Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I knew, eventually, I'd have to get around to writing about food, more specifically, my fear that I would end up trapped inside my house forever. Forget worrying about whether or not I had the discipline to get my work done once I started telecommuting; I've been worrying about being home all day with a fridge that's full of my own food, not other people's, convinced I might soon be one of those people we've all seen on TV or in People Magazine. You know, the ones who are too fat to even move from the bed, let alone leave the house? And if you've been following this blog, you know spending the rest of my life in bed just isn't an option for me.

You would think that vision would be enough to keep me under control, but then I guess you may not realize who I am, which is someone who is stupid enough to keep things like cheese, macadamia nuts, and Girl Scout cookies in her fridge. Yes, I do also, with all good intentions, keep things like broccoli and carrots in my fridge, but they tend to stick around till they resemble the consistency and taste of Gumby and Pokey dolls, before liquifying. I'm also someone who loves to cook, and I cook in abundance, which means we always have leftovers.

When I worked in an office, I could just buy that box of Girl Scout cookies (who am I kidding? I mean those six boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Girl Scout cookies have to be bought in bulk, since they only come around once a year), allow myself to satisfy my craving by eating some, and then bring the rest to work to give away. I even had a few "non-cooking" co-workers who were willing to take containers full of leftovers home for dinner. Left with no co-workers to fatten up in my stead, I'm stuck with coming up with alternatives to help instill a self-control habit. What alternatives am I testing now?

I'll start with what I'm not doing. For instance, I'm not going to stop buying things like cheese and macadamia nuts. Life without cheese really isn't a life worth living, in my book. Nor is life without sugar (I tried that once for a month after reading that wretched book The Sugar Blues. Never felt physically better in my life, but what's the point in having all kinds of energy when you can't use it to run down to Krispy Kreme for melt-in-your-mouth-hot-off-the-conveyor-belt doughnuts?). I'm also not the kind of person (I don't know anyone who is, actually, but, if you can believe what's in women's magazines, they exist) who could buy a box of chocolates, eat four, and then throw the rest away. I'm well aware that throwing them into my body where they aren't needed is just as wasteful as throwing them away, but the smelly old trashcan, where they're going to be completely neglected and unappreciated, seems like such a sad end for such delicious candy. And I'm certainly not going to stop cooking. I'm also not going to substitute healthy alternatives when what I want is something unhealthy. The same people who can throw away boxes of chocolate are those who when they "want something crunchy" can substitute celery for Fritoes (as advised, again, in so many women's magazines). Someone like that must be almost, but not quite, as sensuous as a brick. Fritoes are about so much more than their mere crunchiness, and everyone knows celery isn't worth eating unless it's topped with something like Pimiento cheese.

Well, those are the things I'm not planning on doing. I'll let you know when I figure out what I am going to be doing. Meanwhile, it's time to make a quick trip to the store to get a box of chocolates.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Doogie Howsering

I never watched the TV show Doogie Howser, M.D. I did, however, catch the tail end of it at times, because I liked to watch whatever it was that came on after it in those days (funny I can remember Doogie Howser, but can't remember which show it was, the one I actually liked to watch, that came on after it). Anyway, I caught that tail end enough times to assume he ended every episode by recording events and feelings in his electronic journal. Everytime I sit down to write something in here, I think of Doogie.

I used to think that was a pretty lame and stupid part of the show (having no other part of the show to which to compare it, of course, and barring the title, that is). My guess, at the time, was that it was supposed to indicate this whiz kid was so far advanced, he even used his computer -- something the rest of the world was just beginning to accept as replacements for their Selectrics -- for keeping a diary. You see, he was, of course, way too sophisticated for the good old notebook and pen we lowly non-prodigies tended to use for such things. In those days, I would have never used my computer to record anything I was afraid might vanish into thin air, which means I didn't use it too much (except to feed my Tetris and Welltris addictions). Or at least, I didn't use it without compulsively saving stuff in at least three places and making sure I had hardcopies as well.

