To Socialize, Or Not To Socialize

It shouldn’t have to be a question!

Though we refer to the expectation of distancing ourselves from others around us as “social distancing,” it does not mean that we have to negate all social activities we could have with others. Socializing is best in person, but that is not necessarily the only method of socializing. The modern technological marvels we have access to provide us with a means of socializing that has been historically impossible. We don’t have to be locked up without any way of communicating as our ancestors had with Spanish Influenza, so why not take advantage of the resources at hand? “What resources?” you might ask. Well, let me share a few with you.

Craving some face-to-face time with family and friends? If you haven’t heard of Zoom, where have you been? It’s free to sign up and easy to get started. You can also use the “video call” feature in Google Hangouts if you already have a Google account. You can even get creative and work in some visual games like Heads Up! or Pictionary.

Image courtesy of Tumisu CCO

Missing out on board game night? I know I am! There are so many options available out there. If you want a really genuine board game experience where you can pick up and move those pieces around the board and you enjoy the authenticity of calculating everything yourself as you play, go check out Tabletopia. You can play many games for free and play with your friends online. But be careful, the free reign of the board means you have to keep on eye on those players who like to make “mistakes.” You know who I’m talking about.

If having to do everything yourself with the board games sounds like too much hassle, check out Board Game Arena. It’s free to sign up and you can join any existing tables that have been started. Most of the games are completely free to host yourself, but the premium titles like Carcassonne and Kingdomino require a subscription to host. Though, you can always ask if someone would kindly host a game for you through the website’s chat feature.

Maybe you aren’t such a board game fan, but you really miss playing card night with the regulars. Well, there are some great options there too! If you are looking for that genuine experience, once again, there’s a website for that! Check out playingcards.io where you can pull in as many decks of playing cards as you like, manipulate their contents to match your game, and play a few rounds of your favorite card game. And the best thing of all, there is no need for an account! Every game receives its own unique address that you share with your friends for access. Unlike the other options in this post, all communication will require another application like Zoom, Discord, or your favorite chat app.

There are, of course, many options to play card games where the computer keeps track of the rules. Anyone who remembers the 90s will likely recall Solitaire on their computer that was a Windows staple for years. One of the most popular online playing cards resources is Cardzmania. Like playingcards.io, it requires no login. Anyone can host a game and simply share the match’s address for friends to join. Cardzmania will even provide computer-controlled bots to fill in if you need more players.

Image courtesy of Piotrus CC BY-SA 2.5

Chances are, if you’re a tabletop roleplayer, you have probably heard of Roll20, but this is both a reminder to the veteran players and nudge in the right direction for the TTRPG curious. Roll20 is a versatile tool that allows a group of roleplayers to coordinate via the website with their online character sheets, dice rolling, and maps to play their favorite tabletop roleplaying games online. It’s free to use the basic features for both players and the game master and provides the GM with even more tools if they wish to subscribe. It’s not a bad idea to use something like Zoom to help keep the experience genuine.

There are so many options to socialize in our “socially distanced” world right now. Take care of your social health and take advantage of the resources available out there! Social distancing doesn’t mean there is no socializing. Just socializing distantly.

Getting Things Done

My summers are usually filled with lots of fun events. Normally, we go on a road trip (or two), attend music festivals, play on a volleyball league, and enjoy our time at the fairgrounds. Now suddenly, I find myself left with canceled events and lots of time on my hands.

You’d think that I would be super productive right now and have so many tasks checked off my list. Instead, I find myself struggling with picking up a book, getting to my organization projects at home, and finding the motivation to get on the treadmill.

I decided that enough was enough and that something needed to change. I’ve been wanting to read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen for a while now. I finally picked up the audiobook and have found lots of inspiration on how to become more productive. My biggest takeaway so far has been to write EVERYTHING down. Allen describes your short-term memory like RAM (the main memory in most computers). If there are too many things that you are trying to remember, your brain will crash. Allen gives some great advice on how to process and organize all the “stuff” you are juggling. For a quick crash course from David Allen on GTD, check out this 20-minute Tedx talk from Claremont College.

