Two years ago I texted my team to work from home for a bit. I thought I was asking them to go home for a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, not a couple of years.
Like most of corporate America, I’ve been working remote since March 2020. The last day I was in the office was March 17, 2020. I remember it like yesterday, I texted my team that evening and told them not to come back in the next day. At the time my team was split; most of us in Connecticut and a smaller group in Maine. I had returned to the office on Monday after two weeks being remote and out for family reasons to find a sea of uncertainty, unknown and unease. While some schools were already remote and parents started to pull double duty that week, the state hadn’t gone into lockdown just yet. It was clear that productivity was low – and I couldn’t fault folks for wanting to talk about this new thing that posed so much unknown. I latched on to that low productivity to justify sending the team home. At the same time, I knew there were conversations about people being uncomfortable and not wanting to be in, but we still weren’t in a open culture that everyone felt they could freely share their concerns. While I told my boss I made the call due to productivity, and it’s my official reason in the message my team got, if I’m honest, I sent the team home for their mental well-being. Being home was safe. They controlled what happened there. They weren’t worried about coworkers who had been traveling. Being home enabled them to put themselves and their families first, while getting their work done at the same time. If I had to do it over, I’d do the same thing. We’d be home before the company (really the state) mandated it. The difference is today I’d be honest. I’d stand up to leadership and say that even though it wasn’t the norm and even though other teams weren’t doing it, it’s what my team needed. With the specific group of people, our life circumstances and the environment we worked in, being home and removing that anxiety is exactly what the team needed.
It’s been a long two years. We have missed out on many interactions and social events. The opportunity for chance encounters is gone. Networking takes a lot more effort. We see more of the people we live with….remember when we could say we spent more time with the people we worked with more than the people we lived with? Hopefully we have better work life balance. With restrictions coming to an end, and more offices reopening, even if in a different capacity, we find ourselves on the verge of learning to manage and deal with yet another new norm. I can only hope this new norm takes the best of both the normals we have already been accustomed to.
Sunflowers have always been a favorite of mine. They are strong, but delicate. Bold and beautiful. Tall or short. Big or small. The beautiful hues of yellow and orange against the green leaves and stems has always been so attractive. They light up a room, dress up a mantle and still have a rustic feel. They are the perfect summer and fall flower. They go with everything!
Thanks to COVID wrecking havoc on normalcy this year, I decided to turn two planting beds at our house into sunflower beds this year. I had time to water them and care for them…not that much was needed. Early May (the 3rd to be precise), I weeded, raked and mixed compost into a triangular planting bed next to the driveway. I added ~75 sunflower seeds to it, covered with compost and cedar mulch and began watering every day. About a week and a half later, I planted another ~25 sunflowers ina bed out back, around a rock and near the vegetable garden. I was worried at the beginning, day 6 of the first bed being planted brought a freak snow squall to us in May, and I so worried my seeds wouldn’t come to life.
Every morning, I wake up and the first thing I do is water these two beds, along with a bed of dahlias and the vegetables. It didn’t take long for the sunflower seeds to germinate and start growing. As they grew, I continued to water the, weed the beds and cut off dead leaves from the stems. Early August treated CT with a Tropical Storm and some crazy winds. In prepping the property, I dealt with the vegetables first and almost ran out of string. As a last minute attempt to try and protect the sunflowers by the driveway, which happen to be about 4’ above the driveway at the top of a retaining wall, I looped my last bit of string around every other stem and lashed them all together hoping they’d be strong enough as one unit to survive the storm. Once the storm passed and the winds died down, I went out to check on them, and the rest of my plants. The storm only took out ~10 sunflowers, so I consider us lucky to have survived with power, most plants surviving and the only tree damage being a few tree tops falling on the edge of the property.
Tropical Storm Isasis also brought the first sunflower bloom of he season. On August 8th I cut the first yellow sunflower to bloom from the bed by the driveway, along with a dahlia and allowed them to be the centerpiece of the mantle. Since then I’ve harvested about 15 more sunflowers and have a few more ready for harvesting in the morning.
I have learned a few important things this year growing my own cut flowers…
Plant more than you think you need. You will loose some and deer will eat some. There’s always room for a base in another room and no one says no to a bouquet of fresh cut, home grown flowers.
If you plant out back, do it inside a fence. Just because you don’t see the deer doesn’t mean you don’t have them. I know they moved out of the backyard when we moved in, but they have come back. Maybe I didn’t notice because I wasn’t always home. Or maybe it’s because they only seem to be out back in the dark, but they are here and sunflowers with no fencing are a nice snack for them. Next year the vegetable garden will be expanded to include room for more flowers.
You don’t get privacy from a sunflower bed alone. Sunflowers by the driveway are pretty, but don’t provide the privacy you hoped they would. It’s also to open and winds can be damaging. Next year I’ll be building a lattice fence on the 2 back sides to offer privacy from the street to the yard, and to provide a wind shelter for the sunflowers.
No matter how hard we try, getting a 4 year old cat to pose for pictures with flowers is much harder than when they were kittens…
It’s a Sunday and I can’t go to Church. My week always starts with a fresh cooked breakfast at home and Sunday morning mass. I feel like a part of me is missing and I can’t fully quench my yearning for mass and the Eucharist in any other form. I know I can pray – I’ve been doing a lot of that. I know I can stream mass, but it’s just not the same. As a Catholic, I get the honor and privilege of receiving the body of Christ every single time I go to mass. And now, thanks to a pandemic that has turned our lives upside down, even Sunday mass is missing. Even Easter Sunday mass will be missing this year. (CT is going into lockdown tomorrow evening until at least April 22nd!)
Last night I sat looking up at the stars and night sky, saying the rosary and praying that the curve flattens. The calm peace and tranquility that I find in nature is the closest feeling I have to the fulfillment of attending mass on Sunday morning. So today, dreading the idea that I don’t know when I’ll be at mass next and not knowing when I’ll be able to take another trip, I visited a local state park. I went for a short hike and at the end, after doing my stretches, I found a big rock next to a brook to sit, and pray. I prayed for peace. Not world peace, but peace in everyone’s heart and mind. I prayed for the health of my family, friends and staff. That we remain healthy, not only that we avoid COVID-19 but for our mental health in this troubling time. I prayed for happiness. As we find our new normalcy, many people have to give up things that make them happiest and I hope that they can find something else to bring them that sense of happiness and joy.
What are you praying for in these troubling times?