Monday, September 05, 2022

Labor Day Thoughts

 Happy Labor Day! It is a much needed long weekend for me.

My work situation is still muddled. Back when I was actively angry about how things had gone at my current company, I stopped saying "no" automatically to people who contacted me on LinkedIn. That didn't lead to much right away, but I think word has gotten out in the industry that things are unsettled at my company, because in the last month or so I have some several much higher quality contacts and now I've got three potential different options to explore. I am trying to decide what to do about those.  I have had a couple of phone conversations about each but haven't sent a resume in for any of them. I am also trying to decide if I should also start a proper job search. 

There are signs my current company will sort itself out in the mid-term, but I'm not sure if I have the patience left to wait for that. On the other hand, there are some things I really like at my current company and some financial incentives to stay.... But on the other other hand, I think I could boost my salary by a fair amount if I move, particularly if I pursue one of the opportunities that would give me a significant title bump.

I need to decide what to do soon. The uncertainty is creating tension that has settled in my shoulders and neck (ouch) and I just in general do not like how it is making me feel. But I also don't want to make any hasty decisions. So it is a bit of a conundrum.

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We are in the midst of a heat wave here in Southern California. It is hot enough out that even I, the former desert dweller, don't want to do much outside. Luckily, our heat pump, solar panels, and home battery mean that it is nice and cool in our house all day and we still contributed energy back to the grid during the peak hour 4 - 9 p.m. period yesterday.  

I tease my husband for the way he optimizes our home energy flow, balancing charging the car and charging the home battery... but I can't argue with the results.

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I, meanwhile, have spent the last four weeks trying to find bras that fit. (Warning: bra talk follows. Stop reading now if that is of no interest to you!)

You may not think the bra fit problem and the energy optimization problem are problems of similar complexity, but let me assure you that in fact the bra fitting problem is harder. I have been fitted in multiple stores over the years and the results have been multiple sets of expensive bras that are not comfortable. I used to have a "go to" style and brand that I could buy on Amazon for ~$25, which, for a woman my size, is a freaking miracle. Unfortunately, the pandemic weight gain made those not fit... and so I embarked on my most recent round of bra searching. 

I tried Third Love and Cuup but I eventually realized that their supposedly smart fitting wizards led me far astray. I finally found a bra that fits via the fitting quiz on the Montelle site, which is measurement based. And even then, the bra that actually fits the best is not the size the quiz told me I was, but that size's sister size. (For those who don't know, once you're over a D cup, measurements do not map to sizes in a standard way - you need to know how the particular brand sizes it cups. It is very annoying.) 

I also found the information on HerRoom.com very helpful - particularly this article about where your underwires are supposed to hit.

I think I have finally landed on the right size - I am up both one band size and one cup size from my old go-to, but it retrospect that old go-to was probably one cup size too small. And I think I am actually up a half a band size, because the bra fits best on the middle hook not the loosest hook. 

So, that's a happy outcome, but because it took so long and because I generally need to wear a bra for several hours to know if it is truly going to work out I now have a handful of unreturnable, expensive bras in the wrong sizes. I am thinking of trying to find a domestic violence shelter to donate them to. But I also wonder if I should hold on to a couple in case my size changes again. 

Also, I still don't have a new go to bra style, just a firm idea of what my size is. I still have to experiment with different styles to find the best one. 

I can't believe the amount of mental energy I've put into bras recently. I look forward to being done with that!

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And now I should log out and go finish my chores for the weekend. I hope those of you who also have a three day weekend are enjoying the extra day off!

Friday, July 29, 2022

Long Time, No Write

 So, it has been awhile, eh?

Work continues to eat up more of my life than it should. I am doing some stuff I really like but it is clear that the core thing I bring to this role is my ability to navigate patiently through various roadblocks and Get Stuff Done and I am not sure what I think about that. Part of me thinks I should just lean into that since it is the thing I'm good at that differentiates me from other people. But part of me thinks that is just a recipe for always being the person behind the scenes who gets all of the headaches and very little of the credit.

In other work news, it is slowly dawning on me that the company I really liked working for and went through a lot of crap to stay at because I liked so much... that company is gone. I now need to figure out if the company that took its place is offering me a good enough package (type of work, work conditions, compensation, etc) to stay. It is a subtle shift in how I've been thinking about the work situation. I have no conclusions yet.

In non-work news - we're recently returned from our first trip to see my in-laws in New Zealand since Christmas 2018! It was wonderful. I wrote up my traditional awards show summary. While we were in New Zealand, Pumpkin discovered that she likes lamb. Of course the only meat she likes would be the one I most dislike! (Lamb has a distinctive taste that I find unpleasant. I cannot describe it and everyone else thinks I am weird, but so be it.) Regardless, Mr. Snarky has grand plans to grill a lot more lamb now.

