working women

A Day in the Life (These Days)

People sometimes ask me if I like my job.

My answer used to be an enthusiastic “yes!” How can I not love a job filled with reading to kids, writing with kids, doing research and helping them grow into readers and learners?

These days my answer is different. Lukewarm, at best. I get up and go to my school every required day. But I am not excited about it right now. What used to be a positive, welcoming place is now filled with “spread out!” and “don’t touch!” Books turned in are quarantined in a special room on carts until they’re safe to touch.

Instead of kids drifting in and out of my classroom throughout the day, they can only come to the media center once a week during their assigned time slots. They come in, stay in line, sit down in the distanced chairs.

They watch my whole, real face tell them a story on video while they browse tables of books with their eyes, not hands. (I no longer have a clerk to assist me, so I “clone myself” with a video screen.) If students want me to open a book, I prop it on a random page then keep moving. When they have their selections they head to the desk. I scan a barcode instead of them typing their own numbers. No touching! Then they return to the exact same seat.

Instead of laughter, the most prevalent sound is the *psst* *psst* *psst* of food contact surface spray. I scrub. I shuffle books. Gloves on. Mask on. Smiling with my eyes as best I can.

I miss my job. I miss spontaneity. I miss special projects. I miss idle chat that leads to great ideas. A few fewer rules. A few more smiles.

A highlight of the week is when I do carside book delivery to the digital learners. Some drop by twice a week. Sometimes I get to wave to the kids in the back seat and tell them I miss them. Last week a parent held up her phone so I could Facetime with her son, waiting at home for more books. I’m not the only one who is missing something.

Or the other afternoon when I had a spur-of-the-moment takeout picnic with my daughter at the park. As I was leaving I heard a girl’s voice scream in excitement “YOU ARE THE LIBRARY TEACHER! YOU ARE THE LIBRARY TEACHER!” Then her little sister, a new kindergarten student, joined in the hollering. We waved excitedly. From a distance. Even with the mask, they still see me and I still see them.

I’m determined to stay positive and try to keep connecting to kids at a time when everything is about separation. When the kids watch me tell a story and laugh at the right parts, I know I am still reaching them through all the rules and rigamarole.

The Roaring 20s, I tell myself. The Roaring 20s.

3Splitz Farm, working women

City Girl 2 Farm Girl

The title says it all. How do you take a city girl and drop her in the country and get her doing stuff? Farm stuff to be exact. Chores, using a knife, hauling trash and other non-city-girl things.

The easiest way to get her to produce is tell her she can’t and she will do everything in her power to prove you wrong. So to those who said you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t, it’s not for you, it’s hard work, and so on I’m toasting you right now. I am ever so thankful for your encouragement and motivation. 

The new flavor of this girl is country. It might be country on the weekend and city on the weekday but that’s okay. It’s what works right now. In life we all make sacrifices. If you have a dream and you want to put it into action you need to sacrifice, hustle and do what needs to be done.

That’s where progress and growth comes. You grow when you test your limits. You gain confidence when you push yourself beyond what you think you can do. Some things may take more practice than others but you will never know until you try. Try as much as you can as often as you can until you find what you love.

For me I’m one month into my new farm girl role. Oddly I found out I enjoy mowing the lawn. Mowing acres upon acres. It’s a mindless task but one that is physical, especially if your tool is a push mower. I guess I just drift away when mowing. No time clocks. No requirements to report to anyone. Just me and the mower having some quality time. I may also be daydreaming about getting abs from all my farm chores. A girl can dream, right?

I also enjoy the task of making trash hauls to the dumpster or burn pile. Maybe it’s that I get to hook up different trailers or wagons to my four wheeler and zoom off. Who knows. I just enjoy being a little worker bee. 

Speaking of quality time there isn’t anything much more rewarding than enjoying the outdoors, spending time with family / friends and just experiencing the great outdoors in many different ways. I’ve been an avid boater for years. One could say I enjoyed the same quality time but it’s lounge time which is not the same as creating, working and living on your homestead.

Arts / crafts, game nights, home cooking, barbecuing, and so much more. I even have a new farm chick shirt to honor the farm girl and author in me. I have the best of both worlds right now. I get to experience farming and tell the world about right here on this blog. My kids are seeing my shift and challenge of myself. It is my hope that it will inspire them to venture out in their own ways as they adult. The serene views of wildlife and historic barn will never get old because each day brings a different view. On most days it seems we have our own little climate in the mountains.

And for those of you out there who think farming is a lost skill, think again. Meat, veggies and other things are produced by farmers. Having direct access to farm items to my table is a compliment to my fitness and health journey. Fresh, quality and affordability. 

Hope you enjoy my farm sampling one month in. I even met some new critters this weekend. A skink, a snake and a giant spider. No picture of the snake because I was screaming while kicking my feet up as it slithered by. It was a black snake not venomous so the screams were not needed but seemed applicable at the time. There were many other creatures but those are just a few that had me on my toes.

