The first time I approached the Piha waves was over fifteen years ago. The rolling fold of water with its white spray is powerful and humbling. We drove the long winding roads and sang old familiar songs along the way. We walked through the black sand, and the memories of our babies running at our feet in days now gone rushed in and out with the crashing tide. I heard childish laughter in the cry of the birds above, imagined their tiny eyes looking up at me in excitement, and saw footprints in the sand. I imagined Nick running free and thought of how Binx and Ollie would love it here. They would be living their best lives. Picture our dogs chasing the birds into the water, tearing off across the beach, kicking up clouds of earth in their wake. Paul and I felt joy watching our children play with nick, growing and thriving in this wholesome grounding environment. It feels good to be here. It feels good to see our girls, now young women, find their way among this beautiful piece of earth and sea.
We have hiked city sidewalks, trails through Island wine country, and sandy beaches. It amazes me how in one day you can take a boat ride, hike a mountain, pop in and out of shops and cafes in a small seaside village and dip your toes in the sea; all in one afternoon. The best of every world in one tiny pocket down under.
I love walking and could do it for days. There is nothing more beautiful than the freedom of roaming on foot in a kind climate. I miss this. We are enjoying our home away from home.
The cold NZ wind slides across my face, and a slight chill touches my body. I look out across the balcony of my girl’s flat at the NZ sky. The familiarity of moments like this float back to me, a ghost of my past life in NZ. The Matariki sky has just faded with the closing of July, and I take a drag of my Virginia slims menthol (I’ve had that third glass of wine that calls for a smoke). The light below glows a dull yellow and white across Stanley Bay Point. I close my eyes and say thank you to God and my mother for bringing me to this place to ring in my 54th year of life. I swallow the last sip of my rose, and there is a buzz of peace that fills me. My three girls are lying inside, warm, safe and close. Joy fills my heart, and I listen to the old familiar sounds of a north shore NZ Friday night rising through the air. Trees sway in the gusts of wind, and voices howl in song as a group in the distance party’s, their voices ringing, rising to the stars.
I remember the days we lived here on the shore, in Belmont. The navy housing overflowed with young people. Drinks circulated with high energy, and the sound of laughter, loud voices, and music spilled across the road to our sleepy ears. I hushed them in my mind hoping they wouldn’t wake my girls, young at that time.
I put my cigarette out in my last drop of wine, flick the butt off the balcony, and head inside to my girls, no longer babies. The house is warm and still. Formula one practice races flicker on the TV as everyone lays sleeping. I’m weary from our day of hiking at Piha and Bethels beach. My birthday has been a three-day celebration.
I’ve had dinner and drinks in Devonport township with Mark and Fiona this evening. We’ve caught up on so much and so little in our short time together. I bask in the love of their lingering presence and remember how much they meant and still mean to me; my NZ family. I left the restaurant locked arm and arm with my friend and sister-in-law and watched my brother-in-law as he leads us to the car. I felt an endearing enthusiasm for them that they may never truly understand. Over dinner, we connected with honesty and intently listened to each other with tender understanding. We took in every word, not wanting to miss a single moment of the days and years that passed between us. Moments forgotten memories and feelings revealed, we share smiles that have grown softer with age framed by greying hair and faded glistening eyes. There is love among us, not always spoken, but it is felt and apparent.
I am in a beautiful place, missing my lovely husband. The man who introduced this world to me, took part in creating our children and blessed me with my NZ family. I will climb in bed tonight, my world complete (-1) and my heart full. I am home, yet far from home. I am 54 and looking forward to another beautiful year and the days to come.
We’re here—the final day. Isolation seemed like it would feel like forever yet passed by in a blink. All of our days started running into each other, and with little variety in our activity, every morning felt like groundhog day. We’ve driven by car, flown two flights, taken one bus, and stayed in two hotels over 16 days to get to where we are now, and still, our NZ adventure is only just about to begin. We have eaten, slept, eaten, played games, slept, read, written, and binge-watched. We have laughed, thought deeply, jumped on beds, stared for hours out the window, and snuggled in front of the TV. We had repeated Covid tests and daily health checks. And dreaded the ringing of our phone in fear of that call, saying, “surprise, you’ve come back positive, and we’re moving you out of this hotel to Jet Park for an extended stay!” Our tests have all come back negative every time. We were aware that Covid could be lurking anywhere. And as it happened, a woman on our exact flight and in our hotel tested positive for Covid. They moved her on day two of our time here. We wish her well.
At 7 am Monday 26 July Zoe, and I will walk out the doors of our safe, friendly, quiet waiting place to the open and loving arms of family. All we will leave behind at Rydges MIQ is the essence of our presence. Every nook and cranny will be washed, scrubbed, sprayed, and ultraviolet light sterilized. And our organic and inorganic rubbish disposed of carefully.
We thank all the staff at #NZMIQ #RYDGES #AUCKLAND who have been so kind, careful, and patient. Thank you, #NZ for looking out for each other and having the smarts to make your country a safe, healthy place to roam freely. Thank you for welcoming us home with protection. We were more than willing to sacrifice 14 days of our lives in quiet reflection so that we can jump back into Kiwi culture and protect our friends and family.
We are packed and ready to head out. And we are looking forward to experiencing and embracing everything in our down under home to the fullest, freely and fearlessly. 14 hours to go.
Today wasn’t the first time it occurred to me that showering felt like putting an SUV through a car wash. I was shaving my legs and thought of how hard it is to reach certain areas of my vehicle. People built like smaller body hot wheels say a #FiatBambino or #MiniCooper, can buff the roof and hood and polish their hubcaps with ease. Sometimes when I’m scrubbing, shampooing and shaving, I think, “man, this is a lot of machine to clean!” Let’s say I’m a #LandRover or #Bronco. Seriously, I really have to stretch and bend to reach every inch of my rugged, classic, chunky (I’m positive #J.D.Power and Ass award-winning) body! Now, you small types will never relate to this unless you’ve been obscenely pregnant and remember your last trimester. You don’t want to miss a spot while shining that baby, so you have to work your way around the bulk of your carriage, and it’s time-consuming.
I used to be a smaller sporty model and then traded up to the SUV after children and during menopause. I genuinely miss the zip and sexiness of a more miniature ride, but my genetics being what they are, mixed with weight-gaining meds, have made me the beautiful beast I am today; I’m good. It occurred to me that #Adele and #RebelWilson have downsized and are probably having the time of their life, looking all sassy, feeling light in their brand new frame, and probably seeing parts of their ride that at one time might only have seen by the #HubbleTelescope or at best a magnifying mirror (I get it, I see you). Sometimes I roll my horseless carriage past a mirror (post-shower) and think, “oh wow, look at that! I haven’t seen that in a long time!” Being me is like never-ending space exploration or the box of chocolates #ForrestGump had. “You never know what your gonna get.”
So yeah, that was a random post, right?! Welcome to my mind and what runs through it as I’m showering. Does anyone else think like this? The only other writer I’ve encountered that does is #JennyLawson. She cracks me up. So if she shares similar thoughts to mine and she cracks me up, that means I crack me up, and being able to laugh at one’s self is healthy. So for those of you reading this thinking, “what is wrong with this woman?” I would have to say, “so many things and nothing at all.” I just wanted to share. (BTW, isolation will do this to a person, and so will genetics. We’ll just say it was the isolation that inspired this rant, this time).
There’s something to be said for spending two weeks in isolation with a 15 yr old who doesn’t often initiate conversation or can’t hear you when you start one (thanks, Apple AirPods). I don’t watch TV, and we’ve had ours on over the last 11 days for maybe a total of 2 hours. Zoë watches stuff on her phone or our laptop and snaps her friends and sisters for entertainment. I tidy, tinker, read and write (and now do my 5-minute on-the-hour alarm exercises as of two days ago). We are as different as chalk and cheese, but it works. We have had about 3 minutes of friction through our stay, and that is an accomplishment! You would think placing a 15 yr old girl and 53 yr old menopausal woman in a box together for two weeks would be a cat-scratching, bitch (female dog) howling, disaster. When in fact, It has been a delight to be penned up with my baby G.
The long periods of silence in any given space force me to reflect on my external and internal life. While I’m excited about walking out the doors of #NZMIQ on Monday morning with 100 other people (socially distanced and a single file line, of course), I am also thankful for the time I’ve had to be in this environment where I’ve had the chance to focus and reflect. There have been no distractions of daily life. No dogs to feed and walk, groceries to buy, meals to prepare, gardens to water and weed, no pressure to socialize, worry about what I look like, and no guilt over being an unpaid writer (at the moment). I’ve been here being all that I am in one tiny bubble.
