Category: personal

A Very COVID Timeline

Not that we haven’t been open already to the university crowd, but starting Thursday (July 1st), Mantor Library (where I’m the director) will be back open to the public to use, with no phone call or reservation needed. This is the last major step toward “reopening” that I think we’ll take (well, aside from the university lifting its mask mandate at some point.)

In honor of the occasion, I thought it might be interesting to see just what the timeline has been for me over the pandemic. A little waltz down memory lane, to remind myself of how far we’ve come. In some ways, I’ve been trying to resist thinking about all of it. But I think it would be a good activity to review just what happened when. And lucky me, I keep a daily journal (beyond the blog), so reconstructing all of it shouldn’t be too hard . . .

Ready? Deep breath. Here we go.

  • January-February 2020–I watch with growing concern as more and more reports of this new disease start to circulate. I remember reading Reddit posts when it was just in China. Someone had supposedly smuggled out a video of Chinese hospitals overwhelmed, contrary to what most reports were claiming. I wasn’t sure how accurate the video was, but it was alarming to say the least. I watched it move from China to Europe and over to the US, though it had yet to actually affect me in any immediate way other than general anxiety.
  • March 10, 2020–The first time “coronavirus” appears in my journal. Tomas had a robotics meet in Massachusetts that was cancelled due to it. He was bummed, to say the least. So was I.
  • March 11, 2020–The university tells us all students will be in quarantine when they return from spring break, which was slated to run from March 16th-March 20th. I scramble to try and figure out what that’s going to mean for the library.
  • March 12, 2020–The university changes course, deciding students will leave for the semester and not come back to campus after spring break. We’ll be switching to remote learning for the rest of the semester, instead. (Also, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cancels all in-person meetings worldwide. There was a fair bit of scrambling to figure out what that was going to mean for me and my family.)
  • March 13, 2020–We find out our school district intends to close for “a couple of weeks” to do some deep-cleaning. (As a side note, this really illustrates how up in a tizzy everyone was about COVID at this point. The disease was almost non-existent in Maine (we were averaging two cases/day). True, that wasn’t nothing, but in all likelihood, there was nothing in the school to deep clean. (Well, not from a COVID viewpoint, at least . . .) Still, things were very upsetting, and we were definitely in the “something must be done, and this is something” mindset. Taking two weeks to figure stuff out made a lot of sense.)
  • March 18, 2020–We close the library to everyone. This is my first day of working from home. The library is still staffed with workers to keep the books moving (requests, orders, interlibrary loan, etc.), but the doors are locked to everyone else. I decide to stop trimming my beard until I have to go back to work in person.

Please note the huge gap that now comes in the timeline. About four months of just staying at home, day in, day out. That was . . . unpleasant. One of the worst things was being uncertain when, exactly, it would be over. At first I thought we’d be able to make our planned trip to Disney World over July 4th, no problem. Then that seemed like a 50/50 shot. Then . . .

  • July 9, 2020–We break down and buy a dog, even if we won’t be able to pick him up until August. Thus, our “typical American COVID summer” is complete.
  • July 15, 2020–In preparation for in-person church coming up (and because I had long since discovered that yes, Virginia, there is a beard length Bryce really doesn’t want to have to deal with), I trim my beard again. There is much rejoicing.
  • July 19, 2020–I go back to church in-person for the first time. Meetings are capped at 25 people. We had been doing Zoom church up until then, having switched over a week or two after the in-person meetings shut down. For the next while, we go to church in-person once or twice a month. No singing. Face masks required.
  • August 12, 2020–My first day back in the library in-person.
  • August 15, 2020–We pick up Ferris and bring him home. Puppy!
  • August 17, 2020–The library opens up via keycard to all UMF students, staff, and faculty. The public can call and get curbside checkout of materials, and they can make a request to come into the building for specific reasons. In practice, this meant around 5 people from the public ended up coming in over the next academic year. Each one came to use our microfilm collection, which had to be used in person. I didn’t turn down other requests; I just didn’t get any. Most people seemed reluctant to come to campus for fear of COVID. Most employees thought we had slim chances of having the semester last past the middle of October. The plan is to have the semester run until Thanksgiving, and then be remote after that.
  • September 8, 2020–The kids go back to school in person. Tomas is there every Monday and Tuesday (remote the rest of the week). Daniela and MC go in person every other day, and are remote the other days. For Tomas and Daniela, “remote” means “sitting in front of a computer in a Zoom meeting.” For MC, it means “no school.” (Practically speaking. I think she had a few “assignments” every day, but nothing that really took MC longer than a bit to complete.)

