A lot of us have a lot more time on our hands recently, and I’ve been getting back to my baking wishlist. I’ve always loved baking and have watched The Great British Baking Show on Netflix more times than I can count, but took a bit of an unenthusiastic break while I was in a series of apartments (with the exception of a frantic stint of weekly sourdough) so small the fridge couldn’t fully open without hitting the oven. Thankfully, my partner and I moved to a bigger living space with an actual kitchen, and I had no excuses anymore, right? Apparently not. I’d forgotten that baking can take a lot of time, and I didn’t exactly want to be in the kitchen for an extra couple hours after coming home from a six-hour day at PSU and having to make dinner and do homework. It became an occasional, wistful thing.
However, the opportunities have come up a lot more and I worked with my partner to make a list of all the things I wanted to make. Nothing too crazy, like the recipe for the galaxy mirror glaze cake I saw once (I would feel a little guilty for presenting my stuck-at-home roommates with a huge cake) but small, enjoyable things, like scones and tarts and light pies. It’s been a small part of my week that I can savor in the following days, and adds a sense of formal normalcy to meals. There’s a slice of apple tart to have afterwards, just like there was before all of this happened. I remembered how much I love baking, especially when I get to be creative with pie crust decorations or figuring out how to make something there’s no recipe for. I once developed a recipe for savory, cheese-and-herb creme puffs, and I remember it fondly. It’s a nice distraction, too. I also realized that I’ve never had a key lime pie, so that’s on the list. Hopefully my household forgives me for continually churning out desserts.
Quarantine has been an unimaginably difficult time for everyone. However, I’d offer this: there have been some genuine blessings in this time, Though I’m struggling — and struggling hard — I have found a lot of beauty in this forced isolation.
Getting to spend more time with my fiancee! We are both incredibly busy people, leaving the house at 8:00 a.m. and returning at 8:00 p.m. most days. We rarely have full days off together — one every two weeks, maybe. We had the realization that until we retire, we may not get this much uninterrupted time together again. We’ve been enjoying it so much! Having deep conversations, working on improving our relationship. Explaining our passions to one another in as much detail as we’d like! I’ve talked more about Greek mythology and Romantic poetry in the last few weeks than I ever have before. I’ve learned more about baking and Animal Crossing than I ever thought I would! It’s lovely!
Getting closer to my pets! As stated in previous entries, I live in a house with five cats and two dogs. Having come from a one-pet home my entire life — it’s been jarring. But I have had so much time to bond with the pets! We’ve improved their care, we’ve started taking our pit bull on more walks, we’ve invested in a new cat tree and fixed up the old one, and spent lots and lots of time cuddling with our cats.
Learning that I can build things! I struggle with motor skills. Things like buttoning shirts, tying shoes, and chopping veggies are very difficult for me. I know that with practice, I am a very capable learner — after all, I type 90 words per minute, with very few typos. I’ve often figured that if I can do something like what, I’m able to do other tasks involving fine motor skills. I’ll admit — I tend to avoid these things because it embarrasses me. I’m twenty years old! Buttoning a shirt takes me twice as long as your average person. However, my fiancee and I put together a cat tree. As simple as this was, I was so proud of myself. I read instructions and puzzled them out! I used tiny screws! It hasn’t fallen apart yet! This has been a very powerful lesson in my capability as a person.
Being there for friends in need! I have the excellent luck of being isolated with three people I love. Not all of my friends have been so fortunate. Some are quarantined with abusive family members. Some are alone. I have a large emotional bandwidth, and ample time to hear their concerns. I have been able to be more present in my friendships than I have in a long time. Being able to send little reminder texts: “I love you! Everything will be okay! I’m here for you!” has been helpful to them and me. While I know I am not responsible for the emotional states of my friends, I know I can help. I can be a listening ear, or offer advice if needed. At the very least, I can remind someone they’re not alone, and that’s a beautiful gift.
While the quarantine has been very difficult on all of us, I’d encourage you to look for good things within it. Finally having time to redecorate your bedroom? Deep-cleaning for the first time in ages? Baking bread? Binging shows you’ve wanted to forever? Even if all you’re doing is staying alive, that’s enough. There are small nuggets of goodness to be found in this taxing time period, and I’m lucky enough to have found some of them.
I made a mistake on my first time fasting here by keeping my regular schedule on top of fasting. This didn’t turn out well because I didn’t get enough sleep, and I would be very sleepy during school. So I have adjusted my sleeping schedule to accommodate for the early breakfast at 4 a.m. Sometimes I would stay up from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. and do my classwork. Then, I’d take a nap. Making sure that you have enough sleep is critical to perform in school while fasting.
