On humanity, hope & belonging.

What strange times we’re in right now.

We got the memo: this is no joke. We’ve donned our masks. We’ve pushed through our weariness. We’ve limped along and accepted what is. But could we be seeing signs of progress on the horizon? The world’s most brilliant minds have done the near impossible, pulling together several vaccine candidates that could knee-cap this relentless battle. Whether you take an eligible vaccine or not isn’t my point. Humanity is persevering.

Humanity, is looking for a way out of this mess. 

Straight up, this gives me hope. And when in darkness, I will seek out any shred of hope I can find.  

Wherever you are in the world, Covid has impacted you. Most of us spent months in lockdown, forced into disconnection while we worked to ‘flatten the curve’ — an expression I never imagined I’d hear, understand or be so sick of all at once. But it became a rallying cry for all of us. We did not want our health care systems in chaos. We did not want our loved ones dying. We did not want to be reckless in the face of so much bloody uncertainty. We believed in the idea that although we were apart, we were still together, just, in new ways. 

As it turns out, we need each other. Just typing these words fogs up my glasses.

How beautiful to now know that perhaps we took each other for granted? How profound to now grasp that our whole, wide world is really so small? How vital has it been to finally fathom the sorry state of our Long Term Care system?

I know this is getting old. And we’re heading into winter amid soaring new numbers. Enthusiasm for supporting the cause is waning, to say the least. But let’s hold onto what we’ve discovered. Our yearning for human contact says so much about us as a people. 

It says that we all matter. 

Sometimes I reflect on pre-Covid times, and what I’ve come up with is that things were a train wreck then, too. Just a different one. Everyone running in fifty different directions… Every man out for himself. I get that I’m generalizing, but I’m beginning to wonder if this could be true: is all great change really preceded by chaos? (Thank you, Deepak.) Are we not on the brink of taking the lessons we’ve learned and making the world better?

This is how I choose to see it, because it gives me something to believe in. Something that fuels my hope during this freaking misery marathon we’re all running. 

Yes, we are tired. But look how we’ve adapted! Look at how options to connect have skyrocketed! (And admittedly, we have a ways to go to bridge the digital divide.) Look at how we’ve all sought options to take our friendships, families and social groups online to stay in touch. Because we just aren’t meant to exist on our own. Another realization that fuels me.  

Photo cred: John Cameron, Unsplash

I’ve seen such kindness over these last few months.

Busy people putting down their agendas to make life a little easier for our vulnerable loved ones. Picking up medication and groceries. Med students mobilized to babysit the children of frontline workers. Programs created to call isolated seniors so they might enjoy a weekly phone call from a volunteer, keeping them company a few hours each week. People have stepped up and are filling in the gaps. It makes my heart soar to see this level of human compassion. 

I’m not denying the vast amount of suffering that’s gone on. I just can’t, however, go there right now. I must focus on the good. The world will open back up again and as it does, maybe we can take these collective learnings and shift our consciousness to a more global perspective. I personally believe that our spirit of human cooperation has the potential to move this and future generations into a society that cares even more for others. And wouldn’t that be something? 

We are, after all, a universe of people. Bonds are forming across barriers we didn’t used to pay attention to. And while things are far from perfect, we can all agree that we’re a species longing for … well, belonging. That revelation has the power to change our whole world.

by Sam Plavins, Founder, She Walks the Walk Inc.

Lowered expectations.

Remember that effort I made to look on the bright side? The list of 100 Good Things in the Time of Covid?

In the spirit of always keeping it real, I thought I’d paint a picture of how things are unfolding in our household. Do any of you remember those SNL skits, Lowered Expectations? Can you hear the annoying jingle in your head now? You’re welcome. Well, it’s been almost three full weeks of self isolation and our family has had a chance to stabilize into some degree of pattern. Calling it a routine would be a DEFINITE stretch, because mostly, we’re all over the map.

Typical Day in the Plavins Household

Alvi is usually up early, getting ready for his JOB. Somehow car sales are still considered ‘essential services’?? I remain grateful for his income but I do worry. [EDIT: at the time of reviewing this post, he has since been deemed ‘non-essential’ and thus will be out of work for God knows how long. I’m both grateful and worried. This too shall pass.] The smell of coffee lures me out of bed. Confession, Alvi’s been sleeping on the couch on account of some tectonic snoring — but make no mistake, I’ve been awake for quite awhile.

Let’s call it 7:45 am. What have I been doing? 

