career plans

I feel like there's a lot of oddly specific career advice about achieving your hopes and dreams. Chart a five year plan! Set your goals! Make a vision board! Be intentional!

It never really fit with me, and I'm realizing that it's because I was never 100% sure what I wanted to do. I'm still not. I'm 40, what do I want to be when I grow up? Do I have to KNOW?

And I had the feeling I wasn't the only one, because when I'd hear leaders at my company talk about their lives, none of them ever said "Well I'm CEO today because it was in my five year plan." There was a LITTLE planning, but they pretty much just ended up there.

Michelle Obama's book nailed it too... she said she doesn't even like asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, because it's pointless! When she was little, she was terribly intimidated by the question. And she definitely never said, "I want to be a lawyer, then run a hospital, then a non-profit, then first lady of the united states, then an author and have a podcast..." come on.

So yeah, screw the goals.

I like the hedgehog principle from the book Good to Great. It says that successful people find work in the intersection of three things:

1) They like what they're doing
2) They're good at it
3) The world needs it enough to pay for it

I like canoeing down spring-fed streams but the world isn't going to pay me for that, so it's a good thing I also like fixing airplanes and the world needs those... I wasn't good at it, but I've picked up some things. I guess of the criteria, that's the "be good at it" is the one thing that you have the most potential to change yourself.

Which brings me to my very slow point here... if you don't even have anything that fits in THOSE things, that's when you ask for help from your boss at work. Or friends in the world, or professional mentors.

So many people do not. You'd be surprised. So many people don't care.

If you can't say to your boss "Here is my goal how do I get there?" you could do this instead:

"I don't want to be one of those people who does the same thing every day. If there's anything holding me back, would you be brutally honest and tell me?"

"I want to be a valuable member of this team. I want people to be happy that I'm here. What ARE they saying about me? If it's nothing, how can I make more of a mark?"

"What's the difference between me, and the people who are the most important to our group? What can I work on?"

"There are things I see that I'd like to improve around here. How can I get the influence and support to DO it? I know there are a few high priorities, but if I don't mess those up could I carve out a little time to make this a better place for us all to work?"

Maybe you're not feeling it this week. Maybe you're tired, work is wearing you down. I have those days.

But I have run into a lot of people who are tired or frustrated or working too many hours, and, well... it's them. There are things they could improve on. They won't believe me. They're not ready to hear it, they're not asking to hear it. They can't take it. So I try to say it but it doesn't sink in. The discussions drop down to have less and less impact, and until finally all I can do is help them understand what the minimums are. They will do the same thing every day. They'll tell themselves that this is what it is to be a worker. "I'm not one of those five year plan, super ambitious, kill myself for this place PEOPLE," they say. They identify as a cog in the machine, so that's where they are. Maybe, is all I think. Maybe.

the last black unicorn

How I pick audiobooks these days: I go to my libby app, click browse, what's available, sort by popular, non-fiction. That's how I listened to "The Last Black Unicorn" by Tiffany Haddish. hey, judge me for reading a celebrity memoir all you want but it was hilarious and she had such a CRAZY life! Her childhood was unbelievable... abuse, abandonment, poverty, she was a foster kid, she could barely read when she got to high school. but she could make people laugh and had a bizarre confidence and unexplainable urge to always be center of attention. she loved being on stage. "The only reason I'm still alive is because I'm willing to talk about my stuff." that's beautiful. I couldn't stop listening, it was exactly what I needed.

2nd vaccine

Tuesday night I got my 2nd dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. Nothing major to report. I had a bit of a headache the next day so I took a Tylenol and that made it go away.

And my arm was sore. I could not do pushups this week.

(I couldn't do pushups before this week, either.)

People really scared me about side effects so I was too chicken to schedule it the weekend before Easter, but oh well I guess I lucked out. Immunity feels amazing! What's sad is how much capacity we have that people aren't taking. I like to play "stalk the county health website" - click on the link to schedule a dose downtown, see how fast I can get in. too fast. there are openings all day, every day. Somebody wanting a vaccine could get in an hour from now. We are not demanding enough. There are people in countries all over the world clamoring for this.

the friday 5: drive

1) Do you like to drive?
not particularly no. wichita requires use of a car, but I love walking/biking and when I'm a tourist in a city with public transit I make it a point to learn to use those systems, I adore them. All my coworkers talked about how gutsy I was for using the trains in barcelona... why not take a taxi and expense it? but I saw SO much more of the city than they did and loved the train!

