God, my chronic illnesses are so weird!

At this point I have three pain causing conditions; Fibromyalgia, Arthritis and Sarcoidosis. Fibro is, of course, across my whole body at different times, but my upper arms almost always hurt. The arthritis is mostly in my hands; it mostly makes jar opening really difficult! The sarcoid has been diagnosed as in my lungs and lymph nodes.

So there are pains that are always there at various levels.

And then there are the unexpected and weird pains.

Like the day that the skin, yes the skin, of my left thigh hurt. No mark on it. Nothing obvious. But it hurt when air touched it. And really hurt when clothing touched it. Taking a shower was not fun either.

Today the same sort of pain was was on the skin between my index and middle finger of my right hand. Have you ever tried to hold anything when you’re right handed and that particular piece of skin hurts? I do not recommend it!!

And then there are the good and bad days of arthritis. Some days I almost forget it’s an issue. Then there are the days when I suddenly can’t move my pinky. Usually my right pinky. Because of course it affects my dominant hand.

As I write this, I realised my nose hurts. It’s where my glasses sit, but it doesn’t usually hurt!

So how do I cope? What else can I do but get on with things? I still have a job and a husband and a son. And a house and two cats and a fish. I’m fairly busy.

But I also build rest into my day. I have to or I’ll regret it later. So when I get home from work, I rest. Whether I feel up to sitting on the sofa watching TV and knitting or I need to actually go lie down and try to get some sleep. The resting is usually from around 1430 until I start making dinner at 1700.

Unless Adam is making dinner, which he does a few days a week. In which case I rest until I have to tidy the kitchen for him to cook in! Breakfast dishes are done in the morning and we’re all out for lunch, but there’s always odds and sods, like water bottles and my travel coffee mug to be sorted out!

So I push through the pain. What I really have problems pushing through is the fatigue. Now, lots of people are tired these days. We have too many things going on and we are not encouraged, at least in the part of the world I live in, to rest during the day. In fact, if you don’t work at least 8 hours a day, you’re pretty much considered lazy.

Now, I don’t work 8 hours a day. I work between four and five hours, depending on how I feel. My boss is really understanding and I have a completely flexible schedule. My official hours are 0900 – 1400 Monday to Thursday. 20 hours a week.

But sometimes I don’t get in until 1000 and still only work until 1400. So long as I keep a record of what hours I’m working and how many I owe, my boss doesn’t care when I make them up. I have a spreadsheet that I’ve shared with her so she can see how I am doing.

The fatigue really hits me first thing in the morning. Have you ever woken up from a really good sleep and are still exhausted? I don’t mean tired as you wake up, I mean so exhausted you can barely walk across your bedroom floor? That’s how I wake up some days. A lot of days, actually.

Adam being 14 helps. He is, however, also still autistic, of course, and likes to have a countdown before he dresses and leaves for school. If I seriously can’t get out of bed, Simon can often go in a bit late. And if he can’t, I get up as far as the sofa and as soon as Adam is out the door I am back in bed.

And maybe another four or five hours of sleep allow me to at least work from home. And I’ve added things to make that easier. I have a bed lap tray so I can work from bed. And I have a sofa C table, where the bottom goes under the sofa so I can sit on the sofa against pillows and work.

Sometimes the fatigue hits around dinner time. Especially if I’ve been busy at work and then come home and cook at some point. I will sometimes, fairly often sometimes, excuse myself from dinner to lie down, either on the sofa or I go straight to bed.

The pain, even the weird ones, I am, mostly, used to. I’ve been in pain constantly for about 16 years. (*snerk*. I just typoed 167 years. That’s closer to the truth. :D). It’s gotten to the point where if I’m not in pain, I really feel weird.

But the fatigue? The fatigue is killing me. There is tired. And then there is fatigue.

And fatigue sucks.

Our House Has A Quirk

Our house has a weird acoustic quirk.

So our house is a typical UK/Northern Irish three bedroom end terrace. Our ‘front’ door is actually in the side of the house, on the unattached gable end. When you open the door you are in a squarish vestibule with the staircase to your right, a door in front of you and a door to your left.

Walking through the door in front of you brings you to the kitchen. Walking through the door to your left brings you to our house long ‘front room’. Or lounge. Or living/dining room. Or whatever you want to call it.

