Zoom, Google Meet and WebEx – How Do We Survive Online Meetings for 8 Hours Straight?

One factoid about COVID-19 and the workplace that stuns me: apparently, when you HAVE to work at home, scheduled meetings increase by 150% (neck and neck with the increase in alcohol sales). My first two weeks at home, I had consistent meetings, often scheduled with no time in between, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I had to start scheduling “I’m making my kids lunch” for 15 minutes on top of existing meetings. Thankfully I’ve seen a slight slowdown with meeting scheduling, probably due to the fact that the government realized that the state was still running even while non-essential employees worked at home and ensuring that our days were full with meetings was a bit overkill. Just my conspiracy theory thinking…

THE single most challenging aspect of working at home with tons of meetings is having young children. Half the time I’m on mute, but with video, and I’m sure my co-workers and client sites are wondering “who the hell is she yelling at and what is going on?” There are occasional meeting bombings that occur. Our house is small. Why do my kids insist on standing right next to me and watching my online meetings like they are an exciting YouTube video? Everyone on my calls thinks it’s cute when some random child pops out of the floor into the camera’s view, but I’m on the verge of losing my shit. Some meeting participants flash their cameras over to where their cute cat or dog is lounging on a chair or a couch. When I flash my camera over to my couch, what you will see is a man-child in flood-ready pajama pants (he gets a new pair every 2 years), chewing on his fingers while he screams things like “Noob” and “son of a b*&%$#” and “I have a backpack with a fish in it so MAN UP!” while staring at a device.

Along with children at home, I am really struggling with the technology. We’ve recently moved over to Google everything. No more Microsoft Office. I thought I’d retire before I saw Word disappear from my life. Moving to the Google Suite is an event that has never made me feel older. Sagging body parts, creaky joints, and sketchy memory have got NOTHING on Google Suite. Learning this platform has aged me about 15 years. Luckily, when I’m facilitating meetings or trainings online, I’m usually paired up with someone at least 3 years younger than me, which is like dog years where the technology learning curve is concerned.

Oops! You will have to excuse me – it’s almost 8 p.m. and I have some work to do that didn’t fit between meetings today…

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection: My Breath in the Deep Water

Do you have theme songs for the people in your life?

My theme song for my daughter is Deep Water, by American Authors. The YouTube video can be found here.

When I think about my darkest moments over the past several years – mental health, work, parenting, relationships, questioning self worth – my daughter is my breath in the deep, deep water. When life pulls me under, her presence brings me to the surface with strong, sure strokes. Not in a creepy, dependent, or misplaced reverence kind of way. She is moody, unpredictable, and frustrating but inside that tiny little ball of hot mess is a solid and grounded force that has helped guide me through rough waters since the day I met her.

 

 

 

 

Eating Healthy While Safer at Home!

Your refrigerator makes for a poor roommate when you are stuck at home 24/7. When the whole quarantine thing started, I relished getting out to the grocery store once a week; it was my one act of normalcy. Now I just don’t want to be bothered with it. I can’t use order online and pick it up for two reasons: I can never navigate the apps well enough to even find what I need so it ends up taking me about 2 hours to put together my order, and I really hate when I pick up and they say “We didn’t have regular Oreos in stock so we substituted them with mint Oreos.” Really??? Mint should not be an Oreo flavor, please don’t think it’s a good substitute for regular.

I decided it might be a great idea to do Whole30 again and my sister-in-law and I started it together. I did it last August like a champ. Definite benefits – lost weight, gained energy, never felt bloated, and discovered which foods typically upset my body when I re-introduced them at the end of the 30 days. I liked it so much, I kept my food intake at about 70% compliant, 30% after I was done. I thought doing it during quarantine would give me a little control over something in a healthy way since we don’t have control over much these days. Definitely a little more cheating than before (weekends), but still staying away from the foods that bother me. So not really “Whole30” per se, more guided by it.

