Few things can melt away life's daily challenges and spark gratitude quite like being on Lake Wissota at sunset. (Photo by Pat Kreitlow)
Few things can melt away life's daily challenges and spark gratitude quite like being on Lake Wissota at sunset. (Photo by Pat Kreitlow)

The team shares some thoughts on remembering the bright spots of 2020.

Pat Kreitlow, Managing Editor

It is too early, of course, to say exactly how 2020 will be remembered in the long run. The first line that comes to my mind is from a song in Hamilton: “The world turned upside down…”

But then I remember one of those movies that shows up every year around this time, 1942’s Holiday Inn, and I can already hear Bing Crosby’s musical effort to boost his low morale: “I’ve got plenty to be thankful for…”

In that spirit, I asked the rest of our team to share some thoughts intended to remind us that 2020, for all of its tragedy and division, still included moments to be reminded of the people and place and experiences and traits that gave us reasons to hope, to smile, to carry on.

Personally, I could not never adequately express my gratitude to the many people in Wisconsin and around the country who helped us launch UpNorthNews in January. Along with comprehensive coverage of each day’s headlines, we covered a wide range of features, people, places, and issues. From the timely volunteer work to register new voters in western Wisconsin to a worldwide cheese competition held in our state earlier this year.

We’ll have a more comprehensive review of 2020 in December. For now, let’s get back to what makes us grateful on this Thanksgiving holiday.

Julian Emerson, Reporter

There is much to worry about these days, lots of stress and trepidation. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted virtually every aspect of all of our lives, causing illness and deaths and inflaming tensions  alongside an already volatile presidential election. Simply following the dire headlines of the day can feel like too much, and reporting on it as a journalist can feel overwhelming and exhausting.

But while many of us are not getting together as usual for the holiday, we can, thanks to technology, still enjoy each other’s company virtually. Prompted by the inability to see people in person, I plan to contact family and friends near and far on Thanksgiving and afterward, to do a better job of staying in touch during this time when we all can use more positive interaction. 

While I will miss my usually large Thanksgiving assemblage and eagerly anticipate such future gatherings, I will appreciate spending a quieter version of the holiday this year with my wife. I am thankful for the peaceful calm the day offers as I look forward to what I hope is an easier 2021 for all of us.    

Jessica VanEgeren, Associate Editor

I am thankful for fair elections and the tenets of our democracy. Let’s face it, there were some pretty tense moments leading up to the presidential election. Lots of folks were concerned that if the president lost, he wouldn’t accept defeat and quickly leave office.

Well, half of that statement has proven true. Trump still has failed to take the gentlemanly step of conceding victory to President-elect Joe Biden, and he continues filing legal challenge after legal challenge as a way to overturn the election results. 

But the checks and balances built into the constitution are proving capable of reining in a president that seems far removed from the tenets of the office he has sworn to uphold. For that, I am thankful.

And then there are the signs of hope I see from friends and neighbors. I am reminded of 7-year-old Morgan Marsh-McGlone, who created a virtual lemonade stand and raised $40,000 for families experiencing food insecurities at the start of the pandemic. $40,000! Plenty of folks in the Madison community are thankful for her.

Then there’s the dozens of women who took the time to sew face masks for healthcare workers when they learned our frontline workers were not sufficiently supplied with protective face covers. And who can forget Buffy Riley, the Wisconsin nurse who responded to a call for help by working 16 days straight on a COVID-19 unit in New York City?

Jonathan Sadowski, Reporter

Maybe you’re going to dig in to a standard turkey dinner on Thursday. Maybe you’re picking up what you can get from a local food stand, like the “Food is Free” stand in one of Racine’s food deserts that started in the summer but is still operating well into the end of the year.  

Maybe you’re having a greasy dinner of beef, butter, and cheese on a bun. Early adopters of UpNorthNews may recall the infatuation I have with butter burgers—Wisconsin’s favorite disgustingly tasty, dairy-packed, artery-clogging meal. 

You might be staying home for Thanksgiving, or having a greatly scaled-down gathering. 

Whether you’re having a traditional holiday celebration or hitting the drive-thru window, here’s to hoping the food coma will hit just the same, and you’ll be that much closer to leaving 2020 in the history books where it belongs.

Christina Lieffring, Reporter

The forests and fields of Wisconsin’s many trails don’t know or care about the recounts in Madison and Milwaukee. Birds and squirrels are too preoccupied with fattening up for the winter to pay attention to Biden’s transition team. My house plants probably haven’t noticed that I’m still working from home due to COVID-19, though they might appreciate the extra carbon dioxide I’m exhaling. My guinea pig may have noticed but that’s just because I’m giving him more snacks throughout the day.

Even before the world turned completely upside down, my fiance and I made a semi-regular habit of going out and walking different trails around Wisconsin. We moved here from Nebraska, which had plenty of corn, soybeans and streams but not many trails where you could feel immersed in the natural world. We tend to go during the off-season, when it’s a little too chilly for most folks and have managed to spot otters, turkeys, a beaver, and countless deer along with the ubiquitous birds, squirrels and insects.

Nature offers a shift in perspective that has been a balm, particularly this year. The chaos of our human lives is not all-encompassing. And no matter what’s happening at the statehouse or the White House, trees grow, leaves fall, I water my plants, I feed my guinea pig, and life goes on.