Ephemera of Our Modern Dystopia: Groceries

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.

Ephemera of Our Modern Dystopia: A Series

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.


Me, in my face mask.

Between

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.

I am made of bread.

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.

The successful sourdough loaf!

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.