Coronavirus, Day 251 – The Long Haul

November 21, 2020 10:55am
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I’m not sure which is crazier – that we’ve been dealing with this thing for almost nine months now, or that we might only be at the halfway point.

Don’t get me wrong – the recent news of vaccines being almost ready are great to hear, but just like the real impact of people simply wearing masks, I’m not sure that many understand that we’re not out of the woods the moment that vaccine becomes available.

I saw a tweet the other day that I thought addressed it quite thoroughly…

And that doesn’t even include how long it will take the average American to get access to the shots! Not sure how that whole debacle will play out yet … I’d like to think that medical personnel on the frontline will be first, followed then by people’s level of risk, however we all know that “VIPs” are going to end up getting preferential treatment and people like Congressmen, executives, and others that can afford to pay a premium will still likely get it first.

Estimates put your average Joe getting vaccinated sometime mid to late next year, assuming that he’s willing to be vaccinated, which is a whole other issue that we won’t even get into!

I know that tensions are already high, and the holidays are coming, and people are getting tired of this thing and the sacrifices that we’re all making for it, big and small. Yet over the last week, we’ve seen the death toll hit an average of 2,000 people a day … that’s the equivalent of a 9/11 every day and a half…

As I type this, we’re at 260,000 deaths and if that trend continues, we’ll likely top 350,000 dead by the end of the year.

A terrible, dumpster fire of a year that sadly I don’t think is just going to stop when the proverbial ball drops and ushers in 2021. And that’s going to have its own psychological effects because plenty of people don’t want to see themselves “giving up” Thanksgiving and Christmas, so the idea of these terrible events continuing despite the change of calendar is going to be a tough one to bear.

But we owe it to the 1.38 MILLION people around the world who’ve died from COVID-19 keep doing our best to not let that death toll double or triple before we get to the end of this.

Goodbye, Cleo…

November 17, 2020 10:22pm
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At the height of our shared exercise regiment, Cleo and I used to go on walks together just about every night.

This was before the kids, so it wasn’t uncommon for us to be out wandering around our extended neighborhood for an hour or two, though our average trip settled in at right around 3.5 miles which we could usually knock out in a little over an hour.

Cleo would’ve been anywhere from about 9 months to 3 years old, so that puppy had all of the energy in the world! I would seriously try to get changed in secret because once she saw me lacing up my tennis shoes, she was beyond excited. 

I was in my early 30s, so I wasn’t as out of shape as I am now, yet she would still drag me all over the place! If she happened to see a rabbit or a squirrel before I had a chance to tighten up my grip on her leash … uh oh!

We walked for hundreds and hundreds of miles together over a couple of years, her just sniffing and pulling in her own little world while I listened to music and podcasts and admittedly spent a lot of time just talking to myself trying to work through whatever was going on in my life at the time.

So I didn’t really know what to expect in taking her for our last walk together last night.

Needless to say, she didn’t have nearly the energy that she used to. Most of her time is spent sleeping and she really doesn’t run anymore, yet I was surprised how she really seemed to perk up when we got outside and reverted to her nose to the ground, forever curious-self that I remember … just a lot slower.

There was no pulling on the leash and I often had to slow down to her pace like I do when I’m walking with one of the kids. But low and behold, we ended up putting in a whole mile around the neighborhood with a nice break in the middle to “chat” and take a few pictures…

It was such a nice, pure time that momentarily it made me wonder if maybe she still had a chance after all, but once we got back home instead of curling up for bed she spent the next two hours wandering around the house and eventually got herself “stuck” behind the toilet again, so I guess this would be a good time to talk about all of her symptoms next…

* * *

Earlier this spring, Cleo was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, which is basically a small tumor in her adrenal gland. There was really nothing we could do – the vet had a couple of pretty invasive procedures that might’ve worked, and even the testing for them was prohibitively expensive. Ultimately we decided that we’d just try to enjoy the time we had left and make her as comfortable, as the vet mentioned that we’d start to see the signs when her time got closer, but in hindsight I never would’ve expected her to show all of the signs to the point where aside from a bit of snuggling and still responding to her name, she was barely the same dog that we’ve come to love all of these years…

  • She didn’t bark anymore. Ever.
  • She didn’t give kisses anymore.
  • She couldn’t jump up on the couch, and she hadn’t been able to jump up on our bed for a while.
  • She almost always fell coming back down, and she’d gotten some nasty bruises to show for it.
  • Sometimes she would just randomly wander around the house in circles, occasionally squeezing into small, dark places (like beside the toilet) where she couldn’t get out without help.
  • She even sometimes showed difficulty walking and would cross her paws and stumble from time to time.
  • And her incontinence had me washing towels almost as fast as we could use them to clean up her messes.
  • Plus, she’d been losing her hair for a while. Most recently, a small patch on her back that left behind this really awful looking scaly patch.

