Life

10 Things to do During a Pandemic

red and white UNKs restaurant

Before Covid-19, I had some preconceptions about what a pandemic would be like. Frightening, restricting, dangerous. Like one of those dystopian novels I read for fun, perhaps like the plague in Legend by Marie Lu.

Never in a million years would I have suspected living during a pandemic would be boring.

Sure, those who have contracted Covid-19 and their friends and family are fully aware of how terrible a pandemic is.

But for the rest of us – those who have to isolate, or limit social interaction, or have had all their plans cancelled – bored might be the perfect word.

If you are not bored and you and your loved ones are healthy, good for you. But if you are bored – this is the article for you.

Below are my suggestions to make the most of life during a pandemic.

#1 Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

person wearing orange and gray Nike shoes walking on gray concrete stairs

If you’re anything like me, quarantine life has made you lax when it comes to exercise.

Without the routine of heading to the local YMCA to train at my Tang Soo Do studio, I quickly became unfit. Even when restrictions were lifted somewhat and I was able to return to the studio on occasion, I had trouble getting into a regular routine of exercise.

Recently I’ve made a new resolution to do better with exercise – and I know how I’ll do it.

The pandemic has made things like going to the gym a colossal pain for some and nearly impossible for others, so I’ll focus on the things that can be done without equipment.

Walking, for instance. It has never been my thing, but with how beautiful campus is in the summer and fall, it’s almost irresistible.

I also plan to get into a daily routine similar to my warm-ups for Tang Soo Do. Push-ups, jumping jacks, crunches. Dying cockroach.

Yeah, you read that right. There is an exercise called dying cockroach, where you lay on your back and flail your arms and legs in frenzied motions for a long time. It’s brutal.

There are also plenty of stairs in the dorm where I am residing, so I may just spend half an hour sometime walking up and down them. That would be a workout!

Hopefully some of these ideas will work for you as well.

#2 Be artsy!

paint brushes next to drawing book and water color palette

For this section, I am going to assume you have little to no experience in art. If you already are an artist, you already know you can spend time during a pandemic doing artsy stuff and likely are doing that anyway.

Here are several media to consider:

Colored pencils

One thing you can do with these is try an adult coloring book. It’s relaxing and fun and there’s not as much pressure to create from your imagination since you just have to fill in the line. Yet there is creativity in the colors you choose and skill in how well the design is colored in.

My great grandma had the creative idea of turning her coloring book creations into cards for her loved ones. It was sweet, and sending off such colorful cards may help to alleviate loneliness for yourself and your friends during this time.

If you decide to go freestyle, use good colored pencils and at least decent paper in case you decide to preserve some of your creations.

Watercolor Paint

For watercolor paint, I use Artist Loft brand. I know, it’s cheap – but I have found it sufficient for my projects. Not the pan set, the tubes. I hate those hardened little cakes of paint.

Beginner’s tip – if you use the tubes, you only need a tiny drop of paint mixed with plenty of water. Don’t waste paint. It’s called watercolor for a reason.

Another tip – if you use low-quality paper, you’ll get a low-quality result even if you are a quite talented artist. You can tell a high-quality paper not by the price tag, but by the thickness. I recommend at least 140 lb. paper (if you’re not sure what that means, it’s okay – watercolor paper lists this right on the front so you can tell if you got the right one.)

A final tip – choose your brushes carefully. They don’t have to be expensive but you have to be sure there aren’t any stray bristles and that you take good care of them. I won’t even link to brushes I recommend because I always buy mine in a physical store so I can examine them. Never store them bristle down! If you’re washing them, don’t leave them upside down in water. That’s okay for a short time, but if you leave them for too long, it will damage them.

Acrylic Paint

The best acrylic paint is not too watery and not chunky either – it goes onto paper smoothly.

I recommend going with a great brand such as Martha Stewart or the professional option of Golden acrylics. It’s an investment, but you’ll find that they last a while if you are conservative and only use what you need.

Martha Stewart brand acrylic paint has great quality. I’ve used it before teaching in the classroom at the art store where I work.

I started using Golden acrylics recently and they are brilliant, with vibrant colors and smooth texture.

