OTF (Un) Official Survival Guide: Education and Relaxation

We are here to help you “shelter in place” with success.

The staff at OTF understands we are all living through a unique and often trying period. Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and the new stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic cause major disruptions to the normal routines of life. Each of us at OTF has found unique ways to cope with the “new normal”, and we have compiled our experiences to create a completely Unofficial Survival Guide.

Exploring New Horizons

“A man’s mind, stretched by new ideas, may never return to its original dimensions.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes

With the removal of several popular pastimes, suddenly people may have more time on their hands. Allegedly, we are supposed to be using this time to learn something new or hone a previously undeveloped skill. A few of us at OTF are using this interruption to expand our minds and skillsets.

Ann K.:

I am making time to work on two specific skills. First, I am brushing up on my Latvian. We speak a (very) little bit of Latvian in our house, but I used to know much more.  I could use a serious refresher. It is not the same to say “You are my house” versus “You are my daughter”, and I want to make sure I get these right.

My second goal is to improve my knife throwing skills. Several years ago I briefly met Jack Dagger, a world champion knife thrower, and I fell in love with the pastime. Unfortunately, my throwing knives have been tucked away in a closet and not used for years, but once my new target arrives, I am hoping I can find just a little muscle memory and a bullseye or two.

Kate R.:

...well, Ann is sure making me look boring by comparison.

I’m a big fan of Duolingo (which is free!), but that’s not really pandemic-specific—my current streak of consecutive days with at least one lesson or review done is just over three years long (*knocks wood*) and I intend to keep it up while I, uh, can’t really travel anywhere where English isn’t spoken, since although my household knows at least a tiny bit of seven languages, English is the only one we all know.

Other than that, I’ve finally sorted out sourdough starter, at some point I will master anything other than the most basic knit stitch to do with all my yarn, and I’ve been working on writing a novel.

Laura C.:

For me—other than reconnecting with reading—I have picked up my long neglected crocheting project. Years ago I started a mission to give my parents, siblings and children each a handmade afghan. For some reason, I have stalled only about a third of the way through this final one for about a year. I guess I don’t want the mission to end. However, since my husband and I are spending our evenings working through “Big Bang Theory”, “Pysch”, and the PBS series “Country Music”, among other shows/movies, I have picked the project back up and WILL finish it for a Christmas gift this year.


This family is earning a GTD degree. GTD, of course, stands for Getting Things Done. My wife and I are both teachers and have two children that are involved in multiple sports each.  We have a lot of projects, major and minor, that we’ve neglected over the past few years.

Since we’ve been sheltered in place, we’ve cleaned out and changed the shape of the flower beds around our house, refinished the cabinets in the laundry room (and repainted the room, as well), finally gotten a solid hold on our office (my studio from Predators Gameplan), and taken multiple vanloads to the donation center and multiple truckloads to the dump. I know it sounds busy, but getting these things done is actually much more relaxing than leaving them for another time.


My household has been balancing projects with lounging. It’s all about balance, right? We’ve cleaned, reorganized, and refiled the home office, we’ve ordered new shelves for downstairs closet organization, and I’ve moved all of our movies to the space I created by cleaning the entertainment shelf and repurposed their former shelf into something more decorative. Depending on how much longer this pandemic lasts, I’m also close to convincing myself a language service subscription is worth it.


Read a book. Any book.

Just Relax

“For every moment of concentration there is an equal moment of relaxation.” —Derren Brown

While Americans may be less busy during this pandemic, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve all suddenly become more relaxed. Learning to slow down and relax is a skill—an especially useful one in these uncertain and stressful times. Here at OTF, we are learning to find our zen.

Ann K.:

I’m a fan of meditation apps—Calm and Headspace are both ones I use. It is easier for me to still my body than to still my mind. Meditation is a challenge, so I tend to do five and ten minute meditations.

Reading is one of my favorite relaxing activities. Historical fiction is my genre of choice, and I recently finished yet another series by John Jakes (his most famous trilogy is probably North and South, which I highly recommend). I try to read for 30 minutes a day if I can. It isn’t always easy to find time and give myself permission to sit down and read, but when I do I end up feeling more relaxed afterwards.


I’ve been up at 5 am every day (earlier in the summers due to my summer job) for around 10 years now. It is remarkable how incredible it feels to sleep in a few extra minutes each day. Far better than any other form of relaxation I can imagine.


I’ve allowed myself not to feel guilty for not setting an alarm every day and getting some extra rest. My household (which consists of myself, my boyfriend, and our dog) has also taken time to catch up on the numerous shows people have been encouraging us to watch for years but always declined to do so because we were ‘too busy.’ I have a nice patio set up out back which I’ve been using to get some vitamin D and breathe in fresh air. I’ve also reminded myself it’s O.K. to stay in lounge clothes and just take time to sit on the couch and enjoy the comfort of my own home, which can be difficult for me sometimes.


Go for a drive. The Natchez Trace is a beautiful local option.

Kate R.:

A lot of the domestic things I’ve been doing—baking, knitting—have meditative aspects to them. I would garden, but I’ve been strictly banned from coming near any plant that we don’t want to kill horribly. Not setting an alarm in the mornings has been blissful, too. I still wake up relatively early, but at least the sun’s up.