Time for a break

I love this blog.  It has honestly kept me going through some particularly tough times over the last six years.  Even as the comments have dwindled, just putting stuff out there knowing that someone might read it has felt pretty good.  These last couple of weeks, I have been quite busy in the lead up to getting my new job, about which I’m quite excited.  As I’ve spent less time in front of the computer, or at least on the web, I’ve been re-evaluating my time spent online (in case regular readers couldn’t tell).  I’ve tried to spend at least half my day completely away from the computer: doing housework, reading, or being outside.  I’m trying to set a good example for my kids, who don’t really see the difference (even though they’re both at an age where they might be expected to) between the intellectual work I do online and the playful things I do.  Given my career, I obviously can’t escape the computer entirely (and don’t want to), but I do think I need to spend more of my leisure time doing other things, preferably with my family, coaxing them into leisure activities that are not screen-based.

This blog, for me, is mostly leisure.  At one time, it contributed greatly to my professional development, and it may do that for me again someday.  But for now, I’m going to focus on it less and put my energies elsewhere.  I’ll be popping in from time to time over the summer, perhaps once a week.  But I’m no longer going to feel compelled to post something every day.   There’s at once not enough and too much going on for me to do that.  I will try to return to daily posting in the fall, but it may be the case that my work will not allow me the time to do that.  I’m still going to be reading people’s blogs, as that’s been a great pleasure of mine, and maybe, without my own blog to tend to, I can comment more. I’ll see you all on the flip side!

Writer’s Cramp

Mouse and keyboardImage by lorda via Flickr

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen me deliberating yesterday about whether to write through the pain of the repetitive stress injury I seem to have developed. For the record, I decided to write by hand, which was only slightly less painful than typing. I even went out and got a new mouse and a keyboard pad (which heats up!) to help alleviate the pain. And I topped it off with a massage.

But today, I can still feel the pain, a burning sensation that sits mostly in my wrist and shoulder, though at times, it feels like it’s traveling up my whole arm. I’m typing on my laptop right now, in case you’re wondering, which is definitely more comfortable than my other keyboard. I’m considering sticking to the laptop.

Of course, the other option is to lay off writing completely, but I’m determined to finish this NaNo thing. Mr. Geeky thinks I’m insane and wants me to just take care of myself. I won’t even go into the many times he’s stayed up all night, worked through illness, and even played ultimate frisbee despite an injury.

I’m not a fan of pain, but I’ve been told by doctors that I have an extremely high tolerance for pain. Both times I gave birth, the doctors (different ones) were surprised I wasn’t freaking out. I also slammed my finger in a car door, which yes, hurt like hell, but I remained calmer than Mr. Geeky, who ran around like a crazy man. When I researched this RSI thing, most the info I found suggested learning to live with the pain, which kind of sucks really. So, what I may do is just write for a shorter period of time. Normally, I write for two and a half hours straight (with a break in the middle), but maybe I need to only write for an hour, take a couple of hours off and then go back to it for an hour.

Long term, I’m considering things like acupuncture and more regular massage, but I welcome your suggestions for good short-term solutions.

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Motivational Swings

Warning: This post may be whiny and self-indulgent. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It’s either the weather or the hormones, but I’ve struggled the last couple of days to do anything productive. Just Tuesday, as I was walking back from Starbucks, I was feeling quite proud of myself. I was thinking, damn, I finished a writing a section of a book and started the next section, and no one paid me to do it. There was a real spring in my step.

But then Wednesday, for some reason, I couldn’t get up the motivation to do anything. I wrote a couple of blog posts, one for another venue I’m experimenting with. And then I felt kind of sapped.

As is my usual habit, I’ve been analyzing the reasons behind the lack of motivation in order to figure out what to do about it. I could just blow it off, go play WoW and return to working when the mood strikes again. But my protestant work ethic won’t let me do that. There’s writing to be done! There’s laundry to do, floors to vacuum! You’re not making any money, you have to do something productive to contribute to the family! And there’s the rub. It’s not the only rub, but it’s a big one.

While we’re able to cover our necessities, there are some things we want to do that we can’t really afford right now, but that we could easily afford if I were working. Both Mr. Geeky and I have acknowledged this. And I’m torn in multiple directions on the career front. On the one hand, I could put considerably more effort into my consulting work. On the other hand, I could hold out hope for the writing to pay off, but that’s very long term. On still another hand, I could just get another job. My worry is that doing either option one or option three would detract substantially from the writing and it would never get done. Because that’s where I’d sacrifice the time, not on the family side of things, which are mostly positive right now and I’m getting a lot out of being with my kids more.

