Posting in Haiku

English: Tibetan tangka with eight syllables &...

English: Tibetan tangka with eight syllables “dza” (18th century), obverse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve started posting my regular tweets in haiku format, as an experiment, and as a bit of fun for the summer.  Haiku poetry has a simple format, and does not need to write.  Thus it’s easier for me to come up with. The standard format for haiku is 3 lines, with 17 syllables total.  There are 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third.  I figure it’s a bit of an intellectual exercise, and a bit of fun as well.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried writing in Haiku, bit it’s actually quite a bit of fun, and a little bit of a challenge.

What do you think?  Could you do it?

While The Kids Are Away…..

Stanford Sailing Summer Camp in session in Red...

Stanford Sailing Summer Camp in session in Redwood City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the time of year when my kids are gone to camp.  While they’re gone, I usually take the opportunity to clean out their rooms, clean out old toys from the attic, and generally work on the house without a lot of distractions.

 

 

In fact, one year, we managed to clean out several van loads of stuff while our children were at summer camp.  We deliberately didn’t tell them that we had gone through and cleaned out stuff, just to see how long it took them to notice that things were missing.  Believe it or not, it took almost 6 months before any of them noticed and said anything.  That, of course, tells me that they generally have absolutely no clue how much stuff is in their rooms.  Even stuff that they insist that they absolutely must have.  They didn’t even notice for 6 months that things were missing.  Then they asked me what happened, and we told them that we had sold their toys for chocolate.  They didn’t believe us, but it was actually true.

 

 

Since that year, I take the opportunity to clean things up most times that they leave the house for an extended period of time.  Last fall, I moved the kids around into different bedrooms.  I literally tossed bins and bags, and boxes of stuff.  Old make-up, broken toys, and just a lot of trash.  It’s amazing how much trash can accumulate in their rooms.  Every time I do this clean-up operation, it feels incredibly liberating to be offloading piles, and piles of stuff that we no longer need or want from the house.  It gives us extra space to breathe, and function.  I love it.  It’s a great reason to send kids away to summer camp.  To give me precious time to clean out their rooms, with a rake and a garbage bag.

 

 

So, while the kids are away, mom is going to play.   Maybe not in the way they had intended, though.

 

 

 

 

Ninja Mom Skills

Mother & daugther

Mother & daugther (Photo credit: greekadman)

After four kids, taking care of my parents, and all the rest, I’ve developed some serious ninja mom skills.  They enable me to survive the insanity that is having multiple kids in different places, and activities.  These tricks and tips have ensured that I have skated by motherhood only semi-scathed and mostly unscarred.  Use some of my suggestions at your own risk.

7 Ninja Mom Skills:

  1. Make your family help with chores.  I’m not perfect at this, but we do have a chore chart, and when we insist that the kids do their chores, and do them correctly, things go much smother.  That even means having them come back and finish anything that is partially done. One person cannot do all of the housework for 6 people.  After all, when would you ever have time to eat bon-bons if you did all of the chores?
  2. Develop an easy arsenal of foods for dinner.  A baked potato and salad can count for dinner.  So can Chicken nuggets, pancakes, omelettes, or hot dogs even.
  3. Strategically plan bath times for the kids, especially when they’re younger.  Plan their baths on nights when you have fewer activities.  After all, most kids really don’t need a bath every day, as that can seriously dry out their skin.  Bonus points if you count a trip to the pool as the night’s bath.
  4. Get used to dust.  Lower your standards.  Accept that there will probably be dust bunnies, and messes, and your house will not be perfect.  The sooner you come to accept this, the sooner you will quit pulling out your hair.
  5. Make hard rules about where the kids can eat food.  At my house, that means at the kitchen table, sitting down.  They are not to drag food into the living room, as that attracts ants, ends up with spills, and more.  The harder you are about this rule, the easier the messes will be to contain.  Also, if any child over the age of about 3 makes a mess, they need to directly contribute to cleaning it up.  Over the age of about 7 and they need to clean it up themselves (with supervision of course).
  6. Go through and sort mail when it comes through the front door, getting rid of, and instantly recycling catalogues, flyers, and stuff that comes in the mail.  Then create a nice, neat, (Ok, who am I kidding?) pile of papers that you can tackle at a specific time.  I like to work through mine about once a week or so.  Anything that takes more than about 2 minutes to do goes into this pile, and waits.
  7. Get rid of as much clutter as possible.  That is the hardest one for me, but as I get rid of more stuff, keeping on top of things becomes easier.  That means periodically organizing and tossing everything under my sink, closets, and throughout the house.  It’s not perfect, but I always have a list of stuff ready to be taken to Dorcas to be donated.

