Lucy and the Ghost Take the Stage!

If you want a small glimpse into the scattered nature of my mind at this stage of life, this certainly qualifies. I had a new children’s book come out in recent months and as a friend pointed out to me, I mostly forgot to tell people about it. Or, as he so put it – “I know if I had a new book out, I wouldn’t forget it. I’d be shouting from the rooftops about it.”


So, yeah. When I say I’m scattered and unsure what direction I’m going in these days, I think that’s a great example of how big or small, it all slips through the cracks.

Okay. So, yes! I have a brand new children’s book out, following up on the 2019 release of The Little Lamp comes a brand-new picture book from illustrator Karen Crysttina and myself – Lucy and the Ghost Take the Stage!

It’s the story of young Lucy Swarthout who loves the theatre and rushes home after school each day to be part of the magic under the spotlight. But in a world so often dominated by screens, it’s becoming harder for Lucy’s beloved small town playhouse to survive. It’ll take the work of the entire troupe, and some supernatural assistance if they expect to bring audiences back into the seats.

Celebrating the excitement and creativity of the arts and the wonder it brings to those of any age, child and adult alike, who tap into the joy of playing pretend up on stage, Lucy’s tale also reminds us that sometimes things seem much scarier in theory than they turn out to be in real life. It’s a concept I’ve had floating around in various stages for quite some years now, inspired by my own involvement in theatre throughout the years and the supposedly haunted small town stage where I met my wife when we were both cast in a show together.

Available in paperback, hardcover, and eBook form, I hope you’ll check it out. And if you enjoy it, please take a moment and leave an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads.

You can do it, Josh!

For several years we’ve had a weekly tradition of a movie night together. We rotate who’s turn it is each week and everybody gets a pick. Can it be a challenging battle of tastes when the youngest is in kindergarten and the oldest in fifth grade? Absolutely. But as we reiterate every week – don’t yuck someone else’s yum. And in the end, most of the time we all end up having a good time, regardless of the choice. A big bowl of popcorn doesn’t hurt either.

Recently, our kindergartner chose “Blues Big City Adventure” – a new movie with the famous blue-hued dog from Blues Clues and You and Josh (Joshua Dela Cruz) leaving their Storybook World behind for New York City, chasing after Josh’s dream of landing an audition for a Broadway show. 

In art imitating life, everything Josh and Blue touch in the Big Apple come to life in exciting and inspiring ways, from condiments on a hot dog cart to trees in the park, or just the spontaneous need into inspiring song and dance all come courtesy of Josh’s infectious energy and kindness. It’s art imitating life, as even as a grown-up viewer, you can not help but be swept up in Josh’s enthusiastic spirit. And, of course, he and Blue are not alone.

Of course, when Josh realizes he left his notebook at home with the audition address, the real adventure begins for them to find their way, while old friends from back home, like Mr. Salt take to the big city to get Josh his notebook, with the help of some old friends – Steve and Joe (Steve Burns and Donovan Patton, respectively). Even Alex Winter of Bill & Ted fame shows up offering some sage life advice as a wise cab driver.

While Blue’s Clues was after my time, I’m fully aware of the roles that Steve and Joe played to young viewers throughout their tenure, so it’s pure joy to see these guys fully embracing their place in the legacy of children’s programming and reprising their roles with a bit of experience and hilarious self awareness. 

When Mr. Salt, the talking salt shaker, tracks down Steve (now a Detective) to help find Josh’s lost notebook with the address of the audition, Mr Salt and Steve briefly reminisce about the good old days and the 3 clues that Josh (and his predecessors of course) jotted down to find a solution. In a wink and nod moment, Steve, looking off in the distance longingly reflects on the passage of time from his days of tracking three clues with Blue to solve a puzzle, telling Mr Salt. “Those were the days. These days I need four clues. Maybe five.” His straightforward delivery when picking up mustard to put on his hot dog (without a Thinking Chair these days, Steve relies on thinking food in the big city), he is unflappable as he greets the talking mustard container with an unfazed “Hello. How are you? Good to see you,” that is as natural as saying hi to an acquaintance walking down the street.    

