Unity….But How?

Yesterday I wrote my optimistic blog. I talked about new opportunities and not dragging the past with us but rather living in the now and for the future. I wrote that opportunities exist if we are willing to look for them. But I also spoke to the divisiveness that permeates our everyday news and conversations. Safe to say that many of us have even lost friends to that rift that has been created. So how do we heal that wound? How do we bring a divided nation even just a little bit back together. Much of what I hear blames our political parties and the leaders that seem at odds. Many would blame the media and its at times biased reporting. Still others lay the blame on social media and its innate ability to flame the hateful rhetoric.

The truth of the matter is that though some of the blame lies with those three scape goats, much of it lies with us. We ARE the media for we can tune in the station that voices our opinion while tuning out the rest. WE elected those politicians, not just with our votes but also by the products and services we purchased from those same corporations that funded their campaigns. We ARE social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all of the rest are merely the pen and paper we use to publish our ideas, and all too often our disinformation, slander, and inadvertently, our hate.

I have thought about these things and have come close to writing this piece on many occasions only to have the words escape me or the moment pass. My solution will likely be thought to be too simple, but aren’t the best solutions usually the simplest? What we need is to first acknowledge to be true those things I stated above. Next, we need to decide that we are not satisfied with who or where we are and finally, having realized that, we act. We act in one unified voice. We state the positive. We check ourselves before we speak, before we write, before we like, before we share. If we want our leaders to hear our voice, we must speak clearly and rationally. We must send the message that we think America can be better. We are the greatest nation on earth, but we CAN do better. We see the inequities within our society but we look to politicians and companies to fix them. They either cannot or will not do this. We must be engaged in and modeling that equality. We cannot stand silent when those that would abuse those rights, do so. We must collectively be kind, fair, and deliberate in the messages we post, in the conversations we have, especially within those groups where we find the safety of anonymity, and also in the actions we model for our children and grandchildren. If we are to be the media, let us make sure that we are not the fake news.

The list of issues we can address as a nation are many. The task of fixing or improving them can be expensive. The effort to accomplish them may seem herculean. But the process is simple at its basic level. We need to speak in one unified and positive voice. We need to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve our ultimate goals. And we need to act as individuals to start the movement towards acting as a community. All I ask is that we examine ourselves and then, where we find ourselves wanting, commit to making changes. One conversation, one like, one post, one share at a time. The little things added together will make big changes happen. Commit then to unity.

What Just Flew By?

2020 is behind us. The remanents, unfortunately may not be completely gone. But, we have reason to be optimistic. We have a vaccine, for some already here and well deserved, for others, moving closer every day. The election is over. There is divisiveness that is still hanging on but we can, as reasonable people, accept our role in the healing, and be the friends and fellow citizens we all need to be. Though our politicians may struggle with their roles, we don’t need to. We can move on and do the work of showing them that we are ALL Americans and deserving of nonpartisan representation. We are the Country. We are the Democracy. We are the individual drive that leads to collective progress. And finally, we have for the most part, adjusted to our new normal and have been creative in the process. We have figured out how to make our celebrations smaller and at the same time more intimate. We have created ways to move our get togethers outside or, alternatively, inside our computer screens via Zoom. I have actually visited with friends I might not have seen any other way. Necessity IS the mother of invention.

Don’t bring the old year with you when the NEW year offers new opportunities. Don’t spend your time dwelling on the past when we have the chance to rebirth optimism by looking forward. I choose to welcome 2021. I will be optimistic for all the reasons I just mentioned, but even more so for the fact that when you look for the opportunities you will find them. That when you believe the future holds promise, you can find it. That we have always been a nation that can heal and grow stronger. Quoting a friend, “When you look for the good everything gets better.”

And one last thing. As I started writing this yesterday, I was anxiously awaiting my Green Bay Packers debut in the play-offs. Never knowing how things can unfold, I still found myself being optimistic….. nervous, but optimistic. This morning, as I am finishing this blog, I am reveling in the fact that we, yes we, won yesterday and now we can wait anxiously, but with optimism for next weekend. That is if you are a Packer fan. It IS a new year, and anything is possible. Believe in the possibilities. Be part of the healing. Celebrate our planet’s just completed trip around the sun and look forward to the next. Look, we just passed Mars!