 

Dare to Experiment

As the pandemic has kept me mostly confined to my workplaces and home, I’ve found I’ve had a lot more time to delve deep into the Internet. Specifically, I have become obsessed with three YouTube series, The Burger Show, Burger Scholar Sessions, and Strictly Dumpling. I spend my evenings with a video game on one computer screen and a video on the other. What I wasn’t planning was how much these channels would inspire me to try some new foods or cook some of the things I’ve seen.

The Burger Show and Burger Scholar Sessions showed me plenty of neat tricks to up my burger game, but my favorite has to be putting a pile of extremely thin sliced Vidalia onion strips on your burger patties before smashing them. It caramelizes the onions and enhances the taste of the patty itself all at the time! I used a vegetable peeler to get them to the right thinness. My next venture with burgers will probably be to try out the Memphis deep-fried burger!

As for Strictly Dumpling, I’d recommend not watching before bed unless you want to go to bed hungry or filled with regret from snacking. Mike Chen goes around the world trying all kinds of cool local eats. In my attempt to live a similar lifestyle, I recently ordered from a local Asian restaurant and only ordered things I had never had before. I was rewarded with everything being delicious!

However, there was one thing I saw in a couple of his videos that I couldn’t seem to find on menus around the area, and that was crispy pork belly. Queue early last week, I was at my local butcher shop and saw that they had pork belly with the skin on and I knew it was destiny. I went home and looked up a great recipe for Siu Yuk and I went and picked up all the other ingredients I needed. I was rewarded with a tantalizing dish that I can’t wait to make again!

Blocks spelling wellness

Nurturing Wellness

It is time for wellness check in. Today we are choosing to look inward and focus on ourselves, not the rest of the chaos of the world. This is not about a battle with ourselves, but rather reminding ourselves how strong and amazing our bodies are and that we can assist ourselves in doing a little better where needed. We are going to assess and work on the dimensions of wellness in our lives. We cannot entirely eliminate stress or illness from our lives; what we can do is support the different domains of wellness so that we can be better prepared for life’s challenges. This is called “coping ahead” before we hit the challenges.

The dimensions of wellness are:

Intellectual: Engaging in creative or stimulating mental activities, expanding knowledge and skills.

Example actions: Taking a class for fun/ to learn something new, watching videos online to learn something new, learning a new language, reading something different than you normally would.

Occupational: Personal job satisfaction and enrichment in your life.

Example actions: Finding ways to be fulfilled in your job or by volunteering to utilize your skills.

Financial: Comfort with your financial situation.

Example actions: Budgeting, making financial plans, obtaining a financial mentor.8 dimensions of wellness

Environmental: Being in pleasant and stimulating environments that support your well-being.

Example actions: Picking up trash, being in nature, recycling.

Physical: Meeting the body’s physical needs.

Example actions: Physical activity, eating well, sleeping well, avoiding or reducing the use of substances, getting medical checkups, wearing safety gear (masks, lifejackets, seatbelts, etc.)

Social: Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a strong support system.

Example actions: Intentionally seeking out others (have a meal, join a volunteer or special interest group), learn about other backgrounds and cultures.

Emotional: Coping effectively with life and managing emotionally healthy relationships.

Example actions: Utilizing stress management techniques, meditation, seeking out a therapist or other professional support, learning to be comfortable with hard emotions and how to safely express them.

Spiritual: Expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life.

Example actions: Volunteering, becoming a member of a group that holds similar beliefs, being in nature, connecting with yourself, doing good deeds for others.

Let’s look into strengthening these domains. Take a moment and review each of these domains and what you are currently doing in each domain. Think about whether or not you are feeling satisfied in each domain. If you identify an area that feels like it is not as strong or not as fulfilling, write that down. Then write down what you are already doing in that domain, or what you have done in the past that has worked for you. For example, maybe you feel that your financial wellness domain is struggling, and you are not currently using a budget, but in the past that worked really well for you. Do not reinvent the wheel, utilize what has worked for you! If you are ready to try something new, and enhance a wellness area, then stimulate multiple areas of wellness by doing a little research to find out how to boost your wellness. For example, if you want to enhance your environmental wellness, talk to friends and family about their favorite eco-friendly products, or their favorite outdoor spaces to be in, do research and grow your passion for caring for this domain. By reaching out and doing research you are boosting your social and intellectual wellness while learning how to boost another domain!

