Fun or Else

Starting today, I’m gonna have fun all day long OR ELSE. That means, even at work! So what if I had Zoom meetings at 10,11,12,1,3, and 4 today? Fun times shall occur at 2 pm. It’s 2:30. I’m blogging. Thankfully, I consider blogging fun.

To start that fun off right, I made myself Zoom backgrounds so it will look like I’m in my new office. And I wore a cheerful shirt, plus lipstick!

Now, doesn’t that make meetings fun? Sure!

And to paraphrase Lee, I “get” to have a lot of meetings today. But, it’s true. I get to talk to a lot of interesting people. It was work book club day, which meant lots of fun.

Such a nice bunch of blurry people to chat with over lunch!

I did “get” to run over to the new office building, sign in to swear I am not sick, and get some pretty pictures of the completely finished stairs. Ahh.

Fun is how you define it! No wonder I surround myself with things that cheer me up. It makes whatever I’m doing fun. I’m extra glad for the happy keyboard and mouse, since most of my “fun” is typing!

Thanks, happy keyboard

What fun have you been having? Do you define your own fun, like I do?

Zoom Zoom

Are you tired of people going on and on about their online meetings? Me, too, but I still have things to say about it. In the past few days I’ve had a number of talks with friends and colleagues (mostly on Zoom) about how the pandemic and issues around it have changed their interactions with others. I’ve found it pretty interesting.

I pretend this is what I look like on Zoom with my headphones all jaunty and wearing lipstick that would stain the heck out of my mask if it were real.

This week I spent at least half of every day with my headphones on smiling at little square images of people who are smiling back at me. At least on Zoom, people can tell you are smiling, which is good, since my mask only accentuates my resting grumpy face. And I smile a lot, hoping it helps the moods of my friends and coworkers.

Since I work (and volunteer work) Zoom so often, I limit my personal Zooming pretty strongly. I have the world’s comfiest headphones (by Jabra), but they still get to me after many hours. Most of my personal conversations, like with my son and sister, are by text and Facebook Messenger, because that lets me multi-task, and frankly, I type more coherently than I talk. I can fix typos, but not speak-os.

Un-retouched Zoom me. Note wrinkles and frown lines.

Phone calls I just do with a couple of folks (hi Mike). I don’t mind them as much as some younger people do, but I don’t like yelling at the speaker phone where people can hear my whole conversation as well as what the other person says, but my ears need a rest from those headphones, so I don’t want to hold up the phone. And of course my fancy iPhone earpieces make me sound like I am talking from inside a well. Thanks, technology.

The COVID Effect

I’m pretty sure, though, that I communicate more often, and also communicate more deeply with others since the pandemic started. The threat over each of us that an invisible thing can come get us any time, anywhere, really makes me, at least, treasure my connections more.

What happens when I am on Zoom all day then open SnapChat. This is scary.

Many of my recent work meetings have turned into personal conversations, as well, since we agree that we need someone to safely talk about our concerns who doesn’t live in the same house with us. I’ve heard a lot about the difficulty of negotiating the current list of hot topics with relatives, talking to children about illnesses, and how important our pets are to us (see, it’s not just me!).

In some ways, I’m getting to know people better than I did before, when you tried so hard to just stick to the topic at hand. We all realize we NEED a little down time and that building relationships is important. Now, that’s a great bonus from all this isolation, for me.

Being able to see each other’s homes, our personal work spaces, our pets, or our back yards, reminds us that coworkers are way more than the spreadsheet maker, the project manager, the programmer, or the writer. That’s a key for greater understanding among all of us, which I’ve repeatedly stated: we all have more in common than we often realize. When you see that people in Israel or South Africa have the same collection of kitchen stuff on their counters as you do, the world gets smaller.

This meme hits way too close to home, doesn’t it?

2020 really has been a challenging year so far. Maybe these new connections will help us as we figure out what to do in the brave new, potentially even scarier, world of next year. Until then, I’ll keep on Zooming, texting, chatting, and writing.

How about you?

Zooming All Day: Pros and Cons

I didn’t have much time to write today, because this is one of those extra-busy times at work when I forget to take breaks, work through most of lunch, etc. But that’s good. It makes days go fast.

One thing that is different about my work, as it is with a lot of people who work in high tech companies, is all the video meetings. I dearly love getting to see my coworkers, and I enjoy meeting with friends online as well, but it’s hard to do more than a couple of hours a day, so I miss a lot of after-work gatherings.

It might be all the clashing colors that are causing me problems.

My eyes get tired and my ears get worn out both from wearing headphones for so long and from working to understand people with poor connections or who are talking over each other. I keep seeing how weird I look, like how my head is always turned, because my main monitor is to the right of the laptop with the camera. I keep trying to look people in the eye, but when I look at the camera, I can’t even see the person I am trying to look at! (I do find one-on-one meetings easier, especially when you are problem solving and can share screens and such.)

I’m looking at the camera, but I can’t see you.