I just use watercolor paper for acrylics, too. For brushes, I buy these in a physical store as well and look for tell-tale signs they are not any good such as stray bristles.

Oil Paint

I am not as experienced in oil paint, but I can give some beginner’s advice because I’ve already made all the beginner’s mistakes with my first painting…oops…

First of all, do not get Artist Loft brand. They suck when it comes to oil paints. I kept the paints in a box for a couple of months before trying to use them and then all the oily stuff oozed out all over the tubes and made them sticky and gross.

Try a good brand, like Winsor & Newton instead.

For brushes, I won’t recommend any. I would have to see them in person to tell their quality, touch them and examine them. However, keep in mind that they will need to be washed in paint thinner, not water. Water doesn’t mix with oil-based paint and will not take it out of the brush.

I actually just used canvas for my oil painting, but you can get oil paint paper. I don’t know enough to be helpful in recommending what surface to paint on for oil, but I will say that canvas was sufficient for my purposes.

Markers

I began with markers using Copics. Those are professional markers and they are expensive. However, they blend remarkably well and are refillable. I would recommend a pack of grays, skin tones, and primaries to start if you use these. I prefer Copic Sketch over Copic Ciao because the Sketch markers can hold more ink.

Fair warning – they are addicting.

Use the multiliner that comes with their gray pack or buy a separate pack of multiliners of that brand to be sure your pen lines don’t bleed when marker is applied.

A Quick Note….

I have found that using high quality media, while more expensive, has better results. The professionals use high quality equipment for a reason – it makes it easier, not harder, to create masterpieces.

Some of the links above lead to cheap alternatives to high quality media that I have found sufficient for my own amateur artwork. Others lead to more expensive varieties I would nevertheless recommend even for beginners to achieve higher quality results.

I work in an art store, so I have background in helping customers find products that will fit their artistic needs. As a result, I am aware of the best brands and the brands that are cheaper but can produce phenomenal results.

#3 Journaling or Writing Emails

black click pen on notebook

Journaling is an amazing way to spend the time if you are in quarantine or restricted in activities due to Covid-19. Chronicle your experience of living during a pandemic to show off to your future grandchildren.

Keep a daily record of reflections and insights you think of randomly in the middle of night or during your daily routine.

Writing emails or letters is another way to connect with friends let people know you are thinking of them. Make sure if it’s a letter that your friends and relatives aren’t going to be upset about the small possibility of spreading Covid-19 that way. Chances are, they won’t be worried about it, but it’s better to ask in times like these.

#4 Make a time capsule

selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones

A time capsule would be a good way to remind our future selves what the Covid-19 Crisis was like, or to show our children or grandchildren.

First, buy a durable container. Metal is best if you want it to last for a long time, but undoubtedly plastic would last too even if it has a higher chance of cracking under the weight of dirt.

Second, carefully choose items that represent the times, such as reusable masks and pictures. Be sure that these are things you don’t mind parting with, because digging the box up again would be a pain and counter-intuitive.

Third, pick a place in the yard and bury the capsule. 3 or 4 feet deep would probably be sufficient, but if it’s less than that it could be dug up by mistake.

Fourth, mark the spot with something that will last like a large painted rock. On the marker, write the date the capsule was buried as well as the date it should be dug up.

#5 Sew masks

stack of white yellow green and blue textiles

Sewing masks is not as hard as it may seem. I made two before I was gifted several and no longer had the need for more, and they have served me well.

I recommend getting on Youtube for some helpful how-to videos.

#6 Watch something new

Avatar: The Last Airbender' Live-Action Series Set at Netflix - Variety
Characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender

If you don’t know, the reason why I posted a picture from Avatar: The Last Airbender is because it is now airing on Netflix. I have seen it make Netflix’s top ten several times in the past few weeks, and for good reason! If you like it, follow it up with The Legend of Korra.

If you usually watch all the shows in a particular genre, try a different genre. If you typically don’t watch anime, try anime! If you are squeamish about horror, try something with slight elements of horror. If you usually avoid the sad stuff, try something sad like A Silent Voice, which my sisters recommended to me. Get outside your comfort zone!

