Sunday, July 16, 2017

7/11/17- Reading List 3

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...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

3/8/17- Reading List 2

Last week I suggested a science activity, Galaxy Slime, as a spring break activity, and this week I'm suggesting books for spring break. Almost a year ago (eek, that's too long!) I created a reading list, recommending books for girls (and boys), ages preteen to teen, to get them interested in STEM. That list is here: Reading List.  It was based off of what I read at that age and how those books influenced in some way my career path to engineering. Today, there are many Middle Grade and Young Adult (preteen to teen) books that have STEM in them (for example "Hidden Figures For Young Readers") that were not included in my recommendations.  Again, my recommendations were based off of my own experience.

I've created a second reading list, this time focusing on preschoolers to about 2nd graders.  The books I remember loving at this age were Berenstain Bears series, Clifford the Big Red Dog series, Curious George series, Madeline series, Frances series (i.e. A Bargain for Frances), and Imogene's Antlers. With the exception of Curious George, I really liked books that had girls as main characters. Probably because I could myself reflected in those female characters.  Some of those girls were spunky: Imogene, Madeline, Sister Bear (at least when she was fighting with Brother Bear) and Frances.  And Curious George? While he encouraged curiosity in me (and spunk; that might have been a theme for me).

With that all said, the books I'm recommending for this second reading list (to encourage preschoolers to 2nd graders in STEM) are more current picture book. Of course, feel free to read the classics mentioned in the paragraph above, but these recent books are specifically focused on STEM. It's a short list-- I envision I'll have many more lists as my son grows and as other parents, teachers, grandparents and friends make recommendations to me.

Here we go:

1) "Rosie Revere, Engineer" by Andrea Beaty and Illustrated by David Roberts
This book is my favorite STEM book for pre-K to 2nd! I dream of writing such book.  The author (and illustrator) have 2 companion books, "Iggy Peck, Architect" and "Ada Twist, Scientist", but to me this is the best one of the series (probably because she's spunky and an engineer).

2) "What Do You Do with an Idea?" By Kobi Yamada and Illustrated by Mae Besom
Kobi also has another book "What Do You Do with a Problem?" but I prefer this book. One of my nephew's wants to be an inventor, and I just had to give him this book.

3) Usborne's "Look inside How Computers Work" Written by Alex Frith and Rosie Dickins and Illustrated by Colin King
Usborne has a lot of good science, technology, computer, engineering type books, but this book is the one we own. Jack loves lifting the flaps at age 2 (I think he'll appreciate the information soon enough).

4) "The Most Magnificent Thing" by Ashley Spires
Also great for budding inventors.

5) "Chicken in Space" by Adam Lehrhaupt
Found this book pretty funny, and (to me) shows where imagination meets science.

6) Sweet Dreams Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor by  Vivian Kirkfield and Illustrated by Chris Ewald
The story of Sarah B. Goode, one of the first African-American women to get a US patent. It's on Jack's to read list!

7) "Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering" by Ruth Spiro and Illustrated by Irene Chan
Fun book to introduce planes and flight to preschoolers (and babies).

And finally, *shameless self-promotion alert* I recommend "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician."  What recommendations would you make? Leave a comment here or on social media. I'd love to discover more STEM books for children.  Happy spring break! Happy reading!

(I'll have to work on a list for 3rd-6th graders next. There's some overlap from the preteen recommendations, but I'll get on it. In about year. ;-)).

Thursday, March 2, 2017

3/2/17- Spring Break STEM Activity

Spring break is right around the corner for many kids!  Not Jack, as he is in daycare/preschool (which doesn't close for spring break), and he basically just took a week off for a cold. So to preschool for him, and to work for Bobby and me. We'll take him on vacation in late summer/early fall, so don't feel too bad that he doesn't get spring break.

Since spring break is right around the corner, I thought now would be a good time to share another STEM activity.  The activity won't entertain your kids for a whole week (or maybe it could if they end up really liking it), but it is pretty fun.  The professional engineering society that I belong to did the activity at Chase Field's STEM Night, and then we recently did it at E-Day at the AZ Science Center. Not sure if the engineers or kids had more fun.

