Monday, September 18, 2017

9/18/17- Potty Training

Jack turned three, and it resulted in one major milestone for him. And for Bobby and me as parents. He learned to use the toilet (for per and poop)! Probably to some people, including some parents, that doesn't seem like a big deal. But it really is a big milestone in childhood development! Bobby and I couldn't be happier.  It means no more changing diapers!

It also means he is one more step towards childhood, stepping further away from the baby phase of life (so bittersweet). As proud of him as Bobby and I are, it took us over a year to potty train Jack. We started when he was two.  He seemed to show an interest in the toilet, pointing to it and trying to sit on it. What I didn't realize about potty training a year ago, it is like anything else a child learns-- it takes repetitive practice before the skill is mastered, just like walking and talking did.

We took a loose approach at the time, occasionally sitting Jack on the toilet. Sometimes we'd do it first thing in the morning. Sometimes at bath. And we'd always put him back in a diaper.  We were never consistent. I secretly hoped the few times he'd sit on the toilet, that it would just click. That he knew this place was where pee and poop goes. That he'd just start using the toilet on his own. That was a little foolish of me.

But one Saturday this August (about a month before Jack’s 3rd birthday), Bobby put Jack in underwear instead of a diaper. Then we consistently put Jack on the toilet every 1.5 hours, watching like a hawk him for any pee/poop signals (like a pee-pee dance that most kids have). He did well that day and had only one accident. The next morning, a Sunday, he asked for underwear. We were excited that he wanted to wear underwear—we were grooving now! But he peed in the grocery store later that day.  I thought that potty training was going to be put on pause again (boy, have we had a lot of starts and stops in potty training).

However, he surprised me the next day and refused to wear a diaper to daycare. So off he went to school, in underwear. Daycare/school was determined to help us train him that Monday, and the teachers sat him on the toilet every hour. He had just move up to the early preschool class, and maybe that class is set up better for sitting on the potty more frequently...aka repetitive practice.  Whatever it was, he did well that day at school-- no accidents!!!!

The preschool teachers even reported that the nap diaper (they were worried about leaving him in underwear at nap, so they put him in a diaper at nap time) was dry! They said, if he does that for 3 more day in a row, Jack could keep his underwear on for nap. If you haven't potty trained, dry after sleeping is a big deal. We knew Jack was headed towards mastery of the skill when he reached the day he didn't need the nap diaper (which did happen later that week).

Something Bobby and I learned during potty training is that our son is very reward driven. He will do any task for a fun size Snickers or roll of Smarties. He will also poop in the toilet for a small toy, like a Matchbox car. And like some kids, poop was a challenge for him (bet half the parents reading this post are nodding their head in understanding).  I don’t know what it is about poop, but the light bulb moment of poop (that poop goes in the toilet) just takes a little longer than the light bulb moment for pee with some kids.

Once Bobby and I committed to consistent training, Jack caught on to peeing in the potty within three days. But he refused to poop on the toilet. He would cry when we'd urge him to poop on the potty, and then he’d run away from us and the toilet, usually ending with him pooping in his underwear (sorry if that's too graphic for some readers, but it is the reality of potty training). We'd patiently explained to him that accidents happen, but the poop should go in the potty, not underwear.

The first time he pooped on the potty was about a week after our commitment to repetitive practice. We were so thrilled that we ran out to Target and bought him a Mack (from Cars) toy truck. He was of course pleased, as he is reward centered. He kept repeating to us that poop on the potty, I get Mack. Oops, we might have gone overboard with the reward thing because he kept asking for a brand-new toy after each poop and pee—Bobby and I envisioned a 21-year-old with a toy buying habit after using the restroom.  Lesson learned for me.

About a month after the initial learning phase of peeing and pooping on a potty, Jack went poop on the toilet all by himself. I was getting ready in my room (Bobby was already at work), and after a couple of minutes, I came to check on Jack in our family room. There he was, sitting on the training potty, pooping! No help from me. I don't care if you roll your eyes at this, but I couldn't be prouder! Jack has graduated from training to mastering! Bravo Jack! Now we must train Jack to read and write. No big deal.

Note: One resource that I found helpful, and certainly isn't the end all to potty training, is the book "Oh Crap! Potty Training" by Jamie Glowacki. Got your own favorite resource on potty training? Please mention it in the comments. Best of luck to all the parents who are potty training kids, congrats to the parents who have potty trained a child, and congrats to the rest of the adults who know how to use a toilet (did you ever think that potty training was a big milestone in your life?  I certainly didn’t!). We did something! High five!


Friday, September 8, 2017

9/8/17- Three

Cliche alert, but where does time go?!  My baby turned three this week!  I am having a hard time believing that fact because it feels like we just brought Jack home from the hospital. Figuratively, he'll always be my baby (like the book "Love You Forever"), but rationally, I know he's not a baby anymore. I mean, look at his little kid face:

See, no more baby face.  Not like this:

Or this:

Or especially this:

Goodbye baby face.  Goodbye baby phase.  You are a kid now, Jack! And the things that kid Jack can do, that he couldn't do last year, include (surely there are things I'm forgetting): pee on the potty (that's a big milestone to us!), pedal a bike, cut paper with kid-safe scissors, speak in 5+ word sentences, count past 20 (it gets iffy around 23), sing the ABC song, write the letter "J" (at least I think it's the letter J), julienne a carrot (I'm kidding of course), and memory read "Goodnight Moon." 

My rationale side is very happy to see him growing up-- Aging is a wonderful gift from Time. Jack's birthdays are always just a little bittersweet for me, and so, here is my cheesy poem to my son, Jack, about turning 3:

You're turning three!
You'll get lots of treats!
However, for me,
it's bittersweet!

Happy birthday Jack, Jack!  I hope you enjoyed your 3rd birthday kiddo! For the record (and memory's sake), the day had donuts, a classroom party with your preschool mates, dinner and presents with your 'rents (you got a scooter, games, Legos, and such), a visit to your favorite bookstore, and ice cream. Your dad and I love you so much, and of course we're ridiculously proud of the things you can do.  You are smart, you are kind, you are beautiful, and most important, you are loved.  

Now please excuse me, I have to go ugly cry...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

8/22/17- Reading List 4: Picture Books about Love

As I watched the eclipse yesterday, I couldn't help but think of all the people watching the same eclipse (yes, yes, there are some differences with weather and location, but it's the same event).  I thought about how we all have the same sun. The same moon.  The same stars.  The same Earth.  And maybe I'm just riding high on the good feelings from a weekend full of love, but the solar eclipse filled me with love.  I think we could all use a little bit of love right now, so I'm going to put some out there via this post. Without further ado, here are some (but certainly not all) picture books about LOVE. "There's a lot of love out there, man." 💓

1) My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund (obviously, I had to start with one that incorporated both the sun and love in some way!)

2) One Love adapted by Cedella Marley

3) Someday by Alison McGhee

4) Love Is by Diane Adams

5) All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

6) Wherever You Are by Nancy Tillman

7) Because of You by B.G Hennessy (out print but you may be able to find it at a library or used bookstore)

8) Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

9) The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

10) Always and Together (two books) both by Emma Dodd

11) I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

12) I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

What's your favorite picture book about love?  Or have a recommendation?  Leave a comment here or on social media and spread the love, man!

Monday, August 14, 2017

8/14/17- A Difference a Week Makes

Our air conditioner broke 10 days ago.  There was a crazy storm in Phoenix, and some parts on the A/C unit got damaged. It was in the evening, we had fans, and the temperature outside was in the 80's.  So we decided to wait until morning to call the A/C repair company.  We were going to be fine. Then 1:30 am rolled around, and the power went out.

Thirty minutes later, Jack woke up and was super sweaty.  We had to call an audible and go to a hotel. It was a good call, but it took Jack until 3 am to fall back asleep.  We were all a bunch of sleep zombies the next day.  Would have been fine if it was the weekend, but it was a week day.  Bobby and I had work and Jack had to go to preschool/daycare.  Jack didn't want to go to school because hotel's are fun, and he didn't want to leave the fun. The teachers were kind and paid extra attention to Jack that day, so he ended up having a good day.

