A COVID-Era Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is, in my opinion, the beginning of the end of the year. And because of the bumpy, ultimately horrific nature of 2020, I think most of us would agree that there are no more sweeter words. Not that I really expect a simple calendar change to solve all of our problems, but I still can’t wait for it.

So we all had to figure out ways to celebrate one of the biggest family holidays in a safe manner and still find a way to feel together. Our choice was to have two households, my wife and I and her sisters, mom, and niece and nephew, eat in a good-sized living room. We were socially distanced, wearing masks before and immediately after meal consumption, and with air purifiers on and windows open. With all that alteration, I kind of worried that the celebration wouldn’t feel the same. And honestly, I just hoped that we all would leave in the same condition we had arrived.

And I and we managed to have a pretty good time. As always there is the food. I had fried chicken, the always-required macaroni and cheese, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and lemonade. The drinks were served in faux fancy wine-stemmed glasses, and the plates were encased in the decorative plates that folks use at high-end dinners. Each household ate at its own table, and we laughed a lot at the absurdity of it.

Once we finished, the kids engaged in a rousing game of charades, where everyone tried to guess what roles they were acting out. They’re 6 and 8, I think, so only just getting to a point where they can actually figure out which kinds of gestures might indicate what. I just sat there and smiled, until the older nephew asked: “Uncle John, what are you doing?” He was observing me utilizing my Braille Display. “Reading a book,” I replied. “He says he’s reading a book!” The kid said, skepticism in his voice. My wife and I laughed about the idea that his schema was too small to take in the notion of a “book” being caged in such a device. Such thoughts are curtesy of my having been a Psych major, my apologies.

So my weekend is already winding down, and I’m just glad I managed to enjoy it. Other than that Thanksgiving outing, I’ve been tucked in here “reading a book!” Soaking up the last of the November warmth and sunshine, and still writing my NaNoWriMo novel which is now over 13,000 words. (I even opted to lean into my bookish nature on Twitter, changing my handle there to @jay_biblio if you wanna follow me there. I’ll make that change here probably, but it’s gonna be more involved.)

No idea what’s up for Christmas, but lets pray that somehow the numbers start winding down shortly. I hope all of you are staying safe, but also taking care of your mental and physical health. More soon.

Musings on NaNoWriMo and Creativity During COVID

So how are we doing, folks. I think it’s already been over a month since I did the last check-in regarding COVID. And, *sigh* Just when we thought we saw that light at the end of the tunnel, the numbers have skyrocketed to points higher than they were at the so-called peak. Here in North Carolina, for instance, we set two consecutive new case records last week and have just set a record for the most deaths in one day from this virus. Believe me, I know that behind every one of those numbers is a person, family, friend, co-worker or other connected individual who is hurting. I just keep praying that it stops soon enough.

As I continue to look out for my mental health during this time, I strive to at least thrive in the world of creativity. And as was the case when this started, my wife keeps driving me forward in that area. She’s doing her own impressive stuff (shameless plug) with a recently launched Etsy store she calls Carrol Creations. Therein, she makes decorative or inspirational wooden signs that can be hung on doors or walls, customized earrings, t-shirts, and most recently Christmas ornaments and “quarantine reindeer,” each with its accompanying facemask. Of course family and friends have been supportive in stimulating sales, but in this month alone she’s also received three outside orders. Cool stuff. If you’re into that sort of thing, hop on over there and check it out.

Seeing her put in the “elbow grease,” as I often tease, has motivated me to get back off the proverbial snide and attempt to re-launch an idea I initially conceived in 2018, to write a book about two brothers with Norrie Disease who face different variations and thus experience different outcomes. I’m thinking this time that it will be the basis for my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m not exactly sure for how long National Novel Writing Month has been going on, but my first real shot at producing a 50,000-word piece of fiction was back in 2006. I think I got up to approximately 25k words before the whole thing just dissolved into a puddle of goo, and I posted excerpt 1 and 2 in my old blog. I particularly liked the second one.

