Monday, December 11, 2017

12/10/17- Every Once in a While, I Like My Job (Part 2)

Not that long ago, I talked about how much I enjoyed attending and presenting at a conference. That I actually liked my job.  Not more than a week later I found myself again enjoying my job.  But this time it was my writing job (which I like 98% of the time anyway, so no surprise there).

I was selling copies of my book at the Tempe Book Festival.  I needed some help; someone to accept payment while I signed books.  This setup is optimal for any author working a festival, fair or any other place where you're selling directly to patrons. I enlisted the help of my friend and fellow engineer Sara (hi Sara, thanks again for your help!).  We've done multiple science fairs together, and she's great at getting kids and adults interested in our (science and engineering) booth.

Since the Tempe Book Festival was outside, and you have to bring your own gear, I decided that a tent canopy, in addition to the standard table and chairs, was a good idea for a festival in the Valley of the Sun.  It's a rather large canopy, so Bobby volunteered to help Sara and I set it up. Set up was faster with 3 people, but only 2 people need to work a table/booth at a book festival.  Having Bobby there for set up also meant that Jack would be there.

Jack is at the age where I have no idea if he'll be sitting still while watching Mickey Mouse, running all over the festival grounds, or begging us to go home.  To my pleasant surprise, he was really into the book festival, yay!  While we set up, he played an ABC game on a tablet.  And when we finished set up, he took Mommy around to all the booths, then Sara around to all the booths, and finally Daddy around to all the booths. 

Next, he sat at my booth, telling people about Annie Aardvark, handing out candy to other kids (it was more of a mandate: "you don't want that, you want Starburst"), and also enjoying some of this candy himself.  He stayed the entire 6 hours of the festival and seemed to enjoy all 6 hours.  He was a little tired after we packed it in and feel asleep on the ride home.

Jack visiting an author's book at the Tempe Book Festival

On a parenting note, remember when I said I had no idea how Jack would act?  When I'm not sure how he'll act someplace new, I hesitate (big time) on bringing him with me.  I don't think I'm alone on that hesitation--running a book festival booth goes a little smoother if there's not a cranky toddler sitting at it.  Shark, doing anything without a toddler present usually goes smoother.

However looking back, I think about how Jack and I might have both missed out on this experience had I let that hesitation rule my decision. It was awesome for me to have him be a part of my work--for him to see me work.  It's that thought, of him seeing me work and being a part of my work, that has changed my mindset. I definitely plan to bring him to more events like this (like when Sara and I volunteer for another science fair). It's just making sure to have a contingency plan, like having daddy or a friend on hand to help out, since I am an engineer after all (got to worse case it, ya know?).

As I hinted in the paragraph above, it meant the world to me that I got to share my work (my writing work) with my son.  And that he liked it!  I'm convinced that he thinks I don't work, as all of my work, both engineering and writing, is performed on my laptop. I'm pretty sure Jack thinks the laptop is a toy, and toys equal play, not work (although play in a sense is work for kids, just don't tell them that).  Therefore, mommy plays, not works, on the laptop (okay, sometimes work feels like play to me, which circles back to every once in a while, I like my job). 

As a female engineer (and writer) who wants to raise a feminist son, it's very important to me that Jack not only understands that I work, but that he sees me do it.  Sharing the book festival with him, not only is a precious memory, but a demonstration of my ideals to my child.  So yeah, every once in a while, I like my job. Might I say, I even love it?  Na, let's not get too carried away!  😃

Hey friends and family-- what do you like about your job?  Let me know in the comments.  I guess you can also tell me what you don't like about your job, although hoping to have some positive comments too. 😃

Monday, November 20, 2017

11/21/17- Counting My Blessings

Last year a friend started a #GratitudeProject around the holidays, and she brought back the project for this year. The idea of the project is that a "purposeful study of gratitude, thankfulness, and mindfulness has many benefits, not the least of which is, it makes you a happier person!" So for 14 days, my friends leads a group of us in practicing gratitude, thankfulness, and mindfulness.  

