Careful What You Wish For… (Working From Home)

I’m very thankful to work remotely for a great company, and there are definite advantages in working from home.  But, it’s just like any relationship.  The advantages can eventually become the disadvantages.

It’s the little things that drive you crazy… like the fact that you can’t control when people mow their lawn, or when a loud truck drives by your house.  It can be disastrous if someone knocks when you are on the phone, so my dogs go in a closed room faaaar from the desk and a sign goes on the door when I have important conference calls.

Working over telephones, it’s hard to tell when the speaker is finished or someone new is going to pipe up, so there is the frequent unintended interruption of your colleagues.  You also have to work a little harder at interpreting meaning since you can’t see facial expressions.

You learn to not have overnight guests during the week since most people don’t really get what it means to ‘work from home’.  They bang kitchen cabinets, get ice from the dispenser, and walk into the room talking all the while risking your professionalism.  They don’t mean to cause trouble; they just haven’t experienced working for a paycheck from home.

The obvious differences are not having to dress professionally and the lack of office socialization.  Working in an office brought some of the best relationships I’ll ever have.  My girlfriends from work have shared many tear-producing laughing spells and gotten me through many crises.  I miss them.  I have to try a little harder to get my regular dose of friends.

It is true that I don’t spend as much money on clothes, shoes, and jewelry as I did when I worked in an office.  The result is that now I never have the right clothes to wear, anywhere.  You see, I hate to shop.  Needing to shop for work clothes got me in the stores, and then I bought all kinds of clothes and shoes.  Now, I just keep putting it off and will eventually be that oddly-dressed lady who generates chuckles.

Wearing comfortable clothes while working brought its own harsh reality when I put on ‘real’ clothes a few weeks after starting the remote job.  It’s harder to notice that you are gaining weight.  I couldn’t believe it until I started realizing that I didn’t walk from the parking garage to the office anymore, from my desk to lunch, to meeting rooms, to the kitchen,…

It’ is great to avoid commuting in rush hour.  But that evening-hour commute gave me opportunities to stop by the grocery store or the drug store.  Now, it seems I’m perpetually out of the basics.  In the old days, I would not venture out of the house without makeup applied and hair done at least a little.  I no longer consider it worth the time to ‘get ready’ just to run to the store.  So, I tend to put off going altogether or pretend I’m invisible and run into the store looking like an embarrassment to my younger self.

In the end, the biggest difference is freedom in where you live.  I’m thankful to the now-friend who offered the original position to me.  It allowed me to move back to the southeast.  Now, I can have a casual weekend dinner with my Mother and Grandmother, and that’s the best advantage.  Now, if I can just figure out what to wear…….

~Lori

Change: Love the noun. Hate the verb.

I suck at change. As much as I love everyone to think that I am this easy going, adventurous person, the truth is: I suck at it. I avoid it like gay men avoid carbs between April and September.

I was in a 12 year relationship with someone who I am pretty sure is a psychopath that would have been a nice memory and a learning experience if I left him after a year. When I graduated from college I stayed in Upstate New York for 5 years after to stay with my college boyfriend (and we all know how that turned out). When I finally did move to New York City, I threw up every day for 2 months (meanwhile, I have never been so thin).

Once I did settle in Brooklyn, I got an apartment and have been in it for 18 YEARS (in the neighborhood that my parents and grandparents are from). I have worked for the same company for 12. But I have been living under this delusion that because I don’t like to eat the same lunch every day that I am the great embracer of change. I am that annoying person who is always quoting the clichés, “Change is the only thing you can count on.” “You always regret the things you don’t do.” Hypocrite!

So now I am making anoverdue self induced change. I am moving out of the city (not too far, just an hour, let’s not get totally insane) and I am buying my first house. Of course as soon as the offer was accepted, my dream job at my company has become available. My reaction? Crippling depression. How would I possibly move my life, my way of life, fix up a house AND start a new job at the same time? Back of the hand to the forehand – woe is me.  A cute new house by the ocean AND dream job? What a nightmare.  

So I have made the decision to embrace change.