The A/C got fixed. Thankfully, we only had to replaced a relay and capacitor; our A/C unit is from 1987, so there's always the chance that we'll have to replace it here in the near future.  And we had a good night's sleep that night. And things are going good. Oops did I just jinx us?  Hopefully not, but we had a great weekend with a pool party on Saturday and a birthday party on Sunday.

💙 Poor Little Guy 💙

And last week was really nice.  Wednesday night, Bobby and I picked Jack up from daycare together and went to dinner at Chili's.  We've watched a lot of "The Office" lately, and I may have been influenced on where to eat for dinner by the fact that the show had the staff go to Chili's a couple of times.  Anyway, after dinner, we went for ice cream and then visited our favorite bookstore.  I think I've mentioned this before, but Jack loves going to "Changing Hands Bookstore" because they have a train set (you know, the wooden kind).

We had a really hard time pulling Jack away from the train set.  And when we finally got to the car, Jack saw the ice cream place again and started, well, screaming for ice cream. I honestly think he just had such a fun time that he didn't want to go home.  And I don't blame him.  I had a fun time too; it's nice to break up the monotony of the work week. Such a let down to have to go to work the next day after such a fun night (Jack was fine going to daycare the next day, well I was not, haha).

What a difference in weeks.  Dealing with a broken A/C to ice cream and trains.  And really dealing with a broken A/C isn't that big of a deal when you live in a city with lots of A/C repair companies and lots hotels and friends (although I appreciate all the offers from friends, I still don't know if I'd want to wake you up at 2 am, so we that could crash with you. Thanks for offering!  Makes us feel loved). I can easily say that now, reflecting back, but a broken A/C isn't that big of a deal.  Especially when it's followed up by such a good weekend and then week.

Personally, it was a good week last week.  Ice cream, trains, Chili's fajitas (shark, they're still so good!) and I didn't even mention the baking of cookies and making of dough volcanoes; so much good times.   Hopefully this week will also be a good week for my little family.  But more so, I hope we all have a good week. So much shark seems to be going on right now that hopefully the difference of a week will be good for all of us. Take care and have a good week!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

8/1/17- The Book Festival

About a week ago I attended the Payson Book Festival.  This public and free event is a way for adults and kids to meet and greet dozen's of book creators from all over Arizona (and a few other states). Like other book festivals, authors sit at tables and spend the day chatting with readers and signing books. The Payson Book Festival was my first book festival as an author, and I want to share some of the things I learned as an author attending a book festival.

First, if you are indie/self-published, then you will have to register yourself for the festival you want to attend.  The registration process for the Payson Book Festival was relatively simple: I filled out their form, emailed it to the organizer, and then paid the fee through PayPal (most festivals have a registration fee for authors to have booths at their festival).  If you are a traditionally published author, your publisher may be setting everything up, including registering and paying fees.  However, if you're a traditionally published author attending a festival outside of what your publisher has scheduled for you (aka, you're going on your own), then you're going to have to register yourself and pay any fees yourself.

Second, you'll want to find out all the details about the event.  Like, are you getting a full booth, partial booth (sharing with an other author), do you get the whole day or just a time slot (2 hours, 3 hours, etc), is table and chairs provided or do you bring your own equipment, are you responsible for sales or will there be a bookstore or other 3rd party that will sell books for you, do you need to have a state and city vendor's license (in most cases, yes), are you responsible for tax remittance, is any food or beverages provided, how many people attended the event in the past and so on.

If your publisher is setting everything up, that's great.  If not, then it's really important to know how you'll be selling your books and what the set up is like and what you'll need to bring.  Tables and chairs were provided for the authors, and there was an independent bookstore that was willing to sell authors' books at the Payson Book Festival, so technically all I had to bring was copies of my book, many Sharpies (so important to have multiple writing tools), and myself (and Bobby; it is always nice to have a person helping you who is familiar with the book).

Third, sales expectations.  This information is probably some of the hardest information to find on the Internet (Bobby and I spent a couple of hours looking for what should I expect in sales). My guess as to why this information is hard to find is because sales are not high at book festivals.  Most people (readers) are there because it's a free event, and they have specific authors or books they're looking for, or they already have the book and are going to the event just to get the book signed.

From what I've read from other authors who have willingly shared this information (and from my own experience) is that you're doing really well if you are selling 1 (that's ONE) book per hour.  I sold 10 books over the 6 hours of the Payson Book Festival and that was considered really good (the Payson Book Festival has a couple hundred attendees).   I read another blog post from an author who attended the Brooklyn Book Festival, which has 10,000 people attend, and he sold only 4 novels.  Managing your own expectations regarding book sales is key to determining if the event was successful by your own measures.

And that sentence brings me to my final thought/lesson learned.  To me, the point of the book festival is to get your name out there and to connect with your readers.  People may not buy your book, but if you have a card or sticker with your name and book on it, when they go to the library or bookstore next, then they may want to ask the librarian or bookstore owner for your book.  Or they may want to look you up and find out that you do classroom visits/other speaker engagement events and ask you to come speak to their class. That is why it is a good idea to have free swag.

The Payson Book Festival was my first time as an author at a festival, but it was not my first festival. I've been doing science festivals and other such events for an non-profit engineering professional organization since 2004.  From those science festivals and outreach events, I've learned that people love free stuff.  I personally have too much shwag from conferences that I've stopped collecting it from booths, but people want free pencils, stickers, bookmarks, chapstick, pens, etc. for whatever reason.  I had some bookmarks (with my name and book on them) that I offered to people.  I didn't try to sell people on my book; I just said, hi, please have a free bookmark.  About 50% of the time, they'd ask me questions about the book and 5% of the time, they'd buy a book.  Another author at the event was handing out bags of dried basil and bay leaves, as her book was about holistic health. She got a lot of traffic at her booth.

Offering something for free draws people to your booth (of course so does a good looking book cover, but you'll have to Google to find posts on how to design a good looking cover). Kids especially love picking up stickers and bookmarks each booth, so it was a success to me that I only had 25 out of 100 bookmarks left. Potentially 75 kids now know who Annie Aardvark is!

If you're an illustrator, you can also consider selling some of your art or giving out small postcards with your art.  If you're the author, you can consider selling some other product that is associated with your book.  For example, the author I shared a booth with, she sold stuff animals that related to the animal characters in her books.  Just be aware that children (and their parents) might not understand the product or art is for sell, so it's a good idea to have a sign clearly stating a price.  If you're an author/illustration, you can consider selling both art and products. Make sure to check with the festival about selling things other than books (and also if you'll need a vendor's license).

Another idea that may sell books, is to offer a special festival only price.  Aka, a discount.  I offered a 25% discount on my book just for the festival (it could only be done at the festival, not online; although an all day online discount that correlates to the festival could also be considered).  I think the free stuff had a bigger impact on sales than the discount, but it's worth exploring if you're selling the book yourself (or can price it at a discount with the third party who's going to sell your book that day).

Finally, if you are handling sales at your booth/table, be prepared to accept as many forms of payment as possible. Square is one of many providers that makes it incredibly convenient to accept credit/debit cards.  All you need is a smartphone and the app, but if you plan ahead, you can get swipe readers for free from Square or you can pay for readers that can even accept Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and other contactless forms (know your customer).  But don't forget cash is still the preferred payment method for many customers as well.

In summary, I had a good time at the Payson Book Festival.  I always enjoy interacting with children and their parents at events, and the Payson Book Festival was the same. It's important to remember that the goal of the festival is the interaction with readers.  You are there to connect with your readers. It's also a good opportunity to network with other authors and illustrators.  I now have another author friend that I can ask questions and seek guidance from.  I highly recommend that any author (or illustrator), whether self-published or traditionally published, attend at least one book festival (or fair) in their writing career. The experiences and connections will at least make for some good writing fodder, but will also hopefully get your name out to the public.  Plus, it's fun!

