“Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch….” The sound woke me. I opened my eyes slightly to a dark, chilly room. “crunch, crunch, crunch” the sound was coming from Zoe’s bed. I dozed for a second, then again, “crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.” It must have been 6 am. I thought, “Those damn rice crackers!” then I fell back into a sound sleep.
We had waffles with berry compote and bananas for breakfast. I’m trying not to think about the outside world. If I pretend it doesn’t exist, I won’t want to be out in it. We are both surprisingly chill and don’t appear to be too bothered by our current situation. Zoe talked to Molly on FaceTime for hours. They gamed, exercised, and laughed together, making plans to get Zoe a small tattoo. I followed my new routine, tidied my side of the box, dressed in exercise clothes, did my calisthenics (ancient Jack Lalane word for exercise, lol not really Jack’s word), made a coffee, and sat in my chair reading.
“Ring, ring-ring, ring” time for our day 4 COVID test. When we left our room, I noticed people dressed to go outside. WHAT??!!! I looked at the guide in PPE and said, “We have not gone outside for two days! We haven’t gone outside since you announced there was COVID in the building and to STAY PUT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!” Their response was awkward, and they avoided eye contact, all the while trying to be cheerful. “Oh yeah, you can book in anytime to go to the forecourt or ramp for a walk.” I replied with an edge of WTF in my voice, “stay put until further notice; there was no further notice.” And then they left me gobsmacked (that’s a word for you, kiwis) by saying, “we decided NOT TO TELL ANYONE.” And, “yeah, we’re still trying to figure that out.” Zoe told me to be quiet, so I did. We’re powerless. Then we had a further low. I think Zoe’s rice cracker eating marathon has caught up to her. She’s feeling slightly unwell at the moment.
Also funny( but not really), they gave Zoe a gift today to keep her busy. It was kind but weird. It was a box of school supplies, a ruler, pencils, paper, and NZ 8-10th grade lesson books. As they handed it to her, they said, “here, this will keep you busy” (um, thank you…no). Zoe’s FLVS (Florida Virtual School Flex) for US 10th grade/sophomore year begins August 10th through her high school schedule at home in FLORIDA. Pretty exciting stuff, right? Zoe looked at the books and said, “this stuff is too easy; I did this in 7th grade.”
I’m so excited. Later on, our day took a positive turn. We visited with Sabrina and Molly for 30 minutes in the forecourt! (HALLELUJAH). The sight of them took my breath away. We spoke and laughed, and I just wanted Inspector Gadget arms so I could reach through the fence and cuddle them. The military guards were so accommodating and made sure nothing disrupted our fence visit. They even seemed caught up in the joy of our reunion. All we needed was Paul, and the pod would be complete. I am still reeling with delight and smiling inside and out after seeing their bright shining eyes, soft skin, and mannerisms live. We were speaking to them with a distance of 8 feet between us instead of 9000 miles. Nothing else that happens today can top that, so I’m signing off now.
Food was delivered, we ate, played online games with Paul and Molly, I stretched and jogged in place. Food was delivered, we ate again, I tidied our tiny box and read some of my books. Exciting right? I haven’t thought about going outside today, but I am longing to move. So Zoe said, “mom get on your bed!” to which I cringed, saying, “no, please, I don’t want to touch my bed till it’s time to sleep!” Zoe replied with excitement, “no, get on the bed and do this with me!” It was bed workouts with Emi Wong! Here’s her link: https://youtube.com/c/EmiWong Normally, in bed, it’s comfy, but Emi has a way of making you burn in bed and not in the way most of us dream of burning in bed. Zoe laughed hysterically at my half moves and inability to crunch and lift like the beasts she and Emi are. It was pretty comical. I’m going to come out of MIQ saying, “I feel like veal! I’m soft and dough-like due to being locked in a box and force-fed awesome food!”
When the reality is I was already pretty blobby and weak before my current situation. Oh BTW! Our luggage was delivered last night! YAAAAAY! So I SHOWERED. I’m sure I’ve lost at least a couple of pounds of globe-trotting dirt after that. The shower here rocks! It water blasts you with the force of a fire hose. You know, the exhilarating kind of blast that hurts and feels amazing at the same time. Mentioning the fire hose actually reminded me of hot firefighters (which I usually have no interest in and still don’t, but my oldest sister and oldest daughter do). One Christmas, my husband gave me a hot firemen calendar as a gag gift. The minute I opened it, I screamed and threw it across the room in total horror. I think I passed it on to another keen female in the family. Does that man even know me? Well, since it was a gag, he obviously does. He just wanted to have a reason to laugh at me. I don’t know why I’m the way I am. I’m sure I would have loved that calendar had I found it in an empty house with no other humans or animals present, for that matter, closer than a 50-mile radius.
I get way too embarrassed if caught red-handed (that’s funny, red-handed, never mind). Anyway, I’m clean and happy with clothes to wear and NOWHERE TO GO! Zoe rotted her teeth out as a toddler eating a particular brand of rice crackers in NZ and has been romancing the idea of securing cases of them upon her return to her birthplace. Well, we got her 14 packs, and she has binge eaten 6 in 3 DAYS!!! Why????? Everyone has their thing, I suppose. Zoe sits there, headphones on, laid back against the headboard of her hotel bed, toes wiggling, watching Disney (yes, she’s 15, so it’s kinda cute), eating one round cracker after another, examining it as if she found gold before she places each one in her mouth. I’ve run out of things to do for the moment here in the box, so I’m laying in the sun on my side of the room dozing off on my bed (which I was trying to avoid touching until bedtime but, well…no).
Well, I’ve now rearranged some of our room; all I really did was move a chair from the corner over into the cubby kitchen so I could put a wall between Zoe and me whenever I wanted. I ended up back on my bed after reading in my new kitchen cave for only 5 minutes because Molly and Zoe were on Facetime talking about music, and I couldn’t resist jumping into the conversation. Time moved slower today than the two days prior. We have heard nothing about booking a walk outside since the announcement last night that someone in our building has covid, and they have to contact trace. So now I feel like we’re just rolling around the room like toddlers in a playpen. Rolling on the mattress, floor, mattress, and maybe not the floor again because it smells pretty rank. I was thinking about how inmates in prison have it pretty good compared to us today. They get to take walks in the yard, play basketball (at least they do in all of the movies), and do fun stuff like making license plates and bread. We aren’t allowed to crack our door open to put our trash out (without stepping out the door) without our facemask on. I’m not complaining. PLEASE DON’T GET ME WRONG! We knew we were headed for this waiting place (I tried to block out what it would be like when we got to NZ isolation, and here we are). We’ve resorted to foot and back massages (note to self, getting a massage from my youngest child is like being tenderized with tiny sharp chicken knuckles). My child laughed every time I yelped in pain. Now that’s entertainment. And finally, we sit and wait for dinner to arrive and then have plans to do a post-meal 10-minute workout (well, skip the work out I just had a glass of wine) and watch a movie. Never a dull moment, and we are spoiled for variety in our box (hmmm, I just realized I forgot to brush my teeth today)!
We did bed bounce exercises (something we made up) after breakfast (which was pretty yummy); it was delivered in paper bags and served in environmentally friendly packaging with a lid of plastic that is compostable. All cutlery and food packaging is wood and cardboard!!! NZ seems to avoid petroleum-based plastics! Good on em!
We were given our blue wrist bands, which mean our COVID tests were negative, so Zoe and I got to go for a 30-minute walk in the 40×60 forecourt.
Back up in our room, Zoe jumped back in bed, and I made a coffee and sat by our window getting fresh air. It opens about 6 Inches. Desperate people have climbed down balconies and used sheets to repel to the ground from open windows, so expansive opening windows and balconies aren’t an option. Last night I got a call from the facility nurse asking me health questions. She wanted to know if I have enough medication for my acute Panic Disorder while in isolation and if I had someone close by I can talk to if the isolation gets to be too much. Then this morning, a nurse came to our door to perform our daily health check, taking our temperature, asking how we’re feeling, and seeing if we had any symptoms.
