I’ve read a lot of comments about how terrible a year 2020 was. Granted, it was a tough one but at the same time, there were some things I do want to remember.

For me, 2020 was the year of change, of lessons learned and, oddly enough, of restoration.

This year started with a big change, my father’s death in January. His death left me off-kilter for a while. I just didn’t concentrate well and felt like I was outside looking in.

A trip to Arizona to see our daughter at Lukes AFB in February helped shake a few cobwebs loose. While there, I remember watching a morning show host announce the first coronavirus case had been confirmed in the U.S.

It was just the start. A month later, the world changed and we started hearing about “The New Normal,” a phrase I have disliked since the first time I heard it. If the pandemic was anything, it certainly was not normal and I doubt that anyone wants this masked, isolated way of living to become normal.

Changes continued. At work, we reduced everyone’s hours or pay, which turned out good. It actually forced me out of some of my workaholic habits.

There was less to do, so less reason to stay at work or work at home. Events got canceled, so I slept in on weekends and tackled all those little projects that never get done instead of chasing stories. Fewer advertisers and fewer events meant smaller papers, and less time needed to put it all together on the pages.

We saw people get creative at connecting with loved ones, friends, at work and with customers. Meetings went to conference calls or virtual. Zoom became a new way for elected officials to meet and make decisions.

We got creative, too. We started doing podcasts and found new places to find stories. Our readers were very helpful and supportive about suggesting others. (Thanks and keep those ideas coming.)

My husband Francis and I watched the birds at the feeder. Never have I seen so many woodpeckers as I did this spring. The birds would flit back and forth from the nearby black walnut tree to the feeder, picking at the sunflower seeds, millet and suet cakes.

We attended Mass virtually, listening to Bishop Barron in California. He offer perceptive insights while challenging us to honestly examine our hearts, which helped us accept those times when we were not “all in this together.”

Along with the mental cleaning came a physical one. As I sorted through my father’s belongings, I looked at my walls of bookshelves and decided no one needs that many books. I sorted through the contents of closets and boxes, keeping what I loved and used and moving the rest to a new home.

We restored our home environment, making repairs and lists of future projects. Francis added fish to enhance the pond’s aquatic habitat. We enjoyed sitting there watching the turtles float to the top, their heads just above the surface before dipping down again.

The weather broke, and life almost returned to normal. But not quite. We started riding our bicycles on the rail-trail several days a week, seeing bear, snakes galore, deer, turtles, chipmunks and more until the July heat wave halted that routine.

Still, there was joy in simple pleasures, of enjoying one another’s company in our “outdoor rooms,” watching the sky turn from pale to deep blue, swatting bugs and pointing out the bats zipping overhead while fireflies punctuated the darkness.

There were other joys. Our granddaughter Tessa arrived in July, joining her parents and brother in Finland. We’ve yet to meet her face-to-face, but delight in seeing her change from week to week on our face time calls.

Life has changed, and we’ve changed, too. We’ve learned how creative and capable we are in difficult times, as well as what’s most important and why. We’ve restored relationships and places previously neglected due to our unnecessarily busy lives.

In all, I want to remember 2020. I’ve gotten a lot out of it. And maybe, no matter how much the phrase irks me, I need to carry some of those lessons forward into my new normal.

Natalie Kennedy is managing editor of Tioga Publishing’s three newspapers, the Wellsboro/Mansfield Gazette, Free Press-Courier and Potter Leader-Enterprise. She hopes 2021 will be a great year for all.

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