Until next time, picture me honing my farming skills in one way or another.

challenges, working women

Digital Dooms Day

Today was the day. First day back at school, digitally. How did it go? It sucked! It sucked life out of me.

Did my kid get up and do what needed to be done? Yes. Did she have tools to be somewhat successful? Yes. Granted this rant is just my perspective and I know there are many others with a different view but for those who haven’t started back to school here’s a view from my lens.

1st period login was from the car. Yes I’m a bad mom but hey I leveraged technology using a hotspot so I could get my workout in and took my sidekick since I knew she would be strapped to the computer all day. All damn day! This was a requirement due to what was on the plate for the day and my mental health matters, too. First order of business: shirts are required on Zoom. Do not take your laptop to the bathroom. Nobody wants to see that! Wow, just wow. Those were the welcome words from the teacher. That surely took me for loop.

Period 2 was no biggie but I did get texts from others having login issues. First cluster of interruptions. Period three was Spanish so nothing like listening to teens learn a language over Zoom while you are concentrating on your paying job!

Next time frame had screenshot of strange faces on Zoom. Then somebody thought it was funny to post porn on Zoom. Yep just another day a school in 2020. What kind of schooling is this?

Email-text-call from county about trouble with sites. Maybe that’s because 90,000 people are online plus telecommuters. Shake my head in disgust. The school system created this mess.

Lunch. Thankful it’s lunch break but my kid gets 1 hr 20 minutes for lunch. No school lunches. Let me stop and make something. Oh now you want to talk at the counter about all the craziness. Did I mention I work? Did I mention I only have one kid to deal with? How about folks with 3? How about those who work in an office who are not as flexible as me?

How does any adult get anything done? Has any school board member thought about this? In come the work emails. Employees are stressed. Can’t focus with all the interruptions. More stress on the home / work front.

End of the day yet? Well it’s really just the beginning for me. You see I still need to do my work after playing teacher, tech person, email coordinator, etc. How is this good for anyone’s mental health?

Oh just when I thought the day was over in comes the email-text-phone call from the school. Clearly one method of contact isn’t enough. Spamming is required. This message says well, our system sucked today so we are asking you to login in earlier tomorrow. Okay my kid starts at 7am you want her learning at 5am? Sounds logical to me. It also sounds logical to keep kids glued to a computer for 8 hours a day…NOT!

How many parents need Valium after day one? Remember I had it easy in comparison to those who juggle work at a brick and mortar business, or the single mom, or the mom of 5 kids under age 12. And note I mention the word mom a lot. The main reason for that is I would guess 80% or more of those I know have the mom as the token teacher regardless of their full-time or part-time obligations. It’s an invisible expectation. Even those moms who are teachers are expected to take their kids to school while they teach. Hmmm it’s not safe to go to school but the teacher’s kids can go to school. Let the juggling act begin.

I let out a big sigh. It’s time to move on. A new day tomorrow. But I do ask myself: how long will this insanity go on? I have built up tolerance. I have exercised my patience muscles. I have been flexible. I have adjusted. But how long until the seams bust?

Valium anyone? Or maybe Xanax is more applicable. Hope you enjoyed the comedy rant. All you can do is laugh at what we call life today. And of course many make shift momma/teachers are working on fractions hourly to combat stresses. The pic below is a great visual.

working women

Wah

Work at home or wah has been something I have been accustomed to for over 20 years. I am not a newbie to juggling work and home life. Wah requires a certain kind of discipline.

School holidays, summer vacations and digital learning days have always added a layer of distractions over the years but they were managed with care. Even when the pandemic popped up tolerance was built up and grace was given across the board. A juggling act of sorts began. The tolerance was temporary.

Fast forward four months and patience weakens when the reality sets in that one’s wah environment changed permanently. The distractions become coworkers. A teenager, a spouse, a token visitor, and a dog are now fixed figures much like a coworker. Don’t be fooled. These coworkers are not on your team.

Their output doesn’t impact your quota or goals. In fact, their production counts against you in ways that are hard to articulate. Their mere presence over time can counteract your goals.

Each new coworker has needs. It could be bandwidth for zoom meetings. Background noise for calls. Your favorite snack in the pantry. The list could go on and on. Now let’s compare that commotion to the once quiet and peaceful singular employee wah environment one was used to. There is no comparison!

The world around us has changed as well. Neighbors are also working at home due to environmental conditions. They may now mow the lawn more mid-day. They may let their dog(s) out in the yard during the day more. There may be neighbors talking over the fence more. There may be kids playing in the pool next door. There may be more UPS deliveries next door more often. That means noises, distractions, and so much more.

