How to Tell if Your Remote Company Culture Needs a Reboot

Does your company culture energize or suck the life out of workers? Photo of a woman sleeping at her desk by Marcus Aurelius via Pexels

In the 1996 movie ‘Phenomenon,’ John Travolta plays George Malley, an ordinary man who develops the ability to learn and retain everything he reads. In one scene, he’s sitting in his house when some neighbors drive up and wave a book at him. “George!” They yell, “We need you to learn Portuguese!”

For many, the pandemic in March was our collective George Malley moment. We were going about our lives when suddenly we had to work remotely without a social safety net. Those first few months we were in survival mode. There was no time for deep thought or best practices. Business leaders and employees needed hacks and cheat sheets, not an esoteric conversation about meaning and fulfilment in remote work.

But here we are on the cusp of August. And honestly, some people still don’t have a lot of space for deep questions. Some of us are working while parenting. Others are trying to work in cramped living conditions, or in the ringing silence of isolation. Employees who haven’t been laid off are doing the work of multiple people. And all of us are dealing with the psychological effects that come from living in a pandemic.

Lead with Curiosity First

Good news for the time-strapped: Rebooting a culture doesn’t start with a grand gesture or a ten-point plan. Begin with reflection. When your company is at it’s best, what does that look like? Is the company friendly and productive? Energetic and data-driven? Write down some descriptive words or sentences.

Next, think about what those qualities look like on a day to day basis. If you said your company at its best is ‘a safe place to collaborate and try new things,’ then you might expect to see employees at all levels leading projects. Or perhaps you would see leadership asking for–and acting on–honest feedback. Write these ideas down as well.

There’s one very important caveat to keep in mind as you work through this exercise. It’s all too easy to stray from neutral actions into overly prescriptive descriptions of the “right” way to work.

Let’s take collaboration as an example. Saying ‘I expect that employees in a collaborative culture would reach out to different stakeholders when working on a project’ is neutral. Saying ’employees in collaborative cultures brainstorm in daily live meetings’ assumes that this is the only way to collaborate. Stick with the former and avoid the latter.

Next, Observe Your Company’s Current State

Once you have your list, it’s time to observe your remote company culture in action. When a company is distributed, it often uses different channels to communicate and disseminate information. Look at email strings, instant messaging chats, and video meetings. You might find it helpful to create a column for each communication channel and take notes over a period of time. How (and when) do employees and leaders talk to each other? Who gets to ask questions? Who influences decisions? What is the general tone in each medium?

Once you have this information, compare the results to your pre-pandemic company culture. Do things look better, the same, or worse than before COVID? Try to disprove your results. For example, you may decide that your company culture is just as collaborative now as it was before the pandemic, because you see employees talking through projects on Slack. Ask yourself, ‘Are the same three people influencing all of our project decisions? Are any groups consistently silent–or absent–during the collaborative process?’

As many of us have recently learned, testing can come with false positives and false negatives. Putting your conclusions through a second level of scrutiny can help you to minimize the level of error.

So how does your company culture stack up? Does your culture need a reboot? In my next post, we’ll discuss things you can do to tweak company culture, even if you aren’t the person in charge.

Behind the Scenes: Goings-On in the Douglas HQ

For those of you who are here just for the business articles, I’ll see you next week. The rest of this is pure frivolity.

Image is of three out of four Douglases laying out on a blanket at the beach. The fourth one was out swimming. Some of us were more excited to be there than others.

First, and most pressing, we are still pet rat-less. And my Betta fish of two and a half years died. I bought Mac the fish when he was already mature, so I’m hoping this was old age, but between the lack of rats and the death of my fish, I feel like I’m in the middle of a COVID-themed country song. The kids were less disappointed this week because I did a better job of managing their expectations. Fingers crossed that I have more rats in my house next week. And who would have ever thought that sentence would come out of my keyboard? Weird times, y’all. Weird times.

In more positive news, I won a grant to bring kids’ books to my local community. I run two little free libraries in my neighborhood and I asked the fine folks at UTown for funds to buy books for 6-12-year-olds. Saturday is the day I get to purchase the books. Next week I’ll start dispensing them. Feel free to call me Teresa Claus, because that’s what I feel like right now.

