Oatmeal Raisin Feelings

I am literally eating my feelings today. My husband would say that isn’t possible, but I just cried into, and then ate, a delicious oatmeal raisin cookie I procured from the coffee shop near my office. I wanted a latte, but the espresso machine is a total jerk and decided to quit working. The girl behind the counter felt so sorry for me she gave me free coffee. Which is awesome, but not as awesome for the boob milk I am trying to keep at least partly caffeine free. If anybody knows any science about that and how I shouldn’t be worried, please let me know, because I NEED my delicious coffee flavored drinks.

In hindsight, I think she might have given me free coffee because she thought I was homeless. I look way worse than I feel, and I feel like a dead espresso machine.

It’s not even fair how crappy today has been. I mean, it’s Friday! The most magical day of the week! I also had grand plans this morning to write about marketing yourself when looking for a new job. It was going to be full of buzzwords and encouraging statements with exclamation marks after them. But like every single episode of Game of Thrones, something terrible was about to happen.

The content of yesterday’s blog was about a work conflict, and I went home smugly thinking that I had handled it with class and it was over. No no NO ma’am it was not. It reared it’s ugly passive aggressive head during a presentation I gave this morning. A beotchy attitude was in full effect. So like any other professional would, I started to cry.

It was awful. It was like a John Hughes movie, accept the main character is much older and chubbier. I managed to keep the alligator tears in check, but I’m pretty sure the rapid blinking and sniffling gave it away. So after the massacre was over, I crawled back to my desk and shut the door and just had a Molly Ringwald pity party.

Two days in a row! Why is this happening to me?

So like yesterday, I went back to my other office – the bathroom – and pumped milk and thought it over. I waited for my mammaries to give me some sort of zen like wisdom about the whole incident, but no. No clarity this time, none.

So then I sent my poor husband an email about how everyone hates me and how I hate me and how life is so unfair, and he responded appropriately so I stopped crying. I even got a little work done.

But then my mother sends me a text to tell me that my baby rolled over for the first time! She rolled over and I wasn’t there. This did me in utterly. If curses are real, my place of employment will probably sink into the ground tonight and never be seen again, or something. I don’t really know a lot about curses. I only really care if they can, in fact, sink my workplace in the ground so I don’t miss another precious baby milestone.

Why? Why couldn’t I be there to see her roll over?

The problem with searching for a new job after your maternity leave is that you are racing time. Your baby is growing faster than you can send out resumes. Faster than you can get your small business off the ground. It makes you question everything, all the things you are doing and why you are doing them. And if you aren’t careful, depression looms in the distance.

I have kept the baby blues and sad stuff in check for the most part, though, and I’m soldiering through all this stress because I know there is a change coming soon. I have found that taking a few extra minutes to myself, writing down my feelings, and well, eating them, helps while I’m in this postpartum stage of my life.

So after that, I took my inner fat girl and my outer fat girl and we marched down to the coffee shop to get a latte. Which morphed into a cookie, which is even better. And you know, Tina Fey really said it best in response to the quote ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ with ‘I don’t know, you ever put a doughnut in the microwave?’

I’m ok now. I ate my feelings cookie and now I am ready to go home to my babies and forget about this place for two days. When I come back on Monday I will again attempt to act like a grown up and begin anew with my quest to become a full-time writer at home that gets to watch babies do stuff for the first time. I might even have a few days where I don’t cry at my desk. Maybe, let’s not push it.

 

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The Postpartum Work Conflict

I was in the process of formulating an idea for today’s blog while I was completing a rather lengthy document I am presenting to my team tomorrow, when I had a rather unpleasant exchange with a coworker. It was more passive aggressive, actually. Which is the worst kind. But it upset me completely, and since I have lost focus on anything productive I thought, ‘hey, I’ll just write about that. It’s relevant.’

As a woman in a male dominated field, I am used to having the occasional conflict. What I will never get used to is having them with other women. We have to constantly assert ourselves into the Boys’ Club that is so prevalent in our work environment that I don’t understand why we as women can’t band together. Not exclusively like starting our own Girls’ Club, but in some personal ways that I think most women respond to, such as support and encouragement. After being called ‘little lady’ and ‘darling’ on a construction site, or I don’t know, losing my raise because I’m reproducing (yeah, I’m still really bitter about that) I think we owe it to each other to give each other a break.

