Author Archives: SarahN

2018 Goals

Back in 2017, I still used my blog as a place to ‘put’ thoughts.  Not always to publish! And look what I found, a list of things for 2018.  What’s great is that I have updated on a few!

Plan a weekend in Canberra for Floriade

A week or two ago, I picked a weekend and booked an Airbnb.  That’s it, I’m now committed before other things crowd out my calendar.  And I have a car, so that bits easier than in some years gone by. Coincidently, Floriade is the same name the Dutch use for their flower show, says my DUtch friend.

Try rowing, in summer

Not yet, but summer comes again in 2018…

Attempt a monthly ‘browse’ of a book store, cause it makes me happy!

I haven’t really done this.  But what I did do, was ask for Christmas to have a membership to a bookstore.  The upside is free entry to book launches and talks.  I also get no postage in Australia and a discount, but given I seldom buy books, I’m not too fussed about those details.  I have bought one book this year, and one book voucher.  And I’ve ‘nicked’ a few books from free libraries.

Getting into ordering Who Gives A Crap toilet paper

The reason I didn’t do this sooner, was that they come in BIG boxes and now I have a big home this year, I’m a bit better at storing them.  They were set up for auto resend, but when I got the reminder, I was a LONG way from running out of toilet paper, so I pushed in out more.  I’m pleased I’ve gone ‘plastic free’ on one more item.

Set up composting at my parents/my house

YES! I ended up with a worm farm for my birthday.  It lives in the garage. After the period of using Bokashi in the loft, I can tell you, the worm farm is way less smelly!

Grow a garden!

It took a while to get going, and only my parents return at Easter gave me the kick in the butt to get onto it.  But I’m please to have five vegetables growing now.

Something is eating my broccolini

Cabbage is also tasty to the slugs

Overwhelmed by work

Another archived draft that was never published, in late 2017.  Based on my career change lately, I feel it’s topical to share this now.

I’ve blogged in fits and spurts for a number of years, and it all started due to having a lot of idle time at work.  Whilst I’ve remained with the same employee, I have let this blog take a back seat and really seen my career grow and change in the past few years.  I largely don’t blog about work, but if you are interested, I have a smallish collection of tagged posts.

In early 2014, I did a six week period ‘acting’ as a manager, and from there, other opportunities unfolded as my company (six months as a manager of a small team in late 2014) saw many restructures and many generations of staff leave.  I was permanently appointed as a Field Manager in April 2015.

In those to two and a half years in the role has been all elements of managing field staff (here’s the ‘one week in‘ debrief, and ‘one year in‘).  They are powerline workers and labourers who install poles.   Overall, I think the job is a fantastic fit to my skills and my personality.  I like being involved with ‘day to day’ works.  I love that we do emergency response.  I like that I have such diversity in my role: from chairing interview panels to assisting with logistics on setting stock levels or appropriately scraping materials, managing a huge fleet and the renewals/upgrades/returns.  Days rush past and I can nary remember a time when I could draft a blog post in working hours!!

But wow, of late, I’ve been overwhelmed.  Where 2015 and 2016 saw reductions in field staff, and that was brutal and destabilising, 2017 is the year of reductions from all the supporting staff.  There’s been wholesale changes to sections like: training, HR, fleet management, engineering & standards and clerical support.  As an organisation of thousands, I believe have ‘subject matter experts’ in areas like that, REALLY help.  They can make business wide decisions or at least ensure consistency.  They can have specific knowledge.  They can negotiate quantity discounts.  However, with every in a full time employee comes from ‘business savings’.  Sometimes, what that means is pushing some of those tasks to the regions.  Now, I do things like

  • scan and file log books into a centralised system (but only one type – heavy vehicles do TWO log books everyday)
  • updating what was fixed & when.  Previously a paper form went to someone else to process.  I knew those people – they used to get SO bored!
  • write interview questions, complete inordinate additional tables/forms to appoint and wonder why it takes from April to August to get a job even CLOSE to filled

Everything seems to take so long.  And be so hard.  Every decision or email seems to need a handful of people included.

