I heart work

The freelance life: that time I told somebody no


As a freelance writer (or gig worker), I’ve found it’s incredibly hard to tell people no.

If I say no, I won’t get the work.

If I say no, they won’t ask me again.

If I say no, that’s one less chance I have to put something in my portfolio.

If I say no, that’s one less gig I get paid for.

If I say no, every other gig will certainly dry up or disappear.

If I say yes, however, then anything else I’ve possibly drummed up will come asking at the same time. That’s how it works, you know? When you decide to pick up the temporary contract that would take up all of your scheduled work hours, all of those other possible projects you’ve had your sights on will suddenly materialize as well!

A few weeks ago, I said yes to a gig that I didn’t WANT to say yes to because of two things: time commitment and not-super-fun work. It meant working with a software development company to write responses to government Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Doesn’t that sound riveting? I mean, it’s just a tiny notch down from writing the next Great American Novel, you see! To begin with: I would have the opportunity to read dozens of RFPs, and from the government, no less. This is the stuff of page-turners that you can’t possibly put down and go to bed!

In the end, it turns out, it really was riveting, in a way. It put me back in touch with the world of software development that I once lived in for a decade. I missed that world. Of course, my memory of it is gold-tinted and only remembers the glorious burn down charts, the laughter during retrospective meetings, and the perfect production launches (which didn’t actually exist so COME ON, memory: at least don’t make up that one). I have to really dig to unearth the truthful memories of corporate politics, painfully long planning meetings, and four a.m. production releases that fail due to one tiny field that wasn’t updated in a database table.

But back to writing RFP responses: I think I did alright. They even took my first response and sent it to a company that they’ve partnered with to review and offer feedback on these to help them better their chances of winning the bid. They passed on this succinct feedback to me after going over it all on a conference call: “The writing was clean and read well. It was a fairly short call… [they] had mostly good things to say about the proposal…”

In the end, I am glad that I said yes.

But what about the time that I said, NO?

I received an email last week while on vacation. I thought about it all day and I knew: I really, really wanted to say no. I was frustrated about the email so I had to wait to respond anyway, to make sure that my NO wasn’t simply because of that.

But then I remembered: I am on vacation with my family.

Last week, my husband and I took our two kids with us on an airplane down to San Antonio where we met up with extended family for the week.

I said no because I wanted to spend time with family.

I said no even though I would have been paid.

I said no and I’m okay about it.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself: I really can say no as a freelance writer. The world will still turn. I’ll still have writing to do. The cat will still love me.

Do you remember to say no so you can take time for yourself?

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quarterly corporate training taught me how to date


Once upon a time, I grabbed some screen shots from the quarterly training we were required to complete at work. This training happened to be about “harrassment [sic] prevention”. When I took it, I was single, but it gave me the best dating advice I ever received and I credit it for my success in snagging a hottie husband a few years later. Share this with all of your single friends; they will thank you.

First important dating tip: don’t stalk.

dating2

Second, learn how to spell WEIRD.

dating3

And last, if you work somewhere that includes any type of isles, don’t quit. Islands are beautiful. Oh, and don’t ever look like that yellow-haired guy below. Talk about CREEPER.

dating4

Where did you get your best dating advice?

Our Family Kanban Board – What happens when mom was a CSM in her previous life


The place where I work at home, used to look like this:

messyoffice

Okay, so the books are organized. That is because it was one of the first things that Nathan and I did when we moved into our home. There are still un-unpacked boxes in the garage and storage, but the books, well, we took care of those within the first week. And yes, they’re color coordinated. And by genre. But not alphabetized. Sheesh. We’re not crazy.

There’s a desk on the right where Nathan has a laptop and the desk on the left with a PC that we both use. And there are things all over. Can you spot them?

  • an old printer that needs a replacement toner, but that’s too expensive
  • a baby swing
  • an old high school yearbook
  • a box full of things from over a decade of accumulation at my old job
  • an infant’s elephant toy
  • a shelf that needs to be hung on the wall
  • things on top of the book shelf
  • a box full of items awaiting a trip to the DI
  • a network cable (tripping hazard)
  • shoe boxes full of office supplies needing a home
  • an old (I mean, ancient, people, like 9 years old) laptop

That picture is after I had already cleared out the corner with the filing cabinet. Let’s talk about that corner at the end, shall we? That’s where my CSM life really took over. (BTW, CSM is a certified scrum master… we do software project management… we attempt to make developers’ stand for daily status meetings. Or at least, I used to.)

There was a lot of filing and shredding of papers to be done, but now, the home office looks like this:

cleaneroffice

Hooray for cleanliness! Or at least, a step in the right direction. Okay, now on to the board, yo.