The kids are taking more online classes. About three weeks into my satire class I noticed that my son is basically trying to build his own comedy skits. So I put him in improv. As one does. He loves it, and we’ll probably continue with it once the school year starts. My daughter is taking Spanish from a teacher from Mexico. That last bit is important to me because I want her to pronounce things the way my family does. We can’t visit our loved ones in the States, but at least we can cuddle up to our shared heritage.

Hasta la próxima semana.

Performance Reviews and Robots

Photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels

Good morning! I’m writing a short post today to share some of the writing I published last week in other places. I was working on a different post for today but sadly, my time this week was spent kicking some spam bots off my blog.

Incidentally, if you’re a subscriber who hasn’t re-subscribed to my blog AND clicked the link in the confirmation sent to your email (I sent out a note about that Monday July 20th), this is the last one you’ll get in your email before I retire the old list. You can sign up again over on the right side of my website. Check your spam folder for the confirmation email. Dang bots.

How Do We Rate People Working in a Pandemic?

In this article, I talk about whether we should hold people accountable for underperformance during the current crisis. Managers, please ask yourself, ‘Is this person really the problem, or am I trying to fire the virus?’

Satire About Micro Managers

Last month I enrolled in a satire class from The Second City. Before I did so, I wrote a comic personal essay about finding accidental alone time via dyeing my hair in my bathroom. I realized after writing that essay that I don’t really know the common structures for humour. So I remedied that gap in my knowledge. Humour–especially short humour–is a tricky beast. Which makes it addictively interesting if you’re me.

In any event, I published this piece on a humour site called Robot Butt. Satire is the humour of outrage, and it probably comes as no surprise that I am outraged by micromanagers.

Summer Writing

I’d forgotten what life was like before I had to educate my children and work at the same time. The kids’ last day of school was June 25. A week after school ended I wrote both of the pieces linked to this article, plus an assigned article that hasn’t been published yet, and a couple of satire pieces that aren’t yet ready to shop around. It’s like all of the creative energy I funnelled into making my circumstances work turned into a creative writing tsunami.

Summer Learning

I swore that I wasn’t going to put my kids into online summer camp. We’ve had enough online class to last us the entire summer, thank you very much. Then I saw a ‘how to make mods in Minecraft’ class that had some good reviews and decided to let the kids do that for a week.

And you know what? The class was fabulous. And required very little involvement from me. I shouldn’t be surprised by this. When you approach remote work thoughtfully, you can have great outcomes. I’ve been living that dream for the last 10+ years. Remote learning is no different. If there are educators or decision makers reading this, please–for the sake of kids and parents everywhere–spend this summer researching how established online schools run their classes.

Pandemic Pets

We’ve also become the people who get pets in a pandemic. It’s Friday morning as I write this, and I’ll find out this afternoon if the pet rats we’re getting from a breeder are ready to go home with us.

I made the mistake of telling the kids about the rats two weeks ago. In my defence, I had to set up the three storey rat palace in their bedroom, and that isn’t the kind of thing you can tell them to ignore. The rats were supposed to be ready for us last Friday. If you have kids, you can imagine what happened when we found out that they weren’t ready yet. Here’s hoping I have better news for next week’s blog.

Robots Spam the Blog

Robots, you know what you did. Photo by Alex Knight from Pexels

Hi Everyone! This is a short note to say that I’ve had a tsunami of robot subscribers over the last 48 hours, and I need your help to get rid of them. If you want to get the blog posts in your email, please resubscribe. I’m retiring the old list post-haste.

You could say that I’m kicking (robot) butt and taking names.

We keep your data private and share your data only with third parties that make this service possible. Read our Privacy Policy.

The First Rule About Fight Club

Two people doing fake karate moves at sunset. Photo by Snapwire on Pexels

Sunday I sprained my hand. I would love to say that I did it while landing a wicked punch at Fight Club, but we all know the first rule about Fight Club, so my hands are tied. Metaphorically. I definitely didn’t do it by putting my hand down on my mattress and preparing to get up. Nope. That would be too embarrassing.