I keep thinking if I do more, I’ll be on top of it.  More will be achieved.  And… I mostly succeed, stuff gets done, things improve or move forward or change for the better.

Then I realise – I let work take all of me.  I literally get annoyed when a friend/date asks me when I’m free during work time.  In my mind, I’m sometimes indigent they’ve also interrupted my day with yet another demand.  How could I possibly predict if I’ll have ANY energy left on a week night to meet with them.  Then I resent that I crowd my weekends with ‘have to dos’ with chores to keep the next working week afloat.  I actually ‘worry’ I can’t socialise as I won’t get the week ahead prepared and chaos may descend.  It’s ridiculous.  This is NOT how people live.  People actually cook and prepare every meal fresh; not batch cook on a weekend or live off ready prepared freezer meals.  Or is that a ‘should’ – I listened to a podcast today and the presenter admitted he doesn’t cook, and I didn’t think he was a bumbling non-adult.  He just… didn’t. Doesn’t (Well he does now, it was an ad for Blue Apron, but anyhow).  Who knows how he feeds himself and his health.  That’s it right – I worry.  I worry I am not eating healthy ‘enough’.  That my convenience meals are generating waste (which long time readers KNOW I hate).  Some of my errands and chores are adding to the burden on weekends – needing to go to a bulk store, drop off compost, drop off soft plastics, return books to the library.  But none of those will I give up, as I really DO feel they align to what’s important to me.  But I resent that they are seemingly taking up time I could have fun in.  Time I could enjoy with others.  And I blame work.  Well, I blame me.  I stay back an hour or two to get some more done.  I know I have a commute, and really, without it, imagine!  In the past few months, I have pushed myself to exercise more and overall, I can’t fault that decision.  I just need to find a balance between work – exercise – life.

Does your work gobble up your life? How do you stop that from happening?

Getting into the manager groove (in 2016!)

From the archives; drafted but never published. The guys did their training in April 2016, so I expect this is from early 2016!

Some will remember the first time I stepped into a management role in February 2014.  I was really struggling with the influx of communication and how the heck to get people to do stuff.  It was a six week stint, and by the end of it, I had a better handle on things, and really did appreciate readers advice.

Two years on, I’m permanently appointed as a manager.  I started the role just after Easter in 2015, with indirect and direct reports in the vicinity of 75!  It’s hard to imagine now, as that number has seen a number of staff have their volunteer for redundancy.  I’d say my ‘count’ is closer to 45.  I appreciate that everyone who is at work now, wants to be at work.  For a long while, we were struggling with demotivated people who just wanted out!

Moody shot!  All the photos I took when I was working, died with the return of my work phone & iPad

Now, the business is still talking about more cuts, and I can’t see how – not when I look to my team.  We all just hope they’ll find cuts elsewhere.

Despite further staff needing to go, the business has allowed some opportunities for people in the team to develop, train and improve their skills and income. It gives me the greatest pleasure to work one on one with staff and see where they’d like to move long term or how they’d like to develop.  It’s incredibly strategic – working out ‘who goes where’, trying to get people to where they want, but also develop people in time to fill holes in the business.

I’ve shortlisted applications, I’ve interviewed, and I’ve short listed for appointments.  Telling those who haven’t succeeded is hard – and so many people just take it on the chin.  Others, whinge and think it’s unfair.  The best response are those who are mature enough to see there’s somewhere they need to grow.  I’m learning to be better prepared to have and give that feedback.  And with each pass through the system, I learn how to better equip applicants so they can shine in their application as much as they do day to day.  Running a ‘job readiness’ course has made a world of difference to the quality of applications.

Early next week, I’ll announce some of the most long sought promotions.  For SO LONG they’ve wanted to be a live line worker – working at high voltage without turning the power off!  It’s as technically challenging as it can get, and it’s financially rewarding.  It’ll topple the apple cart – as there are some stars that have silently risen.  There are some candidates who have misplaced confidence.  It will be a undertaking to deliver the news with the sensitivity it will require.

