Women Who Quarantine - The stories of women warriors from around the world doing their part to fight this deadly pandemic.
Welcome to our next interview for "Women Who Quarantine" with Ashley Noronha!
Ashley is joining us from the Eternal City... and where Audrey Hepburn happens to meet Gregory Peck... aka Roman Holiday... which happens to be a fav of mine!
Ashley and her husband have actively used this quarantine time to delve into their personal lives to be intentional, 'sparkle light', celebrate life, and to be creative!
Specifically on the creative front, Ashley and her husband, John, started a Youtube channel called, Our Crazy Rome Life, to help bring clarity and a little levity to being stuck at home. This humorous and advise-filled channel should not be missed!
Profession: Executive Director, Truth & Beauty Project; Rome Correspondent for Relevant Radio; university professor
Location: Rome, Italy
YouTube: Our Crazy Rome Life
How is your heart doing during this uncharted time?
There sure have been lots of unknowns! But one thing my husband John and I know for sure, is that when we find ourselves in any new reality, our first question is ... 'how can we bloom where we're planted?'
Since we lost almost all of our paid work due to the Lockdown, John and I prayed about how we could continue to do good and reflect God's love, even from this "new normal" behind the walls of our Rome apartment. The next thing we knew we were creating videos on YouTube at 'Our Crazy Rome Life' - with a mission to inform and bring peace, positivity and smiles during this difficult time. Knowing that we have helped shine some light in the dark has brought joy to my heart!
It's been beautiful to see how many personal relationships have been reinvigorated during Lockdown. In the past, I used social media only to wish people happy birthday or see the latest pics of my friends' growing cutie-pies. During Lockdown, I've been contributing through social media and have reconnected with so many friends. These fortified relationships and new friendships has warmed my heart!
One night we had a "light flashmob" in Rome, where at 9 pm everyone turned off the lights of their homes and turned on their phone flashlights. All of those little lights sparkling in the Rome skyline inspired me to start a movement to inspire hope. So SparklersDiaries.com was born. It's a network of people who want to do good during this time and the members now span 4 continents. Being part of that movement for good has brought hope to my heart!
What has been most challenging about being home?
The most challenging aspects are the loss of income and not being able to grocery shop frequently. Since lines are long and store hours are short, we've been shopping about every 10 days. Also, during the severe restrictions of Lockdown in Rome, only one of us could leave the house at a time. You really have to plan your shopping list well or you're out of luck! We also miss simple daily rituals, like saying "ciao" to our neighbors at the local coffee bar or enjoying a cioccolato gelato with friends.
What are you doing to keep balanced and motivated?
At first, one day slipped into the next, so we realized we had to inject a dose of structure into it if we were going to successfully attend to the body, mind and soul and manage to live life to the fullest under Lockdown. First, we started planning the next day's activities the night before. This helped us stay on track, be mission-focused, and accomplish more. We made sure that each day included exercise and "vitamin d breaks," where we stopped what we're doing and went out on one of our balconies to take in some good old sunshine. We became intentional about coming up with ways to "sparkle light" and did things like leaving gifts at our neighbors' doors and phoning people who may be lonely. Also, I picked up my ukelele, "Pearl," after a long hiatus and have been having fun strumming away and getting some good doses of oxytocin from it as a bonus!
Are there any healthy habits you’ve adopted during this time that you plan to take with you afterwards?
We realized that the best defense against this or any illness is to build up our immunity and intentionally ensure that our day includes all the human 'goods' that make our lives complete: good food, exercise, vitamin D, socializing, self-care, outreach, work, and leisure.
At the beginning of Lockdown, John and I did a Facebook Live to help people in other countries know what to expect with the quarantine restrictions that were coming their way soon (since Italy was a few weeks ahead). One thing I recommended was using a rebounder (mini-trampoline) as a way to get cardio and have fun during Lockdown. Various friends in different parts of the world ordered theirs right away! Plus I found out that some other friends already had rebounders! So, we started a weekly, 10- minute quarantine "jump-party!"
