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.
We’ve lasted pretty well so far. The one-bedroom apartment is cramped, of course, but the 4 of us are putting systems in place that work. We’ve been in our family bubble in lockdown since August 18th. And on Tuesday, August 31st, the NZ government will reevaluate the country’s isolation situation.
Zoe and I knew there was a possibility this would happen when we set out for NZ to be with Sabrina and Molly. Thank God we extended our stay, moving our flight from August 29th to December 1st! Our original departure date was August 23rd. We would have been back in the US by now with Paul. And though we all miss him terribly, I would not have been satisfied with the short time I had with our girls.
So here we are in intense togetherness—all 4 of us with our little quirks and tasks. Zoe has online school and gets very anxious before DBAs and tests. Molly and Sabrina are also studying online. Molly is used to her alone time, and Sabrina, like me, can’t settle her mind and body unless every item in the house is in its place. Almost all of us have issues with overstimulation which triggers, anger, tears, anxiety, and confusion. So the more I am helpful by endlessly tidying and cleaning, the more anxious it makes the people who seek solitary moments.
On the other hand, when we let things go and chill, let things lay around and pile up to minimize movement, more anxiety and feelings of fight or flight build up in those who seek absolute organization. We understand each other and the issues we each have. We talk through the tough stuff and make plans to minimize discomfort.
In our small space, we have decided to assign areas. Each person keeps their area clean. Molly has the couch, I have the window seat, Sabrina has her bed, and Zoë has Molly’s. We decided yesterday that from 10 am – 12 pm each day, we will go to our stations to have space inside the apartment, a quiet time we can look forward to while being together but separate, and much-needed study/work time. This sounds like a perfect plan; however, there’s one little mouse we can’t keep out of our pantry and in their space. That’s the one with the inability to stay still (ZOE! I admit that her mother has the same issue, but as I’ve aged, I’ve developed a bit more self-control, I said A BIT!).
There is no perfect solution to any situation, but we can try and do our best to respect each other’s space and reduce triggers.
The girls sit on the couch bunched together, laughing at the TikTok videos they’ve just made. I have done my typical Monica from friends thing and cleaned to the point of being unable to think of anything else to clean at the moment. We’ve been in a level 4 NZ lockdown since Wednesday the 18th. Today is day 4. Zoe and I escaped the red septic state of Florida, sat in Managed isolation for a fantastic $3575 for 14 days; were free as birds for two and a half weeks, and then, BAM DELTA in our backyard and SLAM lockdown.
The fact is, we don’t mind being locked down here in NZ. I rather be in Deltaport (Devonport) then the septic south of America. I watch people on our peaceful morning walks and think, no New Zealander knows how it truly feels to sit in the middle of the shit storm of covid and politics back in the good ole US of A. I sit here in this cooperative, compassionate country and look across the water towards my home. I see the madness that is my community. The “land of the free” has gun carrying, one-percenters, and right-wingers who say, “we will not vaccinate or mask! You weak people who are taking action, getting vaccinated, and wearing masks are Karens (and maybe Dicks too). We are out freely spreading and helping the mutation of COVID TO DELTA, and if you don’t like it, stay home!” It’s weird. Half of the nation is not free but being held captive in their homes by the diseased masses.
Covid has exposed the true colors of many of my capitalist neighbors, friends, and some family. People scream, “down with socialism,” and have never left their backyard to see the things that do work for more forward-thinking multicultural peaceful countries. My eyes have seen the glory of the growing of discord, and it ain’t pretty. Selfishness abounds where the masses are too vast to legislate to honestly and safely. Social media has scrambled good helpful information and poisoned minds on a deeper level than could have ever been reached in decades before. I used to be so proud to be an American. I trusted our politicians and hoped that they had their countrymen’s best interest at heart. I felt utter disgust for anyone who talked badly about Americans when I lived here among my NZ family and friends. Yet now, as I sit here cooperatively in complete isolation with them, with our daughters who have their feet on both continents by birth, I am ashamed. Now when someone says stupid Americans, I, without reservation, agree with them. What purpose does all of the discord and division over COVID/DELTA serve any of my fellow Americans? PEOPLE ARE DYING, HOSPITALS ARE AT 98 percent capacity, and now children and adults are deathly ill.
