The Long Winter Trilogy Review

The Long Winter trilogy penned by A.G. Riddle is an intriguing and engrossing story that touches on all the biggies in Science Fiction. There is action and adventure as well as romance while set against the backdrop of the impending demise of the human species. So, apropos for a COVID world. The pacing in each novel is good. There are good action scenes which wrap up at just the right moment to keep the adrenaline flowing. There are great scenes of mystery and wonder which tickle the imagination but bring it back down to reality before you forget what you were reading. There is also just enough tension and introspection between the main characters Emma and James to make them likable.

The essential gist is that the sun is slowly dimming which is causing havoc on Earth. The main characters, and a supporting cast, have to figure out why. Going any further than that would spoil the rest of the story from about the middle of the first book onward. There are some good twists in the story which line up for a pretty good ending. The book is lite on subplots so the main story is easy to follow. I would have liked to have some additional POVs beyond just Emma and James though both characters were separated enough to generate good variety in the plot.

My only two criticisms are specific to James’s thought process and a chunk of the last book. I found James’s ability to answer all the questions in the first book to be a little too convenient. However, this is addressed in the other two books to some extent. This makes James more human and relatable. This is also poses an interesting question in the series about certain decisions made by characters unseen. As for the “chunk of the last book”, let’s just say that most of the questions were answered. And they were answered well. But I think the story could have gotten there in half the amount of words.

That being said, the ending left me feeling good. It also really drives home the importance of not losing out human connections with one another. I recommend this book if you like Sci-Fi action/adventure novels that have a good blend of action and cerebral questions that make your head explode.

4.5/5 stars.

And now, a haiku. This might contain spoilers so read at your own risk!

Sun slowly fading
Earth becoming iceball
Just one of many

Blood Vessel: Nazis and Fairytales

Blood Vessel is an entertaining film filled with tension, Nazis and a lot of red lights.

Cool movie poster. And a decent enough movie.

Spoilers galore below!

The film starts out with a group of people stranded in a life raft. Their hospital boat was torpedoed by a Nazi ship (or maybe a submarine; I didn’t read the opening text on the screen). Suddenly, out of the mist, a Nazi minesweeper appears before them. The group is made up of three yanks, an Aussie, two Brits and a Russian. Cue up poor joke.

As the group approaches the boat, they notice that no one is on board. Through some gunslinging, the Russian is able to shoot a cable that the group uses to get on board. Naturally, one of their group doesn’t make it. The yank captain falls into the water and is sliced and diced by the propellers. A typical way to go in these films.

Upon boarding the deserted ship, the group begins to explore. They soon stumble upon several deformed and grotesque bodies on the boat’s bridge and engine room. It is almost certainly the crew though that is not explicitly stated. Realizing that something is definitely wrong, they decide to do the most logical thing they can: explore the ship some more. Although, to be fair, all the lifeboats on the ship have been sabotaged.

A few more minutes into their exploration they are startled by seeing a small girl crawl out from a dark niche down a hallway. Upon finding her again they confirm that she is not German (at this point she’s either Italian, Romanian, or Bulgarian according to the characters), they continue their exploration. Also, the girl, whose name is Mya, bites one of the Brits hands. And all Mya seems to say is something like “familia”.

As they get down to the next level, they run into a survivor – a German no less! After they convince the German that the group won’t kill him he begins to let his guard down. He then sees Mya and falls her “the beast” though not in an Alyssa Edwards sort of way. A scuffle ensues and the German guy shoots one of the other yanks before being stabbed by the Russian.

We’ve now lost 2 yanks at this point. Remaining: 1 yank, 2 Brits, an Aussie, the Russian, and the Italian/Bulgarian/Romanian girl.

Continuing with the exploration, the group splits up. One of the Brits decides to do his own thing, the remaining yank and Aussie do some more research and the remaining group are in the infirmary treating an injury from the earlier scuffle. Btw, the girl, Mya, looks at the blood in a hungry way. Probably foreshadowing. We also learn a little more about the Russian as backstory filler happens. Same with the Brit as well. We soon find out that the Nazis had a map of Transylvania, an ancient tome with a skull on the cover and several photos of men in front of an ornate looking coffin. I think we know what is about to happen in earnest.