And then there’s this reality. I am doing 80-90% of the housework. And I really hate housework. I actually had the kids clean the bathrooms yesterday, but I folded 4 loads of laundry and made dinner. Mr. Geeky cleaned up and this morning took the garbage out. But I’m picking up socks off the floor, school papers off the coffee table and dining room table, and generally keeping in my head the various chores that need to be done. It sounds more even when I type it out here, but it doesn’t feel even and that’s the problem. And I’ve discussed this problem with the family, and well, no one’s really got a solution yet. And frankly, I kind of feel like no one but me cares about the house.

And there’s the kid activities, which I really am glad I’m able to let them do, but which is more work on my part also. Yesterday, I went to the farmer’s market at 2:30, came home, unloaded, then went to Geeky Girl’s field hockey game. I didn’t go to the last one and just picked her up from school afterward and GG complained that she was the only one whose mom wasn’t there and could I please come to her next game. For the record, I was at Geeky Boy’s soccer game. Sigh.

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with the feeling, once again, of being completely disconnected from my community. When I got to the game, there was a group of moms standing watching the game. I walked toward them and stood near them, but didn’t say hi or anything. I only knew a few of them and just didn’t feel comfortable just walking up to them. They were kind of huddled together talking and they either never saw me or chose to ignore me. And I know this is more my problem than theirs, but still, I just felt awkward. A majority of my social interactions are coming through the Internet, which is not a good thing, but I have few ideas about how to fix that, at least on a regular basis. We are having people over later this month and going to a party next week, but day-to-day or weekly at least, I think I need more face-to-face connections. I miss that about work.

And then there’s the walking/exercising, which has slowed down considerably. The weather has been uncooperative and it takes a lot of time. I might have to work on a better schedule for it at least. I’m sure it would help with the mood issues. Geeky Girl has promised to go on a longer walk with me on Sunday if the weather holds out. It’s a nice show of support.

I’m feeling pulled in too many different directions and none of them feel comfortable for different reasons. I like writing the best, but worry about its financial viability. Playing the role of sahm is rewarding for the time I have with my kids, but isolating, lonely, and somewhat thankless (especially on the housework side of things). Starting a new business is liberating and exciting, but proving difficult in a down economy in an industry that doesn’t tend to look outside its walls for support. And thinking about a regular job feels like giving up, but would bring in much appreciated income. I know I will work through all of this eventually, but it’s a lot to process. Thanks for giving me the space to process it in. If you made it this far, you deserve a gold star.

This week is a wash

I can’t quite believe it myself, but the whole week has pretty much gone down the drain. Monday, I did nothing because of Yom Kippur. Tuesday, I jumped back in and then, around noon, started to feel crappy. I forged ahead anyway and got some extra work done after lunch. Tuesday afternoon, Geeky Boy and I had gone to the drug store to get cold medicine. You can’t get anything these days that doesn’t claim to cure 14 different things at once. I tried to find something for sore throat, runny nose/sneezing, and congestion, but everything also included something for coughing, or chest congestion, which I did not have. I was willing to buy separate things, but I couldn’t even find separate medicines. Sure, I could get tylenol or advil for the pain, but then I couldn’t find something that just dealt with the congestion and sneezing situation. I finally settled on Alka Seltzer cold, which had what I needed, but, I must say, it didn’t taste good.

Wednesday, I woke up feeling like crap. Despite medicating myself, I’d spent the whole night sniffling and swallowing hard. I have not felt that bad in a long time. Everyone in the family had been sniffling and sneezing for a week. I figured I was safe since I hadn’t gotten sick yet and none of them had been sick enough to miss school. Boy, was I wrong. So, I spent the day in bed, watching reruns of last season’s Top Chef. I did nothing that required any brain power, canceling a meeting with a colleague to discuss our upcoming conference presentation. I could barely move, much less think straight.

I’d gone to bed at 9:00 on Tuesday, which is how I knew I was really sick. I just fell asleep. Last night, same thing, 9 p.m. bedtime. This morning, I’m feeling much better, but I’m going on a field trip with the 5th grade class, so the day is shot. I don’t get back until 2:00 and then I have to pick up one kid, drop another off, go to a meeting and I probably won’t be back until 8 at the earliest. Sigh.

I haven’t looked forward to Friday this much since my working days.

Time for reflection

One of the lovely things about being in the locations I was in on my vacation was that I was pretty much off the grid. I could use my iPhone a bit while still in the country, but once we got to France, we had little contact with the outside world. Although we could have purchased an English language newspaper, we didn’t and we watched a bit of French news which was mostly about the Tour de France. We did manage to find out about Michael Jackson, but mostly we had no idea what was going on. And we didn’t really miss it. At least I didn’t.