This is a lot of words to say – I love the job.  I love developing staff.  I love seeing people grow.  I relish the day they eclipse me!

A new job

First – it takes 2 hours to download my past content and the NBN (the government’s National Broadband Network) isn’t stable enough that this hasn’t dropped out on any of my countless attempts. So… yeah, maybe I need Starbucks or similar? A work in progress, this blog revival!

Right, so as to the blog title: after nine years at the same electricity company (where I went as an engineering graduate), I started a new job today. My new job is within the NSW Government, but still related to electrical engineering.

Desk photo, complete with standing desk contraption

Upsides

  • chose my own start and finish times. Today, it was 8:30am to 5:30pm
  • setting an alarm to wake me the same time I usually started work
  • corporate office style job, so I can wear dresses and skirts and NO ugly hi vis orange!
  • their IT support seems to be quick and responsive
  • I have a BRAND NEW iPhone which was completely unexpected (I didn’t expect a desk based role would necessitate a phone, nor such an up to date model!)
  • I was paid out my long service leave accrued in my past job, so a lump sum of savings onto my mortgage

Downsides

  • the way I was hired means I don’t have annual or sick leave
  • my previous employment put 14.5% of my salary into retirement savings, this company does the legal requirement of 9.5%
  • getting home in the dark, with sore feet (as I now walk 15 mins to the station) and then trying to feed a dog in the dark and hurting my finger on the washing rack…

For consideration

  • I no longer have a team. In the past three years, I had a handful of direct reports, and indirect reports from 30 – 75! So you can imagine having no reports is VASTLY different
    day one was all about drafting responses to customers on behalf of a minister or similar, about concerns and issues with their electricity company. Writing doesn’t worry me, but it is a HUGE change
  • The ‘workflow’ is all managed through a computer system I used in my last job, but they use it to a far greater sense. The transition has been easy and made me think ‘why didn’t we use it like this, instead of endless emails?’
  • Overall, I found my work day fine. I don’t think I’ve made a crazy mistake. I do a little bit begrudge my desk position and fluro lighting, but it’s day one, who knows what will come with time! The office is lovely and close to the train station at the other end. Maybe I’ll try the ugly tread of ‘walking’ shoes for the commute. And work on doing more chores and outside tasks in the morning light, as there’s none in the evening.

There’s definitely scope for me to learn: more about the legislation. More about gas and the pipelines. Get to know people in all the electrical industries that can assist in my response writing. And of course, there’ll be other tasks for my job, it’s just the ones I was involved with today.

Any questions? Any words of wisdom?

Regular readers…

I’m trying to work out how to upload my existing content and resume usual blogging… stay tuned!

Pottery Wheel classes

As regular readers would know, I keep and use my bucket list to enrich day to day life.  To do things out of the ordinary or things I’ve ‘never’ done.  One of the simple experiences was to trying ‘throwing clay’ or making pottery on a wheel.

All my school art classes focused on making clay items out of a coarse, dark brown clay that was quite rough.  You could never achieve the smooth surface of modern ceramics.  Cross hatch and slurry and coiling to build a vessel just didn’t excite the imagination the way the movie Ghost did!

The exterior of the Pottery Shed in Surry Hills, NSW

For many reasons, I’ve decided to take four weeks off work to reflect on my career, but also to pepper this time at home (and not travelling overseas) with some enjoyable activities I’ve ‘always wanted to do’.  So I booked three pottery classes, which start with using a pottery wheel, followed by trimming (making the foot of an item) and then glazing.

There’s a few places in Sydney you can do it, but I chose Surry Hills.  It is ‘my’ part of town – not too far from where I have often lived.  I also liked the chances it was more of a diverse age range, as I feared some daytime, weekday classes may be populated by recent retirees or stay at home mums of teens in private schools – I know, I had STRONG ideas of who might be in my class! In the end, my class was about a dozen, and I’d say the majority were my age, I think one group of three girl friends, two couples and one older woman.  The instructor was a young man, and he did remarkably well teaching us the three steps without once stepping into any innuendos.  He also was incredibly perceptive to our needs for encouragement, guidance and help.  Our searching eyes as things went off kilter, or didn’t quite look anything like we’d hoped!

