WFH or WTF? Diary of the “Working From Home” Silicon Valley Productivity Myth

“From 2005 to 2012, the U.S. workforce grew 3%, and regular telecommuters grew 66%. An impressive 64 million U.S. employees–that’s half the workforce–have the option of working from home part time.”  — From Fast Company Co.Exist
Couch

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” reads the memo to employees from HR head Jackie Reses. “We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.”  — From AllThingsD


Dear Tumblr Diary:

OMG – I am soooo excited to be in my new role at WhizBangMobile. Today was my very first day in the office. I can tell that the team works really hard here – they’re super-bonded and spend all their time together in the office and even outside of it.

And everyone is sooooo nice – they somehow knew to order me my own vegan gluten-free burrito for company-catered lunch without even asking asking (like someone’s been stalking my Instagram – #VeganGlutenFreeMexicanFood rules!!)

I was also invited to play in the team’s ping pong tournament – they’re taking on the Marketing team and it’s beyond awesome that I can bring in that personalized handmade bamboo-shoot paddle that I got at my last company (also in my Instagram – #YOLO). There’s even a spot for my environmentally-and-commuter-friendly folding bike – so cool to “park” my wheels inside.

I can’t wait to see what cool stuff tomorrow brings.

#LoveMyNewJob


Dear Tumblr Diary:

Still loving the new gig, but I’m kinda bummed –  the team isn’t in the office as much as I hoped and so I’m not getting the bonding (or the ping pong) time I was angling for when I accepted the offer (J/k!).  I’ve noticed a trend…there seems to be one or two people doing the work from home (aka “WFH”) thang each day.

It’s a little…umm…odd. They send out almost uncomfortably detailed emails about why they aren’t in the office. Like, too much detail??

E.g.

Hi team,

Unfortunately I am not feeling well today. Feeling very weak and dizzy. Need to take rest and take many medicines which makes me feel sleepy. Hopefully tomorrow, I should be able to come to office. But maybe not. I may still feel weak and dizzy. Wish me luck! 

Oh, I might be able to work later today. Will be  available on chat/email phone then. But still may feel weak and dizzy.

Later,
D

Maybe I’m just being picky…he’s probably got that nasty Guatemalan-Peruvian-Mexican throat bug that’s been going around the New England states.

#StillLikingIt


Dear Tumblr Diary:

After biking in a foggy rainstorm today and nearly getting rundown by no less that three Priuses (Pri-ii?), I arrived at the office to find that I am the only person on my 10-person team here.

Since I couldn’t even find my boss, I asked the receptionist if I was missing an offsite meeting and, after he looked up from playing CandyCrush (soooo last year) on his S4 (also soooo last year), he stared at me blankly, looking confused. After a super long pause he finally said, “Dunno, but I’m supposed to put a lunch order in for everyone on staff today so, like…?”

When I logged into my Mac, I noticed a string of WFH emails from team members – that explains it, I guess:

—-
Hey all,

I’m going to be WFH today due to sheer and utter exhaustion from all the work I’ve been thinking about doing this week. I need to be well-rested for my personal life. Just let me know if there are any issues that need to be tackled.

~W
—–
Hello team,

My GF got a Wednesday part-time job. I need to drive her to work and will WFH afterwards. For the next 3 days, possibly. 

—–
Hello everyone on the team,

With my recent travel to Bakersfield and the huge weather difference there from Sunnyvale, I had very high fever and cold in the night. Had to go to ER yesterday.
I am working from my bathroom today when I’m not vomiting.

Very truly yours,
D
——
Bros and hos, aka my teammates – You all rock. Totally. So much that I need to get a break from your awesomeness and throw back some top-shelf Margaritas (no salt – yeah, baby!) See you mañana!
Rock on, Lance

PS: I’ll be on Google Hangouts, Skype, ChatRoulette, and the usual “other” online spots (wink) if you wanna video chat (wink 2x).

—-
All,
Will work from home this Wednesday and Friday to give my body and my back a break.
For those of you who didn’t know, my regular daily commute is ~ 4 hours each day that makes me very tired each day for work.

With rain it is 6 hours.. I hate rain.

Whatever,
M
—-
Hmm…could this really be just about the weather or is there something else….??? Nah, everyone here works really hard and loves each other. Must be just a fluke.

#FeelingLonelyAtWork


Dear Tumblr Diary:

Okay, this is just getting to be too much. It’s the third day in a row that I’ve been the only person working in the office. This place is a freakin’ ghost town from 9 to 5. I feel like I’m the only one who makes the effort to come in.

The WFH log is getting more and more…well…here’s a sampling; you be the judge:

—–
Hello again everyone on the team,

I woke up today with a sinus pain that made me think I had a brain injury when I went to Bakersfield as there was turbulence on the plane.

I am seeing double and sometimes triple. Also I have constipation. ;(

My mother says to go to the ER again because I may have a concussion or a bowel obstruction. I will keep you posted on any scans and tests and will send pics.

Very truly yours,
D
——
Dude Bros —

I’m having a killer time getting my work done at the beach with my dog hanging out with me (he’s a serious chick magnet). I’ll be hangin’ on the line in the usual spots (get it – on the line? Like Vince Vaughan in that Google flick from last year?) I crack myself up!

LOL Lance

——
All,

I will WFH this week to focus more time on the work than on the commute of 3-4+ hours. That is when the weather is good. When it is not good, remember, it is almost 6, sometimes 8 hours in traffic. And that’s if there’s no accidents anywhere along the route.