Here’s something gross I still haven’t showered since I left the US! I have nothing to change into. I’m still waiting for our luggage to arrive. Zoe had her carry-on, but mine is still sitting in Washinton, DC. AirNZ called me today and assured me our two large suitcases would be picked up by the courier at 3:00 pm today and delivered to our room (watch this space). I CAN’T WAIT TO CLEAN UP!!! YUCK!
The hours tick by, and we’ve eaten lunch. I move from the chair to the bed to the chair to standing and looking out the window. It’s a beautiful day today. I can’t wait to be out there. We lay on the bed and do leg lifts, play Mancala, and I contemplate taking a nap but try not to. It’s 10:30 pm back in Naples, Florida, so my body wants to sleep. It’s only 2:30 pm here, though, and if I don’t stay awake, I’ll never sleep tonight.
It’s 3:20 pm, and they announced over our room loudspeaker that someone on our flight, and now in our hotel has Covid and now we can’t leave our room to go for a walk. It’s sad. My girls were on their way into the City to see us outside of the gate. We had to call them and tell them not to come. NZ is diligent and keeping everyone safe. We get it, but boy, what a letdown. We were so excited to see them, even if it was from two meters away through the green mesh and two fences.
I’ve ordered water, wine, and rice crackers from the grocery store and can’t wait till it’s delivered. I ordered water with my lunch but got coke (I don’t drink sugary sodas), and now I’m parched. Zoe and I are each lying in our beds playing game pigeon games on our phones (8 ball, mancala, darts, etc.); it doesn’t matter what we play, I usually lose. The late afternoon sun is shining in on us. I’ve forgotten how much the sun warms the room as it beats through the glass.
Zoe and I jump up with excitement when Sabrina and Molly call us on the phone from the corner below our window. We talk on speakerphone and jump up and down, making sure to be seen. They don’t stay long and head off to meet friends for the evening. I joke in the text on the family strand that it will look like they’re working that corner every night if they keep visiting us this way. After they disappear, I contemplate jumping on the bed again but pace around the room instead, sip a decaf and oat milk coffee, and watch the sun sink behind the Harbour Bridge.
All there is to do now is wait for another meal, eat, read and pace. We would watch movies on TV, but they’re $15 each! We would love to watch them on our own devices, but the hotel wifi sucks. I’m very concerned about this as Zoe starts online school any day now. Oh well, “tomorrow’s another day.”
We arrived in Auckland, NZ, on Monday the 12th of July. Landing at 5:38 am, we went through a maze of customs checkpoints, were cleared to get on the bus, and headed to Auckland CBD. We sat (in the bus) with no toilet, water, etc., for what seemed like forever. Processing us at the airport was at the most an hour so let’s say we left there at 6:45 am or 7:00 am. By 10:08 am, there was still no sign of getting off of the bus, which had been sitting still in the road comically for hours in front of a giant neon sign that read, “WHATEVER”!
Omg, WE FINALLY MOVED!!! 10:10 am. (3 hours on the bus). We made it into our room by 11:00 am. It’s tiny and tidy. The beds are super comfortable. I wish there were drawers to put our clothes in (whenever we get our luggage, that is, it still hadn’t been brought up to us by 7:00 pm). No worries on the food front though, it’s terrific. Within 30 minutes of getting into our room, we were delivered cereal with yogurt, milk, and fruit. And at 12:30 pm, they sent up a beautiful stir-fried prawn dish with cake and coconut water. YUM!!
We were called on the phone and told to come out of our room, face masks on. Yellow PPE gown wearing military personnel with face masks and plastic face shields ushered us to the covid testing room. They administered the brain stabbing PCR test; the first time I’ve had that one, it didn’t hurt at all but yuck, what a gross feeling.
And for the grand finale of our day, Sabrina and Molly, my two sweet babies, delivered coffee and chocolates to our hotel. They left it at the front desk for us. We couldn’t see them yet, so they dropped and ran. We could see them standing 12 floors down on the street corner. We all waved as we talked to each other on the phone. We are so close yet still so far. I can’t wait to hug them. Almost there.
Wow! We have gotten off to a crazy start. We woke up at 4 am and slowly headed to the Miami International airport (it was only 6 minutes from the Hilton Garden Inn). We were checked in for our flight and breathed a sigh of relief, knowing all of the paperwork required for our travel was “A” ok! Paul walked us to the security gate, and we all exchanged kisses and hugs. He walked away, waving to us as we disappeared through the scanners. I watched him as long as I could. Before we got sucked into the crowd, Paul smiled at us with a smile that masked a small amount of sadness. Man, I wish he could have come me with us. I will really miss him (and the dogs). Zoe and I excitedly settled on our flight set to depart at 7:15 am. We quietly waited, blinking the remnants of sleep out of our eyes. We needed to take off on time. Once we reached the second flight of our trip, we were only going to have 40 minutes to go from Gate Z to D!!! (we are not strangers to hoofing it from one gate to the next, so we planned to move at superhuman speed to get there).
The pilot announced something was wrong with the flaps on one of the wings, and we couldn’t depart. Our 7:15 am departure, now a 7:30 am departure, left us 25 minutes to get to our next flight. Then the flight attendant came and told us that the toilets were full to the brim (what the heck?). A neon yellow-vested mechanic got on and off of the plane repeatedly while I, Zoe, and the rest of the passengers waited in anxious anticipation. I looked at my watch and realized that we had missed our connection. Making our flights on time to get to our final New Zealand flight was crucial because we have to arrive there on the flight that matches the flight number given when we booked our managed isolation. If we don’t, they could send us back to the US.
The flight attendants and one of the airline scheduling managers were standing at the plane’s entry discussing our situation as I approached them with concern. They knew we had to make our connecting flights on time, and the manager said he was already searching for new flights for us before I had even said anything. The scheduling manager asked me to follow him off the plane and back into the terminal, so I did. Zoe sat tight on the plane in confusion. There were very few options on any airline. Getting to LA in the time frame we needed was proving to be a considerable challenge. I did my best to be quiet and patient. At one point, I turned my back on the scheduling manager as he searched the screen. Hot tears ran down my face and soaked the edge of my face mask. I didn’t want him to see me crying. All I could think about were Sabrina and Molly and how badly I wanted to hug them in my arms and look into their eyes. It’s been a year and a half. My heart hurt at the thought of not reaching my babies. The scheduling manager was doing the best he could. After many phone calls and deep digging, he found two seats on a totally different airline. I texted Zoe and told her to get off the plane and meet me in the terminal.
We now wait for our new connection. And while doing this, a man with an Indian accent called my cell phone and attempted to steal my checking account information. He had hacked my debit card and gotten the number, but that’s all he got. I was wise to him, and pretty quickly, he hung up on me when I refused to answer his questions. So now the bank is investigating that, and we continue our journey. Ahhhh, day two is shaping up the be a right ripper!!! (pray for us)!
When we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn, we were confused about where the entrance to the hotel was. All we wanted to do was check-in. We entered the pool area, and it was taped off; we tried the front entrance, and the doors were locked with construction tape all around and workers completing the new lobby floor. We finally found our way, and at that point, I was frustrated. I thought, my God, when will we see an elevator to go to our room. I was dissatisfied with the front desk person and then realized they were doing the best they could, working with what they had to work with.
Once we finally deposited our stuff to our room and understood what was happening (the entire hotel was under renovation), I apologized to the sweet lady at the front desk (which was a card table at the back entrance), and we went across the way for drinks. I came back, and while my husband and daughter lay in the comfort of our room, I went back downstairs under the entrance awning seeking a light (yes, a light, I had three glasses of wine, and that is my tipping point for needing a cigarette). I sat under the back awning and watched about 30 people try to find the entrance. They drove back and forth past the door, wondering if they should go in or not. There was signage at the front of the hotel sending them around back but nothing that said: “CHECK-IN HERE!”
