Christine Popoli, 70, Rumford, RI, USA

My reflections on how COVID has affected my life:

COVID has brought my life, as I knew it, to an end. The advent of technology as our primary basis for communicating with others has been slowly altering our lives for the past few years  — but COVID cemented the need for its use in connecting people with each other.

In many ways, the ability to use this technology — FaceTime, Zoom, etc. — has been a godsend. I did appreciate having the opportunity to do this and enjoyed it.

The Facebook and Zoom times are scheduled, time is set aside, and the get-togethers happen as planned. Spur of the moment phone calls to talk with  friends and relatives, to hear the tones of their voices, and to determine their emotional states, are rare.

The biggest loss has been the lack of physical contact. No hugging hello or hugging goodbye, no hugging or kissing our children, grandchildren, older relatives or special friends. There’s even no chance to see another person’s smile.

Travel is over, theater is over, concerts are over, and movie theaters are empty. These are things I really enjoyed. Will they ever exist in the way we knew them again? If so, it will be a long time before that happens. I am now 70. This is cutting into the “Golden Years” I expected to enjoy.   

Some people have been able to roll with the COVID punches. I have not.

Share your 2020

John Gianoulidis, 56, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

So, this afternoon I was pondering the last year’s events. About this time last year, I was being filmed for Kafenio to be on the Atlanta Eats show and planning the one-year anniversary/Grand Opening party for Kafenio Avondale. 

ParkGrounds was plugging along as it has for the last 10 years. We had a great time filming the episode, and the Grand Opening party for Kafenio Avondale was a huge success. I was right on the edge of business blowing up at both locations, all while traveling back and forth to Athens, Greece and enjoying travel, fun, and the excitement of juggling operations for three restaurants.

This was all literally the week before the pandemic started hitting.

Fast-forward to one year of the pandemic.

Kafenio College Park has been closed since last March and will probably not reopen. Kafenio Avondale is breaking even, and ParkGrounds is limping along. I’m busy working shifts for employees who have been exposed to COVID and playing dodgeball with the disease, myself, all while wearing a mask on the cook line and dealing with customers who don’t understand a mask doesn’t work if it isn’t also covering their nose.

Guess what-I’m ok! 

In Greek, OK stands for Ολλα Καλά! Everything is good. I continue to learn that my external circumstances cannot dictate how I feel about my self-worth or the worth of the reality I am in at the moment. 

These external circumstances also continue to drive home the truth that it’s not what happens to me, but how I deal with it.  I’m grateful today for perspective and context that allow me the long view.

Everything is not going to be OK, it’s OK right now.

Share your 2020

Jeffrey N. Johnson, 58, Alexandria, VA, USA

2020

The Ides of March came raging this year,
defining those essential and those not
in sometimes arbitrary ways.

Cursed from dugouts and half-courts,
we learn to play chess;
banned from classroom and choir,
we meditate on piano alone.

And in the absence of touch on a larger scale,
as lights across the globe extinguish
one-by-one, we hunker within our four walls,
knowing now with great certainty,
we are all essential.

Share your 2020

LeNora Faye, 38, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Hindsight is 2021. Can you say “20/20 vision” with a straight face after the year that was? OK, I’m done. Goodnight, everybody!

March 2020, I sat on the couch, eyes glued to my television. My fellow Canadians were watching the same thing, counting the minutes with bated breath. A wood podium with a carved maple leaf stood at the bottom of the six steps leading to Rideau Cottage’s entrance, home of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. The microphone silent as the T.V camera zoomed in on the black front door. Thirty minutes passed. Our fearless leader was late. I scanned Twitter for any signs of life. Under the live stream of the press conference, someone wrote, “Can someone go up and ring the doorbell?”

I watched the news three times a day while my city remained under a local state of emergency. Already in a state of flux, I took some comfort in knowing the world froze in uncertainty. I had been waffling between getting a temp job and focusing on building a lifestyle brand. When my city went into lockdown with rent and utility bills deferrable for three months, I took that as a sign. I stopped sending out resumes to jobs that I knew I didn’t want.

That first month of lockdown, I wore a wig to the grocery store. It helped ease the tension and anxiety I felt while searching for toilet paper. Masks weren’t mandatory, yet, but security was spraying everyone down with sanitizer. Shelves were bare. Gas prices were so low that I wanted to drive across Canada so that I could fill up at 58 cents a litre. I took solace in knowing I now had the perfect excuse to say “no” to anything that took my focus from my creative endeavours. “Sorry, you know, C*vid.”

So there I was, happily blogging and podcasting away in my self-isolated bubble of home. And then, along came Black Lives Matter protests. I’ll admit, I’ve felt removed from the Black American experience. I’m a Biracial Black Canadian who grew up in White communities. I know very little about Black culture in Canada. My Black family barely acknowledges their heritage. So, when my brother and his two kids, who are White-passing,  attended BLM rallies in their small town on the Canadian Prairies, I knew I could no longer plead ignorance.

Addressing my insecurities about being half Black was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve had to do. Talking with other Black people about issues I felt inadequate to address, UN-FREAKIN-COMFORTABLE! But, I did it. And still do it. My White family had a lot of questions. I even had discussions about skin colour with my nephews. Talking about White privilege as someone who benefits from it, while still being oppressed by it in ways I didn’t even know about, is confusing. When I figure it out, I’ll tell you.

So that was my June 2020.

I spent the summer months travelling between my home and the lake cabin that I use. I self-isolated by a lake in the mountains. I played with the baby chipmunks, stepped on some baby mice by accident, and took photos of the deer who dined in the yard. The highways were quiet all summer as the borders were closed to tourists. I’ve never enjoyed road trips more.

By September, masks were mandatory. So, I bought four rhinestone-encrusted ones with filters. These days, going to the grocery store takes me twice as long because E.V.E.R.Y.B.O.D.Y wants to know where I get my masks. Even the men comment. Pharmacists in the back cubicles stand up and yell out to ask me about my masks. It’s so funny. I also blind people under the fluorescent lights. The funniest encounter happened while on a road trip. I was at the checkout when the cashier started to panic. Both store managers appeared at the till.  The cashier thought she was in trouble until the managers, in unison, asked me where I got my mask. The poor girl was so relieved I thought she was going to faint. She told me how worried she was. The power of bling, I tell you!

By October, I was back at home, and things were grim in my city. Numbers were going up, and our Canadian healthcare system was struggling. Being childfree, I didn’t have to deal with the many concerns others had, like childcare, school, bored kids, etc. My creativity was trucking along nicely, and I invested my travel money in new electronics to help me. I also went to IKEA to buy a bookshelf and walked out with two nightstands, a new coffee table, a kitchen prep table, a frame for the guest bed, and an alarm clock. Oh, and the bookshelf.

After I set everything up, I had an epiphany. I am so happy that this pandemic hit when I’m not sharing a house with anyone. I have all the personal space I need and time to explore the depth of my imagination.

With home gatherings once again banned, I made my house as cozy as I could. If I couldn’t do a winter escape, I’d get the accoutrements to create a paradise at home: luxury candles, some fluffy throw blankets, extra pillows, another oversized ottoman to curl up on. Heck, even a Disney Plus subscription so I can do The Simpsons marathons. My house became a fancy hotel suite I don’t have to check out of. Minus housekeeping service.

2020 was not as weird as 2009 was for me, but it came pretty close. I learned to empathize with people who have anxiety. A lot of feelings I didn’t know I had came to the surface to be purged. Half-empty journals got filled. I was writing on random bits of scrap paper at one point. Talk about emotional baggage removal. For that, I’m thankful. But did I need a global pandemic to gain clarity for my life? Next time, note to self, ask for a sign that involves a 2-week vacation to Palm Springs!

