I’m Neurotic and So Am I

Choices and Consequences

I have struggled with my weight pretty much all of my life.  I remember being roughly eight or nine, seeing that I had skinny calves — what 8 or 9 year old doesn’t? — and despite my chubby belly, thinking I was skinny and resolving to eat *more* to fill out the calves.

I remember being in high school and feeling overweight and the solution then was to just not eat (or more accurately try to skip lunch or replace lunch with diet pepsi). What I wouldn’t give to have the body I had in high school (okay, okay, minus the acne).

I remember being just back from the student exchange, freshman year of college, and weighing 230 pounds and knowing that the reason the random guy in Statistics class asked me out was because he knew I’d be grateful. (Sweetly verified by his friend in a side comment).

I remember going to the gym with  my friend Colleen — the person who introduced me to gyms and I wish it had been sooner — and by virtue of a hairy-chested trainer named Vinny and a spreadsheet of exercises, losing all of that weight and getting into the best shape of my life.

I remember thinking that was that and I wouldn’t have to struggle with my weight anymore. Then I got married at 200 pounds. I remember getting our wedding pictures and crying for two hours.

I remember eating nothing but Slimfast and Lean Cuisine when my then -husband (USMC) would deploy, walking 3 times a week and thinking I’d finally kicked it.

I remember moving back up to Washington in 2000, having gained it all back.

I remember deciding that if I was going to have a baby — my son was very, very planned — that I was going to need to be healthy if not for myself then for him. And so before I got pregnant (2002) I lost the weight again, and for the most part have kept it off (I have fluctuated by about 10 pounds here and there ever since). I have been in and out of gym memberships (the current one is the longest lasting) and signed up for random events (half marathons, a triathlon, a couple of double-century bike rides and a couple of Ragnars), and for the most part have been doing okay, weight-wise.

Here I am at 42 and the issue is not weight. I recently lost a little and that’s fine, but my goal has been health — being able to run, and trying to be good about what I put into my mouth. At my annual exam in April I got my blood tested and my cholesterol had eeked up; having a family history of cardiovascular problems I took it as a warning bell and tightened up: I quit dairy (except for nonfat greek yogurt and lowfat frozen yogurt). I quit red meat (ok, I had red meat twice in 3 months). I kept up the running (training for Ragnar helped). I took fiber daily. I haven’t had anything to drink since May 1st. Protein shakes for breakfast nearly every morning, with berries and bananas using soy milk.

Three months later I’m back at the doctor’s office, back giving blood, and my triglicerides went down but my LDL shot up 20 points. I have been tracking every bit of food I eat since February (I’ve been using MyFitnessPal off and on for about six years) and I couldn’t figure it out… until I looked at breakfast. My protein shake, the most virtuous thing about my day, has 25% of my daily recommended cholesterol. I wouldn’t have thought it — why would a *protein shake* have cholesterol (I mean, they engineer the crap out of the contents so why not engineer that out?). Vigilance, ever vigilance.

I have an appointment with a cardiologist this Wednesday. You know you get to sit at the big kids table at Thanksgiving dinner when you can not only chip in on the political debates and discussion about the markets, but you also have your own set of health issues to contrast and compare in on, and you officially have a Cardiologist (to go with your other specialist doctors).

So here I am: nearly 43. Weight-stable (losing a little still and that’s fine). Active. I have arthritis and high cholesterol, low blood pressure and Raynaud’s. I have three of those in check. Now I just have to lock down the fourth.

Once more into the breach, dear friends…



Greetings from my week off.  This is what it takes to get blogging time.

I have discovered that you really and truly can over-commit yourself, but more often what actually happens is you don’t manage the commitments you have very well. When I went to take this week off — which started at 3:30pm Friday April 1st, something heralded as an April Fool’s Day joke by those that know me — I would have said “I’m over committed and I need to step back”.

Three days in and I’ve already discovered part of my problem: my phone.

In order for this week off to “work”, I had to do two things: I had to arrange for Outlook (my mail service for work) to *not* automatically open when my laptop boots (done) and I had to detach my work email from my iPhone. The last time I did the latter was my wedding week in August of 2014.

I have had the most fulfilling, relaxing yet-personally-productive, best-sleep weekend. I had no insomnia Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights. I got a bunch of projects done around the house, I have taken time to actually thoroughly read my Economist (instead of jumping to the bits I usually read and then, if time permits, reading the rest). The best part of this is knowing that if I had had to go to work today, it would have been okay: I actually unplugged this weekend.