The Christmas Carol

Thanks to the pandemic cancelling the usual Christmas Season get togethers, my wife and I have had a lot of time to watch movies. I will admit that many of them have been Hallmark or Hallmark inspired films. If you follow my blog, you will undoubtely have seen my attempt at writing a Hallmark script. Still no word from Hallmark as to when they might consider making that one. We have also made sure to include the classics in our watch list. To that end, we have already checked off Holiday Inn, (appalled at the racial undertones), White Christmas, The Santa Claus, and last night’s movie, The Christmas Carol.

The Christmas Carol holds special meaning for me. This was the movie I would fall asleep to in my dad’s arms Christmas Eve. Later in life it became the movie during which my children would do the same thing with me. It was a important part of my family’s traditions and became a big part of my daughters’ traditions. Some day I hope to make it a tradition with my grandchildren. For this reason, The Christmas Carol is by far my favorite Christmas movie and in truth one of my all time favorite movies of any genre. There are many versions of this movie and rightfully so because it is such a classic. Through the years, it has been remade countless times, but fortunately the message has remained basically unchanged. Though I have several versions that I favor, due to a fear of having to debate their merit with my readers and thus missing the point of this blog, I will tell you I watched YOUR favorite version last night, whichever one that was.

What is it that makes this movie so classic? I suppose we could credit the author of the book it is derived from, Charles Dickens. That alone would make it classic. But it is the message that sets it apart and makes Christmas time its perfect setting. The movie tells the tale of how the lure of riches had led a person to a complete lack of empathy for his fellow man, leaving him empty and angry. As the Spirits of Christmas past, present, and future revealed the flaws of Ebenezer Scrooge’s choices, it reminds us of the importance of the decisions we make. As Scrooge faces the darkest possible endings to his life’s legacy, he utters these words: “Are these the shadows of things that WILL BE or are they the shadows of what MAY BE?” He clings to a potential redemption hidden between the lines of the answer; if things remain unchanged then these shadows will remain unaltered. There was that hope that if he could change, then perhaps the past could be erased and those shadows coud be altered.

This movie offers a message of hope for us all. It is its redemptive nature that inspires us to become the best version of ourselves. Whether we are satisfied with the life we have fashioned or whether we wish for more, we can always improve as long as we alter those behaviors of the past. No matter my mood going into the viewing of this movie, I always emerge from it renewed and filled with hope that not only can I change, but so can the people around me and the conditions we all live in. There has never been a year where we need this message more than this one. The year 2020 has been determined to leave us divided, distressed and anxious. We face the economic stress and the general fear generated by the pandemic. We face a culture of continued racism, some blatant, some covert, that leaves us divided and less than the great country we should be. We generally question our ability to accomplish a collective effort to make things better, all too often failing to take even the first steps we could and need to as individuals.

The Christmas Carol reminds me that I can change; that we can change. We can be better for the collective whole, but first we must be part of the change. We must vow to not waste any message of hope. We must act on that hope, individually to start and then collectively to continue. 2020 does not have to be the shadow of things to come but rather a reason to make the changes that will make 2021 the year we heal. Christmas is a season of hope and renewal, a reminder that the past is the past and that the future has not yet been written.

So go get your favorite beverage, maybe pop some popcorn, and then put on a DVD of the movie or find it on streaming, but view The Christmas Carol through my eyes and pledge to be the Spirit of Christmas Future.

Still so much to be thankful for

There will be no Thanksgiving family gathering this year. No real Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. No little feet running around our house emptying the toy box all over the great room. No toasts at the dining room table. And yes, no dropping of the apple crisp on the driveway. That would be a little inside family story for another time. The dinner will be replaced with a zoom family gathering, air hugs and a hope that things will change soon. Soon being a relative word.