What a long way we've come. Now we're all "Doogie Howsering," although we call it by the much-less-silly-sounding "blogging." By "all," I mean even those of us who were more likely to flunk a few grades than to skip them when we were in school. Not only that, but we're sharing what we write with almost the entire world. Well, so was he, actually, but he didn't think he was. Then again, maybe he did. Maybe he was so far beyond the rest of us intellectually that he was setting up web logs before anyone else knew how to access them.

So, the question I had for myself today (since it was Memorial Day, I most certainly wasn't telecommuting and doing things like checking my email. That would mean I couldn't separate work from play. Thus, I had plenty of time to ponder profound questions) is: how do I keep myself from turning into a lame Doogie Howser? Not that I could ever have that kind of intelligence, but I could be the sort of person the two words "Doogie" and "Howser" conjure up, even when not strung together, especially had they not been turned into what must have been a fairly successful television show. Believe it or not, I've come up with an answer to this question. What I'm going to do is to avoid writing about my day the way an adolescent would. For instance, I won't write like this.

Today totally sucked. I was supposed to, like, get together with my friend, who was coming from Boston, and she's like, you know, so cool, you know? Anyway, I got this totally random ear infection and didn't feel good enough to go, so I had to stay home. Then, Bob beat me at dominoes, Killer Bunnies (Killer Bunnies is an AWESOME game! Check it out: www.killerbunnies.com), and Cribbage. He never beats me at Cribbage. That's it. Gotta go.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Speaking Too Soon

I have a bad habit of speaking too soon. Take yesterday's (which I did post yesterday -- Thursday -- despite the fact the post says I did so on Wednesday) post for example, when I claimed telecommuting may be a cure for insomnia. My punishment for making such a pronouncement is that I got about three hours of sleep last night. It's now 8:15 p.m., and I can barely keep my eyes open. This is maybe a blessing for anyone reading this, because it will be mercifully short. I've realized, though, that this means I've probably spoken too soon about most of the things I've posted in here over the past week. It also means this particular post is likely to be chock full of typos and other errors, that I'll be forever correcting, even if it is the shortest one so far.

I thought about making predictions about other things I might end up regretting having said, but I think it will be more fun to just sit back and see which ones happen. It might make what I have to say down the road far more interesting.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bed-ridden Blues

(I actually composed this yesterday, which means I spent Tuesday in bed. My wireless connection started playing games with me last night, and I couldn't post it till today).

Yesterday, I gave in to a wrenched back I got dancing last week (that's what I get for trying to keep up with twenty-somethings), and I decided to spend the day in bed. (I can't think of a way to link this to telecommuting, except to talk about how I refuse to bring my laptop to bed, but I don't want to do that, so I've decided not to try to make a connection between the two.) It worked, because I'm feeling much better, but it was absolute hell. I don't know why I can't seem to remember, everytime I decide to spend a day in bed due to illness or injury, that I can't stand to be bed-ridden. Hammock-ridden with a bottomless gin and tonic, maybe, but bed-ridden, no.

My aversion to beds probably has all kinds of psychological roots. First of all, I was made to take naps until I was practically of driving age. I now understand that this was probably due to my poor mother-of-four's need for a break every day after lunch, but I wasn't the least bit empathetic at the time. A hyperactive five-year-old, who’s spent the morning being intimidated by far-more hyperactive classmates, just isn’t going to sleep. My “naptimes” were typically spent in the most creative play, turning my stuffed animals into dastardly Snakes and Ladders and Old Maid opponents. My mother’s obsession with sleep was obviously quite strong. Going to bed before dark was another pre-driving-age staple in our house. My younger brother and I spent many hours making up spy games and practicing our gymnastics techniques on our mattresses and headboards long after we’d been put to bed.

By the time I was thirteen, my mother’s sleep obsession had become contagious. Being quite impressionable, I’d read somewhere (probably in my health textbook, because I was also obsessed with reading about diseases. Health classes should be banned on the basis that they encourage budding hypochondriacs) that teenagers need lots of sleep. Also, I was hoping it might be true, and that getting plenty of rest might encourage the beauty that had eluded me thus far in life. I was determined to get 8-10 hours of sleep every night (not an easy task when one has to catch the school bus at 6:30 a.m.). Naturally, insomnia set in with a vengeance.

