The Days of Wine and COVID, Part II: Working from Home

As stated in my previous post, this is the first time I’ve ever worked from home save for that time I thought being a freelance proofreader would be the way to go (I ended up doing one project).

As such, there was much to get used to – like, everything. And being my wife is also working from home and starts at an earlier time than me, I’ve kept my alarms set to 6 am so that she can get up and start her day an hour before I start mine.

But after about a week I had my schedule in place and it goes something like this.

6 am: Alarm goes off on iPhone. Hit Snooze for the next few rounds.

6:30 am: Ann gets up and prepares for her workday in the kitchen where her home office is set up. I roll around in bed a few more times before deciding to get my running clothes together.

6:45 am: Laced up and ready to go. My daily goal is 5 miles which has become easier by the day. I get home in about 1.5 hours, 1.25 of which are moving (I take a few breaks along the way).

7:00 am: Out the door I go.

And before you ask, yes, social distancing is in order. In my city, outdoor exercising is one of the few things you can actually do that does not require wearing a mask. I take full advantage of this because, frankly, running with one really, really sucks. (And ladies, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have facial hair, put your mask on – just pretend you have a hole for eating and speaking – and imagine wearing it all the time. Yeah. Really. That’s why I no longer have a goatee because it’s freaking hot and I don’t care to constantly maintain the goddamned thing. Plus, gray hairs. And ew, facial hair.)

Here’s a small section of where I run (about 1 mile in length).

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There is a dirt path next to the San Gabriel River bike trail but with all the foot traffic, maintaining social distancing is next to impossible. I’ve been running on the right side of the picture because there was never anyone over there – then some figured it out and traffic has increased. So now I run alongside the river to avoid people, COVID-19 or not. And on the way here, I run in the street if there are people on the sidewalk.

8:10–8:20 am: I return home with just enough time to take a shower and have breakfast. During this time before I start, I also charge up the case for my new – they are about a month old – JLab Air Icon earbuds so that I have juice for the day in case I need it. (Not a paid endorsement; for a mere $59 they have held up to my daily workout abuse and get me through most of the day on a single charge. Plus Apple earbuds don’t fit my ears and have abysmal battery life, and Beats are overpriced and uncomfortable.)

Wearing running shorts, a t-shirt, flip-flops and no hair gel I make my way to my home office in the den. I light a candle and turn on the computer.

9 am: Work until 6 pm.

The reason I started doing this daily cardio was because I was eating way too much and at the start my WFH tenure, things were still kind of sketchy with this COVID-19 thing, meaning there was a time when it was nearly demanded that we stay indoors for a week in order to reduce the chance of spreading it. So I did Wii Fit “workouts” until we were cleared to exercise outdoors once again. They were goofy and fun but being indoors all the time really sucks.

Now that I’ve been doing this I’m down 7 pounds, eating better, gaining muscle and losing fat. Not bad.

WFH definitely has advantages. For one, I’m not driving much if at all anymore, as if I did to begin with since I was taking the bus to the office. Now whenever I open the door to my car, I have to yank on it a bit because it’s practically sealed shut and air-tight like a sarcophagus. I think I may have put gas in it twice since mid-March – we alternate cars every week when we do have to drive – and that’s okay by me. I don’t even know how much gas costs anymore.

Not dealing with traffic or a long bus ride to the office are great. While working at the office, by the time I walked home from the bus stop it would be around 7:20 pm. Now I just turn off my computer and walk from the den to the living room to get “home” at 6 pm. Plus I can have dinner and lunch with the family instead of dining solo long after their meals have been consumed. It’s a win-win.

But it’s still working. Messaging apps and conference calls have become the norm for my daily work life, respectively replacing phone calls and daily meetings. And being we’ve had some layoffs and restructuring, there have been plenty of conference calls.

For now, this is how it will be. My company is getting things in order for our potential return to the office, which will be based on local government recommendations (we won’t talk about the federal government’s plans or, more precisely, lack thereof). It has been stressed that by no means will anyone be required to return to the office if they do not wish to do so, and I’m kind of leaning in that direction.

And that’s the only thing that has me torn.

The office is in a great location. I’ve spent many a lunch hour walking or riding my bike around town and on the beach, taking pictures of interesting things. There’s so many cool buildings, fun events, and interesting people in the area. It spawns my creativity. In that respect, I miss being there.

But since we’re still under safer-at-home orders (indefinitely it seems), there’s almost no point in going back. Many businesses are still closed and several restaurants have shuttered permanently. All major events that I enjoyed attending were cancelled this year and who’s to say if they will happen next year. In fact, I’m holding off on registering for this year’s half marathon since everything is still up in the air – there goes my 10-year streak of participating. And since people like me are working from home, there’s no downtown vibe.

