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.

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.

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.

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.