My own worst enemy

IMG_0164Imaginary friend you say? Sure, I see her in the mirror every day. Had coffee with her just this morning. But I’m not sure I’d call her a friend. She’s a harsh critic.

“Looking a little gray,” she’ll say. “And worn out. You look like you could use a nap.”

“No time for a nap,” I snap back. “Too much to do.”

“You wouldn’t have so much to do if you were more organized. You were home half the day yesterday. What, exactly, did you accomplish?”

“Are you kidding? I did a ton. I raced off to an early morning meeting. Did the grocery shopping. Washed and folded three loads of laundry. I checked in on my pending projects. Spent two hours helping H. study for a test. Made dinner. Plus it was my day on the carpool. How is that nothing?”

“Well, it still looks like a cesspool around here. You didn’t get all that laundry put away, did you? And there’s more to do. It’s late October already. Have you thought about cleaning up the yard? Washing the windows? Having the furnace checked? The holidays will be here before you know it. Any plans there?”

I can feel my pulse quicken. My head start to pound. This chick is the worst.

“You said you’d get the house in order before this project kicks off. Clean off your desk. When are you going to do those things? You’re running out of time!”

“It’s not that bad,” I say, not really believing it.

“Well, I don’t see many items checked off that to-do list.”

Silence.

I wish I could see less of this friend. But if it weren’t for her, I’d be alone much of the time. What’s worse, isolation or constant reflection? Is there an in-between? A way to turn this nag into a motivating force? If there is, I can’t see it.

“Alright, I’m done here,” I say. “I’m headed to yoga class.”

“I’ll get my coat,” she says.

“Sorry, you can’t come,” I say, with, I admit, a great deal of satisfaction. “It’s the one place you aren’t welcome.”

I feel myself relax as I shut the door in her face, start the car, head down the driveway. But I know she’ll be there when I get back. Just hope she’s made some more coffee as she awaits my return.

This is a Daily Post #postaday piece. Read other posts here

 

The day the beach didn’t have wi-fi

IMG_0296Those few of you who are regular readers know that I spend much of my summer working at the beach while my kids try to avoid and/or drown each other.

I’m able to do this because I’m a copywriter so my work is highly portable, and because our wonderful, local beach, which is the best value on the planet, has wi-fi. So not only can I work, I don’t even have to use my own data plan.

But I’ve gotten a bit lazy, I guess, because I failed to bring my hotspot along today and, woe is me, the beach wi-fi was inoperative.

It’s at about this time in a post where I mention beach wi-fi that readers far and wide begin to mock me. Sounds pretty cushy, huh? But in my defense, without wi-fi I don’t have much to do. I’m not the mom with the San Tropez tan. I’m the one in street clothes carrying a laptop and a file folder stuffed with edited drafts, and to-do lists. So no wi-fi means I run out of work about the time my kids have their sunscreen applied.

And there are really only a few other things to do:

  1. People watch. Wow, I really hate to people watch. I don’t find total strangers that interesting until I converse with them, at which point they lose total stranger status. As for just watching them? Yawn.
  2. Nap…………………Sorry, I dozed off for a few minutes until someone shrieked and woke me up.
  3. Eavesdrop on the nanny gossip. This is some juicy stuff, folks. Better screen those caregivers wisely.
  4. Swim. Except it’s June in Minnesota and the water is a cool 72 degrees today, which may sound warm in the middle of January, but not when the air temperature is only 80 and the wind’s blowing at about 30 mph. Would you take a 72 degree bath with a fan trained on you? No, you would not.
  5. Practice your stern lifeguard impression. Say it along with me, at top volume and/or through a megaphone:

NO RUNNING ON THE BIG DOCK!
DO NOT SIT ON THE BUOY LINE!
ONLY ONE PERSON AT A TIME ON THE LADDER!

All phrases that will come in handy at a later time, especially that ladder one.

Or you can just keep checking the wi-fi connection over and over until your thumbs fall off, or it comes back on. Which it never did today. So I have learned a valuable lesson in preparedness.

(Published at 0 plus 5 minutes after returning from the beach.)

