Monday, November 14, 2022

Surviving the layoffs

 The meeting started in silence. Leadership was navigating speakers and mics with multiple people on Zoom in the same conference room, which still is an issue even for the most tech savvy. Within moments, the CEOs face was front and center on my screen. The look they the camera was one of intense sadness, steeling themselves for what was about to be said and how it would change everything.

I’m sensitive to layoffs and terminations. Both Grey and I have been on the receiving of these decisions, suffering the fallout with subsequent job hunting, sigma, and (in the case of terminations) shame inflicted by former employers. I could write a novel on bad managers and unethical practices I’ve experienced from those who have managed me. So when the email came about a sudden company wide meeting with less than 24 hours notice, I steeled myself to be once again job hunting in a recession.

And make no mistake, we are firmly in a recession.

Instead, I find myself tonight on the other side still employed, though still deeply traumatized. Despite instruction otherwise, I spent the day finishing some projects and distracting myself for checking things off my to-do list. Interspersed with this was breaks to sob uncontrollably, remembering full well the tremor that comes in dwindling savings, piling bills, and housing insecurity. Flashbacks about navigating unemployment and qualifying for food stamps haunting my thoughts.

Survivors guilt is something I’m use to. I still remember that last round of IVF where all odds pointed to failure, and yet somehow we came out the other side. Of feeling displaced and guilty with the randomness and, in some case, blatant unfairness. I called my manager immediately after the company meeting and together we cried as I thanked her for all she’s done for me over the last 8 months. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye and there’s so much work left for us to do together. We both found ourselves with messages that we were “safe” moments later, yet both shaken and untrusting that we truly were.

Life in Silicon Valley is drastically changing. The tech sector is slashing jobs as VC funding has dried up. It’s only a matter of time before the exodus begins. One silver lining is the support people are giving one another as they find themselves hunting. The sigma of finding yourself unemployed being challenged as people offer connections, recommendations, and general support.

Tonight I find myself experiencing the same emotions I’ve lived through, though this time on the inside looking out. It sucks knowing what being an outsider is like and I sorely wish it wasn’t a reality for so many. I’m also keenly aware that I need to absorb all of this while preparing for another day. There’s still so much to do. Processing the pain of having to say goodbye to colleagues I care about while making plans for the transition that is already happening. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Despite; Because

Where to begin. 

I could blame the pandemic, but the truth is the pandemic ripped off the veil. 

I could blame the political system, but the truth is we were already going down that path. Politicians have just added gasoline and a lot of tinder to the fires.

I could blame work stress and all that's come with shifting into high-gear due to my position (never once did I believe my skill-set would be in HIGH demand), but the truth is the balance has never really existed. It was always unbalanced as a way to survive.

Daisy's passing ripped away those final excuses. The truth is Jaxson's passing started it and her long decline made it clear it was time to confront it all.

So let's begin with that realization that all the myths I told myself (and saw so many others telling themselves) have all come to the forefront and are being busted before my eyes.

Gone is the myth that anything is possible if you just try hard enough. Especially having met too many who are blind to their privilege, that myth is forever broken.

Dashed is the myth that people those most capable are put into positions of power. Too often, those who have no business leading others are placed there as it is assumed leadership is a natural skill. We desperately need to start training managers and those overseeing others on the importance of leading with empathy and curiosity (and unapologetically terminate those who demonstrate they can't)

Edited is the definition of "kindness." Too many confuse politeness with kindness, yet so different are these concepts.

Dead is personal branding. People show you their true selves through their actions and interactions. Those that rely on branding are the ones doing the most damage control.

Despite all the crazy and darkness from the past 2 years, I've learned so much about humanity and the importance of living unapologetically. Because of the crazy and the darkness, the deaths, the loss, the pain, the hopelessness, I'm begun to embrace living well and finding the good.

Despite what I was told, my limits and my failures, I've begun pushing through the fear of rejection to define the life I want. Because of my limits and my failures, I'm finding the road to make that happen.

And despite the greatest of losses and heartaches, with so many losses under my belt, I still have the courage to try, as I learned I am stronger and more resilient than I imagined myself to be because of those losses and heartaches.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Sweet child o' mine


Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East, and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

~ "Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden

You passed on a Monday afternoon. Grey held you in his arms close to his heart as they gave the medication that would help end your pain. As I watched you limp around earlier in the day, I knew you were telling us it was time. I knew you were ready to see Jaxson again.

But with your passing came the loss of my foundation. You and Jaxson were constants during almost two decades of chaos, loss, and change. You both were the sources of unconditional love; the reminder that there is good in this world despite what others may claim.

I never thanked you for loving me when I felt so unlovable. For teaching me what love truly is. You, Miss Daisy, showed me what it meant to be a lady. Elegant, graceful, and beautiful, but tough as nails and refusing to take any shit off of anyone, regardless of their protests and explanations. Your love of adventure meant I'd often find you in the highest and most inconvenient of places, but you refused to apologize for your love of fences and roofs. All dogs be damned if they were bothered.