I borrowed lights from several different kinds of pilots who said that since Covid, this is normal. One man, Patrick, had just ended a day of retraining and gaining flight hours to work for UPS or FEDEX. I also met two working pilots who came out of Mexico and were on a layover from Estafeta Carga Aérea S.A. de C.V. , a cargo airline based in Mexico City, Mexico. It operates domestic cargo charters in Mexico and the United States and has over 25 interline agreements providing connecting services to the rest of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They said that when they reach their accommodations, confusion, similar to what we experienced, is expected. I borrowed a light from them, and we had a smoke. They told me about their passion for their work and told me why flying for a cargo company was essential to them.
Meanwhile, the staff inside the Hilton Garden Inn was doing their best to be welcoming. They put on a good face and made the best of a bad situation. As I lay my head down to sleep tonight, I think about all the people working on the ground and flying above the clouds. They are dedicated to keeping the world moving and following guidelines that keep all of us safe in this crazy time. I salute them.
Today I went to my GP for medication refills in preparation for the trip to NZ. Since there is a 70% chance they will cancel our flight again, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of my vital meds. All went well. My favorite Dr and I talked about every little ache, tick, and quirk I have had, and he and his team checked me over from top to bottom inside and out. Not a spot, crack, or crevice was left unexplored. I had blood tests, last a urine test, and even got a stool card (which to me is worse than a red card in soccer because the stool card is just gross and crappy).
We’re packing now. We’ve been digging out all of our winter clothes. It may feel like 103 here, but in Auckland, it will be 46 F the morning we arrive. Auckland winter is damp and frigid. We will have to re-acclimate to the bone-chilling cold. Being a Floridian, we don’t have many warm clothes. I did, however, buy warm stuff in anticipation of our canceled ski trip this past March. We had a ski-themed Christmas where every present was something warm and ski trip-related and then…no ski trip. Just a lot of winter clothes in a closet in a house in subtropical Florida. It will be nice to put that stuff to use.
Our girls in NZ are prepping their tiny apartment for our stay, and my sister-in-law even stopped in to make a list of what they may be missing. We are getting really excited, and our departure is beginning to feel pretty real now. I have received text and email reminders from our airline regarding our departure and COVID travel guidelines. We’ve also been sent a message from the MIQF (managed isolation and quarantine facility in NZ) anticipating our arrival. I woke up feeling a bit shaky this morning and have been on edge the last few days. I don’t fly well and have been on edge, in constant but slight fight or flight mode. I’m feeling pretty raw, and my hands visibly shake. I’ve been taking deep breaths, praying, and focusing on the minute we get out of isolation and hug Sabrina and Molly. I’m working to stay calm, but my body isn’t cooperating. Once we are on the international flight, I am pretty sure I will relax, knowing we are officially on our way to NZ. If that thought doesn’t settle me, my Dr gave me something that will for sure. I am very conscious that I need to be lucid for my 15 yr old travel companion, though, so that’s the last resort. I doubt I’ll even use my little “mother’s helper.” Working to “keep calm and carry on.” 👑 🇳🇿♥️
I’m getting anxious as we get closer to our departure date for NZ. The biggest worry I have is not getting our Covid test results back within the 72-hour window leading up to our arrival. It’s a big deal. Our trip hinges on that one thing. I rebooked our return flights, the last day of August, yet there is still a 70% chance of cancellation. What if we have to stay longer with my babies? Really?! Not a problem as far as we’re concerned. I almost wish they would cancel it to be there for Molly, our middle daughter’s birthday.
I’m starting to miss Paul and the dogs, and we haven’t even left the house yet. Leaving people scares me. I’m always afraid I’ll never see them again (of course, I have abandonment issues). Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about going to NZ in a time when we are emerging from isolation and lockdown; I’m totally excited. I’m just a worrier, that’s all. I think about everything that could go wrong before something significant takes place, and then when I’m in it and get a firm grip on my situation, I start to enjoy it. It’s kind of like when you go into surgery. The Dr says, “this surgery will be the best thing for you, but before we do it, I have to warn you about all of the bad things that could happen, and oh, you might also die.”Yeah, so I’m excited about the coming trip, and at the same time, my anxiety and depression drag me through the “disclaimer before surgery” thought process.
But honestly, It’s going to be fun, very cold (it’s winter in NZ, and we’re traveling there from the deep south of Florida where it’s hotter than satan’s balls at the moment), joyful, heartbreaking on departure, a long journey, and return. But the stories and photos that will come from all of it will be priceless. And the hugs, oh the feeling of hugging my sweet babies who I have not seen for 18 months. Seeing all three of our girls complete, laughing, taunting each other, telling stories of their past, and making memories for the future, my heart will burst with happiness, and I will probably cry bliss-filled tears. We will arrive there exhausted, to the unknown conditions of managed isolation, cocooned in our hotel, patiently waiting for the doors to open so we can emerge into the bright, beautiful, loving arms of family on the other side.
We’re getting ready to leave for NZ. Zoë and I will be in managed isolation when we arrive there for 14 days. We just saw a story yesterday where a woman had 12 hours left of her managed isolation, and her Covid test results came back positive (they test you in NZ isolation every three days). They slipped an envelope under her door telling her she could not leave. Can you imagine! One hundred people in the detained woman’s isolation group also had to stay longer. We don’t know how this will go, but It’s all a part of the adventure.
The airlines have canceled our return flight to the US. So I am rebooking our new return flight for sometime in September, extending our stay. Our original return date was August 23rd. The airlines warned us there would be a 70% chance they will cancel our new return flight. The thing is, they can’t fill enough seats on the jumbo jets to justify the cost of returning to the US, so they wait until they can guarantee a full flight. Because of our uncertain return date, we’ve modified Zoe’s schooling for the first semester of her sophomore year. She is unenrolled from NHS and now a Florida Virtual School flex student. She only has to take three honors classes, and her guidance counselor has assured us she will be able to slot her right back into her regular schedule upon return without missing a beat. She is a well-seasoned counselor and feels that there is more to a teen’s well-being than reading, writing, and arithmetic. She says mental health is critical, and if our stay in NZ with her sisters and extended family gives us peace and fulfillment, that is more important than school structure. I love her. She’s right; life is short and not always black and white. Sometimes we have to live outside the lines to achieve our goals. So today, on day 12 of the count down to our departure, I am rebooking our return flights and beginning to get very excited.
My daughters all, unfortunately, inherited my anxiety. Some of them have it more severely than others. I feel terrible that I have passed my broken bits to my sweet children. It’s enough of a struggle for me to deal with my issues without also having to watch my babies struggle. We’re away on a short holiday at the moment, and I woke up with my husband absent from our bed and on the couch. Our 15 yr old soundly slept next to me, letting out a little snore here and there. She had come in late last night and asked Paul to move. She said, “I’m feeling very anxious at the moment, and I won’t sleep all night. Can’t I please snuggle, mom?” He asked me if I was ok with it, and I said, “sure, why not?” She crawled in and snuggled as close to me as she could. I gave her an anxiety hug. I wrapped both of my arms around her and kissed her on top of the head. She nestled in the crook of my arm. She went from feeling anxious to being sound asleep before the words goodnight left my lips.