Taking the stairs takes you to the bathroom on the right and Adam’s room on the left. The other bedroom on the left is Simon and mines and then across the hall is my office/studio.

Got it? Good.

So, the quirk:

If you are sitting anywhere in the front room and the front room and the kitchen doors are open, you can hear absolutely anything said in the kitchen.

If, however, you are in the kitchen, you can maybe hear a few words, if they are shouted, from the front room.

It really doesn’t make sense as the door to the front room is past the door to the kitchen, so somehow the sound can turn that corner into the front room but can’t turn it back into the kitchen.

Is sound like water? Does it follow the path of least resistance? And so things said in the front room goes up the stairs?

Yes, Mother, You Can Still Read This

You need to add a widget, row, or prebuilt layout before you’ll see anything here. 🙂

So a few weeks ago my son told me he didn’t want to speak to his Grandmother any more. As you may or may not know, my mother lost her mind a few years ago and said and did some awful things to my little family of three. We cut her off completely at that point.

We let her back in with very low contact after she sent me a sincere apology letter. Well, it was sincere but she still laid part of the blame on me because I hadn’t told her something. What I hadn’t told her was none of her business, which she still doesn’t get, and insists that if I’d just told her she never would have done what she did.

So a few weeks ago she and my step father and Adam and I had a live chat on FaceTime*. My mother lamented that she hadn’t spoken to us in months (since Adam’s birthday in June) and why couldn’t we speak more! I didn’t answer her and ended the chat a bit later.

I then said to Adam that I know he wanted to talk to them more, but it took so much out of me to be civil that I didn’t know if I could. He then asked why we talked to them at all then? And I said for him. My mother may have been and continue to be a crap mother, but she was always a fantastic grandmother. The kind of grandmother I wished I had had but never did.

We dropped the conversation then. But the next day Adam said to me that he didn’t want to talk to Grandma any more. I asked him if it was for me? Because that’s not how this works, he doesn’t protect me, I protect him. His reply? “Why would I want to talk to someone who treats their children that way?”

No flies on my boy! So I sent the email telling her that I was cutting her off. For good this time. And I did.

Except that I can’t find the part of this blog where she subscribed to it! It’s like somewhere in the last 15 odd years WordPress has removed it!

So my mother is reading this. She can even comment, if she wants.

But she doesn’t need to. Because I know exactly what she did when read that email.

She blow air upward from her mouth, slumped into her chair and said “She’s finally turned Adam against me. Always so much drama with her!”

Or words to that effect.

But it wasn’t me, Shelley, who turned Adam against you. That was, and is and always has been all on you.

And it’s still none of your business.

*Arthur C Clarke foresaw the end of long distance charges in 2001. He wasn’t too far off.

I Do Not Have Depression!

I have melancholia!

I don’t have anxiety!

I have hysteria!!

Man, back in the early 20th Century they knew how to name things!!

In any case, I have passed through my recent depression and anxiety storm. Not easily, of course, as they never give up without a fight, do they?

I wound up being off work for five weeks. During that time I spoke to many GPs and saw a psychiatrist (I can never spell the word correctly the first time. It’s a total block in my spelling centres.) I had a very long, over an hour, consultation with the psychiatrist, which is miraculous. You’re usually lucky to get 20 minutes!

Anyway, she listened to my entire history and to all the things that have been happening in the last 2 – 3 years. Things like the estrangement from my mother, my step mother’s death, COVID (bloody hell COVID), getting COVID, being diagnosed with sarcoidosis, and my dad dying. Her exact words were “That’s a lot!” And she was right.

She was also really happy about the meds I was on. GPs had already told me that they couldn’t increase any of my meds, as if they did it could cause something called a serotonin syndrome. It’s a condition that is caused by too much serotonin in your system. Too much of that usually very useful chemical: –

“causes signs and symptoms that can range from mild (shivering and diarrhea) to severe (muscle rigidity, fever and seizures). Severe serotonin syndrome can cause death if not treated.”

(Mayo Clinic Online, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/serotonin-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20354758, retrieved 12th October 2023)

So not a good thing. Maybe I shouldn’t have it tattooed on my back with dopamine? 😀

A woman’s back with a tattoo of two serotonin and two dopamine molecules in a row.
The first molecule is serotonin, then there is dopamine and repeat.