Since we arrived at #NZMIQ, my mind has run a gamut of emotions:
• 😃ahhhh, we’re finally in NZ!
• 😃AHHHHH This room has the softest bed and best view.
• 😃Spoiled for choice with Indian and Asian food, yum!!
• 😃Let’s jump on the bed for exercise!
• 😃We’re having a blast playing cards and mancala!
• 😃I’m super stoked to blog about our daily happenings.
• 🙂Wow, the meals in here are pretty nice.
• 🙂Awesome, we can sleep as long as we want!
• 🙂I’m so excited that we’ve booked to go outside for a walk!
• 🙂The healthcare and military workers here are very upbeat and friendly.
• 🙂It was nice to see my babies through 2 fences and mesh after not seeing them for 18 months.
• 😌We’ve got our exercise routine down to a science; we’ll be so fit when we leave.
• 😏Ugh! We’re in NZ, and it seems like we will never get out there to enjoy it.
• 😒I don’t want to know what day or time it is.
• 😒This room smells musty, and the carpet reeks of damp dust.
• ☹️I’ve been in bed so long I’m sore! I can’t stand sitting or lying on the bed anymore.
• ☹️I don’t even want to touch the bed!
• 😳Everything out the window looks surreal, and it’s hard to believe we’re going out there.
• 😐I can’t be bothered to go outside and walk in a 40 x 60 oval for 30 minutes (or more if we want, but we don’t want).
• 😐Sabrina and Molly shouldn’t bother coming to visit us through the fences and mesh. We can see them better on FaceTime, and they don’t get rained on that way.
• 😐What’s the point of exercising? I’m sleeping until our release day!
• 😠”Zoë, I will end you if you use the chair on my side of the room!”
• 😠”No, I don’t want to play cards or mancala Zoë! You keep kicking my ass at everything.”
• 😠I don’t want one more plate of curry or pad thai! And please, no more breakfast in bed.
• 🤔Yes, my blog is reaching into some deep personal territory at this point. My inner space is all there is to explore!
• 😵💫I feel manic and can’t stand sitting still anymore.
• 😵💫I have no idea how I will handle the simulation of the world beyond these doors. Maybe I should ask to be institutionalized?
Despite my progression of thoughts, I have begun learning how to put into place the outline for the novel I have been planning and am to the point where I can define my characters and settings and the premise of my tale. This stillness has gifted me that, and I realize now that to finish, I’ll need more isolation. Honestly, positive and enjoyable things have come from this experience.
We are looking forward to the unknown of the days to come.
⚠️Caution this story contains information about mental illness issues and could be disturbing to some readers.
I never imagined I would grow tired of breakfast in bed, someone else making my food, and getting to lay around every day, until now (wha wha privileged rant). I spent the latter part of yesterday popping up and marching or doing some lifts and crunches every hour after my exercise alarm went off. I have decided if I have the alarm set 7 times a day and I do 5-minute workouts each time, and I will have gotten 35 minutes of exercise in for the day. I think this habit could carry over to post quarantine life. All I need to do is throw a walk or two in there (outside of my alarm workouts), and I’ll be fit all over. Eureka, I’ve done it! I’ve cracked the isolation or writer sitting at home writing all the time fitness code!!!
Sabrina (our journalism and film daughter) came up with an idea for a short film and a very excellent article due to our stay here in #NZMIQ. She’s so talented, and I can’t wait to see what she creates. She wants to cover some services that help people get through #NZMIQ in a healthy, comfortable manner (and they do, the healthcare workers are very attentive). She got me thinking about the mental health aspect of being in here and the effects of long-term isolation as it applies to me.
Mental health and illness are something I think about daily as I am constantly aware of my battle with an acute panic disorder, coupled with intermittent bouts of anxiety and depression. It became apparent that once we leave the relatively small space of #NZMIQ I will need to be conscious of overstimulation on the outside. If you’ve never dealt with a panic disorder, overstimulation can occur due to being in a room with too many people who are talking and moving around or walking down a street where crosswalk signs are telling you to walk. At the same time, the sound of rushing traffic zooms by, a busker is blaring their guitar over against a wall on the sidewalk, and a group of people walks by laughing loudly! These two scenes are regular everyday occurrences, but my brain (sometimes, not often) has a hard time keeping up with and categorizing all of this activity and sound at one time. As a result, my brain and body start shutting down. My legs feel heavy, and it feels like I’m dragging my body behind me; my eyes track in slow movie frames (as my brain can’t keep up), and I begin to shake first in my hands and then if I can’t get a handle on things, all over (similar to a mini seizure). My saving grace is that I have been taking my medication FAITHFULLY, and my Dr and I anticipated everything that could trigger an attack on this trip. He prescribed me a little safety net in a little brown bottle just in case, on top of my daily meds.
If you know me at all, you know that I’m personally opposed to prescription medication, so my Dr and I worked together as I attempted to stop taking the drug that has helped me for over 30 years. I was free of my prescription from September 2020 till March 2021. I got my medical marijuana license, and with my Drs help, we tried the natural route. NO! That is what my body and brain said to that experiment. I had suicidal visions, my body became paralyzed, and on my back, randomly unable to move or speak (it wasn’t because of the THC because my dose was only .4ml at bedtime). A couple of times, I was going through my day and suddenly appeared to be drunker than a skunk, and man, my head hurt so bad on occasion. I was disoriented daily, unaware of time, and worst of all, any suppressed memories I had all came flooding back in tsunami-sized waves that were powerful enough to kill me. NO! Medical Marijuana is not for everyone, and as much as I wanted it to work for me, it was driving me down a very dark rabbit hole that I may not have escaped with my life had it not been for the love and lifeline my family and friends threw to save me.
So I go back on my medication, and poof! I function like a normal human being again. I look at that tiny pill every morning before I pop it in my mouth and am amazed that my life hangs in the balance of that little 20 mg clump of chemistry. Here’s something I learned about Medical Marijuana and mental illness: 1. It is nothing to play around with without the guidance of your Dr. and a sound support system of counseling and love. 2. If you have ANY schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in your genetics (and our family does), it will exacerbate existing symptoms or trigger them if you didn’t have them before. So while I enjoyed dropping 22 pounds while off my medication (because it
suppresses your metabolism), I didn’t enjoy falling further and further away from my loved ones and desire to live into deep dark space floating into insanity or, worse, death. Everyone I loved begged me to retake my medication for months. Some were genuinely worried about how close I was to falling off the edge of
life, and some were unaware but knew something was a bit off. I’m thankful for my Dr, my daughter Zoë and my husband Paul, my sisters, and my friend Mindy for retrieving me from that scary place. I’m not happy that the minute my meds kicked in, the weight packed back on with a vengeance, but who cares? I’d rather be fat and happy than a skinny psycho, possibly dead bitch (I was pretty bitchy without my meds due to being in constant fight or flight mode).
So, back to day 10 of isolation in #NZMIQ. When the healthcare workers come by for our health check, they ask about our mental well-being daily. And they’re not just asking out of curiosity; they’re asking because they have staff here on hand who are ready to help if you are struggling. I wonder how many people out there in NZ know how hard the healthcare teams and military are working to make travelers transition into COVID-free NZ an easy and safe one.
So while I’m excited to be back home in New Zealand, I am aware that in 3 days, I will be going from virtual silence, stillness, and the safety of isolation to the hustle of the city, family asking a million questions with excitement, the close quarters of our one-bedroom accommodations with Sabrina and Molly and the stimulation of being alive. Wish me luck.
Zoe sits across the room, learning songs on her Ukulele. I’m in my chair, feet up, bed made, the last book I read finished, laying facedown dead on the table next to me. Outside the picture window, through the grey of the day, window cleaners repel from the building across from us, motor vehicles crawl like tiny ants across the harbour bridge. At the same time, boats skim across the icy Waitemata. Damp clothes hang on racks on the balconies to our left, stacked 16 stories high. Rain pats and splatters against the window, and the wind whistles through the window left cracked just a sliver to create an even balance between dry heat and fresh air. There’s a chill in the room I can’t seem to shake, no matter what I set the heat on. It’s not that cold outside; my body just isn’t acclimated to this hemisphere yet.
Aotearoa – the land of the “long white cloud.” Clouds that hang heavy in the air, unbudging this time of year. Sometimes a solemn silver hue and others a cotton candy sunset you could stare at for hours, complete with rainbows and fantasies of unicorns (ok, maybe just the rainbows).
Day 8 was a wash. We’ve given in to our isolation and have chosen to have pajama days, sing along to karaoke and Zoes ukulele playing, read, write, talk with friends and family back home or across the harbour on facetime, and sleep. We’ve lost the desire to jump on the bed, follow our exercise routine or even book to walk in the 40 x 60 oval of the forecourt. Sleep has taken over. We are on the downside of our isolation, and as we wait to be released, we talk, eat and play less and grow softer by the minute.
