Dec 17 09

Adieu…For Now

by Julia
Posted to: About Tinkering

In this time of deep snows and long nights, I write to tell you that this blog is going into hibernation for a while. I know this is a disappointment to some of you—it certainly is to me! I have thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing challenge of sharing my thoughts here, and have very mixed feelings about putting it to bed for a while. Here are the reasons why I’ve decided that it’s the right thing to do:

Balance—I’ve written a lot about trying to maintain a sane and happy balance in a life full of competing demands. For me, this always comes down to not being greedy. When I want too much I inevitably end up feeling driven and guilty and disappointed. Right now I am trying to have too much. I have become a slave to my to-do lists, which saps both my creativity and my enjoyment.

Like everybody else, I struggle with this balance all the time. But mine just got a whole lot more complicated. After spending much of the fall agonizing about it, our family has decided to move to Montreal, Canada next spring. read more…

Nov 29 09

Hoist Yourself Back Into That Saddle

by Julia
Posted to: Blogging, Life lessons, Writing

Since it has been a while since I’ve written anything here, I figured I should come clean with a post about procrastination. Or not procrastination, exactly, but losing your rhythm. It is one of the most frustrating, least constructive patterns in my life.

To illustrate, let me tell you what has happened with this blog. As you know, if you’ve been reading, my husband and I have been in the throes of making a big decision. We’ve been a little busy. So it has been harder than usual to find time to write. Also, my brain has been occupied with gnawing on the various pieces of this decision, and not with the usual random assortment of thoughts that I like to share with you. Some of the issues at play in our decision-making are probably of broader interest, but after a while I figured you’d get tired of hearing about my angst. (After a while, I got tired of it myself.) And because the decision has involved some delicate negotiations, I have not felt free to share all of my musings with the big wide world.

The upshot of all of this is that I stopped writing. And immediately started feeling guilty. read more…

Nov 6 09

Who Would You Play on TV?

by Julia
Posted to: Marketing, Politics, Writing

In our house, the end of daylight savings time marks the start of TV-serial season. We just started watching Mad Men. It’s got snappy dialogue and complex characters, and I think I’m going to like it. Several people have recommended it to us, partly because I do some advertising copywriting, so they figure that I will take a professional interest in this seamy and glamorous world.

And it’s true—I do find it more engaging than shows about cops and doctors and other things far removed from my identity. From time to time I imagine taking on all those ad men at their testosterone-fueled game. (My character is, of course, ravishingly beautiful, dazzlingly smart, tough as nails, and funny besides.) read more…

Nov 2 09

The Two Career Tango

by Julia
Posted to: Building a career, Family, Politics

Ever since I started this blog, I have wanted to write about finding balance in a two career family. I think about it all the time. I have not written about it because it is messy and raw and does not make for a nice tidy post. There are a lot of Big Issues in play here. Equality. Power. Tradition. Ambition. Marriage. Happiness.

I could probably write half a dozen posts on this topic and still have more questions than answers. And I’d probably leave it all alone and write about something simpler if I could. But we have this decision to make, and these issues are right in the middle of it.

This morning, just as I was getting up the gumption to grapple with this topic, I found comfort and wisdom in an unlikely place: the White House. read more…

Oct 29 09

Work + Motherhood = Happiness

by Julia
Posted to: Family, Life lessons, Work-Life Balance

I love being a working mom. I just thought I’d state that for the record. It’s kind of fashionable in my crowd to talk about how hard it is to juggle careers and children—how little sleep you get, how you’re always behind at work, and how you never have time to exercise or see your friends anymore. This is all inarguably true. (In fact, I have been known to write about some of these challenges myself.)

A fascinating report from the Pew Research Center recently highlighted just how difficult it is to balance work and motherhood. Among their survey respondents, the majority of working mothers said that their own work-family balance was less than ideal and identified some other model as preferable. And 40% of working moms reported feeling rushed all the time, as opposed to only about a quarter of the overall public. Whether the moms worked part-time or full-time had no impact on how rushed they felt. (Interestingly, working dads and at-home moms were no more harried than everybody else.)

