I’ve gotten over the initial shock of all the changes, and that includes modifying my #joyfulgiving366 project. And I’ve been adjusting in to life with homeschooling, which partially explains why I have been a bit quiet on here of late.
I’d wondered a bit, actually, whether my #joyfulgiving project would even resonate in this pandemic world. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m being barraged by all sorts of online stuff. There’s this assumption that I am home bored (which is true for some people who are unable to work right now). But for us, as we manage home learning, we’re busier than we have ever been. I was therefore surprised when I friend messaged me this morning to ask if I was alright because she hasn’t read any blog posts from me for a while. Yes, I’m fine – just learning to slow down a bit.
When I launched my Joyfulgiving366 project on 30 December, I felt it would be easy. Some people even shared with me how they had given away hundreds – in one case over 2,000 – items in a year. Easy peasy.
Then the bushfires went from bad to worse, to even worse. The air was thick with smoke and most people didn’t want to go out to collect things – and many people had evacuated out of Canberra in any case. The rains came in mid-February, and then about the same time, the coronavirus started to hit.
How to give with joy in the age of COVID-19? Sometimes, it’s about not giving at all and staying at home instead.
Well, I do still give but only occasionally. Mainly I’m giving sourdough stater to people who are staying at home and want to bake (while making sure I maintain appropriate social distancing), although we are giving away meals to Neil’s friend who has lung cancer as it is hard for him to go to the shops.
As admin of my local Buy Nothing group, I want to set an example of giving in an appropriate way. There’s been quite a bit of discussion about whether to stop giving entirely during this time. I’m stopping short of that, but I have taken up co-founder Leisl Clark’s call to set up a post-pandemic box for giving after this is all over. In our case, we have a new donation box that’s set up in the rather aptly chosen ‘Who Gives a Crap’ box by the door. It’s impossible for my boys to miss it, and it’s kind of a fun way for me to encourage them to put things they no longer need aside for later.
I take a fairly relaxed approach to home learning (it is now ‘we’ as hubby was finally able to work from this Monday). The kids do have homework books I bought at the start of the year. To be clear, I am not a Tiger Mum: we bought them to support the kids learning in specific areas. My eldest son lacks confidence with maths and gets anxious about it in class, whereas my youngest is gifted and bored in class.
In general, we tend to incorporate learning answers into everyday life went they ask a question about something. For instance, the day before yesterday, my 7-year-old asked about who spaghetti is made. Next thing, hubby put on a YouTube clip about a spaghetti factor and then we made pasta together for dinner.
Then yesterday, my 10-year-old was working on a maths question and had to draw 3/8ths of a tortilla. Inspired by this, we made pizza for dinner, which we cut into eight pieces. He then had to answer how many pieces were 3/8ths, how many were half etc. Being able to visualise fractions really helps.
But while it is a blessing having them safe at home, having two little people at home takes a lot of time. “I’m hungry, mum! I’m bored, mum! He hit me, mum!” I’m sure those reading this who have little ones at home can relate. And they are both a bit unsettled. My youngest still has trouble sleeping. His recent nightmare (he woke us at 4.00am to share) involved him needing to build a Minecraft-like fortress at school to keep himself safe from approaching zombies. Talk about vivid subconscious symbolism!
Managing the stress
Like a lot of people, I’ve been carrying a lot of stress at this time. I can feel it my shoulders – everything feels heavy. Partly this is because of the unknown, and also because of the hype of so much negative news swirling around. I’ve also had to adapt/adjust some strategies I used to use. I can no longer go swimming, for instance. At the moment, this is what is working for me:
- I go for a walk every morning. I find that this is my lifeline that helps me cope every day. If I don’t go for a walk first thing, I notice it later on. Specifically, I find that I am disoriented and have trouble focusing. Or I just get stressed and overhyped. The morning walk is fabulous. There are more people out walking now, but still it’s overall very quiet. I’m happy to say that everyone I have met has maintained appropriate social distancing. And while at first people would go out of their way to avoid you, recently people have started smiling and maintaining eye contact.
- I do tai chi or qigong every day. This is my other lifeline, and I really notice it if I don’t do it. I can go one, sometimes two days, without doing tai chi and I am fine. Then I start becoming anxious and not quite right.
- I’m earthing. I’m following a practice that the lovely Bec Cuzzillo taught me, which involves planting my feet on the ground for five minutes a day to ground me. It really works. Seriously. Well, maybe I haven’t done it in the rain, but I have done it most days.
- We have a giant jigsaw puzzle at home. Correction: we are on our THIRD jigsaw puzzle. I get addicted to jigsaw puzzles, and so does hubby. We can’t walk past an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. When this happens, I say (in a voice as if I am a law enforcement officer) “step AWAY from the jigsaw puzzle”. My kids think this is hilarious:) But sadly, it is true. While the jigsaw puzzle is a bit of a time-waster, it has really helped reduce stress. I think it’s a great form of mindfulness training. When you are doing a jigsaw puzzle you really have to concentrate and hone in on the detail: the colours, the shapes, the overall picture.
It’s not perfect, but these little things are helping.
I’m learning, too, to adjust my daily expectations. I’m ambitious for what I want to achieve with The Joyful Frugalista, and I have so many ideas floating around my head. But this pandemic is a life-changing event; not only will people die, but many people’s way of life is being turned upside down. The big priority is keeping healthy; mental health can be just as dangerous as a virus. And in fact, maintaining a positive mindset is more likely to keep us healthy as it helps strengthen our immune systems. It’s normal to find that stressful at times, and if I don’t get everything done each day, that’s okay. Focusing on the wellbeing of both me and my family is the priority right now:)
Like many people, I’m baking right now. I gave away some sourdough starter to a young woman in my Buy Nothing group yesterday, and she remarked that all of her friends are really into sourdough baking right now. I’d agree with that: many of my friends are baking sourdough. With this in mind, I put on a Facebook Live recently, which I’ve since converted to a YouTube channel.
Oh my, what an image to start with! I promise it does get better. I started a new YouTube channel recently, and if you felt like doing a random act of kindness, I would LOVE you to subscribe. At the time of writing, I had 13 subscribers so I certainly have a long way to go until I build up my tribe!
In addition to sourdough baking, I’ve also been making hot cross buns.
They are much easier to make than you might think. Well, I find them easy – and cheap at around 35c each to make. And they disappeared real quick. Here is my recipe on Australia’s Best Recipes.
In every adversity, there is opportunity
Adversity and opportunities is something I discussed with Brandon from Aussie Wealth Creations in a recent podcast.
Brandon is a young Canberra guy who produces amazing YouTube tutorials that explain how to invest. My friend Erna, aka @simplycheecky, got me onto his content. Neil is one of his biggest fans; while I am writing/blogging, Neil is often listening to Brandon. What we like about Brandon is how down to earth and relatable he is, and how he distils complex investing concepts and makes them simple.
This podcast is a simple and easy listen, but in it, Brandon canvasses some essential wisdom – like the imports of developing a passive income stream, how to read a financial statement from a company (and why it is important), and why it’s important to take a long term lens with investing.
I’ve opened a shop on this website and on my Facebook page! If you would like a signed copy of The Joyful Frugalista, I can do:) And it’s perfect as a gift for someone going through hard times. I’m also now offering one on one virtual coaching.
Despite saying that my giving is almost paused for now, we did give a few things away:
- A jar of sourdough starter;
- A homecooked meal for Neil’s friend who has cancer (and who doesn’t have family support at this time); and
- A book on Warren Buffet for Brandon (because I know he is a fan).
What are you doing while staying at home? Are you baking as well?