A Review of 2020

2020 won’t fade soon from our memory and never from history. Too many events were put into motion that will continue to play out for years to come. I suppose that’s always what happens. Some events have already had major impacts on our lives, whereas others may scarcely make a dent in the grand scheme of things. Big and small, this is my look back at 2020.

Nationally and Globally

COVID-19.

All anyone could talk about was COVID, COVID, COVID. Sound familiar? To frame it with numbers, almost 330,000 have died from the virus in the United States as of December 26th according to data provided by the CDC. That number is a staggering reminder of what will be carved forever in the rock that is 2020. I know a handful of people who have had the virus and almost all had mild cases. I am fortunate no one I’ve known has died from it.

Everyone knew who Dr. Fauci was and recognized him as the voice of science and reason throughout the pandemic.

Toilet paper and hand sanitizer became hard to find items. Shelves in stores were bare for months.

Too many people watched and got addicted to Tiger King. I did neither.

John Krasinski gave us hope in his segments of Some Good News.

Many passed the time baking sourdough and banana breads. These and other forms of baking provided comfort in a tangible way to our lives.

Earth had a chance to breathe when the world shut down because of COVID. Fewer cars on the road improved air quality. People used their cars less since many were unable to work or they worked at home. We all win with a cleaner planet.

Zoom. A word that can stand on its own.

People staying home more had some negative outcomes. The unemployment rate reached a record high of 14.7% in April. A rate of 6.7% in November has been the lowest since before the shutdown.  As a comparison, the U.S. ended 2019 with a rate of 3.5%. Many businesses permanently shut their doors during the pandemic.

The Summer Olympics set to take place in Tokyo were canceled and moved to 2021.

Black Lives Matter demonstrations took place across the country to protest police brutality and racially motivated violence towards black Americans. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Daniel Prude were a few of the deaths that caused unrest nationwide.

A fly landed on Mike Pence’s head during the only vice-presidential debate before the election and stayed there for around 2 minutes. Kamala Harris effectively and firmly told him she was speaking when he repeatedly tried to interrupt. She was speaking.

Mississippi voted to remove the Confederate flag as part of its state flag and replace it with the image of a magnolia blossom.

The U.S. held a presidential election. It affected people nationally and globally just as COVID did. Donald Trump will be leaving office. Joe Biden decisively won the popular vote by over seven million votes (81,283,485 to 74,223,744 votes) and the electoral college (306 to 232) and will be the 46th president. Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice president and the first woman of color to hold that office. The election was held on November 3rd and results were shared on November 7th. It took days to count the massive number of mail-in ballots.

The first healthcare workers in the United States received the COVID vaccine on December 14th.

The world lost many well-known figures in 2020. I apologize if I’ve left someone out you feel needed to be included. It means I am less informed than I would like to be and their name didn’t provide instant recognition. It doesn’t diminish their life contributions. There are always too many who have moved on. The world said goodbye to these well-known individuals:

Don Larsen 1/1

Jim Lehrer 1/23

Kobe Bryant 1/26

John Andretti 1/30

Kirk Douglas 2/5

Orson Bean 2/7

Ja’Net Dubois 2/18

Katherine Johnson 2/24

Roger Mayweather 3/17

Lyle Waggoner 3/17

Kenny Rogers 3/20

John Prine 4/7

Little Richard 5/9

Jerry Stiller 5/11

Fred Willard 5/15

Carl Reiner 6/30

Hugh Downs 7/2

Nick Cordero 7/5

Charlie Daniels 7/6

Kelly Preston 7/13

John Lewis 7/17

Regis Philbin 7/25

Wilford Brimley 8/2

Chadwick Boseman 8/28

Ruth Badger Ginsburg 9/18

Helen Reddy 9/29

Eddie Van Halen 10/6

Sean Connery 10/31

Alex Trebek 11/8

David Lander 12/4

Natalie Desselle Reid 12/7

Chuck Yeager 12/7

Charley Pride 12/12

If you lost a loved one this year, I am so sorry for your loss.

Effects of 2020 on My Life

I momentarily backtrack my comments to 2019. My 2019 was wonderful. I felt fantastic. I accomplished a lot and brought about many good things in my life. I’m always hesitant to start a new year because there are so many unknowns. It was the same way at the beginning of 2019 but I knew what I had by year’s end. I now know what 2020 has held for me.

My only vacation of 2020 turned out to be a quick trip down to Chicago to visit my friend Emily in early February. It was the calm before the storm. We ate in restaurants. We enjoyed the Shedd and walked around wherever we pleased while the penguins were confined. It turned out those penguins got out more than I did this year. We shopped in stores and touched merchandise we didn’t buy. My glasses didn’t fog up because masks weren’t on anyone’s radar. I could hug her family. It was a magical time.

The entire world was given an extra day of 2020 on February 29th with Leap Day. I don’t think it was needed, but we got it. John Mulaney hosted Saturday Night Live that night and delivered a monologue that I’ve listened to an absurd number of times because I’ve needed more laughs this year. It holds up and is still funny each time I hear it. Give it a listen.

