Pandemic Takeaways, There are a Few

pandemic takeaway, mud lake

Believe it or not, there are a few pandemic takeaways to learn from.

Humans are Meant to Socialize

Mankind is meant to be sociable. Many experts believe social interaction is important for mental health, starting at a very early age. Just how sociable you (or your children) are is up to you of course, usually. Not so when forced to practice social distancing, isolation, or quarantine.

We were able to keep in touch with each other during the height of the pandemic through social media. Used exclusively to communicate though, social media can have a dark side. I saw lots of kind, considerate and compassionate stuff posted, but sadly lots of negativity and ugliness too.

The pandemic takeaway here is that we should strive to be kind instead of mean or judgmental. Looking after each other is especially crucial during hard times.

Staying Home When Sick

In a perfect world, everyone would stay home when they are sick, and keep their sick kids home too. However, with economies tanking and inflation rates increasing, more and more families rely on two salaries to survive. To compensate, employers would have to step up and agree to pay their employees to stay home when they or their kids are sick.

Working From Home

Working from home started out as non-negotiable for many early on during the pandemic. Almost two years in, working from home has gained momentum in both popularity and convenience. I know several people that are thriving while working from home, others not so much.

For some, the convenience and flexibility outweigh the lack of personal interaction with co-workers. For others though, social isolation is painful.

The pandemic takeaway? If the work from home option is still available, do whatever works best for you and your family.

Personal Hygiene

Like we learned way back in kindergarten, we need to wash our hands frequently. While hand sanitizer was worshipped early on in the pandemic, we know now that simple soap and water hand washing is sufficient to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.

If you didn’t before, one of the most crucial pandemic takeaways is that you should wash your hands after:

  • blowing your own nose or wiping a child’s nose
  • sneezing into a tissue
  • changing a diaper
  • returning home from a public place (stores, gas stations, restaurants etc)

Maintaining a Healthy Immune System

This pandemic takeaway is how important our immune systems are in the fight against disease, including the lingering Covid virus. Stress-free living, fresh air, sunshine, healthy eating, and frequent exercise top of the list of ways to keep our immune systems functioning well.

fresh air, pandemic takeaways

Discover Local Outdoor Activities

Early on in the pandemic, I found myself researching outdoor places to take my grandchildren to. I discovered that Ottawa has an amazingly large number of options. As the nation’s capital, we are fortunate to have the NCC (National Capital Commission) maintaining many parks and trails, both in winter and summer.

Mud Lake was a favourite place for my grandson and me to visit during the summer. Although we visited Shirley’s Bay in the summer too, we have since discovered the ice fishing opportunity there this winter.

pandemic takeaways, fresh air and sunshine
“ice fishing is more fun than sun fishing”

Me, a Hair Stylist?

It has been almost two years now since my husband or I have been to a hair stylist to get our hair cut. I have been cutting (some might say hacking at) both of our hair. Hubby’s hair is pin straight, so very unforgiving, and he is much more particular than I am. As a result, his takes much longer to cut. Mine is slightly wavy; much easier to hide the mistakes. The cuts may not look professional, but who cares? I don’t.

I have also given up colouring my hair. I actually made that decision prior to the pandemic onset, with no regrets. The white colour may make me look older but I love the freedom. Not to mention the lack of white roots that would crop up a mere one week after colouring my hair.

pandemic takeaways

Summary of Pandemic Takeaways

Many of these are my personal takes. Hopefully, you have some pandemic takeaways of your own. Learn from and maintain the positive ones; move on from or fix the negative ones.

Retirement Practice AKA a Long Vacation

My husband is on vacation for the next month; this will be a practice run for his looming retirement, so wish me luck. And patience.

I say patience because I have been spoiled. Retiring myself nine years ago from alarm clocks, stress, and strict schedules, my daily routine has evolved into one I am completely comfortable and enamoured with. I have gotten used to picking and choosing what I feel like doing for the day. Or week. Or month. Sounds selfish, I know, but it has been nice. And don’t get me wrong, my hubby is the rock to my kite, still the partner of my dreams, thirty-seven years in.