Here’s how this has worked historically: I use my phone the way many of us do; I have my Evernote for shopping lists and recipes etc., and my fitbit tracker, and my weather app, my stock market ticket and texting (the tether to my offspring these days). I use it for a variety of things, the least of which appears to be actually as a phone, and most prevalent is for email. Being the checklist-y, anal-retentive person I am, I really do not want to see the little red notification bubble on my mail that I have unread mail. It bothers me. It’s less clean looking. I could turn off the notification badging for email but that would be problematic during work hours (or on working days). So I roll over in the morning, check the phone and oh, there’s email: better answer that. I stop at the grocery store on my way home, and there’s email: better answer that. I pop open the laptop to get that recipe for dinner tonight and there’s email: better answer that. On weekends it would be get up, go to the gym, check in to the gym with my app and there’s email: better answer that. Stop by Home Depot, get those plants I need, let me cross that off my Evernote and there’s email: better answer that.

All of this email of course is not in a vacuum: answering email is step 1 and usually steps 2-48 involve updating some documentation, or sending another email to another person about the email you just got, or doing a power point presentation based off of the email you just received or the email that is due in a couple of days, or updating the excel spreadsheet so you can email the person with that and a link to the other thing about this particular thing, which reminds you about a third thing that you’d better send an email about.

It is a seemingly ceaseless stream if ingress and egress, with me as the human compute between the two; normally I like this but I’ve realized just how much it has taken over my life.  My first inkling was in checking my Delve numbers — my first instinct after seeing them was to be upset my coworkers aren’t as responsive as I am and my second was to realize I could never share these numbers with my husband else I’d get lectured.

The lesson of all of this is that I will make an effort to detach work email from my phone on weekends — or at least occasional weekends — going forward. I can commit to email — but I need to re-establish ground rules.


A Holiday Wish for Facebook

It’s that time of year again, when the man-child and I count the number of houses with holiday lights we see from the roundabout at the south end of East Lake Sammamish, to our turn off (on Inglewood Hill Road). It’s about five miles, give or take, and we chart how many houses we count over the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. We have been doing this for about six years, and tracking it for the last 4. Every year we add the data to a spreadsheet, when he graduates we will publish a paper. (NB: any holiday lights count — any color, any presentation, etc.).

It would appear people are rushing it, this year.

I can’t say as I blame them. Election years are as hysterical as a Kardashian without internet, and people need something cheery to cling to. As much as people want to point to the blatant, extensive commercialism that is the Holiday Season, at least there is (supposed to be) an overriding veneer of well wishing to our fellow humans.

When I log into Facebook the current top 3 news leads are: someone looks like Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian can’t have a 3rd child per her doctor, and Eva Longoria is engaged. I was all snarky about this on social media — I am neither immune nor dignified — until I realized that the alternatives are the seventh level of hell that is ISIS/terrorism, the xenophobia that is ripping through the world, the dysfunction of some aspects of the government, and the realization that there are people locally and globally in need who are not served by the apoplectic screaming of those with the microphone.

I use Facebook to keep up with my friends — and that is a loaded word these days. As with most people I have varying definitions of friendship. And you do, too. (If you will insist that you don’t, I invite you to consider what happens if you find yourself in a jail cell for whatever reason at 2am on a Sunday and ask who would bail you out with no questions asked, and then you will understand that “friendship” is a thing with  layers.)  To that last parenthetical remark, I point out that I have some friends who would bail me out at 2am, and some who would do it without question, but it’s a Venn diagram.

(No, that hasn’t happened yet. But I’m young — give it time.) (Hi, mom).

I do not use Facebook for news of the world. I use Facebook for news of my friends– friends I have worked with and some I still do, friends I had in High School and some I still see, my best friends who are painstakingly building their home from scratch, my sister who started her practice, a couple of people I have never, ever physically met but should they show up on my door in need of a bed and a meal I’d make them Mexican food and proffer tequila (hi, Magnetarball and Goliard!). I use it to see how the next generation is coming along (for many of us have offspring) and live vicariously through friends who do the things I would never, ever have the guts to do (so, Sdiver with her Heli-Skiing or rafting down the Colorado River on a dory she hand-built, or Mr. Crampy who had major heart surgery and something like 10 weeks later did an Iron man (or his wife for that matter, with whom, if you were in a dark alley, you could be confident)). I use it to check in on folks who have moved away (hi DJ and my first Boss At Premera and the Family Firehouse!) and my family that I haven’t seen since I was 12 (Hola Carla y Sylvia, besos y abrazos). I use it to keep track of former coworkers (the ones I really got along with and admired) (hi Expatriates!). I use it to keep tabs on folks I don’t talk to at all anymore but still share memories of, to follow my favorite authors, and to get Life Hacks and my F*ing Loved Science. I use it to keep track of friends I see but oh-so-rarely, because life and work and school and boy etc.

