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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Quarantine Hacks

Working at home, two academics plus kids who are remote learning/teaching, can be challenging. So far I've been loving it. My breaks from writing are filled with family cooking and eating, the house is vibrating with music, piano, violin, the buzz of group chats and zoom conferencing from every room. But it's only been a few days...and really only the first day of remote school for the kids here. So how do we sustain this for a indeterminate time? I've been enjoying reading other people's quarantine diaries and thought I'd share a few, semi-random hacks of my own: 

  1. Organizing the Work Spaces. In regular times we each work in multiple corners of the house -- moving from bedrooms to kitchen to living room with our five laptops. In times of Corona, I find it better to have each person stick with their designated desk for work and the rest of the house can be turned into all sorts of stations. For example, in the living room, we set up a folding table to be entirely devoted to art. The dining table has become the game and puzzle station. 
  2. Food and Meals. This strange time a great reminder of how much we've been relying on eating outside and this is a great time to test out new recipes and go into the very back of the pantry where the D-listers reside (talking to you canned beans). What I have found nice is to vary the set up of the dining tables - if possible, eating outside, picnic-ing, but also indoor, and even at the same table, bringing out the fancier plates and glasses for example to give the feeling that we've gone out to a different restaurant chez-nous.
  3. Sticking to a Schedule. I posted about the NaCoWriMo group -- yesterday was our first day and at the beginning of the day we had to each announce what project we were working on, and end of the day, report back on progress. I suggest that for our own purposes, we break it down much further. For me, even small 20 minute breakdowns of what I will be doing in the next hour gives me more structure and motivation.
  4. Exercise. Today our YMCA officially closed and before that all my yoga studios did so one by one over the weekend. It has also be uncharacteristically rainy in Southern California so indoor workouts are the name of the game. I've downloaded an app OpenFit that offers a two week free trial and give you access to a ton of workout styles. For me, the winner has been a 30-day challenge of a Tough Mudder program. Every day a different workout but they build on the previous day and its fun and tough! Runs and walks outdoor, with or without a dog, are so refreshing. Yesterday, I was stung by a hornet while running with my crazy Labrador and it was perhaps the most action I had all day! 
  5. Help Others who are Alone: find out about how to help people, especially elders, who are living on their own and need your help for groceries and other supplies. Buy gift cards of the businesses you love and support. As much as possible stay home.
  6. Mary Kondo it: great time to be getting rid of all the stuff we don't need and donating clothes and household items to a local organization. 
  7. Corona Humor: for some reason, apocalypse jokes, memes, videos and rants are funny and relaxing. 
  8. Send thanks to the medical professionals working extra hard and under extra stress these days.
  9. Unplug: this one is tough, since we are connected mostly online these days. but reminder that there are sites and apps like Freedom that block social media and other distracting sites for set periods when you want to unplug. 
  10. So many resources, so little time: surprisingly, we've been watching less, rather than more, tv during these days. Our days have been filled with new ideas of activities and the truth is, those are endless. Here are 150+ ideas (h/t Dalie Jimenez). Personally, I'm into rock painting. I have a booming side business of it already -- if you've ever wondered who the anonymous artist behind La Jolla Rocks is...we take custom orders too! But learn to bake, build, polish, design, code, speak another language, podcast, jump rope - all free of charge at the comfort of your own home.

Stay healthy and safe - big virtual hug to all, since physical ones have been cancelled for an indeterminate time.


Posted by Orly Lobel on March 17, 2020 at 04:57 PM | Permalink


This is really amazing article! Thank you so much for spreading your thoughts :)

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Posted by: Drywall Denver | Mar 24, 2020 12:17:50 AM

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Posted by: Drywall Denver | Mar 24, 2020 12:17:49 AM

I would agree; when it's self-quarantine, or self-censorship, or self-abstinence, or self-disarmament, it can be tolerable in the short-term.

When the government requires you to stay in your home, shut up, stop screwing around, and disarm, that's when it's intolerable and requires resistance and revolt.

Posted by: St. Patty Henry | Mar 18, 2020 4:42:17 PM

Wonderful post -- thank you!

Posted by: Michael Higdon | Mar 18, 2020 1:25:59 PM

Thanks for this Orly. I don't know what age your kids are, but in our house, even having one kid between 4 and 8 yrs old means constant, full-time supervision of homeschooling - maybe 15 minutes here and there of the kid working on their own. The idea of exercising or even doing more than 15 minutes or work, let alone jumping into a writing project, seems.... impossible. If you do have young kids, then I am totally in awe and even disbelief!

Posted by: anon | Mar 18, 2020 10:10:41 AM

thanks for the comment anon. I guess I agree - to say I am loving it is really relative to the fact that these are difficult times and that we are simply trying to make the most of it. I am not loving it relative to times when we don't have to worry about going out, travel and see friends. Also, our quarantine is a self-quarantine - there is no order to stay in at the moment in San Diego - and we know a lot of people who are still going out to restaurants, gyms, and get together with friends. We have decided - using our full autonomy and self-determination - to stay in since last week and not go to events and the gym well before those shut down. And of course, wishing and waiting for things to get back to normal.

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Mar 18, 2020 12:56:33 AM

I'm glad to hear you have such a functional and productive family life, Orly, but I take issue with your use of the phrase, "loving it." I'd argue no one should be (or at least admit to) loving a quarantine, lest you become subservient to this intrusion into your autonomy and self-determination--albeit clearly for the greater good--and so it becomes the new normal.

Posted by: anon | Mar 17, 2020 6:21:31 PM

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