Monday Musings: Another week at home

Monday musings in paper and inkIt’s been a rather productive past couple of days. I’ve written here, and I’ve been busy doing other things — baking, sewing, and destashing. I am trying to do more of the latter but have been minimally successful. Still, I think I’m doing pretty much better these days. I’d hate to think that I’m getting used to working from home and sheltering in place, but it is a relief to feel a sense of being settled.

Here’s a slew of blurbs to sort out my thoughts this Monday, as my week kicks off.

Time to take the weighing scale a little seriously. I must confess that I’ve been pretty bad in this department. I weigh myself every day and like I said before, I know what pushes my weight up and yet I still indulge. Ice cream is the main culprit! I have finished what I have and have sworn it off.. Of course, all the baking of banana bread and bread pudding doesn’t help at all. I am trying to do without the rice from here on. I successfully “evaded” it last night when I opted to eat a different dinner from theadobo that the boy requested for. I tell myself it’s time to get ready for the eventual return to office — even if the date is not yet clear as of today. I know it’s looming on the horizon — soon.

Another black life lost. Last Friday, a regrettable incident took place in Atlanta where a man’s life was snuffed out by gunfire from a police officer. Rayshard Brooks fell asleep on the wheel while in line for a Wendy’s drive through. Police assistance was requested. Police came. What started out as a regular conversation followed by a failed sobriety test, a chase, failed taser shots and gun shots rang out. Then Rayshard fell. He died in the hospital.

I am no stranger to such random disregard for life — but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. I am sad for all the parties concerned that this had to happen. Sadder still that it only stokes the fire of dissent from the thousands out in the streets chanting “Black Lives Matter!”. It is ironic that this happens just as the whole country is waking up to the stark reality that racism has no good side to it. For a country that prides itself as being the greatest country on earth, the stain of racism in as many years as it has existed stains the United States and magnifies how it is so fractured at its roots.

I am outraged that time and again, lives are lost with such wanton disregard for its sanctity. The discussion goes on. And the anger simmers.

It feels like quite a disconnect after I wrote those three paragraphs up there. I think I’ll stop here today, and write another day when the emotions are not as raw.

Black lives — ALL LIVES — matter.

Just another day

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI attempted a blog post last night to no avail. After a third time where I hit the delete button for the entire post by mistake, I figured the post was just not meant to be. I’ve been trying the dictation feature in writing my past, and I’ve had mixed success. It takes some getting used to.

It’s not entirely all dictated, because the feature still requires actual editing. I’m trying to see if it can keep up with the speed at which I speak, but I am realizing that I am actually talking slower hoping that the phone keeps up with my accent and my words. Sometimes, I catch it thanking and probably wondering what it was that I said. Given that I speak with a slight accent but still with a twang, I figure I have to give allowances for the software or the technology to get used to me as well.

So it’s just another day.

7:30am. My alarm rings and I grab the phone to turn it off and I scan my inbox. Force of habit. On a regular day from not so long ago, my alarm is set almost 2 hours earlier at 5:45. I do my morning routines and get changed. I decide I will take a shower in the morning like I always did, instead of before bed which is now an option. I have a video call at 11:30am today with an external office as a test for a call with the boss. I actually need to put on a face.

8:45am I am ready to start my day and I log on. Soft token spews out the 8 digits that change on a cadence and I am in. This is my virtual office and my day begins.

10:15am. I am reminded I have a video fest call before noon. I put the lightest of make up to look presentable onscreen. I had to look for my lipstick and just put a hint on. Just a little eyeliner and then I dabbed some powder on. I am used to full make up at work — it has always been part of dressing up for me. Since the shelter in place order took effect, my skin and my hair have been given a major reprieve from the daily abuse I usually subject it to.

The call goes well but there might be issues. I need my IT tech.

12nn. I make a deliberate effort to “observe” my lunch hour, whether I actually grab a bite or not. It doesn’t matter that I stay in front of my laptop continuing to work, but I refrain from sending emails unless it’s the boss. I want to be respectful of other people’s lunch hour as well, and I postpone replying or writing until after 1pm. Even when I was in the office, I tried to keep that hour free of reaching out. I might be working at my desk or otherwise handling something, but I will not call or write anyone until after the hour is over.

I wake up the 16 year old and he grumbles a request to stay in bed a few minutes more. Yes, I know, they are on a modified schedule, and their online learning has been pretty much at their own pace, but I don’t want him to lose the structure of the day. He saunters into the living room half asleep. I have to remind him three times to eat breakfast, offering lunch. He grabs his bowl and milk and cereal. At this time I start asking him what he wants for dinner. (I like defrosting in the fridge and the sooner I bring whatever item I need from the freezer down, the less fuss it will be later). He wants a steak. Simple enough.

