Mike Max: “This guy is reporting his heart out!”

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Mike Max has become a fixture at our home as we have watched, riveted actually, to his live reporting for WCOO television on the civil unrest that has been taking place in Minneapolis since the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day.

I won’t lie to you.

My first review of his initial reports from I35W I was not impressed.

In fact, I was mortified.

As protesters began to assemble a tent on the freeway Max seemed utterly befuddled by what it could be.

That it was a tent appeared to be obvious to me.

But, in his effort to understand what it was all about he offered up no guile or expert opinion.

After reporting that a UPS truck had been robbed of its packages and a fire was raging on the freeway, he mused that everything was peaceful and that there wasn’t any “looting” taking place.

What has become somewhat of a tagline of his was this:  “I have no idea.”

As he continued to report, trying to make sense of it all, one could literally see a transformation.

Not from a guy who didn’t know what was going on to a guy who was an expert with all the answers.

But from a guy who genuinely wanted to understand what was going on, why it was happening and, more importantly, the people who were involved with it all.

Mike Max reported.  And has kept on reporting.

As my son, Owen, exclaimed, “This guy is reporting his heart out!”

And he has, and he is.

In doing the important work of journalism he is doing he isn’t trying to educate us by espousing his personal beliefs, ideology, or bias.

He is taking a side.

The human side.

We have seen a man who most know as a sports reporter evolve into a reporter who is bringing us what I think we all need to know:  Who are the people in the streets, why are they in the streets, what are they thinking, what do they believe and what do they want to happen.

He’s letting them tell their story.

He’s not telling us their story.

He’s not telling his story.

He’s letting them be the story.

Watching Max report has been a combination of fascination, joy and now, as we have grown fond of him as a person, we have grown appreciative of his earnest and candid desire to let us know who these people are by letting these people tell us who they are.

By our count he has been tear gassed three times.

Last night he announced, “Here we go again….it’s in my eyes.” as he received another dose of tear gas.

The night before, attempting to reposition himself and his cameraman he explained that “We will have to go this way because it’s the only way to get over there.” as he began to grunt and groan his body over the cement obstacle.

Seconds later, as the cameraman panned to an opening between barricades a few feet away, Max chuckled and said, “Or, I guess we can just walk through there.”

He has been attacked by a guy with a cane.  Interviewed two young women from the University of Minnesota and immediately knew the small town where one came from, and the town where her Dad had gone to high school.

He simply stopped people and asked them questions.  Directions.  He also asked them what they thought was going on.

He thought out loud as he tried to make sense of it all.

Yet, last night, Mike Max showed, without equivocation, what America needs from its journalists now, more than ever.

After running into a garage filled with dumpsters to get out of the way of rubber bullets and tear gas, Max emerged to cover the resulting arrests of protesters who had violated a citywide curfew.

It was clear that he was enamored with the process that led up to the law enforcement action that ultimately cornered around 150 protesters who, realizing that they were no longer in a position to run, accepted the fate they knew was coming:  Being arrested.

Max didn’t cry out that the protesters were peaceful and why were they being arrested.

He didn’t complain that he and his cameraman were being teargassed along with protesters because he was a member of the media.

When a State Trooper asked him to move, he simply moved.  He didn’t complain.  Didn’t protest.  There was no “Do you know who I am?” moment from Mike Max.

Mike Max wanted to know what was going on.  Why it was.  What was happening.  What would happen next.

And, then, he did something that this morning brought tears to my eyes.

He reported.

I urge you to watch this story:  https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/05/31/at-least-2-groups-of-protesters-remain-in-downtown-minneapolis/

In it you will understand, more than anything any other reporter has brought to us this week, who the protesters were that wanted to be .heard.

You will see shared humanity between protesters and law enforcement and a reminder that we are all, in the end, the same human beings.

I have great respect for the men and women in journalism I know are committed to being the best journalists they can be.  There are many of them.

There are also far too many today who think they are the story.  And, that their story should be on equal footing as those they are supposed to be covering.

We read, see, and hear their perspective and opinion.

The story, far too often, becomes a side note to their analysis and commentary.

For three nights we have seen Mike Max share with us a form of journalism that has been filled with facts, with information, with insight, with conjecture tempered with a healthy dose of “I don’t know” added to inform the viewer that he doesn’t know any more than we know.

