The Office Coffee Game

And other office etiquette that I completely forgot about.

I started my own marketing business in January of 2008. Since then I have been working completely from home (in yoga pants of course), with short visits to my clients for meeting and things.  And as my relationship with each of my clients grew over time, I started going into their offices even less; we got more efficient and I got more yoga pants.  And Mama Burde is happiest in yoga pants.

OK, I swear this post is not about my obsession with yoga pants.

Earlier this year, a long-term client of mine asked if I could work some regular office hours and become a more important role in their business.  This client is amazing, awesome, all of the above great things and I was grateful and excited for the opportunity.

I started regular office hours for two mornings per week at the start of this month.  Having never had to be at an office, dressed and looking my best since I had kids (our oldest was born in the fall of 2008), I was worried about getting all of us girls out of the house and on the Burde bus in time.

Did I mention my office hours start at 9 a.m.? Not so bad.  But, we sleep around here.

But what I didn’t think about was the fact that I have not been in a professional office environment in just over four years.  That’s a long time.  I have realized over the past month that I am like a bull in a China shop, ramming around the office jamming fax machines, forwarding my phone unknowingly and of course spending way too much time with the coffee maker…which we will get to.

I feel like I’m fresh out of college at my first job.  And exactly what are the office etiquette rules?  I know I can wear jeans on Fridays, but what about just general professional manners?  I do consider myself a professional, but lately I feel like a fool.  Here are a few issues I have blundered through over the past several weeks…

So, say I need to talk something over with one of my new co-workers.  I do the ‘office dance’ in front of their office or cubicle wondering: Do I just walk in? Do I knock even though their door is open or they don’t even have a door? Do I call first even though it’s a small office and they’ll hear my voice not only on the phone, but from the cubicle next to them where I’m at?

And what if they’re on the phone when I get there…do I quietly stalk their telephone conversation and wait for them to hang up or do some awkward hand gesture and tilt my head to the side with my hand in the shape of a phone as if I’m a mime saying, ‘call me!’

And as always with efficiency on my mind, if I can talk in a loud voice and ask them a question, do I really need to get up and walk over to them?  Can’t I just holler (not to be confused with holla) to save myself a little time?

That actually happened today.

The woman in the cubicle across from me has a little window that faces my door.  We happened to make eye contact when I was checking to see if she was there so I could ask her a question.  What did my all-rusted-up-on-office-etiquette-behind do?

I just yelled.

But you know what happened?  She yelled back!

Now since 2008 I have also enjoyed my own coffee, from my own coffee pot, at my own strength.  Office coffee is different.  But what I discovered is that there is this Secret Office Coffee Game.

Here’s how you play.

There are two coffee pots. Each person that goes to get coffee tries to take from the coffee pot with the most in it, assuring each pot – while might be low – does not technically require you to make another pot.  The person that goes into the break room to find two pots of coffee with about a ¼ cup each left, loses.

Guess who loses?  Me.

But overall, I just love my new schedule.  I have managed to get out of the house in time and have successfully sent two faxes!  I also removed my phone from Do Not Disturb so people can actually get through on my line.

As for the Secret Office Coffee Game, I still need to work on that.  I wonder if there is an App for that?

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So I bought this pair of jeans…

It’s been a while since I have purchased a pair of jeans for myself.  Last fall, winter and early spring I was pregnant, so was wearing maternity pants.  This spring after our baby was born was like Christmas as I pulled all of my pre-pregnancy clothes back out of totes.  Everything was new again, and I could cut off the rubber bands that were keeping my jeans up last fall as I avoided maternity pants as long as possible.

And since I pretty much live in yoga pants (much to my husband’s dismay), I really only wear a couple pair of jeans regularly.  All that background information is to make me look like less of a loser when I tell you it was probably in the spring of 2010 when I bought last myself a pair of jeans.  Sad, I know.

So, I found this cute pair of jeans at pretty much the only place that I know has jeans that will fit my excessively long legs.  Gap.  And, these jeans happened to be on sale and they were also dressier ‘trouser jeans,’ which fit into my master plan of avoiding skinny jeans for so long that they will go out of style.  Please.hurry.

