It started when I was a kid. I would often carry a notebook with me, scribbling everything and nothing on its welcoming pages as I sat alone in a quiet corner of the playground, or – later, when I was older – at the end of a long table in study hall. When I entered the working world, my notebook accompanied me on the commuter train and was my lunch date on the Boston Common. Now, in my life as mom and freelance writer, my notebook is an even more constant companion. Tossed in the back seat or tucked into my bag, it is always at the ready. Whether I’m idling in the pick-up line at school, sitting at the edge of the arena watching my daughter ride, or waiting in the doctor’s office, my notebook is never far away.
I absolutely agree with everything you said! Another point to yours…Never apologize for being great at something AND never blow out someone else’s candle to make yours burn brighter. We’re all amazing at something and sharing that with others may just be our greatest gift.
@Celia.Huddart, doing what she does, working hard and having fun.
My daughter and I were driving to one of many appointments that surround her blossoming weightlifting career. We have an early A.R.T. appointment, then a massage, then she has to go work out. Her pursuit of a spot on Team USA is a job. For both of us. It never occurred to me that I might be raising a future Olympian. I never would have even tried for that. It came to us – which, I now know, is how it happens. They find you, not the other way around. They’re like a sporting spy agency, and they have secret agents everywhere. But, that’s not the point.
We do all this because we truly believe that she’s good enough to have a shot. She, more than me even, believes that she can and will make “The Team.”
If you’re a guy reading this post, you likely knew what I was asking for.
I might be stretching the truth a bit, but if you’re a gal, you likely said, “Huh?”
Why is that?
First of all, let’s put everyone on the same page here. A crescent wrench actually refers to an adjustable wrench that was originally made in 1907 by the Crescent Tool Company of Jamestown, NY. Much like Kleenex is to tissues or Band-Aid is to bandages, the crescent wrench was popularized by the company that first manufactured it.
While that little tidbit of data will only earn you points in a trivia game, it’s kind of interesting information to have – especially if you’re a woman in construction.
I’ve worked in the construction industry for most of my adult life. And while I don’t actually have to drive nails or hang drywall, I have some first-hand knowledge of how to do the jobs.
I was lucky. I grew up working in my family’s summer resort business in Canada. At the time, I’m not so sure I felt lucky; but looking back, it helped shaped so many things in my life. I was the oldest of two girls, and Dad needed help. He always told me that I could do anything any boy could do, and I believed him. Of course, I’m guessing some of that was propaganda just so I’d work harder and not complain.
So, from a very young age, you’d find me following Dad around to each cottage, the boat house and the tool shed. At 8, I begged him to let me cut the grass. By the time I was 9, I already knew how to fix the mower when it was low on oil or the spark plug needed changing. I remember him pulling out tools one-by-one, telling me what they were called and how they were used. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I was learning the “tools of the trade” – every trade.
My family was pretty conservative back then. They wouldn’t pay for something they could do themselves, and that meant just about everything. I learned how to shingle a roof, build a dock, hang drywall (that stuff is heavy!), mix and pour concrete, build a laminate countertop, lay linoleum, fix the plumbing, wire a light fixture, fix a boat motor and paint everything in sight. It really wasn’t fair that I was the only one brave enough to sit on the boat house roof to paint the metal flashing!
It wasn’t as if I was a tomboy or that Dad thought any of these jobs could be categorized as man’s or woman’s work – it was just work that had to be done. I also learned how to clean cottages, to cook meals, take reservations and how to speak to customers – always with a smile on my face and light in my eyes.
The years passed, and I married a man that was just as good with his hands as Dad was. I carried on the tradition of helping with projects around our home – always happy to roll up my sleeves and pitch in. And like a nurse handing the surgeon his instruments, I was always at the ready with the right tool.
Fast forward to my construction jobs – first in commercial and then residential. My employers, and better yet, the contractors at the job sites were more than surprised that the blonde with the skirt and high heels actually knew a thing or two about the work that was being done. Very few knew my background, but knowing the right methods, terminology and tools gave me the credibility I might not have had otherwise. How good it was to be involved with finding solutions to problems, not just hearing about them afterward.
