Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fare thee well April! I kicked your butt and took at least one name.

--> Hello Goodbye April!!  <--

Only two weeks until Ky is home for the summer (ack!!!!) and, combined with the end of April, I’m feeling quite reflective today. Sometimes when I’m involved in working really hard for something and I haven’t QUITE made it a reality just yet, I feel like I’ve gotten nowhere. If that brass ring isn’t in my hand, I see it as a failure, regardless of how many inches closer to it I am this month than I was the one before.

To get away from this I’m going to try to remind myself of all the things I’ve pushed forward this month – even things that didn’t pan out perfectly (the 9999 ways to not make a lightbulb and all that…).

Left the least favorite of my two jobs! This has to get top billing.

  • Actually FINISHED, with excellent work ethic and grim determination – in a series of 60 hour work weeks – the work I had left at the least favorite job. Omg. Done.

  • Was offered enough solid work in my second job to take me through December in relative comfort! Woohoo!

  • Didn’t let the HUGE rejection I received to a program I’d been pretty much counting on get me down for long…

  • …but instead turned it into a different sort of opportunity that seems to be suiting my mind, my finances and my schedule even better than an acceptance might have.

  • Scheduled time with my old career transition coach for a tune up.

  • Registered for a super cool class this summer!

  • Reached out to (let me check) 12 different organizations that could move me forward in my (new, wannabe) field.

  • … and got positive feedback and even some offers from 3 of them (1 is especially exciting!)

  • Did a Tough Mudder --> Survived!!!!

  • Made a Mindmap of all of the intricate plans, thoughts, ideas and different potential avenues for the next 6 months of my life, all based on my core values.

  • Woke myself up in the middle of the night to write an email I had been dreading – I think I’m glad I did this.
  • Spent twice as much time with friends as I ever have – I know I’m glad I did this!

  • Put together all of my thoughts about getting myself career transition coached, and blogged about it.

  • Really took the time to connect to my child, my students, my family members and my friends  - without distraction or impatience.

  • Wrote 6 professional applications including the neverending coverletters, statements, philosophies and specific relevant experience descriptions – this is roughly equivalent to a full 40 hour work week in terms of man hours!

  • Ran 173 miles and enjoyed about 150 of them completely!

  • (listened to Harry Potter Audiobooks 6 – does this count????)

Actually there’s even more than this but I’m kind of shocked ----- I DID all of this in April?

Yup. (back pats all around)!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hiring a career transition coach Part III: the coaching process

Keep in mind that this is just my experience with coaching, and yours will probably take a different route.

When I’ve told my friends that I have a “coaching session” (I still feel kind of embarrassed saying that, always reverting to my blue collar roots & wondering if I shouldn’t have just ‘worked harder’ at it myself?) – my friends almost all ask me, in a kind of unconvinced tone, “I mean cool, really, it’s cool that you’re doing this… but… what does the coach actually do? Does she just, like, encourage you? Or does she tell you what to do next?”

Fair questions, because that’s what I wondered too when I started pondering career transition coaching. In fact, in my search for a career transition coach, I made a point of asking them “What do you actually DO? What does a coaching session actually look like?” 

Some of them answered in the negative space:

  • It’s not therapy.
  • it’s not being told what to do.

 The best answers were less bullet-friendly, but are in the category of:

  • A coach can help you articulate your strengths and weaknesses, especially as they impact your career.

  • And to identify what your overall goal is, in a career (make money? be happy? help people? be creative? find a work/life balance? bury yourself in your work? adventure? security? all of the above?)

  • ..and then you can work out what parts of your personality, work ethic, education, drive, ambition and skill set will come in to play in different career scenarios.


Spoiler alert: in my case it covered all of these things, but much more. There was a less clinical, more personal aspect that tied in my personality and passion and energy level with my skills and interests and rhythm. It turned out not to be a ‘worksheet/bulleted point’ sort of process. Going in, I didn’t know this and the thought of using words like “passion” and “personality” would have scared me off. Once I was actually involved in the process, I totally understood how it all fit together and worked as a whole. I don’t think I would have gotten much help or insight out of a set of worksheets.



My coach and I had already talked a bit about the current state of my career during our getting-to-know-you session. She knew I was in a very small and specialized area of academia, she knew I was very unhappy there, she knew in general the broad brushstrokes of what field I was aiming for, and she had a general picture of my life outside work (single parent, only child in high school, very little family support, bit of an introvert, lots of drive and energy in my personal life).

