Reason #285 for Working from Home – Avoiding the Corporate Lingo

stroftThere are so many reasons why it’s such a wonderful thing to work from home. From being able to pick my boys up every afternoon from school to not having to sit in a cubicle, the perks are undeniable.

After participating in a conference call yesterday with several individuals who aren’t as fortunate as me to be able to have a home office, I realized a whole new reason why home-based employment is so great.

I’m not exposed eight hours a day to obnoxious corporate speak. I haven’t added to my everyday vocabulary an ever-shifting list of fad words that seem to spew from so many mouths of otherwise intelligent people.

What words are we talking about? Here are a few that I heard yesterday in a 30 minute conference call:

All Hands on Deck – If I had been working on a maritime project, this may have been an appropriate phrase to throw out yesterday. Rather, it was a launch of a new tech product, not a boat!

Automagically – I nearly burst out laughing when I heard this come out of the mouth of one of the phone call participants who I don’t care to name here on my blog. Hybrid fake words are the height of ridiculousness. The last decent one was coined by Northern when they proclaimed their toilet paper was indeed both strong and soft. In other words, it was “stroft!” Maybe, I should throw out “stroft” in my next corporate pow-wow. I could start a new trend.

Ping – This one annoys the crap out of me. You can call me, text me, Skype me, or email me, but please don’t ping me unless you have a paddle and a little white ball in your hand, and you want me to pong you back.

Out of Pocket – I had to look up this dumb phrase after I heard it. I guess it means that someone is unavailable or offline. It used to be an accounting term that meant you paid for something that you want to be reimbursed for. How the heck did it turn into “don’t try calling, because I won’t pick up the phone?”

Touch Base – Isn’t it just easier to say, “Let’s talk later?”

There were other choice corporate words and phrases mentioned during this call, but I should probably stop here before I get found out for writing about the ridiculousness of it all.

Fortunately, I have only limited exposure to these dumb words and phrases. They won’t be infiltrating my regular vocabulary. And, if I do suddenly have an urge to “ping” someone, I’ll know I need to spend more time “OOO.” That’s “out of the office” for those not privy to corporate speak.

Song of the Day: Talk Talk

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For Every Season…

mailbuOver the years, I’ve had a lot of different identities – younger sister, college student, working gal, wife, small business owner, and for the last several years, single mom. All of these identities are still in me today.

For the last several years, my life has been primarily defined by the challenges of divorce and taking care of two young boys alone. It probably seemed dreary and scary for those around me. Being a single mom or listening to one complain about it is not for the faint of heart.

Fortunately, life goes on, and I’d like to communicate my appreciation to all those who have listened to the drama and have been supportive. I’ve navigated through a long dark tunnel, and I’ve made it through somewhat unscathed with my humor intact.

Now, I’m entering into a new phase. I’m still not sure what it will be called. Perhaps – happy 40-something.

In a couple of weeks, I’m moving back to my home state. This is certainly enough reason to celebrate after spending a third of my life in the desert. But, it gets even better! I’m starting a life together with someone who truly inspires me, makes me laugh, and gives me new hope for what will happen next. I feel very fortunate. Very fortunate!

All the twists and turns in my life have led to this new adventure. I guess the moral of the story is to be open to change and to be patient. Things do get better. Usually, it takes a lot longer than you think they will. But, they do.

What I’ve learned? You have to ride the waves. For now, I’ll be riding them in Malibu!

Song of the day: Turn! Turn! Turn!

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Learning to Work in Fits and Starts at the San Mateo County Office of Education

mail cartWhen I was in high school, I worked where my parents did – The San Mateo County Office of Education. They worked upstairs, and I was down in the basement mailroom. I didn’t mind. I made $4.75 an hour which was significantly higher than minimum wage in the mid-1980s. And, the cast of characters with whom I worked were amazingly entertaining. I still have fond memories of the pot-smoking janitor who used to laugh for no reason, the printing press operator who looked like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch and played cool R&B music, and the kindly old PBX operator who would tell me tales of when she was a little girl.

I would arrive at work after school, and there would be a big pile of mail to sort from all of the schools and satellite district offices. I became lightning fast at sorting letters and packages into the bins and mail cart. From there, I would push the cart through the upstairs departments – working as an in-house mail-girl.

