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Trying to find a balance, hope in the New Year

NIAGARA, Wis. — This brief week in between the Christmas and New Year holidays has always been a time of reflection for me. I have completed all of the holiday preparations and have enjoyed the visit from our Green Bay son and his family and a long telephone conversation with our Minnesota son.

Christmas cards and letters from other friends and relatives have been sent and received. Our routine is returning, and there is a brief lull — before our plans for New Year’s Eve kick in — during which I can contemplate the year ahead. What can I expect? What are my hopes and dreams for the coming year? What have I learned from the past year that will help me in the days and months ahead?

My husband remarked that this year, without exception, all of the holiday greetings we received commented on what a difficult, challenging and unusual year 2020 had been. And, indeed, it has. All of us, collectively as a people worldwide, struggled with a pandemic. Our country continues to struggle with an ugly, contentious election that truly will not end until later in January as, hopefully, the inauguration of a new president will close the door on one controversy at least. And our nation will continue to wrestle with the problem of the racial inequity in our culture.

In an effort to keep my sanity throughout 2020, and in the face of feeling a complete lack of control and an overwhelming powerlessness to fix anything, I decided to take a step back and become a student of the historical time through which I was living. I had neglected to do this in the late ’60s and early ’70s — another very volatile time in our nation’s history — and I have regretted that detachment of my youth. Now that I have a few more decades behind me, I thought I could at least pay attention this time around.

I decided to read as much as I could and to pay more attention to the news. Briefs from the NY Times hit my computer’s inbox, and I started a trial subscription so I could read beyond the teaser snippets that arrived for free. I also bought Bob Woodward’s books “Fear” and “Rage.” I read “Fear” and had to take a break from the chronicled dysfunction of a White House gone awry. It was overwhelmingly sad and shocking in its detailed portrayal. Try as I might to keep a student’s detachment, I discovered that not enough time had passed for it to become history; we were still living the events as they were being described in the hundreds of pages of editorial detail. I have yet to crack open “Rage” but have vowed to get to it after a few more months have passed. Eventually, I hope I can read it with less emotional involvement.

Then President Obama’s book, “A Promised Land,” was published, and I treated myself to an early Christmas gift. To say that it has been an uplifting change of pace is an understatement. I have surpassed the 250-page mark, but in this 700-plus page volume, it seems as though I have barely cracked open the cover. In it, he chronicles how and why he decided to run for president and describes the many challenges he encountered along with how he tackled them. And he shares personal insights into the impact his career choices made on his family. And, I must add, that he writes beautifully — with a richness that brings the reader into the situations with him.

I have so many yellow slips tagging significant paragraphs and notes in the margins, but one in particular fits into today’s column. His staff was teasing him, as his campaign picked up steam, that he was the “new in thing.” Their remarks came in response to a graphic art poster that had emerged with a stylized red, white, and blue version of his face on it along with the word “Hope” in prominent lettering. He comments as follows:

“That worried me. The inspiration our campaign was providing, the sight of so many young people newly invested in their ability to make change, the bringing together of Americans across racial and socioeconomic lines — it was the realization of everything I’d once dreamed might be possible in politics, and it made me proud. But the continuing elevation of me as a symbol ran contrary to my organizer’s instincts, that sense that change involves ‘we’ and not ‘me.’ It was personally disorienting, too, requiring me to constantly take stock to make sure I wasn’t buying into the hype and remind myself of the distance between the airbrushed image and the flawed, often uncertain person I was.”

I was struck immediately by his humility and his willingness to admit he was not a celebrity at heart nor was he the central reason for the success of his campaign. Second, he realized the enormity of the job ahead of him. And, third, it was a job that would require systemic change and would also need the hard work of everyone — his staff, Congress, and the American people. It was his job to lead, but he could not do it alone.

We are poised at anther crossroads in our collective national history. The problems are many, and some are entrenched in issues that are buried deep within our national culture; indeed, that have roots in the very birth of our nation. We have a new president stepping up to the plate on his inauguration day to begin an enormous task. Like President Obama, President Biden will not be able to solve our problems alone; he is going to need our help.

