Thursday, August 27, 2009

ACK...Still awake!

I am sure I must have at least been dozing earlier when I heard the kiddo crying over the baby monitor. I bounced up, ran to her room and sure enough the baby was standing up in her crib, crying, looking accusingly at the light coming from her closet. Anyway, calmed her down and put her back to sleep but now I've been awake for over an hour!

I've checked email,Facebook,Twitter and have even gotten a new high score on Brickbreaker - the ghostly light of the crackberry casting odd shadows on the head of my sleeping husband: my brain is in "on" mode and will not shut off.

My mother would suggest that I get up and clean something; this little device has thus far prevented such silliness but not sure how long I can really hold out. Even the pug is snoring soundly on my feet: my ankle is vibrating!

So, as I lay here, blogging in bed in the darkness I've gotta wonder - what the heck ever happened to counting sheep?! This modern age is a little nutso - only thing I've not done is text my friends to see who ELSE can't sleep!

OK...I give up. Goodnight world - or rather good morning. Goodbye for now, Crackberry. I think I am gonna try a book.

confessions of a would-be career gal

Ok. I have a confession to make: now that I'm a bit over the "lost my job" mind games and self-pity (I acknowledge openly there has been some of that) I'm really kinda digging' the SAHM thing. I know I shouldn't; I can't really afford it financially and I really do feel I have something valuable to contribute to the work world - but right now I'm truly enjoying being with my baby, the pug, and even the cooking and cleaning!

While I am in no danger of becoming the next Betty Crocker, I admit feeling a bit conflicted. I feel like I'm "supposed to" being going crazy at home, and while I do admit to some isolation -I'm also not feeling the ridiculous amount of stress and anxiety. I am enjoying the simplicity of things - I am productive - I write, I am still looking for jobs etc but also working out and walking - really walking - for the first time in a year. I feel a bit like I am finding myself again in the midst of all of this.

So yes, I know I need a job and have no intention of scaring my husband otherwise - but I would not trade for the world this time I am getting with my ever-changing little girl. Today, I am content...and even happy. The career gal in me winces a little, but the earth mama rejoices.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Puggy update

BTW - Loki the Wonder Pug is back to his old self, has been seen by the vet, and given a clean bill of health. He's back to stealing the collanders, demanding attention, and generally getting into all the puggy trouble he can. I could not be more relieved!!

Up to my eyeballs in appetizers

I have a tendency to over-promise but I hate to under-deliver. I promised to make both bruschetta and a pasta salad for my sister's daughter's 2nd birthday party today, and it makes me laugh a little when I go back and look at how I handled such things.

Rather than buy the pre-made stuff, I spent about 3 hours last night hand-chopping roma tomatoes, peeling whole garlic cloves, and snipping my own fresh basil to make bruschetta. Why? It's actually pretty silly I suppose but I bet I am not the only one: my mother is going to be there and I want her to be impressed with my cooking skills. For whatever reason, even at my advanced age, I am still trying to impress mom. Mom, I should mention, does NOT impress easily.

The thing is, the approval rating I think I am going for is not likely to be given. I *know* I'm a good cook; I do it pretty naturally and have a good idea of what flavors will go together well. Why am I not just comfortable with that? Years and years of training, methinks.

In any case, I have several hours to go and the food is actually prepared and ready to go. I even (for once) have the present packed and ready, and have sent the husband off with baby to grandma's for an hour so I can take a real shower and focus on my own appearance as well. I am going to call it a win...and try to let go of the results for once!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

the ramifications of guilt

How it is that I'm blogging, under covers and next to a sleeping husband to the sound of a snoring pug comes down to one terrible word:guilt. It haunts me.

I mentioned in a prior post that I dropped my pug the other evening while trying to carry both him and a baby. I was in pain and exasperated-and frankly upset that I'd been yelled at, but what I didn't mention were the pained yelps and the accusing look from my dog when he landed.

I can say it was him or the baby; I can say I could no longer carry them both. But the fall hurt my dog in some fashion and I think he is holding it against me.