I’ve suffered from insomnia on and off ever since, which is not surprising when one has grown up associating her bed with games and trampolines (which is why I won’t bring my laptop to bed). It’s also not surprising, because I classify myself as a “night owl,” someone who would rather go to bed at 2:00 a.m. and sleep until 10:00 a.m., living in a society that doesn’t allow for that. Add to this the fact that “Worry” is my middle name. One thing I’ve discovered, though, is that since I started working from home, my insomnia has abated somewhat. So, here's one positive thing I can say about telecommuting to refute all those naysayers whose opinions I was reading the other day: if you suffer from insomnia, telecommuting may be the cure. Hmmm...seems I've made that connection between being bed-ridden and telecommuting after all. (Jung would be so proud.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

My Fellow Bloggers

Well, because I'm insatiably curious, and it hasn't yet killed me the way it would've had I been born a feline, I've made the mistake of searching "telecommuting," just to see what other bloggers have to say about it. Thus far, I have yet to find anyone else, besides me, pretending to devote an entire blog solely to the topic. I also have not found many positive pronouncements on the subject. However, I've found quite a few discouraging thoughts and remarks.

The number-one theme seems to be that, no, I'm not going to be able to separate work and home life, and that either one or the other is going to suffer (we'll see. Just try telling me I can't possibly do something. So, it's 8:00 p.m., and I'm sitting at the dinner table with my laptop on my lap, husband slashing his wrists for attention, dog drunk because I accidentally poured vodka not water into her bowl, I'm not really working, you know. Besides, I just have one more thing to finish). Another theme is that one has to be a very special kind of person in order to be able to telecommute successfully (this one does kind of worry me. Despite what my parents might tell you, I certainly don't qualify as a "very special kind of person"). Thirdly, no way can I successfully manage and "groom" others from off-site (they may be adults, but I guess they just can't be trusted to work if I'm not around). And did you know this? Every single little conversation that happens in an office, no matter how innocuous it may seem, is extraordinarily important. For some odd reason, I never knew that my career depended on all those discussions my colleagues and I used to have about our spouses'/partners' annoying habits, as well as our reviews of must-see movies, but they did!

I probably could have done without reading all these verifying testaments from those who have succombed to telecommuting problems, especially since all of them have already been conjured up by my runaway imagination, which is always vying for the running-away-the-fastest-and-farthest world record. For instance, I already know it isn't easy to manage people off-site, but then, when you consider that my former boss was in the office right next door to mine, that we still communicated mainly via email, and that I can't say I would have preferred to have been in meetings with him all day, I often wonder why I feel that way. I also know telecommuters can suffer from being out-of-touch with what's going on in the office. However, I've always been the sort of person who lived in her own little world and was the last to catch on to or to know much about what was going on around her anyway, so I'm still not so sure I'd have my finger on the pulse of office doings were I on-site. I'd still say the number-one problem for me is that I miss being around my colleagues. After all, I can't exactly complain to my office mate about my spouse's annoying habits when, for all intents and purposes, he's my office mate. Well, I could, but then I'd be forced to agree with all those who predict my home life is going to suffer now that I never leave it.

I do think, though, that someone ought to start writing some upbeat articles about telecommuting from home. I haven't been doing it long enough yet to feel I can possibly be an authority on the subject (although, I know. I'm not usually one to keep my mouth shut just because I'm not an authority on the subject. Still, I'd like to have a little more experience), so I'm hoping someone else will do so and post it somewhere that it appears prominently, so I can read it and be lifted from the depths of my curiosity-induced, "destined-to-be-a-failed-telecommuter" blues.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Today I'm going to take a break from blathering on about myself and my job to brag about my husband Bob. I'm not one who normally likes to brag about things, but he's definitely worth a temporary break in my reticence. On Friday, he graduated from one of the most prestigious seminaries in the world, one historically famous for its association with world-renowned religious scholars (this should give you the hint that I'm not talking about Bob Jones University here). However, not only did he graduate, he also received the highest award granted to students graduating with a Masters of Divinity degree. It's a fellowship that will allow him to travel anywhere in the next year to either study or teach in his field. Also, we discovered that at a place where students either pass, fail, or receive distinctions in their courses, he was the student who graduated with the highest number of distinctions. He jokingly said to one of the faculty members after the commencement ceremony, "Well, I guess I should just die right now," to which she replied, "You're right. In this field, it isn't going to get much better than this."