But then he sets out to find out.

He asks questions.  He talks to people.  He seeks out anybody who will talk to him.  He wonders aloud.

And then, he does what America needs now, more than ever from our journalists.

He reports.

Dear George Floyd: I owe you an apology.

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Dear George Floyd,

I owe you an apology.

I spent so many years doing what I thought was helping people with my work in government and politics and I was tired.

I was tired of the anger and meanness and conflict and the non-stop division and partisanship and ideological divide.

I saw you and I saw how much you were suffering but I was weary of your suffering and everybody else’s suffering.

I gave up.

I hung up any real engagement in the world around me.

Yes, I have been leading a non-profit helping a lot of people the past 8 years and for that I am grateful for my ability to help others who need help.

As for politics and government, I simply walked away from it.

After more than three decades of it all I felt I had done my part and it was time for others to do their part.

It wasn’t that seeing your video changed me.  I’ve seen other video of suffering.  I’ve seen pictures.

I have seen people in front of me, beside me and behind me who needed me not to walk away.

I see the poverty of communities all around me.

The lost hope.  The dying hope.  The never-had-hope.

What changed me wasn’t seeing you die.

What changed was I didn’t see you live.

What changed me was seeing that I didn’t do anything to help save you.

I could have.  So could a lot of others.

Long before you found your life slip away  under the knee of a police officer who was sworn to protect and serve you.

My white privilege isn’t that I didn’t see or hear your suffering.

My white privilege is that I chose to ignore that I had the ability to help stop it.

I don’t need to read books on racial injustice or listen to a podcast about how my white privilege doesn’t allow me to understand the suffering you experienced on the hard asphalt of a Minneapolis road.

I don’t need to shut up and listen or give space to the voices of the oppressed or repressed.

There’s not a meme in the world that I can post that will do anything other than make me feel that I spoke up and said something and now I can go back to doing what I was doing before I made that insincere gesture to act like I did something.

The worst part of white privilege is acting as though acknowledging it publicly and on social media is a badge of honor.

There is smugness in the white privilege acknowledgement.

That smugness should have died with your last breath on Earth.

Here’s the thing.

I could have done something.

Done.

Something.

I can apologize.

I’m sorry.

I can also stop talking and listening.

I can do something.

Do.

Something.

I am done standing on the sidelines of government and politics anymore.

I will find candidates to support again and work to help elect them to public office.

I’m going to get behind police and criminal justice reforms and find a way to make sure they are being implemented into policy and then executed by action.

I’m going to dust-off three decades of knowing how to pull the levers of power and influence and find meaningful ways to engage in efforts to create hope, restore hope and build hope in neighborhoods.

I’m going to remember that feeling nearly 40 years ago when I stepped into my first precinct caucus and walked out believing I had the power to change the world.

The feeling that I had the power to make a difference in the lives of people in my community, my country, and my world.

I will speak out.  Speak up.  Be heard.  Be seen.

When I need to listen, I will do so.

But the impatience of my youth has now been replaced by the impatience of a man who has been there and seen that.

I won’t heed the lecture that change takes time.

I’ve given that lecture myself too many times.

I know better.

Change doesn’t take time.

Change takes change.

Your death shouldn’t have had to have meaning that your life hadn’t already had on the world.

I want you to know that I will do now what I should have been doing all along to try to give meaning to your death that I should have given to your life.

And, I am going to remember your name.

George Floyd.

Not because buildings and property and lives were destroyed in your name.

But because the world can, must and has to be a better place in your name.

George Floyd needs more than protests and outrage: He needs an arrest.

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Justice delayed is justice denied.

Every minute of every day that those who contributed to the death of George Floyd remain free is a day that George Floyd is denied justice.

Even more than Floyd, it’s another day that America’s justice system’s credibility is at stake.

Floyd, who was denied his right to face a jury of his peers and the right of being considered innocent until proven guilty, is not the first black American to needlessly die while being arrested.

Whatever his alleged crime – even one that might have been as horrific as taking the life of another person — Floyd deserved to face his accusers in a courtroom and to be given the full rights accorded to him under the Constitution.

Today, the four officers who have been fired by the City of Minneapolis should, themselves, be behind bars.

