Years ago, when our kids were little, there was a single moment on a Saturday afternoon that I clearly remember. The house was busy. More than just our kids were running around inside. They were loud. They were hungry. They were thirsty. A glass of milk was spilled. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time for this! I’m trying to get some volunteer work done, and it’s impossible to concentrate and focus with all of this commotion.” My thoughts continued, “How can I get all of these children out of here so that I can help others?” And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. One of the kids had survived some traumatic situations in the past. Maybe welcoming him and giving him a little time (like enough to pour a glass of milk or even mop up a spill) was the best way for me to help others. Maybe the people who most needed my time and attention were standing right in front of me at that very moment. How did I miss it? Why wasn’t it immediately obvious? Why couldn’t I see the forest for the trees? That moment changed me. At least a little.
Fast forward a few years, and I still want to help others. Since retiring, it’s been easy to find ways to continue doing most of what I enjoyed doing at work. I send my husband financial reports. I create and maintain web sites. I’m organizing everything. I’ve planned a few events. And there is no shortage of intelligent and engaging people to talk with most days (in person and online). When I left work, my only concern was that I had wanted a few more years to help younger employees realize their full potential in the workplace, and I figured that would be hard to do in retirement. But I also wanted to have more time to do other things, so I left.
I’m convinced that the minute you leave the work world you start to lose touch with it. Changes are occurring every day and you’re not keeping up with them because you aren’t experiencing them. But yesterday morning, after I hung up the phone following a monthly conversation with a former European colleague, and after sending a quick networking note to another young woman whose career was launched only a couple of weeks ago, I had another one of those “Ah ha” moments. I realized that I am helping others with their careers. At least a little.
When I started working, my career goal was simple; show that it was possible for a woman to work full time while raising children. In hindsight it seems almost silly, and it even seemed like a modest goal at the time. The thing is, it wasn’t easy. Ever. As I stated in my Stamina blog post, the critical success factor for me was marrying the right person. My husband could not have been more supportive. My goal became his goal, and while there were many challenges, frustrations (and not just Tech Frustrations), and stories that only became funny in hindsight, we pulled it off. One day at a time.
The goal sounded trivial, even in 1985. The implementation of the goal was and is anything but trivial, even in 2017.
Now, when we gather with friends, most of them retired, it’s the stories of the craziest and most hectic days we recall and laugh about. The daughter who cried for at least five days in a row when we picked her up from daycare. The inability to helicopter parent which resulted in my husband exclaiming, “What do you mean you have to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements by tomorrow morning?!” And the annual Halloween costume conversation which started with, “You can be any character hanging in this aisle [at Walmart].”
For those of you parents working and raising kids right now, I think it’s worth clearly stating that what you are doing is hard. And it’ll probably be worth it in the end. You’re showing your "village" that you value the education, upbringing, and guidance they provided. You're showing your employers that working parents can be strong contributors and leaders. You’re showing your kids that hard work is important, it isn’t always easy, and you’re giving them real opportunities to add value around the house which builds lasting self-esteem. You’re showing another generation of young parents what’s possible and hopefully helping them understand that both families and careers are worth the effort.
What you’re doing matters.
If you're a working parent and/or young employee and think that I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.
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“Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams” – Boy George
One great thing about meeting people from all over the world is the exposure to ideas and perspectives I may have otherwise missed. Like the concept of Karma. When I learned about it (which I loosely translate as “what goes around comes around”), I started to find examples of it in my life. And sometimes frequently. One friend and co-worker told me that it’s very unusual to experience Karma in a single lifetime. If that’s true, I must be very unusual.
The first time I recognized Karma it hit me over the head like a two-by-four. It was back when my kids were young, and I needed to be in California at 8:00 am on a Monday morning. That meant Sunday travel. Life was crazy busy, and the loss of a weekend day felt like a sacrifice. In an attempt to get into a positive frame of mind, I tried to convince myself that the travel could be like a little vacation; I’d have time to myself in the car, on the plane, and a quiet evening to myself. It worked, and a relaxed me checked into the hotel on Sunday evening.
As I entered my room, I flipped on the lights, and, wowsa, they were bright! And harsh. After inspecting the bulbs, I determined that they were those (new at the time) compact fluorescents. How was I going to have a relaxing evening in a room lit up like an operating room?! I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I called down to the front desk to ask for a room with better lighting, but the fact is I made that call. They informed me that all of the rooms had the same lighting, so I unpacked my bags and settled in. Now, every time I adjust the lighting at home, I think about that experience. My husband will tell you that there is no sneaking new bulb technology into the house. If they are not warm and inviting, I catch ‘em every time.
