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.
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)!
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 experimented on Facebook. Seeing that I’m new to blogging and trying to understand what my audience likes to read best, I’m still unsure what stories attract my readers. In my experiment, I tried to see if I could make a post go viral in two ways. (there are proven methods, I know. My problem is that I don’t know what they are yet! HELP NEEDED!!!)
1. PPC (pay per click) advertising (I put $50 towards a story post that had gotten the most attention 1x per month).
2. Asked 100 of my Facebook friends and family to share my story on their FB timeline (not all 100 people shared, I understand putting a story written by someone you know personally on your feed is a big ask).
That said, I found that neither method made my post go viral. My post had almost the same amount of views both ways. I was surprised to see an unpaid boost in readers of my blog, with just 13 out of the 100 people I asked to share my Facebook page post kindly giving me a hand. BY THE WAY, THANK YOU!
Let’s be realistic; there is the scary thought that my writing is just crap and not “viral” worthy. I have to push that thought out of my mind, though, and write on! My blog is still in it’s infancy (only 2 months old). Following my passion and the joy I get from it shouldn’t be measured by statistics. Maybe I’m just documenting my life to leave behind for my family and generations to follow (maybe by the time I’m dead and gone, my children and husband will care to read my blog, seriously).
All is not lost, though. Things are ever-changing in the online space, and as a blogger, I’m still learning. Gaining knowledge from this experiment is a win because even small gains are growth. Feedback from those in the know is always appreciated.
What are your thoughts on this? How do you find your viral sweet spot? What gets your followers excited? Please comment and share.
Last week I suggested and shared some links to technical blogging tools that I use. I said, “use these tools to amplify your writing voice and build your audience.” I suggested that you start with one blog account and take it slow. And also noted that “taking it slow is better than doing nothing at all.” While having and knowing how to use all of the gadgets, platforms, and software available for blogging is handy, it’s not everything. The list of links I provided is a vehicle for distributing our stories to the public (and your mom, face it, your mom is always the first to comment on your work). Those blogging and posting tools are necessary, but I want to talk to you about another critical component to being a blog writer, so let’s talk about our writing and what we use to get the written word from our brains to paper or screen with authenticity.
Before I can take my written thoughts and throw them up on the World Wide Web or into the cloud, I have to access some essential tools in my possession. These basic yet necessary and powerful tools took me a long time to learn how to use, maybe longer than learning to use the online tools and platforms I have shared with you. Over time I have fine-tuned these essential tools and discovered that having a clear understanding of this component of my writing is imperative when telling my story.
If you are an artist, singer, writer, or chasing any form of creative endeavor; you have probably searched high and low for that one thing that will make you relevant, pull people in, keep them hooked and give them the desire to share your creative genius with everyone they know. I have honestly spent years reading about how other successful people have found their voice. I have followed their journeys to see where that magic moment happened, that defined them, made them unique, and set them apart from us ordinary folk. What set them on the road to success? Through all of my searching, I found that no two stories are the same. The successful people we look up to and model ourselves after come from varying backgrounds. Some lived in cars with their family and desperation drove them, some had been in the right place at the right time, some were born in the spotlight and chose to carry on a family legacy, and some had greatness thrust upon them (yes, some of those that we look up to found success by accident). But what if all of these individual universes made up of complex stories flavored with personal experience, perception, beliefs, and unique environments use the same tools to accomplish their goals?
I believe they do, and I think I’ve finally discovered what they are in me, and you have got them in you too. I think we can all express ourselves authentically. You have had these tools and have been developing them since the day you were born. You don’t have to go out and buy them, and you can’t download them on your computer or phone as an app.
These special tools are our HEARING, HEART, and HONESTY. Let’s call them the 3 H’s. Remembering to pay attention and use these internal tools intentionally is not always easy. Sometimes I forget to tap into the 3 H’s and write a fluff story that falls flat. It takes time and practice to implement the 3 H’s. And because I make myself write every day, no matter what, I’m not always going to hit it out of the park.
Here’s what happens when I implement the 3 H’s:
When I HEAR or listen in silence, what I hear comes through clearly. It is important to me to listen to my inner voice. I also listen to the voices of those around me (discerningly). Being still and learning to listen patiently helps me understand the world around me and allows me to paint a distinct picture of where I and others fit in my stories. If I only listen to MY voice, I fear I will become very one-dimensional.
When I open my HEART, I tap into authentic emotions. I show my vulnerability and, by doing so, set myself free. Writing from my heart allows me to share my ideas, dreams, compassion, anger, desires, fears, pain, and joy with humanity. Being able to speak from my heart, I believe, makes me relatable to others. We all feel something whether we play our cards close to our chest or put our crazy out on the front porch. I speak from my heart and have seen firsthand how it has helped others open up, face, and share their emotions. I believe this is what pulls people in and gets them hooked, and because it has come from deep in my soul, I feel good knowing I’m not just bullshitting people, which brings me to the 3rd H.
When I am HONEST with myself about my past, present, and goals or dreams set for the future, I can share my truth. My truth is my voice. Finding my voice as a writer has been the most challenging thing for me to do (it’s an evolving process). In the past, I had trouble writing in my voice because I was afraid of offending someone or revealing too much of myself; doing this caused me to write inconsistently or not at all. After a while, writing felt like a chore because I wasn’t honestly putting on paper what I wanted to say. I found my honesty by setting a timer for 10 minutes a day and just writing the first thing that came to my mind. (If you decide to practice this, DO NOT stop to think about what you are writing, just let whatever flows into your mind flow out. Also, please DO NOT go back and correct or read it for a week) doing this helped me to loosen up and freed me from my inhibitions. When I read what I wrote in my 10 minute “stream of consciousness” sessions a week later, I saw honesty and authenticity instead of fabricated thought.