The fact that working motherhood is tough is no news to me, or anyone else I know who’s doing it. But here’s the thing that doesn’t get said enough—my life is more joyful and fulfilling right now than I could ever have imagined. read more…

Oct 15 09

Fantasy Career: Justin Minkel

by Julia
Posted to: Building a career, Profiles

This post is part of the Life With a Slash series of profiles on people building multifaceted careers . You can find previous profiles here.

justin teachingJustin Minkel is an elementary school teacher. He’s pretty good at it. He has won state and national awards, including becoming the 2007 Arkansas Teacher of the Year and one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year, and has hobnobbed with educational bigwigs from former governors to the Deputy Secretary of Education. But if you get him into conversation he will eventually let slip that teaching is not his only occupation. Justin is also a writer. He writes fantasy novels for readers in the middle grades (kids ages 9 to 14). He has written three of these novels, in fact. (It’s fun to watch this conversational exchange. People recover pretty quickly, but there is always an instant of slack-jawed wonder as they absorb this news.)

Justin is devoted to both his teaching and his writing, and he agreed to be profiled here as part of an occasional series on the ways that people blend multiple passions in their careers. read more…

Oct 4 09

When Flipping a Coin Ain’t Good Enough

by Julia
Posted to: Building a career, Family, Life lessons

Ah, decisions! I have written before about how decision-making can be a challenge in our household. Confronted with the need to choose between options, we agonize—often out of proportion with the significance of the decision. We’re gradually learning to let go of the little stuff. (We’ve found that rock-paper-scissors and coin-flipping are useful tactics.)

But what do you do when confronted with a real whopper of a decision—one whose scale justifies all the angst that you could possibly devote to it?

Welcome to our life right now. read more…

Sep 24 09

Tips for Riding Out a Blue Funk

by Julia
Posted to: Life lessons

I don’t know about you, but when I come apart, I do it with gusto. Here’s a typical scenario:

Something frustrating happens at work–a bad interaction with a coworker, or something I didn’t do as well as I could have, or just a really boring day. Which makes me wonder whether I’m in the right career, and whether I’ve made terrible and irreversible decisions in my education and job choices, and whether I’ll ever excel at anything. I invariably decide that I need to go back to school for something (usually law or business or journalism–varying based on the cause of the funk). I come home cranky and snap at my family, which convinces me that my marriage is stagnating. I despair about whichever issues present themselves in the moment…our finances, the cleanliness of our house, the contents of our refrigerator. Finally, when I’m headed into the home stretch, I get teary about how I’m old and saggy and wrinkly and my new haircut makes me look like Angela Merkel.

And usually, sometime around then, I snap out of it. At least enough to laugh at myself a little. read more…

Sep 22 09

Self-Help Basics

by Julia
Posted to: Life lessons

Back in college I taught outdoor education courses—backpacking, rock climbing, that kind of thing. Many of the instructors, like me, were students passing through on the way to much more conventional indoor jobs. But there were a few weather-beaten folks on staff who made a career out of taking people outside. These long-time leaders were always good for a colorful yarn, and often had handy advice for us novice instructors.

One of my favorites was the instructor whose universal response when approached by students with problems, complaints, and tales of woe, was:

“Put on your hat, drink some water, and look at your map. If you still have a problem, come talk to me again.”

I find myself recalling these words remarkably often. It’s amazing how many of life’s problems disappear when you take a few moments to tend to your basic needs and think about where you are and where you’re headed.

Sep 17 09

From the Mouths of Babes

by Julia
Posted to: Family, Words

I am not a mommy blogger. I’ve been clear on that ever since I started this blog. I’m a mom. I read and enjoy blogs about children and parenting, and have lots of respect for those who choose this as a focus for their writing. Motherhood is a big part of my identity. But it is also a very visible, noisy, demanding part, and I find myself drawn to writing about elements of myself that do not reach the surface as often in daily life and conversation.

All of which is a big preamble to tell you that I am about to write a post about my daughter.

She will turn two this winter. Like all parents, I am completely smitten. I am constantly amazed and amused by her antics and accomplishments. But the most magical part for me is her language development. read more…