Coping with COVID

Everyone deals with stress differently. We tend to deal with stress by keeping busy, and keeping busy we did! We are proud of all of the projects we completed during the lockdown. Many of these projects have been on our TODO lists for years, so we are not proud that it took a pandemic to motivate us to complete them. Here is a glimpse into the activities and projects that kept us occupied during our Stay at Home.

One of the first orders of business was to figure out four home offices for all of us to get our work done. Both of our adult children live with us. Our son mostly works from his room, moving to the basement when he needs a place that is a little cooler. Our daughter works on sensitive data, so, despite working on a VPN, she also needed to be hardwired into the modem and is not allowed to work on a wifi network. So Right Buddy (RB) gave up her roll top desk in the living room for our daughter. RB brought in a long folding table from the garage and set up her workstation in the middle of the living room. Not the best design for the living room, but this is temporary, right? Left Buddy (LB) has a desk in the basement that he normally works from, but, for a change of scenery, he sometimes works at the kitchen table or out on the deck. He even added a wifi access point at the door to the deck so he can get a better connection out there.

As the two of us were already mostly working from home before COVID, we continued putting hours of work in. LB has been busy studying for the Salesforce Administrator certification. In addition to writing blog posts and producing videos for YouTube, RB spent about one day a week on her book. At this point that consisted of taking pictures of all of our European souvenirs and our beer and wine glass, mug, and stein collection. She set up a little photo studio in our living room with a piece of black velvet. Even if she never gets around to publishing her book, at least all of our display shelves and souvenirs are now dusted! Also, now that we have pictures of each item in our collection, it would be easy to post them on eBay to sell. Shhh! Don’t tell LB!

Going for walks and taking pictures of the interesting things around her is one of RB’s favorite ways to relax. So when a snow storm blew through when the lockdown started in March, RB jumped at the chance to go for a walk and capture the beauty of the fresh blanket of snow. She hopes that the pictures she shared on Facebook with her friends helped brighten their days.

RB also likes to bake. With the grocery stores initially low on bread, she got busy baking bread, although she was having trouble finding yeast at the store. She baked french bread, rye bread for reubens, and challah bread along with lemon curd. For the kids’ birthdays, she baked chocolate soufflé cake and pound cake with vanilla cream sauce and fresh berries. Our daughter returned the favor on RB’s birthday by baking chocolate soufflé cake, at RB’s request.

Although we normally cook dinner at home, we decided as a family to help out the local restaurants by ordering out once a week. We even picked up food from a local food truck. The line really snaked through the parking lot for the food truck as everyone was good about standing six feet from each other in line.

In order to counteract all the calories she was eating, RB got busy in our backyard. Our poor yard has been neglected the past few years. The sprinkler system has been broken for years. The edging bricks had not been re-installed after we had the retaining wall replaced and the deck built. The side yard had sunk about six inches so that the yard no longer drained properly and the concrete pad at the garage back door was supported by air alone. RB was tired of the brown grass and weeds that had consumed our backyard and got to work. Moving and spreading literally tons of fill dirt and top soil, moving tons of rocks, and laying a couple hundred edging bricks, she was finally at the point of planting grass seed. We still don’t have a working irrigation system, but the grass is starting to come back with the liberal use of manual sprinklers. We’ll probably hire out the installation of a new irrigation system. Do you know any sprinkler system experts in the Broomfield area?

All of the physical activity may have kept RB from putting on extra pounds, but it was taking a toll on her body. All of the pounding with the dead blow hammer to set the bricks and compact the dirt along with the chiseling to cut the bricks for the corners brought back an old tennis elbow injury in her right arm. All of the digging, shoveling, and lifting did not allow the mild shoulder separation, that she suffered the previous fall in her left shoulder, to heal completely. She is convinced that hiking and biking are easier on her body than landscaping!

Our camper van came in handy to haul landscaping material. RB became pretty proficient in removing the RV stuff out of the van to get it out of the way and putting it back in as she did it several times. Thank goodness everything is so modular and designed to easily come out and back in! It only took about ten minutes to pull the stuff out that was in the way and about another ten minutes to put it back in. The van’s gear slide was also valuable in allowing material, such as edging bricks, to be easily loaded and unloaded without having to crawl under the bed platform to reach it.

In the meantime, LB was busy with his own projects. Our living room has has been missing a coffee table for years. LB talked about making one someday. Well, that day finally arrived. He designed and built one with cherry wood that had been sitting in the garage for years. We call it our “coughy” table in honor of COVID.

