2020, A Look Back Thru the Eyes of the EA Team

by | Dec 31, 2020 | NE Ohio in the News

December 31, 2020
Do you remember where you were when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued shelter-in-place orders on March 22nd? Wasn’t it fun to be blissfully ignorant, thinking we’d just have to hunker down for a few months to get thru this together? Were you initially thrilled to have what seemed like an extended snow day for the whole family? Was it cool to wear yoga pants and slippers to Zoom meetings with colleagues? Did you feel like a pioneer as you created mini classrooms for your kids in their bedrooms, cleaned out closets, took long daily walks and enjoyed game nights with college kids who rebounded home unexpectedly?  Or were you one of the wiser ones who could look into the Year 2020 crystal ball and see the life changing forces at work?
For the past nine months some industries seemed partially frozen in time (arlines, hotels, restaurants, performing arts venues) while others were forced to move ahead with lighting speed (video conferencing, e-commerce, food supply chains, delivery services, virtual education). We were equal parts inspired by how quickly the world seemed to move forward and adapt and  humbled and saddened at the loss of life and the isolation that the virus was creating all over the world.

Westin Cleveland Downtownn Hotel lobby art reminds us to mask up!

Like many small businesses, EA went into a stand still for several months as travel restrictions locked the world down preventing any candidates from visiting Cleveland/Akron. Then slowly the doors began to open again and companies eventually figured out how to re-imagine their recruiting pipelines.  And, while this year was a struggle both emotionally and financially for many of us, we see silver linings everywhere that came out of the dumpster fire that was 2020. Here are some of the things we hope never go back to “normal”:

  1. Front Line Worker Love – now we truly understood the supply chain and we see how hard you work for not such great pay. Sorry we didn’t say thank you before. We love you healthcare workers, grocery store employees, sanitary workers, delivery drivers, senior living care staff. You helped make this year so much easier for us by being on the front lines while we sheltered at home.
  2. Neighbors Connecting – when your world is your neighborhood, it really pays to know who those people are. We have loved the impromptu sidewalk conversations, happy hours on the front lawn, hearing kids playing in backyards.
  3. Accessible Voting  – whose great idea was it in the first place to have all voting take place on just one Tuesday in November? And then not even make it a day off of work? Let’s always have multiple days to cast ballots and encourage voting by mail.
  4. Spending Less on Stuff – spending so much time inside our homes, we see things differently. We decluttered, cleaned closets, donated items, as we dreamed of our next vacation. It semeed to remind us all that the stuff we collect isn’t what makes us happy, it’s spending time with the people we love and collecting memories, not things. And when money is tight for so many now, it just feels right not to spend money frivolously.
  5. Daily Walks – before COVID many of us rarely saw more than a handful of neighbors on walks, but now it’s like rush hour on the sidewalks! You see so much more when you walk and it helps fight the COVID 15 weight gain!
  6. Ahhhh, Quiet – with so few cars & airplanes out in the early summer months, the sound of silence was amazing, right?
  7. Curbside Pickup – listen up restaurants & retail shops, we don’t want this service to go away – ever!
  8. Home Cooking – we all miss restaurants desperately, but shopping for and cooking most of your own meals is healthy, less expensive and should happen more.
  9. Less Stressful Holidays – gone were the year end crush of holiday parties where we “must make an appearance”, the cookie exchanges, the dinner parties for 20. Admit it, it was kind of nice to shrug off dozens of obligations and just relax after a hard year!
  10. Empty Animal Shelters – if you are home 24/7 a dog or cat is the perfect antidote to lonliness and boredom. Millions of us gave a rescue animal a forever home this year and we hope that shelters never get fully filled again.
  11.  Video Access to Events/Meetings – can’t attend a funeral in person? Want to be at that block club meeting by you have to cook dinner for your kids? Icy roads make it challenging to have happy hour with friends? Zoom made everything more accessible this year to those with health challenges, childcare responsibilities and the perpetually over commmitted.
  12. Deeper Connections – Is it us or do conversations seem more real right now? People seem more willing to wear their hearts on their sleeves and gone are the puffed up fake conversations where everything is “fine”. Maybe because we are all facing challenges and it feels like a safe time to do so? And video chats offer peaks into the homes of colleagues, clients, volunteer board members. We get to see their pets, their art, their significant others. It’s a good thing for us all to be more human.
  13. Enjoying the Good Stuff Now – dust off that 20 year old bottle of wine, bring out your best china – why are we saving it for a special occassion? We’ve all seen so much loss this year, don’t wait another second to enjoy the good stuff right now.
  14. Work From Home Options – not having to save all your personal errands for  6 pm or the weekends is freeing! Call a client then toss laundry into the washer. Work on a spreadsheet then run to the grocery for dinner fixings. Brainstorm with a co-worker then take a 3 pm Zoom yoga class. The balance is making life better.
  15. No Rush Hour – amazing to have an extra hour (or more) a day by not commuting in peak times. How can we keep this going?
  16. Growing Awareness of Social Justice & Racial Equaity Issues – seeing the world in a new light, understanding that people who don’t look like you may not have had the same advantages you take for granted. And we are vividly seeing our clients diversity goals come to life as the candidate pool we work with now looks like the United Nations! It’s TIME!

