Friday, December 20 2019

corn dogs, mall santas, chinese food, and healing



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope this entry finds you well. It’s chilly this morning, but the weather nerds promise it may warm up a bit today. Last night before going to bed, Marissa and I were kicking around the idea of checking out the Zoo, which is currently decked out with Christmas lights. It certainly sounds like a great way to celebrate - drum roll please - the end of Christmas gauntlet week.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. In the morning, I hung around the house with Rodney. We ate some breakfast, which consisted of some mini Dutch apple cereal bars. I put about seven of them on Rodney’s plate, planning to eat half of them, but Rodney practically knocked my hand away. “Dada NO,” he scolded me. “Rodney’s - not dada’s.” I reluctantly grabbed three more out of the box and put them on a napkin beside me. You gotta pick your battles, right?

After breakfast, Marissa left for dog class, and Rodney and I eventually moved upstairs. I worked at my desk while Rodney screwed around with things in my technology bin. The way Rodney sees my tech min, echoing the words of my boss, “it’s just a really expensive box of LEGOs.” Rodney spent the morning fiddling with an Ethernet crimper and trying to stick SD cards in a DVD burner. Rodney, of course, took the work seriously. “No Blippi - Rodney work.”

We both took a break for some lunch, heating up some frozen corn dogs and leftover hutspot. Marissa returned home just as we were sitting down to eat. After a quick lunch, we all took a drive to my office and dropped off some cookies. Marissa chatted with my team while Rodney and I played with a whiteboard wheeled against the wall. My teammate Alex joined us and demonstrated some of his improvisational sketching skills. Taking orders from Rodney, he drew shapes, airplanes and even an imaginary take on a “Jesus plane”, which may or may not have been what Rodney was actually trying to say, but entertaining nonetheless.

I bid my family farewell, and worked the rest of the afternoon. Being on ticket duty this week, I picked up a low priority edge case that sounded pretty amusing. We had a script that was occasionally timing out when our VMs launch in Amazon, so wearing my UNIX hat, I wrote a cute little function wrapper around it. I borrowed a machine in our staging environment to test my new code, and to my delight, it worked on the first try.

I rewarded my efforts by treating myself to a White Claw in our Thursday happy hour. I sat upstairs chatting with my team before finally heading outside and jumping on the bus homeward.

We had big plans for Thursday evening, so immediately after arriving home we all jumped in the car and headed towards the mall. Rodney was already muttering to himself about seeing Santa and asking him for tools. When we got to the mall, we claimed a spot in line. Rodney amused himself by talking to a kid waiting behind us, who was playing Pokemon Go on his dad’s phone and kindly offered to get Rodney involved. Rodney returned the favor by letting him play with a tiny motorcycle that he keeps in his pocket these days.

I was proud of how friendly and considerate Rodney was playing with a complete stranger he met in line, and doubly surprise that the other boy returned the favor. Two three year old boys meeting for the first time and having absolutely no issue sharing their toys - at the mall of all places - seems like a miracle or something.

It was finally our turn to see Santa, and as we approached the chair (Santa’s throne?), Rodney’s shyness started to kick in. He stood about three feet away and muttered the request he had been rehearsing in the car. Santa patiently smiled and offered him a paper ornament. “This is much further than we got last year,” Marissa explained. It’s true - last year, we stood in line, then Rodney refused to approach Santa, so the fact that he even spoke to him was a big deal for us. Maybe by this time next year, he’ll be ready to give Santa a high five.

We ordered some Chinese food in the food court, and as Rodney picked at a crab Rangoon, Marissa and I chatted. I had found time earlier in the day to read more of my Difficult Conversations book, and it was on my mind, so I shared. Without going into too much detail, Marissa and I had some neighbor trouble earlier in the year. The confrontation certainly left a deep scratch on 2019 for us, and we used the rest of our time shopping to analyze it, strolling around in the mall and letting Rodney burn some energy in the kids play area.

As dorky as it sounds, we tried to look at the conflict through the lens of the book. And several months later, we were both still feeling sad, anxious, and confused about the whole thing, and having a difficult time letting go of the painful experience. We were willing to try anything at that point. We walked through the timeline of the fight, this time paying attention to our own contributions to situation, avoiding guessing at their intentions, negotiating with our strong emotions, and trying to assemble a more complete story. And it helped, too. Using each other as a sound board, we made some real progress, and this morning personally I’m feeling much less angry about it. We finished off the night of shopping with a quick Target stop. I distracted Rodney while Marissa bought his stocking stuffers, all the while enjoying the afterglow of a small, tandem psychological breakthrough. “I’m glad we talked about it,” Marissa said. “I feel good.” I think that’s evidence that some healing took place last night in the mall, and I felt it too.

So that’s what I got today. I went a little long today, and I probably missed my bus, but I’m going to try anyway. Thanks for reading, and hope you have a wonderful Friday. Here’s to the end of holiday gauntlet week!