We were just strangers when we met

The sign read “There are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met.”  This turned out to be pretty prophetic.  By the end of one month of travel, we had met many strangers who by the time we had to part ways, were new friends.

August found my wife and I on a trip up the Rhine in Europe.  It started with us meeting two couples from Nebraska, Mureen and her husband Murray and Gayle and her husband Larry.  We shared stories and drinks and continued those conversations all week long.  Now we also met another couple the very first day and bravely introduced ourselves.  Through the next ten days, we shared walks and talks, dinners and stories of our lives.  But eventually we were saying goodbye to our new friends, Polly and Stu, but knowing we would make a mutual effort to meet again.  Strangers had turned out to be friends we just hadn’t met.

And then there was Lucerne.  We had boarded a paddlewheeler for a trip around Lake Lucerne.  Knowing no local dialects and completely on our own, we took a seat across from an elderly women.  As the boat moved away from the pier, she leaned over and asked if we were from the U.S.  Over the next hour we carried on a fascinating conversation learning things about our new friend, Lucerne and Switzerland.  When she had to disembark at her stop, the women next to her, not knowing any of us, leaned in and said “I’ll take care of them from here.”  And she did.  No language barrier was going to thwart the effort of strangers becoming friends.

My wife and I just returned from a short trip to the North Woods.  On day two of our stay, I headed out to an area golf course.  I was going to squeeze in a quick nine holes somehow hoping I could just play alone and practice my game undisturbed by any semblance of competition.  But this was not to be.  Instead, I was paired up with two gentleman, Gene and his son-in-law, Ryan.  As they had never played the course, I turned out to be their guide.  The three of us shared a very beautiful fall morning and what turned out to be one of my best scores of the season.  As I finished on the ninth hole, we all wished each other well and where we had been strangers just two hours earlier, parted as friends.

The next day, Deb and I took a long bike ride on a trail near our cottage.  When we returned back to our car, which we had left parked at a local pub, we decided we needed some lunch and the pub looked inviting.  It was while we were there that I discovered the sign I quoted at the beginning of this piece.  It was placed prominently above the bar and in the patrons soon proved how true it was.  In no time at all we were in conversation with two local construction workers, the bartender / owner of the pub and two other couples who were traveling like us and had decided to drop in, because that’s what you do at a North Woods pub.  The sign was true, there really were no strangers there.

The next day found us again at the end of another bike ride exploring yet another local pub.  Before you start worrying about my drinking habits, remember that we are on vacation, wait even better, we are retired.  Earlier, as we were locking our bikes and walking downtown, a woman crossing the street had overheard us pondering about this new place, well new to us, and told us it was a great place and that we ought to stop back later when the place opened.  Well it was later and we heeded her advice and entered the establishment.  To our surprise, the women, it turns out her name was Margaret, was not only working there but was in fact the co-owner.  We ordered our drinks and retired to the warmth and coziness of their backyard patio.  There Margaret waited on and conversed with us, sharing her story and getting ours in return.  Within the span of half an hour, we felt like friends.  Hopefully Margaret is reading this blog and is approving my story.  There is no doubt that The Vine in Minocqua will be a new favorite stop on our stays up North and we will look forward to more conversations with the owners, Margaret and Scott.

Our trip was coming to a close when we got one last chance to make a stranger a friend.  It was Saturday and we had just finished golfing.  Not wanting to miss the Badger’s football game, we stopped in the Sayner Pub, yes, I know this is starting to sound like a North Woods pub review but it’s just a coincidence.  We seated ourselves at the bar, best viewing position, I swear, and began watching the game.  We were soon surrounded by strangers who through the comraderie of a sporting event would become our new friends of the day.  Bob on our left, recently retired and living up North and Ryan on our right who turned out to be from Madison.  The Badgers won, we all celebrated and after sharing our stories, parted with the memories and emotions of another well spent day.

This piece would be pointless without a message, okay moral.  One never knows what interesting story resides in the stranger sitting next to you or maybe waiting in the same line.  That is unless you take the step to find out.  To maybe even introduce yourself.  What’s the worst that could happen?  They might just turn out to be the friend you haven’t met.