#7 Learn!

fountain pen on spiral book

Learn something new! During the pandemic, when I was bored I downloaded the Khan Academy app, the Duolingo app, and the TED Talks app. I’ve used Duolingo and TED talks the most out of the three.

With Khan Academy, you can learn any school subject or lesson that you may have forgotten or that you are not familiar with. You don’t have to make an account, but if you do, it’s free and it tracks your progress.

With Duolingo, you can learn another language. I am currently learning Latin and Spanish little by little.

With the TED Talk app, you can listen to talks about a variety of educational subjects, as well as ones that are just funny. I watched this one recently, which explains the concept behind a video game that teaches about loneliness. I also watched this hilarious one where a comedian describes what happened when he replied to spam emails.

While I wouldn’t say I learned much from the spam email one, it is true that TED Talks in general provide great educational content.

#8 Socialize…long distance

person sitting front of laptop

Socializing long distance can take many forms. It could be an email or letter. It could be a Zoom or Skype call.

James Wilson, a founder of the podcast Tabletop Gaming Guild, offered me a new idea about how to connect with my friends.

Tabletop Simulator and Board Game Arena. If you’re a gamer or just getting into board gaming, these are places where you can play games with friends.

Tabletop Simulator is more expensive at $19.99 for a subscription, but offers a variety of games, including Wingspan, Blood Rage and Scythe.

Board Game Arena is completely FREE. You can play games such as Stone Age, 7 Wonders, Terra Mystica, Takenoko, Saboteur, and so much more!

Full disclaimer – I haven’t tried either yet, but I wanted to pass on the suggestion. I’m at college, so I am lucky enough to be able to see many of my friends in person. In the event my friends and I are sent home due to the risk of Covid-19, I will definitely start online gaming with my friends.

#9 Read!

man reading book on beach near lake during daytime

I’m big on reading. If you’re a reader too, I recommend trying out some of my favorites:

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
    • A YA Fantasy about a rich criminal mastermind who happens to be 12 years old. This mastermind, Artemis Fowl, is determined to get his hands on fairy gold. The fairies he deals with are not the ones from typical bedtime stories – they have advanced technology and live underground.
    • For more information, check out my full review.
    • Btw, it’s nothing like the movie, which was terrible. I also made a review of the movie.
  2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    • This is a touching novel mostly about a dying father writing to his young son, and his many reflections. It is about love, betrayal, faith, and family, and it’s fascinating. The language and metaphors are beautiful and creative.
  3. Still Life by Louise Penny
    • This is a murder mystery. I typically dislike murder mysteries, but this one I adored.
    • It’s about an old woman who dies in what appears to be a hunting accident, but Inspector Gamache suspects it may be murder. The beginning is a little slow, but every part of it is an essential piece of the puzzle and contributes to the power of the work.
    • For more information, check out my full review.

#10 Start a website!

MacBook Pro on table beside white iMac and Magic Mouse

Starting a website is not as hard as it looks.

You could take the route I did and pay for the domain, then use WordPress to organize your site. It’s not hard because WordPress is so intuitive. WordPress allows for both pages and posts, so if you want to create a blog, it’s never been easier!

Or you can use Wix.com or Weebly.com to create your website for free. There is less freedom this way though. For example, Weebly.com requires “weebly” to be in the site name.

I can tell you that Weebly is pretty good because I’ve used it for college classes. Back when I was an education major, I made my digital portfolio using Weebly.

Wix has been recommended to me on numerous occasions by close friends, so I thought I would include it as well, although I haven’t had experience with it myself.

No matter which route you take, Youtube will be your best friend! Look up how-to videos to make the most of your website-building experience.

Life

10 Things I Never Expected to Need in my Dorm Room

The transition from high school to college is rarely an easy one. With the Covid-19 crisis in full swing, it will be especially difficult for freshman this year. That’s why I compiled this list of things I never expected to need in my dorm room – so you can be prepared for whatever dorm life throws at you.

This list will also help you avoid some of the mistakes I made. Going into my senior year at Grove City College, I will be sure to pack the following items to make this semester a good one.

#1: Thank You cards and stamps

dog biting Thank You mail paper

One thing I didn’t expect to need was thank you cards, but when I needed to write some thank yous to scholarship donors, they weren’t there. I had left mine at home.

