Category: personal

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.

Happy Birthday, Denisa! We’ve Come a Long Way

What a difference a year makes. A year ago was the first day that I worked from home. The day before we’d announced my library would be closing to the public and to the university community. A year ago today was also Denisa’s birthday. The kids were also transitioning to a “short break” that was planned to be over at the end of April. The goal at the time, as I recall, was to do a deep clean of the school and then go back to normal.

In so many ways, the past year feels like a complete wash. I keep telling people that I have a hard time figuring out time when it comes to pre-COVID and COVID. Some days I marvel that it’s really only been a year since the shutdown started. Other days I marvel that it’s already been a year, if that makes sense. The past year feels both far too long and far too short at the same time.

When I took a bit of time to go back over the emails from back then and check on my schedule, it’s amazing how much has happened. How up in the air everything was back then. We’ve ironed out so many of the kinks in the ensuing year, clawing back some semblance of what life used to be like as we try to compromise with what it’s like now. My weekly Zoom presence is down to a mere 15-20 hours per week on average, so that’s something.

If you’d told me back then that we’d still be in the middle of all this a year late, there’s no way I would have believed you. (I mean, I bought tickets for a Thanksgiving trip, which got canceled along with everything else.) I also think I would have had a much, much harder time facing the year ahead. This is definitely one instance where not knowing how long it would last worked to my advantage, because I got to tackle problems as they came, instead of feeling overwhelmed right from the beginning.

What will things feel like a year from now? A decade? Will this year (or more?) of pandemic living all be one big blur? Will I look back with some sort of strange nostalgia for how it was? How simple everything became for a while? It’s easy to forget just how upsetting it all was while we were going through it, and in many ways, I think it’s easy to forget how upsetting it is now. We might have become numb to the experience of living this way, but I think once it’s truly over, it’ll be a huge relief. (Though I don’t think it’s going to be over in the blink of an eye. The shutdown happened all at once. The return will be a trickle over a long period of time. Something that’s already started.)

But this wasn’t supposed to be about the pandemic. It was supposed to be about Denisa’s birthday! Last year, it got lost in the shuffle of everything else that was going on. I’m afraid it’s largely getting lost in the shuffle this year as well. Small celebrations. No big parties. Family-centered. Still, it’s a reminder that (at least for now) we’ve made it through the pandemic quite well, all things considered. We’re all still healthy. We’re all still employed. The kids have been back in school in person part of the time since September. There are many, many people who have been really badly hit by the pandemic. We’ve had a couple of close calls, but we’re still pushing forward and hoping for the best.

It’s been a tough year. Lots of pressure beyond just the pandemic, and that’ll strain any number of relationships. I’m really grateful Denisa and I have come through it as well as we have. Has it all be sunshine and roses? Nope. But we’re still here for each other and supporting each other as best we can. I’m definitely hoping this coming year is a much brighter one than the one we just left. I’d say it wouldn’t be hard, but I still remember how much people complained about 2019, so . . .

In any case, happy birthday, Denisa!

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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.

Turning Up the Temperature

Since we moved to Maine, we’ve typically kept our house at a fairly cold temperature in the winter. We have a wood stove and oil heat, and we’ve tried to generally focus on the woodstove as the main heat with the oil heat as backup. So the thermostat has generally stayed at about 55: enough to kick in at night if it gets too cold, but never do more than that.

During the day, we usually have the house in the mid 60s, give or take. That’s a fine temperature if you’re in the kitchen or living room, but the home office is farther away from the woodstove, and so it can get pretty nippy in there. This wasn’t a big problem in the summer, but the times when I’m in there in the winter are trickier.

For the last while, I’ve just been putting up with it. Heading into the kitchen for breaks to warm up when I need them. Then again, it’s also been tricky with our bathroom now that we have Ferris. We’ve tended to keep the bathroom door shut, since we don’t want the dog to drink toilet water. But with the door shut, the bathroom gets no heat. You’d be amazed what a difference a closed door can be in terms of temperature, when all your heat is coming from a single source.

And today, it finally dawned on me. I’ve been still treating the thermostat like I was treating it when we first moved here. Not that I want to throw caution to the wind or anything, but I think we can safely turn it up a bit more now.

“Turn it up a bit” means more like 68 in the house than 64. That might not seem like a huge difference, but it means that we run the oil heat some during the day. Our basement is insulated, so all that heat stays right in the house, which means the floors get much warmer, which means the rooms in the entire house are toastier. Win win.

