Do you know what I DON’T need today?

To read any more bad news.

Do you know what I DO need today?

To think about all the good things in life, dwell on some positivity, and encourage others to look on the bright side.

The past year has been rough. No doubt about it. But over the course of these 13 months, I’ve managed to find a few sources of ongoing joy. Today, I’d like to share them with you!

So let’s talk about a few of my tried and true pandemic pleasures. These are listed in no particular order, and to be honest, some of them pre-date Covid: I’ve been enjoying them for years! But given the current circumstances, I’ve just found even more comfort in these things than usual.

* * * * *

#1- Bath and Bodyworks “Winter Candy Apple” Hand Soap

When my friend Krystal bought me my first bottle of Winter Candy Apple hand soap years ago, I had no idea that it would change my life. It smells SO GOOD. It really does. The bottle designs are usually quite pretty (they change the label every year), and I always look forward to the Christmas season when I can break out my stash of this specialty soap and have a little treat.

Because it IS a much more expensive “special” soap, I have always tried to conserve it, setting a bottle out in my bathroom for the holiday months only, and then whisking the remainder away into my well-stocked closet “store” until next Christmas. But last March… I just wanted to be able to wash my hands with Winter Candy Apple every day. And God bless Krystal, she had just given me two new bottles of it for Christmas! So since last March, I have enjoyed the warm, sweet scent of my favourite soap in my upstairs bathroom. I am currently about halfway through bottle #2, and most mornings and nights, I make sure to take a little squirt. Honestly, the smell brings me so much joy every single time.

* * * * *

#2- NESCAFÉ Sweet & Creamy Ice Java

I am not a coffee drinker. Pretty sure that I was born an irascible 87-year-old woman, so tea has always been my hot drink of choice.

Coffee is fine, and I will drink it — as long as it’s comprised of 50% milk and 25% sugar. Maybe 30% sugar. Yeah, I mean, if it’s not sweet and creamy, I don’t want it!

What I DO love, love, LOVE is Tim Horton’s Iced Cappuccinos. There is no better drink on the planet; I will hear no arguments to the contrary.

So when I was visiting Krystal back in January 2020 and she said, “You have GOT to try this coffee syrup — it’s JUST like an Iced Capp!”, little did I know that once again, my life was about to change.

And now I have consumed SO much iced coffee in this past year, I’m almost ashamed of myself. Amazon tells me that I’ve reordered it from them 3 times already, and each time, they require that you order a minimum of two bottles. Annnnnd since it’s an add-on item, cheaper than buying it in the stores (stores who also don’t like to keep it in stock, grrr), I typically buy three bottles (or four) at a time.

This is just from Amazon, by the way. I’ve bought quite a few bottles IN store since January 2020 too.

But it’s SUCH a wonderful guilty pleasure! I’m not a snacker, and I don’t tend to eat very much anyway, so if a chunk of my daily calorie intake is coming from a giant 20 oz Bubba* travel mug filled with sweet, creamy, delicious, not-quite-the-same-as-an-iced-capp-but-honestly-close-enough iced coffee OR a coffee milkshake?? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

*Quick side note, a bonus item that brings me untold joy is my aforementioned 20 oz Bubba travel mug. They’re so difficult to find now, but Bubba makes THE best travel mugs I have ever used. Legitimately keeps my iced coffee cold ALL day, or my tea hot in a cold car for more than 7 hours. I’ve been using them for a few years (once again, something Krystal introduced me to, lol!) and they’re amazing, 10/10 would recommend!

* * * * *

#3- Video Calls with My Best Friend

Yes, we have near-matching mugs, and yes, those are matching sweaters, lol.

When the Spanish Flu pandemic spread across the world in 1918, there were no cell phones, internet, computers, or tablets. Most homes didn’t even have electricity yet.

In 2020/21 as Covid continues to blaze a trail of destruction across the globe, we DO have all of these things (and more!), and yet people still refuse to be appreciative of the connection, comfort and freedom which they bring.

Krystal has been my best friend since we were 7 years old. We’ll be 35 in 2021. We finished high school and I stayed in the town where we grew up, while she went off to university. She got married and eventually moved 11 hours away from me. We have both always made an effort to stay in touch no matter what, but life can get in the way.

In our adult lives, we have learned to get along with phone calls and letters, and the occasional visit. We actually went an entire 12-month period without seeing each other in person a number of years ago, and it was absolutely awful. So in 2017 when she told me she was moving and would now only be 3 hours away, it was honestly one of the best days of my life.

