Work

The Facades We Create

I spent a lot of time in the car today, driving to and from people and places.  I received a few compliments on how nice I looked (thank you!), which I thought was interesting since on the inside I was a bundle of nerves and anxiety.  Those comments made me think about the facades, the armor we wear.

I think I come off to most people as a little aloof, in control and reserved.  Maybe even regal if I flatter myself. My style is primarily classic.  I’m a devoted Ann Taylor and LOFT shopper with the occasional J.Crew, Talbots and Banana Republic piece sprinkled in.  I do not take fashion risks.  Honestly, if it doesn’t match in some way, I shy away from it.  I do not in any way mean to imply that I’m a good dresser or wouldn’t welcome tips; I’m simply sharing what I’ve identified as my style over the years. This attire  makes me comfortable, makes me confident even if it is a little boring.  I’m a firm believer that if you feel you look good or are at least comfortable in what you are wearing, it gives you a shot of confidence and a boost of morale.

Our big cat, Bit, has a tabby mask and markings, and we used to tease her about wearing a mask.  We’d joke that when we weren’t home, she took off her mask and the real Bit was revealed.  We mused about how we could sneak in without her knowing it and catch her unclothed, her snow white fur revealed at last.

Yeah, we’re weird.

I sort of feel like that, though.  Inside, in places I don’t talk about at parties, I’m a mess of vulnerabilities and self-doubt.  Sometimes I feel like all I am is a huge mess constrained by a suit of skin, clothes and attitude that hold it in check to the rest of the world.  How strong are the stitches holding back the vulnerability and self-doubt? Sometimes I feel so brittle that I worry that one crack in the armor would be enough to be my undoing.

That’s my public facade.  I hope.  On this blog, I sometimes think all I do is express my vulnerabilities.  Sometimes I worry that I come off as a huge mess and am exposed as someone who most definitely does not have it together.  I need this outlet to be able to give voice to the anxiety, worry, crazy thoughts and doubt that swirl around my head, especially after keeping myself together all day.  I worry, though, how I come across.  Do I seem crazy?  Trying too hard? Lacking confidence?  Can I be upbeat one day and morose the next?

As usual, I’m probably thinking too much about this, but it makes me think about the personas we express on our blogs and how we are in reality and in a variety of spaces.  What would the majority of my colleagues think if they read this blog and had insight into my addled thoughts?  Would it soften their perception of me?  Would it make them think less of me?  Would they shrug and move on because they knew all along I was like this?

I think I worry that I’m too much of one thing or another in various spaces.  I am allergic to personal vulnerability at work, but on this blog, do I focus too much on my worries?  How do you reconcile the various personas you have in various environments?  How do you be as real, as authentic (ooohhhh I used the dreaded word) as possible?

I guess the bottom line is that I believe that no one has it together, no matter how perfect they appear.

Finding a Moment to Cherish

Happy Hump Day!  I’ve always hated that expression; it seems crude to me, so of course it makes perfect sense that I just used it.  Today I’m over at Liberating Working Moms with a post about hectic schedules as a working parent and the resulting worry and guilt about quality time with Daniel.  It turns out that we do have a moment to cherish each night.

If you have a moment, please read about our cherished moment and share yours.

Breaking Bad, Manufacturing and Meth

It probably won’t be a surprise that I have a Google news alert setup at work on “NC manufacturing.” Usually it gives me relevant news on manufacturing in the state, which I will then disseminate through the organization and possibly put on our website. Sometimes, though, the alerts include items on meth labs found and arrests made because the articles use the terminology of “manufacturing meth.” I giggle when I see the meth items because it seems so silly for them to show up in my news alert on manufacturing, but it’s technically accurate.

Meth is a manufactured drug. All drugs – legal or illegal – are the result of manufacturing because they fit the definition of taking a raw material and turning into a finished product that has value. The pharmaceutical industry is part of the manufacturing sector. If producing meth were legal, it would be categorized under NAICS code 325 (pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing). Heck, if meth production were legal, my organization would be chomping at the bit to help them make their processes more efficient, study their supply chain and even help them enter new markets because meth is a growth industry in NC. Then we could survey those companies to identify the economic impact of our work and make our federal funders happy.

