Saturday, January 23, 2016

Relationships and Software Requirements

I wrote a requirements list when I was in my early 20’s.  That list was a culmination of what I had learned about myself from my boyfriends over the past ten years.  This list detailed what characteristics a future boyfriend must have.   I knew what I wanted based on my experience life to date.

Within weeks of that I met the man who would later become my husband.  He fit the requirements almost perfectly.  It was uncanny.  

Now I’m in my early 30’s and I’m wondering what I was thinking when I wrote the requirements.  I’ve found myself questioning those requirements.  Did I get it wrong?  Why didn’t I think of the bigger picture with some of those? 

For example, one requirement was that the person be driven in a career path.  I was that way and I did not feel like I could respect someone who did not have drive, specifically to be successful in career.
I underestimated how difficult it would be to be married to someone who put career as such a priority.  

The past 6 months my husband has spent more weekend hours at work than with me, canceled trips and worked months on end without a day off.  It has started to wear me down. Andy Grammer starts a song, “I know you didn’t think loving me meant so much time alone.” (Kiss You Slow).  Yeah.  I didn’t think about that when I wrote my requirements.

Recently, I’ve taken some new responsibilities in my own career where I’m working more closely with developers.  I am being challenged to gather requirements for software projects, and fix issues on projects where requirements were not gathered correctly. 

I have a very smart person giving me advice in the workplace.  No, advice is too polite, this person is pushing me out of my comfort zone with analogies, life stories, and sometimes with comments that make me mad.   He’s changing my paradigm, and at times it’s almost insulting to me. 

He told me “Nobody reads anymore.”- That rocked my world a little, people read (see my point is proven, you’re reading this). But more important to my identity, what’s the point of being a writer if nobody reads? That’s part of who I am, what I do...  That point of view contradicted my self-image. But he got my attention to make a point; a simple user experience in software is much more valuable than a well written, well laid out instructional manual.  (His example, “Do you have to read a document when you order something from Amazon?”  Well no.)

Additionally, he has told me "It’s not like it used to be.  It’s not one set of requirements and you’re done.  It’s incremental releases.  It’s continual improvement." The requirements and scope are never right the first time.  They are changing.  That’s why software developers need better processes like Agile and Extreme Programming.  It’s not about getting it done once and walking away.  It’s about baby steps, slow change, small changes that make a big difference. 

Requirements are not static.  Just because you didn’t see one really important piece in the beginning doesn’t mean you failed.  It means that you have to make an adjustment.  And you’re never going to be done.  There will always be more you can do with a SaaS product. 

So, what does this have to do with marriage?

Ironically, a lot.  Instead of throwing the project out because the requirements weren’t “right”, I see things a little differently now.  It’s not about the old requirements from almost a decade ago, it’s about the incremental changes over the years.  It’s about improvement over time, and it’s never done.

The perfectionist in me is learning to be quiet.  The writer in me is feeling slightly betrayed.  But the smart, resilient person that I am is thankful.  It’s not very often that someone is able to change your paradigm and challenge you to do things you didn’t think were possible…. And help you in your personal life without realizing it. 

I cannot tell you how important requirements are- they are vital to get any project from start to finish.  At the same time, requirements are not that important.  They are untrustworthy if any time has passed.  They are quickly obsolete.  And it’s ok to have planned obsolescion.   Getting things right once is not the goal.

So many of my friends whose marriages have fallen apart say the same thing, “people change”.   My new paradigm agrees that is a constant- people change, but so do requirements.  My requirements list from 10 years ago is obsolete.  I need to focus on some new requirements to improve my relationships. 

First new requirement:

The year 2016 will include a vacation (that doesn't get cancelled) with my husband. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Drop the "E", Let's Talk about Marriage (e)Quality

After the glitter is swept up from the Pride parades and the Facebook profile pictures stop having rainbows over them, there is something a lot more difficult to discuss.  There are many opinions on both sides of the “marriage equality” issue.  People have been unfriending each other and saying terrible things to each other.  Regardless of where you fall, you need to be talking about, thinking about this: What are you doing to make your marriage be of excellent quality? 

Now that gay marriage is recognized in the United States there is a less popular, much more important conversation to address.  Drop the “e” and this applies to everyone on both sides of the fence: Marriage quality.  My hope is that everyone who has posted their opinion on marriage equality will also share their opinion on how to make a marriage great.

When I see people celebrating same sex marriage, I think of what marriage is to me: a faithful, monogamous relationship.  This isn’t a promiscuous, disease spreading lifestyle that is being fought for and argued over.  This is the ability to love one person and to be loved by one person in a mutually respectful relationship.

Marriage is not for the fickle.  It’s tough.  It requires commitment, respect and perseverance. All relationships are hard, but a faithful, long term, monogamous relationship seems scares in this culture.

