So… this has been going on for quite a while. When my college first transitioned to working remotely, there was an optimistic idea that we’d return to face-to-face instruction by April 13th. Ha!- if only. Having now concluded what is certainly a historical semester, I’m getting to breathe a little bit. The frost has finally thawed, and with the sunny weather and at least some free time, I’m ready to reflect.
I’ve written about COVID thrice now, starting with a very upbeat perspective, and then finding myself in a place of dejection and finally embracing sharing a tiny space with another person when sheltering in place. I’ll be completely honest- this is not my favorite thing to have ever happened, and I continue to struggle. I’ve also had some pretty good times, and want to share the things that worked with all of you. I want to be clear: it’s not all rosy, and a lot of it sucks. I don’t think venting is super productive, but I want to give a realistic view of my pandemic life. That said, with a focus on the positive, here’s how I’m keeping myself sane and entertained:
As I’ve written before, I really miss the gym. In late March, I developed a blood clot, which was incredibly painful. Now I’m slowly on the mend, which has allowed me to be athletic again.
- I started and completed the “Home” challenge with YogawithAdriene. I loved it, and it was the perfect way to nurse myself back to recovery (I’ve been doing yoga for a long time and felt very comfortable adapting the poses- the series is not designed for someone with an injury). This is FREE and available here.
- I’ve since also completed 18 days of training with Sydney Cummings, who has a special COVID work out series. These videos are excellent, I can feel myself becoming stronger, and feel so great in my body. She adapts things based on space and equipment that you have available, so it’s perfect for anyone. Also, FREE and available here.
- I take at least one long hike at the local park each weekend. I also take shorter walks throughout the day. I love being outside, and now in the pretty weather it’s more tempting than ever. I also made myself accountable by doing Yards for Yeardley. If it helps you, look for a cause to support your miles! And of course, walking is FREE.
- One of my colleagues teaches group fitness classes at the gym. She continues to offer them virtually, and while it has been challenging at times (I’m talking Zumba with no music!), we figure it out and make the best of it. My friend does a similar thing with her work friends- they get together virtually 3 times a week and rotate who leads the work out. That model is something anyone can steal- for FREE.
- Lastly, (shameless plug) Mr. Sweetspot has taught yoga for two years on campus and virtually for our gym since the pandemic. Now that the semester is over, he has expanded his class offerings and created a new virtual yoga schedule based on a gifting economy. COST: Whatever you have to give, even if that’s nothing at all. All classes are taught live through Zoom to allow for feedback and interaction and it’s available here.
Sooo many game nights. I think that’s 90+% of my hang outs.
- The real board games + extra camera (if needed) version. We have several different board games, especially across all of our friends. Some of them are fairly easy to transition to playing online. Easiest: Scattergories. You just need paper and a pen, and the person who owns the game sends everyone a picture of the category card, and rolls the die to find the letter. Secret Hitler also works very well, you just have to show folks their character card one at a time, while not looking. We had a secondary camera set on the board, and for passing policies, we again showed the cards to one person only, without looking. Codenames is really great as well. Here a secondary camera set over the game board works best, although depending on people’s devices, you may need to send out pictures of the board so everyone can read it. We have a game night every Sunday, and bonus- my brother who lives in Ohio is able to attend. FREE, provided you have the games.
- Digital escape rooms are a thing! I’ve played several, and can very much recommend the following four: The Midnight Express, Bank Heist, Ultra Mega Super Death Escape Room and Spy Apprentice. There are also paid versions, which I haven’t tried, and several more free ones that are designed for children. I play these with friends on Zoom (as with the board games above). There might be more, but these are the ones I found and they are FREE.
- To spice things up, we actually bought a murder mystery game, Bullets on Broadway. The game comes with suggestions on how to play it virtually. Guests are all given a character and costume suggestions, and one is assigned to be a murderer. It was quite fun! If I was to play it again though, I might just choose to be the detective, and not have a character. It’s a lot on the host. We bought it for $19, and the company seems to have a constant sales code on one of their many games. That said, current retail for the one we played is $29.
- Playing cards.io has been a great resource as well. Guess how many of your friends still remember how to play “go fish”? Zero! Which is fun to discover. They used to have a rip off version of “Cards against Humanity”, which they dubbed “remote insensitivity”, but alas it has been discontinued. As of 5-29 they have “Joking Hazard”, which was a lot of fun- I don’t know how long it will be up. Everything on the platform can be played for FREE and the system is very user friendly.
- Dinner and a movie: a classic date night or friends night. We were due for a hang with our friends, who live far away, so our hangs are typically remote chats anyway. We both cook vegan though, so we decided to try this out. The basic idea is you decide what dish you want to prepare, share the recipe, and go shopping prior to your hang out. Then, you cook together via Zoom or other such software, and it’s a surprisingly awesome experience. It feels like you’re creating something together, and everything is happening at the same time, so things come to a boil, or waft a delightful smell synchronously. Following that, once the food was ready, we ate it while watching a movie on Netflix together. Full disclosure- we were going to use Netflix party, but couldn’t get it to work. So instead, we hit play on the movie together and texted throughout. We reunited on a video call after the movie to talk more about it, and about our delicious food. COST: Dinner ingredients + streaming service or movie rental (or you could watch something on YouTube that’s free)
- Movie club: Our friend runs a movie club that typically meets in a local brewery. This has now moved to operating remotely, starting with a Zoom call, then transitioning to Netflix view party and concluding with a Zoom call. I like it, but Zoom calls with a large number of people can be a lot. Cost: Netflix subscription.