We were in New Zealand for three weeks. We worked remotely from Auckland for one week, and then had two weeks of vacation. We did this because when we originally booked the tickets we thought we'd need to self-isolate for our first week. New Zealand lifted that rule well before our trip, but we decided not to change our tickets because I've long had the idea that we could sort of extend our vacation by working remotely for a week in the vacation spot before starting the actual vacation and I wanted to see if it would work. It did! The only downside was that since we were mostly working while in Auckland we didn't get to do many fun things there. So the concept needs fine-tuning but basically works.

While on vacation, I always come to the conclusion that I need to make more time for some sort of creative hobby. I come back determined to do that... and then I crash into the reality of my over-busy life and it doesn't happen. I haven't given up hope this time. Yet.

I did read a really good book while on vacation - Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also have some podcast recommendations for you, even though I listened to some podcasts on the 12 hour flight from LA to Auckland (or from Auckland to LA) and fell asleep during them and then would wake up when it clicked over to ads or the next podcast and rewind and listen again. I cannot recommend this method of listening to podcasts, but it was quite effective at helping me get some sleep on the long haul flights.

Also, Petunia was told she could move up to the next level ballet class (although she should also keep taking her beginning teen class), so she is starting a second ballet class which is on Saturday mornings and is 1.5 hours. Therefore, I spent a lot of time on Saturday wandering around Balboa Park trying to work out what a good walking route would be, or if maybe I should use the time to visit museums, or maybe we should get our zoo passes renewed and I should go wander around the zoo for an hour every Saturday... and all this time, I was listening to podcasts.

So here are some podcasts I listened to and found really interesting, in no particular order:

Jane Coaston talked to Jon Favreau on Offline about why internet debates suck.

Ezra Klein's interview with Kim Stanley Robinson (I think I like Robinson's interviews with Klein better than I like his books, but oh well)

Ezra Klein's interview with Thomas Insel about the state of mental health care in America.

David Roberts interview with Dr Ye Tao on why we might need some sort of project to cool the earth and how we might do it (this is one I listened to a more than once due to falling asleep while listening on the plane, but I eventually was awake for the whole thing and it is really interesting)

It has been awhile since I gave you a weekend bunny, so here is one:


Have a good weekend! I hope to write more often but I hope to do a lot of things and work is crowding them all out right now. I am going to try to fix that.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

More Ramblings

We're entering the years when our children have their own busy social calendars and I'm not sure what I think about it. It doesn't really matter what I think about it, of course. My kids are becoming their own people and our job as parents is changing from actively setting their course to being a helpful guide as they plot their own course, and eventually we'll just need to be there to support them as they strike out on their own. Weird.

Anyway, Pumpkin has several things on this weekend, none of which involve us other than as chauffeurs. Mr. Snarky wanted to pick something off our family fun list to do - we have so far only done one thing and here it is almost May. We might be able to squeeze something in tomorrow. I suspect the family fun list will get harder and harder to complete as the kids get older.

Fun is still being had, though. Last weekend, Petunia had a party to go to in a neighborhood south of downtown, so after we dropped her there we headed over to Barrio Logan for a short exploration.

And our days of active involvement aren't quite over. Petunia has a ballet showcase coming up, and as with many events of this type there is mandatory parent participation. I'm signed up to help in the dressing room during one of the dress rehearsals. I just sat down and read through all the instructions for Petunia and for me so that I'll know when we need to be where. 

We are, thankfully, almost done with the annual "schedule out the entire summer" exercise required by summer camps. Each kid has one camp they want to do this summer. Pumpkin is doing a jazz camp and Petunia wants to do a volleyball camp. Pumpkin's all signed up. Petunia wants to do her camp with a friend and so we're still in the scheduling dance. Only needing to do the scheduling dance for one camp is a huge improvement, though!

I am finding it hard to motivate myself to do anything, either fun or from my ever growing to do list. I am just deeply tired. I don't know if it is because of the work situation, because we never really got a good break to recover from the pandemic stress (and let's be honest, we're never getting one), or if it is just because I am getting older and can't keep up the pace I used to. Or maybe it is a combination of all three! I daydream about taking some sort of retreat where I just sit in a pretty location and do nothing. This is not going to happen anytime soon.

So that's what is going on here. I have a couple of links to share, once again heavy on the podcasts because while I can't motivate myself to read much I am still getting on my rowing machine three times per week, and I listen to podcasts while I row. 

Ezra Klein's interview with Emily St. John Mandel is delightful and interesting and now I want to read her new book (score one to the publicist who booked her on his show, I guess)

Chris Hayes replayed an old interview with Adam McKay and Omar El Akkad about storytelling and climate change and it is really great. It predates Don't Look Up. It predates the pandemic! But it is still so relevant and it is also very funny. Omar El Akkad's final answer about how his greatest hope for his fiction is that it will become irrelevant is worth the entire show. 

