Mom’s Sick Day

Last week, we experienced one of the inevitable side effects of taking our son to daycare– his first cold. This wasn’t too terrible, honestly, as he only had one day where he seemed really unhappy, and everyone says it’s better for him to get the germs now and build immunity, rather than be exposed to everything at once in Kindergarten. I am lucky enough that my work allows me to take sick time to care for my sick child, so the one day I had to keep him out of daycare, it was okay. It was actually not bad at all, because he slept pretty much all day– just what his little body needed to fight those germs, I’m sure– so I got to have a semi-relaxing/productive day at home. I could have even worked from home, but I didn’t clear that ahead of time, so I didn’t. I’m sure we are in for worse sick-baby days in the (probably near) future, but I felt pretty confident with how we weathered that first little storm. I was kind of worried about the first cold and how tough it would be; turns out I didn’t need to be so worried about (at least) the first cold.

What I should have been worried about was the first time I got sick with a young baby! Two nights ago, my throat began to feel sore. Later that night, the body aches started… pretty soon, the dreaded influenza was full on, complete with fever, chills, and headache. (Luckily I was spared any gastrointestinal discomfort.) But what the crap? Didn’t I get a shot to prevent this?? It’s been awhile since I had the flu, and I’d forgotten how much it can suck. And of course, the baby, who normally is a pretty good sleeper, woke up at 3am alllll sweaty, so I had to change all his clothes, which woke him up thoroughly and made it harder to get him to go back to sleep. Rocking him, trying to get him to sleep without getting him sick(er), was agony. I felt like hell. So I called in sick to work.

I don’t know if I got sick from my son or if I got something else entirely (the symptoms seem to be different), but I hope I got it from him, because I really don’t want to give him what I have! I also don’t know if you’re supposed to bring a kid to daycare if he’s potentially been exposed to the flu from a sick parent… but I didn’t really have any choice yesterday. My body and head hurt so badly that it was all I could do to get him dressed and drop him off at daycare (dad had to work at 6:30 and our daycare doesn’t open until 9, so I had to be the one to do it). I contemplated stopping for a coffee on the way home from the drop off and decided not to– and those of you know know me well know that almost nothing can keep me from my coffee! I drove home, kept the dogs confined, ate half a banana, and went up to bed. I slept until about noon when I got up to feed the dogs, eat something, and pump, then I went back to bed until almost 3. Still felt like crap all evening and went to bed early.

When I woke up at 3 to feed the baby, I felt maybe not quite as bad as the night before. Still, I decided to stay home from work again, seeing as the flu is generally contagious for the first 48 hours, and I figured I could use some more rest.

Today was a little different from yesterday. I got the baby ready for daycare, dropped him off, and then… I got coffee! A better start already. At that point, though, I should have gone home to rest and recuperate. But no, I didn’t. Here’s what I did:

-Made a “quick” Target stop to pick up paper towels, take advantage of a good sale on diapers and formula (for supplementing), and pick up some prescriptions.
-Ended up taking a lot longer than I thought, because I realized we needed some clothes for our family photo shoot on Saturday, so I purchased a couple of shirts, then I picked out a swimsuit suitable for my post-pregnancy body, and picked out Father’s Day cards for all fathers involved.

-Got home just in time to meet the guys who came to tune up the furnace and air (even though they were supposed to come between 4 and 6)

-Fed the dogs and let them out

-Folded laundry

-Wrote Father’s Day card for my dad

-Let the dogs in

-Washed baby feeding implements

-Pumped

-Ate lunch

-Let the dogs out

-Watched 1/2 hour of TV while doing Target survey in hopes of winning a $25 gift card (I didn’t)

-Let the dogs in

-Tried to take nap, couldn’t sleep

-Let the dogs out

-Vacuumed

-Put blankets in laundry

-Gathered paper and plastic bags to recycle

-When the spouse got home with baby in tow, loaded up baby and went to Menard’s to pick up a new filter for the furnace

-Went back to Target to recycle plastic bags and pick up a couple things I forgot

-Nursed baby

-Put dinner in oven (okay, it was a frozen meal from Let’s Dish– thanks, Mom and Dad!)

