How did your family embrace the pandemic? Yes, embrace. What lessons about life are you learning? Have you discovered more about your personal values and what truly makes you feel complete? Perhaps you contributed to one of the quarantine trends: baking, DIYing, taking in a pet, or spending time outdoors. Eden Prairie Life took to social media to see how families had embraced the pandemic, some doing things they never imagined they’d do. This Thanksgiving 2020, let us choose to celebrate and be thankful for what the pandemic has given us: time, intention, and perspective.

These Eden Prairie families were able to find pockets of happiness during the pandemic. They so graciously shared their reflections and memories with Eden Prairie Life. In the process of doing so, they realized that they had gained so much out of the past several months, even if all was not right with the world.

Rediscovering creative passions
Amruta Marwah found herself stepping away from her communications role at the University of Minnesota to care for her two young kids when it seemed risky to have them in childcare. Many evenings were spent building forts and reading under blankets. Amruta signed her  5-year-old daughter up for online art classes, and found herself participating alongside her. Amruta has been painting since she was young, and in May 2010, showcased 30 paintings at the Eden Prairie City Center as part of the Art on City Walls program. She hadn’t spent as much time painting since then, but found herself rediscovering painting during the pandemic. During the online art classes with her daughter, Amruta reflected, “At times, I would draw with her and it reminded me how much joy it brought me and how relaxed I felt.”


Plenty of fort building and play time for these two!
Photo credit: Amruta Marwah


Amruta and her daughter taking online art classes together
Photo credit: Amruta Marwah


A natural born teacher, Amruta craved an outlet where she could teach others. In the past, she has served as an adjunct instructor, tutor, and teaching assistant in graduate school. The solution? Amruta now teaches online Hindi classes for kids, all while working around her kids’ schedule. As she continues to enjoy her passions and embrace time with her two kids, Amruta says that she is “forever grateful for this time with them.”

A window is a gateway to the outdoors
What spaces in your home did you find yourself utilizing as your home office? For Jenny Karkowski and her husband, their family’s three season porch was a place away from their kids where they could take work calls. They noticed hummingbirds frequenting their clematis and thought it would be nice to see more birds. They visited Wild Birds Unlimited at 582 Prairie Center Drive, where they received helpful advice as novice bird watchers. The extra time spent outdoors gave Jenny and her family the opportunity to care for their vegetable and flower gardens.  “The best unintentional decision I made was to hang pollinator flowers on our garden posts. I did it just to make it look nice but it brought in pollinators and it helped our vegetable garden thrive.”

An unexpected discovery Jenny during this pandemic, is that her husband has some hidden DIY skills. Instead of purchasing a new bench for the front porch, he ended up drafting plans, building it and staining it himself. “I was skeptical but ended up discovering my husband has a hidden talent,” Jenny says of her husband. His hidden talent also resulted in him building a dining room bench, too!

The bench Jenny’s husband built
Photo credit: Jenny Karkowski

Jenny says of their time spent outdoors, “It brought me so much peace. Being outside kept me sane. It really helped my family’s mental health.”

Being outdoors has been so important to people as they seek a refuge outside their physical homes. It allows us to be active, find space from each other, and shows us the beauty around us.

Refocusing and helping others
After COVID-19 cancelled her family’s spring break plans, Lori and her family decided to book one-way tickets to Arizona, where they have a condo. They ended up staying for five weeks. Their older kids were able to continue with distance learning. This decision allowed their family to fully take advantage of the Arizonan climate – going hiking, running, playing bocce ball and being in the sunshine. With no television in the condo, the family completed 20 – 1000+ piece puzzles!

Enjoying sunny Arizona during the early pandemic days
Photo credit: Lori


One of the many puzzles the family completed Photo credit: Lori


This pandemic has highlighted the need for people to feel connected to others. Lori found herself calling her mom every day. Her mother, in her late 70’s, suffers from Alzheimers and was in an independent living facility in Fargo, ND. Unfortunately, her mother now finds herself batting COVID-19, and has had to move to dependent living with restrictions on all non-essential visitors. Lori now emails her mom twice a day and calls once, saying that her mother “is miserable and can barely chat for more than 4-5 minutes.”


