How My Son and I Tested Positive

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Like a lot of people in early 2020, I was furloughed from my job and was confined to my house in order to practice social distancing. I remember getting the phone call from my boss. I knew it was bad when he started off with: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news . . .” I took a deep breath and began working out the details of how I was going to get the bills paid, feed the kids, and keep my wife from having to go back to work.

I lay on the floor of my bedroom at one point that Sunday, with the typical fears of unemployment racing through my head, but what scared me the most was how I was going to get along with my five-year-old son.

My son and I have struggled to have a good relationship from the start. We didn’t get to bond when he was a baby because for the first year of his life, he spat up almost every time he was moved or jostled in any way. Needless to say, I practiced a lot of social distancing with my son. (The spitting up was due to an undiagnosed imbalance in his system where his body rejected nearly anything we fed him. So there was no tickling or rolling around like fathers and sons do.)

He never slept. Even though my wife was the one to always get up with him, this was another cause of constant stress in the household. His crying at night would also wake up our daughter, who’s a year older than him, and shares the same room. To make matters worse, I was dealing with depression over my dead end job and my failing marriage. I secretly blamed my son for a lot of the unrest and turmoil in our house, though now I know that blame was grossly misplaced.

I’m deeply ashamed to admit it, but it was hard for me to tell him that I loved him, which is what I think we both needed most.  But due to behavioral issues, he had spent so much time screaming, even when I tried being the “good-guy dad.” And the cycle repeated itself over and over.

It was dizzying.

And it didn’t help that I hated my job. I didn’t want to come home to a screaming child, but I also didn’t want to leave the house to go spend another ten hours at an unfulfilling job, either.

So on that Sunday two months ago, I laid on the floor and I just knew neither of us was going to survive being stuck together in the house. There were bound to be some casualties amongst the four of us.

But I’ve learned that the gift of free time offers perspective, patience, and a chance to heal.

Here’s the thing. My furlough-turned-termination may have forced me to be at home more, but it also gave me fifty-plus extra hours a week to be at home with my family. That’s ten hours a day we got to know each other, do things together (within quarantine guidelines, of course), and discover common interests. I can’t tell you when I decided to be more patient with my son, but having all this extra time certainly aided in that, because…

What the hell else did I have to do?

I’ve even started making a private game out of lecturing him. Just to keep myself amused and not see only red when he disobeys, I quote Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction, and I tell him to, “Be cool.” I say, “Tell me you’re cool. Let’s just be a couple of Fonzi’s and be cool.”

Of course, he doesn’t know the reference, but it’s something fun my wife and I can laugh about after we correct his misbehavior. This helps us be more relaxed and less stern when disciplining him, thus allowing him to open up more when we ask him questions.

I don’t recommend everyone quote Sam Jackson when talking to their kids, but you’ve got to find a way to blend your unique sense of humor with talking to your kids, especially in those moments where all you want to do is scream at them and hope to God they run away and never come back. It’s the only way to stay cool, honey bunny.

Now that I’m home more, I have the opportunity to hug him more frequently. (That’s much easier now that he’s not spitting up anymore.) He loves our hugs. I make him hug me as hard as he can. It helps both of us.

I’ve been at home with my family for nine weeks, and I’m still not doing it perfectly. In fact, to be perfectly honest, the last two weeks have been really hard for us. But because of those great weeks we had earlier, I know we have a fighting chance, I know it’s possible for our relationship to test positive in the end.

I’m at least in a better position to sincerely apologize to him when I’m not being cool, and we can have a discussion. Because, in these quarantine times, what else is there to do but to improve on our in-house relationships? I’m locked in with them any way. Might as well make the best of it.

We cool?

Top 10 Good Things that Have Come from the Shutdown

There’s two sides of every coin, lest we take the bad without the good. That’s why I’m listing the top ten things that we got from the shutdown from March to May.