So in an effort to rest my hands, you’re getting pictures of my trip to Vancouver Island. British Columbia moved to stage 3 of our Covid response. This means we’re allowed to travel within the province for fun if we can maintain social distancing and proper pandemic hygiene.

We took a ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island. Why are these two places named the same thing? Was George Vancouver compensating for something? We may never know. In any event, BC Ferries asked everyone to stay in their cars if possible during the passage, so our ride looked a lot like getting through Seattle traffic.

Photo of parks parked close together. There is no difference between I5 and sitting still on the Ferry

While we were there I did a video interview with a news outlet I’m not going to name because I don’t know if my part of the video is going to be used. I was out in the country on terrible wifi, talking about remote work. Very meta.

I thought about the folks at Grow Remote, working to make distributed work a reality for rural communities. I don’t know if I would move to a rural area if I had strong internet, but people who want to get away from cities, or move back to the hometown they love, should have that option. Some of us city-folk would love to rent a place for the summer if we could rely on the internet. The video quality of my interview was pretty bad. I probably won’t be included in the montage. Still, the porch was lovely.

Turns out this porch was perfect for writing, and playing guitar. In the background is a vegetable garden.

There’s something so bewitching about new places after spending so much time within 5k of my own home.

Photo of children on a country road. On the way to see the horses.

Vacationing on a farm is such a city-kid thing to do. I freely admit it. You could tell who grew up rural in my team call when I mentioned my vacation plans. My fellow city-dwellers thought it was a great idea. A colleague who grew up on a farm looked at me like I was crazy. She doesn’t like chickens. I was afraid to ask what went down. I didn’t want to have nightmares.

The kids fed dandelion greens to the horses. Apparently they’re nutritious and very tasty if you’re a horse.

The farmers who rented the cottage to us gave the kids a tour of the barn, social distance style. The kids helped bring in the horses. It looked a lot like following the farm dog as he did the actual work, but nobody seemed to mind. Afterwards they held some baby chicks.

I have this fantasy that someday I’ll own a small-ish bit of land not that far from town. It would have to be big enough for me to have chickens and a dog, and a small vegetable garden. In my mind’s eye, there’s a small studio separate from the house, where I can write and knit in peace. My husband will have his own workshop. I don’t know if I would actually LIKE this lifestyle. All my lived experience is in and around a city. I enjoy getting lost in a crowd. Who knows? Maybe I too would grow to hate chickens.

But for four days and three nights, I lived out that fantasy. And it was fun.

Diverging Paths

Last week my daughter’s best friend moved to another country, and I spent time helping her deal with that separation. I’m no grief counselor, but a wise person once told me that whatever you feel while grieving is the right way to feel. It’s a sentiment that’s helped me during my own grief, and I think it’s helping my girl through hers.

There have been a lot of diverging paths this week. Today (Thursday) is the last day of school for both of my children. BC managed to bring students back into the classroom for a month without creating COVID outbreaks. It’s a tremendous accomplishment. I’m happy about that, and frankly, happy to stop homeschooling my kids. Here’s hoping the public school system takes the next two months to figure out how to streamline online learning, creating a system that does not assume there’s a parent available full-time to educate the children.

Everyone did the best they could in an unexpected situation. But now it’s time to iterate and do better.

Dropping Things Left and Right

This week I also left the writing group I’ve been with for about a year. They’re a lovely group of people, but not the right fit. Back in my twenties I would have agonized over the decision to leave my writing group. I would have second-guessed myself, wondering if the problem was me, if I was just being too picky or demanding.

Gosh I’m glad I’m not in my twenties any more. All that second guessing is exhausting. Now that I’m older, I know that that some relationships end. And I chose to leave before I could start resenting the group for not being the right fit. I have no doubt they’ll do just fine without me, as they all knew each other before I showed up.

I Fed the Beast

Lastly, I finally took the writing path I’ve been avoiding for the last few months. I spent some time trying to write about my grandmother. After a great deal of effort I have exactly one sentence. That wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought I would vomit words onto the page, have myself a good cry, and save the document to edit later. Instead I ran headfirst into a brick wall and bounced off of it.

