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Letters From Home: 'I’m Reminded That We Are A Community Of Helpers At Heart'

Joe (pictured right) and his wife Kelly Capatosto have been serving socially distant espresso from their home. All proceeds go to Service! an organization that addresses food insecurity within displaced members of the food service community.
Kelly Capatosto
Joe (pictured right) and his wife Kelly Capatosto have been serving socially distant espresso from their home. All proceeds go to Service! an organization that addresses food insecurity within displaced members of the food service community.

WOSU's Letters from Home collects stories about day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we heard from Ohioans answering the question: What accomplishment are you most proud of lately? 

Read responses to this week's question and other reflections from Ohioans below.

Kelly Capatosto from Columbus

Immediately after the stay-at-home order was in place, my husband (Joe) and I, like many others, wrestled with the idea of how to take pride in how we were spending our time. Joe works for a coffee company and was furloughed early on. I was fortunate enough to work from home, but still found myself struggling to derive a sense of purpose in between Zoom meetings when there were immediate needs to address all around us.

Having more time on our hands and a full-service espresso machine, we decided it would be fun to give away coffee out of our front window (all from a safe social distance) in order to help build community in this uncertain time and give back in the process.

Guests that stop by can get an espresso, coffee or even a matcha latte that Joe deftly serves with a pair of tongs and places on our windowsill. I can’t count how many happy faces have responded with, “This is the first espresso I've had in weeks.”

In exchange for a cup of coffee and a taste of normalcy, we direct our friends and neighbors to make donations to support the amazing work of Service! They address food insecurity within the recently displaced service industry by making roughly 200 meals a day. The support we are raising is only a small drop in the bucket of what is needed to offer stability for the service industry, and we’re incredibly proud to point to those local leaders like Service who are filling this gap in a tangible way.

Through this process, we’ve seen so much gratitude and joy. We’ve had coffee donated, baked goods dropped off on our doorstep and received several thoughtful notes of thanks. I’m reminded that we are a community of helpers at heart, and I’m incredibly proud we’ve been able to create space for that from the comfort of our own doorstep.

Wylie Lytle from Columbus

I’ve been busy painting a mural on my bedroom wall.

Dana Hilfinger from Columbus

I was fearful about losing my active lifestyle with sports leagues cancelled this spring, so back in March, I started running every day. It started at just 2 miles, but I added a 1/4 mile each day. I have been running six out of 7 days a week since mid-March, and last week hit 8.5 miles.

I've run before and trained for races but never particularly enjoyed the actual running. Now that it's my main form of exercise, I've really focused on it and played around with different pacing and styles of running workouts - it's been really, gulp, fun! I've even started being able to listen to podcasts while I run and have now listened to over 30 hours of the "Revolutions" podcast while running!

A habit that I started out of fear has turned into something that I really look forward to and has helped me realize that a lot of limits that I think are physical are actually mental.

Anonymous from Home

My landlord is putting us out on the 1st of May, lease up. Says we have too many in one bedroom: me, wife, and four kids under 9-years-old. But they’re still collecting rent. We don't owe anything and could not find place because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

A picture of the Brandon Family in Westerville, Ohio
Credit Susan Brandon
The Brandon Family in Westerville, Ohio.

Susan Brandon from Westerville

I actually enjoy helping to educate my three children, ages 16, 12, and 6. They miss physical school and their school friends, but all three told me that they are happy being at home. We have family time every evening. They enjoy baking, playing card or board games, and playing basketball.

It’s my hope that the children look back on this time and remember the fun we had as a family.

Kala from Mount Vernon

I have been eating full meals for over a week now.

Rami Ungar from Columbus

I'm proud of the fact that I've been able to stay not only calm, but able to work. I have anxiety, and it flared up big time as the coronavirus started to seep into the public consciousness. I work a day job, and I was worried that anxiety would interfere with that while I worked from home for the first time. In addition, I write horror fiction on the side, but the stress of the situation made it difficult to focus on writing. I would just stream shows till past midnight instead, using the characters’ problems to escape my own worries.

