Monday, November 2 2020

a new team, meeting the intern, and a stinky breakthrough

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. It's a beautiful day today, isn't it? The cloudless sky looks gorgeous outside, even compared to the perfect ocean side Dutch sunset currently inhabiting our computer wallpaper. Cooped up in once place for months at a time, vacations and travel have become like a distant memory. Pictures of the vacation Marissa and I took to Amsterdam may as well now be pictures of a fictional paradise, like some place we only visited in a dream. And each time they appear on the desktop, we get the same aching pang in our heart to return. Rodney even knows them now.

"Dude, you would love Amsterdam," we say to him. "We'll take you there as soon as we can."

Sip. When was the last time you got to travel to a really beautiful place? How often do you day dream about going back? And more importantly, how is your Monday going? Beginning a new work day, I'm feeling a sense of relief around my team switch being finalized. No more straddling two sets of meetings. No more keeping track of two sets of agendas. This Monday, my old team is officially behind me and I can mentally go all in on a new charter with a new team under a new manager. In last Friday's retrospective, I shared about how I could have handled the transition better.

"I think I tried to do to much," I said. "If I could do it again, I would have probably just ignored my new team until the official start date, and not been so involved in the bureaucratic hand-off."

The zoom call resounded with tired grunts of affirmation. I added a final thought. "I got burnt out. I should have just let the managers be managers."

But I'm here now, and I'm happy to be here. I also got to meet the intern that I'd be working with. On Friday morning, we squeezed in a quick zoom chat to get to know each other. I asked some canned questions for breaking the ice. It didn't take us long to mentally wander off the beaten path.

"Sorry," laughed Connor, staring past his computer out his window. "I live on the first floor here on campus, and people always stare into my room. Isn't that rude?"

"That is rude," I said. "That's your bedroom."

"I know, right?" reeled Connor. "This is my place. You can't look in here. I can look at you because this is my window, but don't help yourself to what I'm doing in my own bedroom."

From deconstructing what comforts people about certain seasons, to reflecting on the interview process to get here, to asking bigger questions about to what extent our field demands an education in computer science, Connor felt like a kindred spirit, and we had no issues filling the half hour with stimulating discussion.

In other big news, we had a breakthrough. A big, brown, stinky breakthrough in Rodney's room.

We turned a corner with the potty training a few days ago when Rodney and I ceremoniously packed away the pull-ups into the basement. "We're all done with these, dude," I explained. "We're going all in on underwear. And it's OK if we make messes while trying to figure it out. Say goodbye to diapers."

Rodney dutifully nodded. Picking up a box of pull-ups, he followed me down into the basement.

"Where do you think we should put these?" I asked.

"Hmm," said Rodney. He tiptoed over some small boxes and paint canvasses set out to dry. "I think, back here is pretty good. You pout your box down, then I put mine on top."

I can't back this up with real evidence, but I think asking Rodney to help pack the pull-ups away must have been a good thing. Following Marissa's lead, we also reinstated the "winnie the pooh" rule - no bottoms during quiet time.

Yesterday, about a half hour into quiet time, we heard a loud wail fill the upstairs hallway. Marissa and I peeked our heads into Rodney's room. He was sitting on the toilet crying.

"Oh my gosh," said Marissa excitedly. "You pooped! Dude, you pooped!"

This wasn't one of those technicality poops either. This was a repressed poop. This was a battle ground poop. A gauntlet poop.

Rodney, shook at first, warmed up to the accomplishment. We profusely congratulated him. We let him pick two prizes from the poop shelf. Marissa immediately took him in the car across the street to get a big mango smoothie. Rodney acted differenty the rest of the day. He was more polite, more agreeable, and more helpful. Rodney later asked to help cook in the kitchen. He was more content with his toys. While distracted by the Bears game, I hadn't noticed that Miles had spit up on the couch. By his own volition, Rodney got up and fetched a rag and started to clean it up.

"Dude, you're just taking care of business today," I laughed. "Just so you know, we're so happy that you pooped you could probably get away with anything today."

"Do you want a pony?" Marissa asked. "Another mango smoothie? A bag of marshmallows?"

I don't want to speak to soon, but things are looking up, and soon we might be finally closing Rodney's final chapter of potty training. Just observing him, I could sense the relief he must feel. After so many months being confounded by his own body and feeling the pressure to master something he doesn't understand, I would be relieved too.

And the whole poop training thing was very anti-climactic in the sense that Marissa and I never knew what was working and how we could improve. It felt like we were just changing diapers forever while we waded in the murky waters of early child development. And then suddenly, whatever we were doing worked.

Humbling and exhausting. But like Rodney, I'm starting to feel a sense of relief that we might be turning a corner.

Thanks for stopping by today. Hope you have a wonderful Monday today.