Apparently that was enough blood to feed the creativity beast, because I wrote a third of a management article this afternoon, and I only stopped in order to write this post. Did I mention that my creativity can be a jerk sometimes? This was another one of those times. My plan is to post the article on Medium when it’s done. I’ll add a link here when I do.

This isn’t me giving up on writing about my grandmother. I can feel the seedling of that story sort of working its way through my subconscious. When it’s ready, I’ll write it. In the meantime my management writing mojo is back, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Feed Me, Seymore

Temporarily child-free in Vancouver BC. Photo by author.

On Sunday June 7th, in the year of our pandemic 2020, I went to the beach. It was the first time I’ve left the house by myself (not counting errands) since mid February.

I didn’t believe that either until I dug through my photos in Dropbox and found the picture I took on my last day of leisure. I’ve been outside a lot this pandemic, but usually, I have the kids in tow, or I’m out running, trying to exercise my way to a calm state of mind. It’s effective but not what you’d consider leisure.

This photo of Vancouver in February could have the alternate title of ‘why the rest of Canada hates on us.’

To understand why this matters, I have to talk about my creativity. Ask five different makers to describe their creativity and you’ll probably get five different answers. Mine is a plant. Like all growing things, it requires certain nutrients to produce fruit. Most of those I get from reading different things. Books, articles, Twitter discussions–all of that acts like fertilizer for the plant.

Alone time is my plant’s catalyst.

If I spend some silent time away from people and the internet, I come back ready to write. Sometimes I’ll even come back with an epiphany.

Sunday’s epiphany was a little uncomfortable. You see, I haven’t written a remote work article since March. Ordinarily I write several a month, in addition to posting here on the blog. I even have notes and interview material that I collected back at the end of February for an April article.

I’ve been blaming homeschooling for the lack of business articles. And that’s a factor. It’s hard to string together coherent sentences when you’re interrupted every 2-3 minutes. But that can’t be the whole answer, because I’ve managed to write six different pieces in twelve weeks, not including this blog.

Then on Sunday, as I lay on the beach reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, the answer was there in my mind, almost as if it had been waiting for me to be quiet enough to hear it.

My grandma died on April 12th, and I haven’t written a business piece since. I need to write about my grandmother’s death. Not here, but in a personal essay. My creativity has decided that it’s the next story, and I get no more business article mojo until I clear the queue.

My creativity can be a jerk sometimes. But I’ve learned that it’s useless to ignore it. Especially if it’s holding my business article ideas hostage. My creativity plant has morphed temporarily into that Audrey 2 plant from Little Shop of Horrors. It’s out for blood.

Here’s hoping I can shake some loose this weekend.

Is Racism Rampant in Your Remote Workplace?

Photo by Karol D from Pexels

On Monday afternoon I walked through a field of daisies in the sunshine. It was stupidly idyllic. And surreal. A cool breeze drifted through the long grass and played with the leaves on the maple trees. My son ran ahead of me, demonstrating how fast he was in the black sneakers he inherited from his sister.

I’ve spent hours trying to think about what to say in this week’s blog. The murder and violence taking place in my former home horrifies me. It doesn’t surprise me, you understand. I’m a Mexican-American woman, and my family history contains stories of discrimination and aggression. I don’t want to act as if everything’s fine because it isn’t. But I also have no interest in inflicting my feelings on people who are already traumatized.

So I’ve decided to link to some articles to read if you’re interested in building diverse remote companies. Then I’m going to focus on light things that happened in the Douglas household this past week. Feel free to jump to the section that fits your current mental state.

Remote Work isn’t a Magic Wand for Diversity

Many people (including me) write about how remote work can create a more diverse workforce. But just because your company is office optional doesn’t mean it’s diverse. Or welcoming. Victor Ray’s HBR article Why so many organizations stay white can just as easily be applied to remote-first companies. Nicole Young discusses her experience with Remote Year in the Zora piece Remote Year is not safe for women of color.

Danielle Abril’s Fortune article Remote work may exacerbate diversity and inclusion problems for companies lists some reasons remote doesn’t necessarily equal diverse. One example: “distance reinforces people’s tendency to favor people who are similar to them.” Remote work runs on trust. Ask yourself, have I (or has my company) demonstrated trust in people that belong to marginalized groups? How many people of color report to you? Who gets promoted? Who gets laid off first?

