In our March 2021 email, we asked you to submit a positive experience you’ve had as a result of the current pandemic. Several of those submissions are below.
“…At work I help organize the annual State Employees Food Drive for our agency. We have four field offices, and last year I spent a lot of time thinking about how to make sure our fundraising activities were including them. This year I had to step up my game because most of our staff are working from their own tiny field office – their house. I’m proud to say that we collectively came up with a variety of fundraising activities everyone could enjoy from wherever they were, we raised just as much support as years past, and we had a ton of fun connecting with each other –which we really needed. *smile*”
“I’ve actually enjoyed working from home very much and can’t
see myself going back into the office on a regular basis, even when the pandemic is over. For my positive experience, it’s the joy of being able to finally get a puppy! Before the pandemic, my partner and I both worked long hours outside of the home and spent our free time out and about all of the time. We always wanted a dog but didn’t feel it would be fair to bring a new life into our lives when we weren’t ever home. After working full time from home since March 2020, last June we decided it was time to bring that furry friend into our lives. Hence, we now have a very busy home filled with love and cuddles!”
“During the pandemic I get to spend more time with my cat, Angel and she loves the attention. Sometimes she likes to sit in my lap and scratch her face on the lap top. I also decided to learn how to eat healthier and figure out how to put exercise in my day. At work I used to walk around the building on my breaks but I found at first working from home, I would sit the whole time. I had to learn to get up , do some kind of exercise instead of getting on my cell phone to check social media or watch tv on breaks. It is harder to do exercise at home than it was at work. I try every day to incorporate walking, dancing or something, and I am doing Noom to figure out
how to eat healthier and It is working.”
“Telecommuting full-time. Because I don’t spend as much time commuting and needing to prepare my lunches/ snacks for in-office work, I have more time at home to cook healthy meals in “real-time” and more time to go on hikes or exercise. As a result, my health has improved and I’ve lost 30 pounds in one year. The thing is, I still eat a lot and I eat things I enjoy. But I think I lost more weight because I’m more active and eat mostly at home instead of eating out. I used to eat out 4-5 times a week! Now I eat out maybe two times a month (this includes delivery or take out). Then there’s the benefit of saving more money as a result of these changes and the positive impact less commuting is having on the planet.”
“I have several positive experiences during the last one year: Mileage in my car gone down by 80%, and saved about 80% gas expense. I have more savings in my bank account than in the previous years. I attended several zoom and other online meetings and interaction programs during my work hours, and also through other community organizations in weekends that provided me opportunities to get know more people and listen from them from a long distance.”
“I realized that I was stuck in a job that was causing me a great deal of stress which in turn was impacting my physical and mental health. I was able to access my mental health therapist virtually on a weekly basis and I also lost my dad to cancer in June 2020 and due to the pandemic was unable to attend his funeral in person but had to access it virtually; it was a small blessing but better than not accessing it at all. The stress of my job, the loss of my dad and my fragile mental health was the catalysis I needed to make a change. I applied for a new position and was hired in early December. I can’t tell you the positive impact this change has had on my life in so many ways and I’m glad I went for it!”
“I thought I would respond to share how my life has literally completely changed in the past year, for the good. Prior to Covid closures, I was in the dating world exploring my options after a bad marriage ended the year prior. I found I wasn’t a priority in the new “dating swipe-right culture” and I didn’t like it. It seemed like there were no real connections out there and it was far to easy to “ghost” a person then have an adult conversation. It hit me hard last year on Valentine’s day, when I was literally stood up by a guy who had asked me out, that I wasn’t in a place to enjoy dating or companionship. About a month later, March 13th to be exact, I was bored and didn’t have weekend plans, so decided to use one of the many superficial dating sites to conjure up a date to pass the time. I met a guy and went out to meet him that night. We seemed to hit it off superficially and it was fun.
