Spring has sprung. And while it's still chilly in New York, the new season has also brought some much welcomed sun.
The warmer weather has really boosted my spirits, especially after a dark and challenging winter with the coronavirus pandemic. The sunlight has also improved my mood and energy levels, inspiring me to do some activities I did back in early-quarantine times.
Remember that time? When things with the pandemic were just starting? There was a level of ignorant optimism back then when we thought working from home would only last a few weeks.
It inspired many of us to pick up old hobbies and start new projects, from puzzles to knitting to baking and more.
But fast forwarded a year and I’m finding joy again in some of the same activities I did back then – when extra time at home was fresh and exciting. For starters, I broke out the crafts again. I made a clay dish just for fun, and it took my mind off things for a while. I wasn't thinking about the pandemic, deadlines or anything else – I just focused on shaping and smoothing my clay.
I also had a wonderful picnic with my girlfriend over the weekend, where we soaked up some sun while eating sandwiches and playing cards. And I've been taking my reading outdoors, walking to nearby parks for a much-needed change of scenery.
The best part about these outdoor activities is they still allows me to stay socially-distant from others. Because although more and more people are getting vaccinated, we know wearing masks and maintaining our distance is still an important part of further reducing the spread of COVID.
Spring holidays are here!
The spring season also means several religious holidays are being (or soon-to-be) celebrated.
Last year, religious leaders were forced to plan virtual services for Easter, Ramadan and Passover as COVID-19 began spreading in the United States.
Now, as a small but growing percentage of Americans have been vaccinated, and gatherings are allowed in many states, the faithful are greeting the 2021 holy season with a mix of excitement, enthusiasm – and caution, my colleagues Kaanita Iyer and Miguel Torres write.
Churches, synagogues and mosques across the country are taking a variety of approaches to recognizing the holidays amid the pandemic. A few have lifted capacity limits completely, while others are offering options for virtual or socially distanced celebrations.
Passover, which marks the liberation of enslaved Jewish people in Egypt, began at sundown last Saturday and ends April 4, when Christians celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Christ. Orthodox Easter is May 2.
Meanwhile, the holy month of Ramadan will span from April 12 to May 12 and culminate with Eid al-Fitr, which will break the monthlong, sunrise-to-sunset fasts for Muslims.
To read Kaanita and Miguel's full story, click here.
What happens to our pets post-pandemic?
We love our pets and the pandemic has allowed many of us to get closer to them thanks to extra time spent at home.
But, what happens when it's time to head back to the office?
Micaela Hood, my colleague at USA TODAY Network's Pocono Record, writes about spending time with her 1-year old cat, Cielo since the pandemic began – and how the kitty has been spoiled having her around, too
Micaela spoke to celebrity pet trainers and animal welfare organizations about how to deal with your pampered pooch or kitty if they feel neglected (and show it) once we head back to the office, to school or take an extended vacay. A couple tips?
Prepare your pet – and maybe get them a pal
Know that exercise is key
Don’t give up on your furballs
For more tips and information, read the full story here.
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"Six months ago my brother Gary found an abandoned kitten under the log pile in the back yard. Gary took him in and gave him a home. The vet said Marigold was 3 weeks old so Gary fed him with a bottle till Marigold could eat food," says Linda Hug of Coralville, Iowa. "He was found just a few weeks after my father died... So Marigold was a welcome distraction amidst our grief for dad and the seemingly endless pandemic. He's a happy healthy kitten."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why I'm doing early-quarantine activities again, from crafts to parks