Tara Bone, contributing writer

LAST SPRING, LIFE as we knew it came to a screeching COVID-19 halt. Every day became a topsy-turvy roller coaster of change, disappointment, fear, and exhaustion. If your home was like ours, every emotion known to humans seemed to erupt.

But HURRAY — we’re making it! I may be quarantine crazy, but even though those growing pains hurt, look where we are now:  stronger, wiser, and more resourceful. Families across Cache Valley started new traditions and adjusted to the new “normal.” What follows are ideas that local families found they CAN do during these unusual times.

Jamie Younker, a local mother and business owner, is a perfect example of turning COVID negatives into positives. Jamie implemented activities during the stay-at-home order that would prove to help her personally, her family, and even her friends.

First of all, Jamie says in her effort to be the best version of herself for her five kids, she started to meditate and practice stillness daily. She started journaling and recommends the “I’m Doing Awesome” journal (find it at partywithalison.com). She recognizes it’s hard for busy moms to find quiet time, but it’s become her number one priority.

“In a world where we are constantly bombarded by the voices of others, I am learning that it’s essential to find time to be still so we can hear our own voice,” Jamie said.

During the stay-at-home time, Jamie says she was feeling overwhelmed, but then was inspired to start a photo challenge. Jamie is passionate about photography. She and her business partner Alycia are the creative minds behind Story of Home Photography, a local photography business. Jamie says their mission is to capture the magic of everyday moments, and she hoped her photo challenge would bring some perspective to the pandemic.

“I kept thinking, ‘Our business is called Story of Home Photography; now is the time for us to help others tell their stories’,” Jamie said. “Even though it was such a surreal and strange time, I knew we would want to remember what it looked like, what it felt like …  we were creating history within the walls of our homes.”

Jamie took her challenge to social media. Every day she provided a daily prompt and challenged followers to grab their cell phones, take pictures tied to the prompt, and journal about the moment. Since the challenge, Jamie says their family has read through the photo journal and realized all they’ve accomplished and how they’ve grown. If you missed the first challenge, visit @jamie.storyofhomephotos on Instagram and Facebook where Jamie will continue the challenges.

Jamie sees the last months as an opportunity for a restart. Their family is being very selective as to what they allow back into their life.

“When everything burns to the ground, we have the opportunity to choose what we build up in its place,” Jamie said.

Another creative Younker tradition born during COVID are birthday videos. Jamie asked family members to text her a quick, 15-second video to the birthday child and she put them all together. Other fun traditions at their home include a back-to-school dinner the night before school, a family theme for the school year, and yearly photo books for Christmas (Jamie recommends printing photo books through blurb.com).

Like the Younkers, in 2020 most Cache Valley families adapted to change and created memories. Some memories will be light-hearted and fun, while others — like visiting grandparents through windows — will be serious. As we begin an uncertain school year without knowing how long this “normal” will last, we CAN pause and reflect on what we’ve learned and live each moment to its fullest.

CAN-do COVID list from local families:

• Drive-by celebrations for any special occasion
• Birthday video messages
• iMovie films, including animated shorts (see YouTube tutorials)
• “Chips & Cards:” buy potato chips and play card games
• Bake-offs/lots of time in the kitchen
• Create a family favorite cookbook
• Family dance parties
• Listen and/or act out audio books
• DIY mani/pedis
• Make a “celebration book” to document important family dates/memories
• Get outside: hiking, kayaking, fishing, catching crawdads, rope swinging
• Golf
• Family history
• Science experiments
• Build indoor and outdoor forts
• Create a family bucket list of local places to visit and start checking them off
• Indoor or backyard campouts

Follow Jamie for this Fall’s photo challenge!



Follow Jamie on Instagram and Facebook @jamie.storyofhomephotos, and her business partner @alycia.storyofhomephotos.