Here are 3 things I’ve learned about eating when being locked in most of the time:

  1. Track my water. I never drink enough water. Now I keep a post-it note and hash mark it with each glass. It has helped, not drinking enough in mile-high Denver will definitely take a toll and make quarantine worse.
  2. Track my food intake, again on a post-it note. I don’t do calorie counting but I don’t remember what I ate even 5 minutes ago anymore so keeping a tally helps me put my day in perspective and helps me know if I should eat more or less, and what kind of food I still need for the day.
  3. Have an idea of healthy snacks ahead of time (even writing them down in the morning) so that when I need a snack, I already know what I’m going to eat (snacks are also not really part of Whole30 but I can’t eat just 3 meals a day). My biggest issue: I’m eating all day, but that means I eat during meetings. Your face looks even more horrible on a Zoom call when you are eating and it freezes up and it’s probably not good meeting etiquette anyway.

It’s hard not to eat like a maniac when you have access to food all day (for me, my fridge is about 10 steps away from where I’m working). I do know that if I am not paying attention, gaining weight and being stuck at home will make me even more anxious and depressed than I already feel at times. Most people I know would love to have some other ideas to help with this, so please feel free to share them through messaging (and I will share them in a future post) or responding to this post.

 

Solo Mama: Thought for the Day

“Don’t say anything while we are in the store. Otherwise I will explode into flames with frustration.”

This was directed to me from the back seat as we pulled into Walmart by you know who (the fiesty child). She muttered in all the way into the store while holding my hand, like a horror movie demon. That and the matted hair made it even a bit more frightening. Of course I talked most of the time we were in the store. She’s still the most gorgeous little girl I’ve ever seen.

Solo Mama: (Not) Surviving Work at Home with Kids

Hey Mamas! Are you at your wit’s end? Read on.

There are several reasons why I’ve dropped blogging for months, but I’m not ready to share those stories. What I am ready to do is try to make light of my current situation because honestly, I’m not really surviving work at home with kids. We just finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time and I don’t quite relate with the tenacity, willpower and courage of Frodo, hence making me Gollum. I’m raggedy, unpredictable, and even worse, I host more than two separate voices battling for power in my head. I’m tussling with Frodo on the precipice at the end of the movie, just before being knocked into the fiery pit below with the ring, which represents the last grains of my sanity…

What would I say to you, mama, also trying to survive? Let me tell you. At the start of this “Safer At Home, Stay At Home, Now Come Out but You are Still Safer at Home,” I kind of liked it. Maybe I’ve held out longer than others…but I’m feeling myself start to crack. Here are 3 of my go-tos to try and stay grounded:

  1. Avoid social media as much as possible. Surprise! Everyone is still posting their highlight reels! Our lives are falling apart to some extent but nevermind! I lost 20 pounds, my son was just accepted into Harvard at 10 years old and we are moving to LA because my daughter was discovered by a Hollywood agent who just happened to be buying cereal at Walmart while in town filming Back to the Future 4 when she lurked past him wearing a mask and matted hair that she had not combed out for 3 weeks.
  2. Create an “approximate” schedule. (That you will revise every day, but at least you have the satisfaction of telling everyone that your kids are on a schedule of learning AND fun!) Here is our schedule if you need some ideas. It is not copyrighted, so feel free to steal it and paste it up on the fridge:
    • Wake up and do chores that mama creates on the spot just because she thinks you should build character and not just sloth around the house all day like the teenagers you have not yet become.
    • Complete one homework assignment
    • Complete one language lesson on Duolingo so mama can post on Facebook that you are developing fluency in Navajo
    • Find new ways to pick on each other and make each other cry with intermittent spells of good fun
    • Go outside and ride around in the vacant lot across the street while mama accompanies you during her 20th Zoom meeting that day
    • Eat lunch (a cookie)
    • Get on your devices (here is where we take a wrong turn every day…)
  3. And finally, drink water! (Just kidding. That’s a tip in about every list of tips you can find online).
  4. Really, just try your best not to lose your shit and if you do sometimes, don’t feel bad. I would say that I’ve tried baths, meditation, learning languages, reading devotionals, long drives to nowhere, exercising, therapy, regularly taking my meds, and it is just plain hard out there right now.

