Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin.
– The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan
Read more: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/times-they-are-changin#ixzz3WOWjRwf5
I was late with my blog post this week. It’s the first time this year I didn’t put up a real post on the right day, and I’m rather pleased that my scheduled posting time has worked so well. (And hey, I put up an “I’m not posting post” which practically counts.) And to be truthful, it wasn’t because things aren’t happening in my life, or because I ran out of time.
It’s because I didn’t know what to say.
Life goes through these long periods when you just don’t have much change. I’ve stared my Christmas update in the face many a year and wondered what I’d really spent the twelve months doing, other than slowly accruing happy memories – a accruative drip building the stalagmite of my life. And then there’s a period where woosh! Things change!
I’m in a woosh period right now, although a pretty minor one. The big change (not to leave you on tenderhooks) is about my job. Specifically, I got a new one. I’ll be leaving my current employer at the end of next week. I have a little time between (and an impromptu trip to Mexico for April vacation – woo!) and then I start a New Thing. I suppose that’s only one area of my life changing. (We’re not moving.)
In this blog, I very rarely talk about work. (I never want to wonder if my boss or client read something.) But I spend 10 hours or so a day on my employment – more time than on any single other thing I do except maybe sleep. I dream about work often. (Which I hate, by the way.) I try hard to not go to sleep thinking about work, but I fail more often than I succeed. And my labors (and my husband’s) make possible the rest of my life – my tithe at church, my farm share, my children’s carefree childhoods, trips home and on vacation, the pink house in which nearly everything needs to be updated or fixed… all of it. It matters a lot where I work, and how, and with whom. It matters how long my commute is, and how much I travel. It matters a lot whether I come home satisfied with the works of my hands (well, mind) or anxious and disappointed at my day’s labors.
Five years ago I made a big move. I have learned SO MUCH in those years. I’m stronger, more polished, better informed and more capable than I could have imagined. I also have some idea of how much I DON’T know (way, way more than I know!). I’m not sure you ever get over the anxiety of wondering if you’ll actually be any good at a new job. Five years ago, I truly didn’t know. But now, I’ve done this a few times. It’s worked out each time.
(Hmmmm this post is just as boring and vague as I was afraid it would be. Oh well.)
I’m moving jobs. I’m SO EXCITED. I’m nervous. I’m thrilled beyond belief. I will miss my old work friends. I’m really going to enjoy the time in between. And hopefully it won’t mess with my blogging schedule too much!
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
The other day I went on a business trip with a young lady who didn’t – as part of her job – go on business trips all the time. She was super excited about the whole thing. The novelty of flying, the eating dinner with the client, the spending the night in a hotel all by herself. Her degree of enthusiasm shocked me regarding my degree of cynicism.
Business travel has some similarities to backpacking. People who don’t do it are amazed by the concept. But when I’m actually on the trail (in the airport) I know that I’m still a rookie. Do I travel a lot for business? My “deal” with my husband is that I travel, on average, once a month. I’d say I might be traveling a little more than that these days. Once every three or four weeks I crawl on a plane and go somewhere for a day or two. When they posted a description for my job, it said 50% travel. I have worked with people, though, who spend 3 or more days a week, every week, on the road for work. (That might be listed as 80 – 100% travel – the folks who travel the most are project consultants who will spend ~5 days a week, every week, in a city which is not their own. That’s folks like Accenture & Deloitte. They also tend to work 90 hours in that week and have a massive burnout rate.)
I know I have a ton yet to learn about how travel best, but as I drove from the Richmond International Airport to the corporate business parks in Glen Allen, I thought that maybe you, dear reader, might benefit from what I have learned so far.
This was probably my biggest rookie mistake. You might have rented a car at an airport once or twice. You take the shuttle to the rental car center, stand in line, answer mysterious questions about levels of insurance coverage and take a bet on whether you’ll have enough time between meeting and boarding to refill the tank. I once got into a situation in Los Angeles with Hertz where it took me almost 2 hours to finally get a car – and that was after a long transcontinental flight, with several hours of driving still in front of me.