The unsullied wheel

I loved that the class started with mentioning that there’s minimal waste – if we got ‘over’ our clay or what we made it can crumble and remix with water and ultimately be reused.  Woo hoo.  Of course, once it’s fired and glazed, it’s a different story, but it was nice to know we weren’t wasting in the learning phase on the wheel.

They are missing a graphic or two which were ripe for innuendoes

The clay was wonderfully silky and smooth on the hands too – though also, I was alarmed as how much of the clay did come off on my hands, and bewildered that my huge lump was whittled away – sometimes making something a lot smaller, or finer, than I’d initially envisaged.  I think beginners ultimately need to be guided by whatever their hands form, that starting with an objective in mind!

My handiwork

I return a week later to trim them, and a further week will be to glaze them.  Interesting, there’s not set structure in doing the three classes, which means there’s options: you can come and glaze some existing pieces.  You can pay to have your piece trimmed for you.  All sorts of variations for the busy and time poor.  I have no need or intent for these bowls, but a friend said she like them, and they’re as good as hers now!

Have you tried a pottery wheel?  Where you any good at it?

Screen free week

I recently completed a screen free week.  Here were my rules:

  • Monday to Friday (coincidently Friday was a public holiday)
  • aim for less than 30 minutes of use of my phone per day, measured by the app Moment
  • no computer screens
  • no TV screens

How I made sure it might work, were doing things like

  • creating a paper calendar for the few weeks beyond the screen free week
  • turning off ALL notifications except conventional text messages and phone calls
  • turned sound BACK ON. Usually it’s on silent with vibrate, but now I knew if I got a call, it would be important
  • warn near and dear – people I chat to regularly, that they could call me
  • hand wrote a list of 30 questions I’d seen online, as a journaling exercise.  Hardly used them.

Did I pass?

YES I DID!  Here’s the image of the app I was using, and how I did.

I should outline a few things I did allow and weren’t captured by that picture

  • I listened to podcasts in the later days, using another phone which doesn’t use the app.  But I just listened
  • I looked up on recipe on my laptop in the whole five days, and that would have added to that time
  • I helped the parish office with a certain task, and so jumped on their PC for a short stint to update a spreadsheet

Honestly, it went well.  It resulted in my reading two novels, the Economist magazine cover to cover in one sitting, and a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle!  Plus lots of socialising that was long and uninterrupted.  There were a few junctures that challenged me: I opened a bank account specifically for the flowers I do for the church. When I had the account details, I wanted to email the people who needed it straight away! Instead, I waited a day til I knew I’d be in the parish office, and then asked the administrator to send it out to who needed it.

The state library

Another time, I was to meet someone at Coogee.  Usually, I’d plug this into the GPS.  Instead, as I was told to take my time, I drove to Bondi and then just kept heading along the coast, hoping that after Bronte, somewhere, was Coogee.  It was!  And now I feel I know more, geographically, about the beaches of Sydney!  I did use the GPS to leave much later in the night, and the dark, but only as far as a main road, and then off it went.  I also used GPS to get from one suburb to another – I’m not used to the cross country nature.  The route there was madness, the route home was super sensible and simple.  Face palm!

I really loved my close friend rang me and checked in.  It was super touching.  My parents, oppsy, weren’t warned and had some time sensitive things to sort for them (having just relocated).  In the end, it wasn’t a problem, the item was found with them, but much back and forth!  My brother lives with me, so I was confident that he was an avenue for them if there was a true need to contact me. Instead, I checked in once or twice a day with their communications, replied, and called it done.

Ideally, I hoped the digital silence would leave space for an epiphany about my work and career.  I can’t say it appeared, but on the Saturday following this screen free week, I had two fortune tellings and debriefed with friends, and perhaps that’s helped plant some seeds…

How do you do with screen time?  Do you have limits on yourself? Do you use an app like Moment to track the time you do spend?

