working out of a backpack:  adventures of an IT worker in a pandemic

When the shit hit the fan last March I found myself working at home, pretty much overnight. Our campus was notified that Spring Break was going to be extended to two weeks instead of the traditional one, and the faculty were told to get their classes ready to be delivered remotely. On Friday, the day before my birthday, I packed up all the pieces and parts of my office I thought I would need and that was that. I went from driving to campus and working in my own dedicated office five days a week to working in my pjs with the cats “helping.” I was also in the midst of a triangular move involving Mom and Lancelot, but that’s a whole other story that I’ve told before. Anyway, I started working full time from home and found that when I was able to setup my very own dedicated office at home I really rather enjoyed it.

There’s a ton of flexibility to be had when you only have to really be “dressed” from the waist up, like you can put in a load of laundry when you take a break to stretch, and you can start cooking dinner whenever you need to. Access to the fridge, freezer, and pantry was also pretty damn nice. Shoes? Who needs shoes! It’s rather heavenly. Plus, no commute other than to pick up Lancelot from his job in the morning and for me there was almost no temptation to go out to get food. Living in various states of lockdown and being afraid of catching the plague absolutely sucked, but work wasn’t the same source of stress that it had been.

One of the other added bonuses for me is that I was able to see Lancelot more than I ever had. I still had to keep my working hours during the standard day time, but having him just in another part of the house meant that I could grab a quick hug if I needed it. That emotional support was amazing.

The team I work with proved, well beyond any shadow of doubt, that we could not only perform our necessary functions working remotely but we could offer an even higher level of service than we did before. Working from home helped us to hone some of our skills and forced us to find ways to do more and do it better. And because demand for our services grew exponentially the team expanded in a big way.

So much so that there’s no longer enough physical space for all of us in our designated office suite, even if we weren’t needing to continue observing social distancing guidelines (which we are). We now rotate who is there which days so that we can each have a space for that day where we don’t have to wear a mask the whole time. It’s not awful, but it sure is strange.

I’ve worked here for 20 years. I’ve had 9 different work areas. I’ve never had to share my work area like this. I’m not kidding you when I say I work out of my backpack. I had to figure out what all I need to carry with me every time I go in, including my personal office supplies. I do have a shelf in a closet where I keep a few “kitchen” type supplies for myself but that’s it. Everything else I carry with me on my back, every single time.

It’s not awful but it’s also not great. I always used to joke that my office was my home away from home, and it looked like it.

That was how it used to look. Very personalized, very me.

What’s actually hardest for me is the going back and forth. I work on campus two days a week, Thursday and Friday, and going between home and campus is rough. I can’t keep to the same routines every day, I don’t have my same supports in place, and there are no orange kitties on campus to walk on the keyboard. The funny thing is that I wouldn’t mind going back to working on campus full time, because that would be consistent. It’s the inconsistencies of this that throw my bipolar off kilter.

Even after all this time, 15 years now, it never ceases to amaze me how much of a creature of habit I have to be in order to maintain my sanity.

propping my eyelids open with toothpicks

He hangs out up there a lot these days

I’m still struggling with my eating habits but I’m very pleased to be able to report that staying home and taking it mostly easy last night seems to have finally done something good for my hip. I can’t say that I slept well last night, we had some ick weather, but I am doing quite well with the whole “not limping around like I’ve misplaced my walker” thing.

If we would actually get some sunlight that would stick around for more than 10 minutes I would love to take pictures of the various projects I’m working on to show y’all that I have not actually been a total slug. But no, more rain and now it’s kind of cold. Yuck.

These two crack me up. They stayed cute like this for the exact amount of time necessary to get the picture. After that Dog Blossom began mercilessly chewing on Garth.

Being the super organized and anal retentive human that I am I have already started gathering things for the trip next week. I am not even the least bit ashamed to say that I have my clothes picked out and hanging together in the closet and I’ve started making my packing list. For a two day trip. By car. Yup, that’s me.

Did I tell y’all about the adventure with steel cut oats in the crock pot? I think I did. Anyway, I have decided that I really do love them, especially since I warmed them up this morning. That was a big ol’ “why the fuck didn’t I try that sooner?” moment. At any rate, I decided that having my breakfast made ahead like that, and so damn healthy, is a Very Good Thing indeed so there’s a batch cooking right now.

This time I am trying whole cranberries (1C in place of the blueberry / banana combo from last time) and a blend of the spices I normally use for my chai coffee (cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger). In true Erin Style I measured only the liquids and the oats. I wing things, it’s what I do.

This weekend I’m making another trip up to campus, this time to retrieve my books. I tore my desk apart this morning trying to make sure there will be enough room for everything. It’s so weird to think that at one point in my life I owned so many “normal” books (ones that were definitely not related to work) that I had a nine-foot tall bookcase that we had made extra shelves for and was stacked double deep. Now my “normal” books all fit in a cubby space above my desk that’s not enough two-foot wide.

