Browsing Tag: mattmcgee


    I Don’t Want Normal Anymore

    September 24, 2023

    My feet are freezing.

    It’s 90 degrees outside in August and I’m walking barefoot on our hot back patio, but my feet feel like they’re suffering from frostbite. It’s been this way since my accident last September.

    Only my feet aren’t really freezing.

    Every so often, I’ll ask Cari to touch my foot.

    “Does that feel cold to you?”

    It never does.

    This is, fortunately, about the worst physical ailment I deal with now, a year after almost drowning in the Pacific Ocean while we celebrated my birthday in Maui. Cari and I were swimming at Kaanapali Beach — my favorite place on earth.

    Suddenly, an unusually big wave grabbed me for…I don’t know…maybe 10 seconds??…and tossed me around like a ragdoll. It slammed me headfirst into the sand and left me unconscious and paralyzed underwater. If not for the heroic actions of a handful of angels on the beach, I’d be dead.

    But today I’m very much alive. And my feet feel cold all the time. It’s something to do with the nerve endings not recovering after the accident. It’s annoying, but not painful. I look at it like a souvenir, a gift — a reminder of where I was then and where I am now.

    The First 24 Hours

    The hardest thing, physically, was not being able to move my neck. Two neurosurgeons worked with me in the 24 hours I was at Maui Memorial Medical Center. They put me in a neck brace and gave very clear instructions: Keep my head and neck perfectly still.

    Matt in the Maui ER

    “Do I have to wear this thing while I sleep?”

    “Yes,” neurosurgeon #1 said.

    “What about when I shower?”

    “You can remove it then, but be extra careful. (Looking at Cari) You’ll probably want to help him in there. (Looking at both of us) Be sure to put it back on as soon as you’re dry.”

    I passed all the physical/occupational therapy tests that Sunday morning at the hospital, which basically involved taking a slow walk from my room to the nurse’s station and then doing random pushing, pulling, and squeezing exercises with my arms, hands, legs, and feet.

    They said I could fly home the next day and told me to see my primary doctor and a neurosurgeon.

    “Will I need surgery?”

    “That’s for them to decide,” said neurosurgeon #2. “If you were in worse shape, we might’ve done it here. But you really dodged a bullet. We see a lot of people who go through what you did, and we send most of them home in wheelchairs.”

    The neurosurgeon said I’d need to wear the neck brace for six weeks to help my neck and upper spine stabilize. SIX WEEKS?!? I wasn’t looking forward to that at all, but JFC how could I possibly complain?? No surgery (yet) and no wheelchair?? I was just glad to be alive. Still am.

    First Days at Home

    I could walk on my own, but very slowly and gingerly. Both kids were at college, so it was just me and Cari. She had to escort me whenever I wanted to move from one room to another. I was weak and wobbly and had to hold on to whatever I could as I moved around the house.

    (Cari was incredible this whole year, but especially in the beginning when I was pretty much useless around the house. I get emotional to this day thinking about how strong she was in my weakest days.)

    I sat at my office desk for a couple hours on Tuesday, the first full day home. I checked in on my co-workers in the HomeLight Slack. I answered some emails. It hurt to type, so I figured out how to use the speech-to-text tool on my iMac. But there was a lot of I’m tired, I need to lay down every day in the beginning. I napped a lot.

    My body was tingly all over — like a million sharp needles were pricking my skin non-stop. It hurt to put clothes on. There was a moment in the first couple of days when Cari gently touched my arm and I screamed in pain.

    The underside of my forearms itched like crazy. I scratched them so much that I opened up a couple small wounds.

    Headaches were a regular occurrence in the beginning. I started taking Advil to help with that and the tingling and the general pain. I took a lot of Advil for about 3-4 months. Probably too much.

    You never think about how often you move your neck until they tell you not to. I dare you to not move your neck for the next five minutes. Look straight ahead. No tilting your neck up or down. No turning it left or right. Perfectly still. Good luck.

    Showering was a huge challenge; and yes, Cari did help with that. We had a chair in the shower, which helped a ton. A detachable showerhead did, too.

    Shaving was another problem. I’m right-handed, but I couldn’t stretch my right arm far enough to shave the left side of my face. And I couldn’t turn my neck. So I became ambidextrous as fast as I could, out of necessity.