Facebook, as a PM and one who uses you daily, I ask: can I please configure the trending feed to the right to be what is trending *only* in my network? I can filter your trends by “politics” or “entertainment” but the truth is I don’t want to hear about what Donald Trump says (mostly, ever) and I don’t want to know what any Kardashian is doing, ever. I want to know how my friends are doing, in all meanings of the word “friend”; I will get my “news” from credible sources.

Please. It’s all I want this Holiday Season.

Ever yours,





Listening Ears

The last month or so has been an exercise in emotional control and perseverance: there are the usual challenges (it’s the last productive month before people start to serially take off for holidays, trying to eat healthily when people bring in baked goods is difficult, etc.) and new and unwelcome ones (a dear friend has passed on, the car decided I needed to spend some serious cash on it, a coworker is leaving which in turn throws into sharp relief just how much I can separate work and life). As such I haven’t had time to blog or really reflect on much: I’ve spent most of the month reacting and creating contingency plans.

As November is gone and I find myself firmly in the twelfth month, I have either got better at dealing with these challenges or I’ve become numb to their effect. The result is that I can finally take some time to concentrate on a (relatively) new concept: being self-aware and open-minded during challenging times (especially meetings).

We’ve had some training on this recently at the ‘soft, and courtesy of a side-program I’m getting a larger tutorial in how perspective can shape an entire interaction for the better (or worse). Traditionally I am not one to necessarily assume the best of intentions in dealing with someone during conflict — it’s something most people do not default to. (I know of one person who I think can honestly say that during a contentious debate can keep her “opponent” in a positive light; it’s fitting that she is the extremely patient Executive Director of a nonprofit devoted to helping schoolchildren (and teenagers alike)).

The idea of unconscious bias is not a new one, it’s the reason I assume the teenager in the brand new Porsche in front of me is spoiled rotten (instead of thinking they may be enjoying a ride with Mom or Grandma in their car), that the guy who cut me off on the freeway is a jerk (instead of hoping that whatever emergency they’re rushing off to is quickly resolved), that the person at work who hasn’t got back to me is a slacker (instead of positing that their workload is just as heavy as mine). It’s the reason some bosses assume it is ill-advised to hire single mothers (and some deliberately hire them), why some tourists raise their voice to speak English increasingly loudly to the people who don’t understand them, and why most people think NPR listeners are Loony Lefty Libs. (Hi.)

Nor is the concept of self-awareness a new one, if not practiced terribly often. In an era of “selfies” and Kardashians, you’d think self-awareness abounds, but alas it does not. The next time you think you are self aware, check how long it takes you to calm down after an argument with your spouse: that is, once the issue at hand has been resolved and how long until your autonomic nervous system chills out (e.g., your tone of voice changes, your heart rate slows down, you stop grimacing and feeling like you’re still arguing but aren’t really sure about what anymore).

In other words, it’s hard, when the guy has just cut you off and your latte has landed in your lap, to stop and think “gosh I hope he gets there in time”. It’s equally hard to sit in a meeting with someone who is disparaging your product or questioning your priorities to believe they are coming from a positive (or even just productive) space. It’s a skill set to practice and a useful one at work and at home, to be sure.  It’s harder still when the media (“social” and otherwise) is screaming you about the impending Armageddon (be it ISIL or Climate Change or Global Economies or Airbags or Guns or Presidential Candidates), to be positive about much.

The suggested approach (from training, shortly to be invoked in different ways) is to practice active listening: in other words, to let the other person say what they need to say NOT with a view to “how much longer do I have to listen to this drivel” but with an earnest attempt to understand where they are coming from, and acknowledge that position. This, combined with assuming the best of intentions, should serve to deter the impression that the other person is wasting your time/out to get you. The other tool provided includes essentially a “so what are we going to do about it?” mechanism — it’s perfectly fine to air an issue, but come ready to solve it or to commit to solving it. This should serve to ensure that conflict — when it does arise — is used in a positive and productive fashion. These things sound practical and practicable, but I suspect in the heat of the moment they aren’t that easy to call upon. I think, however, it is better to try, in these trying times.




