Thursday, October 25


I spent two days at home to recuperate, but didn't end up doing much resting on either one. I did take some time for myself on Monday, listening to an article about Opting Out from North Carolina public radio. I particularly liked a comment from one of the callers, Anna, who had left her high-powered career in Boston to move to North Carolina where her husband pursued his dream to be a school teacher and she stay home with their child. In Boston, he had been a stay-at-home dad while she worked, but then she decided to "opt out" of her career, and they opted into a different lifestyle in which, she recounts, "I've never been happier and I've never been poorer in my whole life."

That kind of testimonial is important for me to hear. As much as we all know that money can't buy happiness, I certainly have reservations about leaving work, partly because of the (somewhat irrational) fear of not having enough money.

Now here's my picking and choosing mind at work again. Just because money can't buy happiness, does that mean I'll be happier with less of it? More to the point, will I be happier if I leave work than if I stay?

The answer to that question can, in part, be found in the two days I was just at home. As I mentioned, I didn't actually spend much time resting while at home. In addition to listening to other women talk about being poor and happy, enjoying some time to myself, enjoying some time with my boys, and doing some work, I did something just a little bit creative. I figured out, all on my own, without a sewing machine, how to convert some of A.D.'s old T-shirt's into Halloween costumes for the boys. While the "kitty ghost", for the Painter, still needs a little work, the Inventor's pumpkin costume turned out pretty cute. (Pictures coming soon.)

Thinking about that simple, creative, loving act, making Halloween costumes for the boys, makes me smile.

Monday, October 22

A Day Off

Not exactly a chatauqua ...

I am under the weather today, having finally caught the cold that has transited the rest of the family. The funny thing is, I keep thinking, not of resting, like I should in order to recuperate, but of all the things I might be able to get done today. You see, it's Monday, so our au pair D is on the job, entertaining the boys, and I have some time to myself. Since I actually managed to finish the laundry over the weekend, I have only non-routine tasks pestering my mind. I have a package to box up and send to a friend in Denver, need to visit the craft store to get some felt for making Halloween costumes out of some old shirts before the Halloween party at the library on Wednesday evening, need to pick up some groceries (especially a lot of tissues!) ... etc. But first, I'll take some time to collect my thoughts, which are sometimes hard to find amidst all the clutter in my head. And maybe then, I'll take a nap. :)

Thursday, October 18

Holding out until February

My due date is in February, and I've been planning to work until then. Financially, it makes a lot of sense, since I would not only earn 3-4 more months of regular income, but also be eligible for 6-10 weeks of disability pay plus 6 weeks of paid family leave from the state. That's 3-4 months of paychecks from the state, without having to do one lick of engineering work (we all know that having a newborn at home is also a lot of work). And, health insurance is undoubtedly cheaper while working than if I was paying COBRA.

All that said, it sure is hard to stay focused on the job these days. Sure, part of me says, "well, now that I've made the decision to leave, I ought to do a bang-up job, and get everything finished and in order before I go." But ... I've never been very disciplined. Having made the decision to go (tentatively, arduously, and over the course of months), I'm already mentally & emotionally on my way. My physical self is here at work, but it doesn't accomplish much without the rest of me.

Exploring New Cities (Virtually)

"After explaining themselves to befuddled family and friends, they packed up and moved across the country."

Having decided to do the same, it is nice to know we are not alone. The "explaining ... to befuddled family and friends" is one of the things that makes it difficult to go. Not only do we have our own fear of how we will sustain ourselves to deal with, but also the fear that no one else will understand.

I have added some lists to the sidebar: what we are looking for in a place to live, and possibilities we are currently considering. I put them in the sidebar so I can look at them often, edit as needed, and feel like we are making progress in this endeavor. In steering a new course for our lives, it is more productive to set our sights on our destination than focus on why we're leaving this place we've started from.

Articulate thinks it may be more difficult to live near family than elsewhere, because, in seeing family more often, we will have that much more explaining to do. But I think that if we are confident in our course it won't matter how often we are interrogated. As with the same kinds of questions from our children, we can explain until we run out of patience, and continue nonetheless to do what we feel is best.

Tuesday, October 16

Guilt (part 2)

This guilt has more to do with keeping my job than leaving it.

