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Posts Tagged ‘work life balance’

Liz Shoots the April Moon

Liz Shoots The April Moon, Minneapolis at night, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s hard to get back into the practice of writing for red Ravine after two months away. Where have I been? The business of life. And love. Art and passion. Mr. Stripeypants was sick for a time, a bug he contracted during surgery. He’s fine now. I was sick for three weeks, then it was time for Art-A-Whirl. Liz and I spent hours in Casket Arts Studio 318, talking art and writing and authors. Explaining panoramas on brushed metal and the latest installment in the Writers Hands Series. After Art-A-Whirl, I am so energized by the people that stop by that I want to spend every waking moment in my studio.

My mother went to Georgia without me this year. I missed traveling with her; she continues to research the family tree. I take it up, too, in my spare time. I will never lose my passion for history — the people, places, and things that lived before us. While I was away, the seasons changed. Quickly and without apology. What would normally be Spring has bloomed as Summer. We lost a few limbs on the two cedars in an ice storm. An arborist is coming to give the oaks and cedars a trim on Monday.

Where have I been? I went to see Anne Lamott at a bookstore. And Leslie Marmon Silko at the downtown library. I photographed the clouds with my Droid. I stood on a bridge and shot the Moon with Liz. We are working on a business together. It’s slow and steady, like the Turtle I am. I am working on the project plan. Liz digs into business details. We will meet with a designer soon to begin work on our website. More to come.

I can say I missed you. I did. When I come back to this place, it is like coming home. I have a guest piece coming up soon. And a new Writing Topic. While I was away, red Ravine turned five. Five years and a million hits. I didn’t know when I started writing and posting my art here that years would fly by. That I would be exposed for the gaps in my practice. One year, I took a photograph every single day. Another, I wrote Writing Practices all day long. One year, there was a haiku a day. In 2012, I take time to breathe. And expand within my own absence. I have not lost my gratitude for you. There is no way to explain where the time goes. I always come back to the things Natalie taught me. Continue. Continue. Continue. Get up. Jump back in.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, May 31st, 2012

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el ojo en la mano

el ojo en la mano, icon of the eye in the hand (called “Hamsa” in Judaism) believed to ward off Evil Eye, doodle © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





It’s that time again. ybonesy and I are heading out for our annual 2 week blogcation. She’s got the Corrales Art Studio Tour coming up this weekend. And I’m gearing up for Art-A-Whirl 2010 at the Casket Arts Building, May 14th-16th. So, for the next couple of weeks, we’re allowing ourselves to be free from the pressure of posting on the blog. red Ravine turned three a few weeks ago, and in blog years, that’s a long time. We find it’s good for us to take a break from the work of blogging, to relax, and enjoy the hiatus from electronics.

We may check in once in a while. Or do a spontaneous post or two, but we’ll still technically be on vacation. Taking time to refill the well gives us a chance to revisit our goals for red Ravine and fine tune our vision. We hope to come back fresh and revitalized. In the meantime, Writing Practice goes on. ybonesy and I write together weekly in an online group. And I just returned from a retreat with my Midwest Writing Group down by Lake Pepin, where I nearly filled an entire spiral notebook.

I thought it would be fun to leave you with a few of the Writing Topics we wrote about last week in southern Minnesota (or you can choose from the Topics we’ve posted on red Ravine over the years). Thanks for reading and visiting red Ravine. Keep the pen moving, and we’ll see you in a few weeks. Ten minutes, Go!



Writing Topics


On The Lake
Blue Hippo
A Childhood Dream
I Am At Peace When
All My Life, I’ve Tried To
Mississippi
What Holds Me Back
Driving My Car On A Lonely Stretch
My First Good Kiss
I Want
I’m Afraid Of (or About, or When)
In The Still Of The Night
In The Darkest Part Of My Heart
In The Garden
My Favorite Sandwich
Sitting Still By A Lake
The Tears Of A Clown
Why Write?
One Room Cabin In Tennessee
No Topic
Plaid Wool Blanket

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Ms. Kiev: She Who Rules The Roost, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s been a long week. Except for the house noises, it’s quiet as the wind. Liz went to the hardware store to buy a new shower head. For the first time this week, I’m alone. It was a hard week. I felt sick on Tuesday but went to work anyway. After becoming a national statistic earlier this year, for the last few months I’ve been driving a truck, delivering parts to machinists to be electropolished, drilled, deburred, picking them up again. It’s Saturday morning, a sacred time when I can actually catch up on reading my own blog.

