Lockdown Italia: Day 10

I am experiencing my own renaissance here in lockdown. Oddly enough, I am now an early riser.

At 5:30 a.m. I open the shades and the sliding glass door to the balcony to hear the 30-minute, a capella concert of every bird in Rome. It is so loud that it fills the neighborhood with chirping, trilling, throaty warbling, caw-ing, and that sound that seagulls make, the one that mimics sea lions only 3 octaves higher.

During this gentle half-hour, the traffic cannot be heard, and now at 6:06 a.m. I can hear the cars and trucks off on the main thoroughfare drifting up over the hill. The riotous cacophony has moved to another street.

While the concert is performed, sunrise slowly displays the perfect ombres that inspire every artist and textile designer in the world. This lighting plan is delicate and nuanced. The blues being gently overcome by pale blue, then there is almost no discernable color that moves towards the palest nude that moves to buff. The sun is coming. Soon.

This slower pace is good for me. This slower pace makes it easy to think, to heal. It is as the Psalmist wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.

I have often noticed that when I need to rest, to slow down, and I don’t pay attention to that need– let’s say I discount that need as lazy, or listen to bad advice to “push through” or “move on” — I get sick or injured or experience one of my many migraines. I am then forced to meditate on Psalm 23, made to lie down, and in my life, it is green pastures.

Day 10 and I am accepting this new normal. I wonder if I will be changed, long-term by this slower pace. Will I start a commune or become a hermit? Or will I push forward and forget the lessons I am learning?

Manage Well: Preparedness

If it sounds like I am going into a sermonette, you’re right! You might have seen my Instagram posts with my #lockeddownItalia hashtags with meal plans and daily meal agendas — done in the eponymous whiteboard marker — not attractive, but useful, simple, and easy! Why do I plan? Because it’s in the Bible, it’s what I have learned in Sunday school — yes, folks in church. Here are three Bible stories that highlight the importance of being prepared (there are many more).

  1. Joseph interprets the dream that God gave to Pharoah Genesis 41:15 – 40. Basically, Pharoah has a dream that disturbs him about 7 fat cows, that are then devoured by 7 lean cows. That’s a dream weird enough to call on the Almighty All-Knowing God, and the interpretation was predicting 7 years of abundant harvests with 7 years of famine following them. You see, God was preparing everyone for these lean years and provided the wisdom needed to survive those tough years. Joseph went into planning mode, saved an appropriate amount of foodstuffs, and the nation of Egypt survived the lean years.
  2. Parable of the ten virgins Matthew 25:1. Let me caution you to not focus on the word ‘virgins,’ since this is a historical-cultural reference meant to highlight, in a situation the people of the time would easily understand, the concept of foolishness vs. wisdom, the idea of being prepared. In this time in history, it was customary to go out and wait while it was still dark for the bridegroom to come for his betrothed. So the foolish virgins took their lamps, not knowing how long they would wait, without additional oil, while the wise virgins took lamps and a spare jar of oil, just to be on the safe side. Really more of the meaning of this story is about the kingdom of heaven and practicing faithfulness. FOMO has always been the part that has stuck with me — maybe because in Sunday school, I was 7 years old and the teacher focused on being prepared as opposed to the kingdom of heaven — you don’t really want to scare little children about sudden death. Remember, those were the days when we would pray this prayer regularly:Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Please bless grandma and grandpa and make Toby, grandma’s dog, better. Amen.
  3. The story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem in Nehemiah is fascinating. It is full of bad guys, being prepared, organizing people, etc. Another Sunday school lesson series that influenced me.

What can we learn from these stories? Here’s the bullet list:

  • Wisdom works well
  • Think ahead
  • Avoid bad stuff
  • Don’t squander your wealth — you might need it later
  • Manage your resources
  • Stories that we tell our children matter
  • Discipline of going to church (even if it’s online) builds character
  • Reading the Bible builds character and is entertaining
  • Expect bad guys in power and in government
  • Do something even though there might be bad guys in power
  • Prayer matters
  • Relationship with God is beneficial to your health and lifespan
  • Be bold and do right
  • We don’t need to worry, we need to be obedient to Godimg_20200318_083809730

What else have you learned from these passages of scripture?

 

 

 

 

Working from Home: Tips for Sanity

I read this article last Friday and decided to add my own spin!

https://www.fastcompany.com/90476020/working-from-home-7-smart-tips-to-help-you-get-more-done?utm_campaign=eem524%3A524%3As00%3A20200312_fc&utm_medium=Compass&utm_source=newsletter

 

The 7 smart tips in the article referenced above are:

  1. Get Dressed
  2. Create a Dedicated Workspace
  3. Set and Maintain Your Normal Hours
  4. Focus on Your Output
  5. Eat Healthy Lunches
  6. Schedule More Check-ins with Your Team
  7. Limit Distractions

These are all basic strategies for working remotely and some are easier to implement than others. Since I have been working remotely for the past 8 years, and across many time zones, I thought I would share some other ideas that have been helpful in keeping me engaged in work and with my teams, as well as balanced my family life.

Enhanced Communication

We all know to some extent that much of our daily communication at the office is non-verbal. We see a co-worker with clenched teeth, or notice an entire team disappear for 2 hours. These are non-verbal cues that help us to do some interpersonal research and interaction to ensure that we are completing our deliverable with the most relevant information available. When we return home at the end of the day, we see the non-verbals of our family members, and no doubt turn to the happiest member for some stress relief (maybe the family dog?)!

