Getting comfortable with living in the gray areas

IRON MOUNTAIN — No, I will not be talking about our spring weather today, although a look out my window tells me this headline is appropriate for this time of year here in the Northwoods. I am referring to the ability to be comfortable living in situations that do not necessarily match what we may have always considered “normal” or “typical” or “best.” I also want to think about that phrase that is generally used to describe anyone past a certain age; once we reach our 60s, many of us are described as “set in our ways,” which turns into “stubborn” or “bull headed” when we reach 70. And, when did the word “compromise” signify a weakness?

My husband and I just finished binge watching a series on Netflix titled “The Ranch.” Each episode was only a half-hour, so was easy to watch into the evening when all we wanted was just a little more TV before heading to bed. It was basically a comedy about the day-to-day life in a family of Colorado ranchers and starred Sam Elliott as Beau Bennett, the patriarch, and his son, Colt, played by Ashton Kutcher. The ranch had been in the Bennett family for generations and while Beau had never left except for his service in the Viet Nam War, Colt had just recently returned home after trying to build an NFL career as a quarterback. As the characters were developed and the plot line took its twists and turns, we were given insights into character strengths and flaws, an appreciation for the hard work and sacrifice that came with life on a ranch, and how endangered that lifestyle was becoming.

Beau Bennett was the epitome of a man who was proud to be set in his ways. Ford was the only truck worth driving. He continued to fix his 17-year-old microwave oven rather than buy a new one because, after all, his only took 45 minutes to bake a potato. He only ate steak. There was no sense in buying a DVD player when his VCR still worked. Coffee was made in a pot on the stove — not in something called a Keurig and certainly not one cup at a time! And he took great exception to Colt’s pair of Uggs and all of his fancy hair and skin care products. There was only one way to ranch — his way — so there was a lot of tension between him and his grown son who was trying to bring the family ranch into modern day practices to stay competitive. In general, Beau believed in living life one way and that way was his.

On its surface, this television portrayal of life on a Colorado ranch and its exploration of this particular family of ranchers was very humorous. But the reality of going through life with blinders on and a complete disregard for anyone else’s opinions is at the very least boring and at its worst destructive.

How much do we miss out on when our way becomes the only way? How much surprise and joy are lost when the spontaneity of pancakes for a Tuesday breakfast or a Thursday supper is lost when tradition mandates pancakes on Sunday morning? How much needless time and energy are wasted while we stick to the same way of performing any kind of physical labor when we could buy a new piece of equipment that does the job just as well — maybe better — in a lot less time and with a lot less of our physical energy? How much growth — within a company or a family — is stunted and discouraged when new ideas and opinions are cast aside in favor of “the way we have always done it.”

Granted, change is difficult. There is a lot of comfort in doing things the way they have always been done. You know how to accomplish all those daily tasks. You know the expectations and you know you can meet them. Life has a very familiar rhythm, and you are very comfortable in the melody of its song. No matter your age, you are the baby in its mother’s womb. If it were up to you, that is where you would stay. But life has other plans for you. The birthing process happens whether you like it or not, and now you are confronted with the need for change in order to survive.

The need for change never stops. It can’t: Civilization would die if innovation halted. Innovation occurs when new challenges arise that require new solutions and alternative methods to overcome them. Somewhere along the way — as we age and become comfortable in what we know to be true — we begin to fear change instead of embrace it. We can never afford to become complacent. We must always

keep our minds open enough to first realize our world is changing and then to accept that our lives need to flex to accommodate the change that has to happen to meet the challenges of today.

As problems and challenges become more complex, we need to stop our either/or thinking. No issue is ever black or white — this way or that way. Life is more intricate than that. And the people who comprise society are complex individuals who have knowledge and strengths as well as a willingness to contribute. They need to be heard. They need to be allowed to participate. Their life experiences need to be validated by being welcomed as part of the solution.

So, that brings us full circle to a process that seems in danger of becoming extinct — compromise. We are currently living in a period of history where polarization is the norm. Right or left rule the day, and the middle ground — that gray area — has become real estate to be avoided. It has taken on a wishy-washy reputation. Gray means fuzzy. Compromise means weak and indecisive.

But I propose a new connotation. How much better would our society be if gray was viewed as a blending of black and white — an homogeneous mixture of all the very best ideas and most effective solutions? And where would we be today if we welcomed everyone’s ideas and found a way to blend the best of the best into workable solutions? How much better off would we be if compromise was viewed as strength and the ability to reach it as a goal for which everyone strived?

Finally, flexibility is not a weakness. It is, in fact, far stronger than a rigid stick that snaps when too much pressure is applied. A flexible rope often serves as a better tie that binds opposing forces — and people and ideas — together.



The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus will not be published for now in an effort to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

We hope to report the opening up of senior living centers to limited visitation by family members in the near future. Until that time, all living facilities remain closed to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts. Group games are being substituted with individualized activities residents can do in their respective rooms.

Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways. YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they reopen, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. Meals continue to be delivered. Some centers are also preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers who are either preparing take-out or providing home-delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers all listed below.



Alpha-Mastodon Center


Amasa Center


The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Ham, potato salad and coleslaw

Wednesday: Sloppy Joes, baked beans, lettuce salad

Thursday: Chicken cacciatore, noodles, broccoli, lettuce

Note: All meals served with milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert.

Breen Center


Call for home delivery or a to-go box. Menu for the week —

Monday: Baked salmon, fried potatoes, peas

Tuesday: Breaded chicken, potato wedges, mixed vegetables

Wednesday: Liver or bratwurst, parsley potatoes, green beans

Thursday: Barbecue ribs, baked potatoes, broccoli

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen


Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain


Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Smothered chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans

Tuesday: Sausage breakfast bake, apple raisin oatmeal, spiced peaches

Wednesday: Taco salad, sour cream, salsa, chips

Thursday: Scalloped potatoes with ham, roll, carrots

Friday: Fish sandwiches, fries, peas

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk, juice, or no beverage

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center


Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Fish or hamburger, baked potatoes, vegetable bake

Tuesday: Beef stew, cornbread, trail mix salad

Wednesday: Pork chops, stuffing, potatoes, peaches

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.


Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Liver and onions or chicken breast, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, fruit

Tuesday: Chili with shredded cheese and onions, cornbread, dark green salad, fruit

Wednesday: Chicken stuffing bake, squash, broccoli salad, fruit

Thursday: No menu available

Friday: No menu available

Note: All meals served with whole grain bread and butter and milk

Fence Center/Town Hall


For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska


Iron River Center


Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Baked chicken, oven-browned potatoes, mixed vegetables, fruit, milk

Tuesday: Tuna noodle casserole, carrots, roll, fruit, milk

Wednesday: Fish, potato wedges, peas, fruit, milk

Thursday: Swedish meatballs, noodles, carrots, dessert

Norway Center

Director: Michelle DeSimone


The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up — those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Monterey chicken, baked potato, creamed corn, fruit, juice, dessert

Tuesday: Barbecue pulled pork on a bun, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, fruit, juice, dessert

Wednesday: Liver or burger and onions, mashed potato and gravy, green beans, fruit, juice, dessert

Thursday: Easter meal – Ham, baked sweet potato, green beans, pineapple

Sagola Center


Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, corn

Wednesday: Barbecue pulled pork, pasta salad, baked beans

Thursday: Polish sausage, sauerkraut, baked beans, pears

All meals served with fruit and choice of skim milk or juice.


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