    (Possible TMI warning here.) Using the toilet was also rough. Guys, try aiming when you can’t tilt your neck down. Right?? The Maui hospital had sent me home with a plastic bottle that I had used to go #1 while I was there, so I ended up using that at home, too, for a while.

    Then there was sleeping. Challenge #1 was the damn neck brace. Challenge #2 was that we had a queen-sized bed with a very high mattress (about 36 inches if you’re curious). I couldn’t get in bed without a step stool.

    Sleeping challenge #3 was my wife. God bless her…she’s a violent/active sleeper. She tosses, turns, and kicks a lot. There’ve been nights where I’ve been startled awake because she rolled over and inadvertently punched/slapped me in the face. 😅

    We agreed it was too risky for me to sleep next to her in the close quarters of a queen-sized bed, so we brought in a twin bed from one of the kids’ rooms, bought a new mattress for it, and placed it at the base of our main bed. The first couple nights were tough, but I eventually learned to sleep perfectly still on my back all night and with the damn neck brace on. About a month later, we got a king-sized bed. (FFS, what took us so long??)

    Two Weeks Later: Freedom

    We saw my primary care doctor first — on Sept. 29, five days after the accident. I told him my feet were so cold that I was worried my toes were going to fall off. He told me to take off my shoes and socks, touched the toes on my right foot, and promised me they weren’t cold. I didn’t believe him.

    During the visit, he made a bold prediction: I wouldn’t need to wear the neck brace for six weeks.

    Fast forward to October 7, just about two weeks after the accident. That’s when we saw a local neurosurgeon. He’d received all the x-rays and scans and MRI results and everything from Hawaii. He showed us some of it, including the x-rays of my upper neck. He pointed out the two discs that had pretty much been destroyed. It was crazy to see those scans compared to the other, normal discs.

    He said he didn’t think I needed spinal surgery right now, but I might in the future depending on how the healing goes. He talked about a couple of different surgical options. It all sounded scary.

    “What about the neck brace? The neurosurgeon in Maui said to wear it for six weeks.”

    “You can stop wearing it now.”

    “Are you serious??!!??”

    “Yes, but keep it around and put it back on if your neck and back start to hurt more than normal, or if you’re just feeling like you need some extra stability.”


    “What about driving?”

    “I don’t want you driving until you can move your neck enough to see traffic to your sides when you’re making a turn. And don’t drive when you’re on Advil.” (I drove for the first time at the end of October, about five weeks after the accident.)

    Recovery, Rehab, and a Backyard Breakthrough

    The local neurosurgeon didn’t prescribe any medicine, but he did want me to start physical therapy as soon as possible. I started going to a small PT facility just a couple miles from my house. Cari drove me twice a week.

    There were usually 3-5 other patients in the facility at the time, and almost to a person, everyone had a look on their face that said I’d rather be anywhere else in the world than here. A few were genuinely struggling with their rehab, but most seemed to be going through the motions. I didn’t get why everyone else seemed to not give a shit about their own recovery and rehab.

    Then there was me — and I’m proud of this — giving everything I had to beat what I’d done on the previous visit. If I did two sets of 10 rowing pulls, the next visit I’d do two sets of 15.

    That wasn’t all. There I was, an unabashed, keep-to-myself introvert, smiling and talking to the therapists on every visit. Asking them questions about what I was doing and feeling with each exercise. I usually keep pretty quiet and to myself, but I was the life of the facility most days. What’s gotten into you?, I’d ask myself.

    Our German Shepherd, Blaze, was about 2.5 years old when this happened, and still thought she was a puppy. (She still does, for that matter!)

    In the first days after the accident, it was Cari’s job to play with Blaze. That was normally my responsibility, but I could barely get outside in the beginning. And when I finally did get out there, I couldn’t throw a ball more than 3-4 feet. I still remember the look on her face, wondering why the hell I wasn’t playing with her.

    After a few weeks of physical therapy, I could throw the ball underhanded further and further. A month or so after the accident, I was finally able to throw a ball across the entire backyard. Blaze was thrilled!