You may also need thank you cards to show appreciation for teachers who write recommendation letters or for interviews. You may even want to give one to a friend who helped you study, or a family member who provided support.

If you don’t have stamps, your thank you cards won’t get far. Unless you’re sending the letters to someone on campus. Stamps are such a small thing and such an easy thing to forget. Don’t be the one who has to track down the local post office to buy more stamps.

#2 Wipes

green and blue labeled pack

Wipes are a must, especially during a pandemic. I found out the hard way that I should have had some on hand in my dorm.

During fall break, we were permitted to leave our refrigerator plugged in. Both my roommate and I checked before we left that our refrigerator was still plugged in, and it was.

Whoever was in charge of checking our room must have unplugged it for whatever reason.

When I came back to my dorm after break, I opened my refrigerator to put away some food and was met with a horrific stench. Mold climbed the walls of the fridge. A pool of water sat stagnant at the bottom.

Disgusted, my first instinct was to visit the college store to figure out if they had wipes. The only wipes they had were for removing makeup.

I used soap. Lots and Lots of soap.

After that, I made sure the room was well-stocked with wipes for mold-related emergencies.

#3 First Aid supplies

red and white x logo

So at Grove City College, there are these obnoxious desk chairs that are slanted at the bottom. As a result, the chair will shift suddenly to a different angle if you lean forward or back. I cannot tell you how many times I have bashed my knees off the desk because I accidentally leaned forward.

That’s what I get for trying to grab a pencil, or picking up a mug. Bloody knees.

That’s where a first aid kit comes in handy. First thing is to make sure you have bandages of various sizes. Waterproof bandages too, in case you want to go swimming without exposing open wounds.

Pack enough bandages in case your roommate needs them too, and your friends, and your friends’ friends. I’ve given mine away on numerous occasions. Pack a couple in your backpack so you have them if you’re away from the dorm too.

If you use hydrogen peroxide, bring a bottle of that too, along with q-tips to dab it on in case the cut isn’t big enough to need to pour it on.

I used plenty of it, but my roommate’s friend used a decent amount of it too when she ripped the skin off her knees falling on a treadmill.

Make sure you get cream to treat burns, triple-antibiotic cream, and sunscreen.

Pack over-the-counter medicines such as Advil or Tylenol, allergy medicine if you have allergies, Pepto Bismol for stomach problems, cough drops, etc.

(Don’t forget any personal medicines you have to take, and keep them in their original prescription containers. Many colleges require them to be in their original container with medical information included.)

Add to that list a thermometer to check if you have a fever.

#4 Paper plates and cups

File:Paper plates - isolated.png - Wikimedia Commons

Maybe you’re super into buying what’s environmentally-friendly. That’s fine, but when finals hit, at least for me, that went out the window. I no longer had time to constantly clean dishes. I was always studying.

For times in the semester that are so busy that even completing basic tasks is too time consuming, I recommend having a set of paper plates, napkins, and cups.

#5 Lamp

brown and white table lamp with light

Usually college dorms come with their own lighting, making a lamp unnecessary. I would list this under things that are not essential but are desirable.

The reason is that roommates often operate on different schedules. For example, my roommate stays up several hours later than I do each night.

Rather than keeping the room lights on or turning them off, my roommate uses a lamp near her bed that is dim enough that I can sleep. Yet she can study by it.

#6 List of common phone numbers

white printer paper beside silver laptop computer

Most people don’t have phone numbers memorized anymore. I know of people who don’t even know their own phone number and will check their phone to figure it out when necessary.

A list (on paper) of important contacts is definitely useful.

I lose my phone constantly, and having a list of contacts helps if you need to use someone else’s phone.

#7 Gift Wrap

person holding white gift card

Friends have birthdays. Christmas draws near. Someone gets married.

All of these are great reasons to have gift wrap. Because it may not be available in your college store, or you may have to pay a ridiculous price for it.

#8 Watch

watch at 10:34

Watches are great for testing environments. It’s best to have a watch with no special functions so teachers are okay with you wearing one during a test. If you’re like me, you want to know how much time has passed during testing.

