Herb garden 2020

New Pandemic Hobbies Keep Us Busy!

I have a lot of friends who are, overall, very happy right now. (And I’m not just talking about the introverts!) They’re thankful for the serenity and forced slow-down this pandemic has brought upon them. Naturally they are sad for all of the losses that have resulted from it as well; that has to be stated, but that’s a different topic for another day.

I can’t say that I’m always thankful but I definitely do have moments and days when I am. Maybe we all do, at different levels: there are good days and bad ones, good weeks and bad ones. These days, months into the pandemic, many people are getting quality time with their family members, time that they don’t usually get to enjoy when the world is spinning at its normal pace. Many people are able to take better care of themselves as work schedules have adjusted and commutes have disappeared. Others are finding new ways of staying busy.

Suddenly not being able to count on much while trying to stay hopeful and positive is not something one can adjust to easily, is it? (No.) In fact, even attempting so is tremendously hard on us in so many ways. Still, a common thread I’ve seen in so many people during this perfect storm mostly just referred to as “Ugh, 2020!” is the desire to try new things.

I’ve already written about what I’ve been doing differently over the past few months to make time pass, to feel productive, to try something new, and to take care of my mental health. I’ve been fascinated by what my friends have decided to take on during this odd time in all of our lives, too. I decided to put forth the question “What have you been doing that’s new, to get through this pandemic and keep your mental health intact?” on Facebook and Instagram, and I was thrilled with the response. In case you need some new ideas, check out what my friends and I have been up to!

First up? Fitness, which seems to be huge because people are able to fit it in so much better than before:

I do a dance fitness workout every day at home (I have followed some great instructors on YouTube and created playlists that keep me moving while having fun), which helps so much because I’m much less active during the remainder of the day now than I was in February! Jen started walking and I’m so proud of her: she started out doing a mile or so each day and is now walking 5Ks and 10Ks! Sue, who lives on Cape Cod, is walking more, as well. She says, “I started walking for exercise. I did not have the motivation nor time to walk when working 10 hours a day. Since the pandemic, I walk 3-4 times a week and sometimes walk (instead of driving) places just because I have the time!” Kristin is walking with her son. She says, “It gets us out of the house and we talk about Minecraft or whatever he wants to chat about.” Elaine says she’s taken up bicycling, and I love that she’s balancing it out with “driveway drinks” with her neighbors. Lucrecer boldly started training for roller derby, something she’s talked about for a long time, and she’s doing amazing! Kory’s family bought kayaks. She says they have been using them a lot, and she’s “not sure if we would have bought them if everything was ‘normal.'” Heather told me that she takes more walks and instead of walking for the sake of walking, she “tries to be really intentional about noticing and appreciating nature. This also helps and is a go to when I’m anxious, stressed or down.” She also bought a Peloton bike and started spinning regularly in addition to her strength training routine. Brook hikes with her kids and friends. Leigh Ann and her husband walk every evening, as does Angela, who is having a step competition with her husband (and naturally she’s winning! WINK.). Lisha started practicing yoga, as did Marcie. Deanna, who is already a spinning instructor, told me that she decided to get her ACE certification, so she can teach online classes if there’s another shutdown. Jessica and her family have dance parties! She says, “We turn up the music and dance in the kitchen. It’s been a lovely way to get off devices, shake off the frustrations, laugh, and slide into the evening with a smile and shaky booty together.”

A bunch of us are spending more time in the kitchen doing other things:

In addition to getting better at meal planning, I’ve tried a bunch of new recipes, which has helped a lot. I made Chrissy Teigen’s knockoff “Schmolive Barden” breadsticks (and then tagged her in a tweet about them, which she retweeted, causing it to go viral for 24 hours), which were a huge hit. A couple of my friends made the breadsticks, too (Yes Wendi I KNOW I KNOW it takes four hours) and did a great job! Ann has been making challah (and also started a personal account on Instagram for the first time, CHALLAHHHHH!!! See what I did there?). Debbie has been making bread too. She said, “I’ve become obsessed with baking bread – mostly sourdough, but other types as well. I never baked from scratch before, because I always thought that meant sweets, but baking bread is a very satisfying and delicious short-term project/commitment. Now I eagerly watch baking videos and pore over multi-step recipes I would previously have run from!” Like me and so many others, Kory has also been meal planning, which she says made her realize how often they ate dinner out, pre-COVID! Jim has been learning how to make fancy cocktails and I fully support this activity because we’re married. Also, YUM. Speaking of cocktails, Jessica told me that her family has happy hour! Her kids make mocktails and smoothies, and she has a glass of wine or fizzy water or late coffee (depending on the day).

