I Still Remember How to Get to Work

Big day today. I sucked it up and went back to the corporate office in Austin today. I really want to come here more than every 6 weeks, but to do that I have to work outside the house, so Anita can concentrate.

It was weird driving there, since I hadn’t in so long. And the parking garage had only like ten cars in it. I parked on the first floor, which I never had before.

There were lots of hand sanitizer stations and signs indicating where you can and cannot stand. At least there’s coffee. Only two people in the break area, please.

I managed to find my desk in its new spot. Oh my. It’s in the middle of the building, with no natural light or privacy. At least I have a white board “wall” for now. And a big concrete pillar to look at instead of someone’s head.

What a fine “wall.” and yes, I drape things a lot.

I didn’t give myself enough time to get settled in before my first meeting, but I did it fine. See, I don’t completely suck at scrumming. and after that, I found most of my cables and got things set up to where I can work.

Another thing I suck at is minimalism. Even not using all my stuff, I gots the decor! But I need to feel safe, secure, and aesthetically well to do good work. Ah.

Man. This looks bleak. The boxes are gone, at least. It’s like a basement that’s not underground.

No doubt I can stand this until we get better seats, which I hope will happen soon. Right now I’m only the second person in my department to go back. It’s so quiet, well, except my friend Henry is back within earshot. It’s good to hear his Spanish calls again!

I guess it feels a little more normal. But safe. No one breathed on me! (You have to wear a mask except at your desk.) Maybe I’ll have fewer nightmares tonight.

Horticultural Haven

Apparently, it’s well known that I like to have plants in my immediate vicinity. A coworker started a Slack channel to share our plants, because they miss the plants I used to have at my desk (which are now moved to the part of the office farthest from any natural light). But, the coworker was right. I do better with some plants around me. It’s one reason I found working in nothing but basements so hard. Only plastic plants thrive there.

The Pope Residence office does have one window that lets in natural light (yes, the Plant Lady managed to pick the office with the fewest views of the outdoors). That’s where most of my little collection lives.

Motley plant collection in weird lighting.

I’m sure the peace lily is fine in its corner, as long as I water it to death.

Peace lily crawling with scarecrows.

And I do try to supplement the ridiculous amount of fake roses with some real flowers. This tiny vase is perfect for things I find on my walk.

Oxblood lilies, Mexican hats, salvia and come Carolina snailseed.

Today I added what I hope will be a nice addition to the plant collection. I got a kit (yet another buy off The Grommet website, which has way too many Suna-esque products) to grow herbs in wine bottles. The seeds and stuff even came in a box so pretty I can’t throw it away!

The idea is they will grow in the potting medium that appears to be topped with spaghum moss or something, then the roots go down into the water.

Hmm, fascinating.

After planting the seeds, I put the little stickers they provided on the mouth of the bottle, to create a moist environment for germination. We’ll see what happens.

The germination sticker in extreme close-up.

I may not have enough light in this window, since it’s pretty shady in the mornings to mid afternoon. But, it should be a fun project to watch. I’m just happy to have any plants at all.

I have stuff for a third bottle, but I brought a clear one, then saw the instructions called for a dark bottle. I have a whole bunch at home, so that won’t be an issue.

Maybe when there is glass in my internal window rather than the rustic wood covering, I can put something low light on the hypothetical shelves that will be there.

The lamp, fake candles and real candle still don’t make it very bright over there.

Do you have plants in your environment, or would you prefer them outside? I’d like something outside my work window, too, but there’s not much space. At least I see a nice cedar tree!

You Know You’re Feeling Overwhelmed When…

I admit it. I am overwhelmed. I hit my wall and it hurt. Actually, what hurts appears to be a sinus infection on the left side of my head. I hope I can nip it in the bud without antibiotics, since I am not fond of those.

Word of the day.

But yeah, yesterday, as things kept coming in for work, as I kept being confused about the new way to do things and messing it up, as my team asked for support while my management repeated that what they want isn’t important, I also had to run a meeting, prepare the agenda, and be secretary for the monthly Master Naturalist group. And I had to start putting together another newsletter for Friends of La Leche League, even though we are losing members due to our broken e-commerce system. Plus, the deal with my older son decided to poke its head up and cause me to plunge into despair again (son quit talking to me and won’t say why, and even got married without telling me; I usually cope okay, just right now I’m not). And don’t forget I’m trying to help out with the family business when asked.

I am low on batteries, too.