In this year of the pandemic things have had to change. Traditions had to be put off for now and our routines have been anything but routine. In that setting, how can there be anything to be thankful for? That’s the challenge. In a year where nothing has been normal, where masks became a necessity and not just part of a Halloween costume, where travel plans have become “should we staycation in the kitchen or the living room?”, where a sneeze comes close to clearing the room, how can we find something for which to express our thankfulness?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite sometime; ever since my wife and I returned from an island trip in March. We returned to the states on March 13th, just as the pandemic, that thing in China, became our pandemic. I remember thinking this would be a short inconvenience and that all our summer plans would be just fine. That was then. Now we wonder if next summer’s plans will be altered. I for one don’t believe they will. Call it optimism, but that’s one of the things I am thankful for, but I will save that thought for now.

I do have things to be thankful for, our family is still intact. There were a few scares this year and my daughter and her fiancée did have to cancel their wedding, for now, but we have made the best of our family quarantine bubble and still managed some visits, limited, but still we got some time together. I am thankful that I have two beautiful, successful daughters who have chosen great men to be their partners. Two incredible grandchildren who never cease to amaze and amuse me. A wonderful wife who has been by my side for forty plus years and who has been my quarantine release and Amazon Prime binge watching date these past eight months. I am thankful for finally having the time to finish projects that have sat, sometimes for years, waiting to be tackled. They smile back at us every time we use or relax upon them.

I am thankful that we have rediscovered close to home destinations as airplane flights gave way to road trips, as exotic trips gave way to local parks, and, as hotel stays gave way to cottage days. I am thankful for so many things that I had started to take for granted. In our isolation, our world got smaller and we realized that there were so many amazing sites and scenes literally in our back yards. And I am thankful for my neighbors. With all the walks necessity made us take, I rediscovered my own neighborhood and the friendly people who lived inside those houses, the reason we chose this neighborhood in the first place.

I am thankful that the election is finally over. The painful political fighting, the divisiveness that any election creates, and all those irritating political ads we were subjected to, done, over and gone. Hopefully we can move on and find common ground and better causes to expend our efforts and resources on. And then there’s the vaccine, in fact the vaccines plural. This is not just a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s an honest hope for an exit from this isolation, soon. But most of all, I am thankful for the optimism. Though we sometime feel we can’t go on much longer, we always find some hope (the vaccine), some new way to do something (virtual learning, meetings and gatherings), some collective ways to pull together for a solution (healthcare workers and teachers). We are an innovative bunch. Setbacks are just forks in the road. We assess our problems, make our choice, and move on. We don’t live in the past but instead learn from the mistakes and vow to correct those that we can and set a new course to avoid the ones we can’t. I am thankful for that kind of optimism and the opportunities that it creates.

Thanksgiving won’t be the same this year, but it’s not gone and certainly not dead. We will find new ways to celebrate, to gather safely, to protect each other. We will find the things to be thankful for as long as we are willing to look for them, to recognize them, and to use them to give us the ultimate thing to be thankful for; HOPE.

Air hug your family, visit, if even just virtually, count your blessings and make a list of the things you are thankful for. You just might surprise yourself with the length of the list.

Happy Thanksgiving in the Year of the Pandemic. Look at it this way, we have at least made history.

It’s Playtime

On a recent weekend I found myself the designated grandchildren adhoc guardian for the afternoon while my wife and daughter went shopping. One hour they told me. Certainly I could handle the responsibility for one hour. Well, Jackson was easy. He lately has been into games of strategy and wanted to play solitaire on my phone and who was I to deny him that. Adela was a bit more of a challenge. She is into role playing, imagination and, as a three year old, silly games.

We began with a game I can only describe as “stay on your island”. She would sidle up against one wall of the hallway and order me to the opposite side. Without warning, she would leap to the opposite side and after several failed attempts, I determined I was to mirror the leap to the other opposite side and anticipate her next leap. This went on for, oh let’s say, longer than I was ready, when Adela eventually announced a new game.

Her new game would involve us throwing balls into the laundry bin, but not until she had ample time spent wearing the laundry bin over her head all the while bouncing off the walls blinded by its canvas sides. This new game of “laundry ball” wound up requiring several trips to the playroom to retrieve additional balls of varying size, “no taking the balls back out Opa.” Though interesting for a short time, it was no where near as fun as wearing the laundry bin and was thus not destined to last long.

