Category: personal

Social Niceties: 2020 Edition

I’m back in the office today. Ironically, it feels like I’m even more socially distant than before. I have my door closed, because I don’t want to wear a mask for no real reason, and the building itself is closed too. This means I’ve seen a grand total of 4 people since I walked into the building, and that was in the first 15 minutes. Since then? I’ve been in my office. It’s very, very quiet. When I was at home, I could take a break and go talk to Denisa or my kids at any time.

Positive: I’m able to focus much more easily.

Negative: It’s kind of lonely, which is not the feeling I was expecting after 5 months. Things should change a bit when the building opens, but . . . maybe not as much as I think, since I’ll still have to have the door closed. (We can have 50 people “per space.” If my door is open, I need to have a mask on, and I count toward that 50 person cap on the first floor. If my door is closed, more people can be on the first floor, and I don’t need to have a mask on. If it were just a matter of masking, I’d probably have it open a good deal of the time. But I don’t want to make it so one less person can be in here, just because I want my door open . . .)

I think navigating the coming semester is going to be very tricky, from a social niceties standpoint. I’ve now been in several different environments with strangers and friends where masks are involved (or where they theoretically should be considered, at least). And figuring out how to reach some sort of a consensus about how they should be handled is like rocket science. A few examples:

  • The person you’re meeting doesn’t have a mask on. You do. If you’re outside, that doesn’t seem like too big of a discrepancy. If you’re inside, it seems like a much greater one. (Or at least it will to some.) Some of the people will be insulted if you ask them to put on a mask. Some of them have forgotten they didn’t have one on. How do you ask someone politely to put on a mask? (It goes both ways. I got to work this morning and was halfway to my office before I realized I’d left my mask in my car. I had to go back and get it. It’s such an easy thing to forget.)
  • Friends come over to visit with you outside. You’d be more comfortable if they wore a mask, but they haven’t brought one and don’t seem to think of it at all. Do you bring it up? Do you put one on and hope they get the hint? Do you not worry about it at all? They’re your friends! Making them put on a mask (or putting one on yourself) still feels like you’re implying they’re unclean somehow. At least it does to me. When you’re around your friends, why are you wearing a mask? If there’s low community spread (like there is in Maine at the moment), that makes it even thornier. In all likelihood, neither of you is infected. The mask is just getting in the way. But if you keep wearing a mask, then hopefully that community spread stays low. Better to have a #firstworldproblem and dither about social niceties around a mask than to have to know 100% that you need one, right?
  • In class, all the students are wearing a mask. One shows up without one and makes a stink about it. Freedom! America! I’ve already seen a lot of debate around how to handle that. Hopefully it’s worked through quickly, but it all adds to the stress.
  • I met up with a friend from high school I haven’t seen in probably . . . ten years(?) yesterday. It felt very wrong to me to just have us both show up and casually wave to each other. No hugs. No familiarity. I missed that. But it also didn’t feel right to not have a mask on. (She’s also an epidemiologist, so that helped the situation.)

I see people continue to share articles about how this pandemic is overhyped. How Sweden is already back to normal, and they never had mandatory masks or quarantines. (Never mind the fact that might be an argument in favor of having a robust national healthcare system and a populace that takes health and well-being seriously. I could go on. But I’m not going to.) People want to believe this isn’t an issue. They want to believe we’re all going to be able to go back to normal, and that this is no big deal.

I would love to be wrong. I would love to have it proved to be no big deal. We’ll know one way or another (again) after all these schools have opened up. We’ll have plenty of examples to point to. Schools that social distanced and schools that didn’t. Of course, I remember saying this same exact thing back when a lot of the places across the country were doing away with their quarantines. The results from that? More death. Granted, not as extreme as it might have been (I think the prevalence of masks from many is helping with that, as is the fact that many are social distancing regardless of what the government does or doesn’t say.) But so what if I was right before, and I’m fairly certain I’ll be right again now? That doesn’t really change anything around what’s going to happen in America in the next few months.

Sigh. Sorry. I’m getting sidetracked. All I really wanted to say was that figuring out how to navigate the mask issue on a personal level is going to be tricky, and I’m not looking forward to figuring it out. On the other hand, I do believe that at this point, if/when I’m ever “just a bit sick” (and we’re not in a pandemic), I’ll almost definitely wear a mask to protect the people around me from catching it. That seems like the right thing to do, even if some of the people apparently don’t want to return the favor.

Baby steps . . .

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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.