And now the Karma connection. The next evening, when I stopped at my hotel between business meetings and dinner, you can probably imagine my surprise when I walked into a dimly lit lobby only to find a long row of flashlights sitting on the front desk. Apparently there had been a power outage … and that meant, among other things, no light in my room. Having hoped to freshen up with the help of a mirror and lights, I suddenly found myself yearning for those harsh bulbs. I think that’s Karma.
Fast forward about 15 years, and we find ourselves updating the lights in our kitchen. Long story short, we added LED “puck lights” in some glass-front cabinets, and they look blue and harsh. They clash with the under-cabinet lights (also LED) which are a bit warmer thanks, I now know, to their lower "color temperature". I’d been through enough of these experiences in the past to know that there was probably a solution out there, but I also knew that it might be expensive and might consume a lot of my time and take advantage of my husband’s good nature. (At this point I really wished I'd read this Choosing the Right LED Bulbs article before selecting the lights.)
The good news is that, with help from many sources, the problem was solved within 24 hours! Here’s how. After realizing that the LED puck lights where so bad I’d rather leave them off permanently than ever turn them on, I remembered that when I had taken the “Underground Fort Collins” tour with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop many years ago, they showed us how they turned some sidewalk lights different colors; they simply put colored cellophane over the fluorescent light fixture that lit the lights from under the sidewalk. So I opened the flashlight app on my cell phone and turned the light to a warm (orange) color and placed the cell phone (with the flashlight app running) into the glass-front cabinet. That confirmed that the right light provided the affect I was seeking. The next morning my good-natured husband dashed to Hobby Lobby to retrieve yellow and orange cellophane wrapping. We put squares of it over the puck lights, experimented with color combinations, and as of right now think we’ll go with two layers of orange over each 2700K LED. That makes the color as warm as a campfire under a starry sky. (Notice the one unfiltered light on the left in the photo above.)
While this trend toward LED lights is a source of many Tech Frustrations around our house, I get that it is good for the environment and my budget and now understand a lot more about how to pick them in the future. Thanks to info gathered from the Internet, technology in my cell phone, and the patience and perseverance of my husband and dad, all’s well that ends well. And the solution only cost $6.34!
If you are also particular about lighting and have learned anything interesting, please share! I found the new Philips Hue lights intriguing, but am really only interested in the warm colors and a bit put off by the high price tag. I may eventually upgrade the homemade cellophane filters to correction light gel filters and found this Ikea Hack article interesting too.
A collection of holiday Tech Frustrations
Tech Frustrations at the holidays are generally kept to a minimum around our house with three notable exceptions; 1. Christmas tree lights, 2. Addressing Christmas card envelopes, and 3. Timers.
Lights on the Tree
In an attempt to “save time next year” we had been leaving the lights on our artificial Christmas tree each year when we put it away. That was a bad idea. Most years, as we attempted to re-light the tree, the lights didn’t work on one strand. And most often it was the strand in the middle, of course. This time saving technique turned out to be more (as in way, way more) trouble than it was worth. Last year we took the lights off the tree before we put it away, and this year all strands, which were stored separately, magically worked when we plugged them in. Go figure. And, problem solved.
Years ago, and I’m sure this was more than 20 years ago, a person very close to me commented that Christmas cards that were not addressed by hand might be considered somewhat offensive. Goodness knows that the last thing I wanted was for someone to find my Christmas card offensive in any way. Yet, I was harried. Very harried. Christmas has always been the one time of year when I’ve claimed that being a good working parent just isn’t possible ... at least for me. Especially when one is concerned about offending people. Long ago I ran a failed personal campaign to update expectations and traditions which went over like a lead balloon. But I digress. So, way back when, I cleverly found (or more likely, my husband cleverly found me), a way to order a computer font with my own handwriting! I was so desperate for help during the holidays that I still remember what I paid for it: $100.00 (USD)! While that may sound like a lot, especially 20+ years ago, I will tell you that it has been worth every penny. (This was so long ago that the font was provided on a floppy disk. Click here, kids, if you don’t even know what I’m talking about.) To this day the font enables me to fake people out in the spirit of Christmas. Or maybe it just enables me to think that I’m faking them out which clears my conscience. Either way, and unfortunately, the font didn’t completely eliminate all frustrations associated with addressing envelopes. Since I paid $100.00 for the font, I feel compelled to use it every year. Even now when I’m guessing that people are so surprised to receive a paper Christmas card that they wouldn’t remember to feel offended by the way it is addressed. This year, I think I managed to address my envelopes using the computer and printer in only five hours. That’s probably about two hours longer than it would have taken me to address them by hand :) BUT … one reason it took so long is because I documented the process in excruciating detail AND the other reason is that I figured it out all by myself (i.e. without help from any other tech expert except “the Google”). Use the Contact link on this site if you want a copy of the instructions I created for myself.
