Personal

Personal website switcharoonie

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Since 2000 I've owned the mc-kenna.com domain. I've used it for various purposes over the years. One hope I had for the domain was that my family would be able to or interested in collaborating on it. It didn't work out that way and I ended up using it as my personal blog. That didn't quite sit right with me as I wanted the domain to be used by others, so along the way I picked up damienmckenna.com with a goal to make it my personal blog. Eight years later I've finally moved my personal blog from mc-kenna.com to damienmckenna.com, so I don't feel guilty anymore about publishing under my name.

I also plan to write more here, so lets see how this goes.

COVID-19, physical separation, grocery shopping and children

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COVID-19 is here, though so far our family are doing ok - it has been eight days since our last venture out of the house and we're not showing symptoms, so it's so far so good.

We've actually been wondering how to handle a scenario where both my wife and I become ill, and how to manage grocery shopping and food preparation for our three children. There's potential for us both to fall ill and be unable to cook for everyone for two-ish weeks.

There are a few aspects to this.

Firstly, COVID-19 can take up to two weeks for symptoms to show up. Every time we go out we want to wait two weeks to ensure we weren't infected from our last exposure.

Secondly, many people (including some folks I know) have full-on symptoms for two weeks, or longer, where they're unable to do anything, never mind if you need to go to the hospital. If we fall ill towards the end of a two week grocery period we could be out of action for another two weeks.

Put together, that sets us up for wanting to shop every two weeks but having two additional weeks worth of food, so that if we both fall ill by the end of a two week grocery period there's still food in the house for the kids to eat.

Towards that goal we've started focusing more on cooking fresh food instead of processed food, with the goal of freezing half-or-more of it per batch. We're labeling everything that goes in the freezer with the date so the food can be eaten in order.

So we're going to focus on cooking fresh food while we have it, try to freeze some of each meal, and then if/when we're ill our kids have something they can take out and heat to eat.

Ultimately I'd like us to have four weeks of of food between the fridge, freezer and pantry; we'd favor cooking fresh when available, then cycle through frozen stuff while leaving a two-week buffer of "mom and dad are both ill" time.

This is made all the more complicated because of my wife's ongoing health problems. She has been nursing her gall bladder for two years and is currently trying to improve it. Part of this process involves juicing vegetables and fruit to make them easier for her to get the nutrition (and throwing the pulp/fiber left over into chicken broth). Because so much fruit & veg only lasts a week-or-so she found a technique to prolong their shelf life by putting them in baskets of wood shavings, separating each item so that if one starts rotting it won't affect the others. This has been helping so far, e.g. instead of one rotten apple in a bag causing the rest to rot, when one apple started showing signs we could spot it and the others weren't affected.

Even so, fruit and veg can still go off fairly quickly, some items only lasting a few days before they start going off. As a result, it becomes hard to only shop once every two weeks and keep fresh fruit & veg in your diet. To help with this we signed up for Misfits Market a company that ships you a box of fresh veg & fruit every week. They're super busy right now so our first delivery won't be for two weeks, but it looks like deliveries will start on our grocery week off, so I think it'll help.

I should also note that we are in a very privileged position of being able to do this. I work from home and still have a job, and thankfully we're able to fund these efforts. I know lots of people who aren't as fortunate, hopefully the government funding will be able to help people.

Anyway, be safe, stay home if you can, and take care of yourselves.

Never thought this would be the scenario I wouldn't be able to travel for

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When my nephew Elliott's health started taking a turn for the worse, my first thought was to start preparing for the possibility of needing to make a trip to Ireland to be with my family. Unfortunately with the COVID-19 pandemic uprooting the entire world, flying is both not recommended due to the viral load component of virus transmission, and also not easily achieved because so many airlines have stopped their flights. Even if I was to make it back to Ireland somehow, the Irish health board has requested that "Everybody flying into Ireland from overseas should self-quarantine for 14 days". There was not going to be any chance of completing that in time, which would run the risk of me transmitting the illness to my parents or others, should I pick it up along the way (if I don't already have it and am asymptomatic); alternatively, I could pick it up from someone in Ireland and bring it back to the US to share with everyone I was in contact with between the airport and home, never mind my family.

So instead my brother and I have worked out how to use the conference call system Zoom to stream the funeral to family and friends across Ireland and the world. While I won't be able to comfort my family, we'll at least be able to say our farewells to Elliott.

Historically when people from Ireland emigrated to the US family and friends would hold a party for them to send them off. This was traditionally called an "Irish wake" as it was from a time when it was not expected that the emigrating person would ever be seen again. When my wedding 22 years ago became a makeshift Irish wake for me, I never in my wildest, worst dreams believed I would be unable to return home because of a pandemic, with the ease of travel across the Atlantic I assumed I would be able to pop over with short notice, as happened in 2016. The timing this year really is atrocious, and gut-wrenching.

Now the best I can do is tell my family in Ireland I love them, do everything in my power to keep my family here health so that when the pandemic subsides we'll be able to travel. Because there are so many hugs to be shared, and tears to be released.

RIP my nephew Elliott Seamus Patrick McKenna Roddy

Elliott smiling while listening to music being played for him

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My wonderful sister and her husband lost their child after a long uphill battle against the odds. Dearest Elliott Seamus Patrick McKenna Roddy passed away quietly in his mother's arms on Saturday, March 21st, with his dad at her side and his two grandmothers in support. Please keep them in your thoughts.

Ringing in the new year with a sick child on my lap

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I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ringing in the New Year sitting up on my bed with an ill child asleep on my lap, and I couldn’t be happier. Well, maybe I could, but you know what I mean.

And “happy” is the wrong word. I have a very strong paternal urge to care for sick children, especially our own, so when one of our children is ill there’s nowhere I’d rather be than there taking care of them.

We spent most of the past two weeks with someone ill. First it was our eldest, who grew 3/4rs of an inch over the space of three weeks and then had some mono-like symptoms for a few days but ultimately was fine after some rest. Then our middlest and awesomewife both came down with lethargy and some sinus congestion at roughly the same time, followed quickly by our youngest. Jump to yesterday and our youngest was jumping around feeling back to normal while the other two still had some residual coughing, so I was expecting that today everyone was going to wake up and be right as rain. Our hearts sank quite a bit when at about 6 this morning our youngest started a croupy cough in his sleep - this bug wasn’t quite done with him yet, and we were in for another few days of ickiness until he was fully recovered. We then changed our plan for New Years’ Eve to skip going to the Bangor Library’s festivities (with special indoor mini-golf?) and instead having a mostly quiet evening in.

At bedtime he went down to sleep really quickly, but within half an hour awesomewife sat up in bed with him on her lap. Half an hour later again, and I’ve traded places with her, she’s now doing some final nighttime things and I’m writing this.

I’m anticipating 2019 being a good year for us. We have some exciting plans for the year, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

I do hope you and yours have a very Happy New Year. I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and look forward to meeting up at some point throughout the year, or at the very least talking on the phone or online.

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