But it was a good project because I was able to rearrange some things, make parts of my storage more efficient, and gather some of my treasures together.

Eric slept through all of it.

awkward and paranoid about it since the mid 1980s

I need to start with a total aside here. Why the fuck is the word “awkward” spelled so damn, well, awkward? I mean honestly, am I the only person who has to completely stop typing and force my fingers to punch those letters in that order by using every iota of force I can muster? No? Ok, moving on.

I’m out of it. Still. And I don’t like this. I feel like nothing has been “right” since last weekend and this morning – JUST THIS DAMN MORNING – was able to put my finger on it.

I didn’t feel good because of the shot so I was off work on Monday. On Tuesday there was a chunk taken out of my day to take Lancelot to get his first shot. On Wednesday I went with him for a doc appointment (nothing serious but the kind of thing that I kinda just needed to be there for). Yesterday we had to see our lawyer again to sign papers (again, nothing serious or bad just one of those “adult human” things). Then this morning I got all three of the kids in my office for awhile so we could have a new ceiling fan installed.

At one point Garth had kicked Dog Blossom so many times that he had a big tuft of her fur stuck in his toes

Needless to say, I need a rest. And a drink. But L works overtime again this weekend. So I’ll have to push through a little more before my life goes back to where it normally is. There’s the rub – nothing about this week, not one fucking thing, has been anywhere near normal and my poor little brain cells cannot cope.

As someone who has been living with a mental illness for a LOOOOOONG time, and been in remission for some time, I’ve figured out how to make life work. But a big ol’ piece of that is having routines and being able to rely on those, particularly when life gets wonky.

No routines right now = brains feel yuck = I am a grump = NO DAMN BUENO

On the plus side, tomorrow morning I’m going to visit a friend who does silversmithing and she’s going to show me/help me make a bracelet. That will be super fun. Also, the vest is still coming along nicely. I had a more experience friend confirm that my plan should work. This pleases me. I was also able to acquire a lovely bit of leather hardware stuff to serve as a closure. More on that when it arrives.

For now, I’m going to relax somewhere. Like maybe under my desk. With a cocktail.

kicking my own ass

I swear I’m not biting him Momma, honest I’m not…

Garth’s eye infection is back, which doesn’t surprise me but also doesn’t please me. It’s really not going to please him when we have to start the eye drops again tonight. But the vet was kind enough to just talk to Lancelot on the phone and get us a refill of the drops. Poor little guy hates to go for car rides.

But it’s kind of funny, he and Pippy are definitely pals. Lately they’ve been snuggling more, as seen above, and Garth will actually groom Pippy like he would his feline brother, Eric. It’s pretty damn cute.

This morning L and I went and had our monthly massages and that was beyond heavenly. As an added treat we stopped at the coffee shop to get smoothies, and a gift card for our massage therapist. One of the perks to having both of us see the same person is that we each get a solid hour of “personal” time without feeling the least bit guilty. I always take a knitting project with me and today I needed that time. I’ve got just ONE gift left to finish and it’s a doozy. Not hard, but involved. So having that time was good.

I have done some work today, and some house stuff. It’s actually a lot easier to get certain work tasks done when no one from work is wanting my attention. And laundry can pretty well always babysit itself.

That has become the Critter Room rather than a guest room. Pippy is demonstrating just how well she can do that “relax” thing.

Today marks four months since L and I got married. It’s hard to believe it’s already been that long, and at the same time it’s hard to remember a time when we weren’t together.

so very tired

If I tell you I’m exhausted those words don’t even convey the full weight of just how ridiculously tired I am these days. We’re all suffering from the effects of the plague, whether we’re actually sick with it or just sick of it. We are all ready to a return of what we were used to in our lives. I’m not saying that there won’t be some good things to come out of all of this, I have got to believe that there will. But we need a little touch of normalcy again.

It doesn’t help that the effects of the plague are impacting my job. We’re being called on to help more people in less time and with fewer resources. Not that we are the only ones in this kind of situation, not by a long shot. And I know just how lucky I am to be able to work from my home where I have a nice office setup and I have my pets and all the snacks I want and I can do my work while wearing damn near anything I want.

But I miss people and I miss my work wardrobe and probably a billionty-zillion other things that are silly and trivial. But it is what it is. And it doesn’t help that Lancelot is working overtime the next few weeks so my regular person isn’t available as much.

So anyway, I miss reading your blogs and it’s not that I’ve forgotten about you, I just barely have enough energy to shower every day right now. And between you and me, I think I probably should keep trying to shower or the dog might stop wanting to play with me.