Our pandemic year : Stories about learning, missing, and looking forward
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Katie with her baby at her feet in our pandemic year.

Our pandemic year

In our pandemic year, we learned, we missed, we looked forward …

Katie with her baby at her feet in our pandemic year.
“I can’t think of anything that defines the past year more for me than this photo of me standing at my desk working, with Hazel by my side.” — Katie Strong

Katie Strong, senior staff attorney

Learned, missed most, look forward to…

I really miss hugs from friends. And having people over for dinner. And carpooling to trailheads. And seeing live music. And passing people on the Coastal Trail and saying hello rather than covering my face. And all the little things that build and maintain community, but I didn’t think too much of before they were gone. 

our pandemic year
Brian’s baked goods.

Brian Litmans, legal director

Learned: I really love to bake and got inspired by @BakersAgainstRacism. 

Missed most: I miss traveling to beautiful places outside of Alaska to play, seeing live music and getting together with friends to cook up delicious meals.

Looking forward to… Catching up on all the things I miss the most with friends and family.

Fannie Dock, office assistant

Our pandemic year
“And here’s a picture of my cutest mom on her 87th birthday November 2020. 😊” — Fannie Dock.

Missed most: Big dinner gatherings with family and friends. Before the pandemic, we celebrated Everything from holidays, birthdays, graduations, big or small achievements and sometimes we even had big “just because” dinner get togethers. I also miss high school sports activities especially basketball and wrestling. Last year, my son’s senior year, the Mt Edgecumbe Braves missed out at state basketball. The day they were the Region V champions the announcement came out that state basketball games were cancelled. One of my nephews who is a senior this year is an awesome wrestler, finishing in the top 3 at local tournaments and state wrestling throughout high school, last year he wrestled at 112 weight class at state and he was down by 2 points with time running out and he escaped and pinned his opponent just before time ran out and was the state champion! I was so looking forward to watching him wrestle this year.

Looking forward to… A big celebratory dinner and get together with all family and friends to celebrate the end of the pandemic!

our pandemic year
Brook’s year of puzzles.

Brook Brisson, senior staff attorney

Learned, missed most, looking forward to…

I guess what I will say is that this year offered the opportunity to find joy in small and simple things, and I appreciated that. But I can’t wait to hug my friends and family.

Bridget Psarianos, staff attorney

” I think that photo represents 2020 for me because it captures a lot of the themes of the year: hope, death, fixer-upper house projects, hard work, being uncomfortable and a bit scared, time outside, time with family in our home.” — Bridget Psarianos

Learned: I (re)learned the important lesson that no matter what we might like to think, we really just don’t have as much control over the world around us and our circumstances as we’d like to think. And the less privileged we are, the less control we have when things go sideways. I also learned on Zoom calls that other people’s dogs can also be a handful while working from home, which is reassuring.

Missed most: Family, blood and otherwise. It’s been hard going more than a year not seeing my brother who lives outside the Twin Cities, and the rest of my family and friends on the East Coast and across the Lower 48. Locally, I most missed “family dinner night” with the friends who have become my family over the past decade. I even miss the fights over what board game we’re going to play after dinner. I miss all that love.

Looking forward to… Carpooling with friends, traveling out of state, watching football at a bar, and not taking those things for granted in the future.

Lauren Sherman, legal fellow

our pandemic year
Pepper bringing on the cuteness.

Learned and missed most: This pandemic has helped me clarify how I want to spend my time. I haven’t missed bars, restaurants, and stores, or even having a busy calendar. I have missed quality time with friends and the ability to share new experiences. This pandemic has shown me that the perfect time to do something meaningful to you (whether reaching out to a friend, making time to visit family, adopting a pet, or changing your life) is now. There is no guarantee that there will be a later.

Learned and looking forward to… I had been thinking about adopting a puppy for a long time, and took Pepper home in February. I wish I had done it sooner. It’s been so much fun watching Pepper explore the world. Before, while working from home during the pandemic, I would often realize it was already getting dark out and I hadn’t left the house that day. Now, I’m up and out with Pepper early in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night (and sometimes in the middle of the night!).

Ashley Boyd, office manager


our pandemic year
A COVID Halloween.
  • I learned I am not a “Hobby” person, and I don’t have to be one!
  • I have more introvert in me than I thought.
  • I am definitely a work away from home person!

Missed most

  • Small interactions with my coworkers
  • Not thinking about all the germy things we come into contact with on a daily basis
  • Being able to visit my friends’ house in winter and not freeze

Looking forward to… Mainly I look forward to everyone being able to have more normality. I have been relatively ok through all this, but I really look forward to my friends who have jobs, like hair stylist and massage therapist, not having to worry and struggle as much as they have been.

Suzanne Bostrom, staff attorney

Suzanne with a giant morel mushroom from our pandemic year.
“This captures for me how even beautiful, wonderful things can come out of dark times and events – like mega morel mushrooms after a fire.” — Suzanne Bostrom

Learned: One of the positive things that came out of this year was that I spent even more time than in the past exploring our back yard here in Alaska, adventuring and getting out at every opportunity. I’ve always known how blessed we are to have such easy access to incredible, outdoor spaces here in Alaska. But with travel to other places so limited, I spent even more time exploring and enjoying Alaska than ever before. It made me appreciate even more how much we have right here at home.  