March 13, 2020 was the last time I was social before the initial lockdown. My friend Holly and I were planning on going to Wicked on the 15th. It deteriorated and I bowed out because I couldn’t justify putting myself in a crowd that size for hours. I insisted she take the tickets. She had changed her mind about going when she came to pick them up for reasons of her own. We went for a short walk. The show wound up being canceled so no one went.

Then came the lockdown. I remember thinking a two-week lockdown was not a lot to ask. I thought it would be a little longer. It became clear pretty quickly that it was going to last much longer. Much longer became a lot longer. It was tough as the season changed from summer to fall that it was going to go into winter and into 2021. Here we are almost ten months later.

A good chunk of 2021 will be spent as a continuation of 2020. But I get ahead of myself. Back to 2020.

The biggest events for me personally were turning 50 years old, running my first 5K, and raising over $60K for metastatic breast cancer research. All three were connected. I am proud that I surpassed my fundraising goal. I’m overjoyed I was able to complete my run. My birthday was happy through and through.

Minor events make our lives. I made a batch or two of banana bread. I saw the Neowise Comet in summer. I set up a card table and draped it with a lace tablecloth to host friends for card making and pancake breakfasts. I began having breakfast each morning on my sun porch where I listened to the birds and let my thoughts wander. Other friends came over and we chatted on the backyard patio once or twice. I kept writing steadily. I spent time outside when it wasn’t too hot. I took neighborhood walks when my feet felt okay. Everyone scooted well out of the path of one another with a smile and a friendly wave. I took a lot of photos over summer. That took me into fall where I planned day trips to see old and new spots in Wisconsin and enjoy fall color. Workouts and book club kept me socially connected through Zoom. Meaning and joy rest just as much in the small things as they do in the big things.

Easter, July 4th, and Thanksgiving were celebrated on my own. Christmas too.

On November 10, 2020 . . .  I did a real push up. This is monumental. I’ll be honest . . . I did three. I did not go down very far, but I could get back up and I’m counting those. I achieved my goal of exercising every day this year. Some days were minimal but required more effort when I wasn’t up to it than days when my workout was more intense. What I considered my best depended on how I felt. I did my best every day.

My hair is longer and grayer than it has been in years. Thinner. I’m thankful to have any of it thanks to cold capping. Since these things all go together, I hope the lengthy and gray locks continue to grow.

I still have metastatic cancer to no one’s surprise. My health fluctuates between fair and fantastic depending on my mood, how much I worry, treatments, and time. I’m still here.

I remember people couldn’t wait for 2019 to end and be rid of it fast enough. My 2019 was a rather glowing shade of wonderful. I hoped 2020 would be the same. I understand the desire to move on from 2020 to 2021. Time marches on and we always hope what’s ahead of us is better than what we have at the moment. But each year, even if it has events that bring us to our knees, hopefully also has had a moment here or there where we’ve risen up and basked in the sun. May 2021 have more moments in the sun for everyone. I end my 2020 review with a prayer I found that encompasses every good thing my heart wants for all of us.

New Year’s Prayer

As the dawn breaks on a new year, let us give thanks for all we hold dear: our health, our family and our friends.

Let us release our grudges, our anger and our pains, for these are nothing but binding chains. Let us live each day in the most loving ways, the God-conscious way. Let us serve all who are in need, regardless of race, color or creed.

Let us keep God of our own understanding in our hearts and to chant God’s name each day. Let us lead the world from darkness to light, from falsehood to truth and from wrong to right.

Let us remember that we are all one, embracing all, discriminating against none.

May your year be filled with peace, prosperity and love. May God’s blessings shower upon you and bestow upon each of you a bright, healthy and peaceful new year.

Rev. Marcy Sheremetta

May 2021 be kind to you and yours.

Always.

Election 2020 Reflection

Spoiler Alert: I voted for Joe Biden.

November 7, 2020 was an amazingly-wonderful-super-awesome-good-day for America. Yes, that’s how it’s written. I only added the hyphens to make it more readable.

I write this more for myself as a way to preserve my thoughts. It’s a mixture of facts and feelings. I want to remember what I’m feeling and thinking. My opinions are pretty clear. Stop reading now if you are disappointed in the election results. I hope you will read on because a Biden presidency can have positive effects for the cancer community.

Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States. Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice president. The race was finally called on Saturday around 10:30 AM (CT) from the national election that was held on Tuesday, November 3rd

The election this year was extremely difficult. No one was sure how long it would take to get results and what would happen after those results became final. Millions voted by mail due to concerns about going to polling places during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were some concerns of violence. There were many attempts of voter suppression in cities that were likely to have a high turnout for Biden. The number of polling sites was reduced out of concerns of virus transmission but interestingly largely in areas that were likely to vote for Biden. I believe that is the real reason. U.S. mailboxes were removed. Votes did not get delivered in time because of illegal activities (in my opinion) by the Trump appointed U.S. postmaster general, Louis DeJoy.