The banter between Steve and Joe as they work together to track down Josh and return his notebook is as good as any buddy cop picture, and their abilities to both embrace and have fun in the roles forever placed in the hearts of the franchise’s growing audience is a pure delight, no matter your age.

Does Josh make it to the audition with the help of his friends? Of course he does! This is Blue’s Clues, after all! Can you imagine if he hadn’t? All is well with the world when the nearly 90 minute song and dance adventure comes to a close, and all of us, child and adult alike are left with an inspiring feeling to never give up on yourself.

Blue’s Clues: Blue’s Big City Adventure is available to stream via Paramount+.

The Fast Friendships of Youth

If you’re lucky, and I certainly feel I was, your childhood may have been spent running through yards, riding bikes down the street, jumping on the playground, or maybe thrilling to the latest episode of your favorite cartoon, all alongside a friend or two.

Those playground days seem so simple when we look back. You walk up, you introduce yourself, you start talking and you get to work on that wondrous and necessary job of childhood – playing.

Flash forward to our adult years and the awkward feelings of meeting fellow parents at a school function or kid’s birthday party, or the sheer number of times we tell someone (old friends and new acquaintances alike) that we need to get together, over and over again, constantly promising yourself it’ll happen, after just this one next thing you need to do.

So believe me when I say how, after years of awkwardness and social difficulties as aging adults, I was amazed on a recent beach trip with the family when I watched our youngest strike up friendships in a heartbeat.

Most of us waded into the water, adjusting from the initial shock of cold to not-quite-warmth-but comfortable (or is it just numbness?) that comes from staying a bit longer. Meanwhile, our preschooler, pail and shovel in hand, sat just a few feet away at the shore playing in the sand. It didn’t take long before another small child wandered on over and conversation instantly began about what she was doing. Within just a moment, they were already talking about what they could create in the sand together. No shovel? No problem. Without a thought, our younger grabbed an extra shovel from her batch of beach toys and handed it over. It wasn’t long before they both were digging, scooping, dumping and building with the grainy stuff. They didn’t even hesitate to make future plans.

OUR PRESCHOOLER: “We have to eat lunch soon.”

OTHER KID: “I don’t know what we’re having for lunch.”

OUR PRESCHOOLER: “You can have lunch with us.”

And, of course, don’t you know that, like the middle-aged, somewhat introvert I’ve become in recent years, I instantly clinched. “What are you doing?” I thought as I overheard it. “You can’t just invite some small kid you just met to eat with us. We don’t even know who they are. What will their parents say? They’ll think we’re weirdos!” This is the kind of mental runaway train that runs through our adult minds that would never occur to them in their pure unadulterated conversation or thoughts.

But not for them. 

What is it about children that allows them to make friends so easily? To strike up conversation with a complete stranger and immediately look for common interests without a lick of self-consciousness? It’s an amazing feat and one I suppose we could all learn from as the years pass us by. 

Maybe that’s a part of why we feel so much more disconnected from each other as adults, why those feelings of our childhood seem so farther away yet we become so nostalgic for. We write them off as “simpler times” but maybe the times themselves weren’t what was so simple. Perhaps it was the way we approached life, ourselves, and others – with an open, honest and welcoming outlook. Maybe, just maybe, we and the world might be a little bit happier at any age if we found a way to shirk the self-consciousness, the judgment and embraced the open-heart, open mind, and open inclusion we had when we were kids during those “simpler times”

A girl and her dog take to the skies…again!

Let’s be honest. I’m not above a little shameless self-promotion every now and then.

Perhaps you’re a parent, like me, reading this. And perhaps, also like me, your kids love reading and can’t put down a good book or graphic novel. And maybe, like me, you’re always on the lookout for graphic novels that provide both a great level of entertainment, humor, or adventure that don’t veer into the realm of inappropriate for their age group.

