A Personal Story during Lockdown

This article is written for the B1-B2 level student. The hyperlinks lead to English-German translations. After clicking on the links, you can easily change the language to French or another language from within the online translator used: linguee.com.

How are all of you doing?  Are you starting to get used to the lockdown? I feel very fortunate.  Losing over 80% of expected income for the year within a few days was swiftly and effectively counterbalanced by the meaningful financial support the Swiss government and banks provided.  I think for the first time ever during an economic crisis, interest free loans and unemployment benefits in the form of short-time working insurance have been granted to self-employed business owners like me.  So thanks to the Swiss government authorities, I am able to remain calm and focused during these uncertain times!

But I’d like to back up a little and share a personal story with you. Let me tell you how it started…

It was early March and I was feeling pretty good.  I had just recovered from a month-long flu.  Who knows?  Maybe from “the virus” and I started feeling a natural urge to reach out to family and friends that I had lost touch with.   My best friend from home, Ellen, had been on my mind recently.  The last we spoke was about 13 years ago.  

This crisis woke me up by perhaps instilling fear of an unknown future.  The thought of loved ones coming down with the virus was working away at me.  So I began reaching out and in a way that felt easy and natural.  Ellen’s birthday was in March and so I sent a happy birthday message to her. 

I was so delighted to receive a response.  We started sending simple texts back and forth.  Being a bit nervous about talking over the phone, I had asked her in my first message if it would be okay if we kept to writing first. Her answer to me?  “Time is on our side.”

Then Easter time came.  I had hesitated to respond to her last message as it had innocently stirred up some painful times that she wasn’t aware of.  I got stuck.  I wanted to explain why it took me so long to answer without going into too much detail.  On Good Friday, I finally sent a vague message to her. I thought to myself how silly it was that I hadn’t called her yet.  I agreed to myself that it exactly what I needed to do upon receiving her next reply.

And then it happened.


Being connected to her niece via facebook, I received an announcement that Ellen had gotten into a serious car accident with a friend on Friday and had been rushed to the hospital with multiple broken bones.  Ellen had been driving.

In a split second, not only had Ellen’s life changed, it seemed mine had, too.  No longer was I basking in the warm feelings of having gotten back in touch or the feeling of relief  or the grateful feeling that I would not be experiencing financial distress any time soon.  All of that went out the window and meant absolutely nothing. 

Instead feelings of fear, guilt and regret consumed me.  Why hadn’t I just called Ellen from the start? Why did I take so long to get back in touch with her in the first place?  So much time wasted. 

Ellen was brought to a reputable hospital in Boston and I even managed to get through to speaking to her nurse.  I’m not even sure she found out about that.  I didn’t feel I had the right to suddenly get all involved.  She had a life that I wasn’t a part of any more and wanted to respect that. 

I found out she was in great pain. Nothing more.  Later, I wrote to her niece who explained that her mom and Ellen’s older sister had created a facebook group to communicate with friends and family about how things were proceeding.  Pam accepted me into the group quickly and so felt grateful.

In the next few days, I was to learn that Ellen had a broken, dislocated neck.  She decided to risk an operation.  She made the right decision.  Afterwards, she could feel her hands and feet again. And by the way, more good news: she had tested negative for COVID-19.  Then, a double surgery came next.  Two surgical teams worked at the same time: one to put in a metal plate by her broken cervical bone (collarbone) and the other to place another metal plate to stabilize her broken wrist.

I had no idea if more surgeries awaited her.  Thankfully, the medical team had finally found the right way to relieve her pain.  I can’t imagine what she must have gone through for nearly a week without proper pain relief.  It was an Easter story that seemed very close to the original one.  


In the meantime, I continued to write short questions to Ellen’s niece and sister via facebook.  I was excited to find out about a blog Ellen and Pam started in early 2019.  It is dedicated to telling memorable stories of their past to honor their family history.  It brings to life those family members and good friends they miss who have sadly passed away.  At the same time, it is a gift for future generations who may be curious to learn more about their ancestors.  It’s a family record created in a personal, unique way.

Both of them are great storytellers.  It is something in their blood.  Ellen has always liked to read and keep a diary.  And I can remember Pam telling some really hysterical stories after coming home from work.  I can’t tell you how reading their newsletter and watching their videos caused many sentimental tears to fall.  I laughed out loud reminiscing over the childhood stories they shared.  Most of the stories were new to me but I could vividly imagine them playing out in my mind since I not only knew the people and places so well but also because I, too, hold them so dear.

The feeling of relief for Ellen would be finally come when she had the courage to share a smiling face of herself in her neck brace.  Phew! There she was. She was alive and somehow she looked so calm.  The expression she conveyed to the nearly 200 people worried about her was: I got this!  That was the first night that I could finally sleep. 