EA Staffers share their 2020 thoughts: 

Margie Biggar; Life changed dramatically this March and I am still adjusting nine months later.  I miss seeing family and friends when I want to, now there are restrictions—we need to choose who can be in our “bubble.”  I now work from home instead of an office.  Zoom meetings, Zoom exercise classes, virtual EA jobs are all part of life today.  Take out dining, masks, Covid results, quarantining and Governor DeWine are my new daily routine.  While worried about the arrival of our first granddaughter who was born during COVID, she arrived safely and I know she finds it odd (or maybe she doesn’t) that we are all in masks. Our other son met her through the window since he works in Cincinnati and would have to quarantine in order to meet her in person. My IT skills have improved dramatically (with the help of EA’s IT specialist Cari Ross) as we do Virtual Orientations for candidates. I have enjoyed searching my many cookbooks for new recipes and while I had every intention of decluttering my house, maybe that will happen in 2021. I’m eager to receive the vaccine and pray we can return to visiting family and friends, a full lineup of candidates for EA to woo to Cleveland, travel & vacations! But I for one, will not forget what life was like in 2020 and will take time to be thankful and appreciate the life we live.
Christy Bittenbender: With decisions on venue, hotel, and guest list changing by the week, we were finally able to hold our son’s wedding at the end of June at an outdoor venue near Chagrin Falls.  There is something to say about smaller, more intimate.  We all loved it, and a beautiful sunny day was the icing on the cake.
Suzanne Dannemill\er: What a crazy year we continue to wade through. Sometimes the water seems to be constantly rising and other times it appears to be pooling at my ankles. Regardless, we all find ourselves rowing…hard…every day. BRAVEHOPEMOM was the name I chose when I cancelled my gym memberships and bought a peloton. Brave hope. That has been a pivotal concept for me lately. As I think about the year, the loss, the disappointment, the change, I can also think about the blessings that sits right next to the disappointment..We mourned the loss and the inability to celebrate my husband Dave’s mom’s life but relish being able to spend 9 weeks with his dad as he mourned in quarantine. We were disappointed our son Jack’s graduation from Clemson  was cancelled 2 times but finally a makeshift ceremony was fingered out. We will miss out on a family trip to Europe to celebrate with him, but managed a week at the beach together.  We are disappointed that or daughter Kate’s senior college soccer season was cancelled and the closure of her soccer career was not celebrated. But are thankful she is healthy and strong and had a great run on the field.  We are disappointed that her Denmark abroad trip was cut short, but thankful she at least got to go for 1/2 of it. It fueled her desire to travel, be courageous and be independent.  I am sad my mom is quarantined in her retirement community and will miss Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family. But I’m thankful she is safe and has lots of friends in her building and I can still visit.  I’m thankful that although Kate has spent months at home that she didn’t anticipate, it has given us unexpected time together before she moves to DC and starts her career.  I’m thankful that we were home and available for Dave’s dad all summer as he mourned the loss of mom.  I’m thankful that Dave’s work is now remote and he has been home to hold down the fort as I spend time helping family out of state. And really thankful for the job itself. I’m really really thankful for our new rescue puppy….with so much time at home, he brings laughter and required fresh air to our world. So I guess, as I reflect, loss and disappointment could be a part of every sentence describing our year, but in the next breath, and on good days, the first breath, I can see a hidden blessing in it. That’s where I’m trying really hard to concentrate right now .
Annie DePerro: When I think about all of the challenges I faced in 2020 I think my favorite challenge was learning how to use a caulking gun.  That’s right. Using a caulking gun was so symbolic of my year.  If you are not familiar, caulk is an purpose acrylic latex material with silicone that makes a waterproof seal and is ideal for seeming up gaps – like between crown molding and the wall. In my case, I used it on an interior project that I decided to tackle when I bought a relatively older home that needed some updating. I easily could have “hired it out” which is what I normally would have done, pre-COVID and in my old life. However, I needed a good project to help me feel connected to spaces. I needed a good project to remind myself that people work this hard every day to support themselves and their families.  I needed to get my hands to justify listening to podcasts all day turning my new house into my home. Caulk is important because it fills in gaps, it’s a connector, and that’s kind of what I do. I fill in the gaps for people that might consider a move here. And, even during a pandemic I try to connect people to Northeast Ohio.  What I hope never goes back to normal is me thinking I can’t do something.  If I can paint a wall, learn how to use a caulking gun and sell a house and move during a pandemic, I can do anything.