I knew after losing Jax that you were mourning the loss of your life companion. Watching you grieve was heartbreaking, as you began to slow down and stay inside. Though you clearly loved Grey, Maddy, Teddy, and me, you were also telling us that you were saying goodbye.

Life is so different without you here. Grey and I feel so unmoored as we can't sense you around us. I know with all my being that you and Jax are reunited, crossing Rainbow Bridge as he was waiting for you. But the loss of you renews the loss of him and combines into a loss so deep that it makes it hard to breathe. You were both the angels we desperately needed and now you are gone. I'm struggling to find my footing now that you're not there to walk beside me.

I love you so much, Daisy. You will forever be my beautiful peanut butter cup and sweet girl. I promise to embrace all the lessons you taught me, making sure your wisdom and grace live on. I promise to continue living the way you taught me, despite (and maybe because) of the heartbreak. Thank you for making me part of your family. Thank you for loving me and walking beside me. I will miss you until we meet again.

Monday, September 13, 2021


It started with a headache. Following the hottest day of the year (which claimed someone else's life), we assumed Teddy had heat exhaustion as he complained of a headache and only wanted to sleep. A fever of 100 degrees F made us wonder, scheduling an appointment for COVID testing to be on the safe side. 

The phone call 2 days later that summer camp was closed due to a COVID case peaked our fears. Both kids testing positive made me angry. But it was my positive test, having been fully vaccinated, that left us all in shock. A breakthrough infection wasn't something anyone had planned for.

Over the past few months, I've watched a nation go from celebrating the end of a pandemic to return to lockdown. All the while I've been insanely frustrated as I've been well aware of a huge population that is unable to vaccinate, making them a breeding ground of virus and rapid evolution. Despite this reality, so many have been blind to this risk. And now, we are living with the consequences that many who have chosen to ignore the risks are living as they fill the hospitals.

I wish I could tell you I've been shocked by the developments.

Instead, I've been doing what many in my profession do and have been looking at the data. For anyone who has an interest in COVID, I strongly suggest stalking Trevor Bedford. Especially because of this paper. Cause yeah people, this virus is evolving at a scary rate. Meaning the window for eradication is gone. Meaning we have to figure out a way to live with it.

In light of this new breakthrough realization following a breakthrough diagnosis, the past few months have been about healing and thinking critically about infections and how they impact the body. It took experiencing  Mono-levels of fatigue that I remembered I had been diagnosed with Mononucleosis about a year prior to my infertility diagnosis. That connection alone most would discount, but then there was the HELLP syndrome and me finally landing pregnant on my final round of IVF only after we suppressed my immune system. Never mind the diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease from my copper IUD (and narrow avoidance of surgery with removal of that IUD). And now being a breakthrough case for COVID.

If that wasn't enough, there's recent data about the link between the increased chance of stillbirths with COVID diagnosis. All the while knowing that infertility isn't something anyone is looking into (so much for the disinformation that vaccination causes infertility).

All of this has been crystalizing into a new breakthrough. The realization that not only are we all going to be spending the rest of our lives (and frankly generations to come) with this virus but also that witnessing what happens when others become fed-up with hoping others will take action to resolve a pandemic solely on the assumption it's the moral thing to do. 

Change is hard. Watching others being forced to change, with their lives and freedoms restricted, no matter how right that is, is brutal. It reminds me of hearing the stories of the women whose reproductive plans were completely destroyed, of failed treatments and the losses. Of the complete loss of control over something that many have no control over despite what they desperately want to believe.

It's taken me two months to get back to a point where I feel normal. And I firmly believe that the only reason I'm doing as well as I am is because I was vaccinated. In the aftermath of being a breakthrough case, I see a world that is recovering, though there will be a lot of trauma in that recovery process. Just as there's recovery in the aftermath in any pivoting experience that forces us all to change who we are. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Countering "Dumb"

In 2012, I was given a rare opportunity to teach Developmental Biology at one of the regional schools. The course was offered to me at the last minute, with many logistical issues: incorrectly listed in the course catalog, offered in a lab room instead of a traditional classroom, meaning even water wasn't allowed, and start time at 8:30 am, which was hard for many commuter students. It was a challenge to fill the minimum seating requirements so that it could actually be run. But a massive benefit of all that issues was it allowed for me to incorporate a flipped classroom model, making it more discovery-based and having students actually read primary literature.

I walked away from this course with a few different things. The first being that if you actually give students the tools to dissect primary scientific literature, teaching them how to understand what they are looking at and determine what the questions are, they can have some profound insights. 

But the second, and arguably most important, thing was how these students blossomed under the flipped classroom. Many of these students were first-generation, some were older and most had gone the community college route before transferring to this institution. Though they were science majors, many of them confessed that they had always felt dumb on some level because either they hadn't gone the traditional route, some concepts didn't take root as quickly, or they didn't have the aspirations of those they thought would go on to do amazing things. Yet the students demonstrated they were far from dumb. The issue they faced was one of accessibility, allowing them the tools needed to overcome different challenges and hurdles to understanding the material. 

