Archive for the 'Work' Category

Little Ironies

collaboration pieces

It is one of life’s ironies that we are often called upon to do exactly that which we personally find least appealing. I am a collaborator, not a competitor. I made that decision many, many years ago when I realized that I was a very poor competitor. If I was in anything that could be considered a contest, I HAD TO WIN. If I didn’t win, life was sour, the sky was dark, there was no joy in Mudville. Not only that, but I found that if I was in a contest but not really caring for some reason, it made me nuts to be playing with other people who HAD TO WIN. (Remind me to tell you the story of the time I attended a class in how to play Bridge.) I basically stopped playing games altogether, with the exception of computer solitaire. 🙂 I don’t care if I win that or not – I mostly use it to go into a zen state of reflection. It isn’t the winning – it’s the semi-automatic, mindless movement of cards, while I let my brain wander. As a matter of fact, if I find myself starting to really pay attention to what I’m doing, it’s a bit disconcerting. It feels like I’ve wandered through the looking glass because it LOOKS familiar but with a different light and perspective. 🙂

So I’m a collaborator. I realized with my latest project at work that I’m a certain kind of collaborator. I want to collaborate on MY terms. I’m a collaborator who does not actually like working with other people. *grin* I HATE group projects. I hated them in school, loathed them in graduate school, and had issues with them at work if my work depended on what someone else was doing. Yes, I’m a collaborator who doesn’t like to collaborate. *grin* What I like doing is teaching and helping and explaining and figuring out what I might design to help others do their work more productively. I burned out teaching, however, so I can’t do that full-time. I knew that the day I stood in front of my (paying) students and literally said “I KNOW how to use this system. I don’t need this class. You all can either pay attention and I’ll teach you or you can waste the time and go back to your jobs and explain that you don’t know how to run the system.” After that class I went to my manager and said that perhaps it was time to have someone else teach the clients. *grin* I’m a teacher who only wants to teach if I can wash my hands and walk away when the students get too annoying. (I won’t argue if you are starting to think I’m a bit of a princess.)

Someone asked for my “help” in running his project this year. It was about communication and collaboration and data storage. Okay, I can do that – I’m all about those things (on my terms, of course). Huh. It turned out that his idea of “help” meant running the project. Running a project means my work is dependent on what other people do. Even worse – it means that I am also, should the need arise, the one responsible for inspiring the others to do work. Now did I say ANYWHERE here that I am a LEADER??? NO, I did NOT. I am NOT a leader and I am not a visionary. I think I may have mentioned once that the best compliment I ever received was back in my SecondLife/OpenSim days when my mentor told another that I “made things happen”. Yes – that’s me. I’m an engineer. I make things happen. I solve puzzles. I am not inspiring, I am not a leader, I am not a visionary. And oh my word I absolutely hate waiting for you to get it done. Or when you ARGUE with me about what should be done. In the famed words of my father, the engineer: WHY do you ARGUE with me? Or as my pillow says “Never but never question the Engineer’s judgement.”

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The cat hair was an add-on feature. 🙂

So here I am, leading a project. There is actually a great deal more I’d like to say about that but I don’t talk directly about real things in this blog. 🙂 All I’ll say about it is that part of the project has to do with communication with dispersed team members and creating a feeling of unity. We are living in the time of covid19. We are all working remotely. We are all practicing social distancing (well except for the lunatics down in Florida on spring break who are determined to party in each other’s faces no matter what the law or warnings might be). We are all being isolated. This means that every single organization in the world is trying to figure out the most productive way to keep everyone working while maintaining distance. Oh hey! Look at what Ahuva is doing. I bet SHE has ideas. I have found myself pulled into some interesting meetings about communication.

I AM an extrovert. Heaven knows I like going out in the crowds, with people, partying, the thrill of the crush. I’ve written on how I love NYC at Christmas. I can get a thrill out of shopping at the mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Contact! But honestly – I really don’t like being deluged with emails and messages and texts that are all assuring me earnestly that they are thinking about me, and primarily about me, and my well-being, and I should KNOW that they are ‘only thinking of me’. I have gotten emails from every online company with which I have ever dealt, every charitable organization, every site that has my email. They are all fervently telling me how my health and the health of my loved ones is their utmost priority. Really. That’s all they care about. The well-being of everyone. My mailbox fills every day with these sincere thoughts. Imagine my chagrin, therefore, as I am asked to participate in the development and creation of such communications. Or as Pogo would say “we have met the enemy and he is us“.

Life in the Office Kitchen

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Neat and orderly with SUCH a variety of choice!