All this is worth being very proud of, and I am (although, it's sort of silly, because it isn't as if I had anything to do with it. He would have earned all these accolades whether I'd been here or not). However, what I am most proud of is how many of his professors (remember, these are people I "worship," scholars we've read about for years, many whose writing has changed my life, people I'm still amazed I've been lucky enough to have met) have described him not only as a brilliant student but also as being so very kind. That's what makes me proud -- that I somehow managed to luck out and marry a man so many people describe as "kind." And, it's true. One of the things that still amazes me about Bob, after ten years of marriage, is that I've rarely met anyone in my life who is so warm and affectionate towards others, so willing to focus on their good and not their bad.

Bob entered seminary with the notion that he wanted to help change the perception of what most intellectuals in this country have come to think of when they read or hear the word "Christian," a word that has been used and abused by politicians and many others in recent times (actually, it hasn't just been in recent times, but my point is better made by pretending it has been). He also saw faith as a way to pursue his true passion, which is, as he articulates it now, "care for all of God's creation, not just human beings," that passion being the environment, as well as other animals. We're not sure what his next move will be -- many at the seminary would like him to get his Ph.D.; others say the ministry desperately needs pastors like him; creating his own environmental movement, pulling together people of all faiths through that faith, would be a dream come true for him. At this point, it doesn't even really matter, though. I'm sure his passion and his kind heart will lead him to success no matter what he chooses.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Can't Think of a Title -- I'm on Vacation

Well, day two of my vacation, and I've still managed to keep that proposal at bay. This is a good sign, because I'm assuming this evening and tomorrow I'll be way too busy to even check my email. That means I can pat myself on the back for managing to be somewhat successful at this vacation-as-a-telecommuter business. Of course, the other side of that is that I'll probably be driven crazy by extended exposure to family members and will want to disappear into the world of work for refuge. I'll have to find some place to hide out in order to do this, though, because I can't imagine my parents and in-laws being too pleased about my sitting around with a laptop attached to my lap while they're trying to have a conversation with me.

That brings me to the topic of laptops and work space. Read anything any women's magazine has to say about working from home, and the number one rule is always: establish an office space in your home, and don't deviate from it. I'm a rule-breaker by nature, as long as I won't get into too much trouble if caught, but this one actually seemed like a sound one, not worth breaking. I diligently went about setting up my office space at home, taking over half of what used to be my husband's study, buying file drawers for my files, and setting up bookcases for my books. I did all that, only to discover that one of the problems I've probably always had with work is being confined to an office space. I need variety. I need to move around. I used to spend an awful lot of time on the job getting up and walking around, and now I realize, I was probably doing that in order to escape that feeling of confinement.

Here's where the glory of the laptop comes into play. I'll start out in my "office" early every morning, but by mid-morning, I'll find I've usually moved downstairs to the comfy old Pier One chair in the room we call The Santa Fe room (most people would call it the Florida room, as it's mostly windows, but we have tons of southwestern stuff out there, and we both hate Florida, so we had to call it something different). It's a wonderful place to sit, whether it's rainy or snowy or sunny. If I get tired of that spot, I'll move into the living room and plop my laptop down on the old secretary I inherited from my mother when she and my father moved houses. One particularly nice day, I even ventured out onto the deck, which wasn't such a good idea, as sunlight and computer screens don't work too well without rigging up umbrellas that have a tendency to blow down with the slightest breeze.

