Sunday, October 21, 2012

How things change...

Way back when I was a naive undergraduate I worked for a physician. It was probably my biggest learning experience in a job ever. My first really professional type position. And the physician I worked with became a strong mentor for me over those 5 years I worked for him.

I remember one lunch we went to he told me about his ex-wife. They had gone to medical school together, but the marriage couldn't survive two medical students and two careers at critical points. He told me that she was moving home, giving up medicine (after hundreds of thousands of dollars of school debt) and was opening a deli.

I remember wondering how this could even be? Is it that these people you hear about just never really know what they want? Are they just flakey? Why in the world would you go to years of schooling and pay so much only to hit 40-ish and call it all quits? What is wrong with them?

Naive. I think if everyone who switched gears mid-stream stopped and paused in college with 20-20 hindsite, very very few people would ever graduate - or at least graduate in 4-5 years.

I work with a nuclear physicist who I cannot imagine him doing anything else in life. Neither can he. We travelled together recently and in his mid-40's, nuclear physics is all he ever wanted to do and all he ever wants to do - even at the expense of having a family, traveling, etc. Nuclear physics is what makes him happy.

He is rare. I think the vast majority of us are NOT like him (at least I hope) and while we aren't necessarily inclined to start over, maybe it is just a slight modification on what we did to get to the mid-career level.

My best friend jumped ship from HP and then bought a flower shop. But I look at her and working at HP isn't what you would peg her for when you meet her. The flower shop suits her perfectly!

Maybe my physician's wife - maybe running a deli in her small town is what suited her.

I never really questioned my own career goals in life - I wanted to be a scientist of some type throughout much of my schooling. Though right now I have to admit right now that science, totally interesting and love the knowledge, doing it is far less interesting to me.

A scientist friend of mine was forced to leave science due to medical issues a few years ago. She finally has her health nearly back and is contemplating what she wants to do with her life - and working in a lab isn't it.

As AB and I ponder our path forward this coming year between his contract end, a possible new job for him or even maybe a move for the family, I start wondering what I want to do. I still love technology and can't imagine running a flower shop, or a deli myself, but I can't help but wonder what else, in the area of technology advancements is out there?

A note on comments

I have been receiving a number of comments on my last post. I really appreciate this.

However, if you want me to hit publish on your comment then it needs to NOT come through as Anonymous. There were a few that seemed legit with no links in them and with honest sentiment (I think - or else you are fooling this pregnant lady). I *almost* wanted to hit post...

But the fact that they are Anonymous... just won't do it. Contact information isn't posted publicly. Just your name. Go for it. Comment... but let me know who you are.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The lies "we" tell

There is a family at our former preschool that we got to know on a somewhat decent basis – only through school events and birthday parties though. The husband works for my same company, but in a position far removed from my own. The wife, works for one of the same contractors as my husband. Our kids are the same ages – though the older ones are opposite genders and never really got to know each other. Our younger girls though were fast friends from age 1.
The husband would tend to take their kids to birthday parties where he and my husband hit it off well. They frequently talked about “we gotta get the kids together for a playdate”. Well believe it or not, after 4 years of saying this, it never happened.
It wasn’t for lack of trying on our part – after about the third time I invited the kids over to play and it just didn’t work out, I have to admit, I quit trying. AB kept insisting, “we should have them over for dinner sometime”, and I would usually retort something along the lines of how he and the husband tend to get along, but I had nothing in common with wife and I wasn’t sure they really wanted to do anything with us – that maybe they were just “talking the talk”. And AB would shrug and accept whatever my reason was for that day.
Well then as things happen, we left the school and moved Skadi to public kindergarten (OMG the horror!) and they kind of fell off our radar.
Then last weekend I escaped to Target for a few things and lo and behold ran into the wife with the two girls.
“Hey guys, good to see you. How are you doing?” I ask.
“Good,” wife says seeming apparently uncomfortable and like she wants to run the other way.
“I haven’t seen you girls in ages, how is school?” I ask.
“I thought you guys moved far away?” littlest 5 year old pipes up.
(Duh, I didn’t quite grasp it.)
“Nope, we are still here, Skadi is just at another school,” I reply.
“Mom and dad said you moved far away,” she says again.
(At this point I am assuming she is mistaking us for someone else.)
“Nope, we are still in our same house,” I said. “You should come over for a playdate sometime, Skadi would love to see you!”
I smile at wife and realize the arm waving.
Her arms waving. As in what you do to your spouse at a party when he starts inviting your boss over for dinner and not realizing it is your boss… or something like that.
“Oh,” I stopped. “I guess we will have to talk about that.”
“Well, we will see you later!” says wife and hurries off down the aisle.
AB assumes that it was just easier to push of little girl’s incessant whining (which we heard every day we picked our daughter up from preschool) for a playdate with Skadi by lying and saying we moved away then to actually make it work? But why wouldn’t they want to just make it work, get the girls together?
Have we at some point offended them?
Do they not realize what a freaking small town we all live in and that we were BOUND to run into each other at some point?
Analysis welcome.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Goulash Post - everything mixed into one