Us at the Rod Stewart concert in Ottawa, March 30, 2018

And in those few years leading up to Covid, having her so close meant that we could visit in person more often, spending weekends together — something that we were really enjoying, right up until the point where the world shut down.

But you know something?

We have seen more of each other in the past 13 months than we did in the previous five YEARS combined. Part of coping with the pandemic situation was finding things to look forward to. We quickly realized that we had the most amazing technology right at our fingertips, and that the people who were refusing to follow public health measures because they could no longer see their friends/family were selfish, foolish, and downright stupid.

I mean, we are clearly enjoying ourselves, lol.

With just a few exceptions, Krystal and I have had a weekly video call since the pandemic began. And I’m almost speechless that something so wonderful has come out of a really terrible situation. The technology is there, guys — USE IT. Our calls are never less than 2 hours long, and they’re in addition to the continuous text messaging we do throughout the week now; as well as the snail-mail cards and letters we also send regularly. We have never spent so much quality time together, EVER. And I look forward to seeing my friend virtually every single week.

* * * * *

#4- Self Care: Look Good, Feel Good

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The idea that “if you look good, you feel good” is not vanity. It’s simply human nature. There is nothing wrong with taking some pride in your appearance, and wanting to look presentable — even if it’s just for yourself.

I’ve worked from home for many, many years, and even when I first started, I never had the desire to look like a slob or wear pajamas around the house. When I’m not painting, I do a lot of hard, dirty, sweaty jobs, both inside and outside, and I have always taken great pride in looking like I don’t do any of those jobs.

My hands take the brunt of the punishment, so I in turn try to baby the crap out of them on a regular basis: Oil, lotion, the works. I like having my nails a bit on the long side, filed into a soft and feminine almond shape, neatly painted in pinks and nudes with a touch of glitter — this simple act makes me feel so put together and brings me great joy.

A fun pedicure is also a must-have!

I also wear jewellery around the house — just because. I love a good sparkly brooch, and lately, I’ve also discovered that wearing earrings makes me feel good too. So why not? Yeah, only my dad and a half a dozen squirrels are going to see me outside raking the lawn in my colour-coordinated outfit with perfectly manicured glittery nails and fancy jewellery… so what? I’M also going to see myself every time I walk past a mirror, so why shouldn’t I look nice, and then in turn, feel good??

Another aspect of my appearance that I take great pride in is my hair. And I’ve been cutting my own hair for years now. For a little while, I was splurging and getting my hair done at the hairdresser once a year. But at $20, $25, $30 a visit? And that was considered CHEAP? Meanwhile, the cut itself was only going to look the way I wanted it to for a month tops? Yeah, no. There’s too much cool Scooby stuff that this money could be going towards! So… I taught myself to do it! Long and layered — sure, I’ve been wearing my hair in some variation of this style since I finished high school, but I’m not a “trend” chaser — either the style looks good on me or it doesn’t. And if it does, and I love it… then why shouldn’t I still have the same haircut when I’m 90??

“I feel like crap…”                                “…maybe because you LOOK like crap.”

A huge game changer was when I also discovered the perfect way to style my hair — I dry it with the straightener! I get the perfect result every time, makes it ultra soft, and I can do it within 25 minutes after getting out of the shower. Now, does the drying/styling itself take a bit of time and effort? Of course it does. But the thing is, I also pride myself on good time management and efficiency—two more things that bring me joy!—so I’ve simply made it a part of my routine.

I set aside 25-30 minutes to sit quietly and dry/style it while I watch a YouTube video, or an episode of Scooby Doo. Or I start listening to a new episode of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions. Something that makes me happy. And at the end of the half hour, I’ve watched something that brought me joy, and my hair looks great too. Sorry, but even on a rotten day, if I think I look good, I can’t help but feel better too!

I hear SO many people complaining about how they don’t feel good and aren’t motivated to do anything when they’re at home so much now, and I think, “Well, no wonder, it’s noon but you still look like you just rolled out of bed 5 minutes ago!”

I woke up like this, tee hee… ;P

Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean that you can’t do things that make you look and feel amazing. You should be dressing and primping for one person and one person alone anyway: YOURSELF.

* * * * *

#5- Classic TV: Mysteries and Adventure

All right, here’s another one that is a tried and true winner: Mystery and adventure series on TV.

