My husband and I are sharing an “office” — we took an unused nook in our attic bedroom and repurposed it with a very uneven plastic folding table, and my old office chair. My set-up is closest to the window, and his is closer to the camera. We work at different times, so we only need one chair. All three cups are mine, and I’m not sorry.
Guess how many times I’ve hit my head! It’s more than 6!
I work remotely everyday, and have done so for more than 7 years. Like everyone else, though, my entire world has changed in the last few weeks. I usually work at a rented office — I don’t share it with anyone, and I could continue to work there probably, but I feel safer being at home. So I am adjusting to working actually from my house (which doesn’t have an office), and my husband and I are adjusting to figuring out how to manage the kids at home all day between the two of us, and the kids are figuring out how not to be jerks to each other (real mandate I gave them).
Right now, we’re switching off and working 6 hours Monday through Saturday. He’s going to the office from 8am-2pm, and I’m working from 2pm -8pm. The reality has been that he has things that come up, and I end up working later (both with the kids, and then at work-work). But that’s ok: we’re both adjusting to this. Bob is the director of public works for our city, and he’s had an incredibly draining week, figuring out what and who is essential to the functioning of the city, and also getting everyone on Slack so that communication doesn’t break down. I had a really easy time moving from my office to my house. I had an office backpack (one I keep at the office specifically to bring my office home), and I know exactly what to toss in it for a trip or extended period at home. It took me two extra minutes at the end of my day to transfer my work from the office to my house. It’s just not that easy for everyone. People have to figure out whole new methods of communicating, how often to communicate (over-communicate, people, when it doubt, over-communicate), and how to structure their lives again. It’s tough.
When I work now, it’s 10am Pacific, so I see those folks much more, and I see East coast people much less. I have almost zero overlap with Europe now, which is hard. I’ll be re-adjusting my schedule in microdoses in order to be able to connect with my leads in Europe and APAC. It’s like I’m visiting a new place, and experiencing a slightly different work environment because of it (like that joke, it’s like going to Toledo and Jeopardy is on at 7 instead of 7:30). But since everyone has gone to their own private Toledo, it’s not even predictable. I’m sure it will be, however. I have great faith in the team I work with and with Happiness at Automattic as a group to adapt, and keep rolling, while communicating clearly about what they need to do to take care of themselves.
Let me tell you about my days:
I get up with the kids, and I gin up breakfast for them (rarely is it gin, however). While I make my own breakfast, we put on TedEd and TedTalks. We themed this week Lemony Snicket (because Audible is reading us A Series of Unfortunate Events at bedtime), so they’ve done some Unfortunate art, and we’ve been watching TedTalks (or TedEds) about disasters or problems (being very relaxed on the theme, “problems” also includes riddles!) After breakfast and Ted, we do laundry. One twin (they’re 8.5) helps to empty the dryer, switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer, and start a new load in the washer. Then that same twin helps with folding and putting away the basket. The other twin plays with Grant. Then they switch jobs the next day. After laundry time we might go outside, or we might get math done. Eleanor has a math packet (and a bunch of online content) she’s been assigned, so she does that, and then Henry grades her. We do art or reading (sometimes both). Henry sometimes will use this time to work on coding. Much of my time while the twins are doing learning is spent with Grant. Around this time lunch rears it’s head, so I make them all sit down and articulate what they want (they tend to wander like lost cows if not actively corralled). They eat, and we either sit down for quiet time (a movie/reading), or we go outside. If we went outside, there’s a good chance that Grant needs a bath. By then, Bob is arriving home, and I head upstairs to get to work-work.