Weekend hours are sweet. I promised Kiev during her morning ritual with Liz that I’d post a photo of her. She’s the only cat in our family who hasn’t made it to the cover of red Ravine. (Mr. Stripeypants was published for his support of Obama; we lost sweet boy Chaco this year.) I was sitting on the couch, writing. Liz called me on the BlackBerry from the bedroom; I picked up to hear her whispering that I should come and see the cats. I tiptoed in and took these camera shots. Family time.

The first photograph is alpha cat Kiev in her favorite position. Liz places her arm just so; Kiev curls up in the crook, same position every time. I have discovered that Kiev is difficult to photograph. She is jet black and her catty panther features all blend into night. I guess I need one of those umbrella reflectors. I do the best I can.

How do you spend your days and nights? What are your weekends like? Do you take any downtime, time to do things you can’t get to during the week? Or are you retired, off of work, and every day is the weekend for you. It seems like when I have time, I have less money. More money, less time. Where’s the balance?

In catching up on red Ravine, I see that Bob was moved by Anna Deavere Smith in our Writing Topic — 3 Questions. Our guest Buzz explained some of the nuances of basketball banter in his poetry post Hoops. ybonesy wrote about art as play, community art, something dear to our hearts on red Ravine. The renga has heated up in the Daily Haiku. And we made April plans to go to Lake Pepin in the Midwest writing group I am a part of.

I’m relieved to know that even though I feel dead beat at the end of my truck driving day, the creative world goes on around me. And sweeps me along with it. I’m grateful for that.

For Christmas, I may ask Liz for a pocket protector and a few cotton work shirts with my first name stitched above the pocket, but I’m still a writer, a photographer, an artist. Still full of wonder at the animal track flannel sheets in the photo behind Kiev. Making a living as writers and artists isn’t easy. All of you make it easier. Thank you for that.


Morning Rituals, Mr. Stripeypants: Paw Over Hand, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 5th, 2009 with gratitude to Liz who holds up the other half of the sky, my family and friends who check up on me, and Roma, the best blog partner a woman could ever have

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I have a photo of me in Ray Bans and a bright green bikini top, climbing sandstone rocks on a beach in Costa Rica. I’m smiling, teeth white against my dark skin. On the back of the photo, these words in my handwriting: March 1996, for Dee, so you’ll know what your mama was up to six months after you were born.

Rosa from work snapped the shot. She and Kevin and I were on a two-week trip to Central America. Guatemala and El Salvador the first week, weekend at Manuel Antonio, and the second week in San José. Rosa and Kevin went on to Honduras and Panamá, while I flew back home to be with my baby.

It’s a long story, how I ended up in Central America when Dee was only six months old. Suffice to say that it had to do with a grant proposal I submitted on behalf of the university I worked for when I was pregnant. The proposal was funded, and I had to follow through with the trip or risk losing the money.

As with most international travel, it was Hell getting mentally prepared. A jet plane crashed in the region weeks before I left, killing everyone on board. All I could think was, I’m going to die and never see my baby grow up. Of course, once I got there I was pulled into the color and smells and sounds. I loved it.

Between appointments, I had to run to my hotel room and power on my little battery-operated breast pump. Waoo-waoo-waoo-waoo, it went, like a sick cow, for twenty minutes. I sat on the bed with my blouse unbuttoned and tried not to worry about whether I’d dry up by the time I got home.

Later, walking past indigenous women sitting on the sidewalk, infants in bundles on their backs or in their arms, I pictured my watery milk running down the sink and wished I could pick up a baby and feed it.

