The Best of Chippewa Falls Volume One's guide to the riverside city » Presented by Mason Companies, Leinie Lodge, Northwestern Bank, and Go Chippewa Falls

The Rear End

THE REAR END: The Bad/Good Awards

not every cloud has a silver lining, but these awards do

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Eva Paulus |

As you read up on all the local things you voted as the best or the worst over the past year, I offer you this idea: Most things are both bad and good. Happy and sad. Great and awful. Often, the best you can hope for is an even mix of victories and defeats. That’s life. And here’s mine …

Hottest Day/Best Ice Cream

Last summer, the Chippewa Valley Museum held a scavenger hunt, asking people to travel ’cross the Valley to learn about its history while visiting various quirky locations. This is something my wife would love to do every day of the ding dang week. Me? Not so much. I like the idea of a scavenger hunt, but I’m, um, what’s the word? Lazy. But after months of pandemic boredom, I was more than ready to give it a go. And go we did. The whole family drove all over the place, checking off the handy checklist. And what day did we choose to do this? Why, the very last day before the deadline and the hottest damn day of the year (I’m pretty sure). We enjoyed ourselves, but we enjoyed ourselves in spite of a lot of sweat and sunburn.

But all that heat made our victory ice cream taste all the sweeter. Did we win the hunt? No. Did I eat my weight in cold, sugary goodness? You better believe it.

Hey, did you know there’s a nation-wide appliance shortage? Because there is. I know this because last August our refrigerator suddenly passed into the kitchen appliance version of Valhalla. It was a good death. Quick and dignified. And super, super inconvenient.

Mike paulus

volume one columnist

Worst Appliance-Based Catastrophe/Best Luck in Friends

Hey, did you know there’s a nation-wide appliance shortage? Because there is. I know this because last August our refrigerator suddenly passed into the kitchen appliance version of Valhalla. It was a good death. Quick and dignified. And super, super inconvenient. Especially since new refrigerators are hard to find, what with the global pandemic and all. Luckily, we cobbled together a replacement involving two dorm room fridges and a freezer in the basement. And we’ve waited. Five long months we’ve waited. This week, our new fridge arrives. Please light a candle and pray to the new gods and the old that it fits.

It’s been annoying, cumbersome, and difficult. But how lucky are we? We had friends and family willing and able to lend us lil’ fridges and coolers and more to help us out. And ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Worst Car Battery-Based Catastrophe/Best Wife

Check this out. The weekend after our fridge done busted, we got up early to grocery shopping Sunday morning. After we loaded up the car with our newly-purchased, delicious groceries, many of them frozen, I hopped into the driver’s seat, turned the key in the ignition, and … click. The battery was dead. I may have left the lights on. So my wife and I walked aaaaall the way home to get our other car so as to drive back and jump the first car. We got home, I hopped into the driver’s seat, turned the key in the ignition, and … click. Indeed, that battery was also dead. We hadn’t been driving much (what with pandemic and all), and I maaaaay have neglected to start that car for about a month. I did not take these events very well. Much like our ice cream back in the hot grocery store parking lot, I melted. And fumed. And swore.

Fear not. We got it all straightened out and ended up with two shiny, new car batteries. The real victory, however, goes to my wife for putting up with a) the situation, and b) my tantrum. She was and is the best.

Looking back, the whole thing’s funny. Kind of.

Biggest Disappointment/Best Bonding

My kids both started new schools this year, and so neither was able to either a) have a normal graduation, or b) get to step inside their all-new halls of learning (yet). I know they’ll be just fine. It could be way worse. But it still sucks. Very little closure. Very few rites of passage.

However. Our family has grown closer over the past year. I’ve been lucky enough to work from home, so I’ve been lucky enough to watch my kids as they learn and grow and meet new challenges. I still wish they were having a more “normal” education, but I love being there (front and center) for their little daily setbacks and accomplishments.

See, as far as I can tell, life isn’t about “balance,” as many would have you believe. Life is about learning to be OK with having to balance things.

Not every frustration comes with a silver lining. Please don’t miss the ones that do.