Wednesday, July 27, 2016

7/27/16- Writing Break

Hello!  I'm taking a little writing break this week because I head to Los Angeles for the SCBWI conference tomorrow!  I'm really excited to learn new things about the children's book industry and work on perfecting your craft (craft is writer's speak for writing/art; although I think some wish they were Harry Potter and had magic craft)!  I plan to next week to summarize the conference and share my new insider's knowledge.  Also coming up a list on how to help your baby sleep (note it is magic). Until then, take care friends!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

7/20/16- A (work) day in the life of RA

So recently I got some blood results back; not a surprise the inflammation (CRP measurement) is up a little.  It's not a surprise to me (or probably to my husband and son) as I've had achy joints and stiffness in the morning.  This is what doctors like to call "flares" for autoimmune disease patients.

It means your immune system is at it again (at attacking joints, brain, stomach, whatever part of your body your immune systems thinks is a foreign body).   I just like to call it "this is annoying, I'm achy, and I'd like to take a nap now."  Aka, not fun.  Instead telling people I"m having an RA (rheumatoid arthritis) flare, I should just going around saying I'm having an RA NFT (not fun time).

So anyway, this current flare made me realize that I haven't recently talked about being a mom/wife/engineer with RA.  So I thought I'd capture a what a typical work day was like for me: a RA patient/mom/wife/engineer.

7:00  AM: I'm still in bed.  I can hear Jack and Bobby in the family room. Bobby's trying to wrestle Jack into clothes for school/daycare.  I know I should go help Bobby with Jack--  I want to help.  It'd also mean extra time with them before work and daycare. My finger joints ache, and I'm tired.  I want to fall back to sleep; just another hour of sleep would be good.

7:30 AM: Bobby brings Jack into our bedroom to say good bye.  I sit up to kiss them both.  Jack sits down on the bed, playing with the baby monitor, and I lay next to him, as Bobby packs up the car.

7:45 AM: The boys have left, and I can't fall back asleep, so I decide to move to the couch to watch TV.  Take the first pill (prescription) of the day.

8:00 AM: End up on Facebook for an hour while I eat breakfast and sip 2-3 cups of black tea.  Take 4 more pills (vitamins and supplements). Coffee is only used in emergencies (like I didn't sleep the night before).  Sometimes Bobby will bring me back Starbucks after dropping Jack off at daycare.  Yep, I'm spoiled on those days.

9:00 AM: Log in remotely to my work PC. Check email, decide who to email back right away (sometimes there's groans and eye rolls), then decide which tasks to tackle.

10:30 AM:  After completing a task (typing forever in Excel or Access), I decide it is time for a nap.  Then talk self out of nap as that means I'll finish work later. I can nap at the end of my work day and before picking Jack up from daycare. The idea of taking a nap and talking myself out of it won't be the only time I do that today.

12:00 PM: Time to eat lunch!  Eat a sandwich (they're my favorite lunch time food)! Take 1 more pill. Then look at dirty dishes, garbage, etc.  Decide I'll do it later because a short nap at lunch sounds better.

12:30 PM: Decide I should exercise (yoga video or stationary bike that we have at home) as this will renew my energy and help stretch out my joints.  Sometimes I do the exercise; sometimes I think about a nap and look at Facebook.

1:00 PM: Log back onto my work PC.  See if someone IM'd me or sent an email and feel guilty if they did. I feel guilty when this happens. I also feel guilty when I'm at the doctor's office in the middle of the work day. I'm not one of those people who doesn't do anything when they work from home, but I am still worried one missed IM or email is going to make people think I do NOTHING when I work from home.  I do not want to lose the privileged of working from home when it's so import to my health.

2:00 PM: Think about a nap again.  On days where I'm really fatigued I will just fall asleep while sitting at my laptop.  It probably doesn't help that I have the laptop set up on move-able tray and I sit on the couch, but comfort is so nice when achy and tired (or when you're fighting your 7th cold for the year because ,you know, horrible immune system).

3:00 PM: Think again about a nap.  But no, must push on and finish assignment.  I can nap in a half hour; that's when I'm officially off the clock. (Or I'm just waking up from my accidental nap, Hammerhead! now I need to work after Jack goes to bed.)

4:00 PM:  Shark, I'm done with work now, but it's too late in the day for a nap at least for me.  If I nap after a certain time of day, then I will have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep at night. Decide to either drink green tea or watch TV/read a book/rest with eyes open.  End up playing Candy Crush for a half hour.

4:30 PM: I should shower and go get Jack, but then it might be just be the two of us for the next hour, and I'm too tired to chase after the toddler.  Feel immense guilt (more than I ever could about work and missed emails) over this decision.  When I'm not having a RA NFT, I do go early, and we have the best of time just the 2 of us.

