Social Sanity

My dose of social interaction here in Oklahoma has been quite limited since I work from home. I totally catch myself talking to my dog…and myself,  and my unambitious appearance is questionable from time to time. I often dress like…how do I put this…well, like back in in the ’80’s when I was 5 and decided to dress myself for school. I look like a mismatched mess juuuuust about everyday. Here’s an example from a few weeks ago:

Whatever – it was comfy! But comfiness aside, I need social interaction once a week or else I fear that I’ll go a little crazy. Though working from home was an absolute blessing these past 2 years, it got lonely even with teleconferencing from time to time.

As today’s the 1st day of 2015, it’s time for a fresh start. I’ve got some new ambitions lined up for myself. I even have a new office job lined up here in Tulsa, starting Monday, January 12th! More on that later…but I’m thrilled ;). So, with this little New Year’s day off I decided to packed up my laptop and head over to my favorite coffee shop here in Tulsa – The Coffeehouse on Cherry Street. Sean’s home watching football, but I just needed to hear the faded cadence of new voices, soft laughter, the scream of an espresso machine, and casual greetings from business executives. Here’s the scene right now:

It’s great to be here. Coffeeshops are always a little slice of heaven for me. They’re a cozy reminder of how adorable people can be, especially when I people watch (without being creepy…). Wanna know what’s going on around me? You know you do:

To my left sits a woman who appears to be mid-30’s, dressed in her scrubs. Let’s name her Deborah. She looks like a Deborah. Deborah’s enjoying her lunch, and I mean really enjoying it. She’s alone, but she feels free to put down her fork after each bite, and 3 times so far she has proclaimed how scrumptious her lunch is.

“Oh that’s delicious!” that’s one…”Mmm!”…that’s twooooo…”MmmMmmMMM!” haha…and that’s three. She looked over at me (probably cause I looked over wondering if she was talking to me…or…herself…and was quickly on the verge of giggling). Deborah giggled. “Sorry!” she apologized. “I forget I’m in public sometimes, haah!” I laughed, smiled, and said I totally understood. Deborah’s funny. You enjoy that sandwich, Debs!

Then there’s the guy across the room sitting at a table against the wall. He’ll be Steve. Hi Steve. Steve is also talking to himself. This is like…The Talk To Yourself Corner. Love that I’m not the only one who does that from time to time! I think Steve appears to be proof reading something. I won’t judge. He’s reading in a low octave with minimal lip movement…so that maybe, just maybe, no one will hear him that way. Well, Steve, I do hear you. And I’m going to put in my head phones now because you’re just a liiiiitle distracting. Good luck with your paper though, buddy!

Then there’s a cute little couple over there to my right. What should we call them? Hmmm…Joanie and Mitchell? Hah! I’m funny. Joanie has short brown hair, about my color (a GORGEOUS color, might I add). Anywho – she and this guy Mitchell seem to have had a nervous start to their meet up. I think they like each other, but seem to know each other professionally. They’re talking quiet loudly so the whole corner of the coffeehouse can pretty much hear them. They’ve talked about a lot of work stuff, but the conversation has morphed into travel experiences, what their families are like, etc. I feel like they need a good laugh – that’ll break the tension a little, right?! Nothing I can do about that though. Best of luck, Joanie and Mitchell! I’ll cheers my new cup of Peach Jasmine tea in your general direction when you’re not looking.

Annnnnnd I spilled my tea.

Well…that was fun! I think I’m back to being balanced and social sane again. Whew.

Tonight, it’s back home to slow cook some beef stew for the weekend. More on that recipe later. For now, I’m grateful for the few hours I filled with social sanity.

Happy New Year, friends!

Top 5: Travel Tips

Hello from my Okla”home”a! It’s great to be done traveling, but what a spectacular fall I’ve had.

It’s the end of fall travel season in the college admissions world. This annual work-season is one that I get excited for every year. Despite my recent move out here to OK, I was thrilled to still continue my recruitment outreach back East for the world’s best culinary college. Even though it required numerous nights in hotels, navigating D.C. traffic again, and often breathing in that glorious recirculated air on flights, it really jazzed up my presentation skills (…post coming soon on that, btw!) and fueled more confidence that I needed as a quiet little work-from-home lady. It was a great series of trips.