Until next time, I’m thinking of all of you who can relate, and trying to push good vibes out into the universe…

Solo Mama: Parenting Your (x) Grader

This past week I picked up a couple of parenting books at church. Specifically, Parenting Your Second Grader and Parenting Your Fourth Grader. I figure I need all the help I can get. As I checked out with the cashier, she smiled and said, “Let us know what you think. We are really interested in feedback about these books.”

(Sure. I will get you some feedback if I survive the journey. As I write this, my second grader is choreographing a dance to Dance Monkey next to me at the table. Obviously I haven’t gotten around to reading about how to parent her.)

As soon as we got into the car, my fourth grader commandeered the fourth grader book and asked if he could read it. He hates to read so I was pleasantly surprised. I figured “Why not?” He might as well get a heads-up on all the voodoo I’m about to be work on him.

The first thing that happened was that he got a huge smile on his face and said, “Momma, look what’s on page 80!!” His sister demanded to know too. I knew too well from already having skimmed the book. “Yeah but look what’s on page 86!” I replied.

Page 80 started a chapter on sex, and page 86 was the beginning of the chapter on technology. My daughter immediately demanded to see the second grader book to see if sex was covered in her book. It was. Both of the kids were now super excited that these parenting books were finally going to force me into conversations about sex. Since last weekend, I’ve been asking friends with older children how they broached the subject with their kids early on. I always thought I’d be the cool parent and be able to talk about all this easily. Not the case. I just don’t think I should be telling an 8- and 9-year old about sex? The books don’t actually tell me to say, they just offer “stems” like, “I’m so glad you asked about that” or “Can we talk about this at another time?” (I will be using that one a lot), or “What kinds of things have you heard about sex?” (Do I need to cite the source for these questions? Are they trademarked due to the fact that they are in these books?).

I was especially interested in any guidance about technology. A suggestion for my fourth grader on this topic was sitting down with him while he played games or watched YouTube videos on the iPad. Last night, I cozied up next to him and the iPad on the couch and he freaked out. “Momma! What are you doing????”

By now, I’ve read both books cover to cover. My son has also read the fourth grader book cover to cover. At the very least, the books will make me think about my parenting. They also offer sections for reflection. Like “What do you hope to be true for your child in 468 weeks regarding (x)?” (The amount of time until my son turns 18). The most helpful part is that they offer phrases and sentiments that your child needs to hear at their respective age based on their social and emotional development.

If anyone reading this knows of any accessible (I am able to read them while stuck in traffic) and fabulous parenting books, please reply or shoot me a message. I’m not sure how much I will be able to digest along with my “on the job” parenting training, but these books have peaked my interest. Now, back to Dance Monkey.

 

Solo Mama: Never Do This

If you’ve read any of my posts over the past couple of years, you have probably read some of my daughter’s “Never Do This” statements. At times, she gets on a roll and will bother me every few minutes while watching a video, playing with her toys, listening to music, or just riding along in the car.

Below is a collection of a few of my favorites. Just for a laugh. It is important to note that due to the tedium of reading my job “title” over and over, I omitted the “Momma” from the start of each warning. Make no mistake, each warning is prefaced by at least one “Momma.”

Health and Safety (General Well-Being) Warnings:

“Never open your mouth while you are in the water. You might swallow a crab.”

“Never look up when someones says ‘there’s an airplane.’ They might rob you.”

“Never hide in a fireplace.”

“If you are suspicious, just walk away!”

“Never let anyone look in your purse unless it is a trusted person.”

“Never hold out a shiny coin. It will attract stuff that will eat you.”