The Aussie and the yank then find said coffin in the cargo hold. Of course, the yank decides to unchain the coffin and open it. Leading us to see what looks like a pretty hideous bat creature thing just laying in the coffin. Of course, the thing’s eyes open immediately and the creature (known as The Patriarch, thanks to the subtitles) rips out a good chunk of the yank’s neck. We’ve now lost all the Americans onboard. The Patriarch – or, let’s call him the Bat Dude – then attempts to attack the Aussie but he gets away. At the same time, we see Mya, back in the infirmary, go into a trance like state and attack the Brit lady. It seems that Mya and Bat Dude are connected since she attacked after Bat Dude woke up.

I’m fairly certain this is how I must look when I first wake up after a dead sleep…get it?

As Mya is about to turn the Brit lady into a midnight snack, the Russian shoots Mya who scurries away. We then switch to the other Brit who is on the radio trying to contact the outside world. In the background of the shots, we see Mya slowly crawling towards the Brit. As the Brit is yaking away with someone on the radio, Mya goes in for the kill. This is of course after the Brit decides to sell out his country to the Germans. We’ve now lost one of the Brits. We are down to The Russian, the Brit lady and the Aussie. Plus two undead creatures.

After watching a brief video, the remaining survivors realize what they are dealing with. Through the old tome mentioned earlier, the Russian figures out this creature comes from old Eastern European fairytales. We also learn that the only way to kill these fairytales is to use holy relics. And of course, there happens to be a box down in the cargo hold. Convenient as always. While this happening, Bat Dude finds another coffin and decides to wake up his long lost love. We now have three humans and three undead things. The odds are getting worse for the humans.

We find out that the Brit lady, who was bitten by Mya earlier in the movie, has been infected and is starting to change. Again, more foreshadowing. The group captures Mya in a small compartment. But Mya, having another trick up her sleeve, tries to confuse the group by being a small human child. But, unswayed, the humans burn Mya alive. Bat Dude, being engraved by Mya’s death, begins to exert his control over the Brit lady. She tries to fight it but she succumbs to Bat Dude’s whiles. It is then assumed that Brit lady dies when Bat Dude and Bat Dudette decide to dine on her neck.

We are now down to Aussie and Russian and Bat Dude & Dudette.

Russian gets bit by bat dude but is able to escape after shooting him with a flare gun. Aussie man gets tricked by Bat Dudette and almost looses his face. Russian then shoots Dudette with a machine gun and throws an axe to the Aussie who the proceeds to decapitate Bat Dudette. Now Bat Dude is really, really pissed off. The guys realize that they have to destroy the boat to prevent Bat Dude from escaping. This is further compounded by the fact that they hear another boat in the distance – presumably the Germans heard on the radio from earlier.

The film ends with the Aussie and Russian fighting more of the undead (who happened to be locked away in another compartment that they didn’t see until the end) as they attempt to reach the ship’s explosive armaments. The Russian stays behind to set off the explosives as he has been bitten and realizes that he is starting to transform. Russian blows up the ship and Aussie – who finds Brit lady at the last minute, both jump into the water as the ship is destroyed.

As Aussie and Brit lady are saved, she bites him. We slowly fade to black with the Aussie guy sinking to his death while Brit lady – now probably Bat Dudette 2 is the sole survivor.

The adjoins and action were pretty good. I’d give it a solid 3.5 out of 5.

Continuing to find mindfullness

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you are all doing as well as you can be during these trying times. It’s hard to believe that we are in August already! This year is still marching ahead even while all of our lives still feel stuck in neutral. That’s just how life works, right? And not just “life” but the universe as well. Earth is rotating on its axis and is continuing its ever-wandering journey around the sun. The seasons are changing. The universe is not static. And our lives aren’t, either. Unless we choose to live that way. Dwelling on the past or worrying over the future are helpful in small doses; that’s how we learn and invest in ourselves. But, ideating on it, or worse, living in a “static” state is not healthy nor helpful…especially in this day and age.

By “static” state I am referring to the reality that we create in our minds. For the past, it could be a harkening to the “good old days” when things just seemed better or at least less complicated. For the future, it could be worrying about something that has yet to pass when you have no control over it. I frequently find myself here. I worry about things as silly as meetings and think about how they could derail or how someone may not show up who needs to be there. I can ideate on it so much that I get stuck in a loop where I spiral down into despair because I think of negative outcomes which then feed negative thoughts which lead to even more negative outcomes. The worst times are when that feedback loop begins to turn onto myself and I start using the negative thoughts as a reflection of myself as a person. That’s tough. And it’s very toxic. All you can do is live in the moment and learn from it.

