It’s Girl Scout-cookie season again, which traditionally begins right after deer season, and is followed by Lent.

This is the time of year when words like “Samoas,” “Shortbread Trefoils,” “Do-si-dos,” and “Tagalongs” become household names. A season when many of us transition to wearing sweatpants full-time because we love cookies.

I miss seeing Girl Scouts selling cookies in neighborhoods and supermarkets. A pandemic put a stop to these things, and it’s a shame because I always purchase mass amounts.

Some years ago, two Girl Scout Daisies (kindergarten-age recruits) visited my porch selling cookies. If you’ve never met a Daisy, make it your objective to do so. You will die from cuteness overload.

I told the Daisies that I wanted to buy 100 boxes. I was joking, of course, but they didn’t realize this.

One of the girls had to be revived with cold water. Her friend shouted, “Ohmygosh! Mom! A hundred boxes!”

Whereupon the girl’s mother (this is true) said: “That means we win a pink Cadillac!”

The reason I regularly order cookies is not only

because they’re delicious, but because I believe in these girls. I believe in their values. I believe in their organization. I believe in refined sugar.

My grandmother was a Girl Scout in the early 1920s. My mother was a Girl Scout. My wife was a Girl Scout Brownie—which is the same as a regular Scout, except they don’t file income taxes.

The Girl Scouts represent one of the finest institutions this country has ever produced, and that’s not an opinion. Take, for example, troop leader Miss Emma Hall.

In 1913, during an era of flagrant racism, Miss Emma’s “Red Rose Troop,” in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was welcoming African-American Girl Scouts into its group. And keep in mind, this was happening seven years before American women had the right to vote; and 50 years before public schools would be integrated.

I’m telling you, these girls…


I have had no energy since the pandemic quarantines started. I might even lose my job over this lack of motivation, but I can’t seem to do anything.



Motivation. What is motivation? Where did it come from? Where did it go? When will it come back? Why am I still wearing the same pajamas I was wearing in March of 2020? Why am I beginning a paragraph with rhetorical questions?

Because. I have no motivation.

If you don’t have any motivation either, welcome to the club. There is a logical reason for why we’re feeling like such losers. And here it is: These are sucky times.

I know of no other way to put it. This is not a normal era, so expecting to feel normal and “productive” is like expecting to spontaneously turn into a turtle. It’s not going to happen.

This pandemic era is like one giant funeral. If you have ever experienced the death of a loved one, you already know what I mean.

A funeral will sap your energy

and leave you totally exhausted. And it doesn’t end after the funeral ceremony. Once the funeral ends, friends will incessantly call to check on you, but you’ll have no enthusiasm to speak to them, so you’ll blow them off because conversations take energy.

Eventually, friends quit calling because you never answer your phone. So you end up isolated. Which means that now you’re REALLY lost. The further you sink, the faster your motivation disappears. Sound familiar?

Here’s the thing. What I just described isn’t called motivation loss. This is classic grief.

Which is exactly what you’re experiencing right now, “collective grief.” And before you tell me I’m an idiot for using this phrase, I didn’t make up that term. Mental health experts did.

We are grieving the loss of a world we grew up in. And we’ve lost a lot.…

My elderly mother-in-law is doing chair yoga while simultaneously slurping a giant milkshake. She moves her upper body, holding senior-citizen-friendly poses, pausing between positions to take noisy slurps from a five-gallon cup.

If I’m being honest, this is highly entertaining. Because every time the TV instructor says, “Now point your jaw to the sky, stretch your neck, release all toxic energy, visualize stress leaving your body, your body is a temple that...” he is interrupted.

SLUUUUURRRRRP! goes Mother Mary with her vanilla milkshake.

Then she resumes her yogic sun salutation.

Milkshakes are a vital piece of Mary’s diet right now because she’s been losing a lot of weight lately. Nobody really knows why she’s been dropping pounds. All anyone knows is that one day her weight was normal; and the next day she was slight.

So Mary’s nurses and caregivers devised a way to get extra calories into her body. They started spiking her milkshakes with Ensure packets, vitamins, and other essential nutrients which have transformed each shake into a glorified bucket of Quikrete.

Mother Mary’s arms

look much smaller than I’ve ever seen them. So do her legs. Her body is leaner than it was a few months ago. And she’s in pain. Sometimes Mary’s caregivers roll her wheelchair around in the house and I can hear Mary moan because her knees are killing her. It’s even worse when they bathe her.

But otherwise, she is the same Mary. Her dry, almost imperceptible sense of humor is still intact. She can still remain quiet for long periods before unleashing a subtle zinger that will fly over the heads of her unsuspecting victims. Such as:

“This bourbon and Coke tastes all wrong. I don’t want to taste the Coke.”

And: “Oh, doesn’t your new haircut make you look so much better than your last one.”

This kind of humor grows on you. Because you’re never really sure if it is…

I am in an outdoor public place watching several kids play on their smartphones. It is a pandemic era. They wear masks. They haven’t blinked in over an hour. Or moved. Just thumbing away. Zero movement. Someone better get these children some urinary catheters.

This is a hard time in history to be a kid.

I can’t get over how different they are compared to the way we were. When we were kids we were not half as “hip” as today’s children. These kids are smart. They have cutting-edge phones, earbuds, skinny jeans, light-up shoes, and unique body piercings. Compared to these modern children we were complete dorks.

Do you know what my uncool friends did for fun? Our mothers made us pick wild strawberries. That’s right. Strawberries. My mother would detect my boredom and say, “You know what we need? We need fresh strawberries.” And away we’d go.