Share your 2020

Richard, 51, Heidelberg, Germany

It’s 7 am. The last day of the year. I drink coffee and smoke a cigarette, obligatory and routine, like every morning. The last 355 days suddenly trickle through me.

Everything we believed to be a given, not actually natural to be there all along. What a feeling. A little intense. But standing here in the cold morning, still with comfy home dress (worn sometimes for days, I won’t lie), there’s a shimmer of hope, always hope, like a science fiction hero, always looking into the horizon. Perhaps a bit dramatic – it’s fanboy stuff.

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Leslie Pietrzyk, 50s, Alexandria, VA, USA

2020: The Year that Threatens to Break the Cheery Holiday Letter!

But we’re resilient, aren’t we? Dang it: we will find amusing anecdotes and bright spots amid this whipsaw of a year, as our lives careen through lockdowns, anxiety, stress, masks, an election, gallons of Purell, a hoard of canned goods (we’re not eager to actually eat), another Amazon box on the doorstep, and the thrill of finding no-name-brand toilet paper on a grocery store shelf. And so:

Steve has been able to work from home throughout the pandemic, and we’re both very grateful for that…grateful no one has been laid off from his employer; grateful he doesn’t have to deal with DC traffic/scooters/pedestrians/random road closures for VIPs; grateful that comfy running clothes work fine on Zoom.

My new collection of short stories, ADMIT THIS TO NO ONE, will be published in November 2021. The stories all take place in DC, so they’re linked-ish (not a technical term), and while many stories have been published in literary journals, there are several that I wrote during the spring lockdown, which makes me grateful that I was able to find a way to focus and find joy in the creative process.

We’re grateful for our weekly farmer’s market, which is well-run and feels safe-ish given everyone’s compliance with masking, and we’re grateful for all the vegetables we’ve been eating this year (ramps for the first time!) and for all the interesting recipes we’ve found that turn our vegetables even tastier—kale chips, radish top pesto, summer squash casserole, beet greens, butternut squash macaroni and cheese. (Just to be clear, though, we’re still extremely grateful for bacon and potato chips, for gin and scotch and highballs, for every form of cheese!) We’re grateful for delivery services, especially a local restaurant group that puts together elegant “date night” dinners (www.nrgprovisions.com if you’re in the area). And we’re grateful for mail-order food that elevates our lives, especially these places that we recommend if you need a treat:

·       Chicago steak/beef: www.mychicagosteak.com

·       Iowa pork/bacon: www.amanameatshop.com

·       Chicago pizza: www.tasteofchicago.com

·       New York bagels/smoked fish: www.barneygreengrass.com

(Just to be clear, we’re also grateful for Pop-Tarts, Frosted Flakes, El Monterey Taquitos, Stovetop Stuffing, and Oreos, which unexpectedly played starring roles in our lives during this strange year.) We can also hook you up with popcorn that tastes exactly like movie theatre popcorn in the olden days! (And true confession: Steve found our best new recipe in a mail solicitation for Boys Town, a non-profit dedicated to children. “Oh, please,” I scoffed, but I dutifully made Bacon-Wrapped Chicken for him, and OH PLEASE! Give me more! Email me for the recipe if you’re brave. [4 ingredients: chicken, bacon, brown sugar, chili powder.])

I’m grateful that just as the lockdown was bearing down, I was enjoying an 8-day trip through western Nebraska and the edge of South Dakota, writing, giving a reading, seeing inspiring sights—Chimney Rock; Mount Rushmore; the remote Sandhills; the Crazy Horse memorial; an actual Pony Express stop. Perhaps my favorite part of this memorable journey was witnessing the spring migration of the sandhill cranes, which, roughly, is quietly watching the sun rise as thousands of large birds wake up, dance and chatter, and then, magically, in wave after wave, lift up out of the Platte River to spend the day eating in area fields, bulking up for the journey ahead to Canada. (Do yourself a favor and google a video; these birds are one of the most stunning things I’ve witnessed.)

In eight days, I was snowed in…yet also running around outside in T-shirt sleeves; I slept in a yurt, a manly hunting lodge packed with taxidermy, and an EconoLodge with an ice-crusted parking lot. I saw rolling hills and windmills and lonely train tracks and misty skies and a whooping crane tucked in with the sandhill cranes. It’s lucky to have had this trip as my last because it filled my eyes and soul. I’m grateful to the two universities in Nebraska that partnered to create this writing/travel residency, and I’ll tell you this: once we’re free to move about the country, you really must get yourselves to gorgeous western Nebraska. (And I’m not just saying that because I was on a sponsored trip!)

We’re grateful that we have read some interesting books and watched some excellent movies/TV, and so to escape, we recommend watching Schitt’s Creek, Bunheads, Succession,  Saturday Night Live, Wayne, Floor Is Lava*, Cobra Kai*, and I recommend reading How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C. Pam Zhang (if you want harrowing and dire) and The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford (if you want fun and frothy). Steve was especially taken with a book about Doors singer Jim Morrison’s life as an aloof teenager here in Alexandria—his boyhood home is .7 miles from our house. (The Lizard King Was Here by Mark Opsasnick). *Credit Steve (who also doesn’t quite recommend watching “way too much MSNBC” but who definitely does so).

We’re grateful that we’ve not been sick. We’re grateful for flu shots and vaccines on the horizon and science and scientists. We’re grateful to voters and those working for social justice. We’re grateful to all working on the front lines. We’re grateful to everyone who’s doing the best they can through this pandemic. Even as we endlessly practice delayed gratification during this nightmarish, never-ending 2020, we know we’re incredibly lucky.

We wish we could give all of you a big hug…we wish we could mix you a cocktail, serve you some Boys Town chicken…we wish we could simply sit next to you and listen to all your stories, all night long. Happy holidays, and please stay safe and take extra care in the new year.

Share your 2020

Mary Kay Zuravleff, 60, Washington, DC, USA

Yesterday was Friday, not that we could tell. My husband, our 19-year-old daughter, and I have been keeping it together this spring. Also our dog, Arrow, who was born for social distancing. She’s afraid of most people and dogs, including dog sculptures, as well as cats, children, trucks, raindrops, and acorns. That sums up our Washington, DC, neighborhood, which is also overrun with squirrels and bunnies, who for some reason get a pass.

We’re privileged to have food, a house, our health, and each other, and our assignment is to keep to ourselves. I think of the Milton line that used to be posted in the DC jury-duty room, appropriately from Sonnet 19, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

I showered and took Arrow for a drag, coaxing her down streets where cement dogs guard porches, cement flower baskets in their mouths, and where she was once chased by a cat. DC is all kinds of pink in April: Japanese magnolia buds look like teacups on their branches; flurries of cherry blossom petals snow down. Back home, I made my own damn mocha—thanks to the AeroPress our friend David gave my husband and the milk he overbought yesterday. I’d left him a jelly jar of yeast in our Little Free Library in exchange.

I’m trying to finish a novel based on my Russian immigrant ancestors in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, yet I spent the morning editing scientific grants, because mortgage. My favorite phrase of the day was “alcohol-preferring rats,” and that grant also taught me about wild-type and knockout mice, some of whom get their alcohol on lollipops and some in a chamber of aerosolized alcohol.

Our son called from Arizona to say he might be recovering from a low-grade case of the virus, if they had tests for 27-year-olds with no underlying conditions. His wife had a cough and aches, too, but when he tried to take her temperature, their thermometer signaled “low battery” and then promptly died. I found one online with an arrival estimate of two weeks.

