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.

It’s Another Update on Crap

Every December 1st I’m reminded that my annual domain mapping fee has been processed. It’s not a lot but it’s a reminder nonetheless and since I still pay for that and the domain, I feel obligated to give the people – all 5 3 of them – what they want.

But before we go too far, let’s talk about what I’m apparently not giving. I had ratings on my posts for the longest time and it seems that there are some pinheads out there who take great pride in ticking one-star ratings on a lot of them.

Look, this is free entertainment for you. And as I already stated, it costs me a few bucks to keep things going (in addition to setting time aside to blog). So starting with this post, ratings will be off because, frankly, I want them to be. All you sourpusses need to go to find someone else to belittle or, better yet, prove you are better at this. Yes, blogs are a dying medium but if you’ve been at it a long time, there’s still a sense of pride in getting your thoughts onto virtual paper for the entire world to see – and I do.

Anyway, let’s cover some things that have happened since my last post.

We Were In An Accident. I didn’t go into great detail on any social media platforms (save for a brief mention on Instagram stories) and for good reason: it really wasn’t a big deal. In a nutshell, we were going to dinner and as my light turned green and I pulled into the intersection, a guy ran his red light and hit the front of Ann’s car on the driver’s side. If I were going and faster the impact would have been on the door and I probably would have gotten a bit banged-up. But he wasn’t going fast and he admitted guilt, and we had two witnesses stop and give us their phone numbers. Anthony had the wind knocked out of him for a bit but was fine, and Ann and I had a few days of soreness.

The damage:

Photo Oct 24, 2 21 18 PM

It’s not extensive and the car is still drive-able so we’re waiting until after the holidays to get it fixed. Now here’s a few thoughts about the accident.

  • Remember in the old days when it was recommended that you carry a disposable camera in your car in case of an accident? It’s hard to imagine such days existed now that there are cameras everywhere, and you don’t realize how far we’ve come until you upload all your evidence to a Dropbox folder and send the link to your insurance agent. That’s exactly what I did.
  • They say California drivers are the worst. Well, in the case of my two accidents (scooter and car), I was hit by drivers who were not from California and both were at fault. In fact, the most recent one was in a rental car and didn’t pack his license for his trip out here (which makes me wonder how he got a rental car or why he was driving in general). So let’s lay that assumption to rest, mmmmkay?

Ann’s Recovery Continues to Baffle Everyone. Throughout the course of Ann’s journey with kidney cancer, we’ve visited our share of –ologists: nephrologist (kidney specialist), oncologist (cancer), and urologist (urinary tract and related organs). There might even be more. And with each visit, she continues to leave them speechless with the progress she’s making.

Just over a year after her nephrectomy, her most recent bloodwork shows that everything is where it should be, if not better. There are also no indications – referred to as NED or No Evidence of Disease – of any cancer anywhere. Whatever –ologist they are, we are grateful for all of them for saving Ann’s life. We’ve been handling this the best way we know how: staying positive and refusing to let it consume our lives. I believe that the mind can do some incredible things and there’s no doubt that a positive attitude – and a little spark inside both of us – made all the difference. We’re also grateful for those who helped us along the way with words of encouragement and, yes, prayer. I don’t partake in it myself but as my mom told me, “I wish I could do more but that’s about all I can give you guys.”

Thanks, Mom. I get it.

And would you believe Ann actually lost friends over this? Granted, she didn’t expect comments from all of her Facebook friends on her recovery updates since we don’t know how often they use the platform. But those that we know well enough to give our phone number and do use it a lot? Those same ones never left one comment or an encouraging word throughout her recovery. Not even a call or a text. Strangely, they were the ones who liked to complain the most over the tiniest, most mundane aspect of their dull, dull lives and blow it so egregiously out of proportion so it was like Ann got cancer to steal their thunder. They are the type to expect sympathy over a hangnail. So fuck them, she cut them loose and if they were mutual, I did the same. We haven’t heard from any of them since and we’re better off.

We Had to Replace or Fix Lots of Things. This hasn’t been our year apparently. In addition to the accident, here’s a list of things that were in cahoots with each other and all went out within month over the year:

  • Refrigerator/freezer
  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Batteries on all three vehicles (both cars and my motorcycle)
  • Living room TV
  • Brake pads on my car (replaced by me, saving over $200)

I think there’s more but that’s all I can remember at the moment. But it’s enough. All have been replaced or fixed except for the motorcycle battery since I don’t ride it anymore.

