School at Home

I don’t make the mistake that we’re homeschooling. And by “we’re” I mean my wife is and by “homeschooling” I mean coming up with lesson plans, teaching, and ensuring work is done in a meaningful and lasting way. On the other hand, she is taking the comprehensive work plan the school sets out and making sure it’s done properly which is no small feat. I think if we were homeschooling in the true sense, it might be a little bit easier since we would have more flexibility on due dates and might know the material better. But on the other hand, we would have to come up with all this stuff, learn it, AND teach it so let me tell you, I think we’re getting the better end of the deal.

Well, I am anyway. As I said, my wife is doing all of the teaching while I’m doing a lot of the working. She’s balancing work and RR’s school. And she’s planning on going back to school herself so we’ll end up shifting yet again. This entire year feels like it’s shifting constantly. I hate to throw it all on 2020 but, man, it sure feels like a shitshow.

Anyway, school at home is hard. Mothering is hard. Wifing is easier these days (I hope that’s a shared opinion at least). The basement flooded. A bird died in the heater. We had to replace all the cold water pipes. Suffice to say, home-owning is hard. 2020 is hard. What else is new?

When that Disaster Pays Off

We are so lucky I have a titanium bar in my leg. As we speak, my daughter is in her morning school meeting, my wife is meeting with her boss, and I about to be in a group discussion about my Library’s COVID services. Our internet is plugging away just as hard as it can.

Fifteen years ago, while at work, I was on a deck that collapsed. The wooden platform crashed toward the house, trapping my ankle underneath. It shattered in such a way that it took almost a year to suss out a solution and get surgery to fix it. I’m now up two silicone plugs, six screws, and a bar. That deck was on a commercial property and 15 other people were seriously injured. Necks, backs, legs. There was a lawsuit and the result was a down payment on this small house.

This house has held us up for 11 years. It has weathered an infant and a stable of animals. It’s now hosting remote therapy sessions, two jobs that have moved online, and fifth grade. It just took a disaster to get us here.

Anxiety, of Course

Are there people who aren’t coping with a bit of anxiety right now? We already know I am and my child keeps chewing on her fingers. My wife seems impervious to it all though, so I imagine some of you must also be blissfully floating through a pandemic. An exaggeration, of course, but that’s what it feels like for those of us (me) struggling.

RR started virtual school this week. It’s an every other week thing but this is the first time she’s back at it since last spring. I checked in on her this morning and she was raptly watching her teacher lead but her brow was furrowed and she was crouched over the screen. Can she understand? Is her slow processing speed keeping up?

I still have questions about how the school is supporting the children who need extra help. They have added an additional teacher to the classroom but shifted away the support teacher who was working with her in the spring. RR worked so hard on her math and reading over the summer and I hope she is seeing the results. But what about school overall?

It doesn’t always work for me to wait and see and deal with each thing as it comes. That’s so often what I hear therapists recommending. Less planning, less problem solving. I have choice words for how that makes me feel. But in the meantime, I can pick back up on some of the other things they recommend, starting with a short meditation each day. RR is joining in (OOOHMMM, she says) and hopefully it will help us both.

More Alone

Not too long ago, I complained I was never alone. Now I’m going to be alone in a way I didn’t want to be. On Friday, we will put our beloved dog to sleep. His body can’t hold him up any longer.

It’s heart-breaking to see a dog continue whose body has failed but whose mind is fairly intact. I find myself dissolving at the most unexpected moments and I can’t picture life without him. Why does this seem worse than when my father died?

There’s so much else going on in the world and in my personal life right now. Murders, calls to defund the police, marches, protests, job security, death, uncertainty over absolutely everything. I don’t want to say goodbye to my best friend.

Alone

Who here is tired of being home with other members of the household? Raise of hands, please, and ignore the fact that both of my arms are waving frantically. Since March 17th I have been at home with my family and while there is a lot of good about it, I am occasionally done with togetherness.

Here’s an example: today I’d like to work from the living room, watching trashy TV and returning emails. It’s something I do when I work from home and I’m surprisingly productive. My brain is able to turn off the distraction and have a pleasantly peaceful work experience. I was fortunate that I could do that for about an hour. But I wanted more, as you do with delicious things that make you feel nice.

But then RR was done with her math work and my wife had a break between meetings and suddenly I’m watching Teen Titans Go and I’m decidedly too distracted to work in the living room, next to my dog, in a cozy chair. Granted, I was in the central living space so it’s no one’s fault but my own. That said, I found myself wishing for just a moment, that I could be alone in the house as I used to be when working from home.

It’s not as if I couldn’t ask for time by myself. My wife would take RR for a walk in a heartbeat and leave me with 20 minutes. On occasion though, I want what I had – a long period of peace in our house – and I’m frustrated that I can’t have it. I’ll bet my wife wishes she had it, too. I’ll bet everyone in this house wishes this were over. But it’s not going to be over, not in the way you might see it as a return to normal and neither one of us is headed back to work anytime soon. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

Old Dog New Tricks

Moses is failing. A few weeks ago we had a vet come for a house visit after he spent an afternoon and evening dragging his lower half through the house. His leg muscles are deteriorating, said the vet, it’s degenerative. But try tylenol and CBD and look for more bad days than good. This dog still has some life in front of him.

Sure enough, Moses recovered and we’ve had three goodish weeks. But then he started tripping more, legs shaking, and, every once in awhile, dragging his back legs. The stairs to the yard are steep and unavoidable and more frequently he ends up flat halfway down (if he won’t let us carry him). I may not have mentioned – this is 80 pounds of best friend we’re talking about.

The vet assures us this doesn’t hurt him and there’s no whining or yelping to accompany his collapses. Just a general sense of indignity wafting off of him. His brain is utterly perfect. His faculties intact. He still wants to play and go for walks. Rather, drags, since about halfway he starts struggling, no matter the length of the walk.