My pug has been know to hold it for 12 hrs - he does not, as a rule, ever poop in the house. That night however, he left seemingly strategic surprises for me in both my daughter's room and the kitchen. While he seems to be walking fine and has been given extra treats and trips outside, he still does not seem the same. Even while I'm petting him I get the sense I'm either being given the cold shoulder, or that my pug is sad. And I am miserable thinking about it.

A dog is just a dog and a cat just a cat, but when I feel guilt it is the pure and unriddled Catholic kind that burns like hellfire and overtakes your dreams. It's gonna be another long night:while the pug is snoring away I am pretty sure I will not until I am absolutely sure the pooch is ok and that he's forgiven me...and then maybe I will be able to forgive myself.

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Comedy of errors: how to juggle a baby, a pug, and an angry neighbor

I thought I would share this simply because it was such a comedy of errors that I suppose if it hadn't happened to ME I would see the humor in it: as it stands I'm still licking my wounds.

To give you some background, my daughter is standing and even jumping, so we lowered the crib bottom to ensure she didn't somehow escape the safety of her baby jail. This is fine and all - however, as I somewhat vertically-challenged momma, I can no longer readily reach the crib bottom. A few nights ago when my daughter woke screaming and clambered into my arms sobbing for whatever reason, I attempted to reach into the crib to locate her pacifier. Not only did I failed utterly in this mission, I also wrenched the hell out of my back: so badly that I ended up flat on my back in bed.

So..moving forward,...the evening of my confinement after my kind MIL had left for the day, I let the pug out to go potty. Usually, he is a good pug and stays close so on occasion I stupidly neglect a leash; this day of all days he chose to travel 6 yards away, running away from me. Like a lame cow, I gimped with the baby on my hip trying to catch him and encourage him to come home; I did not have a poop bag, and my attempts to actually grab at him were continually evaded. Finally, corralled somewhat towards home, Loki made a beeline for the neighbors flowers. I followed, tried to get him away, nudge him with my feet, swear - to no avail.

And then...the neighbor comes out. Here I am, standing with gigantor baby in my arms, looking like the 3rd ring of hell with my uncombed hair, bare feet and mismatched jogging clothes (aka whatever was close when I got out of bed) and this giant man comes out, looking down at my now-urinating pug.

"You are standing there letting that dog pee on my flowers??!!! For Christ's sake!!"

I apologized profusely, tried to tell him - look buddy, this wasn't anticipated, and I can't grab him and hold her...and that this was an accident, etc. etc...I left out that my back was by this time killing me. He glared, shook his head, and went back into the house swearing at me under his breath.

And still, the pug would not come. Finally, I took a deep breath, bent down (bad idea) and scooped the pug. Now carrying 20+ lbs on each hip, I make it to my yard and drop the pug. He still won't go onto the porch - I end up putting the baby down in the grass, grabbing the pug and running him to the deck (figure of speech entirely - more like oddly waddled) only to find that the sliding glass door was locked. I was about ready to scream in frustration when my husband opened the door, took one look at me, the pug, and the baby sitting in the yard happily clapping and shook his head.

Wordlessly, I handed him the pug, retrieved the baby and passed her off too. I grabbed two poop bags, went and made my way across the other backyards, retrieving Loki's leavings...swearing never, EVER, to let this dog off-leash again and wincing the entire way... the angry neighbor watching my lumbering progress from his kitchen window. I admit it; behind my back I flipped him the bird.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the goodbye cat

My mom is a somewhat fierce and decisive creature at times. After years of giving my cat a home when I could not and, I think, a lot of cat-happiness and freedom, mom decided the cat had to go.

And by go, I mean now. And by now, I mean the cat was gone before I had a chance to give her her things - little goodbye cat goodies that I'd purchased for her that I thought would make the transition easier...or at least quell the stomach-knotting guilt I feel about the situation: sad that I've not been able to take her with me and shame that my mother saw my leaving the cat at their house as an abuse of her kindness.

I just don't have words. I rarely got to see the lil thing but she was my friend and roommate when I lived alone in the city. That cat slept on my pillow and always tried to comfort me with her purrs when I was upset. If she were here now perhaps she'd curl up around my head and try and lick my tears. I know it is lame and childish of me knowing that she is going to a good home, but I find myself utterly distraught nonetheless.

