Getting out of Your Comfort Zone


One of the most difficult transitions for me is to know when it is time to get out of your comfort zone. There are many of these transitions throughout life. There are many of these:

  • Is it time to get married?
  • Is it time to have children?
  • Is it time to change careers?
  • Is it time to try a new project?

You can try to reason whether or not you are ready. You can create a list of pros and cons. You can dwell on your choice. You can talk to friends or colleagues and ask their opinions. You can dwell some more. However you decide to approach one of these decisions, there is really no way of knowing whether or not you are ready for it until it happens and you start to adapt. I always find it impressive at how capable humans are at adaptation. When we are presented with challenges or changes, the opportunity to overcome those challenges becomes motivation. Once you are able to push down the “Woe is me” thoughts, you are able to accomplish great things.

It is time to push down those feelings. It is time to adapt.

Forget Self-Driving Cars. Bring Back the Stick Shift.



A car with a stick shift and clutch pedal requires the use of all four limbs, making it difficult to use a cellphone or eat while driving.

I learned how to drive, initially, with automatic transmissions. The first car that was “mine” was a manual transmission though. I loved that car and I loved driving it. I later purchased another vehicle with a manual transmission in college. I loved that vehicle as well. In 2014-2015, I started looking at a larger vehicle. The Volkswagen Rabbit was a bit small for a carseat and dog crates. I remember scouring Edmunds, desperately looking for a manual transmission option. Alas, there weren’t many large vehicle options for a manual transmission. Worse, I never taught my wife how to use one. So we always needed a vehicle with an automatic transmission on road trips so that she could drive, if necessary. To make it easier on both of us, I opted for a vehicle with an automatic transmission.

I still dearly miss driving vehicles with a manual transmission. I absolutely adored the feeling of shifting gears. It was incredibly rewarding whenever you were able to cleanly take off on an incline without over-revving the engine. I haven’t given much thought to the idea that I might have been a safer driver in that vehicle as opposed to my current one. I will admit that I have started to rely on backup cameras and the sensors too much. If I get in a car without a backup camera, it’s jarring when I start to backup. I’m not sure if we should completely stop the improvements we have made, but it’s worth considering the consequences: if your brain isn’t focusing on the act of driving, your brain will most likely find something else to occupy itself.

Cross Country


After three years in California, we moved back to Nashville, Tennessee. This was not a choice taken lightly. We never fully acclimated to California. We never felt “at home” there. We missed our friends. We missed our families. Surprisingly, I missed Nashville. When we made the choice to relocate, I did not appreciate how much Nashville had grown on us. I did not appreciate how much Nashville felt like “home”.

Ashley and I weighed our options carefully. We finally made our choice. We spoke with our employers and came to an agreement. We planned the move. We bought a house in Nashville. We sold our house in Aptos (selling a house within two years of buying it is pretty difficult and not much fun; I wish that we had been renting instead, but we did not plan on moving back so soon). I scheduled movers to pack our belongings onto a truck and ship them to Nashville. I scheduled a vehicle transportation service to load our automobiles onto a trailer and haul them to the Volunteer State. I scheduled a pet moving service to assist in moving our pets as well.

There was never a question as to whether or not our two dogs would be coming with us. Our miniature Dachshund, Millie, was thirteen years old at the time. My wife brought her home as a puppy before beginning college. She had lived at her parents house through college and had lived in our home since our wedding. Our Beagle, Porter, was a little over a year old. We had just adopted him earlier that year as a rescue. Interestingly, he was taken in by a Beagle rescue from a research facility.

We used a pet relocation service on our move out to California. I knew we needed one on the way back. I can’t imagine taken two crated dogs through an airport with a four year old and luggage holding enough clothes to last a few weeks for three people. This service would pick up our dogs from our home in Aptos and drive them to the airport in San Francisco. They would ensure they were boarded onto their plane. At the destination, they would have someone pick them up from the airport in Nashville who would then board the dogs for us until we arrived in Nashville.

It’s easy, at this point, to suggest that I knew something was wrong when my phone started ringing and the caller ID revealed the boarder’s phone number. After answering the call, my heart began to sink. It continued to sink until I hung up. Porter began to get scared and anxious during the thunderstorm. I’m not sure if he had ever been in a thunderstorm before. Someone opened the front door to enter. Porter bolted through temporarily open door. They searched, but Beagles are fast. I would surmise that a scared Beagle is even faster.

