Seeking Silver Linings

It seems like 2020 was the year of cancellations, bad news, and ugly media. Now, in 2021, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t necessarily more of the same.

I mean, after all, there’s an “antidote” circulating now, right?

Forgive me if I sound naiive. I’m not. But with the arrival of vaccines, it just seems that we were destined to turn things around. That there was light at the end of the tunnel.

That there were things to start looking forward to again.

That was my thinking this year when I was putting significant dates into my calendar. One significant date was on January 17.

We’d purchased an “Intro to Kayaking” class for Christmas through REI for my daughter, and of course, I was going to go too. On January 17.

I wanted to learn how to kayak. I have visions of myself on the lake, maybe even at night, paddling along.

Unfortunately, like many things, the kayaking is now on hold. REI is sending us a refund because they cancelled the class.

So many things got cancelled in 2020, it was old news.

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on

Somehow in 2021, it seems like it shouldn’t be more of the same. Or should it? What has really changed?

Not a lot. The world is still in the grips of this thing, with all the accompanying panic and fear pandemic propaganda can bring. So now I’m seeking silver linings. And bargaining. And telling myself this too, shall pass.

But just promise me one thing. OK, maybe two.

One: you won’t exercise by yourself outside in the middle of nowhere…wearing a mask.

Two: you won’t drive your personal vehicle, with no one else inside, wearing a mask.

I promise you, wearing a mask during those two moments of isolation will not help you. And neither will carrying that teddy bear you got when you were 5 years old. Comforting, maybe. But it’s not a silver crucifix pointed at a vampire. Or kryptonite at Superman. Wearing a mask does not mean you won’t get sick.

A mask is just a mask.

And I’m disappointed. Again. No kayaking this month, and maybe not this year.

Oh well.

But at least I won’t have the moral dilemma of wearing a mask on the water to calm down the anxious ones or not wearing a mask, for my own comfort.

No choice needs to be made.

Someone else has made it for me.

Crossing my fingers for a better season…someday soon.

I’m not sure about this book.

I found this book the other day on the shelves of the local bookstore. I’m not too sure about the book’s author and where the book originated — was I in the humor section? It almost seemed like satire. Definitely ironic. But it was in the Health and Wellness section of the bookstore.

After I recovered from reading the title and the author of the book, I photographed it. I have no idea if the contents are worth reading or not. I didn’t touch or open the book. After all, I wasn’t wearing gloves. Just a mandated, cloth mask. And there were no other humans nearby.

I wonder about this book. Why it was written. Why it was translated for us. Why it is prominently on display in a bookstore that is open while churches, libraries, and other places are closed.

On some level, it almost seems insulting.

I don’t usually complain about books. If I don’t want to read it, I won’t. And I won’t spend too much time thinking about a book I don’t want to read.

This one is a different story. (On so many levels.)

Learning the Lessons

The last several months have been quite an experience in learning new things. Wearing masks, mastering Zoom calls, checking in to work remotely.

With everyone at home (those who can stay at home), the amount of screen time access has been huge. Explosive even. If you look at online shopping, online streaming of programs, and social media platforms, it’s obvious that people are looking for ways to keep their minds busy.

And I was too. Until I overcommitted.

In March of 2020, my email started blowing up with free webinars. Then free classes. Then pay-for-sessions classes. All of a sudden, I could take every writing class I ever imagined I would want to take and I could sit in on all the conferences I’ve been missing because they involved travel.

It was like a firehose of learning opportunities. And I wanted it all.

I was like a kid with a sweet tooth at the dessert buffet. I’ll have some of that, some of that, and some of that!

And I did sign up for lots of classes, webinars, for coaching, for meetings. You name it, if I thought it was interesting, I was “in.”

An actual gratitude entry in my daily diary.

But then I discovered Zoom fatigue. And that I didn’t always want to be staring at the screen.

And days started melting into each other and suddenly, in at least one of my classes and coaching adventures, I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t keep track.

I had a desk calendar, but I think I lost a month or two in the middle of wildfire season and distance learning along with the adaptation that comes with teleworking.

Whole weeks suddenly disappeared into the black hole that is this year of pandemic and restriction. Cancellations of anything in person became the norm.

But the Zoom calls and the webinars never got cancelled.

And since I was at home, I never had a “conflict” that would prevent me from attending. Or did I?

Most of the webinars and classes I signed up for are now tapering off, even as the government here tightens the restrictions related to the “second wave” of COVID-19.

I was talking to the spouse the other day about my classes and webinars and projects.

“I didn’t finish that class,” I said. That was the class that would teach me how to complete a novel in 90 days. I didn’t get the novel done. I felt guilty.

“Yes, but did you learn anything?” He was sincere in asking.

I had to think about it.

I did learn something. Of course, I picked up a few tips here and there on how to write this or how to write that. Or how to better use this or that.