    The sweetest thing was when she’d follow me into the bedroom when I needed a nap, and jump up on the little twin bed to keep me company. Dogs. I tell ya…

    I stayed in physical therapy until mid-January of this year. I probably could’ve stopped a month earlier, but I wanted to be sure. The regular exercises had gotten pretty easy by Thanksgiving. I wasn’t making much new progress.

    What I continued to love about PT, though, was the heat/electrical treatment and massage. They’d attach four little pads to various spots on my upper back, turn the electricity machine on, close the door, and I’d just lay there on heating pads for 15 minutes with the electricity pulsing through my body. It was awesome. And that was followed by a 5-10 minute massage, which was also awesome.

    As we got closer to the holidays, I had a couple conversations with the main therapist about my release date. I said I wanted to wean myself off of PT rather than stop cold turkey, and he agreed. So for the last month, I only went once a week until my last session on January 12.

    The Emotional Rollercoaster

    I cry a lot since the accident.

    In the first few months, I would cry at the drop of a hat — anything emotional that I’d read or hear or see on TV and BOOM! Tears. I’d break down hearing the stories of contestants on The Voice who overcame some personal tragedy to pursue their dreams. I’d cry during episodes of Yellowstone. I’d cry during songs that never moved me emotionally in the past.

    I had to be careful what music I’d listen to before going to physical therapy or to the store or wherever, lest I had to walk in with red, bloodshot eyes. It’s tapered off a bit, but I’ve cried at all but two of the 12 concerts I’ve seen this year.

    And here’s the thing: I’m cool with it!

    It may sound weird, but I think I’m in the best emotional “shape” of my life. I feel like I’m more in touch with my own feelings, and the feelings of others, than ever. I feel like I’m more empathetic than ever. Not to say I don’t have room to improve — I sure do! But I’m a different person emotionally than I was before the accident.

    The Mental Roadblock

    The mental stuff is still difficult. I have problems with water.

    Cari and I were at a real estate conference in August in Dallas. It was 100+ degrees each day, and our hotel had a beautiful rooftop pool. We brought our swimsuits. The idea was that we’d both go to the pool together, Cari there to help and support me as needed.

    But we were too busy to make it happen. 🥺

    Just last week, Cari and I booked a return trip to Maui! I wanted to stay in the same hotel room and get back in the ocean at the same spot where the accident happened. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it again. That I could get over the fear.

    But after booking the flights, hotel, and rental car, I immediately had second thoughts. It was the fear of water, but with a twist: I couldn’t get past the thought of spending ~6 hours flying over the Pacific Ocean. I’m now apparently afraid to fly over the ocean for that long.

    It was a weird mental struggle: Part of me thinking about all the things that could go wrong on such a long, overwater flight…part of me telling myself that flying is the safest form of travel.

    The former argument won the day. I canceled everything. We’re not going anytime soon, and I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever be ready to go. Kaanapali Beach is my favorite place on earth. I used to love being in the water there — swimming, snorkeling, you name it. Now all I can do is hope and pray that I can get over this mental hurdle and go back someday.

    One Year Later

    Life today feels about 90-95% normal compared to before the accident. I’m learning to live with the few physical issues that remain. I wear socks a lot to keep my “cold” feet warm. I use a TENS unit a couple times a month to recreate the electrical stimulation that physical therapy used to provide.

    My body hates cold and loves heat. Hot showers are the best. I believe Thermacare heat pads are mankind’s greatest invention. 😂 I wear them regularly around my neck and lower back.

    Every so often I still get wobbly/dizzy spells and need to hold on to something to keep my balance.

    I still get tingly almost every day. Some days it’s better than others. I can usually deal with it and get on with life. When it’s worse than usual, sitting still or lying down for 20-30 minutes usually resets everything and makes the tingling go away.

    I’ve gone to 12 concerts this year all over the country…part of #MyYearOfConcerts. It’s gotten easier over time. I had to sit down several times during the shows early in the year, but I stood for all of Counting Crows’ gig two weeks ago, which lasted about an hour and 45 minutes.

    The Gift of Clarity

    The biggest thing the accident has given me is clarity.

    Everything changes when you come a few seconds from dying…when your head slams into the sand and you think, If this is it, God, come get me. I’m ready. And moments later, when you regain consciousness underwater, unable to breathe and unable to move, and you think again, Is THIS it, God?

    That wasn’t it. This world isn’t done with me yet. I have more life to live. And I know better today than ever what that’s supposed to look like.

