Now What

I work for a major tech company, one that is/was recently in the news for layoffs, and I get that that doesn’t narrow things down much. I’m not immediately impacted. Many are.

This is my best effort at a salient list of what to do if you found/find yourself on the receiving end of a difficult conversation, a last-minute scheduled meeting with HR, or a sterile email. (I am glad to be working at a place where it wasn’t the latter).

  1. Read Everything – I mean really read it. Don’t gloss over the letter/notice/information you’re given, read everything and make sure you read everything before you sign anything. You should be given time to read it and review it with someone else if needed.
  2. Get answers to the questions you will have after reading everything:
    • What happens with your health benefits? How long are you covered, is there COBRA?
    • Can you claim unemployment insurance? (in some states you can after a layoff, and in some if you take a package, you can’t. Your state may vary, check the state site. Here’s that page for Washington State.
    • What happens with your stock, specifically your unvested stock?
    • What happens with your ESPP (if you participate)?
    • What happens with your 401k?
    • Are they offering employment assistance (e.g., helping you find another job)?

If it’s all happening NOW

  • You’re going to feel overwhelmed, but you’ll need to do steps 1 and 2 above to the best of your ability. Don’t *sign anything* until you have to. Let the person who notified you know that you need time to review the notice with your SO, parent, roommate, whatever.
  • Take a walk or scream into a pillow or take a hot shower or do something, anything to give yourself some space. Breathe.
  • If you have a budget, revise it based on what your package will be (if you get one) and what your unemployment will be (if you get it).
    • You can work with most companies (energy, mobile, etc.) to create payment plans and/or assistance depending on your circumstances. The reality is that some people live paycheck to paycheck and so if that’s you, start communicating early. This includes you credit card companies.

If you have time between now and D-Day

  • Use your benefits. That means:
    • Get your doctor’s appointments in, eyeglasses, dental, etc. *Same for any dependents*.
    • If you have other perks, use them.
  • Establish *how much time* you really have and what “normally” happens in that time:
    • Do you have stock that vests? Do you contribute to your 401(k)? Do you participate in an ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Program)?
  • Do you have enough time to look for another role in the same company (large company layoffs are usually strategic and around projects, your skill set may work in another project).
  • Should you start changing automatic deductions/drafts *now* to accommodate an uncertain future?

And then

  • Brush up your resume. This includes:
    • Updating your work history
    • Looking at current job listings at other companies/your companies and identifying how skill sets are being labeled/displayed “these days”
    • Updating your LinkedIn profile
  • Consider working with a contract or temporary agency – not glamorous, but it keeps you out there, it gets you exposure in companies, you get additional skill sets, and most importantly, it helps pay bills.

Your mileage may vary, and some may be in a better position than others. There is this perception that if you work in the tech sector, you have scads of cash just lying about for just such an occasion, and whilst there are those that do, there are those that do not. Not all tech sector jobs are high-income engineering, and things are tightening up.

We’ll get through it. It’s going to be rocky, but we’ll get through it.

Forcing Functions

I am staring down a forcing function Then Me put into place for Now Me, and would like to have a talk with Then Me. To be clear: Now Me knows Then Me was right. In just a little over six weeks I need to be able to run 9.3 miles (15k), and I have successfully run recently as far as… 3. Three miles. If you are doing math and saying, “hm… you can make it, but just barely”, you’re right.

This year I turn 50, which is a nice round number. This year also marks the fifteenth anniversary of when I first started running – I was at a birthday party and a friend waited until after the second glass to let me know we were all running in the Seattle Half Marathon (2008). When I told my (then boyfriend) he laughed, which was all the incentive I needed to actually do it. At 50, incentives require a bit more “oomph”. Signing up for events as forcing functions is one of the “oomph” things, reminding myself of the health benefits is another. But oh, it’s hard to wake up when it’s gray and rainy and tell myself I need to go running up my hill (I live on a hill. No matter which way I leave my house, there will be hills to run).