This has been a pretty good time for creating all kinds of stuff, from art through baked goods, as well as home repair. FYI, both of us rather like this type of activity. If you don’t, the baking/cooking category is the only one I’d encourage you to explore, since it has tangible benefits, and you can’t really go out to eat right now.
- Pyrographics- a very fancy name for wood burning. I was a proud owner of a wood burning tool that I bought for another project, but ended up going in a different direction. The tool was metaphorically burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided to try it out. I collected driftwood at the lake and proceeded to play. It’s fairly easy to do, and soon I was able to make some cool stuff, including welcome signs for several friends. If you want to try this, here is something like the very basic tool I use (it appears they no longer carry the one I own). However, I encourage you to try a thing you already have, bringing the cost down to zero.
- Cement crafts. We had a half-full bag of cement leftover from our work on the cottage, but our bunny discovered it one day and ripped it to shreds. Left with a pile of dry cement on the cottage floor, I decided to mix it up and try some stuff out. So far, my only “success” is a very ugly stepping stone. I have more to mix up and will be playing this weekend. Even though I’m failing, it’s fun, and because I’m using up a material I have, it’s FREE! Honestly, just watching YouTube tutorials for these was a blast.
- Crocheting- I have a “blanket made of squares” project that I typically work on during tech weeks for shows. The squares are fairly easy to do, and I like keeping my hands busy. I brought the supplies home, and bought some more yarn once I ran out. I even started putting the thing together! It’s a huge project, but it has no deadline, and I like working on it while watching TV. Cost (during pandemic): $7
- I’m not a baker, but I’ve been challenging myself in this area. I’ve made peanut butter cookies, coconut macaroons (I can’t believe these turned out!), soda bread and beer bread (I used 2 Tbs of sugar and 2 Tbs of maple syrup instead of just sugar). Finally, today I made regular bread, since we managed to purchase yeast, but used our outdoor grill for baking. It turned out a lovely golden brown and I can’t wait to eat one loaf and gift the other. While obviously baking isn’t free, I didn’t buy anything special for any of these recipes, instead working with things I had. I’m slowly convincing myself that I’m more of a baker than I thought I was.
- Cooking is mostly Mr. Sweetspot’s domain- he probably makes 80% of our meals. This has given him an opportunity to make all kinds of delicious things. Again, I don’t think our meals have increased in cost, but we’re (ok, he is) not afraid to tackle things with a longer prep time, or make several “from-scratch” items for the same meal.
- Home improvement: our big project involves flipping our living room around, which included building new shelving, and currently we’re making a couch. Mr. Sweetspot has run water to the house (we’re no longer hauling in buckets!!!) and repaired the cottage porch, while I’ve been working on some landscaping and made wine-bottle-solar-lights . We’ve also been cleaning out and reorganizing the cottage. Obviously don’t tear out your porch if you don’t need to, but if you have the energy and the resources, now is a great time to do these types of projects. COST: varies
Don’t know if this is the right heading, but here are the marvelous things I’m doing for myself.
- Coursera classes. I’ve been wanting to take “The Science of Well-Being” for a while, and this felt like the right opportunity. Also, having never taken a class online I figured doing so would give me a good opportunity to research this for my students (this was a good plan, fyi. I learned a lot from their layout and structure). I loved it, and as part of the homework in that class, I signed up for Introduction to Philosophy as well. I greatly enjoy these, and I’ll keep taking them one at a time. I’m also using this chance to let go of my perfectionism, so I decided not to retake tests for grades of 80 or higher. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s a big deal for me. Coursera classes are FREE to take, but the completion certificate costs money. I don’t intend to purchase it.
- I love reading, and at the start of the pandemic I checked out 10 books from the library, and have since read them all. Not reading was not an option, so I continue to do so. The free option involves rereading some of the books I own, and borrowing books from friends (via porch pick up/drop off). I have bought two books as well, although normally I’d use interlibrary loan.I suspect I’ll continue borrowing and buying (limitedly) throughout the pandemic, but reading brings me great joy, so it’s worth it. Cost thus far: $27.96
- Releasing pressure. Let’s face it, most of our pressure is internal- at least that’s the case for me. This is never more evident then when I’m pushing myself through an endless list of to-do items while working remotely during a pandemic. Honestly, I couldn’t even answer why. So I’m consciously slowing down. This morning I spent 15 minutes watching my fish. It was fascinating and peaceful, and worth it. Slowing down makes me listen to myself more, and I’m very curious as to where this will lead me.
Hope you found something in this list that’s useful. I do want to close with a disclaimer that this is an overwhelming time. In addition to the things above, I’ve fallen into news rabbit holes, lost sleep due to anxiety, experienced periods of depression and gained some weight. That is completely fine. I’m not going to be my best self 100% of the time in the best of times, so I’m certainly not going to be that now. The things above have helped me cope and stay connected and engaged. I’d love to hear how you’re coping, good or bad, and I hope you’re staying safe.