It took a lot of work. Talking to the guy at my company’s Employee Assistance Program specialist (kind of an in-house therapist), writing about my anxieties, speaking to my family, and a lot of self-hypnosis and good music, along with my medication. In the end though, with a great support network and a lot of tricks to calm me down, I was able to do my job from home as well as I do it in the office. Sometimes even better. I’m almost sad that I may have to go back to the office soon.

On top of that, I’ve been able to focus on my stories, sometimes writing several pages a night. I think including the pandemic in one of my stories has helped; writing about all this proved therapeutic for me. As someone who loves putting stories down on the page and gets even more stressed when unable to do so, that’s been a comfort for me. Fingers crossed I can keep up the output after the pandemic has passed.

William E. Boys from Columbus

Publishing small amateur journals as a hobby.

Melinda Sims from Grove City

I am most proud of the fact that I have not completely lost my mind yet. When Gov. DeWine announced the closure of all Ohio college campuses, I was out of town visiting my adult daughter in Wisconsin. As soon as I returned, I had to move quickly to make syllabi updates and launch new ways to remain in contact with the international students who take my ESL courses at The Ohio State University.

While the academic updates were no small feat, the bigger challenge I imagined would be the prospect of being quarantined with my 90-year-old mother with dementia. As soon as the coronavirus hit, her days of going to the senior-day program while my husband and I worked ended. Suddenly, our home became the senior center, with meals dispatched at a rate our dishwasher found hard to match. Our bedroom became the extra exercise room and our Wisconsin daughter's bedroom became the video conferencing studio.

Each day, my spouse and I compare our Zooming hours to see who is worthy of the quietest workspace with the locked door and webcam. Over the last few weeks at home, I have actually found my state of mind to be better than I ever thought possible. I never realize just how stressed out I had been before the coronavirus.

Now that I am away from traffic jams and a myriad of appointments and obligations, I am sleeping better, walking every day, and finding more ways to just breathe. While I miss the social scene terribly, perhaps time away has done me some good.

Photo of Cara McKinley beaming after completing her solo half marathon.
Credit Cara McKinley
Cara McKinley beams after completing her solo half marathon.

Cara McKinley from Reynoldsburg

Prior to the pandemic, I was training for my second half marathon, and when I found out the race was postponed, I chose to continue training and run the distance on my own. Last week, I completed a half marathon running entirely solo and I even shaved off about a minute from my previous half marathon!

It was mentally difficult to push myself to that distance without the motivation of the race. After finishing, I posted a picture on Facebook and I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received from my friends there. It really showed me people still want to celebrate one another and support one another even when we cannot be physically together!

George Marshall Jr. from Dublin

I am proud of just balancing commitments and family, with it just being myself and my 11-month-old daughter. Recently, my wife (we are continuing to go through a divorce during this time) became sick with a fever and it was suggested she self-quarantine. She is luckily in her new apartment all ready, but for the next 14 days it will be just myself and Nora (11-month-old daughter). We are unable to do daycare since we may have been exposed to my wife.

We've been facetiming with my wife so she can see Nora. My sister has been helpful with getting us groceries. I am thankfully still working at OSU, but it's challenging trying to successfully work at home with a baby. It has been a new normal we are both getting used to. Nora has been attached and cuddly, which I love. This is great bonding time with her.

My oldest is 7 and is from a previous relationship. Her mother took her away from me when she was only 3 months old. I wasn't able to get a routine parenting time with my 7-year-old until about 1.5 years later. I missed out on her major milestones which hurt.

I feel as though God has given me this time with Nora as a way to make up for that time. So, I am grateful for this time and make the best of what work I can get done.