I also have purchased a Smart Scale. The Smart Scale is quite smart – so smart that it talks to my phone, and it talks to My Fitness Pal, and it talks to Apple Health, and it blabs about all of my intransigence, including my lean mass and therefore also my body fat percentage. You’re not supposed to weigh yourself every day, more like once a week. So naturally, I weigh myself every day. In the olden days, I could step on the scale, and if it said you weigh NNN.4, I could say, “well we can just round that down to NNN” and put that manually into my phone. Now… now my scale tells on me, with that blunt matter-of-factness that I know I do to other people sometimes, and now I understand the look they give me when I do that. It’s not that I (or the scale) am/are *wrong*, it’s just that the message could be a little softer.

I do know what I have to do to get the numbers to go in the correct direction, but after a Holiday Season TM stretching from October to early January, it’s hard to convince yourself that cauliflower rice is really that good, and that you shouldn’t have that cookie. Four months of “I’ll take care of it later” have come home to roost.

The problem with all of these forcing functions is they also come with a dollop of potential backfire: at my age (and this is not me pitying being nearly 50, it’s me celebrating it but being honest about some of the constraints of it) you can injure yourself a lot easier by pushing too hard, and having taken a nasty fall a couple of years back I don’t want to do that. I’ve started lifting recently and got lectured by my PT for not stretching adequately (such that standing up “straight” had me pivoted slightly to the left; my left hand was correctly at my side, but my right hand was about 3″ forward). It’s a balancing act, and when you layer on the realities of the current working environment and just being an adult in general there’s a lot of room for failure … and improvement.

And so, I have my forcing functions, and I’m trying to expand them… as long as they’re not too forceful.

Reassurance

“Can you imagine what it would have been like to work in the technical space in Y2K time?” — actual quote from a coworker about 4 months ago at a lunch. I casually knew that I was “older” than a hefty chunk of my coworkers; if you’re in the software space the sheer volume of intake from colleges and study programs are such that you get a large incoming batch of folks as their first (or second) job in tech, and then as folks get on a bit in their careers they move elsewhere — sometimes to other parts of the company, sometimes to other companies. Life choices are made differently in your early 20’s than in your early 30’s.

I don’t think I look my age; maybe that’s just a healthy narcissism or maybe I’m delusional. I looked across the table to him and said, “Yes. I can. I was there.”

I entered the corporate world while still in college, at a pharmaceuticals company, in the early-mid 90’s. My title was “Computer Operator” and that was a legit title then – I “operated” the computer. In this case, the “computer” was a set of terminals in which orders were processed and verified, backed up by a mainframe at the top floor. One of my jobs was to administrate the backups of said mainframe (had to be done at 11pm-2am each night, so as not to interfere with work). Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I was, at this time, blissfully unaware of the Y2K problem.

Fast forward to the late 90’s, and four job hops. (Mine was, I think, the first generation to change jobs and change companies multiple times in a short period — our parents’ generation was aghast because for them, you went to a company and stayed loyal to the company. For us, we were chasing money.) I was working for a government contractor and the Y2K buzz was firmly in place. Was “this” software we were reliant on ready? What about “that” software? What about our OS? What about our vendors? And so forth. Which is entirely different from the larger, “OMG everything is going to stop working on January 1, 2000, and we are going to be back in the dark ages” conversation. If you look at the media hype machine today and how it can leverage extremes for clicks, do not think that just because there was a more nascent internet that hadn’t yet fully been squeezed for every last eyeball “dime”, we didn’t have fearmongering and panic. Y2K was a constant conversation; subject to the same conspiracy theories we see peppering today’s news — that it was overblown, that it was fake (and a distraction created to take attention away from the President/current government), etc. It was, of course, real but it was, of course, not as bad as advertised. To be absolutely fair: it was “not as bad as advertised” because a ton of people put a ton of work in, based on a ton of companies putting a ton of cash in, to fix it. The Great Refactoring took something on the order of 2-3 years (depending on when you got your stuff together).