How do you think this pandemic could be used to reshape Italy (society) for the good?
If people are thinking outside of themselves - rather then turning inward - this situation could lead people to be more patient and more considerate of each other.
To answer this question, here's a piece of an article that I wrote for Our Sunday Visitor, that seems appropriate to share with you here:
Italy has survived plagues, sacks, natural disasters and wars, and the plan is to do it again. ... Families are conversing, getting to know each other, and praying together. They are discovering the musical talents of their neighbors, enjoying nature and learning to appreciate the gift of freedom. And many are choosing to intentionally rise up to help their loved ones and neighbors get through this with grace. ...During a recent musical flash mob, my husband and I danced on the balcony. On a nearby terrace, a couple held their two young sons close and swayed to the music. One woman leaned on her windowsill and sang along. Another folded her laundry as she rocked to the beat. I don’t know their names, but we greet each other every night. We are suffering together and singing together. Although we are isolated, we are united.
Is there something special you are doing to take care of yourself during this time?
When John and I initially started making videos and producing content, we had NO idea how much time and effort a project like this required - editing, music, filming, lighting - so I started burning the candle at both ends.
Exhausted, I realized I had run right into an internal stumbling block - I was willing to work SO hard because I thought these projects could help others, but I wasn't willing to stop and take care of myself holistically. When I was able to articulate this stumbling block, I acknowledged that the current pace was unsustainable and since then, have made it a priority to plan and balance my day.
Here's an immune-boosting concoction that we make to keep us feeling great and full of energy:
What is your favorite book and/or podcast that you’ve listened to or read this week?
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene! He also happens to be my favorite writer, for his ability to craft gorgeous and poignant sentences that go deep into the human psyche and reach down and grip the soul. I'm now working on Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor. It's just a coincidence to read one after another, but there are some fascinating similarities in the male protagonists of both books, as both men are on a painful quest for God and, like most of us, get lost along the way. I also read A Case for Kindness by Lisa Barrickman and appreciated her formula for how to impose a system of kindness in your life.
Guilty pleasure during this time? …. PG people please lol…🤪
If I didn't have to earn a paycheck, the one thing I'd like to do is write fiction. But in the past, when I felt the urge to write surging up inside, sadly I usually quell it with something along the lines of, "but I'd better do [insert practical task] instead."
But in the last few weeks, I've been giving in to the creative tug. And I've been having a blast with something I would have previously considered only a "guilty pleasure" that could be entertained only after every single one of my other chores was complete (which means never). So, I'm behind on emails and my house is messy, but all of a sudden I realize that it really doesn't matter. It doesn't add one hair on my head to have a constantly tidy kitchen. Now, I find that the lead character of my story, Remi Castelino, is accompanying me throughout my day as, together, we work out what his next adventures will be ...
To make it happen daily, I've had to be methodical and have built this "guilty pleasure" into my morning routine. I wake up in the wee hours and the first thing is prayer time. After that, I write until it's my scheduled exercise time. Knowing myself, if I don't schedule writing, I won't do it and would come up with 100 other more practical things to do.
What is your healthy favorite go-to quarantine recipe?
Neither John nor I do much baking, but there's something comforting about warm banana bread! So I've made it quite a few times during Lockdown. Here's my dairy free, egg-free, and gluten free recipe:
1 cup of buckwheat flour
1 cup rice flour (I tried it with oat flour once, but found it too heavy)
1/2 cup stevia
1 tbsp, ground flax
3 tbsp, water
3 tbsp, olive oil
You are supposed to mix the dry things separately and then mix the wet things in another bowl and then mix them.
Well, I skip that and instead throw everything in one bowl and mash them up!
I mean, why clean two bowls? I then put the mixture into a baking pan that I've greased with olive oil, and bake at 175 C (or 350 F), until I smell it. That's my sign that it's finished. Despite the lack of scientific methodology, we've really enjoyed the yummy outcome!
Sending best wishes from Bella Roma!
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Sending you lots of love and joy,