Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why I've Been Scarce Here Lately

As I keep saying, I've been super busy lately. But all that busyness has started to pay off... I have tangible things to show you to account for why most of my posts for the past month have been links posts.

This blog post is going to be all news- I have three things I want to tell you about, two of which account for my whereabouts these past few weeks, and one of which was just a nice surprise I want to share.

Sadly, I may still be scarce around her for awhile more... but this time it will be because we're in the end of the school year silly season and because we have a vacation coming up. Still, my self-induced work hecticness is winding down, so maybe I can squeeze in some more blog posts. I miss rambling on about my life.

Anyway, on to the news:

Item 1: Academaze is now ready for pre-order!

Honestly, this one should have confetti or something, because this is the biggest book I've ever published and it has a bunch of cartoons which added some complexity to the publishing process... so it was a lot of work with some new things to learn. But, it has turned out great! You can just imagine the confetti, though. I know how to make text blink in HTML (I'm old and old school....) but I won't do that to you.

Academaze is a collection of essays and cartoons from the awesome woman who blogs at Xykademiqz about life as a professor at an R1 university. If you're on the tenure track, this book will give you some advice about how to navigate that track successfully. If you're thinking about getting on the tenure track, it will tell you about the job search process and give you a peak at what you'll be signing up for. If you have tenure, it has ideas for handling departmental politics and mentoring your students. And if you're a bystander to this whole academia thing, it will tell you what, exactly, professors are doing all day when they aren't in class.

Plus it is fun to read and the cartoons are amusing.

So all around, a great book to get. You should totally pre-order it.

Here's the Annorlunda news post about the pre-order, with links to all the retailers and more information.

Item 2: Don't Call It Bollywood comes out tomorrow and to celebrate, the author and I are hosting a Twitter watchalong of a Hindi film on Thursday night!

The "overly optimistic scheduling decision" I made was to try to bring two books out in close succession. (And actually, I have a third coming in July, but there's enough breathing room between Academaze and that one that my schedule is now starting to return to normal.)

It was totally worth it, because they are both great books and I wanted to get them out to readers before the summer doldrums hit. And I did it! I'm on schedule for the Academaze release, and Don't Call It Bollywood comes out TOMORROW.

If you've forgotten what Don't Call It Bollywood is about, it is an introduction to Hindi film that gives the reader the historical and artistic context to fully appreciate these films. Author Margaret E. Redlich writes in a conversational tone and intersperses some stories from her own personal path to devoted fandom in with the history and analysis, making this a very approachable book to read.

And, after reading it so many times during the production process I'm very excited to actually watch a Hindi film! Margaret has chosen Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham for our celebratory watch along, and you are all invited to join in the fun. It starts Thursday at 6 p.m. PDT/9 p.m. EDT. I'll be tweeting from the @AnnorlundaInc twitter account, and will also retweet a few things into my @wandsci timeline. Full details of the watch along are available on the Annorlunda news page.

Item 3: My children's books are now available in Kindle Unlimited

This is the "wow, that's a pleasant surprise!" item. My June royalty statement from my publisher included a note that my books will now be available in Kindle Unlimited. Usually, to be included in Kindle Unlimited, you have to be exclusive with Amazon. However, Xist Publishing has negotiated a deal with Amazon that gets its books into Kindle Unlimited without the exclusivity requirement. So you can still get The Zebra Said Shhh and Petunia, the Girl Who Was Not a Princess at other retailers and via other subscription services (like Epic), but it is now available to read for free if you're a member of Kindle Unlimited.

This probably means more royalty income for me, which is nice. But it is also a really big deal for my publisher, and I'm happy for them.

In somewhat related news, one of the things I cut from my to do list in my push to deal with my tight publishing schedule was updates to the book blog at mrnelsonbooks. I'm going to start posting there again now that I'm through "crunch time" and will start sending out the newsletter again, too. I've also been working on a new story, which I hope to start sending out to publishers soon. It is in its final tweaking stage. So who knows? There might be more kids' book related news from me at some point in the future.