Management by Walking Away

IMG_0528Those of us of a certain age remember the concept called Management by Walking Around discussed in Peters and Waterman’s classic, In Search of Excellence. Well, I coined a new phrase today – I’ve decided to practice Management by Walking Away.

You see, I’ve realized that the teenaged members of my household do not take responsibility for their “stuff”. And furthermore, my badgering and constant reminders enable their incompetence.

Working at home means I’m available to deliver the forgotten gym shoes or musical instrument to school. To provide a ride when they miss the activity bus. To keep their schedules, and make sure they have a snack before the game. Problem is, they do not, cannot, seem to manage these things on their own.

I have a plaque in my home that reads, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” I’m not the mom who orchestrates the path, for sure, but I’m definitely questioning how prepared my children need to be if they know mom is always there to keep them on the path in the first place.

Maybe it’s Mother’s Day blowback, or my having just passed on an opportunity I wasn’t entirely sure I didn’t want. Or perhaps just general fatigue. Whatever the catalyst, I’m completely, decidedly fed up. So I’m walking away.

This strategy is not without some risk. I expect a few failing grades, a few forgotten items, a few missed appointments. But I can no longer care more than my subordinates do about their own responsibilities.

Failure hurts. But it also teaches. Prepare, children, for the lesson.

Z is for Zinfandel

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While this might sound suspiciously like my post about coffee, it is geared more toward the end of the work day and is another true advantage of having a home office. Where else can you have a glass of wine as you prep your to-do list for the next day? At least without anyone noticing.

I don’t have a glass of wine every day (really!) but when I do, I’m partial to bold, dry reds. If we don’t have a zinfandel, I opt for a syrah from my favorite boutique winery. Then it’s on to what I call second shift: supervising homework, preparing dinner, coordinating baths, packing lunches, and finding that one piece of laundry I didn’t wash that is needed for the next day.

Thank you for sticking with me through the entire Work-at-Home Alphabet. Despite how it may sound, I’m truly grateful for the flexibility and the independence my home office gives me.

I raise my glass to you, dear reader – it’s 5:00 somewhere.

This post is part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See who else is Blogging from A to Z

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Y is for Yoga

work-at-homeWorking at home delivers me a huge advantage – it allows me to go to yoga class. Not just any yoga class, but the class I actually want to attend, which at my studio takes place in the middle of the morning.

(This class is largely attended by retirees and empty nesters who have their mornings free. One of the only places I am considered a youngster, another clear advantage.)

Yoga is great training for a working parent. The poses, or asanas, help you build the flexibility and strength you need every day:

  • Standing poses – Wonderful prep for standing in the back of a gymnasium while your children participate in an endless “dance night,” or for those networking events where you must position yourself on the perimeter of a large group of chatting people for some period of time.
  • Inversions – Good for keeping your equilibrium when your day inevitably gets turned upside down.
  • Restorative poses – Practice for those times when you have a few minutes to collapse on the couch before the kids get home, so you can maintain enough awareness not to snore or drool.
  • Seated poses – Great preparation for sitting at the computer all day, and in the car or on the bleachers all evening.
  • Arm balances – Conditioning for those moments you are carrying a laptop, a purse, an empty coffee mug, three bags of groceries, and a baseball bag all at the same time.

Namaste.

This post is part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See who else is Blogging from A to Z

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X is for X-Ray Vision

work-at-homeWhich is what you wish you had when you’re working at home and your office door’s shut. And it’s too quiet on the other side of the door.

If I’m writing, I can wrest myself away for a few minutes and check out what the kids are up to, but if I’m on the phone I’m out of luck. And of course, it’s when I’m on the phone that the shenanigans start.

I’ve always told my kids that moms are like superheroes – We see all, we hear all, and we know what you’re going to do before you do it – but when I’m on the phone my powers are diluted by the noise from the speaker phone on the other end of the line. The paper shuffling. The side conversations that come across as merely a hum. The door opening and closing as people late to the call head in.