If you have any further questions for me about book festivals (like what is this vendor's license thing I keep mentioning), please leave me a comment or reach out to me on social media (Twitter or Facebook).  Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

7/25/17- Monsoon and RA

Every July monsoon season blows into Phoenix.  The weather is mostly high winds, dark clouds, thunder, and lightning. A haboob might form because it is the desert (desert=dirt) after all.  The city usually just gets a threat of rain, but occasionally it will down pour.  The rain is great.  If you are a dry desert, going through a drought, then you really need the water.  However, the rain is not so great if you are a RA patient.

Thanks to all the monsoon rain Phoenix has received, I've had inflamed joints.  And really poofy, wavy hair. The hair is easy to deal with; just wrap it into a bun or ponytail.  The inflamed joints are a little more of a pain to deal with. Okay, it is pain.  I have re-acquainted myself with the Ibuprofen bottle. I've seen it more often than I've seen my own mom (she does live in the same city) this summer. Although the Ibuprofen helps with the pain and the inflammation, I also feel so worn down.

Mornings are so hard-- I just want to lay in bed the whole morning.  Eventually, I do get out of bed (before noon!), but I move so slooooow.  I'm achy and fatigued.  And the days I have to do daycare drop off... ugh. I really don't like doing daycare drop off right now.  Since I move like an 85 year old granny in the mornings, I can't get Jack to daycare before 9 am.  Even if we're up really early-- I'll just use that extra time to be more sloth-y (picture the sloth, Flash, from Zootopia; that's me in the mornings). Jack always misses morning snack on the days I have drop off.

Because I take so long getting us ready, Jack thinks he's staying home with me.  It's really hard to convince him to go to daycare.  Getting him to daycare and then saying good-bye at daycare involves a bunch of tears (insert joke about how Jack cries too). I feel riddled with guilt during this drop off ritual, and say to myself, "why didn't I just keep him home?"  Oh yeah, it's because I would need the whole bottle of Ibuprofen to take care of Jack if he stayed home with me (not a whole bottle, but you get the point).  In fact, Jack offered me medicine the other morning when I finally stumbled out of bed.  It was very considerate and compassionate of him (yay for toddlers learning empathy), but also a little heart-breaking for me.  I don't want to be the broken mommy.

Thankfully, I do live in a desert, and it will be dry again before I can figure out how to tame my frizzy hair.  Dryness is good for people with joint problems.  I'll be up and at 'em, like an old pug, before too long (that's better than a sloth, right?).  I won't be so broken.  Jack and I can spend all day playing together, and whatever else non-arthritic parents do. If only the dry season could happen a little sooner (thanks nature! I'd appreciate it!)...

I can't image living in a coastal city.  I'd probably never leave my bed. How do RA patients in coastal places handle humidity and moisture that is all the time?  They probably own stock in Ibuprofen companies (and maybe this is why places like Seattle are legalizing marijuana? So there's alternatives to Ibuprofen when rain cause joint inflammation?).  So in summary, rain great for the desert, but bad for my joints.  I want to wish everyone fair health and long-life this monsoon season! May you not have to take Ibuprofen for the next couple of month!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

7/11/17- Reading List 3: Non-Fiction Books for Adults

As a child, I read a lot during summer break.  A lot.  I'd go to the public library and check out a stack of 12 books at a time, and a couple of weeks later, turn those 12 in for a new stack. Call me a nerd if you must, that word is a compliment to me (as an adult), but I wasn't a bored child during the summer.  That's for sure.

So to me, summer time equals the perfect time for reading. Really, any time you can squeeze in a book as a busy adult is a good time, but summer for me means it's the perfect time to squeeze in lots of reading.  And that's why this reading list is dedicated to us adults (past reading lists for preschoolers to 2nd graders and teens).  Let's squeeze in sometime to read, follow adults!

1) "Why Not Me?" by Mindy Kaling
First, it's funny and pretty quick to read.  I read it a few years ago, and then suggested it to a book club last summer-- I was re-reading it for the summer and started sharing excerpts with Bobby, and he thought those excerpts were so funny, that he asked if we could read Mindy's book together.  Second, this book has some good career advice in it.  Also, if you're in an industry where there's an over representation of a certain demographic, this book may provide comfort (it did for me).

2) "It's Not Rocket Science" by Mary Spio
Mary is a satellite engineer turned entrepreneur, so of course I wanted to read this book (a female engineer whose crushing it, shark yes!).  This book is really about how to become entrepreneur, but Mary does share some of her own personal story. She was an immigrant from Ghana and she became on engineer with patents, which lead to her starting her own company.  Hearing her story was the part I liked best and very inspiring.  Her entrepreneurial and changing-the-game career advice is on the optimistic side, so I think this a good read to give yourself a boost if you're down in the dumps about your career.  Sometimes we just need the positive message. 

3) "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler
This book made me laugh and cry so hard.  Amy talks about everything from her childhood, to just starting out in the comedy business, to marriage, kids, and divorce, to working in a male dominated field, and to moon hunting (you'll have to read the book to find out what that is).  And she wrote it all in a way that made me relate and empathize with everything, even though I've never done stand-up, worked for SNL, or been married to Will Arnett.  I have enjoyed all the books on this list, but if you forced me to pick just one for you to read, "Yes, Please" is the one I'd recommend.

4) "Lean In" by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg
There's a lot commentary on this book- a lot of its bad, but a lot of its good.  While I didn't agree with everything the authors wrote in this book, it is still a good book for both men and women to read to start to understand the issues working women have.   

5) "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly
I've already written a review of Hidden Figures, which you can read here, but its a great book to read during the summer and to read in intervals.  If you've seen the movie and found the movie inspiring, you will also find this book uplifting.  I also enjoyed reading about the Civil Rights movement and wars that were happening in parallel to Katherine, Dorothy and Mary.

6) Bossypants by Tina Fey
Again, a really funny book.  And again, Bobby and I read it together and laughed much at Tina's words.  In Tina's book, the career advice isn't so straight forward as Mindy's or Amy's.  If I remember correctly, Tina writes somewhere in the book that she doesn't want to give straight out career advice (because each of us have unique situations or something along those lines), so it's kind of more just work stories. Those work stories are very entertaining though, and you might even find yourself going, yep I've had one of those moments.  

That's it for this list-- I'll have more adult, teen, and kid reading list soon enough.  And since you're smart, you recognized the pattern here for this list: autobiography/biography or person sharing career journey/career advice and all written by women.  If you have fiction book recommendations or other career and biography book recommendations (written by both women and men), then please share these recommendations in the comments!  I'm always looking for a new book to read.  Happy summer reading everyone! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

7/3/17- Hello Impostor; I See You've Failed

I thought I was done feeling like an impostor; 13 years into my job as engineer, I do not doubt my engineering skills anymore. I doubt the place that I work, but I do not doubt that I've got something to offer as an engineer.  For the first 5 years of my (engineering) job, I doubted my engineering capability.  Being sick and discovering I had RA, made those feelings of impostor and fraud linger a little longer than I felt they should have. But as soon as my health issue was figured out, and I got project experience under my belt, I no longer felt like a phony.   Every couple of years, I'll acknowledge that there are engineers who are smarter than me (on my team), but I am not a dummy; I know the work and how to do the work. I can do it in my sleep now (ugh, sometimes I dream about analyzing completing systems reliability tickets).  So I  have said good-bye impostor syndrome.

Or so I thought.  Two years ago, I decided I would write a blog.  And then I decided I would write and publish a children's book.  I've done just that-- I published a children's book.  I have also published pieces with Highlights and STEM Media and guest blogged for Tech Love.  Technically, I am a published author. But I don't feel like one. I feel like I am another silly, stupid, and annoying person who thinks she can write in the same school (not class) as great, amazing, best selling, and world-renowned authors.  But I'm not one of them.  I am not in the same class as them.