Before our first session, she gave me several questions to think about and answer. I won’t repeat them verbatim, but they mainly fell somewhere in these three categories:

  1. What am I trying to leave behind in my current career?
  2. What are my goals for the career I’d like to have instead?
  3. What would I like to get out of coaching?

--> I spent a lot of time thinking about each of her questions – really thinking about them. I wrote down the most obvious answers and then I looked deeper. If during the course of trying to answer the family of questions that fell into the first two categories there were things I simply didn’t know, or hadn’t figured out yet, I added them to category 3.

--> I also took it upon myself to review my CV and really think about each job I’d held in the past. What I thought about it in retrospect. What I remembered feeling about it in the moment. [I’m so glad I did this – eventually we did a lot of work looking back over my work history and taking apart the different pieces of each job I’d held in terms of my skills, my feelings while doing the work, my work/life balance, etc – this turned out to be one of the most eye opening parts of the coaching experience for me.]


So what DOES happen during the sessions?

  • My coaching sessions took place (by mutual agreement) over the phone. We could also have Skyped, but I find Skype really distracting and would prefer to keep my deep-thinking-hair-twirling habit to myself.

  • Our sessions were 90 minutes in length, and every minute of that was thoroughly used. We covered a lot of ground! The fact that I was well prepared for each session was one of the keys to the success of the process. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do a lot of work outside the session itself in order to maximize the time spent talking to the coach.

  • We spent some time visiting (and revisiting)
      • My core values
      • My strengths
      • My past work experience, and the positives and negatives involved in each of my previous positions.
      • How my core values, strengths and needs could ideally play out in a professional sense
      • My ideal work environment
      • My ideal work/life balance

  • Each session was recorded, and I was given access to the sound recording of our call after the session. I appreciated that I could access them and always meant to listen to them again, but I never did. The feelings and ideas I had after each session stuck around better if I let them bubble in my head without revisiting the specific questions that gave rise to them (this is just how I work, YMMV and all that)

  • My coach also took notes during the session, typed them up and emailed them to me within 24 hours. Those have proven invaluable to me. I still go back and read them a year later – that’s how well they summarized what she heard me saying.

    • You know how your voice usually sounds weird to you when you hear a recording of it? That’s how weird my words sounded when someone else was summarizing them. Obviously I’d heard what I was saying – they were my own thoughts and ideas and statements – but reading someone’s “take home message” of those words was bizarrely enlightening. I felt like I was reading about a different person.

    • And you know how it’s always easier to give someone else advice and see the patterns in someone else’s life? Yeah – that’s how I felt reading the summary of our sessions. This “other person” coincidentally also named Emma – well, it was kind of ridiculous that she couldn’t see the obvious patterns in her career.

      Why did she KEEP making those same unhappy choices?

      How can she not see that she’s been using the same excuses and lines of reason for like 20 years? And there hasn’t been a compelling reason for them in like 15 years?


--> Why doesn’t Emma just take some of that energy she’s throwing down a bottomless dark well of despair and instead put that energy into something better?  My gosh, you’d think she LIKED being a work martyr. Doesn’t she WANT to be happier?


  • Within the write up after each session, my coach would also include for me some of my beloved bulleted point lists in outline form:

          1. What our goals had been for the current session
          2. Career/work strengths
          3. Things/Feelings/environments I don’t want for my career life
          4. Things/feelings/environments I do want for my career
          5. Coach’s observations (outsider’s view of what I was saying)
          6. Goals for the next session
          7. Any resources, reading suggestions, homework/preparation for the next session

--> By the way, re-reading the write ups for these sessions has reminded me that I totally, completely chose the right coach for me. She really hit this out of the park.


Next up: Hiring a career transition coach Part IV: the outcome. I think this will give a semi-realistic sense of what solid, tangible successes came out of my career transition coaching.

Monday morning inspiration

…from the person I believe to be one of the most inspirational human beings on the planet.


I think “patience” is going to be my watchword for the day.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hiring a career transition coach, Part II: finding the right fit

In my last post I talked about some of the reasons I had for hiring a career transition coach.  What it came down to was that I’d worked incredibly hard and gotten a really prestigious position in my field, but once the high of that achievement started to fade, the toll the high stress position was taking on my body, mind, family, my parenting and my enjoyment of the rest of my life was becoming overwhelming to me. Sloooooowly, very slowly, I was able to admit that I wanted to leave it behind me and do something I found a lot more meaningful.

Once I made the decision to hire a coach, I did a lot of research into the different types of coaches available to someone like me. I’d heard of “life coaches” and understood that some of them could help with life balance and career transitions, but I wasn’t sure if a life coach would be targeted enough for me. I can be a “cut to the chase” kind of person in my professional life, and I wanted someone who could cut to the chase along with me. So I set about picking a category of coach that fit my needs.



