Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The WFH Quandry

No. I didn't misspell WTF.

WFH stand for Work From Home. An ability I've cherished for over a decade.

Its opponents would say that it allows unsupervised workers to slack off. Play video games and watch TV instead of earning their paycheck.

It's actually the opposite. When I work from home I'm able to log in earlier, stay online longer, focus better and be far more productive. It also has a dark side, where I've sometimes put in 10-14 hours (or more) in a single day. That's fine once in a while if you're paid hourly wages and getting overtime. Just dumb if you're salaried, like me.

For several years I was entirely WFH. I ran my writing and editing business from my home office. Since I was my own boss, there were no PTO days. When I wasn't working, I wasn't earning. Period. So I worked. A lot. Too much. Work and home were one in the same, and the lines were entirely too blurred.

When I decided to go back to corporate life, I was happy to learn that WFH was accepted.

I started by using WFH for the occasional bad weather days. I've been living in Minnesota for years, and our harsh winters are sometimes unkind and downright dangerous for long commutes -- or even short ones. On days when the roads were treacherous, or the car wouldn't start, instead of being late or absent I'd just log in from home and fulfill my entire work day.

Then, I'd start using WFH for when the kids were sick. If they were going to spend all day sleeping and just need me for the occasional bowl of chicken soup, why not be working? Then, I started using WFH for when I was sick. Instead of taking a day to make myself better, I was up in front of my computer, tapping away, answering calls between sips of hot tea and muting my line while I hacked and coughed.

At least it preserved my few days of PTO that were required to be used for sick days as well as vacation.

As gas prices rose and internet connectivity got better, I was able to establish a regular WFH schedule of one day a week. Usually on Fridays, but it moved dependent on whether or not I was needed in person that day. I had a long commute, and WFH meant I could spend an extra 3 hours working instead of making myself pretty and driving.

After my MS diagnosis 5 years ago, I bumped that up to two days a week. My doctor demanded that I take better care of myself, MS fatigue was a major factor affecting my life, and driving 2-3 hours every day wasn't helping. My job was stressful enough on its own. Working from a home setting 2 days a week was a huge help.

So for the past 6 years, I've been working from home an average of 2 days a week. I'm an associate director now, and manage a team, so some weeks I just have to be onsite. Some weeks I work from home more -- bad weather, health issues, a heavy deadline where I need to cut myself off from everyone. I'm fortunate to have a dedicated and organized home office space that meets all of my needs. What's to complain about?

Two and a half weeks ago, we took a family vacation. A big vacation. Like traveled to Europe for the first time in 25 years kind of vacation.

And boy did I need it. Deadlines and big production releases changed at work. Tough. I made my reservations months ago and those airline tickets were non-refundable, baby. Thank goodness. I prepared my team and director, set up delegates, told them I wouldn't be available by phone or email and took off. I had hardly a thought of work for two weeks.

Our vacation wasn't perfect. In fact, there were a few considerably stressful kinks that came up. The travel day there was an exhausting 32 hours. The trip home was 24 hours. But the good far, far outweighed the bad.

The night before I went back to work, I hardly slept a wink. Anxiety over the hundreds of emails and problems that would be there waiting for me robbed me of any rest. My drive in to work that morning was no better. My stomach was in knots. This wasn't right.

I made a point of getting into the office early, before anyone else. The lights were still off on my floor. All was quiet as I dug into the electronic mess before me. Within a few hours, I was feeling better. Co-workers were happy to see me back. I'd gained back most of the perspective I'd lost in the months of day-to-day work issues. I was able to let the problems and the stressors roll off and take a calm approach in the office.

Until today. Until I had my first day back, working from home.

I was cranky.

What was it? I got up. Didn't have to dress up or do my hair. Logged in early, as usual. Didn't have to fight traffic or make appearances. Just work. Not even the usual litany of endless meetings from 8am - 5pm.

It finally dawned on me.

I'd spent two weeks absolutely separated from work. No emails. No text messages before breakfast and after dinner. No late calls. No 3am wake-ups. No commutes spent worrying and fuming. No missed lunches for back to back meetings.

I spent time focused on my family. Just my family.