I'm pretty sure I don't belong in the writing and publishing industry.  After all, I'm just an engineer-- what right do I have asking to be in the writing and publishing industry?  I have no degree in writing, my only formal (college level or higher) writing classes were English 101 and 102, and technical writing does not equate to creative writing.  I haven't toiled for decades in perfecting my craft to finally land a book deal. How can I, after just a couple of years of playing around and pretending to be a writer, expect to get an agent/book deal/traditionally published book?  I am naive and stupid in thinking that.  I don't belong here.  I am an impostor in the book/writing/publishing industry.  And I feel like such a failure. A big, fat failure.

It doesn't matter that people have bought my indie published children's book.  It doesn't matter that friends and family share with me that they book the book and how much they like the book.  It doesn't matter that I get photos of smiling kids reading my book.  It doesn't matter when bloggers and book critics write positive things about the book.  It doesn't matter that the book got featured on podcasts.  It doesn't matter that my book has received a couple of awards.   I still feel like a failure.  I feel it's time to hang up my author hat, pat myself on the back, and tell myself, you tried, but now it's time to move on.  Time to stop fooling yourself and others; time to acknowledge that you are an impostor.

This irrational feeling of failure and impostor, well, I know it's irrational.  I never expected to make the New York Times Best Seller list, and my selling expectation was in the low hundreds (which close at 85 sells so far).  I also know it takes a long, long time to find an agent and get a book published traditionally, and  I knew indie publishing my book wouldn't bring agents and publishers knocking on my door.  I just knew that I loved the story and had the means to share it. All I could hope for is that others would it love too.   And when the rational voice in my head is speaking, I know that my hope, of others loving the story, is true.

All the stuff I said above that doesn't matter, well, rational voice knows that it does matter.  People liking/loving the book, the awards, and the best part, photos of happy kids reading my book, that all matters.  I'm so appreciative of all that; those things are huge and wonderful accomplishments.   When I let the rational voice talk, and remind me of those huge and wonderful accomplishments, I don't feel like a loser, a failure, an impostor.  If I truly look at it, I've accomplished some pretty cool things in the writing world.  And I have so many other stories I want to share.  No way am I done yet with this industry.  I'm here to stay.

I just have to keep working at this writing thing and to tell the irrational impostor voice to shut the shark up! Impostor voice, where you see failure, I will embrace the mistakes and see a chance to learn and grow.  Where you say I've accomplished nothing, I see many kids enjoying the book and great reviews.  Where you say, it's time to quit, I remind you that writing is fun and that you have another story to write. Where you sing Beck's "I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me", I change the lyrics to "one day I'll kill it".

One day (hopefully sooner rather than later), I will kill it in the book world, and stop doubting my capability as a writer, and my impostor syndrome will subside again. Until then, hello impostor, I see you've failed (in making me completely doubt myself). So shut the shark up already! I have writing to do!

Need more info on the impostor syndrome, check out this:

And this:

Monday, June 19, 2017

6/19/17- Marshmallow Catapult

Happy Summer!  Have fun building this Marshmallow Catapult and googling tension, torsion, and gravity, which are the forces involved when catapulting an object.

7 Wooden Skewers
1 Rubber Band
1 Plastic Spoon
Masking Tape
4 Large Marshmallows, plus marshmallows for shooting

1) Use 3 marshmallows and 3 skewers and form a triangle for the base.
2) Use 3 more skewers and 1 more marshmallow and form a pyramid.
3) Tape the plastic spoon to the end of the remaining skewer.
4) Loop the rubber band around the topmost marshmallow.
5) Insert the spoon and skewer combo through the rubber band.
6) Connect the skewer and spoon combo to one of the base marshmallows.
7) Put a marshmallow into the spoon and shoot.
8) Try shooting the marshmallow again, but this time pull the spoon further back.  Did the marshmallow go further? Did the marshmallow go higher?
9) Try other adjustments to the catapult. How far can you get the marshmallow to go?  How high can you get the marshmallow to go?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

6/14/17- The Women Whose Shoulders I Stand On

I finally finished reading the book "Hidden Figures" (by Margot Lee Shetterly in case you didn't know).  I started reading the book back in March; it took me a long time to finish.  It's not because the book isn't great; it is.  It's not because I didn't like Mary, Dorthy, and Katherine; I immensely admire them. It's not because I thought the writing awful; I though Margot had perfect prose for a historical narrative book. It's not because I found a historical narrative book boring; I was deeply fascinated by the history.

It's because I have about 30 minutes a day for reading (that's a lot for some working parents, I know, be jealous). And sometimes I read op-ed or news articles instead of books.  And sometimes I read things on Facebook or Twitter and get really annoyed and wished I had read the next chapter in "Hidden Figures" instead.  If you are like me, and don't have much time, books like "Hidden Figures" are perfect for you.  I could read one chapter, and if it was many days later until I could read the next chapter, I didn't feel lost at what the plot was. I think it's also a reason I liked Mindy Kaling's "Why Not Me?" and Amy Poehler's "Yes, Please."  If I couldn't come back to the book for a few days, no problem.  I wasn't going to loose my place or forget what had happened in the plot.

But I digress.  If you've seen the movie, "Hidden Figures," then I highly recommend you read the book.  If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend you read the book.  Another reason I really liked the book is that it was a historical narrative.  The movie really focused on the 3 women, Mary, Dorthy, and Katherine, and had dialogue between people and Hollywood suspense (check the numbers as count down happens! Yeah, that didn't happen in real life; it was at least 3 days prior to the space flight). The book does focus on these 3 awesome women, but more in a bibliography way (remember reading and writing those in elementary school?) where you get this sequential telling of their lives with some emotional insight and direct quotes from them (no dialogue).  

You also get a bibliography of what is happening at NACA/NASA--their testing planes during wartime, adhering to presidential employment orders to hire people of color, and other chronological order information.  You also get what is happening in the country's history (USA)-- Rosa Park's refusal to move to the back of the bus, Dr. King's "I Have a Dream," Virginia's stupid and sickly stubbornness to integrate schools. I enjoyed learning about the background of NASA and the USA, the good and the bad. 

There's definite low points (some shark stuff the USA did) in the integrated stories of these women, NASA, and, the USA, but it is a story of  inspiration.  As Margot puts it "It's a story of hope, that even among some of our country's harshest realities-legalized segregation, racial discrimination- there is evidence of the triumph of meritocracy, that each of us should be allowed to rise as far as our talent and hard work can take us."

I do not understand what it was like to be a black, female engineer back in the 1950s and 1960s, nor do I fully understand what it is like to day to be a black, female engineer. I do have empathy, and that empathy fills me with a hope-- minorities, females, minority females will be allowed to rise as far as their talent and hard work can take them.  I promise to pay forward the benefits that I have reaped for standing on the shoulders of these women, Mary, Dorthy, Katherine, and all the female engineers who came before.  My accomplishments are in part because I stand on your very strong shoulders. Sincerely thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

6/8/17- Main Street Electrical Parade

Phew! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for my family and I.  We went to Disneyland, I participated in Susanna Hill's "Would You Read It Wednesdays?", Jack started swim lessons, I got multiple rejection letters from agents, magazines and publishing houses, somewhere in there was the day job, I got elected Vice President of a local non-profit, we all saw Boss Bay (Jack sat for most of it-- can't wait to take him to Cars 3!), family photos, Jack punching and kicking Bobby and I as he got a haircut, a follow mom shared Annie as part of blog post about children's books that have math concepts in them and some other stuff I'm sure I'm forgetting. There are so many stories I could share, but I'm going to talk about our latest Disneyland trip.

I'm not a Mouseketeer, Mousehead, or whatever you call Disney mega fans, but going three times to Disneyland within a 6 month period might suggest otherwise (one time was for a  conference, and the other times for family vacation).   It's just that Jack is still free, Jack loves Disney movies, and clever and sly Disney saying, hey 40% off our hotels!  Then next thing you know, you book another Disneyland vacation.  D'oh!