I took the dog for another drag, talking on the phone to my friend Maureen, whose family spent April Fool’s pranking each other across the country. Their shenanigans made me feel unimaginative, as every prank I thought of had a mean reveal: Surprise, you don’t get to go anywhere and the total confirmed cases have topped a million!

After three more hours of editing—face blindness, Parkinson’s, and bipolar disorder—I took a walk with my friend Margaret; we left our dogs at home. Neither my folded-bandana mask nor her flowing scarf worked. My floppy ears couldn’t hold the elastic on, and she ended up doing the dance of the seven scarves with a single scarf. Tulips bloomed bright against dark, stinky mulch. Creeping phlox ran across yards and threw itself headlong over retaining walls as we aired our existential terrors—the writing we were supposed to be doing, health, debt, children. Halfway through our usual maze, we heard her son in LA and her daughter, live from her living room, chime in: “What’s going on?,” “Do you need us?” The voices were coming from Margaret’s right flank, and she pulled her phone from her pocket to discover that she’d somehow butt-dialed a FaceTime family conference. It was especially remarkable considering she doesn’t know how to perform that trick when she’s facing the phone and using her hands.

Our stroll fulfilled my New Year’s resolution to walk at three miles a day every day for 2020. February’s bum knee brought my average down, and I’d been hovering at 2.9. But logging five miles yesterday brought me up to 3.0 average. So I’ve accomplished something in 2020.

Back home, it was time to eat. Again. We’d done some strategic swapping and shopping, such as  joining a block-long CSA our neighbors set up for the farmer who supplies their closed restaurant. I’ve eaten more pea shoots, turnips, and chard in the last two weeks than in my entire life. We’d been cooking relentlessly, and now we craved takeout. Our favorite Indian restaurant, Masala Art in Tenleytown, was running a Covid-19 special: Dinner for four included 30 eggs and four rolls of toilet paper. My husband brought the food to our tiny backyard table, where we served it outside. Having eaten our fill of paneer and bhindi and dal—all fabulous—I brought containers from the house to transfer the food inside.

We watched the finale of Blown Away, that thrilling competition that pits glassblowers against each other. No spoilers, but I wouldn’t have predicted the winner. Then we set up a net across the dinner table and played ping-pong in the dining room, trying to beat Arrow to the ball when we missed it. Only one puncture in the ping-pong ball at night’s end, a personal best.

In this global experiment, we are all alcohol-preferring rats, and I was ready for my lollipop (a vaporized chamber having scary overtones). I opened a can of premixed gin and tonic, and the three of us retired to our separate corners for a little night reading. Arrow burrowed her nose under my thigh. I called my mother in Oklahoma. She and my father are bored and healthy, which is as good as it gets. After vowing that she would not be making any face masks, she’d sewn us all masks and put them in the mail. Walking our mazes, we would soon enough be face blind. I told her I loved her. And I scrubbed down the kitchen counters before bedtime.

Another day gone by in which I didn’t finish my novel, where the main character who has survived the 1918 flu pandemic discovers that by marrying a Russian-born immigrant, she has lost her American citizenship. In 1920.

This morning, I showered and took the dog for a drag . . . .

Share your 2020

Rick Pacukonas, 72, Vernon, Conn., USA

Seventy-two years into this bruising, bewildering and blossoming life, revelatory insights still inspire my mind to ponder and my heart to seek the poet Ferlinghetti’s “rebirth of wonder.”

Perspective is the elder’s comforter. Wrinkled memories shout that I survived the boring ’50s, the wild ’60s, and all the other maudlin decades. Decades that changed their details but not their substance.

Human history swears that we are addicted to repetition. It is the only answer to life’s circle of insanity. Each year we hope for better but grow bitter as the months drone on. Hindsight debunks what foresight naively decreed. Only faith is left when our prayers turn into dust. 2020 was no different, despite the violent colors painted by the vulgar media hype. The good and the bad did their life-dueling dance.       

Change the year, change the headlines, the merry-go-round runs perpetually up and down. Was Trump a greater villain than Nixon? Are these virulent viruses worse than their predecessors of 1918? Were the strides made by women and minorities greater or less than at other times in history? Will another presidential despot never darken the White House doors? Has the world seen the last of lethal illnesses? Will the world ever run out of greedy, selfish whackos and fools? 

I would not bet on it.

2020 was a nasty year, but far from the worst and farther from the best. Life trudges on.       

Actually, for me, 2020 offered bursts of inner opportunities. Pondering is a blessing to those whose dwell in elder-time. The older grow bolder as we dig deeper into ourselves. We are slow seekers of the mysteries to be glimpsed in solitude.

During a long life, odd ah-ha thoughts bubble up in weird moments unexpected. Over a bowl of cream of mushroom soup an epiphany revealed to me that for most of my seven decades I suffered from an irrational dependence on the delusion of my independence. On one masked, banal day in aisle 6 of Stop & Shop, a burst of divine insight revealed to my mushy mind that: not to ponder deeper is a sin against oneself.

Though a rare watcher of TV news, one sweaty night I succumbed to the temptation to revel in dystopian prophecies to scare myself witless and realized the penultimate cause of all the world’s problems was – adjectives. Imagine a world in which adjectives were banned! No more white people or black people or liberal people or red states or gay men or fat women or dumb kids or lousy spouses or shitty leaders or terrible, horrible, sad ugly years. Ban adjectives and civil simplicity would reign.

Essays obviously would be stripped of passion, and writers would drown themselves in gin. True, not all revelations hold up to scrutiny. Yet, it might be worth a try.         

Every year is an amalgam of the horror and the holy, as we stumble through this earthly experiment panting for a day of balance. We glare at the events that serve our self-interests and puff our prejudices while bludgeoning all who dare to disagree. Personal attitude adjustments terrify our pet perspectives. Turning our mirrors into windows requires the strength of super-heroes.

At least that is my guilty truth. Maybe by 2044 I’ll figure it all out. And then again, maybe not.      

Today, 2020 is the last chapter of life’s gritty how-to book. I smile as it lays dead in the heap of history’s tome. Memories must be newly made. I pray for lessons learned and that the old year’s cold echoes fade into the sunlit hopes of 2021. How long that takes is up to me. All that my dwindling time and experiential wisdom whisper in my soul’s ear is that the future will be discouragingly familiar in many aspects, and lustfully unique in ways unimagined.    

Through the glory or gory of 2020, we survived … so bring tomorrow on. One day life will kill us, but probably not today. Thank God I believe in life after death; it makes life so much more than manageable. So, now I go to steep my tea, and “perpetually await the rebirth of wonder.”   

Share your 2020

Timothy Gager, 58, Dedham, Mass., USA

2020: A Strange Year to Celebrate —

Ten—is a big round number for my sobriety.  When my journey started, I didn’t think I could go a day, a week, a month and certainly not a year. Alcohol and drugs were all the life I knew. Now, I know life differently.  I can get through today, get to midnight, and do it again without the physical and mental dependence on a substance.

Generally, 2020 was not an easy year for people in sobriety. It certainly wasn’t an easy year for me. In July of 2019, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. One week later I celebrated my ninth anniversary of sobriety, she went for a cancer treatment, and fell upon entering her ride there. Unable to stand, she went to the ER instead of Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where they ran tests and admitted her to South Shore Hospital. She was moved to hospice care shortly after, and would never go home again. She died on Christmas night. Gratefully, I could wake up on December 26 still sober.