Scrolling on my phone, of course, previously set to airplane mode circa 1:00 am the night before, on account of binge-watching Ozark Season 3 into the wee hours of the morning. I begin with reading my WhatsAPP messages: a mixed bag of light-hearted toilet-paper memes, high-quality bonding with my friends from overseas or ongoing updates about the whereabouts and safe return status of my family (as of Tuesday, everyone is now back in Canada!). I then toggle over to any text messages, messengers from Facebook and eventually wander to the tracker I now have bookmarked in my safari app. How many cases are we at this morning, Dear Earth? Oh, excellent! Over 1M. I then do a quick google ‘coronavirus Thunder Bay’ to see about cases in my specific neck of the woods. Sweet, only 3. D’oh! Now there’s 9. Finally, I check out Instagram to load me up with accurate ammo, read: when did the kids ACTUALLY go to bed. (Piper’s last post was 2:00 am; so 2:00 am?) I ignore the hypocrisy in what will soon be inevitable lecturing on the importance of getting quality, early sleep. 

And then my phone tells me that screen time is up 30% this week. No shit, Sherlock. 

It’s now 8:20 am. Before flopping on my housecoat, I assess my appearance in the mirror: full-on hag status. My roots are nearing three inches and the hair on my legs resembles a patch of sprouted seedlings ready for some sort of harvest. Not too shabby, could be worse, I think. I vow to put on a pair of jeans today (but never end up doing this), and throw on my husband’s ripped long underwear to hide any evidence of lazy self-care underneath the tattered robe.  

Down I go to my perch on the couch. At this point, I’m hoping your as appalled as I am!

The bird is calling for Leica, our dog, and offering him a cookie. I swear to God he does this, and while it’s cute at first, it’s still too early for this level of circus. I tell him to shut up. He ignores me and starts whistling Don’t Worry Be Happy, which I have come to resent, given these uncertain times.

The TV is already on, usually tuned into CTV’s Your Morning where I prepare to catch up on Covid-related news stories that I had previously ingested on the CBC’s Evening National News the night prior. It’s important to be certain I didn’t miss anything. Nope — things are still gonna get ugly. Prepare for the worst. Wash your hands. Physically distance yourself. Yup — got it. 

Alvi leaves for work and I tell myself today is the day I will eat healthy. I then toast not one, but two bagels that I load up with pizza sauce, pepperoni and cheese, priding myself on how efficient I am with purging the fridge of its leftover food. Popping a bunch of Vitamin C’s and D’s, I then open up my email. Mostly I just stare at it, vowing to reply soon, then slamming the laptop shut. I head back to my perch on the couch where the bird’s shrieking has escalated to the point that I’m seriously considering cooking him. Cockatiel might taste really yummy on a bagel, perhaps with a side of guacamole.  

Oh good — Ryan and Kelly are on TV now. That seems normal, let’s check them out. In between sorting my feelings of bitterness over how Kelly keeps her hair looking so good without an at-home team to prep her, I write out my goals for the day. Generally, they are:

  1. Shower. 
  2. Attempt to prepare something nutritious for dinner.
  3. Tidy the house.
  4. Spend 2-4 hours working on new business.
  5. Work-out. Or walk. 
  6. Fold laundry. 
  7. Call parents. 

I tend to base success on crossing things off the list, but can tell you that most days, none of these things happen. NONE. Ok, #7 usually happens if they don’t beat me to it. Because, what am I doing with my time?

I tell you what I’m doing — a whole lot of trying to make sense of this THING that’s happening, to understand how long it will go on for, what the human and economic fallout will be and how it will potentially impact my family and friends’ worlds. I’m seeking answers that just don’t exist — a classic control freak’s M.O.

And in between all of this? I sprinkle in the following…

Around 11:00 am, I decide it’s my civic duty to hear from our Prime Minister, JT. What has he got to say to me today? I get sucked into half hour of “we will get through this, together, as Canadians always do” and then note that Federal Cabinet ministers will be addressing the nation. Rock on! I really like that Dr. Tam lady — she invokes the fear of God in me and I keep coming back for more. Though it speaks to my masochistic tendencies, who doesn’t love a healthy dose of statistics and science? That stuff is legit!

