Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Steamboat

I stepped into the ski boots as the outfitter sized me up and made adjustments. Looking around the store, I saw women who looked my age and size and felt confident about trying to ski. Lessons were all booked up, but I knew Paul and Laurel would guide me. We all piled our skis into the rental car and headed to our accommodations with excitement.

In the morning, everyone was buzzing and ready to get their ski on. I was shaking and couldn’t stop talking, saying things like, “Boy, I’m so nervous,” “what’s the worst that could happen? If I can’t ski, we just take them back,” and so on. We dressed in stiff ski boots and layers of warm clothes and made our way out to the powder-covered green trail just behind our townhouse. As a stampede of skiers swished by, I stood looking down the hill and shook with fear. I moved my skis slowly across the slope while Laurel instructed me to pizza and dig in. She was firm but patient and gave me great advice, but my mind wouldn’t let me get past my fear. I needed a less steep hill to learn on, maybe a flat one. Ok, not a flat one but perhaps a tiny bump. I made it across the trail, and now she wanted me to go down. She and Paul called for me, nudging me gently to come on. I drifted back across the trail again towards them and fell into the drift on the side. Like a wounded soldier (who wasn’t wounded at all yet), I told them to please go on without me; I pleaded, “I’ll figure it out on my own.” Paul said, “no, we’re not doing that; besides, how are you going to get up?” He had a point. I popped my skis off and got up to try again. Laurel said, “we’re not leaving you on the slope alone; we don’t do that; now come on, you asked me to help you!” I stood there frozen in fear for a while and convinced her to go on with the family. Paul coaxed me to press on, and once again, I made it across the trail to the drift on the side and FELL OVER!!! I reached my hand up, thinking Paul could easily pull me out, and as he tugged at me, my right little finger and wrist popped. I yelled out in pain but had no idea I was injured. My fingers nestled in the glove were cold and remained that way through the day. I popped my skis off again to get up. Paul could see I was over it. Putting my skis on his shoulder, he skated off down the mountain, saying, “I’ll see you at the bottom.” I was perfectly fine with that, so I trudged down the slopes in my ski boots until I found a seat at the base, where I regrouped and tried to get my head around this skiing thing.

I watched the people on the bunny slopes (which were taken up by the ski school, so there was barely room to learn on your own) and committed to trying again. I walked my skis to the top of the slight slope and made perfect pizza and French fries. Digging my right foot inward, I turned left in a perfect circle, and then, digging my left foot in, I did a perfect circle right. I put my knees together and, in pizza position, came to a stop. I was getting there and had the skills I needed. I was still scared to go down bigger hills, though. There was either the bunny slope that I had mastered or the preview, and I would have to get on the lift to attempt that. I just wasn’t ready, and there was no in-between. I had been battling at it in my mind all day. I wanted to ski so bad and didn’t want to give up. As the sky grew dim and daylight disappeared, I took off my skis, grabbed a Bloody Mary at the bar, and decided to sleep on what I had accomplished and pray for a sign from God about whether I should press on with the skis or trade them in for snowshoes. As I slept, my hand began to throb. I rolled over, catching my small finger that had popped earlier in the day in the blankets. I woke with a shocking pain that shot to my wrist. Unsure whether my finger was sprained or broken, I dozed back off to sleep.

The morning sun shone through the window, illuminating the pines on the snowy hillside; they were dusted glittery white and stood majestically against the cold air. I made myself a cup of coffee, and as I went to grab the handle, that painful electric shock shot through the small finger on my right hand again. I now realized that I couldn’t bend it, and it hurt like hell. The painful finger was my sign from God. How could I hold a ski pole? Snowshoes it was. Paul and I went to the Ski Haus and made the switch, then headed back to the slopes at Christie. I had my shoes and poles still but didn’t need to grip them very tight as I was only walking. With my small right finger pointed straight, I squeezed my other four around the handle of the pole and made my way happily across the snow in my new cool shoes. I could go anywhere, and I did.