In the meantime... check out the two new releases I have coming up from Annorlunda Books, and if you're tempted to join the watch along, please do! I think it is going to be a lot of fun.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Still Too Busy Edition

As I mentioned in my last post, the kids were home with me today. I decided to try to work this morning and then go play in the afternoon. That worked, mostly. The kids interrupted a few times, but mostly let me work, and I got enough done to be able to take the afternoon off without feeling too bad about it. I even managed to squeeze in another hour of work after our afternoon's fun, thereby producing a solid draft of my next Chronicle Vitae article,

For fun we did three things: (1) had lunch and McDonalds (Petunia's request), (2) went to a park (Pumpkin's request), and (3) when to Birch Aquarium (Petunia's request, but Pumpkin got to decide whether we'd stay there for our afternoon treat or go somewhere else).

We had a lot of fun. And I bought a purse:

Sadly, I will still need to do some work this weekend. Through some overly optimistic planning on my part and some bad luck, I've ended up with a lot of deadlines right now, so my to do list each day is pretty daunting. I need to keep plowing through the backlog of work.  I'm making progress, though, and while I'm definitely Too Busy, I'm not Oh My God How Am I Ever Going to Get This Done Busy.

Anyway, let's have some links. I don't have many (see above about being Too Busy), but what I have is good. Of course.

Congress just failed again to pass funding to deal with Zika. This makes me so angry. There will be children born with severe disabilities because of their inaction.

Here is yet another reminder that algorithms are only as impartial as the people who build them and the data that trains them... and so if your input data represents the results of bias, your output will be biased. We need to never forget this.

Here, this will make you feel better about humanity: a Dad's love letter to his child.

Do you remember the story in Into the Wild? Well, Jon Krakauer never stopped researching how Chris McCandless died.

My favorite share on my Annorlunda Books page this week: the history of Pho.

Here's your fun ending: a tumblr of pictures of David Bowie paired with pictures of sea slugs. It is strangely hypnotic, and rather beautiful.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Postcards from the Land of Porous Boundaries

Mr. Snarky got up early this morning to go for a run, and I woke up, too. I thought I'd get up and write a blog post, or work on the recommendations I'm writing up for my current coaching client. I like the quiet time early in the morning, if I am actually awake for it without setting an alarm. If I have to set an alarm, I will just turn it off and sleep as long as I can. Except on Mondays. On Mondays I generally have enough willpower to get up with the early alarm and go for a run.

But this morning  I came out to the living room to find both of my kids already awake and ready for breakfast. So I had a normal morning routine instead, just shifted early. I thought maybe I'd get to come into my office a little early and write this post, but that didn't really happen, either. Somehow, the kids filled the time.

That's just how it goes these days. I try to set boundaries around the time I need or want, and they leak. I suspect this is the sort of thing I'll miss when my kids are grown, but right now, I find the porous boundaries hard to handle. I try to carve out time for things I want or need to do, but it only works if the kids are asleep or out of the house. I keep forgetting that this is the case. My kids seem old enough to entertain themselves! And sometimes, they are. I can't depend on it, though. Pumpkin is old enough to know she shouldn't interrupt me when I've tried to go do my own things, but she is not old enough to always act on that knowledge. Petunia isn't old enough to even recognize the boundary yet.

For instance, yesterday was open house at the kids' school, which meant I had to stop working about an hour early. The open house was fun. We have great food vendors: delicious tacos from a local taco shop and wonderful ice cream from a local ice cream shop. Petunia was beyond excited to show us her classroom and her work. Pumpkin was excited to check out the fourth grade classroom and see what projects she'll be doing next year.

(As an aside: our kids do a lot of projects, and make a lot of dioramas. Michaels does well from us buying clay and other supplies... but the kids have fun doing it, and I guess it helps consolidate the things they learn. This year's big project with a diorama was about a Native American tribe. Pumpkin picked the Maya, and ended up building a replica temple as part of her diorama. Her classmates did wonderful jobs with various types of dwellings. The girl who did her project on the Hopi made very realistic houses out of sandpaper. I recognized her tribe from the diorama before I even saw her poster with the name.  Next year, it looks like Pumpkin will be building a "site in California." The fourth grade class we visited had a Legoland (made out of Lego!), the Hollywood sign, and Randy's Donuts, among other things.)