We have a small kitchen in our office. Maybe it’s not that small, but I’m comparing it to the one in my former office, which also had tables and a lot more counter space. We have a snack vending machine, a drink vending machine, a refrigerator, 2 microwaves, a Keurig coffee maker, a sink, and a water cooler. I think that is a fairly respectable work kitchen. The big issue is over the Keurig coffee maker. Let me take that back. For ME, the big issue is that so many people are (1) slobs, (2) can’t follow directions and (3) are selfish. Three issues. (“Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…“) Our company does NOT provide coffee for us (do NOT go there) so I like to surprise my office mates by bringing in coffee, cream and pastries on occasion. Usually on a Monday, or on a day when the weather is awful. If I’ve done the grocery shopping that weekend and thought ahead I’ve tossed in “office goodies”. Often I stop on my way to work to pick up something for snacks or lunch and that’s most often when I’ll also treat the office. I did so on January 6, the unofficial “everyone back to work after the holidays” Monday.

We have what is known as a mobile office. That means that many workers are allocated to this office but they are mobile workers, going out on sales and/or service calls, or visits to client sites. So they don’t have assigned desks and there are always people coming and going. There were 2 people in the office that day that I’d not seen before. I filled up the K-cup dispenser with coffee, and put out a box of non-refrigerated cream pods. I noticed one of these ‘new’ people taking more than just one K-cup. Because I was standing there and watching, she walked out without taking the extras. I’ve seen this before. I’ll fill the dispenser, I’ll notice how many are there, go by a few minutes later and see that it has been depleted. I believe this is due to people “hoarding” the coffee. There aren’t used K-cups in the garbage and there wasn’t an influx of people so if several K-cups “vanish” in the matter of minutes, it means someone walked off with them for their own personal supply. I’m sure they think it’s no big deal – the company will put out more. But it IS a big deal because there ISN’T any more and they are depriving their coworkers of the enjoyment of a free cup of tasty coffee. It infuriates me. Well, that Monday seeing that ‘new’ person lining up an extra K-cup (and using THREE dairy pods in her coffee – that is NOT coffee, sweetie, that’s milk with some flavoring), I lost my temper a little bit. I made a sign and put it out on the counter explaining that it was a coworker supplying the goodies, and the other coworkers being deprived by people hoarding. Two weeks before someone had walked off with a completely full jar of honey that had been supplied by another coworker. Once my note was out another person wrote that one and half full bundles of paper towels had disappeared from the cabinets, as well as most of the paper in the printer. We are past hoarding here, and into STEALING. It’s disgusting.

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Offending K-cups hidden in the BACK of the drawer.

Some of us treat our coworkers from the goodness of our hearts (that would be me *grin*) and some of us treat our coworkers because of dietary preferences. One of my friends here keeps kosher. Yesterday 4 Swiss Miss hot cocoa K-cups appeared in the dispenser. Swiss Miss cocoa is NOT kosher. That means if someone uses a Swiss Miss K-cup in the machine, my friend will need to re-kasher the Keurig so that he can make coffee and tea. *grin* (It’s not that hard to re-kasher but it is annoying and if that’s what he needs to do to feel comfortable, it’s his effort). This morning he came in with tea k-cups and coffee k-cups and filled up the dispenser with those (I’d already added my 6 coffee K-cups). He hid the offending hot cocoa pods in the back of the drawer. *grin* I said to him that people might still be using non-kosher pods and he sighed, shrugged and said yes, but I think people tend to use whatever is in front of them. *laughing* So true!!! So we had a full dispenser of interesting beverages. We also had cream because *I* got tired of people stealing my half-and-half from the refrigerator, and tired of them hoarding the little pods, and I brought in a large container of the powdered non-dairy creamer. I also am the person responsible for straightening out the different sugar substitutes. *laughing* It was making me crazy to see everything all mixed up and messy. I started aligning sugars back in the fall. Someone had left a lot of hot cocoa mix packages on the counter so I found a way to make them neat as well. (Too bad this obsession with order and cleanliness does NOT extend to my house.) It’s now 1pm and it appears that no one is hoarding today, and the caramel vanilla coffee my friend brought in has been a big hit! (I have to say – it smells wonderful.) Peace reigns in the kitchen, at least today.

Workday Wonderland

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Coming off the exit


I went up to Corporate yesterday for some meetings. I was a little concerned about the weather forecast. They’d been predicting 1-3 inches of snow up there by dawn and perhaps another inch in the morning. The commute was surprisingly trouble-free (for me anyway – there were accidents and tie-ups all over the place according to the traffic reports). I only wish I’d had time and place to pull over to take a picture of the trees along the lake as well. You may think that I was shooting in black & white but I was not. *smile* The world was gray and black and white all the way up, during the day, and then walking back to my car by moonlight (and safety lights & cameras). It was beautiful.
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shush. I know I shouldn’t have been taking this photo.

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walking from the parking lot

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almost to the door – see the sun starting to break through?