Each day has a new exercise, and today's exercise was to count your blessings.  Here's the description of the exercise: 

Count your blessings.  Pick a time today and consider sustaining this every week where you sit down and write about your blessings-- reflection on what went right or what you are grateful for.  Sometimes it helps to pick a number-- such as three to five things-- that you will identify each week.  How many will you identify today? As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

I thought since I have a weekly blog post to do, Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I want to participate in today's #GratitudeProject, why not make my blog post about counting my blessings? I am not sure that I'll think of every blessing I have, but here are the blessings that are always in my mind and heart:

1) My son (love you Jack Jack!)
2) My husband (💓)
3) My friends (😊)
4) My extended family (shout out to my nephews Brady, Austin, Connor, and Parker and godson Colton!)
5) My pets
6) My education
7) My house (a roof over my head)
8) My eyesight (I may have RA, but so far, I haven't had to wear glasses)
9) Being born in the US
10) Science and the wonderment of scientific discovery
11) All the different options available for food and the ability to afford all the different options (can't eat gluten, no problem here in the States!)
12) Washing machines and dish washers (so thankful to not have to walk down to the river and do it all by hand)
13) Books
14) Shoes (not sure my delicate feet could handle walking around barefoot on the hot Phoenix sidewalks)
15) Writing
16) Funny GIFs and Memes (sometimes the Internet is shark, but sometimes it makes me laugh and brings cheer)
17) Starbucks and husband always "refilling" the Starbucks card
18) My car/having reliable transportation
19) A job that helps saves lives in some small part
20) Netflix

What are your blessings? Can you count at least a handful of blessings? Please feel free to share in the comments, and I hope most of your blessings will be gathered around you at your Thanksgiving fest. Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble, gobble, gobble!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

11/16/17- Thanksgiving Science Experiment: Hopping Corn


a clear glass container
popping corn
baking soda
white vinegar
food coloring (optional)


  1. Fill your glass container with water and add a couple drops of food coloring.
  2. Add your baking soda and stir well until it is all dissolved.
  3. Add a small handful of popping corn kernels.
  4. Add the vinegar and watch the corn start to hop up and down!

This corn will hop up and down repeatedly in your container for over an hour.  It’s so much fun to watch (mesmerizing would be the best word to describe it). The experiment creates a great opportunity to talk about gases, liquids, and solids with your child.

Basically, the science behind the activity is that when the baking soda and vinegar combine, they react to form carbon dioxide (CO2) gas.  The gas forms bubbles in the water, which enclose the corn kernels.  The bubbles lift the kernels up to the surface, and when the kernels get to the surface, the bubbles pop, and the kernels sink again.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

11/7/17- Every Once In Awhile, I Like My Job (Part 1)

About a week ago, I attended an engineering conference.  I attend this conference every year: it always reinvigorates me about engineering.  This year, I was selected to present at one of the sessions, and to my surprise, my company paid for me to go.  This is the first time in over a decade that they sponsored me, despite the facts that I've been attending this conference since I started working (for them), and I've been a speaker in the past.

Presenting on "Beautiful Oops!"

Of course, there were strings attached with having the company pay for me, such as recruiting at my company's career fair booth.  I missed out on attending other sessions at the conference all to pretend that it's a great place to work. Okay, it really is if you're an intern or a fresh out (of college), but for mid-career people, the great place to work becomes highly questionable.  Thankfully, I talked mostly to college students (there was one mid-level person that approached me, but an engineering manager stepped in; saved by the manager, phew). I absolutely enjoy engaging with the youngins.

Sure, we talked about my company, but mostly I got to talk about engineering with them.  There are some really impressive engineering students out there, so it's easy for me to roll my eyes at other "old people" when they say they're worried about the future and who's going to be running it ("get off my lawn!").  These "old people" just aren't hanging out with the right crowd.  They don't see what I got to see at this conference-- the smart, capable engineers of tomorrow (so "old people" hang out more at engineering recruiting events, and you'll be less worried).