We got home an hour before our usual "get ready for bed" time. I thought that maybe I could make up some of that hour I lost while the kids played, and told the kids I was going into the office to work. No such luck. They kept interrupting me. I managed to get a little bit done, but not enough to replace the lost hour, and I still had to work after the kids were in bed. I think the lesson there is that I should have just gone and played soccer with the kids and not even tried to work until after bedtime. But that cuts into my time to do things like yoga, or read a book, so I'm always tempted to try to avoid the after bedtime work if I can.

We're working on helping the kids recognize the boundaries, but I think I need to be realistic about what I expect. The boundaries are at least there now, but they are still porous and I think they will be for another couple of years at least.

It doesn't help matters that our school district decided to make the friday before Memorial Day a day off this year. It is the first year they've done it, and the YMCA, which usually organizes a day camp for school district holidays that aren't actually holidays, has no camp. So the kids will be home with me. I am debating how much to try to work and how much to just take off and go do something fun with the kids. The problem is, I have some work that I really need to get done. I suspect I could get the kids to leave me mostly alone in the morning if I promise some fun in the afternoon,  so I could take half of Friday off and trade it for half of one of the other weekend days, when Mr. Snarky will be home and able to take the kids to the park or out for a bike ride. But... Saturday is my birthday, so I don't really want to work then. And I was looking forward to a proper three day weekend.

However, I think that the half day Friday and some dedicated work time on one of the other days is going to be the least annoying option, so that's probably what I'll do.

I guess the general lesson of this time of porous boundaries is that it doesn't really matter what I wish could happen. I need to look at what is actually going to happen, and assess what the realistic alternatives actually are, and choose from those. Wishing for an unattainable ideal just leads to unhappiness.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Almost Caught Up Edition

I'm soooo close to being caught up. But I'm not there yet. That's why this post is later than usual today- I was pushing to try to finish something before I went to pick up the kids, and then the kids and I went out for a little "girls' night out." Mr. Snarky has a friend in town for a conference, and he went downtown for dinner with his friend. So the girls and I went to dinner, too, and then for a walk on the beach (short, because it was windy and the tide was high), and then to Rita's for a treat.

Anyway, once I get them in bed, I need to get back to work. I under a deadline to finish something by tomorrow night. I'll make it, but not without some work tonight.

So, withour further delay, here are the links I've gathered this week:

First off, three things from Vox that I liked:

The story about how the rich families in Florence have remained rich for 700 years sort of blew my mind. When I think about it, I shouldn't be surprised. But it still blew my mind.

I liked this post about the benefits of urban farming. I enjoy having my little pots of veggies in the backyard, and dream of someday having an actual vegetable garden. First, I need to get blinds in the office, though. Twice a day, the sun comes in and blinds me for about 10 minutes. I should really fix that. Also, the sun is probably bleaching the upholstery on my chair. So, no vegetable garden for me until I finish fixing up the inside of the house. (In addition to the blinds, I have a window to get fixed, curtains to buy, and some baseboards that still haven't been painted since the remodel.)

Finally, a few weeks ago there was a spate of posts about how you can't lose weight with exercise, and then there was a spate of posts about how you can't rely on diet alone to keep you thin, and then there was that depressing story about the people who had gone on The Biggest Loser... and perhaps in response to that, a doctor who specializes in obesity wrote a post about how yes, it is possible to lose weight and keep it off, we just need to ditch our "all or nothing" mindset. Here's the part I really like:

"The term I coined to describe it is "best weight," where your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you're living the healthiest life that you actually enjoy."

Mother Jones published an excerpt from Peggy Orenstein's latest book, and it has me a bit scared for my future of helping my daughters navigate their way to a healthy attitude towards their bodies and towards sex. Thankfully, I have a little time before I have to really deal with this, but it is coming up fast.

I've mostly stopped reading the political posts because my mind is made up on how I'm voting and what I'm doing and all of the analysis is just stressing me out. But Rolling Stone's Matt Taibi went in on the GOP and Donald Trump, and all I can say is: DAMN.

Paying skilled workers more would help solve the "skills gap."

I like this post from Kameron Hurley, about meeting up with feminists younger and older than herself.

I don't seem to have anything funny saved to share, but if you're looking for something lighthearted and fun to read, this week's Tungsten Hippo recommendation is a good option. 

