Category Archives: Uncategorized

Celebrate the checkbox accomplishments

Except for rest days (and long periods of injury recovery), I try to run almost every day. I start out with a goal and feel accomplishment when I hit the goal. And sometimes I’m irritated at myself when I don’t hit it.

The goal this morning was a little more than five miles. After a spring layoff because of injuries, I’ve had to build back up in the heat. And the heat kicks my ass.

It’s been a slow build, a minute more each day. I reached an hour this week. And going into this morning, I’d managed an hour for a few days and allowed a plateau there. So that was the goal. Sixty minutes, a little more than five miles. (I’m not fast.)

About a mile in, it became clear five miles would be a major push. Two miles in, it became clear five miles wasn’t in the cards. By two and a half miles, I was walking. I finished with a little more than three miles, if you include the walking.

I undershot my goal by 40%.

And that’s okay. It was 81 degrees when I started. And because it’s Florida, it was brutally humid. (After yesterday’s run, my shoes were still a little wet early in the afternoon.)

Some days are like that. Some days you have to just check the box, call it a day, and move on.

I could’ve gone outside, felt the nastiness, and decided not to go. I could’ve called it after a mile.

For the record, my legs feel spent; my thighs feel heavy. So maybe it wasn’t the heat and humidity. Maybe my body was saying to ease off a day.

So I did what I needed to do, more than I could’ve done. And I’m satisfied with that. I wasn’t lazy. I’ve still run almost fourteen miles the last three days. By backing off today, tomorrow will go better.

Sometimes less has to be enough. Sometimes you just have to show up and honor the effort. You can kick yourself for it, or you can celebrate your checkbox accomplishment.

The sad, just story of Mary Kay Letourneau

A lot of people suffer severe childhood trauma and don’t wind up having sex with a 12-year-old when they’re 34. Mary Kay Letourneau wasn’t one of them.

When she was 11 years old, she was in the family pool playing with one of her brothers, Jerry, when her three-year-old brother Phillip drowned. Letourneau, then Mary Kay Schmitz, was a rising sixth-grader at the time. Her father, John Schmitz, was away on business. Her mother, Mary, was working on a campaign to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. She was left to look after the kids.

Phillip was wearing his life jacket at the time, but took it off, and stepped into the deep end of the pool. Dr. Julia Moore, a psychiatrist who evaluated Letourneau before she was jailed as a sex offender in 1997, said her brother’s death as a contributing factor in her downfall. Dr. Moore diagnosed her with manic depression.

Mary Kay Letourneau at her trial

Her father started an affair about the same time as Phillip’s drowning, taking up with former student, a German immigrant with whom he had two children. The betrayal of their mother and family hit hard, particularly Mary Kay.

None of these things make up for the damage Latourneau did. Her, uhh, affair with her student, Vili Fualaau, became tabloid fodder when they were discovered in the back of minivan near Seattle in June 1996. She became pregnant a few months later and in 1997, the same year she gave birth to Fualaau’s daughter, she pled guilty of child rape. On a plea deal, she served just three months in prison, released on the condition that she not have contact with her children, Fualaau, or other minors.

By February 1998, she was found again with Fualaau in a car Her husband, Steve Letourneau, who she met as a student at Arizona State University, divorced her in 1999. The plea agreement was revoked and she served seven and a half years in the Washington (State) Corrections Center for Women. While in prison, she gave birth to the second daughter she had with Fualaau.

Mary Kay Letourneau, Vili Fualaau, and their two daughters, both in their 20s now.

In 2004, she was released from prison and by May 2005, she and Fualaau married. They legally separated last year. She died of cancer this week at the age of 58.

Mary Kay Letourneau, for all the romance attached to her crimes more than two decades ago, raped a rising seventh grader. Her crime is exactly the same as a male teacher having sex with a 12-year-old girl. She blew up her family, causing the same pain–and maybe more–for her children that her father caused her.

She was a convicted sexual predator who couldn’t be around children for a long time because of it. All of that is just and appropriate.

At the time, the media didn’t see it that way. They do now, for the most part.

Most people who victimize other people have been victimized themselves. That doesn’t eliminate their responsibility or the cost of their actions.