Another huge break in the timeline here. In a way, so much happened in these six months. In another way, almost nothing did. Reading over my journal entries for this period is actually kind of traumatic. You can see things deteriorate in a way I just was unable to recognize at the time. Maybe I’ll write more about that at some point, but I’m not up to it right now.

The good news was that the university had its classes as scheduled, and we made it the whole time with that plan. It worked for the next semester as well. The kids’ school also went off without a hitch (more or less). We were doing Zoom church still, though at some point they raised the cap to 50 people. (I forget exactly when.)

  • March 20, 2021–Denisa and I get our first vaccine shots.
  • March 21, 2021–We have our last Zoom church. The Maine CDC raised its cap on people in a building to a point where anyone who wanted to come to church in person, could come to church. Zoom broadcasts would still be happening, but my family and I would be able to go in person each week. (Still masked, still socially distanced in the building, still no singing.)
  • March 28, 2021–We had our first “no cap” in-person church. About 75 people showed up, more people than I’d been around in a good long while.
  • April 16, 2021–Denisa and I get our second shot. Two weeks until we’re “fully vaccinated”!
  • May 10, 2021–With the semester over, the library “opens” to the public. People can now come for any reason, though they do have to make an appointment ahead of time to come. Masks are still required.
  • May 9, 2021–Our trip to Puerto Rico, which really represented the end of the pandemic for us in many ways. Things began to feel more and more normal.
  • May 30, 2021–Mask mandate is now lifted for church. Singing resumes, as well as in-person second hour meetings.
  • July 1, 2021–The library doors go back to being unlocked to everyone (during our open hours). In preparation for this, the furniture returns to its normal positions throughout the building. (Thanks, Facilities!) The library feels like it’s largely back to normal as well, even though masks are still required. (And there’s no sign of that being done away with any time soon at the moment.)

This list is in no way comprehensive. There are definitely some events I’ve left out, but it gives a good general overview of the arc of this whole thing. It’s a good reminder that even in world-changing events, a family still finds its equilibrium and hammers out a new normal. Looking back on it all, I’m impressed we managed to do as much as we did. I finished the final draft of one book (coming out in a bit more than a month!) and the first draft of another, then did two more drafts of that book to get it ready for my editor to see. The kids came through everything with all A’s in school, even. Incredibly proud of the whole family for banding together and barreling through.

Here’s hoping the next while sees more bright days ahead. It’s going to take some time to get over all of this. Right now, I feel like I think I’m back to normal, but every now and then I’m reminded of just how abnormal things were, and how “normal” now is really just a codeword for “better than things were a year ago.”

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How Old is Your Longest Friendship?

I was talking to my kids the other day, and the topic of friendship came up. Specifically how long we stay friends with people we’ve known for a while. When they found out how few of my friends from school are still active people in my life, they were surprised and disappointed. That makes sense: we’ve lived their whole lives in the same place, and so for them, many of their friends feel almost as longterm as family. I, on the other hand, moved around a lot as a kid, not staying more than a couple of years in any place until junior high.

Looking at my current friendships, I am still in contact with a couple of people from middle school. I still communicate a couple of times a month with some friends from high school. I do have one high school friend who I get together with frequently (virtually, typically, since he’s in Philly and I’m in Maine). And then friendships from then on get a bit more steady. But when I think back on all the friends I’ve had, and I think about how few of them play an active part in my life today, I suppose it could get discouraging. I remember being so close with them back in the day, and now . . . we’re just not.

Of course, I’ve also lived a lot since then, and I’ve seen (personally, at least) that people change and circumstances change, and it’s just not realistic to think I’ll still be such great friends with everyone I’ve ever been great friends. I came across this post from Kottke, which talks about how many friends people can actually maintain. In a nutshell, it argues you can only have 1-2 intimate friends. 5 close friends: people who would drop everything to come help you if you were in trouble. 15 core friends (which include all the ones already mentioned) that form the bulk of your social life. They trace it all the way to 500 acquaintances, 1500 known names, and 5000 known faces. It’s a fascinating article. You should check it out.

