Three weeks ago I was excited because I was about to be on a plane again. This time heading back to the East Coast to see friends and family for Easter. Two weeks ago we pushed that trip out. A week ago we cancelled. Now I dread hearing which of my loved ones (both friends and family) will be the first to be directly impacted by the Wuhan novel coronavirus.

As a fashion, food and travel blogger, I don’t have nunchuck skills and I certainly don’t have the skills to save lives the way my dad (who is a doctor) can. In times like these, I wish I did.

What I can do is write. Maybe there are some bright spots or ways to think about this situation that might help others, so I thought I’d jot them down and share them. My hope is that some of these 20 ideas inspire other regular people to get through this tough time:

1. Congestion on the highways is no longer an issue, but there are more people walking and strolling. It got me thinking that pedestrian billboards that help neighbors smile might not be a bad idea. I’m not the artsiest person in the world, but you can see my Dr. Seuss inspired handiwork at the top of this post. A few minutes, a couple of Sharpies and one Charles Shaw box was all it took. If you have kids, you might want to opt for that Amazon box instead.

2. If you are heading out for necessary supplies or an essential doctor’s visit, thank the person who’s helping you for coming into work today. After all, they’re the reason you’re able to get supplies and stay healthy. The list is too long to write out, but we all owe a massive debt to the grocery store workers, pharmacists, physicians, postal workers, UPS drivers, etc. who continue to show up to work and put themselves and their families at risk. The least we can do is say thanks. When I said this to a cashier at Trader Joe’s last week, he paused and he said, “Thanks. You know, you’re the first person who’s acknowledged that.” Let’s not take the people working on the front lines for granted.

3. If you can, instead of isolating alone, consider fostering a pet. Best Friends Animal Society (a no-kill shelter that has roots in Utah, but works nationwide) is doing this, so it’s possible your local shelter may follow suit or be open to similar arrangements. Give them a call and find out.

4. If you’re literally going stir crazy, bust out your food coloring. I’ve seen a number of pals testing out recipes and swapping advice across social media accounts. Not sure what to make with what’s left in your fridge? Post the ingredients and ask your Facebook friends for help. The photos of freshly baked bread, cakes and cookies in my feed make my stomach grumble and warm my heart.

5. Bust out some old tunes. Listening to a bit of classical music might help calm your frayed nerves. Self-moshing to some Nirvana might help you get rid of some angst and tension.

6. Dust off those learn a language accounts. It’s highly unlikely any of us will be heading abroad anytime soon, so now you’ll have plenty of time to work on your, “Parlez-vous Anglais?” Plus we’ve got loads of pics of fun Frenchie shops and restaurants, so you can keep your eyeballs occupied if you’re in desperate need of a virtual vacation.

A photo of the hard cover books, "Queen of Fashion" by Caroline Weber and David Sariatmadari's, "Don't Believe a Word," from the Santa Clara Clara County Library. Photo Courtesy of FoodWaterShoes
“Queen of Fashion” by Caroline Weber and David Sariatmadari’s, “Don’t Believe a Word” Are a Few of the Books on My Reading List

7. Even though all the physical libraries here in Santa Clara County are shuttered, you can still load up on digital books from your local library. Just don’t hoard them. Return your online loans as soon as you finish, so others can enjoy those good reads.

8. Go through old photos. Many of my loved ones are spread throughout the country and the globe. Sorting through pictures has helped them feel like they are a tiny bit closer.

9. Instead of calling, consider FaceTime-ing or WhatsApp-ing your peeps. We may be on lock down in our home, but that hasn’t stopped us from traveling to countries we love like Australia and India. As we touch base with friends in far flung places, it has also helped us keep perspective on just how pervasive this virus has become around the globe. Seeing our buddies’ smiling face over video lifts our spirits and has been worth its weight in toilet paper and gold.

A photo of a chart at the Stanford Blood Center. You can donate platelets every 7 days, up to 24 times/year. Photo Courtesy of FoodWaterShoes
Give Blood – It Saves Lives

10. Donate blood. According to the American Red Cross, whole blood has a shelf life of just 21 – 35 days. We’re all aware of all the schools that have closed and the vast number of church services that have stopped, but that also means the mobile blood drives that used to occur across college campuses and in company parking lots have come to a halt leaving blood banks in a dire situation. If you can donate, do it and do it now. My hubby and I had appointments on Tuesday morning. Sadly we were unable to donate because of our recent travels to Uganda and Rwanda, but I promised the tech I met with that I’d help spread the word about the urgent need for donations. If you’ve just recently had cancer, are on certain medications or just got a tattoo, you also might not be eligible. If you donate via the Stanford Blood Center, they’ll give you a $10 Amazon gift card that you can put toward your toilet paper fund or consider using it to purchase canned goods you can drop off for elderly neighbor.

11. Speaking of elderly neighbors consider sending an email or, better yet, leaving them a handwritten note with your cell phone number and your capabilities in your neighbors’ mailboxes. Maybe you know CPR, are tall and can reach things or are able to take pets out. If you’re willing to keep an eye on little people while parents check their rations, able to lend an ear and chat on the phone to keep someone company or able to do grocery runs, say so. Anything helps.

12. Among the things I’m thankful for are the massive number of credible reputable news resources dropping their paywalls and helping all of us stay informed about the pandemic. A massive thanks goes out to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the many other news outlets and medical and science journals who are doing this.

