Want a look into your neighbor’s quarantine life? You might be surprised and inspired

As many worldwide were isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina Broberg happily watched her four boys, ages 12 to 23, build a skating halfpipe in their backyard.

“They did all of it — from the planning of it to every last nail in the construction. … It was so exciting to watch them research, plan, work and problem-solve together on a massive project,” said Broberg, from the Edgemont 14th Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont Stake. “It was great motivation for them to get their schoolwork done quickly so they could work on it.”

They planned so well that the construction took only two days of hard work.

“This project has certainly made life in quarantine more enjoyable for every member of our family, including my 99-year-old grandfather who watched the construction of it and tried it out with his walker,” she said.

Like the Broberg family, Latter-day Saints from all around the world have been using their extra quarantine time to develop new talents, revisit prior activities and create finished products.

Watercoloring a mission

Sister Liya Mishchenko, a missionary serving in Latvia in the Baltic Mission, has picked up watercoloring.

Sister Liya Mishchenko, a missionary currently serving in the Baltic Mission, picked up watercoloring in COVID-19 quarantine.
Sister Liya Mishchenko, a missionary currently serving in the Baltic Mission, picked up watercoloring in COVID-19 quarantine. Credit: Liya Mishchenko

“I had never done it before,” said Sister Mishchenko, who is from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. “Well, at school growing up, they probably forced us to do something like that, but it never worked out for me.”

But now, Sister Mishchenko and her companion watercolor together.

“It didn’t come immediately,” she said. “Honestly, I’m surprised I can do something like that.”

Estael Gutierrez painted the walls of her family's rooms during quarantine because she wanted "the children to feel happy and fresh."
Estael Gutierrez painted the walls of her family’s rooms during quarantine because she wanted “the children to feel happy and fresh.” Credit: Estael Gutierrez

Painting with love

Bolivia native Estael Gutierrez has also taken to painting — but painting for her family. She spent a week buying, cleaning and painting her children’s rooms.

“I love it,” said Gutierrez, from the Glenmoor 7th Ward, South Jordan Utah Glenmoor Stake. “I want the children to feel happy and fresh.”

Capturing a moment

A few weeks ago, Ben Driggs’ daughter told him one of the top five moments of her life was paragliding in the Swiss Alps.

Driggs, from the East Mill Creek 4th Ward, Salt Lake East Mill Creek Stake in Utah, decided to make something special out of that memory for his daughter as they social distanced. So he took up mosaic art.

Ben Driggs created a mosaic from a photo of his daughter paragliding in the Swiss Alps.
Ben Driggs created a mosaic from a photo of his daughter paragliding in the Swiss Alps. Credit: Eliza Smith-Driggs

He located an online company that accepted the photo capturing his daughter’s favorite moment and then shipped him raw stone that he cut to recreate the image. After “a couple hours a day, here and there, for three or four weeks,” Driggs finished the 18-by-24-inch mosaic.

“I was nervous the whole time to see how it would turn out because I had never done it before … it was a guessing game … but it wasn’t difficult at all; anybody could do it,” Driggs said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Quarantine quilt

Before coronavirus hit Utah, Ali Jones bought a quilt kit just for fun. The member of the Salem 6th Ward, Salem Utah Stake, had never quilted before.

Ali Jones worked with her children to make her first quilt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ali Jones worked with her children to make her first quilt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Ali Jones

Once she isolated, Ali took the opportunity to involve her 11- and 13-year-old daughters in the quilt-making process.

“The first square did not look right and wasn’t lining up, so I put a picture on Instagram and asked for anyone to tell me maybe what I was doing wrong or give me some tips. … I got a lot of responses.”

With those tips, she and her kids pieced the rest of the quilt together. Although the finishing touches are not yet done, Jones said seeing it all come together was “so satisfying.”

Learning French

Tamiko Verkler, a mother from the Valparaiso 1st Ward, Menlo Park California Stake, already dabbles in Spanish but has taken the extra time afforded during this time to start learning French.

“I chose French because I love France and hope to be able to speak French there instead of relying on them to speak English to me,” she said.

Verkler said learning French is as hard as she thought it would be, but she is glad to be trying new things.

“I like to feel useful and it’s hard to feel useful while I’m at home,” she said. “Knowing other languages is always useful. It helps us connect with each other.”

Turning passion into talent

Eighteen-year-old Giulia Chiuchiolo from the Piacenza Ward, Verona Italy Stake, has always loved the “world of cooking” but says she hasn’t always been good.