Anyway, increasing my meds, any of my meds, was not an option. As I said, the psychiatrist was really happy with the meds and the doses I was on. Her conclusion? Nothing to do but get through it. 

Sounds like kind of crappy advice from a doctor who specialises in this sort of thing, yeah? Except it was actually what I needed to hear. I wasn’t instantly no longer depressed or anxious, but at least I knew I was doing everything I could to get through it. Or was I?

See, the other thing that lovely psychiatrist said was that I had never really worked through my sarcoidosis diagnosis. (‘Scuse the rhyme.) She could tell, and she was right, that I am the kind of person who doesn’t just say ‘oh okay, I have that’ but that I am the kind of person who says ‘Huh, what is that?” And starts investigating, and I hadn’t done that with the sarcoidosis. I have no idea why but she was right. I never had.

Now, currently, my sarcoidosis is very mild. Even when I flare it is nothing more than a slightly harder cough and exhaustion, which, of course, could be fibromyalgia (which is another word I can never spell). And day to day is nothing more than an almost constant throat clearing cough. Not even constant, actually. Occasional. So I dismissed it as no big deal.

Except it is a big deal. It’s a life changing,  possibly life limiting condition that I will have for the rest of my life. On top of my Fibromyalgia, Arthritis and Type 2 Diabetes. I used to have a trifecta. Now I have a quartet!

So I start looking more into sarcoidosis and started to feel mentally better. I started acting mentally better, which my husband noticed almost immediately. I started knitting more, spending time in my home office *finally* tidying it up, (it’s horrible, it really is, FEMA will fly over any day and declare it a disaster area) and went back to the GP for *something* to let me sleep. 

Because that was also a big issue. Bad sleep. As in can’t fall asleep before 12, awake at least once a night (getting older is hell) to pee, not falling back to sleep after that for at least an hour and then up at 7, at least during the school year.

All of the sleep aids I’d been given, which included Ambien among others, made it impossible for me to function the next day. I was offered melatonin but the one time I took it I woke up with a very bad headache. The GP gently suggested that might have been something else and that I should try it again. So I have been,

And it’s been working. At least to some extent. I definitely fall asleep faster. I usually wake up at least once a night for the toilet (see above, aging) but I do fall back to sleep almost instantly. I’ve even woken up a couple of times just before the alarm went off!

So I’m back to work this week and have actually been in my office three of the four days I worked. I worked from home one day, which is totally okay with my boss and my company. I got lots done in the office and I came home from work nearly every day not totally exhausted! Wednesday I had to even tell myself to stop because I felt like I was raring to go and knew that I would pay for that later. 

I also realised, as I started to feel better, that I’d been feeling rotten for more than a few months. Probably from before I caught COVID, which I consider the point of Everything Going To Hell. Why I, or even Simon, never realised it is beyond me.

So, here’s today’s Tee’s Tip of The Day:

If you can’t seem to do what you used to do? Figure out why that is. And don’t assume it’s just because of all of your current conditions. Could be a new one! Could be a worsening one! Try to find out, mmm’kay?

And learn how to spell psychiatrist and fibromyalgia without using autocorrect!

This Time It’s Been Over a Year!

And it hasn’t been a good year. Well, a good 6 – 8 months, really.

Back in November, I got COVID. And then I got a cough that wouldn’t go away. Then I got a chest x-ray. Then I got a CT Scan. Then I got a referral to the Regional Respiratory Clinic. Then I got an Endoscopy. Then I got a diagnosis: sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune condition that usually affects the lungs and lymph nodes. For the record, when your GP says “There’s something in your lymph nodes that doesn’t look all that sinister” it’s still not very comforting!

For the most part, my sarcoidosis leaves me alone. But then Things Happen that make it flare. Recently that has included an emergency root canal, an emergency root canal part 2. Root canal part 3 didn’t make it flare. Who knows why?

In March of this year, my dad died. You might recall that he had dementia. I’m not sure I ever wrote about my stepmother dying, but she did, in August 2021. Totally unexpectedly. She was actually found dead on the sofa when no one opened the door and the police did a welfare check. She was Dad’s carer, so my sister and brother had to find him a place to live, which they did.