It has been a crazy end of summer and start to the school year. I have a list of blog topics, but know that I am either not going to get to them, or that they are old now and out of date.
I will try to hit the high points and not be too spastic:
Skadi and Babies:
Skadi has an ongoing fascination with babies. If we are at a store and she sees a baby bucket carrier she is over peering into it. I have been trying to catch her as I recall what those early days were like with a new infant and having a potentially germy, sticky kid you don’t know walk up and start peering into the carrier. Ick. Not that my daughter is germy or routinely sticky, but I don’t want her to weird parents out.
She came with a theory this summer about how babies get into their mommy’s tummys: “God picks you and says, ‘you there, you are going in a tummy’ and the baby gets to pick if they want to go to that mommy or not. And as soon as she says yes than God puts her in a bag with a parachute and tosses her off the cloud where she falls and falls and falls into the mommy’s tummy! And that’s how babies get into tummies! That’s how I got in your’s mommy, God pointed to you and I said “yes” and he flung me out of the cloud. It is good you were standing still at the time so I could get into your tummy instead of land on the ground.”
Skadi also has an innate belief in reincarnation – she believes that her grandma, who died when she was three years old, went to heaven and is in the waiting line to be tossed off a cloud and into someone else’s tummy. And who knows, maybe she is already a little girl somewhere!
Sometimes it is hard not to believe every word she says when she recites these stories and beliefs. I am positive she has “lawyer” in her future.
This remains my favorite Skadi-ism and one that I honestly hope she never loses. Though I am sure it is just a matter of time. Yes, Skadi still calls foreheads, “twoheads”. Unless you are big like daddy, then you have a “forehead”.
We have had a busy summer of camping. We aimed to get our trailer out every other weekend. We only missed a few of those.
We had one interesting camping trip this summer with a few oddities. Actually it was a pretty miserable camping trip because of all the mosquitos, and I couldn’t wait to get home. But during the trip we encountered a few new things. First off while we were traveling about 10 miles from White Pass – this is major mountain area, not a field, not flatlands, but windy, hairpin road with steep mountain valleys and hills on each side – about 20 miles to Mt. Rainier entrance – we came around a hairpin turn in our Sequoia towing the trailer and nearly hit a calf. As in a baby cow. No idea where in the world it came from or belonged.
Anyways, we got to where we were going after a bit of a scare slamming on our breaks for this lone calf in the road. We happened to be camping on a small, shallow river that had an island and a few little spits of land into the river that were super for the kids (except for the bugs). They immediately started playing in the river as AB and I fished.
AB and I caught nothing. Leif on the other hand managed to catch, with HIS BARE HANDS, two sucker type fish in the shallow areas. He was terribly proud of himself and hugely popular among the children at the shore. And not very happy with us when I told him that he could, in no way, keep the fish and we would not be eating them. “Sucker fish aren’t good to eat,” we told him. Well he suggested, he could just keep them in a fish tank? We made him throw them back. Mean parents we are.
I can’t believe it, I have a 2nd grader and a kindergartener!
This year we decided to change things up. We pulled Skadi from her private Montessori preschool/kindergarten/1st-2nd grade school and stuck her into public school! We took her from the mouth of privilege and snobbery and put her with the rest of the world in public kindergarten and the onsite before school care (since she is in PM kindergarten) with germy, sticky toys.
And you know what? The child loves it.
It is a different world for her. It is a different world for me – one where instead of talking to her teacher daily, I have heard from her 3 times by e-mail throughout the year. She has a whole new cadre of friends. She brings home library books – waving them in the air from the moment she gets off the bus. She recites her addition tables and identifies words. She is completely pleased with her new school and chatters incessantly about her day.
Way back when, we told the kids “if mommy’s team wins this big award, we will go to DisneyWorld!”
And then it happened. I got the news we won and Leif and I jumped up and down in the kitchen squealing about DISNEYWORLD!
We went to Disneyworld almost 2 years ago and had a pretty good time. It could have been better, but we weren’t prepared like we will be now!!
So after months of wrangling for permission to even go to the awards and then further wrangling about using 3 days of vacation time while on travel (and taking a hit on what work will pay for because of this - aka manager discretion) we have tickets (airline and park), hotel rooms, dinner reservations, I have a formal dress, AB needs a tux and I need to confirm the babysitter for the night of the awards.
On our list:
Day 1: Epcot (girl’s breakfast with the princesses while the boys ride rides), dinner at Chefs de France
Day 2: Hollywood Studios (family breakfast with Disney Jr characters), Fantasmic in the evening.
Day 3: TBD, dinner at a Cuban restaurant
Day 4: Magic Kingdom, breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
Day 5: TBD (beach maybe), switch to SeaWorld hotel for awards.
Day 6: SeaWorld, Mommy’s award ceremony.
Day 7: Universal Studios
Day 8: Fly Home
Cannot wait.
The Nugget
Have you made it this far? Stuck with me? Well then you are awarded with a nugget.
Head on over here and check it out.
Carman Baby #3 to arrive in April 2013! Officially will be announced at some point in the coming few weeks on Facebook.