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Breathing Room

I am determined not to let another week go by without a post, so I'm going to try to finish this draft that has been sitting in my drafts folder for several days, even though the reason it is sitting in the drafts folder is that I'm having a hard time solidifying my thoughts. You've been warned....

A couple of weeks ago, Sheryl Sandberg wrote a long post (on Facebook, of course) about how she hadn't realized how much harder it is to "lean in" as a single mother.

There are, of course, a bazillion pieces of writing about this, some rolling their figurative eyes at her, some more sympathetic.

I fall on the more sympathetic side, probably because I have recently been confronted with my own example of the limits of empathy. It is hard to understand what we don't experience, and I've yet to come across someone who doesn't have some blind spots. Yes, Sandberg could have done more to include the extra challenges faced by single mothers in her original book, but I give her credit for admitting her error so publically.

Probably my favorite reaction to her announcement was a piece I only got around to reading today, from Andie Fox (some of you might know of her from her Blue Milk blog). Fox writes about her own early years of single motherhood, and how precarious it all sometimes was.

I have no experience with single motherhood - my husband is very much still here and present and doing things like being in charge of dentist appointments - but something resonated with me in her piece, and I think it is helping me draw together some disparate threads I've been thinking about for a long time.

Sandberg's post and Fox's piece about it both highlight how much of how we experience life depends on how much margin we have to absorb the unexpected. Call it buffer (as we do when we talk about finance), call it slack (as I do when I talk about kanban and time use and project management), call it breathing room. I've come to think we don't have enough of it, in any aspect of most of our lives.

Through most of human history, this was almost inevitable. We were struggling to find food to survive, and shelter to keep us safe from the elements. We do not need to operate in that paradigm anymore. We have learned so much about how to master our world that we could all live without fear of starvation, and with a roof over our heads.

We haven't figured out how to do that, yet, but that is largely a problem of figuring outh ow to share resources effectively and negotiating the politics. It is no longer a technical one. Of course, as is so often the case, the technical challenge turned out to be the easy part. The remaining challenges are hard, and I don't underestimate that.

I don't know how solve the political problem of poverty, and that's not really what this post is about.

It is more about how a lot of people don't have enough breathing room, really, even if they have enough money for food and shelter, and how unevenly this breathing room can be distributed, even within a single family. (Some families do a better job of distributing the breathing room than others, of course.)

I've long thought that this lack of breathing room in our way of life is not healthy, even for those of us who aren't dealing with extreme situations like poverty. I think that for some people, it may contribute to both physical and mental illness. I think it takes something from all of us, even if it doesn't make us clinically ill. I wonder what our world would look like if we could figure out how to give everyone a little more slack in their lives.

When I'm operating without enough slack, I'm less kind. I don't parent as well as I can. I don't take care of myself. I don't make the best decisions. I'm more likely to let my asthma spiral out of control. I am less likely to notice the beauty of a sunset or a crisp, clear night.

I think there are aspects of our culture that steal breathing room away from people unnecessarily. Our focus on material wealth as a sign of success. Our "always on" work culture, that I firmly believe is counterproductive even for its stated goal of achieving more productivity with less money. Our tendency to judge other people's choices (and feel defensive about our own), which I think leads to "competitive parenting" that creates pressure to be seen doing things that don't actually add that much value to our children's lives.

I could probably go on, if I thought about it some more. I think there is a lot of good in our modern culture, too- see the above point about making enough food to feed people. Also, there are little things like how I had two wonderful conversations yesterday with people who support me and believe in me - and who I would never have met without this online space we've created.

So I'm not arguing for returning to a "simpler life." I don't think earlier ages were any kinder to people. In fact, in many ways, they were probably less kind. Instead, I'm arguing for us to stop and think a bit more carefully about how we want to use the resources we have. Can we add more breathing room in for people, and if we do, can we distribute it a bit more fairly?

I don't know how to do this. I think being more deliberate about our own work is a start. I think that if we find ourselves in a position in which we manage other people and their work, we have a responsibility to learn how to do it well, so that those people can have more breathing room, too. I may even think this is a moral responsibility, although I'm hesitant to label it as such.