-Fed dogs and let them out

-Put cloth diapers in wash

-Ran dishwasher

-Showered

-Ate dinner

-Nursed baby again

-Put baby to bed

-Chased down dog who had escaped from the yard

-Turned mattress and hanged sheets on bed

-Emptied dishwasher

-Washed non-dishwasher-safe dishes

-Washed baby feeding implements again

-Checked to make sure baby was still sleeping (he wasn’t)

and finally

-Nursed baby again and put him back to bed (which took like half an hour)

So…. yeah. So that happened. 😀

My throat is still sore, but tomorrow I better go to work. I’ll get more rest there.

/mom

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

A coworker put out a call on our office intranet recently asking about people’s favorite souvenirs from abroad. This was my contribution to that question… I liked it, so I thought I’d cross post it here. (By the way, I love that in French, “souvenirs” means “memories.”)

 

When I was little, my parents did a lot of traveling due to my dad’s job with Northwest Airlines. They brought many cool souvenirs back for me– I remember a wooden cow from Denmark (I think) and a big stuffed panda bear from South Korea (no, not China, strangely). The souvenir I remember the most, though, was a book from Japan, written in Japanese, in the traditional style (back to front and bottom to top). My mom used to “read” it to us by looking at the pictures and making up a story to go with it. It was something about a man who drops a rice cake into a hole in the ground inhabited by some sort of gnomes. To this day, I have no idea  what the story was really about, but I still remember it very clearly.

As an adult, a friend of mine who works in the children’s publishing industry got me interested in collecting children’s books, often gifting me with picture books for birthday or Christmas. Integrating the hobby with my love of travel, I began buying children’s books as souvenirs when I visit other countries (and anywhere, really). This began way before I had any children on the way, and I did worry for awhile that I’d never have anyone to read them to… but I still bought them, because if nothing else, I enjoy them myself. I love going to a bookstore and looking through the fun, colorful books, trying to pick out something with an inkling of the country’s culture. When I’m in a country where English isn’t the majority language, I typically look for books in the local language.

My collection has grown to be rather significant over the years, so it’s impossible to pick just one favorite. Instead, I narrowed it down to four:

1. A book of Russian fairy tales… in Russian. I love the intricate illustrations and the way the Cyrillic script looks. Even with some knowledge of Russian, I can barely read any of it, but that doesn’t really matter.

2. Les chose cassées d’Octavio (Octavio‘s Broken Things). A story about a boy who can fix anything with glue, nails, wire, etc, but who has to learn how to mend the sad heart of the girl next door.

3. Grandma Joins the All Blacks. From New Zealand, obviously.

4. An Strae Beagán (A Bit Lost). I thought it was originally written in Irish, but I recently saw it at a bookstore here and learned that it was apparently written in English by an Irish author and translated into Irish… kind of a bummer, but still a cool book. It’s about a little owl who gets lost and can’t find his mother, so a friendly fox takes him around to all the different forest animals and asks, “Is this your mommy?” Each time, the owl replies in the negative, and describes an aspect of his mother not met by the current animal. “That’s not my mommy; my mommy has big eyes!” So the fox takes him to see a frog. It goes on like this until the owlet does indeed find his mother. And then they all eat cookies. Happy endings for all.

My collection to date includes books in French, Spanish, Russian, Irish, Danish, Japanese, Hmong, Catalan, and of course English (hailing from France, Red Balloon Bookstore, Moscow, Ireland, Copenhagen, Midway Books on Snelling and University, Hmongtown Market in St Paul, Barcelona, and Australia/New Zealand/the US, respectively). Looking for books has taught me some things, as well– for example, I wasn’t able to find a book in Swahili in Tanzania, or in Spanish on Cozumel. I didn’t look that hard in Tanzania– perhaps in Arusha City I’d have found something– but my spouse and I spent a lot of time wandering around Cozumel’s main (only) town, San Miguel, looking for a bookstore. It didn’t exist. All of the librerías we learned about from the phone book or natives were actually paper supply stores. We did visit an actual bookstore in a larger town, but the only books in Spanish were obviously translated from English, and completely devoid of Mexican culture. (Which, admittedly, does say something about the world in and of itself….)

The average children’s picture book contains about 500-1000 words. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and while I love to take pictures while abroad, I think it’s worthwhile to bring words home, too.

