Locals get creative to stay busy

Pictured, Betty Demski works
in her miniature garden. 

During Illinois’ stay at home order, a challenge many people face is boredom. 

Parents have children to occupy, not to mention themselves, as they stay home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Monroe County residents have been developing creative ways to spend their time during the pandemic, with some people being productive and others coming up with unique ways to have fun. 

Republic-Times columnist Amy Wagenknecht, for example, had her family brainstorm a list of activities they could do and wrote them all down on index cards. 

Her family then folded those cards and put them in a hat. Every day at 3 p,m., someone from the family draws a card and they do that activity. 

“One of our favorites was creating a Tik Tok,” Wagenknect said, referring to a video for that popular new social media platform. “Our Tik Tok-obsessed teenager came up with this one. She eagerly and patiently taught us one of the latest Tik Tok crazes. We were belly-laughing as we took turns with our killer dance moves.” 

Pictured are the “Mom Bucks” created
by Sarah Biffar.

Elizabeth Schrekenberg of Columbia has also combined music and social media in an ingenious way by starting a Facebook group called Quarantine Karaoke. 

“I am a karaoke lover, so I thought if we can’t get out to karaoke, why not bring it in,” Schrekenberg said.

She originally invited 100, but the group has now grown to over 1,800 and has karaoke videos from music students, Columbia School District teachers, families and more. 

Jerri Allen, a Swansea resident with several family members in Waterloo, is also using social media in an unorthodox way to have fun. 

“I came up with the idea of playing Yahtzee (with my family) using Facebook Messenger,” Allen explained. “We play several times a week in the evening. It’s lots of fun and a good way for us all to stay connected.” 

Another fun indoor activity has been theme dinners that simulate being out at different restaurants, which Tim Berg has been enjoying. 

“We did taco night with mariachi music and Italian night with Tuscan style pizza and Dean Martin,” the local musician said. 

People have also taken to the outdoors – while practicing social distancing – to stay busy. 

Jaime Miers of Columbia mowed a small maze in her backyard, which gave both her and her family and others something to do. 

“Neighbors and friends would stop by and get lost,” Miers said. “It was neat seeing them have fun from a distance.” 

Amanda Biffar’s children have been camping in the yard of their Waterloo home, learning about fires and fire safety. 

Pictured is the lawn maze Jaime Miers and
her family created. 

Sometimes, even simple outdoor activities can provide a diversion, which 8-year-old Wynn Linnemann learned when he went hunting for four-leaf clovers on his grandparents’ property. 

Still another option is to pursue a hobby like crafting. 

That was something Krista Foster of Waterloo always wanted to do but never had the patience for until being forced to stay home. So, she has started decorating stainless steel cups. 

“Turns out I’m pretty good at it, and I have been painting, glittering and putting pictures and vinyl on stainless steel tumblers,” Foster said. 

Sarah Biffar of Columbia’s is using a little creativity to help occupy her children’s time. 

Biffar put her own face on various colors of construction paper and did some design work to create “Mom Bucks,” which her twin daughters can earn by performing tasks like cleaning the bathroom, sweeping or reading for 30 minutes. 

Those can then be spent at Biffar’s “Mom Store,” which has snacks and arts and crafts supplies. 

“It makes it fun when they are helping around the house,” Biffar said. “Also, it’s a bonus to limit how many snacks they are getting every day so they aren’t eating us out of house and home.”

Veronica Demski, wife of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Waterloo pastor Merrit Demski, has also turned to hobbies to keep her and her young daughter busy. 

That has included sewing masks for those in need, walking and fishing at the park, and tending a miniature garden at their home. 

Others have also used this time to accomplish productive tasks. 

Jocelyn Long in Columbia has spent the last couple of weekends cutting up a tree that fell in her yard over the winter to have firewood for later in the year. 

Waterloo High School graduate Yvonne Petito is using this time to focus on her studies, as she is completing a master’s in social work at age 53. 

Sometimes the productivity does not go as well, which Nancy Wack of Waterloo learned when she used a power washer for the first time. 

“The fence turned out well. I did not,” Wack said, sharing a picture of her dirt and grime covered clothes. 

No matter what people are doing while staying at home, Renee Koeneman, a teacher in the Waterloo School District, had an important reminder. 

“We all have different responsibilities that require different things, but what we have in common is we are in this together,” she said. 

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