Tag Archives: Portfolio

A work from home morning.

Gibson graduated out of her crate a couple weekends ago – we worked up to leaving her alone for a few hours in the living room, tucked happily on the sofa, instead of in her puppy crate while we were out of the house.  Everything was going well – happy dog, happy people – until Monday, when we tucked her in as usual, and the mid-day received the text message you never want to get from your dogwalker:  “Hi, Sara – it looks like Gibs chewed up one of your couch pillows.”

Downside:  it was one of the sofa pillows.

Upside:  it was not the sofa, itself.

She’s been destructive before: she likes to shred things.  That behavior, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily separation anxiety … she tries it when we’re around, and we correct her; she’s also taken to destructive behavior when we leave her in the car, which wasn’t definitive:  boredom?  Separation anxiety?  Some kind of poor conditioning timing on our part?  Did she, one day, finally decide to be mischievous and dig in to tearing up a paper bag right before Ryan arrived back to the car, forever clinching in her mind the power of tearing up a paper bag to make her Ryan reappear?  Who knows.

So on Tuesday, she went back into her crate, and mid-day my phone did its buzz-buzz with another note from the dogwalker.  “Sad to report that Gibs has chewed up her crate bedding.”

Sigh.

So no mistake.  It wasn’t a fluke.  It looks like we’ve got a case of separation anxiety to learn how to manage, and hopefully counter condition.  Thank goodness I’ve got a little bit of time off here and there during the holidays, to try to make some progress on rebuilding her confidence and trust.  And thank goodness I’m scheduled to work from home on Friday, and was able to this morning, to help break the pattern of up in the morning, shower and get dressed, put on my jacket, pick up my keys and her moping because she knows from that routine that it’s another day she’s going to be left at home.

It’s strange… working from home used to be a requirement for me.  I nearly quit a job when my boss told me that my schedule would be changing from two or three days a week in the office to five days a week in the office (and ultimately, did quit that job).  I loved working from home full time when I was contracting – there’s the inevitable challenges with staying connected to colleagues, and fewer external pressures to maintain one’s personal hygiene, and the challenges that come with being not physically present in an organization that relies on drop-bys and water cooler conversation to keep the system operating.  But with an organization that’s built for remote staff, many of those challenges are mitigated (except the personal hygiene one, which is solely my personal responsibility after all).  And personally, I really thrive in those types of environments, where I have more control over my schedule, to be able to match my activity to my energy level rather than have my schedule dictated by the needs of a nine to five office and colleagues.

So it was a strange decision for me to go back to work in an office, with an organization where aside from a few long-term long-distance telework staffers, telework is not part of our culture.  The decision was easy – the dominant culture in the office was relatively quiet and introverted; even at my desk in the open floor plan, I could put my “I’m sprinting” flag up, put my headphones on, and really, truly get work done.  I love the building we’re located in (despite its no-dog policy); I love my bus ride to and from work, which gives me the time to knit, or read, or write (like now – I typed out this blog post on the bus). From the beginning, here, I enjoyed being able to arrive in the morning, crank my way through my work, then leave it at my desk when I left in the evening (at least, relative to other work I’ve done).  And in my first half year with this job, I could count on less than one hand the number of work from home days I’ve taken, and haven’t really missed them at all until this week, when Gibson’s separation anxiety flared up.

I guess it’s a reminder that we have to make the best of where we are.  Our work culture has changed – the office is noisier, the dominant culture shifting to a more even balance between extroversion and introversion, and it’s harder for me to get work done there, even with a door to close now.  And that is what it is, and I’ll adapt.  And I can only work from home on occasion, so we’ll make the most of our holiday time to help rebuild Gibson’s confidence about being home alone, and then dole out my work from home days judiciously, both so that she has a little extra company and a shaking up of her routine, and so that I can have the bursts of getting-stuff-crossed-off-the-list that happen when I work from home, that help me stay motivated and dig out of my buried-ness a tiny bit.  On an average Wednesday morning, I’d probably have crossed nothing off my list by 11am, and instead only added numerous items to what needed doing; this morning, I crossed several items off the list and only added one or two things to the list.  Net positive.  I need to figure out how to make my in-office days net positive, more often than not.