So there they are, the tools that I find the most valuable in my life as a blog writer who is also working on a memoir and dabbling with some short fiction ideas. Focus on the 3 H’s; meditate, silently observe, ask questions, try not to talk for a change (if you’re a talker). Open your heart and share it with others (it may get broken, use that shit). Be honest; always be honest. The older I get, the more I realize that life is too short for BS, fake people, being stuck in toxic relationships, letting others control me, and constantly smiling through the pain. Instead, smile because you feel empowered over having just shared your truth with someone. Remember the saying, “the truth will set you free”? Well, it does.
Use the 3 H’s above, and once you’ve put your words into writing, grab the handy links below, turn up your voice and touch others’ lives. I believe there is no failing in writing. The act of documenting your life is one of creating a legacy that will be here when we are long gone. Did the cavemen or Egyptians worry about the pictorial stories or hieroglyphics they carved into stone and left for generations to come? (I don’t actually know, but I say NO!) If I’m sharing my truth, history, or dreams, I know It can’t be wrong. So come on! Let’s WRITE!
Comprehensive list of the channels, tools, and accounts I have adopted (please comment kindly, follow, like, or subscribe to any or all of my channels, and by all means SHARE!!!, the point of this is that we’re working to tell our stories and to be seen and heard):
• Anchor https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episodes (this is the tool I use for creating excellent Podcasts where I read and record my blog for friends and family who don’t like to or have the time to read). Anchor is easy to use and allows you to record from your phone or computer. I sit in my closet and record, so there’s no background noise. Anchor then distributes my Podcast to their affiliates:
• THERE ARE MANY, MANY MORE CHANNELS ANCHOR PODCASTS ARE DISTRIBUTED!
• YouTube https://youtu.be/iIzuHRTaMt0 (I had to use a tool that turns audio into a video format to be posted on YouTube. YouTube doesn’t allow audio-only posting. I recommend Wavve; it’s easy to use and free. (FREE IS GOOD!) https://wavve.co
• Grammerly.com for editing and correcting text before posting a blog (if you don’t have a trusted proofreader, this is a MUST!!! Even this excellent tool doesn’t replace the sharpness of a trained human editors eye)
I used to rollerblade daily. Everywhere, for miles, in flat Florida or down the steep Tennessee hills. I was addicted to rollerblading and running for years. I learned to rollerblade when I was 23 and stopped after I had my first child 22 years ago (I did rollerblade 10 miles one time since then in 2012, I don’t know how I did it).
Lately, I have been dying to run and get back into rollerblading. I have missed the charge I got out of both activities as a fit young woman. I also miss the body I had (pre-babies 22 years ago). My body didn’t quite bounce back after children, and no matter how much I have worked out or dieted, I have never been thin again. At this point, I don’t care if I’m skinny; I just want to have fun, fly across the pavement with the wind blowing through my hair, feel young and be fit again.
For this past Mother’s Day, our 15 yr old daughter and my lovely husband gifted me with Zetrablade Elite W Rollerblades! We drove 1 hr to the only store close to us that had my size and bought those with a full array of padding. I also looked for ski poles, but the store was out of stock. (My daughter didn’t want me to work back into blading with ski poles anyway. She said, “once a ski poler, always a ski polar.” She may be right).
We found an excellent park on the waterfront with a mile loop of smooth pavement. I suited up and prepared to wow my family with my rollerblade skills. I always bragged about how I used to jump things and do extreme downhill blading with no fear. I put on my new wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads, and finally, my rollerblades. The moment of truth had arrived. I stood up and immediately felt beads of sweat begin to roll off of my face. I hadn’t even moved yet. I looked at my family with an awkward smile and said, “I got this, it’s ok, hold on, hold on.” It turned out the “truth” at that moment was that I was no longer fearless. I suddenly became aware of how tall I was on the rollerblades and how far away the ground was. All I could hear in my head was my heartbeat and “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” I was acutely in tune with my new 53 yr old body and the weight of it and thought, “man, this is not going to fall well!” I WASNT EVEN ON THE PAVEMENT YET! I toddled across the grass in slow motion, and my sweet daughter cheered me on with positive affirmation, “you can do it, mom. Just take your time.” I had to skate. My whole Mother’s day was building up to this very moment.
I mumbled nervously as I reached the edge of the sidewalk and carefully positioned myself to place my left foot on the concrete and push off the grass with the right foot. I thought, “shit, just do it!” I pushed off and, to my surprise, glided a few feet across the pavement. I literally went 3 feet and was shaking so badly I thought I would fall apart. I was now sweating buckets, on the verge of puking, and almost burst into tears. My husband said, “are you ok, honey?” NO! I WASN’T OK! But I wasn’t going to let him know that.
I said, “oh yeah, just a little shaky’” and held my hand out so he could see that I was a wreck. There was no turning back, though; I made myself do it. I Ski plowed, in and out along the pavement, pushed off my right back foot to keep moving slowly forward along the mile-long concrete track, and promised myself that no matter how terrible this felt, I wasn’t going to give in. I stepped off the pavement from time to time along the path and walked through the grass. OMG, my inner thighs were killing me, and I think I had engaged my glutes; I mean really engaged them for the first time in years, maybe decades. I fell one time; forward and landed on my wrist guards and padding. To my great surprise, it was very cushy and didn’t hurt at all! A group of 40-50-year-old women walked by and cheered me on, “way to go, there’s no way you’d ever get me on a pair of those again; you’re a brave woman!” My sweet girl said, “Hey, they gave you mom creds!” I looked behind me to see that I had gone a half-mile. I was doing it. I was still alive and in one piece. I realized that I might be able to recapture a bit of my youth after all. I finished the mile path and passed the car. I did it all again! I went another mile. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, that I was skating and really doing it.
I showered the nervous sweat of the day off of me when we got home that evening. My legs and inner thighs were so sore, and I knew I would be feeling it in the morning. I was so proud of what I had accomplished. My family showered me with tons of hugs and kisses all evening. I think they were proud of me too, and it felt good.
I have advice for any of you out there who want to recapture your youth with something as daring as rollerblading. Here are five tips for rollerblading over 50:
1. Suit up! Wear every pad available (if I had a pillow, I would have duck taped that to my backside, seriously don’t be afraid to do that).