5:00 PM: Bobby calls. He's leaving the office.  He'll be home in about a half hour.  I rush through a shower and go get Jack.

5:30 PM: At daycare.  Jack gives the biggest smile. Best time of day for me (and I do not feel the urge to nap)!

5:45 PM: Jack and I are home.  Struggle to get him out from his car seat. Look I get that car seats need to be safe and not come undone in a car accident, but surely we can make a car seat buckle that is safe and arthritis friendly?  Bobby is home, and he has started dinner.  Jack wants to be held by Bobby, so I finish dinner.

6:00 PM: We eat dinner.  Jack goes either really fast or really slow.  We've sat at the dinner table with him for at least a half hour in the past.  I'm okay if he sits there eating forever, as it means I get to sit longer.

6:30 PM: Jack is playing, Bobby is washing dishes, and I'm watching Jack, from the couch.  For the next hour and a half, we move all over the room (sometimes to the back yard), not sitting in the same spot for longer than 15 minutes.  I think about a nap, or just going to bed at 8 PM when Jack does.

7:45 PM: Bath time for Jack and then wrestling him in to PJs.  Bobby usually has to do the wrestling of Jack into clothes.

8:00 PM: Read Jack bedtime stories and kiss him goodnight.  Lately, bedtime has ended in tantrums; Jack is having too much fun with us to go to bed.  I had no idea Bobby and I were that cool.

8:15 PM: For the next two hours, Bobby and I talk about our day or cuddle and watch TV together. Usually it's the later right now, as I'm so tired.  I always think I will go to bed early when feeling sharky, but I don't.  Sometimes I log back into work during this time because I have to make up for a doctor's appointment or an actual nap or I really do a full time job in a 24 hour work week.

10:00 PM: Sleep, finally!  If I have any energy I wash my face and brush my teeth, but that is like 3 times a week where I feel energetic enough to hold a tooth brush. I usually just crawl into bed (good thing I worked from home and able to wear yoga pants all day, so I can just get into bed). Also take final 2 pills (1 prescription, 1 supplement) for the day.

I should note, that I do go to my actual work office about once a week; it's nice to say hi to my colleagues and let them know I haven't died or what not.

So that's my typical work day when I'm having issues with RA.  I'm lucky to have support of family and work from home when NFT is occurring, so thank you to my wonderful support system (special thanks to Bobby).

And thank you, reader, for reading about my day; all you've probably learned about RA is how much I want to nap every day! :) Take care and be well!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

7/13/16- How I Became an Engineer

Work is keeping me on my toes this week, so here's an essay that I've tried getting published at various magazine (online and print).  It may not be important to magazine editors/publishers, but it's important to me. I want to share it with students (and even those who are already working) who are trying to find their path. Hope you enjoy it! (If I was a super hero engineer, [that could be a thing, right?] this would be my origin story, ha ha!)

"How I Became an Engineer"

I didn’t always want to be an engineer.  At age 8 I wanted to be a veterinarian.   Then I found out you have to work with animals other than dogs and cats, like snakes and rats.  I was out.  I needed to find a new career dream, so I choose teacher. Then it was gossip columnist, then actress, and then at one point all 3.  I was going to be a triple threat.  By high school, a teaching career mostly won out; my talents in acting were zilch, and my interest in writing about others’ drama dwindled when I encountered my own gossip ring in middle school. 

What to teach though?  Throughout my childhood, I was told by others how good I was at math and science, so I finally settled on the fact that I’d be a math teacher.  I confessed this decision to my algebra teacher, who flat out told me that there was more I could do with my math talents than teach.  For example, had I thought about engineering?  What?  Huh?  I had no idea really what an engineer did. I thought to myself, they do stuff with computers, so I should think about working with computers?  And here’s a fact that I’m embarrassed about (to this day): my dad was an engineer.  Don’t get me wrong, I had heard of the word engineer, but I didn’t know exactly what they did at their jobs day to day. MY DAD WAS ONE.  I honestly didn’t know what my own dad did for a living.  Ask me what my mom did, and it was easy to describe; she was a teacher (hmm, wonder where the idea for teacher came from?), and teachers help shape young minds.  Ask me what my dad did, I could say engineer, but couldn’t give any more details.  Maybe it was time to ask him for more details. 