But that’s how it works, right?
No. It is not. My dearest business partner, after he got done guffawing and making fun of me for such a rookie mistake, explained. Many rental car companies have a second method – a premier method. I now use National (I’m part of the Emerald Club). I make a reservation ahead of time. Then I walked directly out to a row of cars, decide which one I feel like today, climb in and drive off. I stop at the gate on my way out to give them my license. All the rest of that stuff: gas fillups, insurance etc… is just on record. It takes minutes.
The business partner who laughed at me has upped his game, though. Now he just takes Uber everywhere, and doesn’t bother with pickup or dropoff.
When I travel overnight, I have four things that go into the bins in security: my laptop, my toiletries, my shoes and my wallet. Here are some keys I’ve found to never being slower than the person in front of me:
Always, always wear slipoff shoes. Wearing boots or even tennis shoes is a mistake. I prefer to wear slacks with socks so I don’t end up standing barefoot in the security line, but flats will do in a pinch.
Don’t keep your toiletries in your Dopp Kit (what my family calls that back you keep your toothbrush and hairbrush in). Keep them in a ziplock bag in the outer zippered pocket of your carryon, so you can just slide it in and out.
Don’t bury your laptop under anything else.
Pay attention to whether you’re Pre. Increasingly, they’re putting more people through the lines where you don’t have take anything out or off. This only helps you if you’ve noticed in time to skip the long line.
No sequins. I have this shirt I like to wear with a peacock feather done in sequins. (Saying that it sounds appalling. I swear it’s not that appalling.) But when I go through the body scan with it, I light it up like Christmas. Patdown time! You need to build a travel wardrobe of clothes that are comfortable, washable, professional, good looking – and don’t have metallic bits. This isn’t as impossible as it sounds. I like Dressbarn for helping me find qualifying outfits.
Points & Perks
I avoided signing up for frequent anything miles because I know myself well enough to know that I’ll never get around to figuring out how to use them. The few times, in the past, I’ve tried, my one or two trips a year were laughably short of earning me anything, and definitely not worth the aggravation. But now that I’m travelling all the time, I think it might start to add up to something meaningful. The best programs are the ones that have both points for tomorrow and perks for today.
In terms of perks, business travels are notoriously not price sensitive. My company pays for my travel, and doesn’t really case as long as I keep it within approved ranges. So offering me $10 off a rental car doesn’t actually encourage me to do much. But offering to make something simple, fast or comfortable counts for a tremendous amount.
There are two kinds of enterprise sales people at my company: Marriott people and Hilton people. (OK, they’re actually all Marriott, and fanatically loyal.) These companies make things better & better for you the more you stay with them. I have both sets of rewards (diluting the value of both – conveniently…) As an example, if you’re a Marriott Gold member, you get invited to the Concierge room. There’s late night snack food there, and a free breakfast in the morning. The non member people are downstairs paying $18 for their omelets. Way faster to zip through the buffet and grab a water on your way out, without having to pay. If you’re a platinum member – a coveted status – the hotel may be full for other people, but not for you.
Also, just so you know, business travelers never, ever, ever check out of a hotel. (I apparently get laughed at a lot when I travel – this was another moment.) Just leave your key (and your tip!) on the table on the way out. Your receipt was likely under your door in the morning.
The loyalty programs work together, so you are going to want to see if you can’t line them up. For example, as a Hilton person, I’d have a combo of Jetblue – > National -> Hilton family of hotels. This allows me to earn more points for the travel I’m already doing than if I just mixed and matched.
I’ll let you know how to claim the points as soon as I figure that part out.
Consistency & GPS
If you’ve ever been in an airport and watched a business traveler, they often look extremely confident. They’re walking fast, roller bag trailing behind like a patient puppy, eyes on the horizon. “Wow, they really know this airport well!” you think. Ha. They’ve never been here before. But there are two things that make this possible: consistency & GPS.