I spent time just appreciating my surroundings, but also thinking about where I am and where I’m going. And this extended to Mr. Geeky and together, we reflected on our lifestyle–what was good, what we didn’t like, etc. Overall, I’d say, we like where we are and how our life has turned out, but there are things that we’d like to be better. Just before we’d left, I’d commented on how I felt our lives here were sort of rushed, that it was fast-paced and it seemed difficult to slow down. In essence, I feel like this is part of the culture here. This would probably be true of any major metropolitan area where commute times (both to work and to shopping, schools, etc.) eat into time to spend alone with a book or with family. I also think there’s an element of our own rushed tempo with our careers in technology that move at the speed of light. I think we have been influenced both by the locale and our careers to feel the need to do everything quickly.

Another element that feels problematic to me is the lack of connection I feel to my neighbors. I have plenty of friends, but they are far flung, living in the city or in other suburbs. I’ve made a real effort, though, in the last few months, to make those connections. It takes time and effort. I think improving these connections might help slow things down a bit, and make us feel like we have ties that support us.

On the material side, with my leaving regular work, the plans we had for improving our house to gain space and make it more our own have been put on hold. Moving out a ways might gain us some space, but it adds to the commute, uproots the kids from their schools and disconnects us from the few connections we do have. But there are small things we can do–painting, smaller improvements–that might make a big difference. And really, we don’t care that much about our physical accoutrements.

One thing I’ve been thinking about is trying to not be so hard on myself. I’ve spent much of my life comparing myself negatively to others, and although I’ve mostly stopped doing that, I find it sneaking in occasionally, making me feel that who I am and what I have is not good enough. But it is. I really have few complaints. Those I have can be fairly easily remedied. So I came away from my vacation much more appreciative of what I have and the life I’ve built, but with an eye to continue working on the things I want to be better. And I hope to slow down and appreciate it even more.

Headaches gone for now

Not that I want to turn this into a health blog, but just FYI, the headaches have gone for now. I did spend the entire afternoon watching “Mystery Diagnosis” and there were several episodes dealing with headaches. The causes ran the gamut from tumors to hormonal imbalance. Yuck. I’m hoping to get a walk in today, get some fresh air, stay away from the computer again.

Now What?

Thanks everyone for your supportive comments on my announcement. Yesterday was my last day of work and it wasn’t as odd as I thought it would be. The last two days, actually, were filled with people coming by to chat, to say goodbye, even though I’ll see some of them next week at my official party. I guess since Mr. Geeky is still there and I’ll be there myself next semester, it doesn’t feel so much like a going away as a leave of absence. Because I plan to continue mostly along the same lines as my work, just independently, I also feel differently than I did when I left my last jobs, all of which were cross-country moves and/or career changes. I don’t have any regrets and I’ve had some good moments of recognizing the good colleagues I’ve had and that I won’t have to disconnect from them entirely.

I’m sure next week will involve a little stumbling. I have in my mind not to try to do much of anything in terms of establishing a new career, to really take a vacation. I actually do really want to do the manual labor of cleaning my house, though I’m keeping that to a minimum. I want to read, write, think. I’ll probably blog here more. I’m sure there will be moments when I miss the structure of my 9-5 job, but I hope to find my own structure soon. I am pretty darn excited about that.

Addendum, travel edition

Update: By the way, my defense is still over a month away, making this whole process even more ludicrous.

Part of my near-panic was (is) caused by my defense trip, which I’m not concerned about from a defense point of view. I know what I need to do to prepare and am ready to do so and to fill out forms and cross t’s and dot i’s. But the logistics of the trip were complicated and my mother stepped in and made things more complicated and stressed me out even more. Here was the issue. I had thought that since I was going to be about as close (distance-wise) as I’ll ever get and since the whole family was planning to travel with me, that we’d hop over to see her after the defense. I mentioned this to my mother at some point and she sprung into action. A week after that brief mention, she called to see if she could rent a cabin closer to Defense City. I haven’t even begun to plan.

