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Serving: IL

What’s normal, anyway?

male farmer holding son in field
Home Front: Missing out on activities and adding new ones is all part of adjusting to a new normal.

Is anyone else having a hard time remembering what “normal” is? Occasionally going out to eat used to be normal. Getting a hug from a friend used to be normal. Going to a football or basketball game used to be normal. Standing in line at the grocery store and visiting with another shopper used to be normal. Driving to our sons’ homes to celebrate a birthday used to be normal. I could go on and on, but I’ll pause and allow you to add your own “missing normal” to this list.

Things have definitely been different in 2020 and now in 2021. Whether I like it or not, I’ve learned to connect virtually with friends, family and businesses, but that is definitely not something I consider normal. And Kendra, the more gregarious member of the team, has found this new normal even more challenging.

And that, my friends, is an understatement. Besides the things I already listed in my “used to be normal” rant, there was something I was really looking forward to that has been postponed: my high school reunion.

I’m on the planning committee for that reunion, and we met more than once before it became impossible to gather together. At that point, we connected via Zoom meetings and continued to plan. Ultimately, it became obvious there would be no class reunion in 2020, and word was sent out to our classmates. We now hope to celebrate our reunion in the fall of 2021, a year later than originally planned. We’ll have to wait and see.

Perhaps the most challenging and interesting thing I’ve encountered during this new normal had nothing to do with reunions, going out to eat or missing sporting events. A longtime friend and fellow farmer decided to retire and sell his equipment. Typically, he would have had an auction at his farmstead, and I would have joined others to see if there were implements I wanted to purchase. If there were, I’d get my number and stay close as the auctioneer moved toward that specific piece of equipment. But this auction was virtual. The bidding was done online. So I sat at my computer as I bid against others, hoping to purchase two wagons I had my eye on.

The good news? John had the high bid on those wagons. His encounter with a virtual auction was a success, even though the process was not normal.

Maybe Patsy Clairmont got it right when years ago she wrote a book I read and enjoyed. The title of that book? “Normal Is Just a Setting on Your Dryer.”

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email, or visit The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

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