We knew that it was the right choice, but it didn’t mean that I was in any way ready to say goodbye.

This past weekend as I started putting my thoughts together for this post, I had more than a couple of breakdowns – one of which found me crying on the floor and hugging Cleo. I would’ve given anything for a nuzzle or a random kiss that she hadn’t given in weeks to comfort me, but instead she just stared off into space and eventually went back to her new routine of wandering back and forth across the house as if it was the first time she’d ever been here, yet without the energy of the dog that she had eight years ago when we all walked into this house for the first time together.

When took her to the vet one last time over the weekend, his best guess was that the tumor in her gland had likely spread into her brain, which supported her general state of confusion and all of her troubles walking, and it was only going to get worse until she basically was no longer able to function at all.

As much as I was clinging desperately to her, I knew the truth was that really she was already gone.

* * *

Taking Cleo to the vet to be put down is easily one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do.

Sara and I went together while the kids were at school, and we spent about 2.5 hours between saying goodbye and going over everything with the vet one last time.

Needless to say, there were a lot of tears.

Cleo wasn’t really with it for most of it, which is probably all for the best. I think she might’ve actually fallen asleep in our arms when we were going over the billing stuff, and when it finally came time for her IV she fought them to the point that they gave her some of the sedation drug early to help calm her down.

The drug to actually stop her heart was this bright pink, pepto bismol-looking stuff that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the vet injecting. I just helped Sara to hold her and kept my eyes shut until I heard her say that she’d checked for a heartbeat and confirmed that she had passed.

Thankfully, the staff was all super supportive during the whole ordeal. We had a private room just for us with its own entrance, so we didn’t have to pass by other people when we were finally ready to leave.

There were a couple unexpected moments of comedy … or at least I had forgotten that thing where dead animals tend to empty their bowels when they expire, so that amused us that she got in one last chance to pee all over us on her way to the afterlife!

I also found it a little bizarre how unlike they do with people in the movies, I couldn’t close her eyes after she’d died and eventually resorted to pulling the towel she was wrapped in over her head once we’d said our goodbyes and taken the footprints that Sara wanted to take for the kids to do crafts with later.

To their credit, the kids so far have taken it pretty well. We’ve really tried to do our best over the last couple of days, and even the last months as her sickness had gotten worse, to prepare them that Cleo wasn’t going to get better and how eventually she was going to die. We told them that she’d be going to live with Sara’s Grandma Shorty in heaven because she loved animals so much, although I’m not sure that they entirely get the permanence because so far we’ve had a couple of times where they’ve asked when she’s coming back.

But the breakdowns have been limited to the adults and as a parent, I’m grateful for that.

* * *

It’s the day after we put Cleo down and the crying has (mostly) stopped.

Instead, the house just feels … empty.

Life goes on – we take the kids to school, I try to get some work done, etc, etc…

…but something is missing.

I keep waiting for Cleo’s head to pop up out of the sheets on the bed while I’m at our bathroom sink.

Or I catch myself not wanting to leave food unattended so that she doesn’t steal it.

We put the door guard over her doggy door because I couldn’t bring myself to remove the panel altogether, and yet now every time I walk by that guard reminds me that she’s not here to use it anymore.

The same for her gate between the playroom and the kitchen.

There are so many little reminders around this house of our furry family member who has passed on, and I’m constantly fighting between remembering the good times and staving off tears.

It’s amazing how much food my kids really waste when there isn’t a dog to clean up after them.

God, I miss that little brat so much.

* * *

To round out this post on a somewhat happy note, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Cleo moments from over the years…

  1. By and far, our long walks at night as described earlier were absolutely my favorite times!
  2. It sounds funny, but just seeing her sleeping in the corner of my office on her big, fluffy cloud of a comforter always made me smile and love working from home.
  3. We didn’t go very often once we had kids, but taking Cleo to the dog beach where she could actually wade into the water was always a treat. (she wouldn’t swim in our pool because it was too hard to get out)
  4. It was after a very special episode of Puppy Dog Pals that the boys officially dubbed Cleo with the name Superdog, which soon became interchangeable with all of the other fun pet names we called her around the house.
  5. Considering how she wasn’t exactly a fan of strangers coming in our house, it was particularly comforting to watch her snuggling with each of our newborn kids as we brought them home. She guarded those kids like they were her own…
  6. It was obnoxious at times, but there was something special about her snuggling up in the bed when we went to sleep … it was nice if you got her back and not her feet, anyways! I kind of likened it to pack animals huddling up at night to stay warm, and we were her pack.
  7. Although she managed to “forget” most of the other commands we tried to teach her, Cleo used to love jumping for treats. I tried teaching the kids how to have her do it, but at the time they’d always end up overhanding it across the house instead of giving her a gentle lob that she actually had a chance of catching!
  8. Before the kids were born and our house was much, much cleaner, we would also play hide and seek for treats where she would get told to stay and then we’d walk around the house randomly throwing dog treats around for her to seek out once she’d been given the all clear. She was surprisingly good at it, too – I could scatter treats across several rooms of the house and she would systematically track them down one by one, chewing away as she scarfed them down as fast as she could find them!
  9. And of course, it wasn’t a holiday in our house until Cleo got her toy to tear apart … stuffed toys, particularly with squeakers, didn’t stand a chance with her. They were a mess to clean up and never lasted very long – one year for Christmas we got her one of these big, stuffed chairs shaped like a giraffe or something meant for kids to sit in, and she tore into that thing like a lion feasting on a gazelle!
  10. Two words – Cleo. Kisses. They were the most enthusiastic and full of energy kisses you’d ever had, to the point where it sometimes got hard to breathe with her tongue essentially probing the inside of your nose! That dog made no secret who she adored and no face was safe when she got into her affectionate mode… 😀

