Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pro-Tips for Working from Home

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When I’m not out on sales calls I work from a home office. I spend lots of time in my small, roughly 6′ x 10′ office space, surrounded by piles of paper that need to be filed someday. If you’ve suddenly found yourself working from home due to Covid-19, here’s some tips from a pro.

5. All that stuff you’ve read about getting dressed in work clothes to be more productive in your home office is BS. You can work and be just as productive in your pajamas or your underwear if you want, no one really cares. Unless you’re on a Zoom Video Conference call. Then I’d suggest you may want to dress appropriately!

4. When you’re working from home you can take a nap in the middle of the day. Not like putting your head down on your desk or closing your eyes while pretending to type on a keyboard or out in your car in the parking lot. A real nap… in your own bed! Set an alarm for a half hour. Maybe snooze it once. If you’re having a tough day maybe twice. Just remember the clock starts when you start working and it ends when the work is done. You have some freedom in when you put in your “8 hour day” but you also want to be able to turn it off at night.

3. The refrigerator will be calling to you constantly like a shining beacon in the night! Like the Star of Bethlehem leading the Three Wise Men to Jesus! You’ll here it whisper to you, “hey buddy, you haven’t eaten anything in 15 minutes, you must be starving!” You also, due to recent events, likely have five years worth of food rations stocked in your home. This one is on you. Be strong, padlock the fridge and pack a lunch box if you need to.

2. You won’t have your super-annoying colleague around to bother you but there’s infinitely more distractions at home. The TV, Netflix, staring out your office window at the shining sun, taking naps (see #4), yearning to go for a run or a walk or a bike ride, snacking (see #3), the dirty dishes that need to be washed, the home improvement projects you’ve been putting off for 10 years and on and on. Set some goals and guidelines. When you hit those goals take a break… and preferably go burn off the calories from all those snacks you just mowed down!

1. Lastly if you’ve suddenly found that you AND your spouse are BOTH working from home. Hmmmm…. good luck friends, that’s uncharted territory!

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Tearing Down Wallpaper

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Our goat Naughty passed away last week. We knew this day was coming as he had slowed down, was losing weight and seemed to be having some trouble eating. I never knew I could cry so much over a farm animal. I made a little tribute video of him and posted it on social media. It made me feel good to share with others, the joy he provided to us.

Watch:  The Naughty Movie

We never really knew how old he was, though through some conversations on Facebook following his passing we learned he was likely 14-15 years old. That’s pretty good for an old goat and it comforted me that he had lived a long, happy, carefree life, much of it with us.

I haven’t written on this blog in years. I started it back in 2009 and it was in 2010 that I began adding to it on a regular basis. 2013 was my last really active year, with a small burst of activity in 2015 and 2016. It was a love/hate relationship I had with this site. Building a readership was invigorating. Putting words on a page that someone else, often total strangers, enjoyed reading was a treat that I had never experienced before. It gave me a focus during a somewhat stressful period of life. I was introduced to many people that I still have never met in person but who I am connected with on social media platforms and would consider “old friends.”

On the other hand, over time it became another thing to worry about. “What do I post next, what am I going to write about, gotta keep the hits coming!”

I liken it to our old brick farm house on Brown Road which we actively began renovating a few years after we moved in. I loved it, this newfound hobby of which I had little to no experience; building and painting and installing floors and bathroom tile. I jumped at the chance to dive headfirst into a project, logging countless hours on weekends and evenings, swinging a hammer and using power tools I’d rarely touched before, getting my hands dirty, choking on the dust and soaking up the paint splatter with yet another set of old clothes that would soon end up in a trash bin.

And then one day when things were kind of status quo, when the house was livable as this quirky combination of renovated farmhouse and bad 1970’s chic, when our kids were taking up more and more of our time with sports and school activities, I suddenly didn’t like it anymore. I was tired and I stopped. Cold turkey. Believe me there’s still plenty to do and I’ll occasionally tackle a smaller, more manageable project with the hope that I get inspired again to finish everything that’s on “the list”.

When Naughty passed it hit me hard, not only because I had grown quite attached to that ornery old coot, but it was in 2010 when I had just started actively writing this blog, that we also adopted he and Heath, our first two goats. Suddenly there was this whole newfound theme to write about; our little “farm” on Brown Road, with its historic old house, long wooden fences, grazing goats and an idyllic dirt road with a corn field on the other side. I had visions of Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion dancing in my head. I joked in posts about becoming famous while often carrying this fame on the backs of my two new, soon to be legendary goats, Naughty and Heath.