Without further ado, Galaxy Slime! The slime is so popular right now, check out the MSN video "Slime Fad is Back." I like to think our engineering society started the trend, but most likely we did not.

Supplies Needed:
1 cup Elmer's Glue (white or clear work)
1 cup Liquid Starch (we used the Walmart brand, Stay-Flo)
Food Coloring (optional)
Glitter (optional)
Plastic Bag (optional)

1) Put the glue into the bowl first.
2) Stir in food coloring and glitter, if desired.
3) Slowly stir in the liquid starch in increments.  You probably won't use the full cup of liquid starch.
4) Stir until you don't see the "white" liquid starch.  Then switch to kneading the slime with your hands, checking how stretchy the slime is.  If you want it stretchy vs.gak, again you probably won't use the full cup of liquid starch.
5) After your child is done playing with their slime, they can save it in a plastic bag (or Tupperware).

Jack's galaxy slime has lasted for a week after he made it at E-Day.  He liked mixing the colors and glitter in the glue, but he lost interest in the final product.  I do think this activity is fun to do with toddlers (who are past the put everything in their mouth stage), just remember toddlers are going to need more help with the food coloring than a 10 year old is (Jack squeezed like 100 drops in because I thought he could do it himself, haha).

It is great for ages 2-99. Thought I'd take the Lego approach there; after 99, you just won't find this activity or Legos fun. Oh, and it's called Galaxy Slime, because if you add color and glitter, it looks like a Galaxy!  Also, the glue and starch combine to make a polymer! Happy (STEM) Spring Break!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2/23/17- Happy E-Week: Where Does Time Go?!

The last time I posted to this blog was almost a month ago, holy shark (batman)! And here's the cliche, where did the time go?! I guess most of it went to Jack, Bobby, friends, family, work, the usual stuff. Although, some not so usual stuff happened too. I went to a conference! I gave a presentation at that conference! I did an author visit to Jack's preschool! I had to cancel another school visit because Jack was sick! Jack spent 2 nights in a row coughing!

So the last one is not fun for anyone, but especially Jack. He got some kind of nasty cold, although colds this time of year are not unusual for our household. He has had a hard time sleeping, with hour long cough spouts at 2 am. We've done humidifier, Vick's, Zarbee's, Tylenol/Ibuprofen (only when fever was present, which was once theses past few days thankfully), essential oils--the only thing that works for his night time coughing fit is waiting it out. The doctor said this illness appears to be viral, so we can't antibiotic it (I want to reassure you  and myself that the doctor verified that his lungs sound fine and ears look clear). The 2 am wake up calls feel like infancy all over again, where we are all walking, sleep-deprived zombies the next day.

Don't despair too much for our little guy though. During the day, he plays, eats, etc. like there's nothing wrong. Just a little runny nose, so he still wants to go run around on the playground and ride his trike and all the normal 2 year old stuff. I wish I had more sick time off from work or no work deadlines (a report is due to our customer by end of month, got it done though!) because I fully want to dedicate myself to Jack's healing. Reality is I can't. I have to remotely log in and get shark done (as well as not burn all my vacation/sick time) while he naps or watches "Cars" for the fiftieth time.

Poor Kid

It's a little stressful, as most working parents know.  In fact, I think any parent, whether they work in (ie stay at home) or outside of the home, knows just how stressful a sick kid is. We know the cold will end, but the time between contracting it and it going away, well, it makes life more interesting. And like I said early, I want nothing more to do than to fully commit myself to Jack's recovery, but this week was bad timing for a cold. I was supposed to go to a middle school and give a speech on how awesome engineering for Engineers' Week (E-Week), but I had to cancel to take care of Jack. I will always put Jack above giving a speech, but I do feel I let down a lot of students yesterday. Although, they're middle schoolers, so there's a chance they don't care. Still, cancelling an obligation like that, well it's hard.  I feel like I let down those kids, their teacher, and my profession.