Prep your food in the evening
I prep my breakfast in the evening, so when I get up in the morning, I don’t have to cook. This helps if you choose to go back to sleep, which I sometimes do. I get up at 4 a.m. and go back to bed an hour or two later. – I like this schedule because it allows me to engage with those who are not fasting and have a regular schedule.
Avoid flipping your day to your night
Doing work after breaking your fast until you have breakfast again is definitely doable. But from my personal experience, this can be unhealthy mentally because most activities are happening during the day. Still, if one is sleeping during the day and up at night, it can be challenging to keep in touch with people and feel energized during the day. But if this works best for you, that’s perfect.
Eat simple, nutritious food
I learned from the past fasting experiences that I cannot eat a lot. Making sure that I’m eating the food that my body needs is essential. I tend to focus on hydration more than food, so I have juice, milk, tea, or water in the morning with my food. I ask myself if I have protein, carb, and vitamins in my meal. Eating enough healthy food is better than eating a lot of unhealthy snacks.
Schedule your naps
I don’t usually take naps in the afternoon. I take an early one around 10 a.m. so I can wake up at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. if I don’t go to bed right away after breakfast. This is helpful if you have your classes during the day.
Call your family and friends
I do this either during the early breakfast or during iftar (breaking the fasting). It’s helpful to keep the Ramadan spirit around you when fasting in the U.S.
Those are a few tips that I hope will be useful. Happy fasting!
Recently, I wrote about my experiences under lockdown in student housing. Although being alone in quarantine was weighing on my mental health, I said that crashing with family or friends in Southern Oregon was not an ideal option for me. Since that post, I tried really hard to make the best of my situation — I went through every coping skill I could think of: working out, journaling, playing computer games, texting friends and family, virtual therapy, throwing myself into homework — but I cracked. Living alone became too much to bear—so when the opportunity to fly down to Medford arose about a week ago, I took advantage of it, and set out for the Rogue Valley by way of a very, very lonely PDX.
I thought a lot about whether I would divulge that I fled Portland — I’d made such a big deal about staying put and weathering the lockdown on my own. Surely I can just pretend to still be in the dorms? Who would know the difference? Do I want people to think I’m weak? Besides being embarrassing to admit I broke down, I had traveled when not absolutely necessary, and still feel rather of ashamed about that. But I ultimately decided to be vulnerable in these vulnerable times, and share my experience.
The truth is, it’s ok to be overwhelmed, and it’s ok to make do with the resources you have. Like making do with frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones to avoid a trip to the grocery store, we are all making do in other ways with the resources available to us — mentally, physically, socially. It’s ok to break. It’s ok to be strong one week and a sobbing mess the next — because these are uncertain, scary times.
I’m making do with what I have, and I am filled with so much gratitude that I have support available to me. I was lucky to get that flight to Medford. I’m lucky to have a family to take me in. I’m lucky that I went through the gauntlet of air travel without bringing disease into my home (well, as far as I know. I really hope that my next post isn’t written from a family member’s hospital bedside.)
Many students are still alone on campus, and don’t have any other option but to stay. I feel guilty leaving them behind. Part of me feels like I should be there in solidarity. Another part feels justified that I did what I had to do to take care of myself. Maybe those opposing feelings aren’t mutually exclusive.
To those who are struggling under the weight of lockdown, whether in isolation or not, here are some resources that might help:
How are you all doing with the adjustment to remote learning? As we start our fifth week of the most unusual spring term in memory, I know a lot of us are having a difficult time. I find myself more grateful than ever for my homeschool education, which means that I’m used to learning like this. Here are some tips I’ve learned from seven years of homeschooling that I find helpful for remote learning.
1. Dedicate a space to your studying.
It’s nice to do homework in your bed once in a while, but I find that having a tidy desk does wonders for my mental state. Sitting down at my desk helps put me in “study mode.”
2. Keep an assignment planner.
I keep this planner on the aforementioned desk. I have four spaces for the four days of the week (Monday-Thursday) I have classes, and I write what’s due in each space, crossing it out when I’m done. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when everything is just floating around in your head. Writing it down on paper is a good way to get it out of your head and onto the page.
3. Minimize distractions.
It’s easy to get distracted by family and pets. I wear a pair of headphones to signal when I can’t be interrupted. Turn on “do not disturb” mode on your computer and silence your phone. That YouTube video can wait until you’re ready to take a break.