After two weeks, logging into my computer at home felt like an intrusion. I found myself wanting to focus on my home and family when I was in my house. For someone who has made a habit of WFH for over 10 years, it came as quite a shock. This morning, I didn't see my established home office as a room apart, but as part of our home.

Don't get me wrong. I don't just cherish the ability to WFH, I need it. But in trying to maintain my european vacation zen, I've become protective my personal space and privacy. And that's okay. In staunchly defending WFH, I'd allowed it to take over my home. That's not okay.

Before the vacation, my life was severely out of balance. Work got the attention, and home sometimes suffered for it. I just need to get one foot firmly on each side of this teeter-totter.








Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reflection on 2008

Found another long-lost, unpublished post. Eh, what the hell? Enjoy. 



It's that time of year again. Yes, there are still about 2 weeks left in 2008, but I need to write when I have the time and the inclination!

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
- Played "single mom" for about four months
- Put it more work-week hours than I thought possible
- Became a "stage mom"
- Spent a few days alone in my house
- Repaired my own lawn mower
- Performed in a 26-show musical run
- Called the paramedics for my daughter and followed the ambulance to the hospital


2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't make resolutions. I just look for ways to improve throughout the year.


3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.


4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not very close, but dear in memory. My high school German teacher, Frau Blecha.


5. What countries did you visit?
None.


6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Very similar to last year:
- Greater peace of mind
- Breathing room
- Time for taking care of the home front
- Traveling for pleasure instead of for necessity


7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day Tony left for Florida. We thought we'd be apart for a year.


8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting a better paying job that encouraged working from home as an option.


9. What was your biggest failure?
Letting that job take over my life when I didn't have it to give.


10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing much. The usual colds and occasional ooginess.


11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets for Tony to visit us and for me to visit Tony.


12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
- My husband: for following his dreams, continually striving for improvement, and being there for us when we needed him the most.
- My son: for his focus on his goals and emotional growth as an amazing young man.
- My daughter: for her academic improvement and courage to try new things.
- My kids and parents: for their love and support for both Tony and me.


13. Whose behavior appalled and depressed you?
- Former friends
- Our government and leaders
- The TSA
- A majority of the American public


14. Where did most of your money go?
Technology and travel.


15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
- My job
- The movie premiere
- The Space Shuttle launch
- Visiting my in-laws (no joke!)
- Seeing Sir Ian McKellan
- Seeing Spamalot
- Seeing my son in his FIRST high school show
- Finding old friends online


16. What songs will always remind you of 2007?
That's a tough one. I really don't know that until I'm past 2007 and hear a song that ends up reminding me of it.


17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder?
Happier. Definitely. More content.

ii. Thinner or fatter?
About the same.

iii. Richer or poorer?
In cash or in things that are really important? Friends, love, security, family... richer.


18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
- Working on the house
- Spending time outside
- Being with my family


19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
- Being on the computer (work and play)
- Worrying (job search)
- Being angry over things I had no control over


20. How did you spend Christmas?
Quietly with my husband and kids... playing Rock Band, playing board games, watching movies.


22. Did you fall in love in 2007?
365 times... with my husband.


23. How many one-night stands?
ZEEE-RO.


24. What was your favorite TV program?
I think Doctor Who topped the list.


25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Interesting question. There are definitely those that I dislike, am disappointed in, or am baffled by reasoning, behavior, or choices.


26. What was the best book you read?
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova


27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
There was none this year, unless you count rediscovering old favorites.


28. What did you want and get?
- More travel
- Seeing family


28. What did you want and not get?
- Travel to Europe
- Our passports
- A better job for Avindair


30. What was your favourite film of this year?
On the fun side, Hot Fuzz.
On the serious side, Sicko.


31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
On my actual birthday day, had a nice dinner with my husband and kids. I turned 41.


32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having the freedom to be in charge of my own schedule -- when to work, when to play.


33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?
Me.


34. What kept you sane?
My husband and kids, my dog, getting outdoors.


35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Whom did I "fancy"? I don't think I'd go that far. There are those whose work I enjoy or I think are attractive, but "fancy"? Not so much.