But all is not lost. I’ve had a new idea. I’ve just set my alarm for every hour to remind me to get up and do some leg lifts or march in place. Come on! I can’t simply give up, or I will be jelly when we leave here and have to slowly work up to all of those great hiking treks I hope to hit. So I’m on my feet in my blue-grey tie-dyed sweatshirt and cropped sweats, knees up, toes pointed (remembering my high school marching band days), and doing circles around the room as my teen lays there fit and cozy watching yet another blockbuster movie.
It was a bit heartbreaking to write my blog post about day seven yesterday, and then I lost it before I posted it. I’ve had over 234 compromised passwords on my international travels. UGH! So I reset all of them, including the monster of all passwords, my apple account, and BAM! Stuff disappeared, never to be seen again (Yes, I did a backup to the cloud before signing out). After hours of damage control, I found that all I really lost was yesterday’s blog writing. This situation is funny in a way because I not only lost the story, titled “NZ MIQ Day 7,” but we found out we also lost a whole day!
Funny story: (unless you’re in isolation in one room where you have to get permission to go walk in an oval outside, which you can’t stand for more than 30 minutes because, let’s face it, you’re walking in a 40×60 oval with others behind you in hot pursuit and the whole time your walking to the left you want to yell “ok everybody switch” but I don’t want to make any waves so I dont). So as I was saying, funny story, Zoe and I answered the door yesterday to be greeted by our perky healthcare professional clad in insipid yellow PPE and round pillbox hat and, of course, their face mask. They were rolling door to door to take temperatures and survey how people cope with their intense one-room isolation. Our visitor asked how we are getting along, and in all actuality, we cohabitate exceptionally well together. Zoe is 15 but pretty laid back. I am too (just saying). You could see our visitors smile through their eyes, and they had a happy disposition (seeing they are the only visitor we get daily, you would hope they would be at least slightly entertaining). Zoe and I shared with them our excitement over the fact that we are halfway to our release date; yaaaaay, it’s day seven. They laughed, “No! Ha, Ha, Ha, it’s only day 6! We don’t count day 1!” Wait, what?
You know that’s not funny. I replied, “I’m sorry I’m trying to get my head around what you just said.” I suffered a tiny invisible seizure felt only in my little universe (Zoes too, I’m sure). Zoe and I stopped smiling and laughing and started having them fact check our release date and time, and sure enough, we were well and for true life only on DAY 6!!!! (Ground Hog Day, 50 First Dates, lather rinse repeat, lather rinse repeat…) anything repetitive that could exist ran through my head (oh, and the fact that we are in real-life Hotel California). And then I had to let it go; we’re powerless (safe, comfy, well-fed, warm, and only 5 miles from Sabrina and Molly). Just deal with it.
Fun fact: I got outside for an evening walk, and Zoe and I decided to take some space from each other, so she hung in the room (the space was nice for both of us I’m sure). How small is NZ? Well, I’ll tell you. I have now met two people here in isolation that is either a family member of one of my dearest friends or works directly for one of my family members. It’s a known fact that there are only 2 degrees of separation between people here in NZ (well, It used to be a fact, maybe it still is).
While I was walking in my oval (on day seven which was really day 6), I had a friendly chat with two young NZ Air Force guards. They watch the gate and observe all of us walking to make sure we DON’T TOUCH THE FENCE or move to an authorized area (which I’ve done several times because I am not non-compliant; I am just too lazy to read the signs they’ve posted EVERYWHERE, five inches apart from each other). Some signs say, no photos, social distance, designated smoking area only, please don’t touch the fence. Hanging on the barrier gate are pictures of people, dogs, cities, art, and thank you notes from people who have stayed here in isolation . I like the thank you notes. The letters are from people humbled by the experience and thankful for the steps taken to keep NZ Covid Free. I’m sure they’ve gotten some pretty nasty notes too.
I noticed yesterday that there is no lock on the bathroom door. I think the staff has taken them out for safety reasons. What if someone is in their room isolating alone and has a heart attack or stroke or worse, can’t handle the isolation, and takes their life? I suppose they need to be able to get to people quickly. I also thought about the people here who chain smoke, are alcoholics or drug addicts returning home to NZ and realized that while Zoe and I are having an almost enjoyable time here, this could be hell for someone else. There are limits on the amount of alcohol sent to a given room and trust me, they check delivery bags. If you chain smoke, you have to book to go down for a smoke (back in the day, when my oldest sister chain-smoked, she would have killed someone if they got between her and a cigarette, well, that and food). So yes, being here could be very heavy for some and a good rest and time to write for others. No two human universes are the same or experiencing the same things.
Yesterday was pretty uneventful. However, there’s not much difference between today and yesterday other than my mindset. Yesterday I woke up and did some volunteer work for https://CollierHealthyMinds.com and got to add a different face to my bubble with a quick Zoom meeting (without even getting out of bed or hopping out of my PJ’s). For some reason, I was drained yesterday and didn’t feel like following the quarantine routine I’ve set for myself. I felt a bit blue, to be honest. To be expected, I’m sure. There was this massive build-up of excitement to get to NZ and be with the girls, and I am genuinely excited I’ve seen them once or twice through the fence. But (and there is a but), I cope with things by shutting down and going into a place of feeling numb until I get through it. I developed this skill as a child, and it comes in handy when I’m in a situation like isolation, and I don’t want to think about the passing of time, try to block out what day it is, or I’m trying not to block out my reality. It’s like mini hibernation for my brain. Sometimes my protective shell becomes a bit too heavy, though, and I feel like I just need a day in bed. And what do you know, I was totally in luck because we’re locked in a hotel room with nothing but beds!
I did get my carry-on finally. It was a highlight of day 5. I now have my favorite tooth flossers, tweezer, and shaver. Now I have some hygiene tools to keep me occupied (it’s the little things in life that count the most sometimes). My carry-on looked like it had traveled the entire globe. It was finally delivered to me after four emails to 3 airlines, six phone calls, one text, and three filed reports! The final call I got about my bag was from a rude airline baggage person who said, “we have your bag; when are you coming to get it?”
To which I replied (calmly), “I’m in managed isolation and was promised by everyone I’ve emailed, texted, and talked to that it would be delivered to my room at the MIQ facility!” He said, “no, you are being penalized because you couldn’t fit it in the overhead in America, so you have to come in and pay for it. When will you be released from isolation?” I said, “NO! I was promised it would be delivered, and it will be!” we played verbal tug of war for a couple of seconds, then he said he would call me back. A few hours later, a baggage manager called me and said, “due to the times we are in and to be sympathetic to your current situation, we will deliver your carry-on this evening free of charge.” Well, thank you, AirNZ!
So today, on day 6, I woke up and felt like my reset button had been pressed. I gave in to my sluggish mood the day before. I paid bills, tidied up, and followed my MIQ box routine. Zoë and I got to have a visit with Sabrina through the fences too. It’s always so lovely to see my girl’s faces. Sabrina came alone and had waited in the cold, windy rain for over half an hour for the security team to clear us to walk in the forecourt. I think it took that long to clear us because they forgot about us. The first woman I called said, “you can’t book specific times to come down, and I’m not sure how full it is at the moment; I’ll call you back when you can come down.” She didn’t, and she knew my daughter was dropping by. So after 30 minutes, I called down again and got a different guard who said, “oh, you want to come down now? Sure no problem!” Poor Sabrina was soaked to the bone, but she’s a trooper, and her visit made my day.
Zoë and I walked in a 40-foot oval for 30 minutes after our visit. It was wet and windy out, but OMG, it was so nice to breathe fresh air, feel the wind and rain on our face and see other people (very socially distanced, of course). No one out there talks to each other. There is a tiny walking section and a smoking section, and when we’re down there, we stick to our walking mission. We aren’t allowed to get close enough to talk to anyone outside our bubble (Zoë and I are the bubble). Part of the walking area has a small smoking area at one end. It struck me as funny that you have to book in to either stand in the space to smoke and kill yourself or walk in the one next to it to be fit and stay alive. I think a lot, too much maybe.
Our late afternoon had some spontaneous moments. We played mancala (I lost to Zoë as I consistently do), but then we played cards, and it turns out Speed is a winning game for me (sorry Zoë, not sorry). At one point, we decided to play Speed with no thumbs allowed (only using our four fingers) and agreed that thumbs make life more fun. Somehow I moved from cards to standing on the bed bouncing. I looked out the window from our 12th-floor room and, cranking my Apple playlist, sang from the tallest stage in the world out to all of Auckland. It was enjoyable till Zoë decided to shut down my show and replace me with Master Chef Australia!! Ohhhhh, SHOTS FIRED!!!