I. Identify the type of coach for your needs.

Here’s my list and the exact notes I made when I was reviewing my options:

1.  Life coachcategorizing life stages, identifying obstacles, finding paths to achievement/growth/happiness in multiple areas of life, e.g. parenting, relationships, career, work/life balance, etc.

2.  Resume and job application editing and interview coaching servicespecific to editing and targeting your professional CV, cover letter, interview talking points and strategies.

3.  Career transition coachaddressing underlying goals that aren’t being served in current career, how those goals can be met in next career, and strategies for using skills and strengths to move forward into new career that meets goals.

The Career transition coach (#3) was pretty much exactly what I needed just then, as ideally it would be a good balance between working out my big-picture goals and the specifics of the career building process.



II. Identify must-haves and research, research, research.

This is the list I wrote of my own “must haves” and after doing a lot of research I discovered that you can be picky in looking for a coach. There are a lot of certified coaches out there, and they have come from a huge variety of career backgrounds. When I first wrote this list I thought it might be too specific and I’d have to compromise on some of the points – I didn’t. In fact narrowing the coaches I found down to just 3 was pretty hard, since I found so many that matched.

My list:

1.  Certification by the International Coaching Federation. The certification comes with a commitment to a certain set of ethics, and I wanted to make sure my coach had made this commitment.

2.  Specialty in career transition coaching: I wanted someone who was not just listing “career transitions” as one of a long list of potential life situations they could advise on, but someone who seriously specialized in career transitions. Ideally they would have references related to their abilities in this area.

3.  Experience in my specific professional field. I didn’t want a business coach, as the rules of my own career field are very different. I wanted someone who would understand the unwritten rules and “insider” expectations of my field without me having to spell them out. Which meant they’d either have to have been in my field, or they’d have to have successfully worked with enough clients like me to have become a de facto insider.

4.  Online access: I didn’t want to be limited to coaches in my geographical area. I wanted someone who would be comfortable using Skype, phone and email contact.

5.  Free initial consultation: The only way I’d know if the chemistry is right was by getting to know the coach and their communication style. I needed someone who communicated well with me, and who had the upbeat but no-nonsense pace that I respond to best.

I made a short-list of 3 potential coaches, all women (I didn’t have a gender preference, it just happened that way) and set up preliminary phone or Skype consultations with them, all in the same week. I wanted to give each consultation enough time to settle in my mind, but I didn’t want to drag the process out too long. I started on a Monday and gave myself until Friday to make my choice.



III. The initial consultation

I think this part of the hiring process isn’t given enough weight in how-to guides, though it’s hugely important. My advice would be to think about the career goals you have and come up with a list of questions that would essentially ask the potential coach, in a nutshell: “how you will help me meet these goals?” 

Here’s the list I made to evaluate the 3 coaches during my free consultation:

1.  Availability

  • communication method
  • dates/times

2.  Experience in my field

  • What is their experience in this field, either personally or through previous clients?
  • What specific strategies would they use to help someone in my field that differ from other (business, retail, etc) fields?

3. Coaching process

  • How do they work? – what is their process, will we do exercises, homework?
  • Do they record sessions, do they summarize them and reiterate the take-home messages or is that up to me?
  • Do they seem directed, focused, action-oriented and practical – but also empathetic?
  • Do they listen? Take in what is said and respond? (rather that focusing on a particular learned set of exercises, or sales pitch) <—this was something I was worried about for some reason…
  • Are they comfortable with a firm end point? - if I tell them I would like to have X weeks/sessions of coaching and to create a plan for that amount of time, are they willing to work with that?

4. Gut feeling

  • Do I like them? Do we ‘get’ each other?

--> The point on this list that turned out to be the most helpful? #4. Gut feeling.

But to really get the gut feeling, I had to talk to them about everything else on the list. Because to be honest, I didn’t know which process or exercises would be most helpful – I just wanted to hear them talk about them, and respond to direct questions with equally direct answers. The answers themselves are their livelihood and their area of expertise, so I was guessing that most of them would sound good to me.



If you’re interested, this was the breakdown for the three people I interviewed:

Coach #1: We had a 30 minute Skype session and I was surprised to see that she lived in Europe (this wasn’t apparent on her website, since her business practice is all online), and that she was about 9 months pregnant. At that point I started thinking that the scheduling would be tricky, as I was aiming for a 2 month plan and at some point during that time she would end up with a newborn, and that type of time commitment + the Europe/US time difference might make things hard to schedule. Also she was a pretty “let’s not set limits, but just start talking and see where this goes” type of person. That would be great for a lot of different areas of my life, but not what I wanted for this particular one.