Heading Back to Work: In Person

Tomorrow’s the day. Almost 5 months to the day after last setting foot in my library, I’ll be going back to work. In many ways, this is (obviously) exciting. School is coming back! Students are coming to campus! I get to see people on a regular basis again! But (obviously) this is also stressful for a variety of reasons as well. School might close again at any moment! COVID! I have to see people on a regular basis again!

Honestly, the biggest hang up I’m having right now is that over the past while, I’ve regained my sense of composure. I’ve learned to live under the current set of circumstances. I know how working from home works, and I’ve got it all down pat by now. More importantly, I’ve reached a balance with worrying about the future and figuring out what I’m doing on a daily or weekly basis.

But to be honest, that balance is pretty darn precarious. It doesn’t take much at all for me to start stressing out again. The “balance” I’ve found currently is much different than the balance I had pre-COVID. Back then, I had all four feet of my chair on the floor, so to speak. Something could hit me from a different direction, and I wasn’t thrown too much for a loop.

Right now, I feel like I’ve got two feet of my chair on the floor, and I’m tilted back. Balanced, yes, but push me the wrong way, and I begin to flail my arms around wildly as I try to keep from falling backward. That’s the sort of new balance in my life. Clearly, this isn’t a wonderful situation to be in, though I imagine it’s one shared by many of you as well.

As I’m getting ready to actually go back to work, and I’m facing the realities of the semester in front of me, I’m beginning to rethink a number of things. Is this really the time to be doing a kitchen renovation, for example. As Denisa and I were working through the budget again, looking at all the aspects of the project that we need to address, I was getting really worried. “What would help?” Denisa asked.

“$20,000,” was my quick answer. I meant it as a joke (since I was fairly certain Denisa didn’t have 20k squirreled away somewhere), but once I’d said it, something clicked in my head. With an additional 20k, I’d know we had enough to cover contingencies as they arose during the renovation. Right now, I think we have enough, as long as everything goes according to plan, and no other crises crop up between now and December.

Because of course that’s something we can count on, judging by the last five months . . .

However, if we were to wait to do this kitchen renovation until the spring, that 20k would be a lot closer to a reality. We’d have that much more time to save. Denisa would have more classes she’d have taught. I’d have some checks from my writing that would come in. Honestly, I think we’d probably have that 20k by April. So would it make more sense to wait another half year to do the renovation?

It doesn’t take a genius to know what I would advise a friend who came to me in the same situation. The problem is when I’m personally invested. When it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and something that I’ve been looking forward to. I hate to have COVID claim another thing this year, but . . .

I’m really stretched thin. And we have all these other projects happening on the house. (And have I mentioned we found out the back roof might need to be redone before winter?)

I’ve blogged before about how when I get really stressed out, I have to periodically look through my life for ways to reduce stress. And this year, it’s beginning to look like that’ll have to be the kitchen renovation. It’s possible I’ll feel differently once I’m actually back at work and feel like I have more control over my life, but I don’t know when that feeling will actually kick in. The amount of relief I felt when I thought about just waiting until we had more money to do the renovation seems like a pretty big sign right there . . .

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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.

Now I REALLY Don’t Know Who You Are

I’ve written before about how I traditionally struggle with remembering what people look like. If we’ve only met a couple of times, or if it’s been a while since we last met, then chances are I draw a complete blank when I try to picture you. Like I said before: it’s not you. It’s me.

But now that everyone’s walking around masked, I’ve discovered that tendency has gotten much, much worse. It doesn’t help that I’m a fairly public person. I blog every day, and I’ve held leadership roles locally and across the state, both at work and at church. So there are a lot of people out there who know who I am (relatively speaking), and whom I might run across throughout the course of a day. (Back in pre-pandemic days, of course.)

The few times I’ve gone out in public over the last bit, there have been people who greeted me by name. People who I honestly had no idea who they were. Usually the way I handle this is to smile and pretend I know them. When I’m masked, they can’t tell I’m smiling, so instead they probably are treated to a quizzical expression and a general “Hi!” that’s as friendly as I can make it.

I know this isn’t a big deal, but I do feel bad about it. I don’t know of anything I can do to change it, though. On the plus side, when I’m in Zoom meetings, I don’t struggle with this, because people typically have their name right on their screen, so I can just read the name and remember. Maybe one day I’ll get AR glasses that will pull up everyone’s name as I walk down the street. I don’t know if that sounds like a good idea or creepy. Probably both.

While I’m on the subject of masks, I also discovered that I rely more than I thought I did on seeing people’s lips move when they talk. There have been a couple of conversations I’ve tried to have in person, and those masks make me feel hard of hearing. I know the sound isn’t getting muffled. (Not enough that it should make a difference), but it’s still a struggle to understand what the other person is saying.