This thread, and the heat wave in India right now, is terrifying and I keep thinking of Kim Stanley Robinson's Ministry for the Future, which opens with a terrible heat wave in India.

That's all I have, so here's a rabbit:


Have a good weekend!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

A Small Update and a Few Links

Not much has changed in my work situation. My friend/new boss is trying very hard to get me credit for my work and I think is having some success. The work itself continues to be interesting, but there is too much of it and we don't have a junior person on the team (I am the most junior by title and my title includes "Senior") so I spent the equivalent of an entire work day on some time-consuming and essential work that definitely did not need someone senior doing it and kept me from getting to the strategic/planning things that do need my attention. But there was a deadline on the grunt work so I plowed through it. I did get about an hour yesterday to at least plan out the next few months' work.

Given the recent events, it was a bit funny to realize as I made dinner last night that I basically wrote a project plan for a complex project in an hour and it is a good one that meets our deadlines and is achievable. 

I could do that for the other projects that need it in maybe a little more time (I'd need an ~1 hour meeting with the other project's lead to figure out what they are trying to do and then another hour to make the plan and then maybe another 30 minute meeting to refine it).  I guess most of the other people on my new team don't know how to do this and so the assumption is that I'd have to be reassigned to the other projects in order to get me to make them a plan, but really I could just do it as a small side task if that's what was needed.

I wish I could figure out how to teach other people to do what I do when I'm planning a project. I've tried a few times but it is one of those things that is just obvious to me so it is hard to back up and explain how to do it. I think the best way may be just to write some plans together. I briefly had a direct report in my old role and was starting to train him on this but then he left for a different job.

I think the key is being able to see how the various tasks interrelate - what tasks does any given task depend on, where is there some slack to allow overlap and move things faster, where do you have to keep things running in serial or risk a project implosion, etc., etc. I don't know how to explain how to see that sort of thing. I just see it.

I also spent some time thinking about my options. I came up with four options:

1. Stay put and figure out a way to make a career path I'll like at my current company. This has the advantage of leaving me working with people I like, but a lot of potential pitfalls.

2. Conduct an immediate job search and jump to some place else. Right now, it would probably be easiest to jump to a program manager-type role, which would be fine (perhaps even great) at some companies but moves me further away from my goal of getting to be technical/creative again.

3. Stay put for awhile and work to build the skills/experiences I'd need to move to a senior role like I thought I was getting, but at a different company.

4. Stay put for awhile and work to build the skills/experiences I'd need to make a lateral move into a different industry (I have been wondering if I wouldn't mind being the person behind the scenes getting things done if I could tell myself the larger goals of the work were worth it - I think a job working to electrify everything might do that).

So far, I'm leaning towards staying put and seeing which of options 1, 3, or 4 appeals in a year or so. However, I suspect another major insult would make me angry enough to just quit and embark on option #2!

For me to stay put, though, we need to recalibrate some things at home. Work is going to be intense for another few months as I learn the new things that I need to learn and also keep the various projects I'm assigned to on track with the skeleton team we have. We're hopefully hiring a couple of new people soon, but hiring is hard right now so I can't count on that happening. Also, I am not the hiring manager for the jobs that are open so I have very little influence on how fast that hiring goes.

The problem is that Mr. Snarky also recently got a promotion and so we're both pretty busy at work and that makes keeping things running at home a little more challenging. Last time Mr. Snarky got a promotion, my job wasn't that intense and so I picked up some extra things on the home front for a few months. Neither of us can do this for the other person right now. The kids are being pretty awesome and becoming more independent as needed, but they can't do a lot of the things that need doing and so I need to carve out some time to make a new plan for the running of the household, too.

Enough about all of that. I promised a few links.  They are podcast heavy, because I haven't had time to read much but I listen to podcasts while I'm on my awesome new rowing machine.

David Roberts had two podcasts on great ideas for decreasing our fossil fuel usage quickly:

- Rob Harmon on how to scale up energy efficiency. I found this one fascinating and encouraging. Harmon talks about the incentive mismatch that makes it hard to get commercial buildings to become more energy efficient and a pretty cool idea for how to structure things to get past that mismatch.

- Zeynab Magavi and Audrey Schulman on how to replace natural gas heating with ground-source heat pumps. This is another clever idea that works with the incentives companies and people have instead of fighting against them.

Ezra Klein has been doing a great series of interviews about the war in Ukraine. I found his interview with Timothy Snyder particularly good, but the entire series is worth your time. He also had an interview with Margaret Atwood that was really interesting and looked at our current point in history from a different angle.

A job posting for a Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager made the internet laugh for a few days, and John Scalzi used it as a prompt for a fun short story.

