Franklin County folks stay active while social distancing

By María Camp

For the FCT

Franklin County folks are keeping busy with a variety of activities while practicing social distancing. Among them are reading, writing, painting, drawing and going for walks. Others include taking photographs and attending online yoga classes, guided meditations and religious services.

While certain activities cannot be done safely during the state’s restrictions against gatherings, the change in normal schedules allows for many to have time for developing and growing interests that might have been crowded out by the normal demands of daily life.

“Every generation has had an emergency to affect their lives. We will overcome this,” said Lela Ray, retired Russellville High School art teacher. “My husband and I are keeping isolated. We don’t want to risk catching or spreading anything. We are very appreciative to our younger friends who have contacted us to see if we are in need of help.”

Focusing on family relationships, painting and learning new skills are among Ray’s activities. While she said she misses not being able to do her usual social events – such as traveling and attending Bible study and Bridge Club – and she feels sad for her senior year grandchildren missing activities, perhaps even graduation itself, she is finding other ways to occupy her time.

“I have had to call off planned events, but I’m reading and working on art projects that I have been putting off due to having chosen to spend time traveling, attending theatre productions and participating in other activities,” she said. “My grandson and I have been exchanging questions about perspective drawing via text, and I’m learning how to use Skype.”

Some see this time as a good opportunity to slow down and appreciate the little things while engaging in a variety of activities that can be safely done at home.

Cassie Medley, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, said she suggests spending time – safely – checking on loved ones, doing yard work, scrapbooking, reading, cooking, baking or sewing.

“Since we are asked to stay home for safety reasons, treating this time as a sort of ‘staycation’ will help us slow down from our busy lives,” Medley said. “There are still many things we can do while social distancing.”

Exercising and creating areas of calm can be helpful for coping. Anna Duncan, senior community development manager for the American Cancer Society of Northwest Alabama, said her family is going on walks, practicing yoga and meditation and creating spaces in their home that help them feel calm.

“We are adding touches like an extra blanket, lighting candles and preparing meals together,” Duncan said. “This time of year, I never have time to cook much or to get to have all of us eating at the table at the same time.”

Duncan said her family is also holding a home book club, with each of them re-reading one of their favorite books and then discussing it with the family.

Kim Horton, director of sales and marketing at Profound Outdoors/Whippoorwill Productions recommended fishing as a safe outdoor activity. “Being out on the water is calming and peaceful and keeps you away from other people,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to pass the time and enjoy yourself while being responsible and respectful of the social distancing recommendations. Our family is also going on walks, riding ATVs on trails and fishing the ponds on our property.
“I cannot recommend enough what getting outside does for mental health, and it’s the perfect time to slow down and enjoy that time with your family.”

Family discussions, kitchen experimentation and outdoor play are some of the activities happening at the Green house.

Cortney Uptain Green, a Russellville City Schools fourth-grade teacher who specializes in reading, said her family has taken the time do family Bible study, create new recipes and enjoy supper on the porch. Green said she’s also been spring cleaning, as well as sanitizing everything.

“The boys have hit baseballs in their batting cage, and my daughter has been jumping on her trampoline, and she also created a vanilla iced coffee recipe.”

Andrea Hogan, Phil Campbell Elementary librarian, said she is using the extra time to catch up on reading so she will be ready when her students ask for recommendations. She also drove to a local park and enjoyed seeing the ducks.

Hogan has also been enjoying sit-down meals with her mother, something she said she doesn’t always get to do as much as she wants when working full time and taking classes.

“I’m also thankful to be able to do some things around the house I’ve been putting off,” Hogan said.

Emily Oliver Mays, vice president and senior marketing director at Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay said she and her daughter Lola are “trying out new recipes and enjoying some of our favorite movies at home.”

“It has been a great opportunity for the girls to enjoy time at home, both inside and out,” said Mays. Lola’s cousins, Emma and March Duncan, live nearby. “They have been playing and picking flowers and making bouquets, and we hope to be able to go to the Dismals soon to enjoy the outdoors there while still practicing social distancing.”

Mays said they have tried two kinds of overnight oats and made their first attempt at chocolate-covered strawberries, as well as trying a new spin on spaghetti – adding ranch seasoning and using big rigatoni pasta because that’s all they could find at the store. Mays said they have also enjoyed making spicy taco salads seasoned with smoked paprika and re-watching their favorite movie series, The Avengers.

Deanna Hollimon, principal at West Elementary, said as an educator, she recommends people of all ages consider reading during this time. “Adults can read to children or listen to children read. Journaling is another activity that can be enjoyable – writing about your day and/or drawing and painting about it.”

Hollimon said another favorite activity is engaging in meaningful conversation, something she finds to be all too often missing in many families today.

“I’m also working on completing my dissertation and an online class in order to receive my doctorate,” Hollimon added.

Retired Russellville Middle School teacher Carol Murphree said one area she is spending time on is enhancing her spiritual growth through livestreams from the safety and comfort of her home.

Murphree said that although schools are out, children’s education is continuing through a variety of resources online.

Among many free online activities available are:

  • Visiting animals virtually at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga –
  • Georgia Aquarium –
  • Free books on Audible available for streaming, no account needed –
  • Open Yale Courses – access to a selection of introductory courses taught by teachers and scholars at Yale University. No registration needed, and no credit is earned –
  • British Museum Virtual Tour –
  • San Diego Zoo –
  • Picasso Museum –
  • National Museum of Natural History –
  • Claude Monet’s House and Gardens –
  • Winchester House Tour –
  • San Diego Museum of Art –

Iced coffee sweetens coronavirus distancing

While families spend more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, they are discovering or rediscovering hobbies and activities to keep themselves occupied. For Emmy Green, developing a new recipe fit the bill.

Emmy is the daughter of Cortney Uptain Green, a Russellville City Schools fourth-grade reading teacher, and Milton Green. 

“Emmy is my kitchen experimenter,” Cortney Green said. “YouTube helps a lot, but she came up with this recipe herself.” 

Emmy’s Vanilla Iced Coffee


2 cups of water

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

12 cups of freshly-brewed coffee

Whole milk to taste

1/4 cup French vanilla coffee creamer

  1. Combine water and sugar. Boil at a low simmer for nine minutes.
  2. Move to a Mason jar and add pure vanilla extract. Let sit for five minutes. 
  3. In a large pitcher, mix coffee and syrup. 
  4. Add whole milk until the color is right.
  5. Add 1/4 cup French vanilla coffee creamer.
  6. Serve over ice and store extra in fridge. 

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