2) Do you own (or have regular use of) a car? What kind is it?
I like hatchbacks. A few years ago I changed from a two-door to a four-door, that's been my only life change since I was 23 and bought my first ford focus.

3) What is your favorite optional feature on a car?
power windows. I had a probe in college with windows you cranked up yourself like an amish person and it was SO GOOD to upgrade!

4) How much does gasoline currently cost where you live?
I think $2? I don't pay much attention, every car I've owned only has a 10 gallon tank so they're never really breaking the bank.

5) What is the longest car trip you have taken?
By myself - eight hours. With a friend or group - 22 hours from Wichita to Vegas, or I forget how long Wichita to Atlanta was. In 2019 my sister and I drove 8 hours to Denver and it was great! Podcasts might actually be the greatest driving upgrade in recent years, and they're not even really part of the car.

For a long road trip I need:
- Early morning start time
- Podcast or audiobook
- A copilot who's a chatty, but also likes my same podcasts
- Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee

my rich life

I'm finally reading Ramit Sethi which should make me pretty annoying for the next few finance-related LJ entries, you know how I am, but in the first chapters he challenges people to envision their "rich life". Spend lavishly on the things you love, spend almost nothing on the things you don't. I also really liked the concept that The Frugalwoods had... "if we won the lottery, our lifestyle wouldn't change." I can admit, and I hope a lot of you can too, that I would not derive happiness from a lot of stereotypically rich weirdo things.

A 12 bedroom house would use a lot of energy to heat/cool and sounds environmentally irresponsible. I don't like jewelry. My small closet of practical clothes bought off ebay brings me joy in its simplicity, I don't want anything cluttered up with tons of clothes or shoes.

Times I already feel like I have a rich life:

- Breakfast. My gosh, the other day I was having sourdough toast with veggie cream cheese, granola with a little milk and a heap of blueberries and blackberries. Coffee with cinnamon and nutmeg. That's a lot of peices! Marc gets me berries all the time if I just remember to put them on the whiteboard and they feel luxurious to me.

- I have a two story house with a nice view out all windows. Actually, just the fact that we have lots of windows. I might complain sometimes that it's 90 years old and breaks all the damn time but you don't get this many windows in new houses. It's springtime cross-breeze season!

Things I would buy if I had tons of extra money:

- More theater tickets. Dinner theater, the touring broadway acts, I wish I could see all of them. This is inspiring me to look for what that actually costs.

- Take Marc to Europe. Still have to figure out what to do with the kids. Stay tuned. I opened a rewards credit card that's supposed to give me some travel points ideas. I am totally confused by this world but I figured the only way to get in is to start getting in.

- More charity. I like donating but if I won the lottery I'd get somebody to name a wing of a building after me, or something. I'll keep that on the future list for now.

Just typing this out, I realize that it's not necessarily money that keeps me from doing some of the things I dream about, it's energy and logistics. That right there means I already live a rich life.

Hell, my job gives me a rich life... I get four weeks of paid vacation a year! You know what I do most years? LESS than four weeks of vacation. This paid off last year, when we were furloughed for eight weeks due to COVID I was allowed to just burn vacation hours and get paid for most of the days. But the other years it just sits, I can't figure out what to do with it and I get so pulled into the exciting work stuff, another year goes by and I only took a week off.

Another reason to be thankful for blueberries. It's the only part I've got figured out.

springtime running

I haven't run before work in a couple weeks, only after work. It's springtime! When I look at the day's weather, I'll see that it's going to be in the freaking 30s in the morning, but then sunshine and 60s in the afternoon. And with daylight savings, sunshine in the forecast means sunshine I can run in after work. So why run in the morning?

I'm sure i'll get back to it in the summer when it gets hot out. I like morning runs - getting up early is something that just happens to me a lot and I don't have much else going on at that time. I like seeing the stars. I REALLY like the lack of traffic, I can run across the big mile roads without delays.

Now that the sun is out I can cross the roads when traffic clears. But in the winter, I felt really limited. I didn't want to run across the road in rush hour in the dark, so I just stuck to my 1 square mile of neighborhood.

I had some slacker weeks in february, but I'm trying to get my endurance back up. ran 8k last sunday, 6k on thursday. running at least a tiny bit every day is actually feeling better on my hamstrings. I should look for races and get a 10K time after I get all vaccinated next week. so many possibilities!

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (Gottman)

One day Marc and I had some stupid fight about his car maintenance practices that I won't go into, and I ranted in a mom group about it. The gist of my post is that I am proud of our marriage, see our marriage as one of the best, I thought we were great communicators and work as a team, but sometimes we stumble and it really frustrates me.

