More Coping Mechanisms

Here’s what we’ve been doing at our house lately to maintain our sanity.

Cute W works. And works some more. And then he occasionally goes running or plays a game on his phone (like Catan or chess or Ticket to Ride, I think. I don’t really know because I just hear him occasionally cursing when he’s made a bad move).

M has been doing one of our favorite family things to do: she is Working The Problem. The problem being her surprise gap year at a time when international travel, everyone’s favorite gap year plan, is not available. She has managed to snag a job that should allow her to live elsewhere from mid-November to early April. I am leaving these details somewhat vague because I don’t want to jinx any of her possibilities. Now she’s online again, looking for more interesting things to do this fall and next spring. I am really impressed by all of her hard work and of course I’m super curious to see how it all plays out. I hope she finds some adventures.

After J’s club volleyball season and any prospects of summer camp got squashed, J’s finally getting the chance to play a bit of volleyball again. She’s meeting teammates a couple of times a week in the park and I am frantically reminding her to wash her hands when she gets home. She’s also acquired a skateboard, so she’s learning how to do that. According to Tony Hawk, she’s part of a whole crowd doing this, and I hope that she, too, finds it uplifting, although she is nowhere near doing any fancy tricks yet.

J also does quite a few experiments in the kitchen and one recipe that has been a massive hit is a chocolate mug cake. I don’t know where she got the original recipe, and when I just tried to hunt for it, I realized that she’s altered it along the way so that I couldn’t find anything to match it. You can Google for variations. But also, this is a dangerous recipe to know about, and you might decide that it’s a better choice never to make it at all or to set firm limits, like that you will only permit yourself to make it once a month. But here it is.

Take a mug and add to it:

  • 1 quarter cup + 1 T milk (any kind)
  • 1 quarter cup flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 T cocoa (maybe heaping)
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 T oil

Stir it all together and, if you like, top with a few chocolate chips as a “frosting.”

Microwave for 65 seconds. Give it a minute or so to cool.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve also been mixing up my workout routine. After doing Insanity almost every day for two months straight, I have switched to only doing it two or three times a week and doing other stuff instead. Remember long ago I shared some Zumba workouts? Well, it finally occurred to me that I could put together a Zumba Youtube playlist for working out with the TV in the playroom, and would you believe that the last time I did it, I accidentally lost track of time and worked out much longer than I’d planned? So if you want to try it, you could skip a couple of songs that you’re just not feeling and still work out for more than an hour.

Also, I have been doing some embroidery.

It’s funny: early on during this pandemic, we started out with coloring. M’s always dabbled in coloring and it seems like a nice, low-stress activity. Well, M did so much coloring in the first few weeks that she managed to get a serious case of what she called “coloring neck” and she’s since dropped it entirely. Meanwhile, J and I tried a bit, but we found that we weren’t nearly as quick or as tidy as our coloring mentor, M, and so that just bummed us out. The coloring pages are currently gathering dust.

But I’ve been enjoying the embroidery! I like how it looks artistic without actually requiring any talent, and many of the designs out there are made out of pretty basic stitches. I’d checked a couple of embroidery books out of the library just before lockdown, so I used those as reference at first, but soon I figured out that I like all the online stuff a little better.

I especially like these super-simple teensy designs for magnets, and this nice lady’s very, very helpful step-by-step instructions, and lovely patterns like this, which I have sort of copied except I only picked the easiest flowers for my first attempt at an embroidery creation.

I ran into someone at a protest (oh yes, we’ve been doing those, too, and political postcards) who mentioned that she’s been doing embroidery, and at first I got excited, and then I wondered if embroidery had become as much a cliché as making sourdough bread, and then I decided that I didn’t care, and actually I’m finding it much more satisfying than sourdough bread.

So that’s what we’ve been up to. I hope you’re all keeping yourselves together.


  1. Claire

    That’s beautiful! The only thing I’ve ever been able to do involving needle and thread is crosstitch. I don’t like it enough for it to be a good pandemic outlet for me. The Covidiots are really getting me down these days. My son and I are going to be mostly homebound once the weather gets colder, and I’m getting concerned that if I’m this angry and depressed now, how much worse will it be when I can’t go outside and socialize distantly with people? Then I feel guilty for being depressed because I haven’t suffered the way many have in terms of financial loss or being directly affected by the virus. Ugh. I hope things get better when the vaccine comes out.

  2. Thank you! Before this I had only cross stitched…. it is weird how things you think will be relaxing aren’t, and then other, unexpected things work well.

    I am sorry that you’re feeling angry and depressed, but I feel like it’s the only normal reaction at this point. I’ve been fretting about the cold weather, too. I was saying to Cute W that we’re going to have to back track and get back into skating and skiing again — I know that really helped us enjoy the winters when the girls were younger, but then we’ve been so busy with the team sports that those fell by the wayside for years. I am hoping, too, that in January I can at least feel better about the government response (please-please-please).

  3. Dave

    I also am not looking forward to winter either. I was advised by my doctor to pretty much retire as I have a compromised immune system and not to be exposed to a lot of different people. I am old enough I filed for Social Security and was approved. We have cleaned out some stuff from the basement and I am up grading it down there for something to do. Do a lot of reading and going for walks. Hope 2021 works out better for all of us.

  4. @Dave, ah, it’s nice to have some extra space to try to clear when we’ve all been spending so much time at home. Hope the retirement goes well.
    @Claire, isn’t that the truth!

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