When all 3 of our girls were babies, we did skin on skin, breastfed, and often I would carry them in my baby Björn front carrier while I cooked and cleaned. I have always been accessible to them. Being the safe place for my children has always been a priority for me, mamma bear that I am. As Zoë and I slept, she spooned closer and closer to me. I have to admit that this made me sleep very sound as well. Whether you agree with my parenting methods or not, my happy place has always been snuggling my babies, no matter how old they get. So yes, on the odd occasion, our 15 yr old still jumps in bed with her mom, and you know what, I love it. She will be gone soon, and these are the moments I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I used to fly down giant hills, jump curbs and skate backward on my rollerblades; I was fearless. I did it for about ten years, so you’d think jumping back on them would be like riding a bike; you never forget. I used my Mothers Day rollerblades three times, and on the third day, I fell. I didn’t hurt myself, but as I lay on my back on the pavement looking up at the sky with an aching posterior, afraid to move because I was sure I broke every bone in my body, I thought, why am I doing this? (I was barely moving when I fell, and I didn’t even fall hard. I’m a baby, a brave baby.) Each time I skated, I put on more clothing and padding. I even considered wrapping a life jacket around my backside to add additional padding to my butt. I am acutely aware that I have 100 lbs more on me now compared to when I skated as a young fit gal, and this present-day voluptuousness doesn’t fall well. All three times I rollerbladed, I was shaking like a leaf and sweating bullets. I was petrified, but I wanted to do it with my sweet daughter, so I sucked it up and gave it my all. She was so encouraging and excited that we were doing something sporty together (I think). I didn’t want to let her down until gravity pulled me down, and then I just parked them in the closet. So yesterday, I gave them away to a dear family friend who put them on and skated after only an hour like gravity doesn’t exist. She’s 12, and her feet are the same size as mine. She rollerbladed with our girl Zoe the way I wished I could, and I watched on with joy over the happiness I had just given someone else and breathed a sigh of absolute relief that I never have to get on those things ever again. I will roll with my girl however my next purchase will be a scooter with huge wheels
AUTHOR NOTE: I don’t drink unless I am on an outing with friends or family, and there have not been many opportunities for those outings lately, so I haven’t drunk much and have become a lightweight. Now my story.
I took what I thought was the last sip of my skinny Pina cola. I had only had one, and that was perfect. They weren’t cheap, and I drank every drop. My Niece and I sunbathed by the resort-style pool with her two children; I haven’t seen them for over three years, and it was a joy to be with them, so we were celebrating. After two sips of her skinny drink, my niece was done. She slid her almost full plastic cup over to me, and I happily drank it. The sun was beating down, and as my body became relaxed, I slowly melted into the lounger where I lay. The pool was huge, and the sound of the waterfall began to lull me to sleep. I dozed for a second and then hopped in the inviting clear sparkling water where I floated weightlessly free with mellow content. I noticed my niece shifting the wet towels on the lounge chairs, and I took it as a sign she was ready to go.
I said, “are you leaving?” She looked at me puzzled, “well, we can…, yeah we’re probably going to go soon.” She thought that I wanted to, so she packed up. I did the same and headed for my car. I secretly fretted as we left the safety of the pool. Had I known we were going home so soon, I would never have finished her drink for her (she seemed to really need help disposing of it, though). In retrospect, neither one of us was ready to leave. It seems we got our wires crossed trying to read the hidden messages our body language was sending. Due to our lack of communication, we packed up for no reason. In my car, I sat in the driver’s seat calculating how much food and water I had consumed, my weight to alcohol ratio after two vodka filled skinny drinks and regretted drinking that second one (don’t judge readers, I’m sure there is some point in your life where you have done this or something like it).
I sat in the parking lot patiently waiting for the minimal buzz I had to pass. I drank my two-liter water bottle till it was empty and did some writing, read social media, clipped my fingernails, listened to music, checked my emails, did some writing again, and then decided to head for home. I was not loopy, but I knew the alcohol was present in my bloodstream. (Ok, I wasn’t loopy, but I did feel VERY relaxed!) I called my husband to keep me company while I drove home and he was concerned (loopy Jeri is not often a normal state). I had two blooming drinks; I don’t even think driving with two drinks and two liters of water in your system is illegal, but I felt like a hardened criminal. I was in a part of town I had not ever explored and decided to stop at CVS for dog treats.
I saw a smoke shop next door and peeked in. The shop, stocked with bongs, CBD, Vape pens, and everything “Marijuana” was stoner central (no, it wasn’t a dispensary, that’s not legal in Naples). I quickly walked in and back out again. I walked further along the plaza and popped into the liquor store. A woman greeted me at the door and, noticing my wet hair and dress, said, “did you just come from the beach?” “No, I was at a pool,” I replied. She was a small Indian woman with kind eyes that looked me up and down as If I was out of place, and she couldn’t quite figure me out. I was there for a teeny tiny pack of cigarettes.
I thought If I just had one, It would snap me out of this foggy feeling. The kind woman called her husband to the front to help me. After asking for the skinniest tiniest pack of Virginia Slim menthols anyone could ever smoke (literally, you practically need tweezers to hold these things and a magnifying glass to see them), he asked me if I smoked often? Man, you had to answer security questions to get a pack of smokes; now I truly felt like a fugitive. I didn’t hold back; I told him everything I knew for fear of failing whatever secret test I was taking. In one giant run-on sentence, I said, “OK! I had a couple of drinks by the pool a little over an hour ago and my daughter will be home from school soon If I ever feel tipsy I usually smoke a cigarette and it makes me feel normal again I would never smoke in front of my children so I thought I would grab a quick one here before I head home!”
I stopped talking, and as usual, there was silence as I realized I said more than I needed to. The couple started at me, and then the man looked at me and smiling said in a soft indian accent, “You are a good mom. Be careful driving home.” I passed, I passed the test. There was hope for me yet, so with confidence, I sat outside the store, on a bench drying off and smoking the anti buzz remedy. “You are a good mom” rang in my ears. I had felt so guilty over my morning staycation actions and was so worried that I had not done my day perfectly, but now I could relax. I did snap out of it. I took my time getting home. Overall I spent 2 hours traveling 20 minutes because I was ultra-careful and waiting until it was safe to get behind the wheel. I haven’t touched those cigarettes again since I bought them; that was a few days ago, and I have maybe smoked one pack total in the last four years. I used to drink wine with my mom, and we would have a social cigarette together on the patio, but nothing more than that. Since she has been gone, there hasn’t been much thought of doing it.
This event has led me to wonder about the anxiety I manifest for myself over needing to do the right thing, appear to be the perfect mom, sister, etc. (when anyone who knows me knows I’m not, but I sure do try). I know I’m not the only one who does this. We all have our reasons for wanting to appear perfect on the outside. I understand why I hold myself to high standards. There are reasons I won’t just let go and go wild like my head sometimes tells me I should, but every once in a while, a girls just gotta have some fun, you know.
(This story is a time capsule of words and thoughts shared from my diary. Written one year ago today, June 5, 2020.)
The mood of the day, gray, rainy, calm, quiet, hopeful yet frightening, motivated, loved, and slightly bored.
My feelings are all over the place this week as the world erupts with bubbling issues of racism, isolation, fear, and depression. The deaths of George Floyd over a counterfeit $20 bill and Ahmaud Arbery shot by a retired police officer and friends while he was running; have sparked peaceful protests and riots not just in America but around the entire world. In Auckland, NZ, there was a peace march of 9000 people to support #blacklivesmatter. Our two oldest daughters were there, marching with the others, demanding a global end to systemic racism. I am so proud of them. While proud of them, I’m dying to get out there and peacefully protest myself. Our youngest daughter fears for my safety and begs me not to; she is scared. Business owners are frightened. Businesses of every kind in towns around the US, broken into, looted, and burned. A Target was destroyed, along with CVS and Walmart, who had to close over 100 stores until there is order. Angry groups don’t care if you are rich, poor, white, black, Asian, Hispanic; they are fed up and are destroying people’s businesses and lives to make a loud screaming statement.
#nolivesmatteruntilblacklivesmatter I get it. I don’t blame them. I am ashamed to be white at times. I can’t express enough how I long to be united with black brothers and sisters (united with all races actually), and no matter how much I try, I will never feel the pain of the scorn heaped upon their backs repeatedly, heartlessly. We are one race, the human race. We all love, bleed, rejoice and grieve the same. We are one people. I am confused and angry, even sad and again ashamed of the way some (many) in my country, entitled Americans, still embrace racism and, on top of that, have responded to COVID-19 with anti-masking and misleading lies stating that it’s all a hoax. Over 500,000 people with families, spouses, and children, parents and friends who loved them, were killed by a hoax. Yes, Information is misleading or confusing. Politicians are worried about money over lives; Americans have lost jobs in the 10’s of millions. People are dying, starving, committing suicide (because it’s all too much). The world is riddled with rising mental illness cases, and many of us are hanging on by a thread. It’s a crazy time.
