Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Remodeling and the Joy of ....Lists

I never knew how much I would miss my kitchen. Not that I had been cooking much lately, what with a crazy work schedule. But the convenience. Want a snack? Walk to the fridge. Through a single door. In the same warm space.

When we started the remodel plans, we were starting in the summer. How fun! Summer barbeques; picnics; warm weather salads. And then I got laid off. So we put off the remodel and suddenly it was late fall and the first thing to go was the heater. So now we had to run down the walkway outside, if the kitchen wasn't loaded with holes in the subfloor or exposed wiring, to the cold garage. Want a quick cup of coffee? That would mean getting the coffee from the garage, and then heating water in the living room. A $3.00 latte is looking pretty good.

Suddenly, came the goodness of friends. We had no fewer than three offers to either share a house or to use a house while families were on extended trips. All for the convenience of a kitchen. Having a sit down meal. Having the ability to continually get up and easily get the things you forgot for dinner. having more than one room to huddle in.

This packing and unpacking, to get to a different house each week, and then home on the weekend, has led to a need for lists. Every day we seem to need to run home to get something - a pair of shoes that go with the outfit, binoculars for the last-minute hockey game, pasta sauce for the dinner we planned two days ago.

Now I have lists for what I will do for work, what I need to do with my life, my daily errands and what I need to pick up from home. If I don't make a list for exact work outfits, I could be like my daughter and re-wearing yesterday's outfit. I need a list to also remember what to take back, just so that I'm not taking so much home at once or possibly lose things because they accumulate. I also need lists for the kids - outfits, school needs, meal requirements (do we really have to have soy sauce for that?) and books.

And my blog? I need to put that on the list. Or I will never remember.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The never-win circle of sleep vs. working out

The alarm goes off and I hit snooze. The alarm goes off again and I have to make a major decision in my sleep-fogged mind. Do I get up and work out? Or feel better and sleep in? No matter what I choose, I have an argument with myself later that evening - because I chose wrong.

I have found that I need to work out in the morning. With kids and a full-time job, not to mention all of the extra errands that go along with these, I will never get going at lunch or after work. An impromptu meeting happens. I stop to talk to someone when picking up the kids. I forgot to run an errand. By then, one of us needs to be starting dinner or helping kids with homework. I do not feel like heading out the door. It's like the hole got deeper and I can never get enough energy to get out.

Whether or not I got up early that morning to workout, I will be tired early in the evening. But then I get a second wind and want to squeeze in a few more things before bed. I never seem to figure out how long it takes me to get ready for bed and then I resent not having any reading time. And, then I forgot to feed the cat. And my laundry needs to go in the dryer. Whoops...there I go again. It's late AGAIN.

So here it is, early in the morning and I am too tired for a full workout. Either I get up and get through it, knowing that a good night sleep will give me a better result; or I sleep in a little bit, exercise a little bit and have to rush through my morning to get out the door. Either way, I feel cheated. I'm always glad when I do get up because after the workout, I feel good. And, I'm up and most people are not. But by mid-morning, I'm tired.

Every day I tell myself will be different. And every night is later than I wanted. And every morning, the alarm seems to be too early. I'm not getting more hours in the day, so I have to realize that everything takes time and planning. I'll start tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Economy stresses friendships as well

This recession is getting to wear on me. Surprisingly, it wasn't the job loss that got to me. You would think that needing to find a job in this economy, with unemployment getting worse by the month, I would completely stress out and apply for any and every job. But it wasn't the case. I enjoyed the summer, got back into trail running and cycling, played with my kids and had coffee with friends.

The worse part has been the effect on friends. Many families have had to decide whether our area is the right place for them, and many times, they have decided to leave. I can't imagine how hard it is to look at the trade-offs - jobs, friends, school and neighbors. I have to remind myself that there's a new set of neighbors on the receiving end, and a community that they may already be familiar with.

I find it already hard to be in a high tech area, as often people are here only for the job or the post-doc appointment. Then, after a few years, they pick up and head back to their hometown or to another city. Such a move is part of their life plan, but it's hard when they become part of your friendship network. And that of your kids.

I want to feel selfish because often they are my friends as well as my kids' friends.  I feel sorry for myself that another friend has moved away - someone to call or find something to do. But it's harder on my kids, as they try to establish personalities and their own network of friends.

Finally there's the overall stress. Many  families are facing reduced salaries, job loss possibilities and other stresses from this downturn. It's not so easy to want to go out and spend some money on a nice dinner or take a lunch hour, when you could be proving your worth at work. We joke about value wines and coupons, but many of us are looking at ways to curb the discretionary spending. However, when we do get together, it is usually potluck which is a great excuse to have all of the kids playing together while the adults can mingle.

I hope that this is over soon, so that the stress is less a part of my life. I think that I'm in an area that experiences change at a higher rate. It's part of the joy of having a diverse group of people - from different cities, cultures and countries. But at the same time, we have to learn to be flexible in our relationships - making new friends and keeping old friends. Even if it's over a distance.

