A salty momma, manager, editor

It has been a while since I have put my fingers to the keyboard in a way that was not a means to the end. There is not enough time in the day to allow my mind to slow down and ponder life, to let the mantra in my head release and allow the clickity clack of the keys bring forth the words in my mind to share with you. There have been many days when I have written a blog in my head and when the few free moments at the end of the day graced me, my eyes melded shut while the now comfortable whoosh whoosh sound of the pump surrounds me as I drain the last milk of the day out of my boobs. That or I am finishing the necessary work to prep for my next day, because when I get home at the end of the day I want to spend every moment with my growing little boy. Did I mention that I am back in the office?

I will tell you I have missed you. I have missed my daily rants and release of ideas that I come across in the day in hopes that it brings a smile to your face, pause to your day, or a WTF moment. Last week a colleague shared an article that just got my wheels turning and I had to share. This article is about the saltbox. A bit random I know but the author just hit at so many ideas that resonate with me. Her story of the Saltbox titled: “Lessons according to salt.”

“The saltbox itself as an object is unremarkable. Alone, it communicates nothing. Says nothing about its role. Its intention. Its history as a gift born out of a romance between my maternal grandparents. Says nothing of its possibilities.

But add people, and it becomes a central iterative device. The license to change, to iterate, to test, to add, to make, to make over, to create (clearly, with food). It gives license and latitude to stray from what has been written (recipes) for those too shy to do. Therefore, it gives strength. It gives iterative powers to those not comfortable with version control. With its subtlety comes comfort in change. One might say the saltbox, and access to it, is magic.”

Later the author says:

“What separates a leader from a manager is the quality of an editor. The role of a good editor is not to be seen, in fact, but to make an author’s words come forward. A good editor dissolves into the background. It’s not unlike typography. Focus too much on the type, and you’ve lost the story. Whether as editor, director, or head of department, my role is not to be seen, but to create a space to make the stories of those I work with come forward.”

I manage a team of ten amazing souls that make it worth coming to work each day. Is it always fun? No. Is it always easy? No. But damn we have fun trying. I hope that I keep focusing on the story and that I create a space to make the stories come forward.

Maybe it resonates with me because I write, or maybe it is because I am a new mom and I think that, much like leading a team, as a momma I really am here to love the crap out of this little bugger, but also to create the space for his stories to come to life. My role is to let him shine and be seen. Momma, manager, editor.

I encourage you to read Liz’s full article on the saltbox. Maybe it will inspire you too.

Get rid of the junk

Chris and I are minimalists. We only want to have the bare necessities around. Now that does not mean the items in our home are not nice. Everything is very specifically chosen, but as minimalists we only have what we need, cherish, and truly want around. We are the opposite of packrats and hoarders. I just finished reading: “After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter” by Gwendolyn Knapp — which made me think of my own childhood.

Knapp is very descriptive about her mom’s home, but in a nice way. You get the point that her mom is a hoarder. It is funny how you do not really know the world you live in until sometimes you are far away from it. Growing up I do not remember our house having a lot of crap in it. We did not have nice things, but there was not crap every where. The couch we had was gross, had many holes (thanks to the dogs), and was not what you would think of if you were looking at a couch. My mom would cover it with sheets, mostly because she did not want anyone to see what it really looked like.

We were not hoarders, but I think looking back that my dad was a packrat. If you came into our house you would not see it. He kept it in his “office.” He had an office in the upstairs of our house. It was his area, and there were lots of papers. He kept everything. He also had an office/garage of sorts for his flailing business. There his packrat tendencies were with “tools.” My dad was a contractor. He had 100’s of every type of tool, and always found a reason he needed another. His garage was filled with money in the form of tools — money that should have been used to buy food to feed his family. Alas.

I remember when he passed on and we had to go through his possessions. We filled storage units that equaled the size of a two-car garage. This was not for furniture or clothes or belongings. It was for his tools and files. We took inventory of everything and had to go through it all. Sadly, most of it went into a dumpster (the files) and the tools given away or sold. There wasn’t anything that amounted to much. Sharing all of this brings me back to the point of: What do we keep and why do we keep it?

Chris and I have carefully selected the items in our home, we discuss together the merits of keeping or getting rid of things. We think through “why” we are keeping something. Does it have meaning? In a time where people want to feel like they belong, do you think that people use stuff to find meaning in their lives? That maybe surrounding themselves with things (whether trivial or meaningful) helps them feel less lonely and that they have more in their life? I often wonder that about my dad. What did all that stuff mean to him? I would rather hold the memories inside, and get the clutter out of my life.