Hot Yoga: Confessions of a Reluctant Convert

I had spent probably six years wanting to look down my nose at hot yoga, with all of its purported smelliness, its special gear, its special words (Namaste, indeed), and the trendiness of yoga pants that you could or couldn’t see through. How could it be real exercise when it’s just extrapolated stretching? How can anyone take it seriously in that gear? Then I took up cycling and the gear argument went out the door. After you shamelessly go to the Safeway in clippie shoes and chamois-padded bike shorts, any sense of dignity in costume is gone.

The kicker for me was about a six months ago when my dad told me he had taken up yoga and it did wonders for his back.

I have inherited many things from my father, good and bad. I am stubborn, I can be very black and white, I am very plain-spoken. I dislike mayonnaise, I can be extremely pragmatic, and my knees and back are increasingly problematic. I didn’t get the piano playing skills, but I got the good hair and straight teeth. When I got to my mid thirties we started comparing knee injuries, back injuries, and what color of therapy bands we were using.

So when my dad said yoga really helped him with his back, I listened. I didn’t march right down to the gym to go try a class, because that would take actual effort, but I did listen. And then I did attend a class at the gym and it was pretty much everything you think of when you think of “hot yoga”: a 15×15 room filled with various bodies in yoga-esque clothing, a calming instructor, seventeen or twenty painful poses, everyone dripping sweat, and I could tell who was a fan of garlic and/or cheese. It wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great.

I left yoga to its own devices; I didn’t look down my nose at it but I assured myself it was not for me.

My best friend and I were chatting a couple of months ago and, as I pointed out the new Hot Yoga place just down the hill from me, she pointed out she had been going and she found it better than meditation to calm her mind. As someone who also suffers from chronic insomnia, this sounded like a good idea. The new place had a deal: 6 classes for $10 in two weeks. For the price of three lattes I could scientifically test the benefits of yoga! That this coincided with the last week of my old job, and a week off, made for an excellent test bed. And so I signed up.

It’s been a month now. I haven’t had back pain in that time. I have had only two (2) nights of insomnia. I am inelegant in class, I am not the lean-and-limber yoga Barbie; then again there are many in my class who are not. I have seen progress in my flexibility and balance, but frankly, the fact that my back doesn’t routinely go out, and that I can run again without pain in my knees, is selling point enough.

Then there are the personalities: I try to go every Thursday night (for a variety of reasons) but it seems I’m of a minority with a regular schedule. In six weeks of attendance I have seen maybe one or two people in any two classes, the rest of the cast members change out regularly. There are a couple of yoga Barbies — and they know it — but hats off to them because not only do they look it, but they can do that one pose where you balance on the ball of one foot while in lotus with your hands up. Or the other one where you fold yourself in half, and bend over (I think it’s called “sleeping eagle” but for me it’s called “impossible”). Then there was Tatooed Yoga Jesus: a man who looked like the Oxford-Christian Jesus picture but in yoga pants, no shirt, and tattoos all over his arms, back, and chest. Again, the inclination is to mentally tease him, but Yoga Jesus knew his stuff too. Even the inflated, gym-rat-football-player-looking-dude could get some of the more difficult versions.  And then there’s plenty of people like me: not quite with-it, but improving; dripping sweat and forcing muscles to do things they aren’t used to, secure in the knowledge of a pain-free back and a good night’s sleep.

That is worth any amount of self-imposed awkwardness.


That Sinking Feeling

Today’s economic topic will be the Sunk Cost Fallacy. A sunk cost is something you’ve spent money (or other investiture) on and you cannot recover said money (or investiture). The $4.50 you spent on a latte this morning is a sunk cost.  So is the $90 you spent on shoes last month. And, oddly enough, so is the “free” doughnut you ate this morning, because even though it was monetarily free, it wasn’t calorically free – you “paid” in terms of calories for the day and, assuming you weren’t near-bulimic afterwards, you cannot retrieve those calories.  (And even if you did attempt to purge, you are still dealing with a sunk cost).

