A True Work From Home Moment

Today I had the most epic “the chaos of working from home” moment of this entire pandemic.

Before you can appreciate the chaos of the experience, let’s take minute to envision my typical day working from home. I have office space in our spare bedroom, while Ian retreats to his own man-cave office for the workday. Benji interrupts me frequently, particularly during school days, but also I often get 30- to 90-minute stretches of uninterrupted time when I can focus.

During those stretches, I really appreciate the superiority of my home office compared with my cubicle at work. Most of all, when nobody interrupts me, I work in a fairly quiet environment, not hearing constant distracting background conversations nearly as much as in the office. I play music on speakers, sparing my ears the experience of eight hours of earbuds. Continue Reading >>

Remote Learning is Hard

I started to write, “It’s hard to believe, but we’ve done second grade remotely for four months already.” To be honest, though, I can hardly believe that only four months have passed. It feels more like a year. 

We have all the advantages that should make remote schooling a success: A space and device dedicated to our child’s school, two work-from-home parents, an excellent internet connection, a devoted and engaged teacher, and a child who adapts to technology easily.

Despite all these advantages, remote schooling feels like a slow slide to failure. I don’t know if it’s his personality, his age, the situation, or some combination, but tracking and completing all his work eludes our child. He drops off Zoom calls early, loses physical papers, and avoids asynchronous work. He wants to play with his toys or with us, and “finishes” assignments with the minimal amount of work, not trying his best, just minimally touching it so he can say he’s done and can move on.  Continue Reading >>

Thanksgiving 2020: A Pandemic Holiday

Happy Thanksgiving

If I had to pick out one theme for our four days of Thanksgiving celebration, I couldn’t do much better than my child repeating “I can’t wait one more second” at decreasing intervals for hours. It really encapsulates the impatience, the demandingness, and the frequency of repetition that truly has driven me to the brink over this alleged holiday. 

When I heard my coworkers talking today about their “calm,” “relaxing,” “chill” long weekends spent watching movies, having a weekend away, maybe going out for walks or otherwise leisurely enjoying the weather, I felt like I had entered some strange parallel universe. Could they truly be talking about the same weekend I had just endured? “Frustrating,” “trying,” and “high-stress” would more accurately reflect my experience. Certainly I returned to work more exhausted, run-down, and hopeless than when I left for the long weekend — and that’s saying something, given how I was doing before. Continue Reading >>

Thanksgiving 2020 Pictures

Thanksgiving Dinner 2020
The tail end of our Thanksgiving dinner: The three of us in person and my parents on Zoom. I wouldn’t say a combined Zoom meal worked real well. You just can’t have a real conversation. But we still enjoyed the pie.
Ferguson Family Board Game Testing
We’re (okay, honestly I’m the most excited about this I think) creating our own board game. I’m putting way too much time into it for something that’s never going to go anywhere.
Benji's First D&D Adventure 2
On Saturday we created D&D characters and Ian DM’d our first adventure. It went surprisingly well. The hardest part was that Benji was so excited he couldn’t sit still, so I had him take breaks to run laps around the house.
Benji's First D&D Adventure 1
Benji is extremely excited to play D&D. He really wants a pet xorn or flumph. Preferably both.
Christmas Tree Farm 2020
A pandemic Christmas picture.
Christmas Tree Acquistion 2020
Sunday morning we acquired our Christmas tree. The u-cut lot was totally bare, so we had to settle for a pre-cut tree. It fit in our car, though! (If I look a little frayed, well, that’s accurate.)

Pandemic Presents Only Choices With Consequences

One of the things I find most fascinating (and personally relevant) about this pandemic is how each individual judges their risk of contracting COVID-19. As a rule, human beings are terrible judges of risk in today’s world. Our risk assessment ability evolved at a time when risks were pretty straightforward: Is the tiger chasing me? RUN AWAY NOW or die. We’re not well equipped to decide whether flying on an airplane, eating Thanksgiving with family members, or going for a walk with a friend could infect us with an invisible disease that can take up to two weeks to manifest itself — if it manifests any symptoms at all. Continue Reading >>

Work From Home Adaptation: Availability Indicators

While we’re all at home, we each retreat to our own rooms during working or school hours. (Quick aside: Boy am I thankful that we bought a four-bedroom house, giving me and Ian each our own private offices.) Of course we close the door when we need to be left alone. But it’s hard to tell what the closed door means. Is the person in a meeting that can’t be interrupted? Does he just need to focus, but a quick question would be okay? Benji in particular has a hard time not coming in talking, and I’ve had at least a few times of slightly embarrassing un-muted incidents where colleagues have been treated to family conversations. Continue Reading >>

Trapped Like a Duck in a Closet

I’ve been sitting here trying to think how to describe the feeling of last two weeks. The straw that broke the camel’s back accurately describes the sense of having this piled on top of so many other burdens that we’re crushed, but it utterly fails to capture the added sense of being trapped inside as the last dry, sunny days of summer slip away in a toxic haze of smoke.

When I have nightmares, they usually involve being trapped somewhere. I’m in a cage or a box or tightly restrained. I usually wake up trying to escape. Continue Reading >>