Who’s Getting the Goodies?

Trust is hard to measure directly. You can’t take a ruler or a scale to figure out how big it is. But you can measure who gets the goodies during the good times and who gets cut in a downturn. And you can measure the average tenure for people of color in your company. As Jermaine Haughton points out in 4 Signs that racism may be an issue in your workplace, some workplaces explicitly or implicitly hold POC to higher standards than their white counterparts.

Incidentally, you’ll notice that the first author I’ve quoted appears to be white. I looked for an article by a BIPOC author on the whiteness of corporations and came up short. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Just that my search results didn’t prioritize them. If you know of a similar article written by a BIPOC, please send it my way.

The remote work community also needs a survey/study on the percentage of remote workers that are people of color, broken down by managers vs employees. According to Americanprogress.org, “By 2030, people of color will comprise the majority contributions to the labor force and are projected to account for virtually all of the growth.” How much of that will carry over into remote work? And of that number, what percentage of the population will progress into management and leadership?

Let’s make remote work live up to its diverse and inclusive potential.

Light Stories about the Douglas Household

Last week I read an article in the New York Times about community cookbooks making a comeback. What a great idea. Food is primal, and sharing food is often how we connect with others. We talked about the concept in the neighborhood Facebook group I moderate, and now we’re going to make our own cookbook. I’ll be editing it and we’ll probably publish it as an ebook.

I’m going with the theme ‘feeling better.’ We can’t be with each other in person, but we can share food by exchanging recipes. There will be stories and poems to go with the recipes, and hopefully pictures too.

I have no idea how I’m going to fit this into my life, but I can’t wait to do it anyway.

The Kids are Back in School

Monday, when I was walking through the field of daisies, I told my son “Don’t be a smart butt.” He isn’t old enough to know what I’m really saying, but he thinks it’s funny just the same. He laughed and declared at the top of his voice “My butt is of average intelligence!”

We ignored the people who gave us funny looks.

I’m writing this blog late on Wednesday night. My daughter went to school for the first two days of the week, and the boy will go to school Thursday and Friday. We tried dying the kids’ hair (temporarily) indigo for the occasion, but I either have weak dye or did it wrong, because the color didn’t show up on the one lock of hair my daughter wanted done. My son’s hair just looks sort of eggplant purple if you squint at it. We called the result ‘punk rock raspberry’ and called it a night.

Speaking of which, I am going to knock off for the night too. See you all next week!

Let’s Bake Inclusion into Remote Work

Pacific Spirit Park in British Columbia

We’ve reached that time of year in Vancouver where the weather makes up for the way it acted in winter. I live in a temperate rain forest. It rains, on average, 168 days a year. February is downright dismal. The dark and the wet feel never-ending.

But then we get to the end of May, and like a deadbeat boyfriend who knows he’s about to get kicked to the curb, Vancouver turns charming again. The days become long and saturated with light. The forest glows in the sunshine.

It’s all a lie. The rain and the dark will come back again soon enough. But it’s a beautiful lie, and I enjoy it too much to fight it. Lie to me Vancouver. I promise I’ll believe.

What I Hope for Remote Work in the Coming Months

A few people have asked me where I think remote work is going. I thought I’d share some of those thoughts with you. But before I do you should know that I assume we’re going to have a second period of time where many if not most knowledge workers will have to work from home again. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, recently said that every pandemic in recorded history has had a second wave. Therefore it makes sense for companies to integrate sustainable distributed processes into their day to day operations.

Those operations need to be more inclusive. Right now, we can bake this into our systems from the beginning. Let’s take the opportunity to create more asynchronous workdays so people can manage their health and well-being. Let’s use teleprompters and provide transcripts at meetings for the hearing impaired. This isn’t an exhaustive list. But it’s a start.

And let’s give up, once and for all, the idea of an “ideal” personality type for roles. It doesn’t matter if someone is introverted or extroverted. It doesn’t matter if they are a thinker or a feeler or whatever else that personality test says they are. What are they doing with what they have? That’s all you need to know.

