Life is flying before our eyes. We suddenly have a 17-month-old toddler running circles around our house, collecting rocks and twigs in the yard and smearing food across every surface we own. It’s an amazing and often hilarious time.
We’ve learned something. Water is very, very complicated.
We drink water. We bathe in water. We swim in water. There is water in the toilet. There is water in the dog bowl. There is water sitting in the edge of the washing machine and dish washer. There is rain water. There are puddles. There are hoses full of water but that water is not the same as the water that comes out of the fridge. Oh, and sometimes water is frozen.
Teaching Finnegan that that toilet water and dog bowl water are very different than a glass of water, which in turn is very different from the pool and also different from the bath, has proven to be a very difficult task.
For now, we’ll just have to watch out for his speedy hands as they get dunked in to my glass of water for a quick splash and discourage drinking out of the big, delicious vessel that is his evening bath.
This blog has been fairly quiet over the last few months. I’ve struggled to find words to write here that seem worthwhile. Just now, I’ve written and deleted three paragraphs because it’s unclear how to sum up my feelings about 2020. Never in my life have I experienced the extremes that I’ve experienced this year.
This has been an intense year for our family. January began with losing my father-in-law to a decades-long battle with MS. Two weeks later our son was born. Two months later COVID-19 began sweeping the country, leaving Kaylin and I to raise Finnegan largely in isolation. As the summer began, the country was reminded yet again that Black lives do indeed matter and that our system of policing is broken.
Later in the summer, we spent time at the beach, alone. I launched a new product with my team at work—my colleagues all working remotely for the first time. This fall, election season ramped up and our country avoided four more years of catastrophic leadership. We watched the results roll in from a cabin in the woods, between many hikes, alone. Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone without the usual festive outings and family gatherings.
It sounds like this might be a complaint, a down note with hours left to go in the year. Although we’ve had incredibly tough moments this year, I feel lucky and blessed. We’ve been able to adapt and live comfortably and safely this year. One year ago I was sitting with Kaylin, counting the days until Finnegan’s due date, thinking about what the coming year would hold. We certainly could not have predicted this year.
My heart goes out to my friends and family who are essential workers. The stories they have to tell of this year are the real stories, the ones that matter. Wear a mask. Stay home. Get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. These are the three best ways to say thank you to those who’ve been tirelessly serving our country.
Nothing about this year has been what I expected. I’m tired. I’m anxious to see what the coming year holds. I’m nervous, but I am hopeful that we have a path forward to a new normal.
Stay safe. Here’s to a new year—one where we can process the terrible losses of the year past and work to a better existence for us all.
19 years ago today I was getting up and getting ready for school on a late summer morning in Maryland. Mom was making oatmeal and dad had already left to drive to Baltimore for work.
A friend called and told us to turn on the news. We did. I remember watching the second plane hit the tower and closely following the news of the attack at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. I remember the surge of anger and the sudden, sharp rise in fear and anxiety.
That day we lost 2,997 people.
19 years later, we are still holding memorials. We are remembering a time of coming together as a nation, of fear. A time of deep hurt for the country.
It was easy. We had The Other to blame. The attackers.
We rapidly pivoted to war. We’ve been fighting a never-ending war for over half of my life at a cost of some $2.4 trillion.
At the time of this writing the US has lost 192,000 people. Write it out like a check: one hundred ninety-two thousand lives.
How do we memorialize these people? We memorialize them by sending kids to college to party. By going to churches and other large gatherings against scientific recommendation. By walking past signs in stores imploring people to wear masks, only to pull the mask down and sneer at other mask wearers.
This country is broken. We can’t come together and do the right thing for our marginalized communities of color. We can’t even properly wear a piece of cloth over our mouth and nose.
War is easy. Change is hard. We fund foreign wars and domestic police brutality, and meanwhile a thousand or more people are dying daily—often in our most vulnerable communities. Meanwhile, the rich get richer (by the way, we don’t need billionaires).
In the midst of this, both political parties refuse to address universal health care while one party actively works against the current healthcare protections.
What’s the point? The point is that the people lost on 9/11 matter. The point is that we are currently experiencing loss at an unprecedented rate for modern times—these hundreds of thousands of people also matter. For those of 9/11 we launched a 19 year war. For those of yesterday, we walk into a Walmart and pull our masks down after sneaking past a greeter.
Act like it matters. Do your part—wear masks, stay apart, wash your hands. Take care of each other in the midst of national and global loss. Be politically active. Educate your friends and families why progressive values matter to the least of those in our communities.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the morning of 9/11. I also know that I’ll never forget this year. And I’ll never forget the vast disparity in how we’ve responded and the toll it’s had on the country.
We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion to the Gulf Coast even though we cut the trip short by one week to avoid the wind and rain expected from the twin tropical storms headed for the region.
After our week of relaxation, I went back to work for the remainder of our time at the beach. It was a great change of scenery for the month of August.
I was able to work, but it was difficult. I turned off Dropbox sync, held meetings without my video enabled, downloaded albums of music instead of streaming during the workday, restarted the DSL Wi-Fi box daily and generally exercised extreme patience.
Access to a high quality internet connection is critical in our modern digital age. In the midst of a pandemic when much of work and education is online, it’s now essential. Living and working remotely from Chattanooga, with gigabit municipal fiber connection from by EPB, our local utility company, is absolutely incredible.
While at the beach, I was able to make an unstable connection work. I knew I would be dealing with it for a limited time. However, across our nation and the globe, workers and families are facing bandwidth challenges. We need solutions. We need competition. We need more and more local municipalities doing the hard work that EPB has done—dare I say, treat internet access as a utility. We need a a national government that is actually engaged in fostering access to high quality internet.