So wish us all luck.  Leaving Gibs and my hella productive zone to come in to the office for an afternoon full of meetings was not easy, but I made it.  Cross your paws that Gibs does okay today and tomorrow, and that we can make some progress on her separation anxiety over the holiday.  Any tips in that regard, we’re all ears.

Make my smartphone a dumbphone, please.

A few days ago I did my semi-annual search for the words “make my smartphone a dumb phone” and found the same few  links as the last time I did that search.

A friend of mine discovered AppCertain, an “app nanny” that allows parents to turn off app access for their children (or, if you’re like me, allows my outer grown-up to turn off app access for my inner child).  It lets me put my phone into “curfew mode,” disabling access to all of the phone’s apps, leaving only the SMS text capability and the actual phone itself intact. Upside: unplugged. Downside: no camera and Google Maps. So after a little poking around and thinking about the behavior of mine that I was trying to get a better handle on, I took a pared down approach.

Goodbye, Facebook. Sayonara email. See you later, Twitter. After awhile, web browser.

I still have access to my camera and Instagram, and to Google Maps and my diary app and such, and I still have Flipboard and Feedly. So technically I might see some Facebook and Twitter content when flipping through my news readers.  But there’s still a big difference between flipping through Facebook and flipping through Flipboard:  because of the design of Flipboard, the Internet, at some not too distant point in my flipping, comes to an end.  When that happens, I stow my phone back in my pocket and look out the bus window instead of scrolling through Facebook mindlessly, ad infinitum, my entire way to work.

This little change has freed up enough time for me to notice that I’m neither writing nor exercising anymore. And once you notice a thing like that, and you don’t have a magical infinitely time-sucking device in your pocket anymore, that leads to thinking about the thing you’ve noticed, and then your thoughts turn to wonderings about what your favorite yoga teacher’s schedule is, and you make a mental note to check later on during a quick bit of computer time at home.

Yup.  Still shooting film.  Still loving it.
Yup. Still shooting film. Still loving it.

And then, instead of looking right then and there at the yoga schedule and getting sucked into your deviceworld habits, you think about how little time there is for writing. Alarm clock. Dog walk. Shower. Breakfast. Work. Dinner. Exhaustion. Sleep. A few of those things are mildly negotiable, but somehow it never feels like enough time. So you think about your friend Brendan who just published a book based on scribbled notes on scraps of paper that he scrawled out WHILE DRIVING his car (or van) up and down and around the western United States. And the book made you laugh, and made your eyes well over with tears, and not just because it was written by one of your people.

So this morning, inspired by a writer whose blog was shared with me this week by another writing friend, I packed my off-the-grid iPad so that I could sit on the bus and write a journal entry. Why not? I might not write the next great American novel this way, but I will exercise my writing muscles, at the very least. And this is more words than I would have written scrolling evermore downward through the Facebook app.

So I’ll miss a few baby pictures and cat memes. I’ll still catch most of what’s really important (at least the parts delivered via Facebook) through a daily peek at my “Close Friends” list and during the times I have to get on there for work. I do, after all, still work in social media. But what I gain is more time–that precious resource that, when working a 9 to 5, I never seem to have enough of. Somewhere along the line, I seem to have traded mindless hours in front of the television for only slightly more mindful hours in front of other types of screens, so like many years ago when I left my TV behind, the white space that’s come with being less connected has felt really nice.

How do you keep yourself mindful of your device time?

Becoming an aunt.

It’s a little overwhelming to even sit down to write, tonight.  It’s been so long since I put pen to paper — or rather, fingers to keyboard — for anyone to read, as opposed to the pages of my trusty journal, that it’s a bit daunting to even decide where to begin.  So I’ll just start right here.

There’s an eerie breeze through the leaves of the cherry tree in the backyard that sounds like a storm coming.  We’re having unseasonably warm temperatures in Seattle, and even though it’s past sunset and the chill of the impending fall is unmistakable when you step outside, the inside of the house is still sun-warmed from earlier.  Gibson’s nearly a dog now — I can barely call her a puppy, anymore, as her first birthday-ish (since we have no way to know the precise date) approaches.  Where a few months ago she’d be ceaselessly asking for my attention (or getting into mischief) if I had the audacity to sit down to write a blog post, tonight she’s happily laying by my feet, chewing on a bone, her ears alert like she’s listening for something but her eyes relaxed in the sort of trance that she finds when she chews.  She has a good life here, and she’s growing into a really wonderful dog.