In uplifting news though, I got to do my first author visit (where an author goes to a school, reads their book and/or gives a presentation)!  And the best part of my first visit was that it was with Jack's preschool!  Most of the preschoolers seemed to enjoy me reading "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician", and when I got to Jack's class (the last class of the visit), Jack was so confused as to why I was there. He was like, oh it's time to go? Cool, let me just grab my blanket. Wait, why is everyone sitting down around my mommy? Why is she starting to read Annie? But he sat down right next to me and helped his class start of the counting (which is in the book). It was so funny and cute. And now he asks for me to read Annie all the time. :)

Look, I'm Presenting at a Conference

I also went to my annual engineering love-fest conference the weekend of February 10th, and I presented there too!  My presentation went really well, at least that's what my engineering friends told me. :) And I sold a couple of books! Mostly, I had a really good time, and this conference always renews my interest to remain in this gosh shark profession (engineering)! I want to be an engineer when I grow up (for the most part; I'd really like to do so at a new company, see previous BAW posts)!

I'll be at E-Day (at the Arizona Science Center) this Saturday, which also does a good job of renewing my interest in the profession, as part the Greater Phoenix Area's E-Week Celebration. Tons of engineering organizations will be at E-Day, doing lots of cool hands on STEM experiments. I'll be at the SWE booth, and SWE will be making slime with the kids who stop by our booth.  If you live in the Phoenix area, please stop by the SWE booth, say hi, and make some slime!

Also, just in time for E-Week, check out my Goodreads Giveaway (below)!  It starts February 26 and ends March 5. You'll have the chance to win 1 of 5 signed books!

Happy E-Week everyone!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Annie Aardvark, Mathematician by Suzie Olsen

Annie Aardvark, Mathematician

by Suzie Olsen

Giveaway ends March 06, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Friday, January 27, 2017

1/27/17- Everything is Coming Up Milhouse!

Fellow Simpsons' fans probably recall when Milhouse declares, "Everything is coming up Milhouse!" If not, I've provided a clip below.  That is how I am feeling right now, that "everything is coming up Milhouse!"

My picture book, "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician" came out last week!  It's been over a year since I first drafted the story, and now it's a physical book.  I'm so excited about the book! I'm also excited to get it in the hands of kids. especially minorities and girls, to promote STEM. It's a dream come true, and I'm truly thankful to all my friends and family who are supporting me and buying the book. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Special thanks to my hubby and son.  Jack is the most beautiful thing that I (and Bobby) have ever created, and "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician" is the second most beautiful thing that I have created. The opportunity for me to create beauty again is priceless....or $9.99 on Amazon. :-D

And finally, someone who was in the same grad program as me started the really cool company Tech Love, and long story short, I wrote a blog/op-ed for Tech Love about what it is like to be a female engineer.  Check it out here!

And so yeah, I'm on cloud nine!  Even the lack of career progression (at my company) isn't getting me down. Even a toddler's "no, Annie! Blue train!" request (for which book to read at bedtime) isn't getting me down. Because everything is coming up Suzie, I mean Milhouse!  I've got flood pants, and I've got the geek charmed life right now.  Happy weekend to you all!

Friday, January 6, 2017

1/6/17- Don't Get Sick in Engineering (or other industries for that matter)

Welcome New Year!  I'm rearing and ready to go!  I'm ready to bring you this PSA: Whatever you do, do not get sick in Engineering.  I don't mean a cold or flu that goes away after a couple of weeks, I mean a chronic illness.  Being sick will hurt your career in engineering. And most likely in other industries as well, but today my focus is on the industry I work in, engineering and my observations. 

Engineering is competitive.  Don't be fooled by the stereotype of the mild-mannered nerd; we're out for intellectual blood in this industry.  Got a B+ on your Calc II test? Ha, I got an A-! Got a job at a government contractor? Ha, I got a job at the Fortune 500 Silicon Valley tech giant!  The best one (in my opinion), the not so subtle brag about how hard you've been working. Man, I'm wiped from working 50 hours this week.  Yeah, me too dude, those 60 hours I worked, they were killer. We get into pissing matches about how our company is willing to take advantage of our desire to beat out the other guy. I mean, overtime.  We get into pissing matches about overtime (companies would never exploit us, never). 