Generally speaking, it doesn’t make sense to take into account sunk costs when making a decision for future investiture – e.g., whether or not you spent $4.50 on a latte should not impact your decision as to if you will be buying a latte later today. You’ve already spent the money and can’t recoup it, so factoring in the presence it *would have* made in your budget is specious, you need to look at where your budget stands now. But humans don’t tend to work this way due to loss aversion.  They tend to frame an overall project to include what has been spent as well as what will be spent (time, effort, etc.) and look at it on the whole rather than what is left. One of the oddest presentations of this I am most guilty of, as are, I suspect, many of my friends: the Sunk Cost Doughnut.

I seem to be focusing on doughnuts, and this is because I had one today.  I am supposed to be watching my weight (I’m currently watching it nudge up) and today someone (Ms. Krieant, to be exact) brought in Top Pot Doughnuts, which may in fact be my favorites.  I have a workout buddy who insists that you can eat whatever you want as long as you work out enough and he is right, but he is also 25 and has been through OCS and it’s not enough for him to do pull-ups, he has to do them with a 50lb-weight strapped to his stomach. His and my mileages tend to vary.


mmmm doughnuts

At any rate, today I ate one (1) Chocolate with Rainbow Sprinkles doughnut, at a caloric cost of 510 calories. That would be 1/3 of my supposed day’s calories, and so it is really, really hard not to take into account my sunk cost (doughnut/510 calories) and say “well, I’ve screwed up the diet today, so I will just start again tomorrow”. On the whole this is NOT logical because in theory I can pay attention to my caloric budget and be “good” for the remainder of the day, and only come  in a “little” over budget.  If I frame my caloric choices in light of the Sunk Cost Doughnut, though, and eat whatever I want,  I would come in drastically over budget.

A suggested method by economists is to evaluate future costs and avoidable future costs to establish the true prospective cost for the day (E.g., I must have some form of dinner (future cost), it probably shouldn’t include bread or fat (avoidable future cost)).  And so, as I use my “MyFitnessPal” app and truthfully admit to my 510 calorie digression, I sit here re-evaluating my planned caloric expenditures for the day.

They’re serving birthday cake down the hall.


Beyoncé and Lean In

I was listening to NPR the other day (this seems to be the thirty/forty-something ubiquitous intro to a story) about Beyoncé’s new album, and how Twitter trended when it dropped, and there as an awful lot about how She Is A Feminist and This Album Is A Tribute To Feminism. Naturally, it being NPR, the second person they interviewed pooh-pooh’d this, pointing out that in her videos apparently Beyoncé is gyrating in such a way that she is gyrating for men, and therefore it isn’t any different than any other oppressed-female gyrations. This is all very normal and to be expected anytime someone declares something “feminist” or “the new feminist”, women will gather on either side and debate earnestly. None of this really irked me until this lady (Tanya Steele, which is a fantastically appropriate name) pointed out that when women were telling her about how they feel Beyoncé’s gyrations/music/etc. made them feel empowered, and/or they felt it was a good example of feministic power, she had to “walk them back” and “explain it to them”.

It took a while for me to sort through why this irritated me. I don’t normally engage in discussions on feminism or women’s issues, it wasn’t part of my educational background and it just really doesn’t come up. I’m more likely to get into an economics debate. (NB: I have not taken a single women’s studies class. I do however own a vagina, and have friends who own vaginas, so I think I’m somewhat qualified to discuss the condition of having a vagina and the thinking that may or may not go along with vagina ownership.)

Merriam-Webster defines Feminism as: “The belief that men and women should have equal opportunities”. (It also defines it as an “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”).

Beyoncé and Steele

As best as I can tell, Ms. Steele’s contention is that when women view Beyoncé’s new album, and more specifically her videos in which she “gyrates” (I have not seen them nor is it really necessary to do so to illustrate this particular point), as “feminist”, they are incorrect. Her reasoning is Beyoncé is gyrating sexually, as to appeal to and/or entice men, and therefore is acting like someone who has to sublimate their own needs/desires in order to attract someone else, and therefore that isn’t beneficial in any particular way to her gender representation.