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looking out the window

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heading back to the car. the lower ‘moon’ is the security light

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i know it’s blurry but I had to try. 🙂

Ahhhh! Morning treasures

buttermilk biscuits and coffee

Buttermilk biscuits hot from the oven and fresh-brewed coffee. Working from home. Day before a holiday and most of my coworkers are NOT working, which means a very quiet day for me. 🙂 My cats and my ‘guys’ are here, too. A morning full of treasures.

Getting Grounded in the Tree

autumn tree

There’s been a lot going on the last few weeks, not the least of it being the “month” of Jewish holidays. Sometimes there seems to be no time to breathe, much less compose a post. At the office today I got up to take a short walk. It is too windy and cool outside so I walked about the hallways. As I headed back to my desk I was captured by the view out the window. I always appreciate that I can gaze out the windows and see trees and mountains and birds. Today is a perfect autumn day – clear blue sky, fall-colored leaves, puffy white clouds. I went and stood by the window and practiced a moment of mindfulness. Looking at the tree, the leaves, the bark, the branches the pods. Just breathing.

At Least It Wasn’t Raining

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The big broad Hudson (looking back to NY, NJ ahead on the left) under a beautiful blue sky

Yesterday was one of THOSE commuting days. It took me 2.5 hours to go 75 miles up, and just about 2.5 hours to return. That’s 5 hours commuting to spend about 6 hours meeting with folks. I spent a LOT of time simply sitting in traffic, waiting to inch forward. I remembered why I used to try to be on the road by 6am and not leave the office until after 6pm. That made for an extremely long day but a much shorter commute. Yesterday the weather was beautiful, although a bit chilly in the morning. I should have tossed on a jacket for the ride up. I was in the convertible and even with the windows up and the heat blasting, my shoulders were cold. Riding up it took me nearly 90 minutes to reach the Palisades. I think that might be 40 miles. That’s terrible progress. I think the fastest I ever got moving on the NJ Turnpike after Exit 11 might have been 40 mph. Most of the time it was 25 mph. On a road where I can usually hit 80 mph.

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Pretty sailboats on the Hudson by South Nyack

Coming home I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the Tappanzee Bridge (No, I will NOT call it the Mario Cuomo Bridge) as you can see by the pictures. Apparently there was some accident further north on the NY Thruway. Heading from Westchester county to Rockland county in the afternoon rush hour is always slow, but this took it to a new delay for me. I apologize for the poor quality. Every time I picked up the phone to take a picture, we got to inch forward half a car’s length. I finally held the phone up and pushed the button and hoped something would come out. Of course the camera assumed I was looking at the barriers, not the pretty sailboats out there on the Hudson. Still, I think you can get the idea. I do love looking at the river, the palisades, the mountains, the boats. That and the Kensico Dam and reservoir really make up for the ride on the NJT between exits 11 and 14. *grin*

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Before cropping

Trying to ‘Get’ Mindfulness

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Mindfulness is quite ‘in’ these days. Articles, courses, references – it seems to be everywhere I look. I wasn’t really sure what it meant/involved. I thought it was something about being aware in that moment but more than that was unclear to me. I knew more about “Willful Blindness” than about Mindfulness. For a fantastic discussion on that, you should follow Margaret Heffernan and/or read her book, ‘Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious At Our Peril”. I’ve heard her speak and she is FANTASTIC. But I digress. *grin* How like me.
dead branch in leaves

Yesterday at work we had an entire day devoted to learning – personal learning and corporate learning. I confess I was skeptical about the event. I thought it was going to be all ‘live’ presentations of folks droning on and on. It was nothing like that, and I was extremely impressed with how well it ran and the wide range of topics available to pursue. Folks who worked in large locations gathered together in party-like atmospheres, while us remote folks made do with our own kitchens (and cats). One of the options under the Personal Development track was a 45-minute session on Mindfulness. I decided to take that session. (Most of the offerings were a combination of pre-recorded presentations and reading materials, plus other relevant tasks or suggestions.)
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This particular session seemed to be aimed at how one could practice mindfulness at work. The goal of practicing mindfulness would lead to a feeling of calm, the ability to focus, reduction of stress, and overall better health. All of which would make you more productive, in all aspects of life. At least, this is what I took away from the session. As is my habit, I took screen shots of material I wanted to remember and revisit. I saved “10 mindfulness habits that will make you more productive at work”, “7 things mindful people do differently”, and “Some mindfulness exercises”. Although one of the ‘habits’ is ‘practice humility’ I’m arrogant and prideful enough to believe that I actually practice the 7 mindful habits most of the time. *laughing* Maybe a good part of the time if not most of the time. A lot of it sounded much like things my therapist used to advise me to embrace.
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‘Approach every day things with curiosity and savor them.’ That would probably be something I stop and do deliberately, or when I’m taken by surprise. I do love to learn how different things work and function and to watch skilled people practice their art. ‘Accept that things come and go.’ Oh yeah, that sounds like Howard for sure. “Accept”. He was always reminding me to accept how people are, to accept what I can’t control, to accept the decisions I make. Which leads, of course to another habit: ‘Make peace with imperfection, yours and others.’ ‘Make peace’ is another way to phrase one of Howard’s mantras: Accept, don’t Expect. 🙂
rock amid pebbles