When I am able to apply this, it helps immensely because “this too shall pass”. And I think that is part of what living in the moment really means. Knowing that both the good – and the bad – are fleeting. Life and the universe march on. And luckily, for most of us, it continues to march onwards and upwards. This is what gives me hope for today.


2020. What does that word…or number…mean to you? For me, it conjures up images of hospitals and nurses. Long lines at supermarkets and testing sites. Protests and violence. It also elicits several emotions for me. Anger. Fear. Disgust. Hope. That last one is always a welcome change of pace.

I go through this pattern with my emotions where I cycle between negative and positive emotions just like the rest of us. But with the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that is still in effect here, it feels like that cycle has broken, at least for now. There is so much anger and fear that I deal with and hope is fleeting. But, perhaps the hope is there; it’s just harder to get to. I have to make a conscious effort to reach it. To make sure it doesn’t escape out of my grasp. And so, here is why I have hope.

I am down 20lbs from my highest weight, ever. I say this as a point of pride and as a point of reflection. I am proud of the results for several reasons. The first and most prominent is that I am seeing a change in my body that is positive. I see more definition and less softness. I don’t look as bloated and my clothes are starting to fit me in a way that I feel flattered. That gives me hope.

Second, I have more energy and feel better. My back and my feet don’t ache when I walk unless I put a lot more effort in compared to where I was when I started. I think I am sleeping better. Because of this, I am continually motivated to eat healthier and limit my portions. I also only snack on fruit now and have essentially cut out all refined sugars from my diet. That gives me hope.

Third, I am seeing results from hard work. Most of my life was spent in pursuit of wanting fast or even instantaneous results. After two weeks, I would lose motivation and give up. I’m realizing that this is a marathon and you need to pace yourself. It’s ok to indulge on occasion. The key is to realize it is an indulgence and not something to have every day. Because of this cognitive shift in perception, I am changing for the better. And I can do it. That gives me hope.

I suppose the moral of this story is that you realize the type of person you are during the worst of times. And I’m realizing that I am a pretty cool guy who wants to make himself a better human.

Wanderlust in the age of COVID

My fave locals part 1

Wanderlust – it’s a delicious word. A thirst, or desire to wander. For those who love to travel it conjures up a yearning sensation to be someplace other than where you currently are. This is more poignant than ever while on Earth in the year 2020. With COVID continuing to ravage not just the US but large swaths of the world, it feels like travel as we know it is over. In fact, this polar shift from cheap and accessible travel with low risk to today has created a new term: revenge travel. I’ve linked to a good article in The Washington Post on it if you want to learn more. It’s an interesting concept and certainly one that I can see myself emphatically agreeing to join in on after a few glasses of wine.

But before the wine has a chance to kick in, I am going to talk about my favorite places. And the place that consistently takes my top spot is Greece.

I was fortunate enough to visit Greece for the first time while living in the United Kingdom for work in 2014. It’s a quick jump across the Channel and over the continent taking approximately 4 hours to get to. So, in the same time you can fly from San Francisco to Chicago, you can go from London to Greece (well, Athens specifically). Pretty cool, huh? Since that first trip, I have been blessed enough to be able to visit Greece 3 times. 2020 would have made it 4 but I’ll plan something grand for my revenge travel in the Hellenistic Region.

Greece, to me, is magical. It’s the combination of history, geography, climate, people and culture that make it a place steeped in tradition but one that welcomes outsiders to experience it. Yes, yes, the country is extremely dependent on tourists to run, but there is a warmness and welcoming attitude that Greeks have which make the country extremely accessible. But enough generalizations. For my first spotlight, I am going to focus on the island of Ios.


The island of Ios, which is part of Greece’s Cyclades Islands, lies in Aegean Sea almost smack dab between the islands of Paros and Santorini. The island, like everything else in Greece, has a rich history that dates back thousands upon thousands of years. There is some evidence that the name Ios derives from the Ionian tribe; one of the four major tribes that made up the ancient Greek world. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that Ionian columns come from this island but I have no claim to back this up…hmm…the wine is starting to kick in.