“I even blew up a pot once,” she admitted.

But “what better time to learn than in quarantine?” wondered Chiuchiolo, who has battled boredom by learning how to make Italian food with her mom. She said it was amazing to see her passion turn into a talent, adding she finds “huge joy” in seeing others enjoy her food.

“It takes a lot of effort. Spending many hours standing and looking at a thousand pots at the same time is difficult and tiring. Despite this, surely it is a talent that I want to carry on, also for the family I will have in the future.”

Creating, not ‘consuming’

Cami Morata, a returned missionary and BYU student from the Philippines, read online when the quarantine was first imposed that “it’s important to create and not just consume.”

BYU student Cami Morata holds up her favorite picture she has painted — Cannon Beach in Oregon.
BYU student Cami Morata holds up her favorite picture she has painted — Cannon Beach in Oregon. Credit: Cami Morata

“While this is a totally unstable time and it’s OK to watch lots of movies, I wanted to try and get creative, too,” said Morata, a member of the Provo YSA 37th Ward, Provo Utah YSA 3rd Stake.

She has always loved watercolor paintings but had never tried one on her own. Now, she watercolors every day. Calling it her “wind-down activity” at the end of each day, she hopes to continue painting, even after quarantine. “I might not be able to do it every day like I am now, but I hope to do it at least every week,” she said. “It’s relaxing, and I feel productive at the same time.”

Making dinner special

Every night for dinner, the Fowles family plays dress-up.

Allison Fowles, from the Edgemont 14th Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont Stake, has five kids ranging in age from 5 to 18 years. During spring break, Fowles’ daughter wanted something to look forward to every day.

“She came up with a long list of themes — international, school cafeteria, ’80s movie night … and we would draw one at dinner for the following day,” Fowles explained.

They use costumes from their costume closet to celebrate the theme, and if certain food ties into the theme, Fowles makes it for dinner.

“We had so much fun the first week that we kept it going,” she said. “We’ve naturally found reasons to make dinner a little special.”

Finding joy in gardening

From the Tallinn Branch in Eastern Europe’s Tallinn Estonia District, Lehte Kirisberg — a mother to 12 and grandmother to 14 — loves taking care of her garden. Quarantine makes two aspects of gardening different: her son has time to help, and Kirisberg is “branching” out, tending new varieties of plants she’s never planted before. 

Lehte Kirisberg from Estonia gardens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lehte Kirisberg from Estonia gardens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Lehte Kirisberg

“It brings me so much joy,” said the 61-year-old Kirisberg. “I still have a lot of work to do, but I like that.”

She is also a poet. After two years of not writing, she has picked up her pen again. “The words aren’t mine, they come from above,” she said.

Maneerat Jarataroonchay from Thailand holds up homegrown lettuce from her garden.
Maneerat Jarataroonchay from Thailand holds up homegrown lettuce from her garden. Credit: Wongsagon Jarataroonchay

Meanwhile, in Thailand, Maneerat Jarataroonchay has also found joy in gardening. Both she and her husband — both of the Udorn Thailand District’s Udorn 1st Branch — love to eat salad, but instead of going to the store to buy lettuce, she thought it would be safer to grow it herself.

“She enjoyed that she could do what she wanted for a while and help with the situation so that we don’t have to buy stuff,” said her husband, Wongsagon Jarataroonchay.

Cooking by country

Nathaniel Wells, 17, from the Aspen Hills Ward, Sandy Utah Granite South Stake, loved baking long before the pandemic. But with extra time on his hands, he decided to pick a different country each day using a random country generator, research that country’s traditional food, then make it.

“I wanted to have a project I could keep up with or look forward to, and it was the only way I could explore the world stuck at home,” Wells said. “I’ve had a lot more time to cook and explore new recipes in quarantine, and it definitely pushed me to branch out more.”

So far, Wells has made dishes traditional to Croatia, Estonia, Belgium, France, Ireland, Denmark, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Nepal, El Salvador, Spain, Tonga, Britain and Germany.

‘It wasn’t as easy as it looked’

BYU student David Parkinson hadn’t done much running. But when the pandemic got more serious, he thought he’d try it. How hard could it be, right?

“I went on a 2-mile run, and actually threw up afterwards,” said Parkinson, from the Boise 13th Ward, Boise Idaho Stake. “I realized it wasn’t as easy as it looked.” 

Parkinson soon realized running helped him deal with stress and social anxiety.

“And now, a month later, I find myself running almost every day, and even was able to do a 17-miler as I get ready for an upcoming marathon.”