I could get my work done in under an hour, and then I had two hours to shoot the breeze with my work buddies, drive the County Ford Fairmont to 7-11 for a Slurpee, or play with my boss’s dog “Lucky.” She was certainly a pioneering innovator in the concept of bringing pets to work.

From this early career experience, I trained myself to work in fits and starts. I could have taken three hours to sort and deliver the mail, but instead, I learned to put the “pedal to the metal” so to speak for a short amount of time so that I would have time to take it easy.

I still do this!

I wish I could steadily write eight hours every day, five days a week, but I can’t. I don’t function like that. Rather, I have bursts of amazing productivity followed by bouts of not wanting to do much else but watch fun clips on YouTube.

Yes, I do write every day, but some days I churn out 10,000 words or more. Other days, I’m lucky if I squeak out 1,000.

Over time, I have learned to take care of non-writing tasks when I’m feeling less than productive. I’ll create invoices, make calls, and work on proposals. But, somehow I feel less than pleased with myself when I’m not writing.

I wonder if others share my less than consistent cycle of work. Or, did my stint as mail-girl create this problem? And, is this really a problem at all or rather the brain’s way of recharging the batteries.

Song of the Day: Bang on the Drum, Todd Rundgren

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The Irony of Lean Cuisine

lean cuisineYesterday, I was at the grocery store with the boys. We were getting the usual things we need to make breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the week. While we will pick up an occasional bag of pretzels or chips, the majority of our shopping cart usually consists of fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat, and grains/beans.

While cruising the aisles, Judd noticed this woman placing cartons of vanilla flavored soy milk in her basket. He wanted to know why she needed so many cartons. Sorry, Judd, I don’t know what motivates other shoppers, but let’s keep going.

We rolled past her again down another aisle. She was loading up on some sort of day-glo colored, sugar-free energy drink. Darn it if we didn’t just kept running into her. In the frozen foods, she was piling a stack of Lean Cuisines into her cart.

Please forgive me for being judgmental. But the woman was very overweight, and my first thought was that she was buying products that marketers cleverly promote as low-calorie and healthy. I know it’s not for me to judge, and she could have been buying items for a family member or a friend, but her story seemed pretty clear by looking at her shopping cart.

I have seen this very scenario countless times in the grocery store. A heavy-set person choosing processed and artificially sweetened and colored foods and drinks instead of the basics. Is there a connection between a person’s weight and the food that they’re choosing. I’m going out on a limb and saying a resounding YES!

And the sad thing is that these consumers truly believe that they are choosing products that will help them get healthier. It’s a vicious cycle and rather predatory on the part of marketers that know very well who they are targeting and how to position their products.

It’s my humble opinion, for what it’s worth, our population would be a whole lot healthier if we just used our kitchens – no frozen dinners, no deli counter takeout, no artificially flavored/colored convenience foods.

Cooking is fun, and homemade food just tastes better. It’s also not all that time-consuming. In the time it takes to heat up a Lean Cuisine, I can whip up a salad, an omelet, a sandwich, or countless other quick meals. And, I don’t get a plethora of preservatives and additives on my plate.

When you walk the aisles of the grocery store, it’s shocking to actually look at how many products are for people who don’t want to take the time to really cook and don’t apparently want to eat the basics. Real cheese tastes good. So do fresh vegetables, chicken that you cook yourself, beans, and oatmeal. Flour isn’t something to be afraid of, and real sugar in small amounts tastes way better than aspartame. How about water instead of diet drinks, too.

Ok, off of my soapbox. I have a flank steak to marinade for dinner tonight.

Song of the Day: Stir It Up, Johnny Nash

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Overcoming the Fear of Barbecuing

barbecue_grill_1680x1261Yesterday, my mother was at the grocery store and was asking the woman at the fish counter how to cook king crab legs. Another customer piped in that barbecuing was a good option. She said to my mom, “Just have your husband throw them on the grill for a few minutes.”

My mom politely told the customer that she was a widow. An awkward moment for sure! The grocery store woman, the customer with the cooking tips, and my mother looked at each other, and the conversation basically came to an abrupt end. No husband – no barbecue. It was completely understood amongst all three of them.