While you may not have heard of Ios (everyone just assumes Santorini when they think “Greek islands”), I can guarantee you that every university student in Europe has. While the neighboring island of Mykonos may have been the original hotbed of young beach life in Greece in the 1960s and 1970s, progressive development and a good dose of bougie homosexual glitter have lead to young people to flock to cheaper pastures. And they find it on Ios. Between late May into early September, young folks flock to the island like a gaggle of Canadian Geese. They do the traditional things like party all night and sleep on the beach all day. But they can also experience less orthodox things like partaking in the Slammer Hammer. Yes, there is a bar inventively names “Slammer Bar” where you can wear a helmet and get smacked on the head with a hammer. If you look this up in Google Images you’ll see several other objects being used. FUN!

But I digress….

When I visited Ios, it was at the end of the season. I was there at the end of September after all the Geese had decided to reverse migrate back north to their dreary dorms. Most of the bars including “Slammer Bar” had closed for the season. But I was by no means alone! On this trip I was accompanied by my partner and one of my best friends. We spent four wonderful and stormy days on the island.

We arrived, as one does in this part of the world, via ferry. The air was thick with smoke from the diesel engines…the paper plates had — luckily — never been used. Our ferry was not The Ship of Dreams… and thank god for that because whoever would dream something like that up should be committed. The ferry docked in the main port, in fact I think it was the only port and we were able to find a taxi to take us to our hotel: Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel.

The view of the valley and ocean from Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel from the hotel pool

We got to Levantes in the mid afternoon and were immediately taken with the property. Nestled on the edge of a hill, we were greeted with expansive views of a valley dotted with small white farms and houses. The valley gently slopes down to the right to touch the Aegean Sea at Mylopotas Beach. The hotel is exactly what you would expect in a boutique hotel catering to international clientele. It’s modern and clean while all the while wrapped in a rustic chic charm that works really well. Our room was gorgeous and elicited a sense of tranquility which is exactly what we were looking for. The sun sets on us while we have a drink at the pool and we are treated to a gorgeous view.

Don’t mind that I didn’t get the ocean in this pic. Just look at the pretty sunset.

After watching the sunset, we decided to go down the hill to get some dinner. We came across a restaurant – Salt – which became a staple for us during lunch and dinner while we were there. The food was incredible but the service and the views were even more magical. After several bottles of wine, appetizers, entrees and desserts, we were ready to quit our jobs and move there. That happens to us a lot so that will become a common thread in these posts. We make it back to the hotel at some point and are greeted to this incredible image. Little did we know that this would be the most peaceful night of our time on the island.

A peaceful evening before we got whacked by a Medicane the next day…

The next day the weather progressively got worse. The wind picked up to insane speeds and clouds kept flying over the mountains of the valley. We spent the rest of our time trying to stay warm on the beach and keep the sand out of our eyes. During our second evening, we were just hanging out in the hotel’s common area and we saw on the TV that a hurricane was passing the island! Well, this wasn’t a hurricane. It was a Medicane. Yes, a Medicane. It is literally a portmanteau of Mediterranean and Hurricane. And Ios got smacked by winds, rain and clouds as the storm passed close by us. I had no idea that the Mediterranean could produce hurricanes but as an American, I am going to give myself a pass on this. It’s a miracle that I don’t think of Europe as a country.

This image doesn’t do it justice. But the wind was crazy and we didn’t see the sun for two days during the storm.

If you have any questions on Ios or the Cyclades islands, let me know! I cannot wait to get back there at some point. The wine has moved in so it’s probably a good time to end. You all take care of yourselves. Stay safe and healthy my friends!

Wine of the evening: Pichetti Granache.

Spring has sprung!

Currently drinking: G&T (Hendricks)

So it’s another Tuesday! If you’ve read my previous posts you would know that I can’t stand Tuesdays. I find them difficult in the best of times to get through. As we continue with the shelter-in-place order, I have been really trying to take stalk of all the the things that I am grateful for. I am, frankly, grateful to be alive during this time. The weather has started to turn (finally!) and it’s now in the 70s outside with not a cloud in the sky. It brings me joy when we can have the windows open and smell the fresh air coming into our apartment. Somewhere in our neighborhood we have jasmine growing. For me, it’s one of the best smells that I have ever experienced.