10. Some time off

Admittedly not everyone got furloughed or let go due to the coronavirus, but many millions of people did. So let’s be honest, as scary as it is to be jobless, we’ve been saying that a little time off would help with our morale, right?

9. Lots of free money

Sometimes it pays to not make bank on our paychecks. And in early 2020, the government sliced out piece of the pie to give to each household whether we needed it or not (not that I’m complaining). My unprofessional advice? Hold off on that big screen TV until after you pay your taxes next year.

8. “SGN”

Formerly and always known as Jim Halpert, The Office cast favorite and A Quiet Place director decided to start a YouTube channel called SGN (Some Good News), where he acts as your friendly neighborhood news anchor delivering all things good, lots of laughs, and often many tears. Good tears, of course. (Damnit, Jim!)

7. A wake-up call to big businesses

Employees of big companies have been saying for several decades that people can and should work from home. It would cut back on pollution, bad morale, tardies, office drama, and (most importantly to the CEO’s) overhead. Duh. (Hello, McFly!!) Now companies like Twitter are allowing their workers to do their work from home where many can save money on daycare and keep the dogs well fed and taken care of. Accountants are going to love seeing what those overhead savings will add up to.

6. Clearer skies and clearer waters

Speaking of less traffic, that’s already lead to less pollution, less smog, and maybe less cancer. I’m no tree-hugger, but I love a blue sky and clear waters as much as the next guy.

5. An abundance of Tiger King memes

I wonder, if the coronavirus hadn’t hit when it did, if The Tiger King would even become as big a thing as it did. And for that, I’m truly grateful. We all are. The internet told us to watch it, and we did, and we loved every stupid, ridiculous, unbelievable second of it. And we certainly can’t get enough of the memes and the terribly inhumane knocks against Carol Baskins and Joe Exotic.

4. Local dining

The bad thing about this shutdown, and really the most tragic thing, is that many mom and pop shops and local favorites have closed their doors permanently. So as a couple who support hard-working small businesses and free enterprise, we have finally tried out several wonderful little restaurants in town that we’ve put off doing for years, and the experience has been great! We hope to keep going to these places when this is all over. (Thanks, Momma’s and Jake & Elwood’s!!)

3. Time with our kids

Unless you’ve got an office at home with a lock on the inside, you can’t get around spending too much time with the kiddos. For us, some days that’s good, and some days that’s not so good. But one thing’s for sure, our kids won’t look back on this year and say we didn’t spend enough time with them.

2. Discovering new hobbies

My wife and I started a YouTube channel for kicks, just to pass the time during this lockdown. We’ve also gotten really into puzzles and trivia games. What kinds of hobbies have you taken up since being on lockdown?

1. Opportunities to acknowledge our heroes

Healthcare workers and retail employees have always been our unsung heroes, but now is the opportune for us to really show them that we care and appreciate their hard work and service to our communities. Be sure to say thank you and be extra kind and generous to them as they continue to spin the globe for our use.

Is Our Freedom Ebbing Away?

This post is in response to the article: “Contact Tracing Program Introduced in Kentucky” on Lex18.com.

Our newly appointed Kentucky governor introduced a seven month contact tracing program yesterday during a press conference. It’s basically a strategy to follow around  victims of COVID-19 (unspecified as to how) and then health officials will contact the dozens or hundreds of people those victims came in contact with and they will follow up with these contacted people with those annoying questions everyday for, I’m assuming, two weeks: “Have you had symptoms of a fever?” “How do you feel currently?” etc.

Except they wouldn’t have to ask if they’ve been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or if they’ve traveled internationally recently, because they will have those answers available, thanks to the tracing program.

On the one hand, it seems like a good use of technology and promoting safety amongst the citizens of the state.

But safety against what, exactly?

I’m not an anti-corona guy, though I do think it’s been magnified (check out my thoughts on that here.) I won’t list all the hundreds of things that more people die of per day in a given year because we’ve all seen the videos and statistics (if not, here’s a source).