It’s why I’m proud to be working with ultra-talented artist Andrew Cieslinski and the folks at Darby Pop Publishing on the suitable for all-ages graphic novel series, Lacey & Lily

It’s the story of a tween girl, Lacey Cunningham, who finds herself inheriting her late grandmother’s dog, Lily, and before too long, a family legacy she never knew existed. While playing around with gramma’s things, Lacey & Lily come across a pair of costumes that when put on, give them both super powers. Before too long, this girl and her dog find themselves, foiling robberies, battling super-villains, and even stopping an alien invasion, all while uncovering some family secrets along the way.

The first book in the series flew into the world at probably the worst time for comic shops – summer 2020 – a time when many were still closed amid the uncertainty of the first wave of the pandemic. 

But like any overly-exuberant middle schooler, you can’t keep Lacey down, and now she and Lily are back with a brand new collection of adventures from Andrew, myself, and Darby Pop! And what an array of adventures it is! Lacey & Lily are the victims of a mystical body swap after a school magic show gone awry, a perpetrator made of pure paper goes on a crime spree at the local comic shop, Lily takes daily dog antics to a super-level, and a Scooby-like mystery needs some solving on a school field trip to Salem, Massachusetts! 

With a release slated for August 2022, ask your local comic shop to pre-order your copy using the PREVIEWSWorld / Diamond Distributor order code JUN221470

Or, pre-order via New York City’s famed Midtown Comics where you can get 30% off the cover price and have it delivered right to your door!

Fly high, my friends!

Life is What Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Plans

It was a Friday evening toward the end of summer. The sun was not quite setting, but was on its way there shortly, the sky a pinkish hue dotted with scattered cotton balls of clouds. I decided that if there was a chance to get the lawn mowed before a weekend of forecasted rain, this was going to be it. I was working my way through the farthest part of our backyard, around, in and out of thorny bushes, careful to use my arm like the world-famous Elongated Man as much as I could, stretching outward with the mower to get into those hard to reach spaces without coming into contact with the poison thorns that border the back of the yard. I moved around the shed into the challenging space under a large pine tree, the terrain becoming an obstacle course of roots that if not maneuvered correctly could leave me needing a new mower blade. It wouldn’t be the first time. Blurred by the sound of my own machine, the roar of another mower engine was drawing closer. I spotted one of our neighbors also mowing. I smiled, waved, shouting over the growl of dual engines, “A good night for it!” 

He pulled down the headphones from his head and smiled, turning off his mower.

“Can I ask you a question?” he asked. 

“Of course. Hopefully I’ve got a decent answer,” I reply, thinking I’m funny but knowing I’m not.

“You’ve got three kids,” he says. “We just had our second a few weeks ago. Any advice?”

I was on the spot. What was I to say? A weary father of a newborn looking to ME for guidance? Does this make me an adult? I can’t possibly be an adult. I’m still just a kid trying to figure out what the heck is going on in life all the time. 

I breathed. Well, really, I smiled and chuckled, but at the same time I was sort of breathing that nervous sigh of hope that I don’t mess this up and tell this young man the wrong thing.

I thought for a moment and told him what I’m about to tell you, dear reader. 

Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself when you can’t accomplish all the things you could before. Because you’re in a different phase now. And in that phase, the most important thing you can do is spend time with the kids while they’re kids. You’ll never regret it. Every house project, every “plan,” – you’ll get to it when you can. But if it’s not on the same timetable it was with one kid, or no kids, don’t beat yourself up. Your timetables have changed and that’s okay. 

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Whether you’ve heard it from John Lennon’s 1980 song Beautiful Boy, or traced it back to Allen Saunders in a 1957 issue of Reader’s Digest, it could not be more accurate. And the older we get, the more our attention and our time is called toward those who need us, the more we need to remember these words.