After several trips to her playroom, sweet Adela emerged with two super hero costumes. She commanded me to put on the green one. I took one look at what she had rolled up in her hands and plotted my escape from this potentially embarrassing playtime activity. My poorly framed excuse was to announce that there was no way I would fit into whatever it was she had for me. With hands on her hips and a look of scorn that could bring down a charging rhino, she proclaimed, dripping with the sarcasm of a three year old, “It’s just a cape Opa.” Jackson, looking up from his solitaire intelligently affirmed that anyone could fit into a cape and warned me that I was going to do some running. Great, they have teamed up on me and I have become the victim.

After donning my cape and having my mask correctly placed on by Adela, how was I to know it was upside down, I was given my instructions. Over the next fifteen minutes we would circle the rooms of the house chasing away the bad guys as super heroes are destined to do. Up one hallway and down the other, through the kitchen and circle the living room, I was unsure I could last. But, I surprised even myself and managed to keep up with my relay mate, Adela.

As I drove home later that day, I mused on having been an almost seventy year old, playing unashamedly with my granddaughter. I started to think back on my own father and asked myself, did he play like that? Now it is only reasonable that I offer a disclaimer. I was raised on a small dairy farm and my dad barely had time to do much of anything other than run the dairy operation, crop the fields and hold down at least two additional part time jobs in an effort to give my five siblings and I the best life he could. It is hardly fair to have expected him to don a cape and run around the house with us, though I must say in hindsight that he deserved a chance to play and a cape for all he did. My dad instead spent his time teaching us how to manage our time, how to be responsible, and how to fix the things in life that kept seeming to break, lessons I have benefitted from throughout my life. He quietly, for the most part, left the playing to my siblings and I.

I am both happy and proud of the fact that I have the time to play. My generation grew up with parents who had been taught by their parents to work hard, to achieve and to survive, and that left little room for play. Though he may not have “played” with me, my dad taught me to fish, or should I say, he tried to teach me. He encouraged me to find time to do more than he ever had the opportunity to do and he taught me about family, about being there in work or play. And for that, I admire him.

I hope you all find time in your day to play. Play reduces stress and, in the case of chasing a three year old, provides great exercise. It reminds us to stop growing old but rather to grow bold, bold enough to play with a child even if it might make you look silly.

Go put on a cape, don a mask, and let a child fall in love with an oversized, slightly awkward, has to be told the rules, playmate. You just might find your imagination supersized.

Anniversaries

It’s an ingrained cultural tradition. We celebrate the passing of time by recording anniversaries. We celebrate New Year’s every year to say goodbye to the past year and to welcome the next. Last year we actually celebrated the passing of 2019 and unwittingly welcomed, yes welcomed, 2020. Of course at the time we were looking forward to a new decade, an election, and of course the Summer Olympics, an event we had waited four years for. No one could have warned us about what was coming. In hindsight, we all likely wish we had just skipped 2020. In truth, we will actually look back at it as a significant anniversary; the anniversary of us navigating a pandemic and accepting cancellation or delay of pretty much every event we ever kept track of.

We mark time by our events, including those we cancelled in 2020, like the Kentucky Derby, The Indy 500, The World Series and so many more. Now I know we didn’t truly cancel most of those but rather we delayed them or moved them to different dates, and does that change their anniversary? If we eventually held them, then the dates aren’t the important issue. It’s that we still celebrated them that counts, even if it was in the new, on the wrong date, socially distanced, crowd limited, everyone masked pandemic style. We will not soon forget this year and it will certainly become its own anniversary; 2020, the year of COVID-19.