At some point, probably soon, he will become incontinent or “have more bad days than good.” How do you decide to say goodbye to your best friend when everything about him but his legs works just fine? And why is this happening when our regular vet isn’t available? Fuck you COVID and degenerative myelopathy both.

Rain, Rain

It’s funny how some things seems so much…bigger…when you’re stuck at home. What’s the right word? Confined? Restricted? Locked up? I mean, I could leave at any time so it’s much better than it is in some parts of the world and if I go outside and pass someone, I can still worry about rapists and the virus in equal parts. As an aside, will it be regional, do you think? Corona on the west coast, ‘Rona in New York, Covid-19 in DC, Covid in the surrounding areas, and SARS-CoV-2 in Atlanta? What about the racist names? What are the history books going to settle on?

I’ve gotten off track. I wanted to talk about the dismal weather we’ve been having. It’s bleak and cold and entirely unwelcome. I know it’s spring and April showers bring May flowers and all that but May 1st is tomorrow, it will be 66 degrees and I’ve had just about enough. Not that I’m pleading for it to be hot and mosquito-ridden, I’d just like a bit of a happy medium for enjoying my time in the house, working, in front of a window that is, for most of the time, displaying a steel grey sky and dripping wet plants.

I’m cloudy myself at the sight of it. I feel grouchy and irritable and generally bleak about everything. It feels like nothing will be better until the sun finally comes out for more than a day. Can you use light therapy to forget we’re social distanced, the economy is crashing, and people are dying?

I Think We’re Alone Now

Lots of adult conversations happen in our house. Are the pipes really failing? What’s the budget look like right now? Is she ever going back to school? How are interest rates? Should we refinance the house? Are we going to have to put the dog to sleep? And how does this pandemic affect…well, everything? Lots of adult conversations and very little adult time.

You know what else we have? A pair of little ears that want to know about EVERYTHING. What are you talking about? What does investment mean? Why doesn’t the grocery store have food? Will I miss school in the fall? What do you mean no camps? Most of the time we catch ourselves before we launch into adult talk but she seems to always be there.

I know we’re not alone in this (we’re never alone it seems) so what is there to do but send her to play in her room? She desperately wants to know what we’re talking about so she doesn’t want to do anything else but listen. It’s like we’re the most interesting people on the planet. Maybe during a pandemic we are.

Head in the Sand

In November 2016, I stopped reading the news. Just stopped. The hype of the election and the devastation in the aftermath was, for me, more than I could handle. I didn’t want to see the dissection of what went wrong for the first female candidate for President (yes, I would have voted for any woman running regardless of party) and I didn’t want to see the shambles that was quickly unfolding at the hands of the newly-elected President. No news was better for my mental health and so it was.

I wasn’t reading the news in 2017 when my dad died and white supremacists descended on Charlottesville. The grief was sickening that year. It must have been 2019 when I reactivated my subscription to the Washington Post and started following headlines on the New York Times. I didn’t go to any news sites, preferring a feed reader to dull the sensationalism.The world didn’t get any brighter in those two years. It appeared that many things were still in shambles, including my mental health.

You can see where this is going. But I was doing better! I didn’t have such a visceral reaction to the horror of the news. Wildfires, a shameful national leader, the loss of healthcare for millions, and so on and so forth. Still horrible but my skin was thicker. Apparently, not thick enough.

This virus and its impact have been crushing. It’s not the dying thousands really, although that’s horrifying, it’s the children wearing masks. It’s the decimated grocery stores. It’s the forced distance from others for fear of something we can’t control or vote out in an election. It’s fourth grade at home. It’s not going to an office each day and abandoning a spring break trip. Did I say it already? Can I say it enough? It’s the children in masks.

Debra sent this video yesterday. It’s light-hearted and upbeat, considering the subject matter. I cried. I can’t not cry. Yes, the environmental changes are amazing. I can see the bright side through the tears, at least. I’m not sure my therapist (and yes I have one) can help with this. It’s worldwide grief this kind and I have to stop reading the news.

Pandemic Boss

It occurred to me after I titled this post that it could be construed as me being some kind of superstar in a pandemic but, sadly, it’s more of a literal thing. It also occurred to me that you all might write your titles after writing, which I rarely do. Maybe I should rethink my strategy so we don’t end up starting from some sort of confused alternative world where I’m saving the universe and generally looking hot while doing so.

Instead, we’re reorienting from that tangent into reality wherein I have had three bosses in the last two years. In an industry that doesn’t see a ton of turnover – at least, not THIS much turnover – it feels both a little nerve-wracking and frustrating. The latest one started recently and I had my first meeting with her last week. It went well enough, for video chatting with someone I’d never met before.

I’m pretty comfortable with zoom, our (and everyone else’s) platform of choice for work. I can make small talk, get down to business, engage people, and generally, feel pretty adept at both running and attending meetings virtually. I’m probably better at it than I am in person since silences aren’t as painful somehow when I’m not talking with someone in real space. The first meeting with my boss went okay but I felt constantly awkward.

My wife says I wasn’t awkward, an opinion that means something since she was sitting in the room with me when my boss and I were talking (the joys of working from home!). But, well, she loves me so I think that takes off a few points. It’s weird to work from home with your entire family, Reader, weird. Still, I felt a little awkward and I wished we could have had at least one meeting in-person.

Having a new boss is intimidating. Doing it during an epidemic where you have to rely on facial expressions alone is daunting. Having the preferred method of conversation be on screen when you’re both getting emails and chats every few seconds doesn’t make it any easier. Each time her eyes slid over to what must have been a new message (and mine did as well) I wondered if I had said something I shouldn’t have. So here we are, new boss, new way of being. Just shy of terrifying.