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Staff photo by Dan Reiland  

Siblings Owen, 3, and Aubrey, 4, of Eau Claire look at books Friday with their mother, Amy Meyers, at L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library. Library officials intend to add space to the youth and early literacy areas as part of a planned expansion of the library. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.


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Moving on: It's not easy to leave family home

My wife and I recently said goodbye to the five-bedroom house where we had lived for 20 years.

While the house’s location had some unusual aspects — Eau Claire address, village of Lake Hallie, Eau Claire school district, Chippewa County — it was a wonderful spot to raise a family.

My wife, two kids — now both adults — and I celebrated countless birthdays, anniversaries and holidays in that house. We recovered from heart surgeries, hip replacements and common colds. We entertained friends and family. We took everything from first-day-of-school photos to prom pictures in what was, literally, our neck of the woods.

We spent hours watching deer and wild turkeys frolic in the backyard, often spied bald eagles flying overhead and once even spotted a black bear sprinting across the driveway.

And, of course, we did some frolicking ourselves, playing basketball in the driveway and football, soccer, golf, baseball and later kubb in the big backyard.

At some point, I’m pretty sure we even cried over spilled milk. (It was no use, as they say.)

In short, that house was home.

So when my wife and I decided it was time to move on, it wasn’t an easy choice. We had a lot of memories tied to that house — as well as a lot of stuff tucked into every nook and cranny.

When we finally settled on a condominium for our next dwelling after more than a year of looking, we knew we could take the memories with us, but not all of our possessions.

I realize some people, including my wife, find getting rid of stuff to be liberating. Not me. I found it mostly painful. (In the summer of my 40th class reunion, I suppose it was time to get rid of my high school letter jacket, but ...)

Nevertheless, we spent weeks sorting and winnowing everything from yard tools and vacation souvenirs to children’s books and household knickknacks.

We sold a lot of stuff. We donated piles of stuff. We threw out a bunch of stuff.

And yet — please don’t tell my wife I admitted this — it probably wasn’t enough, as the boxes still stacked in our garage, basement and dining room (we’ve taken to calling it the “staging area” instead) make abundantly clear to anyone who dares enter our new abode.

Throughout the process, one thought kept going through my mind: “Moving is not for wimps.”

That’s why I’ve always been amazed by those folks who seem to move every few years to gain some new feature or just to get a fresh view. More power to them, but that’s definitely not my style. Once every couple of decades is plenty in my opinion.

I must be in the minority though, as I’ve read in the Leader-Telegram that more than 1,400 homes are sold annually just in Eau Claire County and I recently saw a U.S. Census Bureau statistic showing that one of every 14 Americans between the ages of 55 and 74 moved in 2018.

As for buying a condo, I’m pleased to report that we didn’t make that decision because we no longer could take care of a large yard or clear snow from a long driveway (astute readers may question that assertion if they recall my column last winter about my struggles after the newspaper got caught in my snowblower) or even that we feared those duties would become too much to handle anytime soon.

Instead, unlike some people, we don’t really care much for those responsibilities and thought it sounded nice to save the time normally spent toiling in the yard for activities we enjoy. (Did I mention that it’s now been a month since I last mowed a lawn or pulled a weed? Where does the time go?)

OK, I promise to try to resist mocking my friends when they complain about shoveling next winter, but it will difficult, especially if we have a brutal winter anything like the last one. (Anyone else’s back still feel the effects of clearing a record 98.8 inches of snow in Eau Claire?)

The new place, by the way, is beginning to feel like home.

I hosted a fantasy football draft last week, we will celebrate our first family birthday at the new address this weekend and we’ve even had regular backyard visits from a pair of fawns and a doe.

Maybe this moving thing will work out after all.

Pickleball, anyone?


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In New Hampshire, 2020 Dems urge voters to not play it safe

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Several Democratic presidential candidates urged voters in New Hampshire on Saturday to not play it safe in the 2020 election, leveling an implicit critique of front-runner Joe Biden.

Biden has centered his campaign on his years of experience in Washington and a perceived ability to steal the support of white, working-class voters away from President Donald Trump. Speaking at the New Hampshire Democrats’ state convention, Biden’s rivals told voters to aim for more.

“There is a lot at stake and people are scared. But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in because we’re scared,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who drew a raucous reception. “And we can’t ask other people to vote for someone we don’t believe in.”

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was more explicit.

“Every time we’ve tried to play it safe with established and Washington-tenured figures, every single time we’ve come up short,” Buttigieg told reporters after his remarks.

Warren, Buttigieg and others never mentioned Biden by name. But the target of their message was clear: the former vice president who has led primary polls throughout the year despite questions about whether a 76-year-old white man is best-positioned to be the standard-bearer for an increasingly diverse party.

Saturday’s convention kicked off a critical stretch of the campaign in New Hampshire, which in February will hold the nation’s first primary. Nineteen candidates descended on the state to rally voters and flex their campaign’s organizational strength in front of New Hampshire’s political power brokers, most of whom are still up for grabs.

Supporters for major candidates arrived outside the arena in Manchester before dawn to hang signs and stake out prime locations to greet the convention’s hundreds of attendees. Warren’s crowd of supporters stretched deep and erupted in cheers as the senator arrived to greet them. Rival campaigns grumbled privately that Warren, who represents neighboring Massachusetts, was benefiting from home-field advantage.

Much of Biden’s strength in the race thus far is tied to the perception that he is best-positioned to defeat Trump, given his more moderate policies, working-class background and the reservoir of goodwill he built up with many Democrats during his eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president.

But rival campaigns privately draw comparisons between Biden and Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee who was deemed the best-qualified candidate but struggled to generate high levels of voter enthusiasm. They argue that nominating Biden risks depressing the vote among energized liberals and younger voters.

Biden was the first candidate to speak and focused his remarks on Trump, saying the president has “unleashed the deepest, darkest forces in this nation.” He added: “We cannot, and I will not, let this man be reelected president of the United States of America.”

Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro said that if Democrats want to ensure Trump is defeated, “we can’t do the same old thing.”

“We’re not going to win by just trying to be safe,” Castro said.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who enlivened the crowd with his morning address, also urged voters to seek more than simply a candidate they believe can beat Trump.

“Beating Donald Trump is the floor, it’s not the ceiling,” Booker said.

New Hampshire has a track record of humbling Democratic front-runners, and victory in the state has often not been an indicator of general-election success.

Since 1976, the year Democrat Jimmy Carter won the state’s primary, no competitive New Hampshire Democratic primary winners have gone on to capture both the party nomination and the presidency.

Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders share the same advantage as neighboring senators to New Hampshire, though Warren has spent more days campaigning in the state than her presidential rival. Sanders remains a strong draw, something that was clear with the fervent welcome that greeted him as he took the stage for his convention speech Saturday afternoon.