The house is still and quiet. The space where the trampoline sat is bare. There is one less car on the white shell driveway. Paul hears every word I say without interruption for the first time in 23 years. The dogs are calm and waiting for someone that won’t come. The house is constantly clean, and in the bedroom, the beds are made and empty. We can make all the noise we want, yet there are long moments of silence. The track team runs by the house, and I say hello, yet there is no response; I am a stranger now. My brush always sits on my bathroom sink in the morning, and I wish it were harder to find. The clean bath towels remain folded in the cabinet, and the laundry basket is bare. The kitchen sink never fills with dirty dishes, and there is hardly a load of laundry to fold for over a week. Chocolate-covered almonds, chips, and cookies get passed up at the grocery store because there’s no one to eat them.
We sit at the dinner table, hold hands and say grace, then eat the meals I prepare and talk about our day; then we wonder what’s happening in our girl’s day on the other side of the earth. No one objects to what I have prepared to eat, and nothing is wasted. I go to work, take my classes, do school work and work some more, uninterrupted. We spend spare time walking the dogs and give them love and extra snuggles. My morning and bedtime kisses have been reduced from 2 to 1. We can do whatever we want. Sleep naked as we did as newlyweds, eat or not eat, watch movies that would have been unsettling to others in the house. We seem to move slower, and the atmosphere is sometimes eerily calm. There are no empty water glasses to collect and place in the dishwasher and nothing on the floors of the girl’s rooms. All of the shoes are placed neatly in the closet where they belong. Paul and I are leaning into each other more than we ever have. We almost operate as one now. We plan to have fun, be social, travel, and find adventure. We are adjusting to the stillness. It will take time, and we will discover new joys to fill each minute that passes. A new chapter in our lives is opening, and we can write our story any way we choose. A new chapter in our girls’ lives is opening, and we will eagerly wait to hear how they spin their tale. We will hang on every word, photo, and text they share with us until we are together again.
When we are stressed out or life feels like it’s moving too fast, we lash out at the people closest to us. We get into heated discussions and argue about things that, at the moment, seem like they are a big deal. Still, most of the time, all we are doing is verbally puking, angst, and agitated emotion and don’t realize how deeply our words cut the people around us.
We’ve all done it! The kids may be whining when money is tight, and we are worried about work and how we’re going to pay the bills. Or maybe we are feeling down on ourselves, so we bury our hurt emotions until we explode. Perhaps you feel lonely and misunderstood and feel like the only way to be heard is to talk louder until you are screaming. We lose control and sometimes see red. We feel better, but the person we aim our emotional shrapnel at walks away feeling blindsided and deeply hurt. We have let it all out in a frantic rage and feel relief and don’t realize the trauma we’ve caused the people we love.
Life is a series of ups and downs, and it is crucial to take a good look at how we express ourselves to those there to support us. Repeated outbursts of extreme pent-up emotion tend to push those who are the most valuable in our lives away. This sometimes causes irreparable damage that drives a wedge between us and those we need the most. When we lose our shit, we apologize and move on until the next outburst. Freaking out isn’t a healthy way to live or love and weakens our support system. None of us are perfect, and we may have learned this behavior from a hot-tempered role model, or maybe you’re just wired that way; don’t give up hope is not lost. There is always room for improvement and finding inner peace to gain outward joy.
Talk things through and promise yourself that you won’t blow up while working through your issues. If you are hot-headed, it’s a good idea to keep a daily journal. Put your angry words on paper instead of throwing them out into the universe. Slow down, sit quietly, and ask yourself what you are so mad about, what’s hurting you, and what kind of change or support you need to correct your behavior?
Some people calm themselves through meditation, but when life is moving at a breakneck pace sitting cross-legged on the floor and breathing in and out feels like the last thing you want to do. Yet, meditation does help, even if it’s only for five minutes. Collect your thoughts and make a conscious choice to be better, to do better, to be kind, and offer peace.
When we lash out in a flash reaction, we aren’t just hurting those we love; we create layers of guilt that build up like layers on an onion. Once this happens, we start to feel and believe that we are bad people. Peeling back the onion so that you can heal and improve your behavior takes time, inward reflection, asking for forgiveness, and forgiving others and ourselves.
Avoid those outbursts and take a 10-minute walk or run, go for a drive and scream the words to a song that cleanses your soul, or scream into a pillow. Please don’t use the people around you as punching bags, it’s hurtful, and the effect is long-lasting. If you find it hard to break this negative emotional behavior, seek counseling. No one is truly alone, and everyone should know they can ask for help. The choice is yours; you can go through life treading on others’ feelings to make yourself feel better, or you can do some work and learn to direct your emotions in a constructive, loving way.
There are options, people who love you, and friends who care about your mental and emotional well-being. Don’t push away your support network. Work on the tough stuff in your life that is causing you distress. Don’t run from your feelings with distractions like food, overworking, obsessive exercise, impulse shopping, or gossiping. Running from your problems only makes them worse. Remember, you can run, but you can’t hide, and no matter where you go, there you are.
Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what is wrong before freaking out. Be brave and humble and work on yourself because when you are all alone, you have to like the person looking back at you. When you are alone, all you have left is you, and you better make sure you love yourself so others can love you in return.
I have been working so hard lately and loving it. I have taken on a great part-time job that has a fulfilling mission where I meet amazing people who want to make a change in our world. I’ve been studying 12 hrs a week online to complete my Digital Marketing certificate at a major university and after 15+ years of self-taught marketing, I opened my own digital marketing company. All of these things feel huge to me because in my mind, in my universe these are my greatest accomplishments and I am proud of them.
When someone asks my husband how I’m doing in a phone conversation, I will hear him say complimentary things about how hard i’m working but then he says, “she started this little business,” The words ring in my ears and sting a little bit. I am a woman so to hear a man say that something I have worked hard to launch is “little” is infuriating even coming from the man I love. When we spend years gaining our skills and spend hours upon hours studying after food shopping, doing the bills, taking care of a child, and getting dinner on the table. I don’t want my efforts to be reduced to something little. Yes, the size of my new company is indeed little but the effort taken to get me where I am to have the confidence to launch and market what I have to offer is huge.
I am competitive and I want to succeed. My goal has always been to create a legacy that will support our family in our retirement because, well I love working but I don’t want to work till I die (no one does). I may start out “little” but my efforts will be big. I will under promise and over deliver and do whatever it takes to help my clients realize their own success through marketing. I will keep working until the only thing others think of when describing my company is “big”. It will be a minute before I get there but I am putting the time in and have the skills and then some. So the moral of this story is if someone ever says what you are trying to achieve is “little” prove them wrong. Prove to them that you are in it for the long haul. Share your end goal with everyone and take them to the top of your mountain where they can sit and watch your plans unfold. Give them the best seat in the house so they can see your “little” idea grow into something beautiful and “big”!
I have been a marketer for 15 + years. I say 15 + because calculating an actual number to the date I started may require carbon dating! I was a performer in bands playing nightclubs, and marketing back then involved grabbing everyone’s address and phone number in a notebook between sets on my break. I would work with the crowd, build relationships and subscribe them to the band newsletter that we sent by snail mail (direct mail marketing) once a month. The newsletter was your favorite band member, behind-the-scenes photos, and dates for our next gigs.
I was constantly building on our “Following.” It was necessary to have a solid following because when you went to a new popular nightclub to get a gig, the management always wanted to know how much business you could bring them. I could confidently report that we had 300 people on our mailing list, which in those days for a “top 40 band” was very good.
