At home with Jen

Today’s story comes from my friend Jen, who lives here in Maine. I always look forward to hanging out in a coffee shop with Jen and hashing over lots of good ideas. Soon. soon. I also look forward to her delivering my annual supply of Girl Scout cookies. Thin mints are all gone, Jen. Do you have a stash hidden somewhere?

Here’s Jen’s story:

Photo by Jen’s husband Mike, who is probably also holding a spoon

My family unit is in our fifth week of physical distancing. My husband and I own a small marketing agency, so I’m used to working from home. Our daughter is in fourth grade and goes to school half a mile from our house…or did. She is now schooling from our dining room (and couch and backyard) for the unforeseeable future. But we’re okay. In fact, we’re better than okay. We have a house, heat, food, Internet, cute kitten, ample paper products, and each other.

We have a routine of work, reading the news, getting some exercise here and there, and keeping our daughter on task (ish). The school schedule actually gives a nice shape to the day, reminding us to eat and go outside, but we stay flexible and adjust as we go. This morning we all slept in a little bit because I guess we needed to. We’re also lucky to live a block away from my dad, so one or more of us goes to see him for a “porch visit” every day.

I am so grateful for all that we have, yet I find myself getting emotional when I think about the things that I miss, like hanging out at the library or meeting with our Girl Scout troop. We’ve found plenty of resources for reading books online (like Scribd or Epic for kids) and soon we’ll be doing a troop meeting on Zoom, but it’s the alternative version of the “real thing” that sometimes makes me feel the saddest. My friend had a funny, apt analogy for this: “It’s like when you’re on a diet and you want sweets so you get the no-cal, no-fat, no-flavor version and decide that you’d rather have the real thing or nothing at all.”

I know that there will be some kind of end to this, but I’m trying not to have any expectations about what that will look like. We’re making contingency plans for our small business – the things we can control anyway – but who knows what will ultimately happen? And when I think about people who are suffering 4,000 miles away – or 400 or 4 – I want to sob. Sometimes I do. Let’s end this post on a hopeful note. Here are some of the things that help me and my family stay better than okay:

Staying better than okay

  • Keep calm and carry on – every day I make the bed, wear something different than the day before, and put on my watch and earrings; these simple actions remind me that each day is a new one (no matter how similar to the ones before it)
  • Music during meals – Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, and Sly and the Family Stone works best for us, especially in the morning
  • Going outside – even squirrel watching in the back yard or a quick bike ride does wonders
  • Checking in with friends – sometimes this means swinging by a neighbor’s front yard, but mostly it’s Facetime or Zoom with friends or groups of friends
  • Online stuff – the number of virtual things to do can be overwhelming, so we pick and choose from live music performances, educational activities, or science experiments
  • Dance parties – any music, any movement and you’re likely to find yourself smiling
  • Watching competition shows – it’s our new favorite evening activity to see who will win at cooking, fashion, makeup, or anything really
  • Rocky road ice cream – full-fat, full-flavor

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.