This time we stayed in one of the Disney hotels, The Grand Californian, and at the club level.  Club level means access to this room that has food, a patio to watch fireworks, movie rentals, and a couple of other perks.  Jack enjoyed going into that special room every day, and not going to lie, so did I! We rented and watched a movie every day.  The staff is so helpful and nice in that special room, and really in all parts of the hotel. The pool at the hotel was one of Jack's favorite things, although the slide wasn't ready/open when we stayed there. With all these perks and the pool, it was hard to convince Jack to leave the hotel for the park (Disneyland).

It was also great to go directly from the hotel into the park. There's still a security line, but it's much shorter. We also ate at one of the restaurants.  While it was good food, it was slightly on the too fancy side for a toddler, meaning an hour is too long for dinner (when you're a toddler).  There was a family next to us that had a four year old, and Jack and him became friends, so that helped a little. We also did character dinning at the Disney Hotel, which Jack loved.

Okay, okay, so at this point it sounds like we spent a lot of money on this vacation.  Club level in a Disney hotel is usually expensive, but remember, we got 40% off.  This trip did cost more than the last Disneyland trip, but it was not more than some our past trips (before Jack).  Bobby and I agree we really want to stay at the club level in the GC for our next visit (I swear it will be a couple of years this time, unless another awesome deal is offered). It really made this vacation pretty awesome, especially since Jack had such high-highs and low-lows at the park this time (he liked the rides and characters, but really disliked the crowd, sun, and any line over 5 minutes).   But there's no way we could do club level again unless there is a great deal. Or we win the lotto.

Besides the club level thing, there was one more thing that really made this trip special for me.  Like I said, Jack seemed to be happy one minute in the park and then cranky the next. On our previous trip, he was pretty mellow, but had just turn 2. He was still a young toddler.  I think he's entering the stage that most parents dread, the terrorism threes, so I think that was part of the high highs and low lows. He was pretty content and mellow for all the time we spent at the hotel (we had a half day at the hotel when we arrived, a rest day in between the park, and also a half day before travel to another hotel/home (we break up the drive by staying in Indio or such)).

So the last night we were at the park, he was pretty much done. He kept asking to go to back to the hotel as we stood waiting for the Main Street Electrical Parade to begin.  I think we had been waiting about 15-20 minutes, and I was torn-- see the parade or go back to the hotel.  I really wanted to see the parade, as it was one of my favorite things at Disneyland as a child, but I also wanted a well rested and happy toddler for the next day. Then the lights dimmed, and we heard the music. If you've seen the parade, you know the music.  That synthesized bee sound.

Then Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy, come around the corner on a lit up train, and Jack screams, "Train! Mickey! Train!"   And I absolutely lose it.  I'm just crying and crying, in the middle of Main Street at Disneyland, during a really fun light parade with horrible (or is it awesome) synthesized music!  Bobby's all, "Are you alright? What's a matter?"  I can't even speak.  Jack's still watching the parade, ignoring his sappy mother, and Bobby put it together (he knows me well), "Are those happy tears?"  All I can do is nod.  I was so sharking HAPPY!  To be able share something I loved so much and made me so gleeful as child with my own child and seeing how gleeful it made him, 30 years later.  It  just made me so sharking happy!

I could have died happy in that moment. So sharking special-- I hope to remember it forever and ever!  I'll be on my death bed, and be like, remember when Jack saw the Electrical Parade just like I did, and I totally bawled my eyes out because of how happy that made me to share the parade with him? (Of course if his kid sees it 30 years, on my death bed it will be instead, remember how much Jack Jr, Jack and I loved the Electrical Parade?) And yes, I'm tearing up just writing about it.  I'll just "zzz, zzz, doo, doo, doo"  myself out now; zzz, zzz, doo, doo, doo!

Monday, May 29, 2017

5/29/17- Happy Memorial Day

In the States, it's Memorial Day.  A day to remember those who have fallen-- I know it's day for fallen soldiers, but I also think of the children and other civilians that have been lost to war.  Being able to spend this day with my child, and him being free of the burdens of war, unlike some other children around the world, is humbling.  It's something I take for granted too often.

And on that very serious note, here's a Memorial Day/Flag Day/July 4th/Labor Day craft project that I did with Jack (probably not where you thought this post was going; I didn't think it was going that way either).  It's really easy to do, and Jack liked it.  All you need is access to a printer and Microsoft Word (or related product), paper, scissors and paint (washable is preferable with young kids 😁).

In Word, go to the Insert tab, then Shape.  Guess what shape I just inserted?  A star!  Yep, I made a printout star that Jack could paint.  I printed this star 8 times.  Then I let Jack go to town painting them. Alright, Bobby and I also painted a couple of stars (the flag one is Bobby's; it's so impressive 😃) because painting is fun, and it's hard to resist fun. Let the star dry.  Then cut the stars out and hang up wherever to decorate.

We used Crayolas Washable Finger Paints 
that we found at the grocery store. 

Sure, the painting part only took 10 minutes, but Jack was super excited to paint (because painting is fun and messy, things toddlers love!).  And it's 5-10 minutes of prep time. It's the perfect craft for a short attention span toddler and a not so Pinerest parent.  Although I give props to the Pinerest parents who make shooting glitter and real sound effects stars. These stars will be up until Labor Day;  it's festive decorations to cover all the summer holidays (hence the Memorial Day/Flag Day/July 4th/Labor Day thing above, haha)! Happy Memorial Day!

Easy and Festive!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5/18/17- The Mentors

A few weeks ago I interviewed my former manager as part of a series I'm writing for STEMedia.   It was a little surreal to be asking her questions about how she became an engineer, her past life (she was a dairy farmer for 13 years before studying engineering), advice for others studying STEM disciplines and so on.  She probably doesn't know this, but I've long considered her a mentor.  I never formally asked her to mentor me-- I just watched her outstanding ability as a manager, and hoped that one day when I was a manager, that I'd be able to follow her example.

She really cares about her employees and their careers/career happiness. She was the only manager I've ever felt I could be completely honest with and that she'd really listen to me. Even people who didn't report to her sought her confidence and advice.  She also made work fun-- a Halloween party with a Thriller flash mob dance is not something too many managers would coordinate.  That's the kind of manager I'd like to be. I probably won't have the opportunity at my current work place to be a manager, but one day I won't be there, and at the new place, if I'm responsible for people's careers, I'm totally modeling my management style after her.

She also has a pretty amazing and inspiring story of how she became an engineer, reinforcing my belief that engineers come for anywhere, and a child just needs to know that the opportunity exists for them.  Maybe you're curious now about her story, and for that you'll just have to wait for the STEMedia piece to come out. That's what writer's call a hook. :)

STEMedia already has one of the interviews I did up on their website, and the person I interviewed for that story is also a mentor.   I also don't think she knows that, but I totally look up to her as well. She's the person that I daydream and scheme with, and part of why I've dabbled in children's books. We both want to encourage and inspire girls in STEM.  In face, she started her own company to inspire girls, particularly minority girls, in STEM, and I really admire her for taking that chance. Starting your own company while still working as an engineer is pretty awesome (to me).  How could I not look up to this person?  And her story is totally already up on STEMedia, so I encourage you to check it out.