Whether it’s the Scooby gang, Nancy Drew, Ms. Marple, Inspector Gadget, or Jessica Fletcher, mystery solving is never boring. I love a good whodunnit, and I’m always on the search for classic television series (the more obscure, the better) to scratch my sleuthing itch.

And the only thing I love as much as a mystery… is adventure.

Entertainment is supposed to be an escape from reality. It’s the place you go to get away from the negativity and hardship of the real world. Today, everyone has lost sight of that. Television shows today are all about dragging you into the deepest, darkest, most filthy depths of what the real world has to offer, and I’m sorry, but that’s not entertaining. If I wanted to be slapped in the face with the filth of the world, I’d just go out and mingle in it. No, when I sit down to watch television, I want to be entertained — make me forget my problems, and give me a hopeful glimpse at what life could be if we weren’t such obstinate and selfish creatures.

My favourite series of all time is “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”, and last year, I finished a complete re-watch of the entire six-season show. When it was over, I went in search of something similar to fill the void, and found two other adventure/mystery series that helped the pandemic feel less draggy.

The first was my now beloved “Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries”, which I’ve already sung the praises of. The second was a sadly short-lived series from 1996: “The Adventures of Sinbad”.

Starring Zen Gesner as our swashbuckling high seas adventurer, this incarnation of Sinbad is probably my favourite. And I have seen a lot of Sinbad films/series in my time!

It’s not the best acted series out there, and the special effects are exactly what you’d expect from the ’90s. But Gesner is just SO good as Sinbad, and the scenery makes up for a lot. The series was mostly filmed on location in South Africa, and it’s breathtaking, truly. It’s just impossible to not have fun while you’re watching this. A dedicated post is coming, but for now, suffice it to say that when the real world looked very unappealing, I couldn’t wait to dive back into the fantasy adventures of Sinbad and his crew, wishing I could hop aboard the Nomad myself.

Bonus: If you like the mystery/adventure genre, but want a few more modern options, I highly recommend “Harrow” and my newest discovery, “The Chronicle Mysteries“!

* * * * *

#6- Shaun Cassidy

The final item on my list of pandemic pleasures is two-fold. Obviously Shaun Cassidy was the lead in the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries that was mentioned in my #5 slot. But now we’re going beyond his face… to his magnificent voice.

Until I discovered Shaun Cassidy’s music last fall, I hadn’t enjoyed just sitting and listening to music in YEARS. But that all changed the first time I heard him sing “Teen Dream” on my first-watched episode of the Hardy Boys. In fact, I dare say that my adult crush on him happened instantaneously — when I first heard him sing. 

Don’t judge me.

And after hours and hours, months and months of joy listening to Cassidy at home, I finally realized that I didn’t have to limit my enjoyment. One of the things that brings me the least amount of joy in pandemic times is my monthly grocery shopping trips, which I have been making alone for over a year now. But what if I didn’t have to be alone? My dad can’t come with me right now, but… I have the technology to bring Shaun Cassidy along with me, don’t I???

Now a Shaun Cassidy CD (with all my favourite songs, of course) resides permanently in the car, and every time I get in and it automatically starts playing, my heart skips a little beat, and suddenly I find that I DO have something I can enjoy in the midst of a disaster. It’s such a small thing, but it made a huge difference to me. Can you karaoke with TWO masks on? Yes, yes, you can. (So YOU can also wear your mask in the store while being silent for 20 minutes!!!)

* * * * *

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

~ Matthew 6:25-33

Life is filled with hardships. No matter how much we wish to the contrary, things will never be perfect. There will always be troubles, trials and tribulations. BUT that doesn’t mean that there’s NOTHING good. There’s ALWAYS something good if you take the time to look for it. And if you can’t find something good, then make something good.

Remember, you get what you put in. If you put effort into doing something, you’ll get a good result. If you put in no effort, you won’t get anything back. Focus on what you can do today, and how you can make today better — both for other people AND for yourself.

Find things that make you happy, bring you joy, and reduce anxiety. Interrupt anxiety with gratitude. Whether it’s listening to your favourite song in the car, enjoying your favourite beverage, or styling your hair to perfection when no one else is going to see it, TRY IT. The little things in life matter. And they DO make a difference.

Just one day at a time, but find ways to make the best of it. And always, ALWAYS look forward to better days ahead. ♥