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I’m writing this with two days left in 2020, the year with an inordinate number of negative adjectives, none of which I have the heart to write here.

I hear people talk of the great hope they have that 2021 will be a return to normal. I’ve heard politicians promise to get us back to normal ASAP. Sometimes I struggle to remember what “normal” was, and if it’s something we really want to return to in its entirety.

There are certainly parts of life during a pandemic I am ready to shed. The virus, for one, can take its leave in 2021, along with masks, Zoom meetings and the moratorium on hugs.

But what about what we want to keep from the year that rocked our world?

With two days left in 2020, my family and I discussed this over supper. We acknowledged that 2020 was a very difficult year for many people because of the pandemic, and just in general. Our own family experienced the pain of losing a young cousin in a tragic accident, and that cast a deep shadow over the latter part of the year for us.

But we also discussed the good that came out of the year, and the things that we hope to carry into this new year. Here’s what we came up with.

1. Meals at home. We usually eat most of our meals at home, but my parents said this year was a pivot for them from eating out to eating at home, and they hope to continue that even after restaurants are fully open.

2. A simpler schedule. We all agreed that we enjoyed a stop in the busyness of American life. Some activity is good, but when it all came to a screeching halt in March, it made me realize just how busy we were.

3. Better connection with family and friends. I felt like we did a better job of checking in with family and friends, perhaps because we weren’t so busy. My daughter-in-law shared how she and a friend were very intentional about getting together each week, and the friendship deepened as a result.

4. Trying new things. One of my kids appreciated that people seemed willing to try new things in a pandemic, be it a new hobby or recipe. He hopes to see that continue in the new year.

5. Walking. I feel fairly sure I’ve walked more in 2020 than any other year. As a family, we did endless loops around our neighborhood, when it was the only thing we could get out and do. Consequently, we got to know some of our neighbors better and helped keep the quarantine weight gain at bay.

6. Flexibility with school. My college kids, who much preferred in-person to online learning, appreciated the flexibility that came with virtual options. When they couldn’t be in class for whatever reason, they could still watch the lecture and not be penalized for a sick day.

7. Reading. We read more than usual this year, all of us, and we read a lot of the same books which led to good discussions. Books like “Just Mercy”, “Educated”, “Brave New World” and “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.”

8. New boarding and deplaning procedures. We traveled by plane before Christmas, and we were pleasantly surprised when we boarded by row from the back of the plane and then, after the plane landed and arrived at the jet bridge, we were told to stay seated and wait to be dismissed by row, from the front. It was so calm, so orderly, SO LOGICAL. More of this, please, in 2021.

9. Exploring locally. Most of our trips in 2020 were canceled, so instead we explored the Treasure Valley and surrounding area. Bruneau Dunes, Bogus Basin and Cleo’s Ferry Museum & Nature Trail were just a few of the places we enjoyed.

10. More handwashing. One of my kids said they washed their hands like never before in 2020 and thinks this helped her stay healthy.

Happy 2021!

Natalie, along her husband David and four kids, now live in Nampa after having spent 17 years in Indonesia working with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), a Nampa-based Christian organization that uses small aircraft to assist people living in the most isolated places in the world. Natalie has written for a number of newspapers and publications, and is passionate about the outdoors, reading, and traveling. Follow along with her in this monthly column as she explores her life in Nampa and the Treasure Valley. You can email Natalie at: nholsten@maf.org.

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