Somewhere over Ireland

We have been flying all night, which is a relative term.  While my watch says it is 5:00 am, the outside tells me it is much later.  Seven hours later to be exact.  It is a strange sensation, especially if it is the first time one has ever done it, to fly east, racing toward the sunrise.  The airlines, Delta in our case, does everything possible to help you through this body clock dilemma.  You are served dinner at 11:00 pm, lights and all noise dimmed, eye shades handed out along with blankets and pillows all to get you ready for the big time shift that awaits you.

I walk through the plane several times during the wee hours of the morning, enviously watching the seasoned travelers actually sleeping.  But sleep eludes me.  Though the seats are “comfort seats” designed for extra leg room, my legs will not let me sleep.  They twitch and remind me that I am sitting up when they want to be stretched out parallel to gravity.  The night passes and then at roughly 1:00 am, my time when I should be sound asleep, the plane catches up with the sunrise and reality sets in, you have reached tomorrow, today.

The plane comes awake at 4:30 am.  By this I mean that the lights are slowly brought up and breakfast sounds are coming from the galley.  At 5:00 am we are having breakfast, while miles below, somewhere over the coast of Ireland, they are sitting down to lunch.  As we are landing soon, my body will just have to adapt if this adventure is to begin.  It has been twenty-four hours since I got up in my bedroom thousands of miles behind us.  The world has shrunk and we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Next stop, Amsterdam, with its canals, windmills and bikes…..hundreds and hundreds of bikes.

Amsterdam

We Wouldn’t be Fathers Without Mothers

As my wife would say, everything’s not about you. And making sure we don’t miss the point, it is Mother’s Day today. Father’s, your day is coming. Today is mother’s day and I will be the first to tell you how much you are appreciated. You are often the glue that holds the family together. You are the car pool driver, the nurse, the comforter, and the support network your children need. And you hold one other very important role, you are the sole reason we are fathers.

Okay fathers, we may think we are the important person in the family, but our role doesn’t exist without mothers. Without mothers, we would have no to do lists to get done. There would be no one in the passenger seat to tell me all the driving mistakes and laws I am breaking. There would be no one to tell me to get directions. No one to repeat all the directions my navigator is already telling me, by the way, thank you whoever that alluring voice is in my navigator. There would be no one to be the person I always told my child to go ask for permission. No one to remind me it’s not all about me.

Without mother’s, or even surrogate mothers, we would never get to be fathers. I would never get to hold the child she gave me in labor, that she carried for nine months, that she nurtured long before I even met them. I would never have gotten to play catch with, to sing Karaoke with, to yell support to her as I watched from the bleachers, or to put my arm around her as she sobbed after a rejection or just a bad game, all the while telling her life wasn’t always going to be fair. To answer the hard questions and sometimes the really tough ones, or just to worry about her on every date and every new boyfriend.

Today is a day to honor mothers. If you needed another reason to appreciate her, I hope this message gave you one. You just wouldn’t be a father if not for a mother.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Can you really have too much of a good thing. Let’s take ice cream. I will unashamedly admit that on more than one occasion I have literally licked the bottom of the bowl and it may not have even been mine.

For the past three weeks, we have been at a condo we rented on the gulf in Florida. Every day has been sunny with temps in the 80’s. When we weren’t basking in the pool just outside of our lanai, we were at the beach, with our toes in the water. And every evening, ah, the sunsets.

Sunsets on the ocean are spectacular. Weather permitting, and it was, the sun arcs toward the water’s edge in a blazing orb that gradually deepens in color from bright white to blazing yellow and eventually to deepening shades of orange. As the outer rim touches the ocean’s edge, the march below the waves accelerates, or so it seems, and in a matter of minutes, its gone. As the last sliver of the sun disappears, the skies light up in an explosion of deep oranges and soft reds, but not before this halo of light seems to erupt into the dusk sky. The strange thing is that no two sunsets are ever exactly the same and no matter how many photos you have snapped, you find yourself taking one more.

As I said, we were here for three weeks. Our first week was shared with my daughter, her husband and our two grandchildren. To say the energy of two young grandchildren kept us busy would be an understatement. Daily trips down to the surf, hours of swimming in the complex’s pool and long walks down the beach shelling, the sport of finding the best seashells, filled our days from dawn to the evening sunset. Sadly, they had to go home at the end of that first week leaving my wife I to keep each other entertained. Near the end of week two and missing our grandchildren, my wife asked the question, was three weeks too long? Were we in fact ready to go home? As the question hung there and the sun began its descent to the ocean, the answer was obvious. Were we in a hurry to return home where spring was waging a losing battle to push away winter? Where it had snowed the day before and temps still hovered near freezing?