I’m not sure if other bands focused on marketing or not, but we did, and it made a massive difference to our wallets. Having a solid following, we could make announcements about new venues we were playing and make those who came to see us feel like a band member (one of the cool people)! Our faithful following got involved with our music, lives, and story. They saw us as people living the dream and lived theirs vicariously through us. The interaction of our followers and seeing their faces in the crowd were the only metrics we had for measuring our marketing efforts.
As computers were introduced (yes, I lived in a time where there were no computers or cell phones and was a master of what I now call “Dinosaur Marketing.”) I began taking email addresses from our followers, and we saved money because I could now send less hard copy letters and send a digital letter to those who preferred email. The method was clunky; I would send an email to myself and BCC all of our followers and then monitor their responses through replies. There was no analytics on how my emails were being received, the open and bounce rate, or whether they had been shared or read more than one time. I sent my emails out into dead air, hoping to see people’s faces in the crowd, dancing and drinking to their heart’s content the following week.
Then Email Marketing platforms were introduced, and I was in heaven! Yaay, Mailchimp and Constant Contact! I could write newsletters and schedule them, which now saved me money and time! More people were converting to email over hard copy mail, so I had to send out fewer letters, and we began to save a few trees (you can’t forget the trees!).
Technology has evolved tremendously since those days. I still use Mailchimp and Constant Contact, though. Businesses and organizations may not know this, but email marketing is as alive today as ever! Hubspot says, “Email marketing remains one of the most important and effective ways for your business to connect with customers and build lasting relationships with them. (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)” I agree. They also say, “Roughly 80% of marketers have reported an increase in email engagement over the past 12 months. (HubSpot, 2020) (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics).” And that number is continuously growing.
So here we are in 2022, and I am no longer a performer, but I am still a marketer. After all of these years, there is still tremendous value in telling your brand story, engaging your following, and taking them along for your journey. I use newsletters to directly connect with people interested in getting to know my services and provide an opportunity to develop a relationship. Its fun coming up with content to educate and celebrate with my following, and today there is analytics that helps me understand my followings engagement so that I can streamline and provide them quality content that will help them have the best user experience online, in their inbox and through my services and products in their business.
My blog tells my marketing story. Read along and see how marketing has evolved through the years while I have taught myself to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape.
As always, book a free consultation if you are a newly emerging SME (Small to Mid-Size Enterprises) Business or organization. MRKT Communications also specializes in Non-profits Clubs and Organizations.I look forward to hearing from you!
Eighteen months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed I would be ticking along the way; I am now. I had experienced a trauma, the effects of COVID had hit me hard, and between the isolation of being in my home more than I wanted to be and our two oldest daughters being 8000 miles away, I had begun to shut down. My world was growing smaller; I had an empty hole inside that I couldn’t fill, and I felt lost.
Last night a neighbor we’ve just begun to befriend invited us to their home. They said their impression of me was energetic and vibrant. They told us they look across the street and see the perfect family, so happy and active with our youngest daughter. They said, “wow, you all really have it together and are like a powerhouse.” I said, “yes! Thank you. We are at a beautiful point in our lives, but don’t be mistaken; we have our struggles and lows too.” I explained how I had gone through a rough patch, as mentioned above, and they told me I was blessed. Yes, I am blessed in the good and the bad, along with being blessed though I had to fight to find my light again. And in that fight things finally started coming together.
I began to move and my world started to expand. One by one, things started happening again, and I started blooming. I began a volunteer role for a mental health coalition, went to NZ to be with all 3 of our girls for five months, started my education journey and am completing a certificate course at the University of Miami, opened my digital marketing company; MKRT Communications (and gained my first client two weeks later), was hired part-time as the administrator for the Leadership Collier Foundation; a fantastic organization within our local chamber of commerce and finally; have been active with old and new friends that make me laugh and feel valued.
For a while, my most significant companion and healer was my written word and the words of others. With the newfound activities that fill my days, I haven’t been blogging as much, and my memoir is on hold. I may have a lot on my plate, but somehow my schedule is perfectly balanced. I’m genuinely content, and my life is coming together.
For anyone who has struggled through a lonely, dark, and painful lull in their life, I have this to say. Give in to the stillness that life has imposed on you for a time if you can; healing rest is necessary before the fight begins. Then fight to climb out of the void. Shout for help until someone, anyone throws you a rope, and then take it! Say yes to everything once you reach the surface and keep moving. Trust the process and be faithful, share all of your gifts with others and be thankful for waking up to another day. Love everyone, forget about the polarization of today’s politics and drop your grudges, take long walks daily and smile at everyone who crosses your path.
These actions have gotten me moving forward again. Sometimes we stall out in life, and that’s ok; as long as you remember your dreams, find the determination to capture them, and help others do the same once you have hit your stride.
At 54, I never imagined I would have wondered where I fit in. That’s something high school girls do. I watch our 16 yr old daughter as she questions her friendships, and I listen to how she is annoyed with this person and that person because they want too much of her time. I tell her, “enjoy it while it lasts because there will come a time in your life when no one needs you.” it sounds sad, really, but it’s true. I’ve realized that I had a friend group once upon a time, but half of them have died or become recovering addicts, which has left me floating in an empty sea—floating alone without a group from my past to cling to. I spend many of my days alone and find myself in conversation with only my husband after a long hard day’s work and 16 yr old child. I have so much silence around me; I find old memories resurfacing and swirling in my mind. I thought I would have had it all figured out by now and that I would have had this life full of love, companionship, and peace, but really that’s not the case. I Shipt shop to fill my days, have created a business venture that will take time to launch, and have enrolled for a third time to university.
I think about the relationships I’ve had and how I have taken more than I deserve from some and given more than I should to others. I feel like I am a floater at this point. Never really climbing to anything or anyone in a solid secure way. I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way at this stage of my life? I wonder if I will ever fit and make a difference to someone else. I am the friend who texts and checks in and rarely the one whose phone rings because someone was missing me. This is not self-pity, just a realization I have made. I have many silent days and nights. I am lonely and privileged enough to have time to myself, but it’s too much time.
I’m often thinking of Dr. Suesses, “oh, the places you’ll go,” and feel I am in the waiting place. I think of the days when I was a well-known singer bound for greatness and all of the expectations those who love me had for me. I am floating, digging deep to find meaning in what I do from day to day. 2 thirds of our children are gone, and the last is home, but now independent, finding her way. Good on her. I hope she finds it. I pray she has lasting friendships with people who reach out to her because they love her. I hope she never becomes a pet project of someone who befriends her because she is broken and they need someone to fix. I hope all of my girls find love and lasting fulfillment, and I hope they bring to the table whatever I didn’t that makes people stay.
I’ve opened my own digital marketing company and am spreading the word. I would love to help you or anyone you know with their online presence. Referrals are appreciated. I hope you’ll at least check out my new site and follow me on the social media tabs at the top of the home page. A free zoom consultation is available on the home page. Make an appointment with the click of a button. Happy new year. 🙋🏻♀️💻 https://mrktcommunications.com/
I stepped into the ski boots as the outfitter sized me up and made adjustments. Looking around the store, I saw women who looked my age and size and felt confident about trying to ski. Lessons were all booked up, but I knew Paul and Laurel would guide me. We all piled our skis into the rental car and headed to our accommodations with excitement.