Last Year at this Time

Last year at this time hubby was off for three weeks, using up vacation time for the fiscal year too, but also planning to retire. With the pandemic just in its onset, although we were not able to travel, we were able to “isolate” to prepare for our granddaughter staying here while her baby brother was born.

Obviously, his retirement didn’t materialize either, another victim of the ever-lasting pandemic.

I also took advantage of my husband’s presence to get a thorough spring cleanup in my own gardens, although I did have to keep nagging him to watch out for still-dormant plants, bees, and other beneficial insects.

Renovation dreams for our cottage and home were put on hold too as supplies were limited. It took the whole summer just to replace the base for our dock, with the dock itself still needing replacement. With most stores closed to the public, we were unable to look at the options for a new one, and unfortunately, a dock is not something easily assessed online.

A Year Later

It is hard to believe one year has passed and we are now entering a second of pandemic restrictions. Everyone is pandemic weary and frustrated. Still not able to travel and still no concrete renovation plans. No new babies (grandchildren) are on the way this year; it now appears that the birth of our grandson last April was the highlight of that year.

Spring Cleaning

Spring is a great time to clean all areas of the house, inside and out. On the list are:

  • garage
  • windows
  • eavestroughs
  • removing Christmas lights
  • powerwashing front veranda and back deck

Garden Chores

Of course, there are garden chores to be shared too, with a few branches of our apple trees on the list for removal. This is the time of year to prune many trees and shrubs, and it looks like I have the manpower to do the job.

It is also a great time of year to edge the gardens if you use a natural, trench method, top-up and amend the soil, divide perennials, add mulch, clean out birdhouses, birdbaths, and the pond, rid the lawn of crabgrass, prepare containers for annuals etc, etc.

Renovations

We have had chats with a neighbour on how they renovated their (identical to ours) ensuite bathroom, so that might encourage my resident DIYer to firm up some plans. He knows I have been dreaming of a bean (freestanding) tub to soak my weary gardener bones in. I would still love to head to the cottage for a month while the work is being done, but I will accept a compromise.

Conclusions

I am looking forward to a loyal companion for my long daily walks, although we would both prefer to be walking on a warm, tropical beach. A brisk walk is great exercise and easy on my aging joints and bones. Remember, sitting is the new smoking, so any form of exercise is a good thing.

I would also like to shop for a small garden shed to fit in the back corner of my yard, something else that is hard to envision online.

Wild Birds Unlimited has moved to our neighbourhood, within walking distance, with visitors now permitted in the store. I have purchased products online since their arrival, with curbside pickups in effect due to pandemic restrictions. I know my husband will love this store as much as I do.

My honey-do and shopping lists continue to grow! Fingers crossed we will get something accomplished this year during our retirement practice.

Turn your Hobby into a Business

Turn a Hobby Into a Business

I am proud to report that I was recently featured in an article in First for Women magazine about turning a hobby into a lucrative business opportunity. The picture of me isn’t the most flattering one, taken in a hurry first thing in the morning (my grandkids take better selfies than I do) because the one I had submitted was too blurry, but the garden pictured is one of my favourite projects. I have literally watched it evolve over the years from a weed filled, uninspired, large area into a stunning, colourful, well-planned perennial garden bed.

I was approached in January to submit a story on how and why I started my own business, then told it was accepted to be published. The magazine is on newsstands from March 11th through to March 31st. This, of course, is a much-edited, sugar-coated version of my story. I have learned tons over the years, including how to create a website, blog and invoicing or accounting system. I’ve also learned what not to do. If anyone needs further motivation or details on how to get a (very) small business up and running, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

While many people have been inspired to find unique ways to earn income during the pandemic, my gardening hobby-to-business adventure began in the spring of 2012. In fact, last summer my business took a hit, due to the fact that many of my clients were working from home and able to manage their own gardens. Others gave up their gardener to tighten their budget as the pandemic stretched from weeks to months. I was excited, however, to be able to design a few new gardens, something I have been doing less of in recent years. It was a hot and dry summer too, so the cottage season was an exceptional one.

