Reviving the Projects

It was the never-ending weekend. There was not enough guaranteed time off to break away and truly relax. The perpetual list of to-do items dominated my brain waves. Now, the seemingly forever weekend is over. We are back in the office (for at least 90 days) trying to figure out how to restart EVERY project we were working on.

The momentum was sucked out of the room with a shop-vac. The conference calls and meetings will restart this week. Re-engaging requires buying in that this is essential and good work that we are spending our hours and days investing into.  There is a huge difference between one person missing a week or two on the committee and everyone in your extended network dropping everything for 12 working days.


Trying to re-schedule our project meeting while minimizing any impact they have on the other projects is a herculean task. In the federal government (especially in the land management agencies) we are planners. Back in 2004 I used to be able to tell you my 6 month schedule of conferences and meetings one year in advance. Back then I has it nailed within a week.  Today, it still stands in that scheduling our scoping meetings was done with the entire NEPA process in mind, which was built with consideration for the field season schedule, and the upcoming event that is permitted for a year from now. That’s just how we normally roll.

So right now we are trying to cram it all in back in without majorly damaging other schedules. Yet in the back of our minds is that… it might (probably will) happen again all over in January. It’s been more disruptive than I would have imagined. We will make it happen, as we typically do. When the week wears on, conference calls will be attended. Guidelines will be written. Contractors are back on board. And soon paychecks will show up again in the bank accounts. We are glad to be back and serving America in so many ways.


Back to Work

Well twitter told me I need to go into work Thursday. Then our facebook group confirmed it by posting the official letter from the Department. What on earth happened to the phone tree people?

Every federal employee I have had contact with is thrilled to be going back to work tomorrow. It will be an interesting office atmosphere and I am eager to figure out what is going on and how to re-engage on projects that have been suspended for weeks.


The furlough was not my normal. I shied away from most “normal” activities during this furlough time. Unfortunately, that included schoolwork <eek> since I avoided my normal study places because of the cost of drinks. So now it will be back to coffee shop nights after full workdays. Which sounds lovely.

I engaged in a lot more physical labor and connected to communities in my area. I hope to keep that energy going in committing to exploring more in the local area, going to meetings of like minds, and engaging in the social media communities.

I’m sure more revelations will occur over the next few weeks and I am eager to see what the day brings. For now it’s simply time to call it a night to welcome the morning.

Office Pool- She guessed the 18th

I lost the (unofficial) office pool. I honestly thought we’d be back to work October 7th.  I was convincingly wrong. The latest rumor of those who are “connected” is the 18th we’ll be back and magically Congress will agree on the 17th at midnight. Which figures, since I made an appointment on the 18th to help someone out. He wants some information  about GIS for emergency management and incident management (one of my happy hobbies).


I’ve also heard the 25th and the 30th. Now, I don’t believe it will be later than the 29th/30th because if we are furloughed over 21 working days in a 30 day period they have to re-furlough the lot of us (which is a lot of work and certified letters). Some CFRs set those limitations defining our rules and regulations. But, as tomorrow is the 17th… I am tempted to just run up to the mountains, grab a good book (oh wait nevermind it’s for class), and melt into a coffee shop- preferably with no cell service or wireless.

Tomorrow we’ll all be on alert…


Last Paycheck Till Someday


Today I got my partial paycheck. It really brought it home that I don’t know when my next paycheck will come. It’s day 14 and week 3 of the furlough. Our household will be fine, but somehow that knowledge does not change the totality of my emotional reaction. Since I graduated from college I’ve never spent more than a week or two between jobs. It’s just who I am. This is week 3 now.

This is a new reality.

One week from now I was supposed to go on my first work trip for my new (months old) job. It was a project I was very excited to be working on in a place I’ve never been. This weekend I cancelled the hotel reservations. I hope the new schedule aligns with the stars to allow me to work on it when the project kicks up again. Today is one week from when I was supposed to fly out so it is mothballed  for sure now.

On a day like today there was a singular solution- cupcakes. Maybe congress should try sharing strawberry and lemon cupcakes.