 Coach #2: We had a 30 minute phone call. This coach was pragmatic, detail oriented and logical. She was experienced in my field. She was very smart, had references, had availability, and got to the question about aligning things with a firm end point even before I did. She was everything I could possibly have asked for on paper. She checked every single box I had. She also totally scared me! I kept wondering if she wasn’t someone who had actually WORKED AT the same University I was just transitioning out of. By the time I got off the phone with her I was paranoid, my stomach had started to ache and my stress level was rising like a rocket. Nope.

Coach #3: Oh thank goodness. We had a 45 minute phone call (it was scheduled for 30 minutes, but at the 30 minute mark we weren’t done and she chose to finish our talk rather than rush off the phone). She started the call by telling me that she smiled when she read my initial email to her, as it was exactly the sort of email she’d have sent a career coach with the same type of expectations. It’s not like we were chatting “like friends” but she was definitely in the family of personality types I choose to surround myself with. She was detail oriented and logical, but she was also much more flexible in the way she approached the details than I was – and this was like gold in the bank to me. I felt like I’d already had a coaching session in that consultation talk. I seriously left that call thinking about a new way to approach some of the problems I was having. The gut feeling box was checked 10x over during that call. Obviously this was the coach I went with!


Next: Part III: The Coaching Process


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hiring a career transition coach (Part I: why I hired a coach)

changeI thought I would write a bit about my search for (and use of) a career transition coach, since I was grateful for any information I could get my hands on when I was trying to figure out if I wanted to use one myself.

I had tons of reservations about hiring someone - usually I just get help from reading, googling, working things out on paper and going for long runs to work through the details - so I was pretty surprised and hugely grateful that I ended up getting more out of the experience than I expected going in.

So with the disclaimer in place that I’m not even going to mention the woman I used by name – I’m not advertising, nor am I getting anything out of this – I’m going to write about the process I used to find an intelligent, pragmatic, empathetic and intuitive but still pretty tough and effective coach, and then the process we used together to articulate my needs and my goals for the new career so I could make the right choices and eventually forge my own action plan to get there.

Why I hired a coach.

For a while I was embarrassed to tell my friends that I’d hired a career transition coach.  “Life coaching” was something of a joke in my circle, somewhat akin to talking about “my guru in Nepal” or “my second cousin’s vegan diet coach.”  I didn’t think of myself as the type of person to hire a coach, and I wasn’t even admitting to myself that I wanted out of the career I was in a the time.

So here’s how it happened.

The scene? A thrift store called Savers. My son Ky and six of his closest friends searching the racks for something they could turn into compelling Anime costumes. Me? Probably worrying about my absence (at 10am on a Sunday) from the high pressure University where I was working, and probably clutching my stomach, half bent over from the stress and anxiety of not being seen at work 7 days a week. Was I giving the impression that I valued something more than work? Was I going to be Mommy-tracked for taking time off work for my son? Those were my worries back then.

I sat in the book section of Savers, which was the only section of the store with chairs that weren’t chintz and weren’t for sale. I distinctly remember perching on the edge of a chair and feeling kind of…  I don’t know, maybe confused? heartsick? Kind of like I recognized that I was doing something completely normal, shopping with my son and his friends, but I wasn’t feeling normal about doing it. I was feeling guilty to the point of illness that I wasn’t at work, and then feeling even more guilty that I wasn’t enjoying time with my son. I knew there was a huge realization attached to this, an elephant in the room that I was trying very hard not to acknowledge, but I stuffed those thoughts back inside and distracted myself by leafing through one of the books that someone had left out on the table. The book was Expecting Adam by Martha Beck.

What was really interesting is that I flipped open the book and randomly started reading the point in her autobiography where she was busy working at a high pressure University and getting stomach cramps and majorly ill from stress, and from worrying about how she would appear to her superiors if she prioritized something other than work. I related to her story so strongly in that moment that I bought the book and read the entire thing in one sitting. After reading it through, I downloaded her audiobooks and listened to those one after another, filled out countless worksheets and journals and dream diaries. In her story, Martha Beck leaves the high pressure University and transitions her career and her life, and things got exponentially better for her. I envied her bravery hugely.