The next week proved to be extremely monumental in that everything was shut down for the first time in history. All the things I used to love to do like go to the gym, go out to eat, sing karaoke, etc. were not activities we could do any longer. It basically forced this new guy and myself to get to know each other over home cooked meals and jogs in the park. Turns out, without all the distractions of “mainstream” society (going out to eat, working in the office, going out with friends, going to the gym, etc.), we really learned to make our own fun. I’m very happy to report that we are still together, now living in same home, and happier than ever. Covid-19 gave us the opportunity to take a 2nd look at our own expectations and values and allowed us to make a deep connection.
I also am happy to report, although it was extremely inconvenient at first when schools shut down in March of 2020, I have a stronger bond with my kids. I know what they are doing in class now and am very involved. It’s definitely hard to juggle work and kid’s online schooling but it pushes the limits and challenged me to rise to the occasion. Even with them being home all day long working, I feel more connected to them and not so rushed all the time. Previously, we had a very rigid schedule every day where we got up, got dressed and off to school/work daily and then home and bed. I was also able to add a new member of the family, a puppy, so they could grow up with her. They have never been happier either with how things have gone. Since Oregon is still not fully open, I am curious what the new “normal” looks like but am not fearful in any way because if you did a personal inventory and blessings check like I did, things seem to be exactly what I’ve always wanted. Thanks for allowing me to share my story. I hope others had the same amazing year I did.”
“I saw the newsletter request for info and would like to share a few of the good things that I’ve seen come from the COVID pandemic…
- ODHS is more aware of and active about including people with different communication needs in remote meetings (adding Zoom as a backup to Skype and then Teams until Teams can be fully accessible). We still have a long way to go to be sure everyone remembers to prepare for and provide reasonable accommodations, but those are skills that can be learned.
- VR staff meetings and statewide all-staff meetings have an element of fun/discovery/lightheartedness to them (themes for photos from staff to be included in PowerPoints, starting with upbeat music as everyone connects, “fun fact” questions as introductions, etc.)
- I have been able to spend lots more time with my elderly pets (2 cats who are turning 14 in April, 1 cat—who now has a fan base for virtual meetings—who turns 15 this month, and a Corgi who turns 14 in September). I know I don’t have a lot of time with them in the grand scheme of things, so this has been especially good for me.
- I am saving money (and dramatically decreasing my carbon footprint) by not commuting from Corvallis to Salem every day. That money has gone to decrease debt and increase savings.
- New staff who have come onboard since Governor Brown’s executive order was put in place a year ago have been able to get to know their coworkers much more deeply because we are sharing more of ourselves than just what personal items/decor is at our desks or in our offices. Those of us who have been around a while (I’ve been with VR/DHS for 30+ yrs now) are also reaping that benefit. I know who has a green thumb (so who I can ask if I have a plant that is ailing). I know who crafts or paints miniatures or sews as a hobby. I know who is a baker—and what they like to bake. I have met pets, children and grands as they wandered through the camera range or knocked on the door/popped their heads in to ask my coworkers a question (usually involving food). Pre-COVID, our work unit was busy and everyone was doing their thing—paths crossed fairly frequently but conversations stayed pretty superficial. Now, people know one another better as people, not just as the jobs they do or where they sit….”
“I think that I have become much more deliberate in meal planning and grocery shopping. In the past, we would have a general idea of what we might have for meals in a week. Since no one wanted to make return trips to the grocery store, we started planning meals more deliberately and wrote down meals for the week or longer depending on how many weeks we were planning to get groceries for on the shopping trip. It made us more organized in thinking ahead and having a day to day plan. When we shopped we had a much more organized list and actually made it through the grocery store faster. We also check what is in the freezer or in the cupboards more regularly to get creative in using those things that are just sitting there. I also feel that we are spending less at the store as we know what are meals are going to be and know what we have on hand at home.”
“I saw your call for positive experiences and a couple came to mind:
- Spending a lot more time with my family. We have played so many games and my kids are basically card sharks now!
- We got many projects crossed off of our home improvement and maintenance “to do” list last summer and are hoping to get more done once the weather clears this Spring/Summer. With all the time to hang out, suddenly we had no more excuses to keep hiding behind and procrastinating.
- Oh, the technological gains we’ve all made! From my six- and nine-year-old daughters in distance education to myself with teleworking, we learned a lot about programs and computers. Probably more than we wanted to, but our skills are much more honed than they were this time last year!
