Stories from Seattle: Something to Keep Your Mind Off the News

Writer Drew Zandonella-Stannard launches a free text subscription service based on light-hearted laughs—just the thing we need right now

By Drew Zandonella-Stannard


April 9, 2020

This is part of a series of personal essays we’re calling Stories from Seattle, contributed by our community and designed to show how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the lives of Seattleites. Want to share your story, coping mechanisms, wildest ideas? We’d love to hear. Please email:

Quarantine started early in my household. Being immunocompromised with a history of respiratory infections, I decided to air on the side of caution and sequester myself a little over a month ago. As a person with chronic illness, I’m used to embracing the great indoors. While I don’t think anyone wants to fess up to fueling the Seattle Freeze, I’m definitely a part of the problem.

I work largely from home, freelancing while caring for my daughter, who is just about to turn two. Kids have a way of forcing you out into the world. When we still rode the bus, my daughter would inevitably zone in on the most ominous person near us and attempt to make a new friend. On our daily walks, she is quick to engage with neighbors, pointing out yard signs or holiday decorations. As we pass a nearby chicken coop, she shouts the names of her favorite hens as she tries to coax them out to join us at the fence.

Toddlers make it impossible to remain invisible, even while quarantined.

By the time my second week in captivity rolled around, I found myself hungry for extracurricular projects to take my mind off of the growing pandemic at hand. I dove into work. I baked bread. I roped my daughter into crafting handmade cards for our friends and family. I considered making an inspirational sign to display in our front window, but what singular quote could possibly lift the spirits of an entire neighborhood (other than “please help yourself to free toilet paper on the porch”)?

Like most people, I am horrible at taking my own advice. I spend my evenings absorbing the news as the meditation app on my phone gathers dust. Last week, while my husband and I sat side by side illuminated by the glow of our separate devices, my project found me. A spam text from a clothing brand I don’t remember opting in to popped up on my screen. What if, instead of barraging a random list of strangers with coupon codes, I harnessed the power of SMS marketing to send one pleasant thing out into the world every day? 

A few hours later, I had an EZTexting membership and a name for my quarantine-fueled performance piece: The Good List. The promise of The Good List is simple. So far, I’ve shared an article on the history of the whoopee cushion, a poem, and a video of a dog taking flight while attached to a bouquet of helium balloons. The Good List asks nothing of its subscribers. It’s just there to pull us out of our collective crisis feedback loop for a few minutes each morning.  

I did wind up making a sign for my front window, cutting craft paper letters out one by one while my child methodically peeled and stuck heart stickers all over my legs. The sign urges our neighbors to sign up for The Good List, even though it might pigeonhole me as the local eccentric shut-in. When I began this project, I didn’t think that I’d actually receive responses to my texts, but it’s comforting to know that a simple poem or even a video of a soap bubble freezing in real-time has provided a small, positive escape for friends as well as strangers.

Last night before bed I mused to my husband that new parenthood is really immersion training for social distancing. Suddenly, one feels a deep need to gather and hoard as many supplies as possible for an uncertain future. The days run together, your sleep cycles are thrown off, and meals are scavenged from the pantry and freezer. You participate in a lot of FaceTime sessions with older relatives. A simple exchange can feel like a monumental event. The early days are hard. 

These are the early days. I’d love to send you a text. 

If you would like to sign up for The Good List, text THEGOODLIST to 484848. No pressure. It’s just a little thing we’re doing together.

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