What is… summer?

This morning over breakfast, my 9-year-old daughter asked me, “mom, what is … summer? Like, will we have … school? Still?” She looked genuinely puzzled. She’s been on a system of school/summer for four years now (she didn’t get summer breaks in daycare), except the past year has been such a weird, oily mix of days off, days on, remote school, school-school, that she’s lost her orientation. Haven’t we all.

The kids started back at school last week (they only went Tuesday because of how the cohorts work, and MLK day), for the first time since before Thanksgiving. While preparing Grant for the idea of being in school, I asked if he was excited to play with his friends. He looked at me for a second then said, “we don’t play together mom.” The lost pre-k year.

This morning when Grant woke up, he cuddled up to me and said “mom, I was doing a dream where Yoshi took me and threw me at the beach and it was so much fun.” I love that he calls dreaming “doing a dream,” first of all, and second, he is so solidly who he is. He loves playing Yoshi on the Switch, and he loves talking about going to the beach, and when he’s at the beach, he’s living his best life.

I think we have the makings of a pretty good plan for the next couple weeks (kids in school two days, then the nanny 3 days a week) so I can work a mostly normal schedule, and after that, in March, we’re probably going to send Grant to daycare for those 3 days. The twins are old enough to stay home with me while I work, and get their own school work done, but Grant is really struggling without socialization. He’s going feral, and I’m really worried about the long-term implications for him. Plus, I’m going bonkers myself. I don’t want us to go backwards to what we all used to think of as “normal,” but I do want some sense of predictability in our lives again. Right now, I am constantly waiting for the phone to ring because school is shutting down, or my kids randomly have a fever, or the nanny is sick (that happened last week and threw the entire week into disarray), or something happened to mom, or something else in my small orbit happens. Never mind the national and global problems that influence our world but it feels I can barely influence in return.

I wonder if, when summer does arrive — traditionally a time of relaxation and slowing down, filled with friends and family — we will recognize it, if we’ll remember what it is.

Ok, 2021

I don’t think I’ve personally ever had such a rotten first couple weeks of January. Obviously, we’re all living through some things at the same time (the ongoing pandemic, the coup that is dragging out, remote schooling), but it’s been worse than that. I’m not just talking about Grant’s ongoing, flat-out refusal to poop in the potty, unfortunately. We found out that my mom’s cancer is back. The week before Christmas she had a routine check-up, and the results came back Jan 7th. So, it’s been hard to focus, make sure the kids are on their calls, make sure they’re doing their homework, pay attention to the things that need my attention, and also do things like exercise and eat right.

There was never really any question that 2021 would be much like 2020. It was nice to pretend that all bad things would end in 2020, because we’re wired to look for endings and beginnings. But so much of the terrible things going on right now are directly rooted in centuries of racism and a national movement away from education and science. They’re not going to change because the date changes. We’re going to have to drag ourselves forward, through all the terrible things if we want things to actually get better.

I think things will get better. I think there will be pockets of joy in 2021. I don’t think things will be fixed in 2021. I don’t think things will be “back to normal” ever, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s going to be a long(er), hard fight to eradicate racism and the white supremacy that reaches into the highest seat of government. We need to outlaw white supremacy and its symbolism, then follow-through on those laws. We have so many caring dedicated educators, and we need to pay them fairly and actually value their work as highly as it deserves and not nickel and dime it away. We need to rebuild our education system so our public schools are well-funded and the best schools in the nation for every kid. It’s ridiculous that any kid goes to bed hungry. We can fix that, and we should. We can’t do it all in one year, and I think large portions of this year are going to be really, really hard, particularly with all the COVID deaths still to come. It would also be nice if we could cure cancer this year, but maybe that’s asking a little too much. We really aren’t able to gain any kind of distance or remove from the problems before us (or we won’t fix them), so it’s going to be a grind.

We just have to put one foot in front of the other, for as long as it takes. So, ok, 2021, let’s get a move on.

Increasing Our Happiness with Cats and Dogs in the Office

PETS!

Happiness Everywhere

Working from home doesn’t have to be lonely. In fact, many Automattician’s have pets to keep them company during the work day. Supporting customers gets a little easier when you have furry companions like these to make you smile during the most unexpected moments. This month we invited our Happiness Engineers to share how having pets around improves their work day.

“Mostly my pets ignore me – but on occasion it’s nice to have Mojo (our dog) curl up under the desk.”

– Jayden, Happiness Engineer in Australia, WordPress.com

Working for a distributed company comes with the added benefit of creating your very own “corner office” outfitted with all the things you enjoy and make a workday better – yes, even having a dog taking a nap under your desk! Talk about the perfect coworkers!

White Pomeranian puppy named Snow.
Snow – His first day at home.