So. Moral of the story? If you see me in public, remember to remind me who you are and to TALK LOUDLY SO I CAN UNDERSTAND YOU. Just get me a cane and a spot of lawn to defend, and my Grumpy Old Man persona will be complete.

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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.

Time for a Trim

Back when this quarantine began, I wrote a post about how I’d decided not to trim my beard until it was over. Of course, that was an easier post to write when I didn’t really think we’d be going much past . . . June? Surely by the Fourth of July, we’d be back in action. But the days turned to weeks, and those turned to months.

And my beard only got longer.

The whole time I’ve had a beard (more than 15 years at this point), I’ve often thought it would be cool to have a long beard. What would I look like? How would it feel? I mean, if I like a short beard, wouldn’t even more of it be better?

I can now say without reservation that Bryces don’t like long beards. Period. I would have trimmed my beard two months ago if it hadn’t been for that goal of not trimming until I’m back in public. But I’m very goal-oriented, and so I stuck with it.

What don’t I like about long beards? They’re work. A huge selling point for my beard is that I don’t have to think about it, typically. I wake up and don’t need to shave. Don’t need to do anything with it. It’s just there. With a long beard, you have to brush it. It’s constantly getting in the way. And for me at least, it’s just plain enormous. If I could make money growing hair, I would be making a whole lot of money. I have a ton of it, and my beard is very thick. As it got bigger, it spread out more as well.

Bottom line? It began to really bug me. I didn’t like how it looked or how I looked with it. And I began to long for the day when I could trim it back. It was also a constant reminder to me of the mess we’re in with COVID right now. Goals are one thing, but mental health is important too.

As I mentioned last week, I went to a small get together with friends. That didn’t seem to be “public” enough to warrant trimming the beard. However, this week, I’ve been asked to give a talk in church. In person. Now, this will be under very controlled circumstances. No more than 25 people in the building, let alone the room. The room can easily hold 250 people. Everyone will be masked. There won’t be any singing. No handshakes.

But it will be “public.”

And so yesterday to prepare for the talk, I finally trimmed my beard again. I think the last time I trimmed it was before Christmas, so it was about 7 months long, for reference. I can’t imagine me wanting to let it go past 5 months again. To those of you with long beards, my hat’s off. I don’t know how you do it. I’m a much happier Bryce today than I was yesterday.

Before
And after

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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 All the Homes I’ve Had Before

I was sitting here in my home office today, reflecting. (Plenty of time to reflect when you’ve got no coworkers around and nothing but the buzz of your window A/C unit to distract you.) My home office is in the room that was my bedroom here in this house for the first 7 years or so of living in Maine. Thinking about that led me to thinking about how long we’ve lived in this state now (13 years!), and that in turn led me to think about all the other places I’ve lived. Since I didn’t have another topic lined up for today, I thought you might want to join me on the look back. (If not, fine. Be that way.)

We’re going to do this with a numbered list, because organization!