    The accident gave me the clarity to realize that I needed to get away from the corporate job where I’d been underappreciated and underpaid for 3+ years. The change to being my own boss has been tough. I’m not yet earning anywhere near what I did before, but Cari’s had a great year despite the Tri-Cities real estate market being down ~30% in sales activity.

    The accident also gave me clarity about living in the moment and chasing the things that I love, the things that make me happy and feel alive. Not in a selfish way, but in a life-should-be-lived-to-the-fullest way. That’s why this year has been #MyYearOfConcerts. Live music is my love language. I’m gonna keep seeing more shows as long as I’m able. No more “I’ll see them next time.” Carpe diem. You may not be around to see them on the next tour.

    The accident gave me the clarity to ignore life’s bullshit…especially the kind of bullshit that permeates social media. I can’t count how many times I’ve been this close to adding my two cents to some overheated discussion on Twitter, Facebook, or Nextdoor…then realizing: This. Doesn’t. Matter.

    In my final moments, I’m not going to wish I’d spent more time arguing with strangers, gossiping, and trying to get more likes with hot takes on the latest political or entertainment scandal. I say that with confidence because I’ve already felt what I thought were my final moments, and none of that shit mattered.

    You know what did matter in those moments when I thought I was about to die?

    Here’s a list: My wife, first and foremost. My kids. Love. How you’re going to remember me. Did I give everything I could to this world? Did I squeeze everything I could from this world? Did I lead a good life?

    The accident gave me clarity about the importance of feelings — i.e., how you feel and how you make others feel.

    I’m glad to cry during concerts and TV shows because it proves to me that I’m feeling something. We guys, especially, are taught not to show emotions, and not to let our feelings get the best of us. Fuck that. I want to feel everything there is to feel. That’s how you know you’re alive. Since the accident, a good day is when something makes me laugh and something makes me cry.

    The accident gave me clarity not only about how I feel, but also about how I make others feel. I don’t get angry as often when I experience bad customer service. That’s another human being and who knows what they’re going through? Empathy matters. We’re not here to judge and attack others. We’re not here to lift ourselves up by putting others down. If you can put a smile on someone’s face, make them laugh, or make them feel good inside…you’re having a good day.

    More than anything, the accident taught me that every day is a gift. And when you really understand that — not just understand it, but act on it — everything changes. Everything.

    Looking Back, Looking Ahead

    There was a tweet a little while back where someone asked, “What’s one thing you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?”

    I half-jokingly, half-seriously replied, “Don’t get in the water on September 24, 2022.” 😂

    My great friend Tim, who happens to be one of the most thoughtful people I know and is a therapist/counselor in his day job, replied to my reply with this: “Serious question…would you?”


    That hit me like a brick wall. I thought and thought about it. I told Tim I’d probably need a counseling session to come up with the answer.

    In the weeks since he asked, I’ve come up with my answer: No, I would not tell my younger self to stay out of the water.

    Sure, if I didn’t get in the water a year ago today, I’d feel better physically. I probably wouldn’t cry as often as I do. I probably wouldn’t be afraid to get in the water again. Life would be normal.

    But the past year has taught me that I don’t want normal anymore.

    I want more. I want extraordinary. I want to feel all the feelings. I want to see all the sights. I want to count all the blessings. I want to really live whatever days I have left. That’s what we’re all here to do.

    That’s what I’ve spent this year trying to do. And this year, in all the ways that really matter, has been the best year of my life…even if my feet are freezing right now. 😄


    A New Twist to My Habit of Dying in Dreams

    December 1, 2022

    For my entire life, I’ve had dreams in which I die. And it’s not unusual for me to have these same dreams repeatedly.

    As an adult, it usually involves a fall from a great height. There’s one in which I’m driving up a steep hill, and then when I get to the top, the downward hill/road is essentially a 90-degree angle. The car goes over and crashes at the bottom. There are other versions where I’m running to get away from something/someone, and I go over the side of a cliff. (As a kid, it was different — I was in a submarine that suddenly started filling with water, and I drown.)

    I have dreams like this probably 4-5 times a year.

