A Walk in the Park

Today was a walk in the park. After weeks of isolation, we finally broke free. Amanda and I took Baby Boy to the park for the first time. It was energizing to feel the warmth of the sunshine. Likewise, feeling the breeze blowing was so refreshing.

Baby Boy has been a part of our lives now for four months. On that cold, December day when he came to us he weighed just under six pounds. Today he is nearly seventeen pounds. It has been a joy to watch him discover new things. He has become so much more aware of the world around him. Fortunately, he is such a happy baby. His smile lights up a room. He makes me laugh on a daily basis.

With each new day comes an equally new sound from his mouth. I think he has even thrown a “mama” or two in there at times. However, Amanda is not convinced that is what he is truly saying. Baby Boy and I know better though. I have been working on other words with him, but he mostly just looks at me and giggles, which is perfectly fine with me. His laugh is infectious.

Today at the park Baby Boy put his bare feet in the grass for the first time. I feel so fortunate that Amanda and I get to experience these “firsts” in this precious child’s life. It is fun to see him become more curious about the things he sees and hears. He loves silly noises and seems to enjoy music, especially when we sing to him.

It is a privilege to be able to help shape this young life with which we have been entrusted. Both Amanda and I were blessed to have good parenting while we were growing and maturing. The lessons we learned as children will be invaluable as we guide Baby Boy through more “firsts” in his life.

I know not every day will be “a walk in the park,” as today was. However, life is so much more full with Baby Boy. I am curious to see what twists and turns lie ahead. The world is full of uncertainty, however, the three of us are enjoying doing life together.

Suggestions Please…

I must admit, I have not been out of my house much since March. It not so much fear of getting ill. I just have been working from home, and have not had much of a reason to go out. While I have been in my self-imposed exile, I have done some blogging. I have also enjoyed listening to podcasts, watching Netflix, and doing some reading.

When it comes to reading, I generally enjoy historical works, biographies, and some fiction. The other night I started reading American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He was a theoretical physicist who was known as “the father of the atomic bomb.” So far I have enjoyed reading this book. I love that it blends biography and history all into one. Plus, I enjoy reading anything related to World War II, as this is one of my favorite periods in history.

I also enjoy reading about the Vietnam War, and about the music and culture of the 1960’s. I think I have read every book there is about Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles. However, I know there is more out there I haven’t read.

Also, as noted above, I enjoy podcasts. My favorites are those having to do with history, true crime, and comedy. Some podcasts I enjoy are “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” “The Conspirators,” “Ridiculous History,” and “American Scandal.” At this point, you might be asking, “Why is he telling all of this?” That is where you come in actually.

I’d enjoy it if you sent me some suggestions on books you think I might enjoy, or some podcasts you think are good. Leave me a Facebook comment if you are reading this from my page. You can also send me a comment through my blog page. I am curious to see what you all are reading and listening to these days. You might help me discover some hidden gem I never knew was out there.

Gimme Some Truth

Something that has bothered me for quite some time now is the term “fake news.” This is not a term coined by President Trump, as some might think. It goes all the way back to the late 19th century. The writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” We are now repeating the events that occurred over 100 years ago.

In the late 1890’s those in the newspaper business were interested in only one thing, selling newspapers. In particular, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were in a cutthroat competition to see who could snag the most readers. To do this they would resort to what was called “yellow journalism.” Today we would call this “fake news.”

Pulitzer and Hearst were out to grab the attention of their readers. To do this, they would often print articles sensationalizing even the most mundane news of the day. Their only goal was to line their already deep pockets and to further build their media empires. Neither man cared who they hurt in the process, or how many lies were spread. Does this sound familiar yet?

Just this morning I was looking for news on Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, who by some accounts has died. Then again he might just be vacationing in a resort town in North Korea, as his train has supposedly been spotted there. Better yet, he might be there for medical treatment. All of these “theories” were gleaned from just one particular article. No concrete evidence was ever presented. However, that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The only thing that matters is that “we reported it first!” This is precisely the problem.

