Archive for the ‘Random Musings’ Category

Do You Feel Appreciated at Work Today?

My company is not known for coddling its employees with comfort.  We don’t get free coffee or free spring water.  There are no free snacks sitting in the kitchen for an afternoon pick-me-up.   The majority of the employees do not work in attractive work spaces.  We don’t have nice views.  In fact, many of us don’t have a view at all or even a window.  We do have decent cubicles, a nice chair, and our own phones, which is enough to get you through the day as long as you don’t stuck staring at the gray walls for too long (why would anybody choose gray paint!).

I have accepted these conditions without complaint for 12 years, but I draw the line at a lack of air conditioning.  I got to work at 8am.  The humidity was already enough to start a little hair frizz and with a high temp expected at around 90 degrees, it was already in the 80’s at that time.  I walked in from my car, dodging goose poop the whole way (despite nary a goose in sight), climbed the stairs to the second floor, walked a short hallway and entered my office area to be hit by a wall of stuffy heat.  It was literally 10 degrees warmer at my desk than it was the hallway, and the temperature kept climbing as more people showed up and powered up computers. A work order was submitted and 3 hours later, I heard the hum of the a/c and the office cooled down. 

During this time, we are expected to continue working at normal productivity levels.  Seriously.  Now, it could have been worse, but when you are hot and uncomfortable and everyone else around you is talking about the heat, it’s difficult to do any critical thinking.

This experience was certainly not my first at this company where the temperature was not quite right.  I’ve experienced many hot rooms.  I’ve seen the use of portable a/c  units.  I’ve endured humidity that made you feel like you’re in the rain forest.  I even moved to a new building in the winter where it took them 2 weeks to figure out that the heat didn’t kick back on until 10am, consequently, leaving us all freezing for several hours every morning.  All that combined with leaky roofs, power outages and the occasional mouse problem makes me wonder how much my employer really values my comfort.

Right now, I’m eating my lunch in a nice cool office space getting ready to forget about all this negativity until the next a/c problem.  Now if only the guy hammering in the room below me would stop and take his lunch break… I could get some work done.

Leaving Technology on the Counter

(click image for source)

I have been a negligent blogger, and it hasn’t been for lack of material. Several times a day I either read something or eat something or do something and think, I should blog about that. I don’t know what happened except that I went on vacation a month ago and technology was pretty much put on hold all week. We went to the Ocean City, NJ and played in the sand, swam in the ocean, walked the boardwalk went on rides. None of those activities required a cell phone, a computer or any other form of technology. I didn’t leave my cell phone at home. I just didn’t carry it with me. I looked it at maybe once a day to check my email or the weather forecast, but most of the time it just laid on the counter, untouched.

It was nice to take a break from technology.  As a software engineer, I spend most of my day in front of a computer, typing and clicking. When I leave work, the thought of using a computer is totally unappealing. I sit at a desk all day looking at the glow of a monitor navigating between windows and doing lots of typing and reading. We aren’t allowed cell phones where I work, and I know that for most people this would be a travesty. Since I have worked like that for over 11 years now, it actually seems to be a blessing. In fact, I have never experienced a work environment where everyone has a cell phone and frequently uses it.

When I first entered the workforce, cell phones were just emerging but were really only used for emergencies. Texting wasn’t available, and taking a cell phone call in public was awkward and rude. Times have certainly changed. We’ve all experienced that conversation with a friend or acquaintance where he or she spent the whole conversation taking peeks at their phones, maybe reading or responding to texts, checking new emails, and who knows what else. It is so annoying to talk to someone and not have their full attention. I could go on and on at what I think is rude when using a cell phone, but I’ll refrain.

My point is that taking a break from technology was refreshing. I felt focused on my kids and my husband. One night we were in line to take the kids on old-fashioned cars on the boardwalk, and I noticed a mom sitting in the backseat while her young daughter was “driving” in the front seat. The daughter was smiling and turning around talking animatedly with her mom throughout the whole ride. The mom was oblivious to her daughter’s excitement and not engaged in the experience because she spent the whole time texting. At first I had to chuckle at how silly the mom looked ignoring her kid on a kid’s ride to read and send a couple of texts. Then I felt sorry for her daughter. How often does her mom ignore her while she texts? It made me glad that I left my phone at home.
Abandoning your phone for an afternoon changes your whole experience. Without the distraction, I guarantee that you’ll see more and absorb more. You’ll focus on your family and your surroundings. It’s ok to be disconnected for some part of the day. You really will survive reading a text 2 hours after it was sent. Maybe everyone should try leaving the phone on the countertop for an afternoon.