As our day comes to an end and we are coming up on the halfway mark of our MIQ stay, I feel that in our rooms, aside from our daily door to door health check, 3 Covid tests, and three-time a day meal deliveries, we’ve been deposited here and forgotten. I only say that because when you try to book to go outside, the security teams (working for three different military branches) don’t seem to have their procedures together as far as people are concerned. It feels like we are safe and fed well, yes, but sometimes you get the wrong person, make a request, and in their voice or eyes, the reaction comes across as, “oh, do you really have to ask for something?” Anyway, it’s just a thought that has occurred to me. Another day down.
“Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch….” The sound woke me. I opened my eyes slightly to a dark, chilly room. “crunch, crunch, crunch” the sound was coming from Zoe’s bed. I dozed for a second, then again, “crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.” It must have been 6 am. I thought, “Those damn rice crackers!” then I fell back into a sound sleep.
We had waffles with berry compote and bananas for breakfast. I’m trying not to think about the outside world. If I pretend it doesn’t exist, I won’t want to be out in it. We are both surprisingly chill and don’t appear to be too bothered by our current situation. Zoe talked to Molly on FaceTime for hours. They gamed, exercised, and laughed together, making plans to get Zoe a small tattoo. I followed my new routine, tidied my side of the box, dressed in exercise clothes, did my calisthenics (ancient Jack Lalane word for exercise, lol not really Jack’s word), made a coffee, and sat in my chair reading.
“Ring, ring-ring, ring” time for our day 4 COVID test. When we left our room, I noticed people dressed to go outside. WHAT??!!! I looked at the guide in PPE and said, “We have not gone outside for two days! We haven’t gone outside since you announced there was COVID in the building and to STAY PUT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!” Their response was awkward, and they avoided eye contact, all the while trying to be cheerful. “Oh yeah, you can book in anytime to go to the forecourt or ramp for a walk.” I replied with an edge of WTF in my voice, “stay put until further notice; there was no further notice.” And then they left me gobsmacked (that’s a word for you, kiwis) by saying, “we decided NOT TO TELL ANYONE.” And, “yeah, we’re still trying to figure that out.” Zoe told me to be quiet, so I did. We’re powerless. Then we had a further low. I think Zoe’s rice cracker eating marathon has caught up to her. She’s feeling slightly unwell at the moment.
Also funny( but not really), they gave Zoe a gift today to keep her busy. It was kind but weird. It was a box of school supplies, a ruler, pencils, paper, and NZ 8-10th grade lesson books. As they handed it to her, they said, “here, this will keep you busy” (um, thank you…no). Zoe’s FLVS (Florida Virtual School Flex) for US 10th grade/sophomore year begins August 10th through her high school schedule at home in FLORIDA. Pretty exciting stuff, right? Zoe looked at the books and said, “this stuff is too easy; I did this in 7th grade.”
I’m so excited. Later on, our day took a positive turn. We visited with Sabrina and Molly for 30 minutes in the forecourt! (HALLELUJAH). The sight of them took my breath away. We spoke and laughed, and I just wanted Inspector Gadget arms so I could reach through the fence and cuddle them. The military guards were so accommodating and made sure nothing disrupted our fence visit. They even seemed caught up in the joy of our reunion. All we needed was Paul, and the pod would be complete. I am still reeling with delight and smiling inside and out after seeing their bright shining eyes, soft skin, and mannerisms live. We were speaking to them with a distance of 8 feet between us instead of 9000 miles. Nothing else that happens today can top that, so I’m signing off now.
Food was delivered, we ate, played online games with Paul and Molly, I stretched and jogged in place. Food was delivered, we ate again, I tidied our tiny box and read some of my books. Exciting right? I haven’t thought about going outside today, but I am longing to move. So Zoe said, “mom get on your bed!” to which I cringed, saying, “no, please, I don’t want to touch my bed till it’s time to sleep!” Zoe replied with excitement, “no, get on the bed and do this with me!” It was bed workouts with Emi Wong! Here’s her link: https://youtube.com/c/EmiWong Normally, in bed, it’s comfy, but Emi has a way of making you burn in bed and not in the way most of us dream of burning in bed. Zoe laughed hysterically at my half moves and inability to crunch and lift like the beasts she and Emi are. It was pretty comical. I’m going to come out of MIQ saying, “I feel like veal! I’m soft and dough-like due to being locked in a box and force-fed awesome food!”
When the reality is I was already pretty blobby and weak before my current situation. Oh BTW! Our luggage was delivered last night! YAAAAAY! So I SHOWERED. I’m sure I’ve lost at least a couple of pounds of globe-trotting dirt after that. The shower here rocks! It water blasts you with the force of a fire hose. You know, the exhilarating kind of blast that hurts and feels amazing at the same time. Mentioning the fire hose actually reminded me of hot firefighters (which I usually have no interest in and still don’t, but my oldest sister and oldest daughter do). One Christmas, my husband gave me a hot firemen calendar as a gag gift. The minute I opened it, I screamed and threw it across the room in total horror. I think I passed it on to another keen female in the family. Does that man even know me? Well, since it was a gag, he obviously does. He just wanted to have a reason to laugh at me. I don’t know why I’m the way I am. I’m sure I would have loved that calendar had I found it in an empty house with no other humans or animals present, for that matter, closer than a 50-mile radius.
I get way too embarrassed if caught red-handed (that’s funny, red-handed, never mind). Anyway, I’m clean and happy with clothes to wear and NOWHERE TO GO! Zoe rotted her teeth out as a toddler eating a particular brand of rice crackers in NZ and has been romancing the idea of securing cases of them upon her return to her birthplace. Well, we got her 14 packs, and she has binge eaten 6 in 3 DAYS!!! Why????? Everyone has their thing, I suppose. Zoe sits there, headphones on, laid back against the headboard of her hotel bed, toes wiggling, watching Disney (yes, she’s 15, so it’s kinda cute), eating one round cracker after another, examining it as if she found gold before she places each one in her mouth. I’ve run out of things to do for the moment here in the box, so I’m laying in the sun on my side of the room dozing off on my bed (which I was trying to avoid touching until bedtime but, well…no).
Well, I’ve now rearranged some of our room; all I really did was move a chair from the corner over into the cubby kitchen so I could put a wall between Zoe and me whenever I wanted. I ended up back on my bed after reading in my new kitchen cave for only 5 minutes because Molly and Zoe were on Facetime talking about music, and I couldn’t resist jumping into the conversation. Time moved slower today than the two days prior. We have heard nothing about booking a walk outside since the announcement last night that someone in our building has covid, and they have to contact trace. So now I feel like we’re just rolling around the room like toddlers in a playpen. Rolling on the mattress, floor, mattress, and maybe not the floor again because it smells pretty rank. I was thinking about how inmates in prison have it pretty good compared to us today. They get to take walks in the yard, play basketball (at least they do in all of the movies), and do fun stuff like making license plates and bread. We aren’t allowed to crack our door open to put our trash out (without stepping out the door) without our facemask on. I’m not complaining. PLEASE DON’T GET ME WRONG! We knew we were headed for this waiting place (I tried to block out what it would be like when we got to NZ isolation, and here we are). We’ve resorted to foot and back massages (note to self, getting a massage from my youngest child is like being tenderized with tiny sharp chicken knuckles). My child laughed every time I yelped in pain. Now that’s entertainment. And finally, we sit and wait for dinner to arrive and then have plans to do a post-meal 10-minute workout (well, skip the work out I just had a glass of wine) and watch a movie. Never a dull moment, and we are spoiled for variety in our box (hmmm, I just realized I forgot to brush my teeth today)!
We did bed bounce exercises (something we made up) after breakfast (which was pretty yummy); it was delivered in paper bags and served in environmentally friendly packaging with a lid of plastic that is compostable. All cutlery and food packaging is wood and cardboard!!! NZ seems to avoid petroleum-based plastics! Good on em!
We were given our blue wrist bands, which mean our COVID tests were negative, so Zoe and I got to go for a 30-minute walk in the 40×60 forecourt.
Back up in our room, Zoe jumped back in bed, and I made a coffee and sat by our window getting fresh air. It opens about 6 Inches. Desperate people have climbed down balconies and used sheets to repel to the ground from open windows, so expansive opening windows and balconies aren’t an option. Last night I got a call from the facility nurse asking me health questions. She wanted to know if I have enough medication for my acute Panic Disorder while in isolation and if I had someone close by I can talk to if the isolation gets to be too much. Then this morning, a nurse came to our door to perform our daily health check, taking our temperature, asking how we’re feeling, and seeing if we had any symptoms.