Continue to focus on what is going well for you, and build off of that. If you are looking for more information on how to enhance an area of wellness, or are interested in learning something new, reach out to our staff to find materials or resources that may help you on this journey.

Be well.

 

Total Lunar Eclipse photograph

Season of the Witch

It has been sixteen weeks since my daughter was last in school with her friends, her first grade teacher, her regular routine. The last time she sat down with her best friends in the cafeteria or made a piece of art surrounded by her peers. The last time I got to walk her the two blocks to school and pick her up at the end of the day. These sudden changes seemed so drastic, but they didn’t really seem permanent. There was still a chance that she would be getting back to school before the end of the year. She would be performing in the Grandparents’ Day Concert in the school gymnasium, sitting with her best friends at lunch, and we would be walking to school together every morning. That everyday routine was going to return. Until it didn’t.

Instead, we had to pivot. We learned how to navigate a new online learning system and navigate Google Classroom. We practiced songs for the Grandparents’ concert in the office accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation. We (well, she) learned about the transmutative and commutative properties of multiplication. Conversations with friends were conducted via FaceTime and Google Hangouts. She read books on a computer and had lunch at home everyday surrounded by her cats. She adjusted admirably, until she didn’t. Fortunately, she didn’t hit that wall of disgust with the “new normal” until the school year was almost over, but I don’t think she’ll ever look back on those final months of first grade and remember how much she enjoyed the preferred online learning platform they opted to use for reading and phonics and spelling and math.

Then came summer. She cannot return to swim lessons at the Y or meet her friends at a park for a playdate. The summer sessions she was registered for were cancelled. The school district has offered online learning opportunities for the summer, and that’s something. She continues to have virtual playdates with friends and with her cousins, but there won’t be any trips up north or to Minneapolis this summer. No trips to Chicago to see friends and catch a Cubs game. Once again, we’ve had to pivot.

So we’ve upgraded our pink plastic kiddie pool to a larger inflatable pool, one that she can float and almost swim in. We found a deal on a used bike so she can practice riding, something she has finally shown an interest in. We now have a makeshift disc golf course in the backyard and she’s getting better and better at her backhand grip. We’re continuing our annual tradition of raising Monarch butterflies and she helped to plant a garden with kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers.

We also have weekly visits from Viktor Krum, and Sirius Black and when we leave the house, we have to make sure that Harry and Ron have their bowties on straight and that Hermione’s hair is brushed. She has held trials for the cats, two of which have been sentenced to “Catskaban.” Buckbeak is living in the garage, and we practice spells on Lucius, Narcissa, and Bellatrix (but never the unforgivable curses). She receives books via Owl Post and takes online classes for Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Charms. We have been reading the books every night since lockdown and the world of HP has become for her, like so many others, an effective means of escape. Through these beloved characters, she is learning about loyalty, friendship, courage, and yes, even evil.

This is what fantasy does for us. It dilutes the real world enough that we can swallow it. Through the lens of fantasy, something that is too big to handle in the real world can be colored in ways that are easier to understand. Yes, she can grasp the importance of wearing a mask in public to protect herself and others from this virus, but it’s a bit more fun if we can also pretend that the mask will protect us from a Dementor’s kiss. It is now also easier to convince her that she should brush her hair just as often as Hermione.

Our kids don’t need to know everything that is going on. They need our presence and our protection. But with the right tools, we can help them start to understand and comprehend these things on their own in ways that are more real to them than lists of things to do or not do.  If our little “Season of the Witch” is keeping her happy, entertained, and imaginative through a pandemic, civil unrest, and an upcoming election, I’m just fine with that. And what will we do come fall when classes resume, either virtually or in-person? We will pivot again, wands at the ready.

Photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the words "I Have a Dream."