I just took yesterday afternoon off and slept. That enabled me to get my evening stuff done. But that’s not a daily choice! It’s too bad that telling myself to take things one day (or hour) at a time, stop trying to do everything right when I’m confused, remember I’m just fine the way I am just isn’t working at the moment. That calls for me reminding myself that life isn’t an uphill climb; sometimes you fall down into a valley and start again.

I’m good with that.

What doesn’t help is lying in bed trying to figure out how to quit everything and just hang out with the dogs, chickens, and equines at the ranch. That, in itself, is a huge and overwhelming undertaking, as my mind firmly reminded me. I was just wallowing in self pity last night.

Then, when I woke up this morning, I realized I have the major PTSD over the events on this date years ago, when I was lost at O’Hare and trapped in Schaumburg, Illinois without my children (and the totally un-supportive husband who only wanted to get rid of me). Well, no wonder I’m not at the top of my game. I just need to accept this.

Good time to publish a post.

I think I’ll just do what I can at work, and psyche myself up for the one hard meeting, then go home and hug the ranch. This is only temporary, and life will, as always, have its ups and downs. Onward, and I hope, upward!

Labor Day Musings

Yep, it’s Labor Day here in the good ole USA, where we honor the working people who contribute so much, by giving them a day of rest. Well, we honor SOME of them, anyway. I have the day off at my “white-collar” full-time managerial position in a software company, where I get 3 weeks of vacation and insurance, plus a 401K retirement plan.

That’s today, all right. Photo by @jopanuwatd via Twenty20.

It was NOT always the case, and I will not forget it. Here’s what I said 11 years ago, before I got the job I’m in now:

I love the concept of Labor Day. But today, please remember us contract workers, folks for whom today is a forced day off, with no pay. That does not feel like a reward for our hard work. Independent contractors get no benefits, pay high self-employment taxes, and have no holiday or vacation pay. I have not had a vacation since 2006, except when laid off/between contracts. I am very grateful to have work, though.

Suna on Facebook, September 7, 2009

What that doesn’t tell you is that I hadn’t had a paid vacation in…ever. The work I did from 1995-2006 was a mix of volunteer work, contract work, and stipends for a nonprofit. (Poor pitiful me, not really; I managed to live just fine.)

Every year I make it a point to remind folks who are having parties, cooking out, boating, or relaxing in groups smaller than ten (my peeps) that not everyone has the luxury of time off. My younger son is out there delivering YOUR pizzas (if he can get into your gated community). The folks at Hearts, Homes and Hands are taking care of our clients, whose needs do not stop for holidays. Grocery and convenience stores are open to sell you beer and brats. Retailers are open for Labor Day Sales Extravaganzas.

Enjoy your sausage. Photo by @antonettescott via Twenty20.

So, not everyone gets a paid day of fun for Labor Day. Minimum-wage workers are out there earning their minimum wage, at jobs where their hours are kept just below what would legally require benefits (like paid time off). Contract workers, like me in my previous life, sit at home, hoping that the pay shortage won’t make it hard to pay rent or utility bills.

“That hippie Suna, she crazy with all that fair this and that!” Photo by @debb_a via Twenty20, not of anyone I know.

Sigh. I think something that would actually make America great would be to pay hard, honest workers a livable wage, with time off for holidays (or comp time if they choose to work holidays), and heck, maybe even parental leave when they have babies. Then I’d celebrate Labor Day with a happy heart.

Sure, There’s Fun in There, Somewhere

The last few days have not been in the realm of “fun” for me, for the most part. Just because I CAN do things doesn’t mean they aren’t stressful and tiring. I knew I had to change my team and work in a different way than before, so I did, but between actually doing it, needing support, and spending a LOT of time supporting confused people, by the time last night rolled around I was pooped.

The back pond is full again. And the grass is greener already. Photo by Lee Bruns.

When I got home, I was not up for wading through mud to feed the horses, and besides, I knew they had food and water, due to all the rain (the grass IMMEDIATELY grew). I did check on the very wet chickens and their very wet food (I can’t open one of their feeders, so, it was all in a very wet bowl). As I was checking on the new chickens, Patty ran into the pullet area and wouldn’t come back out. She went right over to poor Henley (who still doesn’t look great, but she’s eating and drinking). I tried as long as I could do remove her, but failed.

I am NOT leaving.

I crawled into bed and had ice cream for dinner. Self care! That was fun.

Today, it’s been raining all day again. The weather around here is just plain weird. But, it’s not hot. And the chimney leaked a lot less than yesterday. See, how great is that?