Here’s something gross I still haven’t showered since I left the US! I have nothing to change into. I’m still waiting for our luggage to arrive. Zoe had her carry-on, but mine is still sitting in Washinton, DC. AirNZ called me today and assured me our two large suitcases would be picked up by the courier at 3:00 pm today and delivered to our room (watch this space). I CAN’T WAIT TO CLEAN UP!!! YUCK!
The hours tick by, and we’ve eaten lunch. I move from the chair to the bed to the chair to standing and looking out the window. It’s a beautiful day today. I can’t wait to be out there. We lay on the bed and do leg lifts, play Mancala, and I contemplate taking a nap but try not to. It’s 10:30 pm back in Naples, Florida, so my body wants to sleep. It’s only 2:30 pm here, though, and if I don’t stay awake, I’ll never sleep tonight.
It’s 3:20 pm, and they announced over our room loudspeaker that someone on our flight, and now in our hotel has Covid and now we can’t leave our room to go for a walk. It’s sad. My girls were on their way into the City to see us outside of the gate. We had to call them and tell them not to come. NZ is diligent and keeping everyone safe. We get it, but boy, what a letdown. We were so excited to see them, even if it was from two meters away through the green mesh and two fences.
I’ve ordered water, wine, and rice crackers from the grocery store and can’t wait till it’s delivered. I ordered water with my lunch but got coke (I don’t drink sugary sodas), and now I’m parched. Zoe and I are each lying in our beds playing game pigeon games on our phones (8 ball, mancala, darts, etc.); it doesn’t matter what we play, I usually lose. The late afternoon sun is shining in on us. I’ve forgotten how much the sun warms the room as it beats through the glass.
Zoe and I jump up with excitement when Sabrina and Molly call us on the phone from the corner below our window. We talk on speakerphone and jump up and down, making sure to be seen. They don’t stay long and head off to meet friends for the evening. I joke in the text on the family strand that it will look like they’re working that corner every night if they keep visiting us this way. After they disappear, I contemplate jumping on the bed again but pace around the room instead, sip a decaf and oat milk coffee, and watch the sun sink behind the Harbour Bridge.
All there is to do now is wait for another meal, eat, read and pace. We would watch movies on TV, but they’re $15 each! We would love to watch them on our own devices, but the hotel wifi sucks. I’m very concerned about this as Zoe starts online school any day now. Oh well, “tomorrow’s another day.”
We arrived in Auckland, NZ, on Monday the 12th of July. Landing at 5:38 am, we went through a maze of customs checkpoints, were cleared to get on the bus, and headed to Auckland CBD. We sat (in the bus) with no toilet, water, etc., for what seemed like forever. Processing us at the airport was at the most an hour so let’s say we left there at 6:45 am or 7:00 am. By 10:08 am, there was still no sign of getting off of the bus, which had been sitting still in the road comically for hours in front of a giant neon sign that read, “WHATEVER”!
Omg, WE FINALLY MOVED!!! 10:10 am. (3 hours on the bus). We made it into our room by 11:00 am. It’s tiny and tidy. The beds are super comfortable. I wish there were drawers to put our clothes in (whenever we get our luggage, that is, it still hadn’t been brought up to us by 7:00 pm). No worries on the food front though, it’s terrific. Within 30 minutes of getting into our room, we were delivered cereal with yogurt, milk, and fruit. And at 12:30 pm, they sent up a beautiful stir-fried prawn dish with cake and coconut water. YUM!!
We were called on the phone and told to come out of our room, face masks on. Yellow PPE gown wearing military personnel with face masks and plastic face shields ushered us to the covid testing room. They administered the brain stabbing PCR test; the first time I’ve had that one, it didn’t hurt at all but yuck, what a gross feeling.
And for the grand finale of our day, Sabrina and Molly, my two sweet babies, delivered coffee and chocolates to our hotel. They left it at the front desk for us. We couldn’t see them yet, so they dropped and ran. We could see them standing 12 floors down on the street corner. We all waved as we talked to each other on the phone. We are so close yet still so far. I can’t wait to hug them. Almost there.
Wow! We have gotten off to a crazy start. We woke up at 4 am and slowly headed to the Miami International airport (it was only 6 minutes from the Hilton Garden Inn). We were checked in for our flight and breathed a sigh of relief, knowing all of the paperwork required for our travel was “A” ok! Paul walked us to the security gate, and we all exchanged kisses and hugs. He walked away, waving to us as we disappeared through the scanners. I watched him as long as I could. Before we got sucked into the crowd, Paul smiled at us with a smile that masked a small amount of sadness. Man, I wish he could have come me with us. I will really miss him (and the dogs). Zoe and I excitedly settled on our flight set to depart at 7:15 am. We quietly waited, blinking the remnants of sleep out of our eyes. We needed to take off on time. Once we reached the second flight of our trip, we were only going to have 40 minutes to go from Gate Z to D!!! (we are not strangers to hoofing it from one gate to the next, so we planned to move at superhuman speed to get there).
The pilot announced something was wrong with the flaps on one of the wings, and we couldn’t depart. Our 7:15 am departure, now a 7:30 am departure, left us 25 minutes to get to our next flight. Then the flight attendant came and told us that the toilets were full to the brim (what the heck?). A neon yellow-vested mechanic got on and off of the plane repeatedly while I, Zoe, and the rest of the passengers waited in anxious anticipation. I looked at my watch and realized that we had missed our connection. Making our flights on time to get to our final New Zealand flight was crucial because we have to arrive there on the flight that matches the flight number given when we booked our managed isolation. If we don’t, they could send us back to the US.
The flight attendants and one of the airline scheduling managers were standing at the plane’s entry discussing our situation as I approached them with concern. They knew we had to make our connecting flights on time, and the manager said he was already searching for new flights for us before I had even said anything. The scheduling manager asked me to follow him off the plane and back into the terminal, so I did. Zoe sat tight on the plane in confusion. There were very few options on any airline. Getting to LA in the time frame we needed was proving to be a considerable challenge. I did my best to be quiet and patient. At one point, I turned my back on the scheduling manager as he searched the screen. Hot tears ran down my face and soaked the edge of my face mask. I didn’t want him to see me crying. All I could think about were Sabrina and Molly and how badly I wanted to hug them in my arms and look into their eyes. It’s been a year and a half. My heart hurt at the thought of not reaching my babies. The scheduling manager was doing the best he could. After many phone calls and deep digging, he found two seats on a totally different airline. I texted Zoe and told her to get off the plane and meet me in the terminal.
We now wait for our new connection. And while doing this, a man with an Indian accent called my cell phone and attempted to steal my checking account information. He had hacked my debit card and gotten the number, but that’s all he got. I was wise to him, and pretty quickly, he hung up on me when I refused to answer his questions. So now the bank is investigating that, and we continue our journey. Ahhhh, day two is shaping up the be a right ripper!!! (pray for us)!
When we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn, we were confused about where the entrance to the hotel was. All we wanted to do was check-in. We entered the pool area, and it was taped off; we tried the front entrance, and the doors were locked with construction tape all around and workers completing the new lobby floor. We finally found our way, and at that point, I was frustrated. I thought, my God, when will we see an elevator to go to our room. I was dissatisfied with the front desk person and then realized they were doing the best they could, working with what they had to work with.
Once we finally deposited our stuff to our room and understood what was happening (the entire hotel was under renovation), I apologized to the sweet lady at the front desk (which was a card table at the back entrance), and we went across the way for drinks. I came back, and while my husband and daughter lay in the comfort of our room, I went back downstairs under the entrance awning seeking a light (yes, a light, I had three glasses of wine, and that is my tipping point for needing a cigarette). I sat under the back awning and watched about 30 people try to find the entrance. They drove back and forth past the door, wondering if they should go in or not. There was signage at the front of the hotel sending them around back but nothing that said: “CHECK-IN HERE!”
I borrowed lights from several different kinds of pilots who said that since Covid, this is normal. One man, Patrick, had just ended a day of retraining and gaining flight hours to work for UPS or FEDEX. I also met two working pilots who came out of Mexico and were on a layover from Estafeta Carga Aérea S.A. de C.V. , a cargo airline based in Mexico City, Mexico. It operates domestic cargo charters in Mexico and the United States and has over 25 interline agreements providing connecting services to the rest of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They said that when they reach their accommodations, confusion, similar to what we experienced, is expected. I borrowed a light from them, and we had a smoke. They told me about their passion for their work and told me why flying for a cargo company was essential to them.