Professional Head-shot for a Professional (Or Super Hero?) Engineer

I decided to approach my dad, “dad what do you do as an engineer?”  He was super excited to tell me all about his work.  He had worked on radios and satellites for space programs, as well as equipment for gathering weather data.  He explained that he now taught college students about computers and the chips inside of computers (think the green plastic parts if you open up a computer, he explained).  But then he said something along these lines that has stuck with me forever “but engineers do so much more.  They build roads, design cars, create buildings, make health devices (like pace maker) and prosthetic limbs, improve the clothes, water, food, and household goods we use on a daily basis; they touch every aspect of our lives without us even noticing.  Their work is seamlessly integrated into the world.”  And I remember asking, “kind of like the Wizard of Oz?  They’re like the people behind the curtain that helps make things better?”  He simply answered yes.

 I thought it all sounded kind of cool, and I wish I could say that was the point in my life when I decided to become an engineer.  However, it wasn’t until 3 years later when I was a senior in high school.  I was taking a music recording class at the local community college because I thought it’d be cool to be a music producer.  I was really into everything music at that point.  As the class progressed, I learned that I was horrible at distinguishing when a note was flat or sharp, which is import skill to have as a music producer.  But the profession of the music recording class also taught us the science behind audio and how the audio equipment worked.  It was all relating back to the physics class I was taking at my high school: electrical current, resistors, capacitors, electromagnets, and circuits.  I realized I really enjoyed learning about these things, and also remembered that these things were what my dad worked on.  Light bulb!  Maybe  I should consider studying engineering in college!    This time I told my mom that I was thinking of being an engineer.  “Finally!” she exclaimed, “engineering pays so much more than teaching and offers so many career opportunities!”  I’ll be honest; she had me at pays more.  I was a 17 year old and making lots of money was important to me.  

Now as I enter my eleventh year as an engineer (woo 11 years! Go me!), it’s not so much about the money anymore, but how my work saves lives.  Yes, it literally saves lives.  If you’re lost at sea or in danger of sinking your boat in the middle of the ocean, the engineering system I work on is there to help you.  It’s a search and rescue system that uses radio signals and antennas on cells phone towers to triangulate your position and send it to the rescuers. It’s rewarding to have a job that allows me to build and design something that can help others.  I guess the high salary doesn’t hurt either.  I’m proud to say I’m an engineer. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

7/6/16- Happy 4th of July with a dash of work stuff

So technically July 4th in the US was a couple of days ago, but I wanted to share with my friends and family something I learned over the holiday weekend.  Some toddlers are okay with fireworks that just spark, but as soon as the fireworks start making loud popping noises, and mom jumps while holding said toddler, the fun is over.  Yep, all of my friends and family with older children are nodding their heads yes, and thinking we could have told you that.

Well, I thought Bobby and I were prepared to ensure Jack did enjoy fireworks.  We didn't take him to the big, overhead displays, and we had chosen what I thought were just the fountain/ground fireworks that only spark, but don't make popping/loud noises.  We had gone through 5-6 fountains/ground fireworks, and he keep opening his mouth excitedly and saying again (image the seagulls from Finding Nemo but saying again instead of mine).

We got to the last one, and it was sparking along, no sound, and we thought it was over, but then POP, POP, POP!  More sparks and loud popping noises!  I was holding Jack, and I wasn't expecting the noise or the additional sparks, so I jumped a little.  Then Jack starting crying.  I rushed him away from the noise (to the side of the yard), and Bobby came over to comfort Jack (a hug from daddy goes a long way).

I think if I hadn't jumped, there might have been less crying at the noise, so note to self, don't jump, you know fireworks can make noises.  I think we should also consider the noise cancelling headphones for next year. I've seen other parents use them with their kids at 4th of July displays, and the headphones seemed to help their children with the noise and give the children viewing enjoyment. Or maybe next year, it's just the simple sparklers that don't make noise.  Because Jack really did seem to enjoy the sight of the fountain fireworks. (Note, last year he was 9 months and slept through all fireworks, including large in the sky ones, so we had no previous "how will he react?" history to use for this year; but I guess now we do have an idea for next year.)

Technically this picture is from Memorial Day; I forgot to take a 4th of July Picture

Also to note this week: I got a response to my letter (from last week, 6/30/16, about parental leave) from my company's HR Vice President. Their response was basically, thank you for your feedback.  We like hearing from our employees.  We realized last year we were lacking in this area (and wanting to promote a employee and family friendly culture), and thus why we introduced the one week of "Do Whatever You Want with It" time.  We want our employees to have flexibility to take time off for life events, such as paternity/adoption leave, elder or child care, or please don't come to the office with the flu. We've assessed the market/industry and feel we are pare with it.  Please keep up the great suggestions; we appreciate the feedback from our employees.

I'm just going to end by saying, I'm glad I got a response. It is good the higher ups at least responded. About the actual response: I think my company thinks they have addressed parental leave.  One week with your newborn child (as a father or adoptive parent) is totally enough bonding time, right? Just ask my company...