Category Archives: work

Where do the hours go?

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It’s been nearly a month since I stopped working and I’m still having mixed feelings. If on one hand I am loving being able to go to my daughter’s school in the middle of the morning to watch her dancing for Sports Relief, or go to talks about math, or spend some time clearing accumulated mess around the house, on the other I am not enjoying the lack of structure, rigid plans and sense of being productive.

Mondays, for example, are the days to tidy up and clean the house from the weekend with family at home. This is what I’ve done today. I am also sorting last details for our trip to Florida – basically printing whatever important document we need to take with us, putting everything in a folder so we have everything easy to access, etc. And I started packing; 75% done, I would say. I am also looking at venues for the girls’ joint birthday party – calling venues, checking costs and availability. I called and wrote to a few, but no success so far. I also washed and dried clothes, twice. And now the day is gone. Just like that.

While some people would say it was quite a productive day, for me it wasn’t much really. I read the posts I wrote a few weeks back and the sentiment is the same of not being productive, of feeling I’m not doing enough. The main difference is that I am not killing myself now. I can do stuff during the week, so I don’t have to freak out on the weekends. I am yet to come to terms with this new life; I’m yet to stop judging myself and realise that this new life is a good life, not a waste of time. Taking it easy is not a bad thing, is it? If I wasn’t happy before, I am doing the right thing and trying to slow down. Am I? So why doesn’t it feel good?

The main objective was to take March off, to recover from all the years of sleepless nights, all the anxiety, all the stress, all the manic routine. Yet, I didn’t take one single nap during the day since I stopped working. This is the one thing I was missing the most since I had children: being able to take a nap after lunch on the weekends. I can now, during the week. But I feel like I’m being watched (by whom? God?) and being judged for wasting precious time that I could have been… working? cleaning? cooking?

I won’t lie. I had so many plans for this period: learn another language, another skill, exercise, sort all the mess around the house, meet all my friends that are not working or are working from home, talk to people, stop shopping online and go to the supermarket. I have done very little of those and I have no energy to. I could blame it on the weather (and I partially will), I just can’t get myself to get out of the house. I can’t. Too cold, too grey outside. Inside is so much nicer.

We will soon be off on holidays and when I’m back I will have to have my life sorted out, even if just planning the routine. Either that, or I will soon start looking for a job.

 

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One week in

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It’s been one week since I stopped working. My last day in the office, last Monday, was hectic. Long lunch with colleagues, but working until the very last minute, trying to wrap up and tie loose ends. I don’t like leaving unfinished business behind but there is just so much I can do too.

The first week has been quite weird. I’m still trying to figure out what to do. I wanted a break from it all, I needed some rest, I needed not to be an employee, a wife and a mother for a few days, but my mind and body are so set on auto-pilot, so conditioned to run as a machine that the much needed rest is not happening. I’ve been washing, cleaning, tidying up, trying to make up for not being “productive” and “earning a living”.

It’s funny how in my head doing all the house chores is not considered – to me – as being productive or working, when it is actually a proper job. It’s probably because I was already doing these things before, just that this time I can finish everything during the week and spare my weekends for the family. I can’t help but ask myself how I managed to do everything while I was still working full time and actually answers my on going question on why the heck I’m always so exhausted and in such a bad mood.

I must say that there is no pressure from anyone other than myself at the moment, so I’m hoping that with time, I’ll learn to take it easy and try not to kill myself with things that are not that important.

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Today is also the International Women’s Day and I received a few congratulations for it. I suppose it is good to have an international day to remind us that there is still a long way to go for women everywhere, but this is an every day battle and cannot be limited to a single date. It is a long and winding road, sometimes for each step forward there are three backwards. We conquered so much in the past years but there is still so much work to be done.

I have two daughters and I so wished I didn’t have to teach them, show them that they are as good as anyone, that they deserve respect, that they shouldn’t feel like they cannot achieve certain things because of their gender. I wish I didn’t have to tell them to cross their legs, to wear shorts under their skirts, because despite being 5 and 2, there are a bunch of sick perverts out there that are turned on by little girls and although they are the wrong ones, the ones that should be locked in a cell, society will blame the girls for not behaving themselves.

It is an every day battle and it starts at home. Both husband and I were raised in a sexist society, but we are educated adults, we understand now a lot of things that our parents and grandparents didn’t have a clue, we have access to information and we have the capacity of changing – ourselves – and influencing – our children – and fighting – against those who do not respect women (and human beings in general). Some silly examples that we face at home go from “make up is for girls only” (“no, men can wear make up, if they want to, and women don’t need to wear it if they don’t want to”) to “pink is a girls’ colour” (“no, it’s not, it’s perfectly fine to NOT like pink if you are a girl, or like pink if you are a boy, and blue is an amazing colour, as is orange, black, and any other colour that makes you happy”), to more serious ones like telling them they should always tell us/the teacher if something or someone is making them uncomfortable (the school uses the term “butterflies in the tummy” to explain that strange feeling of fear that kids my experience without knowing exactly what it is).  Part of our disagreement in our house is on career. Husband wants them to be doctors or engineers, be able to earn enough not to depend on anyone; I want them to be happy with whatever path they choose. I do think, though, that we have to encourage them for more adventurous paths – it is not expected that young girls show interest in politics, engineering, coding, etc., when this is mostly down to the fact that we raise our girls surrounded by dolls and our boys with Lego and science kits. So we both agree that we should give them the opportunity to learn everything, make it a fun experience, avoid any negative remarks and let them figure out for themselves what they like and want to develop. Education is one of the most important things that we can offer them and giving them the same opportunities as any other kid – boy or girl – will be the best influence in their careers we can hope for.

