Layover Time in Life

Chris and Mom conversing over lunch

All I wanted was to talk to someone in full sentences. I remember that feeling well from my years as a stay-at-home mom with a toddler. When my husband came home from work I greeted him with a torrent of babble that didn’t take into his account his tired state of mind after a long day of interacting with others.

It wasn’t good for the marriage, and one day he verbalized that and asked for just 15-30 minutes of time before we started discussing our days. He was right, and I found that when I waited just a short bit, he actually listened to me a lot better.

Fast forward 24-25 years since those toddler days, and I’m struggling to find a balance of work/home life. I spend a full workday answering questions, researching, troubleshooting and testing WordPress issues, and by the end of the day my brain is often fried. Ironically, it’s a struggle to string a sentence (oh, how times have changed).

This state of mind is not ideal when your mother-in-law has a Jeopardy addiction and likes to watch it with people. Or when Chris wants to discuss things with me. It sometimes literally gives me a headache having to think and answer more questions and to focus. But I know it’s really important to engage actively with my loved ones and put my workday behind me.

I discussed this with my job coach, who travels internationally using her talents as a certified conflict mediator and coach to work through some pretty intense situations. She had some good advice on figuring out this balance.

balance GIF

The Layover

In her own training, she and others are advised to extend layovers while traveling so one doesn’t go home immediately after working through tough situations elsewhere. Take a few days. Regroup. Transition from the task you completed to your life ahead. This is something I can do on a small scale in my daily life.

As I looked at my daily schedules, I began to do some adjusting. Again I’m super thankful for a job that allows me to tweak. We can choose what hours we want to work here at Automattic, so I work four ten-hour days. This gives me time to travel, run errands with Mom and Chris and catch up on life in general on my three flex days.

In addition to that, I shuffled things around so my workdays end an hour before Jeopardy. This gives me an hour “layover” for some “me” time. During that hour I embrace tasks such as exercising, journaling, doing my Bible study and blogging.

In retrospect it’s quite similar to what Chris and I did back in the day. I just needed a reminder, I guess. The great news is that it’s working. I feel much more balanced, and I feel I’m able to provide a higher quality of engagement with the people with whom I’m connecting.

If you are struggling to find a life balance and constantly feel overwhelmed, I highly recommend this Layover strategy. It’s a winner in my book.

Routines

Tools for Establishing Routines
animation calm down GIF by Chibird
Oh May it be So

My life is kind of getting away from me – lacking routines. You know the feeling? I bet most can relate. It’s a struggle balancing life, home, family, friends, work, play, faith, exercise, etc. Fortunately, one of the perks of being an Automattic employee is that we get time with a job coach if we want.

My Job Coach

After some video training I browsed through a list of coaches to see who might be a good fit for me based on their backgrounds and their summaries of their points of focus. For a start, I could meet any coach I wanted for a 15-minute video session to see how we interacted. Finally, I picked one to meet with for 10 sessions.

There was one who stood out to me. Sara. She’s a mom who enjoys salsa and who lived in Lisbon. Maybe that’s all what drew me. Plus she is just simply inspiring and focused on establishing peace. We met, and I immediately felt really confident working with her.

Now I’m almost half-way through our sessions, and I have to tell you it’s amazing. I’m not overwhelmed with info from her (she definitely guides me, but at my own pace so I’m not lost in the currents of life). Sara suggests little tweaks that make me so much more productive and helps me see where to focus as I establish routines. She also gives me resources to study to become a better human in general.

So that’s been happening, plus some travel for the company’s meetup, during which I learned soooooooooooo much. After the Grand Meetup (GM), I attended  Rochester WordCamp and learned even more. So many thoughts. So much to write about.

Routines

But first, I had to get organized. ‘cuz I’m like that. I sorted arenas of my life into categories, made myself some new Trello lists (while looking into Asana), updated my calendars, cleaned out my Simplenote lists and updated my tags, and now I’m ready to write, by golly! There’s even a list of thoughts and topics from my last few weeks I want to write about.