A very smart woman and inspired meditation teacher Sally Kempton tells a story that has always stuck with me, and I will try to visualize this as the next few months unfold. It is the story of a town in Switzerland where everyone would jump into the graceful green river Aare and ride the river down into the next town. She noticed that for those that got right into the flow of the current, the journey was easy and fun. Those who held back from the center of the river, maybe out of fear, maybe out of ignorance of the help the river offered, never got very far. They would bang into overhanging trees and rocks and reeds that jutted out from the shore, ending up tangled and stuck or bruised and worn out. I have tried tangled and bruised, I would like to try easy and fun. So I am trying to trust the current and let it take me where I want to go.  

Does anyone know where I can get a good lifejacket?

-Jen

Meet Me In St. Louis

My friends are coming back to St. Louis for our 3rd annual girl’s weekend.  This annual convergence is proving to be the necessary kick in the ass to complete my spring cleaning.   This means cleaning out every room, closet, and drawer plus the cabinets and fridge.   Not to mention sprucing up the yard, getting the windows washed, and cleaning out the car for sightseeing trips. 

As the centrally located gal in the group (they come in from Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and California) it makes sense for everyone to come here.  And, I love hosting my friends.  Along with getting my spring cleaning Totally Completed (I’m pretty much done with closet and drawer cleaning until next spring) we get to take in the awesome things there are to do in St. Louis. 

It is so true that you don’t really appreciate what you have in your own city – I was somewhere in Tuscany waiting to go into yet another church when a lady in front of me asked me where I was from.  When I said St. Louis, she immediately started raving about the Cathedral Basilica and how it was one of the most beautiful churches she had ever seen.   At the time, I had never been there even though I’d easily been to more than 100 churches in Italy (seriously – 5 trips = lots of churches!!)  So, the first girl’s weekend we went to the Basilica (and it truly is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever been in) and walked around the park at the St. Louis Arch which I hadn’t been to since I was a kid.  

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

Last year, we went to the Washington University / Forest Park area of town because Michaela had been reading about the 1904 World’s Fair and wanted to see the buildings that were donated to the city after.  The architecture of the buildings was amazing (I beg you to take the virtual tour provided in the link – it takes you building by building and you can see why Michaela wanted us to go).  I used to golf every week at Forest Park and I’m embarrassed to say that I still have never been into one of the museums which are now housed in the World’s Fair buildings.  We also went back to the Arch and toured the Museum of Westward Expansion.  Walking around the area made me appreciate how very pretty the waterfront park is. 

This year the group has already made their list – it will be the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour.  You guessed it.  Never been to the Botanical Garden (can’t wait after looking on the Garden’s internet site) and even though I worked for A-B for years, have never gone on the brewery tour. 

Missouri Botanical Garden

So, again this year during girl’s weekend I will get to visit two more spots that visitors come to St. Louis to do but I’ve never done.  I’m thinking I need to have a lot more girl’s weekends in St. Louis as there is a lot to see and do.  Maybe we need to up the weekends to twice a year.  YIKES – that would mean spring cleaning again in the fall.  I love my friends but spring cleaning once a year is enough for me …….  

 ~ Susan

A few of my recent favorites

When I find something I like, I tend to OD on it.  So I thought I’d share what I’ve been OD-ing on lately. Beware, these items are very random :)

Pinterest.  Have you heard of it?  It’s the scrapbook of 201x.  And it’s amazing.  Looking for somewhere to save recipes? Pin them.  Looking to redecorate a room in your house? Do some online research and pin different ideas.  You can store images and/or links to ideas through images to pretty much anything online.  Check it out  :)

The Capri Blue Jar Candle – Volcano scent from Anthropologie has been burning in my house every night since before Christmas.  Anthropologie has a bunch of other great scents too, but right now this is it for me.  And while it’s expensive, it lasts a VERY long time, especially for someone that burns candles every night. 

Neuma hair products – organic, animal friendly and they pay attention to their impact on the earth.  That, and my hair is 100% healthier since I started using their products late last year.

Butternut squash everything – not lying.  I’ve been baking it, putting it on pizza, making my own soup, and more.  I’m not sure why it took me 30 years to find butternut squash, but consider me hooked.

Trader Joes organic split pea soup.  Filling, delicious, vegan and gluten free for those who look for that sort of thing.  Right now it’s my lunch at least 2 times a week.