Observing there is other food in the fridge that shouldn’t go to waste, I make myself a mid-morning snack: nuked leftover chicken paired with a dollop of Frank’s Hot Sauce. For good measure, I throw a pickle on the plate, and some more cheese. I tell myself I will pay for this tomorrow. Our Health Minister, Patty Hajdu, informs us the National Stockpile was ill prepared. You don’t say? I glance at the time and note that it’s now 12:15 and the kids have not appeared from their bedrooms. 

From the safety of my perch on the couch, I text them both some expectations for the day. Again, in the theme of lowered expectations — the instruction for my little one is usually do your hygiene, take care of the pets, unload the dishwasher and get off your screen. I leave it at that and trust this will all get done. My near-17-year-old has announced that she’s fasting and demands to know where we keep the ice. Did you wanna maybe try the freezer? There are usually several text discussions on when we’re going to fix the fridge/freezer’s defunct ice machine, followed by ‘when can we redo her too-pink and ruffly bedroom’. I make a mental note of these dire requests and attempt to appease her dysregulated teenage hormones with promises of looking at Pottery Barn online. She seems satisfied.  

Both kids emerge and still, I make no effort to get off the couch. In fact, I’ve taken to a regular onslaught of bellowing out questions and thus the kids have taken to bellowing out their answers, egging the bird onto ear-deafening pitches for attention. 

By mid afternoon, I decide it’s time to do SOMETHING. I usually chip away at the mess in the house and begin a list of projects that require attention. I’ve made several of these lists and ignored them all, because Covid. Truth: it’s sucked me into a funkified vortex of information and uncertainty and honestly? Every damn day has been like one of those perplexing Twilight Zone episodes. My discombobulation is hard for me to admit, but I’m owning it. It’s also outside of any normal perspective when I recognize there are others that are LITERALLY struggling, trying to work from home while kids are underfoot and acting out… trying to not die while scrubbing up to assist surgeries… desperately seeking a place to eat a hot meal after 12 hours of long-haul driving fresh stock for our grocery stores. Uggg. I have no reason to be in this state of weirdness and yet I am.

I grab the dog and decide he’s the most sane being in our home and surely this is deserving of a stroll through the neighbourhood graveyard. 

During our walk, I wonder what it would be like if some other creature was yelling at me to ‘hurry up and pee!’ I decide it wouldn’t feel very good and ease up on the poor baby. It’s like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He’s just out there — in his canine glory — soaking up all the smells of the season, now cracked open on account of the spring thaw. I see joy in his wiggling walk. He picks up a stick and prances about with an air of pride. I wish things could be that simple for humans … a stick, some fresh air, alluring smells, is there anything better?

I head home and begin interrogating the kids. It usually goes like this:

What have you done to be productive today? Have you gotten any exercise?Piper, have you done any math? Saffy, did you feed your bird? Are your teeth brushed? Did you guys have lunch? Did you unload the dishwasher? Have you aired out your rooms? No? Well, they stink! Don’t glare at me! I’m productive in my own way. I’m gathering up intel. We’re having a family meeting tonight and everyone is participating!

(insert eye-rolling)

Alvi rolls in around 6:00 and by some miracle, I’ve managed to get meat thawed and prep some of that night’s dinner. I celebrate this level of productivity (lowered expectations). Understand the man’s greatest joy is cooking, and it’s also a huge source of tension between us, so I generally let him lead in this department. I immediately attack him on how much handwashing has been happening at the car dealership, whether or not he was able to make it to the liquor store in time and if he remembered to call his Mom. Guys, I literally POUNCE on him. He’s patient and congenial but doesn’t hide his exasperation. It usually starts with a, “F***, Sam! I just walked in the door!” 

We eat at 8:00 — in true Plavins’ style. These days, I’m proud to report we’re mostly convening around the dinner table, taking stock of our massively productive days (not). This is, in and of itself, a Covid victory. We are all home in the evenings! Last night, I initiated a FEELINGS check in. How IS everyone doing? Piper reports that she’s bored and our province sucks, and that if she doesn’t get to go to NWOASSA (student-led weekend-long retreat in May) she’s going to freak. I’m not sure what ‘freak’ means in this case, but her tone tells me it might not be safe to remain inside the home. Saffy announces she wants to buy online merch from some anime artist. She tells me I owe her fifty bucks. ????? Likely I do, and we move on from there despite my sense of having been hustled. She then makes it clear that she’s been trying to warn us about this virus since DAY ONE… bless, my little soothsaying worrier. Alvi tells us he’s frustrated with the lack of things happening around the house while he’s out doing his essential work for the country. We all pledge to aim higher. 