So x-ray vision would be a plus. Although I can think of a lot places where I would not want x-ray vision: The airport, the line at the grocery store, the waiting room at the doctor’s office. *shudder*

This post is part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See who else is Blogging from A to Z

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W is for Wireless Wars

work-at-homeThe biggest bottleneck of the home office – shared wi-fi. As if it isn’t hard enough to work when the kids are home, I have to compete for bandwidth with two people playing Minecraft and one streaming Netflix on her phone.

And it only gets worse when my husband’s home. The five people who share our abode, among us, have at least nine devices that require the use of wi-fi to make their users happy and/or productive. (Note: It’s usually an “or”.)

I’m sure some of you who are reading are wondering why the heck I let the kids sit on their devices all day – I don’t. But frankly, when I’m working, I don’t always notice that they’ve headed back to the electronic babysitter until my email starts to bog down. Then I raise my head and listen to the eerie silence that is three kids with their heads back in the “cloud”.

It’s so nice to be a copywriter and a policeman all at the same time.

Now that it’s spring it will be easier to keep the kids engaged in non-electronic activities. With baseball, dance, lacrosse, recitals, jobs, and school events they’ll be plenty busy. Then once school is out it’s camps, the beach, the bowling alley and museums across the city.

The good news? Even the beach has free wi-fi. So I can keep working.

This post is part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See who else is Blogging from A to Z

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V is for Vacation

work-at-homeNo on really takes a vacation anymore – at least not without a wireless connection. The self-employed are no exception.

I try to schedule projects around time off with my family but it’s not always possible. One of the tenets of working on your own is “take the work when it shows up.” And for me, invariably, it shows up right before our summer driving vacation.

Since I’m a marketing professional, I position this carefully to my family (“Watch mommy earn the money for our vacation even while we’re on it! Hurray!”) but in all honesty, there have been years I was relieved to have something to do on those long stretches across Nebraska or South Dakota.

I’ve written copy in the car (not while driving) and by the pool. In the hotel room while everyone else is at breakfast. Or at night after they’ve gone to sleep. In the better part of at least eight states. All without incident.

On our recent vacation to Mexico, however, I received a karmic gift – both of the projects I was completing ended the day before we left. Just like that! I turned off my phone, left the computer at home, and checked off the grid. For a whole week. Aah.

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U is for Uncomfortable Utterances

work-at-homeI spent much of my corporate career working remotely from my immediate supervisor. My comfort with this arrangement definitely helps my freelance business. I’ve had multiple projects where I never met the client face-to-face.

But there is one phenomenon you must learn to listen for when you aren’t in the room. I call it the Dead Phone Stare.

I coined this phrase while working for  a charming gentleman who not only was remote, he was in sales. Marketing was not his thing. I think he understood about every other phrase I uttered. The good news? He pretty much left me to my own devices. The bad news? When I needed his approval for something, I practically had to hire a translator to explain what and why.

Thus, the Dead Phone Stare – the uncomfortable silence on the end of the line when the person you are speaking to is thinking, “WTH?” Often, I’d rephrase my thought and get a repeat of same. I was speaking into a huge communication void.

I have been careful in my consulting practice to avoid the Dead Phone Stare. In fact, I probably overcompensate. Now the person on the other end of the line is probably thinking, “Enough explanation. Get on with it!”

But not so much in my personal life. I recently stumped not one, but two representatives from my healthcare company by asking them how to file the reimbursement claim for the down payment on my child’s orthodontics. It was so silent on the other end even the crickets were struck dumb.

This post is part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See who else is Blogging from A to Z

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T is for Treadmill

work-at-home

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I moved my office to the basement in order for my youngest to have his own room. Unfortunately, I have an office mate. I have to share my space with the treadmill.

I like the treadmill. The treadmill and I have spent some quality time together. But I wish it weren’t in my office.

On the mornings my husband uses it I have to air the place out before I can begin work. Frankly, if I don’t, the place just smells like gym shoes. It’s a little like setting up to work in a locker room.

But I’m stuck with it. In our house, there is no other place for the treadmill to go. And given its similarity to a hamster wheel, maybe there’s a sort of poetry to having it here.

This post is part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See who else is Blogging from A to Z

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