Anu Ramakrishnan: 2020 was especially hard because I was not able to travel to India to see my parents. We also had to cancel a trip with my sister-in-law and her family to Morocco and Scotland.  On the positive side, we got to send time with our son and enjoy wonderful family dinners and movies together. Thanks to the slower pace of life, I had more opportunities to experience nature’s abundance with all the beautiful waterfalls and trails around us.
Peg Furnas: This year brought clarity and calamity and unexpected gifts. The pandemic spotlighted inequities; children in our cities unable to access internet for online schooling, front line workers putting themselves in harm’s way while earning $8.55/hour Ohio’s minimum wage, and the ability, according to your zip code, to access health care and testing showed us all the work we need to do. Yet, as we’ve seen in our city’s history, individuals stand up and do something! So many of you jumped into the gap, and others are working with legislators to make changes to policy. I am so very grateful for IT so that EA could continue our good work and for the ability of my husband and I to stay connected to our daughters; in SF, NJ and Columbus. And, for work-from-home so that my youngest in CLE could set up her office in our home. Bonus time with adult children was a sweet surprise. Our family said goodbye to our dearly loved 11 year old Golden, Millie in October. Losing her was extra hard as her presence steadied us, she was hope and goodness.  We are happy to share that we will be welcoming a puppy in the new year, joining so many of you who’ve decided to become dog parents in a pandemic. At home is where you’ll find me; work, play, eat, sleep. Puzzles, Settlers of Katan, Ticket to Ride Europe, Cribbage, Dominoes, Five Crowns, Splendor, Sushi Go, Canasta have been our family’s faithful companions.
Margy Judd: Whirlwind year for me like a lot of people. As the owner of the business I made the decision to give up our physical offices to be a 100% virtual company to keep everyone safe (most of our employees already worked remotely). I miss the connectivity of my co-workers daily. Layered on top of that was moving in with my boyfriend of just 8 months, but thrilled to have a second chance at love after we both lost spouses a few years ago; And while I was unable to see my mom in a nursing home for most of the year, when she entered hospice I was given compassion visits and was grateful to be able to spend weeks with her at the end of her life. Then there were all the milestone events, the weddings I couldn’t get to, the sister’s 60th bday that had to be skipped, the holidays. PHEW, lets all just get the vaccine and turn this ship around!
Cari Ross: Our work feels more important than ever.  The thought of job candidates moving to a new city when they can’t experience anything it offers is sad and difficult for them.  I love that our team gathers together often, virtually and focuses on finding the all of the good things and making great connections for them. I love that while we are experts in introducing talent to NEO with in-person guided exploration, acclimation and experience during their relocation process, as an IT person, we were able to modify the process to virtual without skipping a beat.  We will all be ready to go back to meeting face to face when it’s safe…but for now, our Teams meetings are serving great purpose! Good news/bad news: I really miss in-person meetings, gatherings, socializing and hugs.  But…I’m a full Teams/Zoom calls fan now.  Phone calls without visual connection are a bit boring.  I miss the faces in person, so now I want to see them when we talk!    …and I must confess….the blouse and make-up seen on Teams calls are usually paired with shorts, sweatpants or pajama pants!!
Laura Uhle: Oddly…..being this has been such a challenging and unusual year, my family has been blessed and fortunate in many ways, with continued good health (even our 80 & 90 year old mothers). Our boys have moved back to the Cleveland area, with new job opportunities that were in the  pipeline before Covid and most recent news the arrival of a new Uhle in July! We have expanded our family “bubble” but I sure miss seeing people outside of ours. We are keenly aware of the challenges facing our community and the needs that are piling up and continue to support social service agencies and small businesses when we can.