Thanks for being so understanding because The Traffic isn’t,
M

__
Hello Team,

My GF’s parents are going to arrive from Topeka this morning. I need to pick them up then and prepare tons of things for them. Will work from home once they are settled.
I also need to drop her off and pick her up from her part-time Wed job today and tomorrow. And her parents. 

~~~~
And what’s worse – no one’s ever “online” (or “on the line, Lance”) when they say the will be – they’re all permanently in a state of “away.”

I’m starting to feel isolated.

I’m also starting to feel like the only person who’s doing any work around here….

#Where_IS_EVERYONE_DAMMIT


Dear Tumblr Diary:

I think I may have actually had it. Not only were we supposed to have a huge IN PERSON team planning meeting this morning, for which I brought my favorite vegan gluten-free bagels and soy cheese topping, but we had our first big ping-pong match with the Marketers this afternoon. So I was stuck with 20 bagels going stale and a bunch of gloating marketeers as we were forced to forfeit the match.

I was the ONLY person in the conference room, with the rest of my team all connecting into a Google Hangout and getting disconnected at random times; and of course, no one could really hear anyone else because the sound and video quality frankly sucks hard.

But that’s not even the point. Why is the company even bothering to rent office space if no one ever comes in (no one but me, it seems).

Even Mr. CandyCrush Receptionist wasn’t in today – he emailed in a WFH day (how on earth do you WFH when you’re the company receptionist??? Video cam? Really.)

My boss did stop in today to ask me how things were going (I haven’t actually physically seen him since my first day here).

When I asked him if I could work from home, he got a little uncomfortable and said, “Well, not yet – we really need you to be in the office full-time since you’re new – you gotta bond with the team and learn to collaborate with everyone.”

#WTF_WFH


Dear Tumblr Diary:

Today is my first WFH day. My boss finally relented after I promised, PROMISED, that I’d be online the entire time, collaborating for the full 8 hours with the other team members. images

While I can’t actually connect with anyone online to collaborate (they’re all in an “away” state and no one’s responding to email or What’sApp), I have to say that I’m loving this “WFH” thing. I’m still in my pajamas at 1 pm, haven’t showered, and can watch all the streamed Hulu and Netflix shows I want.

And I feel SOOOO much more productive this way. I mean, I don’t even have to change into real clothes.

Here’s the message I sent out to the team – I think it’s a good balance of “professional meets whimsical”

Dear truly awesome, hard-working rockstar teammates,

I will be working at home today where I plan to log my usual 14+ hours of concentrated work. I’ll also be cooking a full vegan turkey dinner while listening to Shakespeare on Pandora (haha! J/K about the dinner – it’s full vegan chicken!)

Please contact me in any one of the following ways:

Skype: WhizBangMobile_MyTeamSux
G+: BiteMe_WhizBangMobile_Team
AIM: Who uses AIM???
Email: SRogers@WhizBangMobile.com
Email 2: SRogers_Hates_WhizBangMobile@gmail.com
Email 3: WhizBangMobile_Sux@gmail.com
Twitter: @FakeWhizBangMobile_Sux
Mobile (text only, please): 415-555-1211

NOW I really feel like I’m part of the team here!

This is going to be such a great LinkedIn profile builder job for me!

#LoveMyJob_WFH_Rules

Just a Small Town Girl

Every day I talk to people who are amazed that I grew up here, in the Bay Area. Honestly, I really feel like a small town girl.  (Apologies in advance to my family who are featured in some of these photos.)

juliebigwheel I grew up in San Carlos and back in the day, we didn’t lock our door, we knew all of our neighbors, and the kids stayed outside until it got dark. I rode this big wheel all the way up and down the block for hours without seeing my parents. I did however stop and visit with most if not all of my neighbors from my very best friend to the man we called my surrogate grandfather that lived mid-way down the block.  We played football in the middle of the street and my brother taught me how to ride a bicycle. (Yes, with no helmet!)

When we (or my Mom) needed a break, we went to one of the local parks. We played in the  sand (not tanbark or cushioned pads) and digested whatever parts of it that made it into our mouths.  We flew and jumped off the swings and played on the metal based slides. We basically ran amok so the mothers could sit on the sidelines and chat.  They somehow managed to keep one ear tuned into our cries or complaints but mostly told us kids to, “figure it out.” Some 40 odd years later, we are still good friends with one of these families. I have actually shared more than 30 Thanksgiving meals with them over the course of my life and my food expectations are shaped by having “the best Thanksgiving ever,” year after year.

michaelfarrelsBirthdays were wondrous things that included gifts, and goodie bags and if we were really good, a trip to Farrell’s. (Note my brother’s birthday is dangerously close to Christmas, hence the hat) I think these were all over the place but there was nothing like getting the giant bucket of ice cream and toppings delivered to your table by trumpeting, drumming food-servers. It was like your personal “American Idol” moment where the spotlight was all yours.

Then there were the activities. It was mostly organized sports but also Bluebirds, Scouts, music and swim lessons. A myriad of community driven opportunities to keep my brother and I engaged  for hours. (Mostly so we didn’t smack each other during the summer months.)  I couldn’t wait until I was big enough to go to the local high school and take a swim lesson from a teenager! If I was super brave, I might jump off the diving board. This photo was taken at San Carlos High School  which has since been razed to make way for more single family homes.

As I got older, we had more interesting adventures, including visits to Marine World Africa, USA. This amusement park, now located in Vallejo, used to sit in an unincorporated part of Redwood City. If the fading Polaroid photo had more of a background, you might actually recognize it.  For the few years that I worked at Oracle, I took a large amount of joy looking out the window and remembering that the elephants used to be right outside.  Yes, that’s right a variety of tigers and lions and.. well not bears, used to live on the land that has since been taken over by Oracle among other technology vendors.