2. Wear a helmet! (I didn’t, and my sisters saw me in photos and gave me hell for not doing so)
3. Take it slow and know that a tiny step is larger than not taking any steps at all. (Take the first step, push off that grass and ride across the pavement like you own it, and also pray).
4. Focus and breathe! You have to breathe; if you don’t, you’ll get dizzy and pass out, at which point you will crash to the pavement with all of your weight and probably get hurt. (Again, SUIT UP! PUT ON EVERY PAD THEY MAKE!)
5. Make a promise to yourself to put your rollerblades on at least three times a week. (Push yourself; remember how you learned when you were younger. Your mom told you to take that stuff outside because you left rollerblade marks all over her clean floor, but you were hooked. You would wear them to bed if you could, but they’re hard to roll over in and harder to go to the bathroom in the dark in, so you didn’t, but you still did it in the house and got good at it because you were obsessive about it). Be consistent like that.
6. Have fun, make fun of yourself, be gentle with yourself, and don’t forget to take Advil and ice those sore muscles at bedtime. It’s day two that hurts the worst.
I don’t work a 9-5 job. I lost my admin position in March of 2020 when COVID 19 hit the world. I spent a great deal of time over the last year reevaluating myself and what I wanted for my future. I wasn’t sure when the world would heal from the effects of the pandemic, and I needed to make some decisions for myself that gave me peace and lifted me out of a long bout of depression I had been in and couldn’t seem to shake. I had been looking for another job as an admin assistant for upper management. However, that position was never one that made me happy and left me feeling empty. I dreaded working for another power-tripping company owner or organization leader. What I wanted to do was follow my passion and dreams, not help someone else with theirs. I’m sure many people have rethought their goals and aspirations since the onset of covid, and after my isolation-induced struggle with my emotions, I decided to look out for myself first for a change.
My best friend and husband had been encouraging me to go public with my writing for years. I considered the idea for several months while I stayed still and watched how people had changed their approach to life; as a result of covid, I decided to follow suit. So again, I don’t work a 9-5 job. I don’t work, I write. I write when I’m inspired, no matter what day it is. To help supplement income, I take odd jobs shopping for people or delivering packages to them from a platform that allows me to make my own schedule. I make what I need each week in my own time with no boss, and I take a break or knock off for the day when I get the urge to jot down another story. It doesn’t matter to me if I write on the weekend or during the week. In fact, I’m lying in bed right now at 10:30 pm on a Saturday, writing this while my husband snores next to me.
My life has changed since March 2020, for the better. My goals and focus aren’t about what title I can have or how much money I make annually. Those things look so superficial to me now. Don’t get me wrong. I respect those who have found a title, money, and happiness in the corporate world (as long as it’s true happiness); it’s just not for me. I feel free, and my life has balance and meaning. I am fortunate that my husband supports me in my efforts financially. I know not everyone with a dream has someone like him in their corner. I am a writer, and I write because it is my voice. It’s what gives me authenticity. I hope everyone can carve out enough time to find that deep within themselves.
I dedicate this story to my dear friend Susi who, like me, has become an expert international mover. (She may even do it better than me). And also, my friend Mindy who once had a self-storage company in her basement but didn’t know it.
DISCLAIMER: Moving is stressful for the entire family. Moving across town or to another state has its difficulties but let me assure you, moving overseas is not for the faint-hearted. There will be fighting, yelling, tears and frustration even in the best circumstances, trust me! Never take relocating lightly, and make sure your marriage is strong and YOU pack your parachute before you jump out of the plane.
We packed our bags for a six-month stay in NZ and arrived there from Nashville on October 20, 2002. I will never forget that date because it was a day that changed the course of my life, marriage, and the amount of time I had left to share with my family and longtime friends. If you are in a bi-continental marriage, you will understand and maybe even relate to this story. My husband and I primarily decided to go to NZ on an extended visit to make memories with his mother, who had dementia. Paul had been away from his homeland and family in NZ for about ten years, and I had encouraged him to take this bold adventure with our children and me. My husband needed to connect and spend time with his mom toward the end of her life, and it would also give me a chance to know his family better. What I didn’t realize is that I was about to become an expert in international moving on a budget.
Since we were only going to be away for six months, we rented out our house in Nashville furnished. We even left our cats in the care of our renter, who thankfully was very loving and kind to them. While preparing our three-bedroom house for our departure, we placed all of the personal items we wanted to keep safe in one of the bedrooms and put a lock on the door. The next step was to take the oversized items in our house that we didn’t want our renter to access and put them in storage. We were fortunate to have a friend with an enormous basement who let us store it all there for six months at no cost. If you don’t have a friend like this, I suggest finding an inexpensive U-Store-It place. They used to cost $125 a month for a 12 x 12 back as far as 2014, but I’m not sure what the price for one is now; you’ll have to make some calls. We then packed for our flights (yes, you read that right, FLIGHTS). We were allowed one large suitcase and one carry-on each. We ended up taking eight bags in total since there were 4 of us traveling. We needed to take as much as we could for our six-month stay in Auckland. We packed the girls’ favorite blankets (or silkies as they called them), toys, and a variety of clothes.
Auckland NZ can have four seasons in one day, and we weren’t sure what to take or not take, so we took it all (this wasn’t necessary). You will be wise always to check the weather patterns of your destination. Knowing what you need will help you to pack the correct items and leave unnecessary stuff behind. We took three flights and traveled 29 hours to Auckland, with one 8 hour layover in LA and two toddlers in tow. (CRAZY!) Oh yeah, speaking of crazy, if you take prescription medication, make sure you talk to your Dr. before traveling for an extended period and ask if you can pick up extra pills to take with you. Sometimes they will let you get up to 3 months worth of prescriptions filled for your time away.