Work blah-ness

Work continues to go reasonably well for me. I have switched over to the "Project Manager" ladder from that of “Scientist and Engineer”. This was initially a hard decision for me. I spent a few years getting rave reviews annually as an S&E3. Then conflicts with a coworker started to gurgle and I suddenly (despite doing the same job) wasn’t exceeding expectations anymore. Nope. I stood up for the project and our very demanding client at the expense of a coworker's perceived security blanket and was immediately noted as a trouble maker and my annual rating suffered, despite the fact that I was bringing in millions of dollars of project work. No, that wasn't the official excuse, it was actually couched as “well you aren’t doing science anymore” – but given that I was doing the exact same thing the year before and received exceeds expectations I knew I was both a victim of the elusive moving target of promotion and also “getting my due” from the coworker experience.
I made a commitment to get back to the science and stop doing the work that people were coming to me to do (lead projects). Well that next year was a hard one for funding. But those people with funding, didn’t stop in asking me to lead things for them and I got to do some really neat little projects and even mentor young staff in their learning to run a project! Then the next annual review came in and once again, I was barely meeting expectations, but was recognized as an “incredible project manager”. Right there and then I requested to be moved over to the other career ladder then upon noting that the elusive moving target to the next level had swung completely out of my reach. And with the usual quickness of government moves, I was transferred over about 6 months later.
I take issue with the S&E ladder and promotions here. For so many years I was “right there” for the promotion. But routinely criticized because I didn’t have my own area of research – I was not an expert at anything really, just did good research for a number of different clients based upon their needs. I had a good reputation for delivery. A Jane of all trades. Someone who could walk in and take whatever research (as long as it wasn’t bio) forward and provide results, present the results, build on the prior research, etc.
Now further down the road and I am seeing all these people with their niche areas of research and funding scrambling for work. What exactly are they  encouraging by forcing people to hone in on one area of research in order to get promoted? What happens when you have one client for your niche area and that client goes belly up? I have known too many people who were laid off this year when their clients quit providing and they couldn’t switch gears. I see it ongoing into FY13. That type of promotion? Not sure I want it.
I have been here 10 years and I have this place pretty well figured out. I have accepted that I will never promote to the next level, but am working my tail end off to promote within the project manager sphere.
But you know what? I could go anywhere and manage projects. I could go somewhere where the project manager actually has the authority they are supposed to in the project manager model and not in some obscure space where no real authority exists without one standing up in manager after manager’s office and pounding my fists that “something is wrong here”.
AB came home the other day with the mildly grim news that his contract with his current employer will end in Sept 2013. The big question of the day was would he wait till his end of contract to start looking (thereby securing his end of contract bonus) or start looking early. And when is early?We knew this job was not permanent from the start.
Then we started talking different options. Maybe not just the “next contractor in line” here locally. What if… since my job was no longer reliant on “being a scientist and having a lab”. What if we jumped ship?
Then AB went “home” to Alaska for a funeral. And the talk became more serious. There are numerous engineering firms in Alaska, I could “probably” secure a position as a project manager… and AB is very employable as an engineer. And the idea began to grow with us. Maybe we put off the backyard renovation in favor of saving money to move? How much would we need to move? Could we find an employer or two that would pay relocation? What about a headhunter?
And the idea of moving to Alaska grew with me. AB and I asked ourselves, what do we have here? The answer? Our friends. We have our friends. Sure we have a nice house in a good neighborhood and good schools. But the only thing not replaceable is our friends. But we would be moving somewhere with FAMILY. We haven’t really ever lived near grandparents – wouldn’t that be nice for our kids? Ok, so I have a flexible job with good benefits. But really, is that irreplaceable? I don’t know.
And so the idea took root.
And then AB got a phone call out of the blue the other day offering him the position of his dreams (for this location and what he has currently been doing) at “name your salary” and the expectation that he would be in that role for 2 years after which he would move up the management ranks and “into town” (eliminating his 1 hour each way commute). We hmm’d and ha’d it. We kicked it around for a few days until we finally agreed that he had to at least explore the option. AB sent in his resume with a salary request that made us both chuckle a bit. I mean, if they want him, maybe they would consider it? And if not, if they just laughed us away, where would we be? The same position we are now. Not a bad place.
And so now we wait.
And AB has a bit of a fear that they will actually accept it and his current company (a subsidiary of this parent company offering the job) will immediately know and may counter offer. Then what?
As I put it to AB – we make a decision.
So Alaska? On hold and potentially put off indefinitely.
That’s ok. I like my job. I have work this year (many people I know do not). I have interesting projects I am working on that are going somewhere and a relationship I am building with a potential new client.
But that itch to try it out somewhere else needs scratched. Wanderlust again.