It is time Mister president: unmask your leadership

Everyone should encourage our nation’s president to either delay starting his 2020 campaign kickoff or to use it as an opportunity to help unify the nation and to combat a deadly foe, the Covid virus.

Citizens need you, Donald Trump, to help heal a fractured social, economic and political environment and to help us avoid doubling the Covid death count in the weeks ahead.

First, we desperately need you to model best health behavior by wearing a mask. Yes, take it off while you speak, but cover your mouth and nose, a practice that has been and continues to be recommended by health authorities. You know the axiom: Lead by example.

If you must conduct a rally, reserve a football stadium and require attendees to wear face masks and be seated the recommended six feet apart. If you jam together thousands of unmasked fans shouting shoulder-to-shoulder, many may spend time gasping for breath on a hospital bed and unable to vote, even by mail.

Think about it. What an opportunity to disprove the claims that you suffer from personality disorders: that you are conceited and boastful, that you feel a sense of entitlement and that you must always control, always win.

This is your time to shine, Mister President. This is an opportunity to be the leader that we all wished for three years ago.

You have a ready-made and largely supportive audience in an estimated 80 million social media followers. You can illustrate through your tweets how you wish members of the press would report your actions, your decisions, your leadership: Be fair, complete and accurate in your reporting. 

Meanwhile,  show us how Donald Trump has made America great again by leading and unifying a nation being torn from its social, economic and political moorings.

Begin, Mister President, by wearing a mask.

IF I WERE SELECTING traits that describe MY LIFEstyle

I am a fiddle-footed flibbertigibbet.

In other words, I am easily bored, and I talk too much.

I learned about the first description of my life after being interviewed by a journalism student several decades ago.

“You move around a lot from job to job,” he prefaced his question: “What are you running from?”

I didn’t have an immediate answer but eventually realized that I often become bored with a task, a place, a situation, a job and make a change.

I’ve been changing like most people in many respects: moving through school, doing my required military gig in the Air Force, getting married, rearing children, moving from place to place and from job to job. 

It is the latter part of the previous statement that speaks to my taking risks, choosing the road less-traveled, often moving down to move up. That’s why my resume lists so many newspaper jobs and teaching gigs that formally ended when I turned 80. 

Didn’t slow a lot, however, because I then tried my hand at writing fiction and posting essays on a blog. No deadlines to meet. No supervisors to please. No expectations to fulfill. Run with the bulls and trust that I wouldn’t end up a victim of some traffic accident or virus during a pandemic.

The journey would not have been possible had my late wife been less-adventuresome and less willing to take chances to explore opportunities to grow intellectually and spiritually.

As for being a flibbertigibbet, I confess.

My mother often told me that I talked too much.

Many of my teachers agreed.

That may have been a reason for choosing journalism as a profession and communicating thousands of words of news, features and editorials to weekly and daily newspaper readers.

Teaching offered a perfect environment to fill class sessions with words. A few may have been instructional. I endeavored, however, to entertain as well. 

Now, I fill my days with words and search diligently for opportunities to change my environment, especially now that I am a victim of “stay at home” and “social distancing” during a pandemic era.

That too will change, my mother also said.

Meanwhile, I admire folks who are risk-takers and who talk too much.

walk in park a reminder VIRUS not so fearsome

A bird flits across the path to an embankment as I meander beside the Willamette River in north Eugene. 

A few people, some wearing masks, nod as they pass, but no one appears to notice the traffic noise in the background as we travel along a park sidewalk.

A pair of geese shepherding three goslings paddle slowly upriver toward two people casting for fish in a riffle. Nearby a wall of white rhododendron in full bloom strut their stuff beside a former utility building.

White dogwood blossoms appear larger and whiter than I recall as I walk beneath a canopy of maple and cottonwood. A stray shoe lodged in a tree limb above the river catches my attention. Someone must have had a good arm to throw it that high.

Wayward poppies appear more orange than during past years. The white heads of dead dandelions peak above the grass, reminding me that I turned 91 a few days earlier.

A tent pitched at the bottom of a brushy hillside reminds me that not everyone lives in a retirement home where meals are served and hot water is always available for a shower. Yet, a short distance away I find a camp beneath a bridge. Bedrolls, camp stoves, cardboard boxes and sleeping bags could be those of my family vacationing in the mountains years ago.