So I was talking with my buddy, Suzanne, on a walk one morning about how I don’t feel like I accomplish much in the day. This should be obvious, since infants are rather demanding, selfish little creatures that prefer to spend much time at the boob. (Wait, not mine. She’s a fussy nurser. No dairy for me, sigh.)

That’s when the family kanban board was decided upon. It’s shades of my former CSM life where we used agile project methodologies to track our work. This is one form that I was only familiar with. We used Scrum at work. Kanban is another mold. I did a little online research and then came up with what seemed to work for me. The first step, was making the board. I picked up an awesome, old cork board at the DI, because ONE DOLLAR! It was ugly. So I painted it.

The top left shows the board after I painted the frame silver (spray paint). Look at all of those scratches and a cute little heart in permanent marker. I grabbed three shades of yella at the craft store (I should ask Martha Stewart to pay me for this post, right?), then taped it off to create my swim lanes (top right corner). The final result was a little candy-corn like, but here you go. My family kanban board beginnings:

painted_bulletin_board

A blank board doesn’t tell you JACK SQUAT so it was time to start filling it up. This is the part that is still a work in progress. I could use some suggestions. What are tasks at home that need to be done daily? Weekly? Monthly?

Here is the board filled in:

How it’s organized for now (we shall see what works well and what doesn’t)…

  1. Weekly calendar on the left for meal planning and scheduling. We’re not particularly busy, yet.
  2. Labels on the side of the bookshelf to assign categories to the colors of the cards:
    1. blue: personal/freelance writing
    2. pink: food
    3. green: physical/mental/spiritual health
    4. yellow: bigger projects
    5. red-orange: cleaning/organizing/laundry
  3. Some family pictures on the right… because they were once hanging in my office at work.
  4. The main board organized into DAILY, WEEKLY, MONTHLY going down, and READY, DOING, DONE going across.
  5. On the filing cabinet: markers, scissors, tape, papers, pushpins; and two boxes: TO FILE and TO RESPOND.

Each day, I start over with the daily tasks, moving everything back to the READY column. Each Monday morning, I do the same with the weekly tasks. Now, I need to figure out how to use this for family organization and communication. Should we have a meeting by the board once a month? once a week? at all? Only on Saturdays?

So many questions…

20 Lessons from corporate games


corporategamesTen years ago, I first found out about corporate games. I was ecstatic. I could play sports for free! And look how many options they have! This is totally worth using all of these exclamations!

Seriously. I was excited about it. I signed up for all of the attractive options: soccer, basketball, dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, skeet shooting. When signing up, they also requested a t-shirt size. You mean I get a free t-shirt, too? How could this be anything be superb? I didn’t actually sign up for skeet shooting. Do they have that?

Over ten years (minus a few maternity/pregnancy breaks), these are the things that I learned about corporate games:

  1. Adults cheat
  2. I still have to work on my temper
  3. While Rebecca was in charge, they bought us really nice t-shirts
  4. It was a great way to meet others from the company
  5. It was not a great way to meet others from other companies
  6. It was a great way to make enemies from other companies
  7. Watch out for men playing coed soccer for other companies that have no qualms deliberately injuring women
  8. I don’t carry grudges
  9. Okay, maybe I do about men that deliberately injure women
  10. Ultimate Frisbee was amazing playing with this guy that could throw so well
  11. Men from other companies were always surprised when they played against athletic women
  12. The trophy for coed soccer was elusive
  13. One year, the women were asked to cut the men for the coed soccer team because so many signed up; that was awful
  14. There’s one particular person at the company that I would rather not play sports with
  15. That one particular person likes to sign up for the same sports as me
  16. When I first met Nathan, I had sports every night because it was corporate games season (he still dated me, in spite of the “crazy sports girl” aura)
  17. Every year, I wished I was more athletic, in better shape, and had less of a temper
  18. I became a nicer participant over the years
  19. I retired from coed soccer after holding a grudge because of a man that deliberately hurts women
  20. I’ll miss the free t-shirts

Turning titanium one toe at a time


toe

I have a titanium toe. You are probably envious. You should be. It’s pretty amazing, being part metal and all.

toe (1)During the 2009 calendar year, I made good use of my insurance at work by hitting my deductible with one toe surgery and then hurrying to get the second surgery done within the same year. Look at me, working the system and saving money on out of pocket expenses. For the second surgery, it was at the Orthopedic Center, which wasn’t too far away from the office so I had my parents give me a ride to work that morning, and then I walked to the surgery appointment.

I was in a boot for the next several weeks. The best part? It was the start of winter. Hobbling out to the car with crutches when a foot of snow has fallen? Somebody should invent 4WD crutches.