Sometime in the afternoon of December 31, 1999 (I don’t remember the exact time) I was getting gas at the local gas station, near my apartment. It had become “the latest thing” to have streaming video (!) at the pump, so you could watch TV (usually news). As with typical 31’sts of December the “New Years’ around the world” coverage was in session, showing the fireworks and crowds celebrating a new millennium. The video was showing New Year in Moscow, where the power was on, the fireworks were firing; it looked sane and normal and like any other New Years’ celebration. The USSR had fallen less than a decade previous and, at least as far as the “western” world was told, and Russia had been spending the interim period getting economically stable and finding its new path forward; they had had bigger things to worry about and less resourcing to prepare. “If they could manage to have power and water and fireworks and such on Y2K”, I thought to myself, “we’ll be fine”. And for the most part, we were.

We sit here on our 3rd year of a global pandemic, vaccine distribution and access globally are inequitable, our medical professionals are exhausted, disinformation and fearmongering are at levels commensurate with dystopian novels. The great reckoning of racial prejudice and injustice that was supposed to be had did not happen: we “touched” on it, and I suppose we’re going to “circle back”, are we? Gender equity is in the toilet (thanks to pandemic response: no, you don’t get childcare and no you don’t have the wherewithal to work from home, so I guess you lose), and the failure to respond to climate change is so ingrained that we have a sarcastic parody of said failure. We elect a stream of pale septuagenarians who gladly make promises they cannot keep and then wonder why we don’t get what we want and why they don’t understand what we need.

I yearn for the days when I could get reassurance from a 2-minute TV reel at the gas pump. Here’s to a hopefully better 2022.

After Life

(Note: This is the last one of these I’m going to write for a while. Not because they’re particularly depressing for me, but they can be a bit of a downer for others. Still, I’ve had a couple of people ask about “what happens next”, so without further ado, here’s what happens next.)

(Also note: this isn’t about the spiritual afterlife — the one that happens to your spirit when it leaves the body, if that is your belief. This is about what happens to others who are still in this life, when that happens, in a practical tactics sort of way.)

I once had a break of a whole week between two jobs — a real break, I had left company A and was moving to company B. In preparation for that I started a checklist of all the things I was going to do during that week — various house stuff, crafting projects, probably catching up on filing, reorganizing the pantry — and it grew. The checklist started about four weeks before the break, and about one week before the break, it was complete.

I had done all the things on the checklist.

It has taken me years to allow things to sit on a list for their appointed time, because my instinct is to do the thing if it can be done. This has historically resulted in manic cleaning fits, late-night papers, insomniac email, and associated unhealthy behaviors; I’m working on it. Still, I typically craft my resolutions for the New Year around Thanksgiving and start addressing them around mid-December.

I’ve had a will, and the standard, boilerplate living will/healthcare directive since I had my son. I felt like I had done all that needed to be done, things were addressed, and so if something were to happen to me, the “work” left to my estate would be trivial. My mom also had a will, a healthcare directive and healthcare power of attorney (that specifically named me). It took seven months from the time of her passing to the last bit of paperwork/administrative work to be complete.

(NOTE: I AM NOT A LEGAL PROFESSIONAL AND YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GO TALK TO ONE). In the interest of preventing others from going through this same hassle (inasmuch as it can be avoided), I’m going to share some specific experiences and some guidance for you as you think about your own paperwork or guide a family member through theirs.

When my mom got put on hospice, the hospice team suggested reaching out to make pre-arrangements with a funeral home. We did do that, a local place that was hugely sympathetic and understanding (I had to do it virtually thanks to the viral outbreak), and walked me through the process. They had a lot of questions that were not answered in mom’s documents: did she want an obituary? Did she want a full or partial viewing? What kind of container did she want her remains in? Did she want them interred in a cemetery or to come home? And so forth. Learning: go talk to the local funeral home/investigate their site and look at their intake forms. It will give you an idea of the questions you should either have answered in your will or separate letter to whomever you want taking care of that.