I cried when I had to put my cat Byrne to sleep - but at least with him I held him to the end. This goodbye feels like it was stolen from me somehow; I did not even drive her to her new home myself - and wasn't given the option.

My sister has given me the address etc. and I will get the supplies to the new owner soon. I may even get to see Willow one last time. But emotionally I still feel that last car ride should have been mine and I am heartsick. I should have been the one to look her in the eyes and apologize for the abrupt change in lifestyle and had the opportunity to explain on the drive down why I couldn't take her...and tell her how foolish I feel and that I still love her.

So instead I will lay here in the dark and tell it to her and hope she hears it. Love ya Willow. You are a great cat and a most excellent mouser, and if I had my way you would be here with me now hogging my damp pillow. I'm so damn sorry kitty. Please be happy.

Aw hell. Here I go again...

baby finds her voice.s.

I have been officially unemployed for two weeks now. I have had, however, very little time to consider myself or my status - or indeed to do any writing at all. My world has been chasing the tornado that is my 10 month old daughter whose development has literally skyrocketed in a few short weeks - as has her discovery of self-expression.

Suffice it to say, the self-expression bit has not been all smiles. The least little thing - the end of a piece of string cheese for instance - has been resulting in howling storms of tears.

I must admit some of her new-found voice is intriguing. The coos of triumph when she successfully opened the cabinet; the victory cheer as she crawled on top of the sweaterbox - these were all very cool to watch. But when I took away the retractable dog leash, the only way I can describe her noises were "banshee -esque"...and I am running out of Advil.

I could not be more in love with my little girl. She is the coolest thing, bar none, that has ever happened to me. I also admit that my mom was right: genetics have passed onto this creature the boom of my own voice - I may have finally met my match!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Baby goes up but won't go down...

In day two of my at least temporary attempt at being a Stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), I've discovered that the timing of my situation with the newly-found skill sets of my 10 month old daughter just may potentially drive me out of my mind.

Syd is all sunlight and laughter and giggles. She is crawling like mad, and learning all kinds of skills - and I am SO PROUD (really, I am, it's sick). Monday, however, she learned to stand up both in her playpen and in her crib...and has not gone down since.

I am sitting in the living room as we speak, listening to her babble. It has now been at least 1/2 hour, and she has not gone down. (Yep. Just went it to check. STILL STANDING!) We are in a stalemate: I will not take her out of the playpen, and she will not lay down in it. I checked her diaper, I know she has to be relatively full; I believe I am being tested.

::20 minutes later::

I tried lying on the floor next to the playpen; nothing. I tried patting her on the belly while she howled, nothing...kept pulling herself vailiantly up to battle again with the cage. My kid could give Rocky a run for his money. Finally, in almost tears I went into the kitchen, called my husband and made him listen to the howling. I expect it has been at least an hour at this point. I hang up the phone, sigh heavily, and start going through the process of making a bottle to see if that will help, only to look over at the playpen...

poor little thing has given up. She's on her belly, dead asleep.

I'm not sure it's a victory, but I am glad one of us can konk out. My head is pounding from the screaming, and I must away to the Advil. I may even take a nap.

Monday, August 3, 2009

On men and work-life balance...among other things.

So, today is my last Monday in my current role. It has arrived, is passing somewhat peaceably, and I am trying to do all that I can to a)make and leverage business contacts, b)apply for job opportunities and research companies online and c)recreate myself into someone who knows a bit more about the modern age, i.e. social media marketing, Twitter, Digg, etc. I've become an enterprising little bee trying to learn how to adapt and evolve predominantly for the purposes of survival. In the back of my brain however, I am also thinking about party planning for my daughter's first birthday, figuring out what I am going to make for dinner, and mentally trying to schedule a hair appointment.

It's a funny dichotomy: I have two completely different personas that only meet in the middle by the happenstance of need. I have an enterprising and solutions-oriented mind and a head for the analytics of business processes (or at least its talent acquisition) and yet in my personal life I am far more the sardonic philosopher and earth mum focused mainly on my family and relationships. I guess it comes down to - "you do what you need to do, be who you need to be". Combining two different sides of yourself can sometimes result in true identity issues; keeping them separate for myself at least, is almost impossible. I am a one-woman juggling machine and invariably, the balls of career and life get confused.