It’s hurricane season now, and we’ve had homes destroyed in our Florida brush fires. I thank God for today’s rain as it slows the flames. Yet someone in another community is praying for the rain to stop because landslides have washed their homes into the sea, taking more lives. Global warming, I say. Today people and parties do not respect each other, and our leaders are greatly divided. Some deplore Mr. Trump and his cronies, saying he is the “worst president in the history of all presidents.” He has been referred to as ignorant, a coward, and at times evil. The world feels as if it’s going mad. The chaos reminds me of scenes flashed on the news when I was a child, during the ’60s and ’70s.
I was laid-off from my job on March 20th and forced to get a lawyer and threaten litigation to get my last paycheck for three weeks of work. What is wrong with people? I don’t understand. I’m gun shy at the thought of working for anyone again. I don’t want to sell ice to Eskimos, and I don’t want to be an easy to replace cog in another machine. My husband and God have provided well for us through all of this, and I am thankful. Today, in the stillness of this very moment, I love my life, but there are people lost in depression who are in the process of ending theirs.
Beyond my front door, the world around me is in chaos. In my home, there is safety, love, and contentment. Privileged folks make home repairs and renovations in isolation while others walk that fine line of living paycheck to paycheck while tipping over the edge into homeless obscurity. There are rich who can’t fathom what it’s like to go hungry as they lay their heads down at night on a mountain of soft Down pillows. Then there are the devastatingly poor who are struggling to fill the stomachs of their fearful starving children and provide them an isolated online education while sleeping in cars, under bridges, in bug-infested woods, and abandoned houses. Now is a time when there is much to do. We must find common ground rise from our complacency and plan for a better tomorrow as we isolate. We need peace across the aisle and over the back fence. “There’s a change a comin” it’s time, we’ve been “woke” and what we’ve seen can’t and shouldn’t be unseen.
(Looking back on last year’s writing, I think we are changing with each tiny step forward. We have changed political leadership. We remember the lives of those we’ve lost. While #blacklivesmatter isn’t speaking as loud today, I haven’t forgotten, and those with a conscience, bravery, heart, and voice are still talking, protesting, and will fight till their last breath (hopefully peacefully) until we have evolved into an actual accepting, loving, multicultural society. With vaccinations administered to half of us, we are coming out of our homes and returning to the office maskless in some places here in the US. I have the privileged opportunity to write my blog and memoir. Brush fires in FL are minimal this year, and hurricane season is approaching. We don’t know what storms we will weather yet; we can get through them better together if we learn from our past, allow ourselves to grow, fight against morally wrong behavior and actions and unite as one people, a beautiful blend of colors. The colors that God chose to paint the world we live in on a planet we must equally share in love.)
One hundred thirty-six million Americans were fully vaccinated as of May 31st; according to “Our World in Data,” that’s 41.4% of us; so we are slowly opening back up. I watch as people begin to shop, dine and socialize again and in my head, hear, “Please notice that the seatbelt sign is off, and you are now free to roam around the cabin” (that’s airplane talk, seems I’ve taken one too many flights in my lifetime). I’m getting out there tentatively and still wear a facemask even though my husband and I have chosen to vaccinate fully, and our 15 yr old at this point is 1/2 vaxed. I’m anxious and gun shy. I do Shipt shopping for a couple of hours a day, a few days a week, to offset the cost of my smoothie bowl addiction. When I’m out there in the stores walking around shopping, I feel traces of the paranoia that had set in at the swell of the Covid 19 pandemic run through every fiber of my being. I’m sure a lot of people are still feeling uneasy. Pre vaccination, I was anxious and downright angry about antimaskers rubbing past me while I shopped, and sometimes I would comment to those who wore their masks only over their mouths, saying, “ Hey, you know that mask only works if you cover your mouth and nose.” I admit I was sometimes downright shitty and would glare at people who came too close without protecting the people around them like I was, and I would think, “what an asshole, what a selfish human being!” I would get upset because I was in the store working. Though I was sweating bullets due to 53-year-old menopausal hot flashes behind my mask, I still found it monumentally critical to protect others, myself, and prevent the spread of this crappy disease that some had the nerve to call a hoax. What became most apparent to me due to the pandemic and how people reacted to our new normal was that the narcissistic, entitled “give me liberty or give me death” monster is real. It took over the most unsuspecting of friends and family, tread on you like a pack of wild kids running over ants on a crowded playground, and got stronger the more you objected to it! It’s been hard not to judge through the Covid days.
Frankly, the last year and a bit have been exhausting. I got to a point where I didn’t have energy left to follow the news, CDC guidelines, my friends opinions and beliefs on social media, the trumped-up election commentary for or against it, look for a new job, worry about being separated 9000 miles from my two daughters, wonder when I would be able to hug them again, think about when we would be able to start paying ALL of our bills again, poor health I was experiencing and the body numbing feeling that my world was closing in on me; so I hit my wall. Mental health was a struggle well before all of this. I have battled an acute panic disorder, anxiety, and depression since I was 13. It came on as my hormones changed while going through puberty. The tween years is an expected time of onset for this kind of hereditary disorder. Covid was exceptionally challenging for me and has changed my thought pattern somewhat. Because everything had gotten so heavy and so hard in the world outside my home, I had taken to isolating and staying inside when I could. The CDC had suggested we stay home when possible, and I had no problem with it. Our 15 yr old was also home and doing school online; plus, we have our two dogs, who, by the way, were highly thankful for Covid isolation because they got to snuggle us every day.
I got too comfortable in my bubble, and Isolation for me over a long period is not good (it’s not really good for anyone). In my mid 20’s I suffered from Agoraphobia which, according to Wikipedia (for those of you who don’t know), “is an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape. These situations can include open spaces, public transit, shopping centers, or simply being outside their home. (in my case large crowd of people). Being in these situations may result in a panic attack. The symptoms occur nearly every time the situation is encountered and last for more than six months. Those affected will go to great lengths to avoid these situations. In severe cases, people may become completely unable to leave their homes.”
When I experienced Agoraphobia, I was one of the lead singers of a top 40 band that performed 5-6 nights a week in Naples. People would say, “wow, you must be having a blast!” But in reality, 50% of the time, it was terrifying. I would spend my mornings and afternoons in the safety of my home or rollerblading and running alone, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was sleeping; in fact, I became addicted to sleeping during the day (it’s an escape, it’s a thing). If our phone rang, I refused to pick it up. The thought of talking to anyone made me panic and feel nauseous. It was extremely hard for me to grocery shop at that time; it seemed like everyone in town knew me even if I didn’t know them, and they would stop and talk to me every few aisles. After a while, I started leaving my cart in the middle of the store and hiding in my car where I would go numb with panic, become disoriented, and have to call my then fiancé to save me in the parking lot because I couldn’t move my limbs to drive my car. I viewed the world in single slow frames because my visual tracking was off due to overstimulation in my brain. On one occasion, my husband Paul and I went car shopping at a huge open-air car market in NZ. It was shoulder to shoulder with people. Somehow I lost hold of Paul’s hand, and when we got separated, I went into fight or flight mode. I tried to hold it together, but as my anxiety began to surge, I started shaking uncontrollably and crying so hard I could barely see through the tears. My limbs began to lose feeling just as Paul found me, and when he grabbed my hand again, I furiously yelled at him, “why did you leave me like that? I was scared, and you just left me!” My poor husband, if he had no mental health issues before we married, I’m sure he does now; please pray for him.
The act of panicking and running into triggers became a vicious cycle. The more I isolated or felt abandoned, the more those triggers flicked on, causing my issues to accumulate like onion layers building up into a more complex series of disorders. Peeling back those layers to find some semblance of normal Jeri inside has taken years, long sessions with several kinds of therapists and doctors, and begrudgingly but very necessary, medication. It’s been hard, and even though I have long periods where everything is running smoothly, the fact remains that there are still a few fried circuits inside me that, if tapped the wrong way, set the cycle in motion again. So fast forward to today, I am finding it hard to move outside of my head and my house, to fight the urge to continue to isolate even though the reason to do so is diminishing. I don’t talk as much daily as I did pre isolation, and when I do, I verbally puke out any and every thought that hits my lips because I don’t know when I’m going to have the chance to do it again, and I can’t help myself.
