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As the page turns on 2020, we’re just going to be blunt here. The best thing that can be said is that it’s finally coming to an end. Good riddance.

Instead of dwelling on all the ways 2020 was cancelled, we can now turn our attention to 2021 and what we’re looking forward to in the new year. Believing in a better future is the way to go, says Dan Gottlieb, a Cherry Hill-based psychologist and former host of WHYY-FM’s “Voices in the Family.” Looking forward is what gets people through hard times and pain. But (you knew there would be a but), don’t get too attached to a specific vision of what 2021 will bring, cautions Gottlieb.

“What’s going to happen after 2020? The Phillies will win the World Series. The Eagles will win the Super Bowl again. I’ll grow hair and walk again – or maybe not,” quips Gottlieb, who became a quadriplegic after a near fatal car accident decades ago. “The truth is we don’t know when this pandemic will end or how it ends. And deep down, we know everything is not going to go back to how it was before.”

Grappling with the continuing uncertainty of the future is hard, but you can do it.

“We don’t appreciate how resilient we all are,” says Gottlieb. “You get knocked on your ass, you get up and you’re ok, but all we remember is that we went down on our asses. It’s more difficult, but important, to have faith in your resilience.”

So don’t stop believing in tomorrow. Hope, dream and plan – and do it with an open mind, he says.

“Hope, in my humble opinion, is not simply the belief that tomorrow can be better than today,” Gottlieb says. “It involves a plan, a goal and a way to get there. It’s not passive, like waiting for the gods to take you there. If we approach 2021 with genuine curiosity, we’re less likely to get wrapped up in our own expectations.”

 

SJ Magazine’s Year

Between the ups and the world-changing, record-shattering downs, it’s been quite the interesting year at SJ Magazine.


January:
We kicked off the decade with such promise. It’s our 20th anniversary, and we toast SJ Mag’s success.

February: We call for nominations for our 5th annual Women of Excellence awards ceremony.

March 12: New Jersey’s stay-at-home orders hit as we’re wrapping up the April issue. It’s our last day working in the office. We cancel our Women of Excellence photoshoot.

March 13: We are days away from going to print with the April issue and begin to struggle with what will be happening in the world when our magazine hits homes. We decide to do something we’ve never done before. We crop off the top of the cover photo and write this message on a white background: “In light of what’s happening in the world, we hope this issue brings a sense of normalcy – and comfort – to our readers.” We really hope it does.

March 20: Our printer notifies us they may be shut down, which will affect delivery of the April issue. It is a very tense weekend.

March 23: We find out our printer is open, and the magazine ships as scheduled.

March 31: We ask Olympic Gold Medalist Carli Lloyd to talk to SJ Mag’s Marianne Aleardi on Facebook Live about how to stay strong in difficult times. She does, and over 1,500 people watch.

April 1: While figuring out how to produce the magazine from our living rooms, we increase our digital presence. Since we have quick access to South Jersey experts, we start producing video after video, quickly posting them on social media.

April 5: While we are known for featuring celebrities on our cover (of course, only if they have a South Jersey connection), we decide to focus on our communities instead. We re-design planned editorial, and our next 8 covers highlight the people and places close to us all.

May 1: Longtime SJ Mag photographer David Michael Howarth photographs families outside their homes and raises $6,500 for Cathedral Kitchen. SJ Mag Editor Jayne Feld and her family really got into it.

June 2: A reader calls to make sure the staff is safe and healthy. That was really touching.

July 21: Gov. Phil Murphy grants us the first of 2 video interviews to discuss Covid’s impact on South Jersey. 49,000 people tune in.

July 23: We launch a new digital series following Marianne as she learns to garden. It’s filled with funny mess-ups along with surprising successes (like actual vegetables growing in her backyard). Over 20,000 people watch each episode.

Aug. 25: We host our first virtual roundtable and the conversation is as informative, animated and inspirational as the in-person event. That’s a relief.

Aug. 28: We interview Gov. Murphy again to talk about remote learning and mail-in voting. 46,000 people watch.

Sept. 1: Our Top Doc’s issue has never been more meaningful.