Heck, depending on how often you’ve read my ramblings here, you’ve probably noticed the large gaps in between as the years have gone on. The kids get older and time seems to become more and more of a precious commodity. Parenthood has been busy enough that finding the time to write about it just hasn’t been in the cards as much. And that’s okay. I’m cool with that. 

For one person, maybe it’s writing a blog post or making a video. For someone else, maybe you don’t have the creative output you once did and it takes you a lot longer to piece that passion project together. Or maybe that house project or room you’ve been working on isn’t going to get done as quickly as it may have a decade ago. Or maybe it’s any number of things.

It is okay. YOU are okay. You aren’t who you were 5, 10, 20 years ago and you can’t expect to have the same speed or output you did then, because things are different. Not bad, just different. Some things need to take a back seat, and in no way is a reflection on you. Don’t tie the you of now (or the output of the you of now) to the you of then. Forgive yourself. Because there’s other things in life right now that need to take the front seat, that need you there more than those projects need you. So buckle in and enjoy the ride while it’s here. 

If I’ve taken anything away from the past few years and the upheaval the world underwent, it was that so much of what we stressed about, laid so much pressure and importance on, wasn’t that important after all. What matters most of all is that time, that precious time that we get with those we care about. Anything else – it’s gravy.

Sure, we had plans. And we’ll get to them, or we’ll adjust them. The ones that truly matter anyway. 

Yo-Ho! Sending Christmas cards!

If you got the reference in that title – congratulations, you lived through the 1980s and are more than likely to ache when you get out of bed in the morning.

“The Twelve Pains of Christmas” is a song from the 1988 humorous Christmas album Twisted Christmas by Bob Rivers and is the song from which I borrowed one of the lyrics for this post title. During the late 1980s and early 1990s it would often pop up on local radio stations, each verse highlighting another holiday frustration, from stringing up the lights that won’t work, to dinner with unfriendly relatives, and of course, sending Christmas cards.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas and holiday cards as of late.

Sure, in some ways they can come off as just another tradition, ritual, or an additional ‘pain of Christmas’ that just needs to get crossed off the list so it can land in a mailbox and possibly on someone’s wall as part of their holiday decorating. And in this technological age that allows us to know, for better or worse, what everyone we know is thinking, doing, all the time, these cards may not serve the same purpose they did oh so many moons ago when letter writing and postcards were the primary way of communicating and catching each other up on life. 

But the other night, I found myself staring off at a string of cards draped across a wall in our home, and I realized that while the correspondence component of holiday cards may not serve the same purpose they once did, they serve as something else this time of year – a reminder of the many faces and lives that we’ve had the honor to be a part of and to know. Faces and names familiar today or perhaps once upon a time, maybe a world away, but still in our hearts and our memories. Faces that bring about the sort of warm familial feelings that are at the very core of the holiday season.

A reminder that no matter who we are or where we’ve landed, that there are lives we’ve touched, memories that have intersected, and moments etched in our hearts for years to come.

May we all be so lucky to have a greeting or two, a face that makes us smile and brings about the thought of good times, cross our mailbox, during the holidays or any time of year.

The Sunday of Summer

With a quick flip, the calendar recently turned to yet another month. The Norman Rockwell painting of “Magician” (or sometimes referred to as “Card Tricks”) accompanying the outgoing month of July on our kitchen wall calendar, gave way to this month’s “Dreamboats” – two young women look longingly at movie star photos. 

And, like the magic of that portly man in “Magician” performing card tricks for kids, I was struck – by the reality that, egads, it’s August already.

These last few weeks will fly by, just as every week before it seems to move more and more swiftly with every passing year.

The closing moments of another chapter, making way for a new start signaled by the changing colors of leaves and the glow of the sun taking on a golden hue to everything it touches. Warmer temperatures give way to cooler breezes, the straps of backpacks slipped over small arms as they set out to seek new knowledge, new environments, and new adventures.

