“The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.”Kakuzō Okakura – “The Book of Tea”
Can you remember where you were when you heard that the spread of coronavirus might be serious enough to close schools, businesses, and churches?
The possibility was real enough to me when a friend sent me a text message that someone heard whispers of a statewide lockdown. The last line in the text message basically told me to get to the grocery store NOW or I might not be able to get the food and supplies I needed to survive several weeks at home.
That was on March 7, 2020, which seems like it was an eternity ago.
What followed was a blur of press conferences with decisions quickly being made to close non-essential businesses. Shortly thereafter, schools and universities were closed on March 13.
On March 22, the Stay at Home Order went into effect for our state.
Thank goodness for my friend’s text message. I had everything I needed at home, and I felt safe and ready to cope with and handle the changes that were thrown at me.
But was I really ready to handle every change? How would I cope with the changes ahead?
Outside of the changes that I had prepared for, I held onto the false hope that my summer travel plans were going to escape the possibility of being cancelled. Back in March, my mindset was that June and July were both far away.
This was going to be my Epic Summer of Travel Firsts.
You can tell by the way I capitalized “Epic Summer of Travel Firsts” that I had my summer all planned out.
I am the travel planner in my family, and my husband knew how excited I was about our trip.
June was going to be the kickoff month of the Epic Summer of Travel Firsts. The month was going to begin with seven nights on my first ever Mediterranean cruise. The Disney Magic would depart from Barcelona and end in Rome. Upon disembarking in Rome, my family and I were going to take a magical journey by train to Tuscany and spend a week at a property that is nestled among its rolling hills.
Sounds awesome, right?
The week of July 4th was going to be spent in New York.
I had a reminder on my phone set to get free tickets to our favorite morning show, Good Morning America, and my Pinterest board (titled “New York”, of course) was chock full of wise ways to spend our 4 days in the city.
I told you that my summer was going to be EPIC!
After watching daily updates on the pandemic and witnessing its tragic effects on the people of New York City, it wasn’t long before I realized that part of my summer travel plans would have to be cancelled.
Tuscany was cancelled next, as Italy was an epicenter of the pandemic in Europe.
My Mediterranean cruise was the last part of my Epic Summer of Travel Firsts to be cancelled. Every few weeks or so, Disney Cruise Line released a list of dates and sailings that were affected by the first No Sail Order issued by the CDC on March 14. This initial order was scheduled to expire on April 13.
The second publication of the No Sail Order was published and became effective on April 15. One of the 3 conditions for keeping the No Sail Order in effect is the passing of 100 days from the date of the extended order. 100 days from April 15 is July 24.
UPDATES: On July 16, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a media statement with the announcement that the No Sail Order for cruise ships had been extended through September 30, 2020. On August 5, it was announced that the Board of Directors of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) voted to voluntarily extend the suspension of cruise operations at US ports until October 31, 2020.
It wasn’t long before I received an email from Disney Cruise Line that let me know that my cruise in June was cancelled.
I was disappointed, and felt that I did not have the right to be sad when others were losing loved ones to a pandemic that was spreading faster than it could be handled.
Because of the other emotional strains I felt from preparing for the pandemic, making sure my family was safe, and cancelling other travel plans, I buried my emotions and thought that I was okay.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.”Proverbs 13:12
I have always found wisdom and direction in the verses of the book of Proverbs.
Cancelling my summer plans meant that I had to acknowledge loss. One of the definitions of loss is “the state or feeling of grief when deprived of someone or something of value”.
I acknowledged that:
- I had worked hard over the course of two years to plan an exciting family vacation.
- I was going to miss the thrill of going somewhere I had never been before.
- I would be able to plan again, but it would be quite some time before I could.
After I went through the process of acceptance and acknowledgment it was much easier for me to think clearly and look forward to my time at home.
While doing research for this blog post, I learned that there was a name for the emotions I experienced. ‘Anticipatory Grief’ has symptoms and signs, and there are ways to cope. Read more here: https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-anticipatory-grief-may-show-up-during-the-covid-19-outbreak#1.-Youre-on-edge-and-its-not-always-clear-exactly-why
Entertainment at Home
TELEVISION & MOVIES
For many years I looked at the cost of cable and wanted to cancel it. There was never a right time, because I never had the amount of time I needed to research my options and make the move. It took one call to the cable company and our cable was disconnected. They sent us a box to return the equipment, and it was a good feeling to do something I wanted to do for a long time.
Prior to making the call to the cable company, I did some research on Amazon and found a digital antenna. I was aware that a digital antenna would allow me to watch my favorite shows on network television. It took about 4 weeks to arrive because due to the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon was shipping essential items first.
When the digital antenna was delivered, I was pleasantly surprised by its appearance. It is about as thin and as big as a sheet of copy paper. My husband and son worked on setting up the antennas and in about 15 minutes I had 31 crisp, clear, HD channels to watch.