I made a nod in the direction of trying again in 2017, but that never got off the ground given that I was about to get married and also wrapping up grad school. Now that nearly all travel except that to work and home has stopped, maybe I can make myself sit here with some music on as I am right now and pound these Mantis Braille display keys. I’ll update as November progresses.

And, not a whole lot else. Just working on some cosmetic changes around this my blogging spot, mostly to make it easier for folks to find my book reviews and how they can contact me. I’m not done yet, but all that movement takes so long that it will be mostly reserved for the weekend. As far as I can tell, this viral wave is surging throughout much of the northern hemisphere at the same time, rather than the spikes we saw popping up in varying locations earlier. So wherever you are, I hope you are staying safe and keeping yourself up as best you can. And maybe do some creating of your own. If you have, how so? Has anything worked out?

Despite Panthers Loss, My Birthday Hits The Spots

As one of my sisters says, happy life day to me! It was yesterday, and despite it, like everything else these days, being in the middle of a pandemic, I had a wonderful time. The fun thing about birthdays is that one gets to feel special, even if you know that millions of others actually share the day with you. My family and friends definitely made me feel special and helped me enjoy exiting what was, by all accounts, the most stressful year I’ve ever experienced.

The day started early for me, shortly after 8 AM. I came in and read a little, taking time periodically to view the Facebook and other posts as they streamed in. Then sleep claimed me around 10:30, and I stayed there for about 45 minutes until my wife announced breakfast time.

Then at 1, I opted to watch my Carolina Panthers (NFL) take on the Las Vegas Raiders. First, as a long-suffering Charlotte Hornets fan I hate the idea of teams moving, as I feel the NBA snatched ours away just as they were becoming respectable and has since given us a poor facsimile as replacement. And the Raiders? They’d already left Oakland once and returned to the city, only to leave it again.

Anyway, the game was interesting. A stadium with no fans presented an unusual listening experience, but truthfully I got used to it after a while and just enjoyed the announcer’s cadence and the game’s momentum. And the Panthers did a pretty good job seizing that momentum down the stretch. With Teddy Bridgewater, our new quarterback, it looked like we would pull off a decent comeback and top the Raiders after all. But after the Raiders popped it into the end zone to retake the lead 34-30, we failed to convert a critical 4th down play (I’d say because we didn’t give it to our all-world running back Christian McCaffrey, but to be fair he may not have gotten the needed half yard either). There was no more magic in the bottle after that, so we went down. I’m not too concerned yet, though the Panthers have started so many seasons this way that one can only guess how things will go moving forward.

That disappointment finished, I scrambled upstairs to have dinner with my wife and two of her sisters. She and I chose Olive Garden, and each of the sisters picked different restaurants. As we enjoyed lively conversation around the table, we rocked out to Michael Jackson’s Bad album, well the B side anyway. Remember the concept of turning records, or for that matter tapes, over to complete listening? Seems antuquated in the era of streaming, but it also kind of makes you really listen to a singer’s artistry more. For this reason and one of just having that older, better sound, we are starting to collect vinyl records. We now have, in addition to Mike, Lauryn Hill and one of Bruno Mars’ albums. It’s a cool throwback.

After my delicious meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and Italian sausage, served with a house salad, they sang Happy Birthday as I turned red. Then we sank our teeth into some chocolate cake from Publix. And later I had one of my true favorites, butter pecan ice cream.

The only other thing I did, a really important thing, is to have a nice phone conversation with my mom. If this year has emphasized nothing else, it has highlighted the need to try and stay connected to those we love and let those who need to know of our love for them. None of us knows just how much longer we’l be here. I need to do a better job of remembering this within the scope of my ever-crazier life.

And that was about all for my celebration of turning 41. I am tremendously thankful to still be here and in relatively good health. I have so much to reflect on, most of it already written in previous entries. Now I look forward to finding my new place, and this might sound crazy to say as a 41-year-old man, as an adult; as I really feel like I am only now finishing growing up. Here’s to many more for me, I hope?