Game-playing is going on, too:

My other friend Jen has been doing puzzles. She told me, “We’ve doubled the puzzles we own, from one to two. Are we are puzzle people now? Unclear.” (I say yes.) Jill and her husband are doing puzzles, too. Marcie and her husband have been building LEGO sets (including the new “Friends” Central Perk set, which is so cute!). Alexandra is playing video games with her kids, and sometimes watching them play. Katie gave me one of the most popular answers, and I’m still cracking up about it: “My husband and I bought a Nintendo Switch in March and have kept it a secret from our kids ever since. We play after they go to bed. We can’t go on dates, so secret video games it is! And I’ve developed a martini hobby…I make fancy drinks to go with the videogaming.” (Don’t tell her kids, you guys!)

It’s not all fun and games…folks are learning new skills, too:

Jim has been learning to play the guitar. Lisa is learning to play the ukelele and can play “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz now! Hillary says everyone in her family has picked up new hobbies. She says, “I am learning to macrame and I taught my daughters both to knit. The youngest has started building fairy furniture and sewing. The oldest has really worked on her drawing skills and melodica playing.” Heather completed an HR Management Certification. Angela has learned to meditate daily.

We’re spending more time outside…

Brook went strawberry picking. Toni been walking and jogging outside and has enjoyed “more outdoor music, jeepin’ sunset drives, and more trips to the beach.” Some of us are fortunate to have open swimming pools this summer (guilty), and we’re taking advantage of that. Jill and her husband have been gardening on the terrace of their city apartment, growing herbs and tomatoes. Michael (aka Meeko) has rekindled his love of gardening. I got interested in growing our own herbs due to fewer grocery store trips, and I enjoy it, which feels bizarre for me since I despise gardening. (Full disclosure: Jim takes care of the herb garden. But I pick and cook with them!)

We’re getting crafty…

Wendi has done a couple of cross stitch projects, and so has Leigh Ann, who says, “At the start of quarantine, I started a big cross stitch in a cool, modern design that I won from an event last year, and now I’m hooked! It’s so meditative and now I always have a cross stitch project going.” Leigh Ann has also been able to work on her art a lot more these days. Karen has been sewing. She told me, “I haven’t done any sewing since grade 8 but bought a cheap sewing machine, as I am obsessed with making masks. My daughter likes to make stuffies and hem her thrift store purchases so it’s handy that way, too.” Lisa is knitting more. I was hand coloring note cards for a while and then stopped, but now I’m thinking I need to get back to that as I owe a few friends a note.

And we’re getting creative in other ways, too:

Kari is writing a book. My other friend Lisa started fostering puppies and ended up adopting one! Speaking of dogs, Kizz has done a lot of work on her dog training business as they switched to virtual learning, and she signed up for business coaching, something she feels like she never could have done, pre-pandemic. Anne has increased her year-round efforts in getting people to become part of the political process. She told me, “(I’ve been) writing postcards for MomsRising.org to infrequent voters to get out the vote. Organizing neighbors to get out the vote. Co-hosting a virtual event for my congressional candidate. Organizing friends to write postcards to key voters in my state.” (Anne is so inspiring: I ordered 100 postcards from MomsRising.org so I could help, too! If you want to order 10 or 100, go here.) Rachel says, “I started a regular video chat session with anyone who’s interested, and because of it have actually come as close as face-to-face with some of my longtime internet friends, which was pretty cool.” Tarrant has built three chicken coops and enjoyed many outdoor concerts. Kristin and her family rented an RV for the first time. Because of the pandemic, Lizz and her family decided to make a huge leap and moved out of the Bay area (where she’s lived her entire life) to Gold Country, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Kory has been using a Habit Tracker, pictured below. She told me that she “started it way back at the beginning of all of this when I was staying in my PJs all day, unfocused. It has really helped me see I am doing things during all of this–it has been a little weird for me: being home, not having a job, not interacting with others. The habit tracker has helped my sanity and mood.” And finally, Momo tried something she never thought she’d do: ride a motorcycle! (She wore a helmet, of course, and you should too, anytime you’re on any kind of wheels!)

Habit Tracker

After telling me about all of the outdoor activities she’s been enjoying, Lisa said, “(Since March) I’ve also realized the importance of self care with a new skincare routine. I’m in LOVE with curbside grocery service and am enjoying the conveniences of waiting in the car for appointments; I think places are more on time with this process! I do not miss eating in restaurants, surprisingly. Honestly, I’m having the best summer I’ve had in YEARS!!! I love going back to the ‘simple things.'” Meeko added, “COVID brought needed R&R and peace.”

I think the secret to finding that peace in all of this whenever we can is to try and let go of the past a little bit. Life will never be the same after this, even when we are all back out there, doing our normal activities with little to no cares in the world, not having to stay more than six feet away from other people. I’m convinced that the desire to discover new hobbies and new ways of doing things is the result of our brains simply telling us that as humans, we are adaptable even when we don’t think so, or when we don’t want to make changes. Change is constant. We will get through this. We will appreciate the little things even more than we did before, and we will rebuild–not our old lives, but new ones that are even better.