I know. I know. This moving around and taking work all over the place feeds into a tendency to never stop working -- to never separate work life from home life. That's the main reason the articles advise against it. I think those articles, though, are just written by people stuck in offices, jealous of those of us who are sitting out on sunny decks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Today's the day I come clean, admitting I've already been lying here. I'll start with the insignificant little white lie that my legal name really isn't "Emily Barton." When I was a kid, I thought it would be wonderful to be a stage actress. This was not because I could ever be such a thing. I don't go in for being stared at for more than about twenty seconds. (I had a huge part in our second-grade play: standing on stage and ringing a bell to announce the arrival of Columbus and his three ships -- no speaking parts whatsoever. About two hours before my big solo debut, I realized that throwing up, crying, or peeing on stage weren't options and managed to pull myself together.) Somehow, I guess, I was going to be a fabulous stage actress without ever having to take the stage, because I just loved the idea of being able to wear all those cool costumes, and I loved my stage name: Leigh Barton.

The name has evolved for the purposes of this blog, mainly because my first name really is "Emily," and I decided it would be too difficult to remember to call myself "Leigh" when needed (as in, when I need to write, which I'm sure I will at some point, "my husband said, 'Emily, what the hell are you doing?'" His saying, "Leigh, what the hell are you doing?" just doesn't sound right). Also, when I was eight years old, I didn't know I'd have had two bosses by this point in my life named "Leigh" (although one spelled it "Lee"). Stealing one boss's name just might be acceptable, but stealing two? Anyway, I just felt I ought to come clean with this lie, because there's an acclaimed author out there named Emily Barton, whose books I have yet to read (although I'm sure I will at some point), and I would hate for anyone to confuse me with an acclaimed author.

My second lie is that, technically, I've been telecommuting for over a year. I just haven't been doing so from my home. I was working from our sister company's office, because it's closer to my house. You would think an office is an office and that most people in offices are pretty much doing their own thing anyway, so those surrounding them shouldn't make much difference. But, I discovered, it did make a difference. Try being the only one in a grocery store shopping for shoes. People will spend most of their time looking at you like you're crazy, while trying very hard not to be associated with the crazy person. You'll discover that even if you've brought your laptop and can easily shop for shoes online while stationed in the cereal aisle, no one is going to want to discuss with you the pros and cons of heels v. flats.

I'll ask you to imagine one more thing about this grocery store. It's constantly threatening to run out of food. But it's the only grocery store in the area. Everyone is always in a panic over whether or not they're going to be able to eat. When they're not in a panic, say when they notice a huge shipment of pineapples arriving from Hawai'i, they're bored to tears, because they've been shopping here for thirty years, and the most exciting thing that ever happens is a shipment of pineapples from Hawai'i.

Your choices when shopping for shoes in such a place is that you either spend all your time desperately trying to convince other people they should be looking for shoes, or you leave, taking your online shoe shopping to the comfort of your own home. The employees at my sister company were a very hard sell. They wanted to stockpile food not shoes. I decided, because maybe I have at least half an ounce of sanity, that leaving the grocery store was the only option for me.

So, there you have it, my two lies. I promise, though, that I'm not a dog or an alien or anything. And here's a truthful statement: I've managed to spend the day today not looking at that proposal and sample chapter I mentioned yesterday. You know this is true, because I'm quite proud of myself. No truly talented liar would admit to being proud of not working while taking a vacation (of course, I have been checking my email, just to make sure the office hasn't caught on fire).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Tomorrow, I'm supposed to be on vacation, but I'm not actually going anywhere (well, nowhere fun and exotic, that is). I'm having my car fixed and then preparing for the arrival of my parents on Thursday. They're coming to visit for my husband's graduation from seminary. However, I'm already trying to figure out if I'll have a little time in the morning to look at a proposal and a sample chapter from an author. This isn't a good sign: my first vacation since I started telecommuting, and I'm obviously not inclined to drag myself away from the computer. Luckily, my house hasn't started to fall down around me yet.

To tell you the truth, I've never been a big fan of vacations. I don't mean I don't like to travel and get away (I do. I love it!), but what I don't like is that work is going on without me. I attribute this to my "third child syndrome." I'm a third child, which means I always felt like I was missing out on something. I always had to go to bed, or I wasn't old enough to go, or by the time whatever the big event was, like going off to college, got around to me, it was so old-hat, nobody even cared about it anymore. Thus, I've always wished the office would just close everytime I'm on vacation. I mean, why shouldn't my whole workplace revolve around me, since my childhood, quite obviously, didn't?