Warnings Related to Bunnies:

“Don’t ever build your tent by a pile of rocks because a bunny could throw rocks on your tent.”

“Don’t ever put a string on a tree and hang from it because a bunny could come and cut the string and you will fall down.”

General Advice:

“Never get embarassed when you are on a stage.”

“Never put a heavy pumpkin on a boat.”

Momma’s Warnings That Are Often Overlooked by Children:

“Never show your momma videos from the backseat of the car while she is driving 75 miles per hour on the highway.”

“Never point your arrow or your airsoft gun at your sister.”

“Never spell out profanity on your trash can or refrigerator with magnet letters. Especially before family visits.”

“Never give up the possibility that you can aim straight into the toilet bowl when you pee.”

 

Solo Mama: Single Parent Overload

Whhhoooooaaaaa!

I hit Monday night, at the end of a long weekend (Dr. King, I celebrate you AND I also celebrate sanity AND there are too many Monday holidays over the next few months), and I realized I was on the verge of losing my mind. I was anxious, irritated, and had a very short fuse. Does this sound familiar to any parents with an extra day tagged onto the weekend? I’m blocking any Facebook parents who post cute, smiley, huggy-family pics from their long holiday weekend snowmobiling, ice fishing, taking a cooking class, posing with Mickey at Disney World, adopting a cat, getting matching tattoos, attending a major sporting event, soaking in hot springs or skiing at ??? (I don’t even know where it’s cool to ski anymore). Insert LOL emoji here. Especially this past weekend.

I’m an introvert, and every introvert knows that you need time alone to recharge. Time alone over the past 10 years=non-existent. In addition to being an introvert, I hold myself to standards that are simply not achievable. Our little family was non-stop from Friday night until Monday night with activities, friends, family, typical weekend chores – groceries, laundry, house cleaning – and by the time I realized I was tapped out on the final evening of the long weekend, it was too late.

Back to the time alone piece. Every parent knows that once you have children, you are never alone. They follow you everywhere, like tiny little poltergeists, they appear from out of nowhere and they are usually bleating “Momma. Momma. Momma” and then they disappear as mysteriously as they appeared.  As they’ve gotten older, “Momma” is just the stem to a monologue about a random piece of trivia that they’ve encountered on YouTube. The other day, I opened up the browser on my phone, and the first page was titled “How do I be a girl in Roblox?” Really. Everything about them is shocking. And it never fails, the moment you’ve hit your word quota for the day, one of them launches into a speech about Tones and I and how they imagined she would look based on her voice in the song “Dance Monkey” or they ask you about sex.

It is also a one-way street with these people. The other day, my daughter and I were painting clay animal figurines, and I brought up what I thought was an important topic. I wanted to know how she felt about it. After she answered my first question, she said, “Momma, can we not talk anymore? I’m trying to concentrate.” I will need to remember that line the next time they want to discuss the body styling of Mustangs versus Camaros in the car or ask me what world events I might be hiding from them (my son accused me of purposely withholding current news from them about Iran last week).

I hit a wall Monday night. I need to notice the warning signs before everything caves in. I need to be better about going into my room, closing the bedroom door, and hanging up my “Keep out” sign and escaping even just for 30 minutes. It might just make us all appreciate each other more as well. For others who hit this wall on a regular basis, I see you.

 

Solo Mama and the Resolutions Carried Over From 2019

New Year’s resolutions seem to be a dying fad. This year so far, a few people have mentioned them, but mostly in the context of avid exercisers complaining about their gyms filling up for a couple of months. In place of resolutions, the thing I’ve heard most is “I’m so glad 2019 is over, 2020 has to be a better year.” This seems to be the up and coming outlook; I’m hearing it more and more over the past couple of years.

I always face each year with “meh” – last year wasn’t the worst, I can’t imagine this year will be better or worse. I don’t place any hope in a great new year, simply because as years go, they all have their really high and really low points and everything in between. Most of what I would call “resolutions,” I started resolving to do the last few months of 2019.

