Before “the ‘Crona”


After our first visitors of Spring left, March was intended to be a full month of preparation before a HUGE season of company and travel. Four sets of visitors and countless trips were in the works between April and July – then the Coronavirus became a pandemic and countries shut down. After about a week of wrapping our brains around this whole thing, we took a collective deep breath, washed our hands and our hearts of grief, and gave thanks for all of the things we were able to do before we were in isolation.


In what seems like divine timing in hindsight, Derek’s grandmother passed away in late February. He was able to make it home to Maine to visit with family from near and far and share in the celebration of her life during her services. It was such a blessing to be able to make this happen, even as fears were starting to ramp up around the Coronavirus, especially in Italy. There is never a good time to say goodbye to loved ones, but when considering any alternative, this sure seems like a loving wink from Grammy “Gigi” Judy. Derek was able to meet his newest niece Payton, and spend some much needed quality time with his family. While D was in Maine, a big annual event took place that I decided to attend anyway, solo.


The HAW Ball is a yearly celebration that the whole expat community looks forward to here in Pápa. The theme this year was 1920’s “Great Gatsby,” something this group really nailed! What a fun night with friends, even though I was missing my hubby. Eat, drink, dance and be merry!

Best food in Pápa…
It’s worth going just for this amazing plate!


The kids had been struggling to sleep through the night without waking and needing a parent (usually mom) for the last couple of months. We decided to try some new sleeping arrangements and instilled a reward system. Didi was the first to reach her goal of 10 nights in a row, and she earned a prize! She chose a date night with mommy, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. We had a lovey time at Gambrinus restaurant, then walked through the quiet town for some ice cream in the square afterwards. Again, all of this happened before we suspected any kind of pandemic-related “lockdown.” We expected to be able to reward all the kids in this way – but instead, Beau and Willow settled for cold hard cash when they reached their goals later, during social isolation. Thankfully, in spite of worldwide heightened anxieties, the kids have actually done better lately with sleeping and I’m so grateful for that for all of us! Thanks for a fun mommy-daughter date night, Didi!


The weather was beginning to turn, trees and flowers were budding, and we were spending more time outside. Beau was asking to build a fire in the pit almost daily, and we let him. All of the kids were learning how to use the axe safely to chop wood. I trimmed the top of the cherry tree off so we would have less waste this year. Derek planted grass. Things were really starting to look like Spring.

The dad-coaches of indoor floorball has just decided to move outside for soccer…then everything went quiet. All events were cancelled, including movie night at the school and one of my favorite community events – the “secret guest bike party,” which is like a progressive dinner party with surprise guests in 3 different locations throughout the evening. So fun! But not this year. We have had to wrap our brain around a “new normal” for the time being.

Thankfully the weather is cooperating. Most days have been nice – blue sky and sunshine. Every night boasts glorious sunsets. We haven’t gotten much rain this spring, but when we do, there’s almost always a rainbow!


Three days before we were instructed to “stay put” and borders closed all over Europe, I was able to travel to Vienna to have a full “female checkup” and mammogram (phew! Clean bill of health!) as well as an MRI on my spine. I have suffered from a bum back for a few years now, with off and on lower back pain that can sometimes be debilitating. I felt so fortunate to be able to have this done just before things closed down for a long time as it gave me peace of mind. It turns out I have bulging/protruding discs (as is quite common) – which will justify physical therapy I need once lockdown conditions lift. It was affirming to know my pain had a cause, and it has helped me to know a bit better how to avoid flare ups. All of the doctors and specialists I have seen about this issue have confirmed for me that I should be sticking to gentle movement workouts such as yoga, walking, swimming, dancing and hiking – so that’s exactly what I plan to do!

This was my first experience with needing a doctor since living overseas and I can say that although there were many steps to the process, it was pretty straightforward and everything went smoothly. The kids had dental check-ups in nearby Veszprem in January, and got clear bills of health. Derek and I had been getting dental cleanings through the on-base traveling dental clinic from Aviano on training weeks. Luckily we haven’t gotten sick since we have lived here besides one or two stomach bugs and the occasional cold. The kids play hard so they always end up with cuts, bumps and bruises, so during this time we have had to remind them, “We can’t go to the ER right now so go easy!” Having a global pandemic really puts our health in perspective. We have been extra careful about housecleaning and hygiene as well as pumping our bodies full of vitamin C and healthy foods and using On Guard essential oils whenever we venture out for hikes, bike rides, or walks around town. If there is one thing I have learned during all of this, it is to not take our good health for granted!


With everything shutting down, I had to say goodbye to my lovely nail lady Agi. She is expecting her first child this Spring, so she was planning to go on maternity leave anyway, but the restrictions with “the ‘Crona” shut her office doors sooner than expected. I am not a high-maintenance kinda lady, but I sure have appreciated having my nails done bi-weekly here in Pápa. I will miss it! At around $10 a pop for beautiful gel, it was an affordable luxury. I’ll look longingly at this picture as a reminder that I’ll likely never have my nails look this good again! Hahaha

We were also able to have a cleaning lady the first year and a half we were here, as services are so reasonably priced here. We have missed that as well, especially during a time where we need to go the extra mile with cleaning and sanitizing! In our last year here in Pápa, instead of having cheap nail appointments, massages, and a cleaning lady, we will focus on the things that matter most. We have each other, our health, and this incredible opportunity to see the world and give our children a multicultural upbringing. Once things open back up, we’ll be ready to roll!


Speaking of “incredible opportunity,” since so much has been affected by this pandemic, we have taken the time to talk a lot about what we want our future to look like. Our plans have shifted dramatically – instead of considering an Air Force exit, moving to Maine and joining the airlines next year, we have decided to stay in active duty and see what the future brings with a bit more security. We have appreciated this time so much and enjoyed our Air Force life here in Hungary that we are excited about extending. Making this decision together was a huge weight lifted. It is a real comfort to know we are making the right choice for our family and we look forward to whatever comes next!


We have been making the most of our time in home isolation, and I plan to write about all aspects of that in future posts. From progress with distance learning and art projects to nature outings and all the cooking, we have been doing our best to make this a growth experience instead of “lost time.” Sure, we are disappointed about cancelled trips, plans, and visitors, but when it comes right down to it, we really like just being together. We have all come to realize there’s no place like home.


  1. Hi Bri!
    Thank you for the beautiful photos of my hometown Pápa! ❤️ Born and raised there, living in Las Vegas NV at the moment! Your blog is amazing!
    🤗 Hugs, Viktoria

    Liked by 1 person

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