When it happened, the home walked us through the initial administrative process, and we notified mom’s lawyer that she had passed. Both the home and the lawyer walked us through next steps, which included such things as “let us know” (the home) “how many death certificates you need”, and “get me a death certificate and the most recent bank and title statements of the joint properties listed in the community property agreement” (a thing my parents had in addition to their will, that was supposed to streamline the process and avoid a lengthy probate). Learning: each financial or legal institution you will deal with will want a *certified* death certificate. So each life insurance, bank, etc. Start with five if you can, or if things are super-tight, start with the one and then ask each office to send it back. (In Washington State, death certificates are about $20 each, and your funeral home can get them for you as part of their service).

About a month or so in to going through mom’s papers, we discovered not one but two ancient life insurance policies – one opened up as a “savings account” for her by her father when she was born (the kind you pay each year and then cash out at 21, except she didn’t) and one she opened when she was still married to my dad, her first husband.

The savings account one wanted not only a death certificate but receipts from the process, and when they made a copy error (I am not making this up) and copied the receipts over the death certificate they held up progress for FOUR MONTHS while they sent me form letters saying they hadn’t heard from me. (I’d call and they’d tell me the form letter wasn’t as specific as it could be and that they wanted a new death certificate. When I pointed out they already had one and that their copy error shouldn’t be my problem, they agreed and said they’d handle it. The next month I’d get another form letter saying they hadn’t heard from me. Repeat.) Learning: the Insurance companies aren’t just going to let you file a claim and receive the paperwork and have it be all fine, be prepared to spend some phone time and (in my case) know who the OIC (Office of the Insurance Commissioner) is in your state, the state the life insurance contract was opened in, and the state the insurance company operates in. (In my case, I ended up opening a complaint in California, Pennsylvania, and with the BBB).

For the one opened in her first marriage, the insurance company did NOT care that there was a will, that my mom had divorced my dad, and that my mom had remarried. The beneficiary in this policy was my dad, and so to my dad the payment would go. (Dad mailed the payment to my StepDad because my dads are cool). Learning: Check your beneficiaries, especially if you have had a life change. Those can override any sentiments in your will.

Additionally, with Life Insurance, the appreciation you get on it (e.g., if the policy matured N years ago and therefore has been collecting X interest since then) is taxable. Learning: Talk to an accountant/estate planner about how that works and/or talk to yours if you are on the receiving end about the tax implications so you’re ready. (Also, not every insurance company withholds anything from this payment. I have a letter from the “savings” insurance company saying they did. The actual check stub and accounting does not show this. I’m not saying that insurance company sucks, but I won’t be voluntarily doing business with an insurance company whose name rhymes with Detrimental).

(Incidentally, the local banks and mortgage company, the department of licensing and the social security office all went easy as pie.)

Dollars and cents aside, there’s then the physical artifacts: what do you want to become of your stuff? I’m not talking about the stuff you name-check in your will — the family opal ring or the signed print or such — I’m talking about your *stuff*. Your clothes, shoes, etc. mainly. In my mom’s case, she had a lot of nice, barely worn things from a stretch of cruising. The nice things got donated to a local women’s shelter, as did unopened extras of toiletries and such. There were also some not-nice things, and those went into the trash. (I don’t think my mom ever considered it but I think she would have agreed with a women’s shelter and would’ve disagreed on the “not nice” label). Learning: if you have a preference, spell out where you want your stuff to go. If you don’t, spell out that it’s up to the person executing the estate.

It probably comes as no surprise that I processed this grief the way I process most everything — there was an Excel spreadsheet, a detailed One Note; there was lots of productive activity, there was lots of avoidance of the icky, emotional deluge (which didn’t turn out to be much because, as I sorted out with my therapist, I’d been grieving since she got admitted to the hospital)– but I hope that the learnings from this will help you and/or yours in how you approach your preparations, perhaps as a New Years’ resolution.

Giving Tuesday

It’s Giving Tuesday, and while this is but one of many opportunities to donate to the charities that have meaning for you, it’s the one that’s here right now, nestled between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.

