Fall is almost here, and the only guarantee in life now is PSLs and being cold. The word routine is as foreign to me as speaking French, with no social anchor points like TIFF or Terry Fox keeping us congregating, life kinda feels like you’re hovering somewhere above it, orbiting around an existence you once completely took for granted.

COVID-19 changed all that in a flash, and now, a full six months later, we’re still grappling with how to get back to basics, and without a vaccine in sight, we’re practically paralyzed. While personal choices will prevail when it comes to wading back into the tiered phases of reintegrating, there’s one common sentiment that we all (should) share: pandemics are not a space for judgement. One’s decision to return to work/school/their parents’ basement isn’t up for discussion, between you, them or your gossipy neighbour.

Choosing to opt in on returning to school doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids (gasp- yes, an actual myth I had to actually dispel due to aforementioned gossip). And not sending your kids doesn’t mean you don’t deem education or their future important either. Every person needs to examine the pros and cons before making that truly personal decision. It comes down to more than just numbers or neighbourhoods. Pre-existing conditions, transportation (or lack thereof) are crucial aspects to making this choice.

And let it be loud and clear for those in the back- I am a not medical expert. And unless you’re a doctor, you’re not either! I can only make decisions, with my partner, for our family. I reserve judgement only for my 90 Day Fiance binges, not your day-to-day schedule.

That being said, there are some practical ways to prevent the spread and make back to…whatever a little safer.

Dedicated Kits for Stepping Outside

One bag to rule them all! For office runs, distanced business meetings or full on back to 9-5 life, contain and control are key mantras. Masks are mandatory, but injecting a little personality onto your face won’t hurt. Easy Mondays masks offer all the protection with dual layers and donate a mask to organizations in need with each purchase. Dew North Skincare makes our new go-to hand sanitizer, toss a bottle in your bag and you won’t be caught with a case of the cooties. Meal times are a touchy subject, and with clean hands and an empty stomach you’ll be reaching for this nifty Hydro Flask lunch tote. Insulated for hours, your sandwiches won’t break a sweat and your food will remain toxin-free in this FDA grade and BPA-less bag. Super easy to clean, this fully lined lunch tote comes with a lifetime(!) warranty. A generous TUMI satchel with premium leather makes for an easy Lysol wipe down at the end of the day. By packing a YETI, and a Bulletproof coffee pick-me up, you can limit your excursions to just to and fro, and not the languished line ups of before times.

Keep your Hands (and bags) to Yourself

If one bag rules them all, then there ought to be more than one bag to parcel your goodies in. Creating bags for singular purposes makes sense, your “weekend bag” isn’t made for commuting, and vice versa. With both my kids headed back to school this fall, we’ve set aside bags for just this purpose. Generous in size and full of handy compartments, Columbia Sportswear‘s selection of backpacks are made to move, collecting homework and helping keep your gear off the ground. With compartments for up to 15″ laptops and separate water bottle pockets, keeping organized is easy. We’ve created separate spaces and hooks, so when they arrive home, the bags go on their specific hook and not dumped on the kitchen table. Keeping outside items stowed and safe helps ensure that your living room isn’t actually alive with germs. Hang your bag, hit the showers. This is non-negotiable. And when showers hit outside, Columbia’s line of rain gear (lead photo) is perfect for the fam, with sporty looks and transparent features for younger ones, to full length business ready coats with rain-ready hoods for the big bosses. While the old wives tale may have been dispelled a million times over- you may not actually get *sick* from being out in the cold, but the school *will* most certainly call you to pick up your snotty kid up if they start oozing at their desks. Keep warm, keep covered, and keep washing- Columbia’s coats are fully machine washable, and even adds to the water repellent nature of the material!

crayola masks

Masks, Masks, and more Masks

Face it- your face is not going to see a lot of action this fall. With a government mandate for masks for most (if not almost all), you and your crew are going to need some face coverings, lots of them. Size matters, so stock up on several for the entire family. The Crayola company launched their colourful masks that fit just right, and feature name labels and a mesh bag for proper washing.

No matter which way the pendulum swings, let’s stick to some lessons we all should have learned a long time ago…human decency and being compassionate to one another goes a long way. Drop soup off for that sick neighbour, call your friend who sent their kids back and have a virtual coffee catchup. We’re all in this together, and we’ll get through it too with a little kindness and latitude for all.

All photos by Libby Roach.