In the scramble for a news agency to be first to report something, they think it is okay to rely on “hearsay.” This is no more reliable than the old game known as “Telephone,” which many of us played as schoolchildren. In this game one person starts by whispering a message in one person’s ear, that person then tries to whisper the exact same message to the next person, and so on. By the time the message gets to the last person it rarely reflects the original one. So it is with today’s news coverage.

Often things are taken out of context, which is meant to make someone look foolish. Facts are not checked, all because it is a race to see who can get the “word” out first. Liewise, things are reported that are simply not true. These “facts” are then spread all over social media and people take it as “gospel.” Moreover, depending on what outlet you are listening to, you are getting their “spin” on the news.

One particular network may promote a more conservative agenda, while another has a more liberal slant. It is shameful that we live in a world where facts are subjective depending upon your political point of view.

The great American author and humorist Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Apparently, journalists today are taking Twain’s advice and running with it. This leads us with very few, if any, reliable sources to trust. That is why it is important to be discerning and to seek out various sources, instead of just relying on one in partucular.

It is frustrating to me that during these times of uncertainty across the world, that we are often left with more questions than answers. In the words of John Lennon, “All I want is the truth, just give me some truth.”

8-Track Flashback

One of the fondest memories that I have of my dad is riding around in his truck with him and my brothers. He had an 8-track player in his truck. It was through that 8-track player that I was introduced to much of the music that I still love today. My dad’s taste in music varied. He enjoyed everything from Motown to the Beatles to Southern Gospel.

As I write this I am listening to an old gospel song called, “Is That the Old Ship of Zion,” performed by the Southern Gospel group called the Kingsmen Quartet. When I hear this song I can’t help but think of my dad, as it was one of his favorites. So it is with many of the songs that I have in my iTunes library. For instance, I cannot help but think of those rides in my dad’s truck when I hear a song by Hall and Oates or Foreigner, as those were in heavy rotation during those trips.

It is because of my dad that I have a fondness for Motown as well. I love The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and The Supremes. This music is timeless to me. It is some of the music that I have started to introduce Baby Boy to after we read at night. I can tell he enjoys music already.

As a student of history, I have always had a desire to go deeper and examine how things began. It is this curiosity that led me to explore the origins of the music I heard on those rides in my dad’s truck. Ultimately, that journey led me to discover the blues. There I found musicians like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King. It was the music created by these men that gave rise to much of the music that I discovered as a teenager. This is the music that I still love today.

Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, all were influenced by the blues. Music is still something that lifts my spirits, and helps me to escape the troubles of the day. One cannot help but feel better after listening to a song like “If I Fell” by the Beatles. In my opinion no group ever harmonized better than the Beatles. Plus, no other duo could write a song quite like Lennon and McCartney.

I thank my dad for instilling a love of music within me. I hope to pass that same love on to Baby Boy. I will be curious to see where it takes him. He might just introduce me to some new things. One thing is certain, I’ll never forget that 8-track player and the music it introduced me to all those years ago.

Roll The Credits!

What movie is this in which I am starring? Where are the cameras? When is the director going to yell, “cut!”? These are questions I ask myself on an almost daily basis now. It feels like life has become the script of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. I am just waiting for the plot twist. I hope I don’t wake up some day and find out we are all being held hostage as part of some psychological experiment conducted by the CIA. Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory?

When you work from home it seems as if every day is the same. It definitely feels very similar to the film “Groundhog Day.” The one where Bill Murray wakes up each day only to relive the same day over and over again. That has become my life. It is often difficult to distinguish one day from the next. Did I clean out the litter box on Monday, or was it Wednesday?

I think the cats are beginning to wonder if I am going to be a permanent fixture at home. They often come into my “office” and look at me as if to say, “you’re still here?” Then they return to chasing each other around the house, or climb up in a sunny windowsill and fall asleep.

The one benefit of staying in is that I don’t have to pick out my clothes each day. The only choice is what Cubs t-shirt to wear. I have one for just about every day of the week. However, if anyone in the Cubs organization is reading this, I could always use a few more.