But I have found that women in my industry can be, for lack of better terminology, high-strung control freaks. I am sure it is some sort of coping mechanism to compensate for our lack of man-ness. It’s the idea that we as women have to be twice as good at our jobs to be taken seriously. And then we get labeled the B word. I find that so insulting and such a double standard. The problem is, we as women in any industry dominated by men tend to involuntarily develop these defense mechanisms. And it becomes a problem when women develop it with other women. Because then it turns into B Fest 2014 in your office, and that isn’t very professional.

My little ‘episode’ we will call it, revolves around two emails I received. They were from my only other female coworker asking me to perform a task. A task I recently performed for our boss and another coworker. The problem is, she actually had inserted herself into the discussion the first time I performed the task for my boss because SHE HAD ALREADY DONE IT BEFORE. She had all the facts, and passed them along to me. Condescendingly maybe, but I am also very sensitive right now, so she might have genuinely meant to be helpful. In any case, now she has requested that I do this for her. This task requires personal information that she is already in possession of. So, in a nutshell, she wants me to do something that will require several email exchanges for information and could take up to an hour to complete that she could do herself in five minutes. She basically asked me to go make her coffee, folks.

So I considered throwing things in my office. Especially after the second email making specific requests about how I handle it. I responded with ‘DO IT YOURSELF!’ but I didn’t send it. Instead I went to ask her politely about it, and she told me to do it again, even though she admitted having all the information and necessary tools at her disposal. So I came back to my desk. And I cried. My sad, ‘I want to be home with babies’ cry.

Here’s where the postpartum comes in. I had my beautiful daughter almost four months ago, but my emotions are still a bit tricky, my body is still very much showing signs of recent childbirth, and I am still pretty stressed juggling my work schedule, pumping milk, and going home to take care of Squishy Bug and Panda. So when I feel affronted, I have to take some extra time to chill out. I’m not blaming my hormones, don’t mistake it for that. But I do find some comfort in the fact that I might not be the B that everyone expects if it weren’t for a little bit of the chemical stuff still being out of whack in my system.

So I went and pumped my baby’s milk and thought it over some more. And let me tell you, nothing makes you really feel your situation like standing in a bathroom stall at work with your boobs out while a machine squeezes milk out of them.

I considered going to my boss and explaining how I can’t work with her, and yada yada yada. Bad idea if I wanted to maintain his respect. I considered sending her that email I typed out earlier, but that was also a bad idea if I didn’t want this to become an office vendetta.So then I had to totally dismiss the idea of keying her car, because you know, what if I got caught?

I realized that the only way not to be the B that everyone expects me to be is to just do it. Just complete the dumb task for her. I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to do it like she wants me to. If she wanted it done a certain way she would have done it herself. But if I want people to respect me as a professional, then I have to be very careful which battles I pick. And this is a very silly battle.

So I’ll do it.

But I might make her wait for it for a little while.

How to Look for a Job at your Job

As I am writing this, I am sure my boss has found my blog and is making grand plans of how to fire me. So just if he is reading this, I am NOT looking for work at work. That would be unethical. And dishonest. For the rest of you, I thought I would share what I have learned about looking for work while still employed.

1. Don’t look for work while you are working…….until your lunch break. That’s your time. But I can’t guarantee that if your boss catches you that he won’t still fire you. Try to keep it on the DL.

2. When you go home, get all your stuff done for the evening 2 hours before you know you will pass out. For me that is 8pm. It’s the magic hour in our house when both babies are usually asleep. I know, sometimes this is impossible, but it is a good goal. Especially if you think your boss has read your blog about looking for a new job.

3. TURN OFF THE TV……..PUT DOWN YOUR IPHONE. You can easily record Game of Thrones and Facebook will still have pictures of babies and Buzzfeed quizzes tomorrow.