After her passing, my father’s condition decompensated at a quick rate. My mother and father were married for over sixty-five years. They relied on each other, and each picked up the slack in the skills the other lacked. Before being hospitalized, my mother had to care more and more for my father, as his short term memory had begun to falter a bit. My brother, sisters, and I knew he would not be able to live independently anymore. He decided to move to Maryland, into an assisted-living facility close to my brother, Fred, and his family.

Then, the pandemic started. My dad left Massachusetts in late February, just before Covid-19 restrictions occurred. By March, when visitation at his new place was no longer allowed, my brother and his family generously took him into their home “temporarily” until restrictions were eased. As of November 2020, he was still living there, and his symptoms have worsened. My brilliant father, an engineering genius who worked on radar defense systems for the government, was losing much of his cognitive ability. To say that my family has lost my father as well as my mother in the past year is a fair and painful assessment. I miss both of them every day. Some days are fine, but as the seasons moved to autumn, they triggered emotions of this past year: memories of seeing my mom in hospice daily, and  spending that extra time with dad, the possibility of which I no longer have.  

Lately, the days are difficult. I am sorry that my brother, sister-in-law, nieces, and nephews will have difficult memories of my father not being the man we knew.  Still, I find strength and faith through the work I’ve done in the last ten years not to have a drink over any of this.    

In the world outside of mine, I didn’t drink over our divided country, especially in terms of the dishonesty we are shown and have come to expect as citizens. We have taken backwards steps regarding racial justice, women’s rights, and support for LBGTQIA+ community.  We have forgone a healthy and safe earth—and made Twitter feeds or conspiracies more important than science. From the top down, we are rotting as if we are in a vegetable drawer that is stuck closed.

GRATITUDE LIST FOR 2020

1. For my family, who mobilized as a team that has worked together for years, and for having the skills to work together through my mother’s death and my father’s illness. I cannot put into words the amount of gratitude I have for my family, especially for my brother and his family who daily take care of my father.

2.  For my children, who turned out as well as any parent could hope. The decisions they have made are responsible and realistic. I have learned a lot about living life from being their father.

3.  Spending the last six weeks of my mother’s life daily with her was something I’ll always be grateful for. I appreciate the people I work with, especially my supervisor, Eric S., and Area Director, Joan T., for allowing me time to do this without pressure to return. I am grateful that my good overall health helped me be able to accumulate sick time. State policies for time-off in crisis situations proved essential.

4.  For continued health in 2020, and for those who have done what they must to keep others safe. Without others’ sacrifices, I may have become sick, but as of now, I am healthy, and have avoided Covid-19.

5.  For Sarah, who has had her own situations to walk through, yet continues to give me support and joy. (also for her influence in my discovery of Bon Iver).

6.  I have gratitude for my writing groups and that I continue to write, and am grateful for those who still find what I write worthy of being published.

7.  I am grateful for enough life experiences to produce my latest book.

8.  For a home that I love. It makes staying home easier.

9. For a job I enjoy.

10. For food to eat.

11.  For my pets.

Lastly but most important–because, without this, I might not have anything on this list:

12.   I am forever grateful for the people who helped me to get sober ten years ago. Today, it’s the people who help me to stay sober and teach me through their experience, strength and hope who help me continue my journey. I have been shown a spiritual Higher Power which is no longer myself. I have people, MY people, whom I talk to every day.  I have learned to experience and live life today like I’ve never done before because of them.  They have taught me humility, when before I didn’t even know what that word meant. They have made me a better person. I love so many of them, very much. Each year is better than the last regarding my sense of true-self and my ability to love. I thank them for the last ten years.

Share your 2020

Iona, 36, South-West England, UK

I started the year with nightmares: 2019 was no better than 2020 for me. 

Things I’d seen had fried my brain, but I didn’t know it. In April 2019 I had been flying to my old home of Taiwan for a two-week vacation and had had a strange interaction in Hong Kong Airport. A clerk with a non-local accent kept my passport from me, flicking through every page, when I asked to change a small amount of money. When I asked her coolly what she was doing with my travel document, she sneered and said she was looking for overstayed visas.  

She wasn’t in immigration. She had seen the multiple Taiwanese entry and exit stamps, had taken offence because she considered Taiwan a ‘renegade province of China,’ and was threatening me. My blood chilled. Eventually she returned the passport and I approached my boarding gate.  

I had an eight-hour layover in which I had been intending to leave the airport and visit Jordan district, as well as meeting an old schoolfriend. My plans changed. I had no longer any intention to go out. Instead I stared through the window, forcing myself to memorise the mountain range. Later, as the fluorescent pink and orange sunset threw itself across my vision, tears blinded me. I felt I might never see it again. 

The next month, when I was back in England, Hong Kong erupted. 

I was on nearly every solidarity protest. That was difficult because I am a teacher, with long hours and low wages. But I went along, and was threatened and had my face videoed, and was sworn at in a language I speak but the police don’t, by counter-protesters, who bawled military songs at us in our black outfits like the tunes themselves were a weapon. 

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, activist corpses appeared. At one point, they appeared daily. Because the police declared all were suicides even when naked women were discovered miles from home, protesters maintained their own narrative, photographing the cadavers. I saw each picture. They also shared two detailed videos of already-dead men falling from buildings. The ragdoll flop of one, his head striking a window-ledge, still nauseates me.  

I saw two boys shot. Sieges rolled, fire erupting. A girl’s body floated silently in the ocean. Fleeing to Prague – a popular protester destination – I woke up screaming in a hostel dormitory. In a city where my grandmother’s people were sent to their deaths by the Nazis and the past falls as a midday shadow, I’d had a nightmare that China’s People’s Armed Police were there for me. I did not sleep soundly from then until I went to stay with my parents for Christmas.  

By that time, a weird new form of SARS was spreading in Wuhan, and my toxic diet of video footage was punctuated with COVID videos smuggled out by dissidents. At the start of 2020, an unmistakeable shape lay prone on a bed, sheets over the face, a skinny man in a biker jacket weeping at its end. “Who is that?” asked the rebel journalist, who was soon to vanish. “Wo de fujin,” came the reply. My father.  

What do you do when you know something bad is coming, but your words sound ridiculous? I warned everyone I could, and was laughed at so many times I regretted saying anything. Two old friends disgustedly dropped my acquaintance when I became an early adopter of cloth masks, but students had other issues: a peaky-faced girl whispered, “Miss, my mum says it’s only a flu. I looked on the internet and you’re right. How do I make her listen?” 

The first month of the 2020 lockdown was a strangely spiritual experience, leading me to discover that a nature reserve with a woodland was hidden in my grimy, drug-riddled city, and allowing me to focus on curing my nightmares with a combination of nature’s beauty and Spotify sleep tracks. As spring brushed the barren trees, I penetrated deeper and deeper into the arbour, a robin flying along a path ahead of me. On a misty day, a red kite swooped low as I approached its nest.  

From the second month, the protesters’ hard-won freedoms were brutally rolled back by Beijing. All the horror, all the blood. For nothing at all.  

I was in the world, but not. My school sent an email roundup of the bereaved every Monday. The uncle of a jovial child had died. The father of a boy who had called me a conspiracy theorist was comatose in the ICU. Much later, I learnt that two of my cousins had taken ill; but at that point I was in numb stasis, cocooned, and knew nothing of it – only that somewhere, people I personally knew were in trouble. Six thousand miles and a plague stopped me going to them.  

In June I received a begging message from that same old schoolfriend. She needed me to verify her new BNO passport, to save her and her daughters. I lay in the nature reserve meadow and tapped through the form on my phone screen. “Known to me for twenty-six years.” She had been a nice, middle-class girl. I had always assumed that one day, when fascist darkness once more spread and maybe the world rounded upon Romani again, some kind acquaintance would have had to be doing this for me.  

