Writer’s Note: Recently I found myself deep-cleaning my KitchenAid mixer — something I’ve done only rarely. This wasn’t the usual wipe-down. This time I paid close attention to the mixer’s details even though it looked spotless. Now do NOT judge. I was once a very busy woman. If something LOOKED clean, I left it alone.
Not long after the mixer cleaning, I found myself deleting nearly 1,000 emails from several accounts —not something I do often, obviously. That started me thinking. Were others finding themselves doing unexpected things? It has been four months since the emergency declaration, and things are still a mess. What we were told early on was frightening; what we are learning now is no less disconcerting.
Jim says that what we are living through is surreal. Once again, the smartest person I’ve ever known has nailed it. This bizarre time in our lives is indeed surreal. Merriam-Webster defines “surreal” as something “. . . marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.”
This is a dream, alright — a nightmare. — GP
Our Coping Skills
Walt Disney had to work hard throughout his life to overcome significant challenges. Late in life, Disney said, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
Almost everyone would agree that this COVID-19 business has been “a kick in the teeth”. Every aspect of our lives has been impacted. I found myself seeking ways to help cope with the situation— and I suspected that I was not alone.
A Few Simple Questions
To find out, I asked some questions using social media: “What thing(s) are you doing now during this pandemic that you’ve never done before — or haven’t done in a very long time? How is that working for you? Is it something that helps you cope? Escape? Organize? Other?”
To my surprise, I received over a hundred responses. Turns out others are doing many things to help them cope. For some, these are things that they haven’t done in a very long time; for others, these are new things to try; for several, these are things necessary for their very survival. All seem to share the spirit expressed by UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “Never let the things you cannot do prevent you from doing the things you can.”
Organizing and Cleaning
Many of those responding said that organizing and cleaning were the activities that helped fill their days. Sue Nawas cleaned and reorganized two of her free-standing freezers. The unanticipated benefit? Now she doesn’t have to buy some of the foods that she happily “discovered” during her project. Mary Kathryn Berry cleaned and reorganized her closets, especially now that her yard man cannot come to help her outdoors — her favorite place to be. Fair warning — she is considering “borrowing” someone else’s yard help so that she can get back to her yard again.
Patti Orlando, clearly a “natural organizer”, decided to organize her kitchen spices. When asked if she had organized them alphabetically or by container size, this was her answer: “Two different sets, both alphabetical and each by size on different shelves for refills. Then I filled 2 drawers by size and easy access. It’s amazing even to me that I get so much satisfaction out of that. HAHAHA!”
Cooking Because . . .
Others found that cooking became not just a necessity, but also a way to learn new techniques and explore new cuisines. Even some of the fellows have expanded culinary skills.
Ken Stickney works from home but his wife works a shift, coming home for late lunch. He is grilling more now (he admits he grills the simple things that he can’t mess up) because he likes to have a good lunch ready for her when she gets home. Using careful planning, he is managing not only to have a simple lunch daily for his very happy wife, but has also found that this routine breaks up his workday nicely. He admits that he is even taking the time to set the table correctly.
Diane Paschall is spending time tending to her garden and then preparing dishes that feature her produce — especially her heirloom tomatoes. Her current passion is online cooking and cookie decorating classes. Her next challenge? Making French macaroons from scratch.
Two friends ventured into uncharted culinary territory to fill their time. Carolyn Trawick made muscadine jelly — the first time that she had ever made ANY jelly. She had muscadines in her deepfreeze so decided to try. (It was delicious!) Kara Clowers tried her hand at old-fashioned canning. With produce coming from her garden, she remembered how her grandparents would “water-bath can” their vegetables when she was a child. “I did it because I think it is becoming a lost art, and it reminds me of my grandparents and my babysitter,” she explained.
While some have gained weight, others have taken this time to reassess their eating and exercise habits. Jan Newcomer decided when the virus hit that she would come out of the epidemic healthier than when she went in it. She began walking daily and now walks nearly 4 miles each day. She is 20 pounds lighter, feels better, and has a nice tan!
Two women, however, are coping with quite serious health challenges that have coincided with the pandemic. Jennifer Sweeney had big plans for her quarantine days — daily walks, painting, organizing closets, and reading. As she was making her plans, COVID-19 struck her. Now taking Hydroxychloroquine, she is still too weak to do any of those things she had planned, but because she is seeing improvement, remains characteristically optimistic.
For Connie McNeil, the pandemic presented an opportunity to plant her usual half-garden — planting separate cantaloupe and watermelon plots so that
“. . . the deer can reach them easier”. As she was harvesting zinnias and vegetables for neighbors who “needed a lift”, she discovered that a long-ago cancer had reoccurred. “Just as things were beginning to come in, I was heading out — to get to specialists,” she explained. “Not exactly what I had planned, but what better do I have to do while the rest of the world heals?”
Much attention is focused on classroom teachers and how they have honed their online teaching skills to reach our schoolchildren. Conquering technology has not been limited to traditional teaching environments, however.
Rebecca Boedges was happily teaching in-person fitness classes in her studio when the pandemic began. With the accompanying restrictions, she had to quickly transition to online classes. She chose Zoom! and in order to make that application work, had to become something of a sound technician to get her microphone and music both to stream through the system.
To her surprise, teaching online has opened up opportunities for people from all over to take her classes, not just locals. She now believes that future gym classes post-pandemic will have a virtual component. Her biggest personal challenge? Getting used to talking to herself alone in her room while teaching. “If I tell a joke, I only know that I am laughing,” she says. “There is no easy way to see real time student feedback.”
Keep Calm and Carry On
Several have grown out their hair and are embracing their natural gray. Others, including Marilyn Martin, are camping out and jamming with friends. Martin says that music keeps them sane! Some find joy in reading. Tim Anderson has read the entire African History Bookshelf at www.gutenberg.org and is now reading the Asian History Bookshelf. Phala Wright — with help from a very patient Apple support fellow — has managed to get her new iMac up and running. Most, though, admit that they are simply enjoying their time at home.
Even the Dogs
Pets — especially dogs — are “living their best life ever” according to some pet owners. Debbie Luffey says that her pups get walks, lots of TV, and even help with the gardening (code for getting really dirty digging). Lou Davenport says that her beloved Walter is getting fat — so much so that she is thinking of putting him on a diet. She does, however, admit that they occasionally share her #1 survival food: ice cream.
Perhaps Lee Iacocca said best how we should face the current crisis: “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”
Seems to me as though lots of us are!