Prior to any travel season I go through the check list: schedule my recruitment visits, book my flights + hotels + rental cars, and pack my bags for the annual mixture of both familiarity and new adventures. Though I’ve done this a lot, I’m certainly no expert. I kind of enjoy that though. Where would the thrill of travel mastery be without learning from my own mistakes? As the holidays approach and new travel plans spike for so many of us, I’ve thrown together some suggestions that I hope will benefit you.

1) Pack Strategically

This dude knows wassup. He’s totally the ultimate travel expert. He’s even got that backwards walk down perfectly to remove his shoes in security. I’m not there yet. Not even close, actually. But I do continue to learn a lot on packing lightly, like him. You see, I’m an over-packer. Secret’s out!! I like to have 2 to 5 of everything “just in case.” Unfortunately, this causes me to go a little crazy while traveling. I’ve even embarrassed myself from time to time. I’m serious. Wanna hear the most recent “Kath moment” to illustrate this?

So I had a quick layover in Dallas earlier this month and had juuuust enough time to get to my next gate, sit down, and look at my friends’ pretty instagram pictures. Pretty fabulous little break, right? Right…until I decided to make this break even better by treating myself to a chocolate milkshake at the store right next to my gate. They were about to start boarding Southwest “A” group and I was in B.

“Ohhh, I can TOTALLY do this.”  I thought to myself.

So I wobbled over with my two over stuffed bags, got my delicious chocolate milkshake and tried to bust out a third arm to hold everything…didn’t happen…but ultimately made it out of the store and back to my gate with time to spare.

“Sweet!” I thought. “Okay…now I just have get out my boarding pa…AHHHH!!!!”

“Ohhhhhh nooooooo!!!! Ohhh dear!!! OOhhhhhhhh I’m SO sorry!” I belted.

Chocolate milkshake….everywhere. Chocolate milkshake over people’s shoes. Chocolate milkshake on people’s luggage. Chocolate milkshake all over the floor.

Good job, Kath! I was so embarrassed. One girl gave me the one napkin she had. One overly stressed mother didn’t even look me in the eye she was so mad. An older man walked right into the mushy puddle on the ground, completely oblivious to what had just happened. After five attempts at trying to alert him of where he was standing by saying “…SIR?” I gave up and started running around the gate looking for napkins like an idiot. Luckily the man behind me said what I had hoped someone would say “Meh…they’ll get over it. It happens.” 5 minutes later I carefully stepped onto the plane (without a chocolate milkshake), with sheepish rosy cheeks proclaiming my embarrassment, and tried not to look anyone in the eye. These poor people have to spend hours with me now in a confined space. Am I there yet?

You can avoid this.

There are a million reasons to pack both lightly and strategically. I recommend checking whatever necessary so that you’re left with one, small, easy to maneuver bag/rollable suitcase around the airport as your carry-on. Be strategic for that travel day and think about how you can ultimately be hands-free at times.

Also, keep this in mind when packing your checked bags. This may seem obvious. I’m sure many of you know all about how to pack strategically, but if any of you out there are like me, you need to be reminded of this. Pack first. Then walk away for a moment and return to review what you packed. This is where the editing process of packing needs to happen. Take out those unnecessary items that you KNOW you won’t need. And if you need to…repeat the editing process one or two more times.

2) Stay Charged

So I recently started adding this little life saver to my list of “MUST PACK” items: PermaCharger

While traveling for work I carry a work laptop, a personal cell, a work cell, and sometimes even an iPad mini; each with their own unique cord for charging. It’s such a luxury to have a job that provides this regional web-based support, but it can be a challenge to keep all of these little luxuries fully charged during my travels. I’ve found that most car chargers don’t charge at the lightening speed I want/need it to.  It’s imperative for my cell’s GPS to tell me where the heck I’m going, for me to answer incoming work calls and emails, etc. So, when it’s not charged I find myself telling friends/family to call me on my work cell if my personal’s about to die. Or telling colleagues from work to call me on my personal cell if that’s about to die.