Peaceful Protests

In light of the recent local protests that turned worldwide, and sometimes violent, I thought that a quick history lesson on peaceful protests was a needed topic to discuss.

Since the United States is a democracy, the power lies with the people. We the people are given a voice in government, with the right to exercise that voice to help create change. And certainly, this grows exponentially when multiple voices are together in protests or marches. Anyone remember a protest with 12 people?

Our country has had several peaceful protests that have led to significant change, without any violence whatsoever.

1. Boston Tea Party, 1773. As many of you may remember from elementary school. To protest the high tax of tea on America by England, several colonists dropped 340 crates of tea into the sea. This small, but significant, protest helped to launch the American Revolution.

2. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963. 200,000 people listened to Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Later that same year Dr. King met with President Kennedy to discuss options and remedies. This primed the enactment of the Civil Rights Act the following year, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Photograph of Women's Suffrage March.

3. Woman’s Suffrage Parade, 1913. More than 8,000 marchers gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest a woman’s right to vote. It did take 7 more years before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920, but this protest in 1913 was the first suffrage parade of its kind.

4. March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, 1993. Over 800,000 people gathered here for LGBTQ rights. This march helped gain national momentum for same-sex couples, plus made great strides in the struggle to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.

5. Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Protest, 1911. In 1911, 146 workers were killed in a fire working in an unsafe factory. This tragedy led to a march of nearly 800,000 people on Fifth Avenue in New York, which helped pass new laws to ensure working place safety. This movement gave us laws that we still use today, such as a minimum wage and collective bargaining as a union.

These 5 events were turning points in our history, all non-violent, and all made significant changes to our laws. Yes! Please, exercise your rights to march, protest, and help to create change. But please find it in your heart to do so peacefully.

As always, the library has tons of stuff on American history, laws, protests, and forms of government. Need help? Ask us upstairs at Information & Reference, email librarian@eauclaire.lib.wi.us, or call 715-839-5004.

Nonprofit Resources

Nonprofits benefit their communities by responding to the needs of the at-risk and marginalized, by supporting community goals, and more. If you’ve ever thought about starting a non-profit, or if you’re running a non-profit and looking for additional assistance, the library can help.

The library website has three pages to support nonprofits: Resources for Nonprofits, Search Grants, and Grant Writing. If you’re thinking about starting a nonprofit, take a look at a step-by-step guide to starting a nonprofit and view Candid’s frequently asked questions. Looking for funding? You can search local and national grants. You’ll need to be in the library during your search; however, the Foundation Directory Online is available offsite as of this writing.

The online catalog can also help you refine your mission and successfully apply for grants. Searching for CVFRP will display physical and digital items related to starting and running nonprofits. Additionally, Candid has an e-card available to search their library specializing in nonprofits. Anyone can sign up for a Candid e-card; the video below shows how to do so using Libby:

Have more questions about nonprofits? Contact Information & Reference for more information. Call us at 715-839-5004, send an email to librarian@eauclaire.lib.wi.us, or chat with us online.

Adaptation, Inspiration, and Butterflies!

Let me start by saying if you have been scared, anxious, or worried the last three months you are not alone. All of our situations are unique and important to us as individuals. Some of us may have underlying health issues, some of us own a business we put our heart and soul into, some of us are missing our normal routines, some of us are furloughed and don’t know when we will be earning a paycheck again, some of us suffer from anxiety or depression, some of us do not have family nearby and some of us have relatives with underlying health issues, some of us may lose our place to live or are currently homeless. The list goes on but whatever you are worried about at this time it is completely justified and I hope that you are able to find something to enjoy and that makes your heart happy during this unusual time in our history.

I know the Friends, as well as the library, have been busy behind the scenes finding the best way to adjust to new requirements and circumstances to ensure the safety of everyone. Stacy, our Program and Development Coordinator, has been busy working on new and innovative ways to support the library. First, she created a Safer at Home Reading Challenge and all donations from this will go directly to the library to fund their 2020 programs. She has also been working closely with our online appraisal volunteers to list items for sale on the sites we sell on in lieu of physical book sales. She has taken on the task of delivering materials to be appraised to them at their homes, picking them up and also shipping out any sales.

