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 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.

Yoga Kicked My Ass

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One of the many benefits that my employer offers is free twice-weekly yoga classes. Over Christmas break I decided that, after almost three years on the job, I would start to take these classes.

Once we returned to work after our break, I made a trip down to Ross and bought the last yoga mat they had to reinforce my commitment – a whole $15 for that mat – to taking these classes.

Last night was the first class. Last night was also my last class.

To put it simply, it kicked my ass. I mean, really. And it’s when you take a yoga class that you realize you’re not in the shape that you thought you were.

Granted I had never taken any classes outside of what’s offered on Wii Fit and some other fitness game I have on Xbox, so there was some familiarity with it but not a full understanding.

She says this to everyone

And from those games I knew the poses everybody knows: warrior, downward-facing dog, and the chair pose. But also, I would do these in the privacy of the den with nobody around and I got used to it, even if I sucked at it.

Taking yoga with people is a different thing entirely. For one, breathing plays a big part in yoga if not the main part. When you’re with a class of people in a small, quiet room listening to new age music and meditation bowls bonging, no matter how hard you’re trying to concentrate on your own breathing, you hear everyone else gasping for air and your focus – well, mine at least – gets lost. And for what it’s worth, I liked it better doing it alone.

Then there’s the flexibility issue. In a word, I’m not. I can easily walk/jog (75/25 I’d estimate) a half-marathon distance, go for a day of hiking without much water or ride 25 miles on the bike at any given time because I’ve conditioned my body and strengthened it for doing those things. Yoga isn’t any of those so it would take some getting used to and even so, I doubt I’d gain the flexibility of others.

The after effects of yoga didn’t sit well with me either. Years ago, Ann got me a massage for my birthday and while it was indeed relaxing, the release of the toxins messed me up by way of a headache and severe sinus issues that lasted for days. Last night I came home to the same symptoms plus I looked like I was hit by a Mack truck. Thankfully all these symptoms went away by morning.

On the plus side: I slept so good but parts of my body are still sore today.

Finally, the class ran really long. I guess for free this shouldn’t be a legitimate complaint but when I’m off at 6 pm and don’t end up getting home until 8 pm, it not only makes for a long day in general but it also bites into a big chunk of family time. And with things being the way they are lately, I don’t need to be around them less.

So I came, I tried, and I didn’t like. I’ll keep my gym membership and not try not to think about that $15 investment not being the best one I’ve made recently.

Unless the cats decide it would make a good bed.

Of Mice and Mental States

I’m not the one to keep resolutions because frankly, I never make them. My motto is “Commit, don’t resolve” because to me a resolution sounds like a one-time deal that, once accomplished, holds no promise for the future. You did it and it’s over. Boom.

Whereas a commitment means you’re in it for the long haul. And when I make up my mind to do something, I commit myself to it.

Photo Jan 13, 9 44 24 PM

The nifty little notebook you see here has become my companion over the last year. I’ve been taking it to Ann’s doctor appointments, Anthony’s high school orientation, and using it to jot down notes whenever I needed to. And in December, I started to compile a list of things I was planning on doing in 2019. The whole new year, new me thing looked like a really good idea.

And it was going fine – until shit hit the fan. Now working on that list is the last thing on my mind. But for shits and giggles, let’s see what it said and how realistic these goals were in the first place or if I plan to pick them up again.

1. Health: weight loss, Buddhism, meditation. From the start of the year up until this weekend, I had lost 3.6 pounds. Then the weekend came and as I stressed out about the baby-daddy bullshit in Texas, I pretty much ate my way through it with only one day at the gym, and it wasn’t even a long day there. I haven’t picked up any books, digital or otherwise, on Buddhism and haven’t meditated. Just not in the right state of mind although I could probably use both. I am, however, going to start taking advantage of the office’s free, twice-weekly yoga classes this week. After being there three years I might as well give it a shot.

2. Following through: getting caught up on bills, cleaning. This is one area that we could definitely use some help with and we have all but one bill under control. Much like sports teams, this is a “rebuilding year” for us and we don’t plan bringing home the hardware; we just want to make it to the finish line in better shape than the start and be ready for the following season after learning from our mistakes. For lack of a better term, you could call this “adulting.” As for cleaning? It’s happened in small bunches.

3. Reading in general. No, no, no. I’m not quite sure who got a hold of my notebook and wrote this one in there because if there’s one thing I simply cannot do for an extended period of time, it’s read. I usually fall asleep when I do and considering I’m stuck in front of a monitor all day proofreading fine print and whatnot, reading on my own free time is the last thing I want to do for fun.

4. Less Facebook. I seem to say this one quite a bit and it almost never works out. My goal was to post less and use it only as a resource for news and other things of interest I follow. Even then it’s a rabbit hole. It’s still a possibility – I can keep to myself rather well, unlike others who feel the urge to post every. single. thing that they do, no matter how mundane or stupid.

5. Learn Spanish. Yet another thing I have tried to accomplish in the past but like reading, bores me to tears. I end up putting the tablet down and having nightmares about the Duolingo owl pecking my eyes out. Granted my comprehension of Spanish is limited to reading and listening and I’m pretty good at both. But speaking? Ay, dios mío.

6. Creativity: writing, drawing, etc. I’ve actually taken action on this one and bought myself a new sketch pad and ink pens. Whether it continues is anybody’s guess.

Again, I had planned on doing all of these things before that fucking letter arrived. Having to go through this bullshit has not been fun for either my wallet, my family or my mental health, and all I’ve been wanting to do at night is put on my earbuds, listen to white noise and fall asleep. Despite the fact that this case is obviously does not involve me directly, I hate having to deal with it and just want it to all go away hopefully without having to spend any more money on my attorney.

I mean, how would you feel? This isn’t a parking ticket; this is some serious shit. I’m pissed, annoyed, and defeated. And while I know it will be worked out in the end, I won’t be truly happy or satisfied until it is.

But until that happens, I just want to find a hole to hide in and not be bothered.

(Note that I really am annoyed with all this. Therefore, language here might be on the blue side until matters are finally worked out but until then, buckle up. Sorry about that.)