This day, one year ago, my wife and I were celebrating the holidays and ringing in the new year down in Key West. The trip was somewhat spontaneous, as we both grew up suffering through cold Wisconsin winters and wanted to treat ourselves to a Christmas somewhere warm.

Over the next few weeks we started to hear reports of a mysterious cluster of pneumonia cases on the other side of the planet. Frankly, it was a world away and we were busy packing for an extra-long weekend we had planned hiking around Yellowstone and skiing at Big Sky.

By the time we returned home those reports had turned into alarms as the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 spread out of control. Everything was about to change.

The Sky Is Falling

It didn't take long for the first confirmed case here in the U.S. Everything continued as normal for a few more weeks but there was this odd sense of foreboding as each day brought more dire news.

At this point we knew that the primary concern with COVID-19 was severe respiratory distress but in some ways it was what we didn't know that was so scary. Nobody seemed to know exactly how this virus spread or why some cases were so much more severe than others. One person might not even have symptoms but another could experience organ failure and loss of limb before dying with a ventilator tube shoved down their throat.

It was as if fate simply flipped a coin if you became infected, and that was utterly terrifying.

Confirmed cases reached into the hundreds of thousands—and deaths into the tens of thousands—while international teams of scientists raced to understand the virus. In early March, alarmed by the uncontrolled spread and lack of action by government officials across the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 had become a global pandemic.

Going Remote

That very same day my employer sent everyone home to work remotely. The idea was to stay healthy and safe so we could keep working while scientists get the pandemic all sorted out. I mean it's only going to take a month or two at most, right?


The abrupt transition to full-time remote work was challenging for most and a herculean task for many. Not everyone is so fortunate as to have a separate quiet space to use as an office and even if you do it's still incredibly easy to get distracted. On top of everything else parents suddenly had to provide full-time childcare and become part-time teachers. I really don't know how any of them have managed.

Personally the biggest hurdle was figuring out how to focus on work while it felt like the world was ending. Some days the news was so bleak I couldn't help but do whatever I could to distract myself. This often led to making up those hours late into the night which, from previous experience, is a very short road to burnout.

I've since been able to establish a more consistent schedule fortunately. Veterans of remote work would probably cringe at how long it took but these are extraordinary times so they'll have to give me a break.

Adding Four More Paws

Even before the world went into lockdown my wife and I had been toying with the idea of rescuing another dog. For those of you that don't know us, we have a 6-year-old black lab mix named Penny that is the absolute center of our universe. We've gone back and forth over a second dog for the last couple of years, but when one decided it was the right time the other usually felt the opposite.

In July we were looking through the dogs available for adoption at our local Humane Society when we decided to commit. With the pandemic still raging they wouldn't allow anyone into the building without an appointment, which certainly made it frustrating because the dog you want to meet might already be adopted by the time you get there. So we scheduled an appointment and hoped for the best.

We looked at a handful of dogs but they were either in need of special care or had some pretty severe behavioral issues. We were about ready to give up when we saw a little ball of fur curled up in the corner of her room. With brindle coloring, a crooked tail, and a playful disposition we had found our next furry family member: Tilly!

Penny pouted for a couple of weeks and didn't really want anything to do with the new puppy, but nowadays you can find them chasing each other around the yard and barking at the neighbors. Two peas in a pod.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

In just the last couple of weeks the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency authorization for two separate COVID-19 vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer. Distribution and vaccinations have already begun, and the goal is to have a majority of the population vaccinated by next summer.

Perhaps even more noteworthy: Joe Biden has won the Presidential election. Given that he helped create the Obama-era "pandemic playbook" designed to prevent or mitigate viruses like COVID-19, I'll sleep better at night with him at the helm than the current occupant.

Help is on the way!