When the weather outside improved, LB started working on the outdoor grill island. When we had the deck built a few years ago, we included a small stone patio. LB promised he would build a grill island on top of the patio. He managed to get the structure built and the grill installed about a year later. Since it was then functional, the motivation to complete the island diminished. So now he finally got around to tiling the top and applying stucco to the sides. The tile had been sitting in the garage for a couple of years, but we had not purchased the stucco yet. We originally wanted the stucco color to match the trim on our house, an off-white color. As many others are also busy doing home improvement projects, we could not find the color we wanted and had to settle for a red color. Even though it’s not the color we wanted, it is completed now and it looks great!

After the grill island, LB started knocking off the smaller projects on the TODO list. He shortened the legs on the patio table and epoxied the patio table top. An old wooden bench on the deck broke so LB fixed it by replacing the broken brace with a scrap piece of wood that he made into the same shape as the original. Then he turned his attention to our Red Tail Lodge, our camper van. He installed the fairing from the Colorado Fairing Company, added a T-track to hang our backpacks from, and added another shelf inside the sink cabinet. He installed SumoSprings to help reduce the sway of our high roof van and improve the ride. We put them to the test recently on some dirt roads. The SumoSprings definitely helped. With the spare T-track and extra plastic left over from the Espar heater install, he made a short shelf for above his side of the van bed to hold his clothing.

Just as RB was finishing the backyard landscaping, our daughter expressed an interest in planting a vegetable garden. RB thought that was a great idea and offered to help her build some planter boxes. It was a joint mother-daughter project that RB really enjoyed. We’re not sure if our daughter realized what she was getting herself into. They built three four foot by eight foot boxes, eighteen inches high, out of pressure-treated lumber. Then a fourth box was connected to a smaller box with an arbor for the cucumber vines to climb. Our daughter, who has an eye for design, wanted a curved arch for the top of the arbor, so that is what they built. With a little searching on the internet and putting their geometry and trigonometry skills to use, they designed and built the arbor together. They consulted LB to help them decide which was the best power tool to use for certain tasks. They used clamps, drills, a jig saw, a circular saw, a power miter saw, a biscuit cutter, a band saw and a belt sander to get the job done. RB loved being able to collaborate with our daughter on a project and witness first hand her team work and problem solving skills. It made us think we must have done something right as parents… or it was just sheer luck. We would like to think it was the former. Now we just need to wait to see what great vegetables the garden will produce.

RB cut her own hair…just like she has been doing for decades. However, she also cut LB’s hair, which she has not done since we’ve been married. She tried cutting it once while we were dating and LB has not let her touch his hair with a pair of scissors since. In the meantime, RB cut both of the kids’ hair when they were younger, so we own a hair cutting kit with clippers and scissors. LB made RB watch a YouTube video first. When RB was done cutting his hair, LB said “Not bad for the first time.” RB will take that as a compliment!

Not all of our activities involved projects. Some activities were for the sake of relaxation and enjoyment.

We continued hiking once a week as part of our 52 Hike Challenge. However, the hikes were closer to home. Some of them were more like walks through the neighborhoods of Broomfield, but we tried to keep them over five miles in length. We saw quite a bit of wildlife for staying in town!

Now that both of the kids were always home for dinner with us, we ate as a family out on the deck whenever the weather allowed. One time we ate one of our take-out dinners in a local park. Someone driving by didn’t realize we were from the same household and yelled “You’re not social distancing!”.

Our daughter took an online virtual dance class sponsored by WGI. Watching our daughter try to perfect the dance routine she just learned provided RB with some great lunchtime entertainment. In April, we all went out on our deck to watch the Thunderbirds fly over our house as they made a tribute to healthcare workers. For Mother’s Day, our daughter planted flowers in the boxes out front, just like she does every year. Only this time, RB pulled up a chair to sit and watch. In late May, we all watched the Space X launch the Crew Dragon to the Space Station on TV. We caught up with old friends we haven’t seen in years in a Zoom meeting.

We hope you enjoyed learning what we’ve been doing to get through the pandemic. What have you been doing to cope? We don’t want you to feel bad if you haven’t accomplished anything. As we said before, everyone deals with stress differently. If you have a hard time being motivated or are having difficulty concentrating on anything, that’s OK. If you need to find things that help you relax and enjoy yourself, then that is what you should do. Do what works best for you. Hug the ones you love, if you can, and find creative ways to connect with others. Stay safe and we’ll get through this!

Check out our related video: Coping with COVID.

(RB)