4. Enjoy what remote learning has to offer.
It’s easy to see all the difficulties of remote learning, but what about the positives? You can go to school in your pajamas, snack whenever you want, and take naps in the middle of the day. In fact, I wrote this post with a cat curled up beside me (pictured).
It’s okay to embrace this weird time period while it lasts and enjoy the silver lining. Things will be back to normal someday. Until then, we’re in this together.
Remote Learning has been a learning curve for all of us, but now that half of the quarter is over, we all feel like experts. I am always looking for new ways to make remote learning easier, and I know other people are, too. Here are seven tips that have helped me be successful this Spring quarter.
Have a specific space to do your work. If you were on campus you would have your favorite study space: a coffee shop, the library, or your desk. When learning at home, it is important to separate your learning and chill spaces. I don’t have a personal desk at home, but my dining room table is working great for me. It gives me lots of space, and it’s located in an open area where I can look outside.
Look at your word choice. I discovered the past few weeks that I call everything homework, and it makes my workload seem overwhelming. I have tried to separate what would be my classwork and my homework. The simple word change has helped me feel less overwhelmed with school work.
Have your set “school day.” This will seem kind of high school but you should have a set school day. If you have a class from 10 a.m.to 11:30 a.m., work on that class during that time. I generally work at school from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. I will only work on loose ends and homework. It makes me feel like there is an end to the day if I have a clock out card for school.
Once you are done, stay done. It seems simple but we are all guilty of breaking this! Even though I say I am done, I will still respond to emails and check notifications on D2L. I have been trying to change that by putting down my phone and computer and spending some time with my family and animals.
Remember to take a break. This is the most important tip I can give – to others and myself. Burnout is a real thing for college students, and we are facing it more while at home. I feel like I have to be working on school all day so I write “take a break” in my calendar, forcing myself to have a little fun just for me. Some of my break activities have included napping, watching a show, taking a walk, or playing a game with my brother.
Set daily goals. I am a very organized person but my organizational style has changed a lot during remote learning. I have found a system that works well for me, but I am still trying new things to see what I like. At the beginning of the school week I write a list of what needs to get done for every class. Every morning I look at my weekly list and put what I will specifically work on in my bullet journal.
Set more specific goals. It is helpful to turn my goals into smaller, specific goals. Instead of working until I burn out, I set a goal of working on the online part of the unit or the chapter reading. This takes more planning to make sure you don’t fall behind, but it’s actually helped me get ahead in some of my classes!
This past Winter was the hardest term of my college career. I was sick from day one, and I perpetually seemed to be battling some type of cold. Being so sick so often was not normal for me at all, and deep down I felt like there was an underlying reason for it. In January, I went to SHAC three times in one week. Over the course of the term, I was tested for strep and had my blood drawn three times. I was tested for thyroid antibodies, deficiencies, and inflammatory markers. All of my blood work was normal. In fact, my CBC (Complete Blood Count) never even indicated I was battling an infection.
In January, I was also tested for mono and it was negative. Infectious mononucleosis (mono) is a common viral infection with no cure other than rest and time. It’s known for causing a fever, an enlarged spleen, and swollen lymph nodes. The recovery period often includes debilitating fatigue and weakness that lingers for weeks. It’s practically unheard of for a monospot test to be negative after 1-2 weeks of being symptomatic, and when I was tested I’d been exhibiting symptoms for three full weeks.
I had felt how weak and exhausted I was; I knew something was wrong. Without a diagnosis for what I was experiencing though, I didn’t feel valid in expressing my concerns and I didn’t want to come across as dramatic. In March, I was still sick and I decided to visit SHAC yet again. This was right when SHAC started COVID-19 precautions, but I had never worried that I was actually sick with the coronavirus.
When the doctor asked about my symptoms, I caught myself saying, “Well I’m still staying as active as I was before I was sick.” But that wasn’t really the truth. When I swam, I could barely move my arms through the water. I was so weak that I could barely squat the 45-pound bar and was winded after three reps. If I didn’t nap once a day, I would feel the consequences of it in my energy levels the following day. For a couple weeks in February, my lymph nodes were so swollen that at one point, it hurt if something brushed my neck. I shared this with my doctor, and it may have been the information that convinced them I really should be tested for mono again.