At work-work, I log on, and sometimes have a call or two lined up (on Zoom). Once those are over, I catch up on backscroll in Slack and all the pings I missed. Then I go through Basecamp and read all the posts/comments I missed overnight and during the day. Then I sweep email (I get P2 digests via email), and I pull out the posts I want to read in depth. I then read those P2 posts and comment/like, whatever, and move on. Then I can start with everything else. If this sounds like a lot, it’s not. I feel a sense of intense urgency for about the first hour. Then I realize that work is humming along smoothly. Yes, people are anxious. We are absolutely being really careful to make sure people are able to take care of themselves and their families. We are making sure to communicate and establish new schedules as best we can, and stick to them, then re-evaluate, and commit again. It’s shifting sand, but it works and it’s working pretty well as a whole, because this is a dynamic bunch that is used to working remotely. Even though individually we are stressed and scattered, the basic blocks of work are happening because our workplace hasn’t changed at all. We all “go” to work how we’ve always done, just sometimes with more coworkers.
That’s not to say it’s easy. It’s not! I can only speak for myself here, but this experience has shown me just how fortunate I am. I have an incredibly flexible job — I dropped a note in Slack over the weekend explaining my new schedule and my boss and team said “no problem.” I’ve been rescheduling calls with team members and everyone has understood and been flexible too. My kids are all healthy right now. This wasn’t the case a few weeks ago when Grant was in the hospital for severe asthma. I have a partner who can work from home and adjust his schedule in a way that means we can be here for each other. I live near parks and other places the kids can splash in puddles and ride their bikes.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I feel a great sense of stability from having worked in a remote environment, and having that touchstone in all this turmoil is really important. I sincerely hope that more companies that are able to go distributed after this pandemic, do so. Not only is your entire workforce not in one city, but you have amazing talent able to provide stability across the entire world to those who really need it — their friends, family, coworkers.
I think this post hasn’t made much sense, but you’ll have to forgive me, as I feel pretty scattered this week. Here’s to a better one next week. Love you.
The next leg of our trip took us from Yosemite out to the coast. We took a fairly direct route, and ended up at Pismo Beach, where we went to a little joint called Chipwrecked, which I was disappointed with. But I loved being back on the coast. I got an almond milk latte which cleared up a lot of my concerns.
The drive out of Yosemite was slightly disastrous — both Henry and Grant began getting car sick. We took many, many short breaks on the verge of the road for them to stand outside the car looking green. Whenever Grant started picking up rocks to throw, we knew he was good enough to get back in the car. Something we talked about a lot, driving through California, was how lovely and different the landscape was every few hours. We drove down out of the mountains into rolling hills. The hills eventually settled down into very flat apparently fertile farmland (hard to tell in the middle of winter), with lots of signs that argued with each other about dams. We came up on another range of hills that let out onto the sea.
From Pismo Beach, we continued down the central coast to Buellton. We stopped at a winery on our way to Split Pea Andersen’s, which is where we used to go as little kids (as good Danes). We stayed at the Inn and had delicious split pea soup for dinner. The inn had a pool, so we went swimming even though it was just a little bit too cold for outdoor swimming, in the evening, in February.
The next day we swept into Solvang to do some laundry at the laundromat there, and to check out the town. We wandered around (visited a great bookshop!), got coffee, pet a lot of dogs, and really enjoyed the cutesy architecture. We also took the kids to visit OstrichLand, which, ho boy, was really something. They loved it! I thought we each would lose an eye. It did give me a chance to tell Bob about Australia’s Great Emu War. Unsurprisingly, he did not believe me. From Solvang, we headed south to San Clemente. Selected pictures:
We spent two nights in Yosemite, and it was not enough. We had glorious weather, that begged we stay outside, so we did. We arrived in the early afternoon, and parked across the meadow from Yosemite Falls. We ate our lunch gazing across the dormant grasses at the series of falls, and craning up at the top edges of the hanging valleys all around. We walked to Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and halfway to Vernal Falls. Horsetail was, alas, dry, so no firefalls for us this year. Bob and Henry woke up early to climb up some part of Yosemite Falls, and saw a bobcat! A raccoon visited our balcony, and Grant attempted to let it in. All in all, it was an adventure. Selected pictures:
We drove out of San Francisco early and after driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, we quickly exited to get to Marin Headlands. The views were amazing! After a little running around there, we had to hustle to Muir Woods, because we had a reservation for parking. In the woods we went for a hike. Grant fell on the trail at one point and cut his palm. That really put a damper on his sails for awhile. After the majesty of the woods, we drove inland a bit to get to Lodi. We drove down Napa valley and ooohed and aahed at all the grape fields. In Lodi we went to a winery for a tasting, and planned ahead so we went to one with a playground. The kids had fun playing while Bob and I enjoyed some wine in the sun. We ate dinner at a winery in town, then headed to the hotel to sleep after a very packed day. Selected photos:
We technically started our trip with an overnight in Atlanta, but we found we haven’t been counting that. Instead, we have been counting the beginning of our trip from when we touched down in San Jose.