A couple of weeks ago I reached out to family and friends to find their favorite charities. It’s not that I don’t have an idea of where my money can go, it’s more that I usually see these folks during the course of the year across a banquet table with elaborate, biddable centerpieces and carefully-folded linen napkins and dubiously fresh rolls and frozen butter. If your thirties are spent at soccer matches and theater practice, your forties (at least mine) are spent at fundraiser breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; at auctions and pop-up shops and cookie drives and popcorn sales.

I don’t get to see my friends much these days, we’re all disinclined to collect a new health concern (being in our forties we save discussion for “what’s the latest part of my body to go south” until after dessert). There’s no dessert lately, because we’re all staying home; so there’s no emotional guest-speaker, no witty and quick-moving emcee, no carefully (or not) placed nametag over the ubiquitous scarf-of-the-season.

So I reached out to my friends and asked them about their local charities, the ones they like, the ones for which I should’ve got an email invite to a downtown hotel that would make me mentally calculate my parking options, except that there are no said events. I got replies, some expected, some not, and in case you’re looking for some places to give, I hereby give you the List. It is a working list, I’ll keep adding to it, but here’s the list, this Giving Tuesday.

If these aren’t for you, I encourage you to reach out and find the one(s) that are, and see what you can do; COVID has hit not only the predictable health, homeless, and food security spots, but also there are downstream education and childcare impacts, disenfranchisement, etc. You can also reach out to me if you’d like to add to the List.

Eat Your Frogs

“Eat a live frog first thing every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

The relative cholesterol of frogs notwithstanding* this has been my mantra for the past several days. As part of the seasonal reorganization of things here at my company, I have a new boss and new coworkers (sorta) and so there’s a bit of an administrative tax associated with that: the PowerPoint that describes your products. The weekly update email on how those products are doing. The monthly update PowerPoint on how those products are doing. The one-off PowerPoint to discuss the ProblemChild in your product, and the one-page Word docs to describe the individual projects of your Product. Then of course there’s the emails about each of these items.  It was a rough three weeks getting all of that in order, but now I think we’re there and it’s time to eat another frog.

America needs to eat a frog. Actually, your average American citizen needs to eat a *lot* of frogs, because it is Election season. Whatever their opinions are about the candidates for the Top Office are, and how much they do or do not like said candidates, that is (frankly) the least of the frogs Americans need to eat.

*All* of the 435 House of Representative seats are up for reelection this year. Thirty five of the 100 Senate seats are, too. One hundred and sixty three ballot measures are up in 35 states, and 72 citizen initiatives. In my home state we have some pretty big decisions to make, including the possibility of a carbon tax (the Economist covered it last week). There are initiatives about pot, about gun control, about taxes, and about minimum wage; I guarantee the average American has an opinion about some or all of those. I equally guarantee there are no simple choices.

Let’s take my home state: Washington. We have the aforementioned carbon emission tax on the ballot, which economists love but I guarantee you local businesses will not. Ditto the Minimum Wage initiative (actually economists are split on that one, depending on who you talk to regarding artificial price floors, etc.). Firearms make another appearance, this time around risk protection orders. Another initiative asks you to weigh privacy risks against proper compensation for home health care workers. There’s also not one, but two advisory votes (where we get to let the State House/Senate know how we feel about taxes they approved without subjecting them to vote). You may think we have a lot in our state but it turns out California and Alabama voters will have a much thicker pamphlet to read through.

All of these frogs to eat and yet, while the states are doing their best to saute them in butter and garlic (or is that braise them in red wine and tomato sauce?) our election year coverage seems largely devoted to the biggest frogs who, depending on the status of the Congress they are rewarded with, may be stuck in the mud anyway and unable to do much other than croak for the next two years.