The days of the entire family together at the breakfast table will soon drift off into the ether for another season, replaced by the scurry of getting kiddos awakened, fed, clothed, car packed, and ready to make our morning commute to school. 

Returning to the colorful halls of preschool with a very different child than the last time we were there – thinking about their allergies, their behavior, and what new situations, discussions, and emotional landmines await.

So long to coming home with enough daylight to last us through dinner and (if we’re lucky and the bugs aren’t biting) a walk around the neighborhood afterward. Darkness falls much quicker in the months ahead, and those evening commutes home will be spotted with street lights, porch lamps, and the crackle of leaves as they begin to litter the streets and lawns once again.

It’s like the Sunday of summer.

I’m reminded a bit of that Seinfeld episode, The Sniffing Accountant. Kramer, Newman, and Jerry are all parked in a car on a stake-out talking about the days of the week.

NEWMAN: Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel, Friday has a feel, Sunday has a feel.

KRAMER: I feel Tuesday and Wednesday

August definitely has a feel.

Seven Relatable Parenthood Moments with Bandit Heeler

“Flowers may bloom again, but a person never has the chance to be young again.”

This Chinese proverb reminds us that we won’t have this moment again, and that refusing opportunities to connect with our childlike sense of wonder, imagination, and just plain carefree fun, even for moments, will only become rarer as the years pass. 

If you’re a parent like me, you probably didn’t learn this proverb from studies of philosophy or ancient text. No, you probably learned it from a great modern philosopher covered in blue fur – Bandit Heeler (voiced by David McCormack), the dad to two delightfully energetic young pups on Bluey.

After trying tirelessly to sit and read the newspaper while waiting for the rest of his takeaway order, Bandit is caught up in the chaos of his two young daughters (Bluey and Bingo) in everything from an out of control water faucet, crows sneaking into their food, the eternal 5 minutes for the missing part of their order to finish, or even Bingo needing to take a really long bush wee.

And it’s just one of many examples of where Ludo Studios’ Bluey perfectly bridges the gap between entertaining children with childlike antics and imagination and hitting parents in the gut with a pinpoint accurate reflection on life.

Bluey means a lot to our family. We discovered the Heeler Family in 2020 at the height of pandemic at a time when a lot of things were closed and many of us were spending most our time at home. It sparked the imaginations of all our kids, leading to a wonderful increase in pretend-play, whether that was something like using furniture, toys and other items around the house to create a mess of a neighborhood in the living room and play “neighbors,” or our girls tying blankets around themselves as capes and using a magnifying glass as a scepter to walk around the house as “queens.” Now, it’s an almost-nightly ritual for our family to watch a few 7-minute episodes together – the kids getting one viewing experience while mom and dad get a completely different viewing experience, something the creators of Bluey excel at.

There’s a treasure trove of fun and thoughtfulness to be found in every episode of Bluey and it’s just one of the reasons (aside from being hilariously spot-on when it comes to its portrayal of kids and parents) that it has resonated so well across the audience age spectrum.

With that in mind, it felt like there was no better time than Father’s Day to appreciate just a few of the many relatable moments in parenthood with our favorite TV dad, Bandit Heeler.

Standing in the pantry to get breakfast ready, Bandit shouts to Bluey “You want cereal?!” There’s no answer from Bluey. A brief pause and Bandit quietly answers himself. “Yeah, you want cereal.” – Featherwand (S2, E3)

“It never ends.” Bandit sums up the eternal struggle of laundry perfectly. It’s hard enough to keep up with your own, but throw a few kids and all their clothes into the mix and you’ve just discovered a new form of purgatory. –  Grannies (S1, E28)

Bluey and Bingo want some money to use a Claw Machine at a restaurant. Bandit tries to encourage the magic word to the point of pretty much just saying it himself. “Puh…Puh…puh…pluh…pluh…plea…plea…please…”The Claw (S1, E19)