We took a long drive up the coast on route 1, and found the twistiest road through the mountains to get there. Once to the coast, somewhere south of Half Moon Bay, and somewhere north of Pescadero, we meandered north into San Francisco.
We checked into our hotel (Zephyr), and walked around pier 39. The next day we relaxed, went to the Exploratorium, and explored more. Selected photos before.
I usually don’t drink coffee during the day; I have tea instead. But lately I have been absolutely craving some excellent coffee. After getting frustrated with the offerings locally, I dusted off my grinder and chemex, ordered a goose-neck kettle and timer, and some fresh decaf beans from Stumptown. I also got a vacuum seal container for the beans.
Today Henry was sent home from school (for no good reason by the substitute nurse), so it happened to be a perfect opportunity to make some actual coffee.
So I get to sit at my dining room table, with the weak winter sun on me, and enjoy some really delectable coffee while finishing my work today. A quiet victory.
Mornings stress me out to no end. I panic at the thought of dropping the kids off at school before the bell. It’s never been a huge problem or anything (they aren’t tardy but once or twice a year max), but the time restriction plays havoc with my anxiety.
Combine that daily deadline with two “delay fish” twins and one small anarchist, and mornings are downright hellish.
Early in 2020, Henry took me by the hand, gazed up at me and said “Mom, sometimes it seems like you’re one person in the morning before school, and a totally different person after school. After school you’re nice, and before school you’re … anxious.”
I was so happy that he was able to articulate this, and express it so calmly. It is some of the best feedback I’ve ever gotten. I told him I know what he’s talking about, and that I would work on it.
I started doing a bunch more prep at night. Yes, I’m exhausted at that time after a full day of work, homework with the twins, feeding everyone, chores, bedtimes, working out… but it makes the next day start off much better. The twins, in their turn, have quit delaying so much and have stepped up their morning responsibilities. I can now fully trust them to get dressed (I usually lay out their clothes, otherwise Eleanor would be in a tutu and Henry in shorts every day) and get their own breakfasts. Henry has become like a Morning Captain; he is usually walking around with his coat, shoes, and backpack on before I even get all the way downstairs with Grant. Eleanor has a much more relaxed approach to mornings, but to her unending credit, she’s seen how stressed these mornings were making me, so she has taken her own steps to be more on top of things in the morning. I usually only have to tell her once or twice to get her shoes or coat on. Grant continues to sow chaos with a heart full of joy. Bob has also taken on driving the kids to school, so he has to deal with the actual deadline, while I just manage the kids out of the door.
Henry and I had a check-in chat on how mornings were going recently. I asked him if he felt I was more “me” during mornings, and told him that I felt a lot better in the mornings. I got a good review! He was proud of how he could help contribute to my better morning attitude, and we agreed that mornings overall are more calm (Grant notwithstanding) and very smooth. The twins are used to filling out their reading logs every morning, getting me to sign them, and putting them back in their bags, get prepped to walk out the door, and clean up their breakfast messes, which is a huge improvement over the tornado that used to run through the kitchen. I personally feel that our mornings are under control (Grant notwithstanding), and they are no more stressful than any other part of my day now.
I can’t express how proud I am of Henry. I hope that he always talks to people about the things he observes with such compassion and care. I hope that I am always able to hear him (or anyone) when they have valuable feedback.