The Hong Kong National Security Law, rolled out in July 2020, criminalised dissent against the Chinese Communist Party anywhere globally, and banned free speech in Hong Kong. That is what I’ll remember the year for. A summer baby, I spent my birthday retching in terror into the toilet. I hope my friend can get out in time, because events are plummeting down a well-beaten and violent path. However, I also know that if fate allows it, we will outlive and defeat the old ghouls who have done these things. I will not forgive, and I will not forget.  

Share your 2020

Kelly, 50, Searsport, Maine, USA

Photo collage by Kelly

I scrolled through my 2020 photos recently and wasn’t surprised at how many were taken from my living room, looking out the window.

It’s where I spent most of the year, really. Sitting on the couch with a book, with the television, with my phone.

There were a lot of social media posts callously condemning people for living in fear, but fear isn’t what kept me inside. It was exhaustion. Human interaction exhausts me now; divisiveness and anger and stupidity.

2020 cured me of my extroversion. I hope I can get it back.

Share your 2020

Brian, 49, Columbus, Georgia, USA

So, I’m sitting here on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day right before the Inauguration after the insurrection. It should be a very happy time. A joyous occasion. But no.

Georgia turned blue. I’m a union pipefitter out of Montgomery, Alabama, so Roll Tide Roll. Six National Championships in 12 years. Unbelievable. 

I’m happy watching morons getting arrested by the FBI every day. Four thousand a day dying from COVID, I hate, but knew it was coming.     

2020 stared out fine. A job in Ohio fell through, so I took a teaching job every other weekend at my Union Hall working with apprentices. I’m almost 50. Tired of running the road. I’ve moved more as a pipefitter than as an Army Brat. I had it going good, and then I started hearing about COVID on NPR and Democracy Now.

I quit listening to music at work after Twitler got elected. NPR out of NYC. Democracy Now. Trump, Inc. podcast. Intercepted podcast. Anyway, I’m hearing about COVID and crunching numbers. Googling two percent of the global population and things like that.

I started to panic. I got serious about getting my pool table recovered. I’m single with no kids, so if I was going to be out of work and locked down, Simmonis 860 and a new Meucci Cue.

Somehow I’m an essential employee, so work never stopped, but the teaching job did. I’ve listened to so much ignorant BS at work–“It’s just like the flu, mask don’t work, fake news.” Trump has shown me how many idiots I know.

I have one friend that lives in Arizona, and I talk to her all the time. Phone calls. Not just texting. A real phone call. She keeps me sane. We have never met in person. Maybe one day when this is over with I’ll fly out and go see her.

2020 simply proved to me how low Republicans will go to f— over working people. I’m lucky. I lost a part-time job and have to wear a mask at work, sometimes. COVID messed up my dating life. It’s an hour-long date every two or three months. Speed Dating. Putting my Dog down in November affected me more than COVID.

Today was MLK day. Do you know how many times I heard stupid white people say the N-word today? More than normal. I do fire back and they don’t like it. I god damn can’t stand ignorant white people. I was one 100 years ago, but not today.

So I watched the GOP lie for nine months and I’m still on lockdown. Work, store, home. Just me, my squirrels, and opossums. One cat I can’t kidnap. Maybe six months from now with some Adult Supervision and Democrats controlling the Senate things will straighten out for people way worse off than me. Other than wearing a mask and listing to Facebook scientists, I wouldn’t even know there was a pandemic.

Share your 2020

Aferdita, 50, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

2020 was an eye-opening year – learning more about the way the country works, watching individuals lie and seeing others ingest and grow with those lies without a second thought. Realizing how many policies and procedures are in place simply as a result of either barely disguised or overt racism. Seeing how delicate this country actually is.

2020 was horrible for many, for many reasons.

Personally, I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job with a company exhibiting a very high concern for employee and customer safety. Anyone who could work from home has been doing so since March. Work hours were reduced for a number of months for those who did not retire early or voluntarily opt out of continued employment. Not a great situation, but there are many worse ways it could have gone.

Prior to the pandemic changing the working landscape, working from home was not something I enjoyed. To me it seemed a disruptor to the serenity of my home. Work should be at work, home at home. My opinion has completely changed. Not working in a big open space day after day, hearing bits and pieces of innumerable conversations with participation in forced socialization, is so much more peaceful. Go figure. Takes a special kind of someone to handle this, though. Extroverts are probably oppositely affected.

I’ve started regularly exercising 5 days a week – which is 5 days more than I was regularly exercising aside from walking – with a penalty fee to my sister for days skipped. She pays the same fee but hasn’t missed a day, yet, while I have already paid her for three missed days. One day, she will slip…

My partner had to close one of his businesses and is taking quite a hit in another, but he will be contributing his story, so I won’t elaborate. 

I now have just shy of intermediate poodle grooming skills after much 2020 practice. Our dogs are ok with going out for a walk after I cut their hair as long as I wear a mask so no one can tell who did that to them. 

Hopeful cheers for a nicer and safer 2021!

Share your 2020

Andria, 41, Newton, Mass., USA

It feels unwise to refer to the year 2020 in the past tense, even though I know the calendar has flipped to a new year.  It feels like saying 2020 is over will somehow jinx things–2020 will hear me and start to ooze into the new year.

I’m an introvert, so at the beginning of lockdown, I was completely in my element.  I’ve frequently said that my goal in life is to be left alone, so I buried myself in books and felt like I was getting away with something.  It was so nice to not have to psych myself up to go out and be social.  I assumed that I’d easily lose weight with all the extra time I had to exercise and all the restaurant meals I wouldn’t be eating. I didn’t leave the house except to go for a run or a walk for at least a month. I slipped into survivalist mode and started scanning my food stores for how to make balanced meals with what I had on hand. I calculated that I could survive for at least two months on just the contents of our freezer and pantry. Instead, my husband told me I was coming unhinged, and kept going to the grocery store regularly.

After a while, even the introverts miss people.  Working remotely was going generally well, but I started to notice that without the palate cleanser of casual conversation, I was starting to find my colleagues incredibly annoying.  All their worst qualities were magnified because emails somehow made the most mundane things seem more important/urgent, and I always found myself needing to pee during endless zoom meetings. 

I had to figure out how to do my job in a different way, which was time-consuming and stressful. Instead of teaching face-to-face, I was making videos, which should have been more efficient since I could use the same video for multiple classes, but it was impersonal and felt more like talking to myself than teaching. I realized very keenly how important student reactions are.

When I started to go back into the office on a limited schedule, it was great to see my colleagues, but we now had nothing to say to each other.

2020 was just a lot.  It was too much, even for a homebody with the luxury of a comfortable home perfectly set up for never leaving. I tried to focus on the small things that brought me joy–extra time with my 16-year-old cat; easy access to ebooks from the library; streaming media; beer delivery; stretchy pants; my treadmill; not having to commute 10+ hours a week; going for neighborhood walks with my husband in the middle of the day. 

I feel incredibly spoiled to count my blessings like this knowing how much so many have suffered over the past year.  I hope we’re turning a corner and that all this ugliness will force our country to reckon with our shameful history and the gross inequalities that have always lurked beneath the surface.  It feels naïve to be hopeful after this year, but what other choice is there?

Share your 2020

Mike, 50, Raleigh, NC, USA

Dear Friends and Family,

Let’s get this part out of the way: This has been a cluster–uh, a mess of a year, as you well know unless you’ve just emerged from hibernation under a rock in the Mariana trench.