Side note to engineering managers: if you ever need to motive your workforce to work overtime, just say your star pupil is already doing 50 hours a week, even if they're not. End of side note.   Sure, there are a few humble engineers, who aren't competitive and ambitious (not that either is bad per say), but it is rare to find that engineer who thinks that teachers or waiters have harder jobs than they do.  Math decathlon is a sport, and the winner matters-- engineers can be competitive, as the next academically smart smug intellect. Myself included (when I was a hostess at Chili's in college, studying engineering, I thought I was way too good for this job; that job probably brought me just as much stress, maybe even more, than my current job. Have you ever had to sit people at Chili's on a Friday night in the early aught? It's a logistics nightmare, parenthesis ramble over). 

Early in my engineering career, I joked with a friend and colleague that one day I'll be VP of this company.  He joked, not if I beat you there first.  I wasn't completely arrogant, I knew that one day would be 20+ years down the road, but I had ambition.  I got told I was smart and capable, receiving good performance reviews those first couple of years.  Both my friend and I should now be project managers within our organization, if we are continue on our path to VP.  Neither of us are PMs.  Him, probably because he's Hispanic (which is a post for another day) and me, probably because I'm a chronically ill female (the female part is also a post for another day).  

Here's the part of the story where if you want, you can call me a whiny little shark. Suzie, there are tons of sick people who succeed every day in engineering; you just need to suck it up, you big baby. That's your decision to call me whatever, but it's my decision is to speak about my observations and truth. Plus, I've already told myself plenty of times to suck it up, so it wouldn't be anything new to hear you call me that. I've already beat you to the punch (I was first to do it, na, na, boo, boo, competitive engineer strikes again!).

Alright now that we got that out of our systems, let's move forward with this story.  I got really sick in 2007, see other blog posts for more details, and it took until 2008 to learn that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis.  And also in 2007, I was this close to being fired from my job/company.  Somehow I didn't, and here's probably the one cool thing my company has done for me over the years, they helped me go on to FMLA (to protect my job) and as I slowly recovered, allowed me to be part time.  At that time I was so thankful, and to some degree, I still am thankful today. 

But it was the first set back in my career for being chronically ill. I mean, I almost got fired. That's pretty big set up.  In this competitive industry, if I didn't have someone above me be empathetic about my plight, I would have been let go.  In fact, at any other tech company I would have been let go. Our industry is more competitive than it is empathetic. You ask, how do you know for sure if you were someplace else, you would have been fired?   Because it happened to my friend Emma. Her company basically fired her for being ill. Let me emphasis basically here; yes, there probably are nuances to her case. Overall though, her MS limited when and where she could work, and her company at the time didn't know how to define work within those parameters (I am hopeful that now they do).  There was no let's renew your FMLA or talk about going onto long term disability. They didn't have time to figure it; they had to get on with business.  

I understand their position, but it doesn't make it any easier to watch someone who loved being an engineer so much (and who you care about), shrink and wilt. So much so, that she thought she wouldn't be welcomed anymore in our very supportive female engineering society. She thought because she didn't officially have the title anymore, how could she be in our professional society? How could she attend society meetings without being an engineer?  She was fighting to get long term disability from the insurance her company carried, and her mother won Emma's case postmortem.  It was a bitter victory to say the least.

I've been told more than once from different managers, being a part time sicko employee, "Know that your career is limited," and "you'll have career growth, it will move more slowly."   Those statements are (unfortunately) correct.  Ever year as part of our performance assessments, we have to write down our long term goals.  Since 2008 (the year I started feeling better and went from 24 hours to 30 hours), I have written my long term goal as "project leader."  Managing a team has been a career goal for me for 8+ years.  I am a task lead, but I don't directly manage anyone.  To move up to the next level within my company, that level specifically calls out for supervisor/manager experience.