Because of the howling cacophony over those “biggest frogs”, it’s rare you find an intelligent, balanced conversation over the little frogs (and possibly tadpoles) we need to consume. It’s almost like the sheer dread of that first big frog negates the fact that once we’re done chewing that one and swallowing it, we have to eat another fifteen, or twenty, or thirty frogs.  Unlike college, there isn’t going to be some sort of machismo pride on the line for chugging your frogs; there’s not going to be a team of your brothers and/or sisters cheering you on as you eat your frogs.  This is probably because they’ll be busy with their own frogs. Stopping to discuss the balance of flavors in the small frogs, or cooking method, seems ridiculous.

It is, however, the platefuls of small frogs that await us are what we’ll have to subsist on for the next two years (at least — remember Senate terms, for example, are six years), and they are not getting the attention they deserve. I’d argue the biggest frogs are over seasoned and will be cooked to a crisp, leaving little taste on the palette and not otherwise making any long-term impressions. It’s those carefully prepared, home-grown frogs we need to fill up on. On voting day,  you get to pick your frogs.

*50mg per 100g of frog meat, in case you were wondering, vs 88 for chicken. There may be a missed opportunity here.

The Illusion of Control

It’s a testament that my Cardiologist remembers my father when he asks me why I’ve come to see him and I reply by saying “this” and hand him my laptop with my Cholesterol charted over the last 9 years. The chart was full-on Excel, broken out into the different types (HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, Total Cholesterol, and my ratio on a 2nd series). I am not the only one in my family to chart a bunch of things in Excel and come armed to a doctor’s appointment with data. “Ah,” he said, “You’re discovering that your cholesterol is going up in spite of what you do to make it not.”

I had explained about the diet and the exercise, I had explained about seeing it go down back in 2010 and in 2012 when I undertook larger physical activities (namely the Ride to Conquer Cancer and the STP), and how with Ragnar (last year and this) there was no downturn. With a restrictive diet there was no downturn.

I was prepared for him to tell me it is genetic (it is, both of my parents and their families have related histories) and I was prepared for him to tell me that short of “drastic changes” I wasn’t going to be able to make my LDL go down without help. I’m not a drastic person so I didn’t want to ask what “drastic changes” were, although I should have just for comparison.

Naturally, I expected him to whip out the ol’ prescription pad and prescribe a statin.

Nope.

“With young healthy people,” he said, and I could have kissed him for the “young” part except I had already figured by the waiting room that I was a good 20 years younger than his usual patient, “I don’t like to put them on statins.”

There’s another reason he’s not putting me on a statin, and that is because I have osteoarthritis in my joints. I’m able to run because I have a fabulous physical therapist, orthodic inserts in my shoes, and I use Hokas. But statins tend to cause joint pain, and I already get joint pain if I’m not careful, so statins, for me, right now, are not the magic bullet. The plan is to take 3 additional supplements, for 3 months, and come back for another round of lipid panels. The 3 supplements? Vitamin D (5000 IU, rather than the 1000 I’m already taking), CoQ10, and Cholestene.

(Can we just take a second to have three cheers for a Cardiologist who is Director of Cardiology for the hospital chain and has been practicing some 30+ years, offering an initial alternative medicine approach? Usually you have to seek that out. )

So, here we go. We’ll give this a try and see if it works; I feel like I’m in good hands.

Next up: The Great Protein Shake Challenge!

 

200 Square Feet

200 Square Feet is the size of the room I, the male person, the boy child, and the bulimikitty have lived in these past 3 days. It represents one bedroom, one bathroom, one kitchenette, and one livingroom/kids’ room. It has not been harmonious joy. Surprisingly, not because of the humans.

Look, I’m a little difficult when it comes to large-scale change in my life, and I need a certain sense of order and organization to function; living in a hotel room with other people at any length while trying to have a “normal” day — functioning as mom, functioning as worker-bee, functioning as human — is difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have a dishwasher again.

No, my issue is with the cat. The cat who meows loudly. Every 10 minutes. From 10pm to 6am. Don’t worry folks, she’s here all week. The last two nights have been a repetitive round of “MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!” followed by harsh, hasty whispers by the male person to “Stop That!”.  Each morning the alarm beckons at 5am and I freely admit, only one of those mornings did I actually get up to work out.

