Beard Fun

“At first I didn’t like my beard. But then it grew on me.” – Unknown

Four months ago today, March 18, 2020, I left the beautiful island of Puerto Rico to return to Orlando for some medical appointments. Then, thanks to COVID-19, I discovered I wouldn’t be going back, or anywhere, anytime soon.

So I decided to not shave and, since we were self-quarantining at first and then practicing social distancing, not get a haircut either. And then I thought it might be fun to document the growth of the beard by monthly stages.

Jeff Beard Growth in 4 Month Stages


My beautiful wife was not real happy. For the first few weeks all I heard was “Woolybooger” instead of “Honey.” Then I just got dirty looks.

I finally had to agree to trim around my mouth just to get a kiss, lol, which I think you can see between month 1 and month 2. But otherwise, nothing else was cut, not even those wildly long white eyebrow hairs. Oh, and I also trimmed the ear and nose hairs as needed. No reason to go crazy with this thing, right?

And after the first photo Cindy told me I needed to at least TRY to smile because otherwise I looked like a murderer on the loose. So I tried in the next three photos.

Now I’m contemplating whether I should shave everything and go back to my normal goatee, or (since I’m likely not going anywhere in the field to work anytime soon) shoot for 5 and 6 months of untamed growth. I have enjoyed not having to shave each day or even every few days, but when I wake up in the mornings and see my reflection in the bathroom mirror with bed head and bed face I feel like I’m looking at the Tom Hanks character in “Castaway” after a few months.

What do you think?

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Birthday 2020

This year’s birthday was a bit different, and not in a bad way.

Usually I’m working somewhere on the road, but this year, thanks to COVID-19, I was able to be with some family and take a short, quarantined trip out of town.

The day began with my middle granddaughter, Abby, making me a breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese and fresh-cut fruit. In addition, she presented me with a beautiful handmade birthday card.

Abby’s Handmade Birthday Card Collage

Cindy also had a card for me. She was sneaky in getting out to buy one for me.

Cindy’s Birthday Card collage

Then it was time to log onto work remotely for the morning,

At lunch I was genuinely surprised to have Cindy, Amber, and Abby come into my work area singing “Happy Birthday” and bearing a Carrot Cake with a few lighted candles adorning the top.

After an appointment in the afternoon, Cindy and I left to spend the long holiday weekend at an oceanfront hotel not far from Orlando. Cindy knew I would enjoy a little solitude with her.

But first, we stopped by a couple of RV dealerships to walk through some different travel trailers to get a feel for how it would be to spend some time in one after I retire and see some different floor plans.

We weren’t too impressed by the sales staff or the models at either location, but I also realize they are experiencing a sales spurt right now as people try to figure out how to travel in the midst of a pandemic and someone who is “just looking” isn’t going to rate high on their attention level. Still, smart salespeople plant seeds for the lean times.

Hilton Room Cleanliness SealThe hotel was taken care of with points and overall was very nice. We had no intention of doing much interacting with other guests or staff, but it was nice to see all of the staff wearing masks and to observe evidence of high levels and practices of sanitation going on; such as marked off social distancing areas, personal service by staff at the usual breakfast buffet, plastic shields at the front desk station, and rooms sealed once they were certified cleaned and sanitized by housekeeping supervisors.


The only disappointment was that this hotel had no rooms with balconies, which was sad because Cindy likes to hear the ocean waves and planned to sit on the balcony since we wouldn’t be on the beach when it was filled with people.

Panorama Shot of Cocoa Beach from hotel window

But we did go walking on the beach early in the morning when very few people were out and we could maintain social distance.

Late that afternoon we had a FaceTime call with Ann, Mikey, and Heather. Ann had sent me a gift, which had arrived the day before we left, but as I was going to open it she asked me to look in my email first. There I found an Amazon gift certificate that I could use to buy the latest Jim Butcher novel which comes out later this month and Ann and I will read together and discuss as we have done with other novels.