The Texas Crap Has Been Resolved. You may recall that shortly after Ann’s surgery, I had a process server come to my door wanting to serve me with papers for a child support case. You read the details here. Long story short, a few months ago my attorney sent me an email from the person handling the case stating that they had the wrong person and I was off the hook. Attached was a “notice of nonsuit” with the reason being “mistaken identity.” That’s finally taken care of but what a stressful thing to handle while you have more important things going on in your life.

Speaking of Texas, I Was Right About the Astros. I say this not as a bitter Dodger fan but as a baseball fan who just felt that things weren’t right with the way this Astros team suddenly became the reincarnation of the 1990s Atlanta Braves.

“Those fuckers are cheating,” I said after the 2018 playoffs even though they lost.  “No other way around it. No team gets that good, that fast.” And now with every story that emerges about the scandal, it seems I was right.

Whew, was that enough? I think so. Maybe the next post will actually stick to a single topic.

Let’s just hope my computer doesn’t sUdd3nly DecIddddddddee to br…

What’s Happening!!!

Hey hey hey! I’m still alive, as this post clearly indicates. I just thought I’d give you an update on things and what I’ve been up to.

Learning Japanese. It takes about an hour for the bus to arrive at the office, and I literally catch it across the street from home and stops about 500 steps from work. Why I didn’t think of this before is beyond me.

At any rate, I tried a number of things to pass the time while commuting with the masses: music, podcasts, etc. Then I figured that if I’ve got time to kill, I might as well make it productive so I started using the Lingodeer app to reintroduce myself to Japanese. It’s just the beginning; there are a number of different apps I’ve used in the past but I seem to retain more with this one. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve Been Sick. Rather than blast constant updates all over Facebook, I’d much rather do it here and go into more detail and fucking cuss if I need to. Basicallly, I was having a hard time swallowing as well as a few other things. A trip to the doctor last Thursday confirmed I had tonsilitis — yes, I still have my tonsils — and I was prescribed a medication called Cefdinir. It’s a pretty strong antibiotic that I had never taken before.

And I had an awful reaction to it. After a nap on Saturday afternoon, I woke up covered in a rash around my neck. (Sorry, no pictures — I’m not my brother who once posted pictures of his heat rash on Instagram. Ew.) Later that evening, the rash had spread to my arms and torso. It was ugly so I stopped taking the medication and broke out the calamine lotion.

The rash was only part of it. Conjuctivitis is another as well as…let’s just say I’ve needed to hydrate a lot. I had all of it.

The doctor has since prescribed me a new antiboitic and so far the breakouts have been minimal and I’m feeling better. I’m never sick and the one time I am I take medicine that makes me worse, but I guess none of us are allergic to any medications until we take them and see what happens.

I’ve Been Drawing on my iPad. Each family member has their own laptop. I don’t, so when we were thinking about buying a PC for home, it only made sense for me to get an iPad so that I can do whatever (like, for example, blogging as I’m doing now). But it’s gone beyond that — I’ve since bought an Apple Pencil in order to broaden my horizons, and here’s the first thing I drew.

It’s not the best and there are a ton of things I can tell you are wrong with it but it was an experiment to see how it would go. So not too bad methinks.

I’m Considering Leaving Instagram. The Powers That Be have determined that all of my accounts have been violating their terms and have shadowbanned all of them. One of them is even blocked on my phone. My only guess is that since I do use the same hashtags on a lot of posts, Instagram thinks I’m spamming. So after nearly 5,000 posts, they think I’m spamming. Thanks, assholes.

Here’s how such a ban works:

  • Users are not told they are banned; they will suddenly see a drop in likes and followers
  • Hashtags are blocked so your account is essentially private (only your followers can see your posts)

Because of this, it’s no longer fun and pretty pointless to keep going. I’ll keep the accounts open in the hopes that the ban is lifted but I’m not very optimistic about it. I will resurrect my photo blog Digital Resolution and start posting there, where I’m the boss and can pretty much say what I need to.