Although I’m not big on arbitrary, manmade delineations of time, and don’t see any reason 2021 will be any different than 2020 just because we increment the number, I won’t be sad to see it go. So here’s some quick individual updates:

·         Mike was lucky enough to get a new job as a contractor in 2019, so after 20 years with a dwindling company specializing in service desk software, the last 2 ½ of which he worked from home, he went back to a cubicle in Big Corporate. After six months there, the pandemic happened, so he went back to work from home in March and has been there ever since. The people at his company are fantastic; diverse, professional, and intelligent. But he does not miss the commute one iota. This whole quarantine thing has not affected him much at all, being somewhat of a recluse and mild misanthrope by nature. However, without the outlet of cycling and running/walking (mostly walking these days), he would be a little more existentially bored. Visiting the gym is out, so he bought a power cage and weight set for he and the kid to use in the garage. He probably should have written another novel or two by now; he blames the tendinitis from working, weights, and guitar, but it’s probably that he’s just not that prolific or dedicated. The guitar playing has improved with the addition of the Ibanez his wife and son got him for the previous Christmas; he can almost solo in key now. Almost.

·         Lily has been doing fantastic with her job at a pharmaceutical clinical study management company. It is hard and frustrating work at times, but she has a great bunch of people working with her and has made great friends. Another promotion for her this year. She worked from home already anyway, so nothing changed for her in that regard with the pandemic. She’s immuno-compromised and is the most social one in the family, so the cabin fever struggle is real for her. Wine, home remodeling shows, and the occasional craft are her big comforts.

·         Zack has been doing remote schooling since the pandemic really hit in March. His school gives kids the option of in-person or remote attendance for each quarter. We’d prefer he be not remote his entire senior year of high school, but so far it just doesn’t seem safe to us for him to go to classes in person. It might be better for him academically and socially, but we have determined it’s not worth the risk. Also, there have been positive test results in his school and others in the same private school system. He inherited some of his dad’s reclusive and misanthropic tendencies, so the isolation hasn’t really affected him that much. Gaming and metal are his chief outlets. Still an avid Lego enthusiast and Star Wars super-nerd, he manages to keep relatively busy. The college application process is nearing its end, and we are all curious to see where it leads him.

·         Spooky, affectionately known as “Doodie,” may not understand his good fortune, but revels in it nonetheless. This dog (our black lab mix, adopted from some old friends’ foster clutch) has barely been alone a moment since he came into our lives as a pup in November 2018. Mike was working from home, then Lily, then the pandemic happened and everyone was at home all of the time. We think of our previous hound, the redoubtable Thunder, who had to be alone for 8-10 hours every day, and wonder at Spooky’s good fortune. But he’s our good fortune, too. How much harder would these days of quarantine and isolation be without his happy frolics and enthusiastic licks? He is an avatar of joy and brings constant smiles.

So for the first couple of months, weekly happy hour Zoom calls with different groups of friends were a great distraction. Those kind of petered out to an intermittent thing, but connecting, even digitally, was always pleasant.

Other pleasant distractions included of course watching a lot of series together, the highlight being, of course, The Mandalorian, watching Bayern München (OK, only for Mike), cooking new and long-forgotten dishes to accelerate packing on that quarantine fifteen (or twenty), and many house projects. Probably not that much different than most folks. A few too many drinks and too much food… hey, we all need to deal with stress, right?

Enough with the updates. We must acknowledge our good fortune. Although our perambulations are limited because of a compromised immune system, we are extremely fortunate to be able to all work and attend school from home without much adjustment, have a stable income, and a fairly large house we were fortunate to trade up to in 2018. We are doing much better than a lot of people and do not take it for granted. We try to help out others where and when we can.

High honors and praises to the nurses, doctors, scientists, and technicians doing the big work and figuring this thing out. More hails to the police, firefighters, linemen, delivery people, food service workers, and customer reps who still have to go to their jobs every day and work through this mess of a situation.

As to the situation, we won’t belabor the politics as most of you know where we stand, but let’s just say none of this was unpredictable (except for maybe the intensity of the pandemic itself); we’re just glad we can now have hope things will change for the better.

We’ve blathered on about ourselves enough, and bless you if you’ve read this far. We wish you grand holidays and that 2021 brings all of us enough enjoyment and fulfillment that we can bid goodbye to 2020 with relish.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Share your 2020

Karen, 46, Chatham, Ontario, Canada

Walking Ivy in the Graveyard

We found the nuns today. Two long rows in the old section towards the corner near the creek.

We step off the path to see them; dozens of identical stones set flush in the ground. The dog jumps around our feet as we sweep mown grass and fallen leaves away from the edges, revealing markers quite a bit bigger than they first seemed. The limestone slabs are without decoration but the austerity of the plaques contrast the information etched into them. Sister Gertrude Carletta, Professed 51 Years. Sister Aloysius Mary Xavier. Sister Agathe Nigh. Such storybook names, such indulgence. 

We’ve been walking Ivy in the graveyard every night for weeks now, and each night a new discovery: the abolitionist doctor. The farmer with two wives. The family that perished in fire. The children’s corner, where lambs silently graze in perpetual watch over their tiny charges.

Ivy knows our favourite routes by now; knows where the bridge leads to a small pump she can drink at. We come back to the dead to avoid the living. These peaceful rows full of beginnings and endings, legacies carved in stone and granite. A fisherman. A bridge player. A mother. A true friend.

It’s a good place to take our puppy as she learns our commands; the dead are no distraction and foot traffic is light but we step off the path to yield to one another anyway.  A slight nod, a quickened stride. Don’t I know you? Better to pretend not than to exchange pleasantries, air, miasma.

One day soon, we’ll stop instead and chat. Allow jackets to brush against each other. Walk in places crowded with the living and bid the dead thank you and farewell. We’ll hold hands again. We’ll hug our friends.

Such storybook ideas. Such indulgence.

Share your 2020

Penny, 48, Hartford, Conn., USA

2020 has been a much different experience for my husband than it has been for me.

I’d already been working from home for quite a while when COVID became the kind of problem that obstructs the paths of people’s lives, so it didn’t affect me professionally.

My husband, on the other hand, was released from a job he loved. He was fortunate to find other, even higher-paying, work, but it’s work he hates. He frequently reminds himself that he has it better than many and that he is, when he thinks about it, lucky.

In a small way, we both got lucky thanks to COVID, because the job he hates made it possible for us to buy a house we love. Lose-win.

I am more afraid of COVID than he is. Suffocating, ventilators, dying, or having ongoing health problems for years scare me, so I was one of the people who would spend two hours, because that’s how long it takes, alcohol-wiping my groceries when I brought them home (until an article came out saying people were unlikely to catch COVID from a bag of croutons). I’d feel dirty and contaminated after going to the grocery store because other people were there, and – in the beginning more than now – I’d be mean to people walking the wrong way down the grocery store aisle.

I’ll still, even now, sleep in a different room from my husband and ask him to spend his non-sleeping time in a different part of the house if I think he’s been in a situation at work that could have put him at risk of catching COVID.

He’s concerned about the virus, too, and isn’t anti-science or anti-reality, so he wears his mask and tries to remember to wash his hands (he also actively tries to keep things safer for himself and others at work, such as by organizing a virtual meeting others had wanted to hold in person with many people in one room). But he doesn’t freak out about it as much as I do. He feels safe when he looks at statistics; I fear becoming one.

As people who understand the threat of the virus and who wouldn’t dare travel for holidays, we were pretty happy to live in 2020 and not 1918 and to have Zoom over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Screens, screens. Everything on screens. Those 1918ers would have loved to have this advantage.