Maybe I should have remained in my apartment this afternoon to avoid a virus that continues to spread death worldwide. Yet, I wore a mask and stayed the prescribed distance from occasional pedestrians.

Granted, I do not want to be infected by the coronavirus. Yet, I’m unafraid of it. My destiny was charted years ago, and I know where I’ll be walking eventually no matter how many birthdays I celebrate.

Dean Rea celebrates 91st birthday lunch near his favorite Willamette River walking site

VIRUS PANDEMIC THREATENS WEEKLY NEWSPAPER VOICES

Weekly newspapers are in trouble.

With businesses shuttered and people staying at home to combat the global coronavirus pandemic, advertising revenue is disappearing. 

The press, whose role includes serving as the “watchdog” of government, doesn’t expect and would not accept a government handout to continue publishing print and online information vital to residents of small-town communities.

So, your help is needed.

The last person you might expect to invite a handout in such an emergency is Les Zaitz, editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Ore. He’s a retired investigative reporter for The Oregonian, a tough-as-nails and a relentless-dig-up-the-facts journalist.

He’s asking for financial help not only for the print and on-line weekly newspaper but for 3,000 other newspapers, TV stations, digital and news sites, radio stations and research and development partners who are members of Local Media Association.

You got change to spare. Send it to this website: The Malheur Enterprise – COVID-19 Local News Fund (details below)

Zaitz and his wife Scotta Callister acquired the Malheur Enterprise after retiring and are using it as a means of helping train new generations of journalists, including summer interns. They didn’t expect to make a bundle of money while competing with the larger paper in nearby Ontario. But they expected and continue to inform a community as though the Enterprise were a western version of  The New York Times and of The Washington Post.

Then the virus shut down the community and advertising revenue took a nose-dive.

Here’s how Les pitched the need for financial support during this cornavirus era in a recent issue of the paper:

“Malheur County, we need you.

“Our reporting team at the Malheur Enterprise is working long, hard hours to bring you credible, up-to-date information on the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“We are posting stories online with verified facts from authoritative sources. The news team is keeping up with the ever-changing situation with schools, with the challenges to businesses and employers and with the health of the community.

“We decided as a public service to provide free access to our stories on coronavirus. We will continue to do so. We don’t want a single family, a single employer left to guess what to do because they can’t get the right information.

“This is, we believe, among the essential services that must continue in the days and weeks ahead.

“You can help ensure the community continues to get that information with a tax-deductible donation – yes, tax deductible – to be sure we can keep our staff going. Help us today, and we’ll help you in the challenging weeks and months to come.”

The Malheur Enterprise – COVID-19 Local News Fund is a service of and administered by Local Media Foundation, affiliated with Local Media Association. Local Media Foundation, tax ID #36‐4427750, is a Section 501(c)(3) organization and is eligible to accept charitable contributions.

The Preacher says:

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

I had occasion this morning to recall this introductory phrase from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

My lifestyle, even my health and existence, are threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.

I have a thousand questions that could be superimposed on the remaining text in this Old Testament book:

What advantage does man have in all his work?

The sun rises and sets. The wind circles and returns. The rivers flow.

Like all men, I am never satisfied.

There is nothing new under the sun.

So much for Ecclesiastes. This pandemic has put a crimp in my lifestyle, interrupted my schedule, threatened my life.

Why? Why? Why?

A thousand unanswered questions:

Why didn’t we comprehend the serious nature of a virus that claimed its first victim on Dec. 1 in Wuhan, China, and began burdening health systems of nations as it raced around the earth? This type of question fills every news cycle along with dire warnings that affect our every decision.

Granted, the odds of dying, even for a 90-year-old like me, are less than when I crawl into my automobile and drive in the United States, where accidents claim more than 40,000 lives each year.

At last count, 275 people had been the victim of coronavirus in the United States and more than 13,000 throughout the world. Everyone knows that these totals will increase as the sun rises and sets, as the wind circles and returns.

I completed reading Ecclesiastes, searching for an answer, which I found as the book ended: Stand in awe of God and depend on Him.

That, of course, means that I shouldn’t sit and do nothing. I need to follow guidelines on how to combat this virus and make certain that my neighbors have a supply of toilet paper. 

And while I’m at it, praying should help deal with my vanity.

a life-long family guide may save & serve me well

Do I live or die?