* * *

Cleo “Superdog” Sevener
(2011 – 2020)

Today we had to say goodbye to Cleo, known by the kids as Superdog. Before her Cushing’s began to take over, this dog had more energy than a lot of people could handle. She loved to bark and chase things, and she was like a kid on Christmas morning tearing into her latest stuffed toy … which lasted about 30 seconds at best around her!

We’ll always remember Cleo for her voracious kisses, and her adoring snuggles, and how protective she was of her family – particularly of the boys.

Enjoy your next adventure wherever the afterlife takes you, Superdog – there’s no doubt that you stole our hearts even more than you stole our food…

A Long-Awaited Calm…

November 8, 2020 2:11am
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The kids are in bed, and the house is quiet. Today is my wife’s 41st birthday and the boys and I made her a cake, which despite the challenges shopping for the ingredients with two kids actually ended up being a lot of fun.

Regardless, today the 2020 election was finally called for Joe Biden, and so now is the time for a bit of reflection…

What can I say? In a year like 2020 where each month has felt like a decade and it seems like we faced an even uglier challenge than before around every turn, today feels strange to be finally confronted with something we’ve craved for so long … calm.

This entire week has been a blur and every night that passed without any of the remaining states calling a result I know had so many of us nearly comatose as we watched America’s democracy dangling by a thread. As the week progressed and more and more mail-in ballots were counted for Biden, it felt like things were going to get better, but as the Trump propaganda machine churned up on schedule about rampant voter fraud, you couldn’t help but think that this asshole was still going to manage to pull it off somehow.

I mean, I suppose even now that could still technically happen, though I think it’s unlikely given that pretty much every allegation of potential fraud has been disproven by the local media in each of the states in question.

I know, I know – “Fake news! Blah blah blah!”

I can’t wait to relegate that term back to The Onion where it belongs.

Because Donald Trump’s presidency has just been, in a word, tedious, and I don’t even want to hear Republicans try to compare it to eight years under President Obama because we’re never going to agree that those two aren’t even in the same galaxy. One president fueled racism and sexism and bigotry and divided the country with anger and bitterness … while the other one tried to give everyone equal access to healthcare.

One of them spoke eloquently and was a friend to the international community while the other one picked fights every chance he could get and spent most of his time beating his own chest.

But tonight wasn’t about Donald Trump.

That’s one of the things that I enjoyed the most in listening to President-Elect Biden’s acceptance speech was that he didn’t resort to name-calling and bitter jabs and language meant to rile up the audience as he spoke. He was gracious, and humble, and also direct in the type of country that he believes America to be.

And I don’t know if him and Senator Harris can get us there, but I sure as hell have got a lot more faith in those two than I’ve ever had in the Trump family of con artists and hucksters.

I may not be as naive as I was 12 years ago when President Obama was first elected and everything felt like rainbows, but I’m not so cynical that I’m ready to be a Republican who just wants to burn the whole thing down while keeping a modest cut for myself. I understand that government can’t solve everything, however I do think that it’s reasonable for it to establish the rules and standards around which we live our lives in a modern society. So I’m looking forward to having a president once again who cares about climate change and accepts that systemic racism is a thing that we should work to eliminate and recognizes that capitalism has done a lot of great things, but it’s also created a tremendous wealth gap in which those at the top take advantage of those at the bottom.

More so, I think we can look to a President Biden to actually build on the policies of his predecessors and not simply strive to dismantle everything done by the guy who came before him.

They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them, and there’s going to be a lot of resistance. Of those 70 million people who voted for Trump, some of them – hopefully not many, but certainly some – will vehemently hate everything that they set out to do and will claw tooth and nail to hold onto their ugly, MAGA principles that have been enabled by our president for the last four years.

That said, my hope is that for the rest of the people – the ones who aren’t racist or sexist or generally horrible – my hope is that Biden/Harris can find a way to bridge the gap to those people help address some of their concerns with regards to the economy and government regulations and not becoming the socialist state that many fear Democrats want for the United States.