By learning as many time-saving cleaning tips and tricks, and figuring out where you can skate by, you’ll save yourself lots of time and headaches.  You don’t get to be a ninja overnight, and there are always new ways to do things, and attack things.  For instance, I love the cleaning tricks from fly lady, but she drives me batty with the incessant emails.  Know what your limits are, and stick to them.  No one is perfect, and you should rule your gloriously imperfect household.

 

Driving My Children’s Teachers Crazy

Labeled Kitchen Utility Jar

Labeled Kitchen Utility Jar (Photo credits: West Elm)

I believe in teaching my children to question nearly everything.  And the correct answer to most questions in social studies, science, and literature is “It depends”.  Math is the only class where there is such a thing as an absolutely right answer.  Since my younger daughter likes to argue with nearly everything, including inanimate objects, this can be quite the trying experience for her teachers at school.  I recently learned that by teaching her to question authority, and question the status quo, we are driving some of her teachers crazy.

 

Apparently, the teachers don’t find it interesting or amusing that she questions science, social studies, and other classes.  She understands that the world is incredibly grey, and not black and white.  She also grasps that in politics, rules, and most things in life, there are lots and lots of opportunities for exploitation and questioning.  Apparently Xena’s Academically Gifted teacher was on the receiving end of her questioning argumentativeness a few too many times this year, and told her to back from whence she came.  Unfortunately, she didn’t appreciate Xena’s explanation that it would be physically impossible, and likely incredibly painful for her mother if she were to try to do that, thus she didn’t think it was truly an option.

 

Another one of her teachers told Xena to start using smaller words, that the other kids could understand if she was going to persist in insulting them.  Because apparently they don’t understand the really big words that she uses to twist them in knots.

 

I’m not sure that her teachers appreciate the brain that is inside of her head, and being encouraged by asking questions, learning lessons, and exploring options.  Many times I think that our children are taught to sit down, and shut up, rather than ask questions about WHY the world is the way it is.  We steal that problem solving ability from them by doing taking away their options to ask questions.  I’m pretty sure it drives the kids’ teachers crazy that I encourage them to question the status quo.  I don’t necessarily punish them for creatively interpreting rules either.

 

I usually allow them to get away with it at least once.  Case in point- being at Mellow Mushroom, and Xena was licking the beer cheese out of the container.  I told her that she had to use a utensil to eat it.  So, she stuck her straw in the little plastic cup, and sucked it out.  Bonus points for creativity, but I told her that if she ever did it again, she’d be punished, since technically the straw was a utensil, by some stretch of the word “utensil”.

 

I’ve spent time teaching kids about science and social studies.  We spend hours debating different social situations around the world, and they understand that there is no absolute solution.  Of course that can lead to frustration on the part of the social studies teacher when they go over particular moments in history, and my kids know more about them than the teacher does, and they can argue multiple sides of the story.  In middle school.

 

It’s part of what we do when raising kids- encouraging them to become fully independent, questioning, seeking adults who understand the subtleties in our society.  They understand the rules, so that they can choose to follow them or not, but know exactly where they are.  Those are the tools they need to become what they want to be.

 

I think it drives their teachers a bit crazy.

 

Steps Towards Publishing My Book

English: Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF)...

English: Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF) Is known to the International Publishing World as the most important publishing event in Asia and the Middle East. It is a place where the publishers directly supply books and negotiate for their future business. It is a venue for exchange of ideas and a commercially valuable exhibition as a business. For the Iranian Society the Fair is the festival of books. فارسی: نمایشگاه بین‌المللی کتاب تهران (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m making forward steps towards publishing my book.  Last month, I finished recording all of the chapters.  Last night, I got the transcripts back from the company that I’m working on, so we’re making forward progress and making steps towards publishing my book.  Part of the reason that I’m so excited about this book is that it will give me the opportunity to share so much great information with people who are looking for quality caregivers for themselves, or their families.

The book is on finding a quality caregiver, and what questions to ask, and why you should care about asking those questions.  I also try to highlight what can happen if you don’t ask questions, and become an informed advocate for yourself.  I know that I certainly had to learn the lessons the very hard way in many cases.  In some cases my parents were outright neglected, and some situations put them in very real danger.  I’m hoping I can help others avoid those situations, and have a totally positive outcome and experience.

I’m excited to be working with Rob Kosberg on this great endeavor. It has been a ton of fun so far, and I’m really looking forward to helping people help themselves- the best kind of help!

Remembering Dad And A Year Of Changes

Mimulus flowers, probably, from front, Mission...

Mimulus flowers, probably, from front, Mission Trails Regional Park (Photo credit: Martin LaBar)

One year ago, today, my father died.  It was one of those moments in my life that wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it was also one of the most difficult.  It was also one of the biggest turning points in my life.  So many things have changed in the last year, despite losing my dad.  I took the opportunity handed to me and decided to run with it.  Out of grief and sorrow, I decided to follow my dreams full-speed ahead.