And let’s not forget our birthdays. We mark another trip around the sun and vow to make the next one the best we ever had. I personally am going to subtract a year for 2020 and declare a mulligan. Maybe I should strive to live twice as hard next year in an effort to make up for this one. After all, this upcoming birthday is a milestone on its own. Anniversaries remind us of the past, of emotions we had when we were involved in something monumental, not that I remember my emotions on the day of my birth, that would have belonged to my mom and dad. I think the first one I really remember was my sixth birthday and my Howdy Doody party, but I certainly have memories of most of them that followed. Sixteen and getting my driver’s license, twenty-one and proving I wasn’t that grown up, but that’s another story that is best left never told, or twenty-nine when I suspect I finally became an adult, or thirty three when the birth of my first child completely rocked my world and changed me forever. So many years, so many anniversaries.

But I need to go back to twenty-nine. As much as thirty-three changed me, twenty-nine was the year that began that transformation. It was in that year, 1980, that my world began to change. Though I had met Deb three years earlier, this was the year we made a commitment to each other to travel the rest of our life, our anniversaries if you would, as a couple, a partnership in the game of Life. We bought our first home that fall and then on November 15th, 1980, Deb and I were married. With stars in our eyes and nothing but hope to set sail on, we ventured on this journey of making a life together, of perfecting our careers and beginning traditions. Of new cars, vacation trips and adventures in them, of exploring new opportunities, and of starting our family.

And here we are, forty years later, still together, still in love and still planning on the next best year of our life; COVID-19 be damned. As true as it was the day we said “I do”, we can never pretend to know what the future holds for us. But if the past is any indictor, that future will be so worth entering. And just like the forty years that have come before, we will enter it together, hand in hand, loving and trusting each other with every new day we are gifted.

Don’t let set backs, delays or even failures dampen your ability to celebrate those anniversaries in your life. Embrace the opportunity to relive what made them special, what set them apart as a date worth remembering. Let each anniversary remind you of the fullness of life and traditions and then look forward to the next.

This Sunday, if you would, think of us as we celebrate forty years together, and if you have been a part of our life journey, raise a glass in a toast to us. Know that we will certainly be toasting all of you and the roles you have played in our life together. Cheers

To my Hallmark Addicts

Blame it on COVID isolation or a stressful election waiting game or just plain lack of any serious drive to be meaningful, but I needed a break in my writing. Hopefully you will humor me with your editorial comments after reading this attempt to deal with my funk. I will tell you that writing this piece has definitely lifted my spirits, if even just for a while. But first, you need the set-up to this effort.

My wife and for that matter, her brother Robb, are addicted to the Hallmark Channel and especially to its movie marathons at this time of year. For those of you who have never sat through a Hallmark movie, you have my praise for your persistence but also my pity for what you are missing. While my wife can be moved to tears by the movie, I am humored by the predictability of its plot and characters and tend to get pretty sarcastic during the showing. While watching one the other night with Deb , I bragged that I could write an episode myself. How hard could it be? All it needs is a widower, a too cute kid, colorful townsfolks, a big city women with a slick city boyfriend, a lodge being sold, torn down or foreclosed on and by all means, a dog. Conveniently bring them all accidentally together, stir in some seasonal hijinks and décor and then heat the whole story slowly over a cozy fireplace and you have a Hallmark movie. You might even get an Emmy.

The gauntlet was thrown down by Deb and my co-conspirator and Hallmark critic, Shannon, and I was ready to take on the task. What follows is my first draft. Deb is still laughing upstairs. Hopefully you will be too…………..

Hallmark Presents

A screen play:    Ken Wundrow, Wannabe Hallmark Critic

Editing:                Shannon Briese, Wannabe Hallmark Legal Council

Setting: 

Hill Valley, Idaho  A picturesque village located in Trout Valley, surrounded by majestic, Oh my God the Beauty, mountainside and split through the center of town by the Whopper Trout River. People come here for the trout but stay for the lovely year-round craft and bizarre fair. Town motto: If you can’t get it here, you aren’t trying. (The viewer will be left wondering exactly what it is they were hoping to get.)

Characters:        

Joe Hopelesch   Widowed father of Iotta and owner of the soon to be foreclosed Last Chance Motel. Joe is trying desperately to get customers and raise the money needed to restore the motel to its original glory. He just needs $1,000,000 or a Hallmark miracle.