My Covid Testing Experience

In this year where any kind of disaster imaginable seems possible, one could hardly blame me for being a little jumpy. Over the past couple of weeks, at my job’s temperature checks, I have realized that my core body temperature is almost always below normal. Well especially in the morning, as it often clocks in at 96.7 degrees, and I feel that cold when sitting in my room after dressing for the day.

On top of that, my nostrils have been a bit drippy and my throat congested for some time now. When this happened last year, I simply assumed that it was some kind of allergic reaction that would eventually calm down, as it did. But this year, with the ever-present threat of Covid-19, I was wary.

So all of those things converged this morning, as my temperature bottomed out at 96.1, and I was so cold that my hands shook and teeth rattled. I also felt so congested in my head that it seemed my brain was swimming. I am aware that this is probably not Covid, but on calling out of work to get the sleep I needed I decided I should get myself tested for the benefit of my coworkers, if nothing else.

And on that sleep? Ah, it was glorious. After some Covid-induced dreams, I finally, wonkily emerged around 12:30 and stepped outside for some air. I was relieved to learn that my temperature had increased to 98.4, and I certainly was warmer. But I still felt so yucky that my time outside did not last long.

So, my wife had made the testing appointment at a Cary, N.C. Urgent Care center at 3. After running some other errands, she drove me over to the clinic. This was not a drive-up appointment, but rather we were to enter the room to have the test administered. I was surprised by this, but admired the way they had things working.

First, we called a number and checked in, at which time we were told to wait in the car until contacted. It took about 12 minutes to get the call, with the office having texted a link that would have let me see my spot in line. Their texting was used well and kept the patient abreast on all progress throughout the experience.

Once we entered, with the support nurse holding the door ajar so we needed to touch nothing, she first asked about symptoms and then affixed something to my pinky finger, I think she said to test blood flow. Then another quick temperature. Check, still holding steady at 98. And finally, the real fun started.

Another man, in what capacity I am not entirely sure but I suppose a doctor-type person, came in to do The actual test. “It’s not too bad,” he said even as he offered me a Kleenex. Then, after helping me extract the mask from its entanglement with my hearing aids, he stuck the swab into my nose.

Ok, that’s it right?” I thought. But no! It went back, and back, and back, and surely took some of my whatever lobe when extracted. “Ow ow ow!” I said as I tried to keep myself from separating from the swab. Whew! That may have popped something into place, because much of my congestion has actually stopped, at least temporarily. My nose still hurts a bit, but yeah I guess it’s survivable.

And now I wait for probably three days. He said if it’s positive, then I’ll hear from the health department and that center. If negative, I’ll get a letter in the mail in approximately 2 weeks. We’ll see. If nothing else, it’ll give me a little peace of mind for as long as that lasts. I’m sure there are thousands of other tales of those who have been tested, many less dramatic than mine. But this is my quintessential 2020 story, and let’s hope it’s the last I have! Maybe things will settle down now?

Live! From Hurricane Alley

Welcome to the eighth year of 2020! I’m probably not the first to say that, but I’m the funniest, right? Right? … Ah well.

Jokes aside, this period has seemed and been for many the longest and most difficult ever. Especially here in the good ol’ US of A, it feels like the Covid crisis will never end. Still so many deaths, and even for those who survive they are changed for good in as yet unknown ways. This without mentioning our myriad personal struggles. I will be all too happy to put this 365 days behind us, if that actually makes any difference.

So, I’ve been back at work for just over two months now, and things in that setting are starting to catch up to the times. They have constructed pods of plastic around my primary section, which centers around a conveyor belt onto which boxes of light sticks are flung. With the frontal barrier of the wooden boxes that contain the sticks and the small boxes we must fill, it does make one feel significantly safer and more socially distanced. The only nerve-wracking thing is sometimes we work at open tables where people are sitting relatively close together. Thus far though, I hope, I’m fine.

