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Orange skies, solar, Rosh Hashanah, and work

We’ve now passed the six month mark since the shelter in place order began here in the bay area, and the loneliness is definitely catching up to me. I am certain that part of this is also related to the pregnancy. My first pregnancy was an exceptionally lonely time as I didn’t yet have a network of friends with kids who I could speak honestly with, and I found myself distant from some of my closest friends due to changes in their lives. Still, I was still attending conferences and kept up a lively tech connection. This time I am in a different situation, but it’s more because I’m struggling to find the time and energy to connect with people now that it takes effort beyond showing up at an event. Pregnancy also means my moods are out of whack and I don’t feel much like myself, so reaching out to friends is particularly tough. On top of that, I’m still working full time, and when I’m not I’m chasing our beloved toddler, doing chores, or resting in an attempt to reduce the pain I’m coping with in this pregnancy.

It continues to be fire season here in California, and what has turned into the worst one in recorded history. On September 9th we all woke up to one of the most surreal sights of my life: an orange sky. Caused by some motion off the coast, the smoke rose higher than we are accustomed to, causing an entire day where the sun was obscured by smoke which turned the sky orange, and periodic ash falling from the sky like snow. Since the smoke began annaully impacting the bay area back in 2017, I’d never seen the level of ash fall as I did on that day. Truly the weirdest thing about the day was the darkness though, Adam slept in that morning, and we had the lights on inside the house all day.

Orange sky outside my home office

Ash piling up on MJ’s car

The Air Quality Index numbers really climbed after that orange day. We were stuck indoors for over a week, only really gaining a bit of relief this past week, when numbers dropped back into the safe green zone. It’s been hard on Adam, who isn’t old enough to understand, but loves going outside and has already had his world shrink this year due to social isolation. It’s heartbreaking to see him grab his shoes to indicate he wants to go outside, only to have to decline day after day. The pandemic compounds this, since we’d normally be able to at least leave the house to give him a change of scenery at a mall, or even a grocery store, but we just don’t feel safe bringing him to indoor places unless it’s absolutely necessary.

As a parent, keeping a 20 month old occupied for days indoors has continued to be a challenge. We’ve picked up a few new toys, generally giving him a new one every couple of weeks. Play-Doh was the latest surprise, though he’s currently more excited about the plastic jar it comes in. The next will be a wooden train train set table, prompted by his love for his train toys and desire to turn all of his separate wheeled vehicles into one long train. Little boys being enamored with trains is a bit of a cliche, but I’m totally grateful for his interest so far. I’m already looking forward to sharing my interest in model railroads with him, and hope that sharing a hobby with my kiddo will provide the time and energy required for me to finally realize the setup I want in my home office, which has thus far been unfulfilled.

Things have been busy at home, with the installation of solar moving forward much more quickly than we had planned. The company had an opening two months earlier than expected, so instead of having the panels and batteries installed in November, we’re getting it done now. The disruption has mostly been in shuffling cars around as they need garage and driveway space, and getting them access to indoor spaces as we juggle work and meetings. There will also be a significant disruption this week in power as they start bringing it online. It’s really exciting though, aside from being super cool and money-saving in the long run, it was incredibly stressful last year when we had a freezer full of precious breastmilk and areas around us were suffering through extended rolling blackouts due to the wildfires. We never lost power here, but I anticipate it only being a matter of time before we’re finally impacted, so being able to survive off the grid for a bit of time will bring considerable peace of mind. Did I mention they were cool? It’s been so exciting watching the panels go up on the roof and seeing the array of batteries in the garage come together.

Caligula inspects the pile of solar panels awaiting placement on the roof

We celebrated Rosh Hashanah this weekend. I baked my first honey cake, using this recipe. It came out better than I expected, and Adam can’t get enough of it (half a cup of sugar and half a cup of honey in a single loaf will probably do that!). As for services, they were shared by our synagogue in San Francisco via YouTube, pre-recorded but “released” at a certain time so we could enjoy them accordingly. We watched both the evening and morning services, and it was definitely a new experience. To decrease the contact that clergy had with one another, segments were recorded separately and it was very clearly stitched together. The videography and editing work was done just professionally enough to be enjoyable, but not so much to feel over-processed. I’d say it was perfectly charming. Still, we missed getting together with the rest of the congregation, and it is a bit sad seeing the place empty on some of what are traditionally the busiest days of the year.

Work has been exhausting, but rewarding. Last week we held a huge, successful, virtual event, that I’m still shocked such a small team could pull off, even with as much work as we all put into it. There were several long days and late nights that went into it, and the weekend prior to it I kept my work phone close by to address any lingering issues and tie off loose ends. I was so relieved when my track went exactly according to plan come event day. I do have a backlog of work to tend to now that the event is over, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming, even with the compensatory time I blocked off over the next couple weeks. I have talks at several virtual events coming up, but I don’t have any organizational role in those, so it should be much lower stress, and I can just focus on writing my talks.

I also received a paper copy of IBM Z Systems Magazine with an article I was interviewed for, What Works for the Latest Mainframe Generation at IBM. This isn’t the first magazine I’ve been in, and I’ve done a number of podcasts this year, but it was monumental because I definitely had anxiety over entering the mainframe space with my background. I spent decades working in the Linux systems administrator space and making a name for myself, there was a real risk that I’d be starting over here in mainframe land. It’s a relief to see that hasn’t been the case, and that I’ve managed to pull this off with a little one at home and another on the way. I have a lot to be proud of right now.

Regardless of how this entry began, we are actually doing ok, all things considered. We’re incredibly privileged, and even the worst of it so far has something we can ultimately cope with. I’m grateful every day for how our little family has managed to become closer and happier in some ways, even if it can sometimes be hard day to day.