They gave us story after story to recall, some of which sit within these pages, others that we’ll have to remember from photos or social media posts or the file cabinets in our slowly deteriorating memory banks. In our local circles we became the family with the goats and it’s to this day part of our identity. Heath passed away in 2014 and now my buddy Naughty was gone too. We were down to two goats from our peak of five. I felt like a small but very relevant part of my past had been dredged up and ripped from my heart.

Clearly this blog never reached those levels of Garrison Keillor infamy just as our master bedroom, up until a few months ago was still covered in ugly 1980’s wallpaper, with the same dirty blue carpet, there when we moved in, still sadly covering what I know is a gorgeous 120+ year old wide plank wood floor anxiously waiting a belt sander and a few coats of stain and polyurethane. Even so, Naughty and Heath did go on to become somewhat well known and adored locally, as well as the three other adopted goats that have crossed our paths in the interim years.

A few months back, on a whim I started tearing down that ugly wallpaper in our bedroom. Underneath I slowly and patiently revealed the old, sexy plaster walls that hadn’t seen the light of day in decades. Next I’ll pull up that carpet. It felt good to dig into that project, to once again take on that role of caretaker, and I could sense the old house relishing in the attention she was getting.

The bedroom is still not finished but eventually it will be… I promise. Our old house has been a work in progress since the day we moved in. The “to do list” changes, it morphs and fluctuates, and sometimes we just shove the list in a brown paper bag and carelessly toss it into a closet, like you do with your clutter when you are preparing to have guests over for a party.

Perhaps this blog is a work in progress also. Today I tore down some wallpaper.

Thanks Naughty, I’ll miss you buddy!

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Happy Anniversary Old House

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We recently passed the twenty-year anniversary of living in our old house on Brown Road. My wife and I moved into this house around mid-December 1995, young and just a few years married and child-free with the world at our fingertips. One of our very first adventures as new, first-time home owners was to take a drive to the Christmas tree farm a few country blocks away and buy an overpriced Frasier fir tree that we promptly set up amongst our few pieces of furniture and still unpacked boxes, and decorated with twinkling white lights and a smattering of ornaments we had accumulated.

There were no celebratory parties, champagne toasts or blessings made on this twentieth anniversary. The day… I don’t even remember the exact date… just passed by in the hectic rush towards another Christmas holiday and the beginning of another year with its resolutions and promises to “change this” and “improve that.” A house doesn’t get that kind of recognition, no participation trophies just for showing up. It just does its job faithfully, day after day, year after year, stoically providing shelter and heat and comfort to its residents with no motivation but the occasional reward of a fresh coat of paint or a new roof or to be filled with the laughter of family and friends.

Our house was built in the early 1890’s and has been the home to countless families over the years, all caretakers of a special place that has now been the idyllic backdrop to my family memories for two decades. Throughout 120 plus years, children have been born, people have died, birthdays have been celebrated, jobs have changed, family meetings have been convened, renovations and repairs have been tackled, history has been lived. A man named Ralph Brown and his wife owned the property for a long time and like many of the families in this area got the road named after him. He and his wife are buried and share a gravestone in the small cemetery about a half mile up the road along with several other previous residents. Now we are the caretakers of this place and it’s a job we accept proudly.

A couple nights ago my daughter and I were eating a late-night dinner at the small counter-top island that juts out into the center of our kitchen. It was a bitter cold night as winter’s wrath had finally begun to strengthen its grip on the Midwest and we sat bundled in warm clothes and wool socks. The old oil furnace in the basement would cough and choke, like a three pack-a-day smoker, every ten or fifteen minutes as it fired up its burner to heat more water. The industrial water pumps attached to it like appendages on a modern-day Transformer, would hum as they forced hot water upwards through cast-iron radiators. It’s an epic battle that the old soldier fights every winter against its nemesis; leaky windows and old house cracks and crevices.

This kitchen island is not a place we will typically sit and eat but on this night it seemed right. As we chatted, I had a Pandora radio station of old-time Irish and acoustic roots music playing in the background and my daughter doodled with colored pencils on a scrap piece of printer paper. It occurred to me that even when my kids were bossy little pre-teens, they never commented on or were critical of my sometimes eclectic tastes in music. So we sat and enjoyed each other’s company and it was a rare moment, unencumbered by the usual hectic schedules and electronic devices that often control our lives.