Outside of slogging continuously through these workdays, I really go to and from that job and spend the rest of my time at home. I miss vacations, but do not yet feel entirely safe taking them either. Our last trip of sorts was to Tampa Florida in January, where it was a lot colder than it should have been. According to my scientific, randomized poll that I administered via Twitter, 28% of you are planning to travel somewhere at least 100 miles by car for a vacation, while the rest will do as we are and indulge in a staycation. Well that will leave a lot of time for some good reading at least, and I am on pace to shatter my record of 60 books consumed in one year.

And oh yeah! To add to the excitement, here in North Carolina we’re about to get a relatively small hurricane. That is actually the most “normal” thing that has happened in the last few months. Isaias, one of the more unusual names I’ve ever heard of for a storm. According to a cursory Internet search, Isaias is something of another name for The biblical prophet Isaiah. Interesting. We’ll probably get some tropical storm-force winds and all oto ain,and. I’ll likely hang here in the crib and, if power holds, get some stuff done. I think our pandemic numbers are finally starting to trend in the right direction, and I just hope that continues amid the storm. And of course that we all stay safe.

On My Dad Mike, A Life

This has been, for my family and me, a tough day, one week before Father’s Day no less. The man who had been my father for 20+ years, Michael David Smith, has succumbed to cancer.

It’s funny, he had been a part of my life for so long that I’m a little fuzzy on when our first encounter occurred. 1995? 1996? I’m inclined to say the latter, because it was Fall and the beginning of football season, and the Panthers had already existed for a year. Mike, a child of the 60s long before North Carolina had a professional football team, was a Dallas Cowboys fan. I never missed a chance to give him grief over this, often saying “I will create a law that says you must pull for the team in your local area.” He sometimes quipped “then I guess we’ll be moving to Dallas.” (I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I had been a closet Cowboys fan before my beloved Cats took the field.

Anyhow, whenever Mike and I first met we immediately bonded. As I’ve written in my post about complex thoughts on fatherhood, I would often linger on the floor as his Atlanta Braves (MLB) played on the tv, and we would talk about anything and nothing for hours. Sometimes while watching basketball, he would tell me to stand up so that he could demonstrate a great play that had just occurred, often to comical and almost dangerous effect.

He would usually ask me to join him for grocery store runs during which he’d impart advice about finding and being with a good woman, at the end of which he would get me either my favorite candy or a can of Pringles, to which I was insanely addicted in those days. Then there were the innumerable Jeopardy shows and our friendly competitions, usually he was far better at pop culture and I knew my geography.

Not only did he embrace me wholeheartedly, but he took my cousins under his wing with ease and clear enjoyment. We had a stretch there from about 1997 to 2001 where our singing group, Off Da Top, fancied itself celebrities and performed in several talent shows. Along with my youngest sister, Mike would work with us on choreography and talk to us about his knowledge of the music business. He called himself our manager, and said we should change our group’s name to the Backseat Boys (long story for that name’s conception which you can read in an old Writing 101 post, but if we’d chosen it can you say lawsuit?)

I revel in these memories, and if anything I regret not having taken the time to make more of them. I hadn’t seen him too often, which is true of the rest of my family as well, in the last ten years. I hope that the rest of us can now start to rectify this, and am eternally grateful for my birthday dinner with him, my mom, and my in-laws that my wife organized, as it was the last time I saw him healthy. I remember the shock and sadness I felt when seeing him in the hospital bed this past November, as this last cruel journey began. I was overcome with depression, but I also prayed and hoped for the best. But as they say, death is a part of life and at some point we must all confront our mortality and that of those whom we love deeply.

To you, Mike: Thanks for letting me be your son and for your unconditional acceptance of me, even with the unusual package I present. I will always be grateful for your coaching and guiding me through my formative years and helping me to learn to be a good man to my wife and, I hope, a good human period. May you rest in peace.