Has a bathroom right after you get through security and in baggage claim (business travelers never ever ever ever ever check a bag unless they’ll be gone more than a week)
Has ground transport next to baggage claim
Has a rental car facility where all the rental companies are (this may either be in the airport, or accessed via shuttles).
When you get off the plane, you immediately walk in the direction of the sign that says “Baggage Claim”, stopping at the first bathroom you see. When you get closer, you start looking for rental car center. It’s always clearly marked. When you get to the rental car center, you follow the signs for your particular company. The closer you get, the more information on what you need. If you watched me landing in Richmond yesterday, you would have thought I knew exactly where the car was I was going to drive and had been there a thousand times before. It was the first time – I just knew what signs to look for.
Once in the car, the hard part is trying to figure out how to drive it. (I drove a Prius this time. To my great surprise, I hated it. It beeps when you’re in reverse!) Plug in your phone, pull up the appointment for your meeting, and launch your GPS. I had no idea where I was or where I was going, but I got there in good time.
So, does it sound glamorous and fun? Is there anything here you’re glad to know? Is there anything here I’m completely missing?
When I took a job in Boston’s Innovation District, I assumed that I could somehow take public transit to get there. I was right, but not in the T-centric way I had thought. I ended up taking the 354 Express Bus from Montvale to State Street, then walking nearly a mile through the financial district to my renovated-brick-warehouse office. I wrote about my 354 commute back when it was new.
I’ve done this for almost 18 months now, and for 18 months it’s continued to be the best way to get to work. Oh, there are downsides. When you’re 2 minutes late for the bus, it makes you 22 minutes late to get where you’re supposed to go. Every once in a while (not that often) a bus fails to come, or comes late. Then, not only are you late but often you end up standing (or sitting on the floor – it’s a long ride.) Or – worst of all – the bus comes five minutes early. Parking at the bus stop is a very big problem, with an unused lot sitting blocked and idle while we cram our cars in to tiny cracks in the approved lot, or park a few blocks away and hoof it over a major road that has very little pedestrian traffic. And of course, that mile long walk is less fun in 16 degree weather, or with blowing-sideways rain, or in 90 degree heat with humidity.
There are some pretty awesome upsides too, though. I have done more reading in these last 18 months than I did in the five years prior. I read some books for information, some books to keep current, and plenty of books just for fun. The cast of characters I identified in those early days have become friends. There’s John, the mayor of the bus stop. Matt has an uncanny knack for arriving 2 minutes before the bus does, not matter what. Elizabeth and I have become friends on Goodreads because of our overlapping interests. Chris has read the entire Sword of Shannara series twice in my knowing him. The burly Viking I walk past on my commute is named Adrian (he’s a lawyer) and the magician is Andy, and “Grampa Munster” as I call my older friend in jeans has assiduously never made eye contact this entire time.
But tomorrow, the commute comes to an end for me.
The reason I could not just drive to work are because:
– Taking the carpool lane on this particular route can save you about 15 – 20 minutes every single day
– Parking is $15 a day
– A two+ hour stuck in traffic commute is not fun at all.
– I care enough about the environment and congestion to not want to add to the problems where it can be helped.
Let’s review why I couldn’t carpool, though.
1) It’s weird finding some random stranger to carpool with. What if you hate them? What if they kidnap you and sell you the gypsies?
2) I didn’t know anyone who worked near me and lived near me.
3) My daycare pickup/dropoff schedule is uncompromising. I CANNOT drop off before 8. (And I need to get to work by 9 for an hour and fifteen minute commute – thus my husband does most dropoffs.) I MUST pick up before 6 or there is great wrath.
So to carpool with someone, I would need to be really good friends with them. They would need to have my same rigid schedule. And they would have to live pretty close to me.
My next door neighbor and good friend, whose sons attend identical classes in school and afterschool, has had her company move headquarters. To the building next door to my building. SCORE.
