Local families get creative

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

Social distancing. It is a concept that is new to our fast-paced, highly programmed culture.  In recent weeks, our lives have changed, and many of us have taken the responsibility to keep to ourselves and our small family units in order to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus.

Four Shelby County families shared how they were able to find positive ways to stay busy and try new things while still taking the need to socially distance themselves from the community seriously.

Leigh Hunt’s son Wyatt shows off one of the fish he caught in Lay Lake during quarantine. (Contributed)

Leigh Hunt, in the small lake community of Shelby, is the mother of one baby girl and three active boys ranging in age from 6-14. She and her husband have used this week to sharpen their fishing skills by teaching them how to run a trotline.

“So far they’ve caught six big catfish. They are learning to put food on the table,” Hunt said.

With the unknown in the not-so-distant future, this new skill is a comfort to their mom.

It’s not all serious business, though. The boys have taken full advantage of the beautiful weather and fun that the lake provides, too. “It’s like being quarantined at a state park,” one of the boys said.

Columbiana mom Summer Endfinger’s two boys have taken time to test out some new camping equipment they had acquired for summer trips they’d planned.

“They’ve spent the night outside in our backyard sleeping in hammocks with bug nets and tarps,” she said.

They also went as far as building a campfire so they could make s’mores.

Camping without leaving home helps the family battle the false sense of feeling imprisoned in their own home.

“It was a great distraction and they loved every minute of it,” Endfinger said.

Joel and Amy Dixon, also of Columbiana, went a few steps farther. They are a family that is normally overscheduled this time of year, but are using the quarantine to explore parks and trails that are empty right now.

They even took a road trip to walk outside in downtown Montgomery, looking at historical landmarks and buildings, safely away from other people.

“This has been a blessing for us,” Amy Dixon said. “We normally aren’t all together at any given moment this time of year until about May. We’ve been able to really spend time together and connect in a way that we usually can’t due to being busy.”

Alabaster dad Steve Austin found a way to keep his, and hundreds of other kids, busy by teaching beginning sign language on Zoom.

A sign language interpreter by trade, Austin’s Monday and Wednesday Zoom class filled up quickly and now has a waiting list of 60.

He’s currently considering how to fill the obvious need.

“The kids are learning 15 signs in each lesson, and if we keep going they’ll have the ability to have conversations in sign language by the time this thing is over,” Austin said. You can find Austin at sign-language.gr8.com.