Regaining Control Through #FurloughFrenzy in the #GovLife

My world is chaos except for the kitchen. I don’t know when I’ll go to work next, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make that meeting I just set for  Thursday, I don’t know if I’ll get back pay, and I don’t know the next time I’ll get a paycheck. But the sink is empty, the dishes are clean, and the counter is clear. We call it “furlough frenzy.”


There is just a need for something that we can feel secure about. There is very little that we can trust in terms of schedules or certainty. The overwhelming reaction across the nation seems to be- homes are getting cleaned. My facebook and twitter feeds have pictures of electronics, closets, basements, and other organization projects.

I know in my house I am inflicting a new level of order on the household.  I busted through a project in 10 hours that was originally  slated for weekend projects extending over 4 months.  One furniture swap I’ve been talking about with a friend (another furloughed fed) for 4 years was executed in a number of hours. It has been cathartic to focus on the one thing within my control- where the pieces of our house are placed.

Furlough frenzy projects are low-cost, high energy, short in duration, and at the end of the day we have something to show for our efforts. We don’t know if we’ll have tomorrow to finish up so we break the projects into bite sized pieces. We don’t know if we’ll get paid so we try not to spend much money.

At the end of the day  I collapse in exhaustion.  My husband comes home and wonders what on earth happened to the storage room with the boxes, papers, and furniture he collected over the years. And while not much is going to be in the same place at the end of the day- that kitchen counter will be clean.

Defining the Line between the Job and the Person

Over the past few days an interesting question has been posed to many federal employees. In the OPM shutdown furlough guidance it is stated that a federal employee can not volunteer to do their job. So where is that boundary between who I am as a professional and my job?

This week this was my new motto on boundaries:

Skeletor Affirmations

From Skeletor Affirmations

For all those that think I’m exaggerating… “Unless otherwise authorized by law, an agency may not accept the voluntary services of an employee.” ( 31 U.S.C. 1342.)  This perspective is easy to understand for a position with duties such as collecting fees, writing a NEPA document, or writing a press briefing. But in a position where you just work with software to create  products makes for a fuzzier line. Can you offer software advice? Process steps advice? Is your knowledge tied to your job or you?

Over the years I’ve had what I’ve deemed an eclectic career and many inquiries I receive are due to the totality of my experience, not my current employer. Many times the Rolodex in my head is my most important asset.

Previously, I have lived the existence where when people ask who I am I described my employment. My free time, my focus, my interests all reflected back to my employment and position description. My current position is very prescribed and defined by the hours I am at the office. This  allowed me to draw positive boundaries this week.  I can honestly talk as me without concern.

I am learning  that branding me independent of my position or agency is an important concept to explore. Especially when furloughed.

Coming Out as Myself

I established my twitter handle years ago when I was exploring a new community while working for a different agency. I set it up as a place to interact without explicitly attaching it to my name, any identifiable imagery, or my agency. Now I’ve never lied and I don’t hide. But, in the world I was working in I felt it was necessary to mask some of the connections.

An interesting phenomenon has occurred recently. As I meet people in real life, who I’ve been interacting with on twitter, they assumed I am male.

I choose a generic avatar. I used a generic image of my mascot at the time- due to too much travel it was the Denver International Airport (crazy) Blue Horse. I choose an old high school nickname (which in my school was androgynous) as my screen name. And I identified my major interests… Emergency Management, Geographic Information Systems, and social media amongst others.

I tweet about the government life, emergency management, wildland fire, GIS and in general whatever strikes my fancy. This just so happens that this automatically created a perception that I am of the dominant group- male.

As I became aware of this tendency to classify me as a male I began to automatically choose more gender neutral terms.  As I continue to get involved,  I want to be more authentic. I work for a different agency. Social media is not part of my formal day job anymore.

So I’m coming out- as myself. With a photo that shows my gender.  I hope it is decently received. I’m keeping my twitter handle and nickname. I’ve had many nicknames over the years in various venues of my life and I happen to like it.

So hello, this is me.