As we tell each other - it just gives us an excuse to see a new city. And a place to stay where we already have friends.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Running marathons with a family and work - relies on planning, and a little more

More and more women are running marathons today. I love it. I'm proud that I started marathon running 15 years ago, before I had kids and was able to successfully work it into my lifestyle ever since. Most of my PRs (personal records) were before kids, but I was still able to maintain some great performances, even with training that was constrained by middle-of-the-night wake-ups and less time overall.

The key for me is the early morning workout. This doesn't work for those with partners that are up and out of the house early. However, there have been many runs that I began at 5:30 am (or earlier!), so that I could get up to two hours before needing to be home. My husband, and thankfully the kids, have always slept in, giving me a lot of time knowing that I'm not missed. Other friends will run later in the evening or work something in during the day. That's harder for me, because I'm almost guaranteed to be too tired and miss the run. I would rather run in the morning when I'm tired - I usually perk up after a little bit. And if I don't, I still get some running in.

I know that I'm lucky to have kids that don't get up at 6. Although once they are about 7, they might be able to read quietly for awhile. Somehow, my kids got moved onto a later wake-up schedule, even when toddlers. They were rarely up at 6, but more like 7:00 or 7:30. My husband and I worked a deal when we had our newborns. If they woke before 7 am, I had to get them (we had the night mapped out between us), but at 7:01, I could escape to a run. I didn't have as long to run, but at least I got something. Even if I was dog-tired after being up for multiple feedings, I would still go. I napped as soon as the baby napped. I actually ran marathons, at 4 months and at 9 months after having kids. This was under my doctor's supervision, and being cautious. I ran throughout my pregnancies, even managing a jog-waddle on the day of delivery, but that's another story.

I gradually skipped my double workouts as I didn't want to miss family time. If I could work a little cross-training or weightlifting at the gym into my lunch time, that was great. Sometimes, I had to do short workouts, often 20 minutes of upper body strengthening. I was lucky to have a gym down the block. With my new job, I might have found an alternate in our business complex. I will take advantage of that.

The most important element is a supportive partner. We have been able to work out my schedule. Not every day is a long run, so I can plan my runs around our work schedules. My husband is almost more adept than I am at getting the kids ready for school in the morning. Whether I'm still on a run or frantically getting ready for work, he's got them dressed and having breakfast. However this means that on the other days, he gets a break and I work in my cross-training or easy runs to accommodate all of us. I will also modify or skip workouts if I need to.

My Saturday long runs became a ritual within our family. With kids, I started leaving earlier and earlier. I did learn that there is a "too early" in that I'm so tired that I wear myself down. My goal was to minimize time away from the family. Soon my husband and kids learned to get up and have a leisurely morning together and the day would start when I got home. Because I'm the most active one, they were able to start slowly and enjoy the free time while I was out. I will often walk in and one of them will ask how my run was, as they are genuinely interested. I try to think of stories or descriptions of things I saw to entertain them.

When we travel, I often tried doing a long run on the weekend, but I feel that it interferes with our vacation plans. I now often try to work in a really early run some day during the week - when I don't have early meetings and my husband can drop off.

What's critical to this working?

Having a plan and continually checking on the plan. I have modified my own workout from the beginning. I have occasionally had a coach and used their plan, but regardless of who's plan it is, I have a starting point to plan my week. Can't do the 8 mile tempo run on Monday? Can I do it Tuesday instead? If I'm on a business trip, what can I realistically do on the treadmill? Sometimes, I find that it's best not to stress about it. I pick the one key workout and try to fit that in for the week. Or, I try to do a short leisurely run (enjoying the sights of the city), a workout at the gym, stretching in my room or just catch up on some sleep.

My times are not improving anymore and I've discovered that skipping stretching to save time does more damage in the long run. But, I'm still running and enjoying it. It's part of who I am and my kids can see how much happier I am when I do something that I love. When I was recently injured, I was touched that they kept wishing for my injury to heal - knowing it would make me happy. I love that sometimes we can do little local races together. We can share things that make each of us unique. Doing this for me takes work, and help from the others, and I don't forget that. I don't take any run for granted.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time management - time is never managed into submission

At first I thought that when summer was over, "things would settle down and into a pattern." Now, every day is a time-calculated challenge. And then, it gets worse.

When I was laid off this summer,, it was a pleasure to have some fun, job search and still have lots of time to pick up kids. In my standard uniform of flip flops and shorts, I could even think about bike riding to some errands.

Then school starts and it's nice that there's a patterns. And once you are lulled into a feeling of having it balanced, complications begin - practices, piano, school activities and grocery shopping because you run out of lunch supplies. And forget thinking about an ad hoc play date.

OK. I'm still OK, but then, I find that I have a new job and new commute. Along with my usual fun of trying to figure out who needs to be where and when, I have to gauge how long it will take me to get anywhere from work. I seem to have a knack for finding the worse road combination when it's critical that I be somewhere on time. While I'm figuring that out, we suddenly get some rain, turning the freeway into a parking lot. I ran across the school yard in 3 inch heels to try to not be quite so late for pick-up as I was past closing.