Not all of it will be here — some will be on my Inspired by and Thankful For blog, and some will be for internal work documents, and some will be communications with family and friends, but I have scheduled time for daily addressing my own mind-dump needs.

I’m really looking forward to this new routine, and am feeling a bit less scattered already.

Porch Work

Working on the porch
Working on the porch

One of my favorite things to do in Massachusetts is to walk from my place down to the main lobby, grab a cup of coffee, and head out to the front porch for an hour or two of work. Since I work from home, it can get quite isolating.

When I’m on the porch, people come and go around me, and I love hearing all the different accents, and feeling the energy around me. Since most people are there on vacation, it’s a very happy place generally. There are lot of people from the New York city area, and I have to admit that I feel like I’m home listening to their accents.

I grew up on Long Island then moved to western NY, where I spent a few decades. I hadn’t noticed that I missed the accent, but when I hear the accents around me, it feels so right.

Chairs on the porch

Aside from the general conversations and energy mentioned, I love the view I get. In particular, I love when it’s raining, and I’m cozied on the porch, under shelter, listening to the rain fall as I work, looking at a beautiful view when I glance up. My image collection doesn’t have a record of that, so I will try to get that photo sometime in my future. But I bet you can imagine hills framed by rain and immerse yourself in the beauty of that mental image.

And then there’s one of my favorite parts of porch work. I have a work buddy who is there almost every day. It’s really tempting to offer treats, but I don’t. And yet, the little one still comes regularly to check things out. So fun!

The Buffalo Community

2018 Hudi and MollieWhen I hear the word Buffalo, I am immediately filled with happy memories of western NY. It holds my favorite zoo, memories of great evenings eating chicken wings–listening to jazz and small bands, jaunts to Niagara, awesome WordPress meetups and WordCamps, picking up my kids from the bus station, and the city’s airport was the origin point of many of my own journeys. All that to say I was really happy when I was pinged at work by a colleague asking if I wanted to work at an event in Buffalo. Now that I have moved to northern NY, I don’t get to go to Buffalo as often, and I miss it.

Homemade Yogurt at Hudi and Mollie's 2018Last Sunday, Chris and I threw our golf clubs, baggage and a futon into Zippy (it constantly amazes me to see what our Honda Fit can hold) and headed out.

On the way to Buffalo, we stopped in Rochester, where our youngest son now lives. It was such a treat seeing Hudi and Mollie thriving in their beautiful home, and the futon looks like its sole purpose of existence was to find itself in their guestroom. They served us some fantastic vittles (homemade yogurt with homemade jelly mixed in, mint iced tea, etc) and talked about their next stages of life.

Years ago, when we were homeschooling, we were part of a co-op where our kids attended classes of their choosing. Hudi took an international cuisine class from the food blogger, Rebecca Lindamood. It greatly inspired him, and he continued on with some private cooking sessions with Rebecca. Next thing we knew he was off to college to learn more about the topic. Hudi recently graduated with a degree in culinary arts and is now working as a banquet chef. We were fortunate to catch him on his day off.

After leaving them, we met with one of my colleagues at Bob-O-Links – a golf course that has lights so everyone can enjoy evening golf. We love Sam, and hadn’t seen him in a while so it was fantastic catching up with him. Since Automattic is a distributed company, we work together online almost daily, but the face-to-face thing is a rare treat.

Some of my friends from my former home figured out we were in the area and drove to join us for an evening on Monday. One more night at Bob-O-Links 🙂 Chris was very happy to have another night of golf and to see Bob, while I chose to walk around then sit and relax for a time of chatting with Pat. What a treat!

2018 Facebook Community Boost

We were there for the Facebook Community Boost event where the Ignite Buffalo winners were announced at the end of our time together. Through this event one million dollars plus mentoring were gifted to Buffalo Businesses. Seven finalists competed for $100,000 business grants (4 got them, and the other three got $50,000). And 20 other businesses received $25,000. You can see the winners listed on this event writeup.

