There may come a time when we’ll feel nostalgic. We’ll miss our glitchy FaceTimes, our makeshift dining room cubicles, our quarantine memes and live streams and TikTok challenges. We’ll miss seeing our children all day. In the long run, these fleeting moments of brightness may be what we remember most.
• • •
Tina Sage did something during quarantine that a lot of parents of tween kids did: She joined TikTok. Sage, 40, and her family have spent the pandemic engaging in TikTok challenges, memes, dances and documenting their cooped-up life at home.
— Submitted by Tina Sage, Tampa
• • •
St. Petersburg author Sheila McNaughton spent five years writing her novel “You Don’t Know What I Have Done," launching it with more than 40 friends at Books at Park Place in South Pasadena. That was Feb. 22. Almost immediately, all the plans she had for promoting and selling her book during the spring and summer washed away. Still, in May, she entered her book in the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Awards. In July, she learned she was a finalist. And in October, she invited friends over for a socially distanced watch party for the virtual ceremony. “Would I have liked it better if I were in the hotel ballroom among hundreds of other writers?” she wrote. “Maybe ... but not really.” They dined on her back deck, and her sister made giveaway swag bags, just like at the Oscars. “We giggled and hooted as we opened the presents: books, decks of cards, lotion, lip balm, trinket jars, essential oils, a back scratcher because we all need an extra hand, and more,” McNaughton wrote. "As we finished opening the last of the goodies, I saw the tagline of my book across the screen, then heard my name announced. I won the Bronze Award.”
— Submitted by Sheila McNaughton, St. Petersburg
• • •
“Every year, I give each family member an ornament in their Christmas stocking. This year, I decided to make the ornaments from toilet paper tubes. On each ornament, I wrote ‘Covid — no TP, 2020.’ Of course, the gift wrapping will be toilet paper."
— Submitted by Rebecca Ludwig, St. Petersburg
• • •
“A few weeks before COVID-19 reared its ugly head, I had decided to pick up my watercolor paintbrushes again and see if I could forge a new path with them. I had taken lessons more than two decades ago, but the style was more photorealistic, and the teacher guided her students every step of the way. Sometimes, a painting could take as long as 10 classes to complete, and I finally gave it up.
“This time around, I wanted to see what I could do on my own, without guidance... I found that whimsy was what captured my fancy and went with it. Very quickly, I found that there literally were not enough hours in the day for me to paint as much as I wanted to; I woke up itching to paint and went to bed with ideas for new paintings in my head.
“My frustration with people refusing to wear masks (both to protect themselves and their fellow humans) inspired me to paint Eggbirdt Masks Up - part of the Eggbirdt Collection, of course!”
— Submitted by Nancy Green, Tampa
• • •
Most of the year, Bo Puckett is busy. He’s a teacher and high school football coach at Plant High School. But this being a not-so-normal year, he’s gotten to spend more time with his boys, Thibaut (pronounced Tebow) and Champ.
“I’ve learned to turn off the news and pay more attention to what’s important: family,” he wrote. “We’ve spent lots of time around the fire pit in the backyard at night. I’m able to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner all day for them. I give them haircuts! And we spent lots of time at the beaches and parks and swim together daily. We truly keep them on the move!”
— Submitted by Bo Puckett, Tampa
• • •
Cat McEwen didn’t start out tagging her gratitude tweets with “#SilverLining.” She just kept noticing things to be thankful for during quarantine. When she realized this was going to be her every day, she started collecting them — more than 100 to date.
Little joys. A slower pace. Bern’s takeout. Playing Battleship in the driveway. No need to wear heels. A new trick for chopping jalapeños.
— Submitted by Cathy McEwen, Tampa
• • •
Melanie Fusco’s children Frank, 9, and Phoebe, 5, watch water lanterns float across the pool at their home in Carrollwood. Fusco said she had the lanterns left over from Christmas, and they inspired a nightly activity. “It was a beautiful moment and one that I will remember long after this pandemic is over,” she said.
― Submitted by Melanie Fusco, Tampa
• • •
Michelle Badger and Luis Quixtan couldn’t leave their Brandon apartment, or Badger’s parents’ home in St. Petersburg, where they relocated when they could no longer afford rent. So they brought the outdoors inside. The couple filled a Facebook photo album with pictures of themselves picnicking in their living room, snorkeling in their bathtub and fishing through their window. There also are photos of them painting, sword-fighting and dyeing Easter eggs, all to “bring a smile to your face through all of this madness,” Badger said.
— Submitted by Michelle Badger, Brandon
• • •
I’m ridin’ down this old dusty road,
My bike’s done took my heavy load.
Alone in the dark, old garage,
I touched the sunshine, but it’s a mirage.
My recumbent’s my best exercise, yea, yea, yea.
I’m old, but you know I’m very wise, yea, yea, yea.
Well, I know what I’m a’ sayin’,
I just keep on a prayin’.
From Sue and from me
You are the greatest family.
So, I ride down this old dusty road,
My bike’s takin’ away my heavy load.