- This is the biggest learning of all for me. I am not a patient person by nature, and until the pandemic hit that was working for me just fine. And then world seemed to stop. All of my carefully-arranged plans flew out the window, seemingly overnight. And my kids were at home around the clock. And then came the teleworking and the distance learning! I will say that, while I still get fuzzed occasionally, I have learned some very good coping skills to just breathe and work with what’s going on in the moment, and not get to worked up over where things *should* be, but just doing the best that we can where we are currently.”
“I have two teen boys, one in his senior year of high school (pandemic = a terrible way to experience your senior year!) and a freshman in high school. To minimize screen time and keep them engaged with me (mom) and safely with friends, I started “Cooking Adventures with Mom.” Every other weekend we go on an adventure in the kitchen. Each son is tasked with choosing a dish (appetizer, entrée, an occasional dessert) they would like make, and I’ll find a recipe and shop for the ingredients before the weekend arrives. They often choose a favorite dish from a restaurant, and they alternate weekends so each one gets a say. All three of us prep, cook and eat together, and I take pictures of them and the creations throughout the process. We then share the recipe and some of the pictures with their grandparents, along with parents of their friends. In return, the grandparents send photos of their meals back, along with questions and comments about the meal, experience, etc. In addition, parents of their friends join in and send photos of their kids cooking, sometimes the recipe we made, sometimes of ones they’ve chosen. I chose “Cooking Adventures” for many reasons: to teach these young men valuable life skills, give them confidence in the kitchen to follow a recipe, enjoy healthy eating, spend time together making memories over a shared meal, and secretly, to help me get food on the table, a non-stop activity with two teen boys in the house!”
“One positive that came out of the pandemic for my husband and I was the ability to spend time with our special needs cat during her last days. In early 2020, our 13-year-old fluffy tortoiseshell cat, Heidi, was not doing well. For a number of years we had been treating her for hyperthyroidism and arthritis, and then in late 2019, she developed kidney disease. We tried many different medications and even gave her subcutaneous fluids every other day, but she continued to lose weight and was clearly in pain. If I wasn’t working from home during months of March and April, I may not have noticed her pain and decline as soon as I did. While the decision to put her down was heart-wrenching for my husband and me, it was clearly the right choice. I am so grateful for the memories, photos, and videos of her last days with us. And later that year, when we were ready, we opened our hearts and our home to a three-month-old black and white kitten, Zizi. She has brought so much joy back into our lives. And I don’t think we would have been able to socialize and bond with her (and protect our furniture!) as well if my husband and I were working outside the home. So for this, we are truly grateful.”
“I’ve learned to adjust my thinking about self-care. Before the pandemic I thought that self-care was only possible if I could find time alone, without the responsibility of children, household, or work. Free from distractions – this was my time for completely turning inward. During the pandemic this type of solo time was not as routine or not possible. I’ve found that self-care happens while I’m taking care of kids; while helping with school; while doing my job; and keeping up with daily household needs. I find moments of self-care through a deep breath; through noticing my posture and making adjustments to straighten and expand; through observing the chatter of my mind; and, through intentional awareness to actions that bring me joy like: petting my dog, stepping outside, writing letters or sending small gifts to loved ones; and donating time and money to organizations that are helping people who are struggling to pay for rent, food or costs of daily living.”
“I have 4 children, but one of them turned 13 during this year and would have gone off to junior high and been doing that sort of thing. The whole separating from your family to become an adult thing, lol. Instead of this, we have all been together for almost an entire year and I have home-schooled them, camped with them, cooked with them, pretty much every single thing you can do right now with them So instead of a time where normal separation happens in a parent/child relationship, I was gifted this year to strengthen our bond and really got to learn who they are becoming and get to know them as they are starting on their journey as an adult. They felt my love for them so deeply that they were comfortable enough to come out to me as non-binary and use our solid relationship as a launching pad to come out to all of our family (even the grandparents whom even I wasn’t sure how it was going to go). They got to feel the strength that come from being a family together and that what really matters isn’t how your people identify or what they look like or don’t, it’s who is there for you, in scary times and times when you need support. They got to see me as a human and a person who was scared and vulnerable and overwhelmed and all the emotions that have run through this year and the things we have all been through together. And they got to see how to deal with those emotions and situations when we don’t really know what to do or what will happen. Human frailty is something we sometimes don’t associate with our parents and it can be painful when you realize it. I got to be with them and work with them and show them how to go on and do things every day even when you don’t know why or what way this particular situation will end. This time has not ended and I know it is the beginning of a beautiful journey for them but this weird anomaly of a time right at the cusp of adolescence will not be forgotten.