Bye-Bye Irene

This weekend was about Irene.  I live in Southeastern PA, about 45 minutes from Center City, Philadelphia.  We had been hearing about Hurricane Irene for days.  She was predicted to hit our area Sunday night.  Friday was my normal day off, and I decided to head to the grocery store and do my weekly shopping before the craziness started.  I chuckled a little bit as every single shopping cart had a case or 2 of bottled water.  I didn’t buy any, not expecting to need it.  I assumed that people were getting caught up in the media hype of the impending hurricane and refused to cave to the insanity.

          (source)

As the day wore on and I started to watch the news, I began to wonder how bad things were going to be.  That night we headed to Costco after dinner to pick up a couple of items.  We usually go on the weekend but again were trying to beat major crowds anticipated on Saturday.  We usually buy our bread at Costco, and I was shocked at how little bread was left.  It was only Friday night!  Again, we saw people scrambling for bottled water.  We wavered on whether to buy some or not (you may know how I feel about bottled water) and ended up throwing a case on our shopping cart.  After that, the craziness of preparing for this hurricane grabbed us too.

(source)

We steadily watched the news on Saturday, canceled plans for Saturday night and spent the afternoon getting ready.  The reality was that we, like everybody else we knew, had no idea what was going to happen.  After the wettest month on record, we were forecasted to get 5-10 inches of rain and lots and lots of wind.  That much rain in an already saturated ground was not something that we had experienced, and we decided to prepare for the worst.  Steve spent the afternoon clearing our deck, redirecting our gutters away from our house, making our generator accessible and covering our window wells with plywood (Lowe’s was out of those plastic covers).  While the kids napped, we worked on the basement.  We moved things to higher ground just in case we flooded.  Steve even rigged up a little platform to elevate the treadmill.  I would have been very upset to lose the treadmill.  I filled our bathtub, bottles for Skylar for the next day and sippy cups for Gavin, and got out the flashlights.  Then we waited.

The rain started in the afternoon and as Irene got closer, the rain got harder and the wind got stronger.   We watched the news, and I got more nervous.  I had naively thought that we would secure our deck furniture and then go to bed and wake up in the morning and she would be gone.  She was forecasted to hit us between midnight and 6am, but the rain started falling a lot earlier than midnight.   Around 9pm, Steve showed me a leak around the seal where our sewer pipe exits our house in the basement.  It literally looked like a water fountain.  It spouted into our French drain, and we were worried what the additional rain would do to that leak.  We checked on it a couple of times before we went to bed where we watched more news and in time to get even more frightened with a tornado warning.  I finally fell asleep only to wake up later to a roaring sound in the distance.  My first thought was a tornado.  They always say that they sound like a freight train coming.  After a couple of minutes, I realized that it was just the fire house whistle.  Steve got up a couple of times to check on the basement.   It was a very restless night with the rain and the wind. 

By morning, the worst was done and the aftermath was minor in our area.  Our power was still on, and we had no flooding in our basement.  The leak slowed to a seep by late morning.   The window well under our deck did flood and we found some water on the floor but nothing serious.  Our sump pump has been running non-stop, but we are dry.  The wind held strong all day.  We watched the news some more and saw some awful pictures of flooding.  I saw even worse ones on Facebook.  We were lucky compared others, but I couldn’t help wonder if we got caught up in the news hype of the hurricane.  Did we over prepare?  Did I worry too much?  Maybe and probably.  That’s what the news will do to you, but I guess it is better to be safer than sorry.

By 8pm, the kids were in bed and we went outside to repopulate our deck and return the rest of our house to normal.  The wind was gone and the sky was clear.  It was hard to believe what the previous 36 hours had been looking up at that clear sky.  After an earthquake and a hurricane in one week, hopefully, we’ll have calmer weather in our future.

Mom, Employee, Exerciser and Blogger – Where are you?

This was the view that greeted me as I walked outside for my morning run. Yes, that is the moon. At a crisp 59 degrees, I had a glimpse of Fall. Personally, I love the Fall. I like sweaters and sweatshirts bundling up under the blankets, but I don’t want any Fall in August. I’m not ready to run in the dark. It is impossible to get out of bed for a run when it is freezing cold out and dark.

Since I enjoy blogging, it shouldn’t be any surprise that I also enjoy reading blogs. My interests are, of course, exercise, cooking, and any ideas to be more green. The green topics aren’t as plentiful as food and fitness. There are tons of blogs written by women about their daily fitness and cooking activities. Unfortunately, they all happen to be in their 20’s and aren’t juggling 2 kids, a job, and a blog. Since I just described my life, you can understand why my daily fitness activities are greeted with the moon smiling back at me.

