable. I send PiC to bed, he’s far worse off than I am, and send Seamus off as well. He’d woken up sometime after I did and came to join us as we tended to LB, sprawling bedside.

Seamus ambles off, amiably and LB dozes fitfully on my chest. Ze hasn’t slept on me since ze was four or five months and as terrible as we both feel, this brings back fond memories. Except now ze is three times larger and heavier. I roll hir off me gently and tuck her into my side so I can breathe too.

We manage four hours of restless but blissful dozing, and we’re up again. PiC stumbles in as I change hir diaper. He of the functional immune system feels better after a few hours of unbroken sleep so it’s my turn. He takes over while I catch a couple hours, then we switch again. He has to go to work for a few hours, so he leaves for the office while I clear up and get caught up on the morning’s work. The tidying can wait, I only have so much energy and my brain needs it all for work.

LB is so exhausted that the nap stretches an unheard of 4 hours, and I can relax a little bit. I’ve gotten so much done, despite a raw throat, roaring headache, and multitude of aches, that it feels like we can survive this day.

PiC gets home around 1 pm and makes us all lunch. Reluctantly, thinking ze will take up the rest of the day, I log off and we have a quiet meal together.

He’s in charge of hir now so I can carry on working and resting but he’s lucked out. Ze is still so worn out barely two hours after waking, we hear a pitifully tired “put me to bed” cry. We comply and he collapses for a short rest.

We’re not usually this sick and this is definitely as sick as LB has ever been. What a rough induction into cold and flu season? Whoever thought “what better way to challenge our Team Parent skills than to kick out our legs and push us down a hill”, if I find you, there’s a punch coming to your nose.

What did I learn?

Many of these days are about survival, and that’s ok. We don’t have any help other than paid daycare a few days a week so we are careful to spell each other and are maybe more considerate of each other’s needs than if we had more help.

We don’t have to navigate family and complicated related feelings because we’re isolated and don’t have family help. It’s occurred to us that this has actually worked out for us. We’re stronger as a team because we’ve learned to work through our strengths, weaknesses, assumptions, and all of the complications that naturally come up through a long relationship. As much as we miss our parents, far or gone, this hasn’t been without its benefits even on those really hard days.

:: Are you in close proximity to family? Is that a good or bad thing?

Read Part 1 & Part 2!

This website and its content are copyright of A Gai Shan Life  | © A Gai Shan Life 2017. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red