There’s always been those five really hot summer days when the peninsula hits triple digit temperatures. Just like every other family, we would climb into the station wagon, where my brother and I would sit in the waaaay back with the dog (again – no seat belts, or car seats). Then we’d inch our way over the hills to the coast.  We’d rush into the water only to run out five minutes later when our feet had turned blue from the freezing ocean.  We built sand castles, buried each other and searched up and down the beach for our favorite sea-shells. Sunscreen? What’s that? We tracked all that sand into the station wagon and stopped at the A&W for root beer and hamburgers on the way home. This was the “drive-in” A&W – not drive-thru.  At this A&W, someone came to your car, took your order and delivered your food to your window. Imagine that. You had those tiny trays hanging off your car window that no one used. My Dad would pass back the food and we stuffed our faces. This added french fry detritus and crumbs to the sand until you couldn’t tell which was which.

So, I laugh when I hear my friends tell stories of their “small town” life. They are more like my childhood than most expect, but they usually involve a lake instead of the ocean or some geo specific sport like field hockey. The net-net, I feel blessed and cursed at the same time. I love everything about the Bay Area except how ridiculously expensive it’s become to live here. But that point aside, honestly, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.  (I’ve tried.)

5 Summer Survival Tips for Busy Moms (and Dads)

Kid and SprinklerTell me if this scene sounds familiar. You’re about to join a conference call and have spent the last 15 minutes beseeching your children to please, please keep the noise level to a muted roar. You join the call and just as you’re reviewing the slides you’re about to present, you hear it – the unmistakable and incessant bickering that children seem to reserve for when their parents are desperate for quiet. This nightmare doesn’t just unfold for working moms, as this dad’s hilarious account of being interrupted during a live radio interview by his arguing kids proves.

In my case, my home office is directly off the landing of the stairs down to the playroom. It’s incredible how a stairwell can amplify the sound of children hollering. And I will freely admit to having muted the phone while threatening my kids to keep it down or else!

Balancing work against the needs of children is a given for a working parent, but the summer months present a particular challenge. For all that school introduces stresses and pressures, it also provides structure for kids and their parents. If you don’t really need full-time childcare during the school year, you may find yourself at a loss during the dog days of summer.

Here’s my summer time survival guide for busy working moms. Disclaimer: my kids no longer require constant supervision, so these tips are geared toward slightly older kids. What are your top tips?

1) Add Structure to the Day

My kids like structure. I’ve found that giving them a short list of things to do on any given day can make a tremendous difference in terms of household harmony. I’m talking about simple things like, a) bring your laundry up, b) clean your fish tank (before the fish all croak), and c) take that book back to the library. Simple chores that require cooperating with siblings are an added bonus.

2) Let ‘em Be

Yes, I know that my first point was about maintaining a measure of discipline. But a little goes a long way and it’s the summer, after all. Let them play in the dirt and be responsible for deciding how to spend their time. Goodness knows they’ve got their fill of responsibilities when school is in session.

3) The Library Is Your Friend

Have you ever noticed how libraries can feel like a wonderfully hushed cocoon? Have you also noticed how calming a library can be for over-stimulated children? Let your kids peruse the aisles of your local library and choose a few books to bring home. Give them a few bucks to spend on donated books that you library might be selling. Then offer a silent thank you when you get home as you watch your kids reading (quietly) on the family room couch.

4) A Little Extra Screen Time Is A-OK

No screen time during the school week is a cardinal rule in our house. It might sound harsh to you but it works for us. When school’s out, this rule falls by the wayside. I figure that if 30 minutes on an iPad will preserve the peace in our house, then that’s a fair exchange. We try hard to keep screen time within reason, but hey, sometimes we fail.

5) Work It, Baby

Make sure to give your kids plenty of reasons to get outside, run around, and enjoy the sunshine (don’t forget the sunscreen).  Kids have seemingly boundless stores of energy. Encourage them to take it outside. I find that if my kids are cooped up inside all day, they’re much more likely to argue, fuss, and fight.

 

Blues Woman ~ An Interview With Bay Area Blues Singer Tia Carroll

TiaI submit to you, for this Silicon Valley Tales edition, the first of what will hopefully be a series of interviews of Bay Area working musicians. I’ll speak with singers, songwriters, band leaders and music professionals in the hopes of bringing a greater sense of familiarity to the vibrant and inspiring musical community that is always hard at work right here in our own back yard.

I recently had the good fortune to sit down with local blues singer, Tia Carroll. Tia Carroll is one of the Bay Area’s most sought-after blues vocalists world-wide. She has traveled and performed extensively in Italy, Mexico, Lucerne Switzerland, Brazil, Estonia and Chile. She has been awarded West Coast Female Blues vocalist of the year 2007 and recipient of the Jus Blues Music Foundation’s Traditional Blues Woman Of The Year 2008 and Band Leader of the Year in 2009.

Q: You were born and raised here in the Bay Area. What was it like growing up in the East Bay?

Tia: “For me, probably not quite as typical for a lot of families growing up in the East Bay. Our family was pretty all encompassing with friends and family, so I grew up eating all kinds of food. Not just your regular American food but, you know, Chinese food, Mexican food, Jamaican food. In such a small place that we were, we grew up kinda worldly. We had a very diverse neighborhood.”