This post has taken a strange turn.

Jimmy and I share slightly obsessive tendencies. When something interests us, we immerse ourselves in it, especially when it comes to entertainment (No, we are not cooking or taking meth. Promise). Last summer, we bought the entire series of The Office, a show we never watch in prime time, and watched every episode in order every night after Daniel was in bed and during nap times (we’re ignoring the post-Michael Scott era). Then it was Downton Abbey season 1 and season 2. Again, every night and nap time. Our new obsession is Breaking Bad (every night and nap time). THAT is why meth is on my mind.

I’m so fascinated by the premise of Breaking Bad and the process of making meth. I did not enjoy chemistry in high school and was frustrated by the math involved. I didn’t understand chapter 2 on mole/mole and mole/mass ratios and thought that would be ok. Little did I know those concepts formed the foundation for the rest of the class. Oops. I also told my chemistry teacher that I did not believe in atoms. I do, truly, but I still marvel how scientists could predict their existence and calculate them hundreds of years before they had the technology to see them. Chemistry might as well be magic as far as I’m concerned. My brain doesn’t work that way.

But I’m fascinated by Breaking Bad. While the chemistry Walter White teaches to his high school classes is boring and inaccessible, watching him make incredibly pure meth because he understands and can wield the chemistry behind it is sexy. He is sexy. His brain is sexy.

When I trained to teach high school English, I focused on trying to make literature and its lessons and meanings as relevant as possible for my students. I made note of Shakespeare film adaptations like Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet, O, and 10 Things I Hate About You and Jane Austen adaptations like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Clueless (dating myself here). I used a clip from Legends of the Fall to bring alive the horrors of WW1 and trench warfare depicted in All Quiet on the Western Front. I played “Imagine” during my unit on existentialism. And honestly, maybe that’s just how my brain works. Always trying to make connections. A wealth of useless knowledge you know.

Science struggles with the same issues of relevancy. So does manufacturing. At work we constantly try to find ways to illustrate the importance of manufacturing and its coolness through plant tours, blog posts and pictures. I’ve even created a Pinterest board. I wish that that high school students could watch Breaking Bad in their chemistry classes. Obviously making an illegal drug is not the message to impart to them, but watching the seductive, beautiful process of taking raw ingredients and making them into flawless meth could bring home the lesson that science and chemistry are relevant and important. Necessary. Required.

In high school I had friends who turned a princess telephone into a bong. That was an impressive feat of innovation and engineering, and I wished they had applied that same focus and ingenuity to their school work. They are willing to do that work to create a tool for an illegal drug; why can’t they see the connection to what they learn in school?

This post is clearly rambling. Breaking Bad is a good show. I’m not cooking , dealing or taking meth. I guess I wish that our educational system was a little more real. We have serious, serious issues in this country, and we’re going to need students to be engaged and connected to what they are learning in order to create the next generation of problem solvers. To understand that science is cool and is not abstract. That manufacturing is amazing and the bedrock of our economy and society. That books aren’t boring and dusty but contain truths as meaningful today as hundreds of years ago.

Have I worried you?

What TV show or movie do you find yourself oddly obsessed with?

The Plague Years

Daniel has pink eye.

Pink Eye

The diagnosis today comes on the heels of me being diagnosed with a sinus infection last Sunday (Dr. Twitter & nasty smelling snot did not steer me wrong) and Jimmy being sick too.  I…have no words.  Well, I do, but they aren’t fit to print.  They are variations of WTF only said with much more vehemence.

Thankfully, Daniel is in a decent mood despite the nasty yellow shit dripping from his eye, and I’m sure the $93 eye drops will help a lot.  I still have a stuffy right ear and more snot than anyone needs; Jimmy’s symptoms seem to be more throat/cough related.  Fun times in our house!

Other seasoned day care moms have told me that yes, day care is an illness incubator but it will pay off once Daniel starts school.  I really, really hope so.  Also, I went from never, ever being sick to catching everything Daniel brings home.  That is unusual for me, and I feel a bit defective.  Where did my immune system go?