    The most recent one happened earlier this week and included a big twist! Here’s what I remember:

    I was in a wooded area on a hill — not a thick forest, but a nice, kind of bucolic grassy area with clusters of trees and bushes. Maybe like a big park. I didn’t recognize the area. (I never do in these kinds of dreams.)

    For some unknown reason, my “emergency” mode kicked in and I had to get out of where I was. There was a guy in a car in the middle of the grass. I don’t remember him saying anything nor do I remember asking him anything, but I instinctively hopped in the passenger seat and he started driving away as fast as possible from God-knows-what.

    As we’re driving, there seems to be only one way out. We can’t turn around and go back because that’s where the unknown danger is. But right in front of us is a thick group of bushes and trees blocking our exit. The guy slams down on the gas pedal so we have enough speed and power to burst through.

    BAM! We make it through but … we instantly go right over the edge of a cliff.

    (At this point in the dream, I’m semi-lucid and thinking to myself…here we go again. #eyeroll)

    The car starts to fall and I see that we’re above a huge body of water — looks like the ocean to me. It gets a little hazy here because either we went into the water, which slowed the car’s fall, or there was some kind of parachute on the car that slowed us down in mid-air … or maybe the dream itself just went into slow-motion. I couldn’t figure out that part.

    The guy tells me to grab the thing in his backseat — it was pretty flat and about the size of an extra large duffel bag. Whatever it was, that was gonna be our flotation device. I guess it was too big to grab while I was in the front seat, because next thing I know, I’m outside “standing” on the side of the car, pulling as hard as I can to get the back door open so I can grab this thing. Meanwhile, the car is still falling but in slow motion, or maybe we were already underwater. I guess if I was struggling to open the door, we were probably underwater.

    I finally get the door open and grab the thing in the back seat. Next thing I know, we’re both at the ocean’s surface, holding onto this floaty thing. The car is gone. I’m feeling pretty bleak in the dream, but “semi-lucid Matt” is wondering what’s gonna happen next…because this is a totally new dream.

    All of a sudden, I look to my right and I see six people off in the distance — not too far away, maybe 30-40 yards! Three of them are swimming and the other three are up on something that looked like a jetski but was much smaller than a jetski. All six of them are wearing white swim caps with numbers on the side. (Like professional swimmers, maybe?)

    At the same moment that I start yelling and waving frantically, one of them sees me and then alerts the others and they all make their way toward us. They swim alongside us as we hold onto the mini-jetski thingies. Instead of the beach, though, we reach this concrete platform/walkway that’s right in the middle of the ocean. I couldn’t see far enough, but I assume it eventually gets you back to dry land. It’s exactly like an inground pool you’d have in your backyard — it’s got a little rounded ledge that I was holding onto while the others got out of the water first. While I was holding on, I could see more of the ocean on the other side of the walkway/platform.

    When it’s my turn, I climb out, get up on the walkway and the dream ends. I didn’t die!

    Given what happened to me just two months ago, almost dying in the Pacific Ocean before a group of 4-5 people pulled me out of the water … this was definitely an interesting development in my lifetime of dying in dreams!

    I’m pretty sure the psychoanalysts and oneirologists would have a field day with this one. 😀


    2020 Was the Year

    December 31, 2020

    It’s December 31. We have about 3.5 hours left in 2020 as I type this. As is often the case on New Year’s Eve, I’m in a reflective frame of mind. Aside from going to the occasional minor league hockey game, which is a Dec. 31 tradition in the Tri-Cities, I’ve never been much for the end-of-year party scene. Heck, most years my wife is asleep by 9-10 pm so I’d be going out by myself! But I do like to write, so here’s how I’ll remember the strange year that’s about to end.

    2020 was the year that I learned to live with my family in a constant state of close proximity. Now I hear you already thinking, WTF does he mean by THAT? I’ll explain. I’m an introvert to the core. I’ve always needed “me time.” I’ve always needed space and to be away from people, including my family. When working from home, it was always nice during the school year when everyone would be out of the house by 8:30 am and I’d have the place to myself until the kids got home from school in the afternoon.

    That went out the window with the pandemic. At first, it was just like summer vacation. I enjoyed having everyone around for a few weeks … then I started getting itchy for “me time,” for having the house to myself. But that itchiness went away after a couple weeks. The four of us are basically home 24/7, and it doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I welcome and value having everyone here at home. Safe. Together.