Screens also brought us–my husband and me, that is, two white people living in a white neighborhood in a state that is 80 percent white–the yet-another murder of a Black person by police with the gruesome, inexplicable, inexcusable, and horrifying killing of George Floyd.

We, like many others, knew about racism, but we didn’t pay deep enough attention to its real-world damage the way we should have, hadn’t done much looking into the pervasiveness of white supremacy, and hadn’t spent much time actively exploring Black voices and their perspectives on, and stories of, racism. Our first “Ohhh…” understanding, as much as we could possibly understand, was the movie Get Out, but even that didn’t get us looking for books, articles, social media feed…

We look for it all, now, and there’s no turning back, no un-knowing about white supremacy to whatever extent we can and will know about it, and we’d never want to turn back or un-know.

I’m happy that 2020 led to a conversation about racial justice and human rights that isn’t fading the way it has in the past after a short period of outrage.

I’m also happy it brought COVID vaccines.

If only there were a cure for the fatal disease that exploded in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

Share your 2020

Dan, 62, Boise, Idaho, USA

Thirty-five. That’s the typical answer when you ask someone to forget their chronological age and just tell me how old you feel like you are. In the same way, 2020 feels like it ended three or four years ago.

While January and February were utterly forgettable, COVID sucked the fun out of pretty much everything by March. As a 62-year-old white dude from Boise, Idaho, I’m used to being a blue guy in a red state. I’m used to the good ol’ boy politics, the “keep ‘em out” mentality as it comes to move-ins in a year when Idaho was of all states the number one state to which folks moved.

Working as a writer/marketing guy/program and brand manager for a local radio group, I used to write semi-cynical stuff about life. Love. Things I think are stupid. Events/concerts, where to go to have some fun, or dinner out. Through 2020, it was where you could get takeout, or how to do delivery and support local businesses and the people who work there, or where to get a COVID test which may or may not show results within two weeks by which time what the hell good is that?

A former promotion coordinator of mine coined the phrase “TTRBs.” Things That Require Bodies. That could be anything from remote, on-site broadcasts to appearances at shows or concerts or benefits or anything the station group was involved with. Typically, TTRBs” require at minimum one on-air talent, and one promotion assistant; i.e., the guy/girl who drove the van, set up all the stuff, hung the banners and set up both the PA gear and the equipment the talent needed to talk to the studio.

In a typical year, with four active radio stations, that TTRB number was 800, 900. Hey 2020, thanks for getting us down to double digits.

In the ‘70s, Idaho had a reputation as a haven for white supremacists. Some of us worked to erase that image, but the toxic combination of Trump and COVID negated that work. Idaho has more mask-protesters than any other state, per capita. We’ve had incidents where health and government officials were working on safety protocols while Trumpkins stalked their HOMES, pounded on their DOORS, and scared the living s— out of the children of our officials while our leaders were in session.

In fairness, Boise (capitol) is becoming an ever-darker shade of purple. But like so many states according to John King’s map (CNN), the rural areas bleed red.

COVID (and by extension, 2020) stole a year from me. A year when I saw my eighty-something parents in person maybe three times even though they still live where I grew up, about a mile and a half from where I work. I mean, I don’t have forever with them. Thanks, COVID. I have a daughter and her family in Scotland. “Hey Americans; stay home.” Thanks, COVID. I have another daughter and her family in San Diego. “Dad” is on a Navy deployment, and since the kids are in online schooling, they took COVID tests (thankfully negative) and did drive up for Christmas. So, hey COVID – thanks!

Day to day, the worst of 2020 wasn’t really COVID. It was insurrection specialist Donald Trump, and then the threat of COVID.

Newspeak dictionary, 2020:

• What they say: “Hey boss, I had a possible COVID exposure because I was in a place where someone knew someone who had a potential exposure. So. I guess I can’t come in for 14 days per HR.”

o What I think: “Free two-week vacation that doesn’t count against your PTO.”

• What they say: “Hey, I’m gonna work from home on Friday.”

o What I think: “Three day weekend.”

And then there are the mask clowns. Example one: Eventually, Albertsons (headquartered in Boise), WINCO and some others required masks and set employees at entrances to remind customers of their obligation. I watched a couple semi-scruffy guys walk in. Get stopped. And reluctantly pull the masks out of their pockets. Really?

There are other places where “dudes” congregate. Like say Harbor Freight Tools. Most guys – and it’s almost all guys in there – do what I do. You protect me, I protect you. Except for guys who don’t give a s—. But my favorite of all was the guy who carried a cloth handkerchief. As someone would approach, he would (sort of) cover his mouth and nose with said handkerchief. On passing, he would lower it. My God. Pick a team, man!

And then there are the nose-showers. I was standing in line with around ten other customers at checkout, all distanced, all wearing their masks. Except one middle-aged couple who had their masks on, but covering only their mouths. I thought about saying something. “Hey, your f—- masks slipped.” Or “Uh, hey guys, do you notice anything everyone else is doing that you jackasses aren’t?” I still regret chickening out, saying nothing.

I’d say more about Trump in 2020, but 2020 doesn’t own all of that. It has to share the 22,000 lies with 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. It actually took 2021 to say “What the hell? See what you other idiots did? Thanks.”

I also lost a couple of good, or at least longstanding, friends in 2020. Not to COVID. But to Trumpism.

Counting on you, President Biden.

Share your 2020

Gary, 79, Fargo, ND, USA

December 2020

Dear Family and Friends,

Lordy, Lordy, won’t it be wonderful when this horror of a year is in the rearview mirror!

We want to wish you Happy Holidays, and we hope that the wicked finger of this virus has not touched you or your loved ones or done so softly. We are still virus free, but Tim and Lisa have both suffered through the disease, and our grandson, Aaron, has also tested positive. They are all fine now, but Tim had some tough moments. It’s always traumatic when a loved one has been fingered by this curse.

The year began normally with a 5-day, storm-free, trip to Venice, Florida with a delightful interlude with Bill and Sandy in St. Louis; they would later get recompense with a week with us in Venice. Our first two and a half months in Venice were filled with fun, jazz performances, entertaining and being entertained, bird photography, delightful happy hours with friends, and compulsive secondhand store shopping.

Then the plague descended upon Florida and scared the devil out of us, paralyzing our activities. For six weeks we hibernated with only masked and gloved grocery store runs and careful happy hours with our next door neighbors, Karen and Delta. We did fit in a couple of anxious dinners with a few of our good friends. I stocked up on food, toilet paper, cases of wine, and cleansers.

We meditated on staying a few weeks beyond our intended exit date, since being on the road in those early weeks made us nervous, but we were getting so bored that the perceived dangers waned the longer we were cooped up. We finally launched on the road in late April and got home to a 14-day quarantine in the condo, though happy and healthy.

During the first weeks in Florida, we spent our time receiving visitors; Rachael came for 10 days, Tim and family for a week, Bill and Sandy’s for a week, Anne and Robert for several days, Gin for a brief stay. Unfortunately, the pandemic ruined our grandson Truan’s visit from the University of Nebraska, as well as Lynette’s scheduled couple of weeks. Fears of possibly giving us the virus prevented Rachael and Eric, who were staying at The Villages north of Orlando, from stopping for Rachael’s second visit, though they drove right by Venice on their way to the airport in Ft. Myers—they waved.