I’ve come to realize that construction, although still a male-dominated industry, is not unlike any other. If you want to fit in, and if you want to be part of the workforce that earns their living doing it, you have to learn the language. That means learning the names of the tools, understanding what they’re used for and maybe even trying your hand at some of the jobs yourself.
My dad and I still believe I can do whatever I set my mind to, and now my daughter believes it about herself too. Don’t let your gender determine where you choose to work. Take the time to learn the “lingo,” and you’ll fit in just fine.
Now hand me that crescent wrench.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear some of your ideas on this subject.
I wasn’t well last week, and ended up feeling dreadfully sorry for myself. Now, there’s nothing on earth can feel quite as sorry for itself as an Irish woman, so it can get quite dark. Anyhoo, as I lay prostrate, bemoaning the state of both my health and my immediate prospects, my lamentations eventually began to transfer themselves to the world outside as well.
And it’s a dark world, lads and lassies. Society is broken. Rent asunder by social media, reality television, celebrity gossip and cat memes. As a race, we have developed the attention span of a hungover goldfish. We can’t concentrate on anything longer than a Buzzfeed article called 21 Things Only People Who Wore Purple Underpants In 1991 Will Understand. And nobody reads full novels anymore.
Always have, always will. It’s not personal. I just don’t like to get up early.
I’ve tried, really. When I was a kid, my mom would literally have to drag me out of bed to get ready for school. Her nickname for me? Elmer’s Glue – because I was always stuck to the bed.
I’ve tried everything from going to bed earlier to cutting out caffeine to putting my alarm clock across the room to force myself to get out of bed. Like most “Night Owls,” I thought it was something I was doing wrong, and therefore, could change. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this “defect” in my sleep cycle is actually genetic! National Geographic has done studies on this and concluded that it’s something you’re born with. What a relief!
Once I established that I couldn’t do much to change my DNA and miraculously become a morning person, I began seeking ways to work around it. In addition to being a wife and mom, I work a full-time job outside my home and have my own business as a freelance writer. Needless to say, without a few time-management techniques, I’d never get anything done.
Here are 5 of my favorite tips:
1. Get Organized.
Anytime I’ve been stressed about running late or not getting to something I had promised, it’s been because I wasn’t organized. With so many things to fit into my day, it’s imperative that I actually write down what I need to accomplish. I find that I need more than a “to do” list, so I put sticky notes on everything, use a calendar with audible reminders on my computer, and apps on my mobile phone to record everything from grocery lists to doctor appointments.
The key to making this work is getting into the habit of recording everything and updating it regularly. It’s easy to become blind to the tasks requiring attention, so when an item is done, I discard the notice and reminder. I also look at my lists before I head to bed at night, so I know what’s happening the next day – especially to coordinate with my family’s schedule. If I don’t plan ahead, I can be sure everyone in the family will be fighting to get in the shower at the same time.
2. Prioritize and Re-Prioritize.
It seems only logical that I have to determine a priority order to my chaotic life. Surprisingly, I still find myself trying to fit “one more thing” into a few extra minutes before work or shaving off some time by multitasking. The problem with that plan is that I always miscalculate how much time it takes to do each task. While it seems simple enough to throw a load of laundry in while I’m waiting for the toast to pop, inevitably I get sidetracked with an unexpected phone call or the smoke detector going off. I ate a lot of burned toast and ruined a few silk blouses before I figured out I had to prioritize.
Now, I check my list in the morning, determine what HAS to be done that day, and work toward getting those things done. Whatever didn’t make the cut that day moves up the list the next day.
While I like to think that I’m Superwoman and can handle everything alone, reality has proven that I’m not, and I can’t. This is still difficult for me to do. I take great pride and joy in doing it all. In other words, I’m a bit of a control freak! In order for me to maintain my sanity, I’ve had to let go of a few things and let others help. Surprisingly, the dishes still get just as clean if someone else loads the dishwasher. There are many things I have to do myself, and asking for help doesn’t mean my Superpowers are slipping.