8:40 pm, dishes are abandoned at the dinner table, everyone scatters like cockroaches drawn to the light of their respective online viewing escapes. Mine is Netflix. Piper is trolling and creating new Tik Toks — one of her uploads has over 400K views, she proudly reports. Saffy’s is her gaming and Alvi is riveted by some show on knife forging. It looks seriously lame but he’s right into it and has cracked open a beer. This actually looks relatively normal, like from the days of pre-Covid. I contemplate what I could do to really make his day, and then commence with additional bellowing:

Girls! Online learning starts up next week! So things are gonna change around here, OK??!! Do you hear me? We’re all gonna level up around here? Capiche?

Radio silence. Rinse, repeat. 

It’s dawned on me that the writing of this blog today symbolizes productivity… perhaps I’m not as big a train wreck as I’d led you to believe. And so what if my expectations have lowered — dramatically? We all have to do what we have to do. Staying sane is a priority!

How have your Covid days been going? I want to hear from you!

Special thanks to our medical heros and workers who are front-line pharmacists, grocery-store clerks, bank tellers, anyone fighting the fight from the front lines. We are grateful, humbled, and recognize we owe our safety and survival to you. God Bless!

100 positive things in the time of covid-19.

Ok guys. I’ve shut the news off and finally put a bra on. It’s time to get off the Wallow Wagon and move into the acceptance phase of this current normal! For our own sanity, self-preservation and the legit reality that one day we’ll all be back to our regularly scheduled lives and wonder why we weren’t more conscious of how we spent our time…

Before I begin, let me clarify: I’m judging nobody during this weirdness (unless you’re overtly ignoring Public Health recommendations, then I’m full on soap-boxing it in my head!). If you’re glued to Netflix right now? Party on. If you’re baking up a storm and eating one too many brownies? No worries, those calories and that coveted bag of sugar won’t last forever. Sitting around flicking back and forth from Facebook to Instagram to your Safari app? Yeah, so am I. My thumb literally has a clicking sound as a result of all this working out. 

Today I feel a strong urge to re-frame this Pandemic bullshit, because I haven’t been completely right in the head these days. The great irony is I used to be so busy that I’d regularly run out of gas for lack of a moment to fill the old tank; and now, gas is practically free because nobody is going anywhere. Truthfully, though? This Pandemic has become an excuse. A carte-blanche, get-out-of-jail-free card to stew in anxiety and get nothing done. Understand, I’m talking about myself, ok?

I see all you people posting your at-home workouts and doing push-up challenges and yet I, I continue to mostly sit around, half-ass start a project, move onto another one, laze about in bed waiting to hear from our Prime Minister who mostly says stuff we already know. I’ve consoled myself with Hey, girl! These are unprecedented times! Chill the F*** out! And while this is true, I’ve simply GOT to change my outlook or in the words of my teenage daughter, I’ll literally become more bonkers than I already am.

Hence, I’ve made it my mission to come up with Good Things in the Time of Covid-19. I’m not leaving the table until I’ve reached 100. 

Disclaimerville: Be assured, I’m not minimizing our global crisis. No, I see you crisis. And I raise you! I’m gonna attempt to go all in on choosing to see things differently. Yeah, it’s difficult to do. Sure, I get sucked in on the daily. And YES I have vulnerable people in my life and health-care worker friends/loved ones… so AGAIN, I’m not downplaying the serious tone we all ought to have. 

