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Finding comfort in familiar things at home

What have you rediscovered amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

What I mean is, what old favorite or soothing things have you recalled or revived while following stay-at-home orders? I, for example, had forgotten just how refreshing a glass of Kool-Aid can be.

A lot of people are complaining that they will be much heavier once the shelter-in-place policies are lifted, because they are eating all day long while stuck at home. Some say they eat out of boredom, others as a result of stress.

That hasn’t been the case for me. I’ve never been much for grazing or snacking — unless chocolate is involved. So, I haven’t found my well-stocked kitchen any more tempting than usual. My husband, Mike, and I have done a pretty good job of sticking to a regular meal schedule and of eating up all our leftovers.

But we have resumed using some products that we had kind of forgotten about — things that are affordable or that bring back good memories from childhood. For me, Kool-Aid is one of those things. It’s not expensive to make, and it tastes good — I think black cherry and tropical punch flavors are the best. The only drawback is that it does require a good bit of sugar and, of course, it’s filled with dye. Or us, though, it’s been a bit of a treat – something we can drink that provides more variety than just water but isn’t as expensive as pop.

We also switched back from our Keurig coffee maker to our good, old Mr. Coffee coffee pot. We decided it would be a nice change of pace to have an actual pot of hot coffee sitting in the kitchen so that we could grab a cup whenever we like. Again, like Kool-Aid vs. pop, the product we get from it also is less expensive than the fancy, single-serve Keurig pods.

Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, a nice big ham followed by a pot of soup beans using the ham hock and other old staple meals have been great additions to our diet as well, and ones that remind me of the meals my family ate when I was young. My mother, the late Grace Compston, probably fed me mushroom soup two or three times a week before I started school. I tended to be a bit of a fussy eater, but I always enjoyed that soup when I received it for my lunch.

I’m not just talking about foods and drinks, though. Mike and I have passed some of the time by playing old favorite games as well. We’ve always been active game players, but we tended to play more modern games as we acquired them. Among board games we typically would play are Catan, Sagrada and the old standard Yahtzee. But over the past few weeks we have gotten a lot of use out of some of our older games, such as Trivial Pursuit Genus IV from the ’80s and the Trouble game I played with my older brother, Larry, when I was just 3 or 4 years old.

I’ve heard quite a few people joke about wearing their pajamas day in and day out. I certainly haven’t done that. In fact, I have avoided wearing sweatpants and workout clothes too often, just so that I feel like I am appropriately dressed for the work I am doing from home.

Wearing regular work or street clothes just makes me feel more engaged and productive. But, for the first time in many years, I am remembering why Americans like wearing jeans so much. At least 85 percent of the time, I wear slacks to work with a sweater, blouse or jacket. Dresses, skirts and other items such as cropped pants probably make up another 10-12 percent of my work wear. That means that only on a rare occasion do I wear jeans to the office or out on an assignment.

But, when working from home, I find that I am extremely comfortable in a decent top and a pair of blue jeans. That’s what I wore to school pretty much every day for a dozen years, and I’m not sure why I got out of the habit of wearing jeans. They are tough but soft, and once you have worn them for a few hours after they’ve been washed, they seem to fit just right.

So, for me, being at home much more than usual has caused me to revive old habits and ways of going about my business. I don’t know how many people have taken that approach to being restricted in their movements and activities, but I believe it has helped ease the stress and frustration of this rather unusual period of history for me.

I don’t know what is coming down the road. As Ohio begins to gradually reopen beginning May 1, I expect there will be setbacks. It seems inevitable that the number of positive test results for novel coronavirus infections will climb. I suspect there will be conflicts among people who have different levels of comfort with being back out in public again. Already I have heard some people saying they will not wear cloth masks in an effort to limit the spread of the disease, but I also have heard people who are acting with an abundance of caution become rather angry about those who decline to wear masks.

So, who knows how our reopening will unfold?

It is my sincere hope that it goes smoothly and that we see only modest increases in the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. I am eager to see local businesses develop and implement new practices designed to keep employees and customers as safe as possible, so that we all can get back to more normal lives. I’m not sure, though, what “normal” will look like to us over the next year or so.

Along the way, however, I think I will continue to find comfort in the familiar. Of course I eventually will be able to resume more social activities and be able to do things like go out to dinner with friends or family again, but I’m not sure I will ever go back to eating the amount of fast food that I did prior to this outbreak. Instead, I suspect I will eat a lot more simple, old favorites, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

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