Not to be be judged guilty by the media, politicians,  protesters, bloggers or any other outraged American citizen.

But to be given the full rights to the American justice system.

The same justice system that their actions deprived George Floyd from having access to while his life began to slip away under the knee of an arresting police officer.

It’s time to arrest the four fired police officers.

Not to make a statement.  Not to placate a community.  Not to seek revenge.

It’s time to arrest them in the name of justice.

My American experience with law enforcement doesn’t even remotely resemble that which took place during the last moments of George Floyd’s life.

But I’m not going to defend all police officers, or their profession, because that’s beside the point.

The point isn’t that there is a blue wall protecting cops at the expense of justice.

It’s that the legal system is facing a moment of truth.

If the actions of four police officers were so atrocious to result in the unprecedented speed of their dismissal from the Minneapolis Police Department then it should not be a stretch that their actions should result in an immediate arrest.

If the actions of George Floyd that initiated police action against him, ultimately resulting in his arrest and consequently the conduct of those arresting him contributed to his death, then the next step is abundantly clear.

Arrest the officers.  Charge them.  And, prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

Presumably Floyd would have faced the same criminal justice system once arrested and transported to jail and charged with a crime.

He would have been charged.  And, prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Why should we be waiting for the system to understand that the justice system Floyd was going to face is the one that the four officers involved in his arrest should be facing right now.

Justice delayed.

Justice denied.

For George Floyd.

For all of us.

Pandemic Truth: The Pope is not infallible. Neither is science. Nobody is.

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I spent nearly 6 years as an altar boy in Fairmount, North Dakota.  During that time, I helped to marry and bury many friends and neighbors in the community.

During those years I remember Father Schuh reminding me, often, about the infallibility of the Pope.

A concept that I found fascinating.

How cool would it be to never be wrong?

No matter what you said or did would ever be incorrect.

Even if what you said or did…was incorrect.

Or simply…wrong.

Decades removed from Fairmount, North Dakota and my youthful ignorance about the true extent and scope of the Pope’s infallibility, I find myself with my own family struggling to make the right decisions amid a pandemic.

In March, as the fear and darkness of COVID-19 began to consume nearly every aspect of life my family, like many American families, withdrew into our home, closed the door, and began to ride out the viral tsunami.

Scientists became front page news, the talking heads on cable television and the voices of knowledge and wisdom on the radio.

Before long we were shoving aside politicians and others who weren’t the scientists because, it was emphasized, we should trust science and not politics.

That many of the politicians cannot, and should not, be trusted is certainly a matter that has been debated since the beginning of humanity.

Science became the touchstone for virtually every aspect of our lives.

Before long the politicians, as they are wont to do, figured out that if people wouldn’t listen to them, they would listen to the scientists.

And, if they didn’t like what the “Scientist of the Day” had to say they went out and found another one that would say what they wanted them to say.

Scientists were everywhere talking about science.

Which, of course, is what a Scientist does.

The new celebrity is the Scientist.

So much so that the nation’s “top” Scientist Anthony Fauci humorously clamored for, and got, Brad Pitt to portray him, on all places, “Saturday Night Live.”

Scientists are, of course, people, too.

They know that this is their time.

Today, Scientists and their science are the ones, allegedly, directing the decisions of elected officials and others when it comes to their policies.

We are hearing it more and more, as well, on Social Media, as a new divide has been created in America.

Repeatedly we are told to simply trust “Science.”

Our own Governor insists that decisions he is making today are based on the best “Science” available to him.

Social media is filled with demands that we should listen to science in everything we do when it comes to COVID-19.

Just trust science.

While it has taken me less time than it took me to figure out that the Pope was not, on all things, infallible, here’s the hard truth about science.

Science is not infallible.

It never was.  Never has been.  Never will be.

The whole point behind science is to be wrong before it is right.

And, science changes. The outcome of science changes.  The findings of science changes.

Science is not infallible.

Science can also be manipulated, exaggerated, exploited, misused, mismanaged and yes, it can also be wrong.

Which isn’t to say that those insisting that science should judge our response to COVID-19 are completely wrong.

But they are also not completely right.

Anymore than elected officials – and average Americans – are as they try to figure out when life can return to normal.

Whatever normal will be in the short-term or the long-term.