But what I really learned from all this is not to sign up for everything. Be selective in how you use your time. Allow for quiet. Allow for the screen to be off. Don’t sign up for something just because you’ve read that author and you like his or her book. They don’t have the magic potion.

No one can teach a student who is not ready—either due to lack of attention, competing priorities, or just plain confusion at when the next milestone is due. And some teachers aren’t all that good at teaching.

I’ve had marvelous teachers in the past.

But anyone can tell you that if the student signs up for too many credits, the student will likely fail at all of it. Priorities are important. Selective focus is important. Turning the screen off and just taking some time to think or rest—that too, is important.

And focusing on one thing at a time is fine. Because you might actually finish that one thing, and you might do it well. Selective. Focus.

Lesson learned.

Prayer in the Park

Yesterday my spouse and I were taking a morning walk in our neighborhood. We have the luxury of a fairly long “greenbelt” of parkway through the area, with lots of trees and grass. It’s the best thing about the neighborhood, really. It has been a saving grace for when most things have been closed due to the COVID restrictions here in California. The latest restrictions have been a rollback of places and times available to the regular citizen as the infection rate has gone up in my state. The rollback has not been met with much joy by, well, anyone, here. The months of quarantine have been long.

While we were walking, we approached a sizeable group of younger men seated in chairs on the grass, facing another man. The men were a diverse group, different skin tones and ethnic backgrounds. They fanned out underneath a large shade tree.

It became clear that this was a Bible study or church group gathering. Each person was distanced from the other, and they were outdoors, with no tent. The sky was a beautiful crisp blue.

As we passed, the man at the front of the group led them in prayer.

I caught the tail end of his prayer, and raised my hand in respect, as I might do inside a brick and mortar church during services.

“…we pray, in Jesus’ name…Amen.”

Amen, brother.

I respect the intention of getting together with God, outside the building, if it is closed to you for services. Pray with a stubborn faith.

If you can’t get in to the church, take the church outside with you.

The sight of these men together in peaceful worship gave me joy.

Photo by on

Run with a Mask or No?

I debated with myself a bit yesterday about how I would approach the morning. I needed to complete two runs by Sunday to stay on track with RunBet but the air and the heat this week have been unusually challenging. The sky has been red–the sun blocked by haze and smoke. I posted before and after my run on FB:

Today I will be running with a mask. Or, I guess I should call it, jogga-waddling. I’ll be moving as fast as I can for about 40 minutes. Then coming inside and washing the remains of someone’s worldly possessions off of my skin. 😬 It has to be done. The jog and the wash. I will be testing the theory that you should not run with a mask on. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

ON Facebook
Smoke occludes the morning sun in Sacramento, California, due to ongoing fires

#StrangeObsession #NotMinimizingIt #CaliforniaBurning

When I was out there, I had time to think. It wasn’t as bad I thought, getting outside about 40 minutes before sunrise. I did check the AQI and was well hydrated. And I got my run done. As promised, I reported the mask experiment on social media.

The morning run is done. What I learned: masks while running suck. Even lightweight medical office masks. About 5 minutes in, I had to take mine off. I felt like I was suffocating. I’d rather get a whiff of faint campfire than slowly choke on my own exhaust. Two, it’s wonderful to run in my neighborhood before dawn. No one was out. It was me and a canopy of trees. Divine. And three, the level of commitment I seem to have recently made to running is nothing short of surprising. I wasn’t able to talk myself out of it this morning. Now to dissect why that is and apply it in other areas of life. I think the key here is #commitment. In any event, hope your Friday is good and that you are safe wherever you are.


A friend of mine commented that he “wussed out” on his run today. I responded — barely recognizing myself. Who have I become? It’s mind-boggling.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought. If you keep an eye on the AQI and go when it’s clearing a little do to dew in the air, you should be fine. Depending on how long you’re going for, though! Plus give yourself permission to go slow and to tap out if you need to. I feel MUCH better now that I got ‘er done!

Final Facebook post for the day

Lesson for the day: #KeepOnRunnin

Troubling Times

Well, we had to take a trip to COVID Central, aka Kaiser South ER tonight. I was there last about 5 years ago, with a family member. In the age of COVID it is utterly disheartening to be in that space. Entry to the ER is through a metal detector. TSA on steroids. Single patients spaced in separate chairs in the waiting room. I watched as a very elderly African American couple were separated because she couldn’t go in with him–thank you, COVID. An older Asian female who couldn’t remember her name. A mother there, with her crying baby. No one could comfort that little one. Lots of folks, from all cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds, with the common denominator of poverty and illness.

I guess if we have one thing that unites us, it’s pain. I hope that these extreme precautions actually have some benefit. Separating family during these times is heartbreaking. For the record, we had to leave our family member there for the time being. This is not a world I recognize. I can’t say I like it very much, at the moment.

Praying for healing. For my family. For you. For them. For all of us.

Red Cross worker
Photo by Matthias Zomer on

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