Avoiding COVID-19 On Our Road Trip

Friday , 22, May 2020 Comments Off on Avoiding COVID-19 On Our Road Trip

CoronavirusTomorrow morning we’ll leave for our two week stay at Wolf’s Haven. One of the benefits, to me, of our cabin in the mountains is that we are very much off the usual grid of humanity. But the 11 hour drive to get there has caused me to think and plan how we might go about avoiding COVID-19 on our road trip.

After having been isolated at home for the past 2 months the road trip is going to be quite a change, for me especially. Other than walking Bella around our neighborhood and a required one-time trip to the bank on a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t left the house. Cindy or Amber would make trips to the grocery store or Costco armed with their masks and hand sanitizer while I waited (usually working 12 hour days, until recently) safe and secure at the house.

That’s because I have three chronic (but well-managed) underlying medical conditions coupled with an age factor that make me especially susceptible to COVID-19 and that make COVID-19 possibly fatal for me. So I have maintained strict social-distancing behavior since returning from Puerto Rico 9 weeks ago, even to the point that I haven’t seen my daughter and two oldest grandchildren in person this entire time, even though they live less than two miles from us. Thank goodness for FaceTime, but you know I’d really like to give them a hug. And I’m aware that I’m not alone in that regard, as a lot of grandparents are going through the same thing.

But one thing that the past couple of weeks has shown me is that people, with their everyone-for-themselves response to this pandemic, cannot be depended on to do the right thing when it comes to social distancing and protecting other people. Leaving the house and hitting the road presents a whole new set of behaviors and exposure possibilities that we’ll have to plan for in order to avoid being another statistic in the coronavirus pandemic.

Driving Up

Rest Area Exit SignSo, we’ll leave early Saturday morning and our first stop is usually an hour into the trip at a rest stop so that Bella can use the bathroom. She gets queasy during car trips and it upsets her stomach, especially at the beginning. We’ll pull into a spot away from everyone else and do our best not to get close to others, which is not usually a problem that early in the morning.

Breakfast in a To-Go ContainerAt about the 2 1/2 hour mark we usually stop for breakfast and eat in the dining room. This time we’ll stop, but Cindy will go in and get food to go that we’ll eat in the car in the parking lot after wiping the containers down with sanitizing wipes.

Gas PumpFor re-fueling stops we have a supply of Bella’s doggie bags I can put over my hand before grabbing the gas handle and using the touch-screen, then I can just throw it into the trash can by the pumps before getting back in the car.

For lunch we’ll stop at another rest stop, wipe down the picnic table with sanitizer and break out food we’ve brought for our midday meal, probably a salad and some kind of bread or crackers. This gives Bella another chance to use the bathroom.

When we drive into Maggie Valley we’ll stop at Subway (man, I wish they had a Jersey Mike’s) as usual and get sandwiches to take up to the cabin since we’re only about 10 minutes away at that point.

While We’re There

Once we’re at Wolf’s Haven, it will be like quarantine heaven, lol. Nobody around, relaxing, hiking around the mountain, writing and reading. We might, MIGHT take a drive over to Cade’s Cove to take some photos and videos while maintaining social distancing from anyone else who might be out there doing the same thing.

Heading Back

Then, two weeks later, we’ll reverse course to return to Orlando and follow all the same actions as we head back into The City Beautiful. I’m truly hopeful that by then there will not be a massive resurgence of the coronavirus due to all the relaxing of restrictions to keep people safe. But I worry that there will be.

Miracle Monday

Monday , 18, May 2020 Comments Off on Miracle Monday

Happy Miracle Monday!

Do you know what Miracle Monday is? If you’re a fan of Superman you probably do. But if not, allow me to explain.

Miracle Monday paperback coverTo begin with, Miracle Monday is the title of a Superman novel written by Elliot S! Maggin (yes, that’s an exclamation point after his middle initial, and I’m not sure why Warner Books did not use it on the cover) and is probably one of the best novels about the Man of Steel you’ll ever read. It was first published 39 years ago on February 1, 1981 and though it was released in conjunction with the Superman II movie that hit theaters in June of that year AND has Christopher Reeve on the cover, it really has nothing to do with the theatrical version of the character or the movie.

Maggin was and is one of my favorite Superman comic book writers. He had published his first Superman novel, Superman: Last Son of Krypton about 4 years earlier which I enjoyed tremendously, so when I saw this book on the shelves at a bookstore, I snatched it up without a second thought.