I have a Daughter whose immunity is genetically compromised.  I have brother-in-law with disabilities who lives in a group home.  An 88-year old mother.

I also have a 19-year-old son who just completed his second of semester while sitting in his bedroom, and wife, who along with me, have been working from home for longer than I can recall.

My wife  and I have difficult choices ahead for our children, particularly our Daughter.

In all ways other than a compromised immune system she is a healthy, active, bright, and energetic young woman.

From the beginning of COVID-19 all of us, including her, have been mindful that the choices we made about how to protect ourselves could have a direct impact on her own health.

My Son worried that moving home from his college dorm might be a dangerous act until we assured him that the safest place for him, and his sister, was at home with his parents.

We cannot keep our Daughter locked in our home forever.  Nor will we be able to keep our Son locked in our home forever.

It is not possible and for our children it is simply not the right thing to do.

My Daughter must be able to go out into the world.  She must exist in the world.  She must live in the world.

In the short-term she will have to do so in conditions that will require her to do things that are not second nature to her, or most other American children of any age.

She will need to wear a mask.  Stand six feet apart from people. Constantly wash her hands.

And, perhaps most challenging for her, not hug those friends and family that she is always delighted to see.

My hope is that those around her will do the same.

I hope Americans who can and are able to will wear a mask.  Stand six feet apart from people.  Constantly wash their hands.

Because, for now, that is about the only thing that science seems to be able to agree on that is going to keep the vast majority of us safe.

For now.

With the creation of a vaccine to prevent infections, and medicines and medical procedures to help those recover who are infected, science will eventually develop the tools humanity needs to beat this pandemic.

And, hopefully, the next one that comes in our lifetime.

I can’t keep my kids at home forever.

There isn’t a Scientist, a Pope, a Governor, or a President who can tell me with 100% assurance how much longer is long enough.

So, here’s what I know we, as a family, will be doing:

  • We will assess the risk of the actions we will take over the days and weeks ahead on our personal health and safety.
  • As we do this assessment, we will also discuss what impact our own actions could have on the safety and well-being of others
  • We will do our best not to judge the choices and decisions of others to remain at home, or to go back into the world, as other families try to navigate the future ahead of them
  • As we have tried to do from the beginning, we will try to find the most current information available and try to be wise consumers of it to make decision and choices that we, as a family, believe are the best ones for ourselves without compromising the health and safety of others.

Here is what we won’t do.

  • We won’t be bullied or shamed by those who insist we stay in our homes because if we don’t it will threaten the lives and safety of someone else in society.
  • Nor will we be bullied or shamed by those who insist we get out of our homes because if we don’t, we are nothing but lemmings doing the bidding of an overly burdensome government.

The Pope is not infallible in all things.

Science is not infallible in all things.

Politicians and the media are most assuredly not infallible in all things.

The only thing I will trust to be infallible right now are parents who will make decisions and choices that not only don’t threaten the safety and security of their own family – but don’t threaten the safety and security of their fellow Americans family.

I am confident that if all of us behave and act accordingly there’s not a pandemic in the world that can beat us.

That truth is infallible.

 

 

COVID-19: I want to blame somebody for all of the pain and suffering. All of it!

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When reports of COVID-19 began to surface I was focused on other aspects of my life so I paid little attention to it.  As the news media began to provide more coverage of it I found myself thinking it was little more than over-hyped speculation.

For a time I also rationalized my lack of concern by sharing posts of diseases that were making far more human beings sick and dying than what COVID-19 was doing in the world.

Then, as my Daughter and I made our way back from Pennsylvania from a re-routed trip to the Minnesota Twins/Boston Red Sox Spring Training, I began to feel the gnawing concern that maybe this was going to be more trouble than I had assumed.

As we pulled into the driveway of our home it was almost as a living fog rolled over us and the two of us, along with my wife and son and our smelly dog, found ourselves, like millions of Americans, living in an isolation that was intended to protect us from the disease.

In the matter of weeks, literally, the world economy came to a near standstill.  Seemingly overnight millions of Americans were suddenly out of work, companies shuttered and all we saw and heard for days and days were headlines blaring out the number of sick, the dead and the dying.

Analysts and experts predicting a dystopian future, a permanent “New Normal”, offered little in the way of hope for a way forward.

