So, feeling all kinds of stir-crazy from being cooped up for the past week, huh? Well, yeah, I know the feeling, and not just because I currently am missing the exercise machines at the Y, which has been locked up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Or settling into the cafe at Barnes & Noble. Or hardest of all, not being able to visit my mommy because her assisted living home has been off-limits for two weeks already. Nah, I’ve got that old familiar feeling back because in 2016, I had a stem cell transplant. After having six rounds of a chemo cocktail, I had no hair and a brand new, weak immune system. And an order to self-quarantine.
I knew it would be hard, but good Lord, it was crushing. I spent almost the entire month of May in a lock-down floor at Northwestern in Chicago. As my immune system was poisoned to oblivion, I had to observe rules. No leaving through the locked double doors; guards made certain no one was coming or going without permission. Patients couldn’t go into each others rooms, and when we passed each other in the halls, we had to maintain a proper “social distance”. We had to don masks, gloves, hair caps and disposable gowns when we left our rooms, and when we came back in, all that stuff went into the trash and we then had to scrub our hands with special anti-bacterial soap.
Even with all those steps and restrictions, I still opted to go out at least twice a day to walk laps around the floor. Oh, and did I mention I did it pushing a walker with a port stuck in my arm? At least I did until I got too weak. Anyway, I thought about that drive to get out, even if still in, as I kept seeing people complain on social media about being stuck inside. I can’t knock them because I understand. It might just be something hard-wired in many of us.
So after being discharged Memorial Day weekend, I was instructed to pretty much spend the next three months in my home. No museums, malls, movies, theatres, gyms, swimming pools, hot tubs, saunas… you get the picture. I went out for bloodwork and doctor’s appointments with the surgical face masks that have become all the rage in the past month or so. I wasn’t on trend then, though; just exhausted, weak, and increasingly lonely.
K went back to work within days of my homecoming, eschewing FMLA for the regularity of IT. I couldn’t blame him. If I could leave myself for 8 or 9 hours a day to be a cubicle jockey, I would’ve been out, too. Then there was Z. My little Love, my Honey, my constant companion. Also, my reason to get out of bed and get moving because she was just about 5 and would’ve torn our apartment up if I didn’t keep it together.
With Z in mind, I decided to make up a list of things I could still do, with her and without, to create a sense of stability. I couldn’t make my immune system immediately strengthen. I could make my mind strong by focusing on what I could still do, and then do them. So let me share them with you.
- Yoga &/or Pilates
I missed being able to exercise at the gym (Uh, here I go, here I go, here I go again…), but I needed to regain strength and flexibility. Enter YouTube. I made a playlist of yoga and pilates videos I could do while sitting or laying down. I ordered Z her own mat on Amazon, and we went through about 20 minutes once or twice a day. She turned out to be a little natural and I enrolled her in a kiddie yoga class the following September.
Paint. Don’t know how? It’s cool, now is the time to experiment. Again, the Internet can be a valuable resource for more than just mindless scrolling. If you’d rather color, I like this free resource from professional artists at Society 6. Print out a gallery-level piece and then get busy. Meanwhile, over at Kitchen Table Classroom, your kiddos (or you) can learn to make their own digital art. Right now, the class is free, so click the the link and enroll asap. Or maybe you’d like to combine a class on Modern Art history masters AND learn how to paint like them. If that’s your jam, Coursera offer a free class from MOMA called In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting. I’m actually taking this course right now.
Speaking of Coursera, there are a ton of classes on there. You can choose to take them for enrichment or many have an option to earn a Certificate for a low cost.
One of my longtime favs is Crash Course videos which work for kids or adults to learn about a variety of subjects like World History, Film Production, Artificial Intelligence, and World Mythology. Try out these free fun home experiments/crafts at Little Passports for kids from pre-k through middle school, or these Women’s History Worksheets from Kids Connect (it STILL is Women’s History Month, afterall) good for elementary age.
Audible has a wide selection of Children’s and Young Adult books available to stream for free- no need to create an account, enter a password or credit card info. Spotify and Pandora have music and podcasts that are available to stream for no cost/with ads.
There are thousands of free e-books available at Project Gutenberg. Z and I like reading books together: I’ll read a paragraph and then she’ll take the next. We’re currently reading Little Women. If you’re an Amazon Prime Member, take advantage of their Kindle Unlimited books that can be “borrowed” and then “returned” electronically. Want to learn Quantum Physics in 90 minutes without math? There’s a book for that. Also, if you have a library card, check out your local library’s website for links to online databases with books, movies, and music available to borrow.
Duh, everyone’s going to be doing some viewing. I just didn’t want to lead with it, kay? Besides the usual Netflix, Hulu, Disney + stuff, watch some musical performances here (Norah Jones!), a documentary on the 1918 Influenza epidemic here, or a number of other awesome American Experience documentaries here. If you have Amazon Prime, they have shows and movies you can stream with no extra cost, as well as many you can rent or buy. They’ve also began streaming movies that had been in theaters but due to ‘Rona, you can watch it at home now.
I’m not a great cook or baker. I’m not even a good cook or baker. But Z had a ton of fun in our little galley kitchen anyway. And so did I. That’s really my point here. Work to make your home a place of warmth, security and exploration. I did in 2016, and I will again now (I haven’t had a good presidential election year since 2008). We can do this.