36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Health care


37. Whom did you miss?
- Family
- Penmaster and Raven
- Uncle Dale


38. Who was the best new person you met?
Not a clue.


39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007:
Say goodbye to people and situations that are a destructive influence. Life's too short.


40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Always look on the bright side of life."

Review: 10,000 B.C.

I discovered a few drafts that for some odd reason, I'd never quite finished. Releasing them on the unsuspecting public now. Spoiler Alert: This review ends in a cliffhanger. 



WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Yes. If this movie wasn't already spoiled rotten. So rotten, in fact that it currently holds a 7% on the Rotten Tomato meter.

I confess. We went to 10,000 B.C. with one expectation: to get a good laugh from what we knew would be a hideously bad film. I must say that it did fulfill that expectation -- in spades. One look at the trailer, depicting woolly mammoths building the pyramids, and we were hooked.

Where, oh, where do I begin?

10,000 B.C. follows the meandering trail of D'Leh (who's name is funny enough, but I prefer to call him "NeanderTed") as he stumbles from hunter-gatherer to Neolithic farmer for a chick with bad blue contact lenses named Evolet. Truly a film for the WASP "special snowflake" generation, NeanderTed and Evolet trip over a pile of woolly mammoth dung and are credited with saving civilization.

Once again, I warn you: SPOILERS AHEAD. Proceed at your own risk.

The movie begins with the sweeping vista of a snowy tundra. A small tribe of hunter-gatherers, strangely comprised of dread-locked Inuit, Maori, African-American and European descent people, is bemoaning the lack of mammoths. They find a child with bad blue contact lenses and the medicine woman proclaims that she is a special snowflake who will apparently do everything from finding the cure for cancer to discovering jelly donuts.

NeanderTed loves Evolet.

So. Her family gets killed. Another tribe finds her. A medicine woman says she's a special snowflake and announces that the new leader of the tribe gets to claim her for their own. NeanderTed is supposedly more noble because he wants to win to have her, not to be the leader of his people.

NeanderTed only wins because he accidentally kills the mammoth while running like a little girl and has to be guilted into giving up the prize... and pouts. Once again, the "four-legged demons" show up. Steal people from this tribe, including her. NeanderTed goes after her. NeaderTed, one of a tribe of truly stone age people who make Fred and Wilma Flintstone look brilliant, stumbles his way from frozen tundra to steaming jungle in 3 easy steps.

"You've killed the bad guy, and toppled a mighty civilization. Welcome back to your shithole!"

Let's Try This Again

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post...

Occasionally over the past few years, these emails would drop into my inbox.

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One or two. Here and there. I'd delete them and move on. I hadn't blogged since December of 2009.

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Then I started to get 5, 10, 20 per day. Then 40. Filling up my inbox. It was time to turn off comments. 

I couldn't even remember how to login.

After I'd taken care of the spammers, I started reading my old posts. Indulge myself in a bit of nostalgia. The posts weren't anything fantastic, but they weren't bad. And then I saw a mention of Facebook. I realized that the siren song of quick response, soundbite status posts and games had pulled me in. And pulled me away from more real writing.

Not that Facebook doesn't have its place. I've reconnected with friends I thought I'd never see again. Found support for MS across the world. And keep in touch with distant family with more than just the annual Christmas card.

But my writing skills have suffered. And I mean to change that.

I'll be posting to Rhapsody again. It doesn't matter if no one reads it. Just me, exercising my brain and my virtual pen. Oh... and those spammers? BLOCKED.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If You Can't Get Your Kid to Turn Off the Game, It's Your Problem, Lady

Apparently, there are parents out there who haven't a clue on controlling their kids. Who knew?

A Boston mom actually called 911 because she couldn't get her 14-year-old to stop playing "Grand Theft Auto" at 230am. He also committed other 911-involving acts - like walking around the house and turning on the lights.

http://wcco.com/watercooler/mom.calls.911.2.1384279.html

For wasting the time of the Boston PD and the money of the Boston taxpayers, I think this woman should be required to take some parenting classes. I mean, really. She could have:

1. Said no and meant it.
2. Unplugged the game system/television.
3. Taken away the game system.
4. Threatened a punishment (grounding, taking away television/electronics/cell phone)... and followed through.