    2020 was the year that I learned to love grocery delivery services. As I wrote a couple months ago, there’s a good chance we keep doing grocery delivery even after things return to “normal.” I think I’m all in. The convenience is unbeatable, even if it costs a bit more.

    2020 was the year that I learned the names of my biological parents. To be fair, I knew my biological mom’s name several years ago. It was printed on some adoption paperwork that my dad sent me before he died in 2015. But I stashed those papers away in a non-obvious spot and didn’t rediscover them until this spring. That started a more serious effort to identify my bio-fam (as I like to call them). In a matter of a couple weeks, we identified my biological dad’s name, too. It was an amazing moment. Chills.

    I’ve tried to contact both of them, but no luck so far. The most likely reason is that the contact info I found for them is several years old, but I’ve accepted the possibility that they read my emails and chose not to reply. That makes me a bit sad, but I understand why they’d do that. Perhaps I’ll try again in the new year. Perhaps with better luck.

    2020 was the year that I said goodbye to @U2. I’m not sad that it’s gone. The site had a great run of 25 years, but all great things eventually come to an end. I’m fine with it being over. I’m only sad about how it ended — with a lot of stress and frustration that made life even more difficult than it needed to be for too many people.

    2020 was the year that reminded me that social media isn’t a good idea. Social media was a battleground this year. I didn’t participate, but I saw far too many wars of words on both sides of my own family. I hope and I want to believe that those fights didn’t cause any lasting scars, but I’m not sure they didn’t.

    2020 was the year that I watched more TV than ever. Just me? Probably not. And I discovered a lot of great shows, especially on Apple TV+. None were better than Ted Lasso, something I never saw coming. It’s not only the best show of 2020 for me, but it’s also one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. I can’t wait for seasons two and three, and hopefully many more beyond that. I liked it so much that I dressed up for Halloween for the first time in about 40 years.

    2020 was the year that I learned this country … the whole world, for that matter … is seriously lacking in critical thinking skills. For the past several months, I’ve seen social media arguments from people who oppose mask-wearing and oppose closing restaurants and churches because “we tried it the other way and that didn’t work, so we may as well go back to normal.” Nine months into the pandemic, they say things like “If grocery stores can stay open, restaurants should be able to!” They question how the medical experts could have gotten it “wrong” on certain aspects of the virus and changed their recommendations … ignoring the fact that this virus didn’t exist until one year ago and they’re figuring things out the same way we all are.

    Where did our critical thinking ability go? How is it that educated adults don’t understand the difference between essential and non-essential businesses? I love eating out as much as anyone, but my favorite restaurant is a luxury, not a requirement.

    2020 was the year that reminded me of the value of empathy and sympathy. As I type all this now, and as I’ve been thinking on this during the year, I’m doing my best to remember that my views and opinions are shaped by the position of privilege and blessing that our family finds itself in.

    We’re extremely blessed that Cari’s real estate business was only shut down for about 3-4 days in March. She’s had to work with a variety of rules and restrictions in place, but she’s had a successful year. Likewise, the company I work for (not a local company) remained open and I didn’t miss a paycheck.

    So while I sit here and express my dismay over how others are responding to the pandemic, I also wonder how I’d respond if Cari or I were in different lines of business. What if, like those restaurant or salon owners, the state’s rules left us unable to pay our mortgage? What if we were going 5-figures or 6-figures in debt just to keep our business open and have a home to live in? I very well might be reacting the same way they are. I think it’s important to be sympathetic toward the situation those folks are in, even if I don’t like how they’re responding to it.

    2020 was the year that my daughter began her college education at Western Washington University … from her bedroom. I can’t imagine what that must feel like, especially for a young adult who had been looking to get away from home for so long. We were able to visit the campus (pictured above) for a couple days in September, but those few hours were her only direct time on campus grounds. I should mention, too, that this was the year my son continued his Columbia Basin College education from his bedroom. And my wife did most of her real estate work from the office in her/our bedroom.

    2020 was the year that we, like millions of others, truly realized the importance of home. This year our homes became classrooms, offices, family entertainment centers, and so much more. If and when we move and buy a new home, this experience will have a huge impact on what we want.