— Submitted by Robert Cramer, Palm Harbor
• • •
Dave Manack’s go-to pandemic cocktail: the Coronarita. He’s not making light of the virus, or any of the hardships people have endured because of it. It’s just a good way for the Land O’ Lakes writer and editor to wait out the pandemic by his pool. His recipe: two shots of tequila, three shots of limeade, two shots of Corona beer and a splash of orange juice, rimmed with salt.
— Submitted by Dave Manack, Land O’ Lakes
• • •
Christina Van Allen of Lutz moved apartments right before the pandemic. She hasn’t gotten to know her neighbors, and now, she’s stuck inside. But in this delightful audio clip, she talks about how she’s gotten some joy — “the smallest joy in my life right now,” she says — from observing her neighbors’ golden retrievers, who go outside to use the bathroom three times a day, always with a different toy.
— Submitted by Christina Van Allen, Lutz
• • •
St. Petersburg writer Dave Scheiber and his family collaborated — from a distance — on “Stuck at Home, COVID Woes,” a parody of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” “All my family’s gathered ‘round here / hands rubbed raw from scrubbin’ in all that soapy water / Dog’s a-howlin’ on my Zoom conference call / Disinfecting groceries, I think I’ve hit a wall.”
— Submitted by Dave Scheiber, St. Petersburg
• • •
Eleven-year-old Jake Smith, from the patio of his house in St. Petersburg, plays comedian Heather Anne Campbell’s song “Everyone is Lonely” on ukulele — “which he has been doing. A lot. It’s fine. :) :),” says his mom, Donna Smith.
— Submitted by Donna Smith, St. Petersburg
• • •
When Mary Ann Lawrence’s great-niece had to postpone her June wedding to August, she decided to make beach wedding-themed face masks, hoping that would cheer her up.
— Submitted by Mary Ann Lawrence, New Port Richey
• • •
With busy families seeking easy drive-through dinners, the Chick-fil-A on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg painted its windows: “Cow says … wash your hands … eat more chicken … be happy!”
— Jay Cridlin, Tampa Bay Times
• • •
A simple pleasure observed by Mary Byrd of Weeki Wachee: “Buying green tomatoes and letting them ripen on the kitchen counter so that you have fresh tomatoes while in isolation. A slice of fresh tomato on a sandwich makes a world of difference.”
— Submitted by Mary Byrd, Weeki Wachee
• • •
Masked cardboard cutouts of three of the four Beatles cross a driveway in front of a home in St. Petersburg’s Harshaw neighborhood.
— Caitlin Johnston, Tampa Bay Times
• • •
Four-year-old Rory Hart poses with a sidewalk chalk drawing by her mother, Rachel Hart, outside their Palm Harbor home. When Rory and her sister Harper saw that rain had washed away their chalk creations, they screamed. “But then they said, ‘We have a blank canvas!’" Rachel said.
— Submitted by Rachel Hart, Palm Harbor
• • •
“This raccoon has been living in a tree in our front yard with her kits, and our family is obsessed with her. We’ve named her Brenda. Every day, she leaves the nest and travels around the neighborhood for a few hours. We’ve followed her a few times, at a distance, to see where she goes. She takes a different route every time, and we lose her when she scales fences into neighbors’ backyards. Some of the neighbors are also looking out for her. When she returns, after checking on the babies, she hangs out in the tree to relax and doesn’t seem to mind being photographed. I don’t know if we would have noticed her if we weren’t home all day every day.”
— Submitted by Angela Falsey, St. Petersburg
• • •
When her workload diminished at her Tampa restaurant, Cass Street Deli, chef Suzanne Crouch spent more time cooking at home with her 3-year-old daughter and “sous chef,” Frankie. They’ve made pasta from scratch, “mother sauces” like espagnole and more. They keep a journal by the stove in which Crouch is compiling recipes for a cookbook for her daughter: chocolate smoothies, waffles, “Best Biscuits,” Hollandaise for “Frankie’s Asparagus.” They are decorated with smiley faces and notes of encouragement, like “Flour everywhere” and “Use that brunch arm, dude!”
— Submitted by Suzanne Crouch, Tampa
• • •
Rick Hense of Carrollwood sent his colleagues at the bank where he works this picture of his new “co-workers” — wife Jen and sons Chad and Ben — as part of a team-building exercise to stay connected.
— Submitted by Rick Hense, Carrollwood
• • •
Gina and Joe Prochaska spent the first few weeks of quarantine in a six-room condo in Madeira Beach with their son and two grandchildren. “There is no place to hide to be alone,” Gina wrote. Within days, the condo became littered with food crumbs, art projects, paper airplanes, soap bubbles and homemade slime. She has “a washing machine full of dirt, mud and sunscreen; a dryer that the lint area is full of sand; a dishwasher running every day instead of weekly; a dining room table covered in glue and school papers. ... The once clean, neat and amazing condo now looks like a war zone.” Messiest of all: a family shaving cream fight they had in their chalked-up parking lot. This photo was taken right after the battle.
— Submitted by Gina Prochaska, Madeira Beach