Thursday, February 25, 2016

2/24/16- I Heart Conference!

I'm feeling a little behind this week because of travel for the conference, and staying home with Jack on Monday.  Poor kid keeps getting sinus colds thanks to pollen counts being really high in Phoenix, teething, and the pass the cold "potato" at daycare.  I took him to the doctor, who said he is finally old enough to have a teaspoon of Children's Benadryl at night, and it's worked very well in drying out/draining those sinuses.  He's doing well today (if not a little sleepy, as he got up an hour earlier because of hunger/wanting breakfast).  So yay!  Parent level "sick kid is better" achieved!

Prior to Jack's sinus cold and staying home with him, I got to attend a conference in Seattle.  I love going to conferences!  Particularly this conference, as it is an annual conference for women engineers.  I love that I get to connect with other women engineers.  It's very uplifting and inspiring. I get to see old friends, meet new people, learn about interesting leadership techniques and innovative technologies, eat yummy food, see a different city, and hear cool people speak.  It's the ultimate "girls weekend" for me.

I only remembered to take one picture the  whole time! Oops!

So to keep this post short (I think I could write 2 pages easily on this topic), I'm going to bullet point some of my favorite highlights from this conference.  Plus, who doesn't love a good list? (Okay, I'm sure someone hates list, Debbie Downer).

  • I got to spend one on one time with one of my bestie's in the industry.
  • Another dear friend won an award for Outstanding Engineer at the conference (congrats, woo)!!!
  • Favorite presentation was by Jet City Improv (from Seattle) about using Improv techniques in the business world. Most notable for me was how to really listen (scene players in Improv need to listen to each to build on the scene) and how to use "yes, and" to generate new ideas/trouble shot a problem. Learning can be fun-- highly recommend you do Jet City if you get the chance at a conference/training through work/local society chapter meeting/etc.  
  • I also enjoyed the presentation on Introverts and Extroverts. Good to great managers use people's personalities to help their employees maximize their potential, but it can be hard to remember their Myer Briggs, DiSC, etc score.  On a day to day basis, thinking about Introvert and Extrovert is a little easier. (FYI, it's not about being shy vs. outgoing, it's more in how someone thinks, which for an Introvert is gathering data/internal/really thinking it over vs.the Extrovert method of quick/confident/external).
  • Karen Bradford, Chief of Staff for the Office of the Center Director at NASA Ames Research Center, gave an awesome keynote on Explore, Engage, and Empower.  I enjoyed her back story and her humor.  She is a great speaker.
  • I took the Seattle Underground Tour for a second time as part of the conference's welcoming reception; always fun, especially with my engineering friends (the tour guides are always funny with quick wit, and the engineers were able to dish it back, haha).
  • It was actually sunny in Seattle for a whole day, which made sipping coffee by the pier nice! And I had less joint swelling than anticipated.  
  • Eating fresh seafood, no need to say more.
  • I revisited the original Starbucks, which is like sacred ground to me now that I need that extra caffeine boost everyday to kick some shark fin. Before child I never went to Starbucks and rarely drank coffee/tea on a daily basis. Oh how times have changed (sipping some tea right now).   
  • It was fun getting to show my friend Pike's Market and the original Starbucks because she's always the one that knows more travel-wise. 
  • I received EOS lip balm as part of the free industry swagg. I think EOS is the bomb/balm, get it?  No? Yeah, wait for the lame "dad" jokes in later posts. 
  • Stayed at what I thought was a nice hotel, right on the water front, called Edgewater.  Dude, there were gas fireplaces in each room.  
  • I meet a fellow engineer/writer (she's also a swim/yoga instructor). She's writing a romance novel with a female engineer as the lead.  Can't wait to read it!
  • I also utilized the 3 hour fight to write: progress!  Woo!
I did of course miss my husband and Jack, but it was a little less harder leaving for this conference as it was my 3rd conference after having Jack.  The first conference I attended postnatal was about 8 weeks after Jack was born. I packed up my pump and storage bags, and the conference had a lovely nursing/new mother's room, so nursing while attending the conference was a non-issue.  The issue (for me) was serve separation anxiety from my sweet baby (what was I thinking kept going through my head).  Attending was my choice after all (my work wasn't even sponsoring me/making me attend), but I still cried every night at the conference.