By the way I still have both of those novels in their first printings sitting on my shelves at the cabin and it’s been a while since I read either one of them. Since I’ll be spending a couple of weeks up there in a few days, I think I should take the opportunity to re-read them both. What a great idea!

Anyway, the gist of this story, which captures the purity of the Superman mythos so accurately, is that a young woman from the future travels to Metropolis of the past (Superman’s era) to discover the origin of the celebration of Miracle Monday in her time. Along the way, Superman has to battle a demon from hell with the young woman’s life in the balance and what happens next is what causes the annual celebration of Miracle Monday (every third Monday of May) to take place.

Now, there’s a LOT more to the story than that but I don’t want to spoil it any further than I already have. If you have any fondness for the character and have not done so already, you should definitely read this novel by Elliot S! Maggin and enjoy it fully yourself.

Today is that third Monday, and so I wish you a Happy Miracle Monday!

Like many across the country, our home is practicing social distancing and being quarantined at home. I thought I’d share our situation and perhaps you might share yours in the comments below.

Quarantine tape spread out

Normally I am on the road working disaster response and recovery at the location of the event, but not this time. Last Wednesday I was informed that I would be separated from the Hurricane Maria and Earthquake disasters I was working in Puerto Rico (and where I was supposed to be returning to this past Monday) and would instead be virtually deployed to the COVID-19 disaster declaration that was granted to New Jersey. I began working remotely from home on Thursday. We are currently working 10 hours a day 7 days a week. I am pretty much glued to my work laptop and work phone.

Currently, I am sequestered in the front family room with all my equipment set up. Amber, who is also required to work from home, is set up in her bedroom. Abby, who is required to do virtual schooling, is set up either in her bedroom or sometimes the living room.

Cindy is the one working the hardest of all of us. She does the shopping, runs the errands, prepares the meals (Amber and I have lunch at different times, so she even makes us separate lunches), oversees Abby’s schooling, still creates products for her business and delivers them to nearby customers and, when she has a few minutes to catch her breath, sits quietly in the family room where I am to read or take care of online contacts, just so we can see a little bit of each other throughout the day.

We try to have dinner together once I get off work, around 6pm, and watch a movie (last night it was the first Avengers movie, so that was fun) or if they want to watch one of their chick flicks (I AM outnumbered here) then I leave them to the living room and go read or write like I’m doing now in the family room or our bedroom. Sunday I was exhausted and didn’t even eat dinner; I just shut down my work laptop and went to bed. I needed the rest.

For me, this is VERY different. After 13 years, I’ve grown used to working alone in a hotel room when it was needed, doing what I want after work and enjoying the quiet. Social distancing was pretty normal for my everyday life. But I’ve had to make adjustments to being in a houseful of other folks, even ones I love.

How is it for you while being quarantined at home? Are you making adjustments to this new normal? Or has your day to day living situation not really changed that much?

Are We Overreacting to COVID-19?

Tuesday , 17, March 2020 Comments Off on Are We Overreacting to COVID-19?

Coronavirus QuarantineInteresting timing on this article (go read it, I’ll wait here) as just yesterday I had a friend of mine ask (via text) a lot of these same questions, which essentially boil down to, “Is this all just a huge overreaction?”

It’s a fair question and, given some of the extreme provisions that have been implemented, understandable. Especially when those implementations affect us personally. Those kind always elicit a feeling of “going too far” and, again, is understandable.

But my short answer to my friend yesterday was, “No, we’re not overreacting.” In fact, given the progress of COVID-19 across the world, I wish this administration had instituted these measures 2 or 3 weeks ago. I feel like we would be a lot closer to slowing down the spread of this thing here if we had.

Healthcaregivers assisting patient on groundThis virus is highly communicable and, in some cases, deadly. Especially so to those who fall in the demographics of being older and/or have underlying medical conditions. The whole purpose of the “social distancing” advice is to reduce the communicability of COVID-19 so that fewer people overall contract the virus and thus fewer people infect others and ultimately reduce the pressure on the healthcare system to deal with those who are sick. Doctors, nurses, hospital beds and medication (when it becomes available) are all finite. So the fewer people who fall ill, the better for all of us.

In Italy, ventilator shortages (because so many people were infected) cause healthcaregivers to make horrendous choices as to who would get a ventilator and who would not, ultimately resulting in the death of the person who did not get a ventilator.