Personal Note: (this whole how-to blog is actually a personal note). My husband’s family welcomed us with open arms and had thoroughly planned for our visit. They found us a house to rent down the road from his sister, and the whole family had worked very hard to make it feel like a home for our six-month stay. It was furnished with odds and ends that everyone in the family had donated, and the kitchen was stocked right down to cleaning products and trash bags. The refrigerator was full of food, there was a loaner car in the garage, and they even put up a crib in the baby’s room. Bear in mind; not everyone has such a smooth transition when moving for a short time 9,000 miles from one home to another (you will have to source all of this in preparation for your arrival at your destination). I, on the other hand, am incredibly blessed with awesome in-laws (these are some special people). We were and will always be so very thankful for the way they rallied together for us.
Four months into our visit, someone decided we would now MOVE to NZ. Like most big coordinating jobs in our married life, the responsibility fell on me to make most (no actually all) of the arrangements. To make a move like this a success, here are some of the tasks I completed. Personal Note: not all International moves fall into place the way ours did (and even at that, it was rough).
First, we had to sell our house (the house my babies came home to when they were born). As luck would have it, a friend of mine had mentioned wanting to buy our house someday, and the same week we had decided to make this move, someone had offered to buy her small home. She was looking to move to a more significant place with her husband and two toddlers. She made a few phone calls; I made a few phone calls; we called each other back and abracadabra; both houses were sold. I booked flights back to Nashville, where we were for ten days closing the deal on the house and preparing everything for our final departure from the US.
Personal Note: Things to think about if you need to leave your two toddlers in another country with people you hardly know. At the same time, you “wrap it up” in your home country (of course, my husband knew the people, they were his family): Any time you take a long trip overseas and have children your leaving behind, you should always make sure your Will is in order. Yes, your Will. There’s a lot to consider while shuffling stuff and things from one continent to another, and while people are some of those things, there is always the possibility that the worst could happen, so be prepared. In our Will, we made provisions and left instructions on what to do with our children should we get hit by a bus, crushed under a moving piano, and the unspeakable died in a plane crash. We also left medicine behind for the kids and a long list of dos and don’ts for those caring for our precious babies while we were taking this nerve-wracking journey. On your list of do’s and don’ts, make sure you leave Dr’s phone numbers, note any allergies, suggestions for soothing your upset children, favorite bedtime stories and lullabies, and instructions to kiss and hug them every 3 seconds (ok, ignore that last bit). If multiple people are caring for your littlies in your absence, make sure you supply everyone with a calendar and a list of phone numbers so they can easily coordinate handoff and support one another. Lastly, make sure you leave your travel itinerary with the caregivers along with your overseas contact numbers and emergency contacts in case they need to reach you urgently, and you are temporarily off the grid having a nervous breakdown because you’re insane and have agreed to make such a rash move! (Again, ignore that last bit).
Once we arrived in Nashville, it was time to get organized and move overseas on a budget. My husband’s way of moving on a said budget is just to get rid of everything, and that is almost what we did. Personal Note: if you have an attachment to stuff and things, you won’t after trying the Paul Brunton method of packing for overseas moving, It is the cure for the worst of hoarders, and I highly recommend it if you have no feelings and place no sentimental value on anything. Personal Note: If the saying, “he who dies with the most toys wins,” is accurate, we’re not even in the game because we keep giving our things away. (on a serious note, we decided as a couple that family and relationships were worth more than being stationary and collecting STUFF, don’t get me wrong, though, stuff is fun to have). Here is the proven Paul Brunton method:
• Have a yard sale or just let everyone walk through your house, making offers on everything in it and then sell it to them because this is a one-day-only sale.
• At sundown, start giving everything away, dressers, beds, artwork, etc. (my husband would have had to pry my books and CDs out of my cold dead hands though, those babies were coming with me!)
• Take apart all children’s tables and chairs, small bikes, and scooters and, wrap them in linens and towels you want to take overseas. Put this stuff in luggage to be checked on. Seriously we have actually done this. We learned really fast that this kind of stuff in NZ is expensive, and again we were trying to do this on a budget.
• Take anything that doesn’t fit in the luggage or has not been taken away for free to Goodwill. Yes, kiss it all goodbye and be thankful for your friend who still has some things in her basement that were only supposed to be there for six months. (She stored our most precious items for 12 years in total, that is one patient and loving friend).
• (This last one was partially my idea. If you only have an hour to get to the airport and have packed everything but the clothes hanging in your closet, and time is moving so fast you can’t see straight, try this method). Take all of the dresses, coats, etc., that are on plastic hangers, or any hangers for that matter, fold a stack of them in half and shove them in your suitcase. You will need a couple of people to sit on the bag to zip it shut, seeing that there is now a tiny bike and the entire contents of your closet inside. Taking your clothes on the hangers works wonders because when you reach your destination, you open your suitcase and hang your clothes right up! Also, if you have waged war against plastic, like me, you will be helping the environment because you are continuing to use what you already have if your hangers are indeed plastic. “Make do use it up, or do without!” (My kids hate when I say that).
Personal Note: be conscious of what you’re giving away. On one of our overseas moves (because we did this twice), my husband gave a box full of what he thought was random books to a charity, who then passed it to a church, who then put said books in their spring carnival sale and discovered that my 60 yr old family bible and all 3 of my children’s baby books were there, complete with newborn handprints and photos of ultrasounds! Lucky for my husband (who is still breathing), someone found our name on Facebook, messaged me, and after some arranging reunited us with said NOT random books. (Remember the DISCLAIMER at the beginning of this story? Yelling, tears, frustration, not for the faint-hearted, secure marriage, I think you understand).
After we took care of our stuff and signed away our house, we kissed my American family and friends goodbye. I had no idea when I would see any of them again (make sure you have several packs of tissues in your purse or backpack; I prefer a backpack). When we got back to NZ, we were so happy to see our two baby girls we decided to make a 3rd one. We have moved many times over the years. Sometimes more than I would like to look back on, and here are the main takeaways for me:
• Unless you’re moving to a third world country, you don’t have to pack and take the kitchen sink (however, if you are moving to a third world country, you may need the kitchen sink and more)
• Remember, there’s no (I) in moving, oh wait, yes there is, anyway moving overseas as a family is brutal and its a team effort, make sure you’re thinking of the WE, not the ME while going through these significant life changes.