That monospot test came back positive. After eight and a half weeks of going crazy trying to figure out what was happening to my body, I finally knew. In retrospect, everything made sense despite not having a classical case of mono. I realized how I had normalized my continual suffering because I didn’t want to seem like I was overreacting to “just a cold.” I had continued swimming, lifting, and playing Ultimate frisbee. In doing so, I had unwittingly caused myself to relapse again, and again, and again. I’d also put my spleen at risk of rupturing by engaging in a contact sport. I know my body better than anyone, but I let the fear of outside judgment stop me from listening to it. It’s important to remember that a textbook-perfect model is often used in diagnoses, but an actual textbook-perfect case is rare.
Now, I’m feeling nearly 100% recovered. Beyond a couple lingering symptoms, I’ve regained my strength and am back to my usual active self. I’m grateful I never had to move home to recover from mono (which is pretty common), and I continue to live on campus despite the ongoing pandemic. The whole experience has made me value my health more than ever.
In March, Housing and Residence life sent out a mass email encouraging those of us in student housing to move if feasible. By doing so, we’d be lowering the amount of interpersonal contact in the buildings, and therefore lowering the chance that COVID-19 could spread among us. The result was a mass exodus of student residents. For the last few weeks of winter term and throughout spring break, students hauled boxes and furniture out of their apartments. Many people abandoned their belongings altogether — and common areas quickly became littered with discarded microwaves, bedding, and half-used bottles of hot sauce. At first, the refuse left behind was annoying. But then the custodial staff removed it all, taking along with them any items that residents used to socialize and bond, such as the puzzles left out on tables for everyone to work on. This served only as a stark reminder of the tenants’ absences.
There are some perks that come from living in an almost-empty building — solo elevator rides save time, and I have yet to have to wait for access to a washing machine. The sheer emptiness of the building is palpable — instead of hearing music and muffled conversations when walking down the halls, there is a conspicuous silence. Common areas are empty. There are no more University Success events in the lobby. Even though those of us who remain are still in our rooms, typing on our laptops and having Zoom classes, it’s hard to ignore that the absence of so many residents is a symptom of the larger changes in the world.
I don’t have family close by. I wasn’t lucky enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on how well you get along with your family) to be able to crash somewhere else while still remaining in Portland’s orbit. Sure, I could pay to rent a car and haul all my stuff back to Southern Oregon, and there’s no doubt that I miss my friends and family … but Portland is my home now. I’ve set up roots, and I’d rather try and stick out the pandemic locally rather than going through the added stress and expense of moving back and forth.
There are times when I regret that decision. Being cooped up is weighing on me emotionally. I miss my loved ones. I miss socializing. I miss human touch. So many of the things that made me fall in love with the city, like restaurants and the county library, are closed for the foreseeable future. The truth is, no one knows how long this lockdown will last, and if things will ever go back to normal. Public officials are cautious about ending the stay-at-home order too soon. Not knowing a timeline and being able to count down days is disheartening. However, I have hope that we will all get through this and be stronger because of it. Even though the building is lonely, I know I’m not alone in feeling alone.
Remote learning is a big transition for a music major. Most of my learning is hands-on. My classes consist of performing with and for my peers and learning how to play the piano and sing. These classes have always been in-person and this is the first time students and teachers have moved learning online. Some of my classes had little change while others are drastically different.
Performance courses look very different online. All undergraduate music majors are required to enroll in nine terms of Performance Attendance. This is a weekly class where we listen to different musicians and answer questions about what we heard. The School of Music has canceled the class altogether. It is unknown if they will waive the requirement this term or if we will all have to take an extra term when we are back on campus.
Another weekly class that I take is Studio Class. This is where I get to hear what the other flute performance majors (undergraduate and graduate) are working on. The flute professors have put together an unofficial Facebook group where we can post videos of performances for our peers to hear. We had our first session of performances, and it was very nice to hear my friends play and hear their comments about my performance.
The last weekly class that I take is my private lesson with my flute professor. During finals week Dr. Sydney Carlson sent an email to the flute studio members asking questions about our living situations – whether we were practicing with a full house or not – and the technology available to us. Dr. Carlson suggested we record every lesson so we can listen back throughout the week. Currently, I use FaceTime on my computer and record it on my phone. I think this process will work for me but I have only had two remote lessons so far.
Even my non-music major friends have wondered how the music school will offer band class. It is interesting what the director of bands has put together. We will only have two “performances.” They will be more like fun recordings and the band will get to learn more about those when the midterm and finals week approaches.