In the morning, everyone was buzzing and ready to get their ski on. I was shaking and couldn’t stop talking, saying things like, “Boy, I’m so nervous,” “what’s the worst that could happen? If I can’t ski, we just take them back,” and so on. We dressed in stiff ski boots and layers of warm clothes and made our way out to the powder-covered green trail just behind our townhouse. As a stampede of skiers swished by, I stood looking down the hill and shook with fear. I moved my skis slowly across the slope while Laurel instructed me to pizza and dig in. She was firm but patient and gave me great advice, but my mind wouldn’t let me get past my fear. I needed a less steep hill to learn on, maybe a flat one. Ok, not a flat one but perhaps a tiny bump. I made it across the trail, and now she wanted me to go down. She and Paul called for me, nudging me gently to come on. I drifted back across the trail again towards them and fell into the drift on the side. Like a wounded soldier (who wasn’t wounded at all yet), I told them to please go on without me; I pleaded, “I’ll figure it out on my own.” Paul said, “no, we’re not doing that; besides, how are you going to get up?” He had a point. I popped my skis off and got up to try again. Laurel said, “we’re not leaving you on the slope alone; we don’t do that; now come on, you asked me to help you!” I stood there frozen in fear for a while and convinced her to go on with the family. Paul coaxed me to press on, and once again, I made it across the trail to the drift on the side and FELL OVER!!! I reached my hand up, thinking Paul could easily pull me out, and as he tugged at me, my right little finger and wrist popped. I yelled out in pain but had no idea I was injured. My fingers nestled in the glove were cold and remained that way through the day. I popped my skis off again to get up. Paul could see I was over it. Putting my skis on his shoulder, he skated off down the mountain, saying, “I’ll see you at the bottom.” I was perfectly fine with that, so I trudged down the slopes in my ski boots until I found a seat at the base, where I regrouped and tried to get my head around this skiing thing.
I watched the people on the bunny slopes (which were taken up by the ski school, so there was barely room to learn on your own) and committed to trying again. I walked my skis to the top of the slight slope and made perfect pizza and French fries. Digging my right foot inward, I turned left in a perfect circle, and then, digging my left foot in, I did a perfect circle right. I put my knees together and, in pizza position, came to a stop. I was getting there and had the skills I needed. I was still scared to go down bigger hills, though. There was either the bunny slope that I had mastered or the preview, and I would have to get on the lift to attempt that. I just wasn’t ready, and there was no in-between. I had been battling at it in my mind all day. I wanted to ski so bad and didn’t want to give up. As the sky grew dim and daylight disappeared, I took off my skis, grabbed a Bloody Mary at the bar, and decided to sleep on what I had accomplished and pray for a sign from God about whether I should press on with the skis or trade them in for snowshoes. As I slept, my hand began to throb. I rolled over, catching my small finger that had popped earlier in the day in the blankets. I woke with a shocking pain that shot to my wrist. Unsure whether my finger was sprained or broken, I dozed back off to sleep.
The morning sun shone through the window, illuminating the pines on the snowy hillside; they were dusted glittery white and stood majestically against the cold air. I made myself a cup of coffee, and as I went to grab the handle, that painful electric shock shot through the small finger on my right hand again. I now realized that I couldn’t bend it, and it hurt like hell. The painful finger was my sign from God. How could I hold a ski pole? Snowshoes it was. Paul and I went to the Ski Haus and made the switch, then headed back to the slopes at Christie. I had my shoes and poles still but didn’t need to grip them very tight as I was only walking. With my small right finger pointed straight, I squeezed my other four around the handle of the pole and made my way happily across the snow in my new cool shoes. I could go anywhere, and I did.
I ended up covering a total of 12 miles of the mountain range in those snowshoes. Word of advice, if you can’t ski and the rest of your group can, that’s ok. Don’t sit in the lodge drinking and sulking over your lack of ability! Slap on some snowshoes, take the gondola to the top of the mountain, and take in all the beauty that surrounds you. People stopped me as they skied by saying, “My wife and I have always wanted to snowshoe. How do you like it? How do you find the trails? How far have you gone? Where do I get them?” I suddenly felt like I belonged on that mountain as much as my skiing/snowboarding family members did. I was proud of myself for the steep inclines I had trekked, braving the solitude of the trails and just plain moving instead of caving in. If I had not gotten those shoes, I would have missed so much. I would have been bound to the lodges wishing I could climb into and shake up the snow globe world just beyond the window—what a fantastic adventure. And now I’m hooked on snowshoeing. If I ever get to go skiing again, I will rent skis once more and prebook a lesson. I will ski; I have not crossed that off my bucket list. I want to do it. I may not master it as Laurel or my hubby have, but I will at least gain enough skills to keep up with the pack on a slow run.
Our days were full-on in Steamboat. If we weren’t in the snow, we were walking in town. We rang in 2022 in front of the fire in our townhouse. We played card games, sticks, and seven hilarious rounds of Scategories. We grazed on laurel’s excellent seven-layer dip and drank fizzy water. As the burning wood popped in the fireplace, fireworks exploded with a colorful boom over the mountain visible just outside our window. This trip was perfect. We laughed and played, growing closer by the minute. We were the Bruntons and Satterfield’s, and as two families traveling together, we gelled so well we effortlessly became one. Our time together made for the best New Year I think I have ever had.
We had learned some things about dining in Steamboat Springs. When approaching a restaurant, always ask these three things: 1) Are you fully staffed? 2) Are you serving a full or limited menu? 3) Will WE be cooking our food? Here was our experience with dining out. Restaurant #1 didn’t get a drink of water for at least 15 minutes after being seated. Allan had a feeling we were doomed and said, “man, if I haven’t been approached with at least water in the first 5 minutes, I consider leaving.” We talked about it and considered it but, for some reason, decided to stay. We waited for an hour and a half for our food, and though Allan had the best General Tso chicken of his life, the rest of our meals sucked. We saw people come in the door waiting to be seated and gave them a wave of warning to leave and save themselves from the doom of limited staff and lousy cooking skills. Restaurant #2 We ordered Thai and arrived to pick it up an hour later. I sat inside in a line of 20 people or so long and watched two women work the entire restaurant while three chefs slaved away SLOWLY in the kitchen. Laurel joined me off and on inside as I sat there. More and more people packed the front foyer of the establishment looking for their orders placed and paid for online. We arrived there around 6:45 on our way home from food shopping. Time ticked on, and Laure took the food home for the guys to put away, and upon her return, I was still waiting. The Thai place closed at 9 pm, and being the second to last people sitting there at 9:05 pm, our brown paper bag of food was finally passed to us. I’m not sure about everyone else in our group, but I had waited too long to eat; I was no longer hungry. I drank a few sips and took a couple of bites of my Tom Kha soup, and headed to bed. Restaurant #3 we had a 7:45 pm reservation for this place. It was a western steakhouse. We were hungry and looking forward to a dining experience with superb service. Imagine our surprise when our slow talkin rough and tumble server (who appeared to work in a hardware store by day and waited tables by night) explained that we would be choosing our food from the VISUAL MENU out of the meat case. Ok, first off, aren’t all menus visual? Don’t you have to see the menu to read it? No, he wanted us to eye up our cut of meat, beef, fish, pork, etc., and it would be put on our plate and handed to us at the meat case by a man who has worked it for 26 years. We were all surprised that after 26 years, our butcher seemed to have difficulty understanding how to input our purchase/order on the POS system in front of him. He squinted and asked us repeatedly what we had asked for, making sure to get it right. We grabbed our meat and headed to the indoor barbecue grill. We followed directions on how long to cook our meat off a poster pinned to the wall. We chose seasonings and grabbed giant tongs to cook. THERE WAS NO OPTION FOR A CHEF TO COOK IT FOR US! What? Our group experienced various emotions, shock, anger, confusion, hunger, and delirious hysteria. We gave into this weird and unexpected experience and had fun with it. You couldn’t complain if you didn’t like the food because, well, you cooked it. The restaurant was packed. And we were entertained by those around us as we watched their faces while entering into the ruggedness of this entirely male-staffed western dining experience. We all went home full and confused but happy. Restaurant #4 Allan and I popped onto a patio by the slopes for a quick snack. As we were seated, the server said that only half the menu was available because they were understaffed. We are living in crazy times. Everyone was struggling at the height of ski season with skeleton crews and limited menus. Was this COVID induced? I saw an affirmation posted on Facebook that said, “the world is understaffed at the moment, so be kind to the ones who showed up.” It summed up perfectly what we experienced. We were in a luxury world with minimal instant gratification. Everyone we encountered fell into the pace of things as we did because if you didn’t want to wait, you should stay home and cook for yourself. Or wait, no, we WENT OUT and COOKED FOR OURSELVES. I don’t know, times are confusing, and we keep trying to
find normal, but it seems these minor changes to our expectations are now standard. I didn’t mind it, and it gave us a lot to talk about on our trip.