“Well, that tooth fairy is doing well for herself, isn’t she?” Bandit exclaims after spitting out his cereal at the sight of the five bucks the Tooth Fairy left behind for Bluey. “That’s what she left all of Bluey’s friends,” Mom Chilli casually points out. – Markets (S1, E20)

Bluey meets a new friend, Winnie, at the park and very quickly wants to invite her and her dad over for breakfast, but the awkwardness from Bandit and Winnie’s dad, Fido, is palpable. The kids force the dads into playing customers in a game of Cafe, showing that it’s quite a bit harder to make new friends as an adult than it used to be as a kid. When Winnie and her Dad don’t seem to be at the park one morning, Bandit starts to realize he was making a grown-up friend, one he missed hanging around with! – Cafe (S2, E35)

And a trip to the movies is gonna cost ya.  

Bandit: One adult and two kids to Chunky Chimp, thanks.

Bingo: And a giant popcorn!

Bandit: And a small popcorn.

Bingo: (disappointed) Ohhhh.

Movie Employee: Uh, $54, please.

Bandit: Chunky Chimp! Do I have to pay for the four-year-old? She’s not really gonna watch it.

Movie Employee: Uh, yeah, you still have to pay.

Movies (S2, E29)

Bluey airs in the US on Disney Junior, in ABC Kids in its home country of Australia and on CBeebies in the UK. The first two seasons of Bluey are available to stream on Disney Plus and select episodes for free on Disney Now.

It’s not easy building green (robots, that is!)

Sometimes you spend the weekend cleaning. Sometimes you’re outside in the street going for a walk or riding a bike. Or sometimes, like one recent weekend, you build a robot.

No, not the kind with the square head, a few stories tall, running berzerk from the science fair and causing chaos in downtown Metropolis. This one was a wee bit smaller, had four legs, a tail, and green.

Our son received The Discovery Kids Robot Chameleon as a Christmas gift and several times since has asked to put it together. While the box technically says 12 and up, we figured at 8 years old, if he and I worked together, we might be able to bring life to this little green robotic reptilian with the same ferocity of a pre-teen. 

So, starting mid-morning, we emptied the box, pieces scattered across the dining room table and got to work, being careful to only pull out pieces from their plastic framing as we needed them, as to not mix up which parts were which. It started with a tiny little motor around which we built a Chameleon-like head, bulbous eyes and all. Piece by piece, gear by gear, we worked.

A few hours passed and we broke for lunch, picking up afterward with the bulk of the Chameleon’s torso, encasing another small motor. Wires, plastic, cogs, we were like Dr. Frankenstein, furiously working to bring our creature to life. Missing the dramatic effect of lightning in the air as we flipped the switch (far less dramatic than the kind on the wall you see in movies), we got ready. Our hours of work are about to culminate in this very moment. The switch turned, we watched. We waited. And finally – nothing.

Something had gone wrong. Our son’s deflation and my frustration was palpable, and he was ready to call it quits when I asked him to remember how many time he had asked to put this together, that we can’t turn back after all the work we’ve put in. He sighed at me in the way all kids do to their parents regardless of age, and begrudgingly humored me as I pulled out the instructions, and we walked ourselves back through the steps, trying to figure out what might have tripped things up. It was then that we noticed two small pieces that had gone unused. How is that possible? We thought we followed the directions to the letter!

That’s when probably the biggest lesson came out of the day. Not instruction-following, not engineering, not even science of any kind. No, the biggest lesson out of this mechanical mess we had found ourselves in? Patience. 

Because it was only with some patience did we take the time to disassemble our little green friend and realize that two parts had looked so similar, with the exception of size, that we mistook them and had the wrong parts in the wrong place. It wasn’t until we took the entire robot apart that we could see it for ourselves. But though so very small, those pieces were part of a bigger plan and without them, a turning motor had no way to catch and turn another piece that in turn moved more pieces, and sparked life (or at least movement) into our little Chameleon Bot.