So thats it – random, just like I warned you :)  I’m always looking for new things to try – how about you? Anything you’ve been OD-ing on lately?

Escape artists

Sometimes you just need to escape… without leaving the house.  Enter the DVR (how did we live without it?!).  Here is a taste of what the Sheality girls are escaping to these days.

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Since revealing my dirty little secret, I’ve actually cut down on the amount of TV that I watch… just not on the amount of TV that I record.  That continues to grow.  These days, in addition to The Bachelor and other nonsense that I watch, I’ve been overly into anything Alaska… meaning I search by keyword on my DVR, and record almost everything that shows life in Alaska. 

Full.  Blown.  Obsession.  A few of my favorites include:

Not only do I love the landscape and wildlife shots that they show in these shows, the lifestyle in the remote towns and villages of Alaska is so far from what I’ve ever seen, it’s fascinating to me. 

And, because I have a serious travel addiction (update: my passport arrived home safe and sound with 24 new pages!), I’m obviously planning a trip.  If you’ve been there, suggestions are appreciated :)

- Erin

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When I examined my DVR for something surprising, I thought, there is nothing surprising there, I DVR the same thing as everyone else – The Daily Show, Happy Endings, Californication, etc. Then I scrolled down past the Children’s Hospital episodes that I will never watch and two Woody Allen movies and there it was – 31 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – my DVR security blanket.

I actually own all seven seasons on DVD but I like knowing in an emergency (I’m not sure what a television emergency would be?) that I can watch a Buffy episode on a dime. To try to explain Buffy to those who don’t know it is difficult.

Television has never been the same for me since it went off the air. Long before Edward and Bill Compton there was Angel and Spike. Before all the anti-heroes that are everywhere now on television (House, Jack Bauer, Nurse Jackie) there was Buffy. Most people dismissed Buffy simply because of the name of the show. But it was meant to be ironic, because under the flaky name lies unexpected substance.

A consistently well told allegory whose science fiction world makes for so many more narrative possibilities than your average teen TV show. Everything was examined through the Buffyverse – fate, destiny, free will, love, good vs. evil – all the great literary themes. There have been countless academic studies on the show. And it was hilarious. They had me at the very first episode when Buffy explains to a vampire that his outfit made him look like DeBarge. 

So while I may never actually watch an episode, as they take up valuable space on my DVR, I rest easy, knowing that there will always be something amazing to watch on TV.

- Jen

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I saw Nora Ephron on a talk show recently.  One thing she said stuck with me because it is so true:  As soon as you get a DVR, you will never again be totally caught up because you will always have recorded shows that need to be watched. 

What’s on my DVR?   Everything I may possibly want to watch.  Why? Because I refuse to watch commercials.  The only recent exception is the Super Bowl and those commercials bored me silly this year. 

It’s much more telling to explain what’s NOT on my DVR.  Real Housewives of Anywhere, The Bachelor, The Voice and Selling New York.  The reason these shows are not on my DVR is because they rarely, if ever, finish recording before I start watching them. 

When I’m traveling for work, reality shows on my DVR is my reward when I come home. If my flight arrives in STL at midnight and I get home at 1 am, I still watch the Housewives before I can sleep.  And BTW, it totally pisses me off that the Bravo channel is not carried by the cable companies who provide service to any of the major hotel chains.    Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton — why do you do this to me?

- Susan

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Lately, I’m not motivated to leave the house for exercise.  That means my DVR is currently overflowing with either exercise shows or things to distract me enough that I’m willing to use my treadmill. 

My biggest diversion for the treadmill is Dr. Oz.   The man is amazing with having a show, a family, and an actual surgical practice.  I could definitely learn some time management from him. 

His shows are so interesting to me.  Just last week he gave a shopping list for 99 things to buy at the grocery store so you have quick, healthy, tasty alternatives ready to go.  And a lot of the items on his list were regulars on my shopping list, so I’m looking forward to trying the rest.  And he told foods to eat to reduce your risk for certain cancers at bay (apricots, limes, lima beans) and to keep your brain sharp (avocados, cashews, beets).  He even had a session on the newly approved non-invasive body sculpting Liposonix

You just gotta love Dr. Oz!!