It was a somewhat exhausting, yet completely inspirational event. My colleagues Zandy, Marjorie and I had pretty non-stop 1:1 sessions with people, helping them set up WordPress sites and WooCommerce stores. Chris was there for business sessions, and learned quite a bit, but he also ended up spending a lot of time helping us at the booth, answering questions. It was super exciting to see so many people interested in creating sites.

There was a final event where the finalists gave their pitches, and the judge’s results came in. My job was technically done there for the week, and I was tired. My plan was to stay for a couple of pitches then leave, but we all agreed that we couldn’t. It was all too well-done and inspirational. Marjorie, Chris and I ended up staying for the entire thing. Two hours flew by, and next thing I knew, we were cheering along with everyone else as the winners emerged from the list of finalists.

Heading back to the hotel we stopped in a local ice cream shop for dessert. (Food was available during the pitches so we had already eaten wings and delicious hors d’oeuvre’s that we called dinner.)

The server at Jerk’s was excited to see Marjorie, since he had attended the session she led earlier in the day. We  discussed business with him and his dad, who owned the delightful shop, then enjoyed malts and ice creams at a table outside as we watched trolley’s go by. What a perfect way to end the day. Wish I had gotten pictures, but I was embracing the enjoyment of the moment so I didn’t even think about it.

As the dad was cleaning up for the night, he was telling us about the changes he has seen in the recent years. It does seem like Buffalo is coming back to life with businesses. It was very encouraging.

The next morning I was able to relax and reflect on the visit a bit before we began our journey back home. One person that stood out to me during my time there was a woman who I met with to help set up a website to highlight her Om Nohm Gluten Free products. She was one of the finalists who had already received $25,000 and was so excited to have the chance to invest in her business.

During the week prior, I hadn’t had a ton of extra time, so while I glanced at my social media, I didn’t look at it too closely. I did on Thursday morning and discovered that the Rebecca I mentioned earlier (the one who mentored my son) had been posting about her sister – a finalist in this event. Guess who she was? Yup, the Om Nohm owner. How cool is that?

There we have it.
Community.
Helping each other.

It’s what it’s all about.

My Work as an Exterminator

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/7504408776 - licensed to share with attributionWay back in high school I took a test to see what career I could thrive in. Can you imagine my family’s shock (and laughter) when my results came back, and we discovered that my optimal path was as an exterminator?

While a super admirable career for many (and one I greatly appreciate), it definitely wasn’t the right one for me. For example, as a mother of three sons I pride myself in my ability to handle most things with aplomb.

Blood and stitches? No problem. I even pulled a few out of one of my son’s head one time.

I not only watched the Walking Dead episode in which intestines were a major theme (not giving away spoilers here), but I did it while eating spaghetti. Yeah. Hard core.

And yet a few weeks ago my grown-up self inadvertently squealed and dropped a shirt on the floor at the dry cleaners (fortunately it hadn’t been cleaned yet) and did the spider dance because I happened to spy an arachnid the size of a quarter inside the shirt. I was mortified.

My mind knows that is ridiculous, but my reactions don’t seem to follow what my mind dictates in that arena.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 5.50.08 PMThere it is. The idea of me being an exterminator was a great cause of mirth in my family.

Until I realized one day that I had become one!

I do find and help kill bugs for a living! It’s just that the bugs I face are in code. I replicate, find and report the bugs so our developers can squash them.

Soooo, joke’s on me. I have a job as an exterminator. The high school test was accurate.

Ageism and Automattic

Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-workerJen Hooks at our company's Grand Meetup at Whistler).

Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-workerJen Hooks at our company's Grand Meetup at Whistler).
Some of the over-40-year-old workers at Automattic (image taken by my co-worker Jen Hooks at our company’s Grand Meetup at Whistler).

About a week ago I read an article on age and the workplace that was a bit chilling. It linked to a study, which shows that in the tech industry

43% of employees worry about losing their job due to their age

The thought was sobering. Downright sad. And scary.

