Staving off those Social Distancing Blues

Postponed: Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon

Interesting times, right? Everything around us seems to be closing and a lot of what was on TV, like sporting events and tournaments, is just not there . . . at least for the short term. In Knoxville, we find schools closed, church services suspended, and events canceled or postponed like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, University of Tennessee classes, Big Ears Festival, Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, and the opening of Dollywood. Hamlet at Clarence Brown Theater is “not to be,” I suppose.

We’re not even sure what we’ll be watching on TV. “With an abundance of caution,” MBA games, SEC Tournament, the Masters, late-night talk shows, Disneyland are all on hold. Even Broadway and Dollywood are taking a break.

So, with a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bert and I are practicing social distancing and “hunkering down” for the duration. To keep from going completely crazy, I’ve got a few plans for my self-quarantine. (To be truthful, activities I should have been doing for years but put off, mostly.) Here are five things I’m planning to do to stave off those social distancing blues.

Reading books

As a former English teacher, I just naturally gravitate toward reading — most anything, actually. But I really prefer books over magazines and newspapers and seldom have the time to read as voraciously as I’d love to.

Erik Larson signing The Splendid and the Vile at Knoxville’s Bijou Theatre

I’m starting with the The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz since I met author Erik Larson after he spoke at an event sponsored by our local Friends of the Knox County Public Library.

Thanks to Knox County Public Library’s promotion to Read Around the World, we’re getting closer to the mayor’s goal of 500,000 hours for Read City USA!

But other books await. When I can’t get to the library, I use an app — Libby, by OverDrive — to search for books for downloading to my phone or Kindle. (All you need is a library card; then free books are yours for the asking.)

Locally, an indie bookstore — Union Ave Books — has just posted a letter on their website offering delivery by mail of a book of your choice. So, no excuses. Staying at home and reading just may become the way I start or end my day.

Sewing baby blankets

A group of ladies at our church, First United Methodist, has partnered with Project Linus to sew baby blankets for distribution around the globe wherever they are needed most. I’m hoping that blankets I’m currently piecing would go to tornado victims in Cookeville or Nashville, Tennessee, but really, they’re ready to fill a need anywhere.

Although we sew quilts and receiving blankets, we’re fond of making these rag blankets because they’re easy to cut, stitch, and fray. And the more we cut up leftover fabric into 5-inch squares, the quicker we reduce our fabric stashes at home! Check out examples on Pinterest under Baby Rag Quilts. Or go to YouTube for demos.

A baby rag quilt made with scraps of flannel for Project Linus

And if you can’t get out to make your fabric purchases, locally-owned Gina’s Bernina Sewing Center will ship to your home.

Organizing photos

At first, I thought I’d spend time organizing travel photos into categories like years, countries visited, or famous sites. And I still want to do that. But something has been nagging me to take down the big box of childhood/college/marriage/kid photos and get them in shape to pass down.

Now, you know how this goes: you’re on a mission with a suggested time frame (like a whole day or so). But once you start looking at old photos, you become consumed. And then you share stories with your spouse. Or you start laughing at how thin you were when you were in your 20s. And on and on and on. Not sure how long this social distancing will last, but I’m probably going to need more time if this project is ever going to be completed!

And the final dilemma: Do I put all those “keeper photos” in albums, return them to shoeboxes where I found them, or make a book using Blurb or Shutterfly or something similar. Any suggestions?

Cleaning closets

Now here’s something else I typically pass off as way to be productive on a Snow Day. (But we almost never have snow days in Knoxville any more, and stuff is piling up.) For me, cleaning out closets can be downright cathartic. I’m no Marie Kondo, but more and more I’m looking to minimize, and this closet by Pieces Into Place gives me inspiration!

My dream closet from Pieces Into Place

Here’s what’s on the cutting floor: clothes I haven’t worn in years, clothes that don’t fit, clothes that I don’t even like. Wedding gifts my children don’t want to inherit. Souvenirs that looked cute in another country but seem useless in Tennessee. And things I’ve liked, bought, brought home — only to find that they weren’t just right for the room I had in mind but I never took them back. Yes, I have things with the original tags still on them.

So, off to the Habitat ReStore in Knoxville where shoppers find hidden gems just right for them, and sales benefit potential homeowners.

Cooking. Pies, to be exact.

Now here’s an activity that’s sure to add pounds if I don’t combine it with additional walking in the neighborhood. But once I bought this book The Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life by Kate McDermott — I shifted into full-blown pie-making mode.

I’ve braved long lines at the grocery store this week to make sure I have the right ingredients on hand for the duration of my social distancing and gourmet pie making: Irish unsalted butter; all-purpose, unbleached flour; and frozen blueberries. (I prefer fresh fruit, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be self-quarantined!) I’m just ready to make pies, and Bert is ready to eat them!

