“Puppy for sale. Looks like something bought at Cracker Barrel. Ankle biter, toy stealer, attention hound, cry baby. Pees in house. Price: $1, negotiable. Contact Pepper@BaconOnTheBookshelf.”

It’s rough going at our house if you want some peace and quiet. 

(You have to hold onto your toys even when you sleep.)

But if you’re in the mood for a party, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve got wild days and long nights. Rampant mischief and creative destruction. Leading the charge is an energetic 4-pounder, living large – Daisy Baby.

We’ve caught her singing this when everyone is looking…

Carrie and Damon Hininger have discussed adding a puppy to the mix at their house… I would hate to deter them! There are perhaps a variety of opinions in our house, both human and canine.

Today, I’m so thrilled for the Hiningers to stop in. They’ve got some terrific book, TV, and podcast recommendations, and they share their perspectives on Life in the Time of Corona with open and generous hearts. Damon is President and CEO of CoreCivic, and he and Carrie are long-time friends of ours. 

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Damon, Carrie, the kids, & her parents (Steve & Diane Becker)

Hi Damon and Carrie! Thank you for spending some time in the Bacon Neighborhood! You being here makes it a beautiful day.

Let’s start with a typical day. What was today like? What was one good thing; what was one challenging thing? 

Damon:  Thank you too, Jennifer!

As for my day, not a big deal in the grand scheme of things in the current environment, but my most difficult task was changing an AC belt along with installing a new AC belt tensioner on my 1969 Toyota FJ. It required removing the air filter hose and the serpentine belt so it took some work to ensure I had enough room to install the tensioner, and then… sorry… I should stop there! I do love tasks like this and it gives me a chance to scratch my motor-head itch.

And I agree with Carrie on the good thing… end of day dip in the pool was fantastic with the family.

Carrie:  Hi Jennifer! Thank you for making this pandemic a bit more manageable with your Bacon posts. If it weren’t for your interviews and sugar, I’d be an absolute mess!

Today was interesting, to be sure. It started off with some drama after a friend texted to let me know her son was getting tested for COVID-19. Our families had been together the entire week golfing and swimming and dining together. I spent the better part of my Saturday morning canceling plans that I’d made for the weekend. I’ll be suffering from PTSD for a minute after this excitement. Needless to say, that was was the challenging part of my day!

The really good thing was jumping into the pool with Damon, Milly and Robert after a long bike ride. Our pup, Cinnamon, also joined us from a safe distance on the deck. Hanging with my peeps/pup and soaking up their goodness fills my cup!

What is the hardest thing for you about Life in the Time of Corona so far?

Damon:  I would say losing the in-person engagement with colleagues at work and in my personal life. I really enjoy shaking hands with people I see and that little personal gesture for greeting someone has been hard to give up. 

Carrie:  For the past few months, I have felt as though I am waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen. We just pressed pause on everything in March. It was so abrupt and frightening but I knew we would get through the pandemic. As things slowly start up again, I am constantly worried about the “right thing to do” for our family and others. The messages I receive are incredibly conflicting and I oscillate between extreme caution and throwing said caution to the wind.

Is there any “best” thing?

Damon:  Since my travel has scaled back dramatically, the additional time at home has been fantastic with Carrie and the kiddos. More meals made and eaten together and a lot more games played together. The UNO card game has been the go-to for everyone and Robert and I play a lot of chess.

Carrie:  No question, the best thing for our family has been the change of pace. This may be the first summer ever that Milly and Robert have experienced boredom. Our calendars are blissfully blank, and we are together as often as we want to be. I am also incredibly grateful to have tweens. Our family actually enjoys time together, but Milly and Robert are also very independent and need alone-time (as do I)… so it feels balanced.

How is working from home working out?

Damon:  That part didn’t change for me personally, as I still go into the office everyday. We did, like everyone who could, allow our employees to work remotely and we have been pleasantly surprised at how efficient the team has become in this new operating environment. And boy, also like everyone else, I have become a whiz on video conferencing platforms. 

Carrie:  My work has been in a volunteer capacity since I “retired” years ago. Everything I was involved in stopped in March. Meetings and events were canceled indefinitely and almost all related duties halted for me. I am grateful that things are starting to pick up again. I feel incapable of doing more than one thing a day at this point, so gradual is good.

How are your kids doing? What do you learn from them in the Time of Corona? What do you hope they’re learning from you?

Damon:  I have been so dang proud of the kids. They have been happy, optimistic, and motivated to make the best of the situation. A lot of reading by Robert, drawing and painting by Milly, along with some supplemental school work has kept them stimulated along with lots of physical activity. 

Carrie:  Milly and Robert are doing great. They will start 7th grade at Woodland Middle in August (?) and they’re very excited about being with their friends again. I’ve even heard them mention something about missing classes and teachers!

I’ve been learning from our kids for the past 12+ years, and certainly Corona-time has been an accelerated program for me! Slowing down has allowed me to observe my kids and to “see” them so clearly. Milly is my creative bean and she misses nothing. Robert is our comedian and has a fierce love for his family. Both of our kids have taught me that there is real hope for the future and the next generation has got this.

My deepest hope is that my children see my gratitude. There are many reasons to worry and stress and mourn for our world. There are also countless reasons to be grateful.

What do you worry about most right now?