My mom relayed the story to me this morning, and we got to thinking about this. Why is barbecuing the domain of men? As women, have we been conditioned to fear barbecuing by men who feel this is a macho pastime only fit for those with ample amounts of testosterone? Do you need a hairy chest and a love of professional football to pour lighter fluid on briquettes and flip meat with a wood-handled prong?

What about all the women like my mom and me who don’t have the luxury of having a man in our house on a full-time basis? Is being barbecue-deprived our punishment?

The whole idea that barbecuing is a man’s activity is crazy when you think of it. I’ve cooked 25 lb. turkeys in my oven, cut mountains of vegetables on my cutting board, kneaded bread by hand, and can even fry doughnuts. Why on Earth can’t I barbecue?

I have a perfectly good grill on my patio, but I’ve never used it. And frankly, I’m kind of afraid to. I think it’s time that I and other women deem the barbecue an equal-opportunity cooking apparatus.

I think I can muster placing a burger or chicken breast on the grill. I’m good at cooking meat in my kitchen, so I can’t imagine that it would be tremendously more difficult if I cooked it outside.

So, I’m going to work on overcoming my fear. I’m heading to the store to buy some briquettes and I’m going to show my two boys that women can and should barbecue.

What’s next? Maybe, I’ll start waxing my car by hand, too!

Song of the Day: Fire, Ohio Players

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What If Donald Sterling Was Your Boss?

donal serlingAnyone who knows me is aware that I’m not a big fan of professional sports. I like gymnastics, figure skating, and synchronized swimming. Sad, but true.

Personally, I find most team sports to be kind of boring to watch, and I always find professional sports fans to be a bit nutty. How they take personal responsibility for a big win always makes me scratch my head a bit. You didn’t win, sir. Those six foot four inch, pumped up athletes who represent your city did.

Anyway, this blog post isn’t about my dislike of Monday Night Football or sitting in a stadium eating cold hot dogs watching baseball players spit tobacco on a field.

Today, I wanted to touch on this crazy saga of Donald Sterling. I had never heard of the guy until a couple of days ago when the story came out about his racist, offensive conversations with his young mistress. As a non-fan of basketball and someone who has first-hand experience with a megalomaniac boss like Donald Sterling, I wanted to share my opinion.

First, let me get this out there. The guy is a dirty, vile, racist man with too much money and a giant ego.

But, I seriously doubt that all the people around him, from the African-American coach and the primarily African-American players on his team to his Jewish wife and Hispanic girlfriend, didn’t already know this. I seriously doubt he lived the life of an honest, nice guy until last weekend.

All of the people in his circle tolerated his bulls*** because he was holding the purse strings. The wife overlooked his marital indiscretions. The coach ignored his racial slurs. The players didn’t want to address his reputation. His girlfriend kept him happy.

Didn’t all of these people have a choice? They certainly didn’t have to stay married to him, work for him, sleep with him.

Many moons ago, I had a boss who acted not unlike Donald Sterling. It was early in my career, and the opportunity was a good one. But, my boss was lecherous and dishonest. After a bad incident at a tradeshow and considerable soul searching, I made a rather ballsy move. I lodged a complaint against this turd and found myself another job.

Sure, I could have stayed there, collected my paycheck, and added to my stock options. But, I left. The guy was a pig! Just like Don Sterling.

So, my point is that perhaps, the focus shouldn’t be solely on the shortcomings of Donald Sterling. Who is really to blame? The answer seems simple to me. Everyone around him who enabled him to pull this crap for a very long time. They supported him by staying in his circle. That coach could have taken another job. Those players could have found another team. The wife should have asked for a divorce. And, the mistress. Well, what can we say about her?

As long as there are individuals willing to put money ahead of what is right, the Donald Sterlings of the world will continue to behave as they do.

Song of the Day: Money, The O’Jays

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10 Things Being a Single Mom Has Taught Me about Running a Business

tenI started my business when I was married and a new mother. In fact, I started it so that I could stay at home with my two boys. At the time, I had no idea that my part-time venture would turn into what would pay all of our expenses. But, it did. And, I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Being a single mom is like boot camp training for being an entrepreneur. There are some amazing survival skills you learn quickly when there aren’t enough hours in the day and failing isn’t an option.