So, how much can I get done on this forced staycation? Maybe a lot. After all, I’ve been saying “When I get more time, I’m going to . . . ” for many years now.

Maybe now’s time for me to stay healthy, stay clean, and stay focused.


P.S. I’d love to know: What are you doing while you’re distancing yourself from the threat of the coronavirus?

Photo credits:

24 thoughts on “Staving off those Social Distancing Blues

      1. Oh, the Places We See

        You are so right. I should just give up my inhibitions and get busy. Thanks for the encouragement. Now to find an art store that’s open in my city! Everything seems to be closed so we’ll all stay home.

  1. restlessjo

    Great suggestions! That library suggestion online doesn’t apply here in Portugal and I don’t have a Kindle but I’ve picked up a few books from a charity shop. Shock! Horror- probably full of germs 🙁 Oh, well… the under the bed boxes of photos and postcards I can definitely make a start on, and a little cleaning and tidying wouldn’t come amiss. 🙂 🙂

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      We sell many used books at our library, and now I’m wondering the same thing: how safe are they? Here’s hoping all you get from your books are great stories, quality writing, and the satisfaction that comes from reading.

  2. Amy

    Love your list of things to do, Rusha. I have organized a couple of closets, drawers… downloaded a few books. 🙂 Love these blankets. 🙂

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks. I just finished my fourth blanket for this week, and now I’m out of scraps. Not sure if I should brave it and venture out or just work on an old needlepoint piece that needs to be finished and done with!


    A photo with Erik Larson! How wonderful, Rusha. 🙂 Great ideas for what to during our “hunkering down.” James and I just said, “Well, there is that closet we’ve never sorted through since we moved.” So I guess you know what we’ll be doing. Thanks for the inspiration, ~Terri

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      We’re fortunate in Knoxville to be able to listen to top-notch authors, some who are launching a new book here. That was the case with Larson. And we have tickets to see Jon Meacham on April 9, so I’m keeping fingers crossed that the event will happen.
      Good luck with that closet. I worked on one last night, took out all things I thought I didn’t want, and then put some back in this morning saying, “Will I might need this . . . ” So much for good intentions. Thanks for the link to my post from your blog. It means a lot.

  4. Curt Mekemson

    Thanks for sharing, Rusha. Reading is always good! Having a library I don’t even have to travel to a book store or jump on line. Then Peggy and I have some 400 movies. That should get us through a couple of years. 🙂 Our five acre property is good for a few weeks worth of work. Or maybe I should tackle organizing my 80,000 photos. Our cruise though the Panama Canal was cancelled but we had opted out before they cancelled it. Maybe we’ll substitute a backpack trip. Doesn’t get much more self-isolated than that! Seriously, good post! –Curt

  5. Judi Bell

    Bible Study is working very well for me. After all, we are living in the prophecy. Also, Rusha, you must read The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell (not a misspelling) and Robert Hicks’ (Widow of the South) The Orphan Mother.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks for these recommendations! You always have titles I haven’t considered, and that’s why having you as a friend is the best. Here’s hoping we all stay healthy and around a bit longer. My reading list keeps getting longer instead of shorter!

  6. tappjeanne

    love your ideas Rusha! In addition to reading and closet cleaning I’m into painting – a good friend of ours says she can teach anyone to paint, and that anyone is me! She’s taught me about line, perspective and learning to be free to paint whatever I want. I’m having fun with it – and no – I’m not the next Grandma Moses- tee hee!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      If you’re talking about Lana, I wish she’d crank up those painting classes again. I have little talent, but I love to dabble. And the only person I really have to please is myself! Keep on cleaning, reading, and painting. And stay healthy!

  7. Judy Grubb

    I’ll be reading, journaling in a scrapbook album of my life, and cleaning out many places of our house. Even though I’ve had numerous garage sales and periods of purging, living in a house 47 years does mean we suffer from accumulation.Thanks for your suggestions!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      You’re so right about the accumulation of stuff. Even though we’ve only lived here 20 years, I still have “school stuff,” as well as memorabilia that I’m not sure even my sons want to keep. So, the weeding may go on for longer than the coronavirus hibernation. Wishing you good health. And a chance to do something you’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      I’m looking forward to it. Larson’s discussions of how he conducted research, looking for anything that hadn’t been printed previouly, was eye-opening. Also, he only writes a page a day, or at least that’s what he told us.
      Here’s hoping you endure whatever self-imposed staycation you have planned for the near future. And please stay healthy. There are more picture-worthy moments in your life!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Honestly, I’m trying. But you must realize that I have worked, played, and generally sat around as well letting things accumulate. I need to make good use of my time.
      Best wishes for staying healthy.

It makes our day to hear from you.