So I don’t know what I’ll return to downtown if I decide to go back. If working from home has proven anything, it’s that my job can be successfully done from a darkened den with a candle burning for ambiance instead of a fluorescent bulb-illuminated office where I’m tied to a desk all day.

There’s a certain freedom being home.

And I really like that.

Next episode: The Days of Wine and COVID, Part III: The Return to the Office

The Days of Wine and COVID, Part I: Black Friday

Back on April 4, I was walking along the side of the house and came across a patch of clovers. Keep in mind I’ve walked past these things many times in the past and never gave them much thought but that day I decided to go looking for a little luck.

And I found it.

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Count ’em. This isn’t a four-leaf clover, no. Look closer and you’ll see that there’s a fifth leaf on the other side. They say that the fifth leaf is supposed to represent money and extra luck. Little did I know that over a week later, I’d really need it.

Up to this point, because of all the coronavirus madness, I had been working from home since the middle of March and we had gotten a few emails from the company President explaining what the next moves were going to be. Nothing too drastic – until one stated that layoffs and furloughs were coming. The only thing I could think of was great, here we go again.

I had been laid off from several jobs in the past and figured this would just be another notch on my résumé. But being we had gotten our stimulus money a week prior, I figured we’d be okay for little bit while unemployment kicked in. We had it all planned and were ready.

And on Friday, April 10, it happened – but not to me. Several people were let go but not entirely because of COVID-19. We lost a big client due to a really stupid business decision on their part so people who were a part of that team were transitioned to other teams while some people on other teams were let go entirely. But some of the blame most definitely falls on COVID-19 as markets around the world try to rebound from this economic crisis.

We lost a person in our department who accepted the company’s offer for a retirement package. While we all thanked him via email and Slack messages, it sucks that we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye in person. I wish him the best in his retirement.

The rest of us are still hanging in there as we continue to plug along in this strange new working world, strange to me at least.

I was never ready for this to happen and hadn’t made room for or given much thought to where my work computer would go. In the end, I put it on my old drawing table in front of my personal computer which, as you probably know, doesn’t get much use these days because it sucks.

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This is my workspace (the calendar on the screen covers up the company name). I’m pretty much crammed in the corner of the den but I’m making it work. And yes, it’s dark and those are the only lights I have on most of the time while I work but I turn on another lamp occasionally in case my eyes start to feel strained.

For now, the stimulus money sits in the bank untouched and although you can’t see it, the five-leaf clover rests under the monitor in a Ziploc bag because it worked for me the first time.

Let’s hope it continues to do the trick.

Next episode: The Days of Wine and COVID, Part II: Working from Home

 

The New Reality

Every night at 9:30, I would hear the distant rumble of Disneyland fireworks. They have been silenced indefinitely.

When I worked in a grocery store years ago, the job was for all intents and purposes unskilled grunt work that few people respected. It’s now considered “essential” and the workers “on the front lines.”

I used to ride the bus to the office. I’m now working from home until further notice as is my wife.

The kid is out of school indefinitely and his 16th birthday will be “celebrated” with only us.

Things have changed. This is the new reality.

As COVID-19 or coronavirus continues to weave its way into every aspect of our lives and until it is contained or a vaccine is discovered, this is how things will be.

Currently for us in California, pretty much everything but what the governor has deemed “essential” is closed. Beaches, their paths, parks, just about anyplace where people would normally congregate. Salons and barbers as well, meaning lots of bad dye jobs and haircuts.

Exercise is still permitted provided you comply with the mandated social distancing norms: 6 feet of space, no contact with others, etc. I’ve been mindful of these on my walks and bike rides and practically decontaminate myself afterward. With two asthmatics in the house, I must be cautious.

Other than that, and the occasional trip to the store, that’s all I do. The family even less.

Being on lockdown, quarantine, whatever you want to call it is indeed boring but a precaution to prevent the spread of the virus. And oh yeah, washing your damn hands.

So how are we holding up?

Eh, it’s rolling with the punches just like everything else with the notable exception of calling our parents more frequently to check on them, even if they are a bike ride away. It’s also given us more time to do things we’ve been putting off like cleaning the backyard or even just being together — even blogging. Kinda makes you appreciate what you have even more.

And I think that’s evident with the number of individuals and families we see every day either walking, running, riding their bikes. People are getting cabin fever and need to get out, and it’s nice to see them smiling despite the gloom being reported daily.