100 Good Things in the Time of Covid-19

  1. A chance to re-discover long lost hobbies.
  2. Your pets will look back on this time with gratitude!
  3. Flex that creativity muscle you know you have. 
  4. A few months with no chemical on the hair or face?
  5. Discovering the power of walks. 
  6. Getting to see the inside of celebrity houses.
  7. Covid is unselective in the hosts it latches onto. 
  8. Relive the days of yore through our old diaries.
  9. A chance to teach your kids about curveballs. 
  10. Knowing your colleague is also “business on top, pajamas on the bottom”.
  11. Greater compassion for health-care workers.
  12. Global awareness… there’s a world outside of us. 
  13. Collaborative ingenuity; what else could we do?
  14. Chance to pare down those kitchen junk drawers.
  15. Greater appreciation for local businesses.
  16. Considerably less wastage of toilet paper. 
  17. Rediscovering tuna. 
  18. Increased awareness of loneliness and isolation, and how it affects people. 
  19. Better hand hygiene for the win!!
  20. Catching up on all that sleep you’ve missed. 
  21. Rediscovering family meal time. 
  22. Less chauffeuring of your unlicensed teen driver!
  23. Wants becoming needs.
  24. Reprioritizing household expenses.
  25. Increased clarity on your political choices!
  26. The chance to help others in new ways. 
  27. Increased gratitude for the things that really matter.
  28. A chance to become more self-sustained. 
  29. Rediscovering the power of music. 
  30. Finding out about meditation. 
  31. Learning new ways to budget. 
  32. Time for a time capsule?!
  33. Finally opening those mysterious kidney bean cans.
  34. Teaching the kids about supply chains. 
  35. Teaching the kids different ways to approach a crisis.
  36. Having more time to try and procreate! 
  37. Understanding your dog. What DOES he do everyday?
  38. No pressure for high-end lady maintenance (interpret as you see fit). 
  39. Taking stock of which companies have rallied to help the most. 
  40. Your house will never be so clean (possible farce here?)
  41. Blaming the Government when you have to say “no” to your teenager. 
  42. Creating a new economy of trade (music lessons online for brownies?)
  43. Getting your Netflix money’s worth. 
  44. Less pollution in the skies. 
  45. Discovering the forest behind your house. 
  46. Feeling connected to a global consciousness fighting the same enemy.
  47. Becoming more judicious with what we read on the internet. 
  48. A chance to rebuild — maybe your old life needed to go?
  49. Impetus to test your marriage — maybe you needed this?
  50. The chance to become part of the solution.
  51. Giving what you can to where you can when you can.
  52. Knowing you’re not the only one who looks a little unkempt. 
  53. Giving your kids an alternative way to learn. 
  54. Rediscovering REM’s “It’s the End of the World, and I Know It”
  55. Free online concerts. 
  56. Saving money on concerts your kids were lobbying for (sorry, Harry Styles).
  57. Less roller coaster deaths. 
  58. Less mileage going on your leased car. 
  59. Loads of time to keep up with yard maintenance.
  60. The chance to live through something that will be in our history books. 
  61. Rediscovering your faith. Religion. Spirituality. 
  62. Revisiting where you donate your money.
  63. More time to file your taxes. 
  64. Greater emphasis on cleanliness in public places. 
  65. Heightened compassion for small business. 
  66. Opportunity to live more in the present (tomorrow isn’t the same). 
  67. Appreciation for the freedoms we regularly enjoy. 
  68. A chance to contribute to the colossal volume of global memes.
  69. Less teenage pregnancy?
  70. Plan something out of your comfort zone for when life is normal again.
  71. An appreciation for the need to have a Financial Advisor. 
  72. Free online learning through Ivy-league institutions.
  73. Working on your skill of adaptability.
  74. Life-changing epiphanies that may happen as a result of this pandemic. 
  75. Work-life balance will become priority when all of this is over.  
  76. Potential for less division in the world. 
  77. Potential for less division in our country. 
  78.  Cataloguing your old CD collection. 
  79. Finishing those family scrapbooks. 
  80. Continued procrastination with dreaded dental visits. 
  81. Animated debates about what is considered “essential” service.
  82. Family WhatsAPP chats. 
  83. Social Distancing driveway parties. 
  84. Reading those books that collect dust on your nightstand. 
  85. Purging your paperwork, filing cabinets and closets. 
  86. Impromptu snuggles with nervous kids. 
  87. Less freaking out over last minute school projects. 
  88. Increased efficiency and speed with internet when this is over. 
  89. Camping in your backyard. 
  90. Increased time to plank.
  91. Virtual movie dates. 
  92. Learning the names of other global leaders.
  93. Finally deciding that Trump is a D-Bag.
  94. Omg this is so hard. 
  95. Running out of steam. 
  96. The bird is screaming for his food. 
  97. The kids are still in bed and it’s 11:17am.
  98. Just three more. Come on. You can do it. 
  99. Bulk shoppers have never felt more validated. 
  100. Liquor considered essential service. THERE!

Phew! Eat that, Covid-19!!! In all seriousness, my simple goal for today is to get off my duff and help my kids get off theirs. Shall report back on how THAT all went down. I’m wishing you well… there are signs afoot that this won’t be a forever thing. So for now? Try and find the few positives that might fit in with your life. I know the list of BADS is also exhaustive — but none of us need reminders on that. 

With love, from Sam… reporting to you in my husband’s ripped, long underwear.

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