But if God dispenses grace, as my faith tradition teaches, then there’s hope even for her. And maybe now some of that pain she carried with her is be salved.

The girl who died

Having a dance protest on an Interstate highway at 1:30 in the morning is supremely stupid. Going forward, if you do so in Seattle, you will be cited and arrested. This is as it should be.

As it should’ve been before two people were struck by a speeding white Jaguar early Saturday morning. One of the two people, 24-year-old Summer Taylor, died early Sunday morning. The other, 32-year-old Diaz Love, is hospitalized with major injuries.

Summer Taylor

My daughter isn’t too much older than Summer Taylor. As I look at the picture of her, I can’t help but seeing the person in that picture as I’d see my daughter. Look at the smile, at the face, radiating youth and possibility.

Since Summer Taylor was in Seattle, protesting on an interstate highway at 1:30 am, I expect she’d have clashed with me on politics–angrily sometimes. As my daughter has.

There might be frustration and anger and maybe a little disbelief at the things I believe in and express.

I watched the video of Taylor and Love being hit by the car. It’s not clear that the driver was trying to run people down. Although the Interstate was closed for the protest, the driver. 27-year-old Dawit Kelete, went around the cars that were blocking the road. Once he went around the cars, his path made him hit Taylor and Love.

One of them, presumably Taylor, cartwheeled in the air before landing, something flying away from her onto the pavement as Kelete drove one.

As you’d expect, a phalanx of first-responders descended on the scene.

Imagine for a minute, being part of that protest. There must be a certain amount of forbidden pleasure in dancing on a major interstate highway, deep into the night. A feeling of unity with the people you’re with. Maybe a break from the anger and tension that’s permeated everything.

And then, another reality forces its way forward and it’s as if that experience, so real and pure just minutes earlier, may as well have never existed. And the girl, who seemed to feed the experience with her joy, lies broken on the road.

You can disagree with Summer Taylor and her fellow protesters. You can dismiss CHAZ and CHOP and whatever other names they come up with as vain, self-indulgent exercises of futility. You can shake your head at the stupidity of dancing an Interstate highway in the middle of the night. You can shake your head at the cops–the ones being protested–who allowed it.

But look again at the picture of the woman with the radiant smile. Think of her as your maddening, passionate, periodically arrogant girl you brought up. Then do it again with all the other names we’re told to say on a daily basis, as this plays out.

These are all people, beloved children of the living God. They are, by that definition, our brothers and sisters. They leave behind grieving parents, siblings, and friends.

Maybe that’s where we go wrong. We look at the macro issues. Racism, politics. The election. We don’t look at the people.

Because under all the other feelings, the anger, fear, disbelief, there has to be grief. Whether you agree with them or not, people are dying in this mess. And we’re poorer for their absence.

Proud to be an American

Today, this country’s 244th birthday, won’t be a raucous party celebrating American freedoms and strength. We’re wounded, maybe even staggered, by a three-pronged attack of pandemic, economic uncertainty, and cultural unrest.

The strife caused by this attack plays itself out daily on the news and our social media feeds. Everything’s a battle, a political statement on what this country should be and who it should be for. From wearing masks to racism and policing, to the names of sports teams, everything can be a litmus test on how to be a proper American.

One side sees the things that made this country great from the victory in World War II through today, increasingly eroded by forces they don’t understand. It scares them. If angry mobs can burn down buildings and displace the authorities with impunity, how can anything be safe? If the police are truly abolished, what will keep us from anarchy? The future is full of fear and uncertainty.

How long until someone decided Amerigo Vespucci was an irredeemable racist and the damn name of the country has to go?

The other side wonders why the freedoms that supposedly make us special don’t apply to non-white, non-hetero people. They see a recent history that includes Botham Jean, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, they feel the need to tell their children how to not follow their path, if that’s even possible.

Then they see coverage of police beating, assaulting, or driving into people all over social media. They see white people pulling weapons on blacks and walking away while blacks are killed for far less. Then they see a national history that includes slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow, and a constant fight against even basic freedoms for people of color, gays and lesbians, and people who don’t conform with binary genders.

We have routinely treated our fellow Americans like garbage, from the first day of our existence.