I started using my Bible app more – thank you to a network of app users who have each imparted some insight about how to use it. Clearly I’m not upping my technology game in the new year. I think the most useful part of the app is that it pushes out notifications when my friends on the app are doing something. My technology savvy did not allow me to figure out how to shut these down, or maybe God intervened because He wanted to talk to me. I’m about to take my second drink when “Samantha just started a new reading plan!” I’m ready to cuss someone out over text when “Keisha just created a verse image!” I’m drowning in self-pity about being solo mama and up pops “Fred completed his Bible Plan! Say Congrats!” Thanks, God. Yeah. I hear you.

I lost my 15 pounds well before the new year, and changed my eating habits to keep them off (5 months strong!). Over this next year, I’m hoping to introduce what the experts call “exercise” into this program. I learned late last year that we have free access to one of our division’s gyms and it’s pretty decent. All I need to do is drive 10 minutes west, change my clothes and hop on a machine. Those things are proving to be giant barriers for me. I’m not sure if it’s the drive or the effort it takes to change my clothes. Maybe I just can’t stand that it’s free and I’d rather pay $30/month for something I will never use.

I started doing more stuff with my kids intentionally over the past few months. Like, not just letting stuff happen around us (“Look how that iPad just jumped into your hands!”), but actually going out and trying new experiences. We tried cross country skiing a couple of weeks ago as part of a weekend getaway we took together. This weekend, I went to a range and shot arrows with my son and his friend. I’ve developed new friendships with my kids’ friends’ moms which has allowed me to spend time socializing with other adults. We have some things coming up over spring break which are sure to rock the kids’ worlds so we’ve been planning for that.

Finally, about a month ago, I began the never-ending, backbreaking task of starting to clean out my house. A little at a time. I constantly tell the kids that we need to downsize and move to a townhome so that I don’t have to kill myself every summer trying to keep up with the yard. They get sad and say they want a house with a yard. I ask them to help me, they don’t (my daughter will do it for money), and the vicious cycle starts all over. It is probably all just idle threats though unless I plan to move to Missouri, since I could never afford another home in Colorado. That said, I’ve really gotten into keeping track of money with a budgeting app. Thank God for apps. What did we do before we had apps?

So, keeping my expectations realistic, I’m expecting 2020 to be a decent year. On the path to continuous improvement as myself, mom, employee, friend, sibling and daughter. Happy decent new year to you!

Solo Mama Exhausted

It’s the holidays. And most people are stressed, on edge and exhausted. Church today was a good reminder of where to focus. Our pastor had just come back from a 6- month sabbatical with a simple message, which he delivered through tears: God loves you. God wants what’s best for you.

Wow, did this resonate with me. I’m exhausted. I’ve felt disconnected from God for over two years at least and possibly longer. I’ve done all the “right” things to try to get reconnected. Examples include attending church twice a week, listening to numerous different speakers on YouTube and podcasts. Downloading and attempting to use a Bible app which everyone in the world seems to be able to figure out except me.

But I’m exhausted and I still don’t feel connected. I’ve never had to search so hard. God had always been near and present. Through friends, family, my children, people I interacted with daily demonstrated God’s love in some form.

The dark side of this, the dark sad places though, are the haunting voices and feelings that have been tearing me apart from the inside. The fact that I’ve been tearing myself down as a parent. Never feeling like I’m doing it right or good enough. The fact that I’ve been trying to prove to someone that I’m worthy enough to love for the past two years and still not hitting the mark. The fact that even though I put my full self and efforts into my job, there will always be naysayers. I’m so tired. So tired about not making the mark in these major areas of life. I feel gut punched. I imagine most people do, they just don’t say it out loud.

What exhausts you? How do you recharge and remind yourself that you are worthy and good? Once you find this, how do you sustain it? And pithy sayings are never enough anymore to answer the question: “Where does God go when you desperately need Him?”