I was thrilled to see the magazine article in publication, especially as the weather appears to be warming up to what could soon be gardening weather. I do still have quite a bit of snow covering my gardens, but it is melting. My south-facing front yard is always the first on the street to reveal the grass under the snow…

In the meantime, I am still repotting, dividing and increasing my collection of houseplants. I think I need a larger house!

The Simple Things in Life

We have all heard the saying “it’s the simple things in life that are important.” Do you believe it? Has your opinion changed as the pandemic continues to rule our lives? Does the Christmas season impact your feelings on this?

Several events have conspired to make the simple things most important to me. All year round, pre-pandemic, but especially during the pandemic. I realize I have already posted on this subject, but the fact that I recognize the repetition makes it alright, right? That was in the summer also, so the simple things I appreciated then are different than the simple things I am enjoying these days.

Career Choices

It is coming up on nine years since I retired from work in a local hospital as a medical laboratory technologist. I loved my career in healthcare, but it was becoming increasingly stressful. My advancing age, increased workload with less staff due to budget constraints, and several health issues were stacked against me.

I gave up hospital work with mixed emotions; I met lots of wonderful people and have lots of great memories from my thirty years there. Of course a healthy pension and a severance package made the decision easier. These financial aids also made it possible and relatively simple to switch gears into a new career. The day after I left the hospital, Gardens4u, my gardening business, was born.

As you can probably imagine, working in gardens all day, as my own boss, at my own pace, is stress-free and so much healthier. Appreciating the beauty of nature, exposure to fresh air and sunshine, as well as increased physical activity (exercise) built in to my work day are the simple things I chose.

The Joy of Grandkids

It is no secret that I am the proud Grandma to five beautiful, very active, adorable grandchildren. Ranging in age (currently) from (almost) eight months to seven years old, these sweethearts have simply stolen my heart.

The Simple Things in Life

The more time I spend with them, (I have been fortunate to be able to spend time with them during the pandemic) experiencing life through their eyes, the more I realize how important and basic the simple things in life are. Christmas time only heightens that awareness as many experiences are “firsts” for them, or at least that they remember. After all, last Christmas was a long time ago, relatively speaking.

I have always been the primary decorator in our home, but over the years as my sons have grown up and moved out, decorating had become less of an adventure and more of a chore. Grandchildren change that. This year my three oldest have brought the magic back as they helped me decorate.

Enjoying the decorations through their eyes, brings back memories of when their dads were young. Most of our decorations are (still) inexpensive, handmade treasures. We never did graduate to purchasing expensive, more intricate decorations, preferring to stick with the simple, cherished ones affiliated with the memories of yesteryear.

These hard plastic stars are a favourite with the kids, hung over individual bulbs on the tree, they reflect the light, creating sparkles. They also make a great tool for teaching counting, sorting and colour matching, although the kids don’t have to know that.

the simple things in life

Exercise

Exercise has always been simple to me, if I make it too difficult I don’t do it. Whether bending, squatting, digging or raking in my gardens, walking around our neighbourhood with hubby, swimming or just puttering at the cottage, or cavorting with the grandkids, simple forms of exercise work best. When I can’t do any of the above, planks are still a favourite.

On a recent trip to a local park, on a rainy day, my almost three year old granddaughter found the last patch of quickly-melting snow in the park and decided to create a slide. A simple find that created lots of fun. And a muddy jacket and rain suit, but nothing a quick wash couldn’t fix.

Another park visit, on a much colder day, had this granddaughter and her almost four year old cousin “racing” Grandma across the fields. Her baby brother watched from the sidelines with his momma. Delicious, candy cane flavoured hot chocolate and timbits from Tim Hortons warmed our cold hands and tummies between the racing and the play structure fun.

Nature

I have always been a nature lover, just one of the simple things in life I appreciate. My backyard is an oasis of sorts to wildlife. Squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, a variety of bird species, and racoons frequent my gardens, trees and pond. Recently we added another bird feeder, filled with spicy seed to deter the squirrels from raiding it. It is entertaining to watch the squirrels try to outsmart the feeder though.

