Seize the Moment: Tips for Surviving the New (temporary) Norm

When I woke up this morning, I realized that I can’t even tell you how many days it has been since our regularly scheduled lives were put on hold.

Friday, March 13 (oh, the irony there), I said good-bye to my students, laden down with backpacks filled with textbooks and instructions for three weeks at home. There were some tears, a little panic, a lot of uneasiness about what might be coming our way. But, for the most part, the 130 14 year-old teenagers I teach were thinking they had just stumbled into a three-week vacation.

Then came the stay-at-home order. And the general psyche of our community changed. Our favorite restaurants closed. Then the park across the street. Basketball hoops were taken down because some people just didn’t get the idea of ‘social distancing’. The tension became palpable in the grocery store.

But for some, life hasn’t changed at all. Our son is still going to work each day. Our daughter is telecommuting. The mail is still delivered and the grocery stores are open. I may be home, but I’m still teaching – reaching out to students and parents alike as we navigate this temporary normal we find ourselves in.

It’s disconcerting either way.


But despite the uncertainties, my favorite part of life in America has clicked in. This community said, “No.” And immediately began to innovate, finding ways to “keep on keepin’ on”.

A Facebook page dedicated to our local restaurants was created to promote take-out, helping keep those businesses afloat.

Groups such as the Highland Community Support Network increased their collection of food staples, fresh produce and gift cards to help support families impacted by the layoffs and shutdowns.

As we walked around our neighborhood, we saw families having ‘driveway picnics’, and kids running around outside – all while maintaining social distancing.

When I surveyed my students to check on their mental state, one avid gamer replied, “I helped my sister build a fort in our backyard. It’s pretty cool out there.” Yes. Yes, it is cool ‘out there’.

Staying sane

Forbes magazine just posted an article about how to keep yourself from losing your mind during this pandemic. And we really loved some of their suggestions.

Order take-out:

Absolutely NOT homemade!

The first suggestion on the list was the one we’ve already touched on – ordering out. Contributor Ben Gran points out that, not only does ordering out help the local economy, it gives you a break from cooking.

Maybe you’re just exhausted by this whole thing, or maybe you’ve been cooking up a storm. Either way, letting someone else do the cooking can be a welcome break from the kitchen!

Learn something new:

This is a suggestion I just made to Jeff the other day. With the closure of ‘non-essential’ businesses, gyms, artists, musicians and chefs have stepped forward to offer the virtual classes that have traditionally belonged to colleges and universities.

If you have to be home, why not use those hours to learn a new skill or explore something you’ve never had time for before?


While I’ve had an online classroom for over 10 years, videoconferencing was new to me – until this week, when I invited a few students to help me learn how to navigate Zoom. It was easy. It was fun. And my zoom world has exploded.

Virtual kickboxing with Tara @badmuthafitness

Many of you are probably familiar with Skype or FaceTime, but Zoom has taken the shutdown by storm, enabling groups of up to 100 people to get together online. I’ve joined three virtual workouts with my gym via Zoom. We just had a staff meeting via Zoom. And this week, I’m starting office hours for my students via Zoom.

My church life group has been meeting via Zoom, too, which is awesome because a) my life group peeps are cool to be with, and b) having a healthy spiritual life is important to overall mental health. While our small group meets via Zoom each week, our church – Grace Church – offers virtual weekend services, keeping us together even while we’re apart.

Other cool ideas we’ve talked about: virtual happy hours with our friends, and a multi-family Easter get-together with all of the different households in our extended family. But the possibilities are endless!

Get outside:

If you are a regular follower of our blog, then you know how we feel about the great outdoors. In fact, Hiker Trailer, a builder of custom, lightweight teardrop trailers, just shared their latest custom build – an Extreme Off-road trailer that makes me want to run for the mountains!

But if camping in the middle of nowhere is not your thing, at least get out for a hike. Most communities have parks within a 20-minute drive and, although you still need to maintain social distancing, communing with nature is key to mental health.

In fact, a group of Cornell University professors recently weighed in on this topic. Prof. Nancy Wells pointed out that, “Studies have shown that a 90 minute walk in nature is suggested to reduce rumination — the repetition of negative thoughts, which is a risk factor for mental illness –– and lower levels of neural activity in an area of the brain linked to mental health risks.”

We have been hiking nearly every day since school closed.

I generally work for several hours in the morning, and we hit the trails in the afternoon.

That time in the fresh air clears our minds and gives uninterrupted time to focus on each other.

It’s weird to think that you need to establish time as a couple when you are quarantined together, but you do. Investing in each other has never been more important, as tensions grow and tempers flare in close quarters. Get out there and spend time talking about anything but coronavirus! Like, is this a muskrat or a beaver?

Please ignore the bizarre sounds I was making as I tried to get this critter to look up. I sound far more like a city slicker than the country girl I am, but we all have moments!

Do something together:

We love to cook. Again, if you follow us at all, you know this to be true. But there is a big difference between me making dinner, and all of us preparing one together.

Just last night, we decided on a Mediterranean theme, with grilled chicken kebabs, hummus & tzatziki, and store-bought naan. The marinade for the chicken was a simple combination of olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper & oregano. Soak your skewers to prevent burning, thread the chicken and veggies, and go! Boar’s Head makes great hummus, and I picked up the tzatziki from Fresh Food Deli here in town.

Earlier in the week, we made these amazing peanut butter cookies with a chocolate ganache filling. You can use your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe, as long as the cookies are neither really soft or really crunchy. You need to hit that sweet spot so the cookies don’t fall apart. We used an amazing recipe from Dash of Sanity, and the ganache was simple:

1 oz hot heavy whipping cream per 1 oz bittersweet chocolate. Heat the cream and pour it over the chocolate. Stir. Let cool.

Drop desired amount of ganache on the flat side of one cookie; top with a second one to make a sandwich.

We used 2.5 oz of each for 18 cookie sandwiches (the cookie recipe made 36). If you want more ganache – and why wouldn’t you? – just up the quantities.

If cooking isn’t your thing, puzzles and board games are tried and true ways to come together. But don’t hesitate to get creative! One family I know bought art supplies and followed along as American painter Bob Ross gave step by step painting lessons on YouTube. The finished paintings were not only very cool, they created positive memories of what could be a difficult time for their kids. I never would have thought of this, but it’s a great idea!

We’ve Got This

At the end of the day, we have options. We can be socially distant without isolating ourselves from friends, family and community.

We’ve given you some ideas, but we would love to hear yours! Share your best moments with us! Because we are definitely better together.

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