• IF you’re a control freak, are about to move overseas, and still want your husband to love you, consider trying hard not to be a control freak, and don’t forget those advanced medication refills I told you about earlier.
• And finally, remember that change is scary for everyone involved. You will leave family, friends, and jobs (and a stray cat or two) but try to focus on one day at a time. You will build new relationships and grow from this worldly adventure. Try to embrace the change as a family and be gentle with each other. Remember that old saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination.”
• Oh, and try not to leave things in your best girlfriend’s basement for six months to 12 years! IF you do, however, and you are fortunate enough to keep being friends with her, you now owe her your life and eternal love.
I hope you found my experience helpful. If you have any questions about moving overseas, send me a Twitter message. Please do not send me marketing material, or your luggage will go missing next time you fly (I can’t really make luggage disappear, I’m just putting it out there). And watch out for my next story on dealing with immigration in a new country. Of course, this will be my limited expertise between the US and NZ, but it’s all I’ve got.
Lately, I’ve felt like the whole world has opened up. Not because I won the lottery or found out that secretly I’m the air to a small country in the middle of nowhere. No, not because of that. I feel this way because I have finally found myself. I have found my voice and that one true purpose. Making this statement is colossal, right?! I know that every human being out there at some point in their life has wondered why the hell they are here. I have for years. It didn’t click for me until recently at the age of 53. It was an accident that I found my purpose. I had hit my lowest point in life and thrown my hands in the air in defeat, swore never to leave my bed again, and then my purpose found me.
The life I’ve lived has shaped my purpose. I am the youngest of five kids, and by nature and according to Alfred Adler’s Birth Order Theory, I am a textbook 5th or last child. I’m a risk-taker, outgoing, creative, self-centered (but come on, who isn’t), competitive, bored easily, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, (oh yeah, I like to be pampered), and have a sense of humor, did I say I like to be pampered? There is also a bit about being financially irresponsible, but that’s not me. I am that person who was journaling paper budgets six months in advance in those black-bound school journals before you could use digital budgeting tools like PocketGuard or Mint. I am the organizer in our house, the cleaner, fixer, mover, shaker, and disciplinarian. At the beginning of my relationship with Paul, we had a sleepover at my mom’s place (if that’s what you want to call it); I walked past the bathroom door as he had just opened it on his way out. I stood back and watched him silently go through my bathroom drawers. I would say that was creepy, but It was entertaining to watch the horror on his face over finding my hair ties, bobby pins, hair clips, and barrettes all separated and placed neatly into individual little Tupperware containers. I held my laughter in as he lifted one of the containers from the drawer, examined my severe organization, and let out an audible “holy shit!” Yeah, no, I think the creepy one in that scenario was me. Paul is still with me after 28 years and brings in the cash while I write, mother, obsessively rearrange our kitchen cabinet contents, wage war against plastic, and manage our finances and the house. He enriches our lives by sharing silly antics with our daughters, drumming up raucous play sessions, imposing his cool dude presence, and cleaning up the kitchen after I cook nightly. We are a well-suited match. He doesn’t worry much. There was a time when that was detrimental to our relationship because I obsessively stress enough for all 5 of us and got frustrated that his head was empty while mine was racing with thoughts (that green-eyed monster, jealousy is ugly).
Being a worrier, I find it hard to let go of things. Worrying less gets better as I get older because I don’t have the energy anymore. Worrying involves digging up a lot of information stored in our being. Humans process thoughts over and over again deep into their subconscious, where conclusions are formulated in a REM state; which I can never achieve because I’m too busy laying awake worrying and counting the number of popcorn bubbles on our stucco ceiling or naming all of the shapes I can see in the little bumpy plaster splatters. So worry is not really my only actual problem; there’s also insomnia; I’ve had that for as long as I could remember. I’m like Buffy the Vampire slayer, only older, puffier, and brunettish, only in the sense that she was a vampire, and they come out at night. I am a night dweller too, and I’m in no way scared of the light of the sun, but I do like to sleep in, so don’t ever invite me to catch a sunrise, please. If you wake me up anywhere before 7:30 or 11:30 am, I just can’t. Oh, I’m exaggerating, 9:30 am. If I didn’t take citalopram and journal, relieving myself with a brain dump, I would never close my eyes (hey, if I do a plug for Citalopram, do I get a kickback like my Dr’s? Come on, big Pharma, throw me a bone!). I usually fall asleep at about 2 am and then wake up late. I lay in bed reading, talking to our girls in NZ on FaceTime, or writing in the notes on my iPhone. At one point in time, I traced our entire family tree back to the 1400s, hiding under my covers. It’s a wonder my poor husband doesn’t have sleep issues because there is always a little glow of phone light coming from my side of the bed. I hold off on looking at social media until the early hours of the morning, 8:00 am. You early risers probably think I’m pathetic; I know, I can feel the way you’re eyeing the page, all judgie like. Just because Ben Franklin said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” doesn’t mean me and those like me are doomed to be broken, starving artists with limited intelligence and foolish banter till the day we die.
I make sense of my world by putting it into words and taking photos. I am creative. Most creatives have some quirky issues and are sometimes highly intelligent (I’m not saying I’m a genius or anything, but I am smarter than the average bear). People like me aren’t savvy in the conventional; you test well on national standards tests way, but in a more creative thinking outside of the box way. I wasn’t a standard student, and I wasn’t academically gifted. My teachers recognized my gift as a singer early on, and they tailored my school schedule to nurture my talents. I had voice and dance lessons after school, and by the end of high school, I had four music classes out of 7 a day. I would even get pulled out of academic courses to work on creative projects. I was fortunate to have a middle school and high school in tune and sympathetic to my needs. Big shout out to Gulfview Middle School and Naples High School. Best schools ever! 💙💛🦅
Even though I was encouraged to sing and be the captain of the majorette squad, I missed out in the English lit area. All of the brainy kids were in the classes that would have nurtured my desire to be a writer. I was fortunate to be put in Mr. Glancy’s class my senior year, he taught the advanced English lit classes, and he inspired me to read and love it. He had the cool factor and was skilled at getting inside the student’s heads. He could see I was a bit of an oddball but didn’t dismiss me. No, he sat me at the front of the room to sleep with my head on my backpack and made me wake up and engage. I’m thankful for that.