These hip kids are going to laugh us right into the nursing home one day.

Certainly, video games existed during my youth, but my

people didn’t have them. And don’t get me wrong, I would have killed for a video game. But it was a pipe dream. Back then, if you had a video game console, this meant that you wore silk undies and a man named Wadsworth turned your bed down each night.

The first time I ever saw a video game was at Michael Ray’s house. His father was an importer, his mother was a competitive horse jumper and Junior League vice president.

The game was Pong. It was a blank television screen with a singular dot drifting from left to right between ping-pong paddles. This dot traveled about as fast as it took to complete law school. Every kid within three counties traveled hundreds of miles just to see this dot.

My father forbade me from playing such games. He once told me plainly, “Son, if you play…

A snowscape. The long Minnesota prairies were covered in powdered sugar. A lone dirt highway cut through the cotton-white flatlands, which were featureless except for telephone poles, cattle fences, and an occasional muddy mail truck.

There was a small house seated on this horizon. A one-story, unassuming frame home, with a barn.

Inside this humble three-bedroom lives an elderly widow. She’s lonely. Hopelessly lonely. But then, this is a pandemic. We live in a new world, with new rules. Isolation is the prescribed way of life now, and it comes with consequences. What the virus took from her was her friendships. And her smile.

Not so long ago, she was going to church three times per week, reading Bible stories aloud to kids in Sunday school classrooms, teaching them to sing about Zacchaeus, who was a wee little man (and a wee little man was he).

Today, her church doesn’t hold services, except online. She hasn’t left the house in months. And she certainly hasn’t been singing.

Hard? Yeah, it’s been hard. Hardest

period she’s ever known. As a lifelong farmer’s wife you’d think she was used to solitude. But nobody can truly prepare you for the social desolation following the loss of a spouse.

Neither does anyone forewarn you that loneliness will slow down your biology, or that your brain will begin firing less rapidly. But it’s true. Your body becomes tired, you have no appetite, you lose basic conversational skills, and your sense of self-image disappears. Sleep becomes a myth. So does laughter.

And the pandemic made it worse. No more supermarket runs; her groceries get delivered now. She has the internet, but the screens are making her eyes ache. She has satellite television, but nothing is ever on. She pays for approximately 529 streaming services, but she never watches them and can’t figure out how to cancel subscriptions. No more Sunday school songs. No more smiles.


The email arrived this morning. The subject line read, “Bread.” The message read:

“My 11-year-old granddaughter, Bella, makes bread and wonders if you will eat some if she makes it for you?

“We are not sick with COVID or anything like that. Bella’s mom died from breast cancer and Bella has started baking lately because her mother once enjoyed baking. She really wants you to try her bread.”

Well, let me start by saying that I am flattered, Bella. As it happens, I have a long history with bread. In fact, when I was a kid, I was built like a miniature loaf of bread.

Let me explain. When I was around your age I was a chubby redhead. My chubbiness was partly because, after my father passed, to cope with our new grief my mother started baking bread every day.

Looking back, I don’t really know why she was making bread so often. Perhaps because it was cheap. Or maybe because she had a lot of pent-up energy she needed to get


Then again, maybe she was baking bread because she was simply trying to fatten me up. Which is possible. My mother believed redheaded boys were much cuter when they were chunky.

And I know this because whenever she would pinch my soft white belly, she would say, “That’s Mama’s handsome, chubby wubby wittle wedhead.”

For years, I believed that being a chubby wubby wittle wedhead was a good thing.

So I ate a lot of sourdough, French, whole wheat, rye, cinnamon raisin, and white bread each morning. Almost daily my mother would leave these hot loaves sitting out, cooling, and everyone would pause to admire them like works of sculpture.

This was powerful bread. It could beckon you from across the house. And when you saw it sitting in the windowsill, steaming in the early sunlight, you would gravitate toward it like a mosquito to a…

I got a letter from Lucinda, a retired nurse. She lives alone. No kids. Her husband died 12 years ago. Each week she volunteers in the hospital neonatal ICU.

“My job is to cuddle babies,” she says. “It’s the highlight of my life.”

Simply put, Lucinda cradles babies in her arms and loves them. That’s her official task. In neonatal units around the world, volunteers like Lucinda do this whenever mothers cannot be present. This is a very important duty.

Lucinda explains. “Without physical touch, babies die.”

This is because babies are humans. And all humans need touch, otherwise we fail to thrive. Which is why mortality rates in orphanages are 30 to 40 percent.

“The reason I volunteer,” says Lucinda, “is because babies need hugs and so do I. I live alone, I self-isolate, so these are the only touches I get.”

Which leads me to my first question. How many times have you been touched within the last 24 hours?

Take a moment. Think about it. Once? Twice. Not at all? Well then, how long

has it been? Weeks? Months? Years? Somewhere around the installation of the last pope?

Before the pandemic you were touching others more often than you realize. Everyone was.

You’d go to lunch with friends and receive two hugs and four handshakes. Attend a barbecue at cousin Ray Ray’s house; 11 hugs, and a triple hug from Aunt Myrtis. Your niece’s wedding? Hug-a-palooza. Sundays at church? Mass huggings.

But that’s over now. America is not getting ANY hugs during this pandemic.

I have a letter from Alison, in Boston, who writes, “It’s been 10 months since I’ve hugged my mom.”

Here’s another from Ron, in Alexandria, Virginia. “I haven’t had a hug or a handshake in over a year…”

Lillian in Alpharetta, Georgia, says, “I’m a single girl, it’s hard to meet anyone during a pandemic... Sometimes I just want someone to just put…