When Times are Tough – Decorate!
To make things better in my family, we’ve done our best with paint and elbow grease to improve our physical space, in the hope of providing fresh perspectives to brighten our minds.
Over the past few months, we’ve certainly become familiar with our own four walls and the way we inhabit the space they enclose – that space many of us normally leave early in the morning, only returning hours later when the workday is done. For others, the space is often little more than a blurry backdrop as we chase little ones from room to room, while juggling piles of laundry and scooping up toys. Either way, it’s easy to ignore how our most intimate surroundings make us feel – how they affect our mood and outlook.
With the Covid slowdown, many of us have begun to see those walls with new eyes. And our deeper feelings about them flooded in as clearly as the sun shone down during the glorious summer we’re just leaving behind.
For a lot of us, those early weeks offered a welcome respite from the mind-numbing 7 a.m. rush down Highway 10 – a chance to take back that two to three hours of daily commuting time. For me it’s been a joy to crouch down and pet the cat as he licks the cereal bowl after breakfast, instead of cursing him in my way as I fumble for my keys. Rather than rushing the dog out for her morning duties, and forgetting her outside the door, her sad eyes peering in, I can walk the yard with her, toss her a ball, and laugh at her morning sprints and joyful zoomies.
Back inside after these morning walks, I reflect on how my family has been functioning within our three dimensions. At first I used the dining table as my workspace. Even as I was on work calls, I might also be making a coffee, putting on dinner and kicking the laundry door shut. Ah, the ease and speed with which I could manage everything at once! I spread out and owned that space.
But then the tedium began to set in. My ears grew sore from wearing a headset, and when I took it off, my husband and son cursed me under their breath for being too loud. And I did some cursing of my own. The dinner wasn’t my job every day, I complained. Could someone else please take care of it? And pick up your dishes! My teenaged son, Adrian, covered his ears and stomped through the kitchen to get breakfast – when he woke up after lunch.
My shoulders ached and shrugged up from long days sitting on a low dining chair, and my grumbling grew louder. But for Adrian it was much worse. For him our house began to feel like jail. Determined to keep ourselves and others safe, we adhered to public health guidelines, but for a lot of kids the monotony seemed interminable. With no horizon, the walls closed in. Three dimensions warped into two. Missing social interaction with friends morphed into depression and anxiety – manifesting in anger, bitterness, tears and blame.
As many times as we parents explained the reasons, they didn’t console a child who missed the playground, the preteen who missed sharing secrets and skipping home after school, or the teen who desperately wanted to be out and involved in the wide world, or even just have an alternative beyond their own soul-crushing walls.
To make things better in my family, we’ve done our best with paint and elbow grease to improve our physical space, in the hope of providing fresh perspectives to brighten our minds. We’ve been lucky to be working and able to pursue the reno redux. Our old decks have been pressure washed, sanded and painted. A new back deck has popped up. A few flowers were moved from bed to bed, trying to find their new homes.
In Adrian’s room, furniture was arranged, then rearranged, a taller desk added due to his recent height explosion. We helped him with those tasks. On his own, he ordered LED lights – a perpetual array of colours that glow and pulse, often until the morning comes – and a mini-fridge. A mini-fridge! It’s well-stocked with all the sugar groups. He decorated his walls with snowboards and art, and chose a monotone palette of greys and blacks to create a very cool space.
We’re far from the only ones who have engaged in these small but satisfying pleasures. Thank goodness for the local hardware stores and the formidable job they’ve done to support our efforts. Named an essential service from day one for truly needed home repairs, they became a lifeline for those like us in need of a Covid diversion. Sure there were lineups, but cheerful helpers greeted us as we made trip after trip to town, masks and sanitizer in hand. We were cheerful and friendly in return. We are so grateful to them, and for the privilege of having our space to fuss about and nest in while we keep our families safe.
Help for mental health
Mental health supports are always important, but especially during the pandemic. Dufferin Child and Family Services (DCAFS) is available via phone 24/7, and is taking non-emergency appointments to help families, children and youth with their mental health. And the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) offers an impressive lineup of online tools including BounceBack, a free, guided self-help program for ages 15-plus with mild to moderate anxiety or depression, along with links to Kids’ Help Phone, Youthline (peer support for LGTBTQ+ youth) and The Big White Wall, an online peer-support community moderated by clinicians.
Reskilling during Covid
Many families have been hit hard by job loss due to Covid-19. If you are looking for a new direction or want to brush up your skills, Lynda.com (now at LinkedIn Learning) may be for you. It offers more than 4,000 online courses, and Orangeville Library cardholders can access them – for free! (Non-residents can obtain a library card – a fee may apply.)
Indigenous learning for all
When Dan Levy of TV’s celebrated Schitt’s Creek (set in Hockley) speaks, we listen. So when he urged his social media followers to take the University of Alberta’s online course, Indigenous Canada, offered free through Coursera, thousands did. I’ve signed up for the paid version – small change to get official recognition for completing a 12-week course from Indigenous teachers who explore historic and contemporary culture with classes titled Worldview, Trick or Treaty and Red Power, among others. I am so impressed by the platform, the multimedia, and the compelling lessons. coursera.org
Don’t overlook this trail …
We have so many up and down, craggy, wet and wild trails here in the hills – but if you prefer to take it flat and slow, the Caledon Trailway could be the solution. Stretching 35 kilometres across Caledon, it’s built on a former railway, so it’s very flat and even – good for strollers and mobility-assisted devices. But don’t let the ease of use make you think it’s boring. This is an excellent trail to see the changing fall colours and all kinds of birds, bugs and other wild critters. visitcaledon.ca
Macramé – it’s back
Boho chic is hot, hot, hot, and that means macramé is back. With just a few instructions, crafty types can whip together useful and decorative arts that will have your grandma grinning. The Macramé School is an online resource for patterns, projects and bracelets (fun!) that will keep you and your kids knotting for hours. Try the easy macramé owl – so sweet perched on his branch – or the fish that can be made into earrings or keychains. Graduate to plant hangers to bring that boho vibe to your space. macrameschool.com