Interestingly, I just used the Google to see that there appear to be free and cheaper ways to get your own font these days. Let me know if you’ve tried any of them.
Finally, because I am chief decorator, energy conscious, and delighted by efficiency, I like to put some of the holiday lights around the house on timers. My frustration with timers has to do with their size and odd design. Do they need to be big or are ours just old? Maybe my husband, who bought them, likes them big. For all I know, he paid extra for the big ones. I have a cool lit tree from Restoration Hardware that has a built-in timer. The timer is built into the on/off switch which consists of two buttons. I have no idea how this thing works, so just randomly start pushing buttons in early December until I notice that it’s going on and off at reasonable times. What’s that about?
Christmas morning can bring its own Tech Frustrations, depending on the year, but somehow the cookies, fire, and tech savvy recipients seem to make them feel more like fun challenges. As you play with your tech gifts this year, please be sure to report all of your Tech Frustrations via this web site. We’ll be eager to hear about your experiences.
Until then, I’ll be writing Christmas notes and hoping to receive some too.
Do you have any Tech Frustrations? If so, tell me about them on the Tech Frustrations web site.
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“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” -- Woody Allen
Earlier this week an NPR “Hidden Brain” story about women in the workplace caught my attention after a friend tagged her daughter in the Facebook comment string. I added a comment to the “conversation” and since one person “Liked” it, I feel compelled to expand on the topic here. (Yeah, it doesn’t take much to encourage me ;) But before I start, let me be very clear; these comments are targeted at people who want to help women achieve parity in the workplace and people who may also think that a scarcity of women in STEM fields is a Tech Frustration. If you don’t share these concerns, stop reading right now. (Further reading will not only be a complete waste of your time, it might even make you angry.)
For the last two and a half months I have not worked outside the home. In fact, I've hardly worked inside the home. My kids are adults, and my husband is super helpful. So I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands. Time for fun, time to think, and time to do some really fascinating stuff like clean the piano keys. It’s made me realize that working is hard. Raising kids is hard too. And working while raising kids is even harder. Was it harder than staying home and raising kids? I have no idea. That wasn’t my experience, so I can't comment.
But that NPR story got me thinking. That and the realization that we (in the US) might have a woman president for the first time. These things have me thinking about women in the workforce and women in leadership positions. Since I was one woman in one workplace (at a time) for over 30 years, I can share one perspective.
I didn’t think much about being a woman in the workplace for the first 25 years of my career. There were too many other things to think about at work like providing value to customers, profitability, and deadlines. Plus I got my degree in computer science at a time in the 1980s when women were flocking to the field. When I was in high school, nobody told me that women weren’t supposed to be good at math. (I think I learned that somewhere between calculus and differential equations.) I spent the first 25 years of my career intensely focused on meeting customer needs and giving very little thought to how my gender might be determining my opportunities and/or pay. It wasn’t until I got involved in some volunteer work trying to attract and retain women to STEM careers about five years ago that I thought much about women in the workplace. And now, since leaving my job recently, I’ve had lots more time to think about it … and everything else :)
I worked in high tech. There were women, but not a ton depending on the functional area (e.g. marketing, R&D, operations, finance, support). One subtle obstacle faced mostly by younger women is that their commitment to the work is often questioned … either consciously or unconsciously. And rightfully so since women opt out of the workforce at much higher rates than men in the early years of their careers. An important component of helping women achieve parity in the workplace should involve encouraging them to participate in the workforce. As long as women drop out of the workforce at higher rates than men, their commitment to the work will be questioned more often. That’s basic statistics. This reality can lead to fewer opportunities for and fewer investments in women. Shouldn’t we raise our daughters with the same expectations we have for our sons when it comes to working? Shouldn’t we teach them to work through work frustrations instead of avoiding them? Why is it OK for a woman to opt out? Are women better off in the long run when they leave the workforce? (These aren’t rhetorical questions, I really want to hear what you think.)
One thing I do know is that when women drop out of the workforce at higher rates than men it causes the women who stay in the workforce to have to work harder to convince “the system” that they’re in it for the long haul. The burden of proving that women deserve the same opportunities as men, is borne by the remaining women. (Sheryl Sandberg does a great job of addressing this issue in her very successful book Lean In which I highly recommend.)
So … let’s start instilling the same stamina expectations in our daughters that we instill in our sons when it comes to work. This may create a whole ‘nuther problem; not enough jobs to go around. I know one smart guy who thinks that we already have more workers than we need. But that’s a topic for a whole ‘nuther blog.
What do you think? Is there anything wrong with raising expectations of our daughters? Or maybe we should change our expectations for both our sons and our daughters when they become parents? Times are changing. What are your suggestions?
Do you have any Tech Frustrations? If so, tell us about them on the Tech Frustrations web site.
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