Like conversations do, ours evolved in slow Darwinian fashion from discussion of college next year, to family and school, to her job at the movie theater, to our old house and some of its history and age. She joked at one point and asked if she were to help contribute some money, would we be willing to turn the heat up and I resisted the urge to pull out a recent oil delivery bill or suggest putting a heavy jacket over the sweatshirt she already had on. But that’s old house living, cold winters wrapped in sweaters and blankets and hot summers with nothing but the night breeze and a cheap window fan to cool off the rooms.

Next fall my daughter will be off to college and my son will be in tenth grade and whereas when I was their ages, I had already lived in several homes, they have always lived in this old house on Brown Road. As I look back on being a kid, I never really thought too much about where I lived or what my house was like. I grew up mostly in suburban neighborhoods and modern homes, places with not much character but with doors that closed properly, windows that sealed up tightly, heating and cooling that kept the climate at whatever precise temperature the thermostat was set. And admittedly, fond memories.

But I’ll keep my old house with its quirks and drafts.

My kids probably don’t really think about what their house is like either… it just is what it is… and as a kid you have more important things to worry about, like school and sports, boyfriends and girlfriends, clothes and cars and what’s happening on social media. And just plain old growing up. But somewhere inside them the seeds have been planted and the roots are growing deeper and someday whether they live around the corner or across the country, they will talk with pride about this place as their childhood home.

Unless something drastic changes, my wife and I will hopefully still be here, caretakers of our old house on Brown Road.  Anniversary or not, that’s something worth celebrating.

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My New Year’s Resolution

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My New Years Resolution is to no longer try to be a morning person.

It’s not that I haven’t given it the old college try… well, not actually while in college… but I have as an adult.

Nor is it that I don’t particularly like morning people. It’s just that they are way too morning-y for me and they are always doing things in the morning… like talking to me.

My wife is a morning person and I really like her. Except she’s always trying to talk to me early in the morning when we’re both awake. It will be 6:00 am and I’ll be desperately tightening down the tourniquet on my arm for the coffee drip, and she’ll expect me to be able to process difficult and complicated questions like “do you think we should remortgage the house to help pay for college next year, especially since interest rates are hovering in the low single digits?” or “Good morning, how are you?”

I’m not sure she chooses to be a morning person, she just has to get up really early, but somehow once she’s up, she becomes a morning person. There’s probably some kind of complicated common-core math formula that explains how morning people end up marrying non-morning people.

Me, on the other hand, I’ve been trying to be a morning person ever since I can remember having to get up early to the sound of a blaring alarm clock. I don’t typically wake up before about 8:00 am when I let natural sleep take its course. But most weekdays I try to get up between around 6:00-6:30 am. So, if my common core math is right, that’s about two and seven-twelfths to three and four-fifths hours of totally unnatural awake time.

But there’s something glamorous and romantic about the idea of being a morning person, effortlessly getting up at the crack of dawn to work out, or sipping coffee in quiet solitude while you blog or catch up on emails or meditate while the rest of the lowly, unproductive world slumbers away.

Plus, there’s all those articles that pop-up into our Facebook feeds proclaiming how very successful people get up early and get lots accomplished before the sun comes up. People like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and even Ben Franklin and probably lots of successful authors… all morning people.

6:00 am: June 15, 1752

Ben Franklin (to his wife): “Good morning, how are you? Boy, you look electric this morning!”

Deborah Read Franklin: “Ugh, go fly a kite!”

For years, I’ve had it in my mind that someday I would evolve naturally into a morning person. My mother, when she was alive, was a morning person. She’d get up at crazy hours… mostly because she couldn’t sleep… and accomplish all kinds of stuff with a great attitude and a big bright smile on her face. I probably shouldn’t hope for an insomnia problem, but I always envied that ability in her and figured maybe there would be some kind of genetic factor that would eventually kick in.

But alas, at 48 years old, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s likely just not going to happen.

So, starting in 2016 I will no longer try to be a morning person.

My only concern is, I’m not really a late night person either. I like to be in bed around 10:00 pm. I guess I’m more of a middle of the day person, that’s when I tend to be most productive. But that’s okay because if my common-core math is right that adds up to just about the perfect amount of medically recommended sleep.

And we all know how important getting nine and seven-sixths hours of sleep is each night.

How about you? Morning, noon or night?

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