A pair of cardinals visits our yard often. The male is vibrant red while the female is browner with a red beak. Their red colouring really shows up well in the bleak dormant trees, and especially well in snowy weather. The puffed up male looks really cold! The large cardinal, bottom right, is a whimsical decoration I leave on my deck all year round. The real cardinals seem to like him!

As the pandemic continues to restrict our actions and interactions, I hope you are taking the time (who doesn’t have time these days?) to enjoy some simple things in life too, especially during the Christmas season. You don’t have to look very hard to find them.

Mental Health More Critical During Pandemic

mental health

Mental health issues have become much more prevalent during the Covid pandemic. Unfortunately, these issues have not (yet) been given the respect they deserve. I say yet, because I hope someone in power will step up and recognize the increased need for help.

This group in Canberra, Australia has stepped up to address mental health in a big way. MIEACT or Mental Illness Education Act was created in 2014 but is recognizing the increased need for mental health support during the pandemic.

I saw this post on Facebook recently where MIEACT describes the ways to improve your mental health:

Did you know that you can consciously create opportunities for your body to release Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphin, increasing your wellbeing, stabilizing mood, improving motivation and increasing connection?

MIEACT

 That’s lots of ways to make yourself feel more cheerful and healthier!

According to AtlasBiomed, endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin are all “happy hormones,” chemicals that are released within our bodies naturally sending positive, feel-good messages to our brains.

Good on MIEACT for sharing these ways to improve our mental health. Hopefully, the rest of the world can step up too to recognize, support, and tackle mental health issues in their areas of the globe.

Immune Systems: Keeping Them Healthy

Keeping Your Immune System Healthy

It is more important than ever to keep our immune systems as healthy as possible as we head into colder weather. Especially with a second wave of the Covid-19 virus leasing its germs upon us in this pandemic.

My gardening business keeps me (very) physically active during the summer months. I also soak up lots of vitamin D. Both are important requirements for keeping our immune systems functioning at their best.

However, during the (too) long winter months here in Canada I spend my days freelance writing This does absolutely nothing for my physical activity or vitamin D levels. Instead of working in the sunshine and fresh air, digging, lugging plants and soil, I am indoors, sitting in a comfortable chair with my laptop.

Netflix movies are also more tempting on cold winter evenings, accompanied by a glass of wine and snacks of course.

When I was sick last February, we were just coming off a miserably cold and icy winter. My immune system was probably at a low from lack of physical activity and vitamin D. My consumption of junk food was enjoying a winter high too.

Motivating ourselves during our winter months to get outside is tough, but I plan to keep reminding myself to do so this coming winter. Perhaps like minded neighbours can be convinced to go for morning walks.

I won’t pretend I will completely avoid the high carb comfort foods, but I can limit them. Continuing my healthy practice of a hydrating and nutrient-packed green smoothie every morning into my gardening off-season should help too.

Lumber Shortage Slows Summer DIY Project

Anyone trying to complete a DIY project involving wood this summer knows what I mean about a lumber shortage. I’m not sure just how wide spread the shortage was, but we sure felt it here in the Ottawa area. Of course the shortage is COVID related, isn’t everything bad related to the dreaded virus these days?

Last fall, when we dug up most of our cottage property to install a new water pipe, we decided to replace and widen the ancient steps and base to our dock. We figured we could get them replaced before cottage season began in earnest.

Enter the pandemic, throwing everything and everyone into chaos, even the best laid plans.

Luckily hubby had some pressure treated lumber stashed away, remnants from our deck project several summers ago. I won’t be living down this (only) advantage of his “discard nothing” personality anytime soon!

We were able to get started using this leftover lumber, but had to wait (what seemed like) forever for the floor boards. I was finally able to locate some 12 footers we needed to finish the project this past week. Thankfully, our son has a large truck and could transport the boards from Ottawa to the cottage for us.

We finally completed the project, a few months later than planned. This base will look awesome next summer when the cedars are trimmed and a few of my specialties, planters full of colorful flowers, are added.

Next!

Fun (and safe) Things to do with Kids During a Pandemic

Are you having a difficult time keeping your kids or grandkids entertained during the pandemic? Luckily for me, my grandchildren love the outdoors and nature, giving us lots of options to choose from.