We planted some Clusia hedges in front of our house during our home improvement stage of Covid isolation, and I have been excited about how lush and green our new landscaping looks as it grows. But I found myself looking at them this morning as I was pulling out of the driveway to go Shipt shop (which I make myself do, so I have to leave the house for something), and for a second, I caught myself thinking, “I can’t wait till those grow so tall no one can see our house. Then I will be able to step out on my patio and sit there in comfort, and no one will see me hiding behind the hedges.” It’s not an irrational thought; everyone wants privacy, but I am mindful of these thoughts of wanting to hide and putting them in check while taking baby steps to break out of my bubble and roam freely around the cabin in an attempt to get back to a life that feels free and somewhat normal.
It’s over! 31 days in a row of trying to blog something meaningful, with depth and heart that isn’t just fluff and stuff. Only you can be the judge of how I did on capturing your attention. I know I did my best. It was tiring trying to keep up with a 31-day blog challenge. My husband got a little frustrated at times that my nose was in my iPhone notes or computer every day, and he made several comments about how obsessed I had become. But hey, as I told him, “blog challenge or no blog challenge, I have found my rhythm, so get used to it; I’ll often be writing and for long hours sometimes.” I missed 6 out of the 31 days; that’s not too bad. I didn’t write on the days where I honestly had nothing to say. I gained about 100 new followers on my @jerisbraindump Facebook page alone. Thank you to all who have followed and are engaging with sharing and comments on my stories. I have gained 54 new WordPress.com community followers and about 100 more between Instagram and Twitter. I enjoyed reading the stories of fellow bloggers in this challenge, and I’m sure we will all keep an eye on each other from this point on. I think the story I loved sharing the most was “Mother”. It contains memories close to my heart, and I had a chance to bear my vulnerability. You all shared and commented and showed support as fellow parents, and again I thank you. I will continue to blog while working on my memoir. I haven’t forgotten, at one point, someone asked when I would post me singing; here you go (find the link at the end of this blog). I enjoyed having a blog family. Keep in touch.
NOTE: I don’t own any of the writes to the music I’m singing. I used to sing this song for my girls when they were little. I just recorded it on my phone with an app for you all recently. Enjoy! Part of Your World (from The Little Mermaid) https://www.smule.com/sing-recording/1826154647_3755224429
I didn’t read any blogs until recently. I picked up a book by an author named Jenny Lawson, and it grabbed me. The first book I read of Jenny’s is the second one in her series of memoirs, Furiously Happy. If I ran into Jenny Lawson on the street or went to her famous indie book store, The Nowhere Book Shop in San Antonio, TX; I wouldn’t get all Stephen King Misery psycho Nurse Annie Wilkes on her and say anything creepy like “I’m your number one fan!” But I would graciously tell her she spurred on my creativity and thank her. Her ability to voice her truth in my language helped me move past my fear, doubt, and insecurity into a place of inspired confidence through laughter. Jenny’s words had an impact on me because of where I was in my life at the time that I picked up her book. It coincided with me coming to a close on a several-month battle with depression and a panic disorder that left me incapacitated for several months. Jenny Lawson is not a hero or superstar; she’s not a Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, or Elon Musk. She’s not Shakespeare or Ruth Bader Ginsburg; no, she’s a mom, wife, small business owner, woman fighting a battle with mental illness, and The Bloggess.
I have other people I admire who have shaped my life, but at this moment, this is the person whose voice has spoken to me. She’s not poetic or brilliant in her writing. She scratches lines out in her books and adds humorous lines over them, going against the better judgment of her publisher. She’s not exhaustingly fighting for a cause like other female authors I know these days who have gone beyond telling their story and decided to take over the world. I like Jenny’s style because she doesn’t seem to try to be all things to all people; she just is. (at the moment, watch this space; the fame demon may whisk her genuine nature away too). I like that she feels real and isn’t desperate to be a superstar. Most of all, I like how it feels to relate to her experiences, to understand her words, and to feel like you are reading the writings of a good friend who sees you. I have sent her a message on Twitter because she started following me (very cool), but she probably thinks I’m some creepy fan girl stocker. I’m not; I’m just Jeri from the block, also a mom, wife, and someone who has been wrestling with mental illness for a long time, trying to navigate around anxiety which has shut down some of my dreams and frozen me in my tracks, making it hard to relate to others, feel sure of the decisions I’m making and be comfortable in a room full of people. I encourage you to read her stuff. You may not see genius between the covers, but if you aren’t too much of a snob to laugh till you cry at the ridiculousness of life, you may just feel relief in knowing you’re not the only freaky person in the world and it’s ok.
Fully immersed in my little universe, I am unaware of the world around me. When I’m writing, I can sit down at 10 am, thinking I have hours to pen my truth in silence, and then suddenly my daughter walks in the door from school. I find it hard to imagine it’s 2 pm already and feel she has played a trick on me and come home from school early. Have you had that feeling? Have you experienced those times when you’ve been doing something you love and are so focused that the passing of time seems irrelevant and unnoticeable? If you have experienced this like me, you have possibly found your passion. I have had more than one in my life. Those passions are writing and reading, playing the piano, singing, rollerblading, hiking, running, and baton twirling.
This morning I invited a few people I love to share something they remember about me, and my sister accepted the challenge. She sent me a comment by text that sparked the idea for today’s blog entry. You see, during several of my full immersion moments while practicing my baton twirling, my sister was sitting on the outside looking in. Because I was laser-focused and determined to be the best, I tuned out everything and concentrated only on twirling. I was so determined to sharpen my skills I would practice with as little light as possible outside at night and depend on my timing and senses to feel when to snatch the spinning baton that was falling towards me out of the air. Sometimes I would miss, and often I would end up with a few bruises on my face, arms, and legs. I never felt the pain, though, because I was on a mission. I never noticed someone sitting there and had forgotten how often my sister was watching. I would never have imagined the feelings she had for me as she stared on at me feverish, laboring for perfection. The truth is, You don’t always know who’s watching you, and you can never be sure what they see. I have always looked up to my big sister, and the text she sent me following my request for a memory made me realize while I was stressing and striving to be my best, someone was standing right beside me who already thought I was.
I am 53 now, and the text from my sister reflects a memory she had of me when I was in my teens.
“Jeri, the only memory I can think of is when you were in high school, and you were head majorette. I would sit and watch you many, many evenings while you practiced your twirling. I was so amazed at how cool it was that you could do that so incredibly well and how hard you worked at it. I was so proud of you ❤️. I am still proud of you! You were a very talented person. Then and now!” T.A. (My sweet sister)
Except for you, you are the only thing holding you back. I hear this in my head when I read quotes like this, and I wonder, Is this 100% true? Maybe I’m the only thing keeping me from reaching my goals and fulfilling my dreams, obtaining love, happiness, contentment, spiritual well-being, and all of life’s creature comforts? Well, first of all, that’s a slightly extensive list, and I tend to overthink things. The quote above is motivational and, in the most simple terms, accurate. If I do what I think this quote is suggesting, “let go and let God,” which means letting go of all of the negative stuff in my life that’s blocking me like fear, anxiety, loneliness, and self-doubt and hand it over to him/her to hold while pursuing my purpose; I have the motivation and confidence to start over, draw a line in the sand and approach life from a new perspective. If I overthink letting go and starting over and what in the universe could stop me, my head spins. I don’t mean to be a negative Nellie, Karen, and let’s not forget Dick (it’s not just the women who annoy us people), but there are a few realistic items that would hold me back from letting go and starting over or make it pretty darn hard:
• losing the funding provided by my hard-working husband so that I can work a flexible job and write for virtually no money at all! (not everyone has that!).
• I have an eternal need to say precisely what I think all of the time. (Admittedly, I don’t always pick up on social cues and have a knack for taking things a bit too far. Even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, which includes doing good deeds and standing up for my rights and the rights of others; it never ends well).