I hope that they can inspire positivity as opposed to hatred.

We’re going to have our very first female Vice President who’s also a person of color – think of what that says to younger generations who haven’t felt the full struggle that their parents and grandparents have felt due to their gender or skin color yet!

I feel comfortable letting my kids listen to these leaders speak as the biggest role models in politics – something I certainly haven’t felt from the Trump admin over the last four years.

I don’t expect them to solve all of our problems, but I do think that they’ve got a good shot and moving the ball forward again.

Congress is going to be a struggle, particularly if Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

Rich folks certainly aren’t going to be excited about paying more in taxes, and the business world in general might be worried about having a leader who doesn’t put economic growth above anything and everything else.

And lord knows that in his two months left in office, Trump is going to continue kicking and screaming and throwing his little tantrums, and he’s probably going to do a few more ugly things before he finally gets evicted in January. The most ardent of his base will likely continue to protest, and while I hope that it doesn’t come to it, it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if we see some more violence between both sides as his impending legal battles only prove the end of his presidency to be more certain.

My own personal goal, which starts with this blog post, is really to try and get all of the Trump trolling out of my system so that I can completely and utterly forget about him and instead focus my thoughts on the future without him.

I’m sure that even after he’s left the White House, we’ll continue to hear the Trump name for years to come because he’s going to rely on that enthusiastic base to feed both his bank account and his ego. I read a rumor the other day that he might start up his own television network, you know, because Fox News abandoned him and all! So we’ll probably continue seeing those stupid, red hats for the foreseeable future.

It’s not a perfect solution. In fact, it’s only the very start, but I do know this – electing Joe Biden to replace Donald Trump puts out the fire of having a crazy person in the most powerful position in the land. 

There’s so much more to do, but I think this is a really good start.

Faith in Our Voting Process…

November 6, 2020 11:17pm
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Amid all of the chaos that has come from this election, one thing that admittedly I find a bit intriguing are the scenarios that the Trump campaign and his party have used to drum up this mistrust in the electoral process that we’re now seeing play out particularly around the counting of mail-in ballots.

The most common, no doubt, is boxes of ballots showing up for the other party, which I suppose could be a possible concern if you have very little faith in our voting process to begin with … because really if you think about it, there’s a lot of faith that goes into voting even without mail-in ballots being part of the equation…

  • We trust that the person who checks IDs and voter registrations is actually doing their job.
  • We trust that ballots across the country are designed in a fashion that are easy to understand.
  • We trust that the machines used to tabulate our votes are free of bugs and malicious software.
  • We trust that the people loading boxes of ballots into trucks for the central tabulation that happens in some states doesn’t miss one.
  • We trust that the people loading boxes of ballots into bigger counting machines make sure that none stick to the bottoms of each and every box.
  • We trust that all of the websites aggregating and summarizing voting data once the results are made public manage all of that data accurately.
  • We trust the media to publish and report on those results fairly and accurately to the entire world, including calling winners in every state and eventually the election as a whole.
  • And after all is said and done, we trust the electors of the electoral college themselves to actually vote the will of the people and execute on the results of the election.

That’s a lot of trust just for the average American walking into a voting booth to cast their vote, so for people who are ok with all of that … what’s with the stretch to also trust ballots of the mail-in variety which are delivered through the USPS, which includes ballots from our troops overseas and people traveling who can’t make it to the polls in their home state … oddly enough including most of the people who work in Washington, D.C.!

The truth is, one of our voting process’s greatest strengths is also a weakness – the anonymity of a person’s ballot once it’s been cast. Because the way our system is purposefully designed, although taking a ballot to vote puts a check mark next to my name in the voter registration database that “I voted!” in the 2020 election, nowhere is it actually recorded how I voted.

Or how many ballots I fed into the machine after I left that little booth.

You just have to trust me, and the elderly lady standing by the machine who tells me to feed in one page at a time, that I only submitted one ballot. But there’s nothing on my ballot to tie my name to my vote so that someone could later review the results to say, “Hey, this guy submitted four different ballots at different locations!” or “How is this dude voting when he’s already dead?!”

Voting while dead is another common allegation for voter fraud, but the system isn’t really designed to thoroughly prevent it from happening outside of simply having the trust of a couple of random people along the chain.

And I’m not necessarily saying that this needs to change, mind you, although I think to some extent if we ever do move to some form of online voting we’re going to have to give up a little secrecy in exchange for security.

My point is simply this – voting, and democracy in general, requires some faith and it’s certainly not without its share of flaws, however mail-in ballots aren’t the villain in this story. Tens of millions of mail-in ballots are used in every election – this year we just had to lean on them more heavily due to COVID-19. If anything, we should be thankful that we had another option to extend the vote to 65 million Americans who otherwise might not have exercised their civic duty due to risk of the pandemic.