  1. Utah–The first house I had was in Utah, where I was born. I don’t remember it at all. We moved out of it when I was . . . 2? 3? Something like that. I’ve seen pictures. It was fairly squat. One level? You got me.
  2. New York A–We moved from there to a house in New York, not too far from Yorktown. It was yellow, with a steep driveway. 950 square feet. I don’t remember much about the house itself, but I know it had forsythia bushes in the front, and a really cool tree house in the back yard. (A ladder to get into it, with a trap door, and a rope swing in the front.) I’m also pretty sure we had a sandbox. I’m not entirely sure how long we lived there. My guess would be about 2 years.
  3. New York B–From there we moved to a white house not too terribly far away from the yellow house. No listing for it, so hard to say how many square feet. It had two stories, and an above ground pool in the back. No pillars in the front when we lived there. Those are new. Beyond the back yard was woods, and I enjoyed exploring them, and I’m surprised I didn’t get more ticks. My room was in the basement, I believe. I remember wood paneling? It’s been a while . . . I was there for around 2 years once more.
  4. New York C–My parents divorced when I was about 7, and I moved with my Mom to a brown house near Nyack. 2,400 square feet. (They’ve redone the siding.) Another two story affair. There might have been a pool in the back, but as I recall, it wasn’t filtering properly, and we didn’t use it. The house had really spiky bushes in the front, and dandelions that I would get paid a nickel a dandelion to weed. This is the first house I have even a vague memory of the layout, but that’s about it even then. It had tall trees. Our cat climbed one and couldn’t figure out how to get down for a traumatic week. We were there around 3 years.
  5. New Jersey–We left New York and headed to my third state when I was in . . . Fourth Grade? So about ten years old. This was a house my parents had designed and had built. It was made from reused timber from barns in New England, and the backyard had a stream and a pond with an actual (small) island. It was a big house with a nice big deck in the back, and landscaping out front. My room was on the second floor, with its own bathroom. The house had an unfinished basement, but we rarely went down there. The carpet was really thick throughout the house, and we had an intercom system. The plan was that was to be the last time we moved. We stayed there for about 3 years. It’s for sale right now, if you’d like to check out pictures. 5,100 square feet. My room has been turned into a home gym. They’ve ripped out the carpets, put in a pool in the backyard(!), and really spruced the place up a lot. The outside looks the same, though.
  6. Pennsylvania–We moved to PA when I was going into eighth grade. I’ve written about it elsewhere, and it’s still my parents’ house, so I won’t post a link to the address, because confidentiality. (No links from here on out, actually, since I think sometimes credit reports use old addresses to confirm identity . . .) I’ve written elsewhere about how it was a surprise move. A big, spacious, newly built home. Plenty of property and woods all around. It was great, and nice to stay there (at last!) for longer than a couple of years. I was there around 5 years, though went back to it many times as I ping-ponged from college and my mission.
  7. Utah A–Out at BYU, I stayed in Deseret Towers for the first year. Had a roommate on the 6th floor. Many elevator trips were involved. They’ve since torn down the towers and replaced them with much nicer buildings. Kids these days have it soft.
  8. Germany A–Schwarzenberg. The first city on my mission. I was in a little apartment on the top floor of the building. No elevator, and we were the . . . sixth floor? I can’t quite remember. I stayed there for six months.
  9. Germany B–Leipzig. The second city on my mission. I stayed in an apartment on the third(?) floor, with another set of Elders. 1 room. 2 bunk beds. It felt like I was back in college in the evenings. (BYU, not one of your more typical colleges . . .) I stayed for another 6 months.
  10. Germany C–Gotha. The apartment had an elevator, but we almost never used it, since we were on the second or third floor, and I was immune to stairs by then. Just me and my companion. I was there for another 6 months.
  11. Germany D–Weimar. Third floor of an old apartment building, close to downtown. A fantastic city. I loved that place. It was the “Culture City of Europe” the year I was there, and they had people coming in from all over. Those were the days . . . I was there for 6 months.
  12. Germany E–Leipzig: the Revenge. I was in the mission office for the last two months of my mission, serving as an assistant to the president. 6 Elders in the apartment. A very different experience from the rest of my mission. I enjoyed it, but it was a lot of work.
  13. Utah B–Back from my mission, back in Deseret Towers. This time in a single room. I felt very out of place, since I was now older than almost all the residents there. (DT catered to freshmen.) I was just there for 4 months.
  14. Jerusalem Center–I stayed in the Jerusalem Center for two months on study abroad. Definitely wins the prize for the most exotic of my homes, even if it’s tied for the briefest stay. Fantastic experience.
  15. Utah C–Foxwood Apartments in Provo. An apartment complex. I had a private room in an apartment with four other guys. It was fine, but nothing to write home about. I wasn’t in my room that often. Out living the dream as a single guy in Provo. (Watch out!) I was there one year.
  16. Utah D–My first apartment with Denisa. It was the most awful place I’ve lived. They’d had cats there before us, and the carpets stank of cat pee. We hated it. I have no idea how they’d masked the smell when we looked at it the first time. We only stayed for about three months. (Get me out!!!)
  17. Utah E–We got out of the cat hell and fled to Wyview Apartments: on campus married apartments at BYU. It was pricey, but sooooo much better. We lived on the first floor, had our own parking spot, and could walk to the central store for groceries. I liked that apartment a lot. We stayed for around 2 years, until they jacked the price up out of our thrifty range. (We’d had to pull strings to get a spot there in the first place. I was so grateful we could move out of that cat apartment. Ugh.)
  18. Utah F–Lindon. We moved into my aunt and uncle’s basement. One bedroom to start, and then we got a second bedroom once Tomas was born. It was a drive to campus, and much more cut off from other people our age, but it was a ton cheaper, and great to be there. We stayed for about 4 years.
  19. Maine–We moved here to Maine in 2007. We’ve been in the same house the entire time, though if you’ve followed along with the blog, you know we’ve renovated extensively. We’ve been here almost 13 years now, and we love it.

So if you add it all up, I’ve only lived longer than three years in Maine, the Lindon apartment, and my Pennsylvania house. Let’s set the threshold of “I’ve lived in a place” at 2 months. How many different places have you lived? Anyone got me beat?

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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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