Q: When did you discover that you had a talent for singing?

Tia: “Well, it wasn’t discovered by me. I used to sing all the time when I was really little. When the doorbell rang, I felt like that was the curtain call for me to come running to the door and start singing and dancing. But I didn’t really know or care if anybody liked it or not so I just did it all the time. I’d be in high school, walking down the halls, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. But it wasn’t until my first husband told me, this was back in the late 70’s, “Hey, you have a nice voice. You should be singing or something.” And I’m like, “Really? YOU liked it?!” So, history was written right then. I spoke to a guy I was working with at the time at Granny Goose, he had aband called Yakety Yak, and I said “Hey! Can I come and audition for your band?” He said “Yeah, well…Can you sing?” I said “Well, I really don’t know. But somebody said I could, so can I try?” And he said “Yeah, sure. Come on out and try.” So I went to the audition and everyone in the band was like “Oh my god! Can we keep her?!” So that was the beginning!”

Q: Going back to when you were little, did you notice how people reacted when you started to sing? Do you remember what people would do when they heard you?”

Tia: “(Giggles) Well, I was just a little kid and all I knew at the time was that my parents were mortified most of the time and the folks that were on the receiving end of the show were all smiles. I don’t know if the smiles came from the fact that they knew my parents were mortified or if I was just a really, really cute little kid…or both. I never really recognized at the time that people were just enjoying the heck out of it. I would just see their faces and, depending on what I was doing, people would have that look on their face of “Oh my god!” or maybe a tear would come out or they would just be like “Wow!” and their mouth would just be open. I never really saw that. I would look and I would think “Oh, Gosh! I wonder what’s wrong with her…Surely it couldn’t have anything to do with me!” But as my career has evolved, I began to see that I can actually evoke emotion from people with some of the songs I do or some of the things I say.”

Q: What was it that made you want to sing when you were little, what was it that was bringing all of that out of you?

Tia:“ That, I don’t know. I think that was just a God given, just a gift that I didn’t know what to do with. Neither did my parents (laughs)!”

Q: When was it that you decided to make a go of singing as a profession?

Tia: “I would say it was probably after my very first show withYakety Yak. It was at a backyard BBQ in Richmond. I was like “Oh wow! This is easy! People like it! I love it! Let’s do it!!”

Q: What were your biggest challenges when you were starting out? Were there some things that you expected? Were there some surprises?

Tia: “Probably one of the biggest challenges was choosing a genre. What do I pick? Where do I fit in in this business. What do I do? Back in the day, you could do a track show with just a karaoke machine and a tape player with a microphone. I’ve done that plenty of times. There are SO many different genres to do and I love them all. So, that was one of the biggest challenges. How do I get this machine rolling in the right direction? I started out with 18 wheels and not all of them were headed forward. Some of them were headed to the side and some were going backwards on this big ol’ machine that’s just rumbling and bumbling and stumbling down the road.

Q: How did you end up singing the Blues? Was it because you found you enjoyed that particular genre the most?

Tia: “Well…I think Blues kinda came along and chose me. I mean, I did play in some Blues bands with some other Blues people. But it wasn’t necessarily something that I loved. My first love, I think, really was rock. I really enjoyed listening to and singing some hard rock. But I think Blues kinda chose me as far as the music that was being presented to me and the music that was available for me to sing backgrounds for seemed to always be the Blues. Then, one time, I heard how Koko Taylor delivered a Blues song and I thought “Ooohhooww……right! That’s the one, right there!” So, then I kind of gravitated in that direction. Although, I still, in all of my shows, throw some kind of rock song in there just to satisfy my own…you know it’s supposed to be about the people, but SOMETIMES, it’s about me (giggles)!”

Q: Being a band leader is another entirely specific skill set. How did you develop your ability to lead a band and what were some of the more striking challenges that, perhaps, took you by surprise? What were some issues that you didn’t ever expect having to address as a performer, after becoming a band leader?

Tia: “Well! (chuckles) You’re right, being a band leader is a specific skill set. I don’t necessarily believe that I have that particular skill set. But what surprised me the most was how…..I’m just going to put it out there…How many men don’t want to listen to you. They just…they get a little disrespectful and they start acting like it’s not your show and you can’t tell them what to do. And it’s like “Dude! I’M paying YOU. I’m going to tell you what to do.” And they kind of get it twisted. Like…you know…like I’m trying to…slap their manhood into the next…millennium… or something, when it’s really…..it’s just music. Everybody, just do your job. Don’t tell him how to do his job. Don’t tell me how to do my job. I won’t tell you how to do your job. I’m going to present you with some music…If you choose to accept this mission (chuckles) then listen to the music and play it how it’s supposed to be played, and everybody will be happy! But, you know, there’s always a challenge in there somewhere, somebody’s got some ego where it’s like “Well…this is how I used to play it with So And So” …”Well…you’re not playing with So And So right now, you’re playing with me, could you do it the way I want to do it, please?” It’s a delicate balance. Sometimes you have to fake it and pretend that it’s all great when you’re thinking to yourself “……You are SO fired as soon as we finish this show.” That is a challenge. It’s a big challenge. And sometimes, as a female band leader, I believe we need to take management classes and separate manager from employees and not be all chummy with them because as soon as you get chummy with them they start to believe that they can start telling you what to do. (Makes car braking noise) “EEERRRT!” No! So, I would recommend that for women band leaders, go take a management class. Learn to separate those two. Because you ARE separate as a female vocalist or a front person. Whether you play an instrument or not, you kinda have to be the manager of that and everyone else has to fall in line. Whether they like it or not.”

