Hunkering down at home since March to reduce the spread of COVID-19 hasn’t been all binge-watching TV and too much snacking.
Here’s a look at a few Tucsonans who used the stick-to-home time to establish enjoyable, life-affirming routines, connections and practices that they plan to maintain after the pandemic ends.(t)
The stay-home mandate was “so boring,” says Eli Valasek, a seventh-grader at Magee Middle School.
Eli says it was “lots of fun” when spring break was first extended and he spent time riding bikes and exploring a nearby creek with friends in northeast Tucson.
Then quarantine slammed the door shut.
Eli’s mom, Kashmir Beamish, owner of Salon Kashmir and coach of the Sahuaro High School JV girls soccer team, began walking in the neighborhood. Beamish closed her hair studio a week before the shutdown mandate as a precaution.
Eli joined her walks because “there was nothing better to do.” The outings quickly morphed into longer, more intense hikes, including an 11-mile trek along Bear Canyon Trail.
The twosome nicknamed their outings “walkie talkies” because the walks gave them the opportunity to have in-depth discussions about topics they usually didn’t have a chance to talk about, such as colleges and careers, says Beamish.
And COVID-19. Beamish was able to explain and answer Eli’s questions about the novel coronavirus, the pandemic and the shutdown as they wandered trails.
The summer heat has curtailed the walks and Beamish says the two plan to pick them up again and may try running together when it gets cooler.
“The walks are a fun distraction from how boring it is at home,” says Eli.
Head for the hills
Last weekend, Agnes Maina and her son, Jayden Kiarie, hiked 5 miles, saw smoke drifting from the Bighorn Fire and watched a splendid sunset from Mount Graham near Safford. In a few weeks, they will be backpacking Mount Baldy in eastern Arizona.()
Busy “going here and there” before COVID-19 brought things to a screeching halt, they grabbed their hiking boots and camping gear and headed to the hills during the lockdown.
Being outdoors is a stress relief and gives Maina a chance to enjoy time with her son, she says.
Maina, director of financial services at Pima Community College, says she is lucky. She has a demanding job but her mother and friends have helped her adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions.
She was able to adjust her work-at-home schedule to start at 6 a.m., leaving late afternoons to help Jayden, who will be entering the sixth grade, with school work and other activities. Jayden has also developed an interest in cooking and baking and recently made sugar cookies on his own.
Somethin’ from the oven
“I am a new enthusiastic baker,” says Jean McKnight, dean of students at Cienega High School. “Yeast isn’t scary anymore.”
“Like many Americans, my daughter and I have learned to make bread,” she says. “Our family favorite is brioche — loaves and hamburger buns.”
“I really enjoy baking because it is relaxing and it offers the ultimate reward— delicious food and pride in a job well done,” she says.(t)
McKnight says her parents are hooked on her brioche bread loaves and she will continue to bake for them and keep baking bread and hamburger buns for her family.
“Burgers with homemade buns sprinkled with ‘everything but the bagel’ seeds are divine,” she says.
McKnight says she and husband, Michael Guymon, who have been working from home, and daughter Molly McKnight Guymon, an eighth-grader at St. Michael’s School, “have rediscovered the importance and comfort of being home.”
Those comforts include lunch together most days, a “COVID puppy,” Finn, a yellow Labrador retriever, and the smell of fresh-baked bread wafting through the house.(t)
Taking a ride
Maggi Cota’s bicycle had flat tires for three years.
When the shutdown was imposed, she had her bike tuned up and now she’s riding at least a mile or two every day and has taken a 25-mile ride.
Cota, who works in human resources for a local health-care organization, has been working from home during the quarantine and established some ongoing, life-affirming habits that she plans to stick with.
She adopted bullet journaling, a system that aids organization and tracking tasks and accomplishments, which she says “makes you sit down and focus.”
Cota starts her day by listening to inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant’s positivity-focused podcasts and she shifted to the Optavia diet that limits calories and carbs and lost 11 pounds during the shutdown.
Denise Mangano and Judy Strahler are among a group of women who met walking their dogs and have gathered weekly in Mangano’s backyard since the stay-put mandate began in mid-March.
“We watch the sunset and talk about what’s been going on during the week: local news, national news and family news,” says Mangano. “We have celebrated birthdays, new grandchildren, a grandchild on the way, and a faculty award.”
The group abides by the social distancing rules, except for the dogs, and everyone brings their own drink and snacks, she says.
“In a true neighborly way, if someone is need of something, the group always comes through — whether it’s paper towels, N95 masks, or even yeast packets,” she says. “We have also shared extra produce if we have it.”
Since the temperature crossed the century mark, the group has had to adjust the time of the get-togethers, but the gatherings still last for a few hours, says Mangano.
“We plan to continue after the shutdown ends — as long as our social calendars allow,” she says.
Physical to digital
Jane Scott Newton, a retired teacher, enjoys arts and craft projects with her grandkids.
But there’s a logistics problem: Newton is hunkered down in Tucson and her grandchildren are staying put out of state. Remote craft classes enable her to giggle with the kiddos without the paint splatter.
Creative Kind in La Encantada, 2905 E. Skyline Drive, offers craft classes and drop-in projects and sells curated goods. It is one of the spots that lets distanced families and friends craft together.()
Creative Kind’s “whole model is to bring people together and learn together,” says founder Theresa Delaney. Now they do so digitally, rather than physically.
They try to create an experience similar to in-shop classes. Participants receive a recording of the session to view on their time or refer back to. Participants can have their own supplies, or pick them up curbside or in the shop at Creative Kind, says Delaney.
Creative Kind plans to keep the online workshops. They enjoy having participants from across the country and like being more accessible to participants with varying schedules, says Delaney.
Newton, who’s participated in painting and art classes in physical and digital settings, including a remote Creative Kind calligraphy class, says she finds the digital workshops instructive and creative, without the inconvenience of dodging traffic or driving across town and with the convenience of sharing the experience with family members and friends, no matter where they live.
Ann Brown, a former editor and reporter for the Star, has established no productive, life-affirming routines during the shutdown.
In this Series
June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear
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