Personal: April Update of 2020 Goals

Back in January, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, and March. In March, I only worked on three goals, so I had high hopes for April even though the month started off with more self-isolation. Here’s what I have been doing, if you’d like to know.

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1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday.

The month started off with a Star Wars marathon. I have watched five movies this month. There are so many! I have watched the movies in the order of release and I go back to this chart (see method 1) to make sure I’m on the right track. So far, the first one (released in 1977) – Episode IV: A New Hope – is my favourite.

2. Travel.

All travel is currently still on hold on account of the ol’ Coronavirus. Once the province is out of self-isolation, I am off on a road trip. Somewhere. Not sure where. Anywhere. Suggestions?

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region.

I have taken a lot of walks around my neighbourhood, and I while I haven’t really learned anything new, I have been enjoying observing the architecture of the houses and buildings in my community.

I also read Losing the Signal by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. It tells “the untold story behind the extraordinary rise and spectacular fall of Blackberry.” It was interesting to learn more about the evolution of RIM/BlackBerry.

4. Experience more art.

I have been dreaming about art I’d like to own one day. Caviar20 is one of my go-to spots for art dreaming.

5. Play more board games.

Over Zoom and FaceTime, I’ve played euchre, Yahtzee, and war (the card game) with friends and family. Good times.

I also got hooked on a challenging puzzle, which then motivated me to place an order for another one. It should arrive any day now, and I have a second one added to my wish list.

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

I tried to minimize my sugar intake in April after a very sugar-heavy March, so it was a no-go on mom’s cake.

7. Wear more dresses.

I love wearing dresses to work. Now that I work from home (and it’s still cold), I only wore a dress once this month.

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe.

No progress.

9. Save money.

I have made a decent amount of progress on this goal because everything is shut down. While I haven’t spent money at restaurants, bars, cafés, and clothing stores, I have spent more money at the grocery store and online. I have made a few new fun purchases, but since shipping is slower than usual these days, I don’t have any of my purchases in hand quite yet. When I do, I’ll update you!

10. Plan a major bathroom reno.

Zero progress.

11. Eat more vegetables.

Yes! It has been easy to increase my veggie intake via salads, soups, and side dishes.

12. Buy more fun socks.

No progress.

13. Connect people.

I was able to make some connections for my students. Yay!

14. Clean closets regularly.

I spent one weekend cleaning out two spaces: my linen closet and my tool/storage room. I’m happy to report that I cleared out quite a bit and there’s now empty space in both closets (ready to be filled?)!

15. Trust my gut.

I had a few decisions to make this month, and I’m happy to have trusted my gut as I made them.

16. Get a facial.

I didn’t have a facial this month because all the spas are closed. I have, however, used up just about all the fancy product samples that I had collected. Does that count?

I’ve also put my Clarisonic back into my morning routine, and my skin feels so soft. It’s a good little gadget.

17. Embrace soup.

I didn’t try making any new soups this month, but I did eat soup that others made for me.

18. Clean up my shoes.

I’m happy to report that my shoes are no longer scattered all over my bedroom floor. I have cleaned out my shoes, and my closet is looking much more organized.

19. Pass on my magazines.

Yes! I did this a couple of times in April! I currently have subscriptions to Architectural Digest, Style at Home, and House & Home.

20. Have fun.

Zoom meet-ups with friends and family have continued to be fun in April. Weird times, but we’re managing to stay connected to share some laughs. I hope you are, too!

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Have a great weekend, everyone! Here’s to a positive May!

Personal: Reflections on Life in the Age of COVID-19

I haven’t felt much like blogging. I haven’t felt like writing about kitchen design and cottage dreams as I have in the past. I still like reading about what other bloggers are writing about, but I haven’t felt much like contributing. I’m sure I will again in time because I do think reading and writing about non-pandemic and non-work related things is fun and interesting not just for me, but for readers, too.

What do you have to say about this? Do you want some non-COVID-19 content to break up your days? Fashion, travel, art, food…are you craving these distractions? Should I get back to writing regularly about things I am dreaming about?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been heavy on my mind since mid-February when I learned of the outbreak in my relatives’ small town in Italy (the epicentre of the Italian outbreak, which I still find hard to believe). After 40 days in two hospitals in a neighbouring town, my uncle returned home just after Easter. We are grateful for his recovery.

Once March rolled around in Canada, everything went topsy-turvy! We’re now into week 6 of the working from home / self-isolation life, and I’d like to take a moment (or a few) to reflect on what’s been going on because (a) I want a written record of what I’m doing and feeling to look back on (yes, someday), (b) I think writing is therapeutic, (c) I want to share my gratitude, and (d) I want to reconnect with my White Cabana community (hey, that’s you!).

WORK

I’m incredibly grateful for my work.

I teach at the university. As of March 17th, the university moved just about all of its operations online. I do wish the university gave everybody a couple of days to breathe/regroup/plan before it moved everything online, but it didn’t. As such, the first two weeks were incredibly taxing. It was hard to keep up with emails, Zoom/Teams/Skype meetings, new programming options, and new platforms for teaching and learning. It was a lot. Overall, the last six weeks have been non-stop action, and I have been tied to my computer perhaps more than ever before (yes, even more than when I was writing my PhD dissertation).

My students were appreciative that my course continued as per usual (just about). They did presentations and group work online and managed the change incredibly well. We shared stories of successes, challenges, and some laughter, too, in our virtual class. It’ll be an end-of-term to remember!

The university has since announced that the spring semester will carry on online, too. As such, the prep work continues. This new learning environment has given me new challenges and opportunities to learn, and for that, I am grateful. I don’t like being stagnant in my teaching approaches. I have the sense that the fall term will be online, too, which means a rethinking of program offering and course delivery. It’s an interesting time!

There are many challenges ahead for Canadian universities: enrollment concerns, international student attendance, and faculty training to teach remotely. There are incredible challenges for our students, too: learning in a completely online environment, socializing at a distance, lack of summer jobs, residence closures, and maintaining good mental health. At this point, the list of challenges seems to be never ending.

That said, we are in this together.

Students, staff, and faculty have adapted and are creating new ways to teach and learn. New communities online have developed. I attended a meet-up organized by my academic association a couple of weeks ago, and I was able to “meet” people in my academic community whom I had never encountered before. It was a rich, informative session, and it reminded me that I am part of a group of committed educators. I have learned more about the research and best practices about online teaching environments, and it’s been good to stretch my brain in new directions. (I do love learning, remember).

I am excited about the work that I do. For that, I am so very grateful.

PERSONAL

The biggest change in my personal life is the lack of face-to-face interaction with family and friends. I know you can relate. I am absolutely okay to be alone (I have lived alone for a really long time!), but I do miss the freedom of going for walks with others, inviting people over for dinner, and visiting my parents.

In addition to Zoom parties with friends and family, I have had a coffee date with my neighbour on our respective porches, and I spent three beautiful weeks at Lake Huron. Friends have left baked goods in bags hanging on my front door. These interactions with family and friends – although brief and from afar – have been special.

I know there is a lot of chatter online about people taking up new (or old) hobbies. Sourdough and bagels seem like top picks! So is mask sewing, painting, and spring cleaning. Because of my work life, I haven’t had much time to explore new hobbies…or even return to old ones. I haven’t jumped on any COVID-19 hobby trends, and I haven’t taken up TikTok dance challenges. That said, I have made more meals than ever before, enjoyed quiet hours of reading, and tried a few new recipes.

I know there are so many recipes floating around online, but these are the new to me recipes that I would highly recommend: this pasta dish, this roast chicken, and these nodini (bread knots). So good! So easy!

MENTAL

I haven’t been so concerned about being alone because I am committed to maintaining a decent social life (Zoom parties every week!), and I connect with my family a lot. But when I step out into the world, I feel uncomfortable. I go for daily walks, and I stay far away from others. I say hello and smile at passerby, but it’s from a distance, and it feels so weird. Six weeks in, and it still feels weird. It seems that everyone is scared of everyone else these days.

I avoided stores for as long as possible. I had no desire to go to the grocery store. I didn’t love grocery shopping pre-pandemic, and I really don’t like it now. On my last trip, I told myself I would buy enough food for a month, so I wouldn’t have to go back. I think I have two more weeks to go. Fruit and veggie supply is dwindling, I have to admit. But I’m determined to eat up everything in my house before I have to go back to the grocery store. Hello paranoia! It’s terrible! Does anyone else feel this way?

A simple task from the past has turned into one that I really do dread! Why? Well, I think it’s because I don’t like seeing empty shelves, the grocery store is quieter than usual, there are stricter rules to follow (e.g., aisle directions), and I get lost in thoughts about how many people have touched the grocery items. When I came home from a big grocery shopping trip two weeks ago, I washed everything. Every item got at least a rinse. I’m not sure if this is necessary, but it made me feel better.

It’s ridiculous that I am so dramatic about making trips to the grocery store. I am lucky to live within walking distance of three well-stocked grocery stores, and I haven’t had to be so concerned about what to buy and prices. I’m grateful. Others, many others, are struggling with even finding access to food. Affording food. It’s a basic human right, and people struggle. It’s terrible at any time. It’s terrible in this uncertain period.

HOW TO HELP

I know I am fortunate. I have a beautiful home. I have plenty of food. I work. I have great friends and family. I know there are many others who are less fortunate.

I have chosen to donate to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region because I want my community to be nourished. There are so many organizations and people to support during this challenging time, so, if you are able, I encourage you to look within your community and donate to areas of need.

THANK YOU

I am grateful for all the people who are working in our essential services. I thank them as I’m being assisted, and I am more patient with them (and line-ups) than ever before.

A sincere word of thanks or an extra few minutes of conversation does seem to make everyone a bit happier – even if it is through plastic barriers and face masks.

Be well.

Personal: March Update of 2020 Goals

Here’s the original post, my January update, and my February update if you’d like to get caught up. If not, here’s how I’m making out with my 20 things I’d like to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020.

March has been quite challenging (you know, the ol’ COVID-19 pandemic). I haven’t accomplished much on my list at all! I have only worked on numbers 11, 12, and 20 (so I’ve only included them in today’s post). Three items? Here’s hoping I’ll do better in April!

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11. Eat more vegetables.

I have continued to eat more veggies! I continue to have salads in heavy rotation, and the other day I made broccoli with bacon. Yum!

12. Buy more fun socks.

I picked up this trio when I was at Winners early in the month.

20. Have fun.

Regardless of where I am or what is happening in the world, I am still trying to have a bit of fun every day! I have been fortunate to be at a cottage for just about three weeks, and I consider daily beach walks fun! I’ve even started a new rock collection to remind me of this place and this time.

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So there’s my brief March recap. I’m ready for spring and an interesting April (but maybe less world-wide pandemic kind of interesting!).

Press Pause

2020 has been quite something. Sometimes I wake up, and I honestly think I’ve been dreaming.

I have been following the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning. It’s consumed many of my waking hours. When I got news on February 21st that my relatives’ small Italian town had been hit by the virus, I really couldn’t stop reading the news. Seeing photos of the town in major newspapers was surreal. I mean, noone goes to the town unless you have family there. It was so bizarre to read about it from afar.

Not long after we learned about the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, my uncle was admitted to the hospital, and he’s been fighting this deadly virus for nearly a month. We have been praying. We’ve tried to not look at the numbers. Luckily, he has made some progress this week, so we maintain hope.

The pandemic news seems fake until you know people who have been seriously affected by the virus.

In addition to concerns about family well-being, like many others, I’ve been forced to move my work life fully online. I’m grateful that I’m tech-savvy enough to make this transition, but the workload has been overwhelming. And the stories I hear from my students about stress levels about grades, exams, graduation, housing, and employment are additionally overwhelming. Everyone has so much to manage right now. It’s distressing.

Today, instead of watching the numbers rise (if you’re like me), you might consider reading this poem (or listening to it in Italian via the link below).

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An Imagined Letter from Corona to Humans

Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa,China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.
Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness,
listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?
Stop.
Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.
Stop. Just stop.
Be still.
Listen.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.

– Kristin Flyntz (Listen to the poem in Italian.)

English poem via Swiss Miss

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Be well. Have a peaceful weekend.