It can seem pretty grim when you think of it in those terms. To have a new close friend, a different close friend has to go. But at the same time, that’s often the way it happens, isn’t it? You move, or they move, or jobs change, or whatever. I can’t imagine trying to keep up with 100 close friends. There’s no way I would have the time.

But at the same time, I recognize I’m only speaking from my own experience, so I wondered if I’m out of the norm here. How about you? Are you still friends with many people from high school? Junior high? Elementary school? How far back do your friends stretch? For this, I’m talking about active friendships. People you get more than a Christmas card a year from. People who interact with beyond Facebook likes. Please share.

And at the same time, this train of thought has led me to once again confirm what a vital role family plays in all of this. (Or at least, the role family can play. Sure, my friends have changed over the years, but my family has always been there. I always know generally where they are. I get updates on what they’re doing. To me, family exists in a realm outside that chart of friends I linked to. Not that you’re necessarily always interacting with them, but . . . they form a base of support that you can always come back to. At least, that’s how it feels to me.

What say you?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Smile or Else

It’s easy to look around at other people and assume everyone else is doing great, and then look at yourself and wonder why in the world things are going so bad for you. As I’ve thought about it, in many ways it’s reflected in our current standard of smiling when you get your picture taken. I’ve sat through my fair share of family pictures, and there is often a lot of drama around the picture itself. (Drama that seems to go up exponentially the more people are involved in the picture.) Often, there’s a whole lot of yelling, crying, and grumpiness before and after that picture, but when it’s time to click the shutter, the smiles come out.

Actually, it’s made even more extreme by today’s tendency to take multiple pictures at the same time. Back when actual film was being used, you just took the picture and hoped for the best. Weeks later, you’d find out how you did. These days, you don’t just smile for that one picture, you smile for a bunch, and then you pick out which picture of all of them looks the best. (Typically, which one has the most smiles and open eyes.) In other words, there’s a lot of posturing involved in those pictures, all to make it look like folks are nothing but happy.

But we all know that’s not the case, even if we forget it when we’re looking at the pictures. The same is true in life in general. I’m always amazed when I find out what some of my friends or family members are facing, when all I typically see from them is happiness and fluff. The same is certainly true for me. There are times when I really feel like I’m on top of things, but there are also times when I feel like I’m in the middle of the ocean and I just forgot how to swim.

I have to try and do a better job at cutting other people slack. At understanding that there may be things going on in their lives that I have no idea about, and that (if I knew) I would definitely treat their “shortfalls” differently. We do that when we’re aware of what’s going on, but when we aren’t, why is it so easy to assume everything’s fine, and our irritation is justified? It makes me think of the Bruce Banner explaining how he controls the Hulk: he realized he’s always angry.

Anyway. Not much to add to this, other than a general encouragement for people to go easy on each other. That whole Golden Rule thing definitely applies in this case. Have a nice Thursday, peoples.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Running on Empty

In many ways, everything since 2020 began feels like it’s been going in circles. I’ll feel like I’m finally getting through whatever tough thing I’ve been dealing with at the moment, only to somehow find myself at a loss yet again the next day or week or month. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but one of the sad truths of the pandemic is that so many of us are wearing thin, it becomes that much more difficult to find the wherewithal to pitch in and help someone else out when you see they’re in need of it. For one thing, it’s hard to be aware of people other than yourself when you feel like you’re in crisis mode, and for another, even if you can identify someone else needs help, you quite likely feel like there’s nothing you have to offer them except commiseration.

(Commiseration. There’s a word for you that pretty much sums all this up. From Latin, pretty much meaning “to be wretched with.”)

In fact, if I had to think of a movie scene that sums up what I’ve been feeling like for the last long while, it would have to be the Griswolds in London, even if that’s a tad too international for expressing “stuck in the same thing over and over.” Still, there’s a desperation you get here that you don’t even really get in Groundhog Day . . .

Usually I like to end these sort of posts on a bright note of some sort. “It’s going to get better, because it has to, right?” I do still believe that, contrary to all evidence of the past year and more. But it can be awfully difficult to keep reminding myself of that fact.

I know I’m low on patience especially. I’m not nearly as understanding and long tempered as I usually am. If I see someone doing or saying something I think is foolish or wrong, I’m much too quick to jump to conclusions, take offense, or make a snippy comment that’s far from warranted. To make things even more frustrating, I can tell I’m doing it when I do it, and yet I still find myself doing it anyway. Sigh.