This country, still a young country as these things go, has always had a disconnect between ideals and execution. While our execution has been horrific at times, the ideal has always been exceptional.

Ronald Reagan’s farewell address talked of American as a great city on a hill. A place of liberty, opportunity, and happiness. For all of our flaws and our current struggles, that ideal’s still pure and worth pursuing.

There’s no defense for racism, looting, murder, and all the forms of bullying we’re currently swimming in. There’s no excuse for using our collective insecurities as a lever for political advantage and personal gain. It’s unAmerican to treat people as less than full partners solely because of race, sexuality, religion, or any number of other things that have nothing to do with worthiness.

It hasn’t been easy and we’re certainly not perfect, but over time, we’ve become more inclusive. We’ve become more free.

It took us almost 150 years to allow women to vote. But we changed that. Irish went from needing not to apply to seeing one of their own as President. For all of our racial missteps, we’ve had a black president. And there’s a very good chance we’ll have a woman of color as Vice President within a year.

In my lifetime, we’ve gone from spaghetti being considered ethnic to a true smorgasbord of cultures available within delivery distance.

Although things seem ugly right now and impossibly dark, we’re sorting out some incredible changes at a tremendous pace. This process will end. When it does, we’ll still have scars and blemishes, but we’ll have fewer of them.

Allowing freedom and opportunity for all isn’t easy. We’ve blown it badly. We’ve been slow to the table. But the steps we’ve taken, and continue to take, to form that more perfect union aren’t trivial.

Being a good American means different things to me than it meant to my parents. And it means different things to my kids, too. That’s as it should be.

America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. And it’ll be erased and rebuilt again long after any of us are gone.

These are growing pains for our country. They’re necessary, because as much as some might long for the simpler days of the 50s or the 80s or whatever decade, they weren’t that simple. But with each rebuilding, we move closer to that wonderful city on the hill.

That’s what makes me proud to be an American. And though things aren’t looking good right now, these internal struggles give me hope that our execution will close the gap with our ideals.

Wanting normal isn’t greedy or careless disregard

Yes, there are some who want to re-open so they can have some masked, nameless, worthless peon do their nails for them. Yes, there are some who want to re-open because they’re greedy.

Those are the exception.

This weekend, NASCAR re-opened. They limited the teams’ on-site personnel and raced in front of empty stands. There was no mighty roar from the crowd as the cars entered the final fourth turn. The broadcasters weren’t even there.

I never watch NASCAR.

I watched this weekend.

I watched because it was sports and there isn’t much else. But I watched for the same reason I cheered Mike Piazza’s home run when baseball started again after 9/11.

I watched because it’s a halting step forward. You could argue, and many have, that it’s wrong to move forward. You could argue that moving forward is careless, reckless, and will certainly result in thousands of needless deaths. You could argue that the tests required for sports or other non-essential businesses to restart should be diverted to more important sectors of society. You could argue that well-to-do athletes are the last people who need to be working right now.

If logic were all that mattered, we probably shouldn’t even be thinking about sports until the risk is much closer to zero. There was no need to drive cars in circles. There’s no need to hit balls with sticks or skate around and punch each other. Then again, there’s no need to be on the bike paths or running trails, either.

Upper Tampa Bay Trail — probably no one would die if it were closed the rest of the year

If those risks are too much for you to tolerate or you think greed is the key to any desire to re-open, you probably already stopped reading.

It was important for there to be hope. The other sports will come back, too. And there’ll probably be an eruption of anger about risk, greed, and imminent death. And, by the way, do you know how many teachers could be paid on what Bryce Harper makes in a year?

Bring it. Bring all of it–even the complaining.

Major League Baseball has a 67-page document outlining the new rules that’ll be required if and when they come back. It’s not like they aren’t taking things seriously.

But sports, like theater, ballet, all the arts–is part of the backdrop that makes life worth living.

People wanting to see a ball game aren’t the same guys taking their guns to the Capitol Building. They’re not, in general, the guys who purposely go the wrong way in the supermarket or flout the six-foot rule to show that they’re free and unafraid.

They just want to see the games. And if the games come, those guys are more likely to stay home.

Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

One more hard thing to do

You’re probably managing a fair piece of stress right now. Maybe your job is hanging by a thread and you know a few thousand dollars from the government isn’t going to make a difference. Maybe the mortgage is due next week and while you can pay this month, it’ll clean you out. There’s no more money and none coming.

You want April 12 to be the Day American Comes Back more than you’ve wanted anything in your life. Because it’s your job to provide for your family and your kids are picking up in the tension. They don’t understand why you and their mom got into it last night, but they understand enough. They’re picking up on the fear and they’re scared.

You’re scared, too. More scared than you’ve ever been. You’d cry, but that won’t help and you need to at least pretend to be strong.

It doesn’t help when someone implies you’re a greedy, soulless ghoul.

Or maybe you’re a little over 60 and you haven’t seen the grandkids in a couple of weeks and it kills you to Facetime with them because you want to reach out and hold them. They live just ten minutes away. And they don’t understand why you haven’t come to see them.

But you’re at risk because you’re diabetic and you did a boatload of running around just shy of two weeks ago. And it might be allergies–that heaviness in your chest and that dry cough–but it might not be. The worst thing you can imagine is infecting that little bundle of joy.

The second worst thing you can imagine is dying the way you’ve read people die of this damn thing. Slowly succumbing to pneumonia, all alone on a stretcher in a hallway of some commandeered motel. Alone and helpless because no one can visit and there aren’t enough doctors or equipment to go around.

So when you see the story about the Lt. Governor of Texas implying that people like you should gladly offer up your life for business to resume, you get so angry you start to tremble. And when the man you’ve loved since high school says he has a point, you start to wonder if you’ve been living with a monster all your adult life.

It all feeds the rage. Outrage is easy right now. It feels reasonable. The end product of fear and uncertainty. The only way to feel any sense of power and autonomy in a world careening off the tracks into God knows what.

You’re outraged because you are paying attention. And because those soulless inhuman bastards who disagree don’t have the humanity to see things the way you do.

To be sure, some of them don’t have that humanity. Some of them are so wrapped up in The Right Way that they can’t see the cost of their absolute certainty.

But some of them are feel just as afraid and impotent as you do. They want to see a life where people can do what they used to. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but it was a damn sight closer than what we have now.

Some of them don’t like that they feel like that. They try to see another way, but it’s just not there.

When you’re outraged it’s easy to pronounce things, to pass righteous judgement on the infidels who won’t come to the right side. To feel, for a moment, like you have a tiny bit of power.

It’s a hell of a lot harder to listen.

Damn hard to listen these days. Especially when everyone’s in your face shouting.

The pause that refreshes

I’m tired of the facts.

I don’t deny or ignore the facts. I’m just tired of them.

I’m tired of Johns Hopkins and Worldometer. I know that the curve is damn near vertical right now and even if we did everything perfectly starting today, it would stay that way for two weeks.

I’m tired of the Toddler-in-Chief using the daily briefing to thump his chest. Sir, you are not the story here.

I’m tired of the petty bullcrap, like holding the briefings in the evenings to fiddle with the network news. Like calling it Concast or the Deep State Department. I’m tired of him saying business as usual by Easter when there’s no way in hell that feasible. There’s a time and place. The coronavirus briefings aren’t it.

I’m tired of Dan Patrick–the Lt. Governor of Texas, not the good one–talking about how grandparents would gladly sacrifice their lives to get the economy going again. I’m tired of people comparing this to the flu and car accidents.

The good Dan Patrick alongside his tag team partner in happier days.

And I’m tired of the Justice Leag–err, Democrats acting like every reference to the economy is unbridled greed. It’s the old if one life is saved, it’s all worth it argument. As ugly as it is to say, there has to be an acceptable death rate for this. There have to be actuarial decisions made. If we wait for the death rate to be zero, we’ll be on lockdown for centuries.

I’m tired of the feigned self-righteous surprised anger at things that were obviously going to happen.

I’m tired of both sides using a good crisis to tack on goodies. The Republicans want to give corporations a boatload of money with no strings attached. While the rest of us get money we need to pay back. The Democrats screaming bloody murder about playing politics while their stimulus package includes a plethora of campaign promises as riders.