And the people who took advantage of mail-in ballots to cast their votes shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat when one party has lost its faith in the electoral process in general because it’s looking like it won’t produce the results that they were hoping for.

Coronavirus, Day 234 – A COVID Election

November 4, 2020 4:34pm
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Votes are still being counted as I type this, but it looks like Biden might’ve actually won.

Which is a relief, but I’ll write more about that later!

The delay, as we expected, is due to the huge spike in mail-in ballots thanks to the pandemic – almost 3x the number of mail-in ballots from 2016, which is kind of NUTS if you think about the sheer volumes…

Total Ballots

  • 2020 (so far) – 137 million
  • 2016 – 127 million

Mail-In Ballots

  • 2020 (so far) – 65 million
  • 2016 – 24 million

Early Voting – In-Person Ballots

  • 2020 – 36 million
  • 2016 – 23 million

Election Day – In-Person Ballots

  • 2020 – 36 million
  • 2016 – 82 million

In a way, it’s comforting to see that so many people took the COVID precautions seriously enough to vote via mail instead of in person on election day – at least 40 million extra people at the polls certainly would’ve increased the risk of exposure! I ended up voting early for my first time and it was super easy, so it’s likely something I’ll do again in the future just to avoid the crowds even after the pandemic has passed.

…which despite the unscientific argument of many politicians, is still definitely here even with Election Day itself behind us, as the US logged another 94,000 cases and almost 1,200 deaths just yesterday. I know that even if/when Biden does win, we’ve still got a couple of months of Trump policies to deal with before he takes over, but I can only hope that come January having a different voice in the White House changes the American perspective on this virus so that we can actually get in front of it and stave off more waves while we wait for a vaccine to be ready.

If Trump Gets Re-Elected Tomorrow…

November 2, 2020 11:58pm
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…I won’t go so far as to say I’m moving to Canada or anything – namely because Canada is very cold and I’m pretty sure we’re not allowed in right now due to COVID anyways – but I’ll certainly be disappointed, to say the very least.

Amid all of the craziness that’s plagued our daily lives for the last four years of America’s reality TV president, the easiest way for me to sum it up is that Donald Trump is an asshole and we deserve to be represented by somebody who isn’t.

It comes down to basic human decency because as far as I’m concerned, all of the other issues that we face as a society don’t mean much if our country can’t maintain a basic standard for how we treat each other within our borders, and Trump has done nothing but tear down our values since before he took office. When sexism and racism and bigotry and xenophobia rain down from the highest office in the land, it encourages other people to be assholes, too, because hell, “If the President said it, that must be presidential now!”

Yes, I want a president who cares about a strong economy and military showing, but I also want one who’s looked at throughout the international community as a leader instead of a bully.

It’s ok to be frustrated by how the press covers you, but to claim that our free press “is the enemy of the people” is not ok. Just like it’s not ok to label anything that you don’t agree with as “fake news.”

I want a president who doesn’t pick fights with people all. of. the. time. – whether they’re professional athletes or war veterans or kids who are passionate about climate change. The term unpresidential doesn’t even begin to describe Trump’s behavior on Twitter and in front of his favorite hosts on Fox News. He’s turned the office into a three ring circus and we’re all tired of cringing every time we wake up to see what he’s managed to sully the American image with today.

I know a lot of people voted for Donald Trump because they wanted someone who wasn’t a politician for a change, but this was a mistake. Instead of a politician in the White House, we got a cruel-hearted con man who reduces every problem we have to dollar signs and who’s biggest trait is being able to pull the ugliest out of the fans who vigorously chant his name.

Unlike President Obama and so many that came before him, I can’t let my kids watch him speak because I don’t know who he’s going to dig at next and it’s a damn shame that we live in a time when the President of the United States isn’t fit to even be a role model for our nation’s youth.

We need a leader who will speak kindly and rationally, who will look at our problems honestly and listen to our experts because they’re our experts. 

We need someone committed to bringing us together and representing all of us, not tearing us apart and pitting Americans against each other whether they’re red or blue, rich or poor, black or white.

Ultimately, I fear that if Donald Trump gets re-elected tomorrow, it will be like letting the bully win … reaffirming the asshole … and giving him carte blanche to reap even more havoc upon our nation in his second term that will only serve to set us back even further.

The economy is important. Healthcare, and welfare, and infrastructure, and international discourse are all important. Lots of things that our federal government does are important, but first and foremost, we need a leader who isn’t a complete asshole in the White House.

Without that basic level of respect – for the office, for the American people, for our international neighbors and for everyone who we inhabit this tiny blue dot with – without respect, none of the rest of it even matters.