Meanwhile, the staff inside the Hilton Garden Inn was doing their best to be welcoming. They put on a good face and made the best of a bad situation. As I lay my head down to sleep tonight, I think about all the people working on the ground and flying above the clouds. They are dedicated to keeping the world moving and following guidelines that keep all of us safe in this crazy time. I salute them.
Today I went to my GP for medication refills in preparation for the trip to NZ. Since there is a 70% chance they will cancel our flight again, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of my vital meds. All went well. My favorite Dr and I talked about every little ache, tick, and quirk I have had, and he and his team checked me over from top to bottom inside and out. Not a spot, crack, or crevice was left unexplored. I had blood tests, last a urine test, and even got a stool card (which to me is worse than a red card in soccer because the stool card is just gross and crappy).
We’re packing now. We’ve been digging out all of our winter clothes. It may feel like 103 here, but in Auckland, it will be 46 F the morning we arrive. Auckland winter is damp and frigid. We will have to re-acclimate to the bone-chilling cold. Being a Floridian, we don’t have many warm clothes. I did, however, buy warm stuff in anticipation of our canceled ski trip this past March. We had a ski-themed Christmas where every present was something warm and ski trip-related and then…no ski trip. Just a lot of winter clothes in a closet in a house in subtropical Florida. It will be nice to put that stuff to use.
Our girls in NZ are prepping their tiny apartment for our stay, and my sister-in-law even stopped in to make a list of what they may be missing. We are getting really excited, and our departure is beginning to feel pretty real now. I have received text and email reminders from our airline regarding our departure and COVID travel guidelines. We’ve also been sent a message from the MIQF (managed isolation and quarantine facility in NZ) anticipating our arrival. I woke up feeling a bit shaky this morning and have been on edge the last few days. I don’t fly well and have been on edge, in constant but slight fight or flight mode. I’m feeling pretty raw, and my hands visibly shake. I’ve been taking deep breaths, praying, and focusing on the minute we get out of isolation and hug Sabrina and Molly. I’m working to stay calm, but my body isn’t cooperating. Once we are on the international flight, I am pretty sure I will relax, knowing we are officially on our way to NZ. If that thought doesn’t settle me, my Dr gave me something that will for sure. I am very conscious that I need to be lucid for my 15 yr old travel companion, though, so that’s the last resort. I doubt I’ll even use my little “mother’s helper.” Working to “keep calm and carry on.” 👑 🇳🇿♥️
I’m getting anxious as we get closer to our departure date for NZ. The biggest worry I have is not getting our Covid test results back within the 72-hour window leading up to our arrival. It’s a big deal. Our trip hinges on that one thing. I rebooked our return flights, the last day of August, yet there is still a 70% chance of cancellation. What if we have to stay longer with my babies? Really?! Not a problem as far as we’re concerned. I almost wish they would cancel it to be there for Molly, our middle daughter’s birthday.
I’m starting to miss Paul and the dogs, and we haven’t even left the house yet. Leaving people scares me. I’m always afraid I’ll never see them again (of course, I have abandonment issues). Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about going to NZ in a time when we are emerging from isolation and lockdown; I’m totally excited. I’m just a worrier, that’s all. I think about everything that could go wrong before something significant takes place, and then when I’m in it and get a firm grip on my situation, I start to enjoy it. It’s kind of like when you go into surgery. The Dr says, “this surgery will be the best thing for you, but before we do it, I have to warn you about all of the bad things that could happen, and oh, you might also die.”Yeah, so I’m excited about the coming trip, and at the same time, my anxiety and depression drag me through the “disclaimer before surgery” thought process.
But honestly, It’s going to be fun, very cold (it’s winter in NZ, and we’re traveling there from the deep south of Florida where it’s hotter than satan’s balls at the moment), joyful, heartbreaking on departure, a long journey, and return. But the stories and photos that will come from all of it will be priceless. And the hugs, oh the feeling of hugging my sweet babies who I have not seen for 18 months. Seeing all three of our girls complete, laughing, taunting each other, telling stories of their past, and making memories for the future, my heart will burst with happiness, and I will probably cry bliss-filled tears. We will arrive there exhausted, to the unknown conditions of managed isolation, cocooned in our hotel, patiently waiting for the doors to open so we can emerge into the bright, beautiful, loving arms of family on the other side.
We’re getting ready to leave for NZ. Zoë and I will be in managed isolation when we arrive there for 14 days. We just saw a story yesterday where a woman had 12 hours left of her managed isolation, and her Covid test results came back positive (they test you in NZ isolation every three days). They slipped an envelope under her door telling her she could not leave. Can you imagine! One hundred people in the detained woman’s isolation group also had to stay longer. We don’t know how this will go, but It’s all a part of the adventure.
The airlines have canceled our return flight to the US. So I am rebooking our new return flight for sometime in September, extending our stay. Our original return date was August 23rd. The airlines warned us there would be a 70% chance they will cancel our new return flight. The thing is, they can’t fill enough seats on the jumbo jets to justify the cost of returning to the US, so they wait until they can guarantee a full flight. Because of our uncertain return date, we’ve modified Zoe’s schooling for the first semester of her sophomore year. She is unenrolled from NHS and now a Florida Virtual School flex student. She only has to take three honors classes, and her guidance counselor has assured us she will be able to slot her right back into her regular schedule upon return without missing a beat. She is a well-seasoned counselor and feels that there is more to a teen’s well-being than reading, writing, and arithmetic. She says mental health is critical, and if our stay in NZ with her sisters and extended family gives us peace and fulfillment, that is more important than school structure. I love her. She’s right; life is short and not always black and white. Sometimes we have to live outside the lines to achieve our goals. So today, on day 12 of the count down to our departure, I am rebooking our return flights and beginning to get very excited.
My daughters all, unfortunately, inherited my anxiety. Some of them have it more severely than others. I feel terrible that I have passed my broken bits to my sweet children. It’s enough of a struggle for me to deal with my issues without also having to watch my babies struggle. We’re away on a short holiday at the moment, and I woke up with my husband absent from our bed and on the couch. Our 15 yr old soundly slept next to me, letting out a little snore here and there. She had come in late last night and asked Paul to move. She said, “I’m feeling very anxious at the moment, and I won’t sleep all night. Can’t I please snuggle, mom?” He asked me if I was ok with it, and I said, “sure, why not?” She crawled in and snuggled as close to me as she could. I gave her an anxiety hug. I wrapped both of my arms around her and kissed her on top of the head. She nestled in the crook of my arm. She went from feeling anxious to being sound asleep before the words goodnight left my lips.
When all 3 of our girls were babies, we did skin on skin, breastfed, and often I would carry them in my baby Björn front carrier while I cooked and cleaned. I have always been accessible to them. Being the safe place for my children has always been a priority for me, mamma bear that I am. As Zoë and I slept, she spooned closer and closer to me. I have to admit that this made me sleep very sound as well. Whether you agree with my parenting methods or not, my happy place has always been snuggling my babies, no matter how old they get. So yes, on the odd occasion, our 15 yr old still jumps in bed with her mom, and you know what, I love it. She will be gone soon, and these are the moments I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I used to fly down giant hills, jump curbs and skate backward on my rollerblades; I was fearless. I did it for about ten years, so you’d think jumping back on them would be like riding a bike; you never forget. I used my Mothers Day rollerblades three times, and on the third day, I fell. I didn’t hurt myself, but as I lay on my back on the pavement looking up at the sky with an aching posterior, afraid to move because I was sure I broke every bone in my body, I thought, why am I doing this? (I was barely moving when I fell, and I didn’t even fall hard. I’m a baby, a brave baby.) Each time I skated, I put on more clothing and padding. I even considered wrapping a life jacket around my backside to add additional padding to my butt. I am acutely aware that I have 100 lbs more on me now compared to when I skated as a young fit gal, and this present-day voluptuousness doesn’t fall well. All three times I rollerbladed, I was shaking like a leaf and sweating bullets. I was petrified, but I wanted to do it with my sweet daughter, so I sucked it up and gave it my all. She was so encouraging and excited that we were doing something sporty together (I think). I didn’t want to let her down until gravity pulled me down, and then I just parked them in the closet. So yesterday, I gave them away to a dear family friend who put them on and skated after only an hour like gravity doesn’t exist. She’s 12, and her feet are the same size as mine. She rollerbladed with our girl Zoe the way I wished I could, and I watched on with joy over the happiness I had just given someone else and breathed a sigh of absolute relief that I never have to get on those things ever again. I will roll with my girl however my next purchase will be a scooter with huge wheels
AUTHOR NOTE: I don’t drink unless I am on an outing with friends or family, and there have not been many opportunities for those outings lately, so I haven’t drunk much and have become a lightweight. Now my story.