And I’m tired of each side screaming bloody murder at the other while doing exactly the same thing they’re screaming about.

The circus will continue whether I sit in the bleachers or not. And I need some space.

We get to do that. As long as we aren’t hoarding toilet paper, adding risk, or pissing off our cellmates too terribly, we get to do what’s necessary to maintain mental health.

It’s a long season and you don’t have to play every inning of every game. Take a bit of time and refresh yourself from time to time.

Drink Coke or not, but that the pause from time to time.

Mundane stuff, 3/19/20

5 pm. Say it with me now. “It’s because we have more tests.” “It’s because we have more tests.””It’s because we have more tests.””It’s because we have more tests.”

On the other hand, roughly 9% of all new cases since this started were logged today. Of the 21,000 new cases today, only 2,000 came from the US. So it’s exploding everywhere. Except China. One thing I saw said that they’ve closed down their last exclusive Coronavirus hospital.

But some of the other news is dire. For instance, there’s an expectation that we’ll have waves of this. So those empty hospitals might fill up again. Hooray.

Personally, my emotional valley seems to have passed. At least for the moment. We’ll see how tomorrow is.

1 pm. More new numbers. We’re gaining on Germany for number 5.

Also, I’m soooo tired of people from the President downward using this as the ultimate justification for their political biases. Schmucks. Time and place and this ain’t it.

11:30 am. New numbers. New York has about 1.5 times the cases as both Washington and California.

Also, the President is speaking and took a shot at the media and China, then patted himself on the back about a hostage coming home. We’re a good two minutes into the update and nothing, NOTHING, about the health crisis.

9:00 am. Here are the numbers as of 9 am. (Really 7:30 am).

6:55 am. Morning update. We’re up two spots on the countdown to number 6.

My mood is deteriorating. I thought it would just be temporary. I’d let myself go through the trough and then bounce back. I’ve done it plenty of times before, but the bounce isn’t coming.

We’re here, in a pretty nice house. We’re healthy. No one I know has the virus. But I think it’s the isolation. I was already feeling pretty isolated before this happened, but now, it’s just piling on itself.

I’ve read parts of a lot of articles so it’s hard to go find a specific reference, but one of them showed a doctor or nurse in a hazmat suit, crouching, while a colleague bends over with a hand on his or her shoulder. The hospitals outside the US are crumbling and that’s coming here. I can’t imagine what that’s like. To be a health professional in that sea of suffering and to be so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start.

My niece is a nurse and we’re probably entering into an all-hands-on-deck scenario where it doesn’t matter what your specialty is, we need you. She’ll be exposed to this. Maybe catch it.

And for the vast majority of us, the only thing we can do is nothing. In fact, that’s the best thing we can do.

The isolation is hard. Watching the world go to shit from afar is hard because what’s happening in Italy or the UK today might be what’s happening to us in two weeks or less.

The bright side, if it’s real, is that China had no new reported cases yesterday. It’s China, so that number’s suspect. But if it’s true, then from the very bat soup beginning to Mr. Irrelevant (last pick in the NFL draft–it’d be nice if that applies) is about four months.

Depending on how you measure, we’re two to four weeks in.

And my mood is the least of anyone’s worries.

Mundane crap, 3/14/20

Yesterday was kind of functionally the first day of holing up. And for a day of not leaving the house, I left the house a lot.

First, I kayaked. The day may come when leaving the house to exercise is irresponsible. For all I know that day has come and gone. But if dragging my kayak to the little lake we have, paddling around, and then coming home is gonna kill us, we’re dead already.

(Personal note: This is one of those admissions and actions that may age very badly. I sure hope not.)

While I was cleaning up the kayak, the neighbors were all out, and we talked a bit, which was nice. I think social interaction–real social interaction–is going to be a valuable thing for a while. Get it while you can while trying to be responsible. I may spend my reading time on the chair out front, rather than on the couch.

I also bought a couple shirts at Kohl’s. I needed the shirts. And I got Clean Shower from Publix because I forgot it in our big stock-up on Friday. I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and then came home.

