Most of my blogging during this period of Coronavirus has been focused on catching up on my adventures in Australia and New Zealand over the holidays. All along my mom has been saying, “you should be blogging about what you’re doing during quarantine.” So for anyone else wondering what I’m doing these days, here is your update.
After having a big meltdown early on (mostly triggered by my first grocery shopping trip after all of the safety and security procedures were in place, where I was completely overwhelmed by being yelled at in French, told to get away from others, and overwhelmed by all of the masks, gloves, and lack of smiles, greetings, or friendliness of any kind), I decided I needed an attitude check and have been working hard to stay positive and productive during this time at home. There have been a few hard days in the past weeks, but I can honestly say that I am well and doing my best to thrive in the midst of the chaos. If you’re following me on Instagram, you’ve seen most of these pictures as I’ve used it that platform to hold me accountable for #choosingjoy every day.
In Switzerland, Nestle made the decision for us to start working from home on March 11th. When this post is published, it will be day #56. At first, I attempted to use my dining table as a work space, but found I was struggling to be productive with the kitchen in sight and a lovely view distracting me. So, after a few days, I set up shop in a little windowless room that serves as both office and gym. Here, I don’t have distractions beyond the big world map reminding me of all the places I can’t go right now. Using my desk is allowing me to leave work in this room instead of bringing it into my living space, and it is helping me to truly turn it off on nights and weekends. While I’m not doing hair and make-up, I am changing out of pj’s every day and taking a proper lunch break. I’ve also (mostly) set up starting and stopping time in an attempt to create some boundaries between work and life.
It’s impossible not to compare the difference between the US and Switzerland under normal circumstances, but right now, the differences are more extreme than usual. Because non-essential stores were closed, the grocery stores chose (or maybe, were mandated?) to block non-essential categories. The categories chosen weren’t consistent between stores, and in my opinion, the category choices had to have been made by a man. I mean, no Easter decorations, hair dye, make-up, or napkins?! These pictures don’t clearly show it, but categories like clothing, books, games, and DVD’s were off-limits, too. A time when people are stuck at home for weeks on end feels like the perfect time to sell a lot of these things! I particularly felt bad for the poor Easter bunnies!
And no, Amazon isn’t in Switzerland to give an easy alternative. Nor is there anything resembling a Target. Even the McDonald’s drive-thru was closed. Moral of the story: America will always win when it comes to convenience.
Beyond some of the adjustments in working and purchasing, I’ve also had some changes to the way I spend my time. Since I get a lot of joy from time with other people (Hey, fellow extroverts! I see you!), I have had to get creative about doing things that can help keep my attitude positive. Hopefully, this round up inspires you with an idea or two. I would love to hear what you’ve been doing during your time at home!
Nature! Thankfully, Switzerland allowed us to continue going for walks outside. (My friends and colleagues in Italy, Spain, and France do not have this same luxury.) Whether it be walks in the vineyards or along the lake, enjoying all of the beautiful spring flowers, or watching some incredible sunsets, it is giving me life.
Gratitude! At the end of each day, I’m writing down five things I’m thankful for that happened in that day. When you know you need five things at the end of the day, you are on the lookout all day long, and you know what? I’ve found five or more specific things every day!
Unexpected surprises! Like…
The lakeside plant sculptures in Montreux are cartoon characters this year (the theme changes each year)…
A pedestrian tunnel that is full of paintings from an elementary class, created in 2002…
[The Three Little Pigs]
[Little Red Riding Hood]
[The Little Mermaid]
[The artists behind the artwork. They will never know how much joy they brought me after a long day’s work.]
A sign in the window of a closed business featuring a Charlie Chaplin quote that says: “A day without laughter is a day lost.”
A surprise flower delivery from a dear friend…
A surprise Easter delivery from a friend with the center purposely left blank for me to fill with an inspirational quote…
[I chose a verse that would remind me of my word of the year: PEACE]
The first Sunday I realized some of the bakeries are considered essential businesses and are open, I walked down the hill and enjoyed an almond croissant on a bench overlooking the flowers, fountain, lake, and mountains…
Snail mail! It’s taking forever (as in, at least four times longer) to get here from the US, but it makes me oh-so-happy when it arrives…
Seeing someone riding a unicycle on my street when I went for a short mid-afternoon walk between conference calls…
Spending time in the kitchen making some familiar favorites or trying new things has been a good distraction. I’ve never prepared so much food in my whole life, particularly since I used to eat every lunch at the office. Plus, multiple meals out in a given week. While I’ve tried to eat somewhat healthy, I’ve also indulged in a few treats, because #quarantine…
[One final order from the American Store just before lockdown allowed me to get some Lucky Charms, which was the perfect St. Patrick’s Day meal!]
[My first-ever herb-crusted pork tenderloin]
[First siting of strawberries in the grocery stores means it’s time for Strawberry Shortcake!]
[First-ever attempt at making lamb. It was way too intimidating for me, and I think it will be my last time making it]
[When the weather feels like summer time, it’s time to start grilling!]
[This box of Jiffy corn mix was buried in my cupboard, and I was SO excited to find it, so I could make some cornbread to go with my taco soup!]