I feel incredibly guilty for blogging and wandering the internet as much as I do during the day when I am supposed to be working. This, of course, only serves to, on the one hand, convince me that I don't really like what I am supposed to be doing, and, on the other hand, make me feel bad about working so that I like it even less. I'm sure this guilt is a good part of the reason that I feel emotionally numb by the end of the day.

I don't want to feel numb. I want to live!


Once the flood gates open ...
... you get to hear about all the things that have been stewing in my brain for the past week.

One of the things that makes it difficult for me to say I will leave my job is guilt. This guilt comes in several forms.

I feel guilty that by leaving, I will be treating the people I work with badly, when I have been treated so well. I know my coworkers are very busy, and my boss is looking to expand the department, and people in my field are in pretty high demand right now, so if I leave, won't I be leaving them in a lurch? If I analyze this guilt, I realize how irrational it is. First, I am making assumptions about how much I am needed and how much I will be missed that are probably somewhat exaggerated. Secondly, I have been treated well and well-compensated for the work I have done, and will do until I leave. That compensation is not for future work, work that I can leave for some other engineer who wishes to be well-compensated. I am sure I am not paid any better than my peers for what I do, so I shouldn't sell myself short by feeling an obligation to the company because of my current compensation. People, my boss in particular, may feel disappointed that I am leaving, but I need to remember that disappointment is unavoidable in life, sometimes, and disappointment is not injury. I am not treating someone badly by disappointing them. (If I tried to avoid disappointment at home I might feed my boys sweets all day and give them anything they asked for. Would this be in their best interests and "treating them well"? Absolutely not!)

Another kind of guilt I feel about leaving work is what Articulate has likened to survivors guilt. Why should I be able to take off from work, to leave the "daily grind" when so many people need to work to make ends meet? Isn't it somehow wrong for me to leave? Irrational, I know, but present nonetheless.

Then there is the financial guilt. I feel that by leaving work I put our future financial well-being at risk. We will be drawing down savings instead of increasing them. This goes against the practical German-heritage Midwest no-nonsense upbringing I had. How can I possibly take off work indefinitely and still expect to have money left for my children's college education and our old age, not to mention any emergencies that come along? But, I must remember, I'm not in this alone. As A.D. reminds me, he intends to make his business profitable, and maybe a lack of my income will help to motivate him towards success. Besides, I am an intelligent and capable person. While I may not be able to earn as much money in another line of work as I do currently, I am sure I can bring in some income if it becomes necessary. And, I might even figure out how to make money doing something I enjoy, if I stop spending so much of my time doing something that I don't.

Love-Hate Relationship

It's becoming clear to me that I don't really have a love-hate relationship with my work so much as I have an apathetic relationship to my work. I like the pay, the adult interaction, the recognition from co-workers and my boss, that I feel competent and respected. The work mostly bores me. The projects are cool, but they don't drive me. Nothing about the work seems to really excite my passions, although they used to, when I first started this career. Now ... my passions lie elsewhere.

This became more clear to me last week, while I listened to a news report about a road-rage drag-racing incident, in which some innocent bystanders in a parked car were struck, and a 5-year-old boy killed. Of course, this hit very close to home, because the Painter is 5 years old. I thought to myself, "Life is too precious to waste doing something I don't want to be doing." And, "We need to get out of this place." Not that bad things only happen here - I know they can happen anywhere - but why stay in a place we don't really like, when the only thing keeping us here is a job I don't really like?

Thursday, October 11


Why do I always find myself shopping? I often don't even end up buying anything, as I finally come to the conclusion that I don't really need any of the things I've been browsing, and if I did, why would I want to pay shipping for them from online - I might be better off going to the store - where I will probably not find what I want, and head back to the internet. I can spend hours in a similar pursuit, looking for a place to visit for a long weekend, but coming to the conclusion that it costs a lot to go somewhere even for the weekend, so maybe I'd rather save that money for a real trip later, that I probably also won't plan.

It's as if I am casting about, looking for what it is that I really want, hoping that I'll come across it in my random searching. But somehow, I doubt that I'll find it online, or in a store. The answer to that question has to come from within. And the only way I will find the answer, is by stopping these escapist activities, and being present to the thoughts that cross my mind.

To be fair ...

Our current locale does have some redeeming qualities.

1. Citrus trees in the backyard
2. Ornamental trees and shrubs flowering virtually all year long
3. Only an hour from the beach (used to be closer)
4. Mountains practically out the back door (subject to smog)
5. Lots of cultural opportunities (if you don't mind the traffic and crowds)
6. Long growing season (bring your own water)
7. No shrug-your-shoulders-up-to-your-ears-to-keep-warm- even-with-scarf-hat-and-coat cold weather

Reasons to Love Hate this Place

I mean, of course, the tangle of freeways in the midst of which we live.