What should have been a disaster of a course given the initial set up turned into one of the highest-rated courses that quarter (much to the shock of the administration). The lessons I learned have been carried forward. An added perk was I had so much fun, which laid the groundwork for breaking the mold that effective learning only happens when it's painful and repetitive.

Conversations about intelligence are something I face on a daily basis. From meetings with colleagues to discussions with my learners to interactions with Maddy and Teddy as well their classmates and their classmates' parents, the conversations may seem benign but there's always an underlying level of anxiety about how you measure up compared to those around you.

This has come to a head recently with reopening and discussions about how to incorporate lessons learned from the pandemic to future trainings. There are many who clearly are uncomfortable with the evidence that shows how we traditionally teach and train at the post-secondary and industry level is not effective (and actually an insane drain on the system). While there is push to reform the K-12 system (thoughts on that another time), the reality is that higher education needs a complete overhaul to even meet its mission. 

Yet, the pushback is profound, as those in positions of privilege argue to the pain about how all of this is untrue and unfair. The fear of being exposed for being outdated is having an impact on even being able to move forward. Needless to say, I'm currently being attacked and demeaned for building something that works. 

One of the most mind-boggling assumptions/excuses I encounter is the idea that intelligence is fixed: you succeed in life because you are both smart and used your intelligence to worked hard to get where you are. While working at an Ivy League institution, this mindset was pushed, with classes covering the genetics of intelligence to bolster this idea that the students were special due to something that was a birthright. The problem with this messaging is that it is well known that intelligence is complex. It's insanely difficult to measure intelligence, with a lot of backlash about IQ testing and what it actually measures. Additionally, there are increasing bodies of evidence that success in life actually requires a well-roundedness not only in traditional measures of intelligence but also emotional intelligence. And finally, we now have evidence that becoming financially successful has no link with intelligence, meaning those who come from families with financial security initially acquired that security via luck and then used their privilege to try to ensure subsequent generations would also be stable, even though often this is unsuccessful. (Hence the Chinese proverb "wealth only last three generations.")

This past year of lockdown combined with the Black Lives Matter movement and all the suppression that is currently happening has spotlighted that "dumb" is something that's not inherited or fixed. Many educators and thought leaders are exploring Growth Mindset, revealing that almost everyone has the ability to master different difficult concepts. It's just a matter of changing the approaches and even the language that's used to encourage and praise, building a toolkit for learners to be successful. But I also argue that an additional component is access, looking at the environment and allowing equal access to resources instead of restricting them to a select few.

All of this brings me to my current conundrum, as this messaging scares those in positions of power. I spend a lot of time fighting with people who are now facing their privilege, fighting to silence it, all the while failing to deliver because they won’t humble themselves to adapt. This mindset is currently source of so much stress in my life and the insanity I’m witnessing, combined with being threatened by those who have previously been unaware of how systems have benefitted them, makes me want to quit. And yet, one thing that has become apparent is that as much as those who previously benefitted would like to return to the previous normal, the world is greatly changed. 

So, despite the fact I'm spitting mad and fear losing my job, I continue to push for change: Challenging this idea that "dumb" and "poor" are not moral failings, but that "rich" and "privileged" maybe are.

Monday, June 28, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Grumpy

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

A Grumpy Poem

I wrote a grumpy poem

And this is how it goes








That is how my grumps go

From my head down to my toes!

~By Daniel, age 5, link here

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


One of Jaxson's hallmarks was the unique way he would wake Grey and me up early every morning. As a young cat, this was him finding the spot in the hallway where the acoustics were perfect to echo his meows throughout the condo (and on some days, throughout the building). In Boston, he turned his attention to shades, rattling them just right. But the house in California brought sliding glassdoor blinds into his repertoire, adding a distinctive 'clacking' sound as he would pass his tail along them, with the only relief from the madness being to open the door and release him into the pre-dawn to explore.

Daisy, though enjoying the outdoors, was not a dawn kitty. While Jaxson loved the mist and the cool air, she was content to lay in her bed, saving her exploits for later in the day or evening.

All that changed after Jaxson died, with Daisy taking up his morning routine, driving both Grey and me a bit insane.

This change isn't the only thing I've noticed since Jaxson passed. I catch glimpses of a black and white form in the garden most days, lingering in the areas that I regularly tend. Cupboard doors for cabinets he used to explore have been left ajar. And despite my neighbors complaining of rats, we haven't had a single one (note that Daisy is not a mouser). 

Ghosts have been on my mind as of late, particularly with stories about people being visited by loved ones who died from COVID. For some, the experience is terrifying, but hearing about others describe the peace they feel with those contacts, allowing them closure, has been heart-warming and reaffirming in my long-held belief that those we love never truly leave us.

I don't know how long the haunting will continue. A part of me hopes it will be for a long while, even though the sightings and strange occurrences are happening less. For now, all I can do is treasure the signs, hoping that this ghost can sense how deeply he is loved and missed.

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