That is the question someone as old as I am may pose as the dreaded Coronavirus sweeps across the country.

As an over-the-hill guy nearing 91, I’m a juicy target for the virus that grew into a pandemic. Shuts down your lungs. Chokes its victims to death.

Add the fact that I have asthma, which plays heck with my lungs if I fail to inhale a few times a day on an inhalator.

So, you see. I’m headed to heaven soon unless I shut down my life. Lock the apartment door and throw away the key. Keep my hands out of my eyes. Wash my hands frequently.

Wash your hands before you eat has been a family admonition for years. It is the only rule that I insisted that my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren follow in my house.

A few decades ago my late wife and I treated six grandaughters for a weekend at the coast.

“What rules do we have to follow?” they asked.

“Wash your hands before you eat,” I replied.

“But we have more rules than that at home.”

They stayed up late the first night. Guess what? They conked out early the next night, but they washed their hands.

So, I’ll be more careful as I face off with this deadly virus.

However, I’ll continue to take risks. You know, risks most of us take every day. For example, I refuse to be distracted when I drive. So, I don’t turn on the radio, and I don’t think about challenges that lie ahead on the road of life as I weave in and out of traffic. I’ll think before I take the first step when I walk to avoid stumbling and ending up in the hospital. I’ll continue to greet people on the street and to do what all of us are capable of doing: Love your neighbor as yourself.

I figure a person should be prepared to die at any time. So, why permit something called Coronavirus kill the joy of living to the fullest even if it means washing my hands more often.

VALENTINE’S DAY SPECIAL FAILS TO TURN ON FRIEND

Bought a ring and gave it to a girl on Valentine’s Day.

Thought it might serve as an engagement ring.

It had a topaz-like setting on an expandable silver mounting.

Should fit any finger.

Got it at St. Vinny’s on special.

Cost $2.99.

No positive response from the girl, however.

Maybe it was too special, too showy.

Got down on my knees when I gave it to her.

She laughed.

Laughed a lot.

I think she kissed me, but I can’t remember.

I was so excited.

Thinking I was getting engaged for the first time in 70 years.

I also got her a dozen roses.

Cut the petals off a dozen red ones.

Sprinkled the petals on the floor of her living room.

She laughed again.

However, she began sweeping up the petals almost immediately.

I hope she didn’t toss the ring in the waste basket

Along with the rose petals.

At least she let me kiss her.

On the forehead.

Life doesn’t get much better than that.

Next year I’ll buy a better ring.

And take her out to lunch.

At McDonald’s.

HOW GRIEF INVADES LIFE WHEN IT KNOCKS ON DOOR

I was in tears when I completed reading a book about grief today. I don’t know why. Maybe because I believe that the author, the late C.S. Lewis, came to terms with the death of his wife in 1960 and with his standing with God. It is a road I am traveling after the recent death of my wife.

Lewis, a British novelist best known for his fantasy world of Narnia, identified grief as his adversary after his wife’s death in “A Grief Observed,” a 72-page book published in 1961. He described in detail how he dealt with his wife’s decline during a battle with cancer in his role as a husband and later as a widower and as an evangelist.

He questioned the temporal and eternal relationships common to most men (if not also to women) who genuinely love the person to whom they are married.

Like Lewis, I devoted several years caring for my wife as she battled deteriorating health that ended with three months of hospice care. I may have grieved during that time and later but in a different manner than Lewis.

We were aware that Lou was leaving me, and we treated those final years with as much love and grace as we had while falling in love, rearing a family and pursuing careers. God was always a partner in this undertaking. We also believed that Lou would be “in loving and caring” hands when she departed.

During the month after Lou’s death, I was busy 24-7 dealing with legal matters and with moving to a smaller apartment in downtown Eugene to be near activities that would occupy my mind and my time.

Then I realized that I was not consumed by grief. I was lonely. I also was reminded that life can be more meaningful when it is a shared experience. So, I turned to God for help and was led into a confusing, frustrating but lovely dilemma about how to deal with this challenge.

That chapter of my life is being written. I may not be successful in finding another person who wants to join me in this experience called life, love, even marriage, but I found a friend and I am no longer lonely. Meanwhile, I am an optimist, a believer that love eventually conquers all — in this world and in the next.