In any case, he’s been living in that place for just about 18 months, chugging along, not really changing. Eating his hot dogs and watching his game shows.

And then, on 10th March, my brother and I got a text from our sister; Dad is refusing to eat. She was going to go over to the living place the next day (a Saturday) to discuss hospice. Then we got another text. Dad needed oxygen overnight. I’m going over right now. Then, a few hours later, they don’t think he’ll last the night. And he didn’t.

And his death hit me hard. Harder than I thought it would. I thought I had done my grieving after the first time he had no idea who I was on Skype. I apparently hadn’t.

Going on from there I realised my mental health was deteriorating. For the first time in over 20 years, I was fighting depression and major anxiety. I asked to increase one of my meds and was told no. So now I’ve been referred to psychiatry and I’ve been off work for the past two weeks and will continue to be off for the next two. I have my psych appointment this Wednesday. Which is a miracle.

And that brings me to today. My Dad’s 86th Birthday. First one without him being somewhere in the world, even if I hadn’t seen him or spoken to him for years.

Happy Birthday, Dad.


17th September 1937 – 10th March 2023

PS That emoji up there, which is ‘disguise’ looks *exactly* like my dad.

Robyn in her dress

18 Years Ago Today

Simon and I were married.

We celebrated with dinner out last night and today, in the sure sign of a long marriage, we went to the launderette because our washing machine is broken! The repair people are waiting for a part so it won’t be fixed for another week or so.

To quote a friend: in sickness and in health, in good machine and bad. 🙂

18 years is a long time. And the 21 years we’ve nearly been together is even longer, obviously. So much happens in 21 years:

  • Moved to Belfast
  • Got married
  • Got a job
  • Got diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes
  • Had a baby
  • Started a company
  • Got diagnosed with fibro
  • Moved to a house
  • Bought a house
  • Started a new job
  • Survived a pandemic (so far) (no, it’s not over)

There were other things, of course, but those are the highlights.

And it’s had its ups and down, highs and lows. I’ve been dealing with my chronic pain, we both had to get through some lean years, and Simon has also had some health issues.

But, at the end of the day, what gets us through? Each other. Knowing that when we reach out to the other, they’ll be there.

I spend a lot of time on Reddit and other sites, reading other people’s requests for help. Sometimes I reply, I sometimes I just mutter to myself. But an overwhelming theme, it seems, on these posts, is people who are coupled but don’t have each other’s back.

So my one piece of advice for a long and happy relationship, whether spouses or partners or whatever you call your state of coupledom? Be there for each other. Take care of each other when needed. Fight if you have to, but make up well.

And couple up with your best friend.

Why do I stay up so late, you ask?

Okay, you probably didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway.

Staying up late started during the pandemic, when we were all locked down. I was literally losing my mind because my family was in the house with me all the fucking time. I used to go to my office, which was empty except for me, just to have some time to myself.

And that didn’t always work because landlord would be around and I’d have to be polite. I hate being polite when I want to be alone.

So I started staying up late on Friday nights, as Saturday has been my lie in day since before the world ended. Saturday mornings our groceries are delivered, something that has been happening since long before the pandemic.

And Simon is the one who puts them away. He just always has been. And these days Adam helps. So Saturdays I have always been able to sleep in.

Then, Simon stopped being able to sleep in at all. He is, without fail, up between 0400 and 0600 seven days a week. Totally sucks for him but works great for me as now I could sleep in on Sundays too!

Lest you think me a horrible person who deprives her husband of sleep, he knows that he can wake me at any time if he needs me. And he has if he’s been up since 0400 and Adam’s been particularly needy (Note: this doesn’t really happen any more, since Adam is a teenager and does lots of things for himself!) he would wake me up to take over.

And he gets to wake me at noon on Saturday and Sunday so he can have a nap. He naps like a champ. Me? I’m up half the night and sleep all morning. I almost never actually sleep when I go to lie down after work or whenever.

So, I stay up late.

Really late. It’s 0211 while I’m writing this on my iPad. I’m just beginning to feel tired.

And, in case your wondering, I do still take pills to help me sleep. And keep me asleep. And on week nights (except Thursdays now that I don’t work on Fridays) I take them around 2200ish. And I’m usually still up until at least midnight.