I’m making bread pudding today. I have researched several recipes and had hoped to do what my mom used to make based on Nora Daza’s recipe. I was ready to go until I saw that it meant double baking (baking in a pan of water). I wanted to make the simple version and landed on this recipe from the New York Times.

I’ve been setting aside the top and bottom slice of my bread loaves since I started eating bread again, and I’ve collected enough to make two batches. (I keep them refrigerated.). One batch down.. I must say I am happy with the way it came out and I will look to tweak the recipe later with raisins and flavoring.

Bread pudding

Mixed and baked within the lunch hour, I let it cool another half hour before I sliced a piece for lunch. Meanwhile..

1:00pm. I get back to work. Scheduling can be as easy as one email exchange or twenty. Sometimes technology doesn’t work like we expect it to and there are explanations and calls to be made.

I needed my white glove support for IT to report and hopefully resolve an issue. He is one of my closest friends at work and we say hi and catch up and have a few laughs. Even if (and all the more because) he is a friend, I requested for a call after 1pm. Matter settled, second test call scheduled.

The afternoon moves with more emails and scheduling maneuvers. When you manage a calendar as busy as the boss has, there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing to make it work. Sometimes it gets too tight and everyone is unhappy, but I think I do a pretty good job of managing her days well.

4:00pm. I have to remind myself the day is almost ended, and the emails that need sending must be sent within the next hour. I also start writing my daily wrap up to brief the boss on the following day’s schedule. If we were working like we used to, I would hand her the day’s calendar with all background information and prereads printed. Since this all started, the summary of the following day’s meetings and today’s meeting requests or scheduling progress have been an efficient alternative. I start my draft so I can hit “send” before 6pm.

5.49pm. Recap sent. Officially logging off and off to my second job: Morherhood.

6:45pm. Time to cook dinner. My son and I have taken to eating dinner together while watching one of our favorite comedies. These days, we’re going through the last few seasons of That 7″s Show. He wanted a steak tonight, and I had more of my callos, then pudding with white chocolate chips for dessert. (I microwaved if for two spurts of 30 seconds to soften the chips. Heavenly!)

9ish.. “Me” Time. I go and do the things that relax me. I press my masks and start top stitching a batch. I am still undecided about the ties, so none are technically ready to go. My cord locks finally arrived. I really shouldn’t complain because I got them cheapest at Walmart, even if it was sold by one of their consignees.

Midnight. I call my siblings who are with my mom and I say goodnight to all of them. It’s a quick call as they are having lunch and I want to go to bed. I like that info this daily now because they are all quarantined at home and can pick up on their smartphones. I drink my vitamin D, freshen up and sit on my bed in the dark finishing this post.

Soon, I will be choosing my sleepcast and drift away to lala land.

Another day ended.. another one beginning in a few. I bid you goodnight.

Making the Stay at home situation work

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It’s the 6th weekend since we started this shelter in place / stay at home / but not a lockdown (because the Governor doesn’t like to call it that) new normal for New York City. Again, I’m not complaining, but of course, I long for what we had before March.

I don’t even want to think of going back to that, because I know that the reality of it is, this whole situation will change how we move forward, even after we are allowed to go back to a semblance of normalcy. I don’t know how soon or how far off that is — except that it won’t happen before May 15. Our state authorities have said as much. The way that New York City has suffered through the pandemic, it will be harder and a longer journey for us to try and reopen the city as we knew it.

Not that I’ve gotten used to this new way of doing things — but I think I’ve managed to adapt myself to this new way of living. It’s not just about adjusting to the “home office” situation, but more importantly, I’ve had to make some adjustments as part of trying to stay healthy and avoiding getting exposed to germs.

I washed my hands as much as I could — and the first two weeks, I developed a rash on the back of my left hand. It wasn’t anything alarming or painful, but it was uncomfortable and started to itch. Fortunately, I had my ointments from previous dermatological conditions. In a week, my hand was back to normal.

You just have to be conscious of how you do things, more so when you’re outside.

I live in a second floor unit with a common doorway with my first floor neighbor. We are in a u-shaped courtyard. It’s a residential community with minimal foot traffic, and my laundry and garbage bins are just a stone’s throw away from my doorstep. Still, I’ve tried to avoid going out as much as I can by doing things at home differently.