EPB receives a lot of national press for being one of the first to move on municipal fiber. Fortunately, during this pandemic, they are offering reduced cost service to those who qualify. This is a great start.
Yesterday, I masked up and ventured out to get groceries after work. I stocked up last time I was out and have managed to wait just over two weeks. We needed more fresh food so it forced my hand.
I knew to expect shortages. I knew that some things we wanted might not be in stock, especially if looking for luxury goods such as toilet paper, Lysol, and Clorox. I wasn’t quite prepared for so many other areas of our local supermarkets to be decimated.
I’ve seen the news. I’ve seen the reports on Twitter. It all feels much more real to experience it in person, breathing through a stuffy mask.
The world is singularly focused on the pandemic. COVID-19 is the primary topic covered by every news outlet. We’ve all been indoors for weeks, working from home if we can. I am not qualified to predict what may happen or to give medical advice (you can read that here). I just know that we must all stay home and should wear a home made mask when we leave the house for essentials.
In the midst of COVID-19, I can’t help but see everything happening around me in a strange new light. Things feel so much the same, yet so incredibly new, different—dystopian.
So, I will be publishing a series of short posts sharing thoughts, photos, and collected media. If you pay attention to what is happening in your community and online much of this will be mundane or repetitive.
I expect to look back in a year, ten years, twenty—and instantly relive the feelings evoked by these scattered bits of ephemera. I just want a record of these strange times. For me. For Finnegan.
I wore a mask in public. A mask that I laboriously sewed the day before. I’m not at the point where I plan to shave my beard so I sewed a mask that I thought would cover and be comfortable. It was just OK.
In these weird times, while wearing a mask to go to a medical appointment, I’m contemplating iterative improvements to a DIY face mask.
There are moments in life where it feels like things are moving rapidly and glacially at the same time.
The summer between high school and college. The time between my engagement to Kaylin and our wedding. The time between college graduation and my first job. The (many times) between career changes. The times between moving from coast to coast.
I’m currently in the middle of one of these periods—a new shift in the paradigm of my life; the time between not being a father and being a father.
More than that, Kaylin and I are in a painful and magical moment right now. It’s been about a week since her father passed away after a decades-long battle with multiple sclerosis. In about a week from now our son will be born into this wild world.
In another bizarre moment between moments, we welcomed a brand new niece into the family hours after Kaylin’s father passed away.
This week, this month, is built of compounding moments in the middle of other moments. Time is moving so quickly and so slowly. Waves of grief and sadness are replaced with hope and excitement. Death is balanced by new life. Loss and gain are counterbalanced within hours, weeks.
We’re healing. We’re planning. We’re relaxing, because this last week of pregnancy is difficult.
Soon, we’ll get to meet our son. I know the moments between moments will only shorten and lengthen in their own unique ways.
The start of this decade has been painful. And joyful. We don’t know what is in store in an hour, a week, a month or a year from now. But it’s sure to be filled with new experiences—here’s hoping that the joyful moments outshine the moments that devastate us.
Not literally, of course—unless you count my love of a good sandwich against me.
For the past year, I’ve dabbled with making sourdough bread. I’ve had very limited success until this month. My mom and I both love cooking and baking and have partnered up in this pursuit over the course of the year, fostering a new obsession.
We’ve had endless conversations about starter, bake schedules and flour—but the specifics of our bread making exploits are best suited for another post.
While baking my first successful sourdough loaf, I was reflecting on bread and its place in my life.
Some of my earliest sense memories are in a kitchen—and of bread. I can hear the distinct sound of dough being kneaded in the plastic bowl of a countertop mixer, a strange thwapping of dough synchronized with the groaning of an electric motor. The smell of dough, yeasty and rich, being baked and then cooled on the counter; that was the smell of my childhood.
This isn’t the reflection of a digital professional seeking analog creative outlets in the kitchen or the workshop (although admittedly I do both). This is a realization of why bread, and the process of making bread, define who I am today.
My sister and I are both creative souls. My mom has a constant refrain that she’s “not creative” and that she doesn’t understand how she fostered our creative traits. However, as I think about her tireless pursuit of bread baking through my entire life, it becomes clear.
There’s been much written about the intersection of obsession and creativity. In the areas where I feel most creative I know that it is often fueled by obsession. And to me it’s clear—my mom is obsessed with bread.
When I was young she got involved in a small business designed to educate public school students about bread making. She would literally box up flour, yeast, water, honey, salt, mixing bowls, stir sticks, and metal baking tins, load the minivan and head out and teach a hundred kids in a cafeteria how to mix and knead dough—and send them all home with a loaf to bake at the end of the day.
This business meant that sometimes family time was spent refilling the flour mill as it ran in the garage, converting a five gallon bucket of wheat berries into flour one scoop at a time. Other times it was spent clipping apart 3-packs of Fleischmann’s yeast and sorting them into bread making kits.
Through this bread focused business, through raising two kids, through all other things that mom, dad, and my sister and I did, the smell of fresh bread was an ever-present refrain.
Wheat bread. “Healthy” whole grain bread. Soft, fluffy oatmeal bread. Dinner rolls. Sticky buns. The occasional pizza dough or breadstick. We were never lacking for the fresh crusty stuff at home.
My mom’s obsession with bread, and its expression of love and service to our family, friends and community, have shaped me in important ways.
Being creative is a tiring, sometimes thankless job. Other times it’s delicious, fulfilling and beautiful. Creativity can be finicky, the ingredients may not always come together into something viable. Sometimes, it’s more of a dark art (sourdough) rather than a refined science (yeast). But in the end, it’s something that is deeply fulfilling to those that understand.
So yes, I am made of bread. And I learned it all from my mom.