This isn’t a post about Martha Beck – her book just happened to pop up in front of me in a rare moment I was primed to listen to the take home message, and it was what started me thinking about career transitions and letting go of the parts of my life that were causing me the most stress and unhappiness. The more I thought about these things, the clearer it was to me that I really wanted to leave my high stress career, but I wasn’t sure how to come up with a reasonable action plan – or if I even had the guts to do it.

I did a lot of research and made a lot of lists of life priorities, passions, interests, finances, major skills and goals. Over time I felt like I had a lot of the pieces in front of me, but I didn’t know how to put them together or which parts of my thoughts and ideas were realistic and which were pipe dreams or dead ends. Was I being brave or immature by thinking of leaving my high pressure career behind?  Did I have a realistic vision of what I wanted to do next, or just a vague and hazy idea of what I didn’t want to do?

I started feeling like I needed to bounce ideas off someone. Someone who was a professional, who had moved in similar professional circles and knew the territory, the politics, the feelings and motivation and realities of my profession. While friends and family were generally supportive of me, their support was caring and personal. And I loved and needed that caring, but I also needed some professional advice, bulleted points, action plans and mapped-out possibilities. I put the tentative search term “career transition coach” into google, and found out that YES, they totally exist, in great numbers, and that my next job would have to be figuring out exactly which kind I was looking for.

Next - Part II:  Finding the right coach.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Creeping towards Friday on little cat feet

I made it through the dreaded goodbye lunch at job #1 by yakking with my friends as if we were having any other lunch. I love my work friends and they are pretty much the only things I’ll miss from here (and, bonus: you can take friendships with you when you leave!) I’m not sure why I dreaded the lunch that much. I think I feel guilty about leaving this career for the second time in 5 years and I guess I imagined that realization would be hanging like a cloud over my head the entire lunch?

Onward and upward!


  • I’m setting up appointments with a career transition coach I’ve used in the past. She’s AWESOME at helping me sort out a plan of action, roping in my daydreamy thoughts and forcing me to articulate my values so I can avoid falling into the same ole’ same ole’ career/trap just because it’s familiar and I keep thinking that it couldn’t have been THAT bad last time I did it (note to future self: it really was that bad – trust your gut).


  • I was just offered another small job for the Fall that will bring my income back into a near-normal range, at least for that semester. I’m relieved, but then the second I feel relief in not being immediately “in trouble” I start feeling stress for only just “getting by.” Sick of worry, sick of stress (and this is only my first day back in the “transition” trenches…)


  • Two months ago I found out I didn’t get in to a program in my wannabe-new-career field – I can’t even describe the amount of work I’d put into it, and the disappointment I felt at the rejection. But today I have a… what would you call it, a rejection interview? --- with someone who can go over my application with me and hopefully tell me what went wrong. I’m half convinced they’re going to tell me I’m too old (no, that would probably be illegal) – or that my background in former-career, no matter how prestigious, isn’t good enough?  Or, worst of all: there was nothing wrong with my application, but the numbers weren’t in my favor. That one’s the worst because there’s nothing you can do about it, no action plan, and applying again would feel like banking on a winning lottery ticket. 


  • I managed to mix a salad dressing for my spinach salad that, when combined with the chopped apples and chicken I threw on top, smelled exactly like the noxious chemical I’m using at work this week. I’m starving, completely unable to eat the salad with the poison smelling dressing, and forced to eat leftover Easter candy to make my stomach stop growling. My 5 year old self thinks this is great news, but my 40 year old belly says nuh-uh. :(


  • It’s still Thursday. It’s been Thursday forever. It may always be Thursday.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The tedious “goodbye lunch” scenario at work…

Part of my main job ending this week is having to endure the dreaded goodbye lunch, which I’m so not looking forward to.

Anticipated tedious goodbye lunch conversations:

  • “So what comes next for you"?”

Fake answer:  “Omg, so much I don’t even know where to start! Teaching, learning, so much going on! Oh, I meant to ask you about your [insert clever subject change] – how is that going, anyway?”

Real answer: “Pretty much fear and uncertainty. Self doubt. Questioning everything. Some prayer, probably. Twenty job applications all hanging in limbo. Unemployment office visit outlook: likely!”

  • -- actually that’s going to be the only lunch conversation, repeated every time someone new comes in the room, followed by a lot of awkward silences and passing of potato chips.


    --> SO not looking forward to this.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Career Transition Stage: terrified


    It’s T minus 2 days until my main job comes to an end.

    I’m at that part of the poster filled with inspirational slogans that tells you to shake your life up! do what you love! leave behind the things that aren’t working for you! ---> and I’m sitting here with a large glass of wine, trying to relax, feeling a knot in my stomach, feeling so lost.