This cracked me up:


Here's a rabbit:


And now I'd better get going on the weekend chores. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Updates as Events Warrant

Well, it has been awhile.

Petunia's bout of covid passed without infecting any of the rest of us. She had symptoms between a bad cold and a flu that lasted for a few days. She doesn't seem to have any lingering effects. 

I had another weird heartbeat incident but this time we called 911 as I had been told to do. Paramedics came to my house and caught the arrhythmia on a monitor. I also caught it on my little Kardia monitor. This was not hard to do because it lasted for over 30 minutes. It only reset to normal when the paramedics gave me adenosine in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I spent the day in the ER. I heard the lady two doors down from me vomit from taking too much ivermectin and then get intubated while the staff called around looking for an ICU bed for her. I was very grateful for my KF94 mask and the door on my room. I hope that lady made it through. I saw her as I was wheeled into my room on my stretcher. She was an elderly lady who looked very scared.

In the room between us, there was a man with an armed guard who at one point became violent and they cleared the floor of all staff except more armed guards who ran toward him. Once the crisis passed, a psychologist came in. The man was clearly delusional. 

ERs need better sound-proofing.

I saw a cardiologist and discussed my options for dealing with my tachycardia, which she classed as "annoying, but not life-threatening." For now, I have learned some techniques I can use to try to force my heartbeat to reset if another event happens and I carry metropolol with me in case those don't work. If the incidents become more frequent and/or annoying, I can get an ablation done to zap the heart cells that are setting up the non-productive rhythm.

I also discovered I have elevated blood pressure and we decided I'd see if I could bring it under control by changing diet and adding more exercise (something I planned to do anyway). 

All of that happened in January.

We wrapped up my daughter's Lego Robotics season successfully. I was so proud of the kids on her team, many of whom had been with the team since we started it. They have grown so much in their abilities and confidence. I retired as a Lego coach and we moved the Lego table out of the garage. We still can't park in the garage because I bought a rowing machine and put it in there, along with Petunia's barre. I love my rowing machine. If I'd bought it earlier in the pandemic I might not have 10 extra pounds to try to lose now.

That was the big event of February. 

Through all of this, I was also working really long hours.

I started my new position at work in January. Well, sort of. For the first three months of the year, I was theoretically 2/3 in the new role and 1/3 in the old one. That worked out about how you'd expect - roughly full time in the new role and half time in old one, desperately trying to hand over responsibilities in my old role so that it could taper off. I think I got it down to about 1/3 of my time part way through March.

I had three deadlines I was working towards, two in my new role and one in my old role, all "due" at the end of March. All were extremely challenging to meet - I would joke that I had two really difficult goals and one impossible one. And yet I met the two in my new role, and the one in my old role is happening next week (that one was a production go-live for a customer, and the delays were due to customer staff availability). 

So you would think that March 31 would have been a very happy day for me, right? Finally finishing my dual roles, a reasonable expectation of glowing praise for having met my two deadlines in the new role. Well... in a meeting on that day, I heard my department head praise one of my colleagues for the success in meeting the goal I'd considered almost impossible and then the group was reorganized and I now report to that colleague, who is also someone I've been friends with for roughly 20 years and who my kids think of like an uncle. Neither of us had any advance warning this was going to happen.

Basically, on the day my "promotion" was becoming official, I discovered it wasn't really a promotion, just a lateral move. When I took the new role, I was told I would have ownership of a set of related projects. In the new organization, my new boss will have ownership of the projects and I will be the person executing on them.  All that remains of the "promotion" is a better title and a higher salary - not nothing, but not what I expected.

And then the next day, he told me that the department leadership was going to reassign the "almost impossible" project that we'd made succeed to one of the other people on his team and I would go work on a new thing. I was too shocked to really express how this made me feel, but I am sure he could tell I wasn't happy. I worked long days and weekends to make the deadline, and instead of congratulating me on that, the project was going to be taken from me and the next phase, which is when the project would get to its first public release, would be given to someone else. 

And then that weekend, we had dinner at my new boss's house to celebrate my daughter's birthday (can you believe Pumpkin is 15?!?!?!) and I think I deserve some sort of medal for compartmentalizing how I was feeling and letting that evening be about Pumpkin, who has grown into such an amazing person.

We were supposed to have a meeting on Monday to find out what this new project would be, but it got canceled. I stewed and slept incredibly poorly. On Tuesday, I reached out to the person who had offered me the new role. That person had left the department to head a different department so couldn't do anything directly to help, but I wanted to hear his opinion on whether I had misinterpreted the original offer and whether the situation was salvageable. He at least validated that I had not misunderstood the original plan and that I was getting a raw deal. We talked over my options, which were not many. I decided that I could accept the reorganization but not the reassignment of the project and that if that stood, I would quit. He must have delivered that message to someone because the next day, my project was back to being mine.

