(NoteNew Suggestions are being added periodically at the end of this posting)

Long ago, when I began thinking about writing a blog, and gave it a name, my vision was to offer a gathering place where we could come together and share our thoughts, ideas, joys, sorrows – all our life’s experiences, virtually, without ever leaving our homes.

I’ve spent the past few months researching, writing, preparing posts and designing the site, figuring I may be ready to press that publish button by late spring/early summer.  I named my blog Minding Our Lives thinking that this is what we would be doing here – taking care to pay attention to how we live out each day, ensuring that we are mindful of what is important and sharing our findings with each other.

And then came Covid-19 and for all of us, all our plans disintegrated as we were forced to withdraw, to retreat into our individual and private spaces.  Our attention was re-directed, and life as we knew it, changed forever.

Needless to say, with all my planning and in my wildest imaginings, these are NOT the circumstances under which I wanted to launch my blog.  But I find so much irony in it.  First, the nature and timing of this endeavor.  An attempt to reach out to so many – virtually – at a time when this is the only way it could happen.    And then there is the blog’s title.  When I decided way back then to call my blog “Minding Our Lives”, I had no idea that we would find ourselves quarantined, isolated, forced to separate even from those we love most in this world.  As never before, we are presented with so much time to do just what I envisioned we would be doing – minding our lives.

As I, along with everyone else, attempted to find my footing in this “new normal”, everything that came before was put on hold.   I floundered as I tried to adjust to new routines – or should I say, no routines or schedules.   It has taken me awhile and I’m still not comfortable with the way my days unfold.  But what I have found is that I do need some order, some schedule, some sequence to my days.  So, my researching began anew.  I searched for suggestions as to how I could fill my days with worthwhile activities while remaining within the confines of this quarantine.  I’m excited to share here with you what I’ve found.

We have no idea how long this will last but it seems the end may be in sight.  I am fearful of returning to what we had before because there is so much we don’t yet know.  But, in the interim, let us join together to help each other through this challenge.  Here I’ll share a few ways I have found to mind my life at this time.  I hope you can find something that inspires and entertains you!

Virtual museum tours:  Many museum websites now feature virtual tours, offering the opportunity to visit their collections at our leisure.  The following links will get you started on this adventure, if this is your thing.  There are so many more available.

https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

https://www.tiqets.com/blog/virtual-museum-tours/

Virtual travel:  This first link offers access to beautiful global tours – both free and low cost.  https://www.oculus.com/experiences/go/section/168408707194936/?locale=en_US#/?_k=jo943u

Here are some others worth accessing…

https://www.thechinaguide.com/destination/great-wall-of-china

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/01/travel/the-new-seven-wonders-of-the-world.html

http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/cappella-sistina/tour-virtuale.html

https://www.royal.uk/virtual-tours-buckingham-palace

https://samsungvr.com/view/Wv_0tcndBOG

Books on Travel:  If you’re like me and you like your reading to transport you to other worlds, Tiquets.com, my favorite travel website, offers so many great virtual experiences and suggestions among which is this list of books that will transport us from our tiny quarantine bubbles to adventures all over the world.

  1. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes – Frances Mayes writes of Italy’s sights, sounds, people, and food the way you want to remember it (delicious recipes included). Be whisked away from Coronavirus into her anecdotes of small town life in Italy and its leisurely pace of life. You’ll be yearning to visit Tuscany when this is all over!
  2. Marching Powder by Rusty Young – Meet English drug smuggler, Thomas McFadden, who was arrested in Bolivia and thrown into prison in San Pedro. This insightful, sometimes shocking read lets you into life inside a South American prison, complete with cocaine production, unlikely friendships and prison hierarchy. Suddenly quarantine doesn’t seem so bad.
  3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Elizabeth Gilbert takes us along on her search for self-discovery across the world. You’ll be itching to follow in her footsteps to Italy, India, and Bali as you read how each place and culture taught her something new. Smart, touching and deeply personal, this book was made for inspiring your own journey towards a better “you”.
  4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – Get ready to stay up all night on the edge of your sofa. Krauker takes us with him through the adventurous life of Christopher Johnson McCandless, otherwise known as Alexander Supertramp, who burns his ID, gives everything he owns away, and sets off alone into the Alaskan wilderness. Gulp.
  5. The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman – Enter the world of goody-two-shoes Rachel Friedman who buys a spontaneous ticket to Ireland, where she met a free-spirited Australian girl, who then prompts her onwards to Australia and South America. This hilarious memoir is refreshingly honest and shows us all how we can choose to live in the moment.

