Coping during Covid19

I’m sitting at my desk at the start of week 3 of the Safer at Home order in Wisconsin. Apart from an underlying uneasiness of this virus making its way into our towns and cities, being isolated and dealing with the unknown feels familiar. To be honest, the first two weeks of staying at home didn’t bother me too much. Many people don’t cope well when they’re isolated and can’t enjoy an active social and work life, but over the past 11 years, I’ve become used to those things.

At the beginning of the Great Recession, my husband lost his job and has been laid off five times since 2009. During that time, I was a public school teacher and was also laid off because of declining enrollment. We had two children in college, house payments, taxes, insurance, car payments, and many other expenses. To survive, we tightened our belts and learned to do without things that we had once taken for granted.

Now, all these years later, I’m working from home as a Beautycounter consultant, and he has once again been laid off. It seems like the uncertainty and layoffs will never end, and the worst part is coping with the unknown. When will he get another job? Will we have enough in our emergency fund to tide us over? How long will this time last? Now that the virus has become a reality, we’re all coping with those same questions.

If security seems like a thing of the past to you too because you’ve been laid off or closed your business because of Covid19, I’d like to help you think about ways to save money and maybe change your perspective from one of lack to one of possibilities and action. Here are some of the things that my family has done over the past ten years and will continue to do to get us through hard times.

Learn to cook from scratch. It’s better, cheaper, and healthier than going to restaurants. How? Crack open cookbooks or look on the internet for recipes, especially ones you can stretch with potatoes or rice. Cooking is a matter of following directions. If you can do that, you can cook most anything! And cooking is a great outlet for creativity! The recipe below is from Half Baked Harvest!

Homemade coconut milk braised chicken with naan from Aldi!

Pick up the sale flyers from your grocery store and plan your menus for a week or longer. To be as healthy as possible, avoid the aisles of packaged food and buy fresh produce, meat, and frozen foods that you can turn into recipes. I like to prepare big batches of soup, chili, barbecue, pot roast, and other things that freeze well. Use fresh foods that will spoil easily first.

Buy different items at different stores (use the information from the sale flyers to help you). For example, I often buy fruits, vegetables, olive oil, spices, and cheeses at Aldi. They have lots of organic foods and often their regular produce is cheaper than at other stores. If you drink milk, their half gallon organic whole milk is delicious! Make sure you check Aldi’s special buys too. They are often on clearance.

Get rid of cable TV. We have an antenna for TV or stream shows from the internet when we want to watch movies or other shows. Streaming offers many more shows than cable anyway. I also have come to love our local PBS stations. They offer commercial free watching and British television like Masterpiece Theater!

Homegrown radishes from my garden

Plant a garden. Plant flowers in pots, window boxes, or the ground. They bring butterflies, bees, and beauty into your life. Or grow your own vegetables! Eating what you grow is rewarding and far better than what you can buy at the supermarket. If you’ve never eaten a homegrown carrot, you’re missing out! If you don’t want to garden or can’t for some reason, make friends with your local farmers. Many offer CSAs or sell at farmers’ markets. They are happy to give you suggestions for how to cook unfamiliar vegetables too!

Be creative with your wardrobe by shopping your closet or thrift stores and learn to wear what you’ve already got in new ways. If you can’t afford to buy a whole new outfit, maybe you can buy a scarf or new earrings to make older shirts or dresses feel new. Also learn to mend what you have and keep your items fresh and clean. This includes shoes. If you’re really ambitious and crafty, teach yourself to sew or knit or crochet.

Make your own cleaning products. It’s easier on your wallet and the environment, especially when you have a septic system. To kill corona virus, however, you need to use something proven to kill the virus.

Use the internet to learn new skills such as meditation, yoga (I recommend Cole Chance Yoga and Yoga TX), cooking, sewing, or gardening. Also watch Khan Academy videos and Ted Talks, or listen to podcasts. They will keep you informed and busy learning something new and just might help you with home-schooling your children.

Exercise, especially outside! Go for lots of walks and reacquaint yourselves with nature. Being in nature is a stress reliever. As John Muir once said, ““And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

Summer in Wisconsin

Rediscover board games and learn to play cards. Play with your families! If you don’t know how to play cards, you can find tutorials on the internet.

Read some great books! There are so many I have read and want to read. Here are a few. The first two I’m looking forward to reading. The last three I’ve already read. You and Me and Us by my friend Alison Hammer, Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes by my friend Kathleen West, The Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell (there are about ten in the series and the series is The Last Kingdom on Netflix), A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer and its sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti, and anything by Katherine Center.

Use Facetime, Skype, What’s App, Google Duo or learn Zoom so you can meet with your family or friends for a virtual happy hour or for morning coffee. It makes the distance melt away when you can see each other in real time and talk.

Zooming with writer friends!

If you’re religious, or even if you’re not, trust that God will help you through this! Because He will. Tune in to services at Trinity Lutheran Church in Waupaca, WI or any other church that is broadcasting services right now. It helps to know that you can count on a higher power in times of stress and anxiety.

This virus won’t last forever, even though it seems like it will. There are many smart people who are working as we speak to invent a vaccine or reliable treatments for us, and isn’t that a wonder. Selfless doctors and nurses are taking care of people made helpless by this thing. There are too many people to count or name who are helping others in this crisis. I’m thankful for all of them.

I hope you can change your thinking from having to stay home to getting to stay home. I hope you’ll discover how creative and resourceful you can be as you keep your family safe. I hope you’ll keep a journal so that you and your children can look back one day and remember how you endured this pandemic with grace and strength. Before you know it, we’ll be buying normal amounts of toilet paper and canned soup at grocery stores and going out to dinner with friends. Until then, stay safe at home, rediscover how much you love your families, and read some great books!