This reasoning is highly subjective. First, it assumes a knowledge of what is in Beyoncé’s head as she’s gyrating on the screen. I am willing to wager as she was gyrating, under a myriad of hot lights, multiple takes, makeup touches, reminders on choreography, adjustments to the mic, etc. that what was in her head was,  “I am working, I am working, I am working, I can’t wait for a hot bath and a glass of wine, but I am working.” Beyoncé’s reputation in the industry, even for one who doesn’t follow it altogether much, is one of extreme professionalism and hard work. Her personal wealth is such that she never, ever has to work again, independent of that of her husband. Beyoncé works if she wants to work, she busts her butt because she wants to, and she gyrates because she wants to.  Second, it assumes that Beyoncé’s gyrations were intended for the sole or at least primary benefit of a male and/or lesbian observer (and/or customer. Remember kids, she’s selling a brand.) The assumption is she is gyrating sexually, she is therefore objectifying herself sexually for a sexually interested party. Demographics aren’t readily available for her album but I’d be willing to put the $20 down to say it trends female more than male. And they are not all lesbians. Third, Beyoncé has gone on record, on multiple occasions, for “loving being a woman” and “enjoying her curves” and “dressing sexily”.  It would be a little disingenuous then to expect her to stand in a full-length evening gown when singing songs about seducing her lover.

The fact of the matter is, some women like to exhibit and some do not. Because Ms. Steele does not see value in exhibition she would like others to not see value in it as well. This is human nature, but it is unreasonable to then have to explain to someone why something they like, that you don’t, that doesn’t cause you any personal harm, is “wrong”. If a male person sees Beyoncé gyrating and from that infers all women should gyrate, then it is NOT Beyonce’s gyrations that are to blame. It is his rationale that “female person gyrating on TV = all women gyrate for me” that is wrong. To assume that Beyoncé’s gyrations set feminism back in any way is tantamount to saying that “because a woman dresses XYZ way she is asking for it”. You can’t have it both ways: either the observer is responsible for their own behaviors or they are not.  I prefer to think that men, and women, are rational human beings capable of using their brains and if they are NOT, it is not the fault of society or other folks. Your brain, and your actions, are your own to manage.

Lean In

The larger discussion, though, is how women are perceived in society and, in terms of Lean In, how we perceive ourselves (vs. how we “should” perceive ourselves, as best as I can decipher it).  While the “Beyoncé is/isn’t a Feminist” debate is exciting mostly because it can be and mostly because of the method in which she chose to drop her album, the “Lean In” concept is trickier and, I think, longer lasting. The basic takeaway I had from reading Lean In is that women don’t get opportunities as much as men do because either a. we would if we spoke up but we don’t speak up, or b. we need to speak up more so men get used to it and therefore will “see” us in the roles we want.

Here I think I need to step aside and explain something in my own, personal world that means my subjective take on this is going to be just that — very subjective. I am 5’10” tall. I have never been of slight build. Physically, I do not appear meek or weak or shy. Further, I am the daughter of two strong-minded, outspoken women, and two male engineers. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem asking for something if I wanted it, and/or providing a rationale on why I should have it. (True story: when I first moved to San Diego 15 years ago, I worked for a company that believed you should get personality tested before you got a position within the company, so everyone knew how to work with you. The sociologist who reviewed my results said that I was a bit like an elephant: when I entered a room everyone would know it, and if my foot fell it would be a resounding stomp, whether or not I intended it to.) A casual reading of my employment reviews would validate this: the best term I think that has ever been applied to my attitude is that I was “highly apolitical”. Time has allowed me to learn how to say “No”, for example, in sixteen different and appropriate ways, but the long and the short of it is if I want something I will ask for it, and if I am told No and I don’t understand why I will press.

Which I guess makes me rather “mannish” in the workforce.

So when Sheryl Sandberg talks about not even thinking about asking for something until it became a really big issue (e.g., preferential parking for expectant mothers) I must confess I don’t understand. When one of the most intelligent, driven women I know in my social circle tells me that until she read this book she would have thought twice, or not at all, pursued a particular project because she wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing so, I am aghast. This book wasn’t particularly instructive to me. It was however, revelatory.

Leaning In Objectively

There is an old joke that PMS is “when women act like men do all the time”. I don’t really think this is accurate and in any event because of better things and better living through chemistry it doesn’t apply to me. However I do think that women can be raised, or conditioned, to not ask for things they want.  It is kind of bittersweet that a Pantene commercial illustrates the deltas in how some women perceive themselves (as well as how they perceive society perceives them, etc.)  It’s entirely possible I am perceived as a bitch, that I’m bossy, or that I’m self-promoting. The question becomes though: what is the end result of my efforts? If I get the promotion, or the project, or the job, or the budget, have I failed still because I ruffled a feather or two? If the tenet is that “men do it all the time” do feathers get equally ruffled? We are told that men “ball-bust” each other and the sting doesn’t last; why must I assume it does if I engage in it as well (abiding thoroughly by the rule that if you dish it, you need to take it).