After the two surgeries, things began to move quickly.  Within about 2 days or so, she could stand up and the decision to transport her to a rehabilitation clinic was made.  She was on her way.  She had passed the first painful stage and now she was going to the next.  It’s certainly not over yet.  Not by far.  It’s just the beginning.  But I do hope to be back in her life in a big way now so I can accompany and support her along the way.

In honor of Ellen and her family, I would like to share the” Leaving a Life Legacy” blog with you.  I find it very relevant in these times.  Not all of us may be lucky enough to survive this pandemic unscathed.  Writing or sharing our stories may be the key to helping us through any losses we may experience now or in the future. I hope you may be inspired by their stories to do your own thing.  Warning: it could awaken strong feelings in you!


Finally, I have to say Ellen has always been able to bring out the sentimental side in me.  I miss that very much.  I haven’t found many people like that lately. With so many shared childhood experiences, she can do it the best!  So in honor of her poetic sentimentality, and my hidden one, I’d like to leave you with this important message that she gave to me as a gift many moons ago.  I still have it today and it remains in my living room to this day.  It’s the picture of the cushion you see at the top of this post. “A friend is a gift you give yourself”. As I now look forward to renewing my friendship with Ellen, a woman that helped shaped me as a person, I hope you can learn from my mistakes.  Give yourself the gift of friendship. And remember everyone: Time may not always be on our side. So, let’s make the most of it.

For those who may have been inspired to write their own personal lockdown story or reminiscent story of days gone by, I would be so pleased to read them. 

Writing about emotions taps into a completely different writing style from business letters.  But it is when we share emotions in another language that the language truly becomes our own. That I know from my own experience.

I’ve got to go now.  It’s time for me to call Ellen!  Wishing you all well.  Keep safe, strong and hope if there’s a story in you, you find time to write it!


How to manage working at home with the kids?



I admit it.  We don’t have kids.  But I can tell you that after running my own business for many years from home and living with my husband, whose own separate business is also home based, I have learned a lesson or two about working and living in close quarters with a family member for an extended period of time.  

For the children aspect, I am glad to share my insights learned by observing young families in similar situations.

Here are my 5 tips for working at home with family membêrs

1) Designate purposes for rooms or shared spaces 

You’ve got to look at your home with a new perspective, especially if you have limited space and both partners need to work full or part-time from home.  Assess objectively what the requirements are for each person. 

For example, if one or both of you are often talking on the phone, then working in separate rooms is best.  No matter what rooms you use: Just do it!  However, it is feasible to work in the same room if both of you have work that involves only reading/writing tasks.

Two such compatible jobs could be accounting and web design work.  But if we consider a sales person and a teacher working in the same room, then no! Don’t!.  You’re going to need your separate work spaces and areas.  Resources, books and files should be easily accessible to those who need it and at the same time not create an eye sore for the other.

Keep in mind, a sensible solution could simply involve moving tables or bookshelves in and out of different rooms. Doing so can transform your space in ways you may have never thought of before.

Also consider storing items that you don’t regularly need into your storage room to gain extra space. Now is also a good time to do your spring-cleaning and take things to Hagenholz or a recycling center.  To remain hygienic and safe, donating your possessions may not be the wisest choice at this time.

Lastly, don’t feel bad if you start out working in the same room as your mate and realize afterwards it’s really best to separate.  Be pragmatic and make it clear why you’d like to try something different. Most likely they will see your point when the new working arrangement improves their ability to concentrate, too.

With children?

Where children are concerned, you may need to get very creative.  A friend of mine transformed part of their living room into a mini-school room/play area for their 2-year old.  They couldn’t use the living room as an office room but it seemed to be a magical area where her daughter could play hours on end

I’ve also just learned my neighbour who has 3 children must now also work from home. The solution he has found is to use the apartment building’s attic to work from so his 1-year old and 3-year old daughters think he’s away at work.  Otherwise, they just wouldn’t understand why he is not paying attention to them. Luckily, his wife is a stay-at-home mom and is taking care of the kids as she usually does.

Not everyone will need to take such drastic measures.  As previously mentioned, when it comes to working with kids at home, you may consider renting a hobby room.  If that’s not possible, you could come to agreement to decide that you’ll spend the morning taking care of the children while your partner works and then switch roles in the afternoon. 

2) Determine “time zones”

Now, this is a tough rule that I have for myself and wish my husband would follow, too.  I enjoy having a clear “end of a working day”.  So when I watch TV in the living room, i.e. “his sometimes office”, I am not reminded of work.  This is hard for me when I can see him sitting at his computer often until bedtime working against a deadline only he has set for himself.