Missed most: I really missed my family and being able to travel.

Looking forward to… I can hardly wait to hug my family members and friends. COVID may convert me into an overly enthusiastic hugger – look out! (Once it is safe to hug people again, of course.) I was two weeks into my sabbatical in Guatemala when everything shut down and I had to come home from “sabbatifail.” I’m really looking forward to rescheduling time with family and for travel.

Joanna Cahoon, legal fellow

our pandemic year
Notice a trend yet? Huckleberry does.

Learning: This past year I learned a lot about acceptance. Accepting there are some problems with no solution was a tough lesson. When the pandemic broke out I was pretty calm. As time wore on — and it became clear how long everyone would need to isolate from their family and friends — I didn’t handle it well. It had already been more than a year since my parents, who live out of state, had seen my son. He was two at the time. Realizing my parents would not see him in person again until he was four was crushing. We furiously tried to find a solution. We came up with and then nixed several different possible plans for traveling safely. It took months to accept that there was no solution. All we could do was wait.

Missed most: The last year has been full of tough realities for a lot of people. My family was lucky enough to have the option of video chatting so we tried to make the best of that technology. We set up reading sessions where my folks could read stories to my son over zoom. I was dismissive of the idea at first but, in hindsight, it was a great tool for maintaining family bonds.

Looking forward to… Although we missed out on so much with friends and family over the last year, we did have one happy outcome from the pandemic. The pandemic created the perfect opportunity to bring home a new pet. Last spring, we adopted a new dog we named Huckleberry. He is a bright orange hairy mix of a mutt from Nome that we really love. We named him Huckleberry after the classic Val Kilmer line from Tombstone: “I’m your huckleberry.” The name has been a great choice because we have a guaranteed laugh every day when our son calls for the dog “Huckle-be-wee!”

Lang Van Dommelen, legal assistant

our pandemic year
Lang with his puppy!

Learning: I learned how hard it is to stay connected with friends when you can’t casually hang out. Not to mention the difficulties of connecting to new colleagues during the time of remote work. I also spent some time learning new skills in place of hanging out with folks including some basic framing and carpentry skills and gardening!  

Missed most: I missed being able to casually hang out with people and not worrying about standing too close, wearing masks, etc.  

Looking forward to… Along with being able to hang out with friends, I am looking forward to not stressing out about going to the grocery store.

Dawnell Smith, communications

An early Zoom meeting, March 2020.

Learned: I relearned how the assumptions we make about the days ahead and taking care of each other can flip and spin at the “whim” of a virus (or a climate crisis…).

Missed most: Those last chances for seeing, listening to, and being with people now gone. Standing beside people, embracing people, seeing people smile, hearing the carefree, bodacious laughter of strangers sharing space and good humor.

Looking forward to… A big fat music festival.

Rachel Briggs, staff attorney

our pandemic year
The kitties chilling out.

Learned: I like having fewer, but more intentional, social interactions. I am terrible at working from home. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with the significance of life’s more intimate moments–the small daily changes in my garden, a perfect cup of tea, the calls of birds. My obsession with my cats has only grown, and I think they can teach me everything I’ll ever need to know about presence, love, and coziness.

Missed most: Seeing family members and friends before they died; being able to visit loved ones in the hospital. On a lighter note–my birthday was the day we all went into lockdown last year. I usually really love my birthday, but I spent most of it alone and filled with existential dread. In a few days it will be my birthday again (30, this year!), and my sweet partner is planning some covid-safe surprises and celebrations. I’m excited and grateful to be reclaiming that celebration.

Looking forward to… Hugging my moms. They live in Hawaiʻi and New York, and I am so excited for the day when we can travel and see each other in person again.

our pandemic year
Tracy figures out how to hang with her human and animal family.

Tracy Lohman, development director

Learned: A family that lives together, stays together.

Missed most: Feeling isolated from friends, family and the Trustees team.

Looking forward to…Now that vaccines are more readily available to more Alaskans, I am looking forward to first getting my jabs. Once inoculated, I want to host a gathering in my backyard this summer so my two families can gather safely. How lucky I am to have two caring families in my life.

Vicki Clark, executive director

Learned: The pandemic has given me a lot of time to further my growth in understanding how our country has pandered to white supremacy and structural racism, and stoking the fire in me to change and make change.

our pandemic year
Loki on a snowy outing.

Missed most: What I have missed most during the pandemic is the ability to give friends and loved ones big hugs. I have to say that I would not have done so well during the pandemic without my Sancho Panza, Loki. While he cannot speak to offer witty repartee, he certainly provided laughter, companionship, and the need to get outside. Loki has filled the void to his utmost ability.

Looking forward to… And I very much look forward to more hugs to come. Though I will really miss wearing my “soft pants” every day. 😉

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