Bottom line: if I earn what I was after, does it matter if I’m “liked” as much as if I had stayed put? And does it matter, to me, to be liked by someone who would  rather I had stayed put? Like blaming Beyoncé for the perceptions that men may have of other women because of her gyrations, I don’t know that you can blame the woman who gets the project, or the raise, or the bonus, and possibly irks someone, because she asked for and earned it. If there’s anyone who needs to own that, it’s the one who is irked.


Temporal Relativity

Otherwise entitled: I Keep Forgetting What Day it Is.

Driving home through unusually light traffic tonight I realized, halfway home, that tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  For someone who works for a retail company centered around food, this is not how it should be. I should have, beating in my heart and tattooed on the inside of my eyeballs, every food-based holiday and a countdown to it. Instead I was one of the many last-minute shoppers at my local grocery store, which amazingly had all of the ingredients to make two pies, homemade cranberry sauce, and a gorgonzola-broccoli recipe I stole from my friend Cynful about five years ago.

My parents have the “Now What Day Is It Again?” syndrome but for drastically different reasons: the parents are retired. “Weekends” have no meaning if you  don’t work during the “week”. My day-of-week forgetfulness comes from “I am going to survive this day” combined with a bit of work each weekend.

My kitchen was demolished on 30 September. The job to remodel it was to be completed 6 November, with a schedule that had a ton of spare space in it. As of today, my fridge is still in my garage, all of my kitchen gear is in boxes, I can’t park in my garage because of said fridge and other kitchen-cabinet boxes, and we are looking at “another week or so” of work. Most people can forgive any amount of stress or craziness at work to go to the solace that is their home, I do not have that solace. I go home to disorder and disruption, which for me is unnerving and quite possibly a form of slow torture. The best way to make a control freak cringe is to take absolutely everything away from their control and tell them there’s no way to get it back.

I will take the frenetic panic of working through the massive consumer glut that is the holiday season, and yes I too have a couple of wish lists out there; I will take the increasing tempo of schoolwork for the boychild, I will take the slow creep of the scale that necessitates increased workouts, I will take the eternal guilt I get at this season for not being able to do more, to provide more, to be more.

It’s just another week until I get my kitchen back.


Be a Traci

Every year, about this time, I get a little hectic. I’ve decided it must be me, because every job I have had for the last ten years, regardless of industry or emphasis, seems to go absolutely crazy at this time, and it lasts right up until about Christmas or just before New Years’. In previous years I attributed it to planning, that process where you decide how much money a given individual is responsible for; in recent years I had attributed it to the frenzy of “finish what we said we were going to do by end of year”.

Now that I am in a Retail Organization, I realize that I was but a Baby Developer/Analyst and had No Idea what the Real World was like.

I am finding comfort, and redoubling effort, in light of something I learned at my old job: Be a Traci.

To explain:

Each year, at this time, in my old job, I was part of a process in which we divided up something on the order of 1 or 2 Billion Dollars (it changed over the years) to 8 or 12 individuals, in terms of responsibility for the coming year. In short: Jane Roe, Jon Doe, and George Smith, you are now responsible for $1bn/x for the next 12 months, and if you don’t generate that cash volume in your area the Whole Company will look down on you with a mixture of derision, pity, and disgust.

As you can imagine, having someone (especially a Dev Manager) tell you “Here is your number, based on my Excel spreadsheet and near-sociopathic bent for analytics, have fun with that”, is not fun. I got a reputation for being “apolitical” and someone took me aside at one point to tell me that “No and no” was not a reasonable response to email.

However, the mitigation for this at the time was to get all 8 or 12 people into a room, for 8-10 hours, with me, a laptop, a projector, and dubious catering service. In that meeting each person would grab their PowerPoint and their skills in persuasion to indicate to the VP’s that Be why they should be able to put 10, 20, or 30 million dollars back in to the pot. After two rounds, I could tell you, in advance, who was going to sandbag, who was going to like it and lump it, and who was going to knock it out of the park.

Traci always knocked it out of the park.