For those who believe and fight for the sanctity of marriage, heterosexuals need to demonstrate and model good loving marriages.  We also need to model what it takes to be good parents and loving neighbors. Teach your children to love others and treat people with respect.  Stop modeling hatred and start modeling love.  Are you putting the maximum effort into your marriage?  If not, stop reading this and go kiss your husband or wife, really kiss them and tell them how much you appreciate them. Stop getting worked up over other people’s marriage and go get worked up over your own.  Now is the right time and it's even more important now than ever to be a role model of a great marriage.  Don’t worry, you can stop reading here anyway. 

For those of you who are heterosexual supporters of gay rights, you need to be sure you celebrate YOUR marriage, too.  You can recognize that this is not a simple task to cultivate a high quality relationship with your partner.  It’s not always fun to be a good husband or wife.  We need to support each other, (gay and straight) in our marriage commitments.  

*Short aside, I feel like my homosexual friends have put more time, money and celebration into their right to love each other than my heterosexual friends.  It’s time to take a cue from our homosexual friends and celebrate our marriages.  It’s important and worth fighting for. 

For the homosexuals, good luck with marriage.  I welcome you to the “club”, and wish you the best.  Please celebrate the privilege to be married, but understand there is a lot of responsibility and work required from you. Marriage might not be as easy as you thought…. But then again, most of you already know that because even without the Supreme Court ruling, you were already engaging in faithful, monogamous relationships.

Happy pride: it’s time to get to work. 

Here are the things I'm doing to make my marriage better quality
  1. Study: Reread the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and discuss with my husband.
  2. Celebration: Cherish and celebrate the time we spend together, whether it’s eating dinner on a week night at home or going somewhere special, I’m going to make an effort to be sure that my husband knows how happy I am to be married to him. I think it’s important enough to celebrate.
  3. Listen:  I'm learning to be a better listener and to take action when my husband comments that he would like something done. I am also learning to point out the fact that it was done because I was listening to him. 

What are you doing to make your marriage of great quality? 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Volunteer Moore

The volunteer experience I had in Moore, Oklahoma last week was overwhelmingly a positive and beneficial experience.  Any person who is willing and able to volunteer, should have this experience. 
“This is like a visit from Sant-y Clause,” an extremely grateful grandmother told us after we took down a tree in her front yard.  She had been in her home with no storm shelter during the May 20th tornado.  She was on her knees in the bathroom praying when a heating unit came through the roof and landed near her.  She was completely unharmed, but her roof had a large hole in it. The neighbor’s house across the street was being taken apart by a Caterpillar back hoe while we were there.
This could have been my mom and dad, I thought while picking up leaves and debris at an elderly couple’s home. My parents are a decade younger than the couple, but only live a few short miles northwest of the neighborhoods that were destroyed.

In that yard, a college student and I spend several minutes unwrapping a large wrought iron   picture frame from around a tree.  Shortly thereafter, she found a picture of a man holding a baby.  Treasure recovered. The picture was carefully placed in a Ziploc bag and delivered to the local Library.  Later on at that house, kneeling on the ground, I scooped into trash bags debris that included mostly leaves, with a random red Lego and a spool of purple thread mixed in.  The bright colors in contrast to the brown leaves look so out of place, I combed the trash for irreplaceable treasure.  I found none.

It is exhilarating to do yard work with a group of strangers.  A big part of my team consisted of college students in the ROTC program at Cameron University.  They were strong, eager and energetic.  Tearing down a fence and trees went by very quickly!  Every time a branch or portion of the fence was pulled off, there was someone there to pass it to.  Every time a pile of leaves was created by my rake, a person with a shovel and wheelbarrow seemed to magically appear to pick it up.   I wish I had these people around when I was landscaping in MY backyard!

A man dying of cancer came out into the back yard to personally thank and shake the hand of every volunteer who helped clean up his once carefully manicured yard.   
One lady told me that she had been hit by the May 3rd, 1999 tornado, so she moved a few miles away and the tornado followed her. 

You get the sense that the people of Moore Oklahoma have done this before. Everyone pitches in.  The pre-teen girls who served the volunteers lunch were kind enough to remember names and offered people seconds.

This experience restored my faith in humanity.  One of the most spectacular things was that people came from other states.  On my team alone, there were people from 5 states.  I rode in the car with a couple from Ohio, and man from Seattle.  I worked alongside nurses from Fort Worth, Texas and Lawton, Oklahoma. Two men left their families and business in Illinois, packed their chain saws and showed up to help. I met a college student from Southern California who dropped his summer classes to volunteer in Oklahoma for the summer instead.  I met a mother and her two grown children from Kansas City.

