Diverging Paths

Last week my daughter’s best friend moved to another country, and I spent time helping her deal with that separation. I’m no grief counselor, but a wise person once told me that whatever you feel while grieving is the right way to feel. It’s a sentiment that’s helped me during my own grief, and I think it’s helping my girl through hers.

There have been a lot of diverging paths this week. Today (Thursday) is the last day of school for both of my children. BC managed to bring students back into the classroom for a month without creating COVID outbreaks. It’s a tremendous accomplishment. I’m happy about that, and frankly, happy to stop homeschooling my kids. Here’s hoping the public school system takes the next two months to figure out how to streamline online learning, creating a system that does not assume there’s a parent available full-time to educate the children.

Everyone did the best they could in an unexpected situation. But now it’s time to iterate and do better.

Dropping Things Left and Right

This week I also left the writing group I’ve been with for about a year. They’re a lovely group of people, but not the right fit. Back in my twenties I would have agonized over the decision to leave my writing group. I would have second-guessed myself, wondering if the problem was me, if I was just being too picky or demanding.

Gosh I’m glad I’m not in my twenties any more. All that second guessing is exhausting. Now that I’m older, I know that that some relationships end. And I chose to leave before I could start resenting the group for not being the right fit. I have no doubt they’ll do just fine without me, as they all knew each other before I showed up.

I Fed the Beast

Lastly, I finally took the writing path I’ve been avoiding for the last few months. I spent some time trying to write about my grandmother. After a great deal of effort I have exactly one sentence. That wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought I would vomit words onto the page, have myself a good cry, and save the document to edit later. Instead I ran headfirst into a brick wall and bounced off of it.

Apparently that was enough blood to feed the creativity beast, because I wrote a third of a management article this afternoon, and I only stopped in order to write this post. Did I mention that my creativity can be a jerk sometimes? This was another one of those times. My plan is to post the article on Medium when it’s done. I’ll add a link here when I do.

This isn’t me giving up on writing about my grandmother. I can feel the seedling of that story sort of working its way through my subconscious. When it’s ready, I’ll write it. In the meantime my management writing mojo is back, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Feed Me, Seymore

Temporarily child-free in Vancouver BC. Photo by author.

On Sunday June 7th, in the year of our pandemic 2020, I went to the beach. It was the first time I’ve left the house by myself (not counting errands) since mid February.

I didn’t believe that either until I dug through my photos in Dropbox and found the picture I took on my last day of leisure. I’ve been outside a lot this pandemic, but usually, I have the kids in tow, or I’m out running, trying to exercise my way to a calm state of mind. It’s effective but not what you’d consider leisure.

This photo of Vancouver in February could have the alternate title of ‘why the rest of Canada hates on us.’

To understand why this matters, I have to talk about my creativity. Ask five different makers to describe their creativity and you’ll probably get five different answers. Mine is a plant. Like all growing things, it requires certain nutrients to produce fruit. Most of those I get from reading different things. Books, articles, Twitter discussions–all of that acts like fertilizer for the plant.

Alone time is my plant’s catalyst.

If I spend some silent time away from people and the internet, I come back ready to write. Sometimes I’ll even come back with an epiphany.

Sunday’s epiphany was a little uncomfortable. You see, I haven’t written a remote work article since March. Ordinarily I write several a month, in addition to posting here on the blog. I even have notes and interview material that I collected back at the end of February for an April article.

I’ve been blaming homeschooling for the lack of business articles. And that’s a factor. It’s hard to string together coherent sentences when you’re interrupted every 2-3 minutes. But that can’t be the whole answer, because I’ve managed to write six different pieces in twelve weeks, not including this blog.

Then on Sunday, as I lay on the beach reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, the answer was there in my mind, almost as if it had been waiting for me to be quiet enough to hear it.

My grandma died on April 12th, and I haven’t written a business piece since. I need to write about my grandmother’s death. Not here, but in a personal essay. My creativity has decided that it’s the next story, and I get no more business article mojo until I clear the queue.

My creativity can be a jerk sometimes. But I’ve learned that it’s useless to ignore it. Especially if it’s holding my business article ideas hostage. My creativity plant has morphed temporarily into that Audrey 2 plant from Little Shop of Horrors. It’s out for blood.