I don't delude myself into thinking that helping more people do these things will solve all the worlds problems, but I very much believe that it will make the world a little better. This is why I'm so passionate about work hours and better management.  I really do think it makes a difference, at least in the local environment around the people who are making more breathing room for themselves and others.

And maybe, if we get enough little pockets of breathing room, they'll start to merge together, and we really will change things for the better.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Well, It Wasn't a BAD Stomach Bug Edition

Another week with no blog post. Bah.  I blame the stomach bug my six year came down with on Tuesday and gave to me. It wasn't a bad stomach bug, or at least it wasn't bad for us. All bodily fluids stayed where they belonged, but she was miserable with a stomach ache for a day and a half. My stomach was just a little dodgy for a bit, and I was wiped out.

I will say, though, that the one thing worse than wanting to throwing up and not being able to is watching your kid want to throw up and be unable to. Probably the "kiss and hug the poor thing" instinct this triggered in me is why I got sick and my husband (who sensibly kept his distance) did not.

Oh well.

Anyway, how about some links?

First of all... IT IS PRE-ORDER TIME!!! Yes, Don't Call it Bollywood is now available for pre-order. While you're checking out those links, admire the website redesign I completed last weekend.

Also, we're probably going to do the Twitter watch-along on June 2. Details still being worked out. If you're interested in joining us for that, you can still sign up to get the details by email.

And if you're sort of curious, but on the fence... the author has a blog that you can check out.

Another aspect of modern India: they are trying to clean up the Ganges. I find the format of that story incredibly annoying, but the content is worth the effort.

If you've seen the glowing posts about those signing gloves, read this alternative view.

On how to evaluate the validity of political labels:

Ta-Nehisi Coates' post about what happened when he and his wife tried to buy a new house felt like a punch to the gut. Maybe it his excellent writing. Maybe it is the knowledge that the thing that propelled him to fame was an article that was ultimately about unfair housing practices. I don't know. But damn. Those journalists should be ashamed of themselves.

Sarah Marshall wrote a thoughtful article about looking back, and rethinking, the "scandals" of the 90s. I always believed Anita Hill, and thought O.J. Simpson almost certainly killed Nicole. But Tonya Harding. Oh wow. We did not do right by her at all.

Speaking of women we aren't doing right by: Ann Friedman considers a tough week for sexual assault survivors.

That's a heavy way to end, so let's lighten it up with this cartoon:

and this nerdy Hamilton fun:

And for any other SoCal folks who might be visiting LA (or who live there): I want to check out all of these bars. And write a similar list for San Diego. Exhaustively researched, of course.

But... neither of those wishes is likely to come true. I can, perhaps, nibble around the edges, though, and plan my next trip to LA around one of those bars. I can also get some Saturday afternoon babysitting set up some week and pick one of the many outdoor San Diego bars to visit.

This weekend, though, I'll probably just go easy on my stomach.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 06, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Oww, My Neck Hurts Edition

This morning, I put my hands up to my head to wash my hair, and something went SPASM in my neck/upper back, and OWWWWWW. This sucks. I never used to have problems with my back, but I've had something like this happen at least three times in the last 12 months. I think this means I'm getting old?

Anyway, I won't let a little pain keep me from posting my weekend links. But they might be shorter than usual.

First of all, I want to show you the cover of the next book I'm publishing, Don't Call It Bollywood, by Margaret E. Redlich. It will be out on June 1.

I'd usually link to the Annorlunda web page for it, but I'm in the process of upgrading the Annorlunda website, so I'll have to link to the Facebook post about it, instead.

Pre-orders start next week. I'm also still signing up people to be advance readers for this book. In addition, I'm planning to do a "watch-along" on Twitter. I'm a newbie to Hindi film, so I'll get Margaret to pick a movie for us to watch, and then we'll live tweet it with a hashtag I come up with. If you're interested in participating in that, you can also sign up on the advance readers form, and I'll send you a free e-copy of the book. Or you can just watch this space for an announcement of when the watch-along will be, and join in!

The website redesign is coming along, and should be ready in time for the pre-order period. I'm not doing anything drastic, but now that I have several books and a better idea of what I'm doing, it is time to update the placeholder site I put up when I started out.