4. Go to your home office, take your laptop to a desk, or set up a cardboard box and put your Speak & Spell on it, whatever you have to do to simulate an actual office. This will keep you focused.

5. Use your time wisely. Two hours is not a lot of time, so divide it into sections so that you can be productive each night. Example: 45 minutes searching job listings, 45 minutes writing/re-writing resumes and cover letters, 45 minutes applying to jobs.

6. When you are done, save all your work in folders on your computer, along with an excel spreadsheet with the date, position applied to, company, email address, and any other pertinent info you might need if they call you for an interview. I have kicked myself many times for not writing down some key information about a position I applied for and sounded like a dumb ass on the phone. Never again!

7. Go to bed. Applying to jobs when you are drowsy is as bad as drunk dialing. You will regret it later.

8. The next day take 5 minutes before work to check your email for any correspondence.

9. Go to work, work hard, be a team player, and continue to produce good work for your résumé and make lasting contacts in your industry. Your ship will come in soon and you will be glad that you were professional about your job search.

……..but if it’s like real REAL bad, and you need to get the heck out of dodge, like, yesterday, then you need to get on the phone with your friends and everyone you know that has a job. Be real. The people who answered the phone like you for some reason, so be that person that they like, not the desperate job-hungry one you are now. Ask them how they are doing, how their kids/dog/plants are, if they saw the new Godzilla movie, etc. And here’s the kicker: MEAN IT. These people are in your network, which means they are friends, not headhunters. So be a good friend. When they ask how you are doing, tell them how you are doing, be honest. More than likely they will offer to look out for any openings they hear about. This will vastly improve your chances of finding a new job sooner.

Keeping the Romance Alive

roses

Today my husband sent me roses to work. It’s not my birthday and it’s not our anniversary. I checked. But we did have a real date the other night.

My parents are in town so I took the opportunity to ask him out while we have free babysitters. That’s me, romantic and economical.

We went to see a movie, but we were so excited to get out of the house and go to the theater that we went an hour early. But luckily we live in Austin where there are Alamo Drafthouses, so we sat at their bar and had a few beers.

And we talked.

We talked about stuff we wanted to do. Not about our kids or work or bills, but our interests. I had been thinking a lot about reconnecting the last few days, and how having babies and a hectic work schedule really does put a lot of space between you and your partner over time. Even a short period of time.

So I wanted to get to know him again.

And I think we did, a little. And we saw Godzilla, so that was cool too.

I am not saying that he sent me flowers because I had asked him out. He is a great husband, and he probably would have done that if we had stayed home changing diapers all weekend. But I think it helped the romance theme we sort of organically rekindled.

I think it worked because it wasn’t forced. We didn’t get reservations at a fancy restaurant and dress up and place expectations on sexy time later. We need that sometimes, but when you are wading in postpartum body acceptance issues and fighting off fatigue, the idea of getting naked just sounds like a chore. Getting physical is a very important part of a healthy marriage, but hello, we have two babies, I think we have that part figured out. It’s the other stuff in our relationship that needs some TLC.

My husband and I have been together for five years now. We have had two children, started a business, and moved twice in that time frame. We are basically just getting started, but I think we surprised ourselves when we realized how much we have changed. We as a couple, and we as individuals.

Sometimes when we don’t change in the same way, or at the same time, it causes conflicts. i.e. fights. But I realize as I change myself that I have to communicate with him, because I want the person that I am becoming to still be the person he wants to be with.

And vice versa.

I have been telling him all about my new endeavors as I try to change my employment situation and he has listened and encouraged me. So the other night I did something that I generally don’t have time to do when we are home with our children.

I listened to him.

And I really like the person he is evolving into. I also think the person that I am evolving into will really get along with him. I just have to keep listening to him and he has to keep listening to me, and I think we are really going to grow to love each other’s new selves.

Writing Ebooks – Part 2

Yesterday’s blog was about defining the purpose, type, and length of your ebook. Today I want to dive in and discuss the mechanics of writing an ebook. But first, let’s get motivated to write.

Now I am of the opinion that anyone can be a writer. You may not write the most compelling or informative material coming out of the gate, but that doesn’t mean you never will. Regardless of what writing snobs tell you, anyone can become a writer. In fact, I think most people MUST be writers in some aspect of their careers, if not the entirety.