The upside to working from home is that you may be able to take a longer break during the day and work more in the early morning or evening. You may want to retreat into the bedroom or kitchen to not disturb the other(s) when you need “alone time”. This isn’t your corporate office.  Doing a little cleaning or cooking makes for a great break. Then get straight back to work. Keeping a to do list helps to maintain discipline.

Decide for yourself when work time is and coordinate shared time with your partner.  This may change day to day. Remain flexible to work around a conference call or stressful deadlines to meet.

But in the end, you do need to shut off. And so, literally shut your office door, if you have one, when your work day is officially over.  Respecting a set time to stop will help you turn your office back into your home.

3) Relax and unwind together

These are special times: We are not allowed to gather in large groups and we may even feel anxious seeing 1 or 2 friends. Enjoying a walk in the fresh air with family or on our own will be some of the most cherished time of all – because it can offer a sense of freedom and hope. 

Being outdoors is where young children can release pent-up energy and give them a chance to run around and make some noise.  Take a walk in the woods, do a bit of yoga, stretching or running.  Keeping your body fit will keep your mind fit, too.  

In contrast, it may be difficult to get your older children to go outside with you.  They may even try to sneak out of the house to visit friends while you may be gone for a while. Each family will have their challenges. Make sure they clearly understand the consequences of their actions. Making it clear that it is a temporary solution should help and need to know that having them stay in their own room while work hours are on will also be important for them to get on board with.  Allowing them to spend more time on the phone or playing games could help, with parental controls set up

Of course for those families who may have all contracted the virus, going outside won’t be an option available to you.  Having meals together or enjoying a break together, even if it’s to just watch TV, does help reduce boredom and monotony of working all day and helps to keep the family bond strong. 

Take the time, too, to see what new hobbies or interests they may be able to develop while housebound. Encourage each other to cherish this special time given as a way to strengthen healthy habits and develop life skills they will find useful in the future. Teach your children how to cook, clean, sew, repair a bike or do some gardening.  You have been given now a gift of time with your loved ones.  Doing something active as a family will help you to remain positive.

4) Take turns 

As both of you will be at home now and no one will be able to go out to a restaurant for lunch where everything is planned. There will be meals that need to prepared.  We all know that sometimes at work, we work over lunchtime eating sandwiches or a salad in 15 minutes and sometimes at our desk.  

A change in eating habits is very likely to occur.  When it is difficult to know when you can break for lunch, think of easy meals that don’t take too long to prepare and allow each other to eat when they want. 

Others may feel keeping to a strict schedule is best.  Talk about what is important for you so that the other is aware of your needs and preferences.  Work out a meal time and solution that is convenient for all. 

This leads to the point of sharing tasks. Everyone of course is different. But I have to say that I am grateful when my husband can take over some cooking duties for me when I want to work when he wants to eat.  Be honest with yourself and your partner about what days you may need to help out with household duties. And that goes for taking care of the children, too. Work as a team so that resentment does not build up and arguing remains at a minimum.

5) Stay in touch with friends 

Not having to commute to work each day or having the chance to work without your make-up or wearing a suit may sound great at first.  But the concept of living and working 24/7 with your family members is a completely other challenge:  very similar to what people experience when they first retire

Stay in touch with friends and family outside of your home.  Share with one another your stories and advice. Keep connected with someone outside of your home will help you to.  Remember this situation too shall pass.  We will all hopefully learn something from it.  Let’s be there for one another in this time of need

In closing, I wish all of you to stay safe.  Wash your hands often.  Keep away from crowds and follow all the advice the experts are sharing.  May your family members and friends stay healthy: both mentally and physically.  And God bless.

Anything to share? Perhaps about your own experiences during this time?  

We’d be happy if you shared them with us in the comment box below.

B2 Reading Exercise – Mendocino – north of San Francisco, California

free 3 minute English lesson


Mendocino Rock

“In California, I really appreciated Mendocino“, says Sophie Sainte-Marie, the Swiss traveler about her trip last year. “(It’s) a little and peaceful city in the north of San Francisco.



The sunset above the ocean from the rock was stupendous; you can stay a long time their and simply admire the view. The houses with a “New England” style and their beautiful gardens were delightful!”

Sophie also got to jog along the Big River. “(It) is really a beautiful experience and makes you feel a little bit like an adventurer. Very nice landscape and colors. A good place to refuel!”

She and her partner stayed at the guesthouse, Nicholson House Inn, where she says they were ” welcoming and (they) really appreciated their home-made scones at breakfast!”

“I won’t forget this place and atmosphere.”

So maybe the next time you head to California, you may consider stopping by this enchanting town.  It definitely looks worth it.


Quick Lesson before you go away on holiday?