- Lori

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Peak offsite season

It is the new year, which means it is high season for the corporate offsite. Be they sales or strategy related, it’s the time of year when corporate employees across the world find themselves gathering in exotic locations, but in basically the exact the same hotel conference center in each of those exotic locations. So far this year –and yes it is only end of January – I’ve been to Buenos Aires and Paris… Glamorous travel it is not.. I’ve literally experienced almost 4 hours at most outside of the hotel in each location.

In Buenos Aires it was to see a historical show that featured singing, horses and some dancing and tonight in Paris we board a boat for a river Seine tour (Never mind that the forecast is for –17 tomorrow).

While I feel strongly that corporations are the biggest abuser and offender of ignoring the carbon footprint by sending loads of suited corporate droids on planes across the world at the drop of the hat, I do have to admit that there is no better way to improve working relationships… BUT…it has nothing to do with the actual offsite, typically, and everything to do with who you sit next to at any meal, on the plane, in the cab or while taking a break.

So let’s try something different – what about reconceptualizing the offsite as a planned series of global meeting that don’t have to be product/group or solution specific, but more of an all call for various levels with people being randomly selected for locations. I imagine our productivity would increase greatly by being able to know (with more than 2–3 weeks advance notice) where you were going to go and actually having much more planned interaction vs set agenda.

Probably won’t work… but I have to say that 16 hour and 10 hour flights for 2 days of meetings just doesn’t allow me to feel like I’m doing my best work. In fact, I am mostly just jet lagged with a tinge of regret as to the red wine I drank last night. But c’est la vie.. Hope the coffee break comes soon.

~Michaela

What Doesn’t Kill You……….

Last week held a personal milestone…the 20th anniversary of my wedding, and I’m single now.  I don’t think I’m a bitter person, but the anniversary made me contemplative.

I was surprised how devastating a divorce is.  Before my own, it seemed a sad, but routine, part of life.  Ours was relatively simple and not unexpected.  And still, divorcing ripped out my core.  I lost a lot of weight, couldn’t think straight, cried until I looked like an alien.  There was such a sense of loss and rejection.  It was the death of a dream.

It is the only time in my life I truly SCREAMED at someone.  Not in anger; I never really got angry at him even though my friends did.  I was questioning the way it unfolded.  He had been emotionally checked out for two years.  I yelled because I wanted to know why he wasted my time when he knew he was over me.

In your forties, two years make a big difference.  I went through the painful, slow death of his Mother followed quickly by that of his Father.  My face and knees got wrinkled, my breasts sagged and other similarly wonderful things happened in those two years.

Most damaging was sharing a home and bed with the husband I knew was slipping away, begging a man to love me while he shunned me.  I prayed, read self-help books, went to counseling, and focused my life on him in a desperate attempt to save our marriage when I should have been moving on with my life, as he already had!

I couldn’t attend church for a while. Waiting for the service routinely left me in tears.  Seeing families made me feel broken, like a failure, and reminded me I was single and would never have a child.  In other public places, I wondered what was so wrong with me that I didn’t deserve someone… like she did… or he did.

My ex had taken my chance to have children, though he promised otherwise before we married.  There were other fundamental promises replaced with excuses.  He thought it was a temporary phase, thought he could change me…  Really?  The awful truth was that what I wanted, what he’d promised, just wasn’t that important to him…. and maybe our 15-year relationship had been based on misconceptions.

Sadly, divorce affects your social network.  My ex made it easier by leaving town; I could even afford to stay in my home.  But some married couples, some even close friends, weren’t so comfortable around me anymore.  I lost the work friends, but that was expected for multiple reasons.

The hardest part was losing family.  I have no full siblings and a small family, but he was close to his two siblings and had a large extended family.  They were my family; and then… nothing.  Most concerning was losing my stepparent relationships.  But, I’m blessed to know my stepson’s family.    For that, I am very thankful to him and his wonderful wife.

The divorce taught me not to be afraid to reach out and not to waste time, eventually made me a better friend and daughter.  I’m healthy and happy, but would like to be married again.  I’m trying to be smarter this time.  I realize it might not happen, and I’m taking steps to make sure I remain okay with that.

~Lori

Potentially Useful Links

After a While (Poem)

Spiritual Divorce (book)

Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay (book)