A chain reaction can start quickly. One dog barks in the area then five dogs bark. One toilet flushes then another, then another. School starts at 6:20 am for one. Work starts at 8 am for another. Work starts at 10 am for another. End times, lunch breaks, naps, and meetings all fluctuate between the pop-up mini-team. The poor dog is like a ping pong ball. No more daytime naps for the dog. Too much stimulation.

Somebody turns on the laundry mid-day. Somebody has a visitor pop over. Somebody burns something in the kitchen. Somebody takes a TV break and turns the sound up too loud. How does anyone get anything accomplished?

Work conference calls. School zoom classes. Chaos on the home front. Home and work is now mixed without barriers. Temporary is now more permanent.

I almost forgot the annoying coworker. The one who reads an article and wants to discuss it with you. The one who can’t focus on their own work so they ask you irrelevant questions. A coworker who looks to you for motivation or that mental push. Remember your coworker isn’t on your team but they need you to solve their perceived problem. Today it could be motivation. Tomorrow it could be world news they want to have a chat about. The complexities of wah with coworkers that have independent goals and objectives are many especially if they are related to you.

Was your home office really designed for one or four? Do you have additional responsibilities during the pandemic to keep your job? How is your performance holding up? How is your mental toughness?

How will businesses survive when employee productivity declines even further because their impatience and stress at home become too much? How will kids develop when we take away their social environment and replace it with forced digital environments that  are unhealthy in the best of situations?

So much chaos today. I didn’t even have to mention the fact that no masks are required at home. But is home really home when you make it a workplace, a school, a gym and force so much change on everyone within the home walls that the seams are ready to bust?

Wah no longer means work at home to me. It now translates to what a haze. A haze not traditionally discussed. One that will cause some to revert to drugs, alcohol or other self- medicating or self-harm measures to cope.

Each of the above coping mechanisms present another layer of negativity in the home which is now the school which is now the conference room and maybe even the church and so on.

I can’t wait to see the statistical reports in about 3-5 years. The data that will show all that was lost and learned in 2020 during the pandemic. Statistical data is going to pack a punch down the road. Many are in the moment not thinking about long term consequences.

There will also be stats on kids’ vision and how it was impacted. All the screen time between video games, social media and now online schooling. I know in our wah environment we have made adjustments from varied background screen colors to glasses to keep up with changes in digital hours.

2020 is definitely a year for the record books. Wild, crazy, unpredictable. I think I’m going to work at the office. I have that choice, many don’t. It will most likely be less chaotic.

adventure, working women

Look Pretty, Play Dirty

Can you look pretty and play dirty? Yes, you can. As an adult you can dress up and go to the office and turn around and play in the mud when you get home. As a teen you can go to the ball field by day and put on a prom dress by night. You can be up to your elbows in soil or manure then rinse off, quick change, lip gloss and off to a date. Lab coats and litmus strips by day can become Lush and Louboutins by night without much effort. Like “I Dream of Jeannie” in TV history, we wiggle our noses, blink, and change happens almost before your eyes. It seems pretty easy.

I have a Jeep. It has big tires and it’s meant to get dirty. It’s a recreational vehicle. Great to take to the beach and get sandy or mountains to get muddy. Perfect to take me up snowy roads and hold all my equipment too. Then of course it can also make the commute to the office or a business meeting. It can clean up nice with a good washing thus be able to look pretty after playing dirty.

My Jeep is still a dynamic piece of machinery. Built with strength in mind. Robust. Rugged. Eye catching. People can reflect the same.

I think about this vehicle and its contrast to people. Does your vehicle say something about you, your spirit, your identity? Maybe in some ways it mirrors or accents you. I like the rugged, beefy look. Others may choose something sleeker.

Even if you choose a car for efficiency, you can add some spice to make it reflect your spirit. Stickers, license plates, ornaments for the rear view mirror and more. Bike racks, kayak rigs, and all those accessories show that you’re ready for outdoor adventure. It is all in the details. Why be generic? Many of us spend a lot of our waking lives driving around. Shouldn’t it make you smile? Be an extension of who you are? Not just functional, but fun and even flashy, too.

Can a female athlete be competitive on the field, but turn around and be a beauty queen? Of course. One may have thick thighs, robust shoulders, and undeniable strength as an athlete but turn around and clean up ever so nice after a tough day on the field or In the gym. Much like my Jeep. Pretty doesn’t have to be dainty and reserved. Something nice to look at without much substance. As much as others may try to pigeonhole us to be just one way, we can resist and embrace all of who we are.

People are versatile just like my Jeep. Big tires, thick thighs they are both purposeful in their own way. In honor of my look pretty play dirty mantra, check out the new decal riding around on my Jeep these days. There may or may not be another underlying message in the decal.

Despite the rollout of the new Bronco by Ford, I am still a Jeep girl. Still waiting for the Blazer to roll out but Jeep girl it is for now. Who knows what my next evolution will be?

From off road to off work to off the field I am always embracing the look pretty play dirty mantra. What’s your mantra?