Let’s not be hasty. We deserve a few more days of falling asleep to the sounds of the surf rolling onto the beach. To walk with sand tickling our toes. To just gaze out at the ocean as sail boats go by first following the wind and then alternately tacking against it. To catch a few more amazing sunsets. And there you have it, you really can’t get too much of a good thing.

I’ll have to wrap this up. The sun is dipping toward the ocean and I can hear the mellow sounds of the conch shells beckoning me out to watch.

Not Yet !

What is it about packing that makes my blood run cold? We are set to leave for our next vacation Sunday morning, just two days from now. Truthfully, I should currently be packing, but I have chosen to write about why I’m not packing instead. My wife and travel mate, Deb, was packed a full two weeks ago, but I just can’t seem to start. It’s not that I am not looking forward to the trip, I am in fact really excited to get away. But none the less, my habit of packing procrastination is on high alert, sort of def con 3.

I have created an entire handbook full of reasons for not packing ahead of time. What if before we leave, I need one of the pieces of clothing I packed? What will the weather be where we are going? God knows you can’t trust a forecast more than a day out. What am I going to do with those last minute items? I would have to unpack just to get them in the ideal position within my suitcase. And what if TSA makes a new requirement I will have to pass? My list is limitless and the bottom line is that there is always tomorrow.

My m. o. has always been to pack about one hour before we leave. Much to my wife’s chagrin, she has been repeatedly unsuccessful in trying to change me. Even so, she has never had to leave without me, close calls a few times, but I’ve always come through. There was that one time. We had a 6:00 am flight to catch which meant pickup by our Uber driver at 4:00 am. My wife likes to have a full hour getting ready in the morning, so our wake up alarm was set for 2:45 am. Plenty of time for me to dress AND to pack. Everything should have worked except for one tiny hitch, daylight savings time began that morning. The result, a record setting run for both of us. My wife showered and dressed while I literally threw everything into my suitcase all in 15 minutes. This experience should have been a wake up call, no pun intended, but instead, became my new benchmark.

The art of packing is just that, an art. Some, like my wife, view it as a planning activity. Others a means of extending their vacation anticipation period. I view it as a track meet. Sort of a 100 yard dash at most. It’s not just a question of can I finish the race, but how fast can I do it. I have been looking forward to this trip ever since we laid the initial plans, but the packing, that’s another thing.

Fear not. We leave at 7:00 am Sunday morning, plenty of time to pack that suitcase. Though I will for sure be seeing the sun rise that morning, I promised Deb, my suitcase will be in the car by the deadline. Am I packed? ……………. Not yet.

I Didn’t Do Anything

I lead a comfortable life. I am able to be charitable, to travel freely, and to not struggle with the necessities of life. I believe that I have been successful in work and life. Recently, I tried to look back on the things that I have accomplished and came to the realization that there wasn’t a single one that I could identify as something I did alone. That the accomplishment was mine and mine alone. What I actually came to realize was that those things were always accomplished through the combined efforts of the people I have surrounded myself with.

Throughout my life I have always had people I could lean on for support. When I was young, it was coaches, teachers, and my dad. As I aged and entered the workforce, my support network were co-workers more experienced than me, and mentors so willing to lend advice. Multiple co-teachers were there to assist in the projects I was developing, to give advice and at time to be my promotors. In my years as a teacher, I had invaluable teaching assistants to ease the burden of my often overloaded classroom. When I entered the private sector, I had experienced co-workers who shared their knowledge and skill with me while assisting in the plans I was developing for my clients. At work I was surrounded by an incredible support staff who took my ideas and strategies and did the paperwork to make them working plans. And in my personal life, I had my partner in marriage to do the social and family planning that kept me on track and motivated. As she would tell you, without her it is doubtful that I would have ever showed up anywhere on time or possibly not at all.