And aside from that, I’m adjusting to my routine of nine to five-ish, in an old fashioned high-rise in downtown Seattle.  I like the days I ride the bus — it reminds me of back when I used to ride a motorcycle everywhere and I was intimately in touch with the changing seasons at all times.  I like peoplewatching, and having time to read, or taking time to just stare out the window at other people driving to work.  And I like the building I go to with its gilded features and elevator operators who dispense wisdom like fortunes, and the people I work with there.  It’s an oddly good fit for me — a mentor once told me that I might be unemployable, and I think he might be wrong.  I’ve got plenty to learn there, but I’ve found a place again where there are people I know I can learn from — I’d say, a “rare” place, but somehow it seems to be getting less rare.  Everywhere I go, I find myself observing what I can learn from the people I encounter.  Sometimes the teacher, now, sometimes the student.

Megan, on her first full day of motherhood.
Megan, on her first full day of motherhood.

The biggest shift in my world started happening on June 30th, when my sister’s twins decided to make their entry into the world.  My eyes are welling up just thinking about what to even say about it — I’d say something in me shifted when I met those babies for the first time, but really, the earthquake hasn’t stopped.  I’ve never been terribly attached to a particular identity… I’ve tried on a few, for size, and they haven’t stuck — or at least, haven’t stuck exclusively.  I’m still part-lawyer (although, presently unlicensed, and finding myself putting time, money and energy into learning how to shoot film photography instead of signing up for the continuing legal education I need to complete to reinstate my license … perhaps, I’ll get my priorities in order after this photography class).  I’m still part-climber, recreationally, relaxedly, without the kind of all-consuming drive that guided me, for a few years, there.  I’m no longer anyone’s wife — that one didn’t stick, the first time around.  And there are plenty of other identities I’ve just not yet had the opportunity to try on, or not been driven to seek out.

But “aunt…”

that one I was pretty stoked to try on for size.

The rhythm of auntiness didn’t come immediately — I felt nervous and awkward the first time I held those fragile-seeming little people; I soaked up everything I could from listening in on the nurses while they coached Megan and Aaron through the twins’ first days, and even so, required a Diapering 101 lesson before babysitting for the first time.  And then there are the things that you only learn by doing:  the right rhythm to bounce each baby (since they have different preferences); how to heat up a bottle while holding a crying baby (someday, someone, is going to make a bottle system that you can operate from start to finish with one hand).  There’s developing your spidey sense for knowing when to give space and when to show up with a skillet full of dinner to leave on the porch. There’s a newfound comfort in engaging with other people’s kids… to a certain degree, I think, you have to just shake off your self-consciousness and be silly — whether it’s singing silly songs to soothe a crying kiddo, or making funny faces to try to head off a meltdown, or turning the baby bounce into dance steps (my balboa experience is coming in quite handy — Meg’s baby girl seems to like that one a lot).

There’s the satisfaction of Megan and I simultaneously soothing fussy babes in a breakfast restaurant, with them both falling asleep just in time for us to eat most of our breakfast with both of our hands.  There’s the watching Megan and her husband in awe of their ability to do this — anyone will tell you that having twins is not easy.  And seeing it all up close:  whoa.  “They’ve got their hands full” has a whole new meaning.  And again, I find myself observing and learning and am just infinitely grateful that those two made ME an auntie.

And inevitably, after I gush about my latest adventure in auntie-ness, whoever’s listening asks, “So are you catching the baby bug,” as in, “are you going to hurry up and get on that program, Sara?” and I try hard to answer politely, even though I think that questions about peoples’ plans with regard to childbearing should be left to only the closest of friends and family who know all of the intimate details about just why and where a person is on the kids spectrum, and know the nature of the worms in the can before they open it.  And I remind myself that I’m only 36 (although, to be fair, 37 is approaching like a freight train) and have abundant time to make those decisions thoughtfully, in time.  And then I come back to the present, where I’m totally in love with this new role of aunt.

I have a whole new appreciation for the fierce, and dedicated love I’ve felt from my aunts for my whole life… I’ve always felt so incredibly lucky for the love and care of this amazing pack of women, and now… whoa.  WHOA.  Am I ever grateful to have learned auntiehood from the absolute best.

So that’s where I’ve been.  Becoming an auntie.  And loving it.