1. Traffic
2. Sprawl
3. Crowds
4. Smog
5. Housing costs
6. Summer heat waves
7. No insulation
8. Too many chain restaurants
9. Too few sidewalks
10. No snow

Monday, October 8


Not sure if I have any readers yet, but here's some news if I do:

My husband is Articulate Dad. I'm getting tired of referring to "my husband" and "my five-year old", etc., so I will adopt A.D.'s names for us all. In other words, I am RocketMom (a.k.a. Rocket), our five-year old son is the Painter, and our 2.5 year old son is the Inventor. Look for the new (old) pseudonyms in upcoming posts.

Remember This

What is Success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, October 7

Weekly Ritual

It's Sunday again. Almost time to go back to work. Where did the weekend go? I suppose I had better do some laundry so that I have something to wear this week that fits. At least it's only a four-day week, as I am on a 9/80 schedule. What should I do on Friday, my day off?

[To do list starts streaming through my head.]

No school on Friday, either. Maybe we should all go on a trip? I've been thinking about that for some time, but haven't yet planned anything. Plenty of promising locations within a few hours drive ... but then, it can be such a hassle to travel with the family. And who has energy to plan anything? I'd say we could just pack up a tent and go - find somewhere ... but I've become convinced that there are perpetual crowds everywhere in this part of the state, and without reservations we won't probably find anywhere to stay.


Again it boils down to the question: What do I really want?

Saturday, October 6


I've loved the word, and the concept, of chautauqua ever since I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance more than 10 years ago. To me, there is something very romantic about the idea of escaping into the wilderness on my own, to face my bewildering thoughts head-on, with no distractions, to empty my mind and, I imagine, return feeling centered, refreshed, and with a renewed understanding of who I am and what is important to me.

I just discovered that chautauqua doesn't, generally speaking, mean what I thought it meant - Merriam-Webster online defines it as ": any of various traveling shows and local assemblies that flourished in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that provided popular education combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts, and plays, and that were modeled after activities at the Chautauqua Institution of western New York." I suppose, in ZAMM, Robert Pirsig (the author) was referring to meeting with & learning about yourself?

Perhaps what I crave is meditation, more than chautauqua, but the word isn't nearly as interesting. I think it's time I scheduled a chautauqua (of the ZAMM variety) for myself.

What do I want?

If posed the question in some drastic hypothetical form, such as "If you knew you only had five years to live, what would you do now?" or "If you just won the lottery and you knew you never had to worry about money again, what would you do?", I invariably answer that I would quit my job. But the rational part of my self argues that these questions do not represent my reality, and I should make my life decisions based on the current facts of my life.

Okay. So here are the facts of my life: I generally spend one to one and a half hours commuting each workday, so that I can sit in front of a computer all day, accomplish far less than I am capable of, and feel guilty that I didn't do more. Why do I sit in front of a computer all day if I am not accomplishing anything? Guilt, I suppose. Getting stuck. Avoiding thinking about the issues that keep me where I ostensibly do not want to be. On the weekends, I steal as much time for myself as possible, and otherwise go with the flow. The boys want to make a fort in the family room? Ok. They want to watch a DVD? Ok. My husband wants to talk? Ok. We need something from the grocery store? Ok (but better if I can go by myself!)

If I quit my job, take the proverbial off-ramp, what would I be doing? Staying home with the boys, probably. At least, that is the default response, since someone needs to watch them. But ... it's not my family that I am thinking about all day while I am trying to (not) work. What do I think about? Whether or not I should keep my job, work part-time, or quit altogether after the baby is born; what books I would read if I had the time; where we should live; connecting with other people.

Connecting. Last night we went to local synagogue, had a nice time meeting people, feeling a part of a community. It makes me think twice for the hundredth time about whether we should leave our current locale. I feel very isolated here, but how can I make connections if we keep moving every year or two? How odd, then, that I sit around and think about connecting with people, reading about other people, lurking, instead of actually calling up a friend or inviting someone to lunch. And if connecting with people is what I really want, how is quitting work going to help?

And how does blogging help me connect with my 5-yr-old, who obviously wants my attention right now?