Q: On the heels of that question, you happen to be married to another local, prolific blues performer, Big Cat Tolefree. Is your household as musical as it sounds? Do you ever collaborate on anything?

Tia: (Laughs) “We collaborate pretty well on arguments! (Sings) Didn’t I teeeeeeeeell you? (giggles) To take out the garbage! (laughs and continues singing) Why don’t you go home and cook?! (Laughs) So….yeah…we’re pretty musical at home. That’s one of the great things that we have in common. That we can sit down and listen to music together and…we may not agree on everything that we hear or I might like one aspect of a song and he might like another aspect of it,but over all, we’re pretty much on the same page as far as what we like to hear. For instance tone in voices or intonations or the way people phrase things or how they change things up or something. We like to be able to go out and listen to a live band without being called up on stage. We just want to listen and see. And yes, we are competitive and comparative with each other as well as with other bands. I think that’s kind of just a natural thing. But we do definitely enjoy our music at home as well as individually.”

Q:You’ve watched your husband manage a band of his own as well. You both manage bands out of your home for your own gigs. What similarities or differences do you see in the way either of you manage your projects?

Tia: “The fact that 95 percent of the time, his band is all male, he just doesn’t have a problem. The fact the 95 percent of the time, my band is all male, I do have a problem. And that’s just an age old problem that is…..just an age old problem. It’s always going to be that way. I know you’ve heard it before: when women take charge and start leading a band like a man does, they get called names. (Chuckles) Now, not that I care about what name they call me, as long as they are playing my music, I don’t care (Laughs). But, you know, I just don’t see him having that problem. We will both operate the same way, for instance, he’ll fire someone at the end of a set too and have somebody in the audience ready, with their instrument to come right up on stage.”

At this point, I interject: “Really?! A backup?”

Tia:“ Yes!”

Me: “Wow.”

Tia: “MMM Hm. I will fire somebody and NOT have a backup. But I don’t care. I’m just going to finish the show, the best way I can and move on to the next one. So, there are some similarities and some differences but it really all boils down to the fact that this is a male dominated profession. Especially in the blues…. Well.. shoot. I can’t even say that. It’s pretty much all over the place.”

Q: You’ve performed all over the world from Italy to Lucerne Switzerland, Brazil, Mexico and here in your own backyard. How do you feel the Bay Area fares compared to when you perform abroad?

Tia: “…..(Sighs)… That is a sad question. (Laughs)”

Me: “I was hoping it wouldn’t be.”

Tia: “I know.  Unless you are a huge name that can fill the Paramount or theColiseum… If your name isn’t “Brunetta Mars” (we both laugh) or something.. It is a hard..HARD thing trying to get people to come to your shows. I’ll put it to you this way: Once people her you, they’ll say “Oh! That was cool! We’ll come see her again!” But if they haven’t heard you already… or if there is ONE drop of rain that comes down people are like…”Op! Nope. I can’t go. It’s raining….Nope.. Not.. nope.” If you have two shows, one in Vallejo, one in San Francisco, you aren’t going to be able to get everyone to come to either one of those shows. The support is just not there. However! Abroad, people who are living 6 hours away will drive or take a plane to come to a particular show and you don’t have to have some huge name. I don’t have a huge name in Brazil. But people actually take flights and plan their vacation around a particular show because I’m going to be there. It’s so….fulfilling! You know… I just love to sing. Whether I make it big, or I don’t make it big, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to be singing until I just can’t sing anymore. So, for something like that to happen? For there to be billboards and there you are, on the highway, there are trucks with car wraps of your name and your face on them, they make flyers and posters of you and post them all over the town, they post them all over the internet, the houses are full, there are sold-out crowds…it’s just amazing. It’s amazing. I go there once a year and people are like “When is she coming back!?” And they PLAN… They PLAN to be there. Here… It’s kind of like..”Meh….whatever.” It’s sad.”

Q: Your Mama named you Demetria. How did you end up with your current stage name, Tia Caroll?

Tia: “Tia is actually short for Demetria. Because I know, after having brought up my daughter and looking at my granddaughter, I already knew that my mother was going to be like “Tia! You put that down! You stand up! You sit down! Stop it! Git over here! Go over there! You, mind your own business!” She wasn’t going to be able to get “Demetria” out of her mouth every time. So she gave me a nice, short nickname, Tia. “Tia, sit down! Tia, get away from that door! Tia, go over there, Tia, Mind your own business!” So, that’s how I got Tia.  The name Carroll was the only good thing I kept from my ex husband. The last name “Carroll” had a nice ring to go with Tia and it was perfect. So, I kept it.”

Tia Carroll performs regularly all over the San Francisco, Bay Area. To check out her music and to see where she will be performing next, visit her website at www.tiacarroll.com

The Entreprenurial Spirit. Otherwise Known as Sh*t I Don’t Have Time For

Living in “The Valley” has its benefits. First and foremost, the weather. We have skiing about a 3.5 hour away (2.5 hours if you drive like my fellow blogger Ursula Ringham), the beach just over “The Hill,” and lovely wineries (selfless plug here) all over the place. No mosquitoes! Fabulous restaurants. “THE City” just up the 280 (or the 101 if you are a masochist and want to sit in traffic).