“Some doctors have said that they sometimes make the call on who gets treatment based on the age of the patient.”

I fear that, where countries like Italy are NOW is where the United States WILL BE in another 2 weeks. Those who feel we are “overreacting” may have a change of heart if the decision about who to treat comes down to their parent, grandparent, older sibling or loved one. I am hopeful that, if we fully implement and adhere to these measures that some view as “overreacting”, we will find ourselves in a much better position. The more we do, even if bothersome or painful, the closer we’ll get to flattening that curve we all keep seeing on the news.

Coronavirus Flattening the Curve Graphic

If not, I think people a month in the future will be feeling that we did not “overreact” enough. I hope I’m completely wrong.

Novel Coronavirus

Monday , 16, March 2020 Comments Off on Novel Coronavirus

Coronavirus SignWhen I first heard about the Novel Coronavirus, I thought it was new book about a worldwide pandemic.

Turns out, this is a “book” I don’t want to read.

But we’re strapped into our chairs with our heads belted into position and our eyelids held open against our will as we’re forced to watch this horror unfold in our country and across the world.

Hopefully, the words “The end” will be written sooner rather than later. It’s time for this story to be over.

Long-Time Listener, First-Time Voter

Friday , 13, March 2020 Comments Off on Long-Time Listener, First-Time Voter

Today marked an auspicious event in my oldest grandson’s life. This long-time listener and observer of world and American politics exercised the rights afforded him by turning 18 years of age back in June of last year and became a first-time voter this morning during early voting in Florida. He’s been eagerly awaiting this opportunity for a long time.

Congratulations Mikey!

I’m especially pleased that exercising his right to vote is important to him. I know that, for some people, it is not. And I even understand some of their reasons for that.

Vote (I Did!) stickerBut it has always been important to me, especially in presidential elections. I could not vote in a presidential election until I was 21 because of my how my birthday fell in relation to national election years, so it excites me that he could do so this soon after his 18th birthday.

Mikey doesn’t like to have photos taken of himself, but I asked his mom if she could try and get him to let one be taken of him this time for the importance of this occasion (and yes, so granddad could see his oldest grandson voting for the first time) and thankfully he agreed. The only stipulation was I could not share it on social media, so I can’t show it to you. But he looked very proud holding his “VOTE (I Did!) sticker in front of the polling place, and I’m proud too.

Flying The Friendly Skies of COVID-19

Thursday , 12, March 2020 Comments Off on Flying The Friendly Skies of COVID-19

CoronavirusA week from tomorrow I fly from San Juan to Orlando, a flight I’ve taken many times in the past almost-two-years that I’ve been working here on The Enchanted Island.

Regardless of whether I’ve taken the 5am flight out or the later 6:20am flight out, one thing has remained consistent; the plane is always full. And I mean completely full or one empty seat.

That’s it.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. There is, and has been for 30+ years, a large Puerto Rican population in Orlando. Friends and family members travel back and forth to visit all the time.
  2. Disney World, Universal Studios and, to a lesser extent, Sea World. Families come to Orlando all the time to visit the theme parks. They are what keep the Central Florida economy moving, as we found out when 9/11 happened and tourism in the area dried up to almost nothing.

Disney World


So I’m curious to see what effect COVID-19 will have on my usual flight home next Friday.

Empty airplane seatsWe’re hearing anecdotal stories from other flyers in the U.S. that their flights, when available, are not flying with the usual number of passengers. I’m wondering; will the plane be full as usual or only partially full? Will it even be half full?  Will families decide not to take their children to theme parks in an effort to reduce exposure to the virus? Will grandparents opt of visiting their families because they (the grandparents) are more susceptible to the virus?

Or will everything be more or less…normal?

People in airport with COVID-19 maskaIt’s something I won’t probably know until next Friday morning when I arrive at the airport, unless something else happens in the next 7 days, which is entirely in the realm of probability. This thing is blossoming all over the world and the U.S. so quickly that we really don’t know what the next week will bring.

But we’ll find out in a little over a week. See you then.

Happy Leap Day and Happy Birthday Superman!

Saturday , 29, February 2020 Comments Off on Happy Leap Day and Happy Birthday Superman!