 Iotta Hopelesch   Twelve-year old precocious daughter of Joe. She has made it her mission to find a mate for her dad and will stop at next to nothing in her quest. Most remarkable features, those adorable brown eyes she can roll at will, and does, and that cute little dimple on her freckled cheek.

Chastity Luking   Big city lawyer for firm advising bank that is foreclosing on The Last Chance Motel. Chastity is working a boyfriend but is seemingly desperate and totally lost outside of the city.

Travelar   Joe and Iotta’s lovable beagle and the watchdog for The Last Chance Motel.

 Bert and Bertha Hopelesch   Joe’s parents who currently manage The Last Chance Motel. A lovable pair often caught rough housing in the vacant motel rooms and the original founders of the motel, dating back to the first days of Hill Valley.

Ethel Farmsby   Mayor of Hill Valley and proprietor of the one and only pharmacy, Ethel’s Potions, where one can get anything you need including all the latest town gossip.

George Farmsby   Husband of Ethel and manager of the bank branch being forced to foreclose on The Last Chance Motel by its corporate headquarters, BBA (Big Bank of America) a cruel and greedy National Chain. George would quit but Ethel demands that he works to keep him out of the pharmacy where years ago he mixed up a prescription and Ethel is still dealing with the coverup.

Colorful Townsfolk   No particular function other than to stroll by the motel aimlessly chatting about saving the old gal. They will create a Save the Motel craft sale and depending on when this airs will be carving pumpkins, selling Christmas trees, organizing the town Easter egg hunt, or selling incredibly lame fireworks and organizing the Hill Valley Firecracker Senior Prom.

Plot Synopsis:

Scene 1 opens with Chastity arguing with her boss about being too busy to travel to some podunk town in the middle of nowhere. She has a Christmas Fund Raiser coming up with her boyfriend, Howard Slick, at the swankiest place in LA and suspects this is the night he pops the question and it better be “will you marry me”. She is about to hit the big three oh and the clock is ticking on his chances. The boss, tells her as soon as the date is over she’s on the next bus to Hill Valley because there’s only one road into town, no airport, no train tracks and one bridge that washes out once a week. (Why the motel can’t find customers when they are trapped there for days on end will remain a Hallmark secret)

Scene 2 finds Chastity broken down on the road into Hill Valley with snow starting to fall. She would have known about the fast-developing blizzard but her boss got her the cheapest rental he could find and it had no radio. Just as she was about to wrap a plastic bread wrapper, she found under the front seat over her Gucci boots and hike into town, Joe and Iotta come riding by in The Last Chance Motel pickup. Suggesting she’d never survive the walk to Hill Valley in those fancy boots, he offers her a seat in the bed of the pickup where she belligerently takes her seat on a bale of hay. As they drive toward town, Iotta is heard to say, “what up Dad, she might be a keeper and I ought to have a mom.”

Scene 3 finds Joe, Iotta and Chastity at the pharmacy where Ethel is offering Chastity sturdier boots and a Alpaca coat that she had made for the continuous craft bizarre. Chastity wants to know where she can find the owner of The Last Chance Motel so she can get the papers signed and back on her way. She has obviously not bothered to read the sign on the pick-up’s door. In an awkward moment, Joe identifies himself as one in the same. Iotta chuckles and is heard to say “Even so, dad.” At that moment, Bert and Bertha come waltzing in, literally as there is waltz music being played in the street by a traveling accordion player. Bert announces that it’s now a blizzard and that the bridge is out and the road is closed. Taking a look at Chastity, Bertha says “you’re going to need a room, missy.” Chasity replies “well yeah!’