Having a simple watch is the best way to tell time during a test, since looking up at the clock looks suspicious since you are looking up during a test repeatedly. The clock also may be in a position where you can’t see it from your location.

#9 Sewing Kit

scissors and knitting kits on box

I had to use a mini sewing kit on numerous occasions. One was when I had to fix an embarrassing hole in the armpit of my Newman Club t-shirt. I also had to mend a pair of pants, and various other articles of clothing.

I think this is especially important now because of the requirement at many colleges of wearing masks. Masks often need repaired after repeated use.

#10 Tide Pen

Tide to Go Stain Remover Pen | Stain Removers | Laundry Supplies ...

Tide pens are indispensable. I’ve used two up completely and plan on buying more this semester. They take out almost all stains with very little effort.

If you get one, try to carry it with you in your backpack, because you never know when you might need it.

Good luck with the fall semester! If you have any more suggestions for must-have but little thought of items needed in a dorm room, feel free to leave a comment.

Life

Recommended Packing List for College

As I was creating a list of items I would need to pack for college, I realized a list might be helpful for freshman starting this semester. As a result, I decided to share mine. I hope you find it helpful.

Clothes

  • T-shirts
  • Long-sleeve shirts
  • Jeans
  • Dress pants
  • Shorts
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Tennis shoes
  • Coats
  • Jackets
  • Snow boots
  • Dress/Suit
  • Dress shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Sandals
  • Swimsuit
  • Goggles
  • Pajamas
  • Bathrobe
  • Jewelry
  • Masks
  • Belts

Bedding

  • Sheets (twin XL size)
  • Pillow cases
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Mattress pad

School Supplies

  • Notebooks (At least 1 per class)
  • Folders (At least 1 per class)
  • Stapler (with extra staples)
  • Hole punch
  • Paper clips
  • Rubber bands
  • Post-it notes
  • Pens (of many colors, ideally)
  • #2 Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape
  • Masking tape
  • Eraser
  • Sharpener
  • Glue
  • Super Glue
  • Wite-Out
  • Thumb tacks
  • Lap desk
  • Backpack
  • Lanyard (for room and mailbox keys)
  • Thumbdrive
  • Calculator
  • Desk Organizer
  • Flash cards
  • Envelopes
  • Stamps
  • Thank you Cards
  • Birthday Cards
  • Command Strips
  • Printer paper
  • Clipboard

Technology

  • Phone
  • Phone charger
  • Laptop
  • Laptop charger
  • Printer
  • Printer Ink
  • Headphones
  • Power strip
  • Earphones
  • Batteries

Household

  • Towels
  • Washcloths
  • Kitchen Towels
  • Paper Towels
  • Napkins
  • Thermos
  • Silverware (metal and washable)
  • Silverware (disposable)
  • Plates & Bowls (washable)
  • Plates (disposable)
  • Mugs
  • Paper Cups
  • Detergent
  • Tide Pen
  • Hangers
  • Ziploc bags
  • Dish soap
  • Trash can
  • Trash bags
  • Laundry basket
  • Sewing kit
  • Shower Caddy
  • Tupperware
  • Lint roller
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Light bulbs
  • Clorox wipes

Food & Drinks

  • K-Cups
  • Snacks
  • Water jugs or bottles

Toiletries

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Hair bands (if you have long hair)
  • Nail Clippers
  • Nail file
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Feminine Pads (if applicable)
  • Tampons (if applicable)
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Brush
  • Comb
  • Command Strips
  • Hand mirror
  • Tweezers
  • Tissues

First Aid

  • Bandages
  • Triple-Antibiotic Cream
  • Advil or Tylenol or Motrin
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Q-tips
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Cough Drops
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Prescription Medicines (if applicable)
  • Sunscreen
  • Ice pack
  • Thermometer
  • Hand Sanitizer

Furniture & Appliances

  • Lamp
  • Collapsible Table
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • Keurig
  • Curling Iron (if applicable)
  • Fan
  • Hair dryer

Documents

  • Debit and/or Credit Card
  • Photo ID
  • Insurance Cards
  • Checkbook
  • Password book

Other Supplies

  • Umbrella
  • Carpet
  • Games
  • DVDs
  • String Lights