I think the next 4 are really expanded commentary on the others. ‘Forgive mistakes, big and small’; ‘Show gratitude for good moments and grace for bad ones’; ‘Practice compassion and nurture connections’; ‘Embrace vulnerability by trusting others’. I’d like to think that I have made progress on these over the years. I probably have the most difficulty with forgiving and trusting. Being vulnerable is an uncomfortable feeling. On the other hand you don’t want to be all locked away, because that is suffocating.
red leaves

The 10 habits are ways to practice the 7 guides above. Many of them are ways to “be present”, “stay in the moment”. If you are working a specific project, it’s not that difficult. I imagine most of us can hone in and focus on something we are trying to accomplish. But mindfulness appears to be about staying in the moment and NOT working. And that is very, very difficult for me. My mind is all over the place the minute I try to “relax”. *laughing* I always tell this story about my first yoga class, at one of the local high schools. The first instruction was to stretch out on our mats and relax, and let our minds relax too. Well. Although Ahuva and relax both have 5 letters, other than the ‘a’ there’s not much else they have in common. As I lay there on the floor, I started worrying about my car. Did I lock it, was someone going to break in, what is this relaxing thing anyway, this is boring, what am I supposed to be doing, what am I supposed to be feeling, is everyone else getting this, why am I not getting this. By the time the instructor told us to sit up, I was hyper-ventilating and completely stressed. *grin* I never went back to that class.
tree root with moss

I cheated on completing the Mindfulness session. I marked it complete without doing the 10-15 minute practice. I decided I’d try it at home (even though I am NOT a trained professional). 🙂 I decided to give it a try in the hot tub at night. One of the suggested exercises was to take several deep breaths, counting as you inhale, hold it, exhale. That is something I learned 2 years ago when I re-attempted yoga and I do that when my mind begins spinning downward into the vortex. I thought I’d try a different exercise: Mindful observation. Pick an object and observe it for one minute, noticing color, texture, shape, smell, etc.
white pine needles

There’s not much to touch in the hot tub. (Do NOT go there.) I was going to stare at the trees, but they weren’t offering much inspiration. I decided to close my eyes and LISTEN, not LOOK. That I COULD do. It was lovely. I don’t know what creature produced the sounds I heard. One was definitely crickets or cicadas. I don’t know what the other very interesting insect-sounding noise was. I was able to sit there and let go of everything but the moment. I focused on the sounds, I focused on the water moving against my hand, I ‘tracked’ the plane that flew overhead, I heard more bird/insect noises further way. I noticed my breathing, without trying to control it. It really worked. *smile* I sat there for SEVERAL minutes (I think), simply being. I would open my eyes after a bit, move about, settle down and close my eyes and begin again. I felt relaxed and refreshed after I got out of the tub, and did NOT have difficulty falling asleep afterwards.
spider web

Today at the office I tried another of the suggestions – Notice 5 things in your day that you don’t typically notice. There are probably a lot of things inside the office that I don’t usually notice, but there are also probably very good reasons why I don’t look there. 🙂 I decided to try to focus during a walk – LOOK at things on my walk, feel the sun and wind, smell whatever might be there (and of course hear the pterodactyl yelling from the warehouse next door).
weed with berries

It went surprisingly well. For starters I walked much more slowly than I usually do, and I made a point to look at the plants, the asphalt, the stones and trees. I saw many plants that I don’t usually notice, and noticed the bark on the trees, the pine cones, little seedlings, spider webs. It wasn’t just the noticing. It was the not having anything else churning in my mind. Usually I’m obsessing about what I have to do and what I’m feeling and why am I feeling that way. There was NONE of that. I was moving slowly, focused on seeing, not thinking, feeling the sun and the breeze. The most thinking I did was when I thought about aiming the camera to take a picture to share. It was incredibly restful.
tree bark with fungus

I stayed focused on seeing, feeling, sensing, for easily 25 minutes. Near the end of my walk I realized that I was losing my ability to stay focused on what was in front of me. I’d been thinking about what I needed to write, about curating the photos I’d been taking, wondering if I could escape down the shore one of these days. That was the point when I checked the time and saw I’d been out there for my usual 30 minutes, but nothing about it felt ‘usual’. I hadn’t even realized how much time had passed. In any case, I think there is a lot here that could be useful if I can figure out how to make it work for me. Huh. There may be something TO this mindfulness thing. *smile*
red leaf in grass


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