I have learned so much about self-care this year! First thing I learned right off the bat is that self-care for one person isn’t necessarily self-care for another person. Living with 6 people in a 900 sq ft house during this time ensured we all learned quite a bit about what bothered us and what helped us But I also got to make a plan, fine tune it, revisit it, add new things to it, go back to the old one, etc. I got to learn that journaling isn’t for everybody but that maybe it works for me in a different format. I remembered that power of nature that I had forgotten since childhood. That feeling of awe and majesty when you go to visit our beautiful forests in Western Oregon or look at our gorgeous cliffs in the Eastern part of the Gorge. The raw power of the ocean during the storm and the joy of a seal playing in the swirling surf. The sound of the geese honking above you while you walk on the nature trails. Maybe we forget that sometimes as grown-ups. That healing power of nature. When nothing else was going right and I didn’t know what to do or when this all would end, I could still breathe the air cleaned by the ocean and I could still hear birds that sang in the forest and walk our trails with my children and discover all kinds of plants and little animals. I am grateful for that bit of peace during a time that harmony was hard to come by. I am grateful for the care that came from our pets. I am sure there were weeks that if I hadn’t had to get out of the house to walk those dogs, I wouldn’t have breathed any air outside my home. The love they lavished on us and soaked up all our attention and distracted us from the pain going on outside were all gifts I will not soon forget. And so many times I reflected upon that dogs in particular are the most ZEN of animals. They are in the now. Maybe they do remember what happened in the past or worry about the future, I can’t say. But I do know that they are really in it with you. You loving and snuggling and petting them, they are soaking that up RIGHT NOW. Because right now is all we can feel and do something about, they reminded me that joy wasn’t always found in well executed plans or big savings accounts, that sometimes it was 5 minutes kissing a dog and just doing that and being THERE. Just being here right now was good enough for right now. I think good enough is a term we should reclaim because good enough implies it’s good enough………until something else better happens or you become someone better or something changes. And I don’t think we spend enough time understanding that most of life is just good enough. Good ENOUGH. I am good enough for right now. So are you. We all are. Because we are here in the way that we are now. And that’s good enough. There will be great days and especially horrible days but most days are “pretty good”. And pretty good feels pretty lucky this day I am grateful.”
“The past year has been filled with more crisis driven situations and medical malfunctions then I have ever incurred in my life! including a transfer to a completely new position during the height of the pandemic in our counties. It is the new position and my colleagues that I am so profoundly grateful for. They have been such an incredible support and have made me feel welcome and grateful that I am where I am. So this is my shout out in gratitude for the positive team I am so lucky to be a part of in District 8 Adult Foster Home licensing. Thank you Julie Ormond, Jonas Wolfer, Denise Lundeen, Joshua May and Donna Earl!”
“My daughter graduated last year from high school. Her graduation was an outside ceremony, we all had to stay in our vehicles. She really wanted her Grandmother to attend, however, due to the virus we couldn’t find a way to all fit in our vehicle and practice safe social distancing. My mother is an amazing woman and loves her grandchildren more than life itself so she came up with a way to be able to attend. She created a barrier in the vehicle by building a wall with heavy clear wrap completely secluding herself and wear a mask as extra protection so she could see her granddaughter graduate. I wish I could show a picture as it was amazing what she built. My daughter was absolutely elated that both her grandma and grandpa could see her graduate and still stay safe. It was a bitter sweet day for my daughter, one she will never forget. Life may throw us curve balls and at times leave us feeling defeated but if we have something we wish to fulfill, we will always, always find a way to make it happen.”