My defense is on Tuesday. I want to arrive on Monday and I thought I’d make it over to visit my mother on Wednesday or Thursday. We will be at the beach until the Saturday before I defend. Mr. Geeky needs to be in Large Southern City on that Saturday, so he’d already planned to leave early. We hadn’t worked out what was going to happen after that and there was a chance that the Saturday event was going to be canceled. My mother called several times to discuss the plans. She has booked the cabin for Monday through Friday. I said that was fine, but Mr. Geeky and I, at least, wouldn’t be there until Wednesday at the earliest, which I had explained the very first time she even mentioned this scheme of hers. She calls again to ask if we’ve made our travel plans again. I say no. First, they’re going to be complicated and Mr. Geeky and I have both been running around like chickens with our heads cut off for the last couple of weeks, so we haven’t had time to think. Second, it’s going to cost us about $1000, and we don’t spend that kind of money lightly. So, then she explains that not only has she booked the cabin, but she’s reserved canoes for Tuesday. I say, you know Mr. Geeky and I won’t be there till Wednesday, right? Oh, you’re not coming over after your “little conference”? She asks. I’ve said this to her before, but I say it again, enunciating like she has a hearing problem, “Mom, this is a big deal. It determines whether or not I receive my degree. After it’s over, I’m either going to go out and celebrate with friends or commiserate. Either way, I’m not going anywhere until Wednesday.” Seriously, this is at least the third time I’ve told her.

I’ve told everyone at work this story (sorry everyone!) because it just really gets my goat. I realized that the reason it gets my goat is because I wanted to control this whole trip and my visit with her and instead, she took over and made me fee about 12 again when we used to go shopping for clothes and she’d bring me only stuff she liked. I know I’m complicit in this because I let her do it to me, but it’s so hard not to fall into that same dynamic again. I have honestly been thinking about Phantom and her determination to say no more often. I really wish that the very first time my mom had called to suggest the whole thing, I’d just said, “Mom, that sounds like a great idea, but I really don’t want to make this trip that complicated. Give me a week or two to make my own plans and we’ll figure out how to visit with you.” But I’m never that prepared.

At any rate, we did come up with a plan, and I swear, it’s close to one of those cheesy Family Circus comics where Billy zig zags around the neighborhood. First, we go to the beach (yay!). Then, we all drive to Southern City (about 6 hours) on Friday and Mr. Geeky does his workshop thing while me and the kids hang out with some unsuspecting friends. On Sunday, I fly to Defense City and camp out in a hotel and prepare to defend. Mr. Geeky and family arrive by car sometime on Monday-ish. Somehow, we get the kids to my mom. Tuesday, I defend. We celebrate (I’m an optimist). Wednesday, we meet up with mom and family. Friday, we drive back. We’re planning a scenic route. And then, the real relaxing begins!

Five things about me

Barbara tagged me and I thought this would be an interesting thing for the new year. Is there anything you all don’t know about me? Of course. Here’s a few:

  1. I used to sing in a church choir. I even sang a few solos. It was the one thing I liked about church. I still enjoy singing in my car and in the kitchen while I cook. I used to sing the kids to sleep. They still remember it.
  2. I have a teddy bear that’s 37 years old. I used to bring him out every year for Christmas to celebrate his birthday. I haven’t done that in about five years. He’s alive and well (though decrepit) in the attic.
  3. I was once part of an all-women’s Quake team. I was 28 or 29 at the time. All the other women were 19-22. We used to regularly beat teams made up of teenaged boys. It was a great stress reliever.
  4. I had a dog named Boo (just like the song). Boo was an avid car chaser and was hit by a UPS truck when I was 11. Ten years later, my dad got another dog and named him Boo II.
  5. I changed my major 8 times in college. I started out as an English major, but I considered French, Business, Economics, International Studies and various combinations of those before returning to English again. At one point, I wanted to be an International Business Lawyer. Sometimes I wish I had majored in Computer Science, but they didn’t even have that as a major then.

Anything else you want to know?

What is a Geeky Mom?

Hello, my name is Laura and I’m Geeky, and a mom, thus Geekymom. I have been a Geek now, for, oh, about 25 years. I have a SmartPhone, iPod, and an iMac. I think Tivo is the greatest invention since the remote control. I’d rather play video games than go shopping. I learned how to design web pages on maternity leave. I don’t do much in the way of mom things, and other moms I know look at me like I’m from another planet when I talk about the things I do in my spare time–like blogging. In geek circles, I’m like the woman who likes sports at a party. Thankfully, my job is geeky. I’m an Instructional Technologist. It’s actually my job to explore new gadgets and software. I create web pages on a regular basis and train others how to do it (maternity leave paid off well). I get paid to blog and read blogs. What cooler job could there be?

I’m also a writer. That’s what my original degree was in–Creative Writing. I’m working on a novel now. Originally, I was a poet. So you’ll probably see some blogs about that, too. You can see by my previous two posts that I intended this to be my professional blog at first, but I’m letting the school host that and here, I can have some fun.