So, I ordered the jeans in a Tall (waist size undisclosed…geez…how personal do you think I’m gonna get on this blog?).  I ordered them (oh yes…I said ‘them.’ OK, so actually I splurged and bought TWO pair of jeans.  I was making up for lost time).  I checked my current Gap jeans to make sure I ordered the right sizes and waited anxiously for the jeans to arrive.

The just recently confessed pair of jeans fit perfect. They are the same style as my favorite jeans, just much darker.  These trouser jeans however, are a different story.

They are at least four inches too long.

I am six foot, two inches tall.

I would love to know, who could wear these jeans?  I mean really, they were so long that even when I tried them on with a pair of high heeled boots (which I also try and avoid like the skinny jeans) they were still too long.  Like, I couldn’t even walk too long.

Did I mention I am I am six foot, two inches tall?

Even though my memory usually fails me, I do remember that momentous time in the spring of 2010 when I was actually in a shopping mall at the physical Gap store.  The first pair of jeans I grabbed had the length of ‘Extra Tall.’  Isn’t that what you would consider me?  Extra tall?

I then also remember them being so long that I asked myself this very same question I am asking here.  Who could wear these?  I possibly asked the 16 year-old skinny jeans wearing clerk (male, of course…making me feel even more awkward that I was avoiding his jean type), and he looked at me and said something…yea, there is no way I’m going to remember what he said.

Anyway, Gap has long jeans.  I am talking super-duper-ain’t-for your-typical-six-foot-tall-girl tall.  And, speaking of tall…I doubled checked the difference in my newly purchased jeans’ length and found that my correct length should be LONG (the jeans that fit) and not TALL (the jeans that make me feel short).

Thank you Gap.  That is the first time I have not been tall enough.  Now to perfect my

hemming skills…

The jeans, post hem.

Mommy First. Professionally Unprofessional.

I work from home. That can sound a little sketchy, like when I see the ‘Make $1,000 a week working from home!’ ads. But, it’s legit. In fact, I know quite a few people who work from home in my field. Marketers, graphic designers, etc. can make quite a good living doing what I do and companies can save a lot of money by hiring people like me without having all the overhead, retirement, health insurance and other costs associated with having employees.

Now that I’ve plugged my business…

They call me a ‘working mom.’

I consider myself a ‘mom working.’

I am fortunate enough to not only work from home, but keep a more part-time schedule and flex my hours a lot, doing work at night if needed, or early in the morning before the kids get up. (Yeah, like that ever happens.) Our oldest daughter just turned three in October so I’ve had just over three years to look like a fool in various venues, meaning I look like a mommy first and professional second. I’m OK with that.

I have…

  • Spilled diapers out of my purse as I put it down while meeting with a prospective client for lunch. 
  • Lied to clients (yes, I’ve lied) when they ask what that noise is in the background… ‘nope, not my daughter in the monitor…just the radio in the background.’ 
  • Told many, many poop stories to clients and realized the topic after it was too late to return. I had to finish the stories hoping they’d laugh at the end. Most of the times, they did. 
  • Spoken to clients on the phone while nursing…gotta love the multi-tasking options with the telecommute, minus a web cam, of course. 
  • Along the same lines, but one thousand times more embarrassing was when I quickly dropped something off to a client shortly after our oldest was born. I had leaked and didn’t realize it until I got home. I felt full of awesomeness after that one. And I was obviously full of something else too.
  • Let’s just get all the nursing stories out in the open here…had to pump while working at a marketing agency I do work for.  It was just me and one other employee (male, of course), in their fairly small office.  I had to come out and tell him what I needed to do.  He could only get himself to say, ‘do your thing.’ He was actually great about it!  And now that he has a prescious little girl he can totally relate.

But over the past few years I have become more open and honest about how I run my business. Not that I tried to hide anything before, but I try and be blatantly upfront about the fact that I don’t work full time and I’m not available 24/7 to anyone else but my family. But when I work, I work. And my kids are well taken care of so I can concentrate on something I love to do.

So, the next time you’re in a meeting and you see a mom with drool on her right shoulder and diapers peeking out of her purse, show her a little love. And bring her a latte for crying out loud. She deserves it!