Susan Witten from Columbus

After five years of retirement, I’ve adjusted to having flexible days and being responsible only to myself. I embrace the joy of spontaneity and the ability to sample the smorgasbord of cultural offerings in our city. Retirement gave me time to volunteer at the art museum. Then the pandemic hit.

Even without the volunteer and cultural options, I’ve always been good at entertaining myself. However, the stillness of the pandemic and feeling that I am in an episode of the Twilight Zone have been unsettling. My concentration, at first, was shot and I had none of the vigor that friends were applying to household projects.

In the past, when I’ve found uninterrupted moments, I have dabbled in writing short stories and painting. But I haven’t pursed either vigorously feeling unmotivated by the freedom of my stay-at-home day.

Luckily, two things recently interrupted my inertia. My son asked if I would be interested in illustrating a book he wanted to write for his young children set in the Northwest. And then a friend’s comment about her grandfather brought back a flood of memories about my childhood. Both ideas hooked me. I began writing a collection of short stories/essays about my life growing up for my grandchildren. And when I wasn’t writing, I was researching settings for the picture book and drawing images that captured my son's heart and place. The illustrations have given me the focus and passion I was missing. I have been able to escape for hours in writing and artwork.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for my creativity and the opportunity to forge a legacy for my family. I am one of the lucky ones.

Photo of Heather Stewart and Family.
Credit Heather Stewart
Heather Stewart and family.

Heather Stewart from Granville

The reality of this all began on a Wednesday in March - the special event for that evening cancelled due to health concerns from the guest of honor. By Friday, the event industry and the special events department at the Columbus Museum of Art was in a free fall. Uncertainty flooded all aspects of my life. Normal life and plans for the future were now in question, as well as the fate of the non-profit I work for and my job title within it.

A week later, my husband’s sister called us with a desperate plea. My three nephews would need cared for as her and my brother-in-law continued to have to work as a nurse and firefighter. They were concerned about their own exposure to the virus and the health and safety of their children. We were more than willing to take in the oldest of my nephews, 9 years old and in 3rd grade. He was excited to come and stay with us, it felt like a sleepover, but I don’t think any of us realized just how long this sleepover would last.

We were fortunate to have good weather that first week. Bike rides and hide and seek games filled our "Spring Break." But when the schoolwork started again, the real struggles began. Two different school districts, two different workloads, a 4-year-old to keep busy, plus an expectation from our employers to put in the necessary hours to remain valued and employed. There was not enough time in the day.

We provide all the comfort we possibly can, which is difficult when you have no answers. My nephew longs to see his parents and brothers again. He is enjoying his cousins and is finally feeling comfortable in his new home, but we all struggle with learning about dealing with a new family member.

After six weeks with us, my nephew returned home with his parents and siblings. His parents, still unable to stop working, were losing the childcare for the youngest two due to unforeseen circumstances, and they decided to bring them all home. They have now been forced to adjust their work hours, use all their vacation and sick leave for the year and rotate their schedules around to varying shifts. The exposure to the virus and their children is still a real concern, but their options are limited.

These past months have been a series of ups and downs: depression, anxiety, uncertainty and fear, paired with gratitude for my health and home, and love for my family and this time together. I have the sinking feeling that nothing will ever be the same again.

And the appreciation of life slowing down and the enjoyment of “the little things” is what gets me through the day. It has been a roller coaster ride where tears and laughter often come moments apart.

Joe (pictured right) and his wife Kelly Capatosto have been serving socially distant espresso from their home. All proceeds go to help service workers.
Credit Kelly Capatosto
Kelly and Joe Capatosto peek out from their dining room window - which also serves as a makeshift espresso bar. At left, an art piece by Kelly of Joe hard at work.

Come join our conversation. This week's prompt features the question: How have you created or maintained meaningful personal relationships?

Answer this question using the form below, and try to keep below 1,000 words. Your response may be edited for length and clarity.

WOSU brings you Letters from Home in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art.
WOSU brings you Letters from Home in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art.