So despite my lack of skiing skills, the sprained little finger, the below zero temperatures, and near failed meals, we loved it. Because for me, it wasn’t about being the best on the slopes or having a 5-star dining experience; it was about our people. We made unforgettable memories together as friends/family. We watched our kids bond and bloom on the slopes and over a deck of cards. And we thanked God every chance we got for the many blessings he gives us every minute of every day. And that my friends was Steamboat.
I’ve never been to Colorado, but after the flight we’re boarding, I’ll be able to check that off my list. When I was in high school, I watched all of the affluent families take off to ski in the winter and wondered if I would ever be one of those people. We’re not rich, but today we are headed for the slopes. I have only attempted to ski once. I was in my 20’s fit and slim. And after 3 hours of a ski lesson on a bunny hill at Innsbruck, Austria (which I swear was not a real bunny hill, it was steep!), my friend’s instructor dad suggested I rent a sled. I was an epic failure on skis. However, I am keen to try again. Not quite as fit but maybe a bit crazier. I’m praying my sweet friend Laurel who has volunteered to teach me, will have the patients of a saint. I want to do this. I tried getting back on my rollerblades a few blogs back, and if you remember, I ended up giving them away. I hope since my feet will be attached to the ground on skis, I’ll have better luck this time. Pray for me.
Now that our romantic weekend in Manhattan is over, everything is still and quiet. Zoe has returned to school, Paul is hard at work, and I am working hard to get my feet on the ground with my new digital marketing business @MRKTcommunications. What I really need is work! So if anyone needs someone to manage the online presence of your business or organization, I’m your gal! (small shameless plug for the new brand).
I have been sitting here looking at the photos from our whirlwind weekend in the big apple and am so thankful to have had that ALONE time with my husband. It’s so important, especially when the other distractions of life sweep us in different directions. I’m savoring the crazy late-night drinks with Karaoke, walks through Chelsea dreaming of living in one of those stunning row houses, fantastic pasta at Zia Maria’s, people watching in central park and the beer garden, standing atop the One World Observatory, watching police dogs pose for Christmas photos in the Oculus, cruising on the ferry to see lady liberty and Ellis island and snuggling in bed watching the 100-foot wave and A Boy Called Christmas. And we can’t forget our last morning where we trained down to the Brooklyn Bridge and took a sunrise stroll over to Dumbo where we had the most fantastic coffee and breakfast at Butler, then zoomed up to grand central station for a photo op and then hoofed it to see the tree at Rockefeller Center.
Yes, we had one of the most magical times. The best part of the trip was watching the amazement on Paul’s face every time we turned a corner. This man was a trooper. I had him walking 10-14 miles a day for four days. When we left.our house I told him we were driving through Florida to NC to hike and camp. I wish you could have seen the look of confusion on his face when I pulled into the Fort Myers airport long-term parking lot. It was great! He was so relieved we weren’t going hiking because he’s not a fan. We may not have hiked the wilderness but we did urban hike. He says urban hiking is excellent because you have distractions to keep your mind occupied. I agree, but nothing beats the lush green and earthy smell of the trails.
So I’m home, looking at the floor because it needs sweeping again, getting ready to make my bed and get my 10,000 steps in; then I plan to practice some singing and do some more writing. Everything is still, but I can’t stop moving; my mind doesn’t let me for too long. Oh, and hey, I’ve lost 12 lbs in 6 weeks with Noom! So that movement is getting me positive results. I’m loving life.
It’s almost 4 am and Paul, and I have been out bar hopping in the village. We walked for miles only to find that every jazz bar we hoped to pop into was closed. We ended up at a fantastic karaoke bar where everyone was kind full of life and song. In each place we have visited in Manhattan, a facemask, proof of complete vaccination, and ID have been required. They are cautious here, and most of the people on the streets wear masks. I had to ask Paul to put his on became he is accustomed to the non-mask-wearing ways of the south.
We met a group of fun ladies from texas, and I had the opportunity to sing with an amazing man from here in the city. I have had so much fun. Despite dreading laying down to bed because of the spins I’m sure I will experience (too many gin and tonics), I can chalk tonight up to a beautiful memory.
I love Manhattan. The people are welcoming and kind, and there is a buzz of life around every corner. I have left Paul in bed sleeping and taken a 3:45 am walk. The city is still, and the only movement is the trash collectors. The front desk of the Sonder is quiet, and most people are sleeping in the city that never sleeps.
I am looking forward to another exciting day with Paul in the big apple and am thankful for the time we have here.
I’m off again, this time with my husband, Paul. Zoe and I returned from NZ just eight days ago, and I’m sitting high above the clouds once more, headed towards a weekend of excitement and romance. Paul and I had been apart for 5 MONTHS!! We need time to reconnect and get in sync. I told him we were taking a driving trip through Florida and stopping way up in NC to go hiking. I thought telling him we had a 14 hr drive ahead of us would cause dread and throw him off my actual plan. We left the house at 4:45 am and headed north on 75. Zoe called us to tell us there was a heavy fog advisory. We drove through the thick haze and listened to music singing along to Ed Sheeran and Paul Simon. Paul relaxed in the passenger seat next to me and wrapped up some last-minute business calls; despite the early hour of the day, his guys were awake and on their way to work.
I had packed all of Paul’s bags, so he was not fully aware of what to expect or where we were headed. He did, however, know he had to throw on his jeans and wear comfy shoes for heaps of hiking. He knew we had headed someplace cold. The thick socks and winter coat that I toted along with us were a dead giveaway. Zoe called us on Facetime on my phone, and Sabrina, Molly, and Annabelle called us on Pauls. It was 11:30 pm in NZ, but the girls were winding down from a movie night and drinks with friends, so they were still awake and eager to get in on the excitement of my surprise.
We drove through the heavy fog, and when I saw the airport exit sign, I said I had to go to the bathroom. I asked Paul if there was some place to stop before you got to the airport and then missed it. Then I told him I had to turn around and pull into long-term parking. At this point, he was on to me and said, “ well, you will probably have to go to the bathroom in the airport or maybe even on the plane.” I pulled up our boarding passes on my phone wallet and asked him to read them for me. He said, “RSW to Newark, WERE GOING TO NEW YORK?” The girls were still with us on the two phones watching his reaction on face time. Paul reacted to the big reveal in his excellent laid-back way, slowly and calmly saying, “ wow, cool, so we’re going to NY.” Sabrina laughed at his chill expression. Typical dad.