I bring this up because a good friend of mine, Molly, brought up to me as a good writing topic the fact that you never ask men to talk about work-life balance. In pondering this (and subsequently watching my husband) I've concluded she is right. There is a huge difference between the ways that men and women operate when it comes to their personal lives and their careers.

My own husband, a good egg entirely, seems to compartmentalize the work and life elements of his existence fairly well. He works when at work, and is a husband and dad at home, and rarely two shall meet. He does not ever really seem to get stressed or have trouble focusing on his job when things are going on in our personal lives - and he readily shifts personas as needed. Far less emotional than me, he does not sit at his desk and wonder what the baby is doing and if she's happy. He does not make lists in his head of household talks or plan the groceries. While professionally he is in a management role, at home he is more than happy to let me steer the ship. He will help execute and will do the laundry, garbage, etc. when it comes to our home life, he leaves he planning/worrying/remembering bits to fall on me unless absolutely forced to do otherwise.

You'd think that in this economy, that has to be changing, doesn't it? More men are staying home and taking over the childcare etc. while mom goes out and earns a living. In my own family, I worked more hours a day than my husband, meaning he technically had more time with the baby than I did. One girlfriend leaves her house at 5am to complete an hour+ commute and her husband works from home; another has 6 month old twins and works full-time while her husband is not working. Doesn't that mean our husbands are picking up an even greater share of those responsibilities?

Not necessarily. It may just be the company of superhuman mommies that I keep but every working mother I know, regardless of the hours they put in the office, still seems to spend more time than their spouses trying to find time to do everything. Of the situations I described above, every one of those mothers is the one getting up at night with the baby. The mom of twins routinely feeds both babies simultaneously, not out of innate skill but of necessity. My commuter friend has not been able to get to the gym even twice a week to work out but her husband still managed to go to hockey games several nights a week. And somehow, it is a misguided logic we tend to be willing to accept.

I think a couple things are happening here. First - it is relatively well-accepted that women are built as more emotional creatures. We look at how things interact with each other, we are concerned about relationships. Without making it sound too warm and fuzzy, we're not taught to put ourselves first and often find ourselves either naturally or socially put into caretaker roles. We are not trained to think selfishly - even when perhaps we should. My mother could be cooking 8 things, still shout orders, and make sure that we got our homework done: from an early age I was taught to do and think about multiple things at once. We act where we see a need; men don't seem to notice the need until we point it out explicitly.

But I think we also maybe set ourselves up to some degree. When our daughter was born, for example, I was worried (as he'd not ever been around babies) that he would not be willing to handle diapers a la #2. I made it clear to him at that point that as far as I was concerned, that task was his - and it has been. When I finally got frustrated at always being the one who wakes up for the baby and was past the point of exhaustion, I finally told him that I resented his ability to sleep and told him straight out that he needed to start helping. Well, for the most part - I still get up with the baby. But to give him the credit he deserves, I also now wake my husband up and send him downstairs at least for the bottle. I've started being very clear in asking for help and making him accountable for some of what needs to happen on a daily basis, and to an extent that has been successful.

So maybe part of the work/life balance man/woman thing is genetic: maybe we as women are built a little differently and able to handle multiple tasks at once. Maybe part of it is emotional, and men don't have the same level of relational maturity that we do - maybe we expect them to see what they need instead of telling them. And it could be in some ways we are setting ourselves up by making assumptions about their inabilities and not holding them accountable for their share of the mental load.

Regardless of what the cause though, I know several sleep deprived women that will likely reading this while they're stuck in traffic commuting this evening - trying to fit in some reading before they get home and try to get 1000 other things done before tomorrow. If you are driving behind one of em, give em a brake. :)

Here are a couple of interesting articles I found on this topic:

Newsweek: Equal Stress?

