Friday, September 11 2020

teammates, meetings, and rodneys face

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy vrijdag. Glorious Friday. Perfect Friday. The vanquisher of the work week. The golden gates open, ushering us into a blissful realm of naps, TV, beer, and football.

How is everyone doing today? I'm feeling good today, but I shouldn't have taken my cup of coffee in the shower. Every time I do that, I start day dreaming and end up taking too long to get ready in the morning. As I write, I have one eye on this paragraph and the other on the little digital clock in the corner of my computer screen. I have just shy of an hour to crank out this blog post and jump online for an early morning riveting session of story backlog grooming with my team.

As you might remember, I came back from paternity leave to a team that was twice its size since I left. The new faces and personalities in our dynamic overwhelmed me at first, but like most people I work with, they're kind, knowledgeable, focused, and they can crack a joke. Dakota, Anthony, Brook, Sathish, and Dang, I'm glad you're on the team.

And if there existed the perfect day to familiarize myself with our new teammates, it was yesterday. I jumped online at my regular time with a cup of coffee in hand ready to put on some music, go over my calendar, and prune my personal notes for the day. That's when I noticed a single giant meeting spanning the entire day, starting fifteen minutes ago.

It's complicated. But our team decided to pivot on a project we were working on, and to sum up we had a lot to figure out in a very short amount of time. The meeting was a zoom bridge - our term for a placeholder meeting room that allows people to drift in and out as we work on a single goal.

We adjourned for lunch time. I joined Marissa and Rodney in the kitchen.

"What's going on up there?" asked Marissa. "Is everything OK?"

"Yeah, everything is good," I chuckled wearily. "Just work stuff. But I am in that meeting pretty much all day, and we have a lot to do."

"You can have the soup," said Marissa without hesitating.

"Oh thank God," I sighed. "You are a saint." I was secretly hoping I could lay claim to our single serving of squash soup in the fridge. Talking, listening, explaining, visualizing, asking questions - after four hours, my brain was tired. I felt like a battered prize fighter clinging to the ropes in my corner, hoping for a second wind. Carrying a bowl of soup, a few stukjes brood, and the remainder of a little can of herring in white wine sauce that was languishing in the back of our fridge, I trudged back up the stairs.

Marissa grabbed my arm just before I disappeared into my office.

"Did you see what Rodney did in his room?" she laughed.

"No what?" I said, smiling.

"Come here - let me show you," she said, leading me across the hallway. I peered into his room. At first, nothing caught my eye. K'nex pieces lying on the floor. Old tattered issues of Highlights lying on his bed. And then I saw it - the face.

2020 09 11 face

I jumped. "AH! Oh wow, that's something."

"Rodney drew it," smiled Marissa.

There on his little whiteboard was a giant face. The top and sides of the bulbous, lumpy head touched the edges of the wood frame. Two misshapen eyes with silly little pupils rolling in different directions. A single black dot for a nose, and a big smarmy smirk from cheek to cheek. I also counted three ears.

"DADA I DREW IT," said Rodney. "It's MEEEEEEEE." Rodney slid into the hallway, his arms spread wide.

"Dude that's awesome," I said, congratulating him. He scampered away, leaving Marissa and I in his room. We lingered a little longer, admiring the face like a piece of art.

"It's hard to explain why it's so unsettling," I said.

"Oh I know," said Marissa. "Yet I can't look away."

"I think it's because... it's so far the most complete thing to come directly out of his brain? I mean, it's the first time he's ever really drawn anything like this - a glimpse into how his brain works. It's amusing, but it's also kind of startling, like seeing a stranger in your house."

I wolfed down my lunch at my desk, the rejoined our meeting. Amidst the continued planning and discussions, Rodney's silly whiteboard face lurked in the back of my memory. A few times, I even had to mute my microphone so my team wouldn't hear me seemingly laugh at nothing.

Our team was tired. Spending the entire day in discussion together, we all looked like we were ready to shut our brains off for a while. "See ya tomorrow, teamies - nice work today," I said before signing off. I happily shut my laptop and started on dinner. I made ragout, this time with chuck roast. Seared beef, carrots, potato, and I also completely cleared out what was left in our shelf of onions and shallots.

"Thanks for cooking today," said Marissa. "I was expecting you to shoot me a slack with your pizza order."

"Oh it's no problem - I felt like cooking," I said. Truthfully, it was such a long day - on top of a long week - that a pizza wasn't going to cut it. My tired brain demanded stew. I needed ragout.

2020 09 11 stew

"Dada, what's this?" said Rodney, stabbing at a slice of purple carrot.

"That's a carrot, dude," I replied. "The carrots I used today were different colors. There was a yellow one, a red one, and that's a purple one."

"They're really cool," said Marissa.

"Yeah, I like how they kind trick you into thinking there's more vegetables in here," I laughed.

I put Rodney to bed. We read the story Llama LLama, Red Pajama, and I was so tired that after the last page, I said "amen". Rodney shot me a confused look.

"Sorry dude - I don't know why I thought we were praying," I laughed. "Now let's actually do prayers."

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful day today.