Home Work

What? I’ve never told you just how much I love working from home? Really? Well, let’s change that immediately. I used to think it was a silly luxury, but the truth is that working from home has absolutely, undeniably, and fundamentally changed my quality of life.

This time three years ago I was working in the tech support department as a “named support representative for our largest customers.” That’s software company code to say I was on call 24/7 to handle any and all tech issues that would come up for several giant accounts. And, as you probably know, giant accounts always have something coming up.

The good news is it was a great job that I enjoyed, I loved my co-workers, and it taught me a lot of about our entire software environment, let alone the applications themselves. I enjoyed the challenge, the camaraderie, the fun troubleshooting work. And, hey, I learned a lot. Bonus.

The bad news is that I was working all the time. I was driving about an hour each way to park in a parking garage, walk to an office, sit at a desk, and do my work all day. Then I had the privilege of working most nights at home after hours as well. Sixty and seventy hour weeks were not uncommon.

Oh, the driving. OMG. I was doing SO MUCH driving. Between the back and forth of work and home, plus side trips to my oldest at her mom’s house, and all the various side trips and events around Indy, I was regularly driving 500 miles per week. PER WEEK. My reliable Honda Accords (may they rust in peace) got me a safe, reliable 32 mpg, but they also wreaked havoc on my knees and back. I fit in a good compact sedan well enough for most driving, but I simply did not fit well enough for that kind of marathon driving. Ouch.

Truth be told, being on call 24/7 affects you in ways you don’t expect. We couldn’t schedule things as a family because it was so common that I’d get pulled out at the last second. We had a couple of dinners out and movie theater experiences interrupted by work emergencies, so then I started driving separately. Eventually I just stopped going at all. My family learned to live around me, without me. I almost never made it to school events. They even started going on entire vacations without me.

As my wife puts it, the kids just learned to assume I wasn’t available. They stopped asking if I could do things, just automatically assuming I was working. My default was “not available.”

Not great. But you do what you do to put food on the table and maintain health insurance, right?

So, then I got a new position where I’m now the guy who designs and builds all those complicated systems, instead of just troubleshooting them at 2 am when they break. Suddenly I’m working a nice calm 8-5 job (usually). And then, one glorious day, they said I could start working from home.

(angels sing)

What a complete difference it has made. Simply not making that drive every day by itself is worth it. The gas savings, the time savings, the stark reduction in stress on me and my car… wow.

After a year and a half of massage therapy and lately some yoga, I’m starting to see some solid improvements in the lower back and hip issues I developed with all that driving.

It really surprised me when I realized it also benefits the company. I get SO MUCH more work done. For one, I’ve got back those 2 hours a day I spent driving. For another, I have almost none of the fun but unproductive office chit chat that I used to have in the office. And I also push myself more when I only have to walk 25 feet to my home office. I’m much less likely to take a sick day when I can just take it easy at my desk and get stuff done.

I no longer have that horrible hassle of prepping myself a nutritious, balanced sack lunch every day. And by that I mean to say I used to eat out 4-5 days a week, spending more than I should to eat lower quality than I should. Let’s just say they all know me by name at the Qdoba next to my office. I used to eat there so much they actually just gave me a sweatshirt once. Free. True story.

And, and this is a big one folks — I’m actually here. I get to enjoy this house that my paycheck goes toward the mortgage payments. I actually live here now. Like, LIVE HERE.

It’s a joy do make things happen around our home. I love to fill the slow cooker full of food to make easy, simple meals that then feed us for a week: a big pot of chili, a handsome pot roast, some zippy Chicken Tikki Masala, you name it. I can start it in the morning and check on it throughout the day while I’m working. Same with a load of dishes or a washer full of clothes. I get so much more housework done, all while getting more of my job done. Talk about a win-win.

Also, gasp, I have been known to roll out a mat and do yoga in my front room. That fancy gym at work is awful nice, but it doesn’t beat my living room.

It makes a difference to be here for deliveries and to sign for packages. I’m here for repair men and contractors. I’m here to let the dogs outside to run and get more exercise, which makes them healthier and happier. And I’m even here to run a forgotten lunch or library book into town if needed. And when AT&T says they’ll send a technician some time between 11 am tomorrow and the year 2019 — sure! I’ll be here.

But mostly, I love being here to get the kids off the school bus. They burst in the front door every afternoon, full of energy and stories of their day. Sometimes they’re happy and sputtering to tell me about something exciting, or wild, or silly. Sometimes they’ve made new friends, or gotten an award at school. Some days they’re sullen and hangry. I don’t even care. I love being here for all of it.

And I get to go to all the school events. I’m actually an active parent and part of my children’s educational team. Who knew how cool that would be? I honestly didn’t even realize how many school things I was missing. We are fortunate to have a school with a vibrant culture of families and sharing and fundraising. I’ve made a lot of friends and I know a lot about the teachers, the curriculum, and even the other kids my children play with (and their parents). It’s a very different and better perspective.

I cannot express all the ways and to what depth working from home has completely changed my relationship with my entire family, my pets, my home, my health, my hobbies, and my career.

So, yes, working from home has really improved my life. I’m so glad you asked!

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Odd Piñata

Me: “Let’s have eggs for dinner.”

Danger Monkey, age 10: “Yes! And refried beans. And hot sauce!”

Little Miss Thing, age 7: “I don’t like refried beans.”

Me: “OK, no refried beans.”

DM: “I call dibs on your refried beans.”

Me: “You can’t have hers. We’ll just make something else.”

DM: “But I called dibs on your beans.”

Me: “I’m going to dibs you upside the dibs.”

DM: “I called dibs on your dibs ad infin-AH-tum.”

(long pause)

Me: “That phrase is ‘ad infinitum’, and since when are you slinging Latin phrases at me?”

LMT: “It sounded like Odd Piñata to me.”

Me: “No, it’s ad infinitum, and it means something lasts forever.”

(long pause)

LMT: “Can I still have an Odd Piñata?”

Now He’s Cooking

I spent the evening helping the boy learn how to make lasagna. Not a fancy recipe. We used ground beef and sausage, a couple jars of marina sauce, and shredded our own cheeses. I opted for cottage cheese over ricotta because… well, because I’m cheap.

Making_Lasagna_1

Cooking the noodles was easy, and he did a great job of stirring together the cottage cheese, eggs, and freshly grated Parmesan. He even chopped up a little parsley. He integrated the layers as I scooped the various ingredients into the dish. He really enjoyed smoothing out the stuff with a spatula. He sang a song as he worked, describing what he was doing in his “spatula song.” I couldn’t help but enjoy his enthusiasm.

It’s fun to see things through your kid’s eyes sometimes. So much of daily life as an adult is repetition, rote movements that we walk through like robots. I’ve made lasagna a hundred times. For me, it’s just a functional activity. I only do it because it makes tasty food. For my son, each step was a totally new adventure, a tiny new piece of Life to be learned. He devoured it all, gleefully. He’s even already applying other cooking techniques that he learned previously. It’s a special treat to see it start to come together for him.

And, of course, he made some beautiful lasagna.

Making_Lasagna_2

I encourage everyone to cook with your kids. It’s a great together activity and they learn one of the most valuable life skills that exists. And, you get to enjoy cooking for a bit yourself.