I have been busy behind the scenes with normal day-to-day activities, well as normal as they can be anyway! I have been working with Andria Rice from Youth Services to finalize prizes for the upcoming summer youth program. We have had to make quite a few changes but are confident in our choices and excited about this year’s program. Work, such as ordering books for our Give a Kid a Book and Books for Babies programs, continues. People have definitely shown an interest in volunteering again as soon as possible so I am very excited about that and look forward to seeing familiar faces and welcome new ones as soon as it is safe to do so.

Now on to something that makes my heart happy. Proceed with caution, this writer has tendency to ramble on and on!

It’s been five years ago since my husband and I moved to the area. I was excited to start a new chapter in my life and at the same time nervous to start over in an unfamiliar place, away from all that was comfortable to me. It was not easy being away from my friends and extended family. To be honest I even missed such mundane things as my grocery store!

The house we moved into was very nice but it just didn’t feel like home to me. I was inspired to make it my own, put my own personal touch to it. Sure there were little changes I could make but there wasn’t room in the budget for any major remodel inside or out.

I kept wondering what I could do to add some beauty to our yard and make it unique. The answer finally came to me. One day I was outside and noticed my first Monarch butterfly. In fact, once I started paying attention, I noticed many Monarchs in the area as well as a few Yellow Swallowtails. Also in frequent attendance were dragonflies and many, many birds. I decided to learn all I could about these beauties of nature. That was simple because the library had many resources to offer on the subject of butterflies and butterfly gardening. I decided to put most of my focus towards butterflies as I never really saw any at our home in Illinois despite having planted a butterfly bush. I even visited the awesome Butterfly House at Beaver Creek Reserve. If you have never been, I highly recommend it. It may even inspire you to plant a garden for our lovely winged friends.

Here are a few resources that contained valuable knowledge on the subject and are available at the library once they reopen:

I also recommend Birds and Blooms magazine, be sure to check it out when the library reopens as well.

Being the over-exuberant person that I am I checked out way more materials than I could find time to read but I was determined to have a butterfly-friendly yard. It was slow going at first, just a few plants during the first few years. I didn’t worry about milkweed at the time, which is a must for any butterfly garden, because we had three empty lots next to us that were filled with milkweed plants and all kinds of wildflowers. Not only do the adult butterflies love the flowers milkweed plants produce, but they also lay their eggs on the plant and the caterpillars depend on the leaves for food. Maybe that was my error in Illinois, no milkweed. Thank goodness for the library and the Internet to help guide me to success in this endeavor.

Two years ago the developer suddenly started building new homes in the subdivision so I had to ramp up the garden plans. I immediately started growing milkweed from seeds and we also tried transplanting some from the lots as well. I wanted to make sure that I could provide a place for all the “displaced” butterflies when everything else was torn down for the new homes. It was just my luck that I have rabbits that like milkweed too, which is normally mildly toxic to animals. Who knew, people still don’t believe me when I tell them I have milkweed eating rabbits! Never fear, all of the local nurseries seem to be selling at least common milkweed and in some cases a few other varieties such as whorled milkweed. Some even have a section for native plants and sections dedicated to butterfly and hummingbird favorites. One employee also recommended parsley for swallowtail caterpillars which turned to be a great success. So, with a few quick purchases, some good old chicken wire to keep those rascally rabbits out and a husband that supports my plant buying addiction craziness and also helps to plant said flowers/vegetation, I was back in the butterfly garden business.

While I have seen many caterpillars enjoying the bounty I have provided, I have yet to see a chrysalis or a butterfly emerge from one in my garden but I remain ever hopeful. If not, there is always the Butterfly House at Beaver Creek.