So tomorrow is the start of a new regime for me… a regime where I don’t have an express bus pass for the 453 ($160/month), but I do have a parking card. We’re taking turns driving, and taking turns with whether the “guys” or the “girls” will handle kid duty on a particular day. We’ve already agreed that it needs to be perfectly kosher to read in the car instead of converse. I could hardly ask for a better setup!
It sort of feels like a time of change for me. Not only do I now have a new commute, but I also have a new desk on a new floor. On Friday, I moved my things to a new location. It’s funny how much a new spot changes your perspective on a day’s work. I’m sure I’ll get used to it quickly, but it does seem like a number of changes, all at once!
I just finished reading Sheryl Sandburg’s “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”. If you have been living under a rock for the last two weeks, the COO of Facebook has written about what she’s learned in the course of becoming a leader of a Fortune 500 company; specifically, regarding what she’s learned about gender in that journey. For her troubles, she’s been roundly criticized and excoriated in the media. However, I found this book extremely useful, tactical and eye opening.
One of the key criticisms waged against the book is that it is written from a too-privileged position. Sheryl went to Harvard. She studied under Tim Geithner in grad school. Oprah was a cheerleader for her as she wrote the book. It’s soooooo a book written from the point of view of a woman who started with all the advantages (although she is definitely aware and explicit that she knows she’s in the minority of women).
The point is this: if Harvard-educated, brilliant, fully-advantaged women are still struggling to break through to leadership positions in corporate America, what chance does a Latina from the barrio have? And how COULD Sheryl really write about her experience as an under-privileged girl with the same accomplishments, when that’s not her story? It just wouldn’t be true, or authentic. Sheryl wrote the book she could, and did it well. And we don’t necessarily HAVE women in a fully privilege-neutral position to write a book about becoming a corporate success. If we don’t have women like Sheryl to help us negotiate through our stagnation in progress, we won’t ever get that Latina leader.
I learned a lot from this well-researched book. For instance, pointing to that trouble breaking through to leadership, “A 2007 study of Harvard Business School alumni found that while men’s rates of full-time employment never fell below 91 percent, only 81 percent of women who graduated in the early 2000s and 49 percent of women who graduated in the early 1990s were working full time.” (Leaning in, Loc. 1458)
You don’t go to Harvard Business School in order to not work, but yet a majority of the women who graduated from this elite school were not working full time 20 years later. These are not women who always wanted to stay at home with the kids – these are women who WANTED to be titans of industry, and who were qualified to be. But they’re not there. Sheryl’s book illustrated why they aren’t, and gives personal and systemic advice on what needs to change so that more of the men who might want to be home with their kids and more of the women who might want to make a run for leadership can do so.
Here are my key take-aways, from the many useful insights I got from reading this book:
Don’t borrow trouble.
The whole title of her book is about women looking waaaaay forward and thinking that maybe if they get that promotion and then if they have kids then maybe it will be too hard for them to balance it all. So they don’t ask for promotions when they’re in their 20s because they’re afraid they won’t be able to make it work if they succeed. I recognize this pattern. It plays into the fear and self-doubt that many women wrestle with. “What will I do if this works?” can be a terrifying question to ask – in part because we don’t see very many role models of professional, leading women who live a life we want to have. (Aside: my CEO in a recent article said that his secret interview question is “Who is your role model?” This made me awfully glad that he didn’t interview me, because I can’t think of a woman in history who offers me a role I’d want to follow. Many of the successful ones were unhappy or tragic. The best I can come up with is Sacajawea.)
Anyway, this fear that success will compromise our long term happiness, families and marriage causes many women to “lean back” in their careers instead of leaning in. That would be bad enough if happened when women actually WERE trying to balance kids and work, but it’s made worse because the young 20-something women who just WANT marriage and families are already curtailing their careers, in advance.
Put up your hand.