Then I opened the package and found this delightful Star Trek/Spock X-mas ornament. She knows the green-blooded Vulcan is my favorite character, lol.

Ann’s Birthday Gift Spock X-mas Ornament

Saturday morning we were up and out early to be the first in the door at another RV dealership. Worked with an excellent salesman and really think we may have found the kind we are going to get…one day, lol.

We spent the rest of the weekend watching the “Fallen” movies (Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen, and Angel Has Fallen) which somehow Cindy had not seen, watching YouTube videos about RV’ing, and reading.

Anything else, you don’t need to know about, lol.

When I got home I had an awesome birthday card from our family in the Pacific Northwest waiting for me.

Jade and Maxwell Birthday card


And there was a birthday letter and gift from my brother!

Birthday letter from Mark


It’s funny that he references the time we spent a weekend binge watching several movies at theaters (he also introduced me to Subway sandwich shops) because I was fondly remembering that weekend myself several days ago. I really, really enjoyed that time spent with my brother because we had not had the chance to do so much before that weekend.

And here I am with the awesome gift.

Mark’s Birthday Gift Back to the Future model car

Thanks as well to all who called, texted, posted, and messaged me with birthday wishes. They are all much appreciated.

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Elvis Presley Quote on Values

Earlier today I was taking an online course titled, “Decision Making and Problem Solving” that is offered by my employer. It has the usual points this type of course would contain, but also includes points that we, as emergency managers making decisions that affect hundreds to thousands of people impacted by disaster, would also have to consider.

One of those points was considering the ethics of our decision-making process (as stewards of taxpayer funds, as well as being charged with public safety) and the effects of those decisions.

It’s a serious subject, so I never expected to see a quote by The King of Rock n’ Roll on one of the pages, but there it was.

Elvis Presley Quote on Values

I was so stunned that I thought it must be a mistake. Why would the late Elvis Presley, known for his music and movies and shaking his hips, have ever even had the occasion to comment on ethics and values?

But, sure enough, he did. And, here are a multitude of other quotes from him that people thought significant enough to gather in one place.

I don’t mean to imply he was unethical or had no values, not in the least, I just couldn’t imagine that it would ever come up in his conversation. In fact, I’m glad that it did. And it goes to show the multi-faceted sides of most people, sides we don’t often consider but should.

I left that online lesson today all shook up, in a good way.

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COVID-19 Disaster Commemorative Coin

Many times during a disaster declaration, especially larger events like Hurricanes Sandy or Harvey, a group of folks will conduct a contest for designing a disaster-specific logo to use as a commemoration of that declaration. Usually, the winning logo design will be offered on shirts, similar to our official uniform shirts and employees will purchase shirts to have to wear to future disaster declarations to show they served at those disaster events.

I have never been interested in purchasing those disaster-specific shirts. Heck, I don’t even wear my official uniform shirt unless I am told to do so by Federal Coordinating Officer or my External Affairs Officer, so I never saw a need to purchase disaster-specific logo shirts that I would never wear.

I ALMOST purchased one for the disaster where I first served as a Congressional Affairs Manager, just to have it hanging in my closet as a reminder of that occasion, and ALMOST did the same for the disaster where I first served as Assistant External Affairs Officer-Congressional Affairs for the same reason. But in the end I didn’t do so, knowing they would do just that; hang in my closet and eventually be thrown out.

But earlier this year when I was virtually deployed to the COVID-19 declaration for New Jersey, someone there on site offered something different than a shirt and something that was more appealing to me as an item of remembrance; a COVID-19 disaster commemorative coin.

I ordered mine and it arrived a few days ago here at the house. It is about 2 1/2” in diameter and 3/8” thick with ridges on the edge. I’m not sure what it’s made of, but it’s got a feel of substance to it when you hold it.

COVID-19 Disaster Commemorative Coin

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with it and would love to see something similar for future declarations. I’d much rather pass something like this along to my children or grandchildren when I die, instead of a shirt.

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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.

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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!

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Quarantined at Home

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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