Work is also culpable in that I am going to a crap-ton more meetings than I usually go to.  We are trying to do major alignment efforts and build functional teams, but wow, a lot of meetings are required to do that.  I’m happy to participate but given my role in the organization, I feel like I need to be on all the teams.  Have I mentioned that I don’t like people? That’s a problem.

So, nothing but whining here.  I have many posts in my head but no time to type them out.  I’ve noticed more silence than usual in the blogosphere, so maybe we’re all feeling wiped at the start of the school year.

It’s amazing that 2012 is 75% finished.

I’ll leave you with a few fun articles. I really hope to be able to provide something approaching scintillating content soon.

What’s stressing you out right now? 

More on Working and Friends

I promised myself that I was going to try a lot of new things this year, both personally and professionally.  In the personal arena, I’m focusing on putting myself out there more and taking risks and that includes blogging and making friends. I am excited to report that I have a guest post today at Liberating Working Moms on the difficulty of making friends as a working mom.  Please check it out if you have a chance!

ISO: Friends

30-something working mom of a 2.5 year-old boy seeks fellow working mom w/ toddler for play dates and companionship who won’t freak out if my kid hits hers.   Must love trains, garbage trucks, slides, pizza (kid), wine, books, and Downton Abbey (mom). Read more

Of Pharaohs and Sphinxes

There’s a tiny bit of magic in my office.

My office, my job are mundane.  I am your typical office worker in your typical office.  My office is messy more often than not because I am a dedicated pile maker, and I hate to file.  Most of my day is spent in front of my gigantic monitor, coding or researching until my eyes cross.  Occasionally I attend a meeting.  Most of my brain power is spent taking a concept and dissecting it in order to figure out its essential components.  Though what I do may seem incomprehensible and mysterious to some, it isn’t to me.  There is nothing especially magical about my job.

But I’ve found a little bit of magic in a bottle.

(No, not that kind of bottle)

This tiny bottle.

Like sand through the hour glass...

Yes, yes, this bottle does contain sand, but it’s not just any ol’ sand.  This sand came from Egypt.  Truly.  One of our student workers spent her Spring Break visiting family in Egypt. Lucky minx.  I think the most exotic place I ever spent Spring Break was Myrtle Beach.  Myrtle Beach is many things, but exotic is not one of them.  Before she left, I jokingly asked her to bring back some sand.  On Monday she surprised us by giving us these little bottles filled with sand that she collected from the sand around the pyramids.

Egypt!

I look at the bottle, and I’m transported.  I see thin white cotton outfits.  Blazing suns.  Camels.  Cleopatra rolling out of a carpet at the feet of Caesar. Pyramids so magnificent and perfect that you sort of start believing those alien conspiracy theories because could man have created something so perfect? I see tombs and sarcophagi and jars containing brains, hearts and other treasures needed in the after world.   I see a giant cat with a human face and remember reading that if you put your ear up to it, you might learn a secret. Hieroglyphics and wildly inappropriate phallic drawings (too much History Channel).

Some places have history while some places are history.  Egypt is the latter for me.  A coworker remarked, “we might have sand that Moses walked in.”  I know that is highly doubtful, but it tickles my imagination to speculate. If we could somehow analyze these grains of sand, what story would they tell?  What history has been burned into them?

Now, when my brain starts to hurt and I need to take a break, I turn to look at my little bottle of sand.

Just a little magic in an otherwise ordinary life.

Book Review: MWF Seeking BFF

I finally took time away from intellectual pursuits such as celeb gossip sites to read another actual book!