• My anxiety and how socially awkward I feel inside when in an office environment or in a crowd of people socializing where I feel like I have to say anything and everything so there’s no dead air floating around. (I usually say something random and inappropriate and hear people say, “oh Jeri” in a tsk, tsk kind of way, not a surprising kind of way, and if they don’t say it, I see it in their eyes). Disclaimer: This usually leaves me with an uneasy feeling when departing people, and I’m never quite sure if we’re still friends or ever were.
• My children and husband. I wouldn’t let them go to start over. In fact, if we’re talking about things in the universe that could stop us, I would most likely jump in front of a rapidly moving meteor for them, and just like my previously mentioned habit of taking a stand for people and myself, I’m reasonably sure the meteor thing wouldn’t end well).
What I’m saying, I guess, is that looking at that beautiful sentiment above while heartwarming and encouraging makes me feel a bit prickly depending on what I’m considering letting go of and what I’m starting over. I am also confirming the fact that I totally overthink things.
Let’s get real for a minute. Living with someone with mental illness can be challenging. And though I state in most of my bios that I write about mental illness, I have skirted the issue. You see, talking about Mental Illness is one thing but admitting that you have a mental illness is quite another (I didn’t even put 2 and 2 together until about four months ago that this is what my label is, in my mind, only those crazy people over there are the ones with mental illness, what I have is a debilitating panic disorder and stuff; that’s not mental illness). I like to think of myself as an enigma, mentally and medically unique (which I’m actually not if you compare me to other people who have actual mental illness, and my doctor once said, “you’re a medical enigma”). When I was little, my mom told me I was faking my mental illness. Some kids fake having a cold or fever, and once when our middle daughter was seven, she pretended to throw up by mixing weet•bix, yogurt, and something green with water and splashed it all over her bed then called me in and said she couldn’t go to school because she threw up, which would have worked had her sister in the top bunk not witnessed her Julia Childs like skill of producing spew on-demand and called her out on it. Anyway, no, I didn’t fake for years the mental illness-induced psychosomatic stomach pains that left me in the fetal position for days on end, feeling like my insides were going to explode. We determined that I had issues of this kind after my dad had left, and I ended up in the hospital for a few nights at the age of 8, where they tested me for sinister stomach problems that only a pro could fake so well. I got to drink a pink barium milkshake and take a ride on a rotating table that rocked back and forth while an X-ray took photos of the nasty contents of my drink making its way through my intestines. There was no indication of appendicitis, gallstones, or a blockage (my mom would have been happy with this diagnosis as she attributed every illness to the fact that “you probably have to poop!”). After two days of wheelchair races, eating chocolate pudding, and being petrified when it was time for lights out in the children’s hospital ward, my mom picked me up. She was happy to see me but annoyed at the money wasted to find out I only had a urinary tract infection.
In all honesty, I have never felt like I have been faking anything. Whatever each one of us has going on in our mind or body is genuine, whether anyone else can understand it or not. My husband says I am like a thoroughbred. I am tough, powerful, and beautiful, but I injure easily. When I imagine what it would be like to be married to me, I think it must be hard living with someone like me; I understand because I know and have lived with others who have mental issues or have battled with addiction or abuse. Paul is a trooper of the highest honor. When we first started going out, I remember discussing the kind of people he had dated in his past. He gave me a quick rundown and highlighted the crazy girl he had gone out with who was from OHIO. he said, “that chick was a psycho. Come to think of it; I have dated a couple of whackos from there. I don’t know why it seems like the messed-up ones are from Ohio, at least in my experience.” Then he asked me where I was born. I said, OHIO. As a result of this conversation, every time Paul would spend the night, I told him the medication I took in the morning was a prescription vitamin to replace some stuff in my body that I was low on. What I was saying in code was that I had a prescription that I took to replace chemicals that were missing in my brain. I had to tell him the real deal at some point but waited until he was sufficiently in love with me before I fessed up. He took it pretty well. He hadn’t experienced anything strange, yet so we were all good. As time went on, he learned about my acute panic disorder, anxiety, depression, recent recovery from anorexia (it was too severe yet), and obsessive nature. He always seemed to sail right through my episodes, and after a while, we learned to work through the tough stuff together.
Paul and I have been together for 28 years, and as long as I’m taking my medication, I might have one or two episodes total in an entire year. Looking back, we have had some big adventures on the wild Jeri ride. Earlier this evening, we were sitting on the couch, and I said, “you must feel traumatized every time one of my weird and scary episodes rears its head.” We never know what kind of glitch my body or mind will have when I have an attack. I felt for the crap he has had to work through with me over the decades and admire his patience. Not many people outside of my children, husband, mother, and a couple of siblings have witnessed these terrifying moments, and if they have, they had no idea what was happening. Paul thought about what I said then revealed a tiny secret to me that I was unaware of that helps him get through these moments in our life. He said, “no, I don’t feel traumatized; I feel fine. I truly forget everything, the next day, I wake up, and it’s like nothing ever happened.” I was honestly surprised and almost felt let off the hook a bit, “oh, so you’re like Dory, you know HI I’M DORY, the loveable fish with short term memory loss from Finding Nemo Dory?” “Yeah, exactly. I think that’s why you and I have lasted so long.” Thank God for Paul’s poor memory due to his adversity to drama, or I would be a childless crazy cat lady living in a cardboard box in the woods somewhere singing Memory from Cats over and over again like a warped record.
Lately, I’ve been blogging, and there are several days where I sit in silence, just rattling around inside my head digging up memories or imagining the future coming up with things to write. Some days it flows easily, and others, I feel mentally drained. I’m writing in a 31-day blog challenge, and at the moment, I have missed 4 out of 22 days. I’m not going to punish myself for the missed days or fret because I didn’t do it perfectly. I’m just going to carry on and do my best.
I have been struggling with what to post and what to keep for my memoir. There is some very personal stuff that could help others out there but also so emotional. I’m not sure I want to be that exposed on the World Wide Web. I’m sensitive to my family and whether they’ll be prepared for the things I’ve written. I’m finding it hard to speak my truth without shocking or potentially hurting those I love; It feels selfish. Most of my Blog posts are witty or light-hearted and, at times, informational, but now that I am in a secure routine in my writing, I feel I have more profound items I want to share. It’s hard to know what space to do this in.
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.
If there is anything, I know way too much about its singing. I am an expert in the area of vocal training; even though, at the moment, I am not in the best vocal shape. To be honest, I am a bit rusty because I haven’t practiced what I am about to share with you daily. But this is not about me; it’s about you. So you want to sing! Before you decide to quit your job to go on the road and sell out Madison Square Garden 10 times over, you need to learn some basics. The first and most important thing you need to work on as a budding vocal master is your stance, posture, and breathing. Here are three things I do when I start a voice lesson with my students.
• Loosen up: Place your knees shoulder-width apart and bend them slightly. Loosen your hips and rock them side to side. Relax your torso. Shake off the tension of the day and kind of bounce lightly from the knees. Relaxation is necessary so that you can expand your muscles as needed to create sound.
• Stand tall: Now that you’re relaxed, I want you to look in a full-length mirror (if you have one) and look at your posture. Without tensing up your body, stand tall (don’t lock your knees or tighten your gluteus Maximus, or for you smaller people minimus, lol). Stand tall as you look in the mirror and picture a string running out the top of your head. Pull it up with your hand. Keep your body soft and lift your chest, keep your shoulders down, tuck your butt under and still keep your knees slightly bent. This stance is necessary for support when you’re singing.
• Breathe like a baby: Standing in the correct position, place the palms of your hands on your belly, just below your belly button. You are going to take a breath, but not the kind of breath that you take into your chest that raises your pecks. You are going to take a deep diaphragm engaging breath. Drop your jaw slightly and breathe in as if you are giving a big sigh. You should feel no tension in your body with this breath, and your lower abdomen should expand. (If you lifted your chest, you didn’t do it right). Picture watching a baby breathe. If the standing method is not working for you, lay on your back. Place your hands on your lower abdomen and take in a sighing breath. Your chest will be still, and your hands will rise and fall with each breath. Remember the sleeping baby? When you watch them breathe, their stomach is actively going up and down. Connect with the lower part of your belly; this is where you want your air to land. Getting this down before you go any further is vital because your breath is what supports your sound.
