Life

5 Reasons to Love Masks

I hear people complaining about masks all of the time. I know people who blatantly refuse to wear them correctly, and others who will wear them the right way but can’t help but point out how much of a nuisance they are.

Unpopular opinion: I don’t mind them. In fact, I even like them sometimes.

Here are five reasons why people shouldn’t be hating on masks:

1. They keep your face warm

Okay, I don’t know if you live in a place where winter is nasty, but where I live, the cold weather was prolonged and not very fun.

I don’t like winter. The snow is pretty to look at, but trekking to classes every day through it was less than desirable.

I have to say, having a mask to cover my face this year was a blessing. And since it is basically normal now, I don’t stand out at all for using mine as a face warmer.

2. They give an excuse for not recognizing people

I actually am terrible at recognizing faces. I notice things like hair length and hair color, but I forget what people’s faces look like. With the current Covid situation, I can now just blame it on the mask. That makes it a little less awkward.

But even if you are good at recognizing faces, you can use the mask as an excuse for not talking to people you want to avoid. If they confront you for ignoring them, blame it on the mask.

“Oh sorry–didn’t see you there. You know how masks are…”

3. They hide your expression

People do dumb things sometimes. And when they do, your trusty mask can hide your silent laughter. It can conceal those involuntary frowns, the mounting frustration, an evil grin. I can’t tell you how much my mask has saved me from offending people by hiding my expressions.

The only problem is, once wearing masks is no longer a necessity, it’ll be hard to break the habit of being too expressive. By now, I’m used to the mask and no longer try to hold back the occasional smile, grimace, or smirk. Oh well–I’ll worry about that when this whole Covid crisis is over.

4. They conceal acne

Sure, they cause it too (heard of maskne?), but they do hide the entire lower half of one’s face. That’s 50% acne coverage there.

5. They are another way to express your personality

People have always used clothes to flaunt their personalities. But now, fashionable masks are the new craze. Whether broadcasting one’s love of My Hero Academia or one’s obsession with kittens, the masks one wears say a lot about a person. They can show whether one is artsy, minimalistic, creative, or playful.

There are loads of masks that are just plain funny.

Conclusion

Next time you wear a mask, look on the bright side. There are reasons, even besides the obvious health benefits, for wearing a mask. We’re all in the same boat here, and I’m sure this will all blow over eventually. Stay healthy!

Life

Surviving a College Semester (Pandemic Edition)

brown green and white textile

So much has changed with the rise of COVID-19. Everyday life is so different with all the social distancing, masks, and quarantine. Being a college student during a pandemic is…interesting.

As a student at Grove City College (GCC), I had the privilege of attending in-person classes and living on campus this semester. While many other colleges were resorting to Zoom, GCC decided to be stubborn and bring everyone back.

Even though we were all on campus, nothing was normal. From the beginning, it was established that we had to wear masks basically everywhere, even outside.

Anyone who visited my room had to wear a mask, but I didn’t have to wear a mask in my room even if someone was visiting. That doesn’t really make sense, but I guess they were trying to be lenient in some ways so people would be more obedient.

Some teachers said it was okay to eat or drink in their classroom, taking off masks temporarily to do so, other teachers forbade it. I sat as far away from everyone as possible in all of my classes, so I would eat a snack occasionally in the classes that permitted it.

The food at GCC has never been good. In fact, there are Instagram channels devoted entirely to showing pictures of terrible food served at GCC.

Although it was possible to dine in the cafeterias for most of the semester, all the food was made take-out style, in plastic or foam containers. These containers leaked and occasionally burst.

The portions of food given were determined by the staff.

For instance, I would say, “Can I have a few vegetables?”

The food worker would then give me a generous scoop of them. And then another. And then a third. It’s like they were so happy someone asked for a healthy food that they got a little overexcited.

The biggest consequence to there being all take-out was that there was so much garbage that the college resorted to dumpsters instead of trash cans. My roommate and I had a trash can in our room, and we had to take out our garbage every day because of the clunky, oversized take-out containers.

It’s sad, really. At some point the cafeterias stopped offering straws the same way they once did to reduce waste. It was laughable–students were throwing away hundreds of plastic containers per day, but at least straws were not part of the problem.

The cafeterias were also open almost the entire day to encourage smaller crowds. This meant they had less time for food prep, so they would copy a lot of the meals from day to day.

On some occasions, they would get creative, however. See that picture below? That’s Pumpkin Cheesecake pizza. Looks appealing, no?

If you go to GCC, don’t taste Pumpkin Cheesecake Pizza. If you avoid it, your taste buds will thank you.

It was actually kind of nice that they cleaned the tables after each use, though.

Events were cancelled the whole semester, and the gym was closed at different times.

I remember those first few weeks when there were a few COVID cases and many students, including myself, thought we would be sent home. Every week there were a few more.

black and white smartphone on white table

Students were frequently put in isolation. That meant they could only leave their room for food and had to take classes virtually until they were told they could leave isolation.

At one point, my class of 20 diminished to 5 because so many students were in isolation.

Quarantine was much worse. Then you couldn’t leave your room and just had food delivered. Some of the quarantined students had to be put in hotel rooms because the quarantine rooms at college filled up.

Students who were quarantined had to make lists of people they were in contact with for even a short duration of time. Those people were put in isolation. This was called contact tracing.

Near the end, the cases skyrocketed. We began to have about 20 cases every three days. The students were given an option to go home before Thanksgiving break, and I was one of those who did so.

My sister stayed as long as she could, but that was only until Thanksgiving break. No one came back after break. As planned, we all stayed home for the last week of classes and finals.

So, that was how my semester went. I was lucky enough never to go into isolation or quarantine. I was so happy to be on campus, and I hope I will be headed back to school in the spring.

Feel free to share your own quarantine experience in the comments!

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.