Well, what a year it’s been, and we’re only halfway through 2020.
I don’t even know where to start. Obviously, the world and my personal life have been affected by COVID-19. This year sort of feels weird. As a teacher, I spent about four months teaching online… And well, that went as well as you could expect it to when my students are mostly 3 years old, nonverbal, and have special needs. But even though I was working during those times, and I WAS WORKING… I posted a read-aloud every week, a math calendar every day, an art project a week, a science experiment a week, and TONS of virtual lessons via a video camera and PowerPoint [usually 1 social studies, 1 science, and several ELA lessons, our math was mostly done via calendar]. That was very stressful for somebody, who is extremely introverted, and really hates the sound of their own voice. But I tried for my students. But even though I was technically working from home, mentally it felt like summer vacation did, and now that we’re on summer break, my brain is just confused.
I miss my routine, I miss physically going to school [though I really DID NOT miss downtown traffic on my commute home], and I really miss my students. And since my specific special ed class only goes up to kindergarten, most of my kids have now graduated from what I teach and are moving on up, and it sucks so bad that I DID NOT get to finish the year with them… especially since I’ve had many of them since they were only three years old. I also learned that I would never be happy, NOT WORKING, I truly enjoy being in school with my students.
I’m not going to wax poetic about quarantine life especially since so many other people are experiencing the same thing. A few things have kept me sane, and I just thought I would take time to write about them.
I WILL say though, that even though I LOVE reading. I haven’t really been able to read much since being at home. The only NEW-TO-ME book that I’ve read has been the prequel to Hunger Games. The rest of the books are just reread at the dinner table. I just find myself to distracted to read at home. I do the majority of my reading at school during down-time and if I travel.
That being said… here are ten activities/things that are keeping me sane during this COVID times.
1. Painting. I’ve ALWAYS loved to paint. I wouldn’t say I’m good at painting, but I can follow directions reasonably well. I used to really enjoy going to places like painting with a twist. About a month ago, a friend of mine introduced me to paint nite. It’s all virtual paint nites. There are TONS of paintings. You can search all over the world, and there are tons of paintings to choose from. I find I tend to like camping-related paintings. They’re fifteen dollars, and there are SO MANY TO CHOOSE from, and you get to them via a zoom link that’s sent to you. From there, using your own supplies [amazon and dick blick are my go-to suppliers], you follow along with them and learn how to paint the painting. It can be as social as you want it to be, as in your sound and video are on, or you can just turn off your camera and audio and watch along. All the artists I’ve learned from have been very nice and they have so many personalities and techniques for painting things. It’s been a lot of fun for me. There are also online painting tutorials for beginners. There’s a great website called step by step painting that has a myriad of free tutorials to follow just using traceables and free videos. There are also youtube videos by The Art Sherpa, amongst others that have free painting videos for anyone to follow. And while I paint my paintings, Justin has gotten a lot of painting done with his miniatures, so it’s been something that we’ve been doing together.
[Justin’s mini painting set up and some of his minis, if anyone is curious]
If you’re not into painting, they’ve got TONS of other options from Plant Nites to Trivia Nites to Cooking Nites, but I’ve just been sticking with painting. For some of the other “art-like” projects like mosaics or blanket-making, they will send you the materials, as well.
2. Yoga. As a joke, Justin said we should start doing Yoga or something… so why not? We started doing the 30-day Home Yoga Journey with Adriene, and while we’re only about two weeks into it… we’ve both really been enjoying it. I wouldn’t say that either of us is particularly good at Yoga, but it’s been fun, and it’s also something that we can do together. It’s SO MUCH easier to motivate myself to do some sort of exercise when there’s somebody else to suffer through it with me.
3. Gaming. I’ve been playing a myriad of games since quarantine started. I’ve been shiny-breeding like crazy in Pokemon Shield. I’m very excited that a new expansion for Pokemon Sword and Shield finally came out because there were a lot of pokemon added that I also want to breed shinies of. I started a new game in Stardew Valley. I’ve been playing Animal Crossing New Horizon, though my island is a 5-star hot mess of crazy flowers in my attempts to breed hybrid flowers. I’ve been expanding my legacy challenge in Sims 4. I’ve also rediscovered my love for Final Fantasy XIII.
I also have the Final Fantasy VII remake though I have yet to play it… same with Kingdom Hearts 3, which came out last year. I suppose I’ll get to them in time.