This won’t be a super long post. I just wanted to check in to wish you all the best and I hope you are staying healthy, happy and sane during this time!

Day 23

Well, it’s the end of the day here on Thursday, 9 April. It’s been 23 days since the shelter-in-place order was issued for our area. Sometimes, at night, it doesn’t feel like we are living in the middle of a pandemic. We can hear the freeway from our window, planes are arriving and taking off from the airport nearby. People are in their apartments watching TV. Perhaps there are more lights on in our complex, but, it feels normal. Then the day hits, and it’s the same routine. Wake up, brew the coffee, take a shower, turn on the work laptop and then work. And even after writing this down, it sounds pretty normal. But then I have moments at random throughout the day where I am reminded that this is not normal.

10:23am – a meeting has ended early and I get up to go to the bathroom. I am able to stand on my balcony for a few minutes and savor the cleaner air.

12:45pm – I am able to lay in bed and read a book for a short time after lunch and in between meetings.

4:00pm – I clock out, crack open the gin or the wine and my work day is pretty much over.

These are all things that I would not normally be able to do. I am savoring these little spaces of quietness. I know people throw themselves into their work partially to escape and partially because it gives them meaning. Not me. I am increasingly becoming tired of the work that I am doing. It lacks meaning for me and I am increasingly realizing that my heart is no longer in it. And, rather than be depressed or upset or even angry, I am finding myself more determined than ever to make a change. I know that when this is over, or at least in a state where some semblance of normal returns, that I am going to quit. I am going to spend a few months finding what it is that I really want to do. Maybe focus on writing and mentoring. The bottom line is that I am tired of working for other people and trying to meet their expectations when mine are not being met.

I suspect a lot of us are feeling this way due to COVID-19. The world may not fully reset from this pandemic, but there is nothing stoping me from resetting on my life and myself. I feel hopeful. And that’s a nice feeling when its so easy to feel helpless in the world.

By the way, as I get into the swing of writing on this blog, I will actually get better at posting coherent and musing-like posts. If you have read this far, cheers! Stay safe and stay healthy.

Tuesdays are the “Worst”

Tuesday. What comes to your mind when you think of the word Tuesday? For me, there is a plethora of meaning. Of course there is the simple, it’s the second day of the work week (for people in the US). I sometimes associate tacos with Tuesdays; who hasn’t heard of Taco Tuesday? It also is one step closer to the coveted Friday and the weekend. But it also has other meaning for me. Tuesdays are usually the hardest days for me. Whether it’s work related or anything else.

I remember when Mondays were the days working folks “dreaded” as it was the first day back to work. Commutes and school drop-offs make traffic snarl and its a rude awakening to have to wake up earlier and get out of bed into the routine. But over time, it feels like Mondays have almost become a shadow-extension of Sunday. Shadow in that you’re still working and commuting and dropping the kids off at school but it feels like the universe is still waking up. It doesn’t know for sure what to make of itself. Almost like it’s holding its breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Have you noticed that?

Maybe the universe is still in shock that the weekend is over?

Maybe the universe is trying to plan the rest of the week and didn’t want to bother on a Sunday night?

What if Mondays don’t actually exist and Sundays are just double days?

Maybe I should stop talking about the universe in these terms as 1) it has no concept of human time and 2) it’s subjective who who and where you are in the world. This is the last time I write while drinking a G&T…on a Tuesday…at 4:34pm…in 2020…on April 7th.

But I digress. I have noticed that people whether they be family, friends or colleagues at work, are much more alert and less laid back on Tuesdays than they are on Monday. It’s like the week REALLY begins then. People become more harried and stressed as if they are only remembering that they are supposed to be doing something and that they have deadlines. And of course, those deadlines always seem to happen on a Friday afternoon at 4:30pm. Regardless, Tuesdays just generally suck. I am on a project where everyone meets for 90 minutes from 9am to 10:30am. And it’s painful. Not enough people are taking ownership of their own work, nor are enough people stepping up to the plate to stretch themselves. To make matters worse, we lack coherent structure and goals which make it even harder to execute successfully.