We are in mid-flight, snuggled in our seat side by side, looking down at the scattering of clouds that cover the hills and winding roads on the face of the earth below. The smell of pretzels and biacoff cookies fills the cabin. And the toddlers in front of me peek through the cracks of the seats singing and kicking around with energy and youthful bliss. It’s a beautiful morning, the seat belt sign is off, and it’s smooth sailing—a perfect start for the weekend to come
Yesterday I felt terrible. I walked around my neighborhood and felt rubbery and disoriented. I was trying hard to stay awake until at least 8 pm. Jet lag didn’t seem to hit Zoe, but for some reason, I always suffer more coming back to the states than when I go to NZ. Man, we were away for a little over 1/3rd of a year. That is crazy.
I was satisfied with the length of time I got to spend with my girls while away so much that none of us even cried when Zoe and I left for the airport. I found it unusual because I’m most of the time a blithering bawling mess. I know we will be back, though. I’m back in sunny Naples and so happy to sleep in my bed, snuggle my husband and play with our dogs.
Zoe’s friends have not left her side since the first day we returned. It’s fantastic to see. We are blessed with love, family, and friends on two continents. We travel between two of the most desired tourist destinations in the world. Both places are beautiful and have beaches and that, my dear, is a must for me. I am, however, really missing the hills, views, and random hiking trails of NZ. I woke up this morning wondering where I can drive to jump on a great hiking trail to explore but can’t be bothered traveling. SERIOUSLY! I am all traveled out at the moment.
Today I’ll unpack my bags and store my luggage until next week when we head out for another wee adventure. Watch this space.
Since I’ve been in NZ, I have grown accustomed to taking 1/2 marathon length walks and hiking every trail I come across. This is reminiscent of my early days in Nashville, before our big move to this country in 2002. With every step, I’ve explored and found places my husband hadn’t even been to, and he grew up here. The bushwalks and urban hiking have been the highlight of my time while visiting the City of Sails. My walks are most enjoyable because it’s been with our daughters and my close NZ friends who share my passion for the outdoors. With all of my recent activity, I have firmed up more than ever in the last five years, and my endurance has grown very strong. My current fitness has made me more positive about myself and my ability to get back into fighting-fit shape.
One morning about three weeks ago, I was looking at Facebook, and a photo of a friend popped up. She is someone I admire for her work and strength as a single mother. And I always felt body-positive beside her because we were both beautiful, voluptuous women. Her face popped up in my feed, but I had to enlarge it to make sure it was her. I haven’t seen her for over 18 months, and she has changed. She is THIN; I mean, she doesn’t even look like the same person, thin, but in a stunning happy, healthy way. I scanned my friend’s Facebook account photos to make sure it was her. I went back a year and found the voluptuous version of her and then flipped through her images, watching her shrink as time progressed to the present day. I Read posts to see if she had been Ill, and there was no indication of anything sinister. And then I realized she had made some changes to the way she approaches food. I sat in silence and overwhelming jealousy, envy, and self-pity. Very unattractive character traits that probably contribute to weight gain. I had the wind knocked out of me for some reason. I was disappointed in myself despite my recent progress and personal fitness success. I thought, “shit, I want to lose weight like that! I eat healthy! WHYYYYYYY!!!?” I pondered that I take meds for my Panic Disorder that make me happily put weight on, and I accepted that. It’s a thing I have to live with; I get it. But I didn’t stop there.
I messaged my friend and said, “wow, you look wonderful. Keep up the good work!” She responded with, “Noom aided by Covid shutdown, which kept me from restaurants.” Noom? This is the third incredibly shrinking friend I have heard of using this method to make healthy changes in their life. I did some research and after finding info on NOURISH by WebMD ( https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/noom-diet) which stated, “Noom’s Healthy Weight Program is a comprehensive wellness plan, with food, exercise, and mental health aspects built-in. The idea is to change your behaviors so that you not only take off the weight but maintain the weight loss long-term.” I committed to trying it; what do I have to lose besides 75 lbs or 34 KG, right?
Well, I’m exactly 14 days in, and I’ve lost 4 lbs; That’s 2 lbs a week. I feel good, and it’s not stressful or restrictive. It’s output = input with support and a course to reprogram your psychological approach and relationship with food. Anyone who knows me knows my shape has been a battle, and just when I decided that it didn’t matter if I was slim just as long as I was fit, my friend popped up and reminded me to try harder.
So I am. The reason I want to weigh less is so that I’m agile and move easily and quickly. I want to live a long mobile life and be able to roll on the floor and hike mountains with my someday grandchildren. I also owe it to myself to feel and be the best version of myself I can be for myself. So, Noom? At the moment, hell yeah, Noom. Watch this space as this is another attempt in many.
It’s crazy to think about how long we have been in NZ. We had intended to stay six weeks and instead planted ourselves here for four and a half months. The thought of going home at this point feels strange. Our youngest girl and I have gotten into a rhythm here in our home away from home, and we can’t imagine being without my middle and oldest daughter. I’m in two minds over returning home to America. Not because I don’t want to go home to my lovely husband, extended family, dogs, and bed, but because it will be hard to leave Sabrina and Molly here. When our three girls are all together, they seem to complete each other and at the same time make each other crazy. It’s a family thing; most people get that. I keep picturing us packing our stuff, driving to the airport, and kissing them goodbye as we depart. It’s a depressing thought. I will, however, leave with the peace of mind that they are thriving in school, their friendships, and work. And they are surrounded by family that loves them in a beautiful, safe land across the water. The Pacific is calling Zoe and Me home, and it’s time to get my head around it and accept the fact that we are leaving.
This visit has given us so much as a family. Our youngest needed her sisters, and my heart needed to feel them close. I needed to heal my mind and recalibrate. The 18 months we were apart were gut-wrenching. The following separation won’t be for so long, and we know now that we need to make plans for the future where our complete family unit is involved. This trip has allowed me to formulate a clearer picture of how we will manage the logistics of our bi-continental family.
I am incredibly thankful that we have spent time with my father-in-law and the girls’ granddad. He is precious to us, and every memory we can make with him is priceless. I only wish I could have brought his son with me. Paul is dying to get over here to visit his father and extended family. He’s keenly aware of his dad’s age, and he is feeling the weight on his heart of not being able to get to him. He has been busy working while we have been having fun. I owe my man big!
Anyway, in the last 12 days here, I will be taking stock of the priceless friendships I have here and the memories I’ve made with the girls and limited extended family. We wish we could have seen more are of the people we love and miss but, well…COVID. In reality, the primary goal was to be with Sabrina and Molly, and thanks to the COVID isolation, we had their undivided attention. I can’t complain about that!
It’s been two weeks since my last post as a blogger; that’s a big gap between writings for me. It’s been a strange time. It is for everyone here in NZ and around the entire globe. The covid lockdown has left me in a mental fog and, at the same time, opened my eyes. I’m finding that the lack of stimulation from others in the world outside my family unit is stifling my creativity yet forcing me to think deeper and longer. I’m inspired to write by new conversations or activities; there has been little of that. Despite this, I have been amazingly fortunate to be with all 3 of our girls. Many of us cling to our birth or chosen families. And some have been torn apart. I’ve found the stillness and time to bond on a deeper level than ever with mine. We have watched movies, grabbed coffees, lounged around, celebrated, studied, laughed, cried, walked, and ran. We’ve been fortunate to hash out and begin healing lifelong issues that the chaos of the world’s continual stimulation masks. Forced to face the head-on problems that may have pulled us apart in the future, we have grown together.