Based on the reading of this book, I believe that Lewis came to terms with what he referred to as grief for his late wife and with how it impacted his relationship with God.

Why else would he conclude this book by quoting Dante: poi si tornò all’eterna fontana, which means in translation: “Then unto the eternal fountain she turned”? By this he meant that his late wife turns unto God, the eternal fountain of life and grace. By that admission Lewis suggested that he, too, had reconfirmed his dependance on the grace and love of God.

Reason enough to cry tears of joy.

students wanna know about elves, reindeer

How many elves work in Santa’s workshop and how do his reindeer fly were among the most frequent questions mentioned in letters written by 130 Oregon coastal second grade students this past Christmas.

Artwork by 40 fourth graders illustrated the advertisements that accompanied the letters in the Times-Herald, a newspaper published in Newport.

Spelling was not corrected by News-Times personnel, including the following:

I wunt a new bike.

Am I on the noty list or nis list

I got my mom a prezint.

Many students concentrated on establishing a “good conduct” record for the past year. Several estimated they had been 90 percent nice. A few split an even 50 percent. Another student, however, appeared to have a more realistic view of life, writing: “It’s hard to be nice.”

Students wanted a variety of gifts, including puppies, fish, unicorns, bikes, horses, dolls, sports gear and a real Caterpillar, the kind that tosses logs around and works construction.

“I want a pet bird because I like animals. my othe reason that they are cool and they are my favorite animals and will take care of him myself every two days….”

A couple of letters sought gifts that many of us enjoy year round. A second grade girl wrote: “I want a house because me and my mom want some privacy.” Another student wrote: “I wish I can live with you (Santa). Next wish I want to stay with my mom and dad.”

Several students posed personal questions of Santa: How old are you? How many elves work in the shop? How are you treating Mrs. Claus? How do you fit through a chimney with a big tummy? What is your favorite cookie? And what do you want for Christmas, Santa?

One of my favorite letters may best reflect the spirit of the season:

“My clas has been viery good including myself. We shuld not be on the noty list. Becus we work hard. I belev in you (Santa) bcause wen I wak up on crismis morning theirs pesents that wernt ter before.”

huffing, puffing TAUGHT AN IMPORTANT LESSON

My father shouldered a violin as a boy and played it every day until he died at age 78.

My mother sat down at a piano and learned how to play hymns and classical music, a talent that she shared with family members for much of her adult life.

I was expected to follow in their footsteps.

First, I was introduced to the C scale, which wasn’t too difficult to play on the piano with one hand but a bit of a challenge with two.

After helping milk the cows in the morning, eating breakfast and doing my farm chores, I was expected to practice my piano lesson before resuming more interesting activities.

My mother served as my teacher and directed that I practice at least a half hour a day. An hour would have been more to her liking, but I usually argued that the chickens or farm animals needed my attention. School also was an effective method of skipping practice.

What I learned during those formative years was how to play chords in any key. Thus, I could accompany my father when he played popular and folk tunes on the violin. I thought we were quite a team. Mother smiled in agreement and then directed me to continue practicing my lesson.

Needless to say, I didn’t become skilled in playing the piano. I learned how to play the drums but gave that up in high school when no one could play the sousaphone (much like the tuba) in the band.

So, I shouldered this monster on my shoulder and began to oomph and pah my way through marches and more sophisticated musical scores. My piano training had taught me to read music. So, the only challenge to playing the sousaphone was marching for miles with this octapalian monster hanging on my left shoulder.

I became so skilled that I was invited to try out for a college band at the conclusion of my senior year in high school. I showed up with my personal mouthpiece in my pants pocket ready to show the world that I could play with a “big-time band.”

When my turn came during the tryout, I pulled the mouthpiece out of my pants pocket, stuck it in the sousaphone provided by the college and began to hoot and toot. Only I couldn’t get the instrument to hoot or to toot. I huffed and puffed and blew my brains out but could only produce a sorry, soft sound.

The college band director smiled and told me the tryout had ended. I left the college campus dismayed, knowing that my hooting and tooting career had ended.

On the way home I discovered than a dime had become lodged in the stem of the mouthpiece while it was in the pocket of my pants. No wonder that I could not muster enough sound to strut my stuff during the college tryout.

Fortunately, I was invited to join the college band and marched a million miles or so during football games and civic celebrations but first checked the stem of the mouthpiece for a wayward dime.