I have spoken to my doctor about this and he’s reluctant to change my MAD MEDS (TM) since they mostly continue to work. I do have sleeping pills I can take if I really can’t sleep, but I don’t take them very often.

So what do I do while I’m awake? I watch my shows, e.g. Criminal Minds. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched that from beginning to end. But it’s at least 10. It’s my ‘I’m too tired/overwhelmed/in pain/etc. to watch something new or something that needs my attention’. So I watch Criminal Minds.

I watch other shows sometimes too. Newer shows. I’m currently working my way through Moon Knight. But I find that takes a lot of brain and paying attention power, so I’m watching it slowly.

I also really like the Chicago Shows. Med, Fire and PD. We are finally getting them at once so I can actually watch the crossovers in the right order and everything!

Oh and NCIS. Love me some NCIS. Oh and 911. Both of those! Oh and SWAT!

And while I watch things, I do other things. I crochet or knit, I play games on my iPad or iPhone, and tonight? Tonight I’m writing this blog post.

So what games do I play? Puzzles and merge games almost exclusively. Crosswords, Picross, jigsaws, Scrabble with various friends, things like that.

The featured image on this post is a jigsaw puzzle I just completed earlier tonight. I really liked this one because I swear I could feel the velvet as I digitally put the puzzle together.

A truly great thing about Apple’s Family Plan is that it includes Apple Arcade and Apple Arcade keeps getting games I’m already playing, but I can play them 100% for free! Like the puzzle app where I did the puzzle above.

It’s called Jigsaw Puzzle+ and you can get it in the regular App Store but then you have to pay for extra puzzles. Now that it’s in Apple Arcade, I can play any of the puzzles and there’s thousands in the App. If you like jigsaws, I highly recommend it. (No, that’s not a paid commercial, It’s just my opinion on the app!)

And I also have six merge games that I play in turn. They are: Merge Manor, Merge Mayor, Love and Pies, Mergeficent, Travel Town and Cat Condo. Again, not a paid advert. I highly recommend all of those if you like Merge Games.

Adam said to me not too long ago ‘Oh I get it, you go to a new Merge Game when you run out of energy!’ And that it’s exactly! I find merging to be very satisfying and very low brain power and I love that!

So, I stay up late. And watch TV. And play mobile games.

And enjoy the silence of my house.

Angry Doesn’t Even Begin To Cover It

In case you’ve been under a rock, let me tell you that the Supreme Court of the United States decided to overturn Roe vs Wade. That’s the decision that made abortion legal in the US in the 70s.

So now, abortion is illegal. Or, well, what it is that is that it’s up to each state to decide. And if a state decides to make it illegal, it’s also up to them to decide how to prove an abortion took place and what the punishment will be. Texas began this bullshit with a law, that passed, making anyone getting or helping someone get an abortion be able to be sued for, at a minimum, $10,000. SB8 is evil. Texas is even more evil.

I don’t get how anyone I know can live there. But I know several people that do. If you’re reading this, tell me what makes Texas so great that you can live there.

And I am so angry. Not just at the Supreme Court for doing such a fucking stupid thing. But at all of the people who voted directly for Trump or voted for a third party candidate with ‘Anyone other than Hillary!’ as their rallying cry.

See, I don’t think they really meant that. I think they meant ‘I don’t want to vote for her because someone told me not to and there is no way Trump will get elected. She’ll win anyway.’

You stupid fuckers. This is all your fault.

You let a narcissistic, bullying, rapist lead the United States of America. You let that orange coloured waste of space appoint two Supreme Court Justices. You are 100% culpable in the January 6th Insurrection*. I blame each and everyone of you for what is happening to people in the US.

So don’t fucking do it again. This September, vote for the people who will actually save the US. I don’t care if you hate them. I don’t care if your religious or otherwise leader told you they are the devil themselves. If they are a Democrat? Vote for them.

You know what? I personally don’t like President Biden. I think he’s actions over the years towards women are problematic as hell. But the alternative, four more years of Trump? Would have been 10,000,000,000 time worse.

Better the devil who is not trying to take away basic freedoms from half of the population. Because that’s what making abortion illegal does. Takes away the ability to plan our own lives and our own health.

See, the thing is, pregnancy happens outside our control. People with uteruses are raped and molested. Birth Control fails or is sabotaged. Condoms can break. If pregnancy was within our control, we wouldn’t need IVF or ovulation kits or anything like that.