To that end, I think the media should mention recoveries, severity of conditions, and underlying health problems rather than overall case numbers and deaths, which will unfortunately rise. This site puts all of those into perspective. If you didn’t have time to click the link and read it (but I think you do and did), you’ll see that the total number of cases includes active and closed cases. Of the active cases, 95% are considered mild while the closed cases had an 82% recovery rate (numbers accurate as of this post).

I’m by no means saying to ignore the deaths because that would be an awful thing to say, and my heart goes out to all families and friends who have been personally affected by this. But what I am saying is that the media has the power to influence, as was the case with people panic-buying toilet paper for whatever reason when the news of this virus broke.

That’s why I believe it’s just as important to mention recoveries as part of their daily reports as it would offer a glimmer of hope in what’s become an otherwise somber moment in history.

But hey, that’s just me.

Look, we’ve personally been down strange and scary roads before. We’ve looked death in the face with my wife’s kidney cancer diagnosis and handled it the only way we knew how: by not letting it get the best of any of us and strengthening our family ties. Positivity goes a long way when the odds are against you or even when the future is uncertain.

This virus, however, can be avoided for the most part by simply washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and someone who was the disease. That’s it. In fact here’s a video of a conference call that should put your mind at ease.

It will take some time for us to get back to the way things used to be. But until then, we have to be vigilant and keep practicing the things discussed in the video.

So be smart, be vigilant, be well.

And stay home.

Cleaning Up

So here it is, the third day of February, and I’m writing my first blog post of the year. Anyway…

At the end of 2019, I had decided to make some changes once 2020 rolled around and once it did, you bet I started and am continuing to stick with them. So here they are, in no particular order.

I Started Reading. For those who know me really well, they understand why this is a big deal and pretty surprising. Why, you ask? Because my job requires me to read All. Day. Long. and the last thing I want to do when I get home is read some more.

The main reason I did so was because I discovered that there is an iOS app for Google Books where, as an Android user year ago, I amassed a decent collection of e-books. And I started to read some of them but because my Samsung tablet had such poor battery life and awful performance, I stopped. I wiped the tablet clean and tried again and nope, it was still slow. But once I installed the Books app on my iPad and realized how many I had, I thought that it would be a good time to start all over.

I did at the beginning of January with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living and, much to my surprise, finished it yesterday. A whole book. All 300+ pages. That’s something, and I’m not done yet. I’m going to take a break and focus on something else this month and start on my next book in March.

Being Clutter-Free. One of the things mentioned in said book is the removal of clutter from your living space in order to keep your mind focused, and ridding yourself of material goods as a means of sticking to one of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths: attachment is the root of all suffering (and it really is). For me, it went beyond that silly made-for-television “Does it spark joy?” mantra by someone the world has since forgotten about; it was a matter of “When was the last time I used this shit?”

And if I couldn’t remember, it got thrown out. I started in the den by cleaning out the cabinets around my TV where I found so many useless things I had collected over the years. But if they had been in there for this long and not used, away they went. There’s still work to be done but it was a real test to take on this task and see exactly how badly I might be attached to any of this stuff. I got my answer.

This also continued in the garage where we applied the same philosophy. If not for my rarely used drum set in the back, we’d have more space but I keep it because it’s fun to bang on now and then. But wait! There’s even more room in there now because…

I Sold My Motorcycle. I bought a 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 back in February 2016 because, after two years of riding my scooter, I wanted something a little faster and sportier. Here she is, showroom-fresh just before I started the paperwork:

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Was it fun to ride? Yes. Economical? Of course. But once I was in my scooter accident in October 2016, I swore off riding and returned to being a “cager,” a not-so-endearing term that riders use to describe people who drive cars.

So basically the motorcycle sat in the garage from then until this weekend when I sold it to a local dealer. I had tried to sell it there in the past but because I owed so much on it then (the dreaded “negative equity”), they wouldn’t buy it because there was no money to be made. When I got my last statement I decided to research its value and realized it was now worth more than I owed. So I rode it over and pretty much said I want to get rid of it and they made me an offer which I happily accepted because selling a motorcycle privately is a bit more difficult than a car. I didn’t make a lot of money on the deal because it needed some maintenance but I didn’t care. It’s gone, there’s room in the garage, and I’m saving over $150 a month from the payments I no longer have to make, plus insurance I no longer have to pay. I loved riding but with the Big 51 coming in a few weeks, nah, I can’t take anymore chances.

I’m Fasting. I had heard about intermittent fasting as 2019 was wrapping up and decided to give it a try to see the benefits. While you can simply set timers and alarms on your phone to notify you when you need to start and stop your fast, I’m using an app called Zero that keeps track of all of your fasts and lets you add journal entries and emojis to record how you felt each day. There are several fasts you can try or you can personalize your own: mine is currently a nightly fast of 12 hours. It’s by no means easy – I often find myself wanting to snack once I’ve started but that’s something you have to resist along with drinking lots of water. The app has lots of useful tips if you’re just getting started.