We learned from Laura’s teacher that she is a “natural leader”. I read that one big mistake that parents (grandparents, family, etc) can make is calling a kid with strong leadership a “bossy” child, especially when it’s a girl. A leader has ideas, has charisma, has vision. I’m not saying that my 5 years old has all these qualities (I think she has, though), but I also don’t want to reduce her to an annoying kid telling others what to do. And I won’t reduce her very good friends to a bunch of sheepish kids that just follow her where she takes them without thinking for themselves. I do hope that we can encourage her to be adventurous, creative, vocal and kind and respectful towards others, as well as not being shy to express herself and show leadership if this is where she sees herself.

I have chosen to become a stay at home mother to be with them during this early age, to be there for them and to learn from them. To be able to see any signs, good or bad, that I can act upon. I don’t want them to think that this is a burden or a lack of choice or, worse, something that only women should do. It was a choice, an opportunity, which unfortunately not everyone can have. They’ve seen me working full time and they will see me working again. I do think it is important for them to see both their parents working, helping at home and raising them – this is a partnership and as a wider message, it’s about working together for a greater good.

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International Women’s Day is not about congratulating women on Facebook and sending flowers to the woman of your life. It is about equal opportunities and respect to your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife, you neighbour, your cleaner, your nanny, your teacher, your colleague. It’s about making this damn twisted world a slightly better and safer place for us all. So simple in theory…

Jobless

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I am not yet unemployed (three months notice period, still a couple of months to go), but I feel unemployed. I think this is the first time I’m dreading the notice period and can’t stand another minute of it. I’m usually very professional and try to keep the same standard of work as if I wasn’t going to leave, but this time is different.

Maybe because I’m going nowhere (yet), because I don’t know what I want to do, what I will do… it feels like this notice period is taking up precious time of holidays and me-time. It doesn’t help that it is also winter and energy levels are so low.

Why the heck did I resign? Well, four years in the same place, doing the same job, without perspective of growth or changing just bores me. I rather do the same thing for four years in four different jobs than stay in the same place for that long. Yet I stayed and now it’s time to go.

Why the heck didn’t I find a new job first? Because I need a break. I need to figure out what I will do, what I want to do, what I can do. I might recycle my knowledge, I might try to learn something new, I might just spend some time with the girls and in the house. I feel like a teenager facing a life changing decision: get a job or go to uni? What career to choose?

The main mistake we do when we “choose” our path is to think that we have to keep going on the same path forever. I consider myself lucky enough to be given the opportunity to stop, think and resume. I might not change anything, but at least I had a choice. I do feel slightly uncomfortable to have a professional conflict at this stage in life, especially when I have a feeling deep inside that there is nothing out there – professionally, I mean – that inspires me or that I have a gift for. I have lots of hobbies, but as soon as I think about a hobby as a way of life, it puts me off.

So until February, I will carry on with the office work, while trying to find some inspiration elsewhere. Then, it’s just time to research a bit and see where I can fit in this world. As I said, I might change nothing and end up in the same place (well, same sort of job but different company at least), but at least I had some reflection time.

While Beatrice fights not to sleep…

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… I decided to check how things are going with this blog. Practically dead and I feel sorry for it.

Many months without posting and mainly because I wasn’t inspired at all. 2015 was a “meh” year for me. The folks in Lala-land will probably argue that I should be grateful for my health and for my family and for everyone being healthy and under a roof and… the list of “good things to be grateful for” goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I am.

But comparing to other years, 2015 was “meh”. Probably mainly my fault.

Now… 2015 ends with a twist. Because a “meh” year cannot end up “meh”, otherwise what’s the point? So, 2015 was the year I resigned my 4-years-old-job. Without another job to go to. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I’m not worried (yet). I can go to another similar job, I can go to a “worse” job that will pay less but also will take less of my soul, I can become a stay at home mother. The sky is the limit.

At the moment, I am enjoying a two week break, trying to sort out the thoughts and ideas in my head, spend some time with the kids and organise the house. Trying to find myself, as I have been lost for a while now. And, with the proximity of the new year and the prospect of starting again (I know it’s an illusion, but I like it), I feel more hopeful and… well, just hopeful. Let the countdown begin!

Christmas came and has gone in pictures

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It was warm
The views are always stunning
I had a week off work; more work then usual at home
We went to the dentist
We went to Romania
It was warm
But then it got cold
Not enough to build up snow
But enough to ice skate. Twice
Frozen is still a home favourite. Let it go!
Santa showed up in Romania
We ate like pigs and brought lots of food in the luggage
Santa stopped at home too, but mummy forgot to take pictures
Santa stopped at mummy’s work and decided that mummy is not overweight enough and can have lots of chocolate

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Training to be happy

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Last month I went on a three day “master class” called Hyper Island. According to their website, it is an intensive learning experience that will challenge our way of thinking and perception on the influence and possibilities within digital media.