And when I had to walk through the labs to help support our new computer system, I had to put on a plastic cover. No opened toe shoes in the labs. Dangerous places.

Late one night, I went out to my car and it was covered in several inches of snow. It was nearing 2:00 a.m. and I saw a coworker’s car parked just across from mine, also covered in snow. I owned a mighty snow scraper/brush that had an extended handle, so clearing the snow off was quick work. After my car was cleaned, I hobbled/hopped over to Sandy’s car to clear hers off. I was able to finish the job, get in my car, and drive away before she came out.

The next day she told me thanks, though. Turns out, my footprints gave me away: one sneaker, and one squarish boot. Stupid boot.

Certified Emergency Response Team Training


(Part 2.)

Staci and I were victims.

Victims of something terrible. An earthquake, a fire, a bomb, the apocalypse. The meeting room was in shambles, tables overturned, chairs strewn about, and moaning employees trapped in the dark. Well, we were supposed to act like we were trapped and really moan like the end of the world was near.

September 2007 083We even had makeup done. Clearly, you can see that my injuries looked legit: a burned forearm and a broken femur.

The femur was the injury that usually killed me.

At the time, I had been with my company for about two years and was in my second position. Staci and I were working on the same project together, which felt like glorified data entry, aliasing assays in a code set.

Because that makes sense to you. And because you are impressed with our skills to accomplish this task!

We took a break from the grueling project to take part in onsite CERT training. The company always had a team of CERT folks around, in case of emergency. Those who passed received coveted hard hats and fluorescent vests.

Here’s how the training went down:

  • With supervisor permission, employees were chosen to help out as victims for CERT training
  • We had makeup done for our injuries
  • The meeting room was turned into a disaster area
  • Usually, the disaster was an earthquake
  • Each victim found a place in the disaster area, then the lights went off
  • CERT trainees came in, the room was dark, and people were screaming
  • CERT trainees had to find the screamers and get them out
  • Once assembled in the other meeting room, victims were triaged by other trainees
  • Some survived, others died, according to how trainees handled them and severity of injuries
  • How did I die? The time my broken leg was straightened out before being secured for my journey to the other meeting room.
  • The time I survived? A trainee tied my leg up, in a bent position, to the overturned chair I was trapped on, and I was carried to the safe zone with the chair.

The best part? Getting paid to do something other than work tasks for an hour.

And those were not MY ripped pants. I didn’t sacrifice my own wardrobe for the cause.

Taking diet coke breaks


I submitted my resignation letter, people. This is really happening. After over a decade with the same company, I am telling them THANK YOU AND GOODBYE, and staying home with my favorite son and favorite daughter.

When I wrote the email to my current boss to coordinate a meeting with her, it hit me. This is LEGIT. This has been 21,000 hours of life. TWENTY. ONE. THOUSAND.

That’s a lot of time.

That’s a lot of memories.

So that’s what I’m going to blog about, in installments, for a week or so. Here’s the first:

diet_coke_tinDiet Coke Breaks

My first job was the IT secretary. When I went to New Employee Orientation, I was blown away by the following:

  1. I now had amazing health insurance: low premiums, good choice of providers, and an onsite clinic for FREE.
  2. If I stuck around for FIVE years, I would be fully vested in a pension retirement account. FIVE years. Seemed like forever.
  3. I would open my first retirement account and start saving for the future.
  4. I would get PAID VACATIONS.
  5. They had subsidized vending machines where water and diet sodas were cheaper.
  6. They had an onsite grill that tasted delicious. For the first week.
  7. They had an onsite gym. I didn’t have any muscles. Yet.

I spent my days taking notes in meetings, filing paperwork, ordering office supplies, and making occasional updates to an internal department website. It was glamorous. Or it was rather dull. The people made it glamorous.

Janet happened to be one of those people. She was software support. At the time, it was only her and Jason.

We started a friendship, much of it through IM. She was cleverer than I, but I tried to keep up. In the afternoons, when the filing was done, the meeting minutes typed up, and nobody needed me to buy more sticky notes, we took a break.

Bill__diet_CokeDiet Coke break.

I didn’t drink Diet Coke. I drank Dr. Pepper.

But remember the subsidized vending machines? Diet Coke was 25 cents cheaper. No Diet Dr. Pepper for sale.

I became a Diet Coke drinker.

Each afternoon we would walk downstairs to the break room, buy a cold bottle of diet, walk back up the stairs, and take a seat on the couch on the third floor. We sat under the clock and watched as about 15 minutes ticked by. Coworkers would walk by. They always commented.

We looked like such hard workers. Apparently.

Eventually, Janet moved on to another company, working a better, more demanding job, and I said goodbye to my life as a Diet Coke drinker.

Today: I drink Dr. Pepper, full sugar.