I took what I thought was the last sip of my skinny Pina cola. I had only had one, and that was perfect. They weren’t cheap, and I drank every drop. My Niece and I sunbathed by the resort-style pool with her two children; I haven’t seen them for over three years, and it was a joy to be with them, so we were celebrating. After two sips of her skinny drink, my niece was done. She slid her almost full plastic cup over to me, and I happily drank it. The sun was beating down, and as my body became relaxed, I slowly melted into the lounger where I lay. The pool was huge, and the sound of the waterfall began to lull me to sleep. I dozed for a second and then hopped in the inviting clear sparkling water where I floated weightlessly free with mellow content. I noticed my niece shifting the wet towels on the lounge chairs, and I took it as a sign she was ready to go.
I said, “are you leaving?” She looked at me puzzled, “well, we can…, yeah we’re probably going to go soon.” She thought that I wanted to, so she packed up. I did the same and headed for my car. I secretly fretted as we left the safety of the pool. Had I known we were going home so soon, I would never have finished her drink for her (she seemed to really need help disposing of it, though). In retrospect, neither one of us was ready to leave. It seems we got our wires crossed trying to read the hidden messages our body language was sending. Due to our lack of communication, we packed up for no reason. In my car, I sat in the driver’s seat calculating how much food and water I had consumed, my weight to alcohol ratio after two vodka filled skinny drinks and regretted drinking that second one (don’t judge readers, I’m sure there is some point in your life where you have done this or something like it).
I sat in the parking lot patiently waiting for the minimal buzz I had to pass. I drank my two-liter water bottle till it was empty and did some writing, read social media, clipped my fingernails, listened to music, checked my emails, did some writing again, and then decided to head for home. I was not loopy, but I knew the alcohol was present in my bloodstream. (Ok, I wasn’t loopy, but I did feel VERY relaxed!) I called my husband to keep me company while I drove home and he was concerned (loopy Jeri is not often a normal state). I had two blooming drinks; I don’t even think driving with two drinks and two liters of water in your system is illegal, but I felt like a hardened criminal. I was in a part of town I had not ever explored and decided to stop at CVS for dog treats.
I saw a smoke shop next door and peeked in. The shop, stocked with bongs, CBD, Vape pens, and everything “Marijuana” was stoner central (no, it wasn’t a dispensary, that’s not legal in Naples). I quickly walked in and back out again. I walked further along the plaza and popped into the liquor store. A woman greeted me at the door and, noticing my wet hair and dress, said, “did you just come from the beach?” “No, I was at a pool,” I replied. She was a small Indian woman with kind eyes that looked me up and down as If I was out of place, and she couldn’t quite figure me out. I was there for a teeny tiny pack of cigarettes.
I thought If I just had one, It would snap me out of this foggy feeling. The kind woman called her husband to the front to help me. After asking for the skinniest tiniest pack of Virginia Slim menthols anyone could ever smoke (literally, you practically need tweezers to hold these things and a magnifying glass to see them), he asked me if I smoked often? Man, you had to answer security questions to get a pack of smokes; now I truly felt like a fugitive. I didn’t hold back; I told him everything I knew for fear of failing whatever secret test I was taking. In one giant run-on sentence, I said, “OK! I had a couple of drinks by the pool a little over an hour ago and my daughter will be home from school soon If I ever feel tipsy I usually smoke a cigarette and it makes me feel normal again I would never smoke in front of my children so I thought I would grab a quick one here before I head home!”
I stopped talking, and as usual, there was silence as I realized I said more than I needed to. The couple started at me, and then the man looked at me and smiling said in a soft indian accent, “You are a good mom. Be careful driving home.” I passed, I passed the test. There was hope for me yet, so with confidence, I sat outside the store, on a bench drying off and smoking the anti buzz remedy. “You are a good mom” rang in my ears. I had felt so guilty over my morning staycation actions and was so worried that I had not done my day perfectly, but now I could relax. I did snap out of it. I took my time getting home. Overall I spent 2 hours traveling 20 minutes because I was ultra-careful and waiting until it was safe to get behind the wheel. I haven’t touched those cigarettes again since I bought them; that was a few days ago, and I have maybe smoked one pack total in the last four years. I used to drink wine with my mom, and we would have a social cigarette together on the patio, but nothing more than that. Since she has been gone, there hasn’t been much thought of doing it.
This event has led me to wonder about the anxiety I manifest for myself over needing to do the right thing, appear to be the perfect mom, sister, etc. (when anyone who knows me knows I’m not, but I sure do try). I know I’m not the only one who does this. We all have our reasons for wanting to appear perfect on the outside. I understand why I hold myself to high standards. There are reasons I won’t just let go and go wild like my head sometimes tells me I should, but every once in a while, a girls just gotta have some fun, you know.
(This story is a time capsule of words and thoughts shared from my diary. Written one year ago today, June 5, 2020.)
The mood of the day, gray, rainy, calm, quiet, hopeful yet frightening, motivated, loved, and slightly bored.
My feelings are all over the place this week as the world erupts with bubbling issues of racism, isolation, fear, and depression. The deaths of George Floyd over a counterfeit $20 bill and Ahmaud Arbery shot by a retired police officer and friends while he was running; have sparked peaceful protests and riots not just in America but around the entire world. In Auckland, NZ, there was a peace march of 9000 people to support #blacklivesmatter. Our two oldest daughters were there, marching with the others, demanding a global end to systemic racism. I am so proud of them. While proud of them, I’m dying to get out there and peacefully protest myself. Our youngest daughter fears for my safety and begs me not to; she is scared. Business owners are frightened. Businesses of every kind in towns around the US, broken into, looted, and burned. A Target was destroyed, along with CVS and Walmart, who had to close over 100 stores until there is order. Angry groups don’t care if you are rich, poor, white, black, Asian, Hispanic; they are fed up and are destroying people’s businesses and lives to make a loud screaming statement.
#nolivesmatteruntilblacklivesmatter I get it. I don’t blame them. I am ashamed to be white at times. I can’t express enough how I long to be united with black brothers and sisters (united with all races actually), and no matter how much I try, I will never feel the pain of the scorn heaped upon their backs repeatedly, heartlessly. We are one race, the human race. We all love, bleed, rejoice and grieve the same. We are one people. I am confused and angry, even sad and again ashamed of the way some (many) in my country, entitled Americans, still embrace racism and, on top of that, have responded to COVID-19 with anti-masking and misleading lies stating that it’s all a hoax. Over 500,000 people with families, spouses, and children, parents and friends who loved them, were killed by a hoax. Yes, Information is misleading or confusing. Politicians are worried about money over lives; Americans have lost jobs in the 10’s of millions. People are dying, starving, committing suicide (because it’s all too much). The world is riddled with rising mental illness cases, and many of us are hanging on by a thread. It’s a crazy time.
It’s hurricane season now, and we’ve had homes destroyed in our Florida brush fires. I thank God for today’s rain as it slows the flames. Yet someone in another community is praying for the rain to stop because landslides have washed their homes into the sea, taking more lives. Global warming, I say. Today people and parties do not respect each other, and our leaders are greatly divided. Some deplore Mr. Trump and his cronies, saying he is the “worst president in the history of all presidents.” He has been referred to as ignorant, a coward, and at times evil. The world feels as if it’s going mad. The chaos reminds me of scenes flashed on the news when I was a child, during the ’60s and ’70s.
I was laid-off from my job on March 20th and forced to get a lawyer and threaten litigation to get my last paycheck for three weeks of work. What is wrong with people? I don’t understand. I’m gun shy at the thought of working for anyone again. I don’t want to sell ice to Eskimos, and I don’t want to be an easy to replace cog in another machine. My husband and God have provided well for us through all of this, and I am thankful. Today, in the stillness of this very moment, I love my life, but there are people lost in depression who are in the process of ending theirs.
Beyond my front door, the world around me is in chaos. In my home, there is safety, love, and contentment. Privileged folks make home repairs and renovations in isolation while others walk that fine line of living paycheck to paycheck while tipping over the edge into homeless obscurity. There are rich who can’t fathom what it’s like to go hungry as they lay their heads down at night on a mountain of soft Down pillows. Then there are the devastatingly poor who are struggling to fill the stomachs of their fearful starving children and provide them an isolated online education while sleeping in cars, under bridges, in bug-infested woods, and abandoned houses. Now is a time when there is much to do. We must find common ground rise from our complacency and plan for a better tomorrow as we isolate. We need peace across the aisle and over the back fence. “There’s a change a comin” it’s time, we’ve been “woke” and what we’ve seen can’t and shouldn’t be unseen.