I’m very lucky that the company I work for invests in this type of training to their staff and I’m even luckier that I’ve been in the company long enough to have attended two Hyper Island master courses.

It is a very inspirational course and it does challenge our way of thinking, but most of all, it challenges our way of being. It encourages the “student” to want to change things – not only within work environment but also in their personal lives. It’s stating the obvious but big changes start from within.

I don’t remember this happening the first time around but I left the course a bit introspective and thinking what the hell I am doing with my life and where the hell I’m going with it.

Part of the “problem” was sorted by discovering that I am Vitamin D deficient (haha) but I am still digesting all the info and working on a “plan of action”. And by plan of action I mean trying to understand where I am and where I want to be.

The beat thing about this course, though, was to meet other members of our marketing team. I new we were a huge team but didn’t realise that we were 150 people! And such a bunch of great, funny, inspiring people.

Part of the course was to carry on a 21 day challenge, based on a Ted talk by Shawn Achor (search Shawn Achor “The happy secret to better work” if you want to know what I’m talking about). Every day, for 21 days, my little group of five has to send 3 things we are grateful for on that day + one random act of kindness. It’s been 15 days and most of us has been following the challenge. The idea is to help train our brain to be positive and be happy, which, in theory, will make us work better and be more productive.

Another exercise is journaling about a positive thing that happen on the day, which I might try here once the challenge is over. I must say that in the beginning I was struggling big time to fond positive things on my day, because I tend to think big and I was hoping to be able to share “I won the lottery today”, “my daughter got a medal at school”, “it’s 30C in Autumn now in the UK and I’m sunburned”. But the exercise made me see that these things are rare and I should look for the tiny beautiful positive things of my day, like my Beatrice, very poorly, still finding the energy to laugh, to sing and to tell stories. Feeling miserable, yet happy just to be around us and have fun with her family.

Six more days looking for grateful moments on my day. Bring them on.

Final countdown and quick and easy food

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I’m going back to work on Wednesday.

I am going back to work.

I am.

Depressed.

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At least, we are very close to sorting out Beatrice’s childcare. My preferred option didn’t work out very well and neither did Plan B and C. Plan D might be a great option, so fingers crossed.

The plan now is to keep her at home until September and then both girls will go to the same childminder – Laura only from 3.30pm, after school. I’m still anxious about it.

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So when I’m depressed and anxious, I like to bake/cook/eat. I tend to always cook the same stuff, but my plan is to create a 4 week menu to vary what we are eating here. The “catch” is that the recipes need to be simple and quick to prepare and have “room” to to add as many veggies and fruits I possibly can. Ah, they won’t necessarily be super healthy all the time.

This week I tested a couple of recipes and the result was quite good.  I will share my experiments/experiences here and would welcome any suggestions, ideas, tips. The first one is the easiest cake in the world.

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A week or two ago, we went to a barbecue at a friend’s house and she was “baking” a cake. Well, she was putting it together, as it doesn’t require any baking. I loved the idea of having a yummy cake ready in 20 minutes, from selecting the ingredients to putting the last strawberry on top, so I decided to give it a go when my mother in law arrived. Here is the recipe (sorry, I don’t have photos of the step by step):

What will you need?

Two flan cases, similar to this one (never kind the brand, I guess, but this was the one I bought, the medium one, which is small-ish):

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1 can of caramel (I used a bit more than half, it depends on how much you love your sugar)

Lots of strawberries

300 ml of cream (or maybe less)

Caster sugar (or condensed milk, as I used) – to taste. I didn’t add much because I thought it would be too sweet

Some sort of liquid to moist the case (you can use milk, or baileys, or juice – I used orange juice and I liked it)

 

How do you put this together?

Place one of the cases on a plate or where you want to serve your cake. Pour half of the juice/milk with a spoon – make sure it is moist, because this case is dry as sand.

Cut the strawberries and place them on the case – how much is up to you. I used quite a lot. Then put the caramel on top (it doesn’t make any difference which order you put the caramel and strawberries)

Cover the cake with the other case, but this one facing down (bottom up). Pour the remain of the juice.

Now, here is a step I’m not 100% is needed: my friend covered it with foil paper and left it in the fridge until 10 minutes before serving. And only then she covered it with the cream. I did this because I prepared the cake the night before and I was scared of putting the cream straight away and not being good. But knowing me, I wouldn’t have had the patience to decorate the cake just before serving it.

The cream is also easy: using an electric mixer, mix cream until it is consistent enough to spread on the cake – but not too much or it will become butter – and then add the sugar, mixing a bit more. I used condensed milk, 1/3 of a can, and mixed by hand.

Here is how the cake looked like:

(The beauty of this cake is that you can fill it with anything you like; use your imagination and enjoy). Laura helped decorate it! 🙂

 

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