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A Sign of the Times

Yesterday I ran some errands downtown. In Waupaca, a town of just over 5,000 people,  we are very lucky to have a thriving Main Street with almost everything we need offered by local merchants here and in the surrounding area, no Walmart or other large big box retailers to speak of. We even support three bookstores! I know! It’s unheard of! Unfortunately, in another couple of weeks, that number will shrink to two.

Book World in Waupaca

One place I stopped was Book World to buy a copy of a book I’ve been waiting forever for, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon, (yes, hardcover, and I paid full price and am so excited to read it!). I did get a 20% discount, however. When I asked my friend Maria, the manager, about it, she told me they were offering a discount because Book World will be closing several of its stores. Waupaca’s store is one of them.

I didn’t ask about profits or traffic or the recession or anything like that. I’ve read enough about what is happening in the publishing world and the economy to know how difficult it is to sell books these days, especially with the competition of Amazon and Barnes and Noble to deal with. As a result, small, independent booksellers are a disappearing breed, even small chains like Book World. Although Dragonwings Bookstore is still hanging on ( thank goodness!) as is The Book Cellar, I am saddened to think that a community like Waupaca will have one fewer choice at which to browse the shelves for books and magazines, calendars and bookmarks. We will have to look elsewhere to find the perfect book for a gift or experience the thrill of purchasing the latest book in a series that has taken years to read, as I just did.

If your community still has a book store, I beg you to support your local independent bookseller, even if it costs a few dollars more to buy from them. The experience of browsing the shelves in peace and quiet as you sample the worlds within the newly inked pages, of smelling the perfume of new paper, glue, and ink  which is unique to books, and of looking for a title and finding several you weren’t looking for but which you, ultimately, can’t live without is priceless. I don’t know anyone who would find going to the Amazon warehouse and browsing the shelves  comparable to being greeted by name and having books recommended by a friend.

 

“I have gone to [this bookshop] for years, always finding the one book I wanted – and then three more I hadn’t known I wanted.”
― Mary Ann ShafferThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Book Blogger Test

A Familiar Books Quotes

I follow a blog by Jodie Llewellyn. She is a wonderful writer and blogger. If you don’t know about her blog, you should check it out. For a post the other day she answered the questions to the book blogger test from a blog she follows called Brin’s Book Blog. She liked the questions, and so do I. Even though I am not nearly an expert on books or blogging about them, I decided to answer the test questions for my post. I love answering those quizzes on Facebook that tell you what song was written just for you or what you’d be in the wild west, so I’m approaching these in much the same way! I’d love to hear your responses to some of these questions, especially books you’d recommend!

What are your top three book pet hates?

1. I know books about vampires were really popular, but I hate the whole vampire thing. If I never read anything with vampires, it will be too soon.

2. Reading a book that doesn’t live up to its hype. It’s why I haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars, the Harry Potter series, etc. I know I’m missing out, or so many people have told me, but I haven’t been disappointed either! 🙂

3. I hate when my favorite books are turned into movies and the characters look NOTHING like I imagined them, or they add a scene, or totally change the ending. Things like that lead me to wonder if the people who made the movie even read the same book I did. Case in point–has anyone seen The Great Gatsby?

Describe your perfect reading spot.

My perfect reading spot is on my couch in my living room with a cup of Lady Grey or Paris vanilla tea. I snuggle into a beautiful cream colored throw my friend Kay crocheted, and if it is cold here in Wisconsin and the fire is burning brightly, there is nowhere I would rather be! I could stay for hours happily killing time.

Tell us three book confessions.

1. When I was growing up, I didn’t like to read. I know that sounds crazy for an aspiring author and an English teacher, but I would rather have played basketball or have ridden my bike or my unicycle, anything but be cooped up indoors!

2. I have never read Gone With the Wind. I think I just heard a collective gasp from some of my friends down in Georgia. I know! But I just never was all that interested.

3. I have never read anything by Jane Austen. Okay, I just heard it again. This time I think it was from my English teacher colleagues. One day I will try one of her novels, probably the Mr. Darcy one, but there are just so many books to read and so little time!

When was the last time you cried during a book?

I don’t usually cry when I read books. I cry when I see movies, but I think the last time I cried during a book, I cried because I was laughing so hard when I read The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. I dare you to read that book and not laugh till you cry!

How many books are on your bedside table?

Currently, only one because my husband’s relatives just came for a visit from Norway, and I didn’t want them to see what a book slob I am. Ordinarily I have a whole pile, sometimes an entire basket full! When the hubby is away for business, they even creep over onto the bed with me!

What is your favorite snack to eat while you’re reading?

I don’t like to eat when I read, but I love to have a hot drink, preferably black tea with honey and milk.

Name three books you would recommend to everyone.

Only three? This is the hardest question of the whole list, I think, so I chose the ones I have reread over and over again because of the magic of being transported through time and place.

The Alchemist by Paulo Cuelho

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

 Show us a picture of your favorite bookshelf on your bookcase.

This is my favorite shelf because it is the one with books by southern writers or about the South. I just reorganized my bookshelves!

 Write how much books mean to you in just three words.

Inspiration. Entertainment. Companions.

What is your biggest reading secret?

When I try to read “classics,” most of the time I don’t finish them. I think I feel obligated to at least try to read what others throughout history have found worthwhile, but sometimes the classics are…boring. I know I am setting a bad example for my students; nevertheless, it’s true. Sometimes I  appreciate classic novels; other times I don’t. Usually when I do, I have read something by an author which captured my fancy and then set off to find other books by the same author. That’s what happened when I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I fell in love with Thomas Hardy’s writing and have read every novel he ever wrote. Sometimes that happens for me, and I’m so glad when it does.