Stillness forces us to look at ourselves with nowhere to run or hide. It allows us to check-in and acknowledge ourselves, run a physical, emotional, and mental diagnostic. I have been in a prolonged state of stillness on this visit to my home away from home between NZ and the US. A handful of scattered socially distanced outdoor encounters with those I love leave me feeling thankful and emotional. And though our interactions have been limited and short, the energy of being in their presence has been much needed. Just seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those outside our bubble offers rejuvenation and an opportunity to share and plug into someone else’s world and connect to their physical presence. I have had baking left at my doorstep by my ever-kind Airbnb hosts. And even the gift of an unexpected warm croissant, sourdough loaf, or pineapple cake gives me pause for gratitude and joy.
Stillness is healthy; yes, we need it to heal, understand, listen and grow. I would be kidding myself, though, if I said stillness was all I needed. Stillness is a portion of our existence. The same as socialization, touch, exercise, nourishment, and shelter, all of these are equally necessary for fulfillment, joy, and peace. At the moment, our world is complicated, and obtaining all things needed to feel whole and human is not easy to come by without restrictions or anxiety over what we lack. Humans need humans to survive and thrive. We bounce off of each other’s energy, take what we need, and pass it along. Everyone keeps saying, “when we go back to normal…” I don’t even fully remember normal, and to our youth, this is normal. We can view it as good or bad, yet it simply IS.
I have found solace in not dwelling on what was or what will be, how great things were, and how much better they’re going to be. I wrestle with the arms of our new reality, and I’m pinned to the mat. I try to tap out, surrender and give up; I think a lot of us have. I give in to my downtime and consider my next move into the unknown, trying to make choices that will allow me to hit the bullseye of a moving target. And while I’m aiming, I focus, draw in a deep breath, and find that right now, the living is in this single minute, hour, and day.
Today is my new normal. I sit still and silent and check-in with myself. I acknowledge my feelings. I am still here; I’m alive, loved, healthy, fed, sheltered, and safe. And that should be enough.
Here it’s spring, and everything is waking up. Flowers are blooming, and trees are filling in with lush green foliage. Here in NZ, the seasons are opposite to the US. At home in the northern states, it’s fall, and the trees are bare, there’s a chill in the air, and the great pumpkin is about to visit (Charlie Brown reference). In Florida, where I have lived most of my life, fall equates to being able to turn off the AC and open our windows. I break out my favorite boots on crisp evenings and get excited about swimming in the cold waters of the Gulf. We’ve had a few arctic swims here, and though it is bone-chillingly painful when you first dive in, it’s also addictive because it initiates a natural high.
The health benefits of diving into what feels like a giant popsicle are enough to hook me. Being a voluptuous woman with a panic disorder, I love that 5 minutes of ice swimming promotes weight loss and alleviates anxiety. Our Uber healthy 22 yr old daughter told me this, and I believe her. She’s a fit researching meditating guru that I would follow to the ends of the earth. While here with my girls, I have been inspired to move more and think about my health and how it affects our future. We admire the lifestyles of centenarians and have been focusing on getting in our life-extending 10,000 steps a day with meditative walks and metabolism-boosting relaxed runs. I feel good, more alive than ever.
I am in a season of inspired movement motivated by my family. Dealing with some bouts of depression, I find that my goals come and go like the seasons. My best intentions are to be consistent and keep the positivity of my routine moving, and when I can’t or just don’t, I forgive myself. I give in as the trees surrender to fall and let go of their leaves swaying in the breeze in a rejuvenating sleep until the chill passes. When my spring arrives, I burst onto the scene with color and energy. I come alive with renewed vigor. I think every person’s body clock runs slightly different. And “routine” varies for each one of us. The seasons are opposite between NZ and my home in the US, or it’s frigid in the north of America and never-ending summer in South Florida. I have learned over time to give my body what it needs in each season of my life, and right now, in my mind, it’s spring.
You know those people in your life that you could only see every few years, and every time you are together again, it’s as if you haven’t missed a beat? I hope everyone has a few friends or family members like that. They are precious and something you never should let go of. Those kinds of people make us feel connected, needed, wanted, and loved. Those people you would stand up for even when you know they’re wrong.
Then other people in our lives are there as a matter of convenience to themselves, the fair-weather friends, the people who seem to tolerate you more than they embrace you. We all know those people too. I don’t know about you, but those kinds of people confuse and drain me. Who knows? In all fairness, it may be mutual. Those people are the ones you wish would speak up and say, “Hey, we just don’t click, your really not my kind of person, not due to any fault of your own, but I just don’t feel we connect.” Wouldnt it be nice if people who seem like they can’t be bothered spending time with you just spoke God’s honest truth and spared you one more lost moment of your life?
As a Gen X person, I find the way we communicate with each other these days mysterious, impersonal, and cold. I see this when Email and text tones are misinterpreted, and Messenger and Instagram messages are left on “seen” and never answered. And phone messages are almost pointless as no one seems to listen to them. In my life, up until 1992, we used telephones. If the phone rang, you answered it. There was phone etiquette, and people appropriately communicated with each other. As a child, I would get excited when the phone rang, and my siblings and I would race to see who could answer it first at the risk of tripping and breaking each other’s limbs tangled in the 6-foot long phone chord ending up in a twister like pile on the floor.
People talked, they cared about what was happening in each other’s lives, and they made an effort. I used to make a point of calling all of my friends at least one time a month. With the invention of answering machines, I was able to leave a message even if no one was home or they couldn’t make it to the phone. I would check-in and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about you.” And in return, I would get a kind call back within 24 hours. I knew the people who returned my calls cared. Sure, people didn’t always answer the phone or call back. The invention of answering machines also allowed people to “screen” their calls, and this is when we found we were able to pick and choose who we wanted to talk to and who we didn’t. If people screened my calls and never called back, then it was pretty clear they were not interested in allowing me to be a part of their lives, and without them uttering a word, I would move on.
I’m taking stock of the people I had thought played essential roles in my life, the lives of my children and us in theirs. Technology, as I see it, is making it easy for people to ghost their friends and family. It has taken the emotion away from communication and made it easy for us to make statements that hurt others because we don’t have to look each other in the eyes or listen to the repercussions of our expressions. This offends me, but it doesn’t offend everyone. My husband says people don’t reply because they’re busy or they may have missed the message. Fair enough, but when I see someone who has ignored my attempt to connect with them who has left me on “seen” for days or weeks, and then I see them taking the time to like and comment on several of the same posts I have on social media or post 20 photos of today’s lunch, their dog and kids, I call bullshit. I saw your TikTok, I see your “Bad Habits,” and though you’re having a good time zoning out thinking your virtual reality is “Good 4 U,” I’m wondering if we’re still friends? Do I know you, I mean really?
When I don’t get a response via text, email, FaceTime call, or phone, I feel canceled. I’m not playing this new communication game. It “gives me the yuck!” We all need to connect with people sincerely. It’s good for our hearts, our mental health, and our souls. If I contact you, it’s because I genuinely care about YOU. If I get no response, I, like most people, will get the picture, feel my heart break a little, and move on; I see you.
Life is too short for silence and blank emotion. Heartfelt faithful and loving relationships are hard to come by, I know but, I’m willing to risk losing my 500 + digital relationships with people I haven’t talked to in over 30 years for a few genuine soul mates who love me for who I am and respect my efforts of nurturing our relationship and time. No left on seen, no ghosting, no canceling, just honest, loving, joy-filled connections with people who cherish me as much as I do them. Is that too much to ask?
