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We document our family's working sabbaticals as well as adventures a tad closer to home.

Work

Work

During dinner last night we both commented that throughout this week we’ve started to feel established.  We have routines and systems that are working well.  Today starts week three.  It feels good to feel settled after a couple weeks and to know that next time some things will be even easier. And, so, perhaps now would be an appropriate time to share a bit about our days.

When we talked with people about this trip the questions we get asked revolve around how we manage to vacation for five weeks (and then we get asked about volcanos).  It’s not truly a vacation (no drinks with umbrellas, no one makes our bed but me).  We came hoping to replicate much of a normal day, week, month in July back home.  I’m off for the summer/Brett’s working.  We’ll need a new word other than vacation.

So what does that normal day look like?  There are some variations.  But, usually Brett’s up by 7.  I sleep later (which feels ok because during the school year I get up earlier. Much earlier, sigh.)

Some days we head to a coffee shop in the morning.  Brett’s said he feels incredibly productive being out of the house.  I do too.  (My favorite is still C is for Coffee.)

Work at a cafe tends to look something like this,


Or this.


You’ll notice Brett’s so focused he won’t even look up. We’re fortunate to have two laptops with us. Sometimes I read the NY Times, then I’ll dabble with a bit of Gandhi’s autobiography (so far I don’t like him all that much. I know, that’s terrible), or work on this little blog.

Perhaps we are so productive because of our fuel?


There’s often a mid-morning treat purchased to help dilute the jet fuel.

Other mornings he works from home, and (ideally) I head out for a run.  We live close to the Shore&Sculpture walk along the harbor. It can be a bit windy but it’s a glorious place to trot. Now, Brett’s the real runner and is racing in the Reykjavik Half Marathon. When I say I trot, that’s about it.

At our real house Brett works from a teak desk so it was funny to have Systa tell us that she just found a long-desired teak table for the apartment.  It’s protected by a large piece of black felt.  (You can also see the Magic Jack in action. More on that in a bit.)

Lunch is typically at home.  Then some days we go someplace after lunch (a museum or the like) for a couple hours.  Then home again and Brett finishes off any work while I write or read or tune or putter.  Some afternoons I wander off to take photos or poke around stores.

Then some dinner and a movie or a walk down to the water, or we scream at Top Chef on the bigger laptop.

Now, I have the glorious and, I realize, envious position of not having to work full time right now (hence the time to write and entertain you, dear friends). However, I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from my school to write with a co-teacher and friend, Rob.  He’s the 8th grade history teacher, I’m the 7th (there’s only one per grade at my school) and we get along pretty smashingly well.  When we applied for the grant we figured we’d sit down for a couple weeks over the summer and hammer something brilliant out (preferably someplace with A/C).

We’re both travelers and have side interests….well, really Rob does.  He’s a very well respected blues musician (with a new CD out!  It’s good!) and writes with a friend in LA and spends time each summer playing music in Japan.  Brett & I had trips to Hawaii and North Carolina as well as this little adventure (and we managed to buy a house and move too).  So, when we sat down to figure out when we’d sit down we realized we were both in Chicago at the same time for a total of, maybe, three days.

And that’s where both Brett & I are benefitting from and exploring the technologies that allow us to work.  For one, Brett got a Magic Jack.  Now, I know, I know.  It’s a As-Seen-On-TV thing.  And I was totally dubious.  But, man that thing is both awesome and weird.  It gives us a Chicago phone number and the opportunity to stay in touch.

Rob and I talked about talking on the phone to write, what Skype options we had and then stumbled onto the idea of using all the options available through our schools email interface, which is supported by Google.  So now we’ve got a shared document and had a date to video chat for today.

Hard. At. Work.

We’re both excited about writing and I also think it will be neat to share with our colleagues how we collaborated when thousands of miles away.  He leaves for Japan the 20th.  We get home the 22nd.  So I imagine we’ll keep talking when he’s in Japan, which is pretty awesome.

This successful feeling of being settled all came through negotiation and discussion.  Navigating what a work day looks like will continue to be a challenge and we’re hoping to set good boundaries and habits now so we can travel like this in the future.  There’re infinite distractions (mostly caused by me).  There’s a city to explore, things to do, walks to take.  I have such tremendous respect for Brett’s work ethic and truly, truly don’t think this trip would be at all possible if we were both wired like, well, me.  I’d probably constantly be coming up with reasons I could take a few hours off or things to do instead of finishing a project.  Not Brett.  He’s disciplined and focused.  He’s managed to carve out full work days, anywhere from 8-10 hours.  Brett’s work clients have been incredibly supportive (thanks!), and his project schedule for this trip is full.  I can only say I think there’s good reason for them to have the faith to support his travel while working and that we’re incredibly happy they bid us a cheery bon voyage.  That support is one element.  We’re still having lots of conversations about when I should tell him to unplug and come see something weird with me (oh, how I love the weird) or how to figure out what things I can go do on my own and not step on his travel toes.

We talked before we left, we talked last night, we’ll talk more.  It’s kind of what we do.

Saturday Evening Post

Saturday Evening Post

Our home, or the post in which I explain why I went to Ikea.

Our home, or the post in which I explain why I went to Ikea.