My point is that what we accomplish in life is always a collaborative effort. We are never alone if we know where to look. That said, it is so important for us to acknowledge those people in life who are part of our team. I ask people to avoid using the word “just” when they describe what they do. Who was the most important person in a successful, possibly life saving, surgery? Was it the surgeon, or was it the nurse who prepped the patient? Or, was it the person who collected the garbage outside of the surgeon’s home so that he could concentrate on the surgery and not whether the trash was picked up? I would contend that each person involved at any level in the process, shares in the success of the outcome.

I am the cumulative result of all of the people in my life who shared in the process that has led to my successes. Hopefully at least a few of them are reading this and know that they are appreciated and loved for the impact they have had on my life and the things we have done, together. I didn’t do anything, alone.

Finally

After two years of patiently waiting, we are finally back in the air headed to a tropical island. The last time on a plane to anywhere, we were returning from another island trip on March 13th, 2020. A day before the world shut down! Several cancelled trips later, we finally feel safe enough, relative term, to get back on with our traveling.  Greece and Panama were put on hold, but there’s still time.

I will celebrate another birthday while on the island and though it makes me sad to leave another year behind me,  I am optimistic that there are enough left to get through my bucket list.

Life is a journey and I am trying to make sure I don’t treat it like a race. I have promised myself so many times that I will slow down.  Maybe, if nothing else came from the pandemic, it was that life is too short for one to race to the finish line. The two years of spacing ourselves out may have served to remind us to do the same with our lives.

I titled this the way I did because finally I get it. I am more prepared than ever to savor my life and to finally be on my way once more. 

Let Them Soar

Watching the Olympics this past week, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the athletes’ personal stories. One in particular stuck with me. The athlete was an alpine skier and as the story went, his parents had him on his first set of skis before he could walk. They of course had been professional skiers and wanted their son to have every chance to become one as well.

It is said we live vicariously through our children. In some cases this means having them grow up just like us, same goals, same passions. In some cases, we want them to succeed where we failed. In either case, the parent is projecting their expectations unto the child. Don’t misread this, I will be the first to tell you that without expectations, their is no roadmap to success. Expectations create our goals. The question is whose expectations should they be?

When we realize we are about to have a child, we hope for three very basic things. We hope that our child will be born with ten toes and ten fingers, meaning healthy. Good health will give them that head start. The second hope is that they will grow up to be independent, free thinking individuals, able to make the important life decisions they will inevitably face. Our third hope is that they will be successful, and here the seed of expectations is planted. Every parent describes success in their terms. One parent will hope that their child will some day become President of the United States, another the next Warren Buffet, yet another a professional athlete, maybe even an Olympian. Whether it is the arts, athletics, business, or politics, we can’t help but start to set expectations. The problem here is that these expectations are ours when they need to be theirs.

I am as guilty as the next person. The minute my daughter picked up a golf club,

I expected to one day see her in the US Open. The second my youngest daughter grabbed a microphone, I just knew she would be the next Shania Twain. I couldn’t even wait to buy her that first guitar. It is next to impossible to not set these expectations for our children. After all, it is born out of our love for them. But if we truly love them, is it living up to our expectations that matters.

Let’s go back to my Olympians. I don’t believe that when that toddler was set upon his first set of skis that he expected to be one day screaming down a mountain in China seeking a gold medal. I suspect that somewhere along the way, it might have become a dream of his. Somewhere that dream developed into a dedication to improving his skills as a skier. Through hard work and determination, his dream became an expectation. But that expectation was the product of a dream and it was his expectation. He earned the right to that expectation.

As parents we need to understand the difference between expectation and a dream. Our expectations for our children, if improperly placed may just be the worst thing we can do for them. We need to let them discover their passions independently and then we need to let them dream. Let their dreams become their expectations. Only then will we get to watch them have the success we had hoped for.

We have a role in our child’s future, and that role is to be their supporter, their nurturer, their biggest fan. If we let them dream their dreams, if we let them soar, who knows, they just may become an Olympian.

The Life of Riley

Ah retirement, or at least the concept of it. Now a days no one really retires. We just become a different kind of busy. I chose volunteering, someone else might pick a part time job, which by the way is what a lot of volunteering turns into these days. It started out as promising to show up a few days a week, but as they figured out how smart all that experience seem to make you coupled with an insane work ethic, and well, there you have it. “I’m sort of retired” becomes your standard reply to “What are you doing these days?”