“Ew, that’s disgusting!” Rosa said when I told her what I wanted to do.

That trip, Dee refused to take the bottle. Typical conversation those first days I called home:

     Has she taken it yet?
     Nope, just spits it out.
     My God, what are you gonna do?
     Everyone says she’ll take it when she gets hungry enough.
     Have you tried other nipples?
     Yeah, went through four new ones today.
     I’m sorry.
     It’s alright. She’ll be fine. Don’t worry.
Click.

Everyone was wrong. Dee never took the bottle. No other options left, Jim finally introduced rice cereal.






I was thinking about that trip yesterday. The postcards I’d sent from Vietnam had just arrived, and I remembered how before I left for Central America I prepared a postcard a day for Jim to read to Dee. I didn’t actually send them; I left them for him to show her, a new one each day.

I went on a lot of trips while both my babies were young. I left the university when Dee was about a year old; new job yet one thing remained the same—still plenty of travel.

I remember sending baggies of frozen breast milk over dry ice for Em when I took a week-long training course in Eugene, Oregon. I became expert at pumping in mothers’ rooms at work and in airports. Life revolved around finding the best place and time to run my little machine.


I pumped milk in the Portland airport. I used the private kiddy bathroom, which had a plug so I could use electric. After 15 minutes, someone jiggled the door and it turned out to be a cleaning woman. At first she scolded me for using the kiddy bathroom; apparently a woman had complained about not having access to the changing table. But when I explained that I was pumping and that I appreciated the privacy, she seemed to understand.

I’m coming home with something for everyone: Em’s milk, a watch with a floating dinosaur for Dee, a Nike fleece sweatshirt for Jim.


Before we had kids, Jim and I made the decision that one of us would stay home full-time to take care of them. We both came from families where a parent stayed home, and we wanted to do the same thing for our kids if we could afford it. Which we could, barely at first. Jim got the role of stay-at-home Dad, and I got to pursue my dream of working in a job where I could travel.

But it wasn’t easy being away from my children. All the time I was on the road, I wondered if they would grow up and resent my being gone. Yet when I was home I was a present parent, more so, I imagined, than dads in my same situation. Bone tired, I took over the moment I got home. Evenings and weekends were always mine.

My girls are both old enough now that I can see they’ve not been damaged. On the contrary, they are bold and adventurous from spending formative years with a parent who let them walk on roofs versus one with a fear of heights. They love being outdoors, think nothing of catching snakes and frogs, and are up for long hikes.

They also want to get to know this world. “Take me to Vietnam,” they tell me. I promise them that I will. Hopefully next summer.

They’re in for a wild experience.




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Yesterday after work, as I’m shopping for lunch fixings at Smith’s, I get a call on my cell phone from a headhunter. He says, “Hi, my name is Joe So-and-so and I’m an executive recruiter with XYZ in San Francisco.”

I know why he’s calling. I have my profile in one of those professional networking sites, not because I’m looking for a new job. I just think it’s smart to keep your options open.

“Hi, Joe,” I say, “what can I do for you?” My daughter, seizing on an opportunity, points to the Dr. Pepper and mouths, Can we get it, can we get it?

Joe tells me his client is a mid-sized corporation in the Midwest and that they’re looking to fill a Director-level position with someone like me. He ticks off all the positions I’ve held at my current company that make me qualified for the role. “What can I do to entice you to take this job,” he asks.

Right away I tell him I’m not interested. I don’t want to relocate to that city, I’m pretty happy where I am, plus I’ve done that type of work before and don’t want to do it again.

“Take the position for three years,” he says, “use it as a stepping stone to Vice President somewhere else. Salary is $175 to $200K.”

By now my youngest and I are wandering aimlessly down aisles. I’ve shooshed away the Dr. Peppers and am being pulled toward the wasteful single-serving containers of Pringles.

“I don’t think so,” I tell him. He tries a bit harder, reminds me that the salary will go a long way in that part of the country. I beg him off. We chat a bit longer. He seems genuinely interested in me, keeps probing what it is I want to do in my career, so much so that I finally stop and ask half-jokingly, “Wait a second, do you want to find someone for your client or do you want to find a job for ME?”