Despite my desire for more Cubs paraphernalia, life is pretty good. However, I am ready for the director of this bizarre film in which I am starring to yell “cut!” I’d like to be able to watch some baseball. I’d also enjoy going into a restaurant to have a meal, or go into a store where no one is wearing a mask.

Until the end credits roll, Amanda, Baby Boy, and I will be all right. We have a nice routine. Baby Boy comes home from daycare, he has a bottle, a diaper change, and some cuddles. Amanda and I will then have dinner. We’ll watch TV and then it is usually time to read and sing to Baby Boy. Reading and singing at night is something we all enjoy. It is the one part of this movie that I could watch over and over again. It is his smile that makes it all worthwhile.

COVID-2002

I find scrolling through Facebook amusing at times. Despite the current state of affairs in the world today, there are posts that I read that truly make me laugh out loud. For example, I came across the the picture below and found it humorous. However, it also got me thinking just how different things would be if we were living without the technology that we have today.

In 2002, I had been out of college for just two years. I was volunteering as a reading tutor through the AmeriCorps Program, which is a domestic version of the Peace Corps. Instead of serving overseas, participants volunteer within their own communities, such as working in schools.

While serving in the AmeriCorps Program, I was living at my mother’s house. Much like the picture above, I had a Nokia cell phone and was limited to dial-up Internet. I can remember dialing in late at night and chatting with friends online. There was that audible dialing of the number to connect to your local Internet service provider, then if you were lucky enough to establish a connection you’d here a long, high-pitched squeal that seemed to drone on forever.

Usually, you could go fix yourself a sandwich, grab a Coke, and by the time you got back the squaling would be gone and you’d be connected to the Internet through your 56K modem. Then it was on to Yahoo to search any number of random topics. In those days, I was most likely looking up information on Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, or any other of my guitar heroes. Because, as you see, I had taught myself some basic HTML programming and I had created my own website that was hosted by a service called Geocities.

Geocities was a web-community that had various “neighborhoods” where you could create a website with a particular theme. My “neighborhood” was in the music section of “town,” as my website was called “Strat Cats.” It was all about my favorite guitar players who were known for playing a Fender Stratocaster. Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and Buddy Guy were just a few of the featured musicians on my site. Each guitarist had their own section, complete with biographies, discographies, and current news.

I can remember staying up for hours researching the lives of these men. I needed to stay current on all of the latest news about each of them so that I could keep the visitors to my website informed. It was enjoyable learning about these people, who were legendary figures to me. Yes, I was a nerd and proud of it! I had a website, which did get noticed by some on various message boards. However, I was living at my mom’s house and when it got too late she’d yell at me to go to bed.

Fast forward now to 2020. Many of us are working from home using high-speed Internet that puts a world of information at our fingertips in a split second. This could not have been done in 2002. Likewise, I am typing this story that you are now reading using just my iPhone, while laying in bed.

I can do most things online from just my smartphone, whether it be paying bills, ordering takeout from a favorite restaurant, or just perusing Facebook when I am bored. Honestly, I cannot imagine life without this access to information.

I am thankful for the technology of 2020. It has kept me employed. However, it is often a hindrance to one’s peace of mind. It can be difficult to shut out the negativity that is so pervasive across much of social media, news sites, and other types of digital content.

I am still a nerd. I love to look up facts about things that interest me. It is also fun to be able to connect with others through Facebook, Zoom, and through various online games, such as Wordfeud. I have met some wonderful people online over the years. Some that I consider dear friends today.

Without the power to digitally connect with others, the world would be much different today. Amanda and I are able to stay connected with our church through Zoom. Likewise, there is FaceTime to see family and friends in far away places. It will be odd to spend Easter at home this year, while participating in a church service online. However, until we can all meet again face to face, this is the best we can do.

I don’t long for the days of dial-up Internet. However, our current situation has made me realize how much I take for granted. Just today I was at the grocery store. I was one of the few without a face mask. There were signs all over the floor reminding customers to “stay at least six feet apart” from one another. Many of the shelves were empty of items that are typically never out of stock.