I stand outside my rented flat looking up at the stars shining in the clear sky as they float over Devonport. The Southern Cross hangs in the cool crisp air, and the streets are quiet. I’ve been writing all day. After walking 10 miles, I listen to jazz, sip wine and work on my book. I’ve gotten a lot done. I’m able to collect my thoughts and settle into the stillness that surrounds me. My youngest daughter sleeps on the pull-out sofa in the living room. A man walks past briskly, taking his Australian shepherd for its nighttime walk under the street lights. Dim light glows in the windows of the homes that surround us, and everything is still. The sound of music, conversations, and footsteps in the house above us fill the night air.
I am at peace knowing that I’m making progress on my memoir and want to continue but have to get some sleep because I have 2 Zoom meetings with the US in the wee hours of the morning. The COVID cases here looked terrible today, 45 in the community. I’m not sure whether we will go to level two or not when they re-evaluate this coming Tuesday. I walk up and down the hilly sidewalk along the empty street just outside the fence of our flat and wonder if I should ask my hosts to extend my booking for yet another week. The thought of living on top of my girls in their one-bedroom flat makes me anxious, and this peaceful place I have found would be hard to leave if we are all isolated together with no end in sight. This lockdown is an unusual situation and one everyone in Auckland has to accept and get through together for the greater good.
I make my way back inside and decide to shower and settle in for the night. I have found a calm place in all of this isolated stillness which is maddening. The long walks, runs, rented flat, volunteer online marketing for the mental health coalition and writing have been my saving grace. The icing on the cake is my visits with my girls. Just knowing they are a few blocks away and happy in their space makes me feel good. I want everyone to be comfortable during this stressful time. Mental health is hard to maintain in isolation. It’s hard to stay sane when you can no longer tell what day it is without checking the calendar, and there is no definitive light at the end of the tunnel. Still, I am blessed to be where I am, where I’m supposed to be at this moment. I am productive, healthy, and happy. I have gotten what I asked for, time with my girls, time to write. What more could anyone want.
I am lying here writing on my phone in a bed, a real queen size bed. I have been sleeping on a twin trundle bed for nine weeks in the one bedroom with our three girls. We were laid out like sardines in a tin, snuggled side by side on our mattresses. It has been cozy, and we have had some good times in the flat. We’ve also had some tense and challenging times. Not many but a few. On the whole, though, I am so proud of how the 4 of us have managed to be in lockdown in that one-bedroom flat. We are a great team.
So, now I’m lying here in a different flat just a few blocks up the road from their place. A place opened up, and Zoë and I moved there for seven nights. It’s adorable, and we are so comfortable. We are delighted to give Sabrina and Molly a break and their space back, even if it’s only for one week. When we walked into this quaint little garden cottage nestled on the bottom floor of an old Victorian villa, freshly baked bread was on the counter with a sweet note from our host. He had baked it for us before we arrived. It’s quiet here and peaceful. I’m an empath, so I tend to feel everyone around me and become overwhelmed with too much stimulation. Taking this break from our crowded space has relieved me of the feeling of soaking up the emotions of every person at the flat. The girls are also exceptionally sensitive, and we had gotten to the point where we were bouncing off and draining each other. Even with the best intentions and hearts full of love for each other, this happens. So now my mind is quiet, and I can write and revel in the calm of feeling nothing but peace. I will cherish this time and look forward to continuing to share space with our girls at their flat again with renewed energy and hopefully fewer lockdown restrictions. The minute we hit level 2, we are hitting the road for a hike for sure.
After five weeks in level 4 lockdown, we have finally moved to level 3! We still have to stay in our homes going out to exercise and shop for essentials. But we can expand our bubble to close family or friends, keeping it “small and exclusive.” It’s incredible how a tiny bit of progress gives me fulfillment. The highlight of this level is that we can now order contact-free items for pickup and order from Uber Eats. Sushi! I want Asahi Sushi! I craved it at home in America, and I’ve craved it all lockdown. Oh, and Flying Rickshaw INDIAN, yummmm! There’s excitement and mixed emotions among the girls. They can return to work and are essential for contactless pickups of items at their place of business. I think they will be happy to have some breathing room and a change of scenery.
In my little universe today, we’ve proudly launched a CAREGIVERS webpage I have built for the Collier Coalition for Healthy Minds. I filmed testimonials and wrote content for this, created the social media accounts and all content and edits of photos. I spent my time in NZ isolation learning to develop this digital piece to deliver on my promise as a volunteer to contribute to this fantastic and vital cause. CCHM is a community response to mental illness and substance abuse. This page is a crucial resource spot for caregivers who need support as much, if not more at times, than those who are ill. I have first-hand experience here because I suffer from an acute panic disorder and depression, I have since my early 20’s. And though I have loving support from my husband and daughters, I often feel they need someone who can support them. My issues can be draining and, at times, scary. The CAREGIVER page we launched gives tips and schedules for support groups of all kinds! I am so proud to be a part of this and happy that the board has allowed me to participate. I needed this win.
There is peace and calm in the flat as Molly, and I bond over cookie baking, and the laidback quiet life of Covid lockdown continues on another level. There isn’t too much to report, no house fires, breakdowns, or medical issues. I’m getting ready to leave for my daily walk under the long white clouds. It’s drizzling, and I’m happy to have another day with our girls and another day in NZ.
Steps in a positive direction are being taken all around the world. Many of our military soldiers have left Afghanistan ending the 20 yr war, Inspiration4 the first entirely civilian crewed SpaceX mission, has successfully launched and is orbiting the earth. And on a smaller scale, I achieved my first of many 3.15 mile/5 km runs probably since 2008. To say I was excited is an understatement. If I could do back handsprings to celebrate, I would have, but even in the best of shape, I’ve never been able to do those.
We are sadly still in lockdown here in Auckland, which means everything but grocery, gas, pharmacy, and utilities are closed. We are in the 5th week in isolation (additional to the two weeks Zoe and I spent in MIQ). Our three daughters and I have been holding up in their tiny one-bedroom flat. The only option for escape or sanity is to exercise outside. That, for the most part, means walks, runs, and biking. So I have been walking and walking and walking. First 3 miles daily, then 5 or 7. I got to the point where I ran out of land to cover unless I doubled back. Last week I decided to make myself run on any area flat or downhill. To my absolute amazement, on the second attempt at this, I forgot the flat and hills and just kept running. My legs are heavy, and I may run as fast as the tortoise racing the hare, but I got into the zone I used to get into as a young runner and did what I thought was no longer possible for me. I have watched my daughters run over the last 13 years and dreamed of running again. With failed attempts to get back into it, I’ve often tried to convince them that I used to be a runner, and I’m not sure they believed me. On my first run of 2 miles/3.21 km, Sabrina and Zoë walked behind me. As I pulled away from them, they doubted my ability to get very far. I forgot about what they thought, though, and kept peddling my feet along the pavement through the cool air. Man, the freedom of running can’t be beat.
There’s also something empowering about knowing that you may someday be able to outrun a hungry predator if needed, something I had decided I was beyond in my previous blob state. I figured I would inevitably be gator bait sometime in the future. At the end of my first attempt, the girls caught up with me. As Sabrina walked beside me, she said, “I’m proud of you, mum. You can talk a pretty big game, and I have to admit, I didn’t think you would do it, but you did. Good on you!” So I’m charged up and feel like I’m getting younger. I’m heading for a new pair of Hoka’s instead of a walker and triple X spandex covered by an even larger T-shirt to cover my bits. Being here with my girls has empowered me; I call it the power of 3. They encourage me, push me and cheer me on, then celebrate my wins with me. They make me feel special, and I’ve needed that. I’ve needed them, their energy. So between running, I am blogging, chipping away at my memoir, and developing the social media presence and website pages for my favorite non-profit. I’m in isolation yet more productive than ever. We live on a postage stamp, yet I have been moving and stretching myself wider than I have in over a decade. Who knows what ill achieve next! In the profound words of Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” or in my case, woman and womankind.