    Is it okay to call your mom when you’re lost, if you’re 40? Well, I did. I called looking for some comfort. Some direction. Actually I just wanted someone to tell me what to do. If someone else were to take control of my life for a few months right now until I’ve gotten back on track? I wouldn’t mind so much.

    My mom wasn’t so helpful. As soon as she heard that I was stressed she tried to change the subject. She’s of the mind that if you don’t acknowledge someone’s feelings, then they won’t feel them.

    [example: “dad’s depressed, but don’t mention it to him in case he latches on to that thought and starts using depressing words to describe himself!” –> me: “I’m thinking dad already knows he’s depressed, and it’s sad that everyone around him is pretending he’s not." –> mom: “Oh he’ll snap out of it, as long as we carry on like things are fine.”]

    And that’s pretty much what happened to me as well. Emma’s stressed – uh oh, quick, tell a story and take her mind off it, even through she called because she wants to talk about it. Don’t let her. If she doesn’t say it, it’s not real.

    In any case, lack of mother comfort aside, it’s a dark night of the soul. Red wine helps, as always. A long run in the morning will help even more.

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Life of this empty nester: Easter weekend edition


    • Volunteering with the Audubon Society:  Highly recommend!  It’s outside (win) and birds tend to nest in the spring in beautiful locations (win!) and it’s not only fun but really useful, too. And there’s nothing I love more than learning something new about the world.



    • Night running: I totally consider myself a morning person, but there’s something about running into the sunset, then finishing your cool down in the twilight of a twisting road through the woods. Creepy? Yes. Awesome? YES.



    • My secret vice: When I have to work on weekends or holidays (ie. all the time) I treat myself to a VENTI vanilla latte and and a favorite audiobook on my 1+ hour commute. Today’s audiobook?  Harry Potter 5: The Incredibly Annoying Teen Years.


    • Not pictured: the ten gazillion pictures of the cat I sent to Ky. I’m such a mom. “The cats miss you!” ---> “I miss the cats so much!!” 

    [I’ve checked in with my students about this, and it appears I am not alone in communicating my parental emotions through the medium of the imagined emotional life of the cats. Evidence: my students can immediately access no less than 10 snapchat images of their dog/cat/long eared rabbit with shameless “Buster sends you kisses!” addendums from their parents, and they HAVE TAKEN SCREENSHOTS of them. True story.]

    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    Empty nesting milestone: the first summer home


    Whoa, can that be right? It’s nearly the end of April and fast approaching Spring semester finals week, which means the end of the academic year is right around the corner. And college students everywhere, steeped in independence and friends and dorm life and cafeteria eating, will beeline to their childhood bedrooms and parents’ presence and healthy fridges filled with a finite amount of non-magically-appearing food.


    --> Truth be told, I’m a little nervous.


    Out of necessity, I’ve developed a load of child-free routines for myself.

    • working as late as I want without guilt
    • spending $40 a week on produce and coffee and olives and eggs, and $0 a week on microwave popcorn, mac-n-cheese and cereal
    • being okay with an empty fridge because I haven’t had time to shop and living off the last of the dozen eggs for three days straight (yikes, but this has happened more than once…)
    • using the dining-room table as a home office (hello tax forms that I haven’t cleared away yet!)
    • filling in my free hours with running, running and more running
    • …and working out after work, even if that means I don’t get home until 9pm
    • …and going for long walks along the water front late at night when I need to think through the problems of my day with fresh (freezing) air blowing in my face and a stretch of sidewalk to stride along

    And of course Ky has developed a lot of mom-free routines, many of which I’m sure will be a surprise to me this summer. 

    • eating unhealthy food at will (I know this one already)
    • ??? activities at ??? late hours
    • ????
    • ????
    • (realizing that for all our talking, I’m not exactly sure WHAT these new routines are)

    I’m nervous about the two of us – once so melded and in sync – trying to work our new [empty nest (me) / college student (Ky)] selves into a cohesive family unit again.

    I’m nervous that I’ve been compartmentalizing since Ky has been gone, and when we’re a family unit again I’ll realize how much I miss being a Mom with a growing chick in my nest, and it will be even harder to let my child go next year.

    I’m also a little nervous of the opposite: that I’ve grown so used to my single routine, having another person in the house who needs attention and time and effort will require a lot of effort I’m no longer used to giving.

    --> I am also soooooo excited!

    Half of my professional life operates on an academic calendar. This means that (aside from 8 million other plans) I will have more freedom in my summer than I ever have before!