What do you think?

Scared shitless

I have a few phobias. Snakes. Bats. And one I will not go into on the Internet involving personal safety. I freeze when I see a snake and depending on where I am and where it is, I imagine every time that I am going to shit my pants. I have not yet, but there are still many years left for that to happen.

Bats. I have a story from about five years ago involving a bat and my house. I was on a conference call with my boss at the time. I worked from home in Portland and my team worked remotely, with my boss in Boston. I am sitting in my office at my desk, with my old school headset (corded) connected to my BlackBerry when I see a black flying object zoom past my head, just grazing me. I screamed (and I have lungs) and jumped. My headset went one way, my BlackBerry went another, and I ran like hell out of there. I run back and decide to try to shut the door to the closet so that I can lock the sucker in the office.

I freak out some more. Try to call Chris on the phone at work and do not get an answer. I go outside. No one was out and we barely knew our older neighbors. I look down the street and see a landscaper. I run down and ask him if he can help me. Shit. He does not speak English. I flap my arms, know I have the most panicked look on my face, and motion for him to follow me. He does.

Back in my house, I open the door and basically lock him in the office and then go outside to show him through our sliding glass door how to open the door to let the bat out. It takes a while of back and forth and he eventually does. I am petrified and wonder how the bat got in so I, being so scared shitless, bring the man around the house and upstairs through the different bedrooms to see if he can figure out where it came in. We are not communicating well and I start to realize I have just brought a strange man into my bedroom! I realize I need to thank him and get him the hell out of my house. Hoping there are no more bats where that came from, I finally breathe, and realize I was on the phone with my boss. About 15 minutes have passed and I call him back. He was so worried that he had not heard from me and due to the loud scream followed by the disconnected call, he was in the process of calling my local police to have someone sent out to my house. Wow.

What scares the shit out of you?

Boss Baby

It is Friday, it has been a long week, and I have a hunch we all need a good laugh. Somehow office banter, jokes, and odd behavior keeps the workday light and potentially fun. Chris and I have been catching up on our DVR and old Saturday Night Live episodes. Since the entire season had already recorded, we watched it backwards, and eventually got to the episode with Louis CK. I have always found him funny, and this particular skit made me laugh.

(Apologies for the ad that you have to allow to play before watching.)

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Maybe it is not your kind of humor, but I had this strange desire to try to pull it off in the office for a day. My problem: I would not be able to keep a straight face, and would bust out laughing on my first try.

Have a wonderful long weekend (if you live in the US, and have Monday off).

Yahoo’s New Employee Policy – Thumbs Up or Down?

What do you think of Yahoo’s policy of no longer allowing employees to work from home? I am a bit shocked. I worked from home for over eight years and, I can tell you, I was way more productive than I would have ever been if I was in the office. I will tell you why:

  • Fewer distractions. I was able to focus on what I needed to accomplish, be dialed into conference calls and meetings as needed, and have the quiet space for the true work I needed to do each day. 
  • No wasted meetings. If I was on a conference call, and the part of the call had nothing to do with my job, I could put my phone on mute and handle other work. When the meeting focus came to my area, I could unmute my phone and participate. That is hard, if nearly impossible, to do when you are in the office.
  • No time wasted traveling to and from work. I worked longer hours when I worked from home. I also had more “me” time, felt more focused, did not have to waste time on what to wear that day, commuting, going out to lunch. In the end, I was more focused by having my dedicated office space at home.

Working from home is not for everyone. As someone who worked from home and managed a team of employees who also worked from home, there is a respect and privilege that comes from working from home. It means that you do not abuse the unique opportunity for others. I always looked at what I and my team were able to do as trendsetting for the future. If we could make it work, it could mean that others in the future might have the option for a similar opportunity. It also means that the manager has to be aware of what it is like for that at-home worker, and they have to manage differently than you would in the office. You do not have the face-time you have in the office, so you have to be creative in order to connect with employees in different ways.

Based on the experience I had, it shocks me that a company that has already been receiving a bit of a bad rap in the news lately would go backwards in time to not allow employees to work from home. It feels like a decision based on fear. Rather than trusting employees and setting up a system of accountability, it seems like they are removing that trust and bringing everyone back into the office. It is like not trusting your kids to drive on their own when they get a license. Eventually, they have to make their own mistakes and learn from them.

An interesting side note: In the article I linked to above, it says that Mayer (CEO of Yahoo) has built a nursery in her office. Seriously? That will not bode well from a PR perspective. Consumers and customers will roll their eyes and find that just maybe this is all a double standard.

What do you think?