A Needle of Hope

As I suspect most of us do, I too have a had a very unhealthy habit of checking notifications and scrolling feeds shortly after I unglue my eyelids each morning. For the past four years it has been a drudgery. This last year it’s been excruciating to see the news of the pandemic, lost jobs, political outrages, fires and smoke, and the vast array of other misery that is neatly summarized every day.

The last two mornings have been different. My feeds have been full of family, friends, and acquaintances posting selfies of themselves receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. I tweeted this morning to summarize my feelings, but I’m overwhelmed and joyful to see the start of the end of the pandemic.

It’s a surreal feeling to read the headlines over the last several weeks. A new president, multiple vaccine approvals, friends actually receiving those vaccines—it feels good. Having a bit of hope about the coming year is a very new feeling, but I like it.

Vote

This week Kaylin and I early voted in our county. Like many places across the country, it appears that early voting turnout is way up. I’ve voted for the last presidential and all state and local elections since moving to this county. I’ve truly never seen so many people queued to cast a vote.

Due to scheduling and juggling Finnegan’s needs we ended up voting at two different locations. I waited for about an hour and Kaylin waited for nearly an hour and a half.

We’re lucky—we have schedule flexibility and local family to assist with childcare. Others are not so lucky. It’s easy to get excited by the long lines, by the enthusiasm and the turnout. But like the ever-present stories of individuals raising money on crowdfunding platforms to cover healthcare costs, long lines indicate a systematic failure of our democracy.

Voting should be fast. Voting should be accessible. Voting should be available to all. Schedules, child care, work, access to transportation and hundreds of other variables impact someone’s ability to cast a vote. In many cases, the system is poorly designed or is designed to actively suppress your right to vote.

I’m both excited to see the enthusiasm and terrified that the system will fail. But, all we have is our vote. Please, if you can vote early, do so. Mail your ballot in by the deadline. Find your local early voting location and make your voice heard. And if you’ve not done so before Election Day, pack a lunch, make some coffee, wear a mask and get in line.

November 3, 2020 is almost here. Please vote.

TN voting sticker stuck to a wall.

Suprascapular Neuropathy

Today I had surgery to release the nerve passing through my left shoulder blade, treating my diagnosis of suprascapular neuropathy. The goal is to return my arm to full strength and restore nerve function. I’m home, resting and feel as if I am recovering well!

In December 2019, I woke up with excruciating back pain. Advil, ice, resting, and stretching quickly minimized the pain. About two weeks later the same pain returned with a greater intensity—so I reached out to my primary care doctor.

I was predictably referred to physical therapy. Because we were expecting Finnegan in January, I wanted to be sure that I was on my way to recovery so I could be at full capacity to help Kaylin through delivery and postpartum.

On my first visit my therapist ran a battery of diagnostic stretches on me to put together a treatment plan. With the “not a doctor” caveat, he immediately suspected that I was suffering from suprascapular neuropathy. The current pain I was feeling was secondary pain caused by my body overcorrecting for the weakness in my shoulder. My therapist also wrote a referral to an orthopedic surgeon and encouraged me to make an appointment.

I secured an appointment with the surgeon shortly after Finnegan was born. I was about halfway through my 12 weeks of physical therapy. I was feeling stronger but still had very acute weakness when examined.

As my physical therapy sessions drew to a close, COVID-19 hit. I finished my therapy from home with resistance bands. Several weeks later I was rechecked by my surgeon and we decided that therapy wasn’t improving my symptoms. Two MRIs and a nerve conduction study were ordered.

The MRIs and nerve study confirmed the diagnosis and surgery was scheduled. I was fairly nervous about having surgery in the midst of a pandemic—fortunately, it was “outpatient-ish” in a dedicated surgery unit that was mostly empty, heavily masked, and heavily sanitized.

I’m home now, resting in a big arm chair. I have a fancy refrigerated shoulder brace which means I’m not dealing with drippy ice packs—it’s quite nice. A new round of physical therapy begins tomorrow. Based on how much stronger my wrist and hand feel even now, I’m feeling optimistic about recovery!

A photo of me wearing a sling and shoulder compression wrap shortly after surgery.
Me, moments after waking up and getting strapped in to recovery gear. Notice the amazing quarantine hair. It’s time to convince Kaylin to give me a trim…

Sleepy parents doing things

It’s no surprise to anyone that sleep is both deeply important and also something that is in rare supply when an infant enters your life. This will obviously improve over time, but our collective sleep deprivation has led to some funny occurrences.