For me, I was always only sort of retired. I jumped into volunteering for a nonprofit almost immediately after turning in my retirement notice. That was coupled with my seeming inability to walk away from a seasonal teaching job that had consumed the last twenty years of my career and has now morphed into it’s fifth last year of doing it. I am trying to determine if they are that desperate or I am that good, pretty sure it’s desperation. Either way, I have been cajoled into contracting a year at a time for the last five years. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, a very long tunnel. I am slowing down and finding other things to occupy my time. I am in short heading towards the “actually, pretty much, retired” phase.

So what do retired people really do with all that time. The answer is a little of this and a little of that. When truly enjoying the art of retirement, you can actually answer the question “What are you doing today?” with “Nothing.” If reminded that you did that yesterday, just reply “But I wasn’t finished.” On those days when all I have scheduled is nothing, my day starts when I wake up. Follow that up with a couple slow savored cups of coffee, a perusing of the newspaper, including a few puzzles, and then a discussion about what’s for lunch while discussing what’s for dinner.

Alright, I exaggerate. Retirement, other than our Covid-19 quarantine period when the previous statement was pretty accurate, HAS been the life of Riley. I have traveled, albeit for the most part by car, to several of my bucket list destinations. (for reference see a few of my blogs, “The Call of the Road”, “Steel City”, “We’ve Reached Atlanta”) I even got out west for a ski trip with several friends half my age, I think they felt a need for adult supervision and truthfully, their selection might have been poorly thought out. The body may be old but someone needs to explain that to my head and heart.

I think that the best part of retirement has to be the lack of a hard and fast time frame. You get to go to bed when you want to and if you feel like it, get up in time for sunrise or sleep in if you don’t. When traveling, unless you have those required boarding times hanging over your head, you can take your time. You can even stay a few days longer or just stop to visit old friends along the way. You will get home when you are ready to be home. The freedom of not having to look at your watch to be sure you are where you have to be when you need to be, is freeing. My watch is used more to see how many steps I got in than to tell me the time of day. My activity choices now revolve around whether it’s light outside or dark.

Case in point. Today is one of those glorious nothing on my schedule days. I have found time to savor my coffee, listen to some music, do a little fiction reading, get my Valentine’s obligation done, and even write this piece. My only questionable act so far, I reserve the right for one or two more, was to take a walk around the block. Why is that questionable? It is five degrees outside and that might be tolerable for a polar bear, but there’s also the infamous windchill making it feel like seven below. I am going to tell you that the difference is negligible since five degrees is cold, period. But, it was necessary, or so says my doctor who has prescribed it. Did she know it was going to be this cold and why wasn’t she out walking with me? I guess she was hanging out at the emergency room waiting for them to bring me in frozen. But the good news is that this too shall pass. A week from today, my wife and I will be headed to much warmer climes where we will replace today’s ice under our feet with white sand and surf. I think I can already feel it oozing up between my toes.

Ah, the Life of Riley.

If Only I Were a Car

As a guy, I have always been prone to getting attached to my cars. Before you question that statement, just consider that men approach cars so differently than women. We give them feminine names. We care for them as if they were are pets. We even speak of them in sexual connotations, just don’t ask me to get into specifics on that one. Men know what I mean. But even with all this said, I have always espoused to a set belief when it came to cars. I would date my car for two to three years, five years tops if I was really in love with her, and then I would trade her in for a slightly newer model with fewer miles and that shiny sexier frame and then start up a new love affair.

If only I were a car. If that were true, I could trade myself in for a newer model with a few less years on it, hell, maybe a lot fewer years on it. As I approach my next birthday, a birthday as yet not named, my body is showing signs of the well driven years I have put on her. Oh, she still tries to have that new car smell and sure, she shines up real nice when we are going out on the town, but truth be told, she lacks some of that get up and go she had when I first started driving her. She’s a little slower out of the gate in the morning and her tires are looking worn. Don’t get me wrong, I suspect she still has some good years left in her, but you know, if only I could trade her in.

When I posed this idea to my wife, she immediately wanted to know how many models I was planning on stepping up and just how low a number of years was I considering? I assured her I was intending to be reasonable, maybe a couple of model years up and oh maybe somewhere between thirty-five to forty years on her. Not too surprisingly, after visualizing the new me, she was all in.