What really gets me about all this is the fact that this is the tech industry we are talking about. While I know computers “became a thing” over a century ago, the people who really got the momentum going for the techie-world we work and thrive in now are now are still alive. This is not a history lesson from some old moldy book. We have the pioneers living right in our midst. Why in the world would we not want to tap into this knowledge?

It reminded me once again of how fortunate I am to be working at Automattic, Inc where we constantly strive to maintain and cultivate an inclusive environment. Inclusivity refers not only to race and gender but also to many other facets of one’s being. This includes age, geographic location, disabilities, etc.

Our company currently has a bit over 600 employees, and over 80 of us are over 40-years-old. I was 42 when I was hired.

Not only do I not fear for my age being a factor in my job, I often feel that my age is considered an asset. Yes, we do have/have had young people working in the company. Brilliant, energetic individuals who might not have experienced their first legal alcoholic drink yet. But we also have people decades older than my current 45 years. We all have something unique to bring to the table, and overall, it helps us provide a better product for our customers and relate in different ways as we offer customer support.

I wish other companies would realize that.

The report suggests ways for companies to become more inclusive in regard to age. Our company not only implemented those suggestions long before my hiring, but it is constantly re-evaluating to make sure all our needs are met.

For example, as a mid-forty-year-old woman, I’m now in the sandwich generation. The company allows me to set my own schedule so I can take time to be with my kids when they are home from college or visiting, and I can also arrange my work days so I have the flexibility to take my mother-in-law to doctor appointments and on errands.

I, myself, have some of the fun health issues that come with age and life-experiences. My arthritic fingers balk at typing and mouse-use at times. The company provides me with the keyboards and special mouse options I need to relieve that pain.

What does the company get in return? Well, for one thing, I’m so grateful for flexibility in schedule that I will happily work overtime if it’s necessary (and sometimes even when it’s not because this job is so wonderful, it’s addicting). I offer life-lessons I have learned from things that have worked or not worked in past experiences. Also, as stated in the study linked above:

Research by David Galenson of the University of Chicago showed that approaches to problem-solving differ between generations, and Galenson found that older people tend to do better at solving thorny, complicated problems due to the deeper levels of understanding they have acquired over the course of their careers.

Good stuff, that. 🙂

Anyway, I just wanted to share this because it’s been in my thoughts this week. And I’m really thankful for my job.

BTW, if you are into tech and/or customer support, we’re hiring (and age won’t be a factor against you 😉 ).

From Snow to the Snows — in June

Our final full day in Utah was spent on the ski/snowboard slopes at Snowbird. Yes, it was June 10. Let me say that again. June 10. And we were at the slopes. Can you feel hear my heart beating faster? Oh the joy of that day!

The altitude got to Chris a bit (on his fourth run of the day), and he was pretty wiped out after a mogul run 🙂

Lauren and I enjoyed the festival below as the guys boarded and skied.

We wrapped up a perfect day by heading back home and having a lovely dinner out. On the way home we saw a mini-cyclone. Since it didn’t seem to hurt anyone, we thought it was pretty cool. Later that evening we were treated to a view of the strawberry moon rising. So beautiful!

Sunday morning was sad. Don’t be fooled by those smiles in the pics. It was super hard saying goodbye to this incredible couple. We miss them so much already. That entire visit was a gift beyond words.

last day together
One last cup of coffee together. Then time to hit the road.

On Sunday, as we drove, I was forced to admit that if I ever do this trip again, I won’t even attempt to work in the car in Wyoming or Nebraska. The Internet was super sketchy–even with Cricket and Verizon hotspots. Thank goodness for good hotel wi-fi’s and a job with flexible work hours!

