Peter and Nacho Work from Home

Nacho and Dragon

Dear Will:

Thanks to COVID-19, I’ve been working from home now since the first week in March. I share my remote “office” with wife, my son, and Nacho, our mongrel pup (who has been working from home pretty much since we adopted him in December).

I brought you a Thing.

As I have adapted to this new way of doing business, I have tried to pick up some best practices from anyone with recent work-from-home (WFH) expertise.

I can make the Thing squeak. [Squeaker-squeaker-squeak . . . SQUEEEEAK!] I can do this over and over and over and over and over. And over. [SQUEEEEAK!] Perhaps you have heard.

With these simple techniques you too can maximize both productivity and well-being while under quarantine. Based on my observations, I’ve come up with the following 11 WFH Tips and Tricks.

I chewed the Thing A LOT.  My slobber makes it slimy. (So slimy.) And look! NOW your bare foot has noticed that I brought you a Thing!

  1. Don’t be discouraged by early failure. Keep trying different approaches until you achieve success.

I brought back the Thing. You and I will now play the game where you keep throwing it away and I keep bringing it back. For about an hour.

  1. Stay active. Physical activity is good for both heart and mind.

[PANT PANT PANT] I am still worried about the Thing. I will torment it with my powerful head-shaking submission move. It is terrified by my jangling collar! Fear the Fangs of Death, Thing!

  1. Sometimes it helps to step away from difficult problems. Return to them later when you can attack them with renewed vigor.

I have made you safe from the Thing. I brought you the Thing again so that you can see that you are safe from the Thing.

  1. Take time to share your successes with others. Don’t let isolation rob you of a well-earned celebration.

I placed the Thing on your keyboard so that you can see that I have made you safe from the Thing. Now you must try to extract it from the Fangs of Death. For another hour.

  1. Look for assignments you can really sink your teeth into. With the right attitude, just about any assignment can be fun.

[PANT PANT PANT] I could really use a nap. This nook by your chair where you usually put your feet looks like the best spot.

  1. Take an occasional break from whatever it is you’re working on. Choose a favorite place where you can let go of the tensions of the day.

I see that you have stepped over me to use the bathroom. I shall interrupt my nap to supervise. Good job!

  1. Make sure others feel supported in their work. And of course give praise where praise is due.

I have found another Thing! [Squeaker-squeaker-SQUEEEEAK!]

  1. Don’t hesitate to take on new assignments. Variety is its own reward.

I must disembowel this other Thing. I simply must. I shall lie down on your foot so that you can observe my surgical prowess. Look how much stuffing I am pulling from the body of this other Thing!

  1. Conquer difficult challenges with tenacity. Persistence pays off every time.

I placed my front paws on your laptop to let you know that it is now time for you to rub me the way that I like. And take me for a walk.

  1. Follow your impulses. When you have an itch, scratch it. Who knows where it might lead?

[PANT PANT PANT] I shall now chew on my stick which you say is gross and disgusting whenever you accidentally step on it.

  1. When you love your work, others will notice. Even if they do not fully understand it.

I brought you a Thing. . . .


This One’s Going to Leave a Mark


Dear Will:

This is a little embarrassing to share, but we’re friends so I figure, what the heck. Several years ago my daughter and I went for a hike during which I made the ill-advised decision to try to walk on top of a manzanita shrub. (I know.) When the inevitable face-plant followed, I arose with various scrapes and bruises along with an impressive puncture wound near my left armpit. I still have the scar.

Over here on my right forearm you’ll find another self-inflicted malformation from when I was five or six and got too close while my mother was doing the ironing. And this one here on my knee came from a spill I took a couple of years later on the day we moved into our new house in Redlands. The neighbors lived atop a hill at the end of a long driveway. If you were seven and saw a steep driveway like that one, you’d just have to run down it, wouldn’t you? Well, wouldn’t you?

This one on my toe is the result of an unfortunate encounter with a palm tree during a Wiffle ball game in the backyard of that same house in Redlands. Then there’s this stripe on my leg left by the branch of a different tree that sliced me as I was scrambling off-trail while working at Camp Round Meadow near Barton Flats. On two fingers of my right hand you’ll also find evidence of a mopping accident in the camp mess hall. These twin smears on my shins? Don’t ask. Please.

If you must, ask about the most glorious scar of all, here on top of my bald head, the result of a fractured skull in the second grade. The contours of that one include two indentations from where the surgeon put in screws to pop the bone back into place—like he was repairing the fender of our old Country Squire station wagon. (If you were sitting with me right now I would take your hand and show you. Seriously. This is one cool scar.)