Damon:  There are obviously so many things I could point to as worries but at the end of the day, I am an optimist, a patriot, and I follow my faith. I believe that every problem (even the big hairy ones) has a solution, our country and our form of government is the greatest in the world, and prayer and reflection is a tremendous tool, especially in times like this. I realize that a lot of the issues facing us won’t be solved overnight, but I believe our American spirit and know-how will once again lead us through this period of tremendous adversity. 

Carrie:  I worry most about the divisiveness in our world. So many people are frustrated, exhausted, and simply pissed off… understandably! While I certainly don’t pretend to agree with everyone on every issue, I do feel that as human beings we have much more in common than we realize. I have to believe that we all have a purpose and a contribution to make. My hope is that we can see that.  

How do you relax?

Carrie:  This isn’t “relaxing” per se, but being outside is my therapy. Whether I am biking, hiking, or walking, being in nature helps me to clear my head and take notice of this amazing world we live in. I feel like I can solve all problems after a good hike!

Damon:  Carrie and the kiddos help me tremulously with this task. Time together is deeply therapeutic. And also, like Carrie, being outside is a great way to recharge my batteries. 

Will you travel this summer?

Carrie:  Our only trips have been to Blackberry Farm, where we have a home. We can drive straight to Walland without stopping! Blackberry is my version of heaven and I would be there full time if I could.

Aside from that, we just bought tickets to Ruby Falls and Rock City! I am ashamed to say we’ve never been… so a day trip to Chattanooga will be the extent of our summer travels.

Damon:  I have had some business travel but not as extensive as in years past. As Carrie mentioned, we’ve made several trips to east Tennessee, which has been fantastic. The Smoky Mountains are such a treasure. Robert and I recently spent a couple of days canoeing the Buffalo River and camping with his Boy Scout Troop.

What are you reading/watching/listening to?

Damon:  I have read three books this year: “Free Cyntoia” by Cyntoia Brown Long, “Outsiders” by Bill Thorndike, and “The Guardians” by John Grisham. All three were great books, which I would highly recommend.

The next three in the queue are “Ride the Devil’s Herd”, a Wyatt Earp bio by John Boessenecker, “When Truth Is All You Have, A Memoir of Faith, Justice, and Freedom for The Wrongly Convicted” by Jim McCloskey, and finally “After Life, My Journey from Incarceration to Freedom” by Alice Marie Johnson.

We recently discovered Apple TV, which has changed our lives in terms of finding good content on all streaming services. I am amazed with the original content on Amazon, Netflix, etc.  As Carrie mentioned, we tend to bias towards history-related movies or TV series. I watched the Ken Burns series on County Music and the ESPN documentary on Michael Jordan. They were both so good.

I am not into podcasts like Carrie but I love music. And I enjoy listening to virtually everything… new to old, country to pop, jazz to classical, rhythm and blues to classic rock. It’s all so good. Also, Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius XM has a great show on Sunday morning called “Ranger Doug’s Classic Cowboy Corral”. It features really great songs from country music’s early days. This show elicits eye-rolls from the family. 

Carrie:  Our family loves history so we’ve watched Grant (History channel), Turn, The Roosevelts, and of course, Hamilton!!!! Milly has also talked me into watching some anime, which I’m kind of into!

I just finished “Hidden Valley Road,” by Robert Kolker. The story is about the Galvin family in the 1950’s. Of the 12 Galvin children, six were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The story broke my heart, but also gives hope for understanding this devastating illness.

I am currently listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Talking to Strangers.” Gladwell brilliantly explains why we are so very bad at understanding the strangers we interact with. The book is thought-provoking and fascinating and also disheartening. I highly recommend this read, followed by some comfort food and People magazine.

My favorite Podcasts are Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations for great interviews and book recommendations and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for some solid hilarity. The recorded sermons from our church are a weekly recharge for me.

Do you think it is possible to come out of this period of time with greater cohesion as a society? 

Damon:  Oh yes, I think for sure. I think this forced separation is creating the pent-up need for cohesion and connection with our fellow man. It won’t be perfect, and will likely be messy, but I think there is a great opportunity for us as a country. 

Carrie:  I tend to be an optimist and want desperately to believe this is possible. Some recent conversations I’ve heard are encouraging, but I also recognize that we have a very long way to go. I will continue to do my best, and to teach my kids the same.

Who or what inspires you right now?

Damon:  My family. The love and connection we have for each other has never been stronger and that keeps me so inspired, positive and motivated these days.

Carrie:  Damon has inspired me since we began dating in 1989. His kindness, optimism, and work ethic are values that never waver. Also, he’s easy on the eyes! I count myself as incredibly lucky to call Damon my best friend and partner. It just gets better with this guy!

Let’s wrap up with the speed dating round…

Favorite dessert in the time of corona?

Damon: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and GOO GOO Peanut Butter Clusters. I just discovered MOOYAH’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup shake, which is awesome.

Carrie: Peaches, peaches, peaches!!!!!

Greatest aggravation?

Damon: Not being able to shake hands.

Carrie: Not being able to hug everyone!

Favorite time of day?

Damon: Getting home from work.

Carrie: Bedtime!


Damon: Seven minute work out and walking.

Carrie: Biking.

Eating out yet?

Damon: A lot of Uber Eats deliveries…

Carrie: Nope! Cooking is our jam.

Most surprised by?

Damon: The amount of opportunities to try new recipes.

Carrie: How much I enjoy ironing.

Least proud of?

Damon: Social media watching/reading.

Carrie: My online shopping addiction.

Most proud of?

Damon: My family.

Carrie: My family.

You take good care of each other, Damon and Carrie. Again, thank you!!

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