They recommended this book: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. I liked it because it follows my normal pattern of wondering about professional help, but using facebook groups instead, which leads me to books which is like the free version of therapy a little bit right? Skip the professional and just read what they read to learn their field?

I was a little skeptical because I love books and marc does not so he wasn't going to do this with me, but through the book I am seeing patterns, patterns, patterns. So I bought it to have around and read some chapters deeper, but just from the libby app scan of it I have enough ideas to write this entry.

It starts by talking about the Four Horseman that doom a marriage, the communication styles seen in couples heading for divorce:

1. Criticism
2. Contempt
3. Defensiveness
4. Stonewalling

Then goes on to explain the trends they see in marriages that work:

1. Enhancing love maps
2. Nurturing fondness and admiration
3. Turning toward each other
4. Accepting influence
5. Solving solvable problems
6. Overcoming gridlock
7. Creating shared meaning

I will say that in reading the first few items, they seemed really obvious. Basically you have to like each other. Know each other really well, and then add on to each other. It reminded me a lot of the "Yes And..." book I read on improv comedy. If your spouse starts something, you pick it up. If he shows you a funny meme on the internet you laugh at it, if he makes some observation about a new building under construction you wonder along what it might be. It's the healthy interplay.

In reading this, I realized all the valuable things marc and I do together and started giving them some credit. I also set aside some of the gridlock, angry things that take away, that aren't productive, that do not bring us closer, and thought about how to re-arrange them.

I told marc I was reading the book but mostly in our joking way that he could appreciate. Like, "HEY, IT SAYS WE'RE SUPPOSED TO MAKE A LOVE MAP." and he said, "here? in front of the kids?" or "NEXT TIME WE FIGHT THERE'S A WORKSHEET SO YOU CAN TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL. ISOLATED, HURT, OR A SENSE OF RIGHTIOUS INDIGNTATION?" and he said, "I like 'righteous indication'! that sounds badass I'm circling that for every one!"

I was mad about laundry. he's at home all day, he's agreed to do laundry... but he always neglects it. a few weeks ago I started a conversation with "look, I know you hate laundry, but I don't know what to do. I hate nagging you, I hate running out of clothes, and when I just do it in the few hours I am home I resent the hell out of you." he said he does not hate laundry, just doesn't think about it. he wears the same loungey things every day, I have an office wardrobe. he might need some reminders, and he agreed with me that reminders are emotional labor for me but what else is there? I left feeling like we hadn't solved the problem. but after reading the book, I see value in the fact that we both agreed it's a problem, he doesn't hate laundry, I shouldn't have assumed bad faith there. I also kind of realized that this is not such a huge deal. The fight, the process, the laundry, none of those are bringing us closer together. If I do start a load I can usually get him to finish it. sorting is my job and he's happy to help me sort, and then we're doing it together.

I worried about working in our back yard, we've got this big project going. a lot of it is landscaping/arranging and that usually falls to me but I don't want to get left with all of it. he ripped out an entire deck by himself. we'd already clashed about how it was going to go because the scope feels huge and we've both got priorities. so I started breaking it down. rather than debate the big plan in his head, I just asked what's the next step, then started working in the morning, then got him out to work alongside me, and we were together happily, and the more time we were together the happier we were in the evening talking to each other about it. moving rocks, moving dirt, going to stores, being outside, getting fresh air and sunshine. he even admitted he's in a good mood about it.

maybe that's how it would go anyway. maybe we do the good marriage stuff automatically, that's why we've been married 13 years. but the book gave me things to think about and I appreciate that. if we can work on something close together, it's become a priority for me. if we're both admitting there's a problem, it's a good sign. if i'm trenched in and angry about it, it's usually about some little thing and I can redirect my energy to bigger ticket priorities.

closeness. turning toward each other. yes and. all things we do as humans to get our brains into the collaboration and attraction mindset, and then the magic happens.

vaccines, vaccines, vaccines

today's title is to be sung to the tune of "jolene" by dolly parton. every since we found out that dolly helped fund covid research, that's where we go in our house.

vaccines are obviously a big topic right now. marc and I both have one covid shot and will have our second in a few weeks. Olive, age 7 almost 8, is a little upset that there isn't one for kids, but she also knows that when her parents are vaccinated we are going to relax a little on some of the isolation we've been through. science museums, trampoline parks, roller coasters - all things we skipped last year, but with community spread plummeting and vaccinated adults, we might be back out in the world.

sitting curled up on my lap she asked what's it like to get a vaccine because she's never had one. WHAT? Olive, you JUST got a flu shot, you don't remember that? She said oh yeah. But that's the only one.