MPR News: Men Feel Conflict in Work/Life Balance

If you have any ideas, advice, or article suggestions, feel free to comment, email me at this address or Tweet Me on Twitter! You are why I write and I want to make the time you take reading my stuff worthwhile. I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Sunday before the Monday of my last work week...

Actually ended up at this park today in Bartlett - had been looking for a picture for my article and ended up taking this photo on my Blackberry phone while my husband and I sat in the car and ate Dairy Queen.
I'm not supposed to be eating Dairy Queen; this also should not have been my third visit in as many days. As it happens, I am even allergic to ice cream and all things dairy, and there are consquences of an ugly nature that shall not be detailed here. The sad fact of the matter is I've been pretty stressed out, and while the ice cream doesn't really help, it seems to be my go-to (bad Julie) in times of relative emotional chaos.

This is the last Sunday before the Monday of the last week of the job I have held for 3 years. I feel a bit awful about it: while I am grateful my company gave me a head's up that their organizational changes were going to leave me out of a local role (I could keep my job if I had been willing to re-locate myself to Dallas) it has been in some ways like a month-long wake. I have felt for the past 20-odd days like I am dealing with an imminent death in the family, and getting up and going to the office, regardless of my gratitude for the paycheck, has been a little rough. To add to it, until Friday none of my internal customers knew I was leaving, and I've had to really try hard to be as professional as ever in the best interests of everyone concerned and for the safety and security of my severance package.

I've read in a million places that the workplace is no place for tears: there is truth in that. No one respects them for the most part - emotions are not supposed to be part of the corporate landscape. Even when life hands you some very odd twist, it is critical that you not let your fear or anxiety show. I'm naturally pretty emotional, but have earned over the last few years especially that for your job you need to learn the discipline of keeping the personal segregated from the career side of the house. The cumulative effect leaves you sometimes feeling a little schizophrenic.

In any case, I guess I can say here at least that I feel a bit like I'm attending my own wake - and that I'm the only guest continually showing. And that's okay. Even though I know that some of the managers I support are probably sad to see me go, at the end of the day the business continues and you do what you need to do in order to adapt and flex with those business needs. They will continue to move on about the business of being part of a global company, and I will simply...move on.

The positive side of this story I guess is that as an odd happenstance, it's gotten me writing again. My little side line of an article on the Examiner; my forays onto Twitter: change is once again forcing me to grow and expand and learn, and maybe that's not all bad.
If you have any ideas, advice, or article suggestions, feel free to comment, email me at this address or Tweet Me on Twitter! You are why I write and I want to make the time you take reading my stuff worthwhile. I would love to hear from you!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Start of Things...

My name is Julie. I 'm a Chicagoland Native, and I write for the Chicago Careers and Workplace Balance section. It struck me that there would probably be things I'd like to share about myself and my life that may not be article-worthy but still worth writing.

I'm a wife, a mom, and a career girl with two mortgages. My world revolves around a husband, a pug, and a baby daughter, and I try to balance those things (with varying degrees of success) with a career. I like to think that I'm intelligent and capable, but I definitely have my weaknesses too. Over the last 8 years or so I've had a corporate career in Human Resources and Recruiting, but I've also ventured into IT, the legal world, and sales over the length and breadth of my career and feel you never stop reinventing yourself. I get by with heavy reliance on a great (if wacky) family, a lot of advice from a fabulous group of friends, and a sense of humor that manages to see me through most situations.

In finding myself about to be one of the 11.3% unemployed in Cook County I've spent the past few weeks looking not only for new employment opportunties but also ways in which to expand my horizons a bit. I've started writing for and loving getting back into writing in general: even though that's where my degree is it is only now that I seem to be really doing something with it. I've also been learning about social media marketing, Twitter, and a whole host of things out there that are changing the way we do and talk about things - it's all pretty interesting.

In any case, I will likely repost some of my Examiner articles, but wanted to provide myself another forum as well to write, to learn, and to get feedback and ideas. Hopefully, someone out there will read it and like what they see. Welcome to my tiny little messed-up and goofy world!
If you have any ideas, advice, or article suggestions, feel free to comment, email me at this address or Tweet Me on Twitter! You are why I write and I want to make the time you take reading my stuff worthwhile. I would love to hear from you!