CIEE Conference – Minneapolis

Last week the CIEE International Education Conference took place in my hometown. I went to the CIEE conference in Philly a few years ago, and I found it enjoyable enough. At first I thought it was going to be great to have a conference at home– an opportunity for further education in my field, a chance to see some people I don’t often see (yes, I do enjoy seeing colleagues I don’t often get to see), and the ability to come home to my spouse and dogs and sleep in my own bed? Sounded great! And in many ways, it has been. But it’s difficult too. While I am happy to be able to see my family in the evenings, I’ve definitely felt an inner tension between obligations to my family– to spend time with them– and conference social events in the evenings. It’s almost easier to be in a different city– at least then one can be entirely in the “work” world and not try to live in two worlds at once.

Despite that tension, it was a pretty good conference. I went to a few interesting sessions– my favorite one was about creating community amongst study abroad students on a certain program before departure, which I’ve been trying to do via Facebook for my France students. It seems to be working pretty well anyway, but I picked up some good tips at that session that I think will help even more. I also got to see some colleagues that I don’t often see, most notably a colleague from the University of Limerick in Ireland. I like her a lot, so it was fun to be able to hang out a little bit!

Even though I find conferences exhausting, and the evening social engagements even more so, I did pretty well last about attending the many evening receptions. In addition to our office’s open house Wednesday afternoon, and a (very) brief stop at the conference opening reception, I went to a reception/dinner on Wednesday night that kept me out until 10pm. I went to the one our office hosted on Thursday night (because it was required!), but skipped the second one– after a late night the night before, I just didn’t feel up to doing two receptions in one night. (And I was in bed by 9pm!) Friday night I went to two receptions. A bonus was that all these receptions allowed me to visit some great places that I rarely (or never) get to in my own city– ours was at Brit’s, which is a place I do get to fairly frequently and like a lot. Another was at Solera, a really good Spanish restaurant, one was at Prohibition at the top of the Foshay Tower (I’d never been to the Foshay at all, let alone Prohibition, so that was cool), and one was at the lovely Guthrie theater, which I’ve been to many times but always enjoy. The one I skipped was at the Mill City Museum, also a really nice venue. But that night especially, there was no nicer venue than my home and my bed!

Foshay Tower

Brit’s Pub

Guthrie Theater

Trip on my bed 🙂

Now things are back to normal in the office, which feels weird. It’s also a short week, of course, due to Thanksgiving, so everyone seems pretty quiet and mellow. A lot of people are out of the office. A big change from the hustle and bustle of last week! The conference was exhausting, chaotic and yes, pretty fun for the most part. But I am ready for some quiet time.

I Can Leap Tall Buildings in a Single Bound

Everyone has a preconceived notion of who you are. They’re never right. No one knows you. You are your own mystery. Tell them. Scream it. Make them believe you could leap tall buildings in a single bound if the thought occurred to you.
-Reid Peifer

This quote is from an essay entitled “Passion” that was printed in Violent Gusts of Wind, a kind of journal published in my high school as a sort of alternative to our official school paper, Breezes. When I first read this essay, it really spoke to me, and I’ve thought about it a lot ever since.

As I got older and learned a little bit about the MBTI/typology, I realized that this quote is especially relevant for introverts, and even more so for me and my fellow INFJs, as one attribute of that type is that we are often enigmatic and hard to get to know. Just the other day a friend posted a link to this Buzzfeed article, in which the author assigns a sort of spirit animal to each personality type. The animal she chose for INFJs was the wolf, with the following description:

INFJs are value-driven individuals who tend to remain mysterious and complex even after you’ve become close to one. They are often creative and inspired individuals. They are good at perceiving emotions and are sensitive to the feelings of others, but they are not very prone to revealing much of themselves until they trust someone completely. That said, they are intensely interested in the well-being of others and are often seen as protectors as well as natural leaders.

This is a pretty simple explanation of an INFJ, but it really resonates with me, at least with the first part. I’ve had many people tell me that I’m a complex individual, that just when they think they’ve got me “figured out,” I do something that doesn’t fit with their perception of who I am. Usually, I think of this as a great compliment. Everyone has their own preconceived notion of who I am. They’re never right.
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The Pregnant Introvert

So yes, the big news is that, after 2 years of trying, we are finally expecting! At 18 weeks tomorrow, I’m pretty close to halfway through the pregnancy, so I thought now was a good time to blog about my experience so far. (Also, tonight was just the time I had a few minutes and felt motivated to write!)