    I’m thinking: camping and traveling and long walks and talks on the beach, road trips and “car food” and sunshine and shorts, swimming and biking, campfires and things toasted on long sticks, “what’s that noise? are there bears here?” middle of the night paranoia, visiting grandparents and finding people to watch the cats while we’re away, wondering if this is the year we should install a window air conditioner and not making a decision before the weather turns cool again and putting the idea off until next year… again… half marathons and tourist traffic and sand in the car and citronella candles and outdoor concerts and wind whistling through the screens at night. Family. Life. Memories. Togetherness.

    I can’t wait. :)

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    This is life. Do what you love.

    Remember when The Holstee Manifesto was really popular?

    I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this.

    If you don’t like something, change it.
    If you don’t like your job, quit.

    I am currently in the midst of “quitting” my job (but not really – in my line of work there are finite contracts, and I simply let my contract come to an end without doing anything to renew it – ok, that’s quitting).

    Thoughts on quitting: it’s terrifying. I mean it’s really terrifying to be so highly trained for a certain line of work, and to be 40-mmmbl and trying to leave that work behind.

    • I’ve been told this is “immature”
    • I’ve been told this is irresponsible (and I agree with this one in a variety of ways)
    • I’ve been told that everyone goes through a period of career questioning – usually in their early 40’s, and equivalent to a mid life crisis – and that the worst thing I could do would be to take it seriously enough to act on it. 

    And out of all of those bulleted thoughts, the things I’ve told myself about leaving are even worse. Harsher. And possibly true, too. 

    The reality: “if you don’t like your job – quit” sounds like solid logic and common sense, and is easy to tell another person, and is easy to reminisce about if you have done it in the past **and it all worked out for you, and you are now looking back at it from a good place in life** 

    ...but the reality is SO MUCH DIFFERENT.... 

    The reality for me is that leaving my work and reaching for something more meaningful to me is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. 

    • It has me questioning my work ethics, my maturity, my responsibility, my role as a mother, my role as the leader of our family and the support system for my (grown) child.
    • I’ve felt lost. I’ve felt like a failure. I’ve felt like a fool, an idiot, a person who is wasting their life, a person who has been left behind.
    • I’ve worked two jobs for two years now to save money – this has led to me falling asleep while in the act of eating my dinner for the first time in my life since I was in diapers.
    • I’ve worked the equivalent of a third job trying to move more fully into my preferred career (unsuccessfully so far).
    • I’ve taken classes, invested money, time, and SO much energy into trying to make this move.
    • I’ve encountered failure and loss, disappointment and embarrassment, fear and insecurity. Hope and excitement, then loss of hope and regret.  

    Six months from now this may turn into an inspirational story. If I succeed, this will be the part of the story where the hero(ine) climbs the mountain, falls, scrambles back to their feet, falls again – all with inspiration music playing the background. 

    A year from now I could very well be writing about how leaving my job was the best thing I’ve ever done. I could be a success story. I could be proof that The Holstee Manifesto is totally legit and we should all live our lives this way. 

    But I thought I should record for posterity what it actually feels like to live your way into the success story. It’s hard. It’s so, so hard.

    It's Friday aka "Give myself a break" day

    As of this morning I'm officially SICK of judging myself so harshly every day.

    This started in an unlikely way - I checked the new releases on Netflix for April (I'm way behind) and the movie The English Patient popped up. Oh man I LOVED that movie when it came out! I couldn't think of anything more tragic and romantic and achingly sad than the story of Katherine and Count Almasy. And I also loved the innocence and depth of Hana and Kip's affair and it sparked years of a crazy mad crush on Naveen Andrews.

    The olive oil scene! The hair! Sexy and Awww

    Umm... yes please. He just gets better with age.

    I finished a grueling day of work on Thursday. Wednesday was a 15 hour day. Thursday was a haze of teaching, a migraine, medication that made me sick to my stomach, an incredibly painful nap in the front seat of my car, training one of my grad students in a tiny box of a fume hood with pain shooting up my neck, an hour + commute home, and massive medication taken with (why? don't know) a beer.

    I wrapped myself in heavy socks and a robe and bundled under my down comforter and turned to the comforts of the dessert, Katherine Clifton's arrival and Count Almasy's deep dive into an excruciating infatuation that ultimately leads to pain and death all around. I love the story. I love the colors and the tints the movie was shot in, I love the casting, I love the music, I love the pacing and I love feeling every painful emotion evoked.

