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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever felt so lost and bored that you googled yourself trying to find the person you used to be? Decades ago, before you became who you are now? The person before computers or social media. The person before rent, bills, marriage, mortgage, and motherhood? The person filled with dreams and a vision. Did you find them? Did you see that person you keep hearing about when you run into a friend from the past? Did you find an old conversation about you archived in the depths of the digital ether world? No? Search came up empty? Not there? And if you did find yourself do you recognize the pixelated person starting back at you from the screen?
Life moves on, and for some, our blueprint changes so much we are almost unrecognizable to the outside world. After a while, you may not even be sure you know if you’re an authentic version of yourself. This lost feeling is unacceptable but true for so many of us. The only person that can pull you out of that rabbit hole is YOU!
I am only 53, and I have heard that everything vibrant and stunning about me is an ancient memory. I hear these things repeatedly said to my daughters. “Your mother used to be a babe,” “oh my God, you were such an amazing singer,” “oh, you used to write the most captivating stories!” I’m over it. I smile and listen, thinking, are you serious? I’m standing right here”! “Am I invisible? I can actually hear you!” Hey, newsflash, I’m still alive and kicking, not for everyone and a friend to anyone. I have three powerful daughters, and my husband still loves me. I’ve done “stuff and things!” I’ve been a place or two! Ok, it’s time for a reboot. I’m rewriting the old me with a new me. Creative, carefree, and indulgent. Follow me, come along for the ride, don’t come along for the ride. Like me or don’t like me, It’s your choice. Not to be rude or anything, but it took me 53 years to be able to say, I don’t care! I’m going to jump in the driver’s seat and own this bitch. I’m tired of riding along down everyone else’s road. Get out of my way. I’m about to open a can of crazy and unashamed on the world.