So last time I talked to my boss’s boss, I talked about my desire to get Java training and to stay strong technically. Why do I want to stay strong technically? Because I want to be in a position to be a highly-respected technical leader in my company. I deeply value coming up through engineering, instead of the traditionally female-oriented fields like marketing or HR. So I want the technical chops to lead a development team, or even become a CIO some day. Did I tell my boss’s boss that second part? No. I just told him that I wanted Java training. He probably thought I was leadership-phobic and wanted to stay in the code trenches. (Many programmers do.) But I was afraid that if I laid out my ambitions I would sound, well, ambitious.
Sheryl mentions over and over again that women’s strategies of being excellent and waiting to be noticed are not working. Often, men put themselves forward for positions, while women work hard and hope someone notices. This is – straight up – less effective. She doesn’t blame women for their reluctance, though. She cites several studies where equally qualified women who behave in exactly the same manner as men are viewed much more negatively. Women quickly discover that being assertive is unpopular, with both men and women audiences. So instead she offers tactical, negotiating advice for how women can do this while not evoking negative stereotypes.
Another element playing into this has to do with women’s “by the bookness”. We don’t think we’re qualified, so we don’t try. “An internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the requirements.” So put your hand up even if you’re not sure you know the answer.
Ask for what you need.
This can be so hard. When you are the first lactating mother in the company and need room to pump, when you need to be home in time to pick up the kids every night, when you need to spend a week a month with your ailing parents… it can seem easier just to drop out or dial back than to assert that you are worth accommodation. I learned this one myself. My first pregnancy, I meekly accepted unpaid leave, and came back after two months, half-apologetic for having had a baby. I worked nearly two weeks after my due date, and only stopped coming into the office after my colleagues got too uncomfortable with my ticking-time-bombness. I felt like any weakness would be an excuse to disregard me. With my second baby, a few months before I was due I set up a 1:1 with the CEO. I told him that I was planning on taking three months this time, and that I would like for those three months to be paid. He said “Sure!” I didn’t even have to deploy the long list of reasons I had carefully outlined for why he should listen to me. I just had to ask him. But it is so terrifying to anticipate the “no”, that often we just skip the asking part and assume the “no”. Our bosses are not psychic. Often, they haven’t lived through the challenges we’re experiencing. If we don’t let them know what we need to be productive, we won’t get it.
A few things I didn’t have much trouble with…
I’m not pretending that I have a model career of supreme accomplishment, but I have made a ton of progress in the last three years. I’m now working in a very rewarding, stimulating environment where I’m respected, and where I provide significant value. I’m really happy at work – which has not always been the case – and it’s entirely possible that the key issues that I have inadvertently NOT had to deal with are a portion of the reason why.
Pick the right partner.
Sheryl says the #1 most important career choice women can make is in their partner. I think she may very well be right, and I think I picked very well indeed. My husband and I have always had a “we both win” competition to see who could earn more. This was probably more on my side than his but… we should earn about the same amount. We are in the same field, educated at the same institution to the same level, with similar work experiences, relatively similar skill sets (they’ve started diverging in the last three years), and similar work ethics. I was a year behind, so I did start at a disadvantage, but that should have evened out after a few years. Instead, it took me nearly 11 years to catch up to him. Then, in the 12th year, I passed him. There are men for whom this would be a threat to their identity, where in order to keep peace in the marriage a woman would have to earn less, or pretend she earned less, or … something. But because I picked the right partner, he was like, “Rock on! Does this mean I can stay at home now?” (Well, not really. He loves his job too.) But my husband would move for my job (if the opportunity was right), dial back on his schedule, pause his growth… in order to let me excel.
So far, we haven’t had to pick primary vs. secondary careers – we’ve been lucky. But I was able to interview for a promotion once because he said that he would do what was needed in his career to facilitate mine, even if that meant moving to Germany. (I didn’t end up getting it. But I think I was seen more positively because I tried for it!) If I am successful in my career, it will be in large part because my husband has my back.