Sept. 2: We finally photograph our Women of Excellence (6 months later than we had planned). We stagger the honorees and limit the number of our staff to 2. Everyone wears masks.

Sept. 9: A reader reaches out after reading our story, “Going It Alone,” about moms handling the pandemic while raising kids with special needs. She thanks the staff for bringing this issue “to the front lines of our community.”

Sept. 29: We had been holding out hope, but we officially decide to cancel the in-person Women of Excellence awards reception we had re-scheduled for Dec. 1.

Oct. 1: We are finally able to feature our 2020 Women of Excellence winners in the magazine.

Oct. 6: We launch “South Jersey Girls” a podcast featuring SJ Mag’s Klein Aleardi, Jayne Feld, Elyse Notarianni and Marianne Aleardi. Check it out as 2 millennials and 2 Gen X’ers have 1 conversation.

Oct. 28: SJ staff members get a calendar alert on their phones: “Best of SJ Party, 5:00 pm,” but we’re all home. For the first time in 20 years, we haven’t been able to gather with our Best of SJ winners.

Nov. 1: First Lady Tammy Murphy agrees to participate in the Women’s Empowerment Series. She is the final participant we book, and everything is set for a Dec. 4 release.

 

Camden, yesterday, today & 2021

Ah, the good old days: At the start of 2020, there was such a buzz about Camden. A vibrant arts and food scene, open-air concerts and waterfront attractions drew city residents, suburbanites and tourists alike. Unemployment citywide was down to 5 percent.

Then as the pandemic swept into South Jersey, Camden County quickly became the hardest hit county in the southern part of the state. And nowhere was the devastation worse than in the county seat. Of more than 15,000 Covid cases reported countywide by mid-November, a disproportionate 4,100 plus were in Camden alone. The virus has claimed the lives of 91 city residents. And as the region saw a second wave of infections last month, the percentage of unemployed Camden residents was in the double digits.

From the earliest days of the pandemic, Camden businesses, hospitals, universities, government agencies and residents organized a coordinated effort to ease some of the pain. Within months, children citywide had laptops and wifi to attend school remotely, food was distributed to those in need and drive-thru testing sites began appearing throughout the city.

“There’s still a lot of good things happening in the city, but the pandemic has slowed things down and taken its toll on residents and businesses alike,” says Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. “For city residents, a vaccine can’t come soon enough.”

In the meantime, Camden remains a focus of the county’s Covid response, he says. In late October, the health department introduced a new, more intensive push to help those struggling. Going door to door through city neighborhoods, the department is assessing needs and connecting residents to food, shelter, rental assistance and employment services. Covid testing and flu shots are widely available.

Looking to the future, Cappelli says the county is putting together a plan to distribute hundreds of thousands of doses of a Covid vaccine when they’re safe and available.

“There is certainly light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.

 

Tell us something positive that happened in 2020

I am able to get just as much done at home as I did in the office, but now I can go to the gym and make dinner without the long commute.
Megan Callahan, Marlton

I learned one of my dearest, closest friends who happens to be my next door neighbor loves ping pong as much as I do. We now play regularly.
Abbie Kasoff, Collingswood

Oprah and her cabbage patch. This summer, Oprah posted a photo of her holding a cabbage she grew in her garden that is the size of a small toddler, and I can’t explain why that made me so happy.
Natalia Maikranz, Audubon

I got a Sheepadoodle puppy who is so happy all the time (probably because he doesn’t seem to know there’s a pandemic going on).
Marie Kolar, Atlantic City

At least 180 more meals with my children and the focus on things we really need. Also, it is an acceptable fashion choice to wear sweatpants all day long.
Sangeeta Doshi, Cherry Hill

I’ve taken a lot of steps in my professional life. I got my CPA, switched jobs and am getting into a work group that I really enjoy.
Adam Check, Moorestown

I got pregnant with my second child and am really looking forward to having a baby. He’s due in the beginning of January, but it would be great if he comes early. I love my kids, but I hate being pregnant.
Nicole Miller, Marlton

I stopped waiting for opportunities to present themselves to me and started creating my own opportunities in my business and personal life.
Meggan Ciaccia, National Park

December 2020
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