Inevitably, I'm right, too. Big things do tend to happen when I'm on vacation. Take the one fire (I'm talking about a real fire here, not the proverbial fires people in business always brag about "putting out." It was in the computer room. Not a soul was hurt, because who ever hangs out in the computer room?) that ever happened at any place that ever employed me. It happened while I was on vacation.

The good news was that the company did actually close down for a day while I was away, but the bad news is I missed being able to turn it into the big dramatic event it wasn't. You know how you always wish you could say something really cool at a cocktail party (I have no idea why, since no one ever throws or attends cocktail parties anymore) like, "Oh yeah, and then there was the time our office building caught on fire. The woman in the cubicle next to me passed out, and I had to drag all 189 pounds of her down three flights of stairs. We barely made it out alive." Instead, I have to say, "Oh yeah, and then there was the time I was hiking around Acadia Park in Maine and found out my office building was disappearing up in smoke." It just doesn't quite have the same edge, does it?

But wait a minute. Maybe if I ever get invited to a cocktail party, I can say, "Oh yeah, and then there was the time my house caught on fire. I was so busy reading a proposal, the fire trucks had arrived before I even realized what was going on, only to discover I was trapped upstairs..."

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Beginning

I'm actually starting this a little later than planned. I became a full-time telecommuter over a month ago (on April 1), and my goal was to blog about it for the first full year, but, I've already gotten behind on that goal, so now maybe my goal will be to blog about it for the first full year and a couple of months. Remember, I said "maybe." We'll see how it goes.

So, now I'm stuck with the monumental task of cramming six weeks worth of commenting on this experience into one post. Don't worry. I don't really plan to do that. I'll just pretend this is my first day of telecommuting and lay out what I might have said back then, and from now on, I'll move forward instead of trying to catch up. It's no big loss to anyone who might actually be reading this blog, anyway, since I spent most of April traveling to conferences. I wouldn't have had much to say about the home experience during that time, except that I was missing my kitchen terribly.

I'm an editor. Some people find it impressive when you tell them that. I don't. As far as I can tell, it just qualifies me as someone people love to make fun of when they find grammatical errors or too many typos in anything I write ("too many" translating as "at least one"). But what I do isn't really all that important, except in that it has allowed me to bring my work outside a specific setting in a way that, say, being an airplane pilot, wouldn't, and to set up a little office at home.

I'm very curious to see how this working from home business shapes up over the year and to have a record of my ups and downs with it, which is why I've begun this record. My biggest question right now is the opposite of what most people seem to be asking me at this point, which is: "Do you really have the discipline to work from home?"

They insinuate that they lack such discipline, and that, therefore, so must I. Well, I would have to have been an idiot (which is, of course, not to say that I'm not) to decide to do this if I didn't think I had that kind of discipline. Besides, working in an office isn't necessarily what keeps a person disciplined. I know plenty of people who work on-site who spend about six hours a day talking to their colleagues and about one hour actually working. Also, there's that minute detail people seem to forget that if my work doesn't get done, I'll be fired, just like anyone else whose work doesn't get done. And then I'd have to find another job, which isn't something I particularly want to have to do.

The better question for me is, "Do you really have the discipline to keep your house from falling down all around you while you never step away from your computer?" You see, I hate taking care of my house, but I love my work. I'm a very fortunate person. I love my boss, and I love my job. I've been told that the boss is the key thing when it comes to work, that if a person loves his/her boss, he/she will love the job. Not true. I've been doubly fortunate in my life to have had some really good bosses all along, but once a job gets deadly dull, I could be reporting to Johnny Depp, and it wouldn't matter (not that I know whether or not he'd be a particularly good boss, but who'd be paying attention to such things, if she got to work with him all day?). So, I'm waiting to see if I can keep myself from working 19 hours a day (I refuse to use the hideous "24/7," because I hate that kind of hotshot lingo -- the sort of thing Tom Cruise would say if he were my boss).

The answer to that question thus far is: "I haven't a clue." Stay tuned to see how it does or doesn't evolve.