If you didn't notice, the holidays have started. It starts before Halloween, I think, as parent-teacher conferences, special performances and more need my attention.

My list making and work focus have gotten more intense. I need to get more done in less time. I also need to be realistic in what I can and cannot do. I'm not sure how much more productive a person can get, but I can be better in realizing I need more time to get places and can say no - to friends, to requests for my time and on projects.

Other suggestions?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Making time to network - even when it's hard

Today I saw a question on a social networking site about how to continually network when it's hard to do. It made me think of the advice given to me by a friend. Advice I SWORE that I would do every week. And now that I'm back at a full-time job with more than full-time commitments, I see how hard it is to do.

I had decided to try to contact and meet - live or virtual - with a new person every week. I would reach out to a friend of a friend, to someone who's blog I liked or someone I had met. I wanted to try to expand my network and my knowledge - trying to learn more about what I don't know; and whether I needed to know.

I think that I get a little bit of slack since I just met a lot of new people this week. But I do need to figure out how to keep this going. Because as I learned while being laid off - your network makes a difference. The funny thing, is that I'm not sure how much my network was involved in my final job decision. However, it gave me more opportunities to go after. And more opportunities to look at some other time. Depending on what doors open.

I just need to make time. To make sure that before any event - with friends, at work, whenever - that I try to meet a few new people. I also need to do it early in the event - to make sure that I stick to it. So next time you see me at a party or event - nudge me. Ask me who I met that's new and what I'm going to do about it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Balance is always hard - even when not working

You would think I would write more since being laid off. But in fact, there becomes a frenzy to try to fit in all those things you feel that you ought to do - more working out, more lunches with friends, more networking. Part of it is catching up from lost time; no time to do anything over the last year other than the basics - work, family, run. What makes the list, and how much time do I really have? Am I doing something because I feel like I should do it or because I really want to.

Then there's the balance of trying to find something fun to do, while still looking for a job opportunity that's interesting and career-building. "Isn't it fun to be off?" friends will ask. Sort of. I love planning a long ride, but what happens when that's the only time for an interview? Unfortunately, in this economy, I need to eventually find the job. So the bike ride waits.

I'm getting to the end of my time off and I still find that the photo albums aren't done, the clutter in the closet is still there and my papers aren't filed. Oh yes - those aren't "fun" activities. Guess they didn't make the cut.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trail Running - Finding New Ways to Get Where

A few weeks ago, I was running up in the foothills. My wrong turn ended up being a very pleasant side trip down a protected canyon. It made me thing about my career, as I've been looking for a job. My career has had some often-strange turns that ended up making the overall journey more satisfying.

Everyone wants the "perfect job." And some people are single-mindedly focused on finding it. I am often so caught up in what I'm doing (or looking at the ground to avoid tripping as I run), that I will miss the "right" opportunity or turn. I now need to explain these changes on my resume as I talk about my experiences in interviews. However, they have given me a better view of the landscape that I'm in, that had I traveled on the same trail that everyone was doing.

Why did I agree to build a consulting team for an email marketing software start-up, when what I wanted was the product marketing position? Why? Because I had been a client and knew the client-side. I was able to learn how to scope realistic projects, balance resources and manage customer satisfaction. Sounds like the right way to manage a marketing campaign to me!

Why did I go to a company that seemed to be doing hardware in a highly technical niche? The management team was trying new online business models years before most companies thought about them. How exciting to be running the web marketing and looking for ways to deliver software and technical information faster, cheaper and more effectively! We got to learn and make mistakes before many of the Internet companies got going. Not a terribly exciting market, but a great learning experience

You always hear that "it's the journey, not the destination" that makes a difference. For some of us, that's definitely the case. These side-trips have taught me patience, although I still struggle with the thought of not finding the perfect job yet. But that's OK, because even on the trail, I often stop to see where I am, or even to rest. Life is like that too, particularly when family and work are demanding at once. Sometimes I need to appreciate where I am, even if I'm not sure at the time.

These rests in between jobs are good in letting me assess where I've been and some of the directions that I might go in. I say "might" because you never know what detour is around the corner. However, by having my plan in my head, I will more likely pick the way that leads to another goal. Even if it's a detour, I will still get to where I want, but learn something new along the way.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Sense of Balance

I've maintained a sense of balance - or what I perceived as balance - for years. Balance between work, home and me. After finding myself organized out of a job, I realize that I was not only off-balance lately, but now I have to find a new balancing point.

How do I balance my time? How do I remember the kids' backpacks when I don't have to put mine in the car anymore? How do I remember to pick them up, since it's not after that phone call or meeting?

I think it's fun to think of all the things I can do right now, that I couldn't do before. But I have to work just as hard to get all the "must-do" things done - interviews, errands, cleaning and exercising. I find I have to work harder to schedule things at times that I'm not used to - working out later in the day, or planning time with friends.

My lists have changed, but they continue. My reliance on my calendar is even more important. Eventually, I'll get the rhythm, but it will change again. I just have to work to find that balancing point.