And sometimes foetuses develop badly. So badly that they can’t exist outside the uterus. That can sometimes lead to miscarriage but not always and medical help is needed to save the mother. What if a uterus having person has cancer and gets pregnant? Can you imagine what chemo might do to a foetus?

Ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus. If it is not removed surgically, in other words, through an abortion? The person will die. The fully grown, functioning member of society. Of course, the random bunch of cells that have incorrectly implanted will die as well. But that seems to be the only part the GOP and other conservative assholes care about.

People keep crying ‘But it’s against my religion! You must respect my religion!’ Guess what? Having abortion illegal is against my religion.

In Judaism, when a person with a uterus is pregnant, that foetus and that person are considered as one. The foetus is considered part of the pregnant person. And so if that pregnant person’s life is in danger due to having the foetus inside of them? The foetus goes. There are already challenges being raised in Florida by the Jewish Community. Making abortion illegal is against our religious beliefs and, therefore, against the constitution.

I have been wondering how those people who are happy about the end of Roe V Wade are going to feel when a person with a uterus that they love finds themselves pregnant through rape, molestation or even the failure of birth control. Oh wait, they’ll mostly be fine. Because in reality, this isn’t the end of abortion.

It’s the end of safe abortion for anyone who isn’t a rich, white, cis, het person.

*Of course, Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni Thomas actually helped plan the thing. I’ll leave that for another post.

Thanks to the ACLU of Georgia Facebook page for the Featured image.

Text on black background saying Pool Swim 101% complete


Yup. Swimming.

So back at the beginning of 2020 I decided I really needed to stop thinking about swimming and actually swim. So I signed up for a swim membership at the Better Centre (Better now runs all of NI’s leisure centres, more or less) and started going after work.

I also signed Adam up for swimming lessons. He hadn’t wanted to do them for ages and then swimming was part of PE at his school and he realised how much fun swimming is! I think he asked me in the beginning of 2019 if he could take lessons and I tried to sign him up but things kept happening and it didn’t happen.

But when I signed me up for swim membership, I signed him up for swim lessons. On Sundays at 0915. UGH!

And then, of course, PANDEMIC!!! So I didn’t get to swim any more and neither did Adam.

And then, the pools opened! For about a month!

And then, the pools closed. For about three months.

Now they are back open and Adam is back to lessons and we both love it.

I am not fast. I have no real technique. But I managed to go back and forth for about 45 minutes 1 – 2 days a week and Adam and I go to the Family Swim on Sunday afternoons and play.

Now, part of the reason that I have no technique is because various things hurt at various times on my body. This includes a brand new hurt in my left knee (yay?) and the inability most of the time to move my left shoulder in a circular motion for backstroke/crawl.

So I do some breast stroke. And I do swim on my back, but use a frog kick like breast stroke but upside down.

So I plod along, in the slow lane, and I enjoy it.

And then I heard laughter the other day. I was just coming to the end of a lap at the shallow end so I stood up and looked toward the laughter.

And two girls there immediately looked away from staring at me.

If they weren’t laughing at me? They sure the hell didn’t act like it.

And here I am, 52 years old, mostly not caring what other people think, but that laugh, from two twenty-somethings hurt.

Dory and Nemo Just Keep Swimming

See, I’ve been laughed at for my athletic ability all my life. Last picked for teams when I was a kid. People laughing at the way I ran during the track and field module in PE. Even the things I was sort of good at, like doing floor exercises for gymnastics, people would still snicker at the fat girl trying to tumble.


Fuck them, I thought to myself, I am here, in this pool, doing these laps despite being fat, disabled, mentally ill, and tired all the fucking time.

I am not swimming for those petty little girls.

I’m swimming for me. Because it makes my joints feel better. Because I enjoy it.

So if you are a twenty something girl who swims at the Olympia Leisure Centre and enjoy laughing at fat women swimming the next lane over? Fuck off to fuck off and then fuck off again.

If you’re lucky, you’ll never have any health issues.

And if you’re not and wind up with some? I hope the twenty somethings who are swimming the next lane over don’t laugh at you. Because it’s mean.

Working From Home in the Age of Covid-19

Like everyone else right now, I am working from home.