Meanwhile, Back At The Plant: The end of my 72-day quarantine

THE CALL finally came that Tuesday after Memorial Day. No surprise, really, as I expected upon North Carolina’s entry into Phase 2 of Covid recovery (if one can call a record-breaking 1,000 cases a day a recovery. It’s got me terrified, truthfully). Anyhow, I knew my time relaxing and hiding inside would draw to an end soon.

The number originated from the Hazelhurst, Ms. Branch of my employer, so I initially didn’t take the call. “Hello, this is a message from LCI for John Miller about coming to work.” So, I tapped the number, returned the call, and affirmed hat I would return on Monday June 1.

After discussing it with my wife for a time, we decided that at least for the time being it would be easiest if she takes me in and picks me up, when possible, because as noted in a previous entry dealing with public transit or Go Cary Door-to-Door presents a number of challenges in this environment. And honestly it’s working out a lot better for me, as I can wake 40 minutes later and depart the apartment only 20 minutes before my 7 AM shift begins. I could actually wake even later if I wanted, but I like having a little time to quickly check out podcasts and news as I get ready.

So the first week has ended now, and mostly it went well. Monday was long, as I had to re-remember how I get through the day without music or books except on breaks. And without being able to take the random nap, which was a little problematic that first day as my still-recouping gums let me feel not pain really, but a little pressure. The least fun part was wearing that mask for eight hours. My nose was stinging by day’s end, as I had breathed so much air into my own face. I know it is absolutely necessary to wear it though, and washed my hands whenever possible along with sanitizer when too far away from a sink. I certainly do not want the ‘rona, and don’t want to pass it onto my coworkers either, if I can help it.

The only glitch in this week occurred on Wednesday, when I awoke to a non-functioning right-side hearing aid. It started working after an hour or so, sort of, but I knew that it was still time to get both aids retuned. I’m amazed they’d gone a year and a half without requiring service, definitely far better than I got out of my previous aids, but they usually need to be tended to as soon as the heat and humidity arrive.

Covid protocol meant that I had to give the aids to the office receptionist, who came out to the car to collect them, then sit there for 20 minutes in silence while they were repaired. But as usual, when they were returned to me I marveled at how much louder and clearer everything was. The changes in hearing level are so subtle that they can go unnoticed until corrected.

And for the most part, that makes up the news of my return to work. Nothing groundbreaking really, but the week was nice in the sense that I felt great each workday, even managing to get enough sleep to be functional. That time off definitely helped me to get my health back in order, and for that first week at least, I reaped the benefits. Let’s hope this continues, and I sure hope that sometime soon my state, the nation, and the world can begin to find the path to healing that 2020 so badly needs.

It’s Like Pulling Teeth: My unexpected run-in with an Oral Surgeon

If one is me, one asks the question how many different things can one endure in one year. Ah the craziness of 2020 continues.

So first the backstory: for something like the last year, I’ve noticed a slight protuberance in my jaw. It was a minor aggravation, and while I knew I needed to nip it in the bud at some point I just never really took care of it. Well ok, I can admit that it has more to do with a lack of desire to tangle with our medical system, which while it has big problems, especially as relates to how we Americans are expected to finance care, is actually pretty good. I’ve become something of an unwitting veteran in the last few months, as you know.

Anyhow, in the last three weeks or so, this lump seemed to grow at an alarming pace. My wife and I finally concluded that something needed to be done immediately to ensure that nothing more sinister than a tooth infection was going on. With the Covid pandemic, finding a dentist that will see me on short notice is a challenge. After being rejected by the UNC system, I just put the word “Dentist” into Google Maps and called the first place that came up: Zen Triangle Dentistry.We entered on Saturday shortly before 12 PM into a fairly small operation with roaring air purifiers and our masks on. They gave me a couple of quick, complicated X-Rays where I was instructed to hold my head completely still with no head clamp and while biting down on the teeth part in front of me. Do you know how difficult this is?