Perhaps it would be simpler to go back to the days where I was still living at home. I might even go to bed if my mom yelled at me to do so. Now, I have a baby that just yells at me to get up and feed him. But doggone it I can stream any movie I want to watch day or night. I can even watch TV in the bathroom. That is a lifelong dream that has been realized thanks to the iPad.

I am signing off now, I need to go check if “Strat Cats” still exists somewhere out there in cyberspace. If it does it is going to need some updates.

Brought To My Knees

I have been brought to my knees. I mean this in both a physical sense and in a spiritual sense. Nearly three weeks ago my back went out. As someone who has spina bifida, this can present some serious issues. I have been unable to walk normally, as the pain in my back has radiated down my right leg. This has caused my knee to frequently give out when I attempt to walk. Fortunately, after a round of muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, and rest my body is finally starting to heal.

The day after my back went out I was told I’d be working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was really kind of a relief, as I haven’t been able to drive myself anywhere due to the numbness and pain in my right leg. I have always crawled around my house when I am home, as that is how I get around the quickest when I am not wearing my leg braces. Therefore, crawling to my workspace each day has helped me to avoid missing work days. Why drive when you can crawl?

As this pain has brought me to my knees in a physical sense, it has also brought me to my knees spiritually as well. Very few of us living today have ever experienced anything such as the “shelter-in-place” orders that various nations, cities, and villages have enacted throughout the past several weeks. It is difficult to stay positive when the world appears so chaotic. For instance, I was just reading a report from an epidemiologist from Yale University. This particular scientist believes there will be far more illness and deaths in the weeks to come.

Just weeks ago, life looked very different for all of us. Families were making their plans for spring break, birthday parties had been planned, and schools were preparing to head into their last few months of the year. Then all of these things just stopped. The world just stopped. We all have started to look at life in new ways. I am no different.

I have always been quite an introspective person. I tend to look at the lessons that can be learned through my experiences. I firmly believe God has been teaching me that I need to step back and analyze certain aspects of my life. He is working to change some habits of mine that are unhealthy. I am praying that in the next few weeks I will learn to listen when God speaks to me. Now more than ever I feel the need to stay on my knees.

I am thankful that God’s promises are true. I have failed Him many times. However, God has never failed me. Likewise, I feel fortunate that He has used this time to bring me to my knees. Why drive when you can crawl?

Observations From the Inside

Tomorrow will be two weeks that I have been working from home. In that time I have made some observations. First, my dream of working from home is not as fantastic as I thought it would be. I’ve always been an introvert, so I thought being home alone all day would be great! However, it can be dreadfully boring. I think the only thing that has saved my sanity is the ability to listen to podcasts while I am working.

Another thing I have noticed is that we have some needy cats! Our cat Dot insists on being held at least 4 times a day. It doesn’t matter if I am on the phone, or typing away at the keyboard. When Dot wants to be held, you will hold her, no questions asked!

Our other cat who we have not really ever named anything other than Cat likes to walk around the house meowing. However, she doesn’t like to be held. Although, she does love a good belly rub. She will also just stop on occasion and stare deep into my soul, as you can see below.

Last week as I began to work from home I thought, “yes now I don’t have to shave!” That only lasted through Saturday when I could no longer stand the whiskers itching my face. Now I am down to one shave a week, which helps me feel normal.

As week two of my seclusion ends and I look to begin week three, I might start putting on real pants. Wearing sweatpants all of the time is lulling me into a false sense of security. I feel like I am not gaining any weight, but I am sure if I put some work pants on, I’d be in for a rude awakening. Maybe I’ll be surprised. I’ll keep you posted.

It is strange when work and home life collide. Until now, I have always been able to leave work at work. However, that is no longer possible. I guess it is nice that I have been able to cut my commute time from 8 minutes, to nearly 2 minutes. That allows for a little bit more sleep, which is always a bonus.

I am beginning to wonder when this exile will come to an end. I’m guessing that it will be at least another month. By then I might not want to go back to the office. I’m wondering if the cats will grow tired of me at some point. I guess only time will tell.