[I made an Easter feast using a simple recipe for Easter Dinner on Two Baking Sheets (or three baking sheets, if you live in Switzerland and have a tiny oven like me).]
[We don’t have Reese’s in Switzerland, so I saved these treats from the American Store for more than a month to have them as my Easter dessert. This might be the most self-control I’ve ever exhibited!]
[Google taught me how to store asparagus – in the fridge standing in a cup of water]
[I am close to earning the title, Meal Planner Extraordinaire! And I’m trying hard to eat my veggies!]
[Another impulse purchase from my early-March American Store order that was only recently opened. So good and an instant reminder of childhood.]
[With all of my March visitors having to cancel their travel plans and not realizing I needed to re-order from the American Store before they closed, I was officially running out of Jif! I had never tried the no-name peanut butter options in Switzerland, and now that I had no choice, I panicked when I realized most stores were out of stock of the one or two sku’s of peanut butter they actually carry. I finally found some in the past week or so, and all I can do is laugh when I compare the sizes!]
Doing something for others! Even outside of a global pandemic, I always ask myself what I’m doing for others when I start to feel grouchy. Since the beginning of the crisis, I’ve used the same strategy – asking myself how I can be a blessing each week. It helps the loneliness and wallowing subside when you shift your attention to what you can do for someone else. It is proving to be an essential part of life in this time when I could easily spiral into a sad place.
I joke that snail mail is one of my love languages. (This print is framed in my house, which probably confirms it.) In the past two months, I’ve probably sent 40 or 50 cards, locally and abroad, and I have more ready to go out this month.
After listening to some of my colleagues talk about how hard it was to juggle home schooling, childcare, and work at home – particularly in the first few weeks when everything was new, I had a crazy idea to send the giant Melissa & Doug coloring pads to friends in the US with little ones – hoping that it would provide some novelty and calm, even if only for a few minutes. I sent dozens of them to friends all over the US and loved seeing pictures and videos of the excitement they brought.
Listen to your intuition when you feel prompted with a crazy idea!
In the weeks leading up to Easter, I had another crazy idea…I would play Easter Bunny by baking Easter cookies and delivering them to the mailboxes of friends and colleagues in Switzerland. 140-something cookies, 30-something houses visited, and I-don’t-know-how-many hours of work, it was a huge success!
These aren’t life-saving activities, but they are fueling me. It’s impossible to feel bored when focusing on how to bless others.
Zoom Zoom! Like much of the rest of the world, I hadn’t used Zoom until the lockdown started. I still haven’t used it a lot, but it’s how we are meeting as a Connect Group now, and I’ve had several virtual coffees and meals, too.
Peloton! One of my favorite things to happen in quarantine was to realize how many Purina US friends have a Peloton bike. I started a text group with all of them in March, and we’ve been coordinating rides together. It has been such an amazing motivation for me! I’ve ridden 5-6 days per week, and all but two or three times, I’ve been riding with friends! We’ve exchanged photos after hard rides, celebrated virtual high fives from Peloton instructors (who are riding so many rides with all of us while they’re at home, too), recommended favorite rides to each other, and celebrated milestones. Purina describes its cultural values as “The Five Talls.” We’ve added a sixth by naming our group “SweatTALL!”
[So many sweaty, crazy hair selfies are being exchanged!]
[Peloton gives achievements when multiple friends are working out together. We had eight friends on a ride in April!]
[I know you can’t read it, but that little blue achievement is for 150 all-time rides!]
[A week or so ago, I joined 27,000+ riders on a ride that was recorded live from an instructor’s NYC apartment! Peloton is finding a way for instructors to record live classes from their homes, which is amazing!]
[Last week, I hit another PR and got an award for 2,000 minutes worth of Peloton classes so far in 2020!]
[I’m even taking some yoga classes with the Peloton app]
With all of this working out, I will definitely come out of this quarantine stronger. Not sure about skinnier, since my junk food consumption is probably off-setting my hard work, but you can’t win ’em all!
Tulips! Morges is located about 30 minutes from Montreux. Every year, they have a Tulip Festival. Believe it or not, this is my first year to go! While none of the festivities associated with the festival are happening, the city left the gardens open to the public, so people can take a walk and enjoy the tulips. They were stunning!
Hair humor! With hair salons closed right before I was meant to get a haircut, I was very concerned about what my hair would look like by the time this was over. Thankfully, the salons re-opened last week in Switzerland, so things didn’t get too dire. In the midst of the waiting, I exchanged several ridiculous photos with a friend about what might happen if things went on for too long.
[The Before and After. Pictures don’t do justice to how long it was (or at least how long it felt to me). 9.5 weeks is the longest I’ve ever gone without a haircut!]
Home Projects! Like many others, I’ve also tackled a few projects, like learning out to wash these giant windows…
…and planting flowers on my terrace!
I know people will read this from all over the world, and I know everyone has different circumstances right now. I hope the things I’ve been getting into bring a smile or give an idea of something you can do while spending extra time at home. If nothing else, I’ve learned and re-learned to focus on one day at a time, because in the end, it’s all we can do.
Here’s hoping that I will have tales of adventures sooner than later! Until then, I’ll be finding ways to keep #choosingjoy!