New Rules 2

Coronavirus-COVID-19 | Chef Gretchen Hanson


Self Care 2017

We live in interesting times. Unsettling, chaotic and scary events are occurring daily around us and they are completely outside of our personal control. The only option we have is to focus on what we can do to make our internal world more safe, calm and peaceful. I have made up a few new rules to help my family through this crisis.

Whenever something happens which rocks my world I make a list. Grandmother taught me to do this when making decisions and I have adapted the practice to include times when I am confused, lost or lack focus.

Here is my to-do list establishing new rules for me and my family based on what is happening now. I strongly encourage you to make your own.

Instill normalcy

There is nothing normal about what is happening right now and everything outside our walls is completely out of our control. The everyday behaviors that we can cling to and make solid help us cope. One way we are doing this is by having mealtimes at normal times at the dining room table with all of us together. Another simple act is maintaining normal waking and sleeping schedules, just as if it were a regular day. Sleeping till noon, and watching Netflix all day are fun on occasion, but a steady diet of that for the next eight weeks is really the last thing any of us need to function. I gave Hadyn a schedule for her days which includes her chores and her practice times. I have made a to-do for myself everyday for years and even though this past weeks lists have been a little weird there is still great satisfaction in crossing off items.

Get dressed

Sure, lounging in PJ’s is fun on the weekends, but getting dressed is ‘normal’ and says “I am ready for my day” and whatever that day may hold. A friend of mine was having a “dress up party” the other day and I thought what a fabulous idea, none of us are going out for a night on the town anytime soon so why not do it at home? No matter what you decide to wear every day, make sure there is a waistband present that tells you whether you have been visiting the refrigerator too often. New rule corollary: don’t only put on your fat pants!

Learn something

” I am still learning.” Michelangelo

Always wanted to learn a second language? Hadyn is learning French and the piano and Holly is learning American Sign Language. Keep your brain functioning and occupied with something other than the outside world. Surprisingly we have only watched two movies this week because they have both been so occupied mastering their new skills. I know a lot of parents are worried about keeping their kids current with school work, nothing is online for my two yet so I am letting them pick their own curriculum. Holly wanted to learn to make tamales and papusas. Hadyn wanted to learn a language and mac and cheese, these are things I can teach. We all have something we can teach our kids, teach them THAT and don’t worry right now about calculus if that’s not your strength. As far as your own brain goes, pick something, anything, and dive right into it. Many libraries have put their whole catalogs online. Now is the time to learn that thing you always said you were going to learn about? Now is the time  ….

Travel Virtually

Zoos, cities, muLibraryseums, national parks…so many sites online have virtual streaming services or tours you can take. If you can’t go there, and you can’t right now, do the next best thing and travel online. I was supposed to be in Spain, Morocco and Portugal next month, instead I will visit all the great museums by way of my computer. Maybe I will miss the sangria and tapas but at least I will get to see the art.

ponte vecchio | how Florence broke my heart | Chef Gretchen Hanson

Stay grateful and optimistic whenever possible

The kids are home, the family is together, we are safe and sheltered in place. For right now that is all I can ask for. Try and be actively thankful for the things you have and not focus on what you don’t. This will be over and the world will resume its course. You will be able to vote in November and our economy will eventually recover just as it did after 2001 and 2008. Hopefully our leaders will have learned something from history this time. Maybe that last sentiment is OVERLY optimistic.

Practice your faith

Now is a really good time to talk to God. If you don’t believe, then try to find a quiet place and meditate. Let go of trying to control the outside world in your thoughts. You can’t dictate the outcome of this thing. It will unfold exactly as it does. Make peace with that and turn it over to a higher power or let it dissolve into the universe. I know that’s a little touchy-feely granola-crunchy, but it works…  If you have not meditated before, here are a couple of resources   and my favorite guy for guided meditations 

Limit your news intake

The news is sensationalist and freaked out AF right now. I don’t care what channel you are watching. Pick your times to get updates (mine are Morning Edition and Cuomo press conferences) and then just TURN IT OFF. Put on classical, jazz, R&B, or ‘Wait, wait don’t tell me,’ whatever or whomever soothes your soul. New rule corollary don’t spread fake news or false information. I don’t care if your Great Aunt TIlda said drinking water every fifteen minutes will kill off the coronavirus! Stop spreading that nonsense!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This is completely overwhelming. Many are quarantined alone and many of us are stuck inside with relationships which may not function effectively under high stress. You may be completely freaked out AF. It’s ok. I get it. So do the people manning the suicide hotline. If you need immediate help reach out to or 800-273-TALK  One of my friends started a “family check in” private page on FB. Do the same with your chosen family if you can. If you suffer from chronic depression this is not the time to isolate. Video chat, Facetime, Skype … stay connected to those who can help you get through it.