The point is, there are much better reasons to trace people. I believe people convicted of sexual crimes with minors are tagged with an ankle bracelet, so that’s good. What about recovering addicts who sign a consent waiver? Those are good reasons to trace people, in my opinion. If you think of a third reason, let me know.

But we’re in a world now where free and innocent people with a flu bug have to be tracked by the government? Yikes.

Now, I’ll be honest. When I saw that Will Smith movie, Enemy of the State, back in 1998, I couldn’t figure out what the big problem was. Why was there a growing paranoia of the government watching us? And even up until fairly recently I was very passive about the Patriot Act, because my thought process was: “I’ve got nothing to hide; so what?”

But the truth is, most people have nothing to hide. Therefore, as a society, we’ve earned the right to maintain that freedom of privacy. Now, if ten or twenty percent of America’s population were victim-minded criminals and terrorists, then I think it’d be fair to be having this conversation about tracing people’s footsteps.

Not to make too forward of a connection, consider Nazi Germany. The Nazis were told they were liberated and so on, but even they were tracked by the Gestapo.

The takeaway from this post isn’t that I’m comparing mid-2020 America to Nazi Germany, because I’m not.

But let’s focus in on the most alarming part of this article I listed above. Governor Andy Beshear, upon introducing the seven month contact tracing program, said that it will combine public participation and technology.

The article goes on to state that contact officials (700 hired) will contact individuals who have tested positive and then retrace their steps.

Notice what’s missing between the two paragraphs above?

I’m left wondering what this technology is that Beshear hints at. Is it the tracking application that was updated to most of our phones?  Is it going to be time for us to soon be microchipped?

And what about this public participation he’s urging from us? I feel like that’s also a little haunting, but I think I’ve spoken enough on this topic for now. I’d really like to know what your thoughts are on this topic.

One thing’s for sure. The discussion has finally been put on the table: It’s no longer, “What does freedom mean to me?” Now, it’s,”What is freedom? And how far is it still able to stretch?”

The Real Cause of the Global Shutdown?

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In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the world, and our country, has survived other cases like this: The Spanish flu (1918), diphtheria (1921-1925), polio (peaked in 1952), most recent measles outbreak (1981-1991), and let’s not forget about mad cow in the early to mid 2000’s.

What do all these outbreaks have in common? Deaths that rose into the thousands, sure. But look a little closer. More specifically, what did all of these not do?

None of these outbreaks caused a global shutdown or a collapse of our economical structure.

What else do these all have in common?

With the exception of mad cow disease, all of these outbreaks took place prior to the rise of social media. Myspace and Facebook were still battling for the world wide internet’s center stage. And honestly, even as a child of the 80’s and 90’s, it was the first time I’d ever heard of, or was made aware of, a current outbreak, and that I was as much at risk as anyone else.

I wonder. If it weren’t for the social media frenzy, and the political bigwigs monitoring and studying the public’s opinion, would we be where we are today, locked up in our homes, remaining distant from one another, cancelling holidays, and looking for work?

I’m not saying all of this precaution is for naught. I’m in no place to judge that, and maybe no one without a crystal ball is. I’m not a scientist or a health professional, or Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak. But I do frequent social media and I’ve seen several sides of the COVID-19 debate.

And that’s just the thing. The fact that the debate itself is so accessible and inclusive is enough to make me wonder if so many businesses shut down not because of the virus, but because of the paranoia that spreads faster than the flu through Twitter and Facebook and memes.

Like I said. I’m not expert. Who am I, really, but a guy who’s caught up in the middle of all this madness just like you, and I’m trying to wipe the fog off the window so I can see what’s really going on on the outside.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. Would the coronavirus have caused planet earth to stop spinning if it weren’t for the internet and so many billions of people and ideologies and belief systems weighing in? Leave your opinion in the comments below, and keep washing your hands, virus or not.