After surviving (set the bar low, Lee said) the three days of planning meetings with hundreds of people on Zoom, I was happy to find a box on the porch. It contained my new autumn wreath. It’s not too fancy, but will look good on my office door. I wanted to wait until after Labor Day, but I needed some fun, darn it! That will get me through another couple of months, anyway.

Velvet Pumpkins!

My boss said to take the afternoon off, because we’ve earned it, but of course I’ve had to deal with an ornery aging computer genius, and my team all want me to to one on ones and teach them complicated document formatting techniques. I wonder if I can do that while completely empty of mental strength?

I AM taking tomorrow off. Maybe it won’t rain and I can make it up to Apache and Fiona!

Lee’s Got an Office, Too

Yesterday, my spousal unit, also got a lot of his office furniture moved in. He has a massive and beautiful desk and credenza that we’re quite the doozy to get over here. Thank goodness Chris was able to help with the desk. They had to rest afterwards!

It’s a good thing Lee got one of the larger offices, because that desk takes up quite a bit of real estate! I love how the green leather on it picks up the green in the shiplap wall. It makes it all look on purpose!

The carving on the desk is really nice. He got the set used. I guess some company decided dark wood was not modern.

Lee plans to get seating in the room that’s comfy for his Hermits’ Rest Enterprises visitors, who will be able to enter through his private door and not interfere with operations at Hearts Homes and Hands.

These chairs will do for now! (The blinds make it hard to get the lighting right.)

He also decided that his old desk lamp won’t work in this office, so he has ordered a stained glass one. It will be nice to have a touch of color, I think.

He’s still bringing in art and such, but it’s just about ready to function.

It’s a crazy time for all of us, but now we have non-dungeon offices to work in. I know that’s made my morning good. Off to face the afternoon, with hopes that all of you readers have something to look forward to, as well.

Times Are Still A-Changing

Like I talked about earlier in the week, I need time to process change. Sometimes, though, you just don’t get that luxury. This is one of those times. Yesterday, that one hour when I wasn’t in meetings wasn’t enough time to process, because then I was busy trying to get all the other work I need to do either done or planned out (tomorrow will be catch-up day, I hope!).

Meetings started early, so I got to see the sun pop up this morning, through a dirty window.

Today isn’t much better, though things are a little more spaced out. I’m trying to do a crash course in an entirely different way to work, different teams, different priorities, and a lot of buzzwords. I can do it, but I realized as I was taking my decompression walk a few minutes ago that this is really like getting a new job. And the rest of us are getting new jobs, too. That’s always stressful, even when it’s a job you want!

Also seen on my decompression walk: giant swallowtail

The folks in my department (whatever it is, now) are all in the change stew together and can help each other. I think I was so worried about being slow on the uptake or not coming across as thrilled with all the new processes and such that I totally forgot I’m not alone! My colleagues haven’t done this particular before, either.

Honestly, you’d think I would have figured this out a little sooner, after blundering along trying to figure out how to live life with all the new pandemic parameters. It’s the same deal: yes, you still have to do the same tasks, but you have to do them very differently. You will not succeed at figuring it out instantly. No one else will, either.

Speaking of fun, I got remote-control fake candles for my office. That will entertain my roving eye and add to the curated clutter.

So, thanks, pandemic, for teaching me lessons. And thanks, huge load of work changes, for taking my mind off the pandemic. There, something to be happy and have fun with today! All right!

Fun or Else

Starting today, I’m gonna have fun all day long OR ELSE. That means, even at work! So what if I had Zoom meetings at 10,11,12,1,3, and 4 today? Fun times shall occur at 2 pm. It’s 2:30. I’m blogging. Thankfully, I consider blogging fun.

To start that fun off right, I made myself Zoom backgrounds so it will look like I’m in my new office. And I wore a cheerful shirt, plus lipstick!

Now, doesn’t that make meetings fun? Sure!

And to paraphrase Lee, I “get” to have a lot of meetings today. But, it’s true. I get to talk to a lot of interesting people. It was work book club day, which meant lots of fun.

Such a nice bunch of blurry people to chat with over lunch!

I did “get” to run over to the new office building, sign in to swear I am not sick, and get some pretty pictures of the completely finished stairs. Ahh.

Fun is how you define it! No wonder I surround myself with things that cheer me up. It makes whatever I’m doing fun. I’m extra glad for the happy keyboard and mouse, since most of my “fun” is typing!

Thanks, happy keyboard

What fun have you been having? Do you define your own fun, like I do?