So, I'm in a place where I can stay in my job but am not as excited by the new role. We succeeded in meeting our ridiculous deadline by working as a team and because I am actually really good and taking a big goal and figuring out the plan to meet it. (I get to brag on my own anonymous blog - but I think that is generally recognized at my company, because that's why they wanted me to move to the new project. It needs someone to figure out how to structure it. But the problem with that is that if I become the person who starts projects and figures out how to structure them and then gets yanked off to do the next one, I never get any credit for the success of the projects. As I told my friend/new boss, I can see why the company would want me to take that role but they would need to convince me it isn't going to suck for me, because from where I sit, it looks like it would suck for me. I would constantly be doing the work of bringing order to chaos and then handing the ordered project over to someone new to finish it and get all the credit.)

Anyway, we will keep working as a team because that's the only way to make this project work. I suspect credit for the team's achievements will go to my boss. I am happy for my friend, whose role has grown bigger. He deserves his success and I hope it continues. I am sad to be back in the role I seem to always end up in: the person behind the scenes making sure the goals are met so that someone else can get the credit. 

My friend has plans to try to keep that from happening, and I believe he is sincere and will try to make sure I get credit. But I think in the end, it won't be up to him. Our new senior management is quite hierarchical in their thinking and so they will credit the person they decided was the leader. 

I'm trying to figure out what lessons to take from this mess. One is a reinforcement to a lesson I learned very early in my career: Always have your financial house in order so you can quit if you want to. While my career has been stalling, my husband's is going great. He recently got a promotion and big pay raise. Between that and our savings, I knew that if I needed to act on my threat to quit, I could do so. I didn't have to wait to get something else lined up. I think that is the only reason I was able to get the project back. If I'd had to wait to get another job offer before I made the threat, it would have been too late.

I also think there is a lesson for me in the fact that I have a recurring pattern in my career of being the person behind the scenes figuring out how to turn someone else's ideas and goals into reality. Being able to do this is actually a pretty great skill, but I would like to get to use it to turn my own ideas and goals into reality. There is clearly something I am doing (or not doing) that keeps that from happening.  I am seen as a good manager but not as a leader. 

Either I need to figure out how to change my behavior to remove the ceiling or I need to find a career path in which I can be happy with the ceiling I apparently have. I am paid really well and am respected by my peers. I genuinely like all the people I work with directly and we have fun on our project teams.

While I am disappointed with how my "promotion" turned out, I recognize that I am still in a very good position. I don't know yet if it is one I can stay in long term. A lot depends on how the next 3-9 months go. For now, I am going to try to make peace with what has happened, talk to a few people I think can give me advice on how to report to a friend without ruining the friendship, and think about what I want to do.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Greetings from Quarantine

COVID got us. Sort of. Because I think it will feel good to write it all out, here's how it has gone so far:

Wednesday night, after her Zoom ballet class, Petunia said her throat felt scratchy. I said it was probably allergies and we'd see how she felt in the morning. The ballet class had been moved online after the school had three COVID cases in other classes the week before. Smart move from the ballet school.

Thursday morning, Petunia's throat was still scratchy. We checked her temperature. It was normal. We did a rapid test. It was negative. I told her my throat was scratchy, too, so it was probably just allergies and we sent her off to school. Pumpkin, who'd received her booster shot Wednesday afternoon, also headed off to school, hoping for no side effects during the day. She later reported feeling achy during the day, and she went to bed early. As you'll see below, she didn't get as much attention from me as I would have liked Thursday night because I was dealing with Petunia's exposure.

Thursday around lunch time, I got an email from a contact tracer for the district. Petunia was a "close contact in a masked setting" for a covid case. Date of exposure, last Friday. I texted Petunia and told her not to go to her after school activity and to come home instead. I tried to determine from the instructions in the letter from the contact tracer whether or not I needed to take Petunia for an official test somewhere. I called the school to update Petunia's vaccination status with them but got voice mail. After I picked up Pumpkin from her school, I decided that Petunia should get a test and we drove down to the school district's testing site.

It took us an hour to get the test, and it was the same test I had at home. It came back negative. Twenty minutes later, I got an email confirming that no official testing was required because Petunia is fully vaccinated. 

We figured we'd dodged this particular exposure, ordered in for dinner, and went about our evening. Except that by bed time Petunia's throat was now hurting. We told her she might have to stay home from school on Friday because maybe she'd picked up some other bug. I went to bed early because I was feeling tired - but I'd had a long work day, starting with a call with my new boss at 7:30 a.m. (new boss is in the UK), and without a real lunch break. 