    Immediately upon feeling these things, my mind reaches for judgment.
    • this is about an affair - that's not romantic
    • this is the movie equivalent of teen angst, haven't you outgrown this?
    • would you even admit to someone you still like this movie?
    • shouldn't you be doing applications/grading/cleaning/at least watching a documentary and learning something?
    • haven't you outgrown these emotions?
    • here you are, wool socks and robe, alone in bed crying over angsty characters in a movie - nice, no wonder you're single...
    On and on. I can't believe how my go-to position for myself is to judge every. single. thing. I. think. or do.

    I don't know if I feel like judging myself keeps me honest, or keeps my standards up?

    It doesn't! It makes me feel like crap about myself and it sabotages even relatively innocent moments like enjoying a movie under the covers after two hellishly long days of hard work.

    My goal for this beautiful Friday?

    Give myself a break.

    • If I like the English Patient and even (somehow) find Ralph Fiennes sexy in it --> cool.

    • If I drink too much coffee with too much delicious creamer in it --> it's great that I can enjoy it, especially considering how hard I work out and run I totally deserve a treat.

    • If I forget to bring medicine from home and have to spend a fortune buying back up medicine? It happens, and my emergency money is there for that purpose. 

    • Too tired to call my dad, even though it's on my to-do list? Missed the post office to drop of Ky's Easter box? Forgot to take my clothes out of the washer and have to re-wash them because they smell stale now?  --> Life happens, my family loves me and they know I love them, the phone will be there tomorrow and a second clothes washing will make everything fresh again.
    Off for an imperfect run on this overcast but thankfully FRIDAY morning!  

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    Monday afternoon inspiration

    The scene: this morning, coffee in hand, reading CNN.  Trying not to take in some of the more shock/horror focused headlines, my eyes caught on something that pinged with a lot of my recent thoughts about life:

    Clicking through, I was really intrigued to read this quote from “ Dr. Robin Hanbury-Tenison, one of the greats of British exploring…”

    Explore, don't tour
    For Hanbury-Tenison, who has led more than 30 expeditions over the last 60 years, the thrill of reaching a place and taking a few trophy photographs isn't enough.
    "What is a turn-on is stepping over the threshold from being a tourist to being an explorer-scientist. Then you are actually contributing to saving the world, to enlightening people to what is wrong and campaigning," says the 77-year-old, who has written more than 20 books on his adventures, most recently "The Modern Explorers."

    • First thought: How can I immediately be known as “one of the greats of American exploring” and lead expeditions? 

    • Second thought: I love what he says about being an explorer-scientist and that it’s different from just being a tourist! Yes, we are SO on the same wavelength Dr. Hanbury-Tenison!!

    • Third thought: If I wrote to Hanbury-Tenison, would he write back?

    • Fourth thought: His name is a clickable link! 

    • Fifth thought: … and it goes to a website about him, promoting his many, many, many books, which I shall now jump into, request from library, check for on better world books and….

    --> This is the point where I go from getting excited about an idea – there are still people alive who are considered by the world at large to be “explorers” and they are promoting hands-on citizen science that links adventure/exploration with science and discovery!!!!! – to a state of being completely lost in the details. 

    --> My inner monologue starts telling me that:

    o   This man will never write back to me if I write to him
    o    I will never be a great explorer
    o   This is yet another immature idea to latch on to that will keep me from living a fully formed adult, responsible life
    o    …and in any case, I don’t have any room left for more books in my house – I am at twice my carrying capacity
    o    …and more than that, I barely have time to read anymore,
    o    …so when I get his books they will sit on the floor, gathering dust,
    o    …and each time I walk past them and my eyes fall on them, I will feel a stab of guilt that:
    -  I spent money on them
    -  I haven’t read them yet
    -  they contain tales of adventure I will never have for myself
    -  because I was not born into the right age for this/not good enough for this/no one will want me in this position…

    Clearly, I need to be inspired by this and not have my mind race forward with thoughts of gloom and doom. It IS exciting, and what the heck. I am going to write a letter to Dr. Hanbury-Tenison. I think I’m going to write letters to all of my sources of extreme inspiration, and simply tell them how inspired I am by them. Why not? If anyone ever wrote me a letter like that I’d be so touched and pleased. So it shouldn’t be about having them write back to me. It should be about me reaching out and telling them how they’ve enriched my mind and my life.



    Emma’s inspirational letter writing campaign, list of targets recipients:
    1.      Robin Hanbury-Tenison
    2.      Carl Zimmer
    3.      Jane Goodall (who I did in fact meet and talk to, 2 years ago, and made such a hyper oinking geek of myself that I owe it to myself to send the same basic message I was trying to get across [essentially: she has inspired me] in written format)