4. Say No.
This is another challenge for me. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, and I never like to disappoint. If you’re like me, you’ll want to extend yourself to the max just to avoid saying no. Continuing on this path will certainly help you accomplish two things: burnout and dropping the ball on something. Time management is only successful if the amount of work you’re trying to accomplish is reasonable. If you take on more than is humanly possible, or at the least, establishing a standard no one could possibly maintain, bad things will happen. Instead, learn to manage your workload, and kindly defer projects with impossible deadlines to a time when other obligations have been completed. Trust me, your client will appreciate your honesty and commitment to doing the best job possible.
5. Give Yourself a Break.
I know it goes against every logical bone in your body to manage your time by taking a break. I used to think it was crazy to not fill every waking moment with something productive. Of course, I was wrong, and so are you. A groundbreaking study in the journal Cognitionsuggests “that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.” I used to think that my shortening attention span was tied to the fact that I was a night owl living on an early bird schedule. But actually, once I started taking short breaks throughout the day – even just walking around the building for a couple minutes, or the unthinkable, taking a lunch – I found I had more energy and drive to finish the task at hand.
I’ve given up thinking I’ll ever be an early bird. In fact, I kind of like how quiet the house is late at night when I’m up writing my blog. Hopefully, these tips will give you a better perspective on how to manage your time better and be more productive, especially because you’re a night owl like me. Now, if I could just figure out how to get rid of that pesky alarm clock!
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear some of your ideas on this subject.
Well, here goes. I never thought of myself as a blogger. Actually, about two years ago, I didn’t even know what a blog was or how to use it. Boy, how quickly things change when you stop doing the same old, same old and start to explore new ideas.
When I was young, I learned early on that I had “the gift of gab” as my grandmother would always tell me. She had it too and was really proud to sit for hours with me, in her cottage sun porch, looking over the shimmering water, and tell me stories. She shared family history, silly anecdotes, life lessons, private thoughts and words of wisdom. She always told me to never be ashamed of being good at something and to always reach higher than I thought I could go.
I’m a little embarrassed to share that one of the best gifts I received as a child was a brand new Bic ballpoint pen. I know, what a geek! The second best gift? A brand new pad of paper. You see, even then I knew I’d be a writer.
I’d scribble down thoughts and secrets, and mainly, just words. I’m dating myself here, but we didn’t have the internet back then. We had only a few channels on TV, and we always had to be in the house when the street lights came on. Life was definitely simpler back then, but it didn’t seem that way. To me, the world was a large, mysterious place – one that I wanted to explore, or at least pretend I did.
I read constantly. Mostly fiction at first, but as I grew older, you’d find me with my nose glued inside of any type or genre of book. Mom would always yell at me to go outside and play. I enjoyed being a kid, but I also enjoyed being whoever I was reading about. I always thought it would be amazing to write a book like that – the kind my reader just couldn’t put it down.
Time marched on, as it always does. I was a good student (no surprise there), and I, of course, excelled at English. I was always the teacher’s pet and got to know my English teachers well. I was mainly interested in learning whatever I could about writing and storytelling. I learned quickly that if I could write, I could ace every class (I’m still not great with numbers). I even passed that lesson on to my daughter – the same rules apply even all these years later.
Sadly, my career path didn’t lead me even close to being the best-selling author I dreamed about. I’ve spent most of my adult years working in construction, authoring several thousand spectacularly written letters for my bosses, and many, many behind-the-scenes editorials for real estate newspaper sections. I can’t tell you exactly what prompted me to revisit my passion; but about two years ago, after much prompting by my husband, family and friends, I finally took a leap of faith into the freelance writing world.
While it’s possible no one will be interested in the stories I have to share, I haven’t outgrown my desire to tell them. I’ve got a lifetime of experiences that may just be helpful to a few who linger on my pages. This may be a late-in-life career, but I’m starting to realize that a younger me would had a very different story to tell.
I learn new things every day. I hope you’ll join me again, so we can explore all the great things life has to offer together.