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KQED Readers Share: What Got You Through 2020?

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 (Vida Kuang)

Living through the year 2020 tested us. It tried our patience and nerves. It challenged us to find new ways to communicate and socialize. It upended our priorities, pushed our resolve and—let’s be real—stressed us the eff out, daily.

So when we asked you, our readers, what helped you get through it all, we were surprised by the outpouring of optimism, creativity and expressions of gratitude we received.

Here are just some of the things that got you through this endurance test of a year.

Virtual Community

Some of the magical animals of ‘In Shelter Zoo'—a project and website created by Michelle L. Morby this year, to battle the isolation of shelter in place.
Some of the magical animals of ‘In Shelter Zoo’—a project and website created by Michelle L. Morby this year to battle the isolation of shelter in place. (InShelterZoo.com)

“I created a global interactive project called In Shelter Zoo to combat isolation. All one had to do was make an animal mask out of whatever you had on hand, take a selfie and send it, and I would add it to my conceptual art zoo.” —Michelle L. Morby, San Francisco

“Sending postcards to strangers around the world.” —Julian Roque, Hayward


“Learning Zumba taught by a Canadian-born feminist anthropologist who is a professor at Amherst College. The classes are attended by feminist academics and artists from around the world. It’s life-affirming and shame-free with fab playlists!” —Jennifer Terry, Sea Ranch

“Virtual wine tastings.” —Janine P., San Francisco

Defected Records‘ virtual dance festivals 100% have given me joy, hope, strength, community, presence, and serenity.” —Ruanna Rae, Bay Area

The Great Outdoors

Jan Richardson's dog
Hiking the hills with a dog: what could be better? (Jan Richardson)

“Faith that the next day would get better. The comfort of my dog and hiking the beautiful hills of the Bay Area.” —Jan Richardson, Danville

“To combat pandemic-related anger, I’ve been taking evening dips in the bay from East Beach at Crissy Field. In up to my chest just a few yards offshore, within a few minutes I feel rejuvenated by the literal shift in perspective and cold shock.” —Britta Shoot, San Francisco

“I have ongoing, non-COVID health problems that keep me close to home. So my photography hobby has been a key ingredient in keeping things together. That and our backyard, with its birds and flowers. I’ve documented the backyard thoroughly!” —David Evan Hughes, Lincoln

“Rowing in the San Francisco bay.” —Demian Quesnel, San Francisco

“My bike, my engineer, my financial guy, my lawyer, and my priest. We ride bikes together. Sometimes 22 miles, sometimes 52 miles, even 102.” —Peter Wise, San Francisco

“Since gyms got shut down, I started doing ’80s aerobics interspersed with weight and dance routines on our deck overlooking Linda Mar Beach. With headphones, no one can hear my music, but they can see me getting down!” —Nancy Capone Beeman, Pacifica

Artistic Expression

A selection of work from Meredith Steele's 100 paintings of Oakland.
A selection of work from Meredith Steele’s 100 paintings of Oakland. (Instagram/@meredith_steele_)

“Taking on a project of painting 100 paintings of Oakland. It kept me focused!” —Meredith Steele, Oakland

“Making art, even when it hurt.” —Katy Kuhn, Mill Valley

“Stuck in lockdown, bored to tears, I decided to dress up my front yard. The circle drive is bordered by two short grape-stake fences. So I pulled out my paint pots and got to work. I painted each fence to look like a row of colored pencils.” —Judith Morley, Menlo Park

“My mate and I learned a modern take on an very old art form: beading. I suggested it to her as a more zenful way to unwind from her stressful job. She was sold after seeing the modern works of people like Jan Huling, Betsy Youngquist and Nancy Joseph.” —Ann Morgan, Oakland

“I set out to photograph every mural on a boarded up business that I could. Inspired me, gave me hope, cleared my head and helped keep me grounded and sane. Check them out!” —Hildur Carlen, San Francisco

“Walking the streets of Oakland with my young son, taking in all the urban visual information, which led to five new artwork series. So far I’ve posted 45 of these works on paper on my website.” —Ivette, Vallejo

Musical Exploration

Matthew Levitt's record collection
When in doubt, buy more records. 😉 (Matthew Levitt)

“I found a lot of comfort listening to my records. I bought some irresponsibly expensive headphones and practically doubled my record collection. I listen to a few albums almost every day.” —Matthew Levitt, Alameda

“Listening to the radio! You can be part of a community, while in your home or car.” —Barrett Jayne, Santa Rosa

“Learning how to play drums and starting a punk band.” —Meerenai Shim, Campbell

“I started a new label with my best friend of 15 years and put out an album in April. I worked on three albums and one is coming out in January. I discovered I have Aspergers, smashed petty beefs, and worked on my house.” —Muslim Delgado, Oakland

“I have survived this year by listening to a lot of calming music, taking daily brisk walks where there aren’t a lot of people, following the science around COVID, helping my candidates get elected, and texting a lot with friends and family.” —Carol Akawie Schneider, Oakland

Family Time

Kittens fresh from the good people at the Sonoma County Humane Society.
Kittens fresh from the good people at the Sonoma County Humane Society. (Meghan West)

“Kittens! After miniaturizing our April wedding, then moving, my husband and I got two kittens from the local Humane Society. They are such a delight and make us smile so many times each day.” —Meghan West, Santa Rosa

“The most important thing that got me through 2020 was being in a bubble with my daughter, her partner and my three grandkids. Seeing them almost every day and sharing our ‘buds and thorns’ about our day kept me sane.” —Aggie Briscoe, Oakland

“I recorded E.B. White books for my grandson. With the uncertainty of each day, it was sweet to enter White’s gentle world of curious and collaborating animals, and share it with a special child.” —Susan Giacomini Allan, Inverness

“Daily walks with my dogs, and my husband’s cooking.” —Barbara Thomson, Nicasio

“My neighbors and my daughter in SF. They did my grocery shopping and errands to keep my exposure (at age 90) to COVID-19 to a minimum. Good folks!” —Alison C. Fuller, San Rafael


“What got me through 2020 so far is our grandson who lives in London and was only four months old when COVID got worse. Our daughter continuously sent us photos, videos and we Facetimed at least 4-5 times a week. Watching him grow kept us going.” —Neelima Pandit, Santa Rosa

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