As the angel of death has passed by more American homes than had been predicted — guessed– imagined — America has begun to find its balance.

We have also begun to look for somebody to blame.

Anybody.

Everybody.

It is human nature, to be sure, to place blame somewhere for our pain and suffering.

In the smoldering heap of lost jobs, dreams, income, savings, homes, businesses, school years, graduations, proms, weddings, and funerals there will come a raging fire of recrimination and blame.

Who is responsible for all this pain and suffering?  Who failed to take care of all of this?  Who didn’t do their job?

Who caused the world to stop?

Which is where I need to stop.

I can’t.  I really….can’t.

What will it do?  What can it do?

If all I do is find somebody to blame, I won’t find somebody to work with to make sure all of this doesn’t happen again.

Blame isn’t going to repair the economy, bring people back their job, restore hope and confidence in the future for my children.

I didn’t know better than anybody else what to do, or should have been done, and if I claim now that I did, I am a liar.

People we elected to lead did what they thought was the right thing to do, made the decisions they thought were the right ones to make, chose the direction they felt we needed to go with the best information they had available when they made those decisions.

Oh, it is so, so tempting to second-guess all of it.  So easy to say, in the growing moments of hindsight, that they shouldn’t have done this and shouldn’t have done that.

I so badly want to do that.  I want to point fingers.  I want to scream out “Why?” and “Why not?” and “Why did you?” and “Why didn’t you?”

I find myself falling into that river of blame and the current is fast and furious.

I have to swim hard to get back to shore and get out of the water before it sweeps me further downstream.

It’s so easy, though, to let the current carry me along.

Somehow I have to find the courage to get out of the water and get back on my feet and focus on what matters now, more than anything else, and that is:  “What do I do next?”

The blaming is easy.

It’s the “What’s Next” that’s so much harder to do.

 

 

 

 

 

There will always be hard days ahead but there will also always be easier days, too.

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“We can opt to throw caution to the wind and spoil the fruits of our sacrifice…or we can continue to tend the soil as we wait for the crops to flourish.”

Governor Tim Walz reminded Minnesotans this weekend that despite the best efforts of the citizens of our state, and the political leaders who have guided us over the past several weeks, there will still be hard days when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Minnesotans will get sick.  More will die.  More jobs will be lost.  More businesses will be shuttered.

But, we already know this.  We’ve known this for weeks.

Yes, there will always be hard days ahead.

Most importantly, there will also always be easier days, too.

This is something that gets lost in the wall-to-wall coverage of this insipid virus.

Humanity cannot live in isolation forever even if it appears to be the solution to what ails us at the moment.

Frankly, I withhold any judgement on those businesses and their employees who feel that they are in a position to re-open their doors and return to work.

If they believe, in good conscience, they can do so safely and protect themselves and their customers then that is their right and they should do what they think is right.

Yet, there’s no question that the directives given to Minnesotans by our Governor to stay-at-home over the past weeks has had a dramatic impact in saving the lives of our fellow citizens.

It has, of course, come with a cost and a heavy one at that for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans.

Given the choice the vast majority of unemployed Minnesotans due to COVID-19 would rather be at their job, working, rather than collecting unemployment or a “stimulus check.”

Perhaps beginning today that return to a sense of normalcy will begin for those Minnesotans returning to work as their businesses cautiously re-open.

And, perhaps within those stories there will be stories shared publicly of the powerful antidote that regaining that sense of normalcy will have on their lives and those of their families.

There will be more hard days ahead but there will be easier days, too.

There will be good days.  There will be bad days.

We know far more than we need to right now about the bad days, I believe.

That news doesn’t inspire, motivate or empower people to move forward.

Governor Walz and more than a handful of other Minnesotan political leaders — Democrats and Republicans — have been the leaders we needed at this time of our lives.

Because of them, and because of millions of Minnesotans and tens of thousands of health care professionals and those that support them, the bad days will soon be outnumbered by the easier days.

It’s hard, these bad days, but they will not be the new normal.  They are the current normal.

The new normal will be what we choose to make it in the days, the weeks and the months ahead.

We’ve gotten this far with a strategy of containment and isolation that has been implemented by men and women of good faith.

They implemented and implored us to follow these policies with words, conviction and information — not at the end of the barrel of a gun.