I don’t blame my leadership, or at least, I don’t place all the blame on them. This is partially because I happen to be a “leader” now; it’s implied in my title. I am observing some very interesting things about leadership and team dynamic. Mainly, how do you motivate people? How do you keep them focused on multiple things and help load balance them. Now that I am one step closer to the “top”, I am certainly more aware of the vulnerabilities and pitfalls of trying to navigate this path. It’s a fascinating thing to see. I don’t yet know what I have learned nor have a perspective on how to address this. I operate very much in an observation mode and then attempt to jump in and mitigate once I understand the flow and dynamic of a team.

Right, another tangent, but one that I felt was important. I was also going to talk about day UNKNOWN VALUE of COVID-19 but I think I’ll save that for a post later in the week. It’s been a stressful time and this is the moment of truth for the US in terms of our response to the virus. This deserves its own post and I need some more time to come to terms with some things that have happened to people that I know and love.

Until then, stay safe and healthy!

Finding the light

So it’s day I Have Lost Count of the shelter-in-place for us. I think we are just coming up to the half way point for week 3. Surreal, bizarre and unprecedented are all words that I have used over the last few weeks to describe the scenes near where I live and what is going on in the world. But, another word is starting to enter into my lexicon; eerie. As if the word itself isn’t strange enough. It perfectly sums up exactly what I experienced today. I went out with my partner to pick up groceries and for the first time, our supermarket had the monitored queue out front. I was struck by a few things:

  1. The parking lot of this particular grocery store was surprisingly empty for its location and for the time of day. The previous times that we have been at this store it was much more crowded. And that was the case even after the shelter-in-place order was announced.
  2. The line was orderly and people seemed to be pretty good about following the directions (I noticed this inside the store as well). In fact, two people left the line because they had reusable bags and were told that they couldn’t bring those inside the store. The people in back of both of them kept their places in line. I was actually touched by that. It showed me that there is still a sense of common decency still left even if it was small.
  3. The line moved surprisingly fast. There were probably 10 to 15 people in front of us which doesn’t seem that many. But, when you factor in that it was a supermarket (where you never have to wait to get in) and that we were maintaining at least 6 feet between us and the next shopper, the line seemed large. I don’t think we were waiting for more than 10 minutes outside before we were allowed in.
  4. The interior of the store was very orderly and well maintained. There were these red placards on the floor down the outer lanes and at the bakery and deli counters that people were supposed to stand at to maintain 6 foot distances; I thought that was pretty neat.

So, this is all positive. So why did I feel uncomfortable (eerie)? This is the second time that the COVID-19 crisis hit close to home for me. The first time was when we were alerted that someone in our building complex had tested positive. Since then, we’ve had no additional information from our building management. Today, seeing the people in line and everyone wearing gloves and masks struck me. Things are not normal. And it’s not like I didn’t know that or wasn’t already experiencing that. But, today, it just felt different. Seeing the lines outside of a place where I’m used to being able to walk in and out as often as I want was jarring. This is the new normal. And it might be this way for the next few weeks or the next year. And maybe it just struck me today. The culmination of all the stress from the last few weeks hit a new tipping point for me. Stress is cumulative after all. It’s not like your counter resets to 0 at 12:00am every day.

But, I want to talk about some things that are not all doom and gloom. We’ve had some absolutely gorgeous weather the last few days. It’s been in the mid to upper 60s and we’ve had picture perfect blue sky with only some passing clouds on occasion. That has helped my mood majorly in the last few days. I spend time out on our balcony and I love it. We are on the top floor and west facing so we get a good amount of afternoon sun. In the summer it can be a little extreme. Luckily we have a very good air conditioner when that happens! But during the winter, early spring and late fall periods, it’s great. It’s usually 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding air temperature. I find the sun very therapeutic and I know that there is research that indicates that as well.