Another other great part about this gig was seeing and spending time with my colleagues/friends from various companies.  We got to BAW (shark about work) with each other and call it networking.  Hearing my colleagues/friends stories about work gives me comfort and knowledge that I'm not alone.  Also, the ones that have reached the 20+ years that makes me think that I can reach that benchmark too.  Of course, I may have to change companies to make it to 20 years. 😆

My presentation was another highlight of the conference.  My presentation is based off Barney Saltzberg's picture book Beautiful Oops!  Beautiful Oops! is about helping children realize that a mistake is not the end of the world. When they make a mistake, they should think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful: a beautiful oops.  The book's lesson also applies to engineering. Many engineering innovations and scientific discoveries came about by accident (mistake): Post-It Notes, Penicillin, Cornflakes, Velcro, Anesthesia, etc. 

Sometimes as engineers, we get a little risk adverse, afraid to make a mistake or suggest the wrong solution. I hope that the engineers who attended my presentation took away that even if they make a mistake at work, that perhaps they can make something beautiful out of it (a lesson learned, an innovation, and so on).  Plus, I love it when my engineering career comes together with my children's author career meets my mom career: thank you "Beautiful Oops" for that. Also, thanks for the reminder that if I make or create something in writing or engineering, and I make a mistake while doing so, there's the possibility that I can still turn it into something beautiful. 

So every once in awhile, I like my current (engineering) job. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pointed Monster

Billy trembled as the angled shadow drew closer.  I’ve got to get out of here! thought Billy.  “Help, help! There’s a monster coming for me!” he screamed.  But it was pointless; the monster had already turned the corner.  “Please don’t eat me!” shouted Billy, tightly squeezing his eyes shut. “I won’t eat you,” kindly replied the monster. Billy’s shoulders dropped and slowly his eyelids lifted.  Blink. Blink.  “Oh,” said Billy, a wicked smile creeping across his face.  “That’s too bad for you because candy corn is my favorite,” Billy stated.  Crunch….

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10/20/17- The Ups and The Downs

I image that there's many, many people who have had a week like mine.  There were a lot of ups and a lot downs.  Good news and bad news. It was like being at both poles-- that is, the positive emotion pole and the negative emotion pole.  This isn't my first week where it was a roller coaster of emotions. I've had a few other times in my life where the week was filled with such highs and such lows.  Now that I'm older, at least I can drink a glass of wine while I simultaneously laugh and cry.


Where do I even start?   I guess I'll go chronological to show the sharking wave of emotion I went through this week.  On Saturday, I received notice that "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician" was a finalist for the 2017 IAN Book Awards.  Yay!  Then off to Air Xtreme for a birthday party, which was pretty fun.  Finish off the weekend with a nice and relaxing Sunday.

Then it's Monday, and I have to go to a job that brings no satisfaction.  Before I go in to work, my friend/co-worker texts me that another co-worker has passed away.  He died from a motorcycle accident.  This is our second co-worker to die from a motorcycle accident this year.  It's very, very sad.  I didn't cry though until today, when a colleague wrote to the whole team about missing his smile.  It was a great smile, one that was reflected in his eyes, and was very genuine and sincere.  Rest in peace friend-- we'll miss you in the hallways.

I don't really recall all the emotions of Tuesday, other than being a little stressed out for a customer meeting.  I think also the social media movement #MeToo also took place Tuesday, but that could have been Wednesday. It's heartbreaking to see how many people were affected, myself included.  The specific harassment stories that I recall of the top of my head are catcalling, creepy older men saying things to me as a teen, and male co-workers talking right in front of me about how short so-so's skirt was and how hot that made her.  It's a sharked up thing, and I believe it will get better as more awareness happens and good people are willing to stand up to it.  So that's Tuesday.