I met Traci formally in Las Vegas during one of these meeting events, she was responsible for San Diego and was an up-and-comer. Traci was a Manager at the time and therefore a bit more down the hill that these monetary expectations rolled down. The next year, though, she was one of the 10, and she grabbed her Power Point, her very cute shoes, and her Excel Spreadsheet, and did something remarkable:

She accepted her number, and said how she’d do it.

Her number that she was allotted was audacious. It was not easy. I remember thinking she had to have balls of solid steel to accept it, and this was in a meeting where at least three other people who had been Directors, longer, put money back on the table. She didn’t act overzealous, she admitted the number was aspirational, but she detailed her plan.

She made her numbers.

She made her numbers every year for five years.

She has been a VP for three years running at a Fortune 500 company,

When there is a problem to go solve, they send Traci.

And every time, she rises to the occasion, grits her teeth, and gets it done. In cute shoes.

There are relative few heroines for women in the working world, apologies to Sandberg and Mayer. The fact that I can only think of two off the top of my head (without getting political) is sad (note: I have a whole blog post about Lean In coming). And the fact of the matter is, Traci and I are worlds apart in the actual work we do.  But I cannot forget her tenacity, and I cannot dismiss the infectiousness of her attitude.

Traci once had a long conversation with me about the 20-odd ways there are to say “No”. I like to say “No” the way I learned to: “No”. But in modern business, you need to say “No” without actually saying it: “I need to review our resources”, “Perhaps XYZ tactic will work better”, “I will take that back to management and we can review”, and so forth. It was one of the best lessons I had ever had in management, and I use it to this day.

So these days, when I feel overwhelmed and like the Powers That Be are dumping more on to my plate than I can handle, I remember Traci, and that meeting in Vegas. I’m armed with my Excel spreadsheet, and my Power Point. Now all I need is cute shoes.



For a dyed-in-the-wool control freak, the absolute worst thing you can do to them is to introduce mass chaos into their environment for which there is no solution but time. Welcome to my kitchen remodel.

The notion of this remodel has been some time coming, and after much deliberation and fiscal jiggling we signed papers in July with a contracting company. A dear friend warned me that contractors never, ever, ever come in on time and on budget, and so far we are finding that pretty much true. While the budget creeps are of our own choosing (Let’s do this light over that light! This countertop over that countertop!) the time overruns are not. My cabinets are in Canada somewhere and there they will stay until December, so we’re going with an alternate vendor. The cabinets being stuck meant the countertop can’t get cut according to schedule. The drywall guy has come and gone but can’t finish until the cabinets are in, and the floor finish can’t be sped-up. And so we wait for cabinets.

Meanwhile, seven large boxes of kitchen gear, and two sets of curtains and assorted wall decor, are stacked in the small available space of the study. Another box, a kitchen aid, and stacks of cookbooks impede on the library. Pots, pans, glassware, an end table, a wine rack, and a stack of coats take up the spare space in the bedroom. Dishes are done in a large blue plastic tub in my son’s bathtub. My current kitchen is the male person’s workbench plus a fridge, in the garage.

After I got over my initial meltdown (yes, I had one, get over it) I tried to look at it for the charm. It’s kind of like camping but with electricity, right? I get to really test my recipe mettle. At least it’s not the dead of winter and the garage is a comfortable 60 degrees. The boys can play radio control cars on the unfinished floors. Above all, this chaos forces us to be more organized , more cognizant of where we put things and how we use them.

Yet the change keeps coming. In my head I had a due date of 11/4 — on that date, I had a kitchen again. I had a dining room. My study and library would be cleared and I could get to my sewing machine. Then came the news that after you get your floors finished you must wait 30 days before putting furniture on it.  And so now I’m hopeful that by my son’s birthday we have furniture in place.

Which is not to say that there hasn’t been a bit of change in other areas as well. A recent re-org at work, while ostensibly relatively minor, puts into question overall vision and goals which of course trickles down to those of us “unaffected”. As the holiday season approaches I am reminded as well of all of the dire warnings from friends who had worked in the Retail sector before. At Expedia, things are relatively slow business-wise in November and December, the time is used to plan for the new year. At Sur La Table, the push and craziness starts mid-September and I’ve heard it ends sometime around January.

Layer The Rest Of Life onto this and I’m looking forward to a potential power outage or some other unseen force that will allow us all to take a little break.

AFTER I have my kitchen back.