Part of me still thinks I'm crazy for leaving my newborn, but most of the time I'm glad I went.  Going to that conference helped me realize that I can do this career/parenting/life integration thing, it helped me personally reestablish my pre-mom identity (which I think helped me prevent postpartum depression), and that my husband really is 50/50 in our duties as parents.  My confidence in my partner to be parent that shark out Jack this weekend made it that much easier to get on the plane. And you can see from above how much fun I had.  

So in summary, conferences are usually the best, and if you get an opportunity to go to an engineering, parent (not teacher/parent for your child, but like the Bump or Parent Magazine is having a conference), writer, food, etc, go, go, go!  I'm hoping my next one will be a writing conference in LA this October.  I'm thinking hubby and Jack will come, and we'll hit up one of the big amusement parks in Southern California.  It'd  be fun. Can't wait!  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

2/14/16- The Valentines

Happy Valentine's Day!

This weekend has been full of lots of love.  My hubby and I went to dinner just the two of us at a new to us restaurant Tanzy on Saturday, and then today (Sunday) we paid it forward with babysitting, watching our friends' 2 boys so they could go out.  I was a bit tired after watching 3 boys and helping to clean up the house, so hubby let me take a nap, his extra gift to me this weekend.  Jack gave me a special Valentine's card, and we gave Jack a a coloring book and hugs and kisses.  Tomorrow Jack's daycare/school is closed, so hubby and I are taking a "holiday," and spending extra time together as a family.  We'll also be throwing a surprise lunch party for my brother. Should be a really great day tomorrow!  And then by Thursday, I'm off to a conference for women in engineering!  Something I always love every year.  I'll be sharing more about the conference next week.  Some people aren't big fans of Valentine's, but I like that it gives us a day to celebrate our love for each other because sometimes we get so wrapped up in work and school.  So if you're into the holiday, Happy Valentine's Day!  If not, a Unhappy Valentine's to you!  xoxo!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2/9/16- Reduced work schedule

So about a month ago, in my post about my R.A.,  I mentioned that I'd be talking to my boss about a reduced work schedule.  Well, I had that talk right before the holidays, and it went much better than I anticipated.  I was nervous that my boss and company would not be supportive, and worst case fire me for being a lame, sick person.  I'm not the only autoimmune disease patient that feels like their disease is going to get them laid off from work.  It's seems silly to be afraid of that, as decency and sympathy would dictate that we wouldn't fire someone for being sick, but the reality is, we've all heard of the story where someone struggling with chronic illness is fired from their job.  In fact, I still struggle to forgive a certain company for firing my friend who has MS, but that is a story for another time.

My story about my job and illness has a more happy ending.  My story starts with the fact that when I was first going through diagnosis, my boss was very understanding, and my company actually insisted I sign up for FMLA (Family Medical Leave and Absence) and protect my job.  By protecting me and my job, they protected themselves, and it was a win-win for both parties.  Flash to 2015, my boss was aware of all my health struggles that year, as I kept a pretty open dialogue with them about what was happening to me. I know some people believe that their health status is none of their co-workers' business, and I respect that. For me, I want to raise awareness about my disease, so I'm pretty open with my boss and my co-workers about the fact I have R.A. and get sick more often than I'd like.

I also had a the support of my doctor, who wrote a note, so when I went to have the conversation with my boss and new boss (the project did some shuffling in December and I got a new boss around the time of the talk),  But I'm not 100% sure I needed the note because when I talked to my bosses about a reduced work schedule, they understood how I felt and helped me get the ball rolling on the company paperwork.   My department manager also approved my new schedule (24 hours/week). I think I had empathy from the department manager because unfortunately their family member just got diagnosed with Lupus.  I mean that is a crappy way to gain a manager's empathy.

