Leveraging technology to enrich our life during the COVID-19 pandemic
As the pandemic's shroud fell over the U.S. in mid-March 2020, my wife just fortuitously enough happened to have started a new exercise program online – something called “Peloton”. With the “stay at home” orders and much more coming into effect, and a lot of our work/school immediately going virtual, working out at home all of a sudden became a real family activity. The pandemic accelerated our entire family participating in these Peloton online workouts, with all of us regularly doing yoga – driving a significant interest in health & wellness from our 11 year old boy/girl twins. We exercised so frequently that my children started clamoring to purchase the Peloton Bike – with its rather massive cost, my wife suggested that the children put together a Powerpoint presentation/business case, outlining the ROI of purchasing such an item. Unbeknownst to them, we had already purchased one – but their presentation sealed the deal! The skill of performing online research, putting together slides and (most terrifyingly for my daughter) having to present to her father made for a great experience for all. Much of our kids' research was conducted on laptops that they had to purchase as virtual schooling started. In the early days of the pandemic, I decided that the family would need a non-stop stream of entertainment, and moreover found that there was a treasure trove of items online, so quickly became my family's “Arts & Culture” Department. I scoured the Net for activities that the family could partake in, while exposing them to the performing arts. We started with a screening of the original Broadway musical “CATS” (Andrew Lloyd Webber version) which my kids weren't too fond of. I then found a performance of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as my kids had never seen/heard a classical music concert before. Our daughter is fond of singing, so we enrolled her in a virtual Met Opera camp - and wound up watching 1 or 2 Met Opera performances. In-general, I did anything to expose the kids to various forms of the arts, while also being somewhat entertaining and rather different from the usual “NetFlix/movie night” that many fell into. This worked for quite some time – though not without consternation from my kids, who began to tire of the random series of events I'd have planned for us to experience (all of which I would then donate to online – as these artists would be posting their work online gratis since all live performances were cancelled). My wife played along to my whole shtick and served as a cheerleader. We also realized that technology had changed the paradigm for summer camps– we had no need to only look at Dallas-based camps for our kids, my wife told me. And that's all she needed to say. Beyond the Met Opera camp (which was based out of NYC), our son participated in a basketball camp with the NBA's Orlando Magic, having assistant coaches in Florida berate him over Zoom as he did pushups in our driveway at 6am! My daughter learned all types of arts & crafts from curio store vendors in San Francisco. My niece started a virtual cooking class from her home in New Jersey that our kids participated in. The highlight for me personally was when my wife & I joined a group of folks on Facebook Live to follow a Parisian baker – on Bastille Day – as she (and we) made corn brioche. As all this was occurring, I remained locked-down in our closet – literally! My days of travelling around the U.S. for work had stopped, and our master bath closet was the only place I could work where I wouldn't disrupt my virtual schooling kids, or my physician wife (who was now big into telemed in the home office). I realized the power of the Internet when I posted a picture on LinkedIn of working from my closet (using our ironing table as a desk and my sock drawer as my laptop area) which elicited over 10,000 views. Plato famously stated that “Necessity is the mother of invention” – and since we had to stay indoors, we worked to dramatically reinvent ourselves – with technology. From virtual exercising to arts & culture to global experiences to working from the closet – the pandemic for us has led to a greater familial happiness and togetherness that we didn't have pre-COVID. To underline this, our daughter told us her birthday (in Apr 2020) was the “best birthday ever”. How did we accomplish this, you ask, in the midst of a global pandemic and pre-vaccine availability? With technology! Sure, my wife & I had decorated the house – but we also coordinated 3 Zoom meetings with family, that totaled nearly 200 attendees from 5 countries. She also spent her birthday on rotating FaceTime/Houseparty calls with a series of friends, getting 1:1 time with each. So much has been written about the negative impacts of technology (especially over the past 12-18 months) – but as you can see from our family's experiences, there are a myriad of ways that technology can bring happiness, even in such an uncertain time.