Of course there's many more people in engineering that I admire, and you'll soon be reading about them. Most likely on STEMedia, but maybe also here on my blog.  On the days I feel like shark (from the RA, annoying workplace, and such), I forget some of my blessings.  Having great mentors is a blessing, and I'm so thankful to these women for teaching me so much.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tell me who your mentors are and why you admire them in the comments!
Here's the link to STEMedia:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

5/14/17- Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!  This year marks my third Mother's Day, and it was a good day.  Jack sleeps until 7:30, 8:00, and Bobby usually takes care of Jack in the morning because of my RA, so getting to sleep until 8:30 wasn't anything new, but is still really nice (apologies for the long run-on sentence). Then Jack brought me my Mother's Day cards (one from him, one from Bobby) and while I got to read the one from Bobby right away, Jack wanted to put the card back into the envelop.  Then pull the card back out.  Then put the card back into the envelop.  That went on for 15 minutes, until Jack determined he had mastered the skill of envelop stuffing. :)

Knowing that we might be chasing Jack at a restaurant, and that I'd prefer a relaxing day, which includes how I eat my meals, Bobby and I talked before hand about just getting take out for the Mother's Day Brunch and eating at home.  Bobby went and picked up food from one of our favorite breakfast places, Wildflower.  We got to eat slowly at our table while Jack played with his toys and watched "Toy Story 3."  Seriously, quoting another mom, "Mother's Day Brunch is for mom's with adult children"-- eating take out at home was awesome and I recommend it for any mom with children under 18 (it's okay moms to just ask for that; it's supposed to be our day after all)!  :)

Jack and I called my mom/granny to wish her a happy day (she's in Colorado right now, living the snow bird dream) and Bobby, Jack and I visited his mom/Nana yesterday, so I've got to spend the day doing want I enjoy most on a Sunday: chilling at home. OH YEAH.  Happy Mother's Day to me! Hope all the other moms out there have enjoyed their day as well!


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

4/25/17- The Daycare

Choosing a daycare was a difficult decision for Bobby and I (I don't think most parents are like, yes, I do want to hand my child over to a stranger).  But as parents who needed, and wanted, to work outside the home, we had to choose childcare for Jack.  We didn't have family nearby who were able and capable to watch Jack, or else family would have been our first choice.  My mom really wanted to watch Jack, but she has such bad arthritis and prone to falling.  Telling her thanks, but no thanks, that was painful, but the right safety decision.

Some people are able to ask a friend, and we kind of had that option.  We have a friend who watches a couple of other children, but she lives 20-30 minutes away from home and work. She's really awesome, and if it wasn't for that pesky location thing, she would be Jack's caregiver while we work. We also know a stay-at-home dad who was willing to, but again, location, location, location! So the friend option was out.

It was on to finding an in-home daycare or a daycare center. We choose a daycare center.  Look, I know a couple of people that have lucked out with a stranger who runs a daycare out of their home (it was based on friend's or friend of friend's recommendation).  But I just could not put Jack into a home where I did not know the person before hand.  Fault me for having trust issues, but my comfort level of leaving Jack with complete strangers was at a facility that had tons of other adults, kids, and the occasional state inspector.  Just because my level of comfort was with a state inspected daycare center doesn't mean it has to be yours-- it's cool if we have different comfort levels, and this will sound hippy, dippy, but your instinct on which daycare is right for you, it will be there. Just trust it.

So Bobby and I went from daycare to daycare center within a five mile radius while I was 32 weeks pregnant, interviewing the directors and teachers of each facility.  That might seem really early to some people, but daycares in our neighborhood, especially ones that take infants, fill up fast.  Plus Jack came 4 weeks early, so that moved up our need date for a daycare.  If you're new to this finding a daycare or preschool thing, then talk to some other friends that have kids and that live in your town/city.  You'll get a feel for 1) what the various daycares are like and 2) when you need to start looking and register.

Happy Jack at Time Tutor; picture text messages during the work day are the best!

So Bobby and I got the good feels off of 2 places.  There was a 3rd where the infant teachers seemed great, but the preschool teachers, not so much.  We definitely wanted a place that Jack could grow at and potentially graduate preschool from there (nope, not even thinking of when he goes to kindergarten; he still has 2.5 years; he's still a baby, la,la,la). When interviewing in-home caregivers or daycare centers, we used a list to ask questions about the centers' rules and practices. I can't find that list now, but this one from Child Care Aware is similar.  So these 2 places both checked off most of the questions on the list, and we overall liked these 2 places.

One, let's call it Horizons Bright, I liked slightly more, but it was way more than what we wanted to pay.  So number 2, let's call it Time Tutor, won out.  Jack's been at Time Tutor for over 2 years now, and he's made some friends, learned some things, and overall seems content.  We like that he gets feed there (we don't have to pack lunches or snacks, which is really nice as a working parent to not stress over what to pack in his lunch), that we can easily talk to the teachers and directors about fixing issues, that he gets to paint, read, tumble, play ground, craft, sing and other learning activities, that they send electronic updates throughout the day (see picture above), that he's made friends, and that he seems content most days there (separation anxiety on both sides comes and goes).

Of course there's been some hiccups.  The first week leaving him there, I was a complete wreck, crying everyday.  Maybe it was more than a week; I don't fully remember at this point. Then one of the aide's was forgetting to write down bottle feedings, so we thought 10 month old Jack wasn't being feed. Let me tell you that we talked to the director about that and that the director fixed that right away.  Then there was the time, around 18 months, that Jack seemed to be picked on by another kid in the one year old class. We also raised concerns about the bullying (not sure what to call it when toddlers terrorize each other), and the kid got moved.  Of course, then there was the time that Jack was the bully (shortly after his bully was moved).  That got addressed too, and happy to say we haven't gotten a biting/punching/pinching report in over a year (knock on wood).

The point of all that no daycare is perfect, but a good daycare knows how to address issues and concerns.  I'm pretty sure 18 month old Jack would be biting me if he stayed home with me. And that he'd be crying at daddy leaving for work/having separation anxiety.  I hear all the stories from friends about their daycare experiences, and they've had their hiccups too. Of course there's a difference between hiccups and big issues that won't get fixed.  For example, forgetting to write down a feeding vs. forgetting feedings (on more than one occasion) is a big issue.  Repeated bullying where the director doesn't address it is a big issue.  Anytime we've had a concern, it's been addressed and fixed. Big issues are hardly ever fixed.

Any daycare provider worth a shark will answer your questions and address your concerns.  If the daycare provider can't calmly talk you through "well, this is kind of normal, but I understand your concern, so let's talk and work through it," then red flag, red flag!  If you have that nagging little voice in the back of your head that it's time to leave, then leave. Sometimes it is hard to know when you're just being a narcotic, sleep deprived parent and when you're right that this place sharks.I think it's when the same concern never leaves your head; that it keeps coming back to you/you keep dwelling on it. I haven't dwelt on any of the above once we talked to the teachers and the issue got fixed.  As Bobby and I kind of get the hang of this parenting thing (I don't think we'll ever have a complete hang of it, haha), we kind of get a better feel for what works.  And to any parent trying to find daycare out there, you will too.  You'll know which kind of daycare works for you and your family.  Your instinct on which daycare is right, it will be there.  You'll just know.

For more clarity and help on the "you'll just know": it will be a warm fuzzy feeling where you can picture your child talking fondly of Ms. Olsen or eating ice cream with grandpa or hugging teacher before leaving or making all kinds of baby friends or painting pictures with his/her tiny hands while your friend/caregiver sings "Wheels on the Bus" and so on.  It's where you can envision your child spending his/her days, growing into a smart and beautiful jellybean and donning that adorable mini-cap and gown for preschool graduation. You'll get a little misty eyed when you have that vision, and you'll know, this is the place. My final thought here: I am so glad that I don't have to look for a daycare anymore (I hope never again, but things can change). No jealousy loss there.  Happy daycare/preschool wishes to us all-- may we all have wonderful daycare/preschool experiences!  

Here's practical advice versus my hippy, dippy "you'll just know":

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

4/19/17- The Proposal

Bobby and I commemorated our 8th wedding anniversary last week with a nice, not much fan fare, lunch at Olive and Ivy.  Our wedding still lives on in infamy with friends and family-- 60 degrees and rain in April in Phoenix really seems to stick in people's heads.   As I look back, I (mostly) remember the proposal; can't really have a wedding without a plan/discussion/proposal to actually get married.  And I found our wedding website, which just happens to have our proposal story.  From my point of view and from Bobby's.  Hope you, dear reader, find it as silly and heart warming as I did!  Happy birthday, Anniversary, Easter to Bobby and I!