OK, moving on to the links:

Obama gives the best speeches. Here is an excerpt of a speech he gave in Flint on the need for government. I hope that whatever he does post-White House, he still gives a lot of speeches.

I never would have guessed Lindsey Graham would be the one with a backbone, but there it is. I'm watching the rest of the Republican party fail this particular test with sadness.

Trump clinching the Republican nomination split my Twitter feed between people freaking out that he would win and people sure that he couldn't win. Like I said on Twitter, I come down on "the math's against him, but anything is possible" side. Ultimately, I don't think panic or complacency are a good response. I think it is time to step and do something:

I'll be donating money to Hillary's campaign, for a start. I'm thinking about what else I can do.

I know that there are people who really don't like Hillary, both on the left and the right. For those people, I offer this assessment from a sad Republican who is still going to do the right thing. To my Republican friends who find it in their hearts to vote for Hillary: I promise that if the Democrats every nominate someone as dangerously ill-suited to be President as Donald Trump is, I will take a deep breath and vote for whatever unpalatable (to me) but not dangerous candidate the Republicans (or whoever replaces them?) nominates.

As evidence, I offer the fact that I signed the petition to recall my last mayor, who was a Democrat, even though I suspected that would mean I'd get a new mayor whose policies I liked a lot less. I did, but at least he says he won't support Trump.

That's enough politics.

I suspect this idea for renting space in communal living arrangements around the world will get some grief from some quarters, but I think it is a pretty good idea, and actually know some people who would have been good candidates to use this service a few years ago.

This post from Laura Vanderkam is a good reminder to question the spin people put on the data... Also, mornings are generally pretty laid back around here (combination of early rising kids and late starting school), and while I sometimes wish I could sleep in longer, I think I prefer the low stress mornings. I've been experimenting with ways to capture more of the time for my own purposes, too. Still, if someone asked me if I'd use the hashtag #blessed to describe my mornings, I'd laugh at them. I don't think I'd use that hashtag to describe anything about my life, really.

Here's a good post about why you want bleached cake flour.

Here's a good article about the differences between the food foodies talk about and the food the rest of us make.

Happy weekend, everyone. I think I'm going to go collapse on a heating pad now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


I have something on my mind that's interfering with my concentration, and since today is a work from home day, I think I'll try to write it out. Then I'll go for a run, and hopefully come back able to focus on the rest of my day.

I've tweeted a couple of times this week about having an epiphany or two about what made me take a sudden left turn off of my original career path. I want to write about those, but first, I need to set the stage.

I'm currently splitting my time between contracting and starting a business. The current focus of the business is short ebooks, but I have other (related) plans for the medium and long term. I am committed to this business and don't forsee abandoning it, even though it is the sort of business that grows slowly.

However, I am also committed to paying my bills, and don't forsee deciding to drastrically downsize them, either (for instance, by selling our house and moving some place cheaper). We don't need my full former income to pay our bills, but we need a sizeable percentage of it.

My contract work is what makes this possible. My current main contract will be winding down over the next few months. With it, goes my main source of income. This is not at all an unexpected event. In fact, I'm surprised the contract has run this long. I have been working to diversify my sources of income in anticipation of this. Unfortunately for me, I haven't managed to make anything else pay well enough to replace this income.  Fortunately for me, the money I'll book before the contract ends should cover me for this calendar year, even though the actual work will probably finish earlier.

This gives me time to figure out what to do next. My current plan is to continue hustling to make my other projects pay more, and to ramp up my efforts to find another contract. My fallback plan is to go back to a full time job.

To be clear, I don't intend to shut down my corporation if I go back to fulltime work. My understanding of California labor law is that my employer couldn't really force me to do that (they can require that I not compete with them, but that's easy enough to ensure). But if push comes to shove, I'll take a full time job over running out of money. I'd probably just scale back the number of books I publish next year, and work on a strategy to grow that business slowly while I continue to work.

Also, if I sign up to work somewhere fulltime, it will be under the same assumptions I have always had: I'll stay and give the job my all for as long as the work is interesting and rewarding, and I don't count on them keeping me employed past the next paycheck. Fifteen years in biotech has taught me not to expect anything more from an employer, and my own code of ethics means I won't give an employer anything less.

