After a year of doing this..

Setting: Breakfast table on a Friday morning.

Characters: A mom, a dad and a 16 year old son who has decided sullenness is the way to keep nagging mother away from him. His plan has failed.

Action: Mom and dad are discussing the very limited office space area in their very tiny house. The teen is chomping on his breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich, with half closed eyes before starting virtual school. The mother and father are unaware that he is paying any attention to the conversation around him.

The adults are almost at the point of reaching a deal in their office space negotiation. Father has to record a video for work, mother has to conduct a class for the library and they are working out the time when one will have access to office space which is in the basement and who will work upstairs in the living room. They both are very accommodating and mindful of other’s needs so it is mostly an amicable process. Although the mother has figured out if she gives the father a hapless look about a decision unfavorable to her needs, the father will acquiesce. Not very often, but she does use that look to get her way sometimes. Anyway, on this day all is going well. The adults have figured out their work space and timing. Both the parents can conduct their businesses successfully at the allotted time. They are about to leave the kitchen table to get ready for their respective jobs when the grumpy teen speaks up in a mumble, “I have….mumble, mumble, mumble..”

“You, what? Speak up.” The adults turn around.

The parents have found that they constantly ask ‘what’ after any sound that comes out from their son’s mouth these days. Either the sentence is spoken very fast or the sentence is said in a mumble – which comes off as completely incoherent. In order to understand the young man, a follow up (or may be more than one follow up) ‘what did you say?’ is necessary.

Anyway, today’s mumble was translated as “I have orchestra in the 2nd period.” The young man plays cello and the cello resides in the dining room which is right off the living room. During orchestra class, he comes out of his room and plays the cello in the dining room. The second period when the musical soiree is about to happen is in the middle of the mother’s class and father’s video recording. Neither of those events could incorporate cello notes during their occurrence. Time for the hapless look, mom decided and perfectly executed. The dad did some quick thinking and juggled his to-do list so he could finish his video recording before the mother had to start her Zoom class. He is truly a saint.

The mother went to the basement to facilitate her class with one ear out for cello music which she never heard. After her class she came up and enquired why there was no music in the house, what happened to orchestra class. The teen, while munching on his lunch and one ear out of his head phones said they had to listen to some music today which he did in his room. They did not have to play music.

So all the readjustments and renegotiations along with ‘hapless look’ were really for nothing. Such is life. Such is working from home when your home is still not perfect work place after working from home for over a year. What are you gonna do? Just laugh!

If you want to read about our office space situation, here is the blog that I wrote about it.

Office space

As we stood side by side preparing our quick lunch in the kitchen on a work-from-home day, I casually mentioned to Sean that I will be needing the office space that night from 6:45 till 8:00 pm as I was co producing a virtual class for the library.

“Oh no!! I have a virtual cocktail meet with big donors where I am presenting and answering questions!” he exclaimed. And looked at me with I-am-so-sorry eyes.

We really don’t have an office space in our house. There is a little office room which we transferred into nursery when we moved in as I was pregnant with Ryan. After spending all his infancy, babyhood, boyhood years in that little room Ryan finally took over Sahana’s room after she went to college. Sahana beautifully rearranged Ryan’s former (tiny) room and settled in it when she came back home due to the pandemic. It has a cozy dorm room feeling to it, complete with color changing lights.

Over the years, all our ‘office’ work and school work were done on the kitchen table. We did not feel the need for an office since I work for the library system and Sean travels all around the world for his job. The little time we had after our respective jobs was spent on carting children to soccer, basketball, music, swim practices and meets. Once the pandemic hit and we pivoted to online work we realized we were in trouble and we also realized as a family that Sean is a very loud office mate.

During pandemic, I took many trainings while we waited for the library system to resume service, facilitated book club and had to meet with co workers virtually. I often found myself glaring at Sean, who also met with his colleagues virtually and rather loudly. As he gained steam and got excited about whatever they were discussing, the decibel level increased. I often glared at him and huffed off with my computer on mute to the bedroom and shut the door. More than once I was either asked by colleagues if I was on my bed and if planned on falling asleep 😃 ! After both our meetings, Sean asked, “Was I too loud? I am sorry!” The next time our meetings conflicted, he would start off with normal voice and then predictably grew louder and louder as his meeting progressed.

As months went by, Sean started bringing his office into our home. It started innocently enough! A big ring light came for his zoom meetings, then huge banners of his organization were delivered to set up as back drop. The last straw was all the photos that he had on the walls of his office came home with him one day along with the bowls he used at work and silverware. He then took a very handy desk from our main floor which held all my electronics, laptop and devices, and took it downstairs to the basement and set up a nice office space with the ring light for zoom meetings. My stuff were relegated to a small white table.

When I saw the neatly set up office space, I rubbed my hands in glee, immediately planning to usurp it whenever I had classes to teach or facilitate. My classes are generally in the evening so I figured they will not coincide with Sean’s meetings since those are primarily during day time. Win, win! Or so I thought. The first day I decided to stake my claim on his hard work, he had a cocktail meeting. Who has cocktail meeting during virtual work? What is the point of that? Sean does not even drink!

Sahana happened to be in the kitchen when we were having the conversation of our meeting conflict. She decided to be helpful and made a comment. Big mistake! I jumped on her right away.

“Can I use your room then?” I turned to her with bright eyes. She had a lovely set up for her online classes.

Although she was taken aback, she agreed and I found her room nicely cleaned, all ready for me once I got back from work. The class worked out beautifully. I did make Sean feel bad about the conflict, admittedly unfairly and he relinquished the office to me for my next class while he took phone calls from all over the world upstairs, next to the children’s bedrooms where they were trying to attend virtual classes. And he was, as usual, loud.

This morning was beautiful and Sean was talking to his colleagues over phone on our back deck. I saw that he finally met his match. A blue jay flew close by, settled on a branch near him and proceeded to tell Sean, in no uncertain terms, that s/he can beat him hands down in volume any day. Its on! Sean became louder by the minute and the blue jay kept pace. As I heard the competition between bird and human, I smiled. Situation is less than perfect in so many homes. We need to find whatever humor there is, we need to laugh, we need to give, we need to share, sometimes office space even. We need humor to get by.

Show grace, let us all show grace.