(1) Entryway essentials

– A Box of disposable gloves: so that it’s within easy reach for when I have chores to do outside.

– A trash bin with a disposable trash bag for discarded gloves and mail.

– A pair of scissors to open the mail or deliveries with

When I go outside to pick up the mail or a delivery, I open everything just inside my door instead of bringing everything up. That way, I can dispose of the wrappers or fold away the boxes right there for disposal.

(2) Develop the habit of sorting even your regular trash. I normally threw all the garbage in my huge 13-gallon garbage bin in the kitchen, but I have now reserved this for “wet” garbage. Paper and other “dry” garbage goes into regular or smaller trash bins. I can consolidate these later into a bigger bag, or tie together. Even when I cook, I consciously put away the wrappers with the dry garbage, and I collect the vegetable and fruit peels and containers separately. This will prevent the garbage bin from filling up and minimizing the trips to the garbage bin.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to others who have regular garbage pick up, or who live in buildings where there is a garbage chute. But speaking from experience, consciously disposing of garbage at a time when you don’t want to be taking too many trips outside your door has helped me keep things in order.

(3) Set regular office hours. If you’re one of those who have had to start working from home like me, it’s very important that you delineate your office hours — and be disciplined enough to observe them.

Begin your work day as if you were working in the office. I think I’ve gotten down to a manageable level of “busy” by pacing myself better now. The office closure didn’t really mean a slow down for our office, so I have had to adapt to the work-from-home routine and make a lot of adjustments beyond the smaller laptop screen, and only one screen instead of the two I had back in the office. Some days have been truly exhausting.

– Observe a lunch hour. This is important whether or not you grab a bite. The thing is to observe an actual break, get up from your desk, and pause. Literally.

Aim to finish your tasks for the day and send out the last e-mail the same time you would normally be walking out of the office. One thing that working from home robs us of is the urge to stop and get up to leave when we were actually in the office. We have buses and trains to catch, actual travel time to hurdle before getting home, and we need to be mindful of this even when we are in the “comfort of our own home”. Otherwise, you will find yourself working longer hours and exhausting yourself needlessly.

If you use audio alerts for email and meetings reminders, turn them on and off according to your office hours. My phone emits a sound when I receive an email in my work mailbox — I turn that off. My boss has her own text ringtone and I figure that it was urgent enough for her to reach me after office hours, she will text. So to the rest of my colleagues, there’s tomorrow. This last habit has helped me to keep myself focused on family and home when my office hours end. It has given me the chance to breathe and recharge.

– Shut down or log off your work system at the end of your work day. My personal and work email are both on my phone, but I’ve tried to make it a habit not to look at work emails after I’ve logged out of the network and turned my laptop off. All it takes is the discipline to literally watch the clock.

(4) Find a hobby or passion that you can pursue/continue even within the confines of home. For the first part of my stay-at-home journey, I focused on my art journal. I paused for a week or so, and I’m ready to continue. I’ve started sewing again, but it’s been in stops and starts because I am often too tired to do this at the end of the workday.

Not surprisingly, a lot of my colleagues at work who know I do jewelry were presuming that I’ve had more time to pick up my beads and pliers. The truth of it is, save for that one attempt at crocheting a necklace of glass crystals, the only other time I picked up my tools was earlier this week to restring a favorite necklace of gorgeous pink agate. I am going to try to do something about that in the at least 4 weeks more of this.

It can work if you choose to make it work. It doesn’t have to drive you crazy. When it does, you should find a way to get over the stress of being in this new normal.

I’ve started to cook and even bake. But that’s another blog post. I hope that sharing these things that have made this current way of life easier or more livable will help someone out there. We will get through this — we just need to hang in there and do our part.

Picking up my tools again

Home for a month now

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AWeek 4, a birthday via video chat, and working from home like it was just any other day. But it isn’t any other day.

It’s been a month since I last sat at my desk in the office. I’ve managed to make working from home “work”. I’ve secured enough food for my son and I even if we didn’t go out for three to four weeks. And I am almost relieved that the daily briefings have become briefer and less dire sounding. There is hope.

Working from home

The work from home situation: Week 4. I’d be lying if I say that I am all settled with working from home. I still wake up on a set schedule, just an hour or so later. I get ready and log on to the network with coffee mug in hand between 8:30-9am, which is right about the same time that I actually walk into my building back when I was at the office. I try to stop around noon to grab a bite. And at around 5pm, I start getting ready with my daily wrap up — something necessitated by the fact that I can no longer hand the boss her next day packet with her prereads and briefing materials. I usually hit “send” on that by, or just after, 6pm. So in essence, my daily schedule hasn’t changed. It’s still a long day, but I do it in the comfort of my home, and I am no longer dressing up and commuting to Manhattan.