  • This week, I misplaced my AirPods. After frantic searching through all rooms in the house, I found that I’d placed them in the dish tub holding dirty baby bottles queued for washing. Fortunately, no water was in the tub at the time so the AirPods are fine!
  • This morning before rushing to the pediatrician, I was making quick frozen waffles topped with peanut butter. After finishing breakfast, Kaylin had the realization that I’d used the peanut butter reserved for filling the Kong toys for our dog Murphy. We use a specific brand for him due to ingredients—it’s great peanut butter, made only slightly more disgusting by months of double dipping while refilling slobbery Kongs. We’ll survive.
  • A few days ago I went to retrieve something from the chest freezer. When I looked inside I found a neat stack of items that Kaylin had planned to put in the plastic recycling stacked along side our extra frozen goods.

Such is the life of new parents—at least, that’s what they tell me.

Finnegan

Exactly one week ago our son came into world. Kaylin and I are so filled with joy that it’s nearly impossible to describe. He has been the sweetest addition to our family. Each day we are learning about ourselves and our baby and striving to be good parents.

Unfortunately, Finnegan’s entry into the world wasn’t simple. Kaylin labored all night and into the afternoon. Several times we lost his heartbeat, causing half a dozen nursing staff to swarm our room and work rapidly to stabilize his heart. It was a terrifying and agonizing day. As he was born we were shocked to find out that his cord had a true knot and was wrapped completely around his neck three times—we finally knew why his heartbeat was failing during labor. And we realized that we could have had a far worse outcome.

Finnegan came quietly into the world. His breathing was shallow and his heart rate sporadic. These complications meant that he was taken to NICU for two nights where he received care so full of compassion and love that it overwhelmed us. He got stronger each day as he learned how to transition into the world.

We were lucky that he was discharged at the same time Kaylin and I went home. We were able to leave as a family and start this new chapter of life together. We know how fortunate we were.

Today as I’m writing, I am wearing 2020’s hottest accessory: a baby wrapped on my chest in a snug sling. Being a parent is one of the coolest feelings in the world.

Here’s to Finnegan—may you have a long life to grow, explore, learn, make, love and laugh alongside your parents. We love you.

Reading out loud

In my life with Kaylin we’ve had very rare occasion to read anything of importance aloud to each other. We read books, but not out loud, not to each other. We listen to podcasts or music we enjoy when on road trips or relaxing around the house.

Kaylin and I are having a baby in January. In the last few months, I’ve tried to make a point of reading aloud in the evenings. All the blogs and parenting guides say it’s a great thing for soon-to-be dads to do; I’m unsure of the science, but the ritual is nice.

I started as you might expect, reading through the baby books we’ve been collecting. Several weeks ago we were traveling and failed to bring any of these books along—so I improvised.

I decided to read Shakespeare. Kaylin and I both love the Bard, having studied his works in school, read and watched many of his plays, and even visiting the Globe Theater several years ago. His work is widely published online. So, as we laid there that evening, I began reading the Sonnets out loud.

From that evening until now I’ve been reading a mix of poetry from various books; collections of early American poetry, British poets, and more Shakespeare. This weekend we started Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, an instant favorite of mine from childhood.

There will be plenty of time for Green Eggs and Ham. But, even after our newborn arrives, we’ll keep the classics in rotation. Reading out loud is a new practice in our home, one that has brought more joy than I anticipated.

Is this thing on?

Each new year my goal is always to “start blogging”.

I’ve had accounts with all the usual suspects—Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous, Medium and other random blogs on forgotten or defunct platforms, each with a post or two that linger in the corners of the web.

I’ve also long owned my own domain and paid for my own hosting. I’ve installed WordPress half a dozen times, tweaked themes, poked around and never committed to going live.

As the digital landscape has shifted over the years, as platforms have come and gone, as the firehose of my Twitter feed has shifted from a public conversation with friends to a way to keep tabs on everyone’s public persona interleaved between the terrifying state of US and geopolitics, I’ve found myself gravitating back to reading longer form content on blogs.

I’m remembering that I’ve long loved the content that lives in these simple, quiet corners of the internet. Crafted with thought, longer than a tweet-from-the-hip, and far less frustrating than reading through ever growing threads, blogs have found a special place in my routine once again.

So, why is the end of 2019 a time for me to contribute, to “start blogging”? It’s a strange mix personal and nerdy reasons.

On the personal side, Kaylin and I are having a baby in January. I’m anxious for a steady platform to document this crazy change to our life. I want to capture this adventure on a platform that I own and control.

On the nerdy side, I’ve simply enjoyed writing a bit more since getting my iPad Pro. The size of the device, the keyboard, and incredible writing apps like Ulysses have just made the experience of writing one that is deeply enjoyable.

I fully expect two, maybe three people to read anything I publish here. It’s mostly for me and that’s fine. But, here it is—my blog.

We’ll see what I end up sharing. I’m aways creating something, cooking something, building something. I hope that the best and most interesting things will show up here.

So, here’s to a new start, a fresh page, at the end of year. Blogging is dead, long live blogging.