Silicon Valley also has its downfalls. It’s astronomically expensive to live here in terms of housing costs, if you can even find housing at all. There are pockets of quality schools, but for the most part, public education sucks for the amount of money we pay in taxes. Traffic. Glassholes. Traffic.

For me, my #siliconvalleyproblems are all the side project “distractions.” Let me explain. There is a massive amount of creativity and entrepreneurship that happens all around me every day. My neighbor is developing a cool new shopping app. My daughters BFF’s mom has a new company.  My friends are writing screen plays and books! When did everyone get so freaking smart and inspired??

To fit in, I try and come up with new ideas too. But seriously, ain’t nobody got time for THAT! I have two kids, a job, Gweneth Paltrow recipes to try, work outs to do, Game of Thrones to watch, Facebook posts to comment on (but not on my phone, per my last blog post here!). It’s already exhausting!

Ask any of my friends. I come up with a new “amazing” (insert sarcasm here) idea almost every week. But I need someone to actually do the “doing.” Is that why the rich get richer? It’s one thing to have great ideas, but quite another to bring them to fruition. Successful rich people have ideas, but I imagine they also have numerous “staff” to take care the execution.

Perhaps if I had a small staff of “do-ers” maybe all my cool inventions and business ideas would allow me to now have a large staff? Who knows. For sh*ts and giggles, here are a few of my ideas and how they came to be. If you steal them, I will sue. I have a personal lawyer on staff. Just kidding, she’s my good friend, but she writes super threatening letters.

BabySure: After having two “false alarms” while nine months pregnant (i.e. thought my water broke, but I really just peed a little), my genius friend/attorney Brooke and I came up with the idea to create a pad type of thing that sticks in the underwear of a very preggo lady. If a “leak” happens, the pad would turn color if it was amniotic fluid and time to hit the hospital. Brilliant! But all the testing and endorsements and OMG, who has the time for that?

Myfirstafter.com: I am at that time in my life where divorces are happening amongst our inner circle of friends. Having been the confidant of several newly divorced ladies, I have discovered that one of biggest issues for each of them was that “first time” with someone else. We concocted an online community for people that are fresh out of a relationship. The site would match those who want to get “it” over with and move on. Right? Amazing! I went so far to partner with a few people and get a story-board video together. Check it out here, done by the awesome Fossum Creative. I giggle every time I see it. But, like everything else, I have no time. My partners kind of fizzled out as well. They all have kids, jobs and social lives as well. And then Netflix released an entire season of House of Cards, which totally takes priority.

Parent Pairings App: I own and work on a wine brand called MommyJuice. In an effort to help promote the product, I wanted to create an app that would pair all kinds of wines with different parenting situations. Turns out, it takes a lot of money and brainpower to create an app. It takes a lot less time to publish a book, so I did that instead. Parent Pairings (the book) is clearly soon to be bestseller. It is currently available in all two of my neighborhood bookstores. Seriously, who has time to go sell it individually to each indie store? I already do that with wine for my full time job. Summer intern for credit? Anyone?

iVibe: Many years ago, back in the dark ages when I decided to get a Blackberry Storm instead of an iPhone, my good friend and I Courtney Kramer had an idea to revolutionize phone sex. So, you take an iPhone, or a Storm, although Courtney LOLed when she found out I had one. iVibe is an app that makes the phone vibrate hard and fast enough to, well, give a…well, you know. BUT, the kicker, the phone could be controlled by someone else, from anywhere else that had a signal. We didn’t totally think it through (there was talk of a “sleeve” to “protect” the phone, which is just weird). But someone else really did think about it and now there is this: the OhmiBod. It is an app that controls a vibrator that is connected to a phone via Bluetooth. So someone from afar can be controlling what goes on down there. Via a phone. That’s pretty cool and changes phone sex forever. Because now its not just phone sex, right? The funny thing is, a friend of mine invented it all on his own. Without even stealing our brilliant idea. Nice work Brian Dunham. Nice work.

The “Oh Shit” Cam: Scenario: Your former employee has totally f-ed you over. Stolen business plan and customer list. This former employee went out on their own to create a competing business. On YOUR time. While neglecting their job and screwing up your business so it makes customers easy to poach. Yeah, that guy. Imagine you get a lawyer to file suit and then send that guy a letter about it. Wouldn’t you pay money to see that guy’s face when he opens the letter? How much? That’s the “Oh Shit” camera. Attach it to a document and when the other person is reading it and hopefully reacting with an “Oh shit!” face, the camera takes a picture or video. The file is then sent immediately via 4G it to an email address or text. The camera then disintegrates. I love this idea, but nothing has ever come out of it, just a lot of lunchtime laughs.

STIK Your Pose: So this is something that is actually happening. My attorney friend and I have done it again, coming up with the greatest idea ever. It is inspired by our favorite workout class at The Dailey Method in our ‘hood. We have a URL, a manufacturing plan and contacts, the start of a business plan and even a potential first customer! So I am not going to say too much more about it. Except that it has all the qualities of a potential new successful business. One, it solves a problem that I and others have. Two, I am passionate about it. Three, it fills a need in the marketplace as there is really nothing like it that is widely available. Of course, last but not least, there is a huge potential market for it. Stay tuned. But seriously, I don’t have any time to do this. I guess I will have to forgo Orange is the New Black this summer.

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Three Reasons I’m Having a Love Affair