Sunday night was spent at a hotel in Nebraska — at a hotel that I will be fine never visiting again. Good news though. If you ever forget your key there, you can get into your room in less than half a second with a credit card 🙂

Monday found us spinning the tires towards friends/co-workers in Missouri. While the day started out nice and sunny, it changed. We didn’t experience any of the tornadoes that were appearing around the country that day (for which we were thankful), but driving was a bit tricky at times, and the hail was pretty loud.

bad weather

In the evening we made it to the home of the Jason and Kristen Snow. They are my co-workers, so many of you might have already met them if you have an upgrade and have used the WordPress live chat options. They also have a fabulous blog. They are nomads so we were lucky to catch them home. In fact, they left shortly after we did for their next Grand Adventure. How we love these two and their three dogs!

I’ve been told by many people in my life that they have never seen people like us. We work super hard then we stop on a dime and play hard. It’s all about balance. My co-workers seem to live by this standard as well.

We relaxed for an evening, slept, then all hit our work super hard for a full day. Barely a sound was heard as Chris did his art, I worked on mobile support for WordPress apps, and Jason and Kristen had meetings and worked on live chat and email support. One of their dogs cuddled close to give me moral support, and I loved it.

The company we work for is distributed, so the hundreds of workers at Automattic work all around the world, anywhere there is Internet. That is how I can literally work on the road as Chris drives. As long as I have Internet connection.

We get together with co-workers a few times a year (hence the Lisbon meetup I still haven’t written about, but I will. At least you know I was in Lisbon for that reason by this point if you follow the blog). But it’s a real treat to work alongside co-workers live in a small-group situation. Many peoples’ norm. Our anomaly. And we learn so much from each other. Very fun day.

Once the work time was over, we took the dogs for a walk to a family/dog-friendly brewery in the area. Talk about delightful! It was hard picking the perfect brew so we all got different flavors and shared sips.

I think my favorite story about this place is that they really celebrate mother’s and have a special day for moms every year. But they have that special day after Mother’s Day so there is no conflict with family celebrations. Love that!

One of the Snow’s dogs was interested in watching children play, another was resting, and the third spent its time eeking up on the bench and as close to Jason as possible. This cracked me up so I made an animation (staying away from the word gif on purpose to avoid controversy). Is this the sweetest thing or what?

Dog kiss

Seriously. Just look at the love. Heart melt!

dog love

We spent the evening at a burger joint that still has me salivating. But I forgot to take images. On the walk back home, we humored Chris by going on Rte 66. As the song says:

Well if you ever plan to motor west
Just take my way it’s the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66…

The next morning we rose relatively early and went to a fantastic coffee shop before leaving. This place has bands and church services at times, I hear, and it also has the best muffins I have ever eaten. Can’t believe I didn’t take a pic. I’m seriously slacking on my job.

Our plan was to drive to Columbus and spend the night. We drove through some hairy weather again, saw a massive fire (I’m guessing from some of the super-scary lighting we saw), but pushed on through to get to Houghton because our car was making some interesting noises.

Remember how we were worried about its making it through the trip? Yeah. We remembered that, too. We churned into Houghton at 3 am ET after 16 hrs of driving (Chris totally rocks. I was working about 9 hrs of it. He did all the driving). After sleeping a few hrs, we crept off to our home in northern NY. And made it!!!!

Back to Mom, my lack-of-beach, and local rainbows.

Now we are closing the chapter on the out-west trip for the year and starting to plan our next life adventures. Starting with a new-to-us car hunt. Anyone have a Honda Fit and/or Chrysler Town and Country you are trying to get rid of? You know how to reach me…. 😉

Our Lisbon Meetup Begins :)

Since I work for a distributed company, I only get to see my coworkers in person twice a year. Last year my team met up in Durham, and this year it’s Lisbon. Another team is here at the same time, and another team will be coming halfway to the week so I get to see lots of my Automattic buddies. 

There is just something super exciting about knowing that your friends and coworkers are all on planes and trains and busses, heading your way for a week of in-person collaborations, learning and fun.

This picture shows where James and I are hanging out at our co-working office for the week. We are working outdoors as we wait for our teammates to arrive.