Accepting Change Is Not My Best Skill

Let’s see. What I’m trying to say here is that I have a hard time maintaining a poker face when my world takes a sudden shift, and I have an equally hard time rapidly processing sudden changes when I’m told about them. This isn’t a problem if I’m reading about something, all alone in my home or office. I have time to think about what’s going on, mull over the implications, push aside my knee-jerk reactions, and figure out what good spin I can put on it.

Message to self. Photo by @kristi_shlimovich via Twenty20.

In person, though, it’s hard. I’m guessing it’s hard for most people, to be honest. When your adrenaline starts running like crazy and you go into survival mode, your higher brain functions get sacrificed (it’s one of the things I learned in the Behave book I read a while back). The best I can do at these times is nod and plaster a smile on my face.

My brain trying to process a lot of new information at once. Image by @mylove4art via Twenty20.

For instance, yesterday in a work meeting, some changes were announced to our leadership team. Now, we knew something was coming, and probably most of us had an inkling of the kind of thing it was. But, with little prelude, we were shown a chart with all sorts of people, positions, and roles on it, many of whom we weren’t familiar with. The boss asked, “Do you understand this?” The other two colleagues, who are way better at office politics than me, nodded. I shook my head. Well, I didn’t understand it!

I’m the only one who asked for clarification, to help me process the shit ton of information I was supposed to internalize and grasp in 30 seconds. I did ask a few questions, to help me understand what was going on, since I will have to explain it to the people currently on my team. I’m guessing I was supposed to just say, “Okay,” and figure things out as I go along. But, I probably looked confused/annoyed and came across as a grumpy person who hates change.

I don’t hate change. Things change all the time. I simply find it easier to process with some context, reassurance that the sky is not falling, and some explanations of the rationale behind them. So, I didn’t get that, this time. That got me thinking.

If I have this kind of trouble, I should probably think about this experience next time I have to change something significant, change a process, etc. I think I do. I feel like I owe it to my team to provide context and rationale, rather than just say, “Here’s how it is now.” It’s not going to change the fact that a change is made, but it might help make it more palatable, gain buy-in on the new ideas or processes, and earn the trust of those I work with.

So many gears. No wonder I’m confused. Image by @rohane via Twenty20.

There’s a whole field of change management. I know it involves getting buy-in, setting expectations, and building up to the change. Maybe I’ll go study that some more and try not to do to others what was done to me. I had nightmares about having to implement something I didn’t know anything about!

Poor rigid Suna, ha ha. It’s just another effing growth opportunity, right?

Family Kudos

I just wanted to say how happy I am with the amazing job our little family team has been doing as we work together to build our Hearts, Homes and Hands (HHH) business over the past year plus. We each have contributed time, effort, and sweat to the endeavor. And it’s been quite a learning process! No doubt it will continue to be.

I rarely get to share decorative plants, so here are some I saw walking around our Austin neighborhood.

I encourage all the readers of this blog to also follow the HHH blog, which features lots of writing on elder care and health issues, along with business updates. That’s where you hear more from our chief hermit, Lee, too.

My contribution is helpful, but minimal, since I have another full-time job at the moment. I do the blog, maintain the Facebook page and LinkedIn, and write some newspaper articles. And I help with renovating our buildings by selecting materials and such.

On the other hand, Kathleen, Lee, and Chris have been working so, so hard that it’s been hard on their mental and physical health. Still they’ve kept going, and it shows by how much the business has grown!

Lee has become quite the financial analyst for a writer, or for anyone. He helps us see where we’ve been and where we’re going. His attention to detail awes me.

I’ve mentioned Chris and his work many times here, since I enjoy sharing rehab updates. His ability to design structures and then build them has been amazing to watch. The stairs! The crown molding! My bathroom! The ceilings! I can’t wait until he can have a team helping him, which will be a lot easier when the office is done. I’m really grateful for his patience and willingness to do this work.

And wow, Kathleen has done a yeoman’s job of getting us set up, keeping state-required records, training the initial staff, and recruiting customers. It’s really a job for more than one person, and it’s been hard on her! Many days she just comes home and goes to bed, unable to deal with anything else! I don’t blame her one bit.

I’m glad she’s got enough staff trained to help with the day-to-day operations of our business, because I know she will really be an amazing marketer when her time is less booked. Well, and when the pandemic makes doing things in person a challenge.

That’s the thing, we’ve done darned well to be still going after the past few months. I’m so grateful for all our talented family members, and for the great staff that is providing the much-needed personal assistance service to this county. Kudos to all.