I’ve rediscovered the joys of cooking on an electric range (the old-fashioned sort), as well as having a Real Dishwasher. The past five weeks have consisted of doing dishes in our bathtub. It has caused me to start checking my left wrist again, as for ten years there was a Seiko there that had to be carefully removed before doing dishes by hand in the first, and second, apartments I had whilst wearing it. That was more than ten years ago.

Tomorrow is Halloween, what was once my favorite holiday; on that day I get to go “home” but it still won’t quite be home as I still won’t have things back where they belong. My study and library are full of boxes, the dining room table is in the livingroom. The boy will be at his father’s house, having an Epic Halloween! I’m sure, and we will receive our usual two new people who don’t realize that our street, as busy and uphill as it is, is not as fun or lucrative to Trick-or-Treat on as the one just two blocks up. It’s the same story for Halloween at this house, one I’ve lived in, on and off, for the better part of 26 years. The house is larger than 200 square feet, for which I am newly, appreciatively grateful.

Entropy

For a dyed-in-the-wool control freak, the absolute worst thing you can do to them is to introduce mass chaos into their environment for which there is no solution but time. Welcome to my kitchen remodel.

The notion of this remodel has been some time coming, and after much deliberation and fiscal jiggling we signed papers in July with a contracting company. A dear friend warned me that contractors never, ever, ever come in on time and on budget, and so far we are finding that pretty much true. While the budget creeps are of our own choosing (Let’s do this light over that light! This countertop over that countertop!) the time overruns are not. My cabinets are in Canada somewhere and there they will stay until December, so we’re going with an alternate vendor. The cabinets being stuck meant the countertop can’t get cut according to schedule. The drywall guy has come and gone but can’t finish until the cabinets are in, and the floor finish can’t be sped-up. And so we wait for cabinets.

Meanwhile, seven large boxes of kitchen gear, and two sets of curtains and assorted wall decor, are stacked in the small available space of the study. Another box, a kitchen aid, and stacks of cookbooks impede on the library. Pots, pans, glassware, an end table, a wine rack, and a stack of coats take up the spare space in the bedroom. Dishes are done in a large blue plastic tub in my son’s bathtub. My current kitchen is the male person’s workbench plus a fridge, in the garage.

After I got over my initial meltdown (yes, I had one, get over it) I tried to look at it for the charm. It’s kind of like camping but with electricity, right? I get to really test my recipe mettle. At least it’s not the dead of winter and the garage is a comfortable 60 degrees. The boys can play radio control cars on the unfinished floors. Above all, this chaos forces us to be more organized , more cognizant of where we put things and how we use them.

Yet the change keeps coming. In my head I had a due date of 11/4 — on that date, I had a kitchen again. I had a dining room. My study and library would be cleared and I could get to my sewing machine. Then came the news that after you get your floors finished you must wait 30 days before putting furniture on it.  And so now I’m hopeful that by my son’s birthday we have furniture in place.

Which is not to say that there hasn’t been a bit of change in other areas as well. A recent re-org at work, while ostensibly relatively minor, puts into question overall vision and goals which of course trickles down to those of us “unaffected”. As the holiday season approaches I am reminded as well of all of the dire warnings from friends who had worked in the Retail sector before. At Expedia, things are relatively slow business-wise in November and December, the time is used to plan for the new year. At Sur La Table, the push and craziness starts mid-September and I’ve heard it ends sometime around January.

Layer The Rest Of Life onto this and I’m looking forward to a potential power outage or some other unseen force that will allow us all to take a little break.

AFTER I have my kitchen back.

Please Stand By

Greetings from Chicago O’Hare, and my second time EVER being here not as a business traveler. Bonus points for the food court between K and G gates.

It’s 6:30 in the morning, and we left Seattle at midnight local time “last night”; ergo, we are running on about three hours’ sleep. The reality of flying to a non-major city (hello, Jacksonville) is you either spend your entire day, or your entire night, flying, because you’re going to be stopping over someplace that is not quite but almost entirely out of any reasonable travel path between your points A and B. In this case to maximize our time with family and fun, we are spending the entire night. It’s not completely awful.