I have a secret, and it’s time I told the truth.

I’m having a love affair. I know it’s wrong. I’m not proud of it. But I’m not gonna stop and you can’t make me – because you make it easy.

I suspect you’re all doing it too. People… I’m in love with my couch.

Well, technically I’m in love with sitting on my couch. Lazing on my couch. Curling up under a soft blanket with my laptop/iPad and consuming all the ridiculous, delicious, awesome content my TV can serve up.

I like being home, and I can do this because, unlike even a few years ago, I don’t have to leave the house to go shopping anymore. Those frantic, stressful trips to Safeway after work have gone by the wayside in our house, along with those last minute trips to Macy’s because oh crap,  I forgot about a wedding coming up this weekend. This, all  thanks to the ease, convenience, technology and ingenuity of the new trend in online shopping and business – home delivery.

Here are the three reasons I am able to sustain the love affair with my couch, while Silicon Valley comes to me:

  1. Google Shopping Express – I feel sorry for WebVan. Remember them? Back in the height of the dot com, they were first on the scene to provide same day/next day home delivery of fresh produce. But back then, people weren’t ready to fully trust online shopping, and without the backbone support of a behemoth like Safeway, their business model didn’t survive past its expiration date. But now – yes, BUT NOW (writhing hands with maniacal laugh) – we do trust online shopping. And commerce-as-a-service has become a thing (dare I say paving the way for tech wearables like Fitbit to keep us moving!) Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a major metropolitan area like Silicon Valley, Manhattan or LA, you don’t have this – yet. But let me paint a picture of the same.day_.deliveryx299absolute game changer Google has created with its same day delivery service. Yes, I didn’t think it was possible for Google to add yet another meaning to its name, but when they arrive at our front step, the kids say “Mom! Google’s at our door! #MINDBLOWN. I still haven’t figured out their business model yet. I can order, say, one container of dental floss from Walgreens (or Target, Whole Foods, Nob Hill, REI and more as part of their shop and drop service). They go out and hand pick it off the shelf from a local Walgreens store, bring it back for bagging, package it up (sealed with cute stickers with sayings like “Enclosed is one less errand to run” or “Saved time inside.”) and drive it to my front door – almost faster than I could physically drive to a Walgreens and get it myself! Currently there are no minimums and free delivery. They’re the crack dealers of non-perishable goods. I will be continuing, even when they start charging for delivery, so I guess you could call me an addict too.
  2. StitchFix – Haven’t we ALL dreamed of having a personal stylist? Someone who knows our style so well that they effortlessly plow through rack after rack of clothes at boutique after boutique, only carefully handpicking the perfect item – ON SALE – for us to rock?! Well, reality check. I’m no celebrity. I’m a working mom on a tight budget and in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t NOBODY got time fo dat!” Until now, that is, when I found StichFix. This online, deliver-fashion-to-my-door service lets my personal stylist (read: Not the same one everytime but one of a team of what I imagine are very hipster, gorgeous ladies in a loft somewhere in SoHo)  hand-pick items they think I will like, informed by my personal fashion profile.
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    My last StitchFix order

    My profile, to sum it up, defines my fashion as “Think Paris in the 70s”, and I have to say… they just about nail it everytime. Each month I receive a box of items within my pre-defined price range, allowing me to try them on, asses their fit and style, and buy it or easily return it in the pre-paid shipping envelope they also include. The next best part to getting beautiful, boutique-level, well-made clothing in the mail? The perforated insert that shows how to pair your new item both casual and dressy, accompanied by the personalized note from my stylist describing why she chose each piece for me and why she thought I’d like it.  A great example of “Commerce-as-a-Service” (which I don’t even know if that’s a thing but if it’s not, you heard it here first!) #YES

  3. Nit Busterz Mobile Lice Removal Service – Sorry to get gross here, but any Mom understands that Lice are the bain of our existence (I dare you to stop itching your head right now!) I HATE LICE. PERIOD. These tiny legit spiders do not belong on my child’s head much less this planet. I thought we were through this stage, having a 10 and almost 16-year old. But this year alone, it’s been unexpectedly my older child who has gotten them not once – not twice – but THREE times in the last 9 months. I learned the reason when Bay Area 11 did a story on the now epidemic outbreak levels of Lice in Bay Area high schools, and it makes total sense. SELFIES. These kids are taking so many selfies, touching their heads together for a brief moment to snap the picture that the lice easily hop from head to head. AACCKK! The selfie is the Bering Strait of infestation! A few weeks ago, when it happened again, I decided I’d been traumatized enough by the hours of combing insects out of my beloved children’s hair, and called the mobile service called Nit Busterz (yes, you can make lice cute by adding a “z” to the end of your name.  Brillz.) It was a Saturday so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the owner answered her phone while at the airport on her way out of town, and used her iPad to locate the nearest available “agent”. The appointment was booked for later that afternoon, and by dinnertime, we were successfully lice-free once again. I never had to leave my house for that effing louse. #WINNING

There are a bunch of others that get honorable mention too. Safeway.com. Armadillo Willys, who for an order for 25 people or more will bring your entire meal out to your house, set it up with a checkered tablecloth and utensils so you can enjoy delicious BBQ all without lifting a fatigued finger. And of course, the world domination plan that is Amazon.com. If it not for the social nature of my friends, and the fact that I have to be home to sign for wine delivery, I would probably never see the light of day again.