After palpating the lump and feeling along my neck to see if others existed, the two individuals who were checking me recommended that I go somewhere else to have it thoroughly checked to rule out the possibility of cancer. While I had already been aware of such a possible conclusion, having it spoken aloud made the rest of that weekend fraught with emotion. I just tried to hold it together and survive till Monday when we were finally able to visit an oral surgeon at High House Oral Surgery.

Entering this office early Monday morning after fortunately having been worked in for an emergency visit, I was immediately put at ease with yet another x-ray, this time with a clamp and a bar onto which I could hold, both of which made the process measurably easier to bear. The oral surgeon told us that he believed it to be an abscess that he could drain, despite its having appeared so prominently on the outside of my gum. The catch is that the tooth on that side would need to be pulled, and oh yeah while we’re at it we may as well get the other two bottom teeth on the opposite side that have also grown in wrong. AAAHHH! When compared with what I thought would be the outcome though, suddenly an involved dental surgery didn’t seem so daunting.

So once we got the bill squared away, and it was of course high but not as high as I thought such procedures would be, we were ready to go. I was surprised that they were so quickly able to go ahead with the process. Everyone convinced me that, for various reasons, going under general anesthesia would be the best idea, and after the fact I have to say I am glad this choice was made. “The only real issue,” the surgeon said “is that sometimes you don’t wake up”. Well that’s scary, but it’s a risk you take I guess.

The feeling of getting ready for action was similar to what I had experienced in the Emergency room a little while ago with the heart thing. Cold EKG leads were stuck to various parts of my body, then an IV was inserted. I love my veins, as their easy visibility means a lot less pain for me. Then the automated blood pressure cuff was placed (my BP numbers are still good now which makes me happy), and the pulse monitor placed on my finger. I get nervous hearing the beep beep that indicates my heart beat, but then I also learned how to slow it down with my mind using bio feedback.

I reclined in the chair waiting, waiting, waiting… for things to start… and then I had gauze in my mouth and was being gingerly led to a waiting wheelchair to be rolled out. I, thankfully, have absolutely no memory of anything the was done. My wife says, though I counter that if it wasn’t recorded it didn’t happen, that my “high conversation” was hilarious. I let whatever thoughts popped into my brain slide right between my lips, which frightens me a little. That’s a big reason why I don’t like messing with control substances.

And so far so good. The only incident I almost had occurred Monday evening when, feeling normal while lying in bed, I thought I could head upstairs like normal and slurp down some mashed potatoes. And my body disagreed. I just kind of blacked out for ten seconds or so then headed back downstairs and into bed, where I needed to stay. I will find out tomorrow (Thursday) if all is as well as I hope, but I have been spending the week popping a variety of pills and trying to feel more and more like myself.

Have you ever had any kind of surgical intervention? According to my very unscientific Twitter poll, 58% of respondents say they’ve had more than one, 29% said only one, and the remaining folks said not at all. I guess there is always a first time for everything.

50 Days of Solitude: When and How To Return To Work

And it goes on and on and on and…

Almost eight weeks of mostly poking around the crib, trying to stay awake more than I sleep, and wondering what it all means. As states, including my own, tentatively begin reopening, I know that it is time for me to start contemplating what the “outside” is going to look like. One thing is for sure, it will not be anywhere near what it was for the foreseeable future.

I got a little taste of what to expect this past Saturday. My in-laws, needing supplies not readily available in their rural town and tired of being boxed in, decided to make their way up to oversupplied Cary to collect the gathered items. We paid them a short, appropriately socially-distanced and masked visit, just to say hello and talk to others for a change. Our hands grazed as we met, and I felt my own air pushed back into my face.

Ugh wearing that mask is not going to be comfortable, that much I know. Two good things about it though, I guess: A. You sure know how your own breath smells, and B. Others (hopefully) aren’t able to smell it. My wife did find some that are, well better than many, as they have a slightly cupped middle that gives you at least a little breathing room. I will of course wear them, as I understand that they are more for those who encounter me than for myself, but marbles. The eight-hour workday and transit to and for will be very long.