It's not rocket science.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009: A Year in Review

I skipped 2008. Time to catch up. Thanks to Avindair for the format!

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

Had an MRI. (To be more concise, about 5.)
Got diagnosed with Multiple-Sclerosis.
Had a spinal tap. (It's really not as fun as the movie.)
Gave myself injections. (Not as bad as I thought it would be.)

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Some I was able to keep. Others, due to circumstances, couldn't be kept. I think of them more as hopes than resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes. Two co-workers.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes. I lost my uncle, Leo, in September. Then my grandmother, Minnie (Leo's mother), in November. It's been difficult, but toughest on my Dad, who's now the only one left.

5. What countries did you visit?

Sadly, just the U.S. of A.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

Steady health.
Fewer "emergencies of the week".

7. What date(s) from 2009 will remain etched your memory, and why?

April 20
It's the day I went into the emergency room and was admitted to the hospital for the "attack" that led to my MS diagnosis.

December 12
Seeing our son as Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" and getting to hear him sing! If I'd been standing, it would have knocked me off my feet!

8. What were your biggest achievements of the year?

Recovering from the attack and going back to work full time.
Learning to give myself injections.
Learning to pace myself and listen to my body.

9. What were your biggest failures?

Not that I didn't make mistakes, but I think just getting through this year was a win.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

See everything above! Yes, I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. At first, it was a very frightening prospect. My grandfather had MS, although he must have Progressive MS, and every year of his life we watched as his physical capabilities went downhill. From cane, to walker, to wheelchair. But treatments now are so much better than they were for him. There's no cure, but there are options. I just have to listen to my body, stick to my medication, and stay as healthy as I can.

Although I have my good days and my bad, I'm coming to terms with it. My family has been unbelievable through everything. Our friends have been wonderful. My workplace has been incredibly supportive. I can't ask for more.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My medication (That seems to be doing it's job.)
XBox 360 Elite for Tony's birthday

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Avindair, SportyGirl and MonkeyDude: I don't know where to begin. Their strength and love has seen me through so much this year. Words can not express.

MagicMarmot: For seeing me through getting admitted to my hospital room... and the laughter and tears. I am truly grateful.

Garrett: For watching out for my family that first night. You are truly a friend indeed.

Penmaster and Raven: For showing up on our doorstep and holding our hands through the rocky early days of the diagnosis. We are blessed to have you as friends... but really, you are more "family" than "friend"... but you know that! :-)

My Boss and Co-workers: My boss made sure that work was to be the least of my worries. If it weren't for her support, I really wouldn't have recovered as quickly and returned to work like I did. My co-workers helped carry the load until I was able. I couldn't have done it without them.

My Dad: He's been through so much this year. He was a caretaker to his brother and his mother. Seeing them both through the last days of their lives. His strength astonishes me.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The usual:
Corporate America
Our government leaders
Americans in general

14. Where did most of your money go?

Hospital Bills
XBox360

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Small moments (really small, like being able to write my own signature legibly!) in my recovery from the "attack"
Going to see Gaelic Storm again with the family
MonkeyDude in "A Christmas Carol"

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2009?

I don't think there are any. I'll have to wait until 2010 and beyond to see.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?

Believe it or not, happier. December 2008 was tough, as I recall. Mostly due to work. Plus, I just had a good MRI that showed some small reductions on my brain lesions. So... good news.

ii. thinner or fatter?

About the same. I'm wearing the same pants, at least.

iii. richer or poorer?

Richer. Avindair has a regular paycheck now.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Played.
Traveled.
Exercised.

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

Worrying.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

At home with the family. Maybe light the fireplace. Play some games. See a movie or two.

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Over and over... with Avindair.

23. How many one-night stands?

None.

24. What was your favorite TV program?

That needs to be "programs". :-)

"Big Bang Theory"
"Supernatural"
"Dollhouse"
"Doctor Who"
"True Blood" (except for the season finale - fail)
"Jekyll"

24b. Shows that let you down?

Mine are all the same as Avindair's.