If you think about it, one of the most common ways to placate the boredom, frustration, and general weariness associated with modern travel, is your electronic leash. It may be a laptop; it may be an iPhone or a Crackberry. It used to be a book, but books are losing this race. I am sitting at our gate and follow me around the room: teenager across from me on iPhone. His Dad on iPhone. Behind him, lady with full back and arm tattoos (thanks to her tank top) pulling her cell phone out of her bag. Business lady on an iPad. Businessman on a Blackberry. Other businessman eating, iPhone, iPhone while eating, iPad, something-not-quite-an-iPad but not a Kindle, either.

Our connectivity gives us the opportunity to not connect with others. Anyone stuck in an elevator with (shudder) other humans will note two things: 1. The propensity for an elevator full of strangers to be, in fact, an elevator full of strangers looking at their smartphones, and 2. That the people in the elevator, in the absence of interpersonal communication thread active as they entered the elevator, will space themselves out as far apart from each other as possible. (E.g., if there’s one person in the elevator they’re dead center or in the corner. If there are two, you have upper corner and rear opposite corner. Three are usually one in front middle, two in the rear corners. Four = all four corners. Five = all four corners plus one in middle. And so on.) If ever you’re bored and don’t mind messing with other people’s personal space (and yours), deliberately defy this mechanism.

Yours truly is on her laptop, as it is my electronic babysitter as we wait at the gate for a couple of hours. This is wholly unremarkable with the exception that I know, coming up, I will have a day without connectivity.

I tried, the other night, to trace back how long I’ve had some form of connectivity (to the internet, I suppose), and as best as I can figure that started when I moved back up to Washington and started working for Premera. I think we’re looking at Spring 2001. But the connectivity wasn’t all-encompassing, all-binding until I started working for Expedia, 3 years later. I’ve had a blog since 2005 (not this one), “smartphone” of some sort since 2006, a Twitter account since 2007.

Nine years at Expedia trained me to expect emails 24/7 (this is the boon to working for an international company and having international internal customers). Moving  to Sur La Table has meant a dearth of weekend email. After about 6pm on a Friday it slows to a halt, and doesn’t kick up again (apart from automatic job notifications) until Monday morning. Twice now I have sent myself a test email to my work account to verify that it’s still working.

My addiction to this connectivity is starting to get noticed, and, while normally the recipient of a shaking head or an arched eyebrow, has spawned a bet by Grog the Luddite (Grog works with me, sits in what is referred to the “Man Cave Annex”, and does not understand addiction to connectivity. For “fun”, Grog went to Montana to go do crazy physical acts – like carrying other grown men for ½ mile – in high heat). Grog has declared that for a full 24 hour period, I am not to have any connectivity. To test myself. Like an alcoholic preparing for a day without booze I’m already nervous and wondering what my coping mechanisms will be. It will help that the day selected is a day we’re at the Magic Kingdom all day, right? Well no, because then I don’t get to do my Foursquare check-ins. And what about using Yelp reviews to pick the better eating options? And what if something happens at work?

Because that’s the real crux: what if something happens at work, and they need me, and I’m not available? That’s bad enough. What if something happens at work, and they don’t need me – or discover I’m not needed? Ridiculous, yes, but when you love your job that’s the irrational fear that comes with it.

So Friday it is. From Thursday night whenever I hit the rack, to the following Saturday morning when I awake, I will be totally, and completely, offline. The phone will be on to receive calls, but all email accounts will be turned off, cellular data will be turned off, and my phone will just…be a phone. By way of publishing this now, I am that alcoholic putting in place an integrity check: I’ve SAID I’m going to do it, now I have to do it.

I honestly don’t know what my reaction will be. I wonder if I’ll be irritated by the lack of convenience – or if like a mosquito bite I ignore it long enough I simply forget it? I will be sure to blog all about it… on Saturday.