2020 has been wildly different than I expected. The loss of Kaylin’s father, the birth of Finnegan, my shoulder surgery, and dozens of other difficult personal and professional challenges have resulted in a 2020 that would have been hard to imagine at Christmas last year.

We’ve been incredibly lucky to have the support of friends and family through it all. Fortunately Kaylin had the forethought to encourage us to plan a getaway to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary despite the state of things. We booked a nice condo in the Florida panhandle for a several week stay.

We’re obviously taking all the proper precautions when it comes to COVID-19. We’re staying in our condo, going out only for groceries while properly wearing a mask, and visiting local beaches when they are not crowded (in fact, we saw zero people today on our stretch of the beach).

No COVID-19 here!

This week of vacation will be followed by several weeks of work, just in this location instead of home. Working from home isn’t new for me, but in the midst of an intense year, the change in scenery is appreciated.

Overall, a break from the usual is so deeply restorative. And, we get to show Finnegan the gulf for the very first time!

It went… ok.

Murphy gets groomed

Before and after a much needed grooming.

Many of us are dealing with hair that is longer than we’d prefer due to ongoing restrictions. For Murphy, it was getting quite out of control and somewhat dangerous to his health. Our groomer has implemented great social distancing policies for her clients so we were finally able to schedule Murphy a session, providing him relief from the hot and humid weather this summer.

We’ve dealt with our veterinarian and now our groomer during these social distancing times. They are both doing curbside drop off and pay by phone. It’s actually a great improvement for both Murphy and I. Murphy gets to hang out in the car and not freak out in a waiting room. I get to sit in the car in my own air conditioning and with my own stereo system while I wait.

If we ever return to “normal” times, can we keep curbside dog services? I think we’d both like that.

Trash Can Baron

Quarantine has meant lots of things. More Netflix, mostly. But it’s also been a time to organize and refine our life at home.

Kaylin decided it was best to move her studio from the basement to the bedroom adjoining Finnegan’s room. After the switch, we had a new closet that needed storage solutions.

Instead of building more shelving, we opted to purchase shelves from one of our favorite online retailers, WebstaurantStore. The shelves arrived in two days. However, an additional, very large mystery box arrived at the same time.

Once opened, we realized that we were now in possession of five 20-gallon trash cans and matching lids. I triple-checked. These were not part of the order. After a quick chat via online support, we were instructed by the nice representative to keep these trash cans at no cost.


It was such a strange shipping mistake. It wasn’t a full lot (that would be six), so this box was picked, packed, and shipped to us somehow. I’d wager that procedures, staffing, or other parts of the logistics at WebstaurantStore have changed due to COVID-19, but I’ll never know for sure.

Fortunately, we’ve already rehomed three of the errant cans and will find good uses for the other two.

Trashlandia, our very own tower of cans. Baron of the Can. Titan of Trash.

To be clear, I’m a huge fan of WebstarauntStore. Our kitchen is stocked with high quality gear purchased there at great prices, shipped quickly. 10/10, would recommend.

Shoes for Indoor Cats

We’re all spending much more time at home (thanks COVID-19). For many, that means a crash course in working from home. However, I’ve been working remotely from home since we moved to Tennessee in 2016.

One of the biggest problems I’ve dealt with since starting to work from home is deciding what to wear on my feet all day. When I worked in an office some sort of nice leather boot was my go-to.

At home, I’ve gone the sock or barefoot route when it’s warm and the slipper route when it’s chilly. It’s been fine but not optimal, especially when using my standing desk.

With Finnegan around there’s a lot more dish washing, walking, rocking and general movement about the house so it was time to come up with a better solution.

My requirements were simple:

  1. Slip-on (bending down is so 2019)
  2. Leather (because I want them to look nice-ish)
  3. Comfortable for standing (standing desk, walking, dishes)

After completing lots of research and deciding that fashion was secondary, I purchased my first ever pair of Birkenstocks. I landed on the Boston style clog in oiled leather, with the newer “soft footbed”.

Out of the box these shoes were comfortable and have become incredibly supple over several months of wear. It’s a great option for a comfortable, supportive indoor shoe since we’re all indoor cats right now. And while they may be questionable in the fashion realm, I have decided that they really don’t look that bad.

Ultimately, I liked the comfort so much that I just purchased the waterproof, rubber outdoor version (Profi Birki work shoe) to use for yard work and walking the dog. So far, so good.

My comfortable, questionable fashion choices.

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…

Spotify Family and a Squad of Echos

I’ve been on a modest home automation quest over the last year. Due to their relative low cost and decent voice recognition, I have a small squad of Amazon Echo devices placed strategically around the house for automation tasks as well as music and podcast playback.

I’ve used a paid Spotify Family account for some time so that Kaylin and I can have our own libraries and algorithmic recommendations.

Before setting up the new Echos, I made a new Spotify account and registered it to Device Lang. Using the iOS companion app I signed the new Echos in to this Spotify account. The new account keeps random song requests from poisoning either of our recommendation queues. So far, it’s worked flawlessly.

Recently, we’ve been singing Finnegan to sleep at night aided by the Echo in our room. It’s become clumsy to verbally request a few specific songs every night. I figured I could make a playlist on the Device Lang account but quickly realized I did not want to log in to manage just one playlist.

Instead, I created a playlist in my own Spotify account titled “Goodnight Finnegan”. I then logged in and followed that playlist from Device Lang. This lets me quickly update the playlist from any device using my personal Spotify account and allows Device Lang on the Echo’s easy access.

Now, I can just say, “Alexa, play Goodnight Finnegan” and “Alexa, next” to start and navigate our new bedtime ritual.

The Myth of the One Trip Plumbing Project

We’re trying to occupy our time during social distancing by taking care of the long overdue projects around the house.

Today I installed a new vanity and sink in our guest bathroom—and eventually, Finnegan’s bathroom. You know, when he can walk.

Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, I made sure to over-prepare to complete this project efficiently. I spent several days looking at our (mail-ordered) parts, making measurements and diagrams. I checked all the spare plumbing parts stashed in my workshop.

Last week I made a single masked trip to the hardware store to get the few remaining items. I left after successfully finding every item on my list, confident that I might in fact be able to complete this project with only one trip the hardware store.

Today’s install went well—too well. Dashing to the end when I could finally turn the water on and test for leaks, I went to connect the sink’s waste pipe to the trap. And I was ½ inch off from being able to make the connection.

Mask on. Car go. Back to the hardware store. Yet another two-trip plumbing project. Better luck next time, I guess.

Fortunately, the second trip yielded everything I needed and the project is now wrapped up. I’ll be amazed if I ever pull off a plumbing project without some sort of complication!

The results!

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.

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.