Have I felt any different? After the first week, I went for my walk/run and did more running than I had in a long time. The energy was definitely there and I felt great. Then, of course, I got sick with a cold for about a week, took a few days off work and didn’t exercise for a week.

Tip: I would not recommend the Zero Apple Watch app. It will drain your battery since it will be running the entire time of your fast.

So the literal and proverbial cleaning will continue for as long as it takes to get things in order.

Change is hard. But change is also very, very good.

The Peloton Ad: My Take

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. – Wayne Dyer

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the “controversial” Peloton ad which a bunch of strangers using the soapbox that is Twitter have labeled “sexist.”

In case you haven’t, here it is (for as long as they keep in on YouTube).

I’ve read the opinions and articles on this ad. I’ve watched it a few times for the sake of this blog post. The analysis from the court of public opinion has ranged from a husband who bought the bike for his wife because he is obsessed with keeping her in shape to a husband that is abusive toward her.

Yeesh. The vitriol! I’m absolutely amazed by how many people turned out to be relationship experts and knew their status and history after watching a 30-second spot. In fact, the actor who plays the husband recently spoke out and is now worried about how the backlash from every Tom, Dick and Harry may be damaging his career.

Meanwhile, the actress who played the wife got a gig for Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin as a way to poke back at how the Peloton ad was perceived by the Twitterverse (or if you’ve been blogging for 15 years like me, the blogosphere).

At this point, another opinion about this doesn’t really make much of a difference because the consensus is that she’s more or less in a blink-if-you’re-in-danger relationship and she needs to workout – or else.

But I’m going to give you mine anyway. And because the ad has already been chastised and labeled as wrong, I’m going to look beyond the surface and try to put a positive light on it because hey, what else should I be doing on a Saturday night, right?

First, let’s be honest. At a starting price of over $2,000 (not including membership), this is not a cheap gift. Granted, the ad does depict them as affluent and not necessarily concerned about the cost but maybe, just maybe, she actually wanted the bike, hence her surprise.

It sounds silly, I know. But why would she want it? Perhaps she lives in a town where inclement weather is commonplace – the ad does show it snowing in one scene. Or perhaps she tried spin classes and it turns out she’s not a fan of being in a hot, sweaty, trainer-yelling-in-your-face environment. Honestly, I don’t care much for gyms either because the scenery never changes whether you’re on the stationary bike or treadmill. I’d rather be outside breathing fresh air and logging actual miles riding to the beach and back which is possible year-round where I live.

Then there’s the new GritCycle gym that just opened up in a shopping complex down the street from us. The place is so packed that we can hardly find parking if we just want to go for a tea. I wouldn’t want to deal with that, either.

Another criticism of the ad was that she doesn’t look like she needs to lose weight, hence the theory about hubby making her do the workouts. While I was never a fan of fitness ads depicting thin people trying to be thin, it’s not always about what you see on the surface.

Near the end of the spot, where she documents her progress throughout by shooting video selfies, she looks into the camera and says, “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me. Thank you.”

As you may have read in my previous posts, over a year ago my wife was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had a nephrectomy on October 2018. The road to recovery after any surgery, let alone one where they removed two organs and the fat pocket surrounding them, is not an easy one and getting back into the swing of things can prove to be difficult.

One of the things all of her –ologists recommended was being less sedentary once her recovery was complete – and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Last August, we paid for the annual parking pass for our local park so that I can aid in her recovery by either walking or cycling with her around the park or neighboring nature center trails.

To see her now, logging up to 5 miles either on foot or riding the saddle, you would never know that I took a week vacation last year to sleep next to her in a lounge chair while she slept on the couch – her stitches prevented her from climbing in and out of bed – to help her get up and sit down whenever she needed it. She’s now cancer-free and getting her doctor-recommended dose of exercise. Because of everything she’s gone through, she’s also the strongest woman I know. Let’s not even talk about her difficult pregnancy.

Although you would never know by her appearance, perhaps Peloton Wife falls into a similar category and her daily workouts are her way of proving to everyone that she’s not only on the road to recovery but getting stronger by the day – even when she begrudgingly wakes up at 6 am to work out (believe me, my wife and I have been there). Recovery takes strength and determination, both of which are shown in the ad.

And there you have it. I just spent a good amount of time analyzing a commercial that in today’s viral-obsessed world nobody will even care about in a week. But my point was that we don’t always know the backstory nor should we pretend to. This was just a way of, based on my personal experience, shedding a different light on what so many saw as a negative depiction of a relationship.

Because if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.