My new office mate (he sleeps mostly, which makes it easy to focus on work)

I've been working 24 hours/week and most from home (my bosses suggested that, and I'm appreciative that they did), and it's been good.  Working less was supposed to help me get more rest, but after the husband's accident, I was not sleeping much and super stressed.  However, now that the dust has settled after husband's accident, meaning I'm now in the rhythm of dropping/picking Jack up from daycare and having to do more of the house chores, I am getting a little more rest and even moderate exercise (because walking is so good for joints)!  And I'm so grateful that I have the flexibility to help more with Jack.  We've really come to enjoy our time together (he was a total Daddy's boy, if that is a thing).  I don't think I'd been able to step it up with helping with Jack and other household stuff (my husband does a lot of the cooking and dish washing) if I didn't have this reduced schedule.  I'm so thankful!  It's a true blessing.

I just wish that there was a way to give more people in the US tech industry part time work because so many full time engineers/caregivers whom I know desire part time work.  I know there is the company Power to Fly (no they aren't paying me an endorsement; I wish, call me Power to Fly!) that said why can't tech workers who are parents/caregivers work more flexible jobs (part time/remote/flex hours/etc) and came up with an awesome model to help those tech workers.  However one company doing that doesn't seem to be enough in talking to tech workers.  We need more than one company doing it, and if I was interested in starting a business, I'd totally start another Power to Fly type company (hint, hint to those of you with entrepreneurial aspirations).  I've had co-workers ask me how they can work part time like me, and I always joke, just get an autoimmune disease, which that is not a funny joke at all if you think about it.  The demand and desire is out there to have flex work, and it shouldn't take having an autoimmune disease to get a part/flex schedule, (hint, hint to companies wanting to attract a diverse talent, provide flexible work options and you'll catch more "flies"; the technology exists to offer more flex work in the tech industry).   Rambling done. Opinion given (maybe I'll do a survey one day to back my engineers that I know desire flex work statement). Momee Zee out.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2/3/16- Writing

I'm so excited, I just can't hid it!  And no, I'm not going all Jessie Spano on you.

I've entered my first writing contest!  The city I live in has a yearly writing contest, and I thought this contest would be the second vehicle to my professional writing career.  The first vehicle is obviously this blog where I'm making a whooping $0/hour writing it.

Ok, yeah, I'm maybe not a professional writer yet since I'm not making any money and the contest I entered is kudos based only (to me professional writer means you get paid for your writing). Still, it is thrilling for me, an engineer whose every English teacher said I had (lots of) room for improvement in my writing.  And I totally need spell check (I know a lot of engineers who do) in everything I write, even text messages.

I entered the non-Fiction category of the contest, and I submitted a (what I think is) funny, first narrative about getting my ears pierced.  I'm not hoping to win first place, but an honorable mention would be great.  It will help to establish some credentials-- according to my "Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market 2016"  book (a thoughtful gift from a very supportive friend), writing contests, children magazines, and educational reading books (think of Encyclopedia Britannica and National Geographic publishing books for grade school) are a great way to get some experience and credentials on your writer's resume. Apparently you'll grab the eye of an editor if you write about Snails around The World, Educating Children on Snails.  Sure.

 Here I am as an illustration (get it/groan) with my CWIM 2016 Book

So yeah, anyway, I'm excited to enter my first writing contest, and it was so much fun to write the narrative.  I am getting so much joy out of this "second job" (I'm sure in 11 years, I'll be burnt out on this job/career too, but that's 11 years from now, no worries now)!  So much so that I want to encourage those of you who are unhappy in your current work situation to take a risk and change jobs/careers; happiness is so worth that risk.

I know, I know, I know. I say this as someone who still has a part time engineering job to soften the any financial blow, but I made this plan (with my family of course), and I'm such a big slacker and procrastinator (ask those who know me well), so if I can make a plan to switch jobs, then you can too!

Next up on the path to becoming a professional writer is the query letter to editors/agents.  I'm sure there'll be lots of rejection; good thing I'm used to being called a nerd and not being picked first for kickball.  I can't wait to share how query letters go with you all!  Fingers crossed!