Scene 4 and Chastity has been informed that the only other place to stay, a B&B owned by one of those colorful townsfolk, is booked up for the weekend. When she is concluding her meeting with George from the bank, a very unproductive meeting at best, she asks if there is any other place to stay. “Well, Miss Luking, there’s the motel.” You know, the one you’re foreclosing on.” Chastity, after obvious embarrassment, heads out of the bank, she is hit by a gust of snow and still wearing her Gucci boots, goes down hard, just then Joe, Iotta and Travelar happen by. Travelar, eager to be helpful, leaps onto Chastity and begins licking her snow-covered face. Joe, pulls Travelar back and offers his hand to Chastity. As he pulls her to her feet, their eyes lock and for a moment she sees what she was really here to get. With the waltz music still playing in the background, muffled through the wailing blizzard wind, Iotta is heard to whisper, “sorry mom, but its been a long time and me and Travelar are sick of taking care of old Joe.”

I leave it to you, my fellow Hallmarkers, to finish the script. I expect no less than a tear jerker, Hallmark miracle ending.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel

This past week we traveled to the Mauston area to ride the Sparta Elroy Bike Trail. For novices who have never experienced the trail, it runs some 30 miles between Sparta at the northern end and Elroy at the southern end. On the way you bike along the old railbed of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad, passing through its three tunnels along the way. Considered the oldest rail to trail in the U.S., it offers welcoming tree lined canopies and historic bridge crossings as it travels through the five villages along the route. On our first day, our ride took us from Sparta, through two of the three tunnels, eventually reaching Wilton. On the way in and nine miles from our starting point, we reached Tunnel 3, the longest tunnel on the trail. At 3/4 of a mile in length, our first view of the tunnel left us wondering what this walk through it would entail. The one thing that encouraged us was that their actually was a light at the end of the tunnel. It was very dim and very small, but it was there telling us that we would eventually reach the end.

But this isn’t meant to be a travelogue. Rather it is meant to be an allegory. The light at the end of the tunnel reminded me of life in these Covid-19 times. In late February or early March, depending on your point of reference, we entered a tunnel the pandemic had created. We had and still don’t have an idea of just how long this tunnel will be. But we had no choice other than to enter it. Now, going on eight months in our tunnel, we are anxiously looking for the light at the end of it. Pessimists will tell us there is no end in sight, no light that they can see. Optimists will ask us to believe that we are just about there. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, where in fact, we might actually be. Here’s the rub. We can actually control how long we will spend in the tunnel. The key is responsible behavior. No one denies that the pandemic exists. We can argue about who it impacts more, about how bad it really is, or what will eventually cause it to end, but what we need to do is clear. We need to be cautious. We need to protect ourselves while protecting others. In short we need to take responsibility in the battle to end this pandemic, to finally be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The light is there, it’s just that it won’t be clearly visible until we get ourselves closer to the end.

As we walked our bikes through the darkness and falling water of the tunnel, that light at the end of the tunnel just kept growing larger, urging us on. Each step took us closer to the end of the tunnel and with each one of those steps, the light grew closer and brighter. Eventually we reached the last hundred feet of the tunnel and sunlight now flooded the tunnel floor. We were never worried that we wouldn’t make it but we were still relieved to be out of the tunnel, back in the sunlight, and back on our ride.

This Covid-19 tunnel that we find ourselves in will eventually come to an end. How soon it does in fact depends on us. On our collective behavior. On our willingness to sacrifice some of our freedoms to bring this to a quicker end. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to keep moving toward it.

Can we walk back the clock?

There is a person in our neighborhood who walks past our house at least once a day. I should qualify that sentence. She walks backward by our house everyday. I have in fact, never seen her walk forward. It is always backward. Granted, she is headed forward, but backward. I have pondered her reason for this behavior and the best I could come up with is that she is either more concerned with where she has been than where she is headed or maybe, just maybe, she is taking the years back off her life. Walking back the clock. My fantasy is that she will walk by each day looking another day younger than the day before and that convinced of her success, I will join her in her routine and take back at least some of the years that have crept up on me. For sure I would take back a major portion of this last year.