Remote work is a medium driven by people. Depending on how it’s used it can be good, bad, or neutral. Let’s use this time to chuck bad habits and build a more humane work environment.

I’ll get off my soap box now and talk about what’s going on in Livin la Vida Remota HQ.

It’s Back to School, June Edition

My children go back to school next week. I am both excited and terrified. Up until Thursday afternoon I would have told you that I was overjoyed and terrified, but that was before I learned that they would go to school two days a week, and not on the same days. That’s right, I’ll still have a child home asking for snacks during the work day 100% of the time.

I don’t blame the school. They can’t institute social distancing provisions AND keep all siblings in different grades together. I was really looking forward to some kid free time though. At least I can have the children hand back work instead of uploading it on Microsoft Teams. That’s something.

Speaking Gigs

Recently I gave a presentation at a professional organization for Diversity and Inclusion professionals. That was super rewarding. And in a little over a week I’ll be interviewed on a pirate radio station in New Jersey. I didn’t agree to this interview just because it’s on pirate radio. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor though.

I’ll probably yell “I’ve been pirated!” for way too long afterward. You’ve been warned.

Mental Health During COVID is a Marathon Not a Sprint

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.com

Long ago in a (pre-COVID) galaxy far, far away, I ran four half marathons in a year. And while it takes a certain level of physical fitness to run for multiple hours, the truth is that endurance races are won or lost inside your head. There comes a time in every long run when you’re tired, uncomfortable, and questioning your life choices. That’s the point when you are most at risk of quitting. The people who make it out of the rough patch talk themselves through it.

It made a lot of sense to me the first time someone framed coping with COVID as a marathon. This virus has been around far longer than many of us expected, and we still have plenty of road ahead of us before we get to cross the finish line. Buying mountains of toilet paper isn’t going to save us. The only way we’re going to get through is by tending to our mental wellness.

Everything I Learned about Mental Toughness I Learned from Running

I’m not a mental health expert. I also don’t want to imply that I’m skating through this pandemic without a care in the world. Two of my relatives died in April in the space of six days. I live with the same financial uncertainty that touches us all. But running taught me a technique for slogging through the tough bits. Maybe it will help you.

Acknowledge the feeling.

At the beginning of my run training I couldn’t run more than two miles. I tried running at different times of the day. I experimented with when I ate in relation to when I ran. Nothing seemed to work. Twenty minutes into my run my energy would tank and I would quit running.

Eventually, I realized that I needed to pay attention to what I told myself when I got tired. Usually, I said ‘I’m so tired. I don’t know if I can do this.’ Then I tried talking myself out of my exhaustion. (This is what I thought positive self-talk was.) It didn’t work because I was lying. And no one believes a liar.

After a lot of trial and error I discovered what works for me. I treat the whole thing like a cross between a therapist’s visit and a hostage situation. When my brain says ‘I’m tired,’ I think ‘Yes I’m tired, but I’m not injured, and I know I can go a little bit longer.’ And you know what? I usually can.

Re-frame the Situation.

At some point you’re going to feel like you’re doing the pandemic wrong. If you’re a parent, you worry that you’re breaking your kids because you can’t home school with a smile. If you’re childless you may be disappointed with your inability to write a novel or get in the best shape of your life.

Here’s the thing. None of us were meant to function optimally in a pandemic. They don’t cover how to do that in school. Our circumstances have changed. And as any savvy business person will tell you, when the market changes, a savvy business leader changes her approach. She changes her goals and expectations to suit the current conditions.

So when that little voice inside of you tells you that you’re a bad person for eating cupcakes for dinner, or for letting your kids play Minecraft for 10 hours straight, you tell it that you aren’t lowering the bar. You’re being adaptable. And when the pandemic passes, you will adjust your approach like the resilient person that you are.

You’re doing your best. And your best is good enough.

My Book is Turning Japanese I Really Think So

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels

How is it even May? On some days it feels like the date is March 147th, 2020. Still, as I write this at 8:40, there’s some light left in the sky, so I know Spring is well and truly here. Time doesn’t stop because we have to spend a lot of it indoors. And it’s been a pretty busy Spring.