PermaCharger has been a HUGE lifesaver during my travels, and pretty much solved all of the above problems. It has multiple adapters and USB ports allowing me to charge BOTH my work and personal cell phones at the same time with ease while waiting in line, sitting in an airport, working away at a coffee shop w/ no available outlet in sight, etc. It’s about the width of a Galaxy Samsung or the new iPhone 6, so I’ve actually charged them both while stacked on top of each other and let them sit in my purse while I’m out and about. Amazing. Knowing that they’re charging while standing in line…Love it!

It’s also incredibly helpful to “stay charged” to provide friends and family a little “I’m alive!” or “Let’s me up! I’m in town for like, 5 minutes!” text/call. Traveling for work can be all consuming. You’re constantly thinking of your next move while answering an incoming call…text…email. Unpacking, packing, searching for food, searching for a Starbucks (hello…I’m addicted), searching for a gas station, staying on top of scheduled work events, planning a fun night out with friends while you’re in town – it all soaks up your poor little cell phone’s battery like a sponge. It’s been a huge relief knowing that I can be on top of my game without running around like a crazy person looking for an outlet. You know you’ve all been there. I highly recommend investing in this – it’s awesome! Here’s what it comes with: PermaCharger & Adapters

With the holidays coming up, it’s also an awesome gift to consider for friends or family who travel a ton. They’ll probably love you forever for a gift like this.

You’re welcome! 😉

3) Time Sensitive

Trying to strategize your time while traveling can feel you’re at the starting line of the olympic games and all you see are hurdles down your narrow lane. People are depending on you to be on-point as the pressure increases. Your morning alarm goes off like the starting gun fired by a race official, annnnnd you’re off…flooded with an ambitious agenda to keep track of. Am I right? It can be a little daunting.

With this daily dose of duties (…hehe) challenging your life’s balance by the minute, it’s important to channel your inner secretary with a sense of urgency. Here are a few suggestions in remaining sensitive to time:

  • To Do Lists
    • Write ’em out the night before. Not the morning of when you have to shower, iron, grab breakfast and coffee…then a 2nd or 3rd cup of coffee, etc. I’ve tried writing lists the moment I wake up and I’m WAY too overwhelmed. Write it out the night before and I promise you’ll sleep more peacefully. It’s as if you’re redistributing your thoughts from your tired brain to a blank piece of paper, and look at that – your brain can rest a bit because those thoughts have gone to a better, more organized place.
    • Delegate each item on that list for when and where you want to get it done. If you’re a supervisor – can you delegate it to someone else? Done! Can you get this done via a quick text or email while sitting in your car in the parking lot before your next appointment? Yes? Sweeeet! Assign it to that 10 minute block of time. What about those calls to clients? Don’t leave it to your 2 hours in a coffee shop with the espresso machine screaming out steam in the background – no one likes to hear that. Best to assign those types of calls to a quiet space like when you’re unpacked in your hotel room and you’re sitting comfortably at the room’s desk. So much nicer!
  • Know Your Next Move
    • …then add 30 minutes. Not even kidding – traffic tends to play jokes on us all, thinking it’s quiet the little comedian. Well we’re not amused, are we? So why not tell that little jokester who’s boss by adding 30 minutes to an hour to every drive in between visits. It’s AMAZING how fast 1 hour goes when you’re on the move and have lots to do. This step is a life saver!
  • Be Present
    • When you’re in a meeting or giving a presentation…be present. You may have thoughts flooding your mind like: where to be next, did you confirm that appointment in 2 months, did you ever get that reply back that you needed. Block them out so that you can be as clear and precise as you want to be. Leaving an appointment after you’ve presented yourself beautifully is often the dose of confidence that you need to continue on to the next item on the agenda with peace.
    • When you’re catching up with an old friend or a family member…be present. This travel has given you the gift of seeing your favorite people after work hours, so be present for them. Remove your work agenda from your clouded thoughts and focus on your time together.