The helplessness I felt at that moment was devastating. It felt like I had taken an unexpected punch to the stomach. I quietly explained what had happened to Ashley. I was scared to tell Max. I tried to remain as optimistic as possible. I wanted to get to Nashville as quickly as possible. I wanted to search and drive around; to call all shelters. He was chipped, surely there was something we could do. Except there wasn’t. Microchips are only useful if the animal is found. They are not much help if the animal is on the lam.

We arrived a few days later in Nashville. After the boarders brought our one remaining dog to us, we drove to the neighborhood Porter was last seen. Looking around at the suburb and seeing the vast farmland just beyond those houses, the hopelessness became deeper. We called around. Ashley started following lost and found pet sites and Facebook groups dedicated to reporting seen dogs. She still checks these sites every day. When I see her checking these sites on her phone, it just reopens the wound. I can’t ask her to stop though; I still hold out hope for a miracle even though it seems improbable.

It’s been hard on us. It’s been hard on Max. If the topic of our pets comes up in conversation (which it does, frequently, with other families), Max happily explains that we have two dogs: Millie and Porter. The latter is followed up with an explanation about how he is lost. Occasionally he tells us that a park ranger or farmer is going to find Porter and bring him back to us. I hope he’s right, but I don’t have the heart to tell him he might not be.

After much deliberation, we visited the Nashville Humane Association last week. We had narrowed down our selection and ended up adopting another Beagle. Her name is Brie. Max was adamant that we could not adopt more than one. More than three would be too many dogs. He seems to have really taken an interest in Brie and the interest seems mutual.

I still hope we get that call. Every time my phone rings, I look at the caller ID. If it’s a local number, I get hopeful; the automated voice on the other end devastates me every time. Part of me will always hope that we get that call. The worst part is not knowing a definitive. He could be out, enjoying ultimate freedom (which is what Ashley and I like to believe). I just want to know he’s okay.

Laminate Flooring


Note: this post originally appeared on one of my previous incarnations of my blog. I have been thinking about this post lately and I wanted to preserve it. It was originally written in 2014. I still miss you Renee.

The elevator lurches to a stop on the second floor. My feet are firmly cemented to the floor as the door opens. I notice Gerald first and head his way. After a solemn greeting, we make our way toward room #225. As we walk, Gerald is very soft spoken, visibly tired, and sad. “She’s not doing very well. She looks rough. I don’t think I can go in there anymore.” His wife of over thirty years is on her last lung.

Before crossing the threshold, I stop and ask Ashley to remain outside. I give her a kiss on the cheek, tell her I love her, then I enter the room. The room is full of people sharing stories. Old friends reminiscing about better times. The conversation is nearly washed out by the sound of struggled breathing, the kind of breathing that sounds painful. I see the source and I honestly do not recognize her. My Aunt Renee is dying. Tumors on her lung are slowly asphyxiating her. She looks tired. Her frame is very frail, very thin; Her eyes sunken. There are blotches covering her exposed arms and legs. I do not recognize her.

Renee has been battling cancer for a while now. Her initial treatment was rough, but she had come through it. Unfortunately, cancer does not give up easily. It had come back in an agressive way. When I saw her at Christmas, I could tell that she was in pain, but she did not show it. She did not complain. She was much more interested in seeing her grandnephews and grandnieces. She looked different than my childhood memories, but she still looked like Renee.

I start heading toward Vickie. While I walk, I cannot help but notice the flooring: It is a cheap laminate made to look like hardwood. The kind of floor that sticks to your rubber soles and makes this suction noise, regardless of how light or heavy your steps are. Vickie embraces me when I approach her. Visibly upset, she tells me that her sister can still hear visitors if they lean in close and speak in her ear. By the side of her bed, I lean in and call her name. Her eyelids part to reveal bloodshot eyes. Pupils change shape and her focus beams in on my face. Even with a huge beard and a different hair style, she immediately recognizes me. “Todd.” Her eyes close. This is the last time I talk to my Aunt Renee.

Pooh and Christopher Robin

As a child, I spent every other weekend at Renee’s house. I might be exaggerating, but if I am, it is not by much. I loved seeing her. Her house was the cool house: There were wide open fields for my Power Wheels truck, a swimming pool (so bad ass), and a ridiculous amount of Nascar Diecast race cars (somewhere between 50 and 70 at one time). It also did not hurt that Renee would spoil me with anything that I wanted. Looking back, I can quantify my time there into the same patterns:

  • Gerald would pick me up on Friday night. We would dine at the restaurant that Renee was working at (Georgiou’s Restaurant (now defunct), Majestic Pizza & Steakhouse, or Sedalia Restaurant (pronounced Se-dale-yah Rest-urnt by the locals). After our meal, Gerald would take us back to the house to wait for Renee to get off work. Once Renee was off work, we would watch the local news and then some show on Nick-at-Nite (Green Acres sticks out the most).
  • Saturday was my day: Whatever I wanted to do, I got to do.
  • Sunday always involved a trip to Trace Creek Baptist Church for the morning service, chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken (extra crispy) and, for roughly three-fourths of the year, a Nascar race.