As I look back at all of the journaling I have done in my stack of notebooks and online, I realize that I have been a natural-born writer all along. I worked so hard at my singing career, but my silent true passion was always right at my fingertips. When I gave up hope during the isolation of covid, the only safe place to turn was inward, and that spilled out of my fingers onto paper and up to the cloud. I have been feverishly writing since that morning in March 2021 when I woke up and frantically searched the house for every one of my old journals and online diaries. I was desperate to speak my mind and didn’t want to burden others with my issues, beliefs, and ideas. I did what came naturally to me and wrote about the pain and confusion I felt. Over the weeks that followed, my dear husband noticed a calmness in me. My writing was healing me, lifting me, and giving me purpose. He has been so happy for me, and I have felt such relief and been much easier to be around (I’ve even started laughing at myself again). My lost feeling hadn’t started during COVID; in fact, the more I dive into my memories and document my journey, I find that I was wandering longer than I or anyone else knew. I know who and what I am now; I have a voice that I am not afraid to use. I’ve found a space I can be my authentic self in, and while doing it, I can share my words and help others find themselves hopefully (or I may just confuse you even further than you are now).
The world has indeed opened up as my mind has opened, as I’ve let go of my fear of failing and worry over being perfect. I’ve learned to take care of myself first now. I understand that taking care of Jeri gives me the strength to be there for others and still know when I need to back off. Yes, I am a writer, blogger, wordsmith, and expert through my life experiences. I am excited to be alive again and looking forward to seeing how my words touch others and continue to heal me. I am at peace knowing that one true purpose has finally found me.
I made good on my commitment to daily writing like a racehorse out of the gate at the end of March. I have ideas and memories swirling in my head constantly, and only writing can silence them. I don’t mind; I’m totally used to it now. I began posting to all of my newly created social media pages and got excited when I found that my stories truly touched others and put a smile on their faces. But writers beware; the engagement and tracking of social media can stir up unnecessary mental noise and throw your creative flow off track.
I love looking at statistics, and who doesn’t want to validate being loved by new followers, likes, shares, and retweets. Tread carefully when balancing the noise that comes from sharing your stuff online and nurturing your creative flow. It’s time-consuming and distracting. As a new blogger, it didn’t take me long to figure this out, but some of you may get caught in the echoing loop, and I’m here to give you a virtual smack in the face and tell you to SNAP OUT OF IT!
Always remember this; the first rule of write club is: you don’t talk about write club (save your words and put them on paper). The second rule of write club is: you do not talk about write club! (no, seriously, don’t tell everyone your story as you’re formulating your ideas, write that shit down, or you will lose your drive to push through the process and complete anything). It’s a mental struggle and personal fight, so adapting my point to one of the most famous quotes from one of my fave movies, Fight Club, seems fitting.
So step by step, this is how it should go (of course, this is my opinion and experience):
🖊 Write daily (create a space for this, write at the same time every day so that there is a scheduled commitment. If you are sparked with an idea or feel a strong urge to write outside of that time slot, then do it. That extra creative burst on top of your daily writing time will be icing on the cake.)
🖥 Spend about 30 minutes to 1 hour on research and social media development AFTER WRITING! (I can’t stress this enough, the virtual world is noisy, and once the voices and opinions of everyone you come across online start creeping into your day, it’s hard to turn it off. Yes, sometimes reading or listening to other stuff will spark you, so make a note of it, move on and go back to write about it, or stop trolling right that minute and throw down your new idea in total).
🎥 If you create and post podcasts of your material, choose one day a week to sit in your closet rearranging your shoes in the dark and recording. Yes, I do that.
⏰ Pick a specific time of day and week to post across all of your channels, respond to comments, and boost your presence. Of course, the more media you are on, the more time-consuming this is. Before I struck my balance, which I’m still working on fine-tuning, I was looking at my post results daily, a couple of times a day. It’s exciting to see the responses and watch your numbers go up, right!? Now I look at them every three days. I had to decide whether I was working on showing my ability to build a successful social media presence as a social media marketer or whether I am a writer, just sharing my words. I chose writer. I had to define in my mind the fact that the written word means more to me than all of my clicks of validation. Again be careful and don’t get lost in the minutia of your online presence.
🧘🏻♀️Trust that you will make headway if you keep writing. Don’t push it. Sometimes you’ll write, and your piece will sit. Just let it marinate before you frantically throw it up on some online platform. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Writing is a bunch of, “hurry, I need to write this down before I lose my train of thought,” and then wait, and that’s ok! We all end up there. Listen to my man Dr. Seuss’s wise words pinched from our family’s favorite story, Oh the Places You’ll Go!
📚 “The Waiting Place…for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for your hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite the or waiting for the wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting around perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig that curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.” wait, where was I again? See what I mean? Don’t get distracted.
🥺 Finally, don’t put too much stock in your numbers and comments. Writing is your passion, not being a social media star. Remember that finding your writing voice is an ever-evolving process, and for those brave enough to share their ideas, lives, and secrets, any negative social media chatter can quickly put out your creative fire. I get it; creatives are a sensitive breed. If you find you’re getting negativity when you post, turn it off, troubleshoot, run your pieces by someone you trust before posting (EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!!! Grammar and punctuation people is essential!!). Most of all, don’t worry about whether you’re the popular kid at school or not, don’t obsess over follows and numbers. Just write!!!!!