In the meantime, we are listening to band literature. Every week, the students get a few different pieces to listen to and answer questions about. Then, we have a Zoom meeting to discuss our thoughts about the music. Because we are not performing like usual, most non-music majors have decided not to participate in band this term.
I am also in first-year piano, which is for music majors who came to the university with no prior piano experience. This Spring term we have to complete the Piano Proficiency Exam, which allows music majors to move to the advanced piano classes. Each week, my teacher gives us a class assignment to turn in and then an assignment for the exam. When he sends the assignments he also posts videos of tutorials and videos that show common mistakes. It’s difficult to learn an instrument without having the instructor there with you, but the professor is doing a wonderful job giving us resources and answering questions.
My classes that don’t involve instruments include music theory, sight-singing/aural skills, and first-year honors. Music Theory has had a rocky start as it transitioned to another online platform. The professor is currently trying to use Canvas, which would allow music students to turn in assignments on an online music sheet software. This means that we all need to learn how to operate this software, including the instructor. The past few assignments we have been just to figure out how to write music online. It has been very helpful, but this means we haven’t learned any new content these past two weeks. Luckily, as we enter week three, we will start our spring quarter of music theory content.
Sight-singing is a course that coincides with theory. Students learn how to aurally understand music through dictation and singing assignments. The content for this class has been pretty easy because it drills our current skills. Assignments for this class included turning in recordings of us singing and pictures of our dictation practice.
First-year honors has stayed very similar to what it would have been on campus. I am working on a group and individual project and we are only meeting as a class a few times for check-ins.
With the refund from housing, I decided to take five extra credits, and I picked classes that were already online courses. I am taking American Traditions in Blues and Listening I. American traditions has us reading, listening and appreciating blues music and Listening I is the same concept but for classical music. Since these courses are originally meant for online work, this is the only part of the quarter that seems normal.
I don’t feel like I am getting the education I paid for; however, I am still benefiting from remote learning. Sometimes the School of Music is a little old fashioned when it comes to learning, so this is allowing all of us to learn music technology like music writing software. This experience is reminding me to not take my education for granted because it can drastically change overnight. I am grateful for the professors who are trying to make the best out of this situation, but I hope that I can be back performing with my classmates in the fall.
I’ve always enjoyed hands-on hobbies, like sewing, ceramics and gardening — to name a few. Soapmaking always seemed really interesting and one of those things that you don’t really think about how it’s made! I made the switch a few years ago to bar soap only. Most of the time I buy locally from other small-business creators. I have sensitive skin and have found that my skin is a lot happier when using these kinds of cleansers! I was worried about my workload and thinking about maybe starting over the summer; but as we all know, our current worldwide situation grants some of us a lot of time at home. I decided to jump into it, and my journey has been exciting, hot to the touch and rewarding.
There are a few different methods of making soap, all tuned to different levels of skill, preference for final design, colors and more. I decided to go with one method called cold-process after some deliberation on what I wanted my creations to look like. The downside of cold process, I would say, is that you have to wait about a month before being able to use your soap, as it needs time to “cure.” However, I appreciate the designs I’m able to do, and it’s kind of exciting to have to wait. I’ve been making several batches with a variety of different colors and scents, causing my house to smell very different every day! My favorite so far has to be the first batch I ever made, tomato leaf scented. It’s such a specific scent, but I was elated to find the candle and soap supplier I was purchasing from had it! It smells exactly like being outside on a summer day and smelling your tomato plants. Most batches have gone well, however, I’ve had a couple that went not so great. Sometimes, the fragrance you use can cause the mixture to seize, or turn to a solid in a matter of seconds. It’s still safe to use after cure and workable, but it can make it hard to get definition in your final design, and is a little cumbersome to use! Sometimes suppliers warn you ahead of time to expect this, sometimes you find out the hard way depending on the temperatures of your ingredients.
Overall, I’ve had a blast trying out my new hobby, and am really excited to share the final result with friends and family. And, of course, to have a lifetime supply of soap to myself. It’s made me want to try other hobbies that share a supplier, like candlemaking! I’m trying to pace myself for the moment, but the possibilities seem endless.
I’d warn, however, that certain methods of soapmaking, including cold process, involve toxic chemicals and can be dangerous. It may not be right for you if you don’t have proper ventilation in your space or can’t properly prep. However, if it sparks your interest, I’d definitely recommend it! There’s a lot you can do design and scent-wise with soapmaking, even if you’re just making a batch for yourself every few months. Have you begun any fun and interesting quarantine hobbies?
You can follow my soaping journey on Instagram @poppy_and_harper!