Sit at the table
I think I missed the cultural gender education on this one. I’ve always sat at the table – preferably at the front. I’ve always been incapable of staying silent during a heated discussion. I’ve rarely been shut up because someone interrupted me. I think my life-long interest in male-dominated occupations has required me to give up this deferential attitude: you can’t hang back when you’re the solo trumpet player. I’ve experienced less of the negative side-effects that Sheryl says accompanies women who sit in the front. Or perhaps I just experienced them early (band and wood shop were not what you would call idyllic for me from a social perspective). I sit at the table every time. And perhaps that has helped – just a little – get me where I am today.
Be well-liked AND respected
There are lots of studies that say highly qualified, assertive women are considered unlikeable and hard to work with. I am highly qualified and assertive. So following this logic, I should be unpopular at work. But, well, I’m not. I just had my annual review, and it was called out explicitly that I get along well with others. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. Maybe I work for an exceptionally progressive company? Maybe some element of my personality has mitigated this effect? Maybe my real interest in and enjoyment of other people makes it hard to not like me? (It’s harder to dislike someone who likes you!) Or maybe that qualified and ambitious part of me is well hidden. I don’t think I have any advice on this one; only a grateful shrug of the shoulders that this stereotype has so far passed me by.
To sum up:
Thanks, Sheryl, for writing this. Let’s lean together against the doors and open them wider so more of our sisters can join us in board rooms, and more of our brothers can join us in the PTA.
You should read this book. If you are a woman, you should read it to better understand the choices, motivations and precedents so that you can make informed decisions about your career and life. If you are a man, you should read it to better understand YOUR decisions as well, and to have more insight into the challenges that face the women you work with (and live with). If you do not work with women, you truly truly need to read it because you have a problem you need to fix. You are missing 50% of the talent you could have.
Sheryl’s goal, that I think most of us can get behind, is for all of us who HAVE choice because of our background and education, to truly be able to choose the route we want to take, instead of the route prescribed to us by our gender. It is worth calling out that we also need to ensure that a larger percentage of people HAVE a choice. For many people, there is no career and no “should I stay home or should I become a manager” decision, there is only unremitting labors to get food on the table every day. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we ALL had choices, and could all pick the best path based on our skills, desires and aptitude?
I’ve had a very long day today. I rose at 4:30 am to make a 7 am flight out of Boston. The TSA lines were very, very short. The folks manning them cheerful, efficient and thorough. There did not seem to be any pall cast over Logan as we flew out, the pinking sky in the east making silhouettes of clouds. I flew to Atlanta, the time collapsing in the liberty of the constraint of an airline seat.
I’d thought that I had about an hour before my colleague arrived at the airport, and I was just lowering myself into a massaging chair for a manicure (I know! Such luxury! But I’d meant to get a manicure before I went client-facing and it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up!). My phone rang. He’d gotten there early! Rats! I decided to get the manicure anyway, and my Northern impatient self attempted futily to relax at the Southern, relaxed rate of the service. However, if you believe I did not smudge Regina’s meticulous work, you do not know me well.
We had cajun, lemonade and planning for lunch, and then launched into a three hour meeting fueled by software architecture and coffee. I had fun. I know you’re not supposed to have fun at three hour business meetings, so I apologize but… well. I had fun anyway.
Then back to the airport, stumble through security (again: short lines, nice folks), exchange heels for socks, walk the entire length of the Altlanta airport, dinner, check my email on my phone (46 new message!) and find my seat. Now I’m enjoying in-air wifi (oh! What a marvel technology is!) and feeling satisfactorily tired and accomplished and urbane. We’re probably somewhere around Pennsylvania right now – give or take.
Tonight I’ll rescue my car from the parking lot (only one day!), drive darkly over the Zakim to the steepled towns of the North and kiss my sleeping children before I lay myself down next to my drowsy husband.
I was up at 4:45 this morning, in the wee small hours of the morning, to get ready to leave my family for a few days. When I went to the bathroom, the heated tile floor was frigid in its mid-night settings, and the house was cold and still and dark. No trace of morning touched the Eastern sky, and no sounds emerged from the rooms where my morning-glory sons slept. Now I am sitting on the Acela Express, just entering Providence as the gray glimmers of dawn give way to sunless light.