Now, with the apex of COVID-19 nearing its logical conclusion we must make an educated decision as citizens of this state, as well as this nation.

We can opt to throw caution to the wind and spoil the fruits of our sacrifice over the weeks we have experienced isolation from one another or we can continue to tend the soil as we wait for the crops to flourish.

There are more bad days ahead.

But by continuing to work together there are, of this I know to be true, many, many easier days ahead, too.

A Night When A Dad Gave Young People Hope To Dance And Politics Didn’t Matter

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On Friday evening one of my fellow Dads, John Krasinski, hosted a 2020 Prom Event for America’s youth who hadn’t been able to experience one because of COVID-19.

With a focus on America’s High School Seniors, I know that throughout America there were young men and women of all ages who joined the virtual event hosted by Krasinski.

Incidentally, Krasinski has been hosting an online celebration of Good People Doing Good Things called “Some Good News.”

During the evening Krasinksi hosted The Jonas Brothers, Chance the Rapper and Billie Eilish.

Krasinski, 40 years old, joked several times about being an “old” Dad who was just trying to be a good Dad in pulling together this fun, virtual event for a Friday night.

John Krasinksi did a good thing.  A Dad thing.

In doing so, he reminded how ever many young American men and women, boys and girls, and Moms and Dads, that there remains no shortage of kindness and generosity in America.

My Daughter and one of her friends prepared in advance for the electronic prom hosted by Krasinksi.  When the time came for it to start they had their computers on Krasinski and their iPhone’s on one another and danced.

And danced, and danced and danced some more.

For nearly three hours Maisie danced.

No time during those three hours did politics matter to her, her friend, her life or her future.

I have a lot of opinions about politics in America today, and the men and women engaged in it and who has been a leader in this nation, and who has not, when it comes to COVID-19.

I’ve learned that, increasingly, nobody cares about my opinions.

I’m okay with that.

What matters to me most right now, and for as long as I can see into the future is who are the good people doing good things to help others.

Men and women who have put their lives on the line to care for the sick and injured and dying.

Those who stock the shelves of the stores – prepare the food for the restaurant — drive the trucks with the supplies — and patrol our neighborhoods to keep them safe.

The political leaders who toil at their jobs without seeking recognition or credit or attempting to take advantage of this moment of time in our nation’s history.

The Dads, like John Krasinski, who took a moment in time and made it matter to the lives of countless American children — of every age — and shared joy and fun and silliness and purpose and memories.

There is pain and suffering in America today the likes of which most of us have never felt before.

There has been pain and suffering in America before the likes of which those generations had never felt before.

A Civil War.  Slavery. Pandemics.  World Wars.  Depression.  Dust Bowl. Energy Crisis. Terrorist Attacks.

All of these have been moments in time in our nation’s history in which we rarely could find light at the end of a very long, dark and cold tunnel.

Time and time again we found the light and came to the end of the tunnel and found the warmth of a better world.

I believe the light is coming.

It is dim for now but it is starting to shine through.

I think the tunnel’s end is closer than its beginning.

And, one can sense the faint warmth that is closer each day.

For a few hours on Friday evening, in the dim light of her room, with the flashing of lights, an iPhone and a laptop, my Daughter danced for joy to a brighter light that is to come at the end of a tunnel in which the warm glow of the future is going to be for her and millions of young American men and women.

Leading the dance was a Dad named John Krasinski.

Hero Dad.

A good dad.

For one night, America’s Best Dad.

Thanks, Dad!

It’s Not The “New Normal:” It’s A Time To Stop Chewing My Fingernails For Good!

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Years and brown hair ago I used to have a cheesy mustache similar to that which porn actors from every decade used to sport.

I want to be clear:  I have never been a porn actor.

I had a nervous habit of plucking that mustache until it would have bald spots in it that would then require me to shave it off — and grow it back again.

It was a vicious cycle.

Of course, at the height of my cigarette smoking days I also consumed four packs of them a day until I mercifully found myself fortunate to kick the habit almost 21 years ago.

It’s been a quarter of a century since I had a mustache.  And, while the current state of our quarantine has me threatening a reprisal of the hideous spot of hair above my upper lip, I am determined to resist the urge to have a repeat performance of that chapter of my life.

And then there are my fingernails.

I am admitting publicly for the first time ever that I chew my fingernails.