Then there’s my midsection, covered with gashes that aren’t nearly as cool as that one and that I would never make you touch: five from the robotic procedure to remove my prostate, a long horizontal number from the emergency surgery that followed, and the newest member of the gut-scar family (still healing) from hernia repair earlier this month. No wonder I am never asked to appear shirtless on the cover of Men’s Health magazine: My belly now resembles the misshapen end of a russet potato.

I’m sure your body is similarly riddled with similar blemishes, each one with its own history. Often they provide endless hours of tale-telling as we share their legends in great, exaggerated, self-deprecating detail with anyone willing to be regaled. More importantly, they are evidence of having lived (and, sometimes, of having nearly died). They are reminders of pain that has subsided and wounds that have healed. And they are proof that, whatever caused the bleeding, we got through it.

And so I sit here in my daughter’s bedroom, staring at my hard-earned deformities, most incurred many years ago. I’m working from home like the rest of you, already impatient with social distancing, only a couple of weeks into the statewide lockdown over the coronavirus. With schools closed, businesses shuttered, and events canceled, it occurs to me that you don’t have to be among the hundreds of thousands infected to know that this one too is going to leave a mark.

But what kind of mark? Much of what ensues in the weeks ahead I will have no control over, but some of it I will. What will I do, for example, with the three hours a day I am NOT commuting? When I look back on this crisis years from now, will my narrative include dim recollections of mindless video streaming? Dozens of hours of computer solitaire? Or will it include the thing I built, the story I wrote, the project I finally got around to? Will I describe the bonus time I enjoyed with my wife and children? The afternoon I finagled a volunteer shift at the local food bank? How I over-tipped at the take-out window? How I overcame my nervousness to donate a pint of much-needed blood?

I do not know—not yet, anyway. But of this I am certain: These wounds will heal. There will be a scar. And that scar will tell a story.


Thanks for Asking


Dear Will:

It’s true. I’m a Christian. Have been all my life. I think you probably knew that already.

Yeah, but what kind of a Christian are you?

Well, I suppose that by some external measures, someone else might consider me relatively devout. I’m a scripture-reading, services-attending, Sabbath-observing, tithe-paying, prayer-offering Jesus-follower. But we both know that there are plenty of people who do those same sorts of things and yet don’t seem especially Christian, just as there are plenty who do none of those things and seem a lot more Christian than so-called true believers. So I suppose those external measures really don’t tell you much, do they?

Nope. Seriously, what kind of a Christian are you?

Let me try this again. From the time I was a small child, Jesus and His teachings were a central part of my life. Thanks to a devoted mother, I suppose I was swept along by the current of faith that swirled around me. So when I was about eight years old it seemed only natural to own being Christian in some sort of formal way. Although I’m sure I didn’t fully understand it at the time, when I was baptized I was making a public declaration of my Christianity, taking His name upon me in a ceremonial way while committing to follow His teachings and keep Him top-of-mind in everything I do. Inherent in that vow of faith was a pledge to help others, to lift them when they fall, to comfort them when they’re hurting, to mourn with them at times of genuine sorrow. To love others in the fullest sense possible.

More importantly, in choosing that path I accepted a gift that Jesus offers to everyone. In pledging to follow Him, I acknowledged Him as my Savior—one who had willingly taken upon Himself responsibility for my sins and weaknesses. It wasn’t an offloading of my accumulating burden so much as it was a releasing of it, an acquiescence to Him and His desire to take it from me. It wasn’t granted based on personal merit—I  could never earn charity of such magnitude—but rather given freely as an incomprehensible act of love. That free gift—that grace—He offers still, day after day, and as I strive to honor my baptismal promises I accept it from Him again and again and again.

(Sigh.) You’re still not answering the question.

(Sigh.) Do you mean what brand of Christian am I? What denomination do I belong to? Well, for all my life I’ve been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the popular vernacular you’d probably call me a Mormon. Just like the name Christian, Mormon was originally coined as a pejorative, but I don’t really mind it if categorizing me is for some reason helpful to you. Still I fear that in using that label you may mistakenly believe that I worship the prophet Mormon, which would be kind of like accusing a Lutheran of worshiping Martin Luther. If you ask what I prefer, however, I’ll ask you to call me a Christian. As I told you, that’s the name I claimed as my own and have retained since I was a boy.

Fair enough. Now I understand.

Actually, if that’s what you were asking, then I’m afraid that you don’t understand at all. So let me try this one last time: On Sundays, the children sometimes sing a song by Janice Kapp Perry that answers your question better than anything else I can think of. This is the kind of Christian I am:

I’m trying to be like Jesus; I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,
“Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.”

That’s me. Trying, getting it wrong as often as not, and trying again. And trusting in Him that somehow, through His grace, it will all work out. I’m that kind of Christian.

Thanks for asking.