Being pregnant as an introvert has been interesting. Usually I am not so big on sharing personal things with the general public (while also being fairly open about my personal life, if people ask or it comes up), but in this case I could not wait to share the news! We found out right around 5 weeks, so it was very early. Luckily, we were already planning to see my in-laws the weekend after we found out, so we didn’t have to wait long to tell them. My parents were out of town at the time, though, and since I wanted to tell them in person, that meant waiting until the following Wednesday, I think. It was torture not being able to talk to my mom about what I was going through, especially because at that point I was still really worried and terrified that I was going to lose the baby. It was somewhat irrational, but after all we went through to get pregnant, the idea sent me (literally) into a panic. And since I can’t take my break-through anxiety medication (Xanax) while pregnant, I had to fend off a few panic attacks with other, non-pharmaceutical tools (namely, deep breathing and Star Trek). Of course, if I’d REALLY needed to talk, I’d have called her, but mostly I just wanted to talk about little things.

Once we told the parents, it was still hard to wait until 8 weeks to tell my close friends, 10 weeks to tell my band members (and explain why I was being kind of wussy about the long hours and heat at Fest!), and 12 weeks to tell my coworkers and the general public!! Work was especially difficult, since I was making some urgent trips to the bathroom to throw up. Luckily I only had about 3 weeks of that, and I wasn’t puking every day, so it wasn’t that hard to hide. But I was seriously counting the days until I could make that little announcement! Of course that’s normal– it’s very exciting news– but having to struggle NOT to talk is a bit odd as a very strong introvert! 😉

The next big news, which we didn’t have to wait at all to tell, was that we’re having a boy. 🙂

“When Collaboration Kills Creativity”

I’m finally getting around to blogging about chapter 3 of Susan Cain’s book, Quiet.  This chapter, entitled “When Collaboration Kills Creativity,” talks about the phenomenon that Cain calls “the New Groupthink.” This phenomenon, Cain explains, “elevates teamwork above all else” (75). It is responsible for the fact that, according to a recent survey, 91% of high-level managers think teamwork is the key to success. It is responsible for the transformation of workplaces to open floor plans, in which 70% of today’s employees toil. It is responsible for the “pod” model in elementary schools, consisting of pushing desks together to form little groups. It is, in short, responsible for many of the things that make an introvert’s school days and professional lives miserable.

Cain theorizes that although the ideals New Groupthink had been on the rise for quite some time, the catalyst that led to its crystallization was, ironically, that introvert refuge, the Internet. The Internet produced the likes of Linux, Wikipedia, MoveOn.org, and other such collectives endeavors that were “exponentially greater than the sum of their parts [and] were so awe-inspiring that we came to revere the hive mind” (78). But, Cain points out, “if you had gathered the same people who created Linux, installed them in a giant conference room for a year, and asked them to devise a new operating system, it’s doubtful that anything so revolutionary would have occurred” (80). In short, many of the things that make online collaboration so fruitful—asynchronicity, anonymity, isolation, flexibility—are lost when the same type of collaboration is attempted on a face-to-face basis.

Indeed, working in solitude is an important skill, and often more effective than working in a group. A well-known study by research psychologist Anders Ericsson found that musicians who spend time practicing alone, rather than in a group, are more likely to become elite musical performers. This principle carries over into other fields, from chess players to elite athletes. Ericsson theorizes that practice time alone is so powerful because it is the only time one can engage in “Deliberate Practice,” which, according to his research, is the key to exceptional achievement. In Deliberate Practice, Ericsson contends, “you identify tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly” (81). Since these things are largely individual, it makes sense that Deliberate Practice is best done as a solitary activity.

Cain points out, however, that “exceptional performance depends not only on the groundwork we lay through Deliberate Practice; it also requires the right working conditions” (83). And these working conditions may not be those favored by the New Groupthink. In fact, there is significant evidence suggesting that independent work is more fruitful than teamwork. A study called the Coding War Games sought to determine the effect that social interaction, such as in a workplace with an open floor plan, affected productivity. In this study, designed to discover what differentiates the best computer programmers from the worst, over 600 developers from 92 companies were assigned to develop a program working in his or her normal office space. Each developer was to work independently.