Trump won’t concede. He’s filed lawsuits claiming election fraud. He claims the election was stolen from him. His claims are baseless. There is absolutely no evidence of fraud. Many GOP dominated legislatures wouldn’t let the massive number of mail-in ballots be counted early. Wisconsin was one such state that couldn’t get a head start on counting the number of returned mail-in ballots. There always have been allowances for mail-in ballots to be counted after the election. A high percentage of these ballots were rightly predicted to have been cast for Biden. Trump didn’t want them counted because he said they were late and illegal. Au contraire – they’re legal and cast very early. It is insane that people protested in some states to stop counting votes. Voting is literally what defines a democracy. Pennsylvania pushed Biden over the 270 electoral college threshold he needed to be declared the winner.

Thankfully, Wisconsin voted blue. Ten electoral votes for the Biden column. Truthfully, I struggle to understand how anyone voted for Trump. He wasn’t honest. He ruled like a dictator-child. Presidents aren’t meant to rule like a king or dictator. I heard Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) comment on a news program that the election was a referendum of a person and not of conservative principles. His point was conservative principles still exist and that is why republican candidates still did well in states that rejected Trump. He makes a good point. I don’t agree with the examples he cited on the environment, energy, and taxes, but I do see his point. I know I have a friend or two, plus some family members, who likely didn’t vote for Biden. Romney’s comment helps me understand them a bit better, not a lot, but a bit. I find it too hard to overlook Trump’s lack of human decency.

Biden won. Trump lost. The election is over. Finally. We must move forward.

Votes are still being tallied because every vote must be counted. Here are the election results from The Associated Press as of the night of November 8th:

Joe Biden with 75,253,350 votes.  50.7%

Donald Trump with 70,831,493 votes. 47.7%

The people have spoken.

Biden has received the most votes of any presidential candidate in U.S. history. He tried to be president twice before but didn’t receive the democratic nomination. He got it the third time and has won. Maybe he lost those other two times because this is when we need him the most in our country. Our country needs unity and many believe he can bring people together.

Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice president. It’s about time. Little girls are allowed to dream big. Big girls, too. What an incredibly strong role model. She is Black, Indian-American, and has made so many historic firsts in her life. It’s been a hundred years since women won the right to vote. Kamala Harris chose to wear white to recognize that work of suffragists in her acceptance speech. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” is one of many shining lines from her speech. America is changing for the better.

What does this mean for cancer? Both Biden and Harris are passionate about cancer research. The soon to be Madam VP’s mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a cancer research scientist. President elect Biden’s eldest son Beau died from an aggressive brain tumor known as a glioblastoma multiforme. Cancer doesn’t care who you are or your political affiliation. But it does matter who holds office and it could be transformative to cancer research. A Biden administration is good for the cancer community. Biden and Harris have the potential to prioritize funding and support for cancer research. Both of them will be hearing from me.

The country is still deeply divided. There is racism. There is hate. There are science deniers. There is a lot of entitlement and privilege. People won’t wear masks. Many say they aren’t willing to get a vaccine when available. A lot needs to change.

And yet, I’m hopeful.

I went to one of my favorite places, the UW Arboretum to celebrate the election outcome. There was a middle-aged white man standing on the corner of Mineral Point Road and Segoe Road holding a cardboard Dump Trump sign above his head. I wondered why he’d chosen that message and not one that was more pro Biden or democracy oriented, but I honked gleefully and gave a thumbs up as I waited at the traffic light. The car next to me then honked, too. I’m sure I could find revelers around the Capitol Square if I went there, but I wasn’t looking for large parties or protests.

Across the nation, people celebrated. It resembled a nation-wide block party. Thousands gathered in front of the White House singing and partying. They wore masks, as they should, but it was still a serious risk. They weighed the risk and decided the reward outweighed the risk. They belted out YMCA (so funny this has emerged as a victory song) and Sweet Caroline. Celebrations erupted from coast to coast. Many flooded the streets spontaneously. I saw one video where a crowd danced at a gas station. People looked so unapologetically joyful. New Yorkers banged pots and pans from their windows. Supporters danced and sang in the streets of Philly. I held my own dance party in my family room. I haven’t seen my country this happy for over four years. I am overjoyed.

The world rejoiced. Cathedral bells rang in Paris, France. There were fireworks in London. It says a lot if other countries are excited. I was happy when Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern were elected to lead Germany and New Zealand, but there were no fireworks or street parties in the U.S. that I know of when that happened. No mass euphoria.

Inauguration Day is January 20, 2021. When Trump was inaugurated, I dubbed January 20, 2017, as a Day of Integrity. It was the one-year anniversary that marked the passing of a friend’s father. I suggested not watching TV coverage that day and watching videos of both of our fathers instead to celebrate our dads. They were good men – men who were loved, men with integrity, and men who are still missed. Our Day of Integrity was a good day. Loving memories replaced some of the sadness. Integrity in the nation will be restored on January 20, 2021. I will watch with pride.