We’ve had both good news and bad news on the vaccines of late.
The good news is that they’re finally coming.
The bad news is that they are not coming quite yet — at least not for most of us. So, it looks like we’re all going to be stuck at home a bit longer. But not to worry!
Leaven staffers have pooled their collective wisdom to come up with some ways for readers to hang in there for just a little bit longer.
And with Lent coming up, many of these ideas can be reframed or repurposed with that liturgical season in mind.
Home repair list: Go through the house — inside and out — and note all the repairs you never got around to doing. Sort them into three categories: 1) quick and easy fixes; 2) bigger and longer-term projects you can do yourself; 3) Large projects that will require hiring a contractor. Go to YouTube for free instructional videos about all kinds of “do it yourself” projects. For tips about how to hire a contractor, go to the Federal Trade Commission website at: consumer.ftc.gov, or Angie’s list at: angieslist.com.
Learn to speak a foreign language: There are more resources online than ever before, and some of them are free. Join a social media language group. View free online foreign language videos on sites like YouTube. You can use tools like FaceTime to speak with native speakers of the language. One good site is Duolingo at: duolingo.com.
Declutter: Go into your closets and storage places and ruthlessly rid yourself of things you don’t need or use anymore. Give items away to TurnStyles, Goodwill or similar places. One site you can visit is: becomingminimalist.com.
Learn to make beer or wine: That way, you’ll never run out.
Books: Join a book club to read genres you’ve never read before, or even write your own book. Set yourself a goal of finishing one chapter a month. Consider joining beginning writers’ groups on whatever social media platforms you frequent for tips and encouragement. Another good place to start is “The Writing Group Starter Kit” offered by The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at: writingcenter.unc.edu.
Or, since Lent will soon be here, why not commit to some religious reading, starting with the Gospels. Pick a time to consistently read a little every day. Conveniently, Mark’s Gospel comes first — the very one Archbishop Naumann asked Catholics to read in his Jan. 15 column.
Or choose a prayer book and use it to develop a daily prayer habit. Again, focus on consistency and regularity.
Convert those VHS tapes: Something my family did this winter after years of talking about it was convert a handful of our old VHS tapes to DVDs so we can enjoy them again. Now, we spend time when we’re together watching our home movies from the ’90s and ’00s and cracking up at birthday celebrations, Christmases and other special events we had long forgotten about. We used Legacybox during an online sale, but other companies offer a similar service, too. Just go online, search “Convert VHS to digital” and see what you find.
Make a travel list: Travel restrictions and social distancing have many itching now more than ever to travel. This winter is a great time to make a bucket list of places you want to go. Whether it’s a state you’ve never been to, a country you’ve always wanted to visit or a new restaurant down the street, making a list can give you something concrete to look forward to in the future.
Get those photos printed: If you’re like me, your smartphone becomes so full of photos that it’s overwhelming. I’ve found that when I get my pictures printed on a regular basis, it gives my phone more space and offers me a way to reminisce. Shutterfly is one convenient app you can download for free onto your phone and order prints that will get delivered to your door. Once you have your favorite photos picked out, you can create a scrapbook to save your memories in a special place. This is a simple way to get creative while also saving physical copies of your memories for future times when you’re feeling nostalgic.
Learn sign language: The deaf community has been impacted by the pandemic in a unique, life-altering way. Masks have made it even more difficult for them to communicate with people in person. During down moments in the day, spending a few minutes learning basic American Sign Language is a rewarding and interesting challenge. Google “free online ASL classes” to get started. It’s a skill that could come in handy and make someone’s day — or at the very least, provide a chance to learn something new.
Get healthy: I’m not a New Year’s resolution person, but I still try to start my year off on a somewhat healthy note — key word being “somewhat!” 2020 was no exception, although it did change the way I achieved my goal. I’ve found that free online workouts are an effective way to hold myself accountable and find forms of exercise I actually enjoy. The World Wide Web offers many free workout programs. Go to YouTube.com and type in “free workouts,” or search for something more specific, like “dance workouts” or “arm workouts.” A simple search will bring up a plethora of videos. Whether you try a 10-day challenge or a long-term routine, the online workout community is a great place to go for ideas that fit with your goals.
Exercise: Let’s face it, winter is a terrible time to exercise. With gyms closed or limiting the number of people inside, the odds are stacked against you. Still, you can find a simple routine that takes an hour or less to get your blood pumping. Even in the cold, a brisk mile walk can be done in under 20 minutes and the fresh air will do you good. If you hate the cold, try some sit-ups, push-ups or walk or run the stairs in your house. You don’t need a load of expensive equipment to stay in shape. Find ways to motivate yourself and get moving.