I actually owned this thing and it was amazing.

Eventually, Renee had a good enough job that she did not have to waitress anymore. Then she started to spend Friday nights having fun, instead of working. This usually entailed dirt track racing at Paducah International Raceway, rooting for Randy Sellars (a local driver that she was friends with). I loved these races. When I think back to these days, I still can smell the gasoline fumes. My eyes will start to burn from the dirt in the air. I will get a ringing noise in my ears from the loud engines. It was great.

For some reason, I stopped going to Renee’s house. I am not even sure why. I think I outgrew her house. I started to make friends in school, friends that lived close enough to my house that I wanted to spend time at their house and hang out with them. I still loved Renee, but I had other interests and I struggled with making time for both of them. It was as though I was Christopher Robin and she was my Winnie the Pooh. I regret this so much. I really wish I would have spent more time with her. I wish I would have went to eat with her. I wish I would have visited when I obtained my driver license. I wish I would have called her more. Just to talk. I could have spent more time chatting with her on Facebook. I could have done a lot things. But I didn’t. And I never will get the chance to start doing those things.

Christopher Robin and Pooh

The second-to-last conversation I had with Renee was over a phone. She was already back in the hospital. I called Vickie once I had heard the news. Vickie handed the phone to Renee. I could barely understand her; Her voice was a strangled whisper. We had a short conversation. Toward the end I broke down crying. I apologized for throwing a checkerboard at her (I was such a sore loser as a child). I told her I loved her. She forgave me. She said she loved me too.

Surly Long Haul Trucker


I have not owned a bicycle since my first year in middle school. Sure, I have ridden on bicycles during that time. Yes, Ashley has a bicycle that I have occasionally taken for a spin in the past. However, I have not had a personal bicycle since then. To be honest, I am not even sure what happened to the bicycle. I remember having one and, suddenly, do not remember having one. I believe my last bicycle was green. Until now, that is. Now I own a touring bicycle, the color I will affectionately call “Dad’s thermos”. Say “Hello” to my new bicycle: the Surly Long Haul Trucker.

Let us rewind for a minute. Ashley and I recently moved back to Nashville. As part of this move, both of us are now working out of a home office. Suddenly, our two car situation is a bit ridiculous. The car that I am leasing has set in our garage without moving for over two months now. We talked and decided that it is a bit foolish to waste the money on two vehicles. Since both of us have home offices, we rarely have need to be in two places at the same time. After crunching the numbers, even if I were to buy a used car outright, the cost of maintenance and insurance alone is not a small sum of money. Additionally, our new home has a one car garage with limited parking space in the driveway. Not exactly two car friendly.

When we chose our current home, we chose it because of the neighborhood. The home is beautiful, but our first concern was location. Our home is located in a neighborhood that is nestled in-between two high traffic areas. These high traffic areas have great restaurants, coffee shops (side note: it feels wonderful to be within walking distance of good coffee again), and grocery stores. After realizing that two cars is a bit of overkill for our situation, I started to consider another option: a bicycle.

My requirements were quite simple. I wanted a bicycle that was comfortable to ride (with the option of doing more long rides in the future if I desired). I wanted a bicycle that could be fitted with racks or saddle bags to haul items (from the grocery store, for example). Luckily, we have a neighborhood bicycle shop: Halcyon Bike Shop.

I visited the bicycle shop over the course of two days. During that time, I took six bicycles out for a test ride. I felt all were nice, but there was one that I just could not get out of my mind: the Surly Long Haul Trucker. It was love at first ride. I rode it both days and enjoyed each ride. I made the leap and purchased it. Since then, I have taken the LHT out for a few spins. The weather is starting to get colder and there has been quite a bit of rain in the forecast, so my time on the road is limited. However, a few observations:

  • There are some routes that are great for bicycle traffic
  • There are some routes that are awful for bicycle traffic
  • Nashville has more hills than you think, some of them very subtle
  • My longest ride has only been for a few miles; I am not in riding shape for long distances, regardless of how regularly I have been to the gym in the past year

I am not sure if riding a bicycle to most places in Nashville will work long term. I figure it would be a good time to try though. I would assume an increase in bicycle traffic will lead to expansions of bicycle lanes, which would be a welcome improvement moving forward. Plus: it is fun.