*Bobby's Side*
First off, no I'm not one of those guys who proposes at a Cubs game. Although I did think about it.
I first wanted to propose to Suzie while we were just watching TV the night before we left. We spend some good time together on that sofa watching TV and I wanted to make that special. Needless to say, when was the last time you weren't running around all hectic the night before you took a big trip? Yeah, we didn't spend that night just resting and relaxing watching TV. Nope, we spent the night packing.

Instead I thought it would be great to propose to Suzie Saturday night at Navy Pier, on the Ferris Wheel with the fireworks all around. That didn't happen. Suzie wanted to go to Navy Pier during the day, so she could see everything. That's ok, I took the ring anyways. As we started to go up in the Ferris Wheel, she was listening very intently to the audio guided tour of the skyline of Chicago. She loves architecture and was just too into it to interrupt with a silly little proposal.

That's ok, I figured we'll go to a really fancy dinner and I can propose there. Yeah, no. Suziewanted to go to the House of Blues for dinner. Now, if you haven't been, the HoB is nowhere near what anyone would call a dive. However, it ain't fine dining either. And, given my usual demeanor, it would have been fairly out of character for me to protest too much here. So, in the name of keeping it a secret, HoB for dinner it was!

The night was great. We went bowling (classy for sure), had dinner, went to Harry Caray's bar, and had a blast. As the evening wore down, I suggested dessert at the steakhouse down by the Chicago River called Smith and Wollensky's (apparently, it's a chain, but it's nice). It was wonderful, Suzie and I split the coconut cake. Before the cake got there, I excused myself to the "restroom".

Fortunately for me, the restaurant is set up in small rooms, so Suzie didn't see me grab waitress and manager over. I gave the waitress the ring and asked her to slip it in the bill book.
The cake was great! We were engaged in some conversation - of which I can't recall - when the bill was dropped off. Honestly, I was just rambling on and on so that I wouldn't be so nervous. Normally I would reach for the check, but I think Suzie was getting tired of the conversation and grabbed the check. When she opened the bill book, there she noticed the ring.

At first she said, "oh no, some poor woman lost her ring!" I looked and muttered something along the lines that it was a shame.

Now at this point, I had it all planned in my head. As she realized that it was meant for her, I would swoop down to one knee and ask her to marry me. In reality, here's how it went:

Suzie's voice kinda faded off as she stared at the ring and suddenly it dawned on her that the ring was meant for her. Her eyes shot up and in them were big wonderful tears welling up inside, just bursting to frolic and flow down her cheeks in happiness. It was those eyes that got me. Rather than play it cool, I began to choke up too. I could barely spit out the words "Will you marry me?" Those tears in Suzie's eyes got an opportunity to flow after all as she vigorously nodded and smiled, shaking the tears out.

The manager and waitress brought over a very nice bottle of champagne for us to celebrate with, compliments of the house. At first, the tears in both our eyes made him think that things didn't quite work out as I had planned, but we both reassured him that she said "YES!!!"

*Suzie's Side*
Bobby was totally acting weird that day. He kept on insisting we see the fireworks at the Navy Pier. I was like, 1) I've seen fireworks before and 2) we're not doing anything this morning, let's go to the pier. I finally told him, I'm not opposed to seeing the fireworks, so let's see how we feel tonight- if we're up to it or not. Plus, Bobby had been to this town with an ex and they had seen the fireworks I think is what he told me, so I wanted to go do things that he hadn't done before and have firsts with him in this city (and what a first it was!). I had never been to Chi-town and wanted to make it a unique visit for the both of us. So I got my wish to go to the pier in the morning. We rode the Ferris wheel there, and I remember Bobby trying to talk to me during the ride, but I was like, "shhh, I'm trying to listen to the audio tour of the skyline!" I would later feel bad about quieting him as he told me he wanted to pop the question when we were in the Ferris wheel. Of course the way the proposal did happen, I don't think anything else would have been as perfect. But I'll get to that.

He also kept on insisting that we eat dinner at Smith and Wollensky's. I worried about how we can't really afford a place like that. Plus, we were staying at the House of Blues, and I really wanted to check out their restaurant/bar and music. He finally gave up and let me book us a dinner reservation at the House of Blues. Oh my Jeebus, they have the best mac and cheese, and even if it wasn't romantic, it was very good and fun.

After dinner he was like, let's go to the pier for fireworks. I said, but you have never gotten to go to Harry Carry's, and it is just right around the corner. I think I even started walking that way, so Bobby had to follow. I really enjoyed Harry Carry's. The bartenders were totally friendly, the beer was really good, and the company was even better. And I could tell that Bobby was totally happy to get to have a beer in the world famous, one of the mecca spots for Cubs fans, Harry Carry's.

We decided it was time to leave the bar. As much as we both enjoyed it, we were ready to do something else. Of course, Bobby's true motive for leaving was to find a place to propose, and my true motive, might have been because I was hungry and wanted dessert (those who know me well, know I love sugar and probably aren't surprised by my true motives to leave). Bobby suggests dessert at Smith and Wollensky's. I finally agreed to one of his suggestions. I'm sure glad I did.

We went there, got a great seat near a window, ordered one of the best coconut cakes evor, and started to have one of the greatest conversations evor (yes, evor not ever). I can't really remember exactly what was said, but we talked about everything, like our friends, families, hopes and fears. And we talked about our future, not specifically about marriage, just about how we were going to do this or that in the future (like more trips together, fixing up more of the house, etc). In the midst of this deep and profound talk, Bobby said he had to go the bathroom. Little did I know that he was talking to our waitress. I definitely did not see them talking. A few moments later, he's back, and we picked up where we left off.

The bill gets dropped off and we're still way involved with what we’re talking about. After a few minutes, I thought, it's getting late, I'm sure the server would like us to pay and leave soon, so I reach for the bill book (which isn't that common, but not that uncommon, as we have a joint account, and we pay for a lot of our meals that way, so I was willing to pull out my card to our joint account). I open the bill book, and to my surprise, there is a ring. For some reason, I thought someone had lost or misplaced their ring. I didn't think it was mine, but that was only for like 15 seconds because in those 15 seconds, it dawns on me that this ring is intended for me! It is from Bobby to me! It's an engagement ring. I totally got tears in my eyes, and I finally met Bobby's eyes, and he spits out something like will you marry me, and I nod my head yes quite vigorously, and then the tears totally start to pour. The tears are very hard to stop. And Bobby totally tears up too. That's why I love him.

It was kinds funny when the manager and waitress comes over with the champagne, starts to say congrats, but then is like, is everything ok, did she say yes? I guess we looked like I had said no and were breaking up. We reassured them I said yes, and that these tears were tears of happiness. We made a toast to us with the very tasty champagne, and then rushed to our hotel room to call and share the good news with our friends and family. Bobby tells the story in a very funny way that makes it seem like I was trying to ruin his plans for the perfect proposal, but I didn't know that is why he was acting all weird, assertive and insistent. Looking back, it all makes sense as to the way he was acting, but if I had known, we wouldn't have ended such a great day in the best way possible. And we wouldn't have this story!  Perfect ending to a not so perfect story. :)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

4/6/17- What is it Worth?

This week I got my annual merit increase, also know to most as a raise.  It was the expected 3% that my company usually likes to good performers.  My guess is excellent performers don't really get that much either.  Unless you're in the C suite or a different site, it seems like most of the engineers at my company are paid below the median.

I am taking this educated guess because I recently talked to a male colleague, who I found out was being paid way below the median for his engineering job title and years of experience. And my company recently tried to rectify the gap for us by changing titles and increasing salaries. They know they're not paying more "tenured" engineers well.  I'm not sure what my male colleague received in terms of an attempt to fix the salary gap, but I got a whopping $300 more a year.  That totally fixed the salary gap, not!  And now with my 3% raise, I'm still 10K below the median salary for a Staff Systems Engineer with 13 years experience in the Phoenix metro area. I've come along way since last year's: The Salary. Of wait, not really.

I know, I know, I know!  Problems of a privileged, upper-middle class, tech worker. I do get paid better than a lot jobs.  My mom was a teacher, she told me how sharky the pay was, and that was one reason why I studied engineering in college. I knew I'd be paid better than a lot of jobs.