Last week we took a road trip to my grandparents farm where they could run around outside while I had a socially distanced visit with my aunt and uncle.

This week we stayed in Ottawa, driving a short jaunt to the Log Farm. Pandemic precautions were in place, but fairly inconspicuous for the children.

  • lots of hand sanitizer around the spacious farm yard
  • masks mandatory in the gift shop and indoor bathroom, but not outdoors
  • tickets purchased online to control number of visitors
  • two 90 minute sessions available with farm yard activities cleaned between sessions
  • attractions, activities well spaced out to encourage social distancing
  • outdoor bathrooms available

It was a beautiful fall day, perfect for checking out the animals and exploring the farm yard activities. Check out the pictures!


Another popular outing for us takes advantage of the many groomed woodland trails throughout the Ottawa area. My grandkids love to wander through the forests and across the wetland boardwalks, feeding the birds and looking for frogs, turtles and the like.

Hazeldean Woods is right in my neighbourhood, so readily accessible. Now that kids are allowed back on play structures at the city parks, we can walk to the park and through the woods. And back to Grandma’s house, without encountering the Big Bad Wolf!

When the weather keeps us indoors, baking is always a hit, especially the mixing bowl clean up and taste testing!

By the way, in case you were wondering, the feature picture (top of article) is a reflection of my 3.5 year old grandson and I looking for frogs, lying on our tummies on a boardwalk, along one of the mentioned trails.

Pandemic, Four Months in

photo credit

I’m sure you’ve noticed, we are now four (!!) months into a pandemic. Although lots of things have changed in these past 4 months, many others are slipping back into our lives now that we (some of us) are into the (many) stages of reopening. Stage three began here in Ontario last week. While many of us welcome the reinstated freedoms, many others are still feeling uneasy. With spikes in our provincial “numbers” that unease can only get worse.

I realized one of these slippery slopes at the grocery store recently, the third time in one week, although I wore a mask each time. In recent months I restricted my outings to a grocery store once a week or even once every ten days. As well as the grocery store, I (gasp) went to a few other stores last week too. I won’t however, be going to any (indoor) restaurants or bars any time soon, will stick to ordering online and pickups.

To say it has been a rough four months for many people and businesses, is quite the understatement. My own business, although more of a hobby than a salary dependent business, has slowed down considerably. The heat wave played a part in that, but the slowdown is mainly due to the fact that lots of clients decided to do their own gardening while they were stuck at home.

The silver lining in a reduced workload permitted me to spend more time in my own gardens that I now refer to as Gardens4me. Another consolation has been the ability to spend more time at our family cottage. My daughter-in-law is on maternity leave, so we have been heading up there with her two children while our men folk go to work, then meet us there on the weekends. Tough job, I know. The heatwave (so far) this summer has encouraged these extra cottage visits.

Now that we are permitted to, I also am using any extra moments to spend time with my five precious grandchildren. This picture was taken at one grandson’s (far right, on grandpa’s lap) 1st birthday celebration…

As you can see, I have fully embraced my gray Sliter roots, pun intended. My dad was totally white by the age of 30 as were many of his siblings and my own. My children and their cousins are now sprouting grays too.

COVID-19 Timeline

Another COVID-19 post… sorry folks, but as an analytical person I prefer and appreciate information in a visual and structural format.  If you do as well, keep reading…

This timeline, written by Stephanie Parker, chronicles the spread of this lethal virus into a pandemic that has shut down our planet.  Starting with a warning from Dr Li in Wuhan on December 30, to the present (April 23rd).  Four months of facts and details.

It is not behind us yet; unfortunately, the timeline continues to grow.  Just how far no one really knows.  Economists and those struggling financially are hoping the world re-opens soon, but scientists are sceptical and hesitant.  In the meantime, we are all holding our breaths and doing what we can to get through this.

One of the things that bothers me about this pandemic, far behind the economic destruction, is the judgement and negativity it has spawned.  Hopefully that too will come to an end soon.

Feature image from Pixabay