I have always been overly obsessed with my age. In fact I have written about it multiple times and from multiple perspectives. But this year is different. Though I haven’t suffered directly from the pandemic, it has certainly cramped my style. I had big plans for the traveling I would do once I retired. Those plans had a lot to do with when I would retire. At some point in your life, it stops being about all the years that lie ahead and instead becomes about the number of years left. Life is like this project with a very long timeline for completion. At first, there is a tendency to procrastinate. Plenty of time to get all the steps completed, so no worries. I’ll get married one day and start that family. I’ll buy my first house and maybe even start a retirement account. At some point you realize you are half way through the timeline and worry begins to creep in, but you aren’t desperate because there still is time. Plenty of people further along their timeline. Let them do the worrying. And then suddenly it happens, the deadline is approaching and the clock is speeding up. Worry becomes fear that you might not complete the project. Time to retire, to get traveling, just keep moving.

This year has accentuated that fear. My travel plans were put on hold and a year of my opportunities, denied. So maybe, if I could walk backward for awhile, I could get that time back. Before you bombard me with advice and shower me with all those adages about age like, it’s not how many years old you are but how many years young you act, I know. Believe me, I know. It’s just that it’s such a pleasant fantasy to think you could have at least a few years back.

I’m not going to get into the argument of what would you change if you could. I have looked at my life, and though there have been missteps and even some bad choices, it has all led to where I am. Would I change anything? Would I be willing to risk not having the love of my incredible daughters, my unbelievable grandchildren, my beautiful wife? Would I give up the lessons I have learned along the way? The answer of course is no. But still, would I buy some more time if there was a way to do it? Then not what would I change, but what would I devote more passion to? How would I be careful to not waste the extra time?

I know she walks backward for some reason other than the one I have made up, but I want to stop her one day and have the conversation. Has the thought ever crossed her mind? Now if you happen to see me walking backward, promise me you won’t question my motives. Know that I am not afraid of the future, just motivated by the nearness of it.

Summer’s Gone

It would be a gross misstatement to say that this was a typical summer. As I write this blog, we are in the process of wrapping up our last week of cottage time. My wife shares the cottage they inherited from their parents with her two brothers and that means her time share amounts to five weeks every summer. In a normal year we might, at most, use parts of two or three weeks and then embark on more distant trips to all those places we dreamed our retirement would take us. Not so in the summer of COVID-19. All big travel trips had to be put on hold and with many of our local haunts closed or limited, the cottage proved to be the our only get away and this year saw us at the cottage for all of my wife’s five weeks.

I will be the first to say it, thank God for the cottage. We spent hours reading, hiking, kayaking, biking riding and if you are a regular reader, you know there was a lot of time spent watching my grandchildren fish, which by the way, is pure joy. There were evening campfires complete with the typical word games, stories and s’mores. There was the simple pleasure of spotting the lake’s two loons, the eagles as they soared above and the deer that would quietly visit our cottage as we sat stone still observing them. My grandchildren and I even invented several games, Road Golf being their most popular. With Road Golf, we took it so far as to write up the rules and then refine them as the game demanded. Note to my readers, send me a request via email and I’ll send you a copy of the rules. Equipment is minimal, a good rock and a pair of old shoes.

The five weeks spread out across three months flew by and here we are, a few days away from Labor Day and the traditional marking of summer’s end. The cottage will be closed up for the season as soon as my brother-in-laws’ final two weeks are logged. And then it will sit, silently enduring the long winter months and heavy snows of northern Wisconsin. But spring will eventually arrive and the cycle of family visits will start anew. The question will be, how will 2021 compare to 2020? Let’s hope more like the old normal we are all longing for now.

But it is what it is. We all traveled afar, far less. We visited our family and friends less in person and far more virtually. We reinvented our traditions, our birthdays, graduations and family celebrations. We read more and socialized less, we ate in way more than we used to eat out. Like it or not, COVID has changed us. Some of those changes may become permanent while others will have been just for now, just for the pandemic. Summer is not really gone, it actually has another month left according to the calendar. In this year, it might feel like it never existed, especially if we only look at what we didn’t get to do. But, if we can reflect on what we did do, especially those things that were different, well then it might have actually been a great summer.

Patience will see us through this. Paying attention to personal habits and keeping each other safe will make it pass quicker. Summer is ending, but it was never gone. And it will come again. Here’s hoping it will be COVID free next time around and that some of our new traditions and activities will survive the test of time and be part of it.

Happy Labor Day