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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: December 29, 2020

Out With the Old, In With the New

Janie Thibodeau Martin



As I look back on 2020, I am reminded of a catch phrase popular a few years ago"" I didn't see THAT coming!"

With the chaos of natural disasters, racial reckoning, bitterly divisive politics and of course the pandemic, if you didn't laugh, you'd cry. I have done a bit of both.

As I look toward 2021, I am filled with hope and optimism. Barring the occurrence of another unforeseen catastrophe, things are going to get better.

So before I shepherd 2020 out the door without regret, I made a list of GOOD things about the year that was. I like a challenge, right?

People adopted animals from shelters in unprecedented numbers. I saw instance after instance of shelters across the country adopting out every single dog they had. At the little shelter I volunteer at, a couple of dogs we'd had for YEARS, and nearly all our long-haul cats, found new homes. People learned wonderful companions can come from shelters, and you don't need to spend thousands on a dog or cat if what you want is a loving friend.

People took up hunting and fishing in record numbers, measured by license sales. Hunting has been declining in recent years, with many factors - including lack of access to land and mentors, contributing to the trend. This increase is good news for those concerned about the environment and conservation interests because those who hunt and fish are more likely to be concerned about protection of habitats, preservation of our precious public lands, and a clean environment.

People took up gardening, with some seed and bedding plants hard to come by. People staying home had more time, were interested in an outdoor hobby, and wanted to explore healthier eating. Many children were exposed to growing their own food for the very first time.

Park utilization increased. Wisconsin is blessed with so many wonderful public parks, and state forest lands. There has been pressure to reduce the budget for park maintenance and action to sell off, lease and exploit public lands at the federal level. An increase in people visiting and valuing our irreplaceable public lands builds public opinion for their ongoing protection and maintenance.

We rediscovered the importance of all workers and the dignity of all labor. This last year, the grocery store employees, truck drivers, gas station attendants, delivery drivers, takeout food locations, and my beloved postal service employees, among many others, got some well-deserved respect. Let's not forget that as things slowly return to normal. At the top of that list are our health care workers. There has been some "backlash" against what some call "idolization" of doctors, nurses, CNAs, public health employees, and the rest of the medical community. That infuriates me. These people have been through hell and they aren't done yet. They have my undying gratitude and respect.

Scientists, medical researchers, medical trial volunteers and our amazing technical community. I never, ever would have believed a vaccine for a brand-new virus could go from ground zero to in the arms of people I love in less than a calendar year. Cutting money from budgets like theirs to buy more weapons of mass destruction is short-sighted " and I am hoping we have learned that lesson well.

Speaking of technology, I am deeply grateful for cell phones, and the technology to see people as you talk to them. I continued yoga class via "zoom," cheered by the faces of the delightful people I normally practice with and the familiar, soothing and supportive voice of my instructor. I could see my kids, and listen to my adorable granddaughter. And while I didn't need it myself, the ability to do on line visits with medical personnel was a godsend to many.

Teachers, school support staff and childcare workers of all kinds " I hope all have a fresh appreciation for you and what you do. You are a foundational block of our economy " because without you, parents can't work. That became painfully apparent, and those parents struggling to keep kids focused on on-line learning probably agree. Teachers had to deal with constantly changing schedules, directions, plans and barriers no one could have anticipated. All this against a backdrop of tremendous uncertainty about the risks of in-person school, and many teachers with at-risk health conditions including pregnancy fretting about their own safety. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

People re-learned the value of washing their hands and covering their coughs and sneezes. I myself had gotten pretty lazy about washing my hands after touching nasty gas pumps. (Please explain why I have to touch that filthy screen five times declining car washes, reward cards, a receipt, and a slice of pizza while a commercial blares at me just to pump gas?) My box of wipes and hand sanitizer will be staying with me for the foreseeable future, and that is a very good thing.

The life-giving affirmation of touch and time with family and dear friends. What I wouldn't give to hug my daughter right now. How dearly I miss my pre-school granddaughter, who is changing even week to week while I watch from afar. And I can't wait to sit down at the kitchen table at my in-laws, deal out the cards and start the loving insults over a fiercely contested game of "Golf." Things I may have taken for granted, but don't anymore.

The joy of having a "safer at home" partner and our marriage surviving (so far) nine months of "extreme togetherness," a real credit to my husband. Being cooped up with me that long is NOT a task for the faint of heart. We also took great enjoyment in our four-legged companions Wolfgang, Ivy, Ugly Betty, Queen Victoria, Spanky, Beeker and Pissy Pants. They provided much needed entertainment and companionship.

And last but not least"..regardless of your person feelings about the political situation, can we not all agree that we are NOT going to miss the political ads of the last year? The endless TV commercials, the constant mail requests for money and votes, the obnoxious phone calls? Even before the results were announced, I was rejoicing in the peace and quiet. Somehow, my cell phone got on a call list for the party not my registered preference. I got literally dozens of texts, at all hours of the day and night, saying, "Earl, if you make a donation of just $10, it will be double matched!" Finally in the last few weeks of the campaign, "Earl" was informed that if he donated just $10 it would magically turn into a MILLION dollars for the campaign! Imagine that!

I do not miss the election commotion, not one little bit.

I welcome 2021 with open arms and a rolled-up sleeve. But 2020 wasn't ALL bad. I am grateful for that, and I am looking forward, at peace, believing the future will be much better for all of us.

Happy safe, healthy new year to all.




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