Life Update, and How To Stave Off Boredom During Quarantines
by Anne Kostecki
What a difference a week makes. In the last week, we started to see more widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, it went from a new virus from far away, to kind-of a thing on the news. For January and February, I heard stories on the news about COVID-19, and how it was spreading in Europe and Asia, and how it would eventually end up everywhere. I familiarized myself with the symptoms, and since I am a work-from-home mom, I knew that I rarely came in contact with strangers (I don't even have a car, AND I constantly wash my hands anyway). It seemed to become something like SARS, bird flu, or swine flu all over again: a major concern for China, and possibly an issue later on, if we can't contain it. Well, then China started quarantining, and then the president started banning travel, and things got more serious.
Once Italy started shutting down, and then had a major influx at hospitals, then it became the news story. I started receiving emails from every company that had my email address stating their commitment to health and preventing disease. Then, the infection rate increased, despite the constant messaging about washing hands and social distancing. Then the CDC called it a pandemic, the president declared a national emergency, and like dominos, everything fell. Businesses began to shutter, employees everywhere began working from home, and people went overboard with panic-buying. I was ready: this is perfect for me to work, paint, and get ready for my art shows this spring!
Today I received an email saying that the Laumeier Art Fair will be cancelled this year. This was my first multi-day juried art fair with the promise of a nice influx. For someone like me, and a lot of other artists/makers, this is vitally important. I'm a freelancer, so I make money in spurts: during art fairs, for commissions, when I receive freelance design clients, and whenever I receive orders through my shop or Minted. I also have my products for sale at Union Studio, Etsy, and I'm going to start selling courses and digital downloads. It's important to diversify income streams, for moments just like this.
But art fairs are a big one for me: not only do I receive an influx, but I get to meet tons of new customers. The opportunity to develop those in-person relationships are one-of-a-kind. You can talk to your audience and get feedback about what they like. Customers can tell you exactly why your art resonates with them; what they think and feel when they see it. Those moments inspire us. Losing that opportunity is a blow.
Good News/Bad News
So the reason why I am upset about any changes to my spring schedule is because...we're expecting baby #2! The baby is due on Sept. 8. Which means that fall and winter art fairs are OUT unfortunately. I will have a newborn and a 2 year old, so I'm guessing my maternity leave will last longer than 3 months. Fall and winter art fairs are plentiful sources of income for me, so this is another opportunity I will have to forgo. If I'm very lucky, I will be able to do maybe ONE holiday show in December. If you know of anything that might be a good fit, please email me!
Ideas for YOU!
I know a lot of you are stuck at home, under varying circumstances. Perhaps you have a partner or roommate stuck with you, or children, or maybe you're under isolation. I'm sure a lot of you are worried about finances, time, and sanity. You're worried about loved ones, your own health, and making sure you have necessary supplies. This mixture of anxiety and boredom can be terrible. Know that you're not alone, and that you have a support system that is probably just a phone call or text away.
BUT! I can help, at least with the boredom. Get ready for some ideas and lots of links. I hope this can distract you in these crazy times.
Learn a New Language
This is what I do! I'm a serial language-learner, and although I can confidently say I'm not fluent in anything other than English, I am conversational in Spanish, French, and Italian. I have experience with German, Russian, and Finnish, and I took 4 years of Latin in high school. I'm unusual though (for a lot of reasons) in that I love learning new languages, and it's fun for me to absorb new vocabulary and grammatical rules. Most people I've met have had at least a little bit of a desire to learn another language, whether it be because of their heritage, travel destinations, or academic interests.
I've used Duolingo in the past to learn a new language. It's fast, free, and very easy - almost too easy for me and the pace I like to learn. But, it's got an advantage in that it's an app, so I can access it anywhere, rather than carrying a book around. I've heard of other apps, like Memrise and Babbel, but I've never tried them before, and I don't know if they're free. Are you interested in learning a programming language, rather than a foreign one? I think Codeacademy is free, and I heard it's a great resource! My husband is an engineer, so learning new programming languages is just a matter of a few weeks for him, it's kind of insane.
What do I recommend? Good old fashioned books. I've tried a lot of series: McGraw Hill, "10 Minutes A Day" series, DK Visual Dictionaries, Lonely Planet phrasebooks, Nat Geo phrasebooks, the Teach Yourself series, and more. I really like the McGraw Hills, because they're fast-paced with lots of write-in activities. I also recommend supplementing your learning by watching movies or listening to music in your language of choice - that will help with pronunciation!
The greatest distraction from being cooped up indoors is physical activity! Not only that, it's free, healthy, and available for anyone, regardless of physical limitations. I used to be a gym rat: going to the gym every day for an hour, mixing up my routine with hiking, Pilates, and sports. The cheapest gym in my area was $20 per month, plus an annual fee. Well, I quit my membership in 2017, started using YouTube, and haven't looked back. The advantages are limitless: no driving to/from the gym, no more gross locker rooms, no more sharing sweaty equipment, no more people staring at you while you exercise or waiting for equipment, AND IT'S FREE!