My brother wrote recently about the contemplative and communicative nature of traveling. And I feel it too. But traveling for business is odd. So often, when you travel for work, you are going to a place but you will never see it. You are most likely to be exchanging one faceless conference room for another faceless conference room. You’re lucky if there are windows. Your personal comfort and desires are set carefully to the side. Perhaps your work-hosts will take good care of you and ensure you have water and food throughout the day (and, God willing, coffee). Or perhaps not. If not, you must be tough and not complain until later.
I don’t think of myself as someone who travels a lot for work. I have high standards to compare myself to, I suppose. I had one boss who flew over 100,000 miles in a year. My friend John travels 100 days of the year. But, gazing out the window, as I thought of my past trips, I have traveled for work. Let’s see… I have gone to New York for conferences (twice), DC to give a report to a client (that project reported to congress – exciting!), Las Vegas for another conference (my entire company went and we spent about 3 hours at the conference and the rest of the time “teambuilding” which I never would have done on my own but thoroughly enjoyed). I’ve visited clients in Dayton Ohio. I did training in Chicago. I implemented a client in Oregon, traveling there five or six times while pregnant with Thane, and extending my trips to weekends so I could spend some time with my folks. I went to San Diego, and drove past road blocks near the border to our offices in Temecula. The very best trip I have taken for business was a week long trip to Amsterdam and the Alsace region of France. The food on that trip was unbelievable, and I loved the gentle hills and ancient airs of the border towns.
And I have a hunch I’m forgetting a trip or two in there.
There are two layers of clouds in the sky now. The bottom layer is printed in grayscale, a lumpy tissued dressing protecting the sky from the ground. But in the narrow gaps I can see above to pinked clouds and blue sky, past the blight of the storage facilities and junkyards surrounding the tracks.
I have not often taken the train. The ability to (comfortably) blog while traveling is a rather enjoyable novelty. I have traveled this stretch of road many times, and to see what usually takes me about and hour and a half fly by in 18 minutes gives a sense of surreality. In a few moments, we’ll whirr past the fading city where my alma mater sits high on the hill. Then on to New York – the city I only go to when other people are paying for my hotel rooms. (Seriously. Ugh.) Once there, I will find my colleagues, travel to the client, and attend hours of meetings in yet another nameless conference room, ignoring the miracles of time, place and travel required to get me there.
Do you travel for work? Do you like it or hate it? What places have you glimpsed out of conference room windows that you wish you could walk in your real skin? What was the best work trip you have taken? What the worst?
In everyone’s life there are periods of lesser and greater stasis. For example, when you are a parent to an infant, nothing stays the same and nothing can be relied upon. The minute you’ve figured out how somethings works and what you’re supposed to be doing, it changes. On the other hand, I just went through a period where things were chaotic within well expected and known bounds. Lots of activity, but little change. I knew what I needed to do, even if I didn’t have enough time to do it all.
Then I switched jobs.
It’s funny, but so far it’s not the job that has me on my toes, it’s the commute. The bad news is that the commute is rather worse than I was hoping for. For those of you in the area, I’m trying to get from Stoneham to just south of the Children’s Museum in South Boston. The best option I’ve found so far is the 354 Express bus. It stops less than a mile from my house, and then goes directly in to State Street. From State Street it’s a mile’s walk through the city to my office. (Almost exactly. The horizontal distance is 9/10 of a mile, and then I climb five flights of stairs.) Walking, it takes me 15 – 20 minutes depending on how I catch the lights. Optimally, this would be a 40 minute commute. However, when the traffic is bad (which it often is, in my narrow survey), it can take me more than 80 minutes to get in to work. Driving, I get caught in the same traffic (although I don’t have the 20 minute walk), with the added disadvantage of not being able to take the carpool lane. The T was my first plan, but here would be all the steps in that: 1) Drive to Malden station (15 min?) 2) Park at parking lot 3) Walk from parking lot to T (5 mins), 4) Take Orange Line to Downtown Crossing? (China Town, NE Medical Center?) 5) Walk from there (.5 of a mile?). That’s a very multi stage commute, and also rather expensive, paying for parking and a T pass.