There’s a lot of stories about hoarders. And those stories are true. The shelves are empty of paper products, though I saw a lot of diaper wipes at Publix yesterday. However, I’m not seeing the violent confrontation that people are trying to portray as normal. If people start to believe that’s normal, then tie violence will increase. That would, of course, be bad. You aren’t socially distanced from someone if you’re sitting on their chest, bouncing their head against the floor.

Other than that, it was a pretty normal day. Had Mom and Dad up for dinner. Laura made spaghetti casserole. They brought a bottle of wine and pie from that place over an Alt-19 that makes the key lime stuff.

I have to admit that work motivation is a little tough. And it’s gonna be a little more difficult this week, as it’s supposed to be 90 every day starting around Wednesday. Working outside helps, but that might be done for the year pretty soon.

According to the Johns Hopkins site, the infection rate continues to accelerate. We’re supposed to have 1.4 million tests available by the end of the week. That means the infection numbers are going to increase substantially, simply because there are more tests. And that’s a bit concerning. It’s not the disease that has me worried. It’s the people.

China also has an infection rate that’s functionally zero right now. I’m pretty sure I don’t believe that.

Tomorrow’s a work day, which is probably a good thing. Give people something to do other than sit and home and worry.

Corey Dylan used to be on radio in Tampa. I’m Facebook friends with her and would like to think if we ever met, she’d be willing to have a drink with me. She works for a radio station in Atlanta right now and she’s been off the air because their office is closed. Someone who works in the building was around someone who tested positive. That’s as close as it is right now.

They’re broadcasting from home, and I’m hoping she’s back on the air tomorrow.

Tips for the crisis that you won’t see anywhere else

I already work from home. And if I have a day where I don’t have any calls, I work from Panera. Or a local bagel place. Just so there are people around. But for some reason, since the first of the year, I’ve gotten out of that habit.

And just as I realized it and thought “Hey, I should do something about that,” Coronavirus happened. To maintain a reasonable level of emotional health, I need people around me.

We’re wired to be around other people. Even the most introverted around us needs someone now and again. And we’re not getting a lot of that for the next few weeks. So here’s some tips to help you through.

Disclaimer: I’m not a social scientist, just a guy with a blog. Since you didn’t pay for them, I don’t feel too bad about the lack of official certification.

  • The Internet is not social interaction. Sure it’s fun to trade snarky barbs with the guy in the Carolinas you’ve never met. It might be fun to have a beer with him some day if the Four Horsemen don’t show up. But that’s not social interaction. At it’s best, social media is a nice way to touch people a little. At its worst, it’s a cesspool of chest-thumping and self-justification. You need more, which means…
  • It’s okay to feel like you’re about to jump out of your skin. It’s not selfish to crave something more than the same two or three people you’ve been confined with for the last…how long as it been? Sixteen hours? I could’ve sworn it was seven years. You aren’t wishing death on the elderly and people with compromised immune systems if you just. want. to go. to STARBUCK’S!
  • Work calls, Netflix, and podcasts can help, but they aren’t enough. Great, you just had four hours of productive calls and got a lot done. You spent maybe 45 seconds on pleasantries at the beginning of each call. And now the calls are over and holy hell what you wouldn’t give for a two-for-one happy hour just so there would be other people around. There’s a word for this: normal.

The bottom line is to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break if you aren’t an introvert (or even if you are, but you find yourself with a severe case of cabin fever).

So here are some things you can do:

  • Go outside. My leg is messed up or I’d be running. At least four days a week. Failing that, I’ll bike or something. But I will get outside. I’ll make a point of it every day.
  • Sit in the front yard. Take a lawn chair, set it in the driveway and drink your coffee. If you talk to someone passing by, you aren’t adding to the risk of mass extinction. I get that it’s March, which means there’s snow some places. You’ve got winter clothes. Use them.
  • Facetime or Skype. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. They might be craving human interaction, too.
  • If you have a car, get in and go for a drive. Yeah, it adds to the carbon footprint and that gas you’re using could maybe be better used by someone else. And perhaps you’re increasing the chance of someone else’s being infected by 0.0001%. But if you go outside and get in your car and drive for half an hour. And then get out of your car and come back inside, you aren’t killing old people.

This is hard. It’s going to probably get harder. And the restrictions are likely to increase. So do what you can now, responsibly, to make it easier later.