That’s all I’m going to give you for now. Practice this for a week and watch this space for the next steps. Comment or IM me with questions; I’m happy to help you troubleshoot these basics. Remember trying something new or fine-tuning an old skill and breaking bad habits takes time. Do the best you can, have fun, relax and be gentle with yourself and you’ll be singing before you know it. Who knows, someday you may be the next up-and-coming Facebook karaoke superstar!
If I had a theme song, what would it be? Boy, that’s a hard one for someone who loves music as much as I do to answer, especially if you’re asking me to choose just one. My theme song would have to be a music mash-up. I would pick a song that might say I light up the room when I enter it, only because that’s what my mom used to tell me. I loved that woman. If my theme song were to honor how she thought of me, I would choose the song I played the piano and sang in my first solo performance at Naples Park Elementary School in my 4th-grade choir class by Debbie Boone, “You light up my life.”
Or maybe my theme song is what I hear in my head as I perform my duties as a mother. I shout out orders to my captain/husband while leading and keeping my little soldiers in line like Wonder Woman in 1984, fighting the war to end all wars. Picture me walking down the hallway slamming the doors on my children’s messy bedrooms and kicking toys, school books, and clothes out of my path, turning my back on the evil mess. I walk in slow motion shaking my head with a cocky grin followed by a pyrotechnic explosion erupting in a blaze at the end of the hallway behind me! That theme song would be by Hans Zimmer composed for “Wonder Woman 1984”.
My theme song could also show my tender side—the side of me where I love deeply, wholeheartedly, and with lifelong devotion. My husband is a happy lovable teddy bear but not big on saying constant sappy I love you’s. I’ve grown accustomed to his minimalist expression of the L-word, but every once in a while, I pull out the big guns and play the song that we did our first wedding dance, too, to see if I can get some mushiness out of the man. Now that I think of it, maybe this is more of a theme song for our marriage, not me. Anyway, honey, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”
Then there are those times when I want to be with the girls, my sisters, nieces, and friends. This domestic Goddess still contains a lot of party energy that rarely gets tapped into these days. When I get to let my hair down and jettison some of what’s left in this pent-up party tank, I dance like no one is looking (or at least I hope no one’s looking). Yeah, that’s right, one glass of wine or two gin and tonics, and I’m a madwoman dancing on the lowest coffee table I can find (because I just can’t hop up on a bar as I used to and I would be doing this in a living room at this point because I can’t stay awake long enough to reach the rowdy wee small hours of the morning at a raging night club where you would actually see people dancing on a real bar). Come on, just picture me all punked out and off my face tearing it up to my fun side theme song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper, or better yet, “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse (RIP). (It’s hard to imagine, but this really happens, maybe once every ten years).
And finally, there’s my day-to-day Jeri theme song, one that keeps me going, boosts my confidence, and reminds me that I am all that I need to be for me and no more. The song that I can sing scream and cry out all at once, and it awakens any part of me that may feel weak or need a helping hand. Yes, this is my newfound anthem and real-life theme song. I love the chorus,
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em out I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me Look out ’cause here I come And I’m marching on to the beat I drum I’m not scared to be seen I make no apologies, this is me”
Yep, the song that suits me and my life most at the moment is “This is me” sung by Keala Settle and The Greatest Showman Ensemble. And on that powerful note, I drop the mic, and I’m out.
You can find my music mash-up songs on YouTube by clicking the bottom links.
I never even knew there was a National Pack Rat day until today, May 17th. I am not a Pack Rat. Most of the time, you’ll find me throwing out or giving away the contents of my home regularly. I don’t shop for knick•knacks or Bric-à-Brac, and I usually “make do, use it up, or do without,” so I don’t know why I constantly have so much stuff to give away. Piles of stuff and things seem to grow over time in my house. I remember when my girls were in elementary school. Their rooms would get so messy you couldn’t see the floor at times. I wanted to freak out at the sight of it. Looking at the clutter just confused the heck out of me. I would collect everything off the floor, filling up one or two black trash bags, THE BIG ONES! The girls could buy items out of the bags back by doing odd jobs around the house, or the contents would go to charity. Most of the time, it went to charity. They didn’t care about the stuff. The weird thing is that I would hardly take them shopping for anything, and in 3 months, the toys and clothes in their room would again rise like dough and overflow out the door. If I weren’t trying to throw stuff out, I would tidy and tuck things away over and over again. I can’t think straight if the house is cluttered. Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., psychologist and author of “High Octane Women says, “Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed.” it’s so true! I didn’t realize this was even a thing until eight years ago when I heard another mom talking about how confused she felt when her house was a mess. Have you experienced this? Your house is dirty, and at the same time, there is tension, and you can’t think straight? Do you find it easier to organize your thoughts, relax and get things done efficiently when everything is in its place? I do, that is me to a tee. Thank God getting rid of clutter stress is just a house clean away. Yes, I’m pretty sure I have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), among other issues. My husband and kids know when I start losing my patients that they should either clear the area so I can go full white tornado on my living space and scrub like Mister Cleans evil stepmother or grab a vacuum, mop, and duster and start working with me. Either way, there will be no relaxing when mom has messy, crazy brain.
On top of wanting things clean, I’ve never really been a collector. Having less means there is less to dust, wash and put away. I’ve gotten used to a minimalist life. When I started moving countries, I learn not to hold onto material things. Whatever you have in one country, you can probably get in the other. There’s also the fact that it’s costly to ship items from one country to another, so it’s better to sell what you have where you are and buy something new later. I developed the habit of getting rid of clutter after moving from the US to Germany and then the US to NZ and back twice! After you do this a few times, you learn to buy only the essentials. In the back of my mind, I’m always wondering when I’m going to pick up and move again. Moving is not a plan; it’s just a learned behavior, ingrained in me over time. This house, which I hope is our final destination for a VERY LONG TIME, is my 26th house in 53 years. No, I am not a military brat; my constant moving was due to opportunities and circumstances in my life that either couldn’t be passed up or avoided. The first time I moved, I was seven years old. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to stay in one house for decades and collect things; that just hasn’t been my MO. No, what happens with my things every time we have moved is that boxes and rubber-made bins get left all over the world, hoping that someday someone will be able to retrieve them. It’s like I leave tiny Jeri time capsules everywhere I go.
Some things have been important for me to save, like my children’s baby crib and the matching sleigh bed and dresser. Those are in my shed waiting for my girls to have babies so I can put the furniture in the guestroom and the girls can snuggle up in that little bit of nostalgia from when they were young. I would also never lose track of my books! I have some of the most amazing books that I’ve been collecting since about 16 yrs old. I’d say I’m more of a bookworm than a pack rat. Besides the baby furniture and books, I must have my photos. I have pictures coming out of my ears, online, in albums and boxes, and on external hard drives and memory sticks. I have photos all over the place, and they have traveled all around the world with me. If our house were on fire, it would be fair to say that I would be lugging giant plastic bins of books and photos out of the flaming destruction while simultaneously grabbing my children, husband, and dogs, of course.
So National Pack Rat day is not a day I celebrate. But hey, let’s celebrate the collectors and hoarders out there. Someone has to hold on to all of that stuff so that some life form 2000 year’s from now can dig up our happy meal toys, Tervis tumblers, and plastic patio furniture to gain a clear understanding of our culture. I like to think that my house or one of my rubber-made bins will be found several layers under the earth’s surface by some great archaeologist. He’ll carefully open the bin and find my dusty old books and a photo or two and think, “Wow, that woman had very little clutter in her life; she must have been one of the more level-headed clear thinkers of her community.” No, that’s not really a deep-seated hope of mine. The reality is I just function better with less stuff.