The results couldn’t be any more startling.  Shortly after my dad died, I decided to leave my steady, well-paying job of almost 7 years to go an entirely different direction with my life.  I would leave the world of technology, IT, and software engineering for the world of senior care.  It is a very different way of life, giving back to the world, rather than building the next, new widget.  Instead, we’re helping people at a point in their lives when they need an extra hand, or they need help doing simple things in life.  We’re helping people who need help, and who are extremely vulnerable.

What a change that this past year has brought in my life.  I literally spent almost the entire year working on getting his estate through probate, while working on starting two companies, and keeping another couple going.  When I decided to start two companies simultaneously, it sounded like a good enough idea at the time, even if it was a bit on the crazy side.  Okay- it was probably the smartest- and stupidest – thing I’ve done in my life.  Two companies means twice the work, twice the frustration and aggravation, accounting, payroll, and just getting the companies up and going!  It means hiring twice as many staff members, and half the amount of sleep that I might otherwise get.

Yet, I stand here at the 1 year mark for both companies, and I can tell that we are well on our way to profitability, and that we will continue to improve.  It takes a lot of work, and persistence.  I’m pretty sure that most people thought that it wasn’t possible- yet I’m proving that it is indeed possible, just not easy.

I spent a lot of the last year missing my dad, and remembering him.  I also have thanked him for nudging me along towards doing what I feel called to do, and for reminding me that life can be very short, and we don’t always have control over it.  Since he had Parkinson’s and dementia, and died at a relatively young 71 years of age, I am reminded to get on with doing what is most important to me, and not to worry about what others might think about it.

What a great year it has been.  What a ton of lessons I’ve learned!

Don’t Tell Me It’s Impossible

The Mangyongdae Children's Palace is the cente...

The Mangyongdae Children’s Palace is the center for extra-curricular activities. In this massive 690-room complex children are taught everything from calligraphy to taekwondo, chess to basketball. At the entrance stands this “Chariot of Happiness” statue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the recurring themes in my life is people telling me things aren’t possible.  Of course, I then take that as a challenge, and set out to do that very thing.  Frequently, I’m called crazy, or nuts, or something along those lines.  Occasionally, I get accused of cheating, or having an unfair advantage.  Sometimes, it’s amusing, and other times, frankly, it’s downright irritating.  I am well aware that my life doesn’t tend to stay neatly within the lines.  After all, no “sane” person would have four kids, work full time, get an MBA from Duke, take care of their parents, lead three girl scout troops, and on and on.  The reality is that it is all possible.  And it is the reality of my life.  Don’t tell me that it’s impossible, just because you can’t imagine doing something.

The same should be true for you.  Do what you want with your life, the way you want to do it, and don’t listen to other people telling you how things “should” be.  Or what you “should” be doing.  At least from a lifestyle perspective, and career choices.  After all, those are your own.  Don’t accept “no” for an answer if something really is what you want to achieve.

If what you want isn’t illegal, immoral, evil, cruel, and doesn’t impact how others live their lives, they get no say in what you are doing.  Do things your way, and at your own speed.  Accept that different people have different perceptions of reality and time, and how they all go together.  It’s a good thing to wish for impossible things, especially GOOD, impossible things, and to reach for the stars.  You never know what you can do, if you don’t at least reach out and try for them.  Accept that you may have to be somewhat flexible in how you get to your destination, and you may have to be very creative in how you live your life.

One example of this for me, is that I have an au-pair even though my children are all school age.  The reason is that I frankly need the extra set of hands to help me keep the kids going, back and forth to activities, because each kid has their own set of activities.  Some of them do more extra-curricular activities than others, and being able to concentrate on work until dinner time has been a huge time saver for me.  I also know that I can focus on working later in the evening, once the kids are in bed.  It’s just what has to happen to keep my life in balance and moving forward. I’m creative at how I live, so that I can live an otherwise impossible lifestyle.

What about you?  What things have you done that others said were impossible?  I know I’m not super woman- not even close, yet sometimes I get to feel that way when I’m told how impossible things I do are!

 

Teams Are Stronger

Deep Ellum - Girl Scout Cookies

Deep Ellum – Girl Scout Cookies (Photo credit: awsheffield)

How many times have you just done something because it was faster to do it, than rely on someone else?  How many times, because you could do it better, or didn’t feel like communicating with someone else, or dealing with them?  Would you believe me that if you build a team that teams are stronger than the individual can ever be, and can reach greater heights?

I can give you several examples from my life of this.  One of the easiest to talk about is about Girl Scout Cookies.  As I’ve talked about it before, my troop sells a LOT of Cookies.  What I don’t know that I emphasize so much is that we actually will allow any girl in the council to come and sell with us.  We’ll credit the proper number of boxes of cookies, donations, etc back to her home troop at the end of the sale.