Establish a protocol

If a member of your house hold is still working outside the home in essential services or you need to leave home for supplies, establish a safety routine upon returning. Immediately remove all clothes and shoes, take a hot, hot shower, use hand sanitizer, brush teeth, and wipe down all surfaces you touched (doorknobs, shower knobs, keys, credit cards etc.) before interacting with the rest of the family. Outside the home keep up social distancing guidelines and sterilize any surfaces you must touch. Wear gloves if possible. New Rules corollary, you don’t have to let people in your house even if they show up at your door! Boxes can be left outside (and should be) and neighbors can shout across walkways.

Accept failure

Lower your expectations about how you are planning to be a combination of Mary Poppins, Martha Stewart and Ms. Frizzle right now. Getting through the day safely and keeping the kids fed is accomplishment enough for today, if that is all you can get done, then so be it. Be grateful for that. New rule corollary: if your kids and pets survived today you did a pretty damn good job.

Use the telephone instead of text or social media

Call someone and talk, really talk, the way we used to before Facebook. True attentive interaction means more than flipping through a screen or making a single well-crafted comment via text. Make a list of people you care about and put it on your fridge, make sure you maintain personal contact with them through the next eight weeks. I have put my people on speed dial and I cycle through the list. Today Mike, Shelley and Roberta, tomorrow MaryAn, Frank, and Kristen…

Take care of one another

We are all in this together. This is not the zombie apocalypse where someone needs to be left behind to feed the undead so everyone else can escape. If you have elderly neighbors, housebound relatives, friends with medical conditions, see what you can do to help them and ease their burden. If you are going to the store, try and share lists so only one person has to go. Planting vegetable seeds? Plant enough for your neighbor’s garden too. Have extra supplies? Check on someone who has been laid off and see if they have everything they need. Just be kind to one another right now. Our cul-de-sac checks on each other by standing around the circle and shouting loudly. Italians may have balconies, but we have a patch of weedy grass.


If possible and safe, go for a run or walk outside, but if you can’t be outside safely then being stuck indoors doesn’t mean you have to be completely sedentary. There are a gazillion new articles about staying fit while sheltering in place. There are also exercise videos on YouTube. I love The Sculpted Vegan  

New rule corollary: don’t come out of the quarantine looking like the Stay Puft marshmallow man!

fudgie and the staypuft marshmallow man | Chef Gretchen Hanson

Clean something

Over the last week whenever I started to feel out of control or helpless I would start on a drawer and make that drawer my bitch. I can happily state that every single drawer in my house has been cleaned. I’m starting on the garage next. It helps.

Go for a walk

Go outside even just for brief periods. Most of us are not used to being housebound all the time and if you have a space that is safe and you can keep separate from people a little bit of sunshine (or rain) will make the world brighter.

Have a spa day

I found all sorts of nail polishes and makeup and face masks when cleaning the bathroom cabinet. Relax no one is going to see your pink hair!

Celebrate a holiday

When Roberta and I went to Washington College this year for Valentines week the party got cancelled due to a gas leak in the cafeteria. I brought home most of the candy and decorations … Valentine’s Day in March? Hell yes! We can hand make Valentines or leave little love notes around the house. (insert pic here ) Easter is also right around the corner. Even if eggs are at a premium the bunny can leave little presents wrapped up from all the junk I found cleaning out the drawers. Celebrate National National Virtual Vacation Day on March 30th by going somewhere you never been or National Prom Day on March 31st with a dress up party.

Paint, draw, create

“The art of living involves the act of creation.” Henry Miller

Do whatever gives your soul life. Holly painted pictures for her incoming sorority little sister. I did a dream board.

Eat the brown banana first

Hope for the best but plan for the worst. I hope this will be over in two weeks. I plan for it to be over in eight. So go ahead and get batteries for the flashlights, but don’t hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer until you have enough to last through 2021. It stresses you out and it stresses the supply chain out. There will be enough for everyone if we act sensibly right now.

Don’t freak out about toilet paper

Many countries still exist, and do just fine, without modern plumbing. In Mexico there is a covered, lined can in the bathroom where you put your ‘paper’ when you are done with it. Napkins, paper towels, baby wipes etc. all can be used instead of Charmin. Chill the F out about the toilet tissue issue people. We are showing our ass here being freaked out by (if I may be so bold) a first world problem.

Wash your hands, you filthy animals

If you are sick of the birthday song, try Randy Rainbow’s new “Social Distancing.” BRILLIANT

Be safe, be well, be healthy and be kind.


4 Responses

  1. “This is not the zombie apocalypse where someone needs to be left behind to feed the undead so everyone else can escape.”

    That made me laugh. Thanks.

  2. Lol, we are on the same page. Thought you had to be my age to gain so much perspective. You go, girl. Yes rue doing a great job. Stay healthy

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