Now, if only I were a car,

The Call of the Road Trip

The road trip has been talked about for generations. When I was growing up the best road trip one could take, was Route 66. This one was so famous, they wrote books about it and even made a TV show with Route 66 as the premise. The idea of a road trip offered a chance to see America close up and if you really wanted to see the out of the way, you had to take the by ways and avoid the free ways.


During my lifetime I have taken my share of road trips. The first road trips were relatively short in that they didn’t even leave the state. Later, my road trips expanded beyond the borders of my state and several took me all the way across the country. I have driven to San Francisco on one coast and New York on the opposite. One trip reached the tip of Cape Cod, while another the tip of the Florida Keys at Key West. Two took me out of the country to Quebec City on the Atlantic side and Edmonton, Alberta on the western side of Canada. Each and every one of these trips hold very special memories. Memories of driving with my small children. Bonding trips with friends from college. Several long trips with my wife as copilot. In the end, I brought home lots of photos and souvenirs, but more importantly, incredible memories of the places and views as well as new friends made along the way. I could never pick one favorite trip, but there certainly were some great ones. 


There is one trip that does stand out from the rest for it’s sheer audacity. It was the summer of 1977, I had just resigned from my first teaching job and had moved back home before I would start my new one that fall. My brother had some vacation time coming and asked if I were up for a road trip. We would load the car and head west eventually reaching Sacramento where we would drop in on our sister. We had zero plans but big ideas. With my little red mustang loaded with the few things we thought we might need, we said good by to our mother and headed west. We reached Omaha, Nebraska sometime in the wee hours of the next morning and passed Lincoln around sunrise. Some small Nebraska town out in the middle of nowhere became our first pit stop. It seems the Nebraska State Patrol believes one should drive slow enough to truly enjoy the amazing scenery their state has to offer. After paying for our share of that view, we were back on the road. We eventually crossed the Rockies, the Great Salt Lake, and the Sierras arriving at our destination, my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Sacramento. It had taken us most of two days and I am not even sure I remember where we stopped for the night or even if we did. All in all, we spent the better part of two weeks on that trip. We toured Sacramento, took in one of my brother-in-laws stock car races, made several new acquaintances curtesy of the Sacramento night scene, and re-established our significance to our sister.


Our return trip back across the country was equally noteworthy. Safe to say, we still went more or less by the seat of our pants when it came to planning. Night one found us rolling out our sleeping bags under a moonlit Oregon sky only to be awakened soon after by rather large animal sounds, at least they sounded large. Back in the car, we decided we were not cut out to be cowboys sleeping under the stars. We reached Yellowstone by morning and actually made Mt Rushmore in time for the evening lighting of the monument. I still remember Keith asking if the one day park sticker we had bought that morning in Yellowstone, also got us into Mt Rushmore. The look on the ranger’s face said it all. I believe his exact words were, “You’re covered on the park entrance fee, but maybe I should be giving you a speeding ticket instead.” After a good laugh, we were granted entrance to the park. Our intent that night was to pitch a tent and start back on our trip home the in the morning. Our intent was valid, but after a night out in Keystone, two more new acquaintances, and a trip to an abandoned gold mine at three am, it was already dawn when we got to our tent. Our camp ground neighbors commented on how impressed they were with our being such early risers. We left them believe that.

 
That trip sticks out in my mind as being the event that re-bonded me with my brother. Sharing all that time, and yes, adventures with him, renewed our brotherhood. That is what road trips are meant to do. We get to reacquaint ourselves, we discover new places and new people, we adventure. The open road cannot be seen from 30,000 feet up. It needs to roll beneath the tires of your vehicle. It needs to be seen from the windshield of your car and it needs to invite you to pull over, get out, and experience it first hand. Every road trip I have taken has afforded me those priceless opportunities. Next time someone offers you the chance for a road trip, don’t hesitate. Throw a few things in the back of the car, buckle your seatbelt, and hit the road.