Then Wednesday morning, I have Jack drop off duty.  Which is all fun and games until I actually have to take him to preschool.  He tells me he wants to stay home with mommy, and shark if that doesn't just cut me.  Of course, once he's at school and playing on the school's playground, it's like mommy who?  I much rather hang out with Jack than go to a job I dislike.  Playing games, eating Mac n' Cheese and watching Mickey Mouse together is way better than my sharky job.

I did get to meet with my critique group during lunch Wednesday, and it was a good meeting.  My group likes my latest story, and it gets me excited to start submitting it to agents and editors.  The promise of actually making my living from writing is always exhilarating.  We saw family that evening at Flower Child, and hump day was looking pretty up.

Then yesterday happens.  All week my allergies are bothering me, and it's made me feel a little tired.  But nothing Benadryl can't fix.  It unfortunately adds to my sleepiness though.  However, yesterday my stomach gets upset, so after a good Wednesday, I'm back down again. Never fear though, today is Friday.  I'm happy that it's Friday because I'm looking forward to the weekend!  Pumpkin patches, science experiments, hanging out with friends-- it's going to be a good weekend.  Hope you all have a good weekend too!

I do also want to note, that when life hands me such a big swing of emotions in one week, I seek out professional help from a counselor.  While one glass of wine is a fun temporary fix, I find the best fix to regain a healthy mental state is to see my counselor. I know that the rational and logical sensibilities that most of us engineers have seems at odds with emotions and emotional well being (surely you can logically and rationally talk yourself back to a neutrally emotional state, right?).  However, if you think about it, doesn't it logically make sense to see a counselor when emotions are swinging up and down? It's like seeing a primary care doctor for colds and regular check ups. Oh, and a massage. That doesn't hurt either.

If you are wanting to take care of your mental and emotional health, but don't know where to start, I suggest talking to a trusted family member or friend to see if they have recommendations for a professional (counselor or therapist).  You may also ask a trusted Facebook group or other social media group you belong to.  You may also call your work's mental health hotline (most companies have some form of mental health help tied to your health insurance) or ask your primary care doctor for recommendations.  Here's what the US government offers: Take care of yourself and your emotions friends.  💙

Friday, October 13, 2017

10/13/17- Halloween Science Activity: Dancing Ghosts

I like Halloween and I like science, so I thought how do I combine the 2 to have some scienc-ween fun with Jack?  Luckily Pinterest exist, and I found various Halloween Science activities.  Most were vinegar and baking soda reaction experiments, which with black dye or something can make for some scary fun Halloween experiments.  Kind of mad scientists.

However, Jack and I have done the vinegar and baking soda reaction experiment multiple times, and while he does enjoy the experiment, I wanted to introduce a new science concept to him.  So I chose one that involves static electricity: Dancing Ghosts.

For Dancing Ghosts, you'll need tissue paper, at least one balloon (inflated), and scissors.  Marker optional (for drawing a face on your ghost).

Cut a ghost out of the tissue paper.  Then rub the balloon back and forth on your carpet or hair, creating the static electricity (as I'm sure you know), and then hold the balloon over the tissue paper ghost.  The ghost should move.  While the balloon still has a static charge move it back and forth, and the ghost should move back and forth too.  Here's my video of making the tissue paper ghost dancing:

Jack liked this science activity because he got to cut his own ghost.  He really likes cutting paper right now (they're teaching him in preschool how to cut straight lines and such), and he also likes ghosts, saying "oooooo" every time he sees one.  He also had his own balloon and got his ghost to dance once, but after that he just taped his ghost to the balloon and had the ghost ride around on the balloon.  Haha!  It was a fun and simple Halloween meets science activity.  Hope everyone has a Happy Hall-oooo-ween!

If your child is a little older and interested in what static electricity is, then consider watching this video while doing the activity.  It provides a great explanation to kids on static electricity.
How Static Electricity Works