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.

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!

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. 

Fortune Cookie

fortune-cookie

It’s impossible to be perfect. And this fortune cookie note I got reminded me that it’s okay. How reassuring is that message? My immediate reaction was “Hey, this is how I want to be for others” in my role as a Happiness Engineer. Then I remembered that since it was my fortune cookie, this was about me. And I realized that the statement is plain old true. It has been true in the past, is true in my present, and odds are high that it will be true in my future. This makes me feel really fortunate. And it makes me think about the importance of helping people in general.

My job, my marriage and my family are all arenas in which I feel particularly blessed. And this fortune philosophy is a main contributor to why my life is so awesome.

Work? WordPress is a seriously powerful program. Every day I help people with networking issues, SEO, site building, writing-sharing, advertising, account changes, etc. I know a lot and do not feel as if I’m not qualified for my job. That said, I sometimes find myself facing situations in which I don’t have an answer. Every day I’m learning more. But I never feel isolated or backed into a corner where I can’t be helpful thanks to my co-workers.

We all have experience in different arenas. If I have a question about analytics or MX records, then a ping to a co-worker will bring someone with experience in those fields to help me (and I help them where I am strong). No judgement from anyone. Just helpful attitudes (and I’m over two years into this job, so I’m not being idealistic. That’s just the beautiful reality of my work environment). Together, we provide answers to those who come to us for help.

I can help because I am helped.

Family? Again, every family member has a strength, and we work together to create good as a unit. I think back especially to the years I was bed-ridden (rough pregnancies and a few surgeries that laid me flat for long periods of time). My in-laws moved in to help us with parenting and household maintenance (as did my friends and members of our church, who provided meals and childcare until my in-laws arrived). We ran a daycare back then, and my husband became licensed so he could cover for me when I was down. My children were young, but they pitched in to help where they could. This made my healing happen faster, and when I was back on my feet, life was manageable, and I didn’t have to deal with the chaos of backlogged tasks.

Again, I could help others (eventually, after I healed) because others helped me.

Marriage? If anyone knows every single weakness I have, it’s my man. But I am very fortunate in the fact that instead of using those weaknesses to knock me down, Chris takes his own strengths to help me grow in those areas if I’m capable. Or to cover for me if I’m not capable. I try to do the same for him.

So there it is. My fortune reminding me of how fortunate I am. I hope I always remember that and reciprocate.

Favorite Chrome Extensions

I love extensions. Not too many of them, but certain ones that make my life so much easier to deal with. I thought I might share some of my favorites with you in case it makes your life easier as well. And I’d love to hear about some of your favorites (please feel free to share in the comments).

So what is a Chrome extension? It’s a small software program that makes my Chrome browser work better. You can install extensions from the Extensions URL. Here are my current favorites:

Library Extension – This might be my absolute favorite. It has saved me hundreds of dollars, I’m sure. I linked my library accounts to the widget. Now, when I look up a book on Amazon, that extension kicks into action and tells me if the book is available at my library. It even links me to the library site so I can download available e-copies.

F.B.(FluffBusting)Purity – This one cleans up and customizes Facebook, letting me filter out the junk I don’t want to see. Goodby negativity and political yuckness!

Google Voice (by Google) – Love using this as a backup phone number, and my messages get transcribed so I can read them there.

Stylus – Custom themes for any website – If I want to change the look of a site I’m viewing (changing font color or whatever), I make the CSS changes here and worry no more.

Adblock Plus – This one is controversial since I know people make money from the ads on their sites. The good thing is that this extension lets you choose which sites you want to see ads on so you can still support your friends 🙂

Honey – This one automatically finds and applies coupon codes when I shop online. To be honest, it doesn’t usually get me a better deal, but when it does work, it’s super nice.

Tab Snooze –  LOVE this one. When I find a web page that I want to spend more time on at a later date, I can click this and set the time and day I want it to show up on. At the appointed time, it opens up that tab.

How about you? What are some of your favorites?