Still, to be safe I told Mr. Snarky he should sleep on the sofa, in case my scratchy throat was something other than allergies/asthma. I got out the extra air filter I have from the time that my air filter died during fire season and I desperately needed something but all the brand name filters were back ordered for weeks so I ordered some random Chinese brand off of Amazon. I put the spare air filter in Petunia's room and turned it on low. Then I went to sleep.

At 3 a.m., Petunia came into my room, upset. Her throat really hurt. I put my hand on her forehead and she was very hot. So I went and got my mask and put it on and got her mask and told her to put it on. I checked her temperature - 101.5. I got another rapid test out and started that. I wrestled with the stupid safety seal on the new bottle of liquid Tylenol I'd bought (Petunia won't swallow pills yet) and then struggled to peel back the label to find out the dosage. I gave her the Tylenol and then we waited for the test results. They were still negative. I put her back to bed, turning her air filter to high. I went to the living room and turned our main air filter to high. I cracked a couple of windows and turned the heat on to get air moving. Then I went back to bed.

I set my alarm for 7:30. When it went off, I knew I wouldn't be working at least for the morning. I was exhausted. So I logged on, canceled all my meetings, notified the people who needed to know, and called the school to tell them Petunia wouldn't be coming. Just as I was heading back to bed, Petunia came out. So I opened all the windows, gave her breakfast, and told her to stay in her room and wear a mask if she came out. Then I crashed back into bed and didn't wake up until 11 a.m.

I was thinking maybe I'd work in the afternoon, so I showered, ate something, mixed up the dough for pizza for dinner, and sat outside in the sun for a bit. And then I realized that no, I needed to lie down and went back to bed. When I next came out at about 3 p.m., Petunia was on the sofa with a mask on and looking miserable. Mr. Snarky had gotten her lunch but was back on work calls. (He apparently had a really frustrating work day, but I didn't hear about it until dinner time.) I checked her temperature again - 102. She said the adult liquid Tylenol burned her throat so I looked for any children's stuff we had. I found ibuprofen and gave her that. I got her set up to watch Netflix on my laptop and sent her back to her room. I went back to my room and read/wished I could sleep more.

Around 4:30 p.m., I came out and worked out a plan with Mr. Snarky, both of us masked and standing far apart. He went to pick up Pumpkin. Petunia and I did another rapid test and then I made dinner. We'd eat dinner outside by our fire pit, spaced apart. My test came back negative. Petunia's gave a very faint positive line.

Our first proof covid was in our house. This is after letting it sit for a couple of hours. After 15 minutes the line was so faint that it doesn't really show in the picture. But it was there.

Pumpkin decided not to join us and ate her dinner in her room. Petunia joined us for dinner but then went inside to call her friends and find out about homework. The reason she hates missing school - and wanted to go on Thursday despite the scratchy throat - is that not all of her teachers put good instructions in their online tool but they still expect things to be turned in on time, and so if you miss school you have to call someone to find out what to do and then rush to get it done in the evening. No amount of me telling her I will fix it for her and get her more time to finish things if needed helps. She doesn't want to turn things in late.

Mr. Snarky and I sat by the fire until it got too cold for me, even with my blanket. We came in and I disappeared back into the bedroom so that Mr. Snarky and Pumpkin could do something fun on Friday night. I think they played Mario Kart.  I read and went to bed early again.

I woke up this morning feeling fine. Petunia still has a sore throat but no fever. Mr. Snarky and Pumpkin still feel fine. We're still isolating in our rooms. I wish I had room for a chair in here. I am tired of sitting in bed! Petunia is happily playing Roblox in her room. Mr. Snarky and I are trying to figure out our testing strategy. We have six tests left. I have six more on their way, two of which say they are arriving tonight.  We can afford to buy more so I will. So I guess since we are "test rich" we will test Petunia and me at some point today and if I'm still negative maybe I will be allowed out of my room. I think it will depend a bit on what Petunia's test shows, since she is using the bathroom in here and I'm doing most of the care for her right now, so presumably if she's still infectious I could still be getting exposed. We're all wearing our KF94s, though, so maybe it would be OK. 

So that's where we're at. From what Petunia tells me, she was probably exposed for several class periods for several days to several people who were COVID positive and wearing surgical masks at best. I also learned that she was taking her mask off, holding her breath, and drinking water throughout the day. I told her it would be better to go outside to drink water but she says she is in the back of the class and doesn't want to walk through the class and disrupt everyone. So I told her she should only drink during passing periods. She is incredulous at this idea, even when Mr. Snarky and I explained that when we were kids we didn't have water bottles and our only option was to drink from the water fountain during passing period. So I send a hearty "eff you" to the "health influencers" and their bogus info about how much water we need to drink. I'll have to get more insistent on the water thing when she goes back to school and explain how just holding her breath isn't really keeping her safe.