Why in the world would I allow other girls from other troops to sell at OUR BOOTHS?

Because teams are stronger.  I have several girls who are trying to sell over 1000 boxes of Cookies each.  That is a LOT of booths.  When you have 5-6 girls who are trying to sell that number of cookies, they can’t all go to the same booths.  Quite simply, it’s easier for everyone to reach those numbers, if more girls are working more booths.  Even if it means having other girls from other troops who are trying to sell a lot of boxes come and sell with us.

Even if we give other troops some of our booths.

Why?  Because we have certain locations that we try to have a booth at every day.  We condition people to seeing us there every day.  They know that at that particular spot, they will find a Girl Scout ready to sell them cookies the entire cookie season.  And we publicize that spot.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

We form an unconventional team, and turn the idea of cookie selling on its head.  After all- who would ever think of multiple troops working together.  But it works better that way, because we approach the process with the idea that working together is better.  That we aren’t really competing with one another.  That teams are stronger together.  All of us together are stronger than a single one of us standing alone.

What do you think?  What has your experience been? Are teams stronger?

 

Do What You Love

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship (Photo credit: Michael Lewkowitz)

I’ve heard it said over and over again that if you do what you love, it will seem right, and that you’ll do better in your career.  I think that it’s important to note that you are going to spend a large percentage of your waking hours working.  If that career or work is something that makes you miserable, the quality of your life is going to be very different than if you are doing something you love.  One of the reasons I started my companies is that I started focusing on what I like to do, and what I’m good at.  I also started thinking about what I don’t like doing.  Of course, I also found some interesting opportunities that I realized were available, and seized on those.  I think that focusing on what it is that makes your heart sing, and your soul hum is important.

Do you do what you love?

Entrepreneurship is hard work, and frequently involves many hard, long hours of work.  It is not unusual for me to spend 16-20 hours per day working.  The upside is that I’m able to work when it is convenient for my family, and move my working schedule around their needs.  If I didn’t like what I was doing, it would frankly be rather miserable.  But I like what I’m doing.  That’s true even if my daughter says I don’t have a “real” job.  I recognize that I’m making a difference in people’s lives, with the work that we are doing with Extension of You Home Care, and Care Patrol.   We are doing things the way that we think is the right way, by treating people the way that they would like to be treated.  We follow through on our promises, and follow up to see how the client is doing.  The way it should be.  And it makes me happy.

Entrepreneurship is sweat, and tears, and hours and hours of work.  But, it’s worth it, and it’s something that I love.

What about you?  Have you created a career for yourself that you love?

 

 

Facing Job Loss

Most people will face job loss at some point in their careers.  It used to be that those people were tarnished with the brush, and people wondered if they sucked, what they did wrong, etc.  Now, it’s really no longer the case, as lay-offs, restructuring, and re-organization in an organization has become incredibly commonplace.  Regardless of that fact, people who lose their jobs frequently feel a lot of feelings, including depression, despair, and anxiety.  I know- because I’ve been one of those people.

I was first laid off from IBM in 2005, in a large layoff with 1200 other people.  I found a job quickly, and spent close to 60 hours per week updating my resume, networking, applying for jobs, and generally job-seeking.  In 2006, when I was pregnant with my fourth child, I was laid off again.   This time, it was because the entire branch office closed down.  Frankly, I had some really hard decisions to make, including whether I even wanted to go back to work, since I was pregnant with my fourth child, and frankly, life was really busy.

Getting laid off, and losing your job is a bit like losing part of your identity.  You also worry that you’re going to lose friends, and that you’re going to be a social pariah.  Truthfully, that does happen to some extent, because people don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything at all.  It’s OK to cry, and mope, and give yourself time to grieve.  Grief, shock, anger, and all sorts of emotions are a normal part of the process, and they shouldn’t be ignored.  In fact, I think that ignoring the changes, and the stress makes the situation even more stressful.

So, what can you do?  Acknowledge the loss, grief, anger, and other feelings you’re having as completely normal.  Give yourself some time- a few days to a week.  Set a limit.  Then pick up that resume, and dust it off.  Start customizing your resume for the different positions you’re applying for.  Understand that all of the activities of finding a new job are your new job.  Treat them as such.  Make them important.  Also, make sure that your friends, family, and network know that you’re looking for a job.  Many times positions are found through someone you know.  Make sure to use those connections.

Know that this too shall pass, and that you will emerge from the other side.  You will be a changed person, and that is not a bad thing.  I found that for me, it gave me clarity on what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go.

What about you?  Have you been through a job loss?  How did you react?  What did you do?