So, we backed up, almost to the beginning stages where the mistake was made and reassembled (using the correct parts this time). Once again, step-by-step, piece by piece, we assembled. Could he/we have run off to do something else and tossed the robot into a box for another time? Maybe. Could be. Would we ever get around to it again after the past few hours? I can’t say for sure. So we just stayed the course. And in time, before us once again, stood this little green robot with four legs, and a switch waiting to once again flip.

This time was a completely different story. The little green mouth opening and closing, the lights on its spine flashing – when suddenly, the legs sped around and around, cruising across the table and knocking papers, tools, and anything else right out of its path.

That afternoon, every little deflated, frustrated moment in the process seemed like forever, but we eventually got there. 

The past year has had a lot of moving parts to it, and sometimes even when we’ve all been in the same space, we haven’t exactly been together. So, despite the frustration, the exhaustion, the just-want-to-be-done-with-it moments spent piecing this little green Chameleon together, the patience we had to force on ourselves was only half the benefit. Slowing down, seeing it through, even when we had to try again and again and again, took time. In the end, no matter how irritated we may have gotten along the way that afternoon, it was an afternoon spent together, and that made it all worth it.

Racing to the finish line of ‘normal’

Sometimes I have these moments. They feel low, like a disappointment you can’t quite correct. You just ‘feel’ something that doesn’t feel like it should be that way, but yet it is, and you’re left just watching it play out with a sigh, wishing you knew how to make it all work.

Let me preface a lot of this by saying that I’m glad people are feeling some light at the end of a tunnel of a rough year. That the losses that were suffered were devastating and never should have happened, that families and friends should not have had to endure what they did. Personally I feel we’ve come a long way in that time – from a time of uncertainty to a better understanding, at least on a scientific level. 

But on a societal level, I can’t say I’ve found much confidence that we’ve walked away with much for the better. At least not as a whole. So when I say what I’m about to say, it needs to be clear that I don’t want or wish for any of the terrible things, losses, etc, that people have endured. What I’m saying is that I miss something about the early days of the pandemic – the kindness.

When everything started to turn upside down last year at the beginning of the pandemic, there seemed to be a general sense of community. You kept hearing phrases that we were “all in this together.” People were compassionate with each other as the world tried to juggle a hybrid of remote work and school. We were figuring it all out as we went along. But we all seemed to know that.

Even large companies got in on it, offering channels on cable systems we didn’t normally receive or offering early releases of movies (the pure joy of the kids getting to see Frozen 2 on Disney+ comes to mind). Streaming platforms provided free memberships, art was being shared as a common lifter, we thanked those out there in the thick of it every day. We were reminded that maybe we had moved through life a bit too fast every day and that perhaps this sudden upheaval was a sign to take things a little slower and appreciate the world and life around us.

It actually seemed kind of nice to have some worthwhile, soulful moments and lessons come out of something that had been so awful for so many.

But it didn’t seem to last.

A few weeks to a month turned into several months, which turned into a year. And long before we even hit that year-long anniversary, it seemed like so many had already just moved on. Back into the workplace, back into the classroom, back to the athletic fields, the store, the gym, the theatre, back to as much of how things were before as possible, as quickly as possible. 

Gone so quickly was the kindness, the sharing, the appreciation for each other. In its place was an irritated rush and push to get things back to the way they were – the very things that we were reminded didn’t matter as much as we thought. And here, it seemed, we were being pushed to embrace it all again.

One of the more frequent lessons of life that creeps it way into discussion with our children (even pre-pandemic) is that with moments and events that seem awful, seem sad, seem disappointing, there is, somewhere in there, a nugget of opportunity to learn from it and use what we learn from it to do better, be better going forward. 

Trying to force normalcy in abnormal times does not make things normal.

But what good does it do us at any age, if we endure upheaval, massive events, and refuse to allow it to help our perspective, to offer us something new to learn? If we can’t see the forest for the trees, we’re just doomed to forever lose ourselves again and again.

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