Speaking of transit, I am now trying to sack the admittedly somewhat involved system I had of taking GoCary’s Door-To-Door vehicle to the Cary train station and boarding the bus in favor of having the former take me all the way in. There are two main reasons why I hadn’t done this a long time ago. The first and most pressing is money: it costs just $2.50 to have them drive me to the station, but $8 to go all the way in. I think though that they have some kind of program that provides low-income individuals with a discount, so I will try and sign up for that and see what happens.

The second reason is more about my own needs I guess? I will feel more isolated, having little to no interaction with the wider community. I had gotten to know the five people I saw on a regular basis pretty well, and always enjoyed talking to them and whomever else I came across while waiting about any and everything. But with all these measures being put into place for who knows how long, I’m sure that such spontaneous encounters will not occur for a long time, and I might find it difficult to get assistance from others who wish to stay socially distanced. (I prefer to think of it more as physically distanced, as the last thing I need is to not socialize with folks in some way).

RELATED: The Cary Characters

I am hesitant about returning to work and will wait for them to call me back in while keeping a metaphorical eye (I’m blind after all) on the Covid numbers in North Carolina. I do hope things can get going soon, but I hope we don’t end up doing things too soon. We shall see.

At Home Post 2: On Finally Discovering My Passion

It’s the last day of April y’all, and by putting in a little elbow grease to end the month I’m still remaining on pace to make my crazy blog goal! Yay. With the world being in a relative state of turmoil, one must take victories where one can get them.

So aside from my extensive book review, the reasons for which I will get into later in this post, I have written an unfolding series of stories about my (our) response to Covid-19. Hey, maybe this kind of stuff will be important for the historical archives someday, when someone in 2050 is unable to imagine what this time and the time before it was like. “Wait, you mean people used to have to get in these things called cars to go to work? Weird.” Well I don’t know if we’ll go quite that far, but…

So I keep alluding to her, but I want to talk in this post more about what it’s been like being around my wonderful wife for the vast majority of these now forty-one (41!) days. I’ll tell you, if you want to discover whether you are compatible with and can enjoy the presence of someone, take away nearly all choice to do anything else but be with them and find out. Actually though, we’ve been having a great time. We sit on the couch and do things that make us laugh a lot, which at least to me is a key part of my survival. We also have read a couple of books together, because there suddenly is nothing else but time.

One of these was Unorthodox, by Deborah Feldman. You may have seen the documentary series on Netflix, but she is a previously Hasidic (don’t know if I spelled that correctly) Jewish woman who felt the need to depart that community after some tough experiences while married to her arranged husband in New York. I am told that the book departs quite significantly from the series, especially as it concerns what happened after they married.

The other of our reads, I said I would not admit allowed because it sounds silly. It’s Playboy Pilots, by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland. It’s their third in a “series of stand-alones,” and we had read the first of these, Hate Notes. It’s a typical, fairly cheesy, love story with a lot of sex, but it also explores the challenges of forming a new relationship when someone has things in his or her past of which he or she is less proud. Oh and it has a lot of travel, which I can only dream about these days. I ultimately did like the book.

The main thing my wife has helped me with though, using her incredible coaching skills and a willingness to talk deep into the night, is that battle I’ve been fighting for the last 17 years: trying to figure out WHAT DO I WANT TO DO. Every go I have with the different career and life coaches hits basically this same snag, and so I knew that it was time for me to figure out that thing lurking in my brain and wishing to escape. And what have I often said to myself but not really acknowledged? I want to find a career that allows me to center myself around reading. So, the emergence of the book review! I will, over the next few months, be using this space to practice different types of review and styles of writing until I truly find my voice, then I hope to make my way into some freelance outlets. I am excited to finally embark on this journey, and perhaps it will even have a satisfactory ending for me. So if, like me, you are struggling to find your way in this confusing world, just stop and listen to yourself to hear what you’re already saying. Therein might lie the answer.