    2020 was the year that I discovered foods like purple cauliflower, Dot’s pretzels (so good), and Caramel Macchiato cereal (pretty good). I’m sure there’s a lot more than that, but those are the ones that come to mind at this hour.

    2020 was the year that we had about three weeks of round-the-clock orange skies because of forest fires all around us.

    2020 was the year that I had a 3-week friendship with a praying mantis. We hung out together night after night out on the back patio. I’d sit in my favorite chair reading, relaxing, listening to music, and playing iPad games, while she’d sit on the chair across from me or maybe the sofa in between. I swear sometimes she was dancing to the song that was on. She loved to pose for pictures, too.

    I know it sounds strange … hanging out and making friends with a praying mantis.

    Hey. This was 2020. Strange was normal.

    Here’s hoping for a wonderful … and slightly less strange … 2021. Happy new year to you!


    Young Pepperdine Sportscasters (Circa 1989-1990)

    July 19, 2020

    This photo is a snapshot of what hope and dreams looks like … or looked like … back around 1989 or 1990.

    That’s me on the left and my Pepperdine sportscasting partner, Kent Justice, on the right, at a men’s basketball game. I really have no clue when and where the photo was taken, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s from March 1989 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. That’s the night Pepperdine beat New Mexico St. in the first round of the NIT tournament. Kent and I somehow got the Communications Dept. to a) let us travel to New Mexico to broadcast the game on campus radio KMBU-FM, and b) pay our expenses!

    We were both full of high hopes and dreams for lengthy careers in sportscasting. For me, the dream lasted about 7-8 more years. I got out of TV and radio sports in 1997 after being told by news directors in two bigger cities that I was their #1 sports anchor candidate, but they couldn’t hire me because I was a white male … and they were under orders to hire a female/minority. Seeing the writing on the wall, I got out of the business altogether, taught myself how to build and market websites online and the rest is history.

    Kent, IIRC, has been in and out of the TV industry just a bit, but has settled in Jacksonville for some time now, and is currently the political reporter and weekend news anchor at WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Fla. We spoke a few months ago and he’s happy and doing well.

    That makes two of us.

    Life doesn’t always lead where you hope or think you’ll go, but that doesn’t mean you won’t end up somewhere great.


    I totally get it if you didn’t recognize me in 2019

    December 31, 2019
    me on January 4, 2019

    The “me” that woke up on January 1, 2019, didn’t like where I was going.

    I was a U2 fan … albeit a very unhappy one. I was still managing @U2 (the U2 fan site I founded in 1995), but doing a poor job of it. That often happens when your heart isn’t in what you’re doing. I was frustrated with the band. I was frustrated with the @U2 staff. I was frustrated with U2 fans, in general, and a few fans specifically.

    I was miserable, frankly. But it took a few months of prayer and internal debate to sort things out. What I wanted to do (leave @U2) wasn’t the same as what I felt I should do (stick around). Complicating things was that I’m generally averse to change; @U2 wasn’t fun, but it was familiar. Being a U2 fan wasn’t fun, but it was comfortable. Change = risk.

    In early May I finally told the crew that I wanted to leave, and would do so as soon as they were ready for that to happen. Over the next few weeks, I realized that I needed to leave U2 itself behind, too. I unchecked U2’s entire catalog in iTunes and Spotify and haven’t listened to a U2 song in its entirety since.

    I formally left @U2 on June 10 and immediately felt a huge weight leave me. I felt free. I felt my attitude change. I felt like a different person. (A lot of U2 fans have asked me — on Twitter, mostly — to explain what happened, but that’s easier said than done. “I changed” is the TL;DR answer; maybe someday I’ll try to explain more. But I totally understand and respect the “Who is this guy and what is he doing?” spirit that was alive in those questions.)

    With all of that in my proverbial rear-view mirror, my musical focus shifted squarely on Gang of Youths. I’ve listened to them practically non-stop over the past 20 months, and I can’t get enough.

    I think I’ve become a better person since I discovered Gang of Youths and fell in love with their music. My mental health is light years better. I believe I’m more empathetic to people around me, and the struggles we’re all facing. I believe I’m more honest and vulnerable — with myself, my family, my co-workers. I believe I’m more real when I talk with others. I’m more aware of our humanness — my and your faults and limitations, my and your strengths and gifts. Most important: I believe Matt the Gang of Youths fan is a better person than Matt the U2 fan was.