So, hrm. The good part is that when I spend 40 minutes on the bus, I get to do a lot of reading. It’s also a good napping environment (based on my comrades in bus), because there are no stops. I get off when the bus stops, along with almost everyone else. The bad thing about a bus commute is you live in constant fear of being late. That and the straight up time it takes.
With the actual job bit, I’m still in the “reading documentation” phase. I thought I’d gotten through most of the extant documentation in the company, but someone just showed me the repository where all the previous documents created by my group are kept, so I now have plenty to keep me busy. In my early analysis, however, everything seems like it should work out nicely!
Kindergarten is a bit like starting a new job, with the context switching. You are presented with new problems that your baby days had not prepared you for. For example, my son came home with a pledge form for the “Jumprope for the heart” fundraiser. I actually remember this one from MY days in grade school, back when I rode a brontosaurus to school every morning (uphill both ways barefoot!). They’ve watered it down. When I was a kid, people pledged per jump. So $.02 a jump, and then you jumped as many times as you could and ended up collecting $1.20 before you gave up. There’s no such incentive for hard work in this one, it’s just a straight “Give us money form” (now with convenient web links!). So what do I do? Do we personally just sign up for the t-shirt level? Do I offer this tremendous opportunity to the suckers, uh, I mean, grandparents of said children? Aunts and uncles? Blogosphere? What is the etiquette here… the cross between being a good PTO parent, a good citizen, and not completely obnoxious?
I still haven’t figured this one out, but would be curious what you think.
So bloggers have a well-known trap of writing about how long it’s been since they wrote, and then going into painful detail about WHY it’s been so long. There are a few reasons for this, but the main is that the longer you go without saying anything, the harder it is to say just something. So then you start fretting over saying the perfect thing that makes you readers forgive you for your absence and not remove you from their list of daily blogs they check.
This is a trap. Still, it’s been nearly three weeks, which might be the longest I’ve gone without writing in my blog for like seven years. And it isn’t because I haven’t had anything to say! No, we’ve had an ordination, cross country flight, life-shifting plane conversation, week of solo-parenting, Christmassing, caroling, cookie-ing, play-dating and regular old “Kids say the darndest things”-ing.
I’ve also been interviewing and (breaking news!) leaving my job. I really don’t do work talk on the blog, but most of my silence has been work related – for both time and energy reasons. (Also, for the record, interviewing is also very time and energy consuming.) So… I have this week off, work at my old job for two weeks, and then have a week off to recharge before I start my (awesome, great fit) new job.
This is all to say, I’m back, folks. And trust me, no one is happier about it than I am. So maybe now I can tell you about what’s going on in my life – and better yet, perhaps some of those things will be fun and interesting.
Merry Christmas to all of you. May Santa bring you as nice a gift as he brought me!!!
Grey sat on the potty, pooping, and reading a book. And by reading, I mean pointing to each word and correctly saying what it was.
Caveats there are that he had pictures for reference, had been read the book several times before, and would often make initial-sound mistakes. (Eg. say it was “swim” when it was really “soar”.) So he’s not reading where reading = interpreting a story one has not read before using letters. It was reading = using letters, memory and context to figure out all the words in an entire book.
At three, I’ll take it.
I got an email from work today informing me that due to an expected foot of snow, work is to be conducted from home tomorrow. This would’ve been awesome news a few years ago. I would’ve made it work a few months ago. But with a very active, nap-averse preschooler and an infant… I just don’t know if I can actually get ANY work done. Childcare, remember, is right next to work. I’m not quite sure what to do — just as much work as I can? Work that night when my husband comes home? Not fret about it? Take the day off?
I had a rough afternoon today — great poop moment aside. I don’t really want to stay home tomorrow, since it is actually significantly harder on me to try to work AND tend to my family.