In addition to watching network television on my new digital antenna, I decided to sign up for a free trial period of Disney+.
I enjoyed the free trial period, found new shows to enjoy (The Mandalorian, to name one), and the yearly price was within my budget. I also missed going to the movies with my family and was able to watch Onward, a Disney•Pixar movie that was released in theaters before they closed due to the pandemic.
Speaking of movies that I did not get to see in theaters, the absence of an expensive monthly cable bill meant that I could make a splurge on Prime Video and rent a movie. This is something I had never done before, and it was an exciting family movie night when we rented Trolls World Tour.
BOARD GAMES & VIDEO GAMES
The time I spend with my family has always been important to me, and that became more evident when schools and universities closed and my husband began to work from home. We all felt the need to be near each other for comfort, and we needed a distraction.
The board games and card games I own were still packed in storage containers from my big move last year. It had been a long time since we played Monopoly and Operation, but the spirit of friendly family competition was still alive.
Video games are somewhat unfamiliar territory for me, but they are familiar ground for my kids. My son received Super Mario Party for his birthday last year and never played it because as he says, it is a multiplayer game and is better enjoyed with others. The fact that it took us almost 3 months to find time to play a game with our son tells me that we needed to slow down.
Super Mario Party is played on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch has 2 controllers per unit. Both of my kids have their own unit so everyone had a controller. If I lost you somewhere in those sentences, there might be a friend or family member that can explain the nuances of the Nintendo Switch.
The mode I played in Super Mario Party functioned much like a board game. Each person chose a Mario character as a player (I chose Princess Peach) and took turns moving around the board. It was a game filled with surprises at every turn and was actually fun.
I did have to learn the buttons on the controller, though.
My son captured our game antics for his YouTube channel which highlights all things Nintendo. The video is below. If you like what you see, hit the subscribe button! (I know, I know…shameless plug.)
Food, Celebrations, and Dessert (of course!)
Because I knew that I would be at home with my family for the unforeseeable future, I decided to make a change to our diet. The meals that we prepared at the beginning of being at home were mostly barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers. I also refrained from carry-out and started making our family movie night dish of chicken wings at home.
French fries are the favorite side dish with these easy eats and baking them in the oven had always been my preferred method of cooking . I used oil to cook them a few times, and though I enjoyed that crisp, delicious taste, I knew that frying foods long term was not healthy.
Before the Stay at Home order went into effect, I decided to look at a few different air fryers at COSTCO. I heard a lot about them, and owning one would make cooking healthier and more efficient. I finally settled on one brand of air fryer, and when I brought it home, my husband was somewhat skeptical. He doubted that an air fryer could produce the same results as frying in oil.
Movie night is usually when we skip cooking and order out, but I purchased chicken wings (a movie night favorite), seasoned them, and added them to the air fryer basket. The result of tender, juicy wings was a hit, and tasted better than the ones we usually order. The skin was crisp without using any oil! The French fries placed in the air fryer yielded similar results.
Next on my list of foods to enjoy during lockdown was crawfish. These tiny crustaceans are a seasonal treat, and I lasted through several seasons without a single craving for this seafood delight.
When the craving hit, I happened to be at a grocery store with a sign outside that advertised hot, boiled crawfish. My husband went inside and emerged with a brown grocery bag full of deliciousness. We set up chairs and a makeshift table in the garage and enjoyed every delicious bite.
Corn, potatoes, and sausage are common side dishes that are eaten with crawfish, and I really missed having them with the last order from the grocery store. After consulting my sister-in-law, who is a true foodie, I ordered a few more pounds of crawfish the following weekend. Once they were consumed, I was satisfied.
Celebrations seem to hold more relevance and meaning during dire circumstances. When I watched the news, I admired graduates and brides who found a way to celebrate graduations and weddings in creative ways.
I celebrated my birthday during the Stay at Home Order. I ordered a cake and picked it up via contactless delivery, and my birthday dinner arrived home after being ordered online and picked up using curbside pickup.
Mother’s Day was different, too. We watched Sunday services online as we had done during the preceding months, and my husband bought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. We discussed ordering dinner from my favorite restaurant, but then my husband asked me if I wanted something cooked at home. Surf and turf was at the top of my list, and fresh lobster tails and steak both happened to be on sale.
This was the first time my husband cooked lobster tails at home, and it was YouTube to the rescue. He prepared them with all the skill of the chef he had seen online and dinner was fantastic.
Lunch and dinner had taken care of themselves, but what about breakfast? And dessert?
One of the things my husband enjoys doing is cooking for our family. He mentioned making strawberry crepes and one morning I heard clutter in the kitchen. I smelled what I thought was pancakes, and when I walked into our kitchen, a griddle with thin crepes greeted me.