MWF Seeking BFF cover

MWF Seeking BFF is Rachel Bertsche’s year-long attempt to find a new best friend.  After moving with her now husband to Chicago from New York, Rachel finds herself without the support system she had in New York.  Though she has made a few friends in the three years she has lived in Chicago, she hasn’t made that one best friend.  As she wrote on the blog that chronicled her quest:

But on a Sunday morning when I want to grab an omelette over girl talk, I’m at a loss. My Chicago friends are the let’s-get-dinner-on-the-books-a-month-in-advance type.  I’m looking for someone to invite over to watch The Biggest Loser or to text “pedicure in half an hour?” on a Saturday morning. To me, that’s what BFFs are. Not just people who know your innermost secrets, but the ones up for grabbing a bite on a whim because they love being with you just that much, and getting together feels easy and natural rather than a chore you need to pencil in.

Tired of waiting for friendships to happen organically, Rachel decides to take matters into her own hands.  She will go on 52 girl-dates, one for each week of the year, in order to find her new BFF.

What I Liked

First of all, oh how I related with Rachel’s loneliness!  I couldn’t believe someone had written a book about the exact same thoughts I have been having about how hard it is to make friends as an adult.  The book was very easy to read, and Rachel described each potential friend vividly, which helped as the number of friend dates grew and it became more difficult to remember who was who.  I like that Rachel interspersed the dates with musings on various aspects of friendship such as what makes a good friend, the number of connections we could make and maintain, friend etiquette, the nature of adult friendships and used research to corroborate her experiences. Rachel also reflected on what she learned along the way and acknowledged qualities she needed to change as well as what she was doing well.  You could see Rachel deepen and mature as the year passed, and her quest to find a friend is also one of self discovery.

 

What I Didn’t Like

Sometimes it was difficult to relate to Rachel and her life.  She was a 28-year-old newlywed who lives in Chicago.  I’m a 34-year-old wife and mother who lives in North Carolina.  She has time for yoga classes, 2 book clubs, brunch on Sunday and dinners out several nights a week.  When I walk in the door at 6pm, we’re racing toward the finish line of Daniel’s bedtime at 7:45 and then if we have energy left, we might watch mindless tv or read.  While it might be possible and even good for me to dedicate an evening out for a cooking or exercise class, I couldn’t do it every night.  These differences don’t take away from the overall purpose and theme of the book, but they do make it more challenging to figure out how to apply her methods to my own life when time is a precious resource often in short supply and I have a tiny man whose needs often come first.

 

Conclusion

While I’m not sure if I would want Rachel to be my friend, I recommend this book to anyone who has wondered why it is so hard to make friends as an adult and apparently there are a LOT of us.   Earlier this week, in “I’ve Never Had a Best Friend, ” Fadra mused about her past friendships and how she doesn’t have that ONE friend.    All of them comments were along the lines of “OMG, Me Too!”  I retweeted Fadra’s tweet about her post, asking who else felt that way.  One of my tweeps replied that she had tried but realized, “the lack of a BFF was because I expected too much of the friends I made,” another epiphany Rachel made during her journey.

I picked this book because it speaks to where I am right now.  I do have friends (I’m not totally a recluse), but they live a few hours away or even a few states away.   I’m making friends through blogs and on Twitter, but sometimes it is nice to be able to get a real cup of coffee with someone, yet it’s difficult to balance friendship-making activities with the demands of being a working wife and mother.

I fully acknowledge my own faults in this area.  A few months ago, I admitted to being a lazy friend.  I often behave passively in social situations, waiting for others to make the first move.  This behavior might have served me well a few hundred years ago when ladies were expected to be demure ciphers, but it is causing me to miss out now.  A major inspiration for Rachel’s friend dates was her realization that friendships aren’t going to just happen; she needed to be more direct and active in seeking out friends.

I’m realizing that too.  I can’t sit back and wait for people to say, “OMG you’re awesome.  Let’s hang out.”  I need to make it happen.  Tomorrow I’m meeting a huge group of local bloggers, tweeters and all around fabulous ladies for dinner.  It’s a start.  Maybe I’ll need to begin my own series of friend dates.

And seriously?  If you are local and have a book club, let me know.  I’m eager to join one.

How have you made friends as an adult?  Please share any tips you have.

Working Mom’s Lament

My eyes fly open, and I sit up. I look at the clock and curse. 2 AM. I’ve been asleep only for 4 hours. The only sound in the room comes from the monitor from which I can hear Daniel’s wheezing and coughing, sounds so weird that it seems he is almost speaking in tongues.