4) Stay Social

Traveling on you own for multiple weeks at a time can be lonely, so fill your time with outreach to your loves! Call home, email or message friends to let them know you’re thinking of them, or use your “newlie” planted location to catch up with friends if you’re in their neck of the woods.

Like my old college roomie, Charlene! We hadn’t seen each other in WAY too long and when she reached out to meet up we found the best night to meet halfway between us: Easton, MD. It was the perfect little town to catch up with her again. We had an amazing dinner then wandered over to one of those “paint your own pottery” places and painted away as we brought each other up to speed on our lives. I’m so grateful for that time. Another evening I got to spend time with another former roomie – this time an old housemate from the house I lived at in Arlington (yay, Kassie!). We caught up over beers and dinner at one of our favorite spots in Alexandria, “Murphy’s.”

Another night I got to see some of my dearest friends (Kaitlin, Chop, and Kendall) in downtown Annapolis. I brought them each something from Oklahoma (a handmade ear warmer/head wrap thing…no clue what I should call it…but they’re cute) and we all decided to wear them around town telling everyone we were apart of a knitting club. We were a total hit. I love those ladies! Laughing over drinks at “Level” and sushi at “Joss” was the perfect break from the monotony of visits and long drives.

On a Tuesday night…I even went to the Opera!!! Shout out to Jeanne, Jackie, Tai, and Allison! We saw La Boheme at The Kennedy Center, and it was AMAZING!!! I had to leave at the intermission (womp womp) because I had a 45 min+ drive that night and had to get up around 5am for my next event. But still, it was amazing.

Another week night I met up with my friend Stephanie for drinks at a wine bar in a Whole Foods….whaaaaaaat?! Whole Foods? Yes. That’s correct. Y’all HAVE TO GO if you like wine. There’s this incredible 2nd floor wine bar at the Whole Foods in Fair Lakes, VA where you can try out all these different wines via a tasting, or by the glass. And you KNOW Whole Foods has some delicious food, so they put together a great spread of food for you if you’re in the mood for more than just wine. Highly recommended.

One weekend we saw Sean’s side of the family (hi Mason fam!) and some great friends all in 48 hours! Sean flew to see me mid-travels in October. We stayed with my sister and brother in law (hey hey Mandy & Shane!) – saw family & friends thanks to their housewarming party, then drove up to Frederick, MD and saw his awesome college friends for dinner (hey hey Tony, Aly, Chris, & Shelley!). The weekend before I even got to see my precious parents in my old college town! They were just traveling through the Eastern Shore when I happened to be nearby and I will never forget that perfect evening with them.

You all get the point. Keeping your life filled with friends and family, even in the midst of a busy travel season will keep your spirits up. It’s much needed.

5) Breathe

This sounds silly, I know. But maybe you can relate: when I have too much on my mind (places to be, people to meet, events to manage, reports to submit, etc.) I forget to breathe sometimes when my mind is flooded with “to do’s.” Can anyone else relate to this? My breathing pattern gets all off kilter and I’m short of breath too often. I’ve noticed this happens when I’m stressed. I was a hot mess trying to manage my work load on top of planning a wedding and a long commute back in the fall of 2012 because I wasn’t breathing well enough and I was constantly dizzy. I notice this bad habit often surfaces during travel season.

Let’s discuss avoiding this, shall we?

There’s a reason that yoga and general exercise are so popular: you’re taught to fully concentrate on breathing in…breathing out…in…out. Hmmm. So much better! Your brain needs oxygen to keep you moving efficiently, so why practice this only when you’re “on” for exercise? Get in the habit of taking a minute before a presentation, a meeting, or especially sitting in your car as you’re trapped by traffic. Your heart, lungs, brain, and general well being will thank you!

If you’ve read the entire thing, thank you. I’m not even sorry for the long post because too many of us know what stress feels like. We know, for the most part, how to control it. We know these tips already, but do we need reminders of them? Yes. We do. I do! I love and adore this blog of mine because it’s a chance for me to remember how to live the way I want to live. To hold myself accountable by writing it all down. So, most of these tips are really for myself in addition to any of you who can benefit from them.