I offer to send him a couple of names of people I know who might be interested in the role if he sends me his email. He asks if I’m OK with him holding on to my contact info in case something else comes up. I tell him that’s fine.

When I get home I tell Jim about the call. Describe the job and where it is; he says, “Glad you said ‘No’.” Mention how much the salary is; he says, “Hmm, that’s a lot.”

This morning I send Joe the names of two guys who’ve left the company for higher paying jobs. They’re hungry in a way I don’t seem to be. They are the kind of people who will relocate themselves and their families anywhere if the price is right.

I look out my window and see the Sandias. The grasses and trees have turned the muted greens and yellows and oranges that signal the final stages of autumn. My aging parents live close by. I can take Dad to CostCo when he needs to do a shopping trip. I’m not going anywhere.

But Joe’s call did make me wonder. Is there a salary I’d have been willing to seriously consider?

How about you, readers? Does your head have a price?

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Poster of Actors World, painting by Dee, ybonesy 2007, all rights reservedThe girls are off for the summer. This morning I head out the door for work. “Whaaat?,” they cry, “Whereyagoin??” I tell them I have to go to work. “Wer-erk?, but it’s summer!!”

This happens every time they don’t have school. Presidents Day, Fall Break, snow days, teachers’ in-service. In their minds, all the world revolves around school.

I wish it did. I wish when I woke up today all I had to look forward to was figuring out whether I should ride my bike to the library or stay at home and organize my room. I’d love to live by the school calendar. I did once. Sort of.

About three years ago I got a sabbatical from work. Two months paid time off in addition to my regular vacation. I piled it all together and took the summer off with Dee. (Em wasn’t in school yet.) That’s the summer I taught Dee how to do writing practice. We sat together on a squishy blue sofa in a cafe near our house and wrote on topics like, The Rio Grande for 10, GO!

Purple and green, painting by Dee, ybonesy 2007, all rights reservedThat’s also the summer I realized how good Dee was, how good we all are when we don’t have a monkey in our heads telling us otherwise. Dee showed me what beginner’s mind was.

Now she writes all the time. And paints, too. Writing and painting journals fill her shelves. She leaves homemade books lying around the house with illustrated stories about horses and girls and fairies. Em is starting to write, too. I’ve just realized she’s probably at the age where I can teach her writing practice as well.

Now that the days are lighter later, we can pull out our paints or pens after work and practice together. Just the girls. Not as great as having the entire summer off, but pretty darned good.

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I got up early this morning–quarter to six. I had scheduled a phone meeting with one of my colleagues in the U.K. It turns out, though, that he declined the meeting some time while I was asleep. Rescheduled it for 12:30p my time, which cuts into his Friday night. But that’s the way he is. Works around the clock.

I thought people in their 30s were supposed to be less inclined to be workaholics than people in their 40s and 50s. Yet, the folks I work with who are in their 30s are pretty intense. Like this guy in Swindon who regularly works evenings, even Fridays. It’s confounding.

I mean, it’s true that in a global economy people end up working irregular hours. In the U.S. we often meet late afternoons and evenings with our colleagues in China, and we get up early to catch the Europeans. And the people in those parts of the world often have to be on hand during their own 8-5 day for local customers plus be available off-hours to call into meetings that are scheduled according to U.S.-friendly times. But still, why don’t people flex their hours when work cuts into personal time? Sleep in late or leave early if you start early. Have a life, a rich life (and I’m not talking money). Be present for your kids.

Maybe I spent too many years burning the candle at both ends, but I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to give all of me to my company. I have too many other passions to blow my wad at one place. That’s not to say I’m not a great employee. I am! I’m intelligent and unafraid to speak up. I see the big picture yet carry through on the details. I know process and deliver results. But, I refuse to make work my universe.

I don’t know if my colleague in the U.K. is as much of a workaholic as I suspect he is. Maybe he is flexing his days and I just don’t see it. But come 7:30 tonight, he should be with his family, not on the phone with me.

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