13. Speaking of which… if you’ve become a voracious newshound over the past few weeks, consider donating to NPR and some of the other media outlets you’ve been leaning on. Times are uncertain for everyone, but if you’ve been tuning in to the radio all day your support will help ensure that stories that inform us during these dark times keep flowing.

14. Along the line of hard times, this virus has wreaked havoc on stock markets, paychecks and retirement funds galore, but perhaps no one has been knocked to the ground as swiftly as your local baristas, bartenders, dog walkers, gardeners, hairdressers, housekeepers, restaurant staff and other hourly workers who may be living gig to gig or paycheck to paycheck. If you can afford to give any of the people who keep your daily life humming a bit of extra cash for groceries, etc., now is the time to do it.

15. True, we shouldn’t be out and about loitering in cafés and restaurants even though we may be social creatures who want to be around humans, but we can still support local small businesses. Buy gift cards from local restaurants and use them once the world returns to normal. It will save you and the restaurant workers from added virus exposures while still helping them keep their businesses from faltering.

16. You can also surf the web for local initiatives to support. On GoFund me a SF small business COVID-19 relief fund popped up for one local business in our area and more are sure to follow.

17. Learn how to code. Sites like Udacity will help tech you tech skills in your spare time. Full Disclosure: Udacity is a former client of mine.

18. Figure out how to monetize all those Instagram followers you’ve accrued over the years., which is a current client of mine, connects influencers, creators and the businesses that work with them.

A photo of a Marcel Schurman greeting puffer fish card that says, "Before Visiting Grandma," and, "After Visiting Grandma." There's also a greeting card that says, "Dad Says Go To Bed So He Can Eat Ice Cream and Not Watch Your Shows," from Zeichen Press. Photo Courtesy of FoodWaterShoes
Nice to Sea You – Cards Make an Okay Substitute for In Person Contact

19. Consider using your own words for good. Write a letter to someone you love or rekindle an old friendship. I’ve sent out a bunch of cards both funny and serious over the past few weeks in the hopes that they might brighten someone’s day or help them feel as though they’re not alone. Sure the messages inside may be outdated by the time they get to their intended recipient given how quickly things are changing, but at least someone will know you’re thinking of them and that just might pull them out of a dark moment. Bonus points go out to you if you’re supporting a small business like a local card maker or someone on Etsy. SierraDesignsStudio’s, “This Sucks,” cerveza greeting card seems particularly apropos at this juncture in our world’s history and there are boat loads of funny ones out there like CallMeArtsy’s, “Please Romaine Calm,” and “Lettuce Pray” cards.) I’m also a big fan of the chipper cards from funky brands like Elum, Ohh Deer, Verrier Boutique NYC and Zeichen Press. Don’t have stamps? No problem. Even if USPS’ website is down (as it was for me given the high volume they’re facing right now), you can still call USPS to place an order over the phone and get sheets of forever stamps that will be delivered to your home. Just dial 1-800-STAMP-24 (1-800-782-6724) – Say “order” (or press “1”) and then say “voice” to place an order over the phone with a representative. (You will need to create a phone order account which is different from an online USPS account).

A photo of two funny punny greeting cards. One designed by Ohh Deer says, "Hello, It's me. A dell." Another card by Elum Designs says, "Hass & Kisses From California." Photo Courtesy of FoodWaterShoes
Punny Cards From Ohh Deer and Elum Designs

20. I decided to save the most embarrassing idea for last. My husband and I have had two dogs over the years and despite them not knowing “how” to howl, our pack decided to teach them both the call of the wild with varying degrees of success. I can’t say our method is the best one to follow, but hopefully it will make you chuckle and if you’re really grasping at straws, try this and at least your dog will look at you like you are weird.

Our Staffy Can’t Howl, but She Does Get an “A” for Effort

Watching from afar as Italy’s death toll grows feels like a tsunami is about to occur here in the United States. Italy (a country my husband and I spent a few weeks exploring in this past summer) has now overtaken China in terms of the number of deaths and a nurse in Milan told the New York Post, “we’re not even counting the dead anymore.” Here in Silicon Valley the streets are drained of people and cars (as they should be given the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place mandate). It’s hard to imagine the magnitude of what is happening in Italy with anesthesiologists having to triage like at wartime deciding who to save and families being ripped apart and it’s even scarier to think what things will look like if the virus’ deadly wave strikes us as hard as it has battered other parts of the globe.

All I can do is worry and fret that while my dad is trying to save someone’s life, he may inadvertently become exposed and end up becoming sick with COVID-19. That means he’d be able to save fewer people and I’d lose my dad. The thought makes me feel ill …and then there’s my 87 year old grandmother and others in the at-risk group and the new news today that, “While older people remain at gravest risk worldwide, a C.D.C. report found that 38 percent of those who required hospitalization in the U.S. were aged 20 to 54.” Ugh.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there and the world is indeed a scary place, but I don’t want to give up hope. Not yet. Hopefully there are still ways to make people smile and I don’t want to ever stop trying to find them. For now I think I do want to continue crafting posts about the places I’ve been and the wonderful creative people I’ve met along the way. My hope is that one day their storefronts will re-open and that people will help some of the budding business owners that I write about get back on their feet. I hope you feel the same way too. Try to stay happy, safe and healthy dear readers.

Give your pointer finger some much needed exercise after all that heavy scrolling you just did. If you enjoyed my article let me know. Please click the “like” button with a star on it at the bottom of this post, share the link to this article via your social media handles or email this article to someone you know.

If someone you know has done something inspiring during this trying time or you’ve seen an uplifting article that gives you hope, feel free to share it in the comments below.