Keith Farthington on How to Make an Instructional Video

People everywhere are still trapped at home and trying new things, especially in the realm of making videos to post online, whether they be Disneyland reenactments, discussions about The Tiger King, or making videos to be given a shoutout on John Krasinski’s SGN (Hi, John xXoXooO!!!).

I’ll be honest, I’ve been in a creative funk, so I just dug through my old video archives and rediscovered this ol’ gem. It’s a character I created named Keith Farthington, and he’s basically my inner nerd cranked up to a million. Keith Farthington is literally who I become when it’s 10:00 at night and I’m tired AF, but beyond the point where I can peacefully fall asleep. So I sit up in bed and talk and talk and talk. I hope there’s a medal for Sarabeth if there’s a heaven (she’s expecting one).

So! If you’re curious about how to make an instructional video (or if you just need a stupid thing to laugh at for a few minutes), I will hold you up no longer. Enjoy!

Starting Fresh, Starting Over

If these quarantine times have offered any value at all, it’s the gift of time. AmIright? (Unless you’re a healthcare or retail worker, or hold any position that has been deemed essential, then you truly are a hero worthy of Tony Stark’s EDITH glasses.)

But for the rest of us, we’ve been given the opportunity to rekindle our in-home relationships, re-examine our life paths, and revisit forgotten dreams.

You’ll notice that I’ve changed the name of this blog. It’s part of starting fresh, starting over.  That’s pretty easy to do when you get permanently let go from your job due to a global pandemic. Starting over can also feel a little obligatory when your cardiologist says to you, “Well, you’re one of 12% of people with your rare condition that’s still alive at your age.” Also, “Your heart is deteriorating, so you can’t be doing manual labor anymore. Unless you want to DIE!”

Well, that last part is a little fabricated. But yeah, the internal heart is ticking loudly, I’m losing sleep over it, the world’s going to the crapper… But, I’ve at least been given the chance to re-establish my relationship with my family after a couple of tumultuous years.

I’ll be expanding more of these topics in subsequent posts. Oh, what fun.

Oh! And at the behest of some friends, Sarabeth and I started a YouTube channel in case you don’t like reading blog posts. Our video discussions and blog posts (which I’ll be writing most of) won’t always coincide, but it’s at least something else you can follow and enjoy as we wait for the world to open back up, if it ever does.

 

Laughter Through These Difficult Times

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Greetings.

I know it’s been almost two years since I wrote you last. Managing and writing for Adopting James was a great pleasure for me while Sarabeth and I searched for our children through adoption. When we got them, there was no more journey to write about.

So now our daughter is six and our son is five. Since I’ve written my last blog post, my wife and I have gone through ten lifetimes of marriages, it seems. I will own most of the mistakes as my own, that brought us to such dark places.

We were within inches of getting a divorce.

But in recent months, we’ve decided to emerge through the darkness together, rather than die in it separately.

And the results have been fruitful.

And I’ve got to say that after surviving such menacing trials, this pandemic that’s gripped the world seems almost laughable. Even though I’ve lost my job, even though we’re as uncertain and scared as everyone else. After surviving what we’ve gone through, this seems manageable, because we’re in it together.

I hope you are holed up with people that you love. I hope you are using this time to grow as a person, and grow closer to your family. This time can be awesome if we allow it to be. And really, are we that much more frightened of the future than we were before? It’s just as unpredictable as it was a month ago, right?

Sarabeth and I have learned that laughter is important, and nothing is worth being too serious about. This is why we’ve started a YouTube series of just the two of us talking to you. We discuss movies, books, cars, our lives in quarantine, and just generally want to cheer others up. I’m sure in some future video we’ll dive into some select details of the dark days of our marriage and how we’ve come through them.

We hope you join us over on YouTube, and would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, or just say hi if you’d like.

Here’s the link to one of our videos, just punch subscribe if you want to keep seeing us. Hang in there, we’re all in this weirdness together. And don’t forget to wash your hands!