4. Virtual Game-Nights. We’ve started having virtual game-nights every other Friday. We stream Jackbox TV via discord. We have a group of about six of us, who mostly play on a bimonthly basis. We’ve also dabbled in online cards against humanity and online board games via websites such as board game arena. It’s been a lot of fun, and I feel like, through these game nights, we’ve become much more social than we were in the pre-COVID world. Gaming online has also let me reconnect with one of my best friends since middle school, who joined us, and so many new friendships have been formed through these gaming nights. The best part is we’re all extremely like-minded people, so the game’s answers have been very entertaining. Some of our favorite Jackbox games include Tee KO, Quiplash, Split the Room, Trivia Murder Party, Survive the Internet, Civic Doodle, and Mad Verse City. We’ve been having so much fun with it, that we’re probably going to continue doing it, even when the world gets back to normal.
5. Gardening. I have a black thumb, so really I only have a succulent garden. But I’ve been spending a lot of time taking care of my cacti and we’ve even attempted to plant some more things. We’ve planted sunflowers and watermelon, and it’s been fun seeing them grow.
6. Baking & Cooking. I haven’t done nearly as much cooking/baking as most people would’ve expected me too [I love to bake!], but we’ve done some. I’ve made cheese enchiladas, bread pudding [with and without fruit], mint brownies, meatloaf, and large chocolate caramel chip cookies. Upcoming projects include homemade gummy bears and mini cheesecakes. Justin’s been experimenting with steak and burgers. There ARE SO MANY recipes online, that’s it’s SOOOO EASY to find anything you would ever want to cook or bake.
7. TV!!! Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video have been amazing. Justin has personally discovered his love for Survivor, and we’ve been marathoning Survivor [Hulu/Amazon Prime] seasons every week. His goal is to audition for Survivor and be a contestant on it. I introduced Justin to Community [Netflix], which I had seen already and he hadn’t, and we’ve been laughing hysterically at it [and okay so Season 4 isn’t as good as previous seasons, but it’s sort of entertaining… albeit some strange scenarios and plots]. We both absolutely loved the Pokemon Sun and Moon animated series [Netflix] and thought it was the best done of all the Pokemon anime, thus far. I’ve been rewatching Girl Meets World [Disney Plus] and am still salty it didn’t get a season four. Encore, also on Disney Plus, has become such a feel-good show for me, and I cannot wait till Season 2. I enjoyed the conclusion of Fuller House [Netflix], partly for nostalgia reasons and also because it’s funny when it makes fun of itself, and also cute. I’ve also discovered my love for the new She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix, and it’s become my new favorite show. It’s such a feel-good show and it has such a diverse set of characters and I highly recommend it. Justin and I also discovered BoJack Horseman [Netflix] and we’ve really been enjoying that even though it’s a very dark and depressing show.
8. Planning mini socially distant vacations. In a few weeks, J and I plan to do some socially distant vacationing in cottages in Oklahoma and Missouri, which are booth states I need to visit to accomplish my goal of visiting all 50 states. We may or may not drive through Hot Springs National Park on our way back to Texas. We’re both excited about that trip. Justin is excited to camp in the woods and practice his “survivor” skills like making a fire with flint. I’m excited to see a new place and hopefully get some reading done since I’ve been slacking horribly on reading. I can’t wait to roast marshmallows, make s’mores, and read by a fireplace. I also can’t wait to get my camera out and get back to taking pictures and exploring the US.
9. Supporting local restaurants. Justin and I have discovered some AWESOME local restaurants in our campaign to support the local restaurants in our city. We discovered an amazing pizza place. Their pizzas taste so much like the pizzas I left behind in NJ, and are WAAYYY better than Pizza Hut. We’ve supported our favorite BBQ joint. We recently discovered a restaurant that has amazing margaritas choices and some New Orleans themed food and we plan to check that one out next week. We’ve had local sushi [though Justin had chicken nuggets… I mean sweet and sour chicken]. It’s been great to support local restaurants and try and also discover amazing new food. I’ve also been supporting my favorite coffee company: Blackout Coffee and they’ve had some amazing sales since this all started. Their flavored coffee is amazing.
10. Kitties. Our kitties help keep us sane though I am not sure what they’re going to do when we go back to school [whenever that is] since they’ve gotten so used to us being at home 24/7.
So even though these are strange times, we’ve been hanging in there. It gets hard at times, but it’s also important to remember that you’re not alone.
I guess that’s really it… As the US is reopening, PLEASE WEAR A MASK, I know that people might not think they need them, but other people do need them and are susceptible to germs due to underlying conditions that you may not know about. So if not for yourself, at least consider wearing a mask to keep other people safe since we know nothing about strangers and what their existent health issues might be.
Other than that, just hang in there, and remember, in the words of High School Musical, “We’re all in this together.”