Take me, for example. I work for an MEP engineering firm. We provide commissioning services and consulting as well as design of MEP systems. It sounds like we sit in a hole and punch away at our calculators, doesn’t it? That happens a lot less than you would think. Design engineers may spend hours performing calculations and laying out plans, but the only way they can express their calculations and designs is by writing. All plans have very specific notes that are imperative to proper design, and sometimes, will save your behind if something goes wrong. We also must write extensive specifications for projects. After all that, we still have to communicate to our clients and other team members in emails, reports, and presentations.

Writing is extremely important in this industry. It is even more imperative in other industries. So chances are, you are already writing on a consistent basis. So think of writing your own ebook as an extension of that work, not starting over from scratch. Even if you are writing about something new, you will learn about it in the process. That is the beauty of writing. You learn while you create. Don’t let anyone tell you that you already need to be an expert to write about something. No one is born an expert, everyone started somewhere, and they probably started by reading and writing about it.

Ok, are you excited about writing your FREE ebook now? Good. Now let’s talk about how to start. Your first step is going to be writing an outline. I abhor this process. But it is the single most important part of writing. Think of it like baking a cake. You first need to find all your ingredients and utensils. Start with your main ingredient, the main idea of your ebook and write it down. Put a number 1 by it. Now write 3 subcategories underneath it that you plan to discuss and categorized them as A, B, and C. Now think a little more about subcategory A and break it into three more subcategories and number them i, ii, and iii. Repeat for B and C. Now go back to the beginning and change your main idea to a number 2 and make number 1 ‘Introduction’. Go to then end and make number 3 ‘Conclusion’. Now you have an outline for your book. You probably learned how to do this in high school English. It’s a simple exercise that forces you to formulate in depth ideas about your topic and organize them in a chronological order. It is unlikely that you will use those exact categories. You will probably add some to some sections or only have one or two in others. The point is to do the exercise.

The next aspect is free writing. A lot of people might argue that research should be your next step before you write, but I disagree and here is why. Free writing forces you to write down everything you know and everything you feel about a topic. Take your outline and try to write a paragraph about each section. This may even cause you to create more in depth subcategories. This is good, because it will allow you to reach the absolute depth of your knowledge on a subject and express it in your own writing voice. Now you can start your research and adapt it to that voice. That is the key problem with researching first. You may find a source or two that expresses a lot of information, but can confuse your when you come back to your outline. Do not make your book fit your research; make your research fit your book.

So you have an outline and some paragraphs. Your ebook should be taking some shape now. It might even be several pages already, or even longer. Now it is time to do that research. First, go back to all your free writing and do some fact checking. This process will help you expand on your points or discard ones that now seem irrelevant. It will also help you focus your research on specific areas, thus decreasing the time spent doing it.

When you begin your research for your ebook, expand beyond your normal resources. You will likely go to Google first, but also check out Google Scholar for scientific and technical documents on your topic. Contact individuals with experience in your topic area as well. They can provide a wealth of information beyond Wikipedia and general Google searches. Be creative with your research and you will find more information than you need for your book.

Now take that info and organize it. How does it fit into what you already have? Does it add value for my readers or is it just filler? Does this support my premise or does it detract or confuse? Answer all these questions as you incorporate your research content.

When you are done with this process you should have a nice little rough draft of your book. Do a spell check and grammar check. Now save it and go take a nap, or a walk, or a jog. Then get something to eat, talk to your husband, kids or best friend, and watch a funny movie. Whatever you need to do, distance yourself from your book for a time, however long you feel you need to recharge your batteries. Novelists often put their completed rough drafts down for an entire month so they can return to it with a fresh and at least somewhat objective perspective. When you feel refreshed, go back to it and start editing.

Take out the parts that are superfluous. You don’t want your ebook to sound like a car commercial. Sometimes I start reading an ebook and by the second or third page, I realize they are repeating the same thing over and over. This sort of makes me angry that they are wasting my time. Some how-tos require going over key points later in a book, but repeating the same general idea over and over without providing any new information is just fluff. So comb through your content and make sure you are providing new ideas in each section.