But was the exposure at school? It is hard to say. It is a little odd that my throat was scratchy and I was fatigued on Friday. Was Petunia shedding virus earlier in the week and I got exposed from her? Did we both get exposed somewhere? There was that unmasked lady who stood next to us at Barnes and Noble last weekend. My theory is that anyone willing to ignore the big "masks required" signs right now is probably also unvaccinated. Did I pick it up while grocery shopping and then expose Petunia and am testing negative now because my infectious period was earlier? There's no way to know!

I really wish I'd kept Petunia home on Thursday. I wish the school had a set up that didn't make kids feel like they are falling behind if they stay home for a day or two. I wish I could convince my kids that it won't matter much in the grand scheme of things if they flub a test or miss an assignment right now. I wish I'd found a way to get Pumpkin her booster last weekend instead of Wednesday afternoon.  I wish Petunia and I didn't have allergies and asthma so that we'd have known the scratchy throat was something to worry about and not just our immune systems usual shenanigans. But none of those things are true so oh well. I emailed the parents of Petunia's friends that she eats lunch with (the only prolonged period of masks off during the day) and told them their daughters had been exposed.  My advice to anyone else with kids going to school right now: Don't shrug off a sore or scratchy throat.

We've canceled all of our plans for the weekend and will order our groceries for delivery instead of going to the store.

On the bright side, if this is the worse of our COVID experience, we're getting off really lucky. I felt worse yesterday than I did after my booster but nowhere near as bad as I did after my second shot. Petunia seems to be on the mend already. Hooray for vaccines!

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Some Weekend Reading and Some Books I Read

We're through our first week back at school and so far we're all healthy (knocks furiously on wood). My kids report that a few kids were out in each class and that a lot of kids and teachers have upgraded their masks. My kids are still wearing their KF94s. I don't think it is reasonable to think they could keep a fit-tested, sealed N95/KN95 on for an entire day - they have to take the mask off for water breaks, eating lunch, etc. So, even if we "upgraded" to an N95 I don't think we'd actually get more protection. My reading is that a KF94 is roughly equivalent to a non-fit tested N95 (here's an article with a little more detail) and I just find the KF94s more comfortable and easier to put on and off.

We've had cold temperatures (leading to this unintentionally hilarious article in my local paper about our long string of sub-70 degree days) but sunny skies, so lunch has been outdoors.

Petunia also went back to her ballet class this week, but we got an email at the end of the week saying class would be on Zoom next week. The school had three kids report COVID cases (none in my daughter's class) and decided it would be better to go back to Zoom for a week or two. I am feeling really happy that Santa brought Petunia a home barre this Christmas....

I am going to mostly stay out of the raging online argument about whether schools should go back online for a few weeks, except to say that if the choice was between online school and what I'm reading about in NYC, I'd pick online in a heartbeat. That is of course easy for me to say as someone who works from home and has kids old enough to mostly handle online school on their own. 

My only comment - and strongly held opinion - is that if we, as a society, want to be sure schools stay open, we should provide all teachers and students with high quality masks, make sure schools have good air filters and ventilation, give families a way to let their kids do school remote or asynchronously if they suspect exposure, and most importantly take steps to bring down community transmission rates. It is nonsensical to me that the only thing we're talking about closing is schools. 

If you want to prioritize kids staying in school, you actually have to prioritize kids staying in school not just yell at teachers online.

I'm pretty lucky in that my district put air filters in all school rooms early on and our climate is such that doors and windows can be left open without turning everyone into icicles. We have a mask mandate and staff are required to be vaccinated. The district's attempt to mandate vaccines for students 16 and older is tied up in court, but they continue to push for vaccination and they are running clinics at the high schools to try to make it easy to get shots. They also offer free tests at school for students (and apparently any parents who want a test) once a week.

And now that boosters are authorized for 12 and up, we'll be getting Pumpkin boosted (Petunia will have to wait until late March since she only got vaccinated in October). We have an appointment for Wednesday after school. 

But our case rates continue to go up here so I still think we'll be lucky to get through January without getting COVID.

In other news...

Derek Lowe wrote up a pharma chemist's take on paxlovid manufacturing. As he and others had pointed out earlier on Twitter, the availability of the starting materials is likely to be a big factor in how quickly the drug can be manufactured, and these days those starting materials are probably made outside of the US, overwhelmingly in China. 

It is easy to lose faith in our fellow Americans right now, but this tweet was a good reminder that the overwhelming majority are OK. The problem is just that the 25% who aren't are so loud and obnoxious:

Chrysler says it is going to be an all-electric brand by 2028. Does this mean we'll get an electric minivan? A lot of us really want an electric minivan.

And my original plan for this post was to write a short update and then talk about books I liked in 2021, so let's end with some books I liked.