So the end of 2016 and yesterday (2017,) I explicitly wrote down that I want to be a supervisor and why I'd be a good supervisor. No vague project leader term (because you could possibly be a project leader without any direct reports/supervisees). I explicitly asked to run/manager team. And then I voiced my concern to my manager (in our one on one) about how my career growth feels limited if I don't have the opportunity to manage someone (even just one intern, how hard is it to give me one gosh shark intern?).  First time, it was our company, specifically our project, is not set up to manage a team remotely or part time.  Second time around, it was, well our project just doesn't have any teams to manage currently, but I'm willing to help you find that opportunity with another project, especially one set up around remote work.  

Okay cool, that's a fair answer. However, it showed what I already knew a couple of years ago (I mean after 8+ years of not reaching your long term goal, you start to get the hint that your career is stalled).  If I want my career to grow, I need to work on another project or leave the company.  I doubt I can shake the stigma of being a chronically ill engineer, so my best opportunity for job growth is to leave the company and work someplace else, where they don't know I'm a sicko.  

It's tough to see 2 engineers with 10 years of experience have the opportunity to be supervisors. Another engineer with 8 years become the manager of the test team and got his own office (while you're still in a cube). A different engineer with 4 years  of experience will be put on the project leader team this year. Another engineer with 2 years of experience is accepted onto the Engineering Leadership Program.  I'm not saying their opportunities aren't well deserved, because the opportunities are deserved, those people have worked hard; I'm just saying that I've worked hard too, so where's my opportunity for growth?  It's certainly not here.

The good news is that now that I have accepted that I have no room to grow at my current company, I'm no longer indifferent about the salary I make.  I know engineers make a lot of money compared to other professions, but when you're an engineering making 10K less than another engineer at the same level, it's one more indication of how being sick this industry really hurts your career. Real quick, my company pro-rates my salary, my salary is based on 40 hours/week. So technically if my performance reviews said I did a good job, then my 40 hours/week salary should be within hundreds of the other people who work 40 hours and who are within my level.  I have a feeling my counterparts don't make what I make, and if they did, why are they still here?  Our company (according to and, are underpaying you!

Anyway, I feel that I can no longer be complaisant about my salary (not like I felt a year ago in The Salary). Sometime in the next 2 weeks I'm going to ask for the average salary of someone at my level. I feel like I owe it to all the sickos and other discriminated people out there.  By staying indifferent about my salary, I'm only hurt those around me.  I know, how unselfish of me.  Yes, I am doing it for myself too. It's important that I do it for me (my self-esteem could use the boost right now; I'm wallowing in my own pity party).  But somebody has to speak up for the disenfranchised, so I might as well speak up for them while I'm standing up for myself. And what do I have to lose? Job opportunities at my current company?  Oh wait, that's already in the toilet, so yeah I have nothing to risk by asking for more.  For the sicko club (it's like the Breakfast Club, but we're all napping in the library instead of dancing and sharing information about latest diet/treatment/medication instead of high school gossip), fist raised victoriously in the air!

So, the morale of the story?  Don't get sick in engineering. Your career depends on you staying healthy.  Take your vitamins. Exercise. Get your flu shots. For those of us who battle diseases and chronic illnesses. I promise to stay in this industry until my fingers are all gnarled and knotted and I can no longer type (but by then maybe the workplace will have cognitive software, think The Matrix, and I can just blink my TPS reports over to my boss, and I could stay even longer in this industry).  I know the longer I stay in this industry, the better I make it for others like me.  That's my promise to you: that through my trials and tribulations, I'll make this industry better for us all sickos. That one day, no one will measure your career by the number of sick days you took.  One day, it will be okay to be sick in engineering.

*1/7/17 Update: I've had 2 engineering friends who have auto immune diseases share with me their career struggles (aka stalling).  I deeply appreciate them sharing their stories with me.  And one even shared some statistics from this post.  I'm developing a secret hand shake for us sickos, so that we can advocate career advancement for each other in our industry. Is wincing in pain after shaking hands too spot on?  Take care!