At the end of March an agent who handles Japanese translations emailed me. She wanted to represent my book. I referred this respected person to my publisher, and tried to forget about it. Just because someone offers to represent your work doesn’t mean it will get published. All it meant was that someone liked my book and thought it was marketable to their particular audience.

On Wednesday my publisher told me they had signed a contract for the translation rights. My book will be translated into Japanese! I’m going to get a copy once it’s done and everything. What makes this even more meaningful is that one of my co-authors has a deep connection with Japan. He went there to teach English back in his college days, and ended up meeting his future wife. They spend time living in Japan every year so their kids can maintain a connection with that part of their culture.

Traditional publishing takes time even when you don’t have to translate the book first, so I don’t expect to see a physical copy of my translated book this year. It’s nice knowing it’s coming though. I’m celebrating the occasion on Thursday by getting some takeout and drinking a margarita.

April was Hairy

I’m learning new things during the pandemic. At the beginning of April I learned that inviting my children to steal my stuff and write me ransom notes to get it back in an effort to make education fun was probably a bad idea. At the end of April I learned to cut male hair. It was super intimidating. I don’t know why. Hair grows back. And we all had to stay home and stay away from people in April, so the stakes were low.

It can’t be the idea of cutting hair in general. I layered the front of my own hair in April, and tasked my ten year old daughter with trimming the bits I couldn’t reach. I cut my son’s hair when he was a toddler. None of that scared me. But all of that cutting was with scissors.

The little buzzy shaver intimidates me. I feel a little stupid admitting this but it’s true. Just the idea of accidentally lopping off a hunk of hair makes me wince. It’s like the semi-automatic rifle of the hairdresser world. I had visions of accidentally driving that thing right through the middle of my husband’s hair and giving him the world’s worst male-patterned baldness.

I dealt with my feelings of inadequacy the way I usually do. I researched the crap out of hair cutting. There are approximately eleventy-hundred ‘how to cut men’s hair’ videos on YouTube, and I watched them twice. Then I girded my loins in courage and practiced cutting hair on my son. The boy doesn’t care what he looks like, and I care more about what his father looks like, so my son became the guinea pig.

There’s a Reason I Outsource my Son’s Haircuts

I promptly remembered why I outsourced his haircuts when he turned three. The boy hates sitting still for me. He’ll do it for his hairdresser. All of the ladies at the salon make a big deal about how handsome he is, how good he is, and he eats it up. Also, they give him lollipops. And they can finish his hair in ten minutes.

The social distancing haircut took an hour. Right at minute 45 he had a great haircut going, if a little long. I should have stopped right there. But I got greedy. Just a little more feathering in the front, I thought, would make this masterpiece complete. I swapped the buzzer for my scissors and leaned in to cut a bit off the front.

And my son, who was tired of standing still, looked down just as I snipped. I ended up cutting a chunk off the front that made him look like a Vulcan from Star Trek. I was so upset. I spent fifteen minutes trying to fix it before I gave up in disgust. “This is what happens when you move!” I said sternly. Unrepentant, he glanced at the mirror and said “It’s rough, I like it,” and wandered off.

My husband thought I did a good job on the boy’s hair, and asked me to do his next. Fortunately my husband has some personal dignity and an idea of what his hair should look like, so the haircut went a lot better. I won’t be hanging up my pen to pursue a career in haircuts, but at least I can keep the Douglas males from looking shaggy. Mostly.

The Writing Keeps Rolling On

Some point soon I’ll have an actual remote work article to share with you. I have it partially written, and if I can manufacture some alone time I’ll finish it off. There are two other finished pieces currently making the rounds looking for a good home. Once they find somewhere to land I’ll share the links.

As Do the Appearances

On Friday I’ll be on The Round Table Talk Show with Sharifah Hardie at 8am Pacific, 11am Eastern. Log on and have a listen if you’re so inclined. Other than that, I’m doing various presentations on working remotely while parenting, and on remote worker wellness, for various organizations. Those talks have fallen into my lap, and it’s been super fun talking to people about how to make the best of the current circumstances.

I hope you’re doing okay in YOUR current circumstances. Every day isn’t a holiday over here. We’re all doing the best we can. And just in case someone hasn’t told you lately, your best is good enough.