And now you’re caught up. I’ll try to be better about posting here 🙂

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.

Part IV: In Vain

The fourth part of an ongoing series

A few notes before I start this post. I know it’s been a few months since I wrote anything so my apologies for that but things are finally starting to wind down for us and getting back to normal. I just haven’t had the drive to write lately and honestly, have been tired in the evening – the time I normally blog.

Second, this post will deal with the topic of religion and the role its played in my life, so the language may be a little too much to handle for some. But understand where I’m coming from and what we were going through. Thanks.

Going back to work after hearing word of the official diagnosis was tough, but I had to do it.

As I walked to my desk, a coworker asked how Ann was doing. I just looked at her and shook my head, then continued to my desk where I grabbed a tissue and wiped away tears that had started to form. The coworker stood there for a second then slowly walked away as if she regretted asking.

But sadness was just one of the emotions I was feeling at the time. I was also extremely upset and angry about how life was taking a really strange twist for us. Regardless of what I was feeling, I had to get myself back into work mode and take care of business.

Gina, whom I sit next to, showed up at her normal time and asked how everything was going. The two of us are close – she’s the person in the last story of this blog post and I find it easy to talk to her about almost anything. Although I had been giving her updates via text/Messenger, I still felt the need to talk to her about everything that was going on so we went outside and sat on the patio to chat.

And it was a good, therapeutic talk. She told me that her mom had the same procedure done years ago with the cancer was completely removed and after all her follow-up tests, she is still cancer-free. It then turned into a big, fat philosophical discussion that lead to personal beliefs which we share.

Basically, we’re spiritualists. We believe that doing good and being good do not require the shackles of religion and that any act of kindness can’t automatically be attributed to God or whatever. Goodness is ingrained in people. We do good things. No bible required.

Even so, I was having a difficult time with this.

“You know, sometimes it’s okay to believe in something bigger, whatever that might be. If that’s what helps pull you through then I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” she said.

I hadn’t prayed in years. I left the Catholic church as an adult when I realized their teachings no longer aligned with the person I was becoming, so I wasn’t sure that her way of thinking would be right for me.

In any case, I thanked her for the time and gave her a big hug to show her my appreciation, then we went back to our desks and started working.

After the long day at the office was done and the kid was in bed for the night, I sat at my desk with a candle burning and got lost in some old pictures. I don’t know why I did this.

All of my photos are organized in folders by date and, if necessary, the event or place we visited. I have thousands of images saved on an external hard drive and DVD backup and could be here all night looking at them.

I guess that might have been my intention – and my mistake.

I kept opening folders. My eyes started to well up as I recalled all of the little things he did when he was an infant, his giggle, everything. And then I got to this picture from 2005 and it was all over.

02-18-05 kodak 020

I don’t know what it was about it; it could have been the first picture I came across with Ann and Anthony together. I stared at it for a minute and started to really cry.

My wife, the one I’m supposed to grow old with, the one I promised to give my life to, the mother to my only child, was lying in the living room asleep on the couch – and had cancer growing inside of her.

The world suddenly got smaller as I thought about Dad and how young he was when he had passed away and how unfair it was to everyone in my family. I thought about his funeral and the seven short years we had together. What kind of cruel creator would subject people to this kind of nonsense?

Crying turned to loud sobbing as I stared at that picture for even longer, my mind racing a mile a minute.

“I don’t know what I’d do without her. Why her? What the hell has she done?”

Thoughts turned into words as I looked to the sky and spoke up.

“SHE HAS NEVER HURT ANYONE IN HER LIFE AND DOES NOT DESERVE THIS. What, taking my dad at a young age wasn’t enough for you? Now you see it fit to give my own wife cancer? With all the evil in the world, this is your plan for her? She’s a mother, goddamnit! Can’t you see that? I mean, FUCK. Can you be more cruel?”

Everything was piling up on me. My heart was pounding and I had reached my breaking point. Finally I got up out of my chair and with both hands, flipped off the heavens and raised my voice.

“FUCK YOU, GOD! JUST…FUCK YOU! YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE! AND FUCK YOUR PLAN.”

I sat back down and laid my head on the desk, crying uncontrollably. I had no regrets over what I had just said because I meant every single word.

And what little faith I had in God or a god was officially gone.