The study revealed that the best developers were 10 times better than the worst developers. Factors that one might assume would account for this huge performance gap, such as years of experience, salary, time spent working, did not explain the outcome. It turns out that the majority of the top performers worked for companies that “gave their workers the most privacy, personal space, control over their physical environments, and freedom from interruption. Sixty-two percent of the top performers said that their workspace was acceptably private, compared to only 19 percent of the worst performers; 76 percent of the worst performers but only 38% of the top performers said that people often interrupted them needlessly” (84).

Allow me to repeat those statistics, as I find them amazing:

62% of the top performers said they had adequate privacy at work, compared to only 19% of the worst performers.

76% of the worst performers said people often interrupt them needlessly at work, compared to only 38% of the top performers.

These statistics make it hard to see what’s attractive about an open-plan office—especially given that another study identified interruption as one of the biggest barriers to productivity! And there are even more reasons that open floor plans are a bad idea. People working in open-plan offices are exposed to more germs, which leads to more sick days and the more frequent misery of not feeling well. They are exposed to more noise, which raises cortisol and activates the body’s fight-or-flight mode. Not only do open-plan offices reduce productivity, but they also “make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure” (84). No wonder they are also associated with high staff turnover!

The chapter goes on to discuss other ways in which collaboration decreases productivity, such as group brainstorming, which, evidence suggests, doesn’t actually work. But the section on privacy and quiet in the workplace was of most interest to me, since this is something I struggle with a lot at work. I wrote before about Working From Home, so I won’t rehash that here, but suffice it to say that conditions at home make me much more likely to be among the “top performers” than conditions in my office.

Forum Conference in Chicago

Last week I attended the Forum for Education Abroad‘s conference in Chicago. It was good but INTENSE! It was a short conference (Wednesday night through Friday afternoon) so all the usual receptions, meetings, etc were condensed.

I don’t think most people love conferences, and in general I don’t think they are introverts’ favorite things. They’re definitely not my favorite things. But this conference was interesting– I was reading the blog I wrote when I attended the CIEE conference in Philadelphia, and a lot of things were very different this time around.

Some logistical things were different. First of all, since it was in Chicago, several of us roadtripped down there in a minivan. That definitely added to the “E”-time, but it was fine. We were a pretty quiet bunch in the van, actually. Not that I didn’t want to talk to them, but it was nice not to feel like I had to keep up with a conversation for 8 hours. The last time I roadtripped to a conference (in Fargo, ND, a couple of years ago), it was a pretty much an 8-hour conversation, which was fine but tiring.

I also had a roommate this time around. I enjoyed having my own room in Philly, but it was fun having a roomie, too. The few times I’ve roomed with coworkers at conferences or whatnot have been nice, because it does kind of allow me to get to know people on a more individual basis, and I’m more comfortable and apt to open up on those terms. So even though I’ve known the person I roomed with this time around for several years, and have always liked her, I enjoyed the chance to have some more in-depth, one-on-one conversation time.

Aside from those kind of logistical differences, this conference was different simply because I’ve been in the field longer, in a position that allows/necessitates more collaboration with people in other organizations in the field.  I am starting to feel like I know people in the field– I ran into the director of the international office of our partner university in Ireland and got to chatting with her for awhile. I met several people that I’ve worked with over email or phone, but had never met in person. I even lamented the fact that I didn’t run into someone– a colleague from Australia who I knew was going to be at the conference. (I saw her from afar once, but didn’t get a chance to say hello.) And randomly, I ran into a friend from high school! I knew she was in the field, but I didn’t know she was going to be at this conference, so that was really fun!

The conference, content-wise, was fine. A lot of the time at conferences, I feel like a lot of the topics are kind of common sense, but I suppose that comes from having the good fortune to work in an office where we have been able to be on the cutting edge of the field and implement a lot of innovations that are kind of just catching on elsewhere.

The conference was so busy that unfortunately I didn’t get out of the hotel hardly at all, and didn’t really get to enjoy Chicago. I did have a little outing to the Billy Goat Tavern with colleagues from my office, but beyond that I was pretty much in the hotel. I’d have liked to get down to the lake, but oh well. Another time!