Sausage was on the griddle next to that, and a breakfast feast was in the making.
Even though I had to cancel our summer travel plans, there was an announcement by Hilton that sparked my interest and helped to drive away my travel blues.
One of my favorite Hilton properties to book when I travel is DoubleTree. The first time I stayed at a DoubleTree Hotel was several years ago in New Orleans. The location was central to everything I wanted to do during a staycation getaway, and after checking in, the person at the front desk handed me a warm cookie.
“This is nice,” I thought, and then I peeled back the wrapping to reveal a chocolate chip cookie. I love chocolate chip cookies, so I willingly bit into this check-in treat. That was when my love for the DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookie was born, and I purchased a canister of them on the day I checked out.
On April 9, DoubleTree by Hilton tweeted the news I didn’t know I needed to hear, but had been waiting for:
BOOM! Travel via dessert.
I hadn’t baked cookies from scratch in years, and opened my pantry to locate the ingredients that I already had on hand. I added the items I needed to the Notes app on my phone and I chose a day that I needed to stock up on essentials to purchase the ingredients for the cookies.
I expected flour to be the most difficult ingredient to find because of the surge in bread baking while people were at home. Flour was easy to find, but baking soda was sold out and I had to visit another store to find it.
With everything purchased, it was time to start to combine the ingredients and start baking.
The recipe was a sweet success and brought back memories of checking into DoubleTree by Hilton for the first time. My family and I feasted on the cookies through the weekend, and I would definitely make them again!
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.Proverbs 16:24
As I settled into a routine at home, I wondered how I could encourage patients that were recovering in the hospital. The stories of loneliness and patients who felt a sense of hopelessness because they couldn’t see family members after being admitted to the hospital had a huge impact on me.
While watching a broadcast of the evening news, I heard about an initiative called “Arts In Medicine”. The project was a partnership between Baton Rouge General’s Arts in Medicine Program and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. It involved sending a greeting card by mail and it would be distributed to patients throughout the hospital, including the ICU.
This project was perfect for me! I keep cards of all kinds on hand and had the perfect cards to share with someone who needed a smile. I wrote a simple greeting inside each card, addressed them and placed a stamp on each one. I remember feeling uplifted as I placed each card into the mailbox.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.Aesop
Design and Decor
The days at home quickly turned into weeks, and then into months. One afternoon I took a photo of the credenza in my foyer and decided that a change needed to be made to brighten the space. I knew that it would only take one change to upgrade the decor, and decided what color would make the area inviting.
After spending a year decorating my home, I had a bit of experience in this area. I measured the empty space and started my search online. When I found the right piece, there was no doubt that it would look incredible, and would add the splash of color that was needed.
Brightening my view indoors made me want to do the same outdoors, and when the Stay at Home Order was lifted, I visited the garden center at Lowe’s and purchased flowers to add to my landscaping. The brighter the blooms, the better! Going outside to water my flowers every evening proved to be extremely therapeutic.
Writing was not the first thing on my mind as the world shut down to handle the pandemic.
Before watering my flowers in the evening, I walked several times a week. I used this time to chat with my husband and to stop and watch the sunset. The exercise was good for my health, and it helped clear my mind at the end of every day.
Other actions that contributed to my well-being were:
- turning off the television and turning up my favorite tunes
- using aromatherapy by filling my diffuser with soothing essential oils like lavender
- drinking hot, non-caffeinated tea
- getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night
- staying connected to fellow travelers via Zoom meetings
- attending church via weekly services that were offered online
Summer is in full swing, and with fall right around the corner, things will change again. The pandemic has affected the way that the 2020-2021 school year will function. With COVID cases on the rise, virtual classes are a certainty until after Labor Day.
I ventured out and have made a few visits to the hair salon. The owner of the salon has taken great care to keep her salon sanitized, her staff performs a temperature check on each client upon entry, and masks are required. I took my mom to the same hair salon, knowing that she was in good hands.
Making sure that my health and wellness remain a priority, I keep the same routine that I mentioned earlier and encourage my family to do the same. Being in the same space with the same people can be stressful sometimes, and keeping communication lines open helps to alleviate day-to-day stressors.
There has been a new addition to our family, and though it was not easy to start training a puppy, our new four-legged friend has brought joy to our home. There had been conversations about adopting a dog from our local shelter, and we felt that the time was right to do so. All it took was one visit with an energetic 4-month old terrier mix and we were hooked.
Meet Pomme de Terre (which translates to ‘potato’ in French):
This is how I have adjusted to our changing world and these challenging times. How have you handled the changes brought about by the Stay at Home Order in your state or country?
Did you discover a new skill, or start or finish a project?
If you have the same passion for travel like I do, how have you handled the “winds of change”? Share your experiences with me!