Here’s hoping I can shake some loose this weekend.

Is Racism Rampant in Your Remote Workplace?

Photo by Karol D from Pexels

On Monday afternoon I walked through a field of daisies in the sunshine. It was stupidly idyllic. And surreal. A cool breeze drifted through the long grass and played with the leaves on the maple trees. My son ran ahead of me, demonstrating how fast he was in the black sneakers he inherited from his sister.

I’ve spent hours trying to think about what to say in this week’s blog. The murder and violence taking place in my former home horrifies me. It doesn’t surprise me, you understand. I’m a Mexican-American woman, and my family history contains stories of discrimination and aggression. I don’t want to act as if everything’s fine because it isn’t. But I also have no interest in inflicting my feelings on people who are already traumatized.

So I’ve decided to link to some articles to read if you’re interested in building diverse remote companies. Then I’m going to focus on light things that happened in the Douglas household this past week. Feel free to jump to the section that fits your current mental state.

Remote Work isn’t a Magic Wand for Diversity

Many people (including me) write about how remote work can create a more diverse workforce. But just because your company is office optional doesn’t mean it’s diverse. Or welcoming. Victor Ray’s HBR article Why so many organizations stay white can just as easily be applied to remote-first companies. Nicole Young discusses her experience with Remote Year in the Zora piece Remote Year is not safe for women of color.

Danielle Abril’s Fortune article Remote work may exacerbate diversity and inclusion problems for companies lists some reasons remote doesn’t necessarily equal diverse. One example: “distance reinforces people’s tendency to favor people who are similar to them.” Remote work runs on trust. Ask yourself, have I (or has my company) demonstrated trust in people that belong to marginalized groups? How many people of color report to you? Who gets promoted? Who gets laid off first?

Who’s Getting the Goodies?

Trust is hard to measure directly. You can’t take a ruler or a scale to figure out how big it is. But you can measure who gets the goodies during the good times and who gets cut in a downturn. And you can measure the average tenure for people of color in your company. As Jermaine Haughton points out in 4 Signs that racism may be an issue in your workplace, some workplaces explicitly or implicitly hold POC to higher standards than their white counterparts.

Incidentally, you’ll notice that the first author I’ve quoted appears to be white. I looked for an article by a BIPOC author on the whiteness of corporations and came up short. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Just that my search results didn’t prioritize them. If you know of a similar article written by a BIPOC, please send it my way.

The remote work community also needs a survey/study on the percentage of remote workers that are people of color, broken down by managers vs employees. According to Americanprogress.org, “By 2030, people of color will comprise the majority contributions to the labor force and are projected to account for virtually all of the growth.” How much of that will carry over into remote work? And of that number, what percentage of the population will progress into management and leadership?

Let’s make remote work live up to its diverse and inclusive potential.

Light Stories about the Douglas Household

Last week I read an article in the New York Times about community cookbooks making a comeback. What a great idea. Food is primal, and sharing food is often how we connect with others. We talked about the concept in the neighborhood Facebook group I moderate, and now we’re going to make our own cookbook. I’ll be editing it and we’ll probably publish it as an ebook.

I’m going with the theme ‘feeling better.’ We can’t be with each other in person, but we can share food by exchanging recipes. There will be stories and poems to go with the recipes, and hopefully pictures too.

I have no idea how I’m going to fit this into my life, but I can’t wait to do it anyway.

The Kids are Back in School

Monday, when I was walking through the field of daisies, I told my son “Don’t be a smart butt.” He isn’t old enough to know what I’m really saying, but he thinks it’s funny just the same. He laughed and declared at the top of his voice “My butt is of average intelligence!”

We ignored the people who gave us funny looks.

I’m writing this blog late on Wednesday night. My daughter went to school for the first two days of the week, and the boy will go to school Thursday and Friday. We tried dying the kids’ hair (temporarily) indigo for the occasion, but I either have weak dye or did it wrong, because the color didn’t show up on the one lock of hair my daughter wanted done. My son’s hair just looks sort of eggplant purple if you squint at it. We called the result ‘punk rock raspberry’ and called it a night.

Speaking of which, I am going to knock off for the night too. See you all next week!