Hope it’s helpful.

Safe travels, friends!

TOP 5: Tips for Working Remotely

My friend Brenda recently asked me for my top 5 tips on working remotely/working from home. Well my goodness – if that’s not a perfect excuse for a blog post, I don’t know what is! Thanks, Brenda 🙂 Here they are:

1) Get OUT!

Stella

You have a lunch hour…so USE it! I take Stella along for a walk or run most days between 12:30-1:00. That gives me another half hour once I’m back to shower and grab a quick lunch from the kitchen. Easy peezy! We usually only do a mile or so, but it’s enough to get our muscles moving, hearts pumping, and spirits RISING! It’s also a good excuse to see people…you know…to have human interaction. Probably sounds a little weird to say that, but when you go for long stretches of no work-related travel and you’re home all the time – it’s awesome to have little doses of conversation here and there. I’ve met more neighbors working from home than my previous job where I had a long commute. Like Ms. Campbell – she is this precious older lady who lives down the road from us and keeps a BEAUTIFUL garden and front yard. When Stella and I are out, she loves to say hello and tell us about how her children are. I just love throwing little moments like that into my day.

2) Chore Temptations

That sounds like an oxymoron. Right? Who’s actually tempted to do chores?! Well, it actually kinda happens – you’ll be tempted to get things done while you’re home like laundry, dishes, errands, etc. You can totally do it all, just be sure to designate certain times of the day for that. I’ve gone grocery shopping at 7:30 a.m. plenty of times. High five to the Safeway in the Hillandale Shopping Center of Silver Spring! They’re open early. Noon – 1:00 p.m. is also a good opportunity to do laundry, vacuum (haha…not that I actually dooooo that during lunch, but just sayin’…it’s an option!), and any other chores that you’ve been needing to get done. Then there’s the whole lack of a commute thing! Between 5-6pm used to be when I would sit in traffic, trying not to cry. But now I get to start working on dinner, tidy up the house, or even hop on the local Metro by 5:30 to meet up with friends for a happy hour in the city if I want to! It’s AWESOME!

NSS Coffeehouse3) Coffee Shop Escapes

When it’s appropriate, spice up your week with a morning, afternoon, or even a full work day at a local coffee shop. It’s a great way to be among people again, and simply to get out of the house. Now, I’m on the phone constantly since I work remotely so it’s very important to treat myself to a coffee shop day/half day when most of my phone calls have been made or reserved for other days of the week when I’m home in my office…where it’s quiet. No espresso machine hissing and screaming in the background, no loud table-side neighbors to my left or right who will audibly overpower any attempt at a phone conversation, and no name calling from the Batista who has drink orders up at the counter:

“SUSAN!….SUSANNE?….SUUUUSAAAANNE!”

“Emeeeeiltalnooh?….Emil……Emaa….ummm…..MOCHA LATTE WITH EXTRA FOAM!?!?!!?”

…which is why it’s good to keep those visits numbered. But when you do decide it’s a good day to plug in your headphones, plan your work travel efforts, crank out emails, and go crazy with your fancy excel spreadsheets – then it is SUCH a treat to be among people in an environment like that again. My favorite place to go in the Washington, D.C. area is Northside Social, located in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, VA. Without hesitation – it’s my favorite coffeehouse in the area. For breakfast you’ve gotta try their Cheddar Chive Scones alongside an Iced Mocha. Or if you’re a little hungrier – order their poached egg sandwich on a honey wheat flat-bread with lightly seasoned frisee, cheddar cheese, and thick, divinely smoked bacon. For lunch? No hesitation – their white bean pesto soup is my favorite. It’s served with a fresh slice of white bread – perfect for dipping in the soup. So yeah…it’s definitely good to get out once in a while :).