Caroline Weingart: This has been such a strange year but I am focusing on the many things for which I am thankful. Spending so much unanticipated time with our young adult children, our health, our home (thank goodness we didn’t downsize right after the youngest went off to college), the health of our extended family and friends, the troops (including the Ohio National Guard helping the Cleveland Food Bank) and my dogs (who make sure I get outside and get my steps in every day).  I was not taking well to the “empty nest” and Lee and I were just finding our groove in terms of visiting our daughter (Lizzie) in NYC, and a family weekend in DC in late February with Lizzie and our college boys just before Covid came on the scene.  Fast forward to March-Lizzie leaves NYC as her office shuts down and she begins remote work. I drive to Miami University and pick up Ethan, our freshman in college, who is happy to be home but unhappy there is worldwide pandemic.Our son Ned comes home from OSU after spending Spring Break of his senior year in college in Florida only to go back and forth until his lease is up in July. Very hard way to end your college career-no graduation, no graduation parties. We celebrated with him, a nice dinner at home, but he did not want a fuss. We never did get photos of him in his cap and gown. He stayed in Columbus for the virtual ceremony with his 8 housemates. The parents all chipped in and sent dinner and a cake. In August of 2020 Ethan started his second year at OSU and we moved him into his new apartment. Lizzie and Ned were now both working remotely for their jobs. Ned should have moved to DC for his position but they too had shut down their office as did most companies. Ned had taken over my office in the extra bedroom and Lizzie had set up shop in our library complete with a new standing desk. In June Lizzie and I traveled to NYC to check on her apartment and grab her summer clothes. In August, after learning her company would not reopen for many months, we moved her out of her apartment. The bright side for them is they both have saved thousands of dollars by not paying rent.  We have played numerous games of The Settlers of Catan, watched West Wing (all 8 seasons) with our oldest and more politically-focused kids. I should say rewatched for Lee and I but honestly we didn’t remember that much of the storyline. It was a pleasant escape from the real life political turmoil in our country this year. OSU and Cleveland Browns Football have taken on even more importance—not much else going on so we make chili and get wings and dress to support our teams. Fortunately, both teams have been winning and doing their part. Our three dogs have really done well—many walks, play sessions and snacks. Our rescued Samoyed knows all five of us and  will go on walks with the kids and let them pet her. That did not happen in March and only could have happened with them all living here, walking her and feeding her. Luckily, no one in our family has gotten too sick from Covid. My 26 year old nephew had it over Thanksgiving but he was ok after ten days. We think our son Ned had it in July even though he tested negative-every symptom except the high fever and breathing issues. The hardest part is visiting our elderly parents. Lots of outside and garage visits with masks. It is getting harder now with my Mom who is 90 and in failing health. She had trouble hearing me before Covid and now with a mask on she really can’t hear me. We are just trying to visit and bring her favorite foods and of course I bring Sochi who snuggles up next to her for pats and cookies! In January I am looking forward to focusing more on EA and how we can help our clients and their candidates navigate this new reality. Happy New Year and goodbye 2020.
Tonia Yard: 2020 meant lots of extra ‘together time’ for a family of 5, with college and high school aged children.  Although my daughters were so sad to unexpectedly leave college early last Spring, the silver lining was the bonus time our family got to spend together.  Dying Easter eggs, buildings LOTS of puzzles, playing games, family hikes (even though it was still snowing in May), Zoom calls and binge watching  TV shows (Tiger King, Mad Men, Harry Potter)  The CONS were it was definitely a challenge at times to find a quiet space for all to study and work, way too much screen time for everyone and outrageous grocery bills with our family hunkering down with nowhere to go but trips to the kitchen 🙂  The Fall remained tricky with college online classes and high school sports being effected, but the kids proved resilient and adaptable and are thrilled when anything actually happens.  Looking forward to 2021 and being able to hug our relatives, spend time with the grandparents/cousins, travel and go to a concert!!!!
Happy New Year everyone!  If we can get thru 2020, we can do ANYTHING!

magical 12/24 snow that gave us all a white Christmas