When all of our time is spent away from the office, we miss out on those non-verbal cues, so enhanced communication becomes helpful and effective. When we are suddenly available 24/7 to our household, expectations need to be set, so that everyone understands what appropriate work boundaries are during lockdown.

Here are some suggestions for teams:

  • If possible, use a shared app for managing projects or tasks such as Monday.com. You can use this as your virtual office, see input, comments and status
  • If an app is not right for your team, a daily morning email can work well
    • Keep it short
    • Include explanations, why, steps, instructions, etc.
    • Bullet what you can
    • Use meaningful subject headers, such as Status: Project #1 [date]
    • Encourage your team to ask questions
    • Provide information for next conference call or video call
  • End of the Day Summary to Manager
    • Include status of deliverables
    • Issues/challenges
    • Needs
    • Accomplishments
  • Daily morning huddle call

 

Here are suggestions for families:

  • Family meeting to set schedule, expectations, answer questions
  • Clearly identify workspace and expectations surrounding this space
    • g. “The dining table is my workspace from 8 – 5”
    • “I will put everything away by 5:30”
    • “While I am on conference calls it’s time for you to play in your fort”
    • “We will eat lunch from 12 – 1 picnic style”

You get the idea and of course you will have an entirely different scenario at your home!

  • Collaboratively get ideas for how to manage household tasks
  • Meet daily for a family huddle with lots of hugs and cuddles
    • Gently remind family of expectations
    • Ask what’s working well
    • Ask for issues/challenges
    • Ask for other input
  • If it isn’t working well, be sure to problem solve
  • Make changes as appropriate

 

Enhanced communication works well most of the time and especially now, to be sure we don’t start losing our sanity, we need to “use it or lose it!”

Lockdown Italia: Manage Well

Pancake_Ricotta Orange with Nutella
Saturday Breakfast: Ricotta Orange Pancakes and a smear of Nutella

I was prepared for the lockdown here in Italy. I had a meal plan and I stocked my two-shelf pantry a little at a time over January and February. There is satisfaction when you’ve anticipated a crisis or emergency and effectively moved past the first phase — avoiding a potentially crazy situation.

Now that we have lived through the first week, it’s time to do a quick review of what 1) has worked well, 2) potential holes are in the plan, and 3) other opportunities this situation provides.

Worked Well

  • Zombie Meal Plan: the rough template of what meals we would eat over the course of a 2-week lockdown, and ensuring that we had the ingredients in the cupboard or the refrigerator
  • Routines: we have been using a home video series for  yoga stretching, apps for sermons online, prayer time every meal and every night before bed, tidying up, so these structures keep an even keel for us emotionally and physically
  • Introducing our love of singing into our Routine: I felt very Maria von Trapp yesterday — wait, I have to start earlier, earlier in the week when we ran out of dishwasher pods. We ran out, which is a little cloud on my sunshiny plan — it means, that I have to don my pink rubber gloves and wash dishes BY HAND! Washing dishes by hand has always been a particular hated task of mine, possibly due to a somewhat mentally traumatic event in my elementary school years, but let’s not open that jar of anchovies. So, I am washing dishes by hand, and I think I must have gotten over my little trauma, because I started remembering times my grandmother and I washed dishes, singing old-timey church hymns at the top of our lungs. I determined that the next day, I would draft Hubby as my suds helper, (which worked – because he is simply the best guy in the world™®. Then I started trying to sing an old-timey hymn and I had forgotten most of the words. Not to be deterred, I asked Hubs to choose a song. He wasn’t quite cooperative. Another night passed and I turned into Maria von Trapp or maybe Mother Superior. I warned him that I wanted to hear Folsom Prison during the next episode of ‘washing dishes.’ Then I followed up on it. He wasn’t cooperative at first, which is totally unreasonable — see Hubby has a beautiful singing voice — he has performed musical theatre! Anyway, I started the song, and we all know that I love to sing, but not everyone loves to hear me sing. I handed it off to him and like a champ, he took it and sang his best Johnny Cash! I heard all of Folsom Prison! Next, we started learning a duet — Shallow — it was incredibly fun and yes, it helps to strengthen us, remind us of who we were, who we are, and gives us hope about how we’re going to handle anxiety and stress together. As a team or at least a country duet.
  • Haven’t needed to go to the grocery store (might want to, but haven’t, just no need)

Potential Holes

  • Not accounting for Hubby’s water and creamer needs during the day when he’s home from work (accounted for coffee, and for water, just not the extra 1,5 liter he chugs throughout the day and the 1/4 cup of cream he likes in his “coffee”–meaning he is using my-planned-for-espresso-steaming milk. Don’t worry, I have two boxes of milk in the cupboard that I can use — I am just being stingy! #curmudgeon)
  • Didn’t plan for a small bag of dishwasher pods, hence long story above
  • Possibly might run low on lemons and juice — a grocery run may be needed this week (In this ‘live’ test of my Zombie Meal Plan my goal is to be able to eat well with no grocery store runs! Even if we do sneak in a creamer and dishwasher pod purchase.)

Other Opportunities

  • Guitar might get some air time
  • Might use my singing lesson techniques
  • Writing projects
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Home organization
  • Posts for Chrissyginger Instagram might improve