4) Connect with Coworkers

If you work remotely for a team of people – be sure to reach out to them. This is an effort that took me longer than I expected to get used to. In a normal office environment, I would simply hop in from one co-worker’s office to another and ask questions, verify things, or even let questions come to me as I waltzed in to snag some chocolate/candy up for grabs. It was great! But when you work remotely – you need to be a little more proactively social. I am a big advocate for asking questions ALL the time in the professional workplace. It’s a great way to make sure that your ideas and daily expectations are in line with what’s needed from the team. Taking away that daily interaction presents a few obstacles, but luckily that’s what IM, cell phones, video conferencing, and email are all for! Staying connected will help you to feel like you’re not on an island where your only co-worker is your dog ;).

5) Stay Organized

Keep a checklist every day. Along with that checklist, also be sure to keep track of what you accomplished each week. If you make the transition from working in an office to working from home…try to record your progress of each day. Then put them side by side and holy moly….you’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish with no interruptions!

Working remotely has changed my life. It’s been an absolute blessing to focus heavily on my tasks at hand, have a quiet space to think creatively, and also have the professional tools to stay connected with one heck of an amazing team as well. I’m so grateful for the time that I’ve had working from home over the past year and a half!

Your turn! For those of you who work from home/remotely – feel free to share your suggestions as well! What’s worked well? Or, for those of you who are considering making this kind of professional transition, what questions do you have? Feel free to comment below!

Happy working.

Office Space

Ladies and Gentlemen….my commute is over!!!

Last Friday was my final day working for George Mason University. It was hard to leave Mason…I just adore that university as well as the talented staff that I was fortunate enough to work with for nearly 3 years. But I was also ready to have my time and life back. No more commuting, and particularly no more stressful attempts to balance those very few hours at home before sleeping and then sitting in traffic again the next morning. (Out of the loop?! Check out my last post for an update on what I’m doing next: Newlie News: The “CIA”.)

I’m so excited (and we all know that my usual level of excitement is abnormally high) to start working with the CIA (www.ciachef.edu) in less than one week! In the meantime, I get to soak up this week of my own little “stay-cation” at home, allowing time to reflect on what’s about to happen.

Transitioning from one job to the next is usually both daunting and refreshing. Am I right? But having this week to set up my home office and enjoy a little bit of the easy life is such a treat! This was my day yesterday:

Woke up – made coffee & breakfast (egg whites, scrambled with sautéed mushrooms, topped with feta cheese) – snuggled with Stella while watching Good Morning America (TOTALLY my pick over the Today Show by the way…major new fan of “GMA”) – did laundry – ran 4 miles with Stella – made lunch (power salad! arugula, avocado, tomatoes, broccoli, and sprinkled with chunks of cheddar cheese) when Sean came home – went to Target – came home and cleaned up a bit – made a delicious dinner with Sean (spaghetti with sausage, and a side of garlic bread), watched T.V. … but got restless … so I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch (yep…same recipe from this post: cookie baking time lapse), finished the night laughing hysterically at our new favorite show, “Duck Dynasty.” End scene. 

Today I set up my new “office space” here at home. Now, this bad boy seen below is no ordinary desk – it’s my great-Grandfather’s desk. His name was William McKay, and he was from St. Paul, North Carolina. When my parents recently moved out of their home in Pennsylvania for their retirement in the North Carolina mountains, I was thrilled to inherit this beautiful roll-top antique desk. I’ve jazzed it up a bit to be a little more “Katherine” and girly…but I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to get to work here.

Great Grandfather's Desk

I especially love thinking about how happy great-Grandaddy McKay would be if he knew that his desk would be home to three generations: his daughter’s family, and then her daughter’s family, and then even further to HER daughter’s new family (our little Mason home!). This desk has already brought me so much joy.

Here are a few goodies that I decided to decorate it with:

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I can’t even begin to tell you all how lucky I feel to have this new sense of career independence, such an exciting company to work for, the life I’ve been dreaming about for years, and a chance to celebrate our sweet family throughout our home. I can’t wait for all that’s in store for this life-changing switch.

And on that note…it’s time to get ready for my first ever mid-day Zumba class!!!

Happy living.