Some other good things is that my partner, Chris and I, have never been closer. We both have pretty long commutes to our jobs and my Saturdays are usually fairly busy so we only really spend about 3 hours together each day of the week (barring sleeping) and most/all of the day on Sunday. So, when this shelter-in-place began, I was a little nervous that we would go stir crazy in our 1 bedroom apartment. But, the reality of it couldn’t be further from that. We have gotten into a really good routine. We have the places that we stakeout during the day for work and spend lunch together. It’s actually been wonderful. It also makes me incredibly grateful that I have someone during this time. If I was living by myself and was isolated, I don’t think I would be doing well. His work ethic is also great and I am finding inspiration from him to work harder as I am working from home.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that we are spending a lot more time cooking and grilling at home. That’s probably unsurprising given what is going on. But, we would frequently order take out/delivery or go out especially on the weekends. Aside from one meal a week – usually Friday nights – for “date night”, we cook. I feel pretty good about this, but, I also feel a little bad. Right now, a ton of restaurants are open doing take out and delivery orders during this crisis. Given how hard it is to make ends meet where we live, I do feel some responsibility to support these places. But, at the same time, I know that by severely limiting contact to only essential activities, we are doing our part to stop the spread of this virus. And that outweighs anything else, easily. The other thing that I wanted to add about the cooking was the cleaning. I am normally responsible for cleaning the dishes and the kitchen. And I hated it. I hated it because after work and dinner (with wine of course!) the last thing I wanted to do was clean dishes. My evenings were already truncated by my commute. But now that I don’t have a commute, I don’t mind cleaning at all. Having time back is a great feeling.

So, all in all, things could be worse. The world is in a precarious spot. But, I am doing what I can to help my community by not spreading the virus. I am spending more time writing, cooking, reading and spending time with the man I love. So, this crisis has taught me that it is ok to focus on the things that really matter. And isn’t that what we are all striving to understand?

A glimmer

So it’s now Day 9 of the Shelter-in-Place order. Compared to yesterday, I am feeling better though still unsettled. Whether it be work or my personal life, things just don’t seem normal. I am being bombarded with inane text messages and posts from family. Pictures of Trump or of dinner and other random things. I know they are trying to lighten the mood and that they are dealing with this in their own way. But, sometimes you just need to wall yourself off from all that.

I do happen to find it annoying when my phone and watch constantly ping. You look down and you have 30 messages in the span of 5 minutes. And yes, while you can change the notification and alert settings, there’s something deeper. Deeper than just the superficial annoyance of being reminded of the plastic and glass device on your wrist or in your pocket. There’s a deep sense of still not feeling ok. Since this whole virus has swept through the world and shut it down, I am finding myself increasingly detached from the world. This is the case for most of us. We are all practicing social distancing and to an extent isolation. And as we have each become an island, we are left to think. And this gets into the heart of something that I have struggled with my entire life. Depression.

Depression eats at you. It sucks away your will to do anything. It makes you into a shell of the person. An exterior that, if chiseled or shattered would reveal an abyss. The core of you is so distant that it feels like an echo… or a memory of what you once were. It’s a nefarious and pervasive invader in your life. You try to hide it as best you can. You force a smile or feign interest in a conversation or try to look at things of beauty. But, you feel as a fraudster does. Knowing that you can lie to others but you can’t lie to yourself. It’s the mental equivalent of skin cancer. You can hide it under layers, but it slowly eats you away. You feel it in your mind. It gnaws at you. Your brain feels like someone is slowly stretching it out, twisting it into perverse shapes, and then stretching it out further. And like hate, it’s smart. It knows the best time to strike. When you are alone and feeling helpless.

And that’s how I feel now. Helpless and alone. I don’t even have the opportunity to go out and be with family and friends in person because of the Shelther-in-Place order. I want to be clear, I am not complaining about what is going on. We all need to do our parts to stop this virus in its tracks. And while I can rest somewhat easily knowing that. And that gives me some strength. Sometimes, when I am in a depressive state, a small glimmer of hope is all I need to start getting back on track. The abyss becomes a pit, with a bottom. And I find myself present again with my mind and body in my surroundings. Sometimes it comes from the anticipation of something huge – a holiday or a vacation. And other times, it can be a simple “Thank you” and a smile from a stranger. That’s one of the other tricky things about depression. But, I think I’ve given it enough time.

Today, the sun came out. After several days of cold, dreary and wet weather, we have clear skies. I can even see a sliver of moon hovering over a building from my window. The air is cleaner than I have seen it in a long time. We can certainly “thank” COVID-19 for that. The sound of traffic both in the air and from the nearby freeway is a little less. There is a breeze and the air is brisk. And while the world still feels like it’s holding its breath, I can find peace in this moment. I will see another day. And perhaps, the glimmer of today will become a reality for tomorrow. It’s certainly worth sticking around for.

The view from our balcony taken this afternoon after the sun broke through the clouds. It’s not much, but it’s ours.