So, I thought I’d share my top 10 things I’ve learned from juggling two kids by myself. They’ve been the best business trainers I could have ever imagined!

You Need a Morning Routine
Mornings are busy when you’re under the gun to get kids to school on time. Up at 6am, feed the cat, prepare lunches, cook breakfast, check homework, make sure the boys are dressed in outfits that somewhat match, and off to school we go. It’s a lot to do but necessary to prepare for the day ahead. I’ve created a similar morning routine to get ready for the workday, too which even includes packing my own lunch even though I work from home. Without the routine, I’d probably flop on the couch and watch the Today Show for a couple of hours.

You Need a To Do List
Two boys have lots of activities, homework assignments, and other things that I have to keep track of on a daily basis. There’s a lot going on in my business, too. As part of my morning routing, I create a daily list to keep organized. If it’s not written down, it is likely not getting done.

You Better Choose Friends and Clients Wisely
After your child experiments with a four letter word he learned from his new “friend”, you begin to ask questions about who they’re hanging out with. While you can’t control who they pal around with at school, you can “advise” them on their choices. In business, you also need to carefully choose your friends and clients. You don’t have the luxury of having someone in your circle who doesn’t pay, is a negative influence, or wastes your time.

Chores Must be Streamlined and Delegated
As a single mother, I’m always outnumbered by kids. It’s a continuous battle to keep the house clean, the laundry under control, and food in the fridge. I’ve learned to consolidate chores (like doing laundry at the same time I’m making dinner) and to delegate tasks whenever possible. I had a team of housekeepers clean my house the other day because I realized that it made more financial sense to work while they cleaned than for me to take time away from work to clean. Business owners also need to look at all their tasks and figure out ways to make them more streamlined. Time is money for both single moms and business owners!

Distractions Have to Be Minimized
Every night we sit down to eat dinner at the table. We turn off the TV and don’t answer the phone. It’s our time to focus on what we’ve accomplished during the day. I’m guessing the boys will remember these dinners when they grow up and hopefully will appreciate the time we spent together without texting, playing video games, and watching TV. A business owner also needs to tune out sometimes from distractions like social media, email, and phone calls to get actual work accomplished. This interruption-free time should be regularly scheduled.

There Has to Be Time for Play
Raising two boys and being a business owner are both tremendously labor-intensive. If I’m going to avoid burnout, I need time for fun. A nightly walk, watching a movie, riding bikes, playing a game, an impromptu trip to get an ice cream cone. It’s these little pleasures that make it somewhat manageable to keep up the pace.

Sleep Is the Number One Must-Have
My productivity level as a mom and a business owner drops dramatically on the days I’m dealing with lack of sleep. This is why it’s absolutely essential for me to get at least seven hours each night. This may be the most important thing that I do!

You Have to Help Others
I admit it! I think a lot about how much I’m making each month. I run the numbers in my head, check my accounts, and am always concocting new ideas to make more. That’s my entrepreneurial nature and my focus as a single mom who is going it alone. But I want to teach my boys about giving, and I often find that when I shift my focus to helping others in some capacity, I will interestingly have a new opportunity pop up or gain some new insight into improving what I’m doing. Helping others is good for the soul and good for business.

You Have to Keep Your Sense of Humor
There are definitely days when I’m overwhelmed, irritated, and just flat out angry about my situation. When I start feeling like that, my productivity drops off. This simply can’t happen. When I start feeling this way, I’ll pop in my DVD of Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes, and I’ll have a good laugh. It always helps!

Creativity Is a Must
There are lots of hurdles to overcome when you’re running a business or parenting by yourself. You can’t always manage things in conventional ways. Being able to come up with better (often strange to others) ways to get things done can make all the difference. Business and parenting advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s all about being creative and figuring out what is going to work for you.

You Need to Think Big
No situation is permanent. The days of single parenting two young boys will come to an end, and there will be different challenges ahead. And, my business will not always be in the same place as it is today. So, why not envision how it’s going to be better in the future. Preparing for success instead of stressing about now and worried about future failure is a better approach. I have high hopes for my boys and my business. Why not? If we can tackle today’s challenge, we’ll definitely be able to deal with whatever is coming our way down the road.

Song of the Day:

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