Unprecedented times. Essential businesses. Social distancing. Pandemic.
    All of these words have entered our vernacular in full force in the past few weeks, and seem as though they plan to stay for a while. This pandemic has pushed pause on so many things. From dairy breakfasts to conferences, weddings to funerals, school … life as we know it beyond March 2020 has changed. The world seemed to have turned topsy-turvy overnight, and after three weeks of social distancing orders, I think we are started to recalibrate ourselves. Of course, as with most important events we encounter, it makes you step back and reevaluate your life and seek out what brings you joy, and focus on the things that truly matter.
    There are some interesting positive happenings coming from the great pains the pandemic has inflicted upon the nation. I have had some intriguing conversations with close friends and family members revolving around the changes we have all witnessed in the past few weeks. One thing mentioned a few times is how many people are now outside. Raking their lawns, walking, playing with their kids, hiking a state park trail, playing softball. All of these were happening before, yes, but not quite at this magnitude.
    There is a surge of appreciation for those of us performing essential businesses. Farmers, truck drivers, store clerks, healthcare workers and factory workers – all these people and more are quite literally keeping America running at the moment. Now, as grocery shoppers reach for yet another missing item on their shelves, they are starting to think of the supply chain responsible for getting that wanted thing to them. Things we all took for granted before COVID-19. The questions I ponder are: Will this be a short-lived tale of appreciation? Will this cause a shift away from the idolization of high-paid sports figures? Will people still appreciate the essential ones long after this has passed us by?
    A newfound feeling of patriotism has come about. “We are all in this together” isn’t a fancy tagline. We really are all in this together at the end of the day. We, as Americans, are coming together in a way we haven’t since WWII to ward off a common enemy – this novel coronavirus. There are factories designing better masks and producing them at top speed, auto manufactures working on constructing ventilators, countless celebrities reading books online, businesses offering free educational services to help children and their parents, singers staging live concerts from their living rooms – the list of amazing ways people are reaching out to help all of us stay sane is morale-boosting.
    People are pulling cookbooks off their shelves in search of new things to make with what they have in their cupboards instead of hopping in the car to journey to a restaurant. Some are rekindling their love of cooking, others are finding they are lacking knowledge in this department. There is no longer the excuse of not having enough time to cook; time is a plentiful thing these days.  
    The business of being busy has halted. There are no extracurricular activities for kids. Kids have more time to be kids, and parents have more time to be parents instead of chauffeurs for small, tired, demanding clients. Granted with this is also the fact that many of us have been thrust into the world of homeschooling our children, but that, too, is providing much enlightenment.
    Families are spending more time together now, because they have to. Puzzles are being dusted off and covering the kitchen table. Board games are dug out from the closet. People are starting seeds for the gardens of their dreams. While at first I think most of us thought we would be pulling our hair out because of having our offspring around us all day, it has brought about a strange feeling of having more patience because we are less hurried. We are getting better at giving up some control in an effort to teach them more things, like how to make delicious banana cake for example. Meals are being eaten together. At the farm, the old oak table has been extended to hold all the leaves and our daily lunchtime has become something the four adults and six children look forward to. The conversations between children, the hilarious lessons in table etiquette, the discussions of so many different topics that sitting around a table provide will be cemented in our memories for years to come.
    We are all thinking about wants versus needs. Be that a trip to go somewhere, or a particular grocery item. Before, we would want to go somewhere, now we don’t because we can’t, and after a bit, we realize we didn’t really need to after all. Limiting grocery store trips has been a great thing. It makes me better at meal planning in advance. I wasn’t a daily shopper by any means, but this makes me be more creative and resourceful.
    The robins still sing the sun awake each morning. The cranes are coming back, cackling their song high above the clouds. The daffodils and tulips are peeking out of the slow warming Earth. The earthworms are peppering the lawn with holes, releasing the scents of spring. Don’t take the simple things for granted, embrace them with both arms. These things are constant. They will happen despite what the latest news report says. As one friend said best, “It has made me thankful for sunshine and laughter.” While social distancing may be hard, it will make us cherish time together so much more in the future. Who knows what else will change because of the pause button being hit; let us hope we can keep some of these feelings with us long after someone hits play.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (toddler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.