I believe we are up to the task. Throughout this past year we have already seen ordinary human beings accomplish heroic and selfless deeds both big and small. Doctors and nurses have worked 18-hour days, beyond the point of personal exhaustion, to save the lives of those infected with this awful virus. Chefs have found ways to continue feeding their neighborhoods. Volunteers have helped to distribute cases of food to families in lines of cars that stretch for miles. Scientists have developed multiple vaccines in record time that promise relief is coming. And neighbors have found ways to help neighbors so they do not feel alone.

President-elect Biden has already asked for our help and support as he begins to address the monumental challenge that will define his administration — an unrelenting virus. He has honestly told us that “it will get worse before it gets better.” The devastating effects of this virus will not magically switch off when we receive the vaccine. He has asked us to pledge to continue to wear masks for the first 100 days of his presidency. And he has encouraged us by telling us he knows we can do this — together. If we all believe that our nation is at its best when we unite for the good of us all, then we can pull together through the challenges that still lie ahead.

As we begin 2021, we need to find a balance. We need to believe in, and have hope for, the promise of better times ahead. But yet, at the same time, we need to realize that we will not attain those better times without a lot of work and sacrifice early on. Let’s pledge that we will work together to assure a brighter 2021 — each doing our part to make the dream become a reality.

__________________

NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus are not being published to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities that residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they reopen, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers that are either preparing takeout or providing home-delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers listed here.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Chop suey, rice, Oriental vegetables and lettuce salad.

Wednesday: Barbecue pork on a bun, baked beans and bean salad.

Thursday: Pasties, mixed vegetables and coleslaw.

Note: All meals served with milk, bread and butter, fruit and dessert

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Pork loin, potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Tuesday: Spaghetti, meat sauce, green beans and garlic bread.

Wednesday: Chicken stir fry, rice and Oriental vegetable blend.

Thursday: Beef stew and cornbread.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk or juice and fruit

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Spaghetti with Italian sausage and marinara sauce, corn and breadstick.

Tuesday: Chili, cornbread and pudding.

Wednesday: Cheeseburger, tater tots, peas and carrots.

Thursday: Baked fish, rice, winter blend vegetables and pudding.

Friday: Big chef salad and Jell-O cup.

Note: All meals served with a choice of skim milk, juice or no beverage

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Philly cheese sandwich, oven browned potatoes and coleslaw.

Tuesday: Chicken stuffing bake, sliced potatoes and broccoli.

Wednesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots.

Note: All meals served with skim milk or juice

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Toasted cheese sandwich, tomato soup, broccoli salad and pears.

Tuesday: Pork steak, baked sweet potato, corn and fruit.

Wednesday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, candied carrots, bananas and brownies.

Thursday: Baked chicken, black beans and rice, broccoli and fruit.

Friday: Taco tater tot casserole with lettuce and tomato, biscuits and fruit.

Note: All meals served with whole grain bread and butter and milk.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week –

Monday: Mushroom cheeseburger, potato wedges and wax beans.

Tuesday: Parmesan chicken, noodles, green beans and breadsticks.

Wednesday: Vegetable soup and egg salad sandwich.

Thursday: Pulled pork, sweet potato and squash.

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick-up — those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Fish patty on a bun, sweet potato fries, green beans, fruit, juice and dessert.

Tuesday: Finnish pancake, sausage, hash browns, strawberries, orange juice and muffin.

Wednesday: Liver or burger and onions, mashed potatoes and gravy, glazed carrots, fruit, juice and dessert.

Thursday: Meat and cheese raviolis, broccoli, garlic bread, fruit, juice and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Sloppy Joe, sweet potato fries and corn.

Wednesday: Sweet and sour pork, rice and stir fry vegetables.

Thursday: Barbecue chicken, mashed potatoes and corn.

All meals served with fruit and choice of skim milk or juice.

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