I’m on the hunt for more blogging women like me. Maybe they’re just too busy to include blogging in their daily schedule. If you are one or know of any, please let me know where I can find their blogs.

Battling the Bulge – Before There is a Bulge

I make it no secret that I loathe McDonald’s.  I think that their food is unhealthy and a terrible choice of a meal to give to a child.  Since I have had my own child, I feel even more strongly in this opinion.  I’m sure that everyone has heard about the photographer taking daily pictures of a McDonald’s happy meal.  After 6 months, the hamburger has shown no indication of mold.  It’s because it is so full of preservatives that it’s too difficult for the mold to grow.  Yuck.

I think some people think that I’m too opinionated on this topic.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, wondering why I am so strongly opposed to fast food.  I think that I have finally figured it out.  I spent a lot of time as a child, teenager, and college student being overweight.  A few growth spurts thinned me out periodically for a while, but the extra pounds always crept back on.  I remember a picture of me when I was in the 4th or 5th grade.  I was wearing bright pink pants and white shirt with black shoes on it.  I was standing in front of a tree at a neighbor’s house and my cheeks were so full and round, I looked like Santa.  I hated that picture.  It probably still exists in a photo album somewhere, but it’s a memory of a time where I really saw myself for the first time as overweight.  It’s funny how a picture can haunt you like that.  25 years later, and I can still see that picture as though I just looked at it yesterday.   I feel very lucky to have conquered the weight issue early in my adult life.  I owe a lot of my success to being exposed to people who set good examples for me with healthy eating and exercise. 

Anyone that has ever been overweight as an adolescent knows how challenging it is.  I remember looking in the mirror and hating what I saw, being embarrassed if I had to wear a bathing suit in front of my peers, and just generally feeling bad about myself.  My mother used to say that I was just big-boned.  Once I shed the excess weight, I found out that I wasn’t big-boned at all.  I was just overweight.  Even today, I sometimes look in the mirror after having too many cookies or that 2nd piece of cake and think that I’m starting to see some pudge building and immediately feel guilty for my lack of self-control.  It’s an awful thing to look at yourself and not like what you see.  It is these experiences have led me to my opinions on fast food. 

I never want my children to feel bad about themselves because of how they look.  I never want them to look in the mirror and think twice about their weight.  I want them to grow up with eating well and exercising are just natural things to include in the lives.  I don’t want it to ever be a challenge for them.  Consequently, I don’t want a trip to McDonald’s to be a “treat” for them.  I do not deprive my son of sweets.  He gets lots of treats.  He’s had his share of cookies, brownies, ice cream, etc.  Most of them are homemade to avoid the chemicals found in packaged foods.  Recently, he has enjoyed some Halloween candy.  Treats in my house also come in the form of grapes, strawberries and other fruit.   I want him growing up not expecting dessert after every meal or knowing that a dessert can be something as simple and healthy as an apple.

I’m a mother who wants to protect her children from growing up overweight and all the psychological and physical issues that accompany that.  If that makes me extreme in my opinions on fast food, organic eating, and excessive sweets, then so be it.  I have a responsibility to keep my family as healthy as possible.  I want my children to become independent adults already armed with the knowledge on how to continue leading healthy lives.  Let’s hope that I’m successful.

Where’s that Snooze Button?

I was thinking about sleep this morning as I drove into work, sipping my coffee.  Why is that so many people don’t get enough sleep?  I am frequently well-rested, but I do go through spurts where I am just exhausted.  Night after night, I don’t get enough hours of sleep.  I pay for it for weeks afterwards.   For me, being tired is the result of not enough hours in the day.  I’m sure many people can relate to this problem.  It isn’t even a problem of not enough hours to do all the things that you need to do, but also the things that you want to do.   

Let me give you a rundown of my day yesterday.  Woke up at 6am.  Left for work at 7:45am.  Worked until 4:30pm.  Picked up Gavin and was home by 5:30pm.  Family time (which really means, doing laundry, preparing and eating dinner, cleaning up after dinner, cleaning lunch containers, coffee mugs, and Gavin’s bottles all while trying to enjoy quality with the G-man) until 7:30pm.  Gavin’s in bed by 8pm, and I’m out the door to the grocery store by 8:15pm.   Home by 9:15pm.  We unloaded the groceries and finished cleaning up around the house until 9:30pm.  Now, here is where I made myself even more tired.  Instead of taking a shower and going to bed to try and recover from the previous night’s exhaustion, I decided to watch some tv.  I hadn’t had any time to relax all day.  I wanted to spend an hour hanging out with Steve with some mindless entertainment.  An hour later, I take a shower and am in bed only to pick up the latest book that I’m reading (which happens to be The Bourne Identity – very good!) and decided that I needed to make some more progress on it.   I didn’t turn out the light until almost 11:30 only to wake up at 6am and start all over.