    The “me” that woke up on January 1 was working with my wife as her real estate marketing guy, a role I began back in 2017. We’ve done well together; since I came on to help put marketing and business systems/processes in place, to create a brand for her and help her launch a real estate team, business is up about 33%.

    But by this spring/summer, working with Cari had become a part-time gig. My responsibilities didn’t change; I had the same tasks as always, but after almost two years I was able to do them much faster. There were plenty of days that I’d finish my work for her and then watch TV or play games on my iPad for the rest of the day. Sounds fun, huh? It was for a little while, but my personality demands that I be productive and do things. That makes me happy.

    So I started looking for a new job to keep me busy. I asked around if anyone in my network had open roles that fit me. I prayed a lot. I sent out maybe a dozen applications for jobs I thought would be really fun, and then did what I normally do when looking for a job: nothing. (I’ve always sucked at following up with companies where I applied, and instead preferred to let them contact me … which was kinda arrogant in a way, because I was assuming that my resumé and application would stand out so much from the crowd that of course they’d want to talk to me!)

    Then I did something: I went hard after a job that I knew was a perfect fit for my skills and background.

    The company was HomeLight — a real estate startup — and the job was something like “content marketing editor.” It was pretty much exactly what I spent almost 10 years doing at Third Door Media and the past two years with my wife.

    I wanted this job pretty badly. I asked around my network if anyone had contacts at HomeLight, but nope. And then I did something way out of character … I went right to the company to go after the job:

    After that short back and forth, we took the conversation to DMs, where I mentioned that I’d recently sent in my resumé and would love to talk to someone if the position was still open.

    As it turns out, the person on Twitter that I was chatting with is the same person who posted the job opening. I did two phone interviews the next week, went to HomeLight’s offices in San Francisco a couple weeks after that for more interviews and accepted a job offer about a week later. The person I chatted with on Twitter? He’s now my manager!

    HomeLight Matt is energized by the work that I’m doing — no time for watching TV and playing iPad games during the day, but that’s perfectly fine by me. The work I’m doing is the furthest thing from easy, but it’s a Good Challenge — like working on a tough puzzle. HomeLight Matt is part of a team of genuinely smart and warm people. (And at the end of the work day, I still get to help Cari with her marketing and business ops, too.)

    A couple weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook News Feed when I came upon one of those inspirational graphic messages you often see on social media — but this was a new one for me:

    “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

    A lot of inspirational quotes are kind of bullshit, y’know? But not that one. I’m living proof that that one’s true.

    In 2019, I did some things that were totally out of character … things I wouldn’t have done a year earlier … things I’ve often encouraged others (including my kids) to do, but never had the balls to do myself.

    I’m a better, happier, healthier person for it.

    I’m still getting to know this new version of myself. I’m sure there’s still a lot of change to come and mistakes to be made, but so far — praise God! — I really like where all this is going.


    Mom & Dad, Why Did You Let Me Eat This Stuff?!?

    October 5, 2019

    I’ve been chatting with my daughter over the past several days about all the strange (and probably unhealthy) eating habits that I had as a kid.

    There was the phase I went through around 8-10 years old where I constantly ate uncooked hot dogs straight from the package. I remember polishing off an entire pack of hot dogs in a single day — had them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yuck, right?? I shudder just thinking about it.

    That was around the same time that I went through my mayonnaise sandwich phase, where I’d just spread mayo in between two slices of bread. That creation quickly morphed into a ketchup sandwich, and then into a ketchup & mayo sandwich. Just bread and condiments.

    I was telling my daughter that I wish at least one of my parents was still alive because I’d really love to ask them, What were you thinking when I was eating an entire pack of raw hot dogs in a single day, or having a mayonnaise sandwich for lunch? Or better yet, WHY DID YOU LET ME EAT LIKE THAT??!! 😄

    And then today I was in the grocery store and I saw an item that triggered another memory: I don’t remember how old I was, but I used to drink Karo Syrup straight from the bottle, like it was juice. Can you imagine?!?

    Again, main thought: WHERE WERE MY PARENTS??!! Then on second thought:, I can’t help feeling that I’m just lucky to be alive because I ate some really weird shit when I was a kid.