I had been wondering why this was the case until I ran across this fine Slate article on Zoom call burnout this morning, by Christina Cauterucci. She feels my pain. The title, “I Will Not Be Attending Your Exhausting Zoom Gathering,” explains it all. Many of us can only interact virtually for so long. One reason we get so tired is that we miss a lot of subtle cures, so we end up staring at people trying to pick up when they want to speak, etc. Cauterucci notes:

“Even if you don’t think you miss locking eyes with your loved ones or colleagues, your brain might. Eye contact plays a documented role in successful human communication. One 2017 study from the University of Cambridge found that when infants and adults locked eyes, their brain waves were better able to “synchronize”; a 2019 study from the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan suggests that eye contact primes the brain for empathy. We’re also accustomed to picking up on messages our interlocutors send with their bodies, which give us clues about their comfort level, the direction and intensity of their focus, and whether they’re preparing to speak.”

Slate, May 12, 2020

Another issue she points out that I didn’t realize was an issue before: you don’t get any breaks. People can TELL if you start looking at your phone, reading your email, or otherwise losing focus. Believe me, they notice your fidgeting. I have a couple of people I Zoom with who are constantly throwing their arms in the air, moving around on their chair, and doing stuff. On the other hands, others just sit there, looking perfectly groomed and attentive the whole time. How do they do that?

At least you can still fire up your chat window and ask people, “What they heck are they talking about?” and “Why are they shouting?” I choose to believe people think I’m taking notes. HA HA. Or you can play Zoom Bingo, which got my coworker Karen upset:

I hear every one of these nearly every day. Dog barking is one I am guilty of if I’m at home. Check out my jowls, by the way. I do, over and over every day.

I guess we don’t have much choice. If we want to work virtually, we have to do this, even when a call would probably suffice. Or an email! Hey, let’s use the best tool for the task. That’s a good idea! We are very fortunate to be people who have all these tools, and I hereby acknowledge my privilege.

Honestly, I am grateful to be able to talk to friends, attend meetings for my nonprofit organizations, and see my coworkers. I’m sure it was harder on people during the flu epidemic in the early 20th century! I bet they complained a lot about the quality of their pens and paper, and how many stamps they had to lick!

That reminds me, I’m still writing those letters to people whose addresses I have. Most are just short notes, but it’s fun, especially when I hear back from people. I usually just manage one or two a day. At least hand writing uses different muscles than typing does. Many days my hands ache from typing, even when I use the lovely hemp cream I keep at my desk.

So, what are you doing to stay in touch? I blog. Oh, you noticed.

Reaching Out/Reaching Up

I was surprised to see reach as the UU Lent word of the day, but then I realized it’s really appropriate for me, and probably for many of us right now.

Reaching Out

For me “reach out” is most important. It’s no longer optional to reach out to friends and family, but mandatory. With so many people living alone or dealing with challenges (like schooling children…or heck, just feeding and entertaining them), it’s important to be in contact with your peeps.

Don’t do as the cattle do! Isolate!

Goodness knows, I am not a great correspondent (other than blogging), but I’m doing my part. I write a couple of letters every day and make sure to say hi to someone I don’t often talk to, especially those who live alone. Today a friend reached out to ME on the day I was going to reach out to HER, which made me smile.

Gratuitous chicken picture. They are reaching up and grabbing at clover I picked for them.

Some of the things people have been doing for each other have really warmed my heart. People who have surpluses share them (we got some bread products that way just yesterday). Restaurants are selling supplies they don’t need due to not being open to the public. And there’s all that mask sewing going on! Way to go, sewing people!

I hope that when this is all settled down we remember all the kind and good things people have done for each other, and let the memories of people who aren’t considerate, run around in public, and hoard stuff fade away.

Reaching Up

My Instagram of the day featured Spice the paint quarter horse in a quest for delicious hackberry leaves, which she deserved after going for a ride and surviving being barked at by my dogs. It’s nice that Sara and I can still ride, as long as we take some reasonable precautions (we no longer share grooming tools, and only one person at a time can be in the tack room, which I keep forgetting).

Spice stretches out while being groomed after a nice ride.

I did a lot of reaching up (and down) yesterday while painting trim. But, now that much of it has multiple coats of creamy white, it looks great.

Nicole paints away on the trim yesterday.

Today, Chris is really reaching up as he works on painting the wall behind the new stairs. He has most of the priming done and is hopeful that there will be two colorful bathrooms very soon!

Looking down from the front door. Lots of white trim, new subfloor, and a primed wall, ready to be a cheerful color.

Peace within Reach

Other than being a mirror image, this shows me all dazed in a meeting, sharing the sight I get every time I drive down County Road 140 to my house. It’s lots nicer with that field of flowers to enjoy.

Many of my coworkers are doing their meetings on their patios or porches. It’s a great way to get outdoors a bit and enjoy some peace, while still getting stuff done.

I’m stuck in the basement for meetings. But never fear, I took a couple of photos of hos beautiful it is on the road leading to the ranch, so I use it as my Zoom backdrop. A little bit of peace for all!

The view without my head in it, and not mirror image. Not bad, is it? You can see my house around the bend.

I hope you can get out in nature, reach up and touch something not made by humans, and find a little inner peace. Let me know how you’re doing!