Shame on us! Our children have been sent back to school maskless by choice of their parents. If you’re reading this thinking, “well, if you’re so ashamed to be an American, stay in NZ,” shaking your head and cursing my words, then you may be part of the problem. There is always someone to blame in the US. Those who don’t feel accountable for the damage left in the wake of their boat weekends, parties, concerts, school events, unprotected travel, and family gatherings. I am sad that my husband couldn’t be with us for this extended visit. I pray every day that he protects himself and his environment.
I am so thankful to be in this small pocket of the world with sanity, compassion, and cooperation. Understandably NZ citizens will get mad about being in lockdown and closed businesses will suffer greatly. But they won’t implode and take hostages in their rage. The essentials are available; no one is marching on the capital with guns crying, “give me liberty or give me death!” or hanging nooses outside the Prime Ministers’ window and threatening to track her down and kill her! No, that’s what Americans do.
Here there is grumbling behind closed doors, because well shit, COVID and now DELTA. We will all be isolated until there are no community cases, and we will all slowly emerge from our homes. The businesses will fully open, students will go back into schools, people will party and gather free of disease, FREE to capitalize on the fact that EVERYONE can roam safely. And while COVID may be threatening to enter, there are guards at the gate protecting the masses. There is shortsightedness that my people in the US have that they don’t have here in NZ. They see the prize and forget who they trample to grab it. It’s sad and inevitable that there will be a collapse at some point because no one saw the big picture. God bless America; we need it. Anyway, yay NZ, doing Covid right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We spent ten days in our home in COVID quarantine. Our 15 yr old tested positive for Covid. She had been sick off and on for about two weeks with a sore throat, slight trouble breathing when she was running, fever, and on Thursday before we went into lockdown, she had a massive migraine. She kept telling me she didn’t feel well, and I told her it was probably everything but COVID. Im not sure why I couldn’t put two and two together. I pulled her out of school and prayed she had not passed it on to anyone else. We made a quick life adjustment to lock down as a family. She went back to online schooling, and hubby set to work from home and got a lot done. I did little projects (as you do), cleaning out closets, cleaning off bookshelves, and doing my usual tidying, cooking, and enjoying shopping online for food. Whenever the boredom got to be too much, Zoë and Paul would grab the Razor scooter and ride around the house in a blaze of speed from one room to the other. We have had time to catch up with people on the phone or FaceTime. Our two oldest girls keep calling us from their haven overseas, saying, “you guys have to get out of there; it’s a mess” Yes, it’s a mess, but to me, it’s home and where their Dad makes the money that keeps us running smoothly.
My husband is a New Zealander, A Kiwi. And I grew up in Florida. We have sent our two oldest daughters to live there to go to university and be with extended family. New Zealand is an excellent example of a community that comes together to get things done. They have the system of fighting COVID down pat. I’m so thankful the girls (Sabrina and Molly) are there safe and able to live everyday lives, except the odd lockdown for 3 to 7 days if Covid does pop up in a household. For the most part, New Zealand is fully open, and stress levels are low. The girls are in their second year of University and working part-time jobs. Our oldest is modeling, and they are both going out with friends, thriving and living normal college girl lives. Best of all, people in NZ are getting close to each other and making happy memories together. They have a quality of life that is fulfilling. God knows when we will get back to that here in America without it being interrupted. Some people here are anxious and angry over the entire aspect of Covid. It will be nice to strive for and have inner peace without the fear of “The Rona” looming someday.
All of us are dying to get back to living our everyday lives. Covid has messed everybody up. From not working a regular job to hugging people, socializing, traveling, going to parties, having people for dinner, and celebrating holidays, it’s been insane. The lack of activity and connectedness is causing us to forget how life used to be. We’ve been doing this for a year, and we wonder when it’s going to end. Covid is no hoax, and the harsh and terrible reality is that at this point, over 525,000 people have died. There isn’t a person alive who has a conscience or heart that can diminish that tragic fact without showing disrespect for the dead and those who loved them.