So anyway, my main focus right now is on building my business and looking for more contracts, but I've started looking at job ads, mostly to get an idea of what sort of fulltime jobs I might look for if/when I decide to do that.

And the crappy thing is, everytime I looked at a job ad, I just wanted to cry. Not because of the possibility that I might need to go back to being a fulltime employee, but because reading the job descriptions I would always find two or three items that made me think "and that is how this job will suck." I couldn't see myself in those jobs, being treated with full respect. I could see myself in those jobs, constantly fighting for respect and recognition for what I do, because that is what I've mostly known. I wondered how I could possibly make a compelling application for a job, because the thought of actually doing any of the jobs I was looking at filled me with dread.

I'd pretty much resigned myself to the idea that if I go back to being a fulltime employee, I will be going back to feeling like every day is a bit of a battle, to feeling underappreciated and taken for granted.

But then, I went to look something up on a website for an email I was sending, and on a whim, I clicked on that site's "jobs" tab. I saw a job that I thought I could possibly be a good candidate for that didn't make me think "and that is how this job will suck." I was actually excited reading it, and even though I'm not actively searching for a fulltime job yet, I may apply for this job. We'll see.

That triggered epiphany #1: the problem wasn't with the idea of getting a job, it was with the specific jobs I was looking at.  There are jobs out there that wouldn't fill me with dread, that I might actually be excited about.

The next day, I was answering a question from someone about one of my previous jobs, and I suddenly realized: all but one of my promotions came from a woman boss. I've had more male bosses than female bosses, and frankly, I've really liked almost all of them. But only one promotion has ever come from a man. It was my first promotion, and even in giving me it, he told me that I couldn't go higher until I "demonstrated I could build consensus."

(That wasn't bad advice, by the way, and damn, can I build consensus now... but it hasn't been a 100% good thing. I can often build consensus so unobtrusively that I think sometimes people don't even know what I've contributed. But that is perhaps a topic for another post.)

That triggered epiphany #2: I've spent my career watching male colleagues out-pace me. I've watched men who are objectively junior to me in experience be brought in and given the same title. I've watched men who know less than me be brought in and hailed as So Smart and The Best Thing Ever, even while they suggested things I'd argued for earlier.

Any time I've tried to address this (which frankly, wasn't that often), I've been brushed off.  So, I've told myself to be humble, and work hard, and demonstrate that I'm good at my job and valuable... and it hasn't really worked. I've been paid well, but not treated well. No wonder I feel like I have to fight for respect and recognition. I DO have to fight for respect and recognition, and I'm apparently not very good at that.

What this epiphany told me is that in my current type of job, women can see my contributions clearly, and reward me for them. Men, not so much. I am falling off the tightrope, and I am consistently landing on the "doormat" side.

(The irony of this is that there are relationships I have with other women that I know are strained because the other woman thinks I'm too assertive. And I probably am, in that environment. I think I needed to have different personalities for work and non-work, and instead I tried to have one, integrated personality, and that failed in both places. That is a sobering realization, and I don't really know yet what I'm going to do with it.)

So, given these epiphanies, what do I do? I'm still figuring that out. Here are my options, as I see them:

1. Find another contract so I can keep things how they are. Work hard, build my company, and never have to worry about what a boss thinks of me again.

I really like this option, but I'm not having a lot of luck finding sizeable contracts. I've picked up several small things, but nothing big. So I'm also thinking about whether I could piece a bunch of small contracts together to make this a feasible option.

2. Get some coaching to figure out how to stay on the tightrope a bit better, so that I can go for jobs in my current field with some expectation of being able to command enough respect to avoid having the job suck.

I think I might also need some counseling to get over my past hurts in this regard, too.

3. Figure out how to make a lateral-type move to a different field, where the challenge of learning something completely new will compensate for any other issues. I love learning new things, and that can keep me happy through a lot- and is probably why it has taken me so long to figure out what was happening in my career.

I'd probably also get some coaching to get better at the tightrope walking, etc., but it wouldn't be so urgent.

I like this option, because I'd get to learn new things! But making a lateral-type move can be hard.

4. Figure out how to not care about getting respect/recognition in the workplace.

This would be a pretty good option, if I could just figure out how to do it.