I have got to stop endlessly scrolling on my phone. It’s chilly in the house, and the laundry is piling up. I haven’t gone for a walk for two days (at home 48 hr birthday celebration with our middle baby). My bottom is sore from sitting so long, eating white bread, chocolate, cheese, and drinking champagne. The celebrations are over, and it’s raining off and on. Sitting in the window seat, I aim to work on my book but end up looking for chemist shops that sell Tucks or Preparation H wipes in NZ. No one does. I’ll have to adapt. Eating a piece of Vogel’s toast with Nutella and bananas, I wonder what the fiber content is.
Man, I’m getting old. I just flashed back to me interrupting a conversation between my mom and her brother (they were in their early 60’s). I asked why they talked about their bowel movements and crap so often? Fast forward to right this moment; I get it. I am my mother’s ass (take that however you want). Yeah, we’ve been here for 20 days now. You know you’re getting cabin fever and tunnel vision when your world shrinks and your interests become limited to scrolling on your phone, your bathroom habits, and the apple supply on hand—still confused about what day it is between following the US/NZ calendars and waking up to the same morning over and over again with no clear view to anything that might vary my schedule with a bit of mood shifting excitement. The birthday was a good diversion. At this point, you start to wonder whether you even need to shower. I mean, who’s going to see you? You don’t need to change clothes and survive going back and forth from walking outfits to pajamas. I do have to force myself to be on top of my hygiene at this point, though. Others in the one-bedroom may find my smell offensive. I don’t want them to feel “yuck” about my presence.
We have days now where we go through waves of silence, false starts of activity, walking on eggshells around each other, walking in circles outside aimlessly (just to be outside), and celebrating and making the most out of the little things. Two items must be in the house and seem to keep everyone calm, apples and pasta (there’s more that I could add, but those are the staples). I’m planning on doing some online volunteer work today and will walk to the store after I wander around the hood searching for something new to see (all of the sites here are beautiful, so no complaints there).
I have learned while being here in the cold that I am genuinely HEAT INTOLERANT (we’ve had our suspicions, Paul and I). If it gets too warm in the flat for even a second, I have to stand out on the cold patio. It hits me with a sudden paralyzing weight, agitation, hot skin, sweating, and just an overall feeling of burning in the unforgiving fire of hell (can I say I am not looking forward to returning to the heat of Florida? Yes, yes, I can.) By the time we get out of lockdown in NZ, I may have built a transporter; yeah, I think I have time to learn how to do that.
Wouldn’t that be awesome? Then I could pop back and forth from my husband, sisters, dogs, and home in the US to my children in NZ at the flick of a switch. I could maybe benefit from having my DNA scrambled with each passage. A setting on my transporter could allow me to pick a gene rearranging feature on each trip with choices ranging from high metabolism, weight reduction and redistribution, best post-pubescent skin, hair texture (ooh, there could be a hair color feature to cut out transports to the salon). Heck, the transporter could be a cure-all for cancer, diabetes, mental illness, disorders, COVID (no face-masks on this flight), the common flu, and freakin hemorrhoids! The sky’s the limit. Let’s get real, though. I don’t need a transporter at the moment. I need to stop scrolling, put my phone down, shower, and get outside.
Eighteen days and we’re still here. There isn’t much to do. We have started to forget what day it is because none of us here in the flat are working so why should we remember? Yes, online school is still happening, but it’s all become very routine and familiar at this point. We’ve walked so much that the girls signed up to run a half marathon if we’re out of here in time, and I’ve gone from being able to walk 3 miles a day of the very hilly terrain of Devonport/Stanley Bay to 6 or 7 miles a day. It’s just hard to get someone to want to walk that distance at this point. We walk by cars parked down by the waterfront with people inside enjoying the view and past others taking their daily stroll, jog, skate (inline/roller/board), or bike ride. The repetitiveness of it is making it feel forced at times. Wait, really? Did I seriously say that? How can it feel forced when we walk among the beauty we are surrounded by, in the fresh air looking out over the clear blue Waitemata Harbour? Come on. Let’s not take the stunning environment we are in for granted. Admittedly It does feel like groundhog day, and isolation (absolute isolation where nothing is open except grocery, pharmacy, petrol, and utility) is starting to mess with our anxieties and personal issues. It seems a bit of a heavy feeling is creeping in as we go through our daily routines. We watch YouTube, laugh at Cody Ko’s Couples react (pretty funny), watch classic comedy, have drinks, squeeze together on the tiny back patio to lay in the sun, and dream.
We dream of what we want to eat when we can order takeaway food, Chinese, Indian, Sushi, and Pizza. We think about places we want to go when we get to level 2 (God willing, that happens before our time is up here). Places we would visit like Cape Reinga, Wellington to see family, and any excellent hiking place. Heck, we’ll be happy when we can go inside the house of our family down the road! The closest we’ve gotten to family visits since lockdown began 18 days ago is, of course, Zoom and Facetime. And we’ve been fortunate to have the ability to stop in front of the “other” Bruntons house, a bit up the road, on our walks, and yell hello up at them on their balcony. We have had some great breakfasts while isolated together, and man, our Molly, can cook some splendid authentic Italian from scratch. And Sabrina is replacing any dreams I might have of popping into a cafe on release. Who needs a cafe when you have a personal barista who rocks!
Who knew? Who knew we would travel 8000 miles to NZ where there was no community covid, and this would happen? We did our time in Managed Isolation (MIQ). In fact, between that and this level 4 lockdown, we have now spent 4.5 weeks of our eight weeks here IN ISOLATION. There is, however, a beautiful silver lining; the undivided attention of our three girls. I will not leave here feeling like we did not have enough time together (well, I can never have too much time with my girls; in fact, I never want to leave them). Having all 3 of them together is like holding a completed Rubik’s cube in your hand. All color, everything in its place, leaving you in total awe. Yeah, isolation sucks, to be honest, but when things open up again, EVERYTHING WILL BE OPEN, and there will be no cause for social angst or fear of getting covid from someone who just refused to cooperate. Community cases are decreasing daily, and I’ve got my eyes on that yummy sushi place down in the village.
I’ve completed the outline and first chapter of my forthcoming memoir/book. I’m well into writing chapter 2 now. And I can’t sleep. I just began feeling this niggling anxious agitation in my chest after editing chapter one and doing some rewrites. Though I’m approaching my story with a mixture of blunt truth and humor, I’m already starting to feel things and stuff that my panic disorder meds may not be strong enough to help me keep in check. I knew parts of writing this book would be unsettling; when I finished listing my outline in managed isolation in mid-July, I felt exhausted and broke down in tears. I read my ideas, and my life rapidly flashed before my eyes. At that moment, things I’ve questioned became clear to me for the first time. People I miss stood before me, and events I’ve wanted to forget felt fresh, wounding me as I read them on the page.
I am writing this story and all of the subsequent tales that spin-off of it. This is my lifelong dream. I am more than thankful to my husband for supporting my passion for writing while I’m am at the same time with our daughters and family in NZ. There’s so much to say about my journey. I worry that my words will fall flat and not be entertaining enough. But all I can do is tell my story, write what I know, relay the details in my Jeri way, and hope for the best. I just thought I would share.