The devastation was shocking.  It was like a war zone.  The pictures on the news didn't do it justice. The thing that got to me the most was the children’s things within the rubble.  A red wagon piled on a trashed couch, with drywall and tree limbs stacked on top of it. 

The end of my day was spent in a neighborhood across from the apartments my husband lived in 5 years earlier  The houses were demolished.  The volunteers were clearing a path for the equipment that was going to be used to knock down the houses.  That was tough.  In front of one house, I saw a random serving spoon, a tube of Orajel and a toothbrush.

Here's the group that made it to the end of the day.  
I expected my volunteer experience to be lonely and emotionally taxing to say the least.  I found that I was surrounded by really cool people the whole day.  I made friends, I shared in a team experience, I got some excersize, and at the end of the day, I had a better outlook on life.  The devastation I expected to bring gloom and sadness instead brought hope and a new appreciation for strangers.  
If you have the chance, volunteer Moore!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mouse Tales

Do animals pass knowledge to their children like humans?  I wonder this. I think that they must.  

We have lived in this house for 3.5 years and the only time there has been an animal in our pool is when my husband scared a little bunny and it fell in the pool. I am very afraid of the animals that could be in the pool’s traps.  The thought crosses my mind every time I empty them.

Two weeks ago, the fear I have been dealing with finally came true- I opened the lid to the trap and there was a long tail with leaves all around.  I looked more closely (I have been startled by “animals” that weren’t there before).  There was fur.  I was convinced that there was a giant rat in the pool filter.  I dropped the lid and ran back inside.  I could hear the cat laughing at me in my head.

Upon further inspection a few hours later, I determined that it was mouse, not a giant one, either  My husband had to empty the trap that evening.

Over the next weeks, we had two more mice in the traps.  Each time the mouse was smaller than before. A family who made the choice to build their home too close to the deadly swimming pool.

Why has it been 3.5 years before we had any mice in the pool?  Is it because they pass on the knowledge from generation to generation that it’s not a good idea to build their nest in that area?  Did this family unknowingly make a bad choice?

I still remember the first time I saw a dead mouse.  We were living in Wisconsin and my dad had seen a mouse so we went to the hardware store and bought some mouse traps.  I remember helping him bait them and place them in the room with the wood burning furnace.  My brother had a little “man cave” down there.  He came upstairs to tell me that we had caught a mouse.  I was super excited and I grabbed my dad and went downstairs to find this adorable little white mouse with the pinkest little feet and nose.

Poor mouse.  She was so pretty.  I was upset that I had been excited about killing her-  I wished that we had bought a “no kill” trap and taken her to live her mouse life in an appropriate environment.

I imagine that the family of mice that died in our pool were curious, looking for a better life, a better home.  They chose to make their home close to water and that killed them. Father mouse went out to “get some dinner” and he didn’t return.  Mother mouse went looking for him and she didn’t return.  So baby mouse was forced to go and find his own food.  He too drowned the same way as his parents. Their accidental death was directly caused by their choice to nest near the swimming pool.

I have been reminded over and over that my choices are what determines my quality of life and ultimately my survival.  

In the modern human economy, Darwin’s theory, “Survival of the Fittest” is actually “Survival of the Choices”.  Humans are not dictated by our physical attributes as much as by our choices.  Everyone has the opportunity to make good choices and bad.  As adults, our health, safety and economic class are products of our choices not chances. Nobody else is responsible for these things for us.

Live responsibly.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The philosophy of time scarcity versus responsible contentment