We see the light at the end of the tunnel, though. The Covid vaccine has been rolled out for everyone over the age of 16 in Florida!!! Yaaaaa hoooo!! We have movement in a positive direction! If more people are vaccinated, and we all follow CDC guidelines for reducing the spread of the virus by simply wearing our new favorite accessory, the face mask, we will decrease the chances of variants developing. Several studies say variants can render the vaccines ineffective. We are working towards life becoming normal again; it will be sometime before we lose face protection, touch each other and get cozy the way we used to.
While in quarantine, I looked at some of the research talking about children born during Covid and how they may be emotionally detached. They’re saying that school-aged children who have not been attending school physically and are online learning are going to become “the lost generation.” That sounds so sad to me. I think of the song American Pie and the prophetic lyric that says, “…oh, and there we were all in one place a generation lost in space”. Our young won’t know how to connect like we used to connect pre-Covid, be as expressive, and maybe Covid kids won’t be as emotional. Is the world becoming a colder place? What if we’re turning into one big nonfeeling AI (artificial intelligence) society and the popular kids are Siri, Alexa and Google!?
At the end of our ten-day quarantine, Paul and I got Covid tested. We arrived at the medical center, gave them our phone number, and then we went back and sat in our car and waited for an hour and a half. During that time, they called us on my cell and did a telephone check-in; it was all pretty interesting, well organized, and touch-free.
On the morning we drove to the testing center, I panicked that we had to get tested at all. I said, “I’d rather get Covid than get one of those long plastic swabs stuck up my nose and into my brain.” Zoe and Paul laughed and tried to tell me that it tickled, and at one point, Zoe said, “it actually feels pretty good.” Suspiciously I replied, “oh ok, right”! The wait was silent and, for me, unbearable. We sat there looking at our phones to pass the time. Then mine rang, and I jumped a little bit.
We checked in, and a nurse took our vitals. Another nurse was peeling the plastic wrapper of a swab. As he came near me, I blurted out, “I’m so nervous, I think I’m gonna throw up”! He didn’t even flinch. Nobody assured me that it would be okay or that it wouldn’t hurt. They just smiled at me awkwardly, leaving me feeling more uneasy. I visualized myself lying on the table being probed by aliens in a dark room, floating somewhere out in the unknown universe. Was I going to walk out of there with my brain still intact? I pictured it being stabbed like a marshmallow and pulled out through my nostril. When I saw our 15 yr old get her Covid test ten days before, they didn’t use the long swab you see on TV. They used a fat short one that went up your nose just a little bit. I hoped to get that test! Zoë made getting it look so easy.
Low and behold, the short fat swab was what I got too; I was elated!! I was happy I was going to get to keep my brain. As the nurses walked out of the room, I said, “Oh, thank you, God! I’d been praying for that test”. They looked at me like I was crazy if they only knew.
Paul and I were taken to another room to wait for the results. I started thinking about the whole procedure and how it felt. I looked at Paul and whispered, “does it sound weird that I think that felt really good“? “I mean, it actually felt nice.” TMI disclaimer: I’m one of those people that will take a piece of toilet paper and wind it up really, really long and thin, then clean the inside of their nose till it “shines like the top of the Chrysler building.” Yeah, I’m that person you hung out with in school who would ask you ten times a day, “is there anything in my nose, in my teeth, or on the back of my pants”!!
When I was little, I watched police shows, and they would always tell their informants to “keep your ear to the ground and keep your nose clean” that was cop talk. Seeing that my television partially raised me, I used to think it was essential to keep your nose clean. It was doing the right thing. Hence my delight over the thorough nasal scrub. I felt like the nurse administering my Covid test was doing me a favor. I left there relieved, happy, and clean as a whistle. Our tests came back negative; we were clear to leave quarantine. All and all, the time went by pretty fast once the days started running Into one another. But we were disease-free. Ahhhhhh, I and my household could breathe easy, in more ways than one.