Thank you, technology, for bringing Silicon Valley to me. Now… if I could only figure out how to break it to my couch that I have a hot, sweaty date with the gym…

If a tree falls in the forest but no one posts it on Instagram…OR, Yes, it happened even if it wasn’t on social media

I was recently at a wedding where the bride and groom had the nerve to request that the no one post any record of the wedding to social media networks until after they themselves had been able to post the first pictures of their event.

InCaseOfFire_Alarm_before_SocialMediaThey also had the bold audacity to request that no one take any pictures during the actual wedding ceremony to help everyone be more “present” during the event.

The small gasps, titters and whispers that were heard amongst the guests reflected what most of us would expect: What an unusual request to make of one’s guests at a momentous event in the Age of Social Media.

Or perhaps more accurately, we should call it: the Age of It Never Happened if it Wasn’t Posted on Social Media.

Obviously, one can never truly mandate that another be completely present at any event – clearly, full presence is a bit of a long shot short of the ability to exercise full mind control over another. (“Google Mind Control” – coming soon, right after they make Google Glass a commercial success, no doubt.)

And when told about the no-photos-please-be-present request, one of my friends pointed out, “But what if I wanted to think about what happened on Game of Thrones while the ceremony was happening?? Then I wouldn’t have been fully present, would I?”

Now, my goal is not to start any sort of flame-wars over the social and intellectual importance of Game of Thrones versus focusing on the event at hand (because I know I will lose that argument), but I’ll admit that my friends, the bride and groom, did have a point. GoT

A very good point.

A very good point made me frankly a smidge uncomfortable.

The thought of placing my iPhone back in my handbag for the 21.4-minute ceremony made me slightly nervous and edgy.  My inner whiney ‘tween protested in my head almost instantaneously, “But how will I take a picture of the bridesmaids as they line up in their matching dresses with pretty flowers? And what about the bride? I MUST get that blurry, slanted, over-people’s-heads shot of her being walked down the aisle by her father that I will then slap a lacey frame around after putting a sepia filter on right before sharing with The Interweb! I simply must!! The world needs my skills using preset filters! ”

Nevermind that there was already an official wedding photographer with real camera equipment.
Let’s not mention the fact that no one had actually told me they really needed ME to take my amateur shots with a phone camera.

Let’s be totally clear why my inner child was chafing at being told to put the damn phone down:

These pictures were for me and me only. It was my right, as a guest, to snap away at the event to show that I was there. To put on my 2000+ picture camera roll on my phone never to be looked at again. To share on Facebook-a-gram with 594 of my loosely-termed “friends,” to fill their streams with yet one more photo among the 999+ photos they see every day and promptly forget about.

Iphone_ios_5_camera_roll

The ability for me and everyone else attending to snap and share the event is what gives it meaning for everyone, right? Or….maybe it’s just for me only.  I mean, how could I expect to be validated as an interesting person with a fun life and exciting friends and a loving family and cute cats if I can’t publish them to the world in an ever-growing stream of mostly drivel? (And I take full responsibility for the drivel I contribute. Except I’d like to think that every once in a while I post something witty and hilarious. At least, it is in my head.)

And let’s be honest here — I get soooo busy attempting to share my experience with people who aren’t part of it and likely don’t even care about it, that I forget the reason I’m there in the first place — to be able to be present to witness and participate in and experience a very special event for people I care about that demarcates an important event in their lives. For some reason, they felt that they wanted me to be with them for this day along with many other people who have a meaning in their real world lives. They created a place for us all to be together with them for it. (And seriously, if they’d wanted to make this an event  available to the general public, they could have live-streamed it. Apparently, they felt that wasn’t something they wanted.)

In honoring my friends’ request to be truly present, I realized that I’m honoring not only them and the experience they’re creating for all of us but that I’m actually truly honoring myself. For what actually gives life its sweetest meaning is being in that very moment-to-moment experience we all seem so keen to capture and share…and while I totally believe that it’s wonderful that we have the technology to snap photos of the event and hold on to those key moments, there’s something almost avoidant and protective about wanting to spend the duration of an event buried in our phone, checking in, tweeting, photo-posting, and basically sharing it all away, as if it’s difficult to just be in the moment, being present with other people in the world and enjoying it as it is happening.

I for one have been guilty of being that avoidant, of wanting to be in the moment but of being ambivalent about enjoying it too much. This can’t be blamed on social media or the latest connected gadgets or our highly-multitasked technology-laden world; it’s a life approach that goes much deeper. I remember my father gently telling me as a child, as I was multitasking on multiple projects and homework and just doing-doing-doing, that I needed to stop and smell the flowers.  Flowers

Not to stop and photograph the flowers and then post them to something called Instagram. To smell the flowers.

Because it’s not possible to smell the flowers through a social networking site or an app. At least not yet….

So thank you, Phil and Julia, for reminding me to stop and smell all the flowers at your wedding, Which I didn’t literally do, despite some pictures people may or may not have posted on Facebook of the reception.

Dedicated to Phil and Julia, who dared to ask me to be Present as well as present at their wedding. Congratulations, you two crazy kids!