                                 Queet’s Beach, Washington.  One of many great road trips with my daughters

The Winds of Change

I have had three careers in my life. Each time I had the opportunity to change, I took it. I moved from classroom teacher to business entrepreneur to personal planner. Now I admit that each career had aspects that were very similar, but they were still changes that I decided to embrace. In each and every case, though there was risk involved, the end result moved my families well being forward. In 2017, I retired, sort of. It was not long before I found myself volunteering for an organization that allowed me to mentor other entrepreneurs as they tried to change their business ideas into functioning businesses.

Then in March of 2020, COVID-19 entered our lives and caused some of the greatest change we have had to face in recent times. From my perspective as a business mentor, I had a front row seat to observing businesses as they were forced to adapt to a new way of delivering their products and service. They not only had to change once, in some cases they had to make multiple adaptations as the pandemic held on, let up, and roared back. The pandemic we thought would last three months, now sits poised to enter its third year.

What the pandemic has reaffirmed is not only our ability to adapt, but also our perseverance and yes, our stubbornness. We, as a collective, have a great capacity for making and accepting change. As a country, we also have a tendency to be stubborn. Too often, when change is thrust upon us, some would choose to dig in their heels and refuse to accept it, or at the very least, take the responsibility to do their part to facilitate the necessary change.

I could go down the rabbit hole here and talk about some of the divisive issues that have come out of or because of the pandemic, but I would be trying to change the minds of the stubborn element of our society. I would rather point out the great ability of businesses to adapt to what we all now refer to as our new normal. I would point out how restaurants, who by the way were forced to make the greatest adaptations, overnight switched from in service dining to takeout. But it wasn’t just takeout, it had to be done curb side or by contactless delivery. Others added outside dining to their service and even found ways to continue that well into the fall and in some cases, through the winter. No small task. And then there were the retail sellers who, suddenly finding their indoor capacity reduced or even eliminated as they were forced to close their doors, either created or greatly increased their on-line services. The list goes on as doctors found ways to offer telemedical appointments and virtually every business went to some form of virtual meetings, appointments, and conferences. In short, they adapted the resources available to adjust to new business systems.

Unless you were in hibernation during the last two years, I haven’t told you anything you didn’t likely already observe for yourself. So let me tell you about three businesses I was mentoring and the changes they made to survive and to actually thrive. The first was a retail store. When the pandemic first struck, they were forced to close their doors to the public. Overnight, they rapidly increased their on-line store and added additional products to their website catalogue. But their adaptation didn’t stop there. When they were allowed to reopen to their customers, albeit in very limited store capacity, they went to a boutique model and began scheduling shopping appointments. When last I checked, they were having a record year in sales.

My second business was a real estate agency, who was, prior to the pandemic, in the process of forming her own real estate team. When the pandemic made it obvious that business could not be done in the usual way, she adapted overnight to virtual showings and closings and not only went ahead with her plan to build a team, but thanks to her ability to be adaptive, has realized great success and can now facilitate even more clients in more creative ways.

My final business story, amazed me the most, in that I worried about her business more than any other. She had just started her business assisting clients in decluttering their homes. Her model was to go to the clients home and through a methodical process, categorize their possessions, identify those that needed to go, and then reorganize what remained. When COVID struck, I worried about how her business would survive. When I contacted her, she told me how worried she was at first and then decided she would try a virtual appointment. The client would pile up the clutter from a particular room and my business owner would, on screen, sort the clutter into multiple piles and gradually eliminate the unnecessary from the possible next to go and eventually the pile that would stay but be reorganized. It turns out that doing the process online was less threatening to the client than having the business owner actually come into their home. She received more referrals going forward and her business survived and thrived.

The point of this whole blog is that change is inevitable. It was a pandemic this time, but what will it be next time. Businesses adapt or die. Because they know this, the promising businesses plan ahead. In every case, businesses that want to survive, have found ways to continue in manners that keep the public safe. It is individuals that struggle far more. We resist change until there is no other choice than to accept it. It is obvious that the pandemic has changed our life styles over the last two years. The reality, is that many of the ways we did things will not return. We simply must adapt. Many have done their part. Others, have not. I felt that there was no better time to press my point than on New Year’s Day when every year we are offered a reset. I intend to not only accept change, but to embrace it and do what I can to facilitate it. I will do what I need to keep people around me safe by being conscious of their well being, even when that requires a little sacrifice on my part. And finally, by doing my part, I will look forward to 2022 being a little better than 2021 and a lot better than 2020.