By Brent Frazee

When I was cleaning my desk the other day, I came across my 2020 day planner.

It was filled with scribbles that became dashed hopes.

At the start of the year, I had big plans. Pages of my day planner were filled with dates set aside for fishing trips to Canada and northern Wisconsin with my longtime friend Dave Perkins, and writers conferences at Jay’s Peak in Vermont, Mozingo Lake in Missouri, and Wilson Lake in Kansas.

Other pages included opening day of the trout season at Bennett Spring, a trip to Minnesota for my niece’s wedding, numerous library talks, and vacations with my wife.

None of it happened thanks to COVID-19, the highly contagious virus that has ravaged the country.

Jana and I are both in the high-risk category and our doctors have warned us that we need to play it safe until we can get the vaccine.

For both of us, that amounts to a major lifestyle change. We’re both accustomed to being on the go, out of town for many days of the year.

  My wife designs women’s clothing for her business and generally spends 10 weekends a year at arts and crafts fairs. I also am on the road often, whether it be to the Ozarks for fishing articles, national wildlife refuges for birding, or various locations in Missouri and Kansas for hunting articles.

Not this year.

People always ask me, “What’s the key to you staying together for so long?” referring to our 43 years of marriage. And I would always joke, “Never seeing each other.”

I’m happy to say, we’ve seen plenty of each other this year. And our relationship is stronger than ever.

That’s just one of the ways 2020 has brought hidden blessings, no matter how hard COVID has hit. The year has created financial stress for us, as well as many other families. And we’ve worried about family members who caught the coronavirus and battled it for weeks. But there have been good moments as well.

  1. This will be remembered as the year I got my first grandson. My son Scott and his wife Michele had a boy in September, and I’m already looking forward to the days when I have a new little fishing buddy.
  2. I gave my 3-year-old granddaughter Avery her first fishing rod for Christmas and I look forward to getting her out fishing with me. Now if I can just get her to sit still long enough for the bobber to go under.
  3. My oldest granddaughter Caty continues to amaze with her academics. She is only a junior in high school, but she scored a 32 (out of a possible 36) on her national ACT test. That means she should be able to get a free ride to the college of her choice. Uh, she didn’t get her intelligence from her grandpa.
  4. Chloe, my other granddaughter, is also doing well in school and I see big things from her as she transitions into high school next year.
  5. For me, 2020 has been filled with too much computer time and not enough lake time. I’m lucky to have a lake out my backdoor and I’ve gone fishing quite a bit there. But as I age, I no longer feel comfortable fishing alone in a boat the way I used to. Besides, I’m not very good at taking selfies when I catch a big fish.
  6. I continue to enjoy writing, even as I get older. I guess it’s a release, a way to keep my mind sharp and still communicate the outdoors experience.

I’ve never been much for self-promotion. Unlike other communicators, I’ve never felt comfortable about posting about the awards I’ve won. There’s a fine line between bragging and just sharing your accomplishments. But in this age of social media, maybe it’s almost a necessity. The number of “likes” or clicks you get on a post certainly can affect your marketability.

In the year of COVID, I am proud to have won four major writing awards from outdoor communicator organizations—two firsts, a second and a third. Two were for articles close to my heart—one for a blog I wrote about the bond my dad and I shared in a fishing boat and another on a return to the cabin of my youth.

I’m sorry if this sounds a bit like a Christmas letter. It wasn’t meant that way. I’m trying to communicate that 2020 wasn’t all bad for a lot of us. I’m sure you too can find hidden blessings from the year of COVID.