These are guidelines I use for myself and tips for writers who want to go public. Let’s face it, bearing your soul online is scary. Just don’t expect too much from it. Don’t forget your one desire to be a writer. Don’t forget why you do it. For me, it’s therapy, a release, and a way to quiet my mind. I hope that my words will inspire, help and heal others. I breathe a sigh of relief for having cleared some space in my head every time I complete a story. So, figure out what your writing does for you? What is your writers’ purpose? Stay true to it. No one wants to read half-hearted bullshit, so TURN OFF THE NOISE, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and dive in. Sometimes you may amaze yourself with what comes out, and other times it may just be shit. Don’t worry about it either way. Do what you love and write. ♥️
I dedicate this story to all those talented hairstylists who spend hours on their feet making us pretty, listening, and acting with great enthusiasm, as if they care about the never-ending verbal puking of stories we spill on them.
Something kept tickling my face as I slept, and it was starting to annoy me. Since I had to pee anyway, I decided to go in the bathroom and investigate. I walked in and looked in the mirror with tired eyes and stared at my bangs/fringe. It had begun growing down over my eyes and was getting super annoying. I made an unconscious decision to cut it. I opened the bathroom drawer and rummaged around for the elementary school craft scissors I had seen in there at some point in time. I’m not sure if the middle of the night is the best time to decide to cut your hair. I leaned forward into the mirror. I couldn’t see because I didn’t have my contacts in or glasses on. I tried to copy the line that my excellent hairdresser had cut previously. I sleepily snipped and snipped and, when I thought I was done, pulled the drain plug out of the drain, washed all the hair down, and went back to bed. I laid there for about 10 minutes and kept feeling a tickle on my cheek. I got back up and walked into the bathroom again.
My feet were rhythmically patting their way across the tile in time to my sound sleeping husband’s snoring. I pulled out the scissors again and snipped a little bit more, and thought, “yes, this looks much better, and that tickle is finally gone.” it was probably 3 a.m. when I fell asleep. My alarm went off, and I pulled myself to the bathroom, groggy, as any middle-of-the-night hairstylist would be. I flicked on the light and squinted at the mirror. “Oh, man, who cut my hair? Dang it! I thought I dreamt that!” I have a new crisp cut fringe. I’m pretty sure my hairdresser Nathaly is going to be pretty impressed with my cutting skills. Sometimes I have a hard time determining reality from my dreams. Often, I dream In color, and it’s pretty vivid. A few incredible times, I’ve had smell-a-vision and could feel being run over by a train. I lived, of course, in real life, that is, but didn’t do so hot in my dream. Since my recent endeavor was not a dream, I’ll have to live with my trainwreck of a haircut for a bit. Oh well, this too shall pass or grow out fast.
He looked down at me from the trees over his long heavy bill. His iridescent blue, bronze feathers shimmered in the suns glow as they lay smoothly on his slender frame. He blinked his round black dotted white eyes slowly and cocked his head to the side. He appeared to be sizing something up. I had decided to eat outside in the crisp, breezy, fresh air. The sound of our old rusty tin can wind chimes sang its way to my ears and merged with the sound of me crunching granola from my cereal bowl. The morning birds perched with silent indifference among a smattering of leaves still hanging from the trees following the last cold snap. The Grackle above was probably up well before me collecting his wormy breakfast, but from the way he was staring at me and my bowl filled with wholesome nutty cereal and creamy oat milk, I had a feeling he wasn’t quite full. Unlike his winged mates, his presence was hard to ignore. His growing raucous chatter made me uneasy, so I put my hand over my bowl then covered my head with my arm as he abruptly flew from his perch. He swooped downward, and I jumped up from the patio chair, spilling the nutty contents of my bowl all over my feet. My sandles made a squishy flip flop sound as I made a run for It. Soft granola slid between my toes, and I slipped on their rubber soles. My morning coffee had kicked in, and I suddenly had caffeine jitters that shook me like a can in a hardware store paint mixer. I looked over my shoulder as I grabbed the door handle and flung the door open wide, forgetting that the dogs were scratching earlier, desperate to get out and be with me.
The cocky little Grackle landed in what was left of my granola and began pecking the sunflower seeds from the gooey pile spread across the concrete patio. Though this all happened quickly, time slowed for a split second as the Grackle blinked up at me while swallowing the tiny seeds, and then suddenly, our black lab exploded out the open door and tore past me, barking and growling. The birds perched in the trees above abruptly flew off in one giant panicked swarm. Then without hesitation and a single huge chomp and gulp, the Grackle was gone. I could hardly believe my eyes. Everyone was hungry for breakfast, it seems. In shocked disbelief, I stood there with my mouth hanging open then promptly scolded Buddy. He licked his lips as he sat down heavily in the mess that still lay on the ground, looking up at me proudly. I, in turn, looked at him with grossed-out disgust. I cleaned up and put the dogs back in the house, then sat down on the patio and attempted to find peace while processing what had just happened—what a bizarre turn of events. As I began to ease back into my day, I found what had just occurred both disturbing and simultaneously funny. I chuckled as the thought occurred to me that we should never underestimate the power of breakfast, that all-important first meal of the day. This was an unusual thought, but what the heck? This was an unusual morning.
I always struggle with whether I should write my deepest darkest secrets, desires, and memories on paper or digitally. Let us consider the pros and cons of both options. When writing digitally, I can write as quickly as my thoughts process, and it flows like the spoken word. Digital journals can be loaded to the cloud and will not get lost in the shuffle. If you have had a life anything like mine, eventually, after years of writing, it feels like you are toting your library around the world. This can be a heavy job.