Why do I do this to myself?  I’ll tell you why.  I want some time to relax.  Some time to do anything that I want to do.  Time to enjoy hobbies.  Once you do all that things that you have to do, there isn’t a lot of time left for hobbies.  I’m sure that many of you can relate to that.

A long time ago, I read that you need a week of good night’s sleep for every hour of missed sleep.  I don’t know how true that is, but I do agree that making up for loss of sleep never happens in just one night.   I also know what sleep deprivation does to me physically and physiologically.  Physically, I eat more.  When I’m tired, I eat anything and everything.  It’s like my brain is saying, keep eating for energy, but my body is too tired to prepare a healthy, energizing meal or snack.   Since, I’m eating all these bad foods, my body is too tired and depleted to exercise.  Physiologically, I’m cranky.  I’m not happy.  I’m not in a good mood.  All I think about is how will I catch up on my sleep.  I’m not a doctor, but I’m sure prolonged sleep deprivation has a multitude of long-term health consequences.  I wouldn’t even be surprised if prolonged exhaustion resulted in a shorter lifespan. 

Isn’t it ironic that as you age, you need less sleep.  So, once I get to that retirement age, where work doesn’t hinder me from doing all the things I want to do, I’ll have even more hours in the day to do them.  In the meantime, I’m going to try my best to prioritize sleep and watch tv another night.  Isn’t that what a Tivo is for anyway?

Sickness Strikes Again

It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I was complaining about a slight cold that I had.  Maybe because it was only a few weeks ago.  A week after recovery, I got slammed with a second, much worse cold that left me unable to breathe out of my nose for 3 full days.  When I say “unable to breathe”, I mean not one puff of air was making it through either nostril.  The post-nasal drip force me to sleep on 3 pillows for a week and a half.  My overall miserableness did end after it followed the typical course the common cold takes.  Days 1 and 2 are usually a sore throat followed by stuffiness, runny nose, and coughing on days 3 and 4, which are typically the worst days and are what drive people to the doctor.  Knowing this information about the cold, on day 4 when I still couldn’t breathe, I was tempted to go to the doctor’s.  I decided to wait and see if day 5 brought any improvement, and sure enough it did.  My body fought that cold all on its own.  I spent one glorious night sleeping on only  1 pillow before the stomach virus hit.

On Friday evening, I was rejoicing in successfully making some ice cream with my Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment.  (My first couple of batches were not very good.)  After I had my celebratory bowl, I immediately didn’t feel all that well.  I went to sleep soon after thinking that I would be fine when I woke up in the morning.  I must disclose that my stomach churns just thinking about that ice cream.  Without going into any gory details, Saturday was spent in bed.  I was unable to move due to nausea, body aches, and fatigue.  Fortunately, I was on the road to recovery when Gavin started coughing from his allergies at 3am Sunday  morning.  Steve took care of him and about 5 minutes after Gavin was back in his crib, the stomach virus had hit Steve full force.  Steve spent all day Sunday in bed feeling my agony from the day before.

It’s now Day 3 of the virus, and I still haven’t fully recovered.  I’m still nauseous after eating and can’t really think about much more than toast, rice, and pretzels.  Needless to say, I haven’t been watching the Food Network.  I’ve also thrown out everything that I had for dinner the night before I got sick.  That ice cream is going too, as soon as I can stand to look at it.  Of course, I did go to work.  Hopefully for all of my co-workers’ sakes, I’m no longer contagious.  On a brighter note, Gavin hasn’t shown any signs of the virus.  Let’s hope it missed him.

One more important component of this weekend to share is how great my dog is.  Rusty laid in bed with me all day Saturday.  Every time I woke up, he was there.  On Sunday, he stayed in bed all day with Steve.  Rusty is not a lazy dog.  His favorite activity is chasing a tennis ball from our family room to our dining room.   His second favorite activity is going outside.  While his third favorite thing to do is going to bed, I think that he stayed with us because he knew that we needed a little comfort.   It was nice waking up and reaching over to feel that little fluff ball (he needs to be groomed) cuddled up against my leg.  I couldn’t ask for a better pet.

Let’s hope that I am now back to my usual healthy self, and we can chalk up March and April 2010 as a fluke in my immune system.