I have a fluffy Pomeranian that is 4…

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The sailor man

This morning when I came downstairs in a flurry to get children dressed and fed before their zooms started, Henry was lounging on the couch picking out potential cake recipes for us to try, based on their ease. A battenberg might be up next.

Previously and preciously, he was Popeye.

A falling knife has no handle: 2020

I’m sorry to report that the knife is America and also our lives.

When you drop a real knife, a sharp one, you need to jump away from it immediately. Instinct tells you to catch it, as if it were a baby or a scoop of ice cream; something precious and splattable. But a knife is going to seriously cut you every time you try, and if you miss catching it and are standing too close to where it lands, it could reverberate off the floor and stab you anyway. Statistically, it is a Bad Time.

When the knife is the society you exist within, the instinct to prevent the fall is just as strong, and I’d argue irresistible. Of course society is a precious, splattable thing, but the damage it inflicts is also as real as a cleaver.

No metaphor is perfect, but this comes close. In January and February the knife was skittering towards the edge and it’s been in free fall since March (in America); it began whistling down with George Floyd’s murder, it reached terminal velocity at the election. We keep trying to catch it, and it keeps slicing us to the bone. I’m worried about when it lands.*

We can’t not try, though, can we. After each attempt, there’s a new (desperate) reason to catch the knife, to stop it. To recover and go back.

But I don’t think there is a way to go back. So many things will never be the same, and most of them are for the best (not the hundreds of thousands of senseless deaths, not ever). Demanding equality is always brutally bloody; no one in power ever truly wants to change their status. But the picture we all have, of the knife resting easily on the counter is not an image we can restore. America as it was lead to America today. An America that is being torn apart by racist traitorous hateful people in power, who were put there through our own complacency with the knife and the counter. We got comfortable with the idea of health care tied to employment. We mistook the self-help industry as a necessary thing, rather than a tool to further disenfranchise people without enough support. We didn’t rise up against for-profit prisons or cash bail. We didn’t take the opportunities presented to us on a daily basis to be anti-racist.

The America we had refused to be ready for a pandemic. It has continued to refuse to be ready for ending a pandemic. That’s not an America we can return to. A country that is placidly ready for three thousand human beings to die every single day is not a country at all. It is a genocide factory. Valuing corporations over humans means that we’ll bail out corporations and not pay humans, who will spread the virus, to stay home. The American government might have failed us, but we have had our part in sealing our own fate. Every time someone didn’t want to speak up for an injustice they saw, when it wasn’t an injustice personally afflicting themselves, we honed the knife to a razor’s edge. When we forgot about caring for people who are not ourselves, and chose to bolster our own advantages, unfairly distributed by luck, we sharpened the knife further still. The knife has been lying to you, and you are the knife.

So we are left trying to catch the knife, when every edge is sharp, but the alternative is to abandon what shreds of democracy and decency might be left (that are left), with our own shredded hands or suffer the reverberation forever. We know there are things here worth saving, and we have to save and value them, instead of putting them second to profit. The hard-won scars from continually trying to catch the American knife are worthy of honoring, but we have to make it through. And we have to do that by not giving up, even though it hurts and everything is bad.

*I think one can reasonably argue that the knife has actually always been falling ever since there has been any form of inequality, and I will hear that argument! I have an extremely privileged perspective.

8 years at Automattic

If you had told me at my seven year anniversary that my eighth anniversary would fall during a global pandemic, that I’d change roles out of Happiness (technically), and that I’d be directing the Happiness Experience, I wouldn’t have believed a single one of those things, in decreasing order of credulity.

But indeed, all those things have come to pass.

I actually forgot about this anniversary (and I never forget!), but I’ve been homeschooling the kids all day until 3, then switching to work all afternoon and night, until 9 or 10, at which point I’m pretty fried. This has been a tough week, but it’s a temporary problem until we find another nanny. But the overload has made me forgetful about the actual day and date.

I am told it was Tuesday.

Looking back over the past eight years, I am incredibly proud of my work, and humbled that I have had the chance to do this work. I’ve grown in ways I never anticipated, and Automattic has grown in many fantastic ways as well. It’s still the most interesting and challenging work I’ve ever been entrusted with, and I still love it. There are days I want to throw my hands up in the air, like I just don’t care, but the vast, vast majority are productive and fruitful. I like the people I work alongside, and I’m eager to contribute to broadening our culture with many new Happiness Engineer hires in the coming year.

By my ninth Automatticversary, I hope that the pandemic is over. I hope that we learn the lessons we must from the lives that have been lost. I hope that in America in particular we don’t lose our new need to create social equality based in reality, not in perception. I hope the OKRs we set today are the catalyst for bigger and bigger, grander and greater things. I hope to never homeschool again.

To the next eight!