Fun fact, I am left-handed. No, the rumors of left-handed people are not valid. We do not write with the hand of the devil, and we are not possessed. Most left-handed people are right-brained, and some say, “the only ones in our right minds!” When writing digitally, I can write freely and cleanly, which is hard to achieve on paper as a lefty. I turn my journal cockeyed, hold my pencil in a fist hold, curl my hand above the writing line and pull my pen across the paper, trying as hard as I can not to smudge the ink or get oil from my palm on the page. When my pen hits the oil slick from my greasy little mitt, my pen stops working. This interrupts my flow of thought. My cockeyed handwriting and smudge paper problems are probably the number one reason I prefer digital journal writing over paper journaling. Typing my thoughts out is much less painful than writing them out, especially on those days when I have a lot to say. If you have ever experienced writer’s cramp, you will understand what I mean. That feeling when your hand muscles get fatigued from the repetitive motion of writing, pressing down on the paper, and for me, having a death grip on the pen! A digital journal will also allow for quickly placing photos in a story. Adding a visual makes your publication a bit more interesting and will give others a glimpse of the memories you are working so hard to preserve.
I think it is clear so far that I lean positively towards digital journal writing over paper journaling. But what about those fancy paper journals that are so fun to collect?! I admit that I have spent a pretty penny on beautiful journals over the years, stacks of books that I plan to fill with all my dreams, desires, secrets, angst, joy, and personal history. My journal is my therapy and is a safe place to blow off steam. It is also my preserved thoughts that I have intended to leave behind for my family when I am departed from this earth, assuming they want to read what I had to say.
I am a sucker for a pretty journal. I walk into a stationery shop or bookstore and make a beeline for the journal section. Oh, the fabulous covers, some with prints by classic artists, flashy fonts, affirmations, quotes from the great authors and poets who inspire me, words of hope intended to help lift you and get you through the day. Oh, and how about those engraved leather covers that feel like butter to the touch?! Oh, the smell of a fresh new journal. The warm earthy aroma as I flip through each crisp virginal page unspoiled by the touch of anyone else but me. The sensory joy that comes from using a paper journal goes far beyond the look and smell. Think of all the coloring you can do in it! If you are a creative person, then paper journals are not just a place to pen your most extraordinary thoughts. They are also a place where you can insert some artistic flare.
Now I’ll point out where paper journaling surpasses the digital journal. You can create either a “doodling journal,” or for those who use the left and right sides of your brain, are uber-organized and like to categorize your thoughts, you can create a “bullet point journal”! The “bullet point journal” is about more than making pretty penned headers with hand-drawn artistic fonts. No, the bullet point journal is about total thought organization. You tell your story as you go through the day, take meeting notes, keep track of important dates, create cute little calendars and fill each page with colors and fun decorative doodles. There are even journals shared between you and someone else. The latest shared journal I have come across and love is the “You and Me” or “Two-Person” journal. My teen and I shared one of these. She would write down her pubescent middle school struggles and fears, which would be too awkward to talk about face to face, leave it on my dresser at night, and I would write my thoughts, concerns, personal experience and advice, and hopes when it was my turn. Then in the morning, I would leave it in her bedside table drawer. This shared journal was an anonymous way of helping her navigate the wild jungle of crazy teen brain, pimples, sex topics, and smelly friends. Now that is something not as easily done digitally. The physical act of passing the journal made it feel we were members of a secret club all our own.
To wrap up, I’d say that there are pros and cons to both types of journals. Coming to this conclusion means that I will continue to tote my personal library of journals around the world with me, and my phone will be in hand for any lengthy brain dumps.”
When I listen to music, it sparks me. I feel a range of emotions that sometimes overwhelm me. It’s not just the tune or the lyrics, but sometimes it’s the artists, the fact that they made it. I wonder, what sets me apart from them? I look at the career i had and think of the “what if’s,” and dig deep to find what’s left in me. I get up and sing, memorize and internalize the words. I sing them loud and make them mine. I want to be heard! I want a voice, their words, their perfection, their power of fame. I have the need to stand for something greater than what I am right this moment. I want to be seen and my feelings, dreams, and beliefs to be considered.
I am driven to share my story, to connect the way the artists I’m listening to are. They pull me in. I bend my mind and ride the melody on a wave that changes with every song that plays on my HomePod. When I listen to music, it inspires me to write, dream, live and soar. I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to be adored, to be carried away on a sea of cheering voices, singing the words that came from my mind back towards me—visualizing the future only to sadly arrive to silence.
I don’t just put on a song and relax; I can’t. It has never been that for me. Listening to music is a reminder of every dream and aspiration my mother, family, and teachers ever had for me, for my future and their future. It stirs up where I’ve been, where I was headed, which way I turned, and where I am now. Music is in my blood, a blessing and a curse that I wish I could cut from my soul at times. It is an eternal desire for greatness and a blow of crushing defeat. Sometimes it takes me soaring as high as the sun and other times drops me to rock bottom regret. My melody, always bright enough to propel me to the stars; Only to fall short and flash across the sky, making one last wish on its dimming flicker.
It’s not just a song on a Saturday morning as I sip a cup of coffee or ride in my car. My car, the one place I still crank it up, could drive for days and sing thousands of songs, one after another, breathlessly, endlessly, numbingly baring my soul. The music moves and simultaneously grounds me, glueing me to a single moment. It sends me flowing backward and forward in time and, with a single note, can set my life flashing before my eyes. It is rebirth, heartbreak, joy, love and delight, death, praise, and worship. Music is so much, wrapped up in one single simple pattern of rectangular bars, little black notes, dots, and sticks floating over a white page or just spinning in my brain.
When I listen to music, I see a snapshot of every moment that coincides with the particular lyric I am listening to. My life rises and falls with the melody. When I listen to music, it is more than just a sound; it is the fiber of my being that no one else will ever experience or understand because their not me. My memories shape the unique way I hear, sing, feel, remember, see and understand music. Music has asked a lot of me and also given me so much. It has scared me, freed me, made me wild, disciplined, and moved me. It has taken me not just emotionally but physically from state to state and country to country. It has introduced me to the loves in my life and taken me away from them. Taunted me until I’d spill my secrets or to bend the truth to tell my story. When I listen to a song, I hear the sound, and I brace myself as the waves of audible art surge over me in its power, and it penetrates me. In wonder, I’m transported. In all honesty, when I listen to music, it’s not just the tune, the lyrics, or the Artist; it’s everything.