That is, up until the COVID-19 virus interrupted my content nail chomping life!

It’s been a horrible habit of mine since as long as I can remember.

Probably the same habit of when I would grunt for no reason and annoy my Mother so much she would say “Erich, you’re grunting again.”

I still do that today.  Especially when I am anxious and nervous.

With COVID-19 I also do it more often.  I do it to test out whether I have a sore throat.

And, if I think I have one I grunt even more.  Which, of course — you guessed it — makes my throat hurt and then causes me to think I have been infected with COVID-19.

I’m the guy who reads the side effects label on over-the-counter drugs and invariably gets them.

Before a pill even gets into my mouth I am drowsy or irritable or nervous or itchy or have a stomach ache or convinced I may be having a seizure.

It’s not the most pleasant side of my otherwise completely in control of myself personality.

Well, except for the chewing of my fingernails.

I have been terrified to chew them and as if to mock me they are growing like the beanstalk Jack so unexpectedly grew into the sky.

I look at them longingly.  They look perfect for chewing.  I know I shouldn’t.  I know I can’t.

For now.

I am learning how to trim my fingernails with a clipper.  Clearly a skill I should have learned years ago.

In fact, as I type right now my fingernails are hitting the keyboard before the tips of my finger and causing me an additional level of stress I don’t need in my life right now.

The other day I delivered some masks to a friend and jokingly told him to wash his hands and not touch his face.

His response, “…hardest part of this is that I have discovered that I LOVE to touch my face….because I do it all the time without thinking about it.”

My problem exactly when it comes to my fingernail chewing.

Except I knew I LOVED to chew my fingernails!

Now I can’t.

Yes, I know there are posts about what the first thing people are going to do when this vile interruption of our life is over with.

Some are going to eat so much at every restaurant they like until they burst.  Some are going to go hug everybody they know.  Others are going to find a crowded store and shop until they drop.

Not me.

I’m going to pour myself a drink.  Turn up some soothing music. Turn down the lights.

And slowly and lovingly chew every single fingernail until it’s down to the nub.

Don’t judge me.

 

 

I will remember most was that I was the Dad I needed to be for them and for me

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On my best day as a Dad I can be found thanking God for two children who wake up healthy and go to bed knowing that their parents are focused on getting them and our family through a life they have never before experienced.

On my worst day as a Dad I can be found thanking God for two children who wake up healthy and go to bed knowing that their parents are focused on getting them and our family through a life they have never before experienced.

And, so it goes in this blink of any eye experience that is currently the “new normal” in our lives.

There’s nothing normal about this current moment of “new normal.”  And, I would hardly attempt to speak to my life being the life anybody else has to live right now anywhere in the world.

There’s enough people telling other people how to get through the days and nights of the “new normal” and I am not going to be another one attempting to do so.

There are three areas of focus for me as I do what I have to do to get through these days.

I focus on my work at http://www.sparekey.org

I focus on my family and their place in the world.

I focus on my faith and do what I can to make a difference in the world around me.

Beyond that there’s not much else I can do or control despite my internal hard wiring that makes me think I can.

I’m a Dad.  Dad’s think they are in control and in charge of everything.

But, in reality, we’re not.

What we are in charge of, though, is being what kind of Dad we are able to be at the moment in time we are called on to be when our kids need us to be their Dad.

And now, at this moment in my children’s life, they need their Dad to be the kind of Dad they will remember me to be at the end of my life.

I will be the Dad that tries valiantly to keep up with his 19 year old son as we train for his first marathon in July.  I won’t run as fast as he can but I am determined to be able to run as far as he will be when we take to the course in Ireland in July.

The miles I run compared to the miles he runs are slower and remind me that I am every single one of the 56 years I am today.

But when I write my miles on the chalkboard and look at how far he has already gone I am reminded just how far he will go in his life.  Farther and faster than his Dad and for that I am grateful and proud of who and what he is and always will be.

I will be the Dad that plays catch with a Daughter whose passion for all she does makes me smile, laugh and beam with pride.

I will be the Dad that does Tik Tok because it make her laugh to the point of tears and because right now she doesn’t need me to tell her that it’s silly or makes me feel old and out of shape.

She needs me to be the Dad right now that she will remember years from now.

