Category Archives: work

Wednesday With Friends

Today is the first day of my blogging challenge that I haven’t known what I was going to write about so I just sat down in front of the laptop and opened a blank post.

It was a different kind of day: today is exactly one month since my hip replacement surgery and only my second time away from the farm. I am reasonably mobile although I carry a cane when I’m outside the house. We visited a friend who has had a bumper crop of pecans. The family gifted us a basket for the holidays and then invited us to come over for more. I visited with my friend while my husband used a pretty nifty tool to pick up the pecans. We’ll let them dry before shelling and then I will make a pie and these chewy pecan pie bars. The latter are delicious and do not require dealing with pie crust. Later, after running into my husband in town, the same friend stopped by our house for an afternoon visit. Lovely. We chatted some more and took a walk around the barnyard.

This is a little slice of life that I share as it is a reminder to me that I should take more advantage of the flexibility of my schedule. Knocking off to go visiting would not have been something I did pre-surgery. After all, the world could not live without me. My friend is a real estate agent with a similarly flexible schedule. We may have felt a little guilty for playing hooky, but as professionals, we knew a few hours of rest could actually help us focus better later. Huge rationalization? Maybe…but I think these kind of opportunities to connect with others informally within the confines of “working hours” could be considered a type of mindfulness. My friend and I talked about work and family and podcasts and books and gardening. We weren’t trying to accomplish goals or solve problems: we were just sharing ideas and stories around common interests on a wonderful Wednesday afternoon.

I love my work but my goal for the new year is to make sure I also make time for life.

 

 

 

 

 

Reconsidering How Work and Learning Happen

Avatar workingI work hard doing work I love. I am fortunate in that. And, I get to mostly do it from home which takes away a lot of the daily stresses (clean clothes, lunches, commutes). And yet, without the guardrails of regular work hours and employer expectations, it is easy to start to work all the time. Maybe not for hours on end but in bursts and starts that eventually take over the whole day. Work is always the focus.

Checking email is the worst culprit: quick glances throughout the day and following up with minor issues that didn’t need same day responses. (I get lots of “wow, thanks for getting back to me so quickly,” replies by way of example.)

And then, I had my hip replaced on December 11, 2019, and made a promise mostly to myself to just let it all go. Put up an out of office and go on leave. And, miracle of miracles, I did it. At first, it was because I really was in recovery, but after ten days, I was doing well both physically and mentally and would have been easily able to dive in. Yet, I didn’t even as I saw the number of messages ticking upwards in the app. Life could and would go on without me.

What did I do instead? First, I didn’t go offline completely. But, I did redirect my time. I tried to get engaged in Twitter more deeply than just retweeting and liking. I had a little success with some conversations. I also got more involved in LibraryThing and continue to make that community my priority for online interactions.

Offline, I read, played the piano, and crocheted, finishing up some of my Christmas gifts and then diving into my first piece of crocheted clothing: a sweater vest for my dad. It took a couple tries to get going but it is coming together nicely. I am a little worried that it is going to be too big but I guess that is better than too small.

So, as with many of you out there, this morning was something of a shock to the system. Honestly, the email was easily dealt with (mostly spam and promotions and updates), but after 90 minutes of reading and adding to the task list, I was tired, longing for the freedom of the past three weeks. And, I thought, there wasn’t any reason not to close out and take a break. So, that’s what I did. Took a break. Read a book. Wrote this blog post. Had lunch with my husband.

And, tried hard not to feel guilty that I hadn’t immediately put my shoulder to the proverbial grindstone the way most of my colleagues are doing at this very moment. From break to work without any kind of real transition. It’s tough for adults and probably tougher for the kids. Learning to put work in perspective, learning how to create a humane schedule, learning when you work best or when you need a break. All of those are lessons that, evidently have taken me 20 years and a new hip to learn. I wonder how we might help our children learn them along the way?

 

More Play Than Work

I am of a certain age, I think, where one starts considering retirement. And, this week, my Dad turned 84:

I have been so fortunate to find work that intersects with my passion and the line between work and play is often blurred. Consider it a continuum: the work includes things like balancing the books where there is little or no room for play while the play end includes things like making a game console to play our Scratch games and  sample Valentine’s Day Light-Up Cards for my STEM club meeting on Tuesday. It’s called volunteer “work” but it directly connects to my own desire to learn and create…to play!