Buzzfeed.com offers up many wonderful suggestions in this article – travel, concerts, gardens, and much more:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/annahaines/virtual-travel-experiences

Here are a few of my favorite Ted Talks:

This first one comes from Dr. Brene Brown, author, lecturer, professor.  If you haven’t read any of her books or listened to any of her podcasts, I think you may be missing something.    Here’s my favorite.  https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability

Isabel Allende is one of my most favorite authors so I couldn’t resist this opportunity to hear her speak.  And I wasn’t disappointed. https://www.ted.com/talks/isabel_allende_how_to_live_passionately_no_matter_your_age

I’m always interested in women who use their voices to highlight the singular attributes of our gender, not for me but for my beautiful and brilliant granddaughters, that they may know their unique gifts and the value they bring to the world.  Here is a talk given by Jude Kelly who founded Women of the World, celebrating these singular talents.  .https://www.ted.com/talks/jude_kelly_why_women_should_tell_the_stories_of_humanity

Pat Mitchell, the first women to lead Turner Communications, challenges us to become more “dangerous”.  https://www.ted.com/talks/pat_mitchell_dangerous_times_call_for_dangerous_women

Next is this very short talk that always inspires immense gratitude.  I’ve watched it over and over as a reminder of what is truly important.  https://www.ted.com/talks/stacey_kramer_the_best_gift_i_ever_survived/transcript

And finally, another of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, was recently interviewed by Chris Anderson of TED.  Here she brings us some interesting perspectives on navigating through these days of isolation.  The interview is long – about an hour – but I don’t think you’ll regret the time spent.

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_it_s_ok_to_feel_overwhelmed_here_s_what_to_do_next

What are your favorite podcasts or TedTalks?

Streaming/Netflix

Like almost everyone I know, I’ve spent a lot of time as a couch potato during this last month, spending a lot of time on Netflix and Prime video.  Like most, I’ve watched many of the most popular series and movies but here are a just a few of the more obscure Netflix finds that I’ve enjoyed:

Occupied.  I never would have found this one on my own so I’ll credit my sister, Susan, with this one.  The series, created in Norway, centers on the fictional Russian invasion of that country in order to take over its oil resources.  The characters, the acting, the exploration of the cultures of the two countries and beautiful settings – all make for a totally enjoyable, engaging and informative series.  It is subtitled.

Offspring.  From Australia, this is beautiful series which brings us into the lives of an extended, diverse family.  The main character is a female obstetrician who will immediately endear herself to you as she, through humor and compassion, attempts to make sense out of her life and that of all personalities in her wonderful family.  I loved watching this so much that hated to see the series come to an end.  I’m hoping there’s more to come.

Shtisel.  I really got into this one but I have to admit, it took me awhile.  It’s an Israeli series about a fictional Jewish family living in Jerusalem.  I learned so much about the Jewish traditions and culture as I fell in sync with each of the complex characters in the Shtisel family.  See what you think.

Kara Para Ask.  I’ll end here with hesitation because my final endorsement – again, crediting my sister  for introducing me to Turkish series on Netflix – is one that certainly will not appeal to everyone.  While only one (subtitled) season, that single season contains 164 episodes!!  I realize, the sheer number is overwhelming but, I was so hooked and, when it ended, I wanted more.

YouTube:

Hopefully all of you have been keeping pace with John Krasinsky’s wonderfully enjoyable segments of Some Good News.  If not, tune in to the first episode.  I promise you will smile.

And finally,  I offer a beautiful little video that teaches so well how we can best comfort each other in these and other challenging times.

Thoughts?  Ideas?  I am looking forward to hearing from you!

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Added 5/4/2020

Music:  I will admit to loving almost every version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah but this may be my favorite.  Not only are we graced with the soothing voices of the Canadian tenors but we hear a very young Ethan Bortnick on the piano.  Now in his 20s, his is an amazing talent.  Check out his Youtube videos next time you’re on that site.

Added 5/8/2020

Museums:  “I have really enjoyed the Barnes Museum “ Barnes Take Out”.  The educators and curators do quick 10 min talks on paintings in their collection.

Thanks to MOL reader, Nancy W. for this gem!!
Added 5/12/2020
Music:  I love live theatre and growing up in Brooklyn, I was fortunate to have Broadway in my backyard.  Ticket prices were so much cheaper then, so the theatre was often a date night even for “penniless” teenagers like Bob and me.  Here’s a quick beautiful virtual glimpse at one of my favorite songs from Les Miserables.  Thanks to Diana for forwarding this for us to enjoy!
Added 5/20/2020

Museums:  Take a virtual tour through the collections at Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Travel:  I loved this article on planning exciting post-pandemic excursions, though I despise all the pop-ups on the site.  Sorry!

The Big Screen:  We who have community theaters in our neighborhoods are so very fortunate.  Bob and I have been members of our local Ambler (PA) Theatre for many years and consider it a mainstay of our lives.  In “normal” times, we are usually there every Friday evening enjoying the wonderful first-run and Indie films they always offer.  But even now, they are exceeding all expectations.  Check out your local non-profit theatre for entertaining viewing, even in these times.