We’re Still Having Fun
2020 was quite a year…the year of COVID. And here we are in the Spring of The Year After.
Things are looking brighter after the winter of our discontent, many of us are vaccinated and so feeling a little more free. When the Boomer Connections partners (me, Rita, Camille and Marie) met in person recently, we all felt blessed to report that we had remained healthy throughout, as had most of the loved ones closest to us. We all agreed that the isolation was the worst aspect of this experience. The loss of life and financial and economic devastation seen every night on the news was overwhelming and cannot be minimized. But we also recognized the importance of a silver lining and a new way forward. Even in the midst of COVID, we are still standing and…. we are still having fun.
TIME WITH LOVED ONES
A year ago, everyone hunkered down, not knowing what to expect from the dire warnings. For me the silver lining in this cloud was very simple: I had more time with my family—close, connected, real-time that never would have happened otherwise and will likely never happen again. My daughter was a graduating college senior in May of 2020. There was no true grad ceremony or parties, and job prospects seemed bleak. However, if not for COVID Alex would have been off who knows where starting a new life. Instead, she had time for reflection, which is next to impossible for her generation, with social media that never sleeps. She had a chance to assess her options before jumping headlong into her future—and this was a gift of a lifetime.
Almost every night we sat down as a family and talked about life, shared our thoughts and opinions, discussed our plans and dreams. The election year certainly gave us ample opportunity for discussion and debate! When had this ever happened before? Never. Our daughter has been on the run since her formative years, throughout middle school, high school, and then on to college, always running—To practice, to social events, to study. She finally had the chance to rest, to know what that actually feels like to be alone with her thoughts and to know a quiet mind. My military husband who has for years been deployed or commuting to DC and visible only for a few hours a day and weekends, has been working from home and was finally more present in our lives and got to spend some real quality time with his daughter and got to recoup some of what he missed all these years.
Rita also reported that she focused on two primary things in her life during this time: family and her church. Her husband Mike had retired just before quarantine and they have had time together that they haven’t had for years and years. Fortunately, their grown daughter also lives in the area and her work-at-home schedule left more freedom to be with her parents.
Food was a big factor in preserving our pandemic mental health. In my family of foodies, we all have wide-ranging tastes and love trying new things. Over the years (decades) I had clipped hundreds of recipes from my piles and piles of magazines—Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Gourmet, etc.– and for the most part, they languished in overstuffed files. I had all of my mom’s old cookbooks. And we found hundreds more recipes on our favorite apps: Food 52 and Epicurious and on Pinterest. We finally tried many of them, and wow, was that fun! We discovered a new favorite, cherry clafouti which I now make every weekend for Sunday brunch! We couldn’t go to the gym to fend off the COVID 19 (pounds), so we committed to walking outside almost every day, sometimes twice a day. We supported our local restaurants, often ordering food for delivery and pickup, many places we would not have tried before, and this was a great adventure we shared as a family.
When the weather turned nice last summer and into the fall, many of the restaurant patios opened for outdoor seating. Being able to sit down at a restaurant was a return to normalcy I will never take for granted again or ever savor more than I have post quarantine.
ROAD TRIPS AND STATE PARK HOPPING
Another key element of our COVID sanity plan was day tripping. We have always loved visiting our Virginia State Parks—absolutely some of the best in the nation—but this year we took exploration to a new level. We obtained a state park pass and at every opportunity, we put on our hiking boots, jumped into the car a headed to the woods, the lake, or to the river. We checked out trails and natural areas we never had time to enjoy before. We stopped and admired and photographed the vistas and we gained a new appreciation for the beauty of nature after being required to spend so much time inside. Sweet, sweet freedom has never felt so sweet.
Another thing we discovered was friends with boats. Ok, for real–friends with boats are the best! How we love them, such a bonding opportunity. Before COVID those friends, and we, were busy doing other things on the weekends.
We appreciated the heck out of our many Virginia wineries, exploring more in one year than in the past 10. The wineries did a great job of staying open while staying safe. By design, wineries are usually situated on large expanses of land or lawn. Those we visited had spaced tables to allow for social distancing or allowed visitors to bring their own chairs and lounge on property, safely spaced. The wineries were not doing tastings but did offer flights, where you could choose a number of wines to taste in small glasses. Many new favorites are now in the wine fridge!
During the months of isolation Marie, a personal trainer, was unable to work steadily. So, she switched gears and had the time of her life enjoying a non-stop camping adventure, which she may have missed had it not been for COVID. She and her friend Wray spent every spare weekend and vacation discovering campgrounds up and down the eastern seaboard. Because so few safe vacation options were available, and many facilities were in lockdown, they focused on camping, which is solitary and outdoors, so by nature socially distanced. Camping is also a very thrifty vacation option: no airline or hotel costs. They absolutely maxed out the experience and reveled in it. You can read about her adventures via the many articles she has written here at www.boomerconnections.com. She inspired ALL of us and many of our readers to get out into the woods. She came back from every adventure stoked, happy, bright-eyed and bursting with fun stories. Talk about making lemons out of COVID lemonade!
My dear friend Loralee lives a few states and about 5 hours away. For years we have visited each other regularly, once every 2 months or so, and these visits have always been much anticipated and sacred—our families knew they were to Loralee and I some space when we got together! But between visits we had little contact other than texting and so missed a lot of each other’s day-to-day lives, and with COVID the visits stopped completely. BUT then we discovered…Zoom Happy Hour! Why, why why, we keep asking, did we not discover this before?!! Between visits we could have stayed caught up and connected via Zoom. Now it’s the Zoom calls that are sacred and not to be messed with! I grab my glass of wine, my snacks, my candle and my computer and Loralee and I gossip and giggle and have girl talk late into the evening once a week. COVID gave us the gift of Zoom gab.
Zoom also blew my business networking opportunities wide open. I belong to a great networking group called Synapse and we have small groups or “Hubs” in Richmond as well as in Charlottesville and Virginia Beach. While members are free to visit any Hub we want, I would never visit out of town groups because of the commute time. With Zoom, all meetings went virtual, and participation anywhere became seamless when commute time was no longer a factor. I got to meet far more colleagues than I would have pre-COVID, and my business circle expanded exponentially
FINDING ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO GATHER
Camille moved into a 55+ active adult community about a year before the pandemic, so she had some chance to adjust and make friends and connections before we ended up sequestered indoors. She has been incredibly fortunate to find that no less than 6 neighbors were single women like herself, with whom she made friends immediately. They looked out for each other, checked in with each other, and when restrictions eased, they gathered outside in the common areas of the neighborhood and then on their screened porches. When restrictions eased up, they finally decided to hit the road and went on a day trip adventure to the Staunton area, finding nice outdoor restaurants and shops—wearing their masks of course. Prior to COVID, they likely would have been friends but COVID made the relationships much closer and more connected as they relied on each other—just a few doors away–while in isolation.
So, while COVID took a lot from us, it also gave us some precious gifts. We communicated differently and often more deeply, we got to slow down and take stock, and appreciate things we maybe took for granted before COVID. Through it all, the trials and tribulations, the fear and anxiety, the separation and isolation…. we managed to still have some fun and, as we say here at Boomer Connections, “Live Our Best Life at 55+”.
And for that, we say a prayer of gratitude.