The meetings have not really abated, so I still spend a huge chunk of my day trying to set her calendar straight, or organizing meetings for and on the boss’s behalf. With such an intense atmosphere at the moment, I have tried not to overload the calendar and give her and me time to pause and breathe. There is, after all, only so much that the body and soul can take.

And we are besieged from various fronts, both professional and personal. I am personally just grateful that I have a lot on my plate, instead of nothing. Many people, like the cafeteria and catering staff who were employees of our contractor, must be falling in line in the job centers and unemployment lines to get assistance. I am blessed to still have a paycheck coming in.

Hunkering down with a plan. I don’t like to liken the current situation to the apocalyptic scenarios that many of our movies have brought to the screen, but it does make me worry. Enough that I haven’t really been sleeping well. I try not to worry about my son and I, or the family back in Manila.

But I do.

I used to plan our meals on a week to week basis, and the weekends every other. As it dawned on me that going out would be more and more difficult, and how my grocery delivery service started falling short on the items I wanted to get but ended up not getting, I took stock of my pantry and made a plan.

Hoard, I do not. I am truly baffled why there was such a mad dash for toilet paper, and why every other aisle gets restocked and stays stocked, except the toilet paper aisle. Well, at the start, the bread aisle was a sorry sight. But the bakeries churn out enough to make sure that everyone gets their bread. But really now — toilet paper? Even before the mad dash, I have always had a healthy supply of paper goods, but only because I have found it more economical to buy in bulk, since I have them delivered to my home. Other than a huge pack of paper towels and toilet paper say, every 2 months or even longer, I don’t really consume that much. Again, there’s only my son and I. So you can get my allocation. The local grocery is now implementing a two-pack maximum for purchases.

I have been thinking of purchasing some the next go around, because I saw a feature story about someone providing it as “gratuity” for service providers like delivery people. But for my own personal use, we are covered at home. Literally and figuratively.

I have taken to putting in a small container of hand sanitizer with my tip. I also try to put in a note of thanks. These days, the customary tip of 10-15% just doesn’t feel like it’s enough, but I can only do so much.

I don’t want to get used to this because it is anything BUT normal. I try to look forward and get ready for the day when we will be slowly getting back to what we were before this invisible enemy crept up from behind us and took us over. There is hope. There is ALWAYS hope.

So in the meantime, I’m gearing up for week 5. Stay home, everyone.

Home sweet home

Do you ever work from home? I am fortunate enough to be in a position that can occasionally take that option, and my job has entitled me to a home office set up that guarantees connectivity and access. So let’s just say I had to work from home, I have a laptop and printer/scanner, a mobile WiFi device, and my smart phone is company issued so I can have mobile access. Our phone system is configured in such a way that I can trigger phone forwarding remotely, either through my mobile or laptop. And yes, there’s the IPad. So you can say I am all set and able to work from home whenever the need arises.

The downside is that my position, by itself, is an “in person”, “on the job” engagement– I have to be there. Today, though, was one exception, because the boss is in another state, and she was even kind enough to tell me herself to work from home. While that might sound quite the privilege — working from home literally means monitoring my iPhone and/or laptop for the email traffic, and like most days, almost memorizing my boss’s calendar as everyone wants to get on it. (I am proud to say that you can ask me about a particular date in the next 60 days and I would be able to tell you if my boss was going to be in town or elsewhere. Then again, I have an exceptional memory.)

I was looking forward to sneaking in some chores (like doing my laundry.. yeah, right).. clearing the space where I usually put up my Christmas tree.. getting some grocery shopping done.. getting the poster board for Angelo’s high school audition, and maybe putting away my summer clothes. But there were early morning fires to be put out at work, and lo and behold, I just discovered my kitchen sink was leaking. I cleaned the mess up under the sink, called the management office, and decided to write here while waiting for the maintenance guys to come (to my rescue), or for the email alert to ring on the laptop.

A relaxing day, it is not.

My superheroes did arrive and the busted sink is busted no more. I did get to do my laundry, and some grocery shopping, and I got the big boy started on his audition piece, but didn’t quite get him to where I wanted us to go. But it was a start.

That’s how my day went– and I don’t think it was that bad at all, but it could’ve been better. See? Working from home isn’t always such a breeze unless the idea is not to really work.