I don’t think I’ll ever go much higher than that (at least for the next few decades), because I dislike being hot, but there’s definitely something to be said for not being cold, either . . .

What do you keep your indoor temperature set to during the day when you’re home?

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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.

To the Backhoe Loader that Woke Me Up at 4:30 This Morning

Dear Backhoe Loader,

I know times are tough out there for a backhoe. It’s the winter, and it’s not like you can just go around digging trenches and scooping up dirt left and right. I understand that a backhoe gotta eat, and so you have to pay the bills somehow. So I just wanted to say how thankful I was to hear you stay so chipper about your work this morning.

Really, there’s nothing I’d like more than to be woken up by your persistent “beep beep beep”ing as you drive around my entire house in reverse. I mean, reverse is a much more fun direction to drive. I get it. Boring people drive forward, and you’re anything but boring, right?

Right.

And I expected nothing less from you than to keep that beeping going. Mustn’t let any of the woodland creatures out there at 4:30 in the morning somehow wander beneath one of your tires. We all know how air headed those squirrels can get, and I’ve always had a soft heart for groundhogs. I’m sure your OSHA mandated alerts did their job. Well done.

But of course, how could I focus simply on your backup blares? You took such care to put your front loader to use as well, using all the skill of a drunken three year old to move snow around. I could tell you took extra pleasure in thumping it to the ground over and over.

And over.

It was so thoughtful of you to do all of this well before the sun rose. I know only too well that it could have been done, say, at 9 in the morning. Or even 8. But I overslept yesterday, and so you were only thinking of me. Sadly, waking me up at 4:30 somehow made it more difficult for me to get a full night’s rest, but I’m sure that’s a flaw on my end. Don’t let it trouble your little mechanical heart.

You do you, backhoe loader. You do you. Don’t mind me for a moment, and definitely don’t feel bad about the bags under my eyes this morning. I prefer them there. Who needs a full night’s rest when he can listen to you gettin’ it done in the early AM?

You should really charge admission next time.

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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.

COVID Semester: Take Three

The semester started back up again here at UMF today, the third semester we’ve had that’s been affected by COVID. And true to form, it feels like another semester that’s different from any of the others that have come before it. The first semester (last spring) was dominated by a sudden switch to full remote classes. That was a doozy and a half, trying to figure out what we were doing on the fly, as we all scrambled to solve a zillion problems and obstacles that came up.

But we got through it, more or less. And it was followed by an entire summer where I stayed in my home pretty much the whole time. The good news was that we also had plenty of time to plan for what was going to happen in the fall. Heading into that semester, I think most people thought all our carefully laid plans would prove fruitless, and so it was no small surprise when we made it through the entire semester, and most of it went according to plan. It felt like we’d done the work ahead of time, we were prepared for it, and the work paid off.

In many ways, then, I sort of assumed this new semester would be easier than the two that preceded it. We all had experience handling all of this, after all. How much worse could it be?

Well, I didn’t anticipate the way COVID continually warps the norm. One big difference is that the presence of the disease in Maine is significantly above where it was in the fall. It’s been declining recently, but I think the huge uptick made many more students hesitant about coming back to in-person classes. (As with all things COVID, there’s a very wide range of ideas around what the best course of action should be. You’ve got everything from “no one should go anywhere ever again” to “nothing should be different at all.” And when you’re trying to bring all those differing opinions together in one place to reach the common goal of educating students, it can get tricky.)

I don’t feel as prepared as I did heading into fall. The whole day has felt kind of off to me, in an unsettling way that I didn’t anticipate. There are more students who want to be fully remote, which means there are more classes where you have to pay equal attention to the folks in Zoomland and the folks physically in front of you. There’s the uncertainty around how many cases might actually be on campus, as testing runs its course. There’s uncertainty around what our budget might be like, and what the future holds for education in general.

Basically, each time I think I’ll have more certainty X months from now, and each time X months rolls around, I discover I don’t, in fact, have more certainty. That’s frustrating, and it leaves me feeling off balance in general. All it takes is a few poorly timed events (like Denisa’s car running out of batteries. Twice.) for the day to feel like it’s spiraling out of control.

I know it’ll get better. I know I just need to push through things, but on days like today, I really look forward to being on the other side of them.

In any case, welcome back, Beavers. And good luck to all the rest of you out there, whatever your COVID experiences might be. Here’s hoping these vaccinations pick up quickly, and “normal” comes sooner than we think.

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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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