Again... Olive you've had A TON OF VACCINES, so I pulled up the Kansas Vaccine Schedule and I told her that she got this whole grocery list! just doesn't remember, because they were mostly when she was a baby.

We went through the schedule and I read off all the things we've never had to worry about. Some of it I know about and explained it to her. Pertussis, polio, tetanus, chickenpox... we've got stories, sometimes even in our family among older relatives, so I told her what those things are. Then there's extras. I have no idea what diphtheria or pneumococcus are. Why? Because they're vaccinated away, we never have to deal with them. This is beautiful.

The vaccine schedule doesn't have much for a seven year old. Her 10 year old sister will get HPV and meningococcal conjugate soon, that's exciting. But Olive is in a void. She's forgotten all her baby vaccines, like all of us, and we just live our lives being happy and oblivious. We had this one pandemic, and we were untouched. We get our flu shots. We don't think about anything else. We don't talk about it. And we definitely don't walk around in graveyards, to the old sections, where the children's names are so much more common. That is too much to think about. We have other things to do.

friday 5: obstacles


What did you most recently leap over (or past)?
car insurance, apparently. I called travelers to ask why my car and homeowners plans weren't bundled together, am I saving enough money? and they said there was some "new pricing" thing in my state so not only do I need to merge policies but my car insurance is dropping a TON. Random money. the world always amazes me. I was so supercharged by it I called my cell phone provider and got $40 off our monthly bills there too.

When were you most recently forced to crawl?
I have been crawling around in the dirt moving rocks. I had river rock merging with dirt that used to be under a deck. now I have, on one side, river rock, then a nice brick border, then dirt. I am still sorting out small rocks here and there. it's been satisfying work. This is my spring break vacation.

What are you sprinting from?
nothing but according to my running group I do need to do hill work/speed work occasionally, it's always on our monthly challenge bingo cards.

What has recently required you to step carefully?
right hamstring tightness, as always.

Where is your next finish line?
the back yard finish line is a long ways off. we are doing this very slowly, and very DIY, to save money. honestly it's so nice to have a casual project, who really needs a finish line? same with my front yard landscaping... my hosta from last year is growing back! no finish line, just growth. same with my investments, and my children, and the airplanes at work... why finish anything?

middle school

my lj friends list has had lots of churn since 2010 so this won't be shocking to most of you, but baby jojo will be in middle school next year, a 6th grader.

she got into pre-IB... it's some kind of honors program to help kids get ready for the international baccalaureate program in high school, which is some other kind of "harder classes" program, I asked a ton of "what the hell is it?" questions and still don't totally understand. most of the FAQ on the website was about HOW DO I GET MY SMART KID INTO THIS. and I was the only parent at the zoom info night asking "what is THIS!?"

So from what I've gathered, the kids in the program have their own core classes (math, reading, writing) that are "accelerated" but I'm not sure by how much. I think it's segregating out the smart kids. I am not normally a fan of this idea, I'm an education populist, we're all in this together. A few years ago I was reluctant to let Josie get tested for gifted, but eventually gave in and then she was told she wasn't gifted. I can't find the entry about it but this is the exact same thing that happened to me in elementary school so... fool me twice. But unlike me, Josie didn't take it personally.

That's the thing about this kid. She floats on the wind like the feather in forrest gump. whatever happens happens and she doesn't get stuck in her own head about it, which makes me worried she's not in her head *enough*, lacks introspection and empathy and feelings. Since I'm an electrical engineer, people raise their eyebrows and say gosh where could your kid be getting that from? I don't like engineer stereotypes. But I admit to them now... she's not going to be a psychologist.

Oh, she likes anime and told me she wants to write screenplays. But her lowest grade card score was for writing dialog between characters, because again... you have to get inside heads. Explain why people are making decisions. Explain anything.

Anyway I told her she didn't have to take the pre-IB test, but she shrugged and did it. It requires writing, so I wasn't sure she'd get in... but she did. Maybe she writes but I don't know about it? I told her she didn't have to opt into the program, but she's shrugging and saying "I'll do it". Why? no reason. I took her out for ice cream to celebrate. She talked about videogames. She likes playing fortnight and making up little animations about it and she has 3000 tiktok followers.

well, back to pre-ib... when she gets stressed she internalizes it and shows stress in very subtle ways, so I'll just have to make sure these harder classes with more homework aren't too crazy, she can always opt out the next year. by then we'll know what the heck pre-IB is.