Leap Day

Today is that day that only rolls around every four years; Leap Day. In school we were taught that every year has 365 days…except Leap Year which occurs every four years on February 29th. The reason is that February 29th every four years helps keep our calendars aligned with planet Earth’s rotation around the sun.

Mike Lombardi, who leads the Time and Frequency Services Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is a timekeeping expert explains, “A year is about 365.25 days long, so adding one extra day every four years is necessary to keep the calendars accurate.”

Six hours doesn’t seem like much difference, but after four years we’d be an entire day behind. A decade down the road our calendars would be 2.5 days off. So February 29th is essential to our keeping measurements of time in sync.

Superman’s Birthday

But, more importantly, February 29th is the day Superman celebrates his birth. Now, I know the first comic book Superman appeared in was published in 1938, which was NOT a leap year (that would come two years later in 1940), but we’re talking about the characters’ birthday and that has been established by the company that has been publishing comic books with Superman in them since that historic date.

Back during the Silver Age of comics (the best Age, in this writer’s mind) editor Julie Schwartz stated on a number of comic book letter pages that Superman’s official birthday was on February 29th. At the time it was as a sort of lark on his part to “explain” why Superman could still appear to be young, since his birthday would have come around every four years instead of every year.

That declaration stuck.

When “Time” magazine published a story about the character in 1988 that story stated the character’s birthdate was…February 29th!

There was even a story in Superman Annual #11 that showed Superman’s friends gather to wish him a happy birthday on…February 29th!

Page from Superman Annual #11

Here’s a link to an article that goes into much more detail about the subject, if you have an interest in this sort of thing.

So, Happy Leap Day to all and Happy Birthday to Superman, the greatest hero of all time!

Fellow superheroes wishing Superman a Happy Birthday

The Heart Knows What The Mind Does Not

Thursday , 27, February 2020 Comments Off on The Heart Knows What The Mind Does Not

The 17th century philosopher, Pascal, wrote “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” that I have paraphrased as the heart knows what the mind does not.

It’s been a nasty couple of days and my mood has reflected it, though I wasn’t quite sure why.

Yesterday afternoon I had some unpleasant news shared from my employer, not for me specifically but for all of us, that soured me a lot more than I expected it to. An incident in the office also found me reacting more harshly than is usual for me. Sleep last night was fitful and this morning… well, as I put it to Cindy, “I’m very short-tempered and I don’t like that.” I know I have not been my usual self around my co-workers, but they have been gracious enough not to mention it. And I have tried to purposefully be my best, but I don’t have a poker face and sometimes my sarcasm will not be reined in, lol.

When I ended our usual morning call with Cindy today she closed by saying, “Whenever you’re feeling aggravated and frustrated today, please remember that I love you.” And some people might laugh, but those words and that concern from her heart lightened my own heart quite a bit.

Then, later today, the fact that the heart knows what the mind does not was borne out when I realized during a walk to lunch that it was 10 years ago tonight, February 27, 2010, that my mother passed away. Sometimes my grief and sadness manifest itself in the exact feelings I described above. I’m not proud of that, just acknowledging that it happens. Even when I’m not conscious of the “why”, they still pop up.

Mom in 1990

I wouldn’t say that realizing the sad anniversary was on my mind even when I wasn’t consciously thinking about it has removed all of my nasty mood, but at least I think I know now why these things that I can usually “roll” with have instead heavily pulled me down the past couple of days.

Because the heart knows what the mind does not.

Misssion Rehearsal Training at the NETC

Tuesday , 11, February 2020 Comments Off on Misssion Rehearsal Training at the NETC

FEMA Emergency Management Institute logoLast Sunday, February 2nd, I flew to BWI to attend a week of Mission Rehearsal Training at the National Emergency Training Center/Emergency Management Institute located in Emmitsburg, MD.

After a 90-minute bus drive with about 30 other students, some for the class I would be in and some for other classes taking place that week, I arrived at the intake center, got my room assignment and went to the dining hall for dinner before returning to my room in time for the the Super Bowl.

It was a good week of classes on leadership skills, lessons on emergency management processes, exercises that honed our abilities we have gained over the years, and an enjoyable time of catching up with friends and fellow emergency managers (some whom I hadn’t seen in a few years as we have been spread across the country) and finally meeting others I’ve only known by reputation.

Below is a video I made of a few photos from the campus and several selfies I took on the last day of class with many of my old friends and new ones. Even so, I missed getting pictures with some that I wanted to include. Maybe next time. 🙂