I also have the ability to search for a new job, get hired, and potentially get a better salary at a new company. I am just having the hardest time leaving because it also potentially means giving up the flexible schedule that I currently have. With being a RA patient, with being a parent and with being a writer, I'd really like to keep that flex schedule. The inflammation and joint pain has been bad this week, and I've been able to log on and work when I can. Get my hours done whenever I feel good. That is a really nice benefit for a chronically ill person.  Of course on the flip side, part of the inflammation could be from the stress and unhappiness that the current job is causing me.  Something I really need to think about.

But the hardest thing to give up will be the flexibility to go drop off Jack late, or pick him early from preschool/daycare, or staying home with him when he's sick, or being able to take Friday afternoon to submit writing samples to magazines, agents and publishers.  This time (to do these things) is what I truly love, and I am afraid of losing that time with the start of a new engineering job.  That time is worth so much to me.  Of course, having a engineering job that I somewhat like (I don't need to love my job, but not hating it would be nice) is also worth something to me.  

I can't tell you today that I have a decision.  One minute, I'm ready to apply to new places and quit this sharky job.  The next minute, I'm like, I can stick it out for a few more years and maybe "retire" (aka move into a whole new industry).  I don't think I'm alone in my career dilemma.  Otherwise we wouldn't hear about so many "jungle gym" resumes and careers. The question for myself, is what is my career vs. my time worth?  I don't have that answer right now, but ask me again in few months. Because my tolerance for my current job situation won't last forever.  Tolerating something that makes me miserable just for a little free time...well, that won't be worth it in the long run.

Take care friends! Enjoy some pictures of dogs for your work afternoon.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

3/29/17- Happy Birthday to Me!

Yay!  It's my birthday!  This week I'm all about the positive and focusing on celebration.  I have a lot to celebrate too. Family and friends. A published book.   People writing about my book on their blogs.  People buying my stories.  Cake.  A good paying job, even though I don't get paid the same as my engineering peers.  Oh that's going down the negative path.

Let's look at the cute picture instead of my Jack and Bobby (and me) that my friend, Enthusiastic About Life, took:

Every since I released my book, all I wanted was a picture of Jack reading my book.  That's easier said than done with an on-the-go toddler.  Luckily, my friend not only captured Jack looking at the book, but it's family photo too!

My friend was also kind enough to share my journey as a published author and giveaway another copy of my book on  Enthusiastic About Life.  And a fellow STEM mom wrote such a positive review on her blog, Mamas Organized Chaos, that I'm again on cloud nine.  Seeing and hearing about how your book makes children happy, well, that's a dream come true. Pinch me.

I also had Highlights, the children's magazine, buy my poem!  I don't know when it will be published, but one of the editors found out about my background in STEM and left the door open (or maybe it's a window) for me to submit science activities.  I also have a potential byline with a different STEM website, and the story is about my amazing, engineering friend Style Kemistry, so I really hope the outlet picks the story up.

And there's a radio interview (eek, I hope I don't say something dumb live). And book festivals.  And another published, children's book author is taking the time to read and review my book right now as we speak.  It's all so crazy and humbling.

And this weekend, dear husband is throwing me a birthday party and book launch party with family and friends. That's the sweet icing on the cake. And there will be cake (I think he's getting the cake to look like Annie, but I think that's supposed to be a surprise, but, he told me he had to run to the baker and was holding a copy of the book, so yeah). To paraphrase Fillmore from our house's favorite movie "Cars", like, feel the love man. I'm one loved birthday lady!  Happy birthday to me!  😍

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3/22/17- Weekend Naps

So weekends are pretty awesome, I think most people would agree.  I can leave work behind and spend blissful time with family and friends.  And, I can also nap when Jack takes his nap.  As his parents, we try to make sure to leave open a couple of hours on weekends for Jack to take a nap. This is part of his schedule M-F at preschool/daycare, and we varied from it once. ONCE. And it was a disaster. So many tears from me, and from Jack, and his really weird refusal to go sleep at 10 pm that night when bed time is usually 8:30 pm.  I'm not saying we have to lay him down right at 1 pm for every nap, but we do need be home within a half hour or so of that nap window.

As someone with an autoimmune disease, I'm very thankful that my son takes a nap and that we can give that excuse to leave a party or a luncheon or whatever.  Because truth is, I need that nap. A party or a luncheon or whatever, really zaps my energy. While I think about napping every day of the work week (A (work) day in the life of RA), I actually take that nap on weekends (most times). And I have the perfect excuse, my toddler son!  I don't have to feel like the lame sicko that I know, and anyone close to me, knows I am.

There's usually no timer on my weekend naps, as Bobby will watch Jack if I nap longer than Jack, but I do find than more than a hour leaves me more tired and groggy than I originally was.  Also, if I am doing more than one thing on a Saturday, like 2 birthday parties, and I don't really get a chance to nap, I've found a little green tea around 3 pm can restore some of that energy.  But a nap is my preferred energy refresher on the weekends. And might as well, after all, it's the weekend!

Here's a typical Saturday for me:

8:00 AM: Jack is up. Jack may have woken up at 7:15 am, but he likes to lay in bed for a half hour if he can. Guess he got that from me. Bobby's been up since 7:00 am because week day schedules die hard. I'm debating whether or not to get up.  My fingers hurt slightly, so I decide to go back to sleep.

8:30 AM:  I can't really fall back asleep, so I get up.  Jack's watching a cartoon, and I get to sit next to him on the couch. Bobby and I talk about going to breakfast, but I know we won't go to our most favorite breakfast place.  It's right next to a bookstore that has a train set, which means one of us will be with Jack at the bookstore (because Jack has to play with that train set) while the other parent is scarfing breakfast at the restaurant. I also have to remind Bobby that I have to wait a half hour to eat (part of the requirements for my first pill of the day).

9:00 AM:  We end up eating breakfast at home. Sometimes I remember to take my vitamins; sometimes I don't.  It's the weekend! (I know, I know: your body doesn't care what day of the week it is).

10:30 AM: We make it out the door to go to our weekend activity: party, science museum, lunch, play date, etc. I really don't know where the 1-2 hours go in between breakfast and leaving the house. I think we have a tiny weeny black hole in our house.  Anyway, we usually have a good time at said weekend activity.

1:30 PM: I tell Bobby I'm going to work on my writing or tasks, like laundry, but then I usually go lay down for a nap.  I swear up and down my nap will only be an hour. Bobby ask if he should wake me.  Sure, I say.

3:30 PM: Bobby tries to wake me; I brush him off with some good grunts.

4:00 PM: I hear that Jack is up. Keep napping.

4:30 PM: Ok, ok, I'm up.  Blah, I napped too long.  I just want to watch movies and order pizza for dinner.

6:00 PM: We order pizza.  Or we have a dinner engagement to go to, so I force myself to go out.  Or on a really good day, I feel up for a restaurant that has an outdoor play area (like Chandler Mall-- their outdoor square has really cool lawn games).  I really enjoy the chance to play with Jack at the outdoor play area or watching Cars with him on the couch (for the 100th time; thank goodness Cars is a really good movie and makes me laugh every time we watch it).

8:30 PM: Jack goes to bed.  I think about joining him.

10:30 PM: Woo hoo!  I stayed up, go me, I'm not completely lame! And, Bobby and I finally finished watching recorded TiVo episodes of Downtown Abbey (yeah, we have some old stuff on the TiVo that we never really get around to watch). Time for bed- do I wash my face or not?  Screw it, I'm tired.  Take my night time pills. Then, it's lights out. Night, night!

Seriously, can it get any better than that?  I love my weekends.  I'm well rested and so happy on the weekends.  I've never related more to an orange cat than when Mondays roll around. I have to say good-bye to all that happiness and all that fantastic napping.  It sharks. So, I wish you a happy weekend and wonderful (weekend) naps!  I'm off to nap...