How Friends and Family Around the World Are Staying Safer at Home

Our columnist, Qin Stubis, is geared up to keep her home safe from the Covid-19 virus.

We asked readers how they were coping with staying at home for an extended period of time. Their responses are noted below.

By Qin Stubis Describe your living situation?

My husband, Mark, and I live in an overpriced, overtaxed house in Bethesda, Maryland. Do you have pets? Children? We have two grown children: Keaton, a doctoral student in mathematics at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and Halley, a senior at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts in Boston. Our puppy, Banjo, whom we adopted more than seven years ago, is our forever child at home, and has no interest in math or oil painting. How are you coping with the lockdown/social distancing?

The kids came back for spring break and soon it became apparent that, because of the pandemic, they would not be heading back to school anymore but would finish the rest of the semester at home. Mark started to work from home as well. Suddenly, our house has become a 24/7 hive of activity. Our living room, dining room and family room have turned into offices, classrooms, and backdrops for Skype and Zoom broadcasts. Once we designated a separate working area for each member of the family, we have been doing well together and dramatically reduced our homicidal urges. What's changed the most for you since the crisis began? We haven't had our entire family living under the same roof for so long, and never without being able to go anywhere. Our kitchen is now our coffee shop, dining hall, restaurant and game room. We go out to our yard to get a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery. Before, when we took Banjo out for his daily walk, we used to meet friends and neighbors, and stop and chat for a while before we moved on. Now, hiding behind our masks, we wave from a distance at those we know and keep on walking. Which, with some neighbors, is a blessing. What's stayed the same? What's stayed the same and kept us going is our love for each other. We're determined to keep all of us safe. How have your food habits changed?

Grocery delivery, takeout, cooking? As the supplies in our fridge have dwindled, we're discovering foods that haven't seen the light of day since the Renaissance. A cake that may have been baked for Marie Antoinette actually said on the box: "Best used before 1789." I used to shop at least once or twice a week. Sometimes I would shop simply because I had an urge to try a new recipe. Now, I have groceries delivered once or twice a month by masked workers who drop them on my front steps, where, like radioactive waste, they wait to be wiped down and safely decontaminated. I have not been physically in a market for weeks. We used to explore Japanese, American, Korean, Thai and Portuguese restaurants about once a week in Bethesda, Washington D.C. or Baltimore. Now, we have to make any culinary trips around the world in our own kitchen, using whatever home cooking. Have you turned to new hobbies or activities? I've been kept surprisingly busy these days as the primary volunteer helper for my hard-working family. With limited quantities and varieties of food available in our home pantry, it is often a challenge to provide three exciting meals a day to a family that loves food. I've rediscovered my passion for foraging and been collecting wild chives from the front lawn of Eleanor Roosevelt's granddaughter, and spring bamboo shoots from the yard of Franz Kafka's cousin to add something new to my cooking. This not only makes for good recipes, but good stories. How has your work been affected? I've been a writer for many years now. I've written a dozen or so short stories, a number of original Chinese Tall Tales for young people inspired by Asian themes, poems, and a full-length historical memoir that I'm currently shopping around to publishers. It's the story of four generations of Chinese women from Imperial Times through the Cultural Revolution and includes true tales of pirates, kidnappings, children bought in opium dens, and eerie ancient prophecies that come true and change the paths of people's lives. And of course I love writing my monthly column for The Santa Monica Star. I've always been motivated in times of hardship, so I always find time to write.

We asked Jessica Heffernan of Loughton, Essex, England how she is managing at this time.

Dining Out and Going to the Cinema Are on Hold for Jessica in England What's your living situation? I rent a two-story house with a large back garden. Do you have pets? 

Yes, a two- year-old Jack Russell named Finley and two cats, Alfie and Tigi.   How are you coping with the lockdown/social distancing? I live alone with my pets. I have a routine each day which involves going out for very long walks (four miles today), and I am eating healthily and sleeping about 12 hours every night. What's changed the most for you since the crisis began? Not being able to see my family and friends. I have two daughters and three

A native of Los Angeles, Jessica moved to England in 1985. Finley is quite a talented dog. Check out his facebook page at

grandchildren whom I usually see often. Also, not being able to go to work. Missing my social life of dining out and going to the cinema or the theatre in London.  What's stayed the same? Having the love of my pets.  How have your food habits changed? Grocery delivery, takeout, cooking?

I have been cooking for myself, which is not what I used to do. I used to go out for dinner often with friends three or four nights a week.  Have you turned to new hobbies or activities?

My extensive walks in the forest are something I have now taken up. How has your work been affected?

I work for the local government and have been told to stay home. My job is a Park Warden, but our children’s playgrounds are closed. 

Being Home Safe While Overlooking La River Seine

Isabelle Viguier, a former Santa Monica resident, has lived in Paris for several years. She describes her residence as a “condo in a multi-storey building facing the river La Seine in Paris, France,” with her husband and 24-year-old daughter.They have two small dogs, Lucky, 16, and Pumpkin, 17 years old. Isabelle recalls that “coping with the lockdown was an adaption, obviously especially at the beginning, when you have to reorganise your way of life from A to Z.

It took a while, but Isabelle has adjusted to coping with the lockdown in Paris.

“I must admit that it was a bit scary and stressful because I had never experienced something like that. At the beginning, I had trouble getting to sleep at night. I am doing much better now. Social distancing was not a problem for me. The problem came from people who were not able to respect the social distancing. Especially at the market!” The biggest change for Isabelle was to realize that she couldn’t leave her home whenever she wanted to. Cooking for her family is the same, but she does do delivery and go to the market once a week to complete the delivery. She does not order takeout. “I am lucky enough to be able to work from home,” Isabelle notes. “Everything I need is on my computer. We are using emails a lot to communicate with clients. We are using a CRM (a computer software) to help businesses manage many processes: customer’s data, business information, etc., as folders and to communicate with my coworkers. I either call them or communicate online.”

Escaping from an Apartment in Manhattan to a Country Home in Pennsylvania

David Trachtenberg and Gerry Perlman are staying in their vacation home in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania near the New York state border during this challenging time.

David Trachtenberg

What's your living situation? We left our apartment in NYC (3/15/20) for the safety of our vacation home in Pennsylvania where we will stay as long as is necessary. How are you coping with the lockdown/social distancing? Weathering the storm. We have 30 acres and a large house so we occupy ourselves with projects around the house and gardening, winter clean-up, spring cleaning, etc. It is a great tonic and distraction from the moments of anxiety and panic we all feel wash over us from time to time. What's changed the most for you since the crisis began? The daily routine of going to work and interacting with workmates, meeting friends and associates for a drink or dinner.

Gerry Perlman

No, I have been shopping once a week at the grocery and doing a lot of cooking and meal planning. Have you turned to new hobbies or activities? No, we just have more leisure time to catch up on TV series we never got to see before such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc. Has your work been affected? Yes, I now have no work. The construction industry is almost completely shut down. I am an expediter. I work with architects/engineers getting their building plans approved and with general contractors getting permits for their projects all in the context of the NYC Department of Buildings. I also assist people in curing violations and obtaining certificates of occupancy for building owners. Gerry is a retired clinical psychologist.


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