A person living on the philosophy of time scarcity does not realize that they are simply complaining about their own choices and their own lack of understanding consequences.
Most have heard it said that time is one of your most valuable resources. It is very limited.  Each person’s days are numbered.  Time is so precious, that decisions about one’s time are some of the most personal and most important decisions one makes. Some of the most hurtful parts of relationships have to do with how one person chooses to spend their time.
A person living in the philosophy of time scarcity complains that they don’t have enough time (time is scarce).  They feel that they are running a rat race in which they have to get ahead and never can seem to do so.  Several times they feel that “things will get better with just one more activity”.  Or “if I only had more money/time/freedom I would be happier.” So they work really hard to cram as many things into the day, unhappy with the present and always looking toward the future with disappointment surrounding them.
It’s so easy to get into the habit of blaming a lack of time for everything. The truth is that the scarcity of time is not to blame for one’s own choices. One person doesn’t have fewer hours than anyone else.  Reality is that a person can only have so many priorities.  Once the priorities have used up one’s time, there is only so much left for things that are not really priorities.  Those things do not ever seem to happen, even though the person says (and may even believe) that they should.
Here are two examples:
·         Now that I have a toddler, I do not have time to spend with my friends.
·         Because my work schedule is so demanding, I do not have time to exercise.
Next time you hear that statement, translate it to this:
·         Now that I have a toddler, I do not choose to spend time with my friends.
·         Because my work schedule is so demanding, I do not choose to exercise.
Before replying with a smart ass “that’s your own damn fault response”, (even though that is true) think about this: Does that person really want to be “spending time with friends” or “exercising”  more than they want to be caring for their child or excelling in work? Are they just complaining to make themselves feel better about the choices they’ve made?  That person could simply be feeling guilty, but have no intention of making changes in their choices. A person can only truly have a few real priorities.  For example, most people’s priority list includes Family, Work and Religion (in one order or another).  After that, there is not a whole lot of room for all the rest of the stuff. But those priorities are not nearly specific enough to help a person make good choices.  Especially when work and family are pulling one in opposite directions.
Another example of a person living in the time scarcity philosophy is someone who talks of what could have been without realizing that they CAN change what will be.  “If only my line of work was paid better”.  Were you born into your job?  Do you have the choice to work somewhere else if you wanted to?
That complaint is only valid if there TRULY was no other choice.  In most civilized countries, you have a choice what line of work you want to be in, and you probably knew what kind of pay grade to expect when you entered that line of work.  If you are unhappy with it, it is up to you and only you, to change it.
Time spent cannot be taken back.  You cannot return time for a better offer (what could have been). Stop complaining about the choices you’ve made.  If you don’t like them, make better choices in the future.
Rarely are Olympic athletes able to compete in more than one sport.  I can be so much better if I only focus on ONE sport rather than trying to do two and being mediocre at both.
I chose only two priorities.  I am way more specific than “Family, work and God”.  I have two main priorities and everything that is truly important falls within these two priorities:
1.       Give gifts (including but not limited to) 
a.       Spending quality time by traveling with family and friends
b.      Work (If your work isn’t a gift, you should find another job)
c.       Cooking and being hospitable
d.      Volunteering to help others
2.       Spending time outdoors to admire God’s creation, get exercise and be healthy (mentally and physically)
It has taken me a long time to come up with this list, and it changes as I grow as a person.  Choosing those priorities has helped me to feel that I have ENOUGH.  I have enough time to do the things that are truly important.  I am so lucky to have a supportive husband who encourages me to focus on the few priorities that truly matter and not the less important things that do not.
This is what I have found works for me to be content with my time choices.  Next time you find yourself feeling like time is scare; ask yourself what you would give up to have the things you truly want.  And as you commit to things, ask yourself if they roll up to your priorities or not. Be good at few things.  Think through the consequences before making comittments.
Be responsible for your own contentment.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Poem to Mother

From day one, you were there,
Doing all the work,
then stepping aside to let someone else take the glory.

I learned so many things from you,
I grew into a beautiful woman,
and gave my dad all the credit.

I adored my daddy,
Looked up to him,
Wanted to be just like him.

In hindsight,
It is you that I want to be like,
You are the strong woman that I patterned myself after. 

Thank you, Mom, for picking out my wedding dress! You have great tastes!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Open Letter to Friend Re-entering the Workforce

Dear Friend,

Welcome back to the world of work! How are you adjusting back to long days in the office instead of long days at home? Is data entry more enjoyable than laundry and cleaning? I hope you are enjoying these first few weeks back to work. I know it will be a huge adjustment with a long list of pros and cons.

How's baby? Adjusting quickly I'm sure!

Are you getting back into the habit of packing a lunch and avoiding office junk food? I literally walk out of my way to NOT walk past the cookies, pretzels and candy at my office… I am powerless some days, and others I’m just fine with my apple and carrots instead of butter cream icing. Who am I kidding? That apple would taste better dipped in the icing!!

Anyway, here is a recipe for you that I enjoy taking to work.

Whole Wheat Wrap with Couscous:

Put a whole wheat Tortilla in a gallon sized Ziploc and roll it up.
Take about a 1/4 cup of cooked couscous and add 2 Tbs of Wheat Germ place in a microwave safe container. *Optional, add leftover meat or beans if you’d like.
Wash a handful of spinach and wrap in a paper towel.
In a separate container, put cheese and peppers and/or olives *optional add tomatoes, shredded carrots and/or cucumber.

At lunch time, heat Couscous mixture and tortilla. Spread the spinach on top of tortilla to provide extra strength for the wrap. Layer couscous mixture and cheese and veggies. Roll like a wrap and enjoy!

This recipe is extra healthy because there is no sauce/dressing needed. The couscous is moist enough to keep the wrap from feeling dry. This extremely low calorie meal provides a fullness and satisfaction, at least until the 3 o’clock snack!

Welcome back to the world of work! I hope you know that you have made excellent choices in staying home with you baby and then returning to work. Good luck in all you as you set out to find a work life balance! May you be happy in both!

I am proud of you!