"Battlestar Galactica" - Final episode EPIC FAIL.
"Smallville" - Dullsville

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No. People worth hating aren't worth my time.

26. What was the best book you read?

"Orlando" by Virginal Woolfe

27. What was/were your greatest musical discoveries?

SportyGirl can answer that question. I just listen and enjoy.

28. What did you want and get?

- I put work in its proper place.
- I had more time with Avindair and the kids.
- I got perspective and found more joy in the little things in life.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Probably "Avatar".

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 43. We picked up Buca's on the way home from work and had a lovely, quiet dinner with Avindair and the kids.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Nothing. Everything - good or bad - had its purpose. Just making it through 2009 is satisfaction enough.

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

Business casual at work.
Casual casual at home.

34. What kept you sane?

My family.
My recovery.
My work.
My friends.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Still a big fan of Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

The health care issue... or lack thereof.

37. Who did you miss?

My Grandma Minnie
My in-laws (yes - my in-laws - I adore them)
Penmaster and Raven

38. Who was the best new person you met?

One of my new co-workers. She's something else! (In a good way.)

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Take each day as it comes.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

"I've paid my dues -
Time after time -
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime -
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face -
But I've come through

We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world

I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls -
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it
I thank you all -

But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise -
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race -
And I ain't gonna lose -

We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the world"

-- We Are the Champions - Queen

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

John Hughes, February 18, 1950 - August 6, 2009

You'll never be 18 again, but you can watch it in technicolor.

I heard yesterday that John Hughes died.

I'm 42. I've never had a problem with my age and I still don't. But yesterday, when I heard that the director of those quintessential teen films was gone, my memories took on a more sepia-toned hue.

John Hughes wrote and/or directed many of my favorite films of the '80's: The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Weird Science. His characters were fun, and smart, and often - even in the silliest of plots - honest. I know they weren't the best. They didn't have action, or special effects, or graphic sex scenes, or anything else that makes a blockbuster nowadays. But they had heart, and they had great music, and they spoke to a generation.

I didn't realize it until now, but those silly teen flicks meant a lot to that idealistic, starry-eyed, definitively '80's girl.

It's going to be a rainy weekend. I think I'll snuggle up on the couch with my family, a big bowl of popcorn, and have a John Hughes film festival.

Best Intentions

Writing that the past few months have been a rollercoaster ride would be an understatement.

I have been online: emails, Facebook,reading other people's blogs, but just haven't felt up to the task myself. I figure it's time to start posting again.

Not to be overly mysterious, but several months back I was diagnosed with a medical condition that my family and I have had to adjust to. In time, I'm sure I'll discuss it here. Thus the reason for my lack of blog presence.

Now, I want to come back. Rhapsody will be the same mish-mash of whatever happens to be bouncing around in my brain on any given day. Sometimes serious, sometimes ludicrous. No theme. No promises. :-)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

These Boots Were Made for Walkman

I remember when having a Walkman was "the shit". Of course, at that age, I would have never, ever said, "the shit". It was always better to depend on the radio stations, though. Playing cassette tapes really ate up batteries quickly.

Walkman, at 30, a mystery to teen

Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What better way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Sony's iconic Walkman than to ask a teenager for some feedback on the device?

I like to imagine that the experience was similar to an archaeologist rediscovering how a recently excavated artifact was employed thousands of years ago. But I'm well aware that it must have been different for 13-year-old Scott Campbell, who co-edits his own news Web site. For one, teenage impatience must have stood in the place where I fantasize scientific curiosity should have been.

"My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day," Campbell wrote. "He had told me it was big, but I hadn't realized he meant that big. It was the size of a small book."

Sure enough, people on the street noticed the antique clinging from his belt with amusement and friends on his school bus were quick to come up with some witty remark.

Campbell went on to criticize the portable cassette player's size, appearance, functionality and the "hissy backtrack and odd warbly noises."

Even when he discovered the cassette had more music on the other side (it took him three days), Campbell was still disappointed it could only hold a small fraction of what an iPod can.

"Did my dad ... really ever think this was a credible piece of technology?"

Ouch.

A daily dose of postings from The Chronicle's technology blog (sfgate.com/blogs/tech)

This article appeared on page C - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle