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!).
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.
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!
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.
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.