In this time together we have played catch.  We have taken walks.  We have had long conversations about the future.  We have sewed and delivered masks together.

With my son we have watched movies together while building Lego ships and challenged one another to see who can run farther (he will) and run faster (he will) and I have learned to make nachos that rival anything he says he has ever had before.

I have work to do.  And, I do it.

I have a Team at http://www.sparekey.org that needs me to be the kind of leader my Board of Directors wants me to be, that donors insist I be and families depend upon me to be.

That this is new territory to me doesn’t matter to the world around me.  The world around me has enough problems and challenges.  It doesn’t need me to add to its burden.

It needs me to figure it out.  It needs me to be part of the solution not the problem.

It needs me to do everything I can do, know how to do and am capable of doing as well and as often and as urgently as it needs to be done.

That’s the Dad in me.

And, that, above all else, defines who I am and ever have been the moment that my children arrived in this world.

And so, on this early morning when I cannot sleep because my allergies won’t allow it with my snoring dog at my feet and the rest of the world as silent as I want it to be, I know this to be true:

I will remember most was that I was the Dad I needed to be for them and for me.

 

 

When “New Normal” is back to “Old Normal” how will we act to one another?

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In August of 1988 George H.W. Bush in accepting his party’s nomination for President pined for a “kinder, gentler nation.”

Nearly 32 years ago his plaintive plea was met by derision by many and seen as shallow political rhetoric by others.

Yet, in this age of what we are told is the “New Normal” I wonder what will happen when we are back to the “Old Normal?”

It will come  As sure as the sun will rise and fall and rise again the “New Normal” we are experiencing today will become a thing we remember years from now.  Stories will be told of how we coped being cooped up with one another — that people hoarded toilet paper — and tragedy struck nearly every corner of the globe and hurt and killed people no matter how powerful or weak or rich or poor they may have been.

The stories abound online of great generosity by so, so many.

People making masks — delivering food — caring for one another’s dogs — singing to one another from afar — and just getting on the phone to check on how somebody is doing.

We have seen remarkable acts of bravery, as well.

Men and women in health care who are going to work each and every day to care for those who have been stricken in a desperate race to save more lives and be prepared for when the peak of this pandemic reaches our communities.

Law enforcement and EMS and a host of public servants, including our nation’s military, are doing the things right now that they do every single day — yet they are doing it with more burdens and challenges than they have faced ever before.

Our nation’s political leaders are doing their part, too.  Not always without bitterness or finger pointing or snark but they understand they will be judged — not for what they did before this moment — but what they did during this moment.

So, then, when it becomes a moment in our nation’s history, as bleak and as awful as it may be, what next?  Who will we, all of us, become?

When the “New Normal” goes back to being the “Old Normal” will we have found ourselves chastened at the foot of nature?

Will we find a place in our hearts and our heads to recognize that all of this goodness during all of this sadness doesn’t have to stop just because the virus was stopped?

Can our politics get better and less polarized?  Will politicians return to an era where, despite their differences, they understood that their responsibility was to govern our cities, our states and our nation?

Will our treatment of one another on social media become less brutal and vicious?  Can the temptation to post the snarky comment on someone’s page or the glib quote against someone because of their beliefs or political affiliation be deleted before its shared online?

The wave you made while walking in the park to the person of color, or the smile you shared with a young person and the simple “How are you doing?” you said at the store to the grocery clerk bagging your groceries — why does that all have to end when the “New Normal” returns to the “Old Normal?”

Over the past two weeks I have deliberately refused to post or comment on anything on social media except to be as positive and supportive as I can be.

I’ve snoozed or unfriended those who continue to offer political commentary, criticism or crude or hurtful remarks on my social media pages.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have plenty of opinions on many things and have never been known not to find my way to a sharp quip or pointed rejoinder.

But, in my “New Normal” I can’t be that person.  For myself.  For my family.  For my friends, co-workers or community.

When the “New Normal” becomes the “Old Normal” I want to know that what I did, how I conducted myself and the way I treated others during this time is something I will be proud of at the end — and that my children will respect in the years ahead as they reflect and remember their Dad.

Why can’t America be a “kinder, gentler Nation?” in the future that we find ourselves being in the present?

Maybe it can be.  Perhaps it could be.

For our children and their children it should be.