(Looking back on last year’s writing, I think we are changing with each tiny step forward. We have changed political leadership. We remember the lives of those we’ve lost. While #blacklivesmatter isn’t speaking as loud today, I haven’t forgotten, and those with a conscience, bravery, heart, and voice are still talking, protesting, and will fight till their last breath (hopefully peacefully) until we have evolved into an actual accepting, loving, multicultural society. With vaccinations administered to half of us, we are coming out of our homes and returning to the office maskless in some places here in the US. I have the privileged opportunity to write my blog and memoir. Brush fires in FL are minimal this year, and hurricane season is approaching. We don’t know what storms we will weather yet; we can get through them better together if we learn from our past, allow ourselves to grow, fight against morally wrong behavior and actions and unite as one people, a beautiful blend of colors. The colors that God chose to paint the world we live in on a planet we must equally share in love.)
One hundred thirty-six million Americans were fully vaccinated as of May 31st; according to “Our World in Data,” that’s 41.4% of us; so we are slowly opening back up. I watch as people begin to shop, dine and socialize again and in my head, hear, “Please notice that the seatbelt sign is off, and you are now free to roam around the cabin” (that’s airplane talk, seems I’ve taken one too many flights in my lifetime). I’m getting out there tentatively and still wear a facemask even though my husband and I have chosen to vaccinate fully, and our 15 yr old at this point is 1/2 vaxed. I’m anxious and gun shy. I do Shipt shopping for a couple of hours a day, a few days a week, to offset the cost of my smoothie bowl addiction. When I’m out there in the stores walking around shopping, I feel traces of the paranoia that had set in at the swell of the Covid 19 pandemic run through every fiber of my being. I’m sure a lot of people are still feeling uneasy. Pre vaccination, I was anxious and downright angry about antimaskers rubbing past me while I shopped, and sometimes I would comment to those who wore their masks only over their mouths, saying, “ Hey, you know that mask only works if you cover your mouth and nose.” I admit I was sometimes downright shitty and would glare at people who came too close without protecting the people around them like I was, and I would think, “what an asshole, what a selfish human being!” I would get upset because I was in the store working. Though I was sweating bullets due to 53-year-old menopausal hot flashes behind my mask, I still found it monumentally critical to protect others, myself, and prevent the spread of this crappy disease that some had the nerve to call a hoax. What became most apparent to me due to the pandemic and how people reacted to our new normal was that the narcissistic, entitled “give me liberty or give me death” monster is real. It took over the most unsuspecting of friends and family, tread on you like a pack of wild kids running over ants on a crowded playground, and got stronger the more you objected to it! It’s been hard not to judge through the Covid days.
Frankly, the last year and a bit have been exhausting. I got to a point where I didn’t have energy left to follow the news, CDC guidelines, my friends opinions and beliefs on social media, the trumped-up election commentary for or against it, look for a new job, worry about being separated 9000 miles from my two daughters, wonder when I would be able to hug them again, think about when we would be able to start paying ALL of our bills again, poor health I was experiencing and the body numbing feeling that my world was closing in on me; so I hit my wall. Mental health was a struggle well before all of this. I have battled an acute panic disorder, anxiety, and depression since I was 13. It came on as my hormones changed while going through puberty. The tween years is an expected time of onset for this kind of hereditary disorder. Covid was exceptionally challenging for me and has changed my thought pattern somewhat. Because everything had gotten so heavy and so hard in the world outside my home, I had taken to isolating and staying inside when I could. The CDC had suggested we stay home when possible, and I had no problem with it. Our 15 yr old was also home and doing school online; plus, we have our two dogs, who, by the way, were highly thankful for Covid isolation because they got to snuggle us every day.
I got too comfortable in my bubble, and Isolation for me over a long period is not good (it’s not really good for anyone). In my mid 20’s I suffered from Agoraphobia which, according to Wikipedia (for those of you who don’t know), “is an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape. These situations can include open spaces, public transit, shopping centers, or simply being outside their home. (in my case large crowd of people). Being in these situations may result in a panic attack. The symptoms occur nearly every time the situation is encountered and last for more than six months. Those affected will go to great lengths to avoid these situations. In severe cases, people may become completely unable to leave their homes.”
When I experienced Agoraphobia, I was one of the lead singers of a top 40 band that performed 5-6 nights a week in Naples. People would say, “wow, you must be having a blast!” But in reality, 50% of the time, it was terrifying. I would spend my mornings and afternoons in the safety of my home or rollerblading and running alone, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was sleeping; in fact, I became addicted to sleeping during the day (it’s an escape, it’s a thing). If our phone rang, I refused to pick it up. The thought of talking to anyone made me panic and feel nauseous. It was extremely hard for me to grocery shop at that time; it seemed like everyone in town knew me even if I didn’t know them, and they would stop and talk to me every few aisles. After a while, I started leaving my cart in the middle of the store and hiding in my car where I would go numb with panic, become disoriented, and have to call my then fiancé to save me in the parking lot because I couldn’t move my limbs to drive my car. I viewed the world in single slow frames because my visual tracking was off due to overstimulation in my brain. On one occasion, my husband Paul and I went car shopping at a huge open-air car market in NZ. It was shoulder to shoulder with people. Somehow I lost hold of Paul’s hand, and when we got separated, I went into fight or flight mode. I tried to hold it together, but as my anxiety began to surge, I started shaking uncontrollably and crying so hard I could barely see through the tears. My limbs began to lose feeling just as Paul found me, and when he grabbed my hand again, I furiously yelled at him, “why did you leave me like that? I was scared, and you just left me!” My poor husband, if he had no mental health issues before we married, I’m sure he does now; please pray for him.
The act of panicking and running into triggers became a vicious cycle. The more I isolated or felt abandoned, the more those triggers flicked on, causing my issues to accumulate like onion layers building up into a more complex series of disorders. Peeling back those layers to find some semblance of normal Jeri inside has taken years, long sessions with several kinds of therapists and doctors, and begrudgingly but very necessary, medication. It’s been hard, and even though I have long periods where everything is running smoothly, the fact remains that there are still a few fried circuits inside me that, if tapped the wrong way, set the cycle in motion again. So fast forward to today, I am finding it hard to move outside of my head and my house, to fight the urge to continue to isolate even though the reason to do so is diminishing. I don’t talk as much daily as I did pre isolation, and when I do, I verbally puke out any and every thought that hits my lips because I don’t know when I’m going to have the chance to do it again, and I can’t help myself.
We planted some Clusia hedges in front of our house during our home improvement stage of Covid isolation, and I have been excited about how lush and green our new landscaping looks as it grows. But I found myself looking at them this morning as I was pulling out of the driveway to go Shipt shop (which I make myself do, so I have to leave the house for something), and for a second, I caught myself thinking, “I can’t wait till those grow so tall no one can see our house. Then I will be able to step out on my patio and sit there in comfort, and no one will see me hiding behind the hedges.” It’s not an irrational thought; everyone wants privacy, but I am mindful of these thoughts of wanting to hide and putting them in check while taking baby steps to break out of my bubble and roam freely around the cabin in an attempt to get back to a life that feels free and somewhat normal.
It’s over! 31 days in a row of trying to blog something meaningful, with depth and heart that isn’t just fluff and stuff. Only you can be the judge of how I did on capturing your attention. I know I did my best. It was tiring trying to keep up with a 31-day blog challenge. My husband got a little frustrated at times that my nose was in my iPhone notes or computer every day, and he made several comments about how obsessed I had become. But hey, as I told him, “blog challenge or no blog challenge, I have found my rhythm, so get used to it; I’ll often be writing and for long hours sometimes.” I missed 6 out of the 31 days; that’s not too bad. I didn’t write on the days where I honestly had nothing to say. I gained about 100 new followers on my @jerisbraindump Facebook page alone. Thank you to all who have followed and are engaging with sharing and comments on my stories. I have gained 54 new WordPress.com community followers and about 100 more between Instagram and Twitter. I enjoyed reading the stories of fellow bloggers in this challenge, and I’m sure we will all keep an eye on each other from this point on. I think the story I loved sharing the most was “Mother”. It contains memories close to my heart, and I had a chance to bear my vulnerability. You all shared and commented and showed support as fellow parents, and again I thank you. I will continue to blog while working on my memoir. I haven’t forgotten, at one point, someone asked when I would post me singing; here you go (find the link at the end of this blog). I enjoyed having a blog family. Keep in touch.
NOTE: I don’t own any of the writes to the music I’m singing. I used to sing this song for my girls when they were little. I just recorded it on my phone with an app for you all recently. Enjoy! Part of Your World (from The Little Mermaid) https://www.smule.com/sing-recording/1826154647_3755224429