Backyard landscaping fun!
Photo credit: Lori

When Lori’s husband lost his job of 23 years as a senior project engineer, he found himself tackling projects that he never had the time to do. New plants and pavers were installed in the yard. Lori says that “this was great therapy”. Now, her husband is sharing his time and talents helping a friend who has a baby, and whose wife is battling cancer. He is doing landscaping, sheet-rocking, and electrical work, while Lori helps with the baby 2-3 days a week. Now more than ever, people are refocusing and prioritizing what is important in their lives. Lori feels that “losing your job presents great gifts.”  For Lori’s family, helping others has been their gift to share.

Creating special moments with family
Did you get into gardening or work on your green thumb this year? All the extra time spent at home meant people could take on hobbies like gardening. Gaminee had always dreamed of having a garden. She decided to take advantage of the time at home to make that dream come true. For Gaminee and her family, crafting a vegetable garden became a family affair.

“I wanted fresh organic produce for my family and also to have my children be involved to encourage a love of healthy food. They became very involved.”

When Gaminee started a full time job this fall, her kids, ages 6 and 8, took over the watering and harvesting of the family’s garden.

How else do you maximize your time outdoors? The family also built and enjoyed a fire pit. “We had some great quality time with our kids roasting marshmallows, grilling veggie burgers and cuddling and finding stars in the sky. It was a welcome break from being stuck in the kitchen.”

Some of you may have taken part in the sourdough baking craze. With the abundance of time, bakers were able to tend to the multi-step bread-making process that some sourdough recipes require. Gaminee was proud to admit that she made a sourdough starter and used it. She even shared her starter with friends. She said, “It was fun sharing ideas and pictures of our creations”.

Plenty loaves of sourdough bread were baked by Gaminee (and her friends!)
Photo credit: Gaminee

Project time with dad
Jules Hawkins of Jules Hawkins Photography used her time during the pandemic to build a backyard fence with her dad. After Jules’ mom received her stimulus check and purchased a playset for Jules’ two boys, Jules knew they needed a fence to keep their youngest one from straying beyond the yard. She enlisted the help of her dad. “My dad and I like to spend time making things together,” says Jules. Armed with a sketched out plan, the two of them visited six Menards stores before finally getting all the materials they needed! Apparently 4’x4’ wood posts were a hot commodity!

The backyard fence being constructed
Photo credit: Jules Hawkins


The finished product built by Jules and her dad
Photo credit: Jules Hawkins

During the building process, the family shared plenty of laughs. One moment in particular was when Jules’ husband Mike used the gas powered auger to dig post holes. “My husband went flying around in a circle while holding onto the auger, finally letting go and diving out of the way as the auger bounced out of the hole and fell onto the ground.”

Who knows what other projects this family will work on during this next phase of the pandemic!

Opening our homes to pets
It seemed like everywhere you looked, people were painting something in their homes. More time in our homes meant more people opting to refresh their living spaces. For Jenn and her family, “It only took six years and a pandemic” for them to paint their front door. They opted for a robin egg blue color. One of the reasons it took them so long to finally paint? It had to be warm and dry and we had to be home. Enter 2020. We are both working from home, so we knew we’d be here.”

A cheery pop of robin egg blue greets you at this home!
Photo credit: Jenn

With all our time at home and in our neighborhoods, why not opt for something bright and cheery?

If you were one of the many homes that welcomed a family pet, did any of you end up adding pet rats to your family? That is exactly what Jenn and her family did! Jenn’s daughter was on a Zoom call with teammates, and saw that one of the girls had three pet rats. Her daughter worked hard to earn the pet rodents, “doing chores for a month with no reminder”. Jenn was able to find a breeder in Minnesota called Kinni Brook Rattery ( They had a pair of young rats, Blossom and Buttercup that had bonded and were looking for a home.

As a child, Jenn had pet rodents of every kind: hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, but rats were the family’s favorite. “I’d tell people that they are the smartest and most social of the pet rodent options.” Blossom and Buttercup love being around each other and humans. Jenn says, “They beg when you enter the room. They like to be held and crawl up to your shoulders. They are very clean, make adorable noises, and like to lick our hands.”

Blossom (darker one) is a Sable Burmese and Buttercup is a Russian Burmese Double Velveteen
Photo credit: Jenn


Buttercup happily nibbles some food
Photo credit: Jenn

If you are considering a pet rat, know that rats have to be in pairs or more because they are so social.

“They are very social, love people and want to be with us.”

Perhaps we need our pets as much as they need us, too. It’s also a great reminder that during the pandemic, and this holiday season, we are all social creatures and need to feel connected and needed. May you reflect on this past year and celebrate the good that has come out of 2020.

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Carolyn Wieland

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