Now that you have just the good stuff, read it out loud. Does it flow from one section to the next? Readability is important. If the subjects don’t seem to complement each other or you jump from one subject to the next without joining them, your reader will become confused and eventually discard your book. You want them to know the direction they are going when they are reading your book.

When you have edited your book to your satisfaction, let someone you trust proofread it. Try to find someone objective that will give you some good feedback. Take the useful information from that feedback and apply it to your book. Then give your book a title, format it to your liking and post it to your site! Congratulations, you are now a published writer! Now it is time to market your book and get started on the next one.

 

Writing Ebooks – Part 1

So one of the marketing tools I am trying to embrace is the ebook. I even wrote a very short one that you can find here The Sleepy Mommy’s Guide to Getting Baby to Sleep. This ebook strays from my platform, however, and I also have it up for sale. Those are two no-nos for promoting your brand, people. It was more an experiment and had less to do with marketing, but now that I am focusing back on building my online business, I need to narrow down my focus when it comes to writing ebooks.

First of all, don’t sell your book, give it away, for FREE. Yes, FREE. People will buy free stuff, even if they don’t need it. Then they will come back looking for more free stuff. And they just might learn something useful if you offer some value to your free stuff and come back to check you out. You are building a relationship with your readers, so if you want them to follow you, you need to give them some incentive.

You are now resigned to sell your book for free, good. Now you need to narrow your focus. This is the step I am currently working on, so I will use myself as an example. I am a working mom that is trying to move from my very demanding engineering job to a full-time writing job working at home. I could write an ebook about all that, but a) I am still working through the process, so I don’t have a knowledge base for write about it yet b) that is way too much information. So narrowing it down from there, I need to focus on a subject that I am knowledgeable in and can completely and precisely cover in an ebook. At the risk of getting trapped -style, I could write an ebook about writing an ebook. But I feel like the market is saturated with those, and you know, really? So I think that I will write an ebook about job search techniques for the working parent. I have had to do some interesting maneuvering to maintain my workflow and my household while I look for new work, so that is a skill set I can offer to my readers.

Now we have an idea, time to start writing. It will probably take you 3 or 4 hours to write a short ebook, 9 or 10 if you really want to jam pack it with information. But my advice is, say what you need to say in 10-15 pages. More than likely your ebook is a How-To, and no one likes to read a million pages of instructions. It needs to be concise and to the point. So I will focus my book on key points of job search techniques for working parents. This is niche, it does not include unemployed parents, or working singles, it is specific to a target audience. So my key points need to revolve around how I look for jobs, apply to jobs, and go to interviews while working full time and then raising two kids. There is  a lot of information there, but I have already found three key points that I can begin my outline with.

In review, these are the steps to start writing your first ebook:

1. Give it away for FREE

2. Narrow your focus to a niche topic that is brand related

3. Keep it short

Now it is time for me to get started writing. Tomorrow’s blog will include a more in-depth look at the writing process of an ebook and what to do with it when you are finished writing.

Gluten

It is the new four letter word, except it has six letters.  Nobody wants to eat it anymore. That terrible, awful gluten that is killing all of us. But do we really know what it is? Turns out, probably not. Jimmy Kimmel asked people on the street what gluten, and you can guess how that turned out. Seth Rogan is quoted as saying “Gluten is a vague term … used to categorize things that are bad”.  My facebook is flooded with friends on ‘gluten-free’ diets. Basically everyone hates gluten, but for different reasons. 

So I thought I would make a list of things that gluten is NOT for people who might be considering a gluten free diet:

1. a food additive

2. glue

3. tiny bugs

4. extra fat

5. stuff that jello is made out of (pretty sure that’s horse hooves)

6. poison

Here’s the deal: gluten is a protein found in a lot of whole grains. People with Celiac disease can’t tolerate it and it makes them sick. 1 in 130 people have Celiac disease. You should get tested before you diagnose yourself as having Celiac disease. Gluten will not make you fat and bread is delicious.  Go Gluten!