Cambodia

For the week after New Years, I joined my friends for two nights in Bangkok and four nights in Siam Reap.  They has been in Vietnam prior, and continued onto Phuket.  I probably couldn’t have articulated why I wanted to go to Cambodia, but I am glad I did.  It has a very laid back feel to it, and feels still a little unspoilt.  There’s countless hotels, of the 4-5 story size, with strong European influences.  January is the dry season, but being South East Asia, it was humid and hot.  It always is!

Cambodian’s seem to be very capable basket weavers, and I think they were used somewhat for fishing, not just as a decorative food serving device. This tree was at the airport

Does this not look like bliss? The bikes were used, but the pedal taxi was merely decorative

Despite it’s name, it was incredibly tame compared to similar streets in Bali, Phuket or similar.

A remork is the Cambodian’s answer to a tuktuk. Usually a scooter with four seats, though the rear facing back rest could fold down and then your suitcases or other transportable items could fit

A canoe idling at the rear entrance to Angkor Wat. I think these are traditional, as I saw one in the man made lake at the resort too

Approaching Angkor Wat from behind

This etching demonstrates how work on Angkor stopped when a king died. So there’s lighter etchings in the top areas, compared to around where his hand is.

Angkor Wat from the front – the light is all wrong, so I am thankful we started by seeing it from the behind

To the left is the very common etched pillars, which to an electrical engineer like me, looked like insulators we use on poles! We saw glossy stylised versions at the airport – what a great room divider

The brighter/lighter head has been replaces or restored. These figures were also repeatedly etched on the walls in Angkor Wat

The concubines… which is Cambodian is a word that includes ‘sara’ so it sounds like I’m partially a concubine?

Side profile of one of the smiling buddha’s at the second temple we visited – it had 49 pillars, all with a face etached on the four sides

Lotus flowers were everywhere, with the petals folded in various ways. They seem to be the national flower

When the humidity was too much, or after a work out 🙂

Inside Ta Prom – a temple overtaking by trees

The silvery trunks of trees growing

Nature always wins

It’s hard to know if the rubble was a result of nature, or humans

Cambodia had always been on my bucket list, as I’d been to it’s neighbours: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam.  The bulk of the holiday was relaxing and eating and drinking, we saw all three temples in one day, and that was just enough for us 🙂

My parents home is a library

I thought I would take some photos to demonstrate the quantity of books in my parents house.  All of them, I would expect, are read.  They aren’t for show, or nostalgia – well I’m sure some stay from a nostalgic point of view, such as the ones on antiques, surfing and teaching physical education.

These shelves have started to be sorted into authors – Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Leon Uris, Jonathan Patterson, Jonathan Kellermann, Janet Evanovich. There’s a shelf or two of CDs, but they’re never used anymore, of course!

The other side of the fire place in the formal living room which has doubled as my bedroom. Lonely Planets, Harry POtter, Richard North Patterson, Deighton, Bryon, Robert Ludlum, John Le Carre, Sue GRafton, Robert Harris

Glass fronted bookcase – the bottom half isn’t filled with books, so that’s… something?

And that completes the previous formal living room/part time my bedroom.

Now for the casual living area at the back of the house:

Colour coded – so yes, hard to find things. This was colour coded when this add on room was built. The bottom left quadrant is DVDs

My brother’s bedroom… and also at times the formal dining room.  We have a house that’s very adaptable!

Three of these bookshelves hang out in my brother’s bedroom

Wooden bookcase two – some of my brother’s political reading

Third wooden bookcase, and a hodge podge of left over books

Now into the casual dining area, off the kitchen.

Around the doorway, from the casual dining area off the kitchen

At the back of the casual living room, between the kitchen. There are books everywhere

And for the smallest room in the house, the study, which… also had a previous life as a (tiny) bedroom for my brother.

Study, right hand side. And I recent corralled all the French dictionaries for my imminent daily reading of a French novel

Study book case on the left

Third study bookcase, which was formerly a window to the informal living area (now). Another French dictionary tucked in there

Interestingly, there’s two bedrooms with no bookcases or shelves.  And our three bathrooms are spartan of books… well as far as a permanent place for books!