I suppose the bright spot would be to picture how much practice I’m getting in on trying to be kind and patient and forgiving even under these circumstances. When this pandemic is finally over and so many of the current stressors are behind us, think about how much better we’re going to be at handling everyday life! (Right?)

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

First Vaccine: Check!

Like I assume all of you, I’ve been watching the vaccine rollout closely. This is the best/only path toward something like normalcy anytime soon, and it’s been encouraging to see those numbers in America slowly bump up. That said, as a healthy man in his 40s, I didn’t really think I’d be able to get a vaccine myself for another month or two at least. Maine just announced Friday that starting in mid-April, anyone could get a vaccine. That was encouraging, but I assumed as soon as that date arrived, the floodgates would open, and it would be very tricky to actually make an appointment.

So, basically, I was paying attention to the big picture of vaccines, but I wasn’t really doing anything to look into what I’d need to do personally to get one yet. I didn’t want to think too much about it, because I thought that would just make me more impatient. When President Biden announced he wanted all educators to have access to the vaccine right away, I was hopeful for a little bit that might include Denisa and me, since we’re both university employees. Reading the fine print (in multiple places), it was limited to K-12 educators. Which was fine. I’ve been working in person since August, and I haven’t felt really at risk, so I was content to wait my turn.

Imagine my surprise when Friday afternoon, I got an email from a friend at the university indicating Walmart was letting university employees get vaccinated. It went against everything I’d read (and I’d read a lot), and so I was really unwilling to believe it. “Let me know how that goes,” I believe I said, or something to that effect. If they were successful in getting it at Walmart, then maybe I’d start to think about it. But we had some more back and forth discussion about it, and a Walmart 40 minutes away had vaccine appointments available for the very next day. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was at least worth a short trip on a Saturday. I called the Walmart pharmacy, spoke with them in person, double checked I’d qualify, and then made my appointment.

Honestly, I still was thinking I’d get to Skowhegan only to find out that it had all been a misunderstanding. (What can I say? I put a lot of faith in my research skills, and what I was hearing went against everything I’d researched.) Also, I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to be let down again. But Saturday morning, my friend texted to say they’d gotten the vaccine, and sure enough, Denisa and I got it five hours later. It was about the same as getting my annual flu shot. There was no line; the appointments we made lined up right with when we came, and it was a very easy process. (It felt surreally American, to be getting the vaccine in a Walmart, but I’m not complaining.) My arm has hurt since I got it, much more than with a flu shot, but it’s down to an almost imperceptible ache now, two days later. I did feel a bit dizzy Saturday night, but felt 100% fine the next day and haven’t had any other side effects.

We’ll be getting out second dose in mid-April, and then about two weeks after that the full immunity should kick in. It’s a big relief that we’re already this far along in the process, especially because it means I’m starting to actually make plans again. Not huge plans, but plans nonetheless. Plans like:

  • Denisa and I taking a vacation for our 20th anniversary. We’re looking at Puerto Rico. It’s about as international as I’m willing to bet at the moment. It’s not Aruba like we had planned last year, but I think it’ll still be great.
  • Seeing my parents again. (My dad will be coming out from Utah at the beginning of May. We’ll drive down to see my mom and step-dad as soon as we can.)
  • Camping with friends in July
  • Seeing my cousin in Boston in June
  • Maybe a trip to Cape Cod?

I do realize that vaccination doesn’t necessarily mean total immunity to the disease. It’s still possible to catch it and spread it, though they’re doing more studies around that, and I hope they have more solid information around that in the coming weeks. And we’re not planning at the moment anything too extravagant. (This would typically be our year to go to Europe. I don’t think that’s going to happen, sadly. Both just from a “looking at the European case rate” standpoint and an “even if we could get there, what in the world would we be able to do?” mindset.)

But as I wrote last week, once I’m vaccinated, my willingness to go and do things is going to much, much greater. I will still happily where a face mask wherever I’m asked. To me, that’s such a low bar. It’s like being asked to wear a shirt or pants. If me doing that can help others, then why would I even hesitate to agree to it? I will also test if and when asked to, though again, I’m hoping they do away with testing requirements for vaccinated people soon. I look forward to more guidelines coming out. I definitely don’t want to do anything to endanger anyone, but I anticipate primarily interacting more and more with vaccinated people, both at work and personally.

You know life is improving when I start looking at rewards points again and begin to wonder where they might take me . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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