*fingers crossed*

A Day in the Life of Me…

October 24, 2020 8:30pm
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This is a unique time in my life, and not simply due to the global pandemic, so I thought this might be a fun exercise to look back on for posterity’s sake…

7:50am – My alarm goes off and I reluctantly get up because this is when Sara leaves to take Christopher to school and I need to watch the other two kids and let Matthew’s therapist in at 8:00am.

8:00 – 9:00am – After making the kids breakfast, if I’m feeling productive I’ll do dishes and other chores; if not, I’ll waste time on social media until it’s time to pack David’s lunch and take him to school.

9:00am – The drive to school is short and pretty uneventful. Not as close as the kids’ old school which was literally half a mile away, but it’s maybe 10-15 minutes at best. Recently I’ve started listening to books on Audible and this is a nice way to get in a few hours of otherwise captive time each week!

10:00am – 12:00pm – This is where my day becomes a little more fluid because I’m currently working from home due to the pandemic. My life is much more chaotic if I have to physically go into the office, but right now sometimes I’ll dive right into work once I get home, sometimes I’ll flex my time and do a little writing, and occasionally I’ll even squeeze in some exercise! I need to start doing that again…

12:00 – 2:30pm – This is lunchtime, and shower time if I haven’t already, and sometimes I help put Matthew down for his nap. Even though the noise distractions of working from home can at times be frustrating, I love knowing what’s going on with the family during the day and getting to peek in on what Matthew’s learning instead of just hearing about it after the kids go to bed once I get home.

2:30pm – If it’s my day to pick kids up from school, I’ll leave to get David and then pick up Christopher afterwards. I’d like to say that it’s more time to listen to a book, but lately it’s more like listening to the same kids song on repeat 37 times in a row…

4:00 – 5:30pm – More work. I try to break around 5:30pm to watch the other two while Sara works on homework with Christopher and maybe get started on dinner, though admittedly that doesn’t happen as often as we would like.

5:30 – 7:30pm – Dinner, playtime, chores, baths … this time it usually pretty crazy. By the time we’re ready to put kids to bed, the whole house is equally pretty exhausted.

8:00pm – KIDS BEDTIME!!!

8:30pm – 12:30am – This can be a number of things … relax/wind down time watching TV with the wife, wrapping up work, maybe some writing. It’s tough because while this is a nice block of time to get things done, I’m usually running out of steam and don’t have the energy to do anything!

12:30 – 1:00am – It doesn’t always happen, but I’ve really been trying to get to bed around 12:30am because 7:50am comes way too soon the next day and it’s unfortunately one part of my day that’s anything but flexible.

You’ll note that the biggest theme for my schedule right now is flexibility. I never have more than a couple of hours doing any one things and it seems like there’s always a doctor’s appointment or a random errand to squeeze in somewhere, so it’s really important for me to be able to set my schedule around my life as opposed to living my life around my schedule.

Sometimes I might fantasize about getting to spend eight whole hours just sitting at my desk working, but the reality is that all of this other stuff that’s important to me will still be swirling around whether I’m there to help manage it or not. Except that it becomes way worse on Sara who would have to do more juggling to make up for my not being there. And if we’re being honest, some of the things – like Matthew getting therapy and the kids getting picked up from school – simply can’t happen without us both being around to be able to divide and conquer.

It’ll be interesting to look back and compare this to what my days look like five years from now, but for everything going on at this moment, this is what works – for better and for worse! 🙂

It’s ok to fear things that can kill you.

There’s nothing wrong with being afraid any more than there is crying or being anxious or any other emotion. For a disease that’s killed 215,000 Americans in the last seven months and literally put our nation’s leader in the hospital, it was disappointing that this was his message the moment he got out.

Not urging people to take necessary precautions. Not compassion for all of the people before him who struggled with COVID-19 but didn’t have access to the best medical treatment in the world.

Instead, it was just more pandering to his base to minimize the affects of COVID and make the people who are taking it more seriously … like his opponent in the election … look weak by comparison.

…and he’s not even done being sick yet…


One of my pet peeves lately has been watching company layoffs when I feel like businesses could really be doing more to support their own employees. The most significant of these examples is Disney.

Last week Disney announced that it would be laying off 28,000 employees from its theme parks division, presumably mostly because Disneyland hasn’t yet reopened, although the parks here in Florida are also seeing heavy reductions.

This bothers me because unlike a lot of other businesses struggling with the effects of COVID-19, The Walt Disney Company has an astonishing $23 BILLION in cash on hand right now.

To put that in context, Disney could pay every one of the 28,000 people they’re laying off $825,535.71 … or more realistically because they’ve said that the majority are part-timers, they could spend a mere 10% of their cash reserves and still have an excess of $80,000 to help support each employee who directly plays a hand in creating Disney’s highly coveted Disney magic…

Now I know that companies don’t normally operate this way, but if you want to talk about actually maintaining a culture of family and inclusion, why not? Think of the incredible goodwill that Disney could gain by financially supporting their people instead of turning them loose on unemployment benefits and food pantries to survive, not to mention the press from doing the right thing.