And I’ve been reading a lot from people who have never worked from home before, never mind worked from home while sorting out children’s schooling.

And I’ve seen a lot of ‘treat it like a regular day’ sort of posts. There is no way of treating lock down like a regular day is going to work for anyone with or without children at home.

Sure, you can get up at your usual time, wash, put on makeup/shave, and dress in ‘work’ clothes. But you can’t do the school/daycare run. You can’t stop and have a chat with the barista at the coffee place. You can’t even chat in the break room with your coworkers about last night’s TV watching!

And those are the things that mean you don’t actually work the whole time you’re at work. Let’s say you work 8 hours a day. You have an hour for lunch, so you need to fill seven hours.

I have never met anyone who works seven hours straight. No matter how busy or important they are.

For one thing, I’ve never been in a meeting in my nearly 40-year career that didn’t start with at least 10 minutes of bullshit. How is everyone? Did everyone see Jim do that thing in the break room? ::laughter:: Anyone going to The Who concert on Friday? Bill, did I hear you’re off to Milan for your holiday? Etc etc etc.

And I’ve been at meetings with people from my fellow Admins all the way up to Chief Executives and Chairmen

of the Board. There’s always chat. In fact, back when I was pregnant and working at The Northern Ireland Science Park (now Catalyst) I had to pop into a high-level meeting to bring our CEO some papers. I was just going to sneak in, give them to him, and sneak back out. Ninja is actually in the Personal Assistant job description.

PA Ninja!!

But I was stopped by one of the people in the meeting, a member of one of the governing bodies of The Science Park, who interrupted the head of her department to ask me when I was due and how I was feeling!! NB: she’s also the one who I had on the phone a few weeks before who asked me ‘Did I hear that you are with child?’ which was definitely the quaintest way anyone asked me that question!

Even if you don’t have any meetings during your day, you are spending some part of your day chatting with your co-workers. In my current office and desk location there is probably at least an half an hour a day of golfing talk. Maybe a half an hour of children talk. Sometimes longer of TV show talk. So that’s what? One and a half hours right there? It may not be that length of time in a row since a phone will ring, someone will get an urgent email, or someone will come over to see one of us. But it’s easily that long over the course of the day. So now there’s only 5.5 hours of actual work being done.

Even when I was an hourly worker at Target I wasn’t working every minute of my shift. People would stop to chat with me, I’d stop to chat with people. I’d take at least five minutes of every hour to just sort of stare into space!

Of course, the real issue is company expectations. During normal times, companies absolutely should have the expectation that if you are working from home you don’t have children to care for. But reasonable ones still don’t think you are going to sit at your computer for eight total hours. That way lies madness.

The emails that my company sent out when they announced WFH for all said something like ‘you are expected to be available and working during your normal working hours.’ “Available and working”. I, personally, take that to mean ready to jump if someone needs me but if my kid needs me, he comes first. But remember, I’m an office manager, who currently has no office to manage. So it’s actually pretty easy for me to keep an eye on email/Teams while I am doing other things as I have access to them on my phone, my iPad and a computer.

When things are normal I never have notifications on for either of my devices, unless I’m going to be away from my desk for a long stretch sorting something out, then I turn on notifications for Outlook and Teams on my phone.

While my whole office is WFH I have notifications on 24/7. I rarely get anything on either but it was a good thing they were on when one of the office’s computers stopped working completely and IT couldn’t do anything remotely so they pinged me and asked me to go to the office and reboot the machine. On a day I had taken off. Which was absolutely fine. It’s why my notifications were on. I am only one of five people who have complete access to the office when it’s locked and the alarm is set. And I’m only one of three people who have access to get into the office and access to our comms room.

During that same trip to the office I looked over our servers and found one on the edge of collapse (there’s lights on them that indicate status; I am not a server whisperer) so I reported that to our server team and went back the next day to replace the server.

I need to be available right now. So I am.

But I am also helping Adam with school work, keeping the house in some sort of order (oh man do I miss my cleaner!) and doing all of the other things I do when I’m at home. With, of course, help from Simon who is also working from home for the duration.

So what’s my point? My point is that you are not superman. Or woman. Or kid. You’re just you. And you can’t do it all.

So stop trying. Do your best.

And stay inside.

And wash your hands.

And don’t touch your face.