I listen to his labored breathing and hope he’s better by 7AM because I need to go to work for a two-day workshop after two sick days at home. Unable to go back to sleep, I surf on my iPhone, visiting blogs and trashy celebrity gossip sites.

My alarm goes off, and I stumble to the shower to start getting ready. Daniel wakes up, and I get him from his room. His forehead is hot, and his face is flushed and puffy. He’s whiny and crying, “Momma, hold me” while I kiss and hug him and turn on Super Why so I can finish getting ready. He begins to cry, and my heart breaks. He should stay home today. I should stay home today with him. Finally ready to go, I put on his jacket over his cozy footie pajamas and feel grateful that he is going to his grandmother’s house where I know my sick boy will receive lots of cuddles and hugs.

At work I make his doctor’s appointment, booking the only available time, a time that of course is the most inconvenient one. I exhale, pull myself together and go to my workshop, prepared to razzle and dazzle despite sounding like I swallowed a frog and having a scratchy throat and throbbing head. Calm and focused on the outside, twitchy on the inside as I await the verdict from the doctor’s office: an ear infection. I immediately replay the last 4 days in my head, searching for any clue that would have told me Daniel had an ear infection instead of letting him suffer longer than necessary.

Class over, I head to the required evening dinner and working session, checking in with Jimmy. Daniel is miserable: no nap, feverish, needy and clingy. He won’t eat or drink anything. Guilt, today’s constant companion, waves hello. I should go home. A good mother would go home. Previous generations of women fought hard so I could sit at that table and think about being at home. Should, should should. Always should.

The moment I swallow the last bite of braised lamb shank (while Jimmy is eating leftovers if he has even eaten at all), I make my excuses and fly. I race home, but I’m too late: Daniel is already in bed. Jimmy and I chat about the evening and how pitiful Daniel was. No longer racing anywhere, I slump, my body reminding me I’ve been awake since 2AM.

I get ready for bed and wonder why I do this routine each and every day. Why I go to work. I have good days during which I accomplish a lot and make a difference:  I’m queen of the world.  I have bad days during which I feel tied in knots and tripped up by processes and people, making no progress and feeling like it is impossible to make even the smallest impact.  On those days I resemble that poor guy in Munch’s The Scream painting.  He looks like he might understand the special hell that is working with bureaucracy.

Birth and death and sickness and health and change and carpet beetles cycle around and around. Lately I feel like I’m constantly moving and running and getting nowhere, especially during times like this. Exhausted, I wonder why I bother. I gave up ambitions of setting the world on fire years ago; I’m just a rat in a cage.

I go to bed, thankful that the breathing coming from the monitor is smoother and less labored than the night before.

Four hours later, my eyes pop open. It’s 2AM. Time to do it all over again.

Working with Style: Socks

I may find it difficult to add accessories to my work outfits, but I am a sucker for fun socks.  I like to wear cute or funny socks with pants or jeans. My normal work attire is fairly ordinary, so I like to think that I am expressing myself through my socks.  They probably go unnoticed, but it amuses me to wonder what people think when they see them. Does it offer a glimpse into my personality?  Is it unexpected? Is it the foot version of the mullet (business up top but party in the back)?

Maybe they just make me feel good.  My own private joke that puts a smile on my face during the long work day.

I started the work year in 2012 needing new tights, so I had to wear pants exclusively.  Ok, who am I kidding?  It’s also because I hadn’t shaved.  I suspect there’s a symbiotic relationship there.  Why shave if I can’t wear skirts because I don’t have tights and it is 40 degrees? Or rather, why buy tights to wear with skirts because I’m too lazy to shave?  You decide which is truer 🙂

I don't particulary like dogs, yet I own socks with them on them

argyle

More argyle

I've worn these socks so much they are falling apart

Blue, yellow and pink stripes

I also have several pairs of socks for holidays:

Bats for Halloween

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Santa!

These are just a few examples of my socks.  I have many more 🙂

And I also promise I have more than 2 pairs of shoes!