By Larry Marx, CEO, The Children’s Agenda
Actually, 2019 was a pretty hard year for me, both personally and professionally. I was looking forward to 2020.
But then it arrived. After making a February trip to Houston for a meeting of the national Partnership for America’s Children’s Board of Directors, followed by snowy, slow and slippery trips to Albany for meetings of the NYS Child Care Availability Task Force and legislative meetings, I ground to a halt along with the rest of the world; all of us stuck in place.
Our family had plans (and tickets, and hotel reservations!) for a much longed-for and long international trip. It was a present to ourselves for our 20th wedding anniversary, for family time before my oldest daughter decamped to university as a freshman, and for my 60th birthday. (Worst. Birthday. Ever — and still no airfare refunds.)
I quickly realized that the pandemic simplified what I had to worry about: at work, that meant securing our money and caring for our people. At home, that meant trying not to go crazy.
So home life for us – for me — meant gorging on books (see below), home baked goods, exploring the outer fringes of the New York Times cooking app, streaming television, and the happiest, healthiest dog we’ve ever known, thanks to beautiful walks up Washington Grove and Mendon Ponds. I had already discovered mixology in my old age, but the pandemic took my game to a whole new level (Lion’s Tail during cold months, Aviation during warm). It meant understanding how grateful and privileged I am that my kids are 16 and 18 at this moment in time, not infants and toddlers like some of my colleagues.
And work, which now, of course, is also home life, meant writing up contingency plans for our board to adopt based on different revenue scenarios, including various “trip-wires” (if x happens, then y). It meant asking as many of our funders as possible to front-load our income to the first and second quarters of the year, reversing an inexorable gravity that over the years has pulled the majority of our funds down to the nail-biting end of the year.
Work meant drawing up protocols for being remote for all our staff. Like all of us, it meant installing new Zoom and Microsoft Teams accounts, and learning how to use them. It meant checking in with staff to find out how they and their family were coping and what they needed. It meant rediscovering electronic means for advocacy, rather than in-person. And it meant trying to deal with a new, yawning ocean of needs and injustice fissured open by the pandemic, with one out of every three NYS families with children under age five skipping meals, 10,000 more Monroe County children pushed into poverty, setbacks in health, and mental health and learning loss that will be measured in years to come, not in months past.
And then came George Floyd’s murder, Breonna Taylor’s, Daniel Prude’s. . . of course only the latest in an endless list. How could anyone with a pulse, especially white people like me, stay home, inert? Perhaps the single most uplifting memories I have of 2020 are of Black Lives Matter protests with my youngest daughter, and of The Children’s Agenda helping to end the City’s contract placing armed police in city schools, of knowing that change is all-too painfully slow . . . until we collectively force its hand and it’s not slow at all.
These final days of 2020, and the coming early days of 2021, are not and will not be easy. But with hope and each other, we will get by, just as we did in 2020.
The Books that Got Me Through 2020
The TV That Got Me Through 2020
My Playlists That Got Me Through 2020
How our staff got through 2020
Joe Calabrese, Director of Communications & Development
One of the things that got me through 2020 was binge watching great shows like, The Queen’s Gambit, The Undoing, and The Mandalorian. When I popped my head up for air, my family and I had the opportunity to as safely as possible, visit my parents in Florida. My curling season got cancelled, but I’m looking forward to starting that again in 2021.
Brigit Hurley, Senior Director of Advocacy and Program
My son’s wedding and my daughter’s high school graduation and college launch kept me busy ad focused on finding joy in a challenging year.
Rosa Luciano, COO
One of the things that got me through 2020 was walking. Every week from spring through early fall I would try a different trail in Monroe County. Turning point park became my favorite one. A place to meditate, read and just be. My sister is in the Navy, so watching NCIS allowed me to feel just a little bit closer to her. Weekly virtual coffee hours and book clubs continue to be a source of support and strength when missing my friends. I’m currently reading “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle which I’m finding to be both enlightening and uplifting. At home with a 14 and a 21 year old has been interesting. Discovering new board games (Head Bands is probably my favorite) and baking with my daughter and teaching my son to dance. We have bachata and merengue down, while salsa is still a work in progress.
Pete Nabozny, Director of Policy
Experiencing our region’s wonderful outdoors helped me get through 2020. I was able to get out for a run at least two or three times every week, and went on more hikes with my family than I can recall. We have so many wonderful lakes, rivers, beaches, wilderness areas, and parks in our region, and they definitely helped me make it through this challenging year.
Kristen Rogers, Advocacy Coordinator
I’ve never considered myself to be much of a nature lover, however in 2020 I found myself being delighted in taking strolls with my daughter and mother in various NYS parks, I wasn’t even aware existed. I also had the pleasure of immersing myself into helping my 11-year-old daughter begin her journey into entrepreneurship with the launch of her homemade body butter business. Home decluttering/organizing, binge watching TV, family game/puzzle nights, til til dancing and eating more snacks than I should’ve were also activities that have helped me make it through this tumultuous year.
Eamonn Scanlon, Education Policy Director
Walking and running have been important rituals for us. Watching our daughter grow up is the most rewarding thing about 2020.
Carmen Torres, Parent Advocacy Coordinator
One thing that has gotten me through 2020 has been extreme organizing. I have been cleaning out closets, the garage and have managed to start on the attic. Organizing helps me with stress and anxiety one gets after being home for so many months. I tell you Pinterest has become a great friend for ideas and inspiration throughout these months. It feels great to look back and see everything well organized and in its proper place. My next step? Plan a garage sale.
Kim Wolfe, Administrative Assistant
A lot of prayer. And a lot of time in nature helped me get through.
Michelle Yale, Administrative Director
The things that got me by in 2020 were a healthy family, more time with my children, and Netflix!