And now I'm going to go for that run. Tell me any options you see that I've missed (or anything else) in the comments.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sunday Hodge-Podge

Next week is teacher appreciation week, and after grumbling to myself about how the best way to appreciate teachers is to pay them fairly, I signed up to buy a gift card to a movie theater for the gift the class parents are assembling for one of my kid's teachers. 

No problem, I thought. I'll get a gift card at the grocery store. Then the grocery store only had $25 and $50 gift cards, and I thought that was too much. Then I came home and said that to Mr. Snarky, who pointed out that $25 was two movie tickets.

So I went online and bought a $25 e-gift card. 

Really, I'd rather we just raised my taxes a bit and paid teachers well enough that we didn't need to do appreciation weeks. I clearly can't handle teacher appreciation week.


When I decided to plant some edible plants in big pots on my patio, I specifically chose herbs and salad greens, because those are easy. I specifically avoided tomatoes, because growing tomatoes intimidates me.

The tomato gods had other ideas. I have five volunteer tomato plants growing in one of my pots. I assume that they grew from seeds in the compost dirt I used for planting. 

Five is too many for one pot, so I bought a new pot with the plan of moving a couple over to it.

The new pot sat on my patio for several weeks. 

Finally, this evening, I went out to move the tomato plants, rip up the arugala that had bolted and plant more, and plant some more lettuce and watercress.

I managed to move one of the tomato plants. The others were too interwoven with the other plants in that pot, and I couldn't see how to move them. So I staked them and left them where they are. There are about five tomatoes growing on them. We'll see what happens.

Really, I just wanted salad greens. 


Thank you to all the people who have emailed to volunteer to be a beta reader. I'll email with details on Wednesday, if not before.

Anytime I ask for help on this blog, I get what I need. You guys are amazing. Thank you.


Last week, I saw a good deal on an advertising opportunity for one of the books I've published, so I placed an ad. The response was... underwhelming. Oh well.

Also last week, I had two sales of the recording of Take Control of Your Time. I had not advertised it, or even mentioned it on Twitter recently.

So now I'm wondering if I should try advertising that seminar. I am sort of reticent to do so, because of all the classes and seminars I offer, it is the one I feel least confident about. What gives me the right to say I can teach you how to make better use of your time? For the other classes and seminars, I have relevant professional experience. For this one, I have... well, I'm generally considered to be able to get a lot done while also enjoying a good amount of down time.

And yet, it is the seminar I've given live to two groups, and it is the recording that is selling. I get good feedback on it, too.

I know that there is good content in that seminar, and that my approach is a bit different from the usual "gurus" who are out there marketing online time managment courses. For instance, I use a lot of things I learned from project management in my personal time management, and I include that in the course.

I suspect I need to get over myself and just market it. Really, I do. In general, if I don't want to end up looking for a full time job when my current large contract ends, I need to get over myself and learn how to market my services. I know this. I keep trying to give myself a kick in the pants/pep talk and just do it.

Maybe I need to have a beer or two and just go place some Facebook ads and see what happens.


I am trying to stick to a more regular schedule with Tungsten Hippo blog posts. I missed last week, but I posted this week about short ebooks as samples for larger series. Check it out.

Also, did I mention that you now get a free classic short story formatted as an ebook when you sign up for the Tungsten Hippo mailing list? You do, and my plan is to change the short story twice a year, always sending the new one to the people already on the mailing list, too.


Do you remember the snail that got caught in the filter intake in our aquarium? It looked like it was going to make it. It spent about a week expelling grey stuff, and then it started scooting around the aquarium again. But it didn't seem to be eating, and then it stopped moving again. Then one night, I saw the other snail poking at it. It looked like the other snail was eating it.

So we declared it dead. I agonized over this. I scooped the snail out and put it in a little plastic bag, and took it over to the light to try to see signs of life.

Mr. Snarky watched this for awhile, then took the bag away from me, said "if you say the snail is dead, it is dead" and disposed of the snail.

We're going to get another snail. We were supposed to go to get it today, but we spent a lot of time at the park instead. Petunia has learned how to ride her bike without training wheels and she wanted to show me (and practice some more).


So, that's what's up here. What's up with you?