I didn't read as much as I would have liked because I'm having a really hard time with anything that makes me tense (or, as most people would call it "the plot"). But here are some I read and liked:

Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata. This is a translation from Japanese. It is about a woman who doesn't really fit into society's expectations for her.

Wilding, by Isabella Tree. This is a book about a British land owner's decision to "rewild" their estate. I found it fascinating.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors, by Kawai Strong Washburn. I struggled a bit with parts of this one because there are definitely people making some bad decisions (one of the biggest triggers of tenseness for me...) but it is a beautiful book about a Hawaiian family with one extraordinary member and how that both helps and hurts the family.

Sourdough, by Robin Sloan. A fun novel about a sourdough starter that changes a woman's life. 

I have found that sci-fi novels don't trigger that same "I can't handle a plot" reaction in me, so towards the end of the year, I started Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. I really liked it and am still thinking about it. I'll probably read the next book in the trilogy soon.

I also have a couple of books I read aloud with Petunia that I can recommend:

Weird Kid, by Greg van Eekhout. I have enjoyed all of his middle grade books and this one was no exception. It is about a kid who is actually an alien and his struggles to find his place in life.

Here in the Real World, by Sara Pennypacker. Petunia and I both really loved this story of two kids on the edges who make themselves a sanctuary in an abandoned lot.

Finally, I've been reading poems before bed some nights and I really like that. A book of poems I read this year that I loved was Goldenrod, by Maggie Smith (of Good Bones fame).

And that's all I have today. I think it is time I get started on my to do list for the weekend. First up - take down the Christmas tree!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Monday, January 03, 2022

Some Goals for 2022

I had today off work. My company always gives us New Year's Eve and New Year's Day off, and since New Year's Day was a Saturday they gave us January 3 off. It was nice. I couldn't sleep in - the kids had to go to school today and I needed to be up to upload the home covid test results. In some ways it was nice not to sleep in and instead to get the full day to myself (my husband was working).

I didn't do anything spectacular with my day: I took care of some chores and I started on my end of year accounting. It felt good to check those things off my to do list. I also took a long walk on the beach. We take a beach walk as a family every New Year's day but I also like to try to get a solo walk sometime early in the year. Walking on the beach unknots my shoulders and helps me think things through. It is a good time to think about my goals for the coming year.

I posted on Twitter last night about looking up last year's goals, thinking I'd done pretty well on them, and then realizing they were actually the goals from 2020. I didn't really make any goals for 2021 - I think the unspoken goal was just to get me and my family through the year safely. I did that and honestly that is a lot given all that 2021 asked of me. 

Still, I'm ready to think about some goals again. My goals for 2022 are heavily influenced by the last quarter of 2021, when I started to try to act on the realization I had when we got back from our summer vacation that my work life was out of whack and that was spilling over into all other aspects of my life so that everything was seriously out of whack. I was just trying to get through my work days and weeks on the promise of something better sometime - maybe on the weekend, but those were full of chores so maybe in retirement?

Here's what I wrote in my journal one night not long after we got home:

Can I learn to stop wishing away the days and years that are my life?

Can I unlearn the impulse - indeed, need - to plan for that better thing just around the corner, that better time just over the horizon?

Can I treasure what I have now?

Can I stop reaching for what is next and just be here now?

Life is here now.

So, my overarching goal for 2022 is to learn to live the mantra I used on vacation, when I started to worry about things I could not control... Be here now.

This will not be a one year project. The first step is to get back to doing work I enjoy and don't just endure. That is hopefully underway. I have some other specific ideas for how to work towards spending more time here now, which I've broken into four areas:

Health - Body

- Get fit and strong again, so that I can enjoy the activities that make me feel most present. Also, the right kind of exercise is a really good way for me to "get out of my head" and worry less. 

Health - Mind

- Take the half-assed meditation practice I've got and make it something real.

- More reading and creating, less scrolling.

Work/Career

- Finish untangling the mess ("Untangle the mess" was one of my 2020 goals, which I made zero progress on in 2020 but did actual start making progress on in the second half of 2021).

Citizenship

- Re-engage in politics. I was not very active in 2021 - I could say that too many other things were competing for my time, and that is sort of true. But it is also true that I just ran out of steam and gave in to doomscrolling far too often. I feel better when I'm doing something about the problems I see. When I don't do anything, I waste too much time and energy worrying. Better to pick some specific action (e.g., write 5 postcards or letters every week) and do that. I'm not sure what my specific actions will be yet, but I'm working on that.

- Keep greening my life. As I mentioned in my last post, we've electrified the big things and have solar panels. I think the concrete thing I'd like to do here is try to replace some car trips with trolley trips. 

That's my plan for 2022. I fully expect the pandemic and/or other current events to throw some monkey wrenches into the works but even if the specific plans end up derailed I hope I can keep the overall goal in mind. I don't want to wish away these years, no matter how hard some of the days are.