Saturday, April 11, 2020

OK, I'm At Home, All the Time. Now What?

As I have had the past few weeks to be at home full time, there is a definite difference between "working from home" and "sheltering at home". Even when I was working from home, I had the freedom to go out and do other things. Grab food someplace, sit in a Starbucks and work, drive out to band practice for a few hours each week. With Shelter at home policies in place, most of these outlets are not available at present.

I am practicing social distancing to the best of my ability. I have a protocol I use where I use chlorine bleach and towels to help me as I touch surfaces. I carry two zip lock bags that have towels sprayed with chlorine bleach and a handful of N95 masks that I use at different times. I use these when I need to go to the store, which has been a handful of times.

Some people are going to say "no big deal, I'll just order online." Not a bad idea, if you can get the items you want on time and what you want in the quantity you want them. that's not been a foregone conclusion these past four weeks. Several orders that I have made are still in process and of the items I have received, many have been rationed to only a few items per order. This is totally understandable considering the situation but it's a new reality for a lot of us. We are not used to having to wait in line and then to have limited supplies on hand.

The items that are less available are amusing and frustrating. I have yet to see toilet paper in any store I have been to in the past month. I have had trouble finding long-grain white rice, plain flour and I have yet to find any yeast in any store. Fortunately, a friend of mine had a large quantity of yeast she willingly split in half to share with me. I was also able to return the favor by giving her apple butter and apple jelly that I had processed and canned back in December. It has been nice to have it as a bartering currency :).

So what are some positives? Well, there have been a few. I am definitely doing a lot more from-scratch cooking. that's been made a little frustrating by the fact that my oven gave up the ghost last week (it needs to be fixed but for the time being I have a large toaster oven and a range of dutch ovens that I can put on the range if needed so I'm not totally out of options ;). Up until I received the yeast I was making several batches of Irish soda bread. Very good and hearty, lasts a good while, and leftovers, if you make a lot of it, can be frozen for later.

I am taking advantage of a variety of techniques to make basic food items to have on hand such as paneer and labneh from milk, exploring a variety of colonial recipes including a terrific "bread soup" that is exactly as it sounds; water, stale bread, and a hunk of cheddar cheese are all that is needed to make a rich and filling soup that is literally pure comfort food :).

I'm fortunate in the fact that I have a pair of dogs that need to be walked a couple of times a day so I do take them out but I make sure I steer well clear of anyone and walk them down and up my hill. That's my daily "venture outside" exercise as well as a bit of time tending to my backyard each day. to be honest, I could probably spend a little more time on this. It needs it. Additionally on an exercise front, as I have reported in the past I have a mini-trampoline in my office and that mini-trampoline is the foundation of my standing desk. I jump up and down on it a fair amount of the day and that also keeps me moving, gets me tired, and makes me feel a bit more accomplished at the end of each day.

If I'm being frank, I've spent the past few weekends sleeping more than I normally would. I want to say that that is a reflection of not going anywhere or doing any events but truth be told, each week is just exhausting at this stage. By having my partner Christina home with me all day, as well as my two daughters (granted, they are both adults) that changes the home dynamic from when it is just me at home. there's been a need to separate my work life and my home life a little more during this experience and communicating with my team has also required more cycles mentally to keep in touch and keep things moving. That takes a toll on a person and yes, sleep is needed. I have not felt bad about the need for more sleep and I would suggest if you feel like you need it, take it.

One thing that I have taken some additional comfort in over the past several weeks has been to go back and organize my workspace and home. My office itself has been reorganized and refactored multiple times as I am spending much more time in here. Why would I require and reorganize a room I already spend every day in? At least for me, each day is a chance to see if there's a better way to do something as compared to the day before.

An oddity that I have been coming to grips with when it comes to my own attitudes is I really dislike visible cables. It's a strange thing to obsess over, I agree. If I am in the moment of working on something, I do not mind having a few cables visible or needing to wire/rewire various things. However, after a little bit, that desire to have things more carefully placed just comes to the fore and I get into the rewiring habit and break everything down to figure out the optimal clean layout, or as close to optimal as I can get.

As I have been going around the house and organizing/ cleaning, I have to say that I am noticing a lot more items that I find myself saying "if I'm ever going to use this, wouldn't now bring that to the fore?" I think I have gone through the house and deliberately made sure I am using something or can make a compelling case for everything I currently have. I of course have some blind spots in this regard, especially out in my garage, as I have projects I have been pledging to get involved in for years and they are still well hidden behind cabinet doors and in boxes of boxes. That may well be a task to take on in the coming weeks but for the most part, it's still a place I have yet to want to tackle.

 Each day and week brings something new and it also causes me to have to think and adapt to a reality that is unsettling and foreign. All I can do is approach each day as a unique opportunity, do the things I hope to accomplish, and give it my best. That "best" varies, to be honest, and I think it's important to realize that, for many of us, it is going to vary for some time. Some of our tried and true systems will work for us and several will be found lacking. We all have different ways to cope with how we are dealing with these times and in that sense, I'd suggest one additional item and that's to check in on your friends and family, perhaps a little more often than you might in normal times. We, of course, care about each other's health and welfare but this is more of a personal "hey, are you OK?" kind of check-in. Some people are good about saying how they feel and putting it out there. Others not so much. It may seem like a little thing, but a phone call, text, or email and saying "hey, I hope you are doing OK" can make a huge difference to someone.

So in conclusion, know that being home full time is weird for many and this climate is weird even for those of us who are home all the time. Everything has been upended and there's little outside of our own spheres that we can control at this point. All we can do is do our best with the situation we have at hand. I wish you all well and "stay safe out there".

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