Shareholders might not be as crazy about Disney spending its cash on its own employees instead of new attractions that can further boost earnings per guest, but … I just don’t have the energy for that argument right now because without their staff, who’s going to sell their tickets and load their rides and keep their parks flowing for millions of paying guests every year???


In general, it really makes me uncomfortable to see more and more people relaxing their concerns about this virus and trying to push us “back to normal,” as if COVID will understand that “We’re all tired of it…” and move on to greener pastures to infect.

It certainly didn’t help with Florida’s governor being the first to relax our restrictions, at least as much as he could, by not only removing capacity restrictions for businesses but also by trying to pull the rug out from underneath local mask mandates by telling counties that they can’t assess fines for people not following them anymore.

For the most part, businesses are keeping their rules in place. Maybe not so much for restaurants, but honestly we’re not eating out anytime soon anyways. What’s tough is that it opens the doors for more people to challenge these businesses, and each other, and start fights over whether they still have to wear a mask or not. I know that we had a handful of questions that turned aggressive on the kids’ school Facebook groups when parents asked if the kids still had to wear masks to school after the governor’s announcement.

As a side note, so far our kids’ schools have had four cases between the two schools, although only the first case prompted one of them to close.

Just this morning I read a story out of New York about two old guys who got in a fight at a bar over wearing masks and one pushed the other, who ended up hitting his head and dying.


And lastly, admittedly I haven’t really looked at our stats in a while, so it was interesting to see that Florida’s cases have gone down by about a third over the last month…

…however nationally they’ve been slowly trending back up again.

Curiously, if you look at the number of tests being done each day, Florida is doing dramatically less than we were this summer – 25k down from 65k – however nationally we’re almost double – nearly 1M today up from 500-600k over the summer!

Particularly here in Florida, I worry that we seem to be preparing for the perfect storm with the next wave between less testing and less restrictions coupled with more people being frustrated and wanting to fight things like mask rules. Right now the majority still seems to be wearing masks and keeping their distance, however I think that’s going to become more of a struggle as that anti-mask group grows more vocal and especially if people start getting self-conscious about taking precautions if not as many people are doing them.

The other day I noticed a stark contrast just between going to Walmart and Target – our local Walmart stopped putting its sign about masks out front by the doors and the greeter doesn’t challenge anyone, as displayed by a couple without masks walking right in without a word, whereas at Target there are signs front and center, plus several employees inside to monitor the door, and they even had an announcement reminding everyone of their safety procedures while we were shopping.

I don’t care what happens with government rules – at least for right now, I won’t shop at someplace that doesn’t actively take COVID-19 procedures seriously and that includes requiring masks for anyone and everyone.

I’m afraid of this disease that’s killed at least 4-8x more people than the flu did last year because our risk of contracting it is greatly diminished simply by following a few basic precautions. My family’s lives, and the lives of our friends and neighbors and people we’ve never met, are worth those minor inconveniences.

I’ve tried to take in as many different perspectives on America’s COVID-19 experience as I can because I know that there are a lot of variations to how individuals are going through this.

For example, at 10:30pm last night one of the schools that my kids attend announced that they were switching to virtual school immediately because a staff member had tested positive for COVID. We’re still waiting for more information, but understandably a lot of parents are frustrated and upset because they have to work outside of the home during the day and can’t stay home to supervise kids in virtual school.

My wife and I are very lucky in this regard because I can work from home and she only works part-time on the weekends.

That said, when I look across the measures that we’re still taking to prevent the spread of the virus – everything from masks to some businesses being closed to quarantines – I can’t help but think that the reason why we’re still having to endure these invasive measures is because, quite frankly, we didn’t do a very good job of facing this virus as a whole from the very beginning.

  • Medical personnel spent the first month struggling to get their hands on basic safety equipment for their staff.
  • Political leaders shrugged off the seriousness of the pandemic and downplayed its potential instead of making critical early steps.
  • The financial support offered by Congress was rife with abuse and often went to people and corporations who didn’t need it, and archaic unemployment systems left even more Americans begging for relief.
  • Some Americans fought tooth and nail against restrictions aimed at keeping people safe, and even today chatter about the virus being a hoax is common.
  • Testing never really went mainstream by being too confusing, unreliable, and an undue burden to establish a regular testing cycle needed to truly monitor the population.
  • Speaking of monitoring, contact tracing never really took off here, either, because vocal Americans determined that privacy was more important than safety. Case in point – for my son’s school, we don’t know if the employee ever had contact with Christopher or not, which makes it difficult for us to manage his potential exposure here at home.
  • Despite the importance stressed on opening schools, many were never given safety equipment that they needed, with some schools here in the Tampa Bay Area giving each teacher only “a rag and a spray bottle” to keep their classrooms clean.