Because of the threat of the virus (and for several other reasons), we had cancelled our lovely apartment in Venice for 2021. This was a heart-breaking decision because of all the friends we have made there as well as the marvelous jazz venues and talents. We had adjusted to this sad fact and to spending a frigid winter in Fargo when fate tossed a curve at us. Rachael and Eric bought a charming new vacation home in The Villages in Florida. They now want us to navigate our way to their new place to help them furnish, decorate, and initiate these new digs. It will be tough to resist their invitation, especially if the virus calms down a bit.

Thanksgiving was depressing this year–no family celebration, but we did cook a good-sized turkey with trimmings, and Rachael’s family picked up leftovers on their way out of town from eating with the in-laws. Christmas is not likely to be any better in terms of a family gathering, especially since North Dakota was the worst place in the world to be for catching the virus for many weeks.

Both our children and their families are doing well, though the expected life-bumps occasionally occur. Tim and Lisa are prospering well in their careers, and Tim loves his job at DuHa; Truan is finishing up his final year at the University of Nebraska; Caden has a job and is flourishing at school; and Brit and Courtney are happily ensconced in their new house and life. Rachael and Eric are both working hard at the insurance game; Katie is living in Fargo and working at a local restaurant; and Aaron is attending Aurora college near Chicago on a golf scholarship.

We are feeling the burden of our 79 years with aches, pains, and occasional health scares, though still relishing and joyfully embracing life.

The pandemic has taught us some important lessons: the value of friends, family, and camaraderie; the pleasures of simple things like reading, cooking, TV watching, and baking; the necessity to appreciate life and people fully and intensely; and the fragility of life, democracy, and the expected pleasures of existence.

We wish you a healthy, joyful, success-filled 2021; it has to be better than 2020!

Share your 2020

Jake, 46, Burlington, VT., USA

Family and Friends,

It’s hard to find a non-cliché way to say this was the year of Covid. It sucked.

But on the upside, and something I’m truly thankful for, all my friends and family are healthy and haven’t suffered terribly from the effects of the pandemic.

Katie and I had a busy and unpredictable year. On January 1, 2020, I was scheduled to fly my last trip with the regional airline and would be starting with a major in just a few weeks. I left full-time military three years ago with the singular goal of earning employment with a major airline by the time I was 45 years old. (The age was a random, meaningless target that just helped me focus on the goal.) I was still in the traditional National Guard and made the decision to retire in September 2020 after 23 years of service. Katie and I were already seriously contemplating moving out of Vermont after my retirement to be closer to one of the airline’s bases.

I was about half-way through training in Denver when Covid started becoming a thing people were concerned about. Airline passenger loads started to drop dramatically. The airline put a freeze on hiring. It was clear that this was bad – at the time I thought just for the airline industry; I couldn’t even guess it would turn out so bad for the country and world.

Thanks to the CARES act my job was saved until October, but I didn’t want to risk a furlough. Sheepishly, I not only requested to rescind my military retirement request, I applied for a full-time military position again and took a long term leave of absence from the airline since May. (I did finish training, though, and qualified on a few Boeing 737 varieties, including the Max.) My new job is flying helicopters again, about an hour from where we used to live.

Used to live… because I think most people know we moved! Knowing moving for the airline might be years away and having been “over” our current house for a while, already, we moved from town out into the woods and absolutely love it. I’m pretty sure it’s our dream house and dream location. We even put in an offer on a not-quite-perfect house when Katie suddenly saw this one hit the market. Previous buyers had backed out and the place had exactly one showing, which we attended along with at least ten others that day. All of us put in offers and we got the house.

Katie has been extraordinarily busy all year. Aside from taking up my slack when I was off in Denver and being the lead house hunter, she’s primarily writing a new book. I say primarily because Katie just doesn’t do one thing. She’s routinely working on many things at once. 

Her primarily working from home with me working outside the house hasn’t been without issue, thanks to Covid. I’ve been quarantined in an office or the basement a few times now because of possible contact with people who might have it. And while that separation sucked, I think Katie might be getting jealous I get catered to when quarantined. She said the next time it happens, SHE’S going to the basement and I can bring HER meals.

This year has been so terrible for so many people that it feels weird to write about minor setbacks from an otherwise good year for us. We missed hosting Thanksgiving and we missed Christmas with the family, but otherwise I’m happy all of you are doing well.

Here’s to a better 2021!

Thank god 2020 is over!

We miss all of you and can’t wait to be able to see you in person, hopefully soon. Merry Christmas. And a Happy New Year.

Share your 2020

Jordan, 27, Minneapolis, Minn., USA

2020 was wild. I think everyone remembers where they were when everything shut down. The last thing they did before the world completely changed and the panic shopping that ensued as an invisible terrorist hit home.

I work in an industry that deals with overseas importing, and I remember hearing about COVID19 in late January as it was impacting our shipments. I did not think much of it at the time – naïve in the fact that I did not think it would get here or be a big deal. Then, almost two months after it first broke out in China, I was working from my dining room table, getting week by week updates on when we would return to the office, and eventually the updates stopped, as no return date could be decided, and I became comfortable wearing sweatpants every day.  

At first, we did not see any friends. We only saw our family members and spent a lot of time at home – eating, drinking, and watching Netflix. Eventually, after a few weeks, we became less afraid of seeing other people and started seeing our close friends again.

I’m not a social person, I definitely prefer my time alone, but seeing friends again made me realize how much I needed to talk and see people in person. It made me appreciative of the friendships I had and ensuring I made time for them even during this time.  

We had some unplanned trips that happened in 2020. I went to Oklahoma as my grandpa fell ill and we needed to be there with him.  It was in early April and it was still an uncertain time to be traveling but we knew it was the right thing to do and I’m glad we went.

We also took a road trip to South Dakota with some friends in the summer to get away from everything, and since it was open, it was a nice way to escape and experience “normal” life again. It was definitely a trip we probably would not have gone on it we had been more comfortable to fly.  

Our priorities definitely changed in 2020 in terms of what we spent money on. We put a lot more into our home working on house projects, buying furniture and even refinancing our home. These were all things we wanted to do; we were always just unsure of when we would get to them. 

A major event that impacted our 2020 was probably the killing of George Floyd. We live in NE Minneapolis, close to a police precinct and police union. When the riots were happening, I was staying up all night, lights on, watching Unicorn Riot to see where the crowd was going and if they were coming close to our neighborhood. I was following multiple social accounts to keep up to date on what the protesting plans were to see if we needed to leave for the night. While I was also upset and understanding of the protests, the rioting was scary. I was not afraid of the nonviolent protesting, it was the people who were opportunists that scared me. Luckily, our neighborhood made it out untouched, but I will always remember how it felt and driving around seeing all the buildings boarded up.  

Another unexpected change for me in 2020 was how I participated and looked at our government. There were a lot of events this year that put our government on center stage – both at the presidential and local level. I think because I am older now, I see more of the impact the government has on me and how little an impact I have on it.

This year has really opened my mind in terms of what I want from elected officials and how much trust I put in them. We watched, as a nation, as each state “picked sides” in the pandemic along with an election that had everybody stressed out take place. It also allowed a lot of people to shame one another based on politics or on their opinions on COVID. I experienced this myself with people shaming me for going to South Dakota; for seeing friends; for my views on politics and COVID. In a year that should have brought people together and strengthened us, it really tore people apart. 

All in all, we are very fortunate and lucky that none of our loved ones have gotten severely sick from COVID; we all still have our jobs and are able to work; and we all still have somewhere to rest our head at night. There are so many more people who unfortunately lost their jobs, lost their homes and are struggling to put food on the table. There are local businesses that we love that have had to close because of the pandemic.

That has been one of the hardest realities to face, is those that are suffering, and I need to remember to be appreciative of what I do have because there are always others who have it harder than I.   

Share your 2020