Today I went outside for the first time in a few days. It is beginning to feel like spring. Hopefully, with the life that is beginning to awaken outdoors, it will give us all a fresh perspective. To quote a line from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I am glad life has slowed down a bit, it has helped me to see things in new ways. I am greatful for that opportunity.

Dot and Cat posing for their “Glamour Shot”

Baby Magic

I must admit the last few weeks have been very difficult for me. As I have mentioned previously, I struggle at times with depression and anxiety. These feelings have been amplified by the events that are occurring throughout the world today. It is difficult to stay positive when the lives of many are crumbling on a daily basis.

It is during these trials that I try to remember the positive things in life. My wife Amanda and I are incredibly fortunate. We are both still working full time. In addition we have a warm home where we are able to seek refuge from the outside world. Moreover, all of our family, both near and far, are healthy. Finally, we have the joy of raising a baby boy, who brings happiness into our lives.

Another thing that I try to do when life seems to overwhelm is look back on memories of happier times. One of the things that triggers memories the most for me is my sense of smell. Fragrances are things that often cause me to recall events in my life. One scent that brings back such good memories is Baby Magic. For those who might be unfamiliar with this product, Baby Magic is a liquid soap for babies. However, I have used it many times for sponge baths while hospitalized.

Amanda and I use Baby Magic to bathe Baby Boy. Each bathtime is filled with memories. For instance, my mind often wanders to times spent at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Once I was hospitalized there for a case of osteomyelitis, which is an infection in the bone tissue. I was in the hospital for six weeks, however, I have fond memories of that time. All I need to do is open the bottle of Baby Magic and I am transported back to that time. I was just a young boy who had no responsibilities. Plus, I was surrounded by a group of wonderful nurses, who were at my beck and call.

I don’t know when this global pandemic that we are currently experiencing will end. I am guessing that we have a long way to go before we see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you are like me and the events of the day have you feeling anxious, just hold on, there are better days to come. Try to hold on to the good that is in your life. You might have to dig deep, but it is there. Take time every day to think of the things for which you are thankful.

This day will end with Amanda and I reading to Baby Boy before he goes to sleep for the night. His hair will smell of Baby Magic and my mind will be absorbing the experience of seeing life through his eyes. His smiles and his cooing will be just what I need to remember that life is good, despite the circumstances.

Gimme Shelter

I have not left my house in 5 days. I started working from home on Monday, which has been sort of a surreal experience. Getting up and getting ready for work when you don’t have to leave the house is actually more difficult. It feels like there is less motivation to get out of bed knowing that the office is just down the stairs. I can say it is an experience that I have not enjoyed all that much.

It is more difficult to get things done, as I cannot print documents at home due to the nature of my work. Having to look up information and then minimize windows on the computer to go back and forth from one screen to the other is tedious. I am working with dual monitors. However, it still slows things down when you have to drag something from one monitor to the other.

I always kind of dreamed about working from home, but now it just seems to be more of a nightmare. Despite these rather minor inconveniences, I feel quite fortunate to still be employed. It seems as if the world is becoming more chaotic by the day. It is nice to know that I have a shelter from the storm.

I am thankful to have a home where I am able to work. Likewise, I feel fortunate that my family has remained healthy through this time. It has actually been a blessing in disguise that I have been able to be home, as my back has been bothering me for over a week now. Working from home gives me the flexibility to move around and get into a position to where the pain is not so bad.

I don’t know when I’ll actually emerge from my hermit-like state. Perhaps it will be this weekend. Maybe it will not be for another few weeks. We are stocked up on food and other supplies. It has been nice that the pace of life has slowed a little. There is definitely more time to spend with family.

The silence here was almost deafening today. That is one of the greatest gifts that this situation has bestowed upon the world. Things around us seem to be more quiet. That makes it easier to focus on the spiritual aspects of life. Plus, it is just nice to be able to step away from daily routines.

If you are stuck at home send me a message and let me know what kinds of things you are doing to pass the time. I know that I have readers from other countries. If you live outside the United States let me know what life is like where you are. I’d really like to hear what you all have to say.