Collect things: One of the things that’s kept me sane during this pandemic has been rediscovering my joy of toys. As a youth, I used to collect Star Wars toys. Most of those are long broken or disappeared. But recently, I started scouring eBay and auctions and began a collection anew. My home office is scattered with my newfound collection and I take great joy in seeing it every day. Is there something that you have an interest in? Great deals can be found in local auctions (most of which have moved online with contactless pickup) or on Facebook Marketplace.
Start an Etsy shop: Right before the pandemic hit, my wife, her twin sister and my mother-in-law went to an auction and got caught up in the thrill of bargain hunting. They bought so much stuff, they decided to make an Etsy business out of it. It became an instant success and now they have one of the fastest growing Etsy shops in the world. They hunt for bargains on eBay, Facebook Marketplace and at various estate sales and resell it for a nice profit. Setting up a store is easy to do. If you’ve got stuff that you want to get rid of or can think of a niche, you, too, can become a successful Etsy seller.
Do a marathon (via your favorite streaming service): In today’s world, our entertainment choices are almost endless. There are great shows waiting to be discovered on the countless number of streaming services available. You can also take a stroll down memory lane by rewatching the classic TV shows and movies from your youth. Whatever your taste, there’s a streaming service for you. Like superheroes? Try Disney+. My wife is partial to British dramas, so she subscribes to Britbox. For those who like sports, try ESPN+. There are also a number of free streaming services available with large libraries of offerings such as: Tubi, IMDb TV and Crackle. A new entry into the streaming business is Peacock, drawing from old NBC, Syfy and USA shows, as well as movies from Universal, Focus Features and DreamWorks Animation.
Video games: Video games have changed so much since I was a kid in the ’80s feeding quarters into video game machines and making a yellow pie eat dots while running from ghosts. Many of today’s games have complex storylines and realistic graphics, as well as thought-provoking mysteries. I’m not into the popular shooter games but I do love a good quest. If you’re looking for a great quest, check out Skyrim — the greatest video game ever made, in my opinion. There’s action, mystery and magic. It takes place in what’s referred to as an open world, meaning you can explore any part of that world and take part in whatever quest you choose. You can even go on multiple quests at the same time. For those who prefer something more basic, there are a number of games from the ’80s and ’90s bundled together just waiting for you to rediscover — no quarters necessary.
Blast from the past: Tired of being reminded of the history we’re living through? Then escape to ancient Egypt, Tudor England, the London Blitz or the Wild West. There’s been a great, edge-of-your-seat popular history written about practically any era you might be interested in. Where to start? Go to Google and type in: “best popular history of the Alamo” — or whatever your interest is. If you’re on a budget, try Thriftbooks.com, AbeBooks.com or even eBay.com before you buy.
Virtual museums: I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t live long enough to get to all the art museums I would love to visit. But one of the fruits of the pandemic is that some of them are now coming to me. One of my personal favorites is: vangoghworldwide.org. But the website artsandculture.google.com is also a great one: Just hit the magnifying glass next to the search box and you’ll be taken to other favorites like Monet and Rembrandt. You can round off your tour by going to: YouTube.com on either your laptop or through a TV app. There, type in “Vatican museums virtual tour” — and think of all the money you’ve saved!
Genealogy: Many folks are looking for ways to connect with others in the midst of this pandemic. And there seems no better way than starting for real that family tree you faked when the kids had to do it for a school project. Start with what you know; now start calling your relatives. Then hit ancestry.org and take advantage of its 14-day free trial. You might just discover a hobby that will keep you busy for longer than you think!
Podcasts: Podcasts have only taken off since The Leaven last wrote about them. If you’re not yet listening to a podcast about some special interest of yours, you are in for a treat. Whether you’re interested in cooking, true crime or day trading, there’s a podcast for you. If you need step-by-step instructions to get started, click here.
Broadway in your living room: One final opportunity I can’t help sharing is the availability of numerous Broadway musicals to view at home. “Hamilton” on Disney+ might have been the most anticipated one. But it is far from the only delightful one. Check out: “What the Constitution Means to Me” (Amazon Prime), “Newsies” (Disney+), “Shrek the Musical” (Netflix) and even “Springsteen on Broadway” (Netflix). On a budget? No worries. Many streaming sites allow you to test drive their product for free!