Can you see from the first three photos why I have felt a little… cluttered?  I’ll be moving into my parent’s bedroom whilst they’re away, and I’ll relish the wart on walls, and blank wardrobe doors 🙂

How does you home compare for this quantity of books, and shelves?

November Summary

November was quite a busy month with packing and moving house.

Culture

Does a pizza making class with some friends count?  I say so!

Even learnt how to ‘throw’ the dough

I also saw a film, Geostorm.   Despite out hopes, it was as sub standard as the last few ‘end of the world’ films.

Romance

I had one date – he suggested a great location – a cafe on the top floor of a gallery by the harbour, but alas it was closed.  Given it was Melbourne Cup day (ie when people day drink!) it was tricky to find somewhere to grab a drink without a raucous crowd.  We did manage to find a cute pub.  We talked easily but there wasn’t a match and we’ve not been in contact since.

Lest this post, and recent posts seem like dating is all misses, I feel like in the past year there’s been two or three guys who really did have something special, and for a short time, things were hopeful and fun and nice.  With those great experiences I remain open and hopeful to finding a long term match.

Work 

Drafting this a few days into December I realise ‘most’ of the work drama started unfolding on 1 December, and it’s not yet resolved.  So I’ll update on that later.

What I can say is: I applied for the same job title/role in another group.  I did a graduate program at my company and spent six months in the group I’ve applied to.  I smashed out the application in one sitting and *then* rang the hiring manager.  He cautioned me to ‘take my time’ on my application as the role will have strong competition.  It was already too late – I’d hit submit!  I was shortlisted to interview – five applicants of the 20 went to interview.  That was the last Tuesday in November, and I found it easy and relaxed.  Given the current occupant of the role will be leaving mid december, I will find out the outcome soon enough.  Being an internal role, I know the other four short listed applicants and will be keen to see which direction they go – as we’re all unique!

Health

Ugh, so this month, I moved house. I planned a Monday/Tuesday off work to move house.  As ‘luck’ would have it, I started getting a light flu on the Wednesday afternoon prior.  So a few days of bed rest, and then some time packing.  It was wonderful to have a run of days off work, and chip away at packing rather than rushing through it.

Bought

I’d have been MAD to buy anything, only to MOVE it.  I literally felt sick being in a shopping centre, and considering packing those items.  Or thinking about where I might store it.  Usually when I move, I do have a handful of tweaks to make, and buy a few useful things, such as towel rails or storage solutions.  I haven’t yet done that here, mainly cause… this house does not lack for hidey holes, but they are largely FULL!

Ate out

Far too much?  I came to love a cafe local to the ‘light house’, and with my days numbered in that area, I made a LOT of visits.

Halloween themed b’fast. THe charcoal actually felt gritty in my teeth

From the same cafe as the spider pancakes – it had rice inside!

Bubbly waffle dessert I shared with my brother on family dinner night out

French toast and the paper 🙂

Loaded waffle fries. The beer is not mine

Read

I stopped borrowing books with the move.  Thankfully, my parent’s home doesn’t lack books.  Mum suggests Stella Rimington, and I really enjoyed it.

So, I finished:

The Build Up by Phillip Gwynne

Present Danger by Stella Rimington which jumped from Northern Ireland and a little bit in the South of France and a budding romance. It’s her 5th book in the series about Liz Carlyle

Close Call by Stella Rimington felt like I was following on from Present Danger, but there’ s actually three books in between!  This book (the 8th) shared some ‘baddies’ from Present Danger, but was a new story.

And I’m pages away from finishing Berlin by Pierre Frei and translated by Anthea Bell. It’s set a month after the end of the second world war, and is a whodunnit crime novel but only lightly.  Each murdered woman gets a extensive chapter on their life during the war.  I have to say, I lost track of the characters as there’s a lot of names that aren’t in my memory.  And there’s some interesting intersections between the women who are killed.  I know who committed the crimes, but was so desperate for sleep, haven’t quite finished.  Who knows what the last few pages may reveal?