For truly great varied workouts, I recommend Sydney Cummings. She has a new video every day, and her workouts actually challenge me! For yoga, I love Boho Beautiful's videos. It's a couple that travels all over the world, takes beautiful video, and have plenty of yoga and Pilates (the yoga goes from easy to hard, and the Pilates is generally easy). For everything cardio, Pilates, barre, kickboxing, dance, and some HIIT, try PopSugar Fitness. I've done all of the Sweat with SELF videos, and they're good.
Cook Something New
I'm also an amateur chef/baker: I've been cooking for about 7 years, and I've been to cooking classes in the U.S., Paris, Sorrento, Cozumel, and Marrakech. I understand that not everyone likes cooking, and for some, it's intimidating. Well, I used to be that person. I spent most of my life having no interest in cooking. Then I started reading, trying new foods, and finding a lot of interest in adding more healthy vegetables and exotic foods to my pantry. I think there is an avenue for anyone to have an interest in at least some aspect of cooking...after all, we all have to eat.
And now, when restaurants and bars are closing, we have to learn to cook for ourselves. Pinterest can be overwhelming to find a recipe, but it's a good place to start to see what you're in the mood for. Here's what my family does: we are subscribed to fabulous magazine called Milk Street, and we commit to cooking at least 5 of the recipes per issue. They feature a short history and in-depth bio of each dish, and the recipes tend to be "exotic made easy," with substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients. I also love looking at Food52, Food Network, and any food blogs for ideas. Love & Lemons, Gimme Some Oven, Cookie + Kate, and Against All Grain are some of my faves.
As someone who normally does not do crafts, I can understand your reticence. I honestly like to look at other people's crafts more than actually make them myself. But there are tons of websites (and Pinterest) to gain some inspiration. I occasionally look at Paper & Stitch, A Beautiful Mess, and The Everygirl DIY. I loved doing origami as a child, and I did take a sewing class in college. The perfect thing to craft is always cards: birthday, thank you, and congrats cards are always in need. You might as well make some, and save some money from buying them at the store!
READ or WRITE
I'm very pro-reading. I know that a lot of libraries are closing, but never fear! Most libraries have some sort of online portal for checking out digital resources. I'm sure you have books in your house that you haven't read, or meant to re-read. You can always download digital books (the classics are often free) on a Kindle or iPad, you can order books on Amazon, start a book exchange with a friend or neighbor, or grab a magazine next time you go to the grocery store.
Write a journal, a letter to someone, or a thank you card. Bonus points if you physically write, instead of type.
If it's not raining or cold, make use of your time outdoors. Get some fresh air while taking a walk. Listen to new music or a podcast. Take your kids exploring or take your dog for a run. You can start a garden, clean up the yard, collect leaves for pressing, bird watch, play a sport, or find a new park nearby.
File Your Taxes
Ok, booooring. But good news! The IRS has extended the filing deadline to July 15. We all have to do our taxes, so you might as well start now!
Play a New Game
We love board games, and we also play video games. Dominion, Scattergories, Scrabble, Cranium, Settlers of Catan, and various card games are favorites. I grew up playing Sega Genesis, Sega Dreamcast, and Gameboy (I'm wicked good at Pokemon Blue/Red). My husband grew up playing Nintendo 64, PC, and Gameboy games too. We play Halo, but I usually lose horribly. He won't play my favorite fighters with me (Soul Calibur!) because he calls it "button mashing." Now is the time to learn a new game! There are apps where you can play your family or friends in competitive games, OR you can play with all of your fellow quarantined prisoners with an actual physical game!
Compile Wish Lists
I do this year-round. As I see things that I believe would make good gifts for certain people, I save the links in a Gmail draft so that I can purchase them for birthdays and holidays. Sometimes, if I have nothing to do, I will surf around and find gifts (for others or myself) and save them on Wishlistr. Click on them periodically to see if they go on sale, and boom! Buy it at a discount early.
I found this link that has tons and tons of resources for learning new things for free. Whether it be math, history, science, or anything else, it looks like a lot of online learning software is offering free periods due to the current situation.
Finish That Thing You Started
Was it a painting? A blog? Home repair? Well, now's the time. Make a to-do list or a daily schedule. I'm probably going to spend some time planning the rest of my year, with more realistic deadlines. Was there a dream trip you'd always wanted to take? Even if you can't travel, you can imagine that dream trip. You can look at photos on Pinterest or Lonely Planet just to visualize the destination. Organize that closet or garage. Clear out those things you wanted to sell or donate. Finish those things you started!
In closing, I hope I gave you at least one good idea of something to refresh you. I am very fortunate that even this financial hit won't effect my daily life at all. There are many out there who aren't so lucky. We can only hope that this will all be over soon, with minimal impact and fewest mortalities possible. Remember to wash your hands like a zealot, stay away from people if you can, and keep up with the CDC guidelines if you experience any symptoms.
Take care! -A.K.