¡Vamos México!


Landon Donovan is seemingly catching shit for “rooting” for Mexico. I feel Donovan has the freedom to root for whichever team he wants to root for. This outcry against him for seemingly rooting for a rival is kind of bogus. The more insulting aspect of it is that its just part of an advertising campaign.

I personally would like to see Mexico do well in the World Cup (to hopefully bring respect to CONCACAF). As a casual fan, I do not share the history of a rivalry with Mexico. I just wish this all wasn’t coming from an icky ad campaign from a crooked company.



The symptoms started Monday. They were hard to quantify, but the gist was a tingling, burning sensation in the skin on my left shoulder, up my trapezius muscle, toward my neck. It wasn’t constant and it wasn’t even that bad. Mostly just an uncomfortable sensation.

I ignored my symptoms until Thursday morning. On Thursday morning, I noticed a small rash starting to appear across my left shoulder, from back to front, with a smattering of red on my left pectoral muscle. Ashley urged me to see a doctor and I relented.

Fortunately, I was able to see a physician that afternoon. He asked me two questions before informing me I had Shingles. I quick and easy diagnosis. I had classified Shingles as an ailment for the elderly. It almost seems appropriate for me since Ashley regularly jests that I am an old man trapped in a younger man’s body.

The good news: there were treatments to help with the symptoms. The bad news: you just have to let it run its course.

I worked Thursday without much incident. By Friday afternoon, the rash’s progress had accelerated. It had spread a bit more and had started to blister. This was expected, but it’s still uncomfortable. The pain has increased a bit and it has become increasingly more itchy.

As of Saturday, it seems like it’s past the blistering phase. Now it’s just very itchy and the burning pain still comes and goes in waves. Only a few more days to go… or possible a few weeks. Apparently the timeline for recovering from Shingles varies wildly from case to case and person to person. I’m hoping for a more mild case, especially since I started treatment early on.

U.M.B.C. Makes History With Upset of No. 1 Virginia



Since 1985, No. 1 seeds had advanced at least to the second round 135 consecutive times.

We were putting Max down for bed whenever I received the alert. I always figured that eventually this would happen. Despite how impossible it always felt, it always seemed to me that this would have to happen. Now that it has happened, I am truly stunned. This is the first year I have not filled out a bracket since seventh grade. However, every year that I have filled out a bracket always started the same: I immediately penciled in the one seeds into the second round. It was a given. Sure, you’d watch the games and you would root for the unlikeliest of upsets, but you always knew those picks were safe. I have seen a two seed get upset. Your threes and fours are uncommon as well, but there have been a few of those. Most followers will insist that there is always a twelve over a five in every tournament. But a sixteen over a one? Sure

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry resigns from office as part of guilty plea to felony theft charge



Nashville Mayor Megan Barry resigned on Tuesday amid a sex scandal involving her former head of security, a stunning fall from power for a leader who was once among Tennessee’s brightest political stars.

Before we left Nashville, Ashley and I both voted for Megan Barry twice (general election and the runoff). To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. During the mayoral election of 2015, I felt Barry was an honest and sincere person. The misappropriation of funds and the violation of the people’s trust in her is what hurts the most. At the time of her election, I felt that her being elected meant a strong progressive policy for Nashville. I only hope that the newly sworn in mayor and the soon to be elected mayor will continue that trend.



Ashley and I have been slowly going through our things, attempting to purge things we no longer need or just don’t want. It’s tough. What can be sold? What should be donated? What can be recycled? What should be thrown out? Much of our furniture has been accumulated since our marriage. Some pieces of furniture predate our first apartment together. A few pieces of furniture are cheap relics of college. Some of our stuff was slightly damaged during our move. Some of it has outlived its usefulness.

One of the items that I came across were a few pairs of eclipse sunglasses. I considered throwing them away, but felt terribly guilty about discarding something that was still useful. Instead, I found a NASA article that gave me a few options. I decided to ship them to the Astronomers without Borders collection. It cause me the postage to ship them, but I feel a bit better about not wasting something that could still be used by someone.

It has always been difficult for me to part with my belongings. I feel guilt for giving away things that may have been a gift to me. However, I want to simplify our lives. We still have boxes of things that have not been unpacked since our move to California. I think it’s time that those things, if possible, find new homes. I may have items that other people would be thankful to have. So I’ll donate things that still have life in them, discard or recycle those that have been too well loved.