While we still have two empty lots next to us we have heard through the neighborhood gossip line that construction on those two will probably start this year. I am happy to report that I have several areas now that have thriving milkweed and a host of butterfly-friendly plants. I am so thankful for the wonderful garden centers in this area. The variety is endless and visiting them has become somewhat of an addiction, even if I can only browse. Work continues every year to ensure the milkweed comes back and also replacing/adding any perennials that didn’t make it through the winter. It’s a constant work in progress and I love it, it is a great stress reliever for me. It is so much fun to watch the caterpillars and then the butterflies. The neighbors probably aren’t happy because I also decided it was best not to put down lawn treatments to kill the dandelions as they are beneficial to bees. I was and still am determined to make my yard a safe habitat for all creatures that visit, great and small. I’ve also moved on to feeding the birds that come to the yard, especially those adorable hummingbirds, but that’s a story for another time.

My hope is that you will be inspired by my post to get involved with something that interests you and will also benefit our environment or put a smile on someone’s face because that’s what it’s all about really. I also hope that if you are experiencing a lot of stress that my story made you feel less alone and put a smile on YOUR face. I’d also like to add while it is not always easy to accept, change is something that is a constant in life and we continually need to adapt to move forward and grow as an individual and community. We could learn a lot from the butterfly, they go through an incredible metamorphosis in their life and come out stronger and more beautiful than ever. There is always something new we can learn or experience. If there is a silver lining to this pandemic it hopefully will be this – we learn to find the joy in little things, appreciate others more, be less judgmental and more tolerant of each other and our differences, be open to new ideas and experiences and always show empathy, compassion, and kindness for others and our environment, as well as ourselves. Wishing you all health and happiness during this time!

Virtual Vacation

Summer is getting closer and COVID-19 projections and precautions have erased many of our typical summer plans. This is usually the time of year when spring fever eases, but this year it’s reaching new and unprecedented heights as the world buckles in for months and even years of recovery.

As someone who finds large crowds exhausting, I’m not usually a big event-goer. I won’t really miss things like music festivals and amusement parks (though I do enjoy some local events like concerts in the park). Instead, what I’m struggling with most is the inability to travel.

Most of my family lives in Minnesota about a 5-hour drive from Eau Claire, and it’s tough not knowing when I’ll be able to visit. I also just really enjoy going on vacations in the summer, whether it’s a relaxed day trip to a nearby destination, an epic road trip, or a long-distance journey requiring air travel.

At this time, the CDC, the U.S. Department of State, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services all advise against any nonessential travel outside of your local community.  This makes sense to me. I understand how travelers can inadvertently bring the disease with them to their destination or carry it back when they return home. I think avoiding travel is sensible advice. That doesn’t make staying home any easier.

To curb our collective wanderlust, many destinations around the world have made virtual tours accessible online (and quite a few were already available). From home, you can explore famous museums, zoos, landmarks, and national parks.

Here’s a list of a few of my personal favorites:

Have you discovered any amazing virtual tours? Share them with us in the comments. Until we can travel safely: stay home, fellow wanderers, and stay safe.

Hostas: How to Divide and Conquer

Hostas are the perfect plant to grow in any garden. Why are they so great? There are so many reasons:

  • Hostas are perennials (they come back every year)
  • Hostas are low maintenance
  • Hostas grow well in shade (in fact, they prefer it that way!)
  • Hostas are very sturdy
  • Hostas can be divided and planted in even more places (meaning you get more plants for free!)

My husband, Scott, is the landscaper in our family. He is in charge of splitting and replanting our hostas. He has been growing these plants for about 12 years. The thing he loves most about them is that you continue to get more and more each year, just by splitting them. Scott divides the hostas in early spring, just as they start poking out of the ground. You can get away with splitting them at any time but he suggests doing it before the leaves start to fold out. This way it is easier on the plant and it will look better when it does grow out. He decides to split a plant when it has outgrown its area.

Disclaimer: Please consult a greenhouse or garden store for expert advice. The advice found in this blog comes from a hobbyist. These are the steps that Scott follows when splitting a hosta plant:

 

Want to learn more about hostas? Check out these websites for more information:

https://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/how-to-divide-hostas/

https://www.americanhostasociety.org/Education/AboutHosta.htm

https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-plant-hostas-3963861

There are also books you can check out from the library. Discover the titles by visiting https://more.bibliocommons.com/v2/search?query=Hostas&searchType=smart