I know it feels like we’ve all been through a lot in the last six months, and we have, but it’s hard to not ask ourselves if we really did everything that we could when you look at other countries that experienced a curve back in the spring and basically have it more or less stabilized at this point.

If America is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, or the richest, or whatever, why are we struggling with this so much?

Tracking Me

August 27, 2020 9:28pm
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I just finished a really fantastic book called Atomic Habits by James Clear.

There were so many useful bits about productivity and behaviors and getting stuff done and creating better goals – too many to list, really – and I’m super excited about implementing many of the ideas he talked about in various places throughout my life, but right now I want to talk about tracking and statistics.

I’ve always been kind of fascinated with numbers. My personal word count for writing is something that’s very important to me, and yet aside from staring at the numbers and hoping they’ll go up (or down, in the case of weight loss), I’ve never really had a great approach for actually influencing those huge numbers in a consistently positive way.

If I look at my word count, for example, it’s clear to me that this massive number was built over time, but I wish I could say that I had a better system in place to ensure that it continued to grow on a regular basis. Case in point – with each post averaging barely 300 words, that’s really a minuscule amount of blogging each day. I could knock that out in 15 minutes a day. Yet in the twenty months since I hit that 1 million word milestone, I’ve only added another 34,000 words to my total.

Even if I only blogged 5 days a week, one post a day, at my given average I could’ve added another 120,000 words in the last year and a half!

So I’ve decided to do a little experiment to combine my love of stat tracking with my newfound I’m 40 and It’s Time to Improve My Life-mentality by taking the next four months to track a handful of “key stats” that I’ve identified for myself across three areas:

  • Creative Output – Number of Things Published
  • Health – Amount of Sleep Per Night
  • Health – Number of Days with Exercise
  • Family – Number of Family Photos Shared

1. Creative Output – Number of Things Published
I know I talked about word count above, but for this iteration I want to take a step back and basically just count any time that I hit a Publish button – be it for a blog post, a humor column, an ebook or some other written thing. Tracking should be pretty easy between WordPress stats and the other platforms that I regularly publish stuff through. My goal here is really just to improve my overall output – we’ll talk about bigger goals influenced by this task at a later date!

2. Health – Amount of Sleep Per Night
This has really been a horrible one for me, not just in the last week although school starting and having me up at 7:30am certainly ain’t helping! I know that good sleep is linked to so many other aspects of health, and I actually think I might like the routine that I started developing for my mornings this week, so I really want to try to use this stat to drive going to bed earlier and getting a more consistent amount of sleep. Tracking will be through my Fitbit, where I’m hoping to see some scores that are a little better than “poor”…

3. Health – Number of Days with Exercise
There were a few different parts of Atomic Habits that talked about making progress in tiny increments, whether it was improving a process merely by 1% or creating better habits by starting with just a minute or two at a time … Do two minutes of yoga/meditation/exercise/whatever per day, and as you build into your mind the drive to hit that simple task of only two minutes, naturally you’ll likely try to push yourself to do more because you’ve already started. Earlier this summer, I lugged our elliptical back into my office from the garage in hopes of actually starting to use it again, so I want to try employing this technique to start building it into a daily routine.

Tracking, again, will be via my Fitbit … which might I add I think that it’s really cool that this thing somehow is able to identify not only when I do exercise but also say, “Nice job with that 10 minutes on the elliptical!” without me ever telling it what I was doing?!

4. Family – Number of Family Photos Shared
Admittedly this is kind of a silly one – I wanted something around family to be my last stat, but it’s not like I can track days at an amusement park with COVID and all. Still, I thought this could be kind of fun because a couple years ago I started working on a family photo album website and I stopped due to some technical reasons, but we take so many great photos that I don’t always want to flood Instagram and Facebook with that I’d still really like to revisit the whole effort.

Plus, now that we’ve got several DAKboards displaying photos around the house, it’d be neat to tie them in somehow to pull photos from a more current source than just whenever I add a few to the OneDrive folder that DAKboard uses.

So the idea is pretty simple – revisit that idea, refresh it, and start adding in newer photos. I don’t expect to finish the whole thing in four months … I think that’s probably another thing that derailed the project in the past because I just got too far behind with pictures that it was just a ridiculous task to try and get caught up! But if I can spend an hour or two on it once a month, I can probably get to where at least 2020 will be represented, and that would be a nice start! Tracking here will also be via WordPress stats.

Anyways, I’m sure I’ll write more about this later, but the idea here is really to hone in on something very specific, but also very manageable that I can focus on day after day to collectively lead to bigger results. More creative output -> more pageviews, subscriptions, sales; more sleep and exercise -> more energy and lower weight; more family photos -> a more meaningful record of our growth together as a family.

Not sure if I’ll share results along the way or wait until January, but I definitely want to write about some more points from Atomic Habits that I fell in love with, so stay tuned for that! 🙂

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