The game console grew out of our experiments during our last meeting. We had some success with creating buttons and grounding bracelets but didn’t have time to perfect them. I wanted to show them how the engineering process works by taking the ideas we worked with and making a prototype of a console that they can explore.

How does this relate to retirement? My husband says I will never retire. I say I will just move closer to the play end of the continuum. Fewer Quick Books and more circuits and Scratch programming, along with Legos, as one friend suggested:

Lifeskill: Learning To Use Lulls

I feel like I have been hurtling through 2018. Several personal and business trips kept me on the road more than usual, and then I have been playing catch up when I am back in the office. But, there is some light on the horizon. Just a couple more events that are going to be lots of fun and then a week of vacation to cap off the month.

But even in the midst of all the busy-ness including heading into the overlap between the spring and summer semesters of my online course, I woke up to a lull today. I certainly had a to do list but nothing on it was pressing. I answered a few emails, did two phone meetings in the morning, and then decided everything else could wait until tomorrow or over the weekend. I needed some breathing space and took advantage of a nice day to dig in the garden, moving a few hostas and sweet william and doing some general cleanup.

I call this a lifeskill–the ability to know when to work and when, even though it is a Thursday afternoon, you can put aside work for a bit of a break. I think it’s one that is hard to learn in a classroom or regular job. Working from home as part of the gig economy means tuning into the natural ebb and flow of work rather than following an established number of hours each day, otherwise known as seat time.

You can create a daily routine that matches your preferences for when and where to work. From there, you may find a weekly routine (established events or activities) or identify a yearly pattern (ie, busy in the fall teaching a course with less work in the summer). Why is this important? Because if you don’t identify these moments of “lull,” you will just keep working. At some point, nothing on the to do list is on fire or a live frog or any other kind of emergency so you can put it aside for a few hours or a day. A mental health day or mini-vacation. Even the most passionate person needs time to be away from the work, maybe pursuing some other passion or finding space for relaxation.

Today I enjoyed a lull, and I’ll be better for it tomorrow.

Finding the Flow

Inspired by Donna Donner’s post 12 Month Human at Four O’Clock Faculty which I found on Twitter via Tamara Letter:

I write a fair amount about living a life outside the traditional workforce. One lesson I continue to learn about living this life is that it flows and living in rather than fighting the flow is the way to move smoothly and calmly even through the rapids.

I was the road warrior in June: just take a look at my reading log. I hit a high of 13 books because I discovered The 39 Clues series on Audible. Each book takes about 4-1/2 hours of listening, which just happened to be the average length of each of my car trips. Every day was planned to the minute as each task had to be completed on time if events and trips were going to be successful. There was no time for procrastination. Within that strict regimen there was “work” and “life” as even my garden was part of the to do list. Weeding had to be done before I was gone for ten days. That meant a daylong marathon with shovel and cart. My husband shepherded me inside at dusk, handing me two ibuprofen as I walked up the steps.

And now…it’s July, and for the first time in many years, I am home. No traveling, no training, even very little “work.” My mother was worried that I was going to be bored and suggested I could use the free time to house clean. I’m thinking more Scratch programming and Raspberry Pi exploration along with early morning hours in the garden and long afternoons floating in the pool with a book.

Donna Donna got to the heart of my life when she wrote that her teaching life is “entwined with all the other cycles of my life.” She goes on:

As my summer rolls on I will honor my love of learning, my love for my family, my love for my profession and my curiosity of the world. My life cycle flows with this balance all year long. You see, I am a 12-month mother. I am a 12-month wife. I am a 12-month friend.  I am a 12-month teacher. I am a 12-month human. I never take a vacation from any of those parts of me. Some parts just come out a little stronger at times but all contribute to balancing me as a whole.

I think the struggle is figuring out which part is stronger at any time as I tend to want to always focus on the work I do for others first. I resonated with Donna sitting on the porch with her hummingbirds–mine are at their height right now, buzzing me as I head out to fill the feeders–reviewing her notes from a summer workshop. For me, it would be planning ahead for my fall courses and events.

Then, I sat down at the laptop this morning prepared to put in a full morning of work and realized I didn’t have to…I could browse Twitter and that led to Tamara’s tweet and Donna’s post and some writing. It’s a different kind of work this personal reflection and community connection, and who knows where it might lead. The emails will wait; the preparation for an October workshop will wait; it’s time for the focus to be on my own learning and growing and flowing.