I ended up covering a total of 12 miles of the mountain range in those snowshoes. Word of advice, if you can’t ski and the rest of your group can, that’s ok. Don’t sit in the lodge drinking and sulking over your lack of ability! Slap on some snowshoes, take the gondola to the top of the mountain, and take in all the beauty that surrounds you. People stopped me as they skied by saying, “My wife and I have always wanted to snowshoe. How do you like it? How do you find the trails? How far have you gone? Where do I get them?” I suddenly felt like I belonged on that mountain as much as my skiing/snowboarding family members did. I was proud of myself for the steep inclines I had trekked, braving the solitude of the trails and just plain moving instead of caving in. If I had not gotten those shoes, I would have missed so much. I would have been bound to the lodges wishing I could climb into and shake up the snow globe world just beyond the window—what a fantastic adventure. And now I’m hooked on snowshoeing. If I ever get to go skiing again, I will rent skis once more and prebook a lesson. I will ski; I have not crossed that off my bucket list. I want to do it. I may not master it as Laurel or my hubby have, but I will at least gain enough skills to keep up with the pack on a slow run.

Our days were full-on in Steamboat. If we weren’t in the snow, we were walking in town. We rang in 2022 in front of the fire in our townhouse. We played card games, sticks, and seven hilarious rounds of Scategories. We grazed on laurel’s excellent seven-layer dip and drank fizzy water. As the burning wood popped in the fireplace, fireworks exploded with a colorful boom over the mountain visible just outside our window. This trip was perfect. We laughed and played, growing closer by the minute. We were the Bruntons and Satterfield’s, and as two families traveling together, we gelled so well we effortlessly became one. Our time together made for the best New Year I think I have ever had.

We had learned some things about dining in Steamboat Springs. When approaching a restaurant, always ask these three things: 1) Are you fully staffed? 2) Are you serving a full or limited menu? 3) Will WE be cooking our food? Here was our experience with dining out. Restaurant #1 didn’t get a drink of water for at least 15 minutes after being seated. Allan had a feeling we were doomed and said, “man, if I haven’t been approached with at least water in the first 5 minutes, I consider leaving.” We talked about it and considered it but, for some reason, decided to stay. We waited for an hour and a half for our food, and though Allan had the best General Tso chicken of his life, the rest of our meals sucked. We saw people come in the door waiting to be seated and gave them a wave of warning to leave and save themselves from the doom of limited staff and lousy cooking skills. Restaurant #2 We ordered Thai and arrived to pick it up an hour later. I sat inside in a line of 20 people or so long and watched two women work the entire restaurant while three chefs slaved away SLOWLY in the kitchen. Laurel joined me off and on inside as I sat there. More and more people packed the front foyer of the establishment looking for their orders placed and paid for online. We arrived there around 6:45 on our way home from food shopping. Time ticked on, and Laure took the food home for the guys to put away, and upon her return, I was still waiting. The Thai place closed at 9 pm, and being the second to last people sitting there at 9:05 pm, our brown paper bag of food was finally passed to us. I’m not sure about everyone else in our group, but I had waited too long to eat; I was no longer hungry. I drank a few sips and took a couple of bites of my Tom Kha soup, and headed to bed. Restaurant #3 we had a 7:45 pm reservation for this place. It was a western steakhouse. We were hungry and looking forward to a dining experience with superb service. Imagine our surprise when our slow talkin rough and tumble server (who appeared to work in a hardware store by day and waited tables by night) explained that we would be choosing our food from the VISUAL MENU out of the meat case. Ok, first off, aren’t all menus visual? Don’t you have to see the menu to read it? No, he wanted us to eye up our cut of meat, beef, fish, pork, etc., and it would be put on our plate and handed to us at the meat case by a man who has worked it for 26 years. We were all surprised that after 26 years, our butcher seemed to have difficulty understanding how to input our purchase/order on the POS system in front of him. He squinted and asked us repeatedly what we had asked for, making sure to get it right. We grabbed our meat and headed to the indoor barbecue grill. We followed directions on how long to cook our meat off a poster pinned to the wall. We chose seasonings and grabbed giant tongs to cook. THERE WAS NO OPTION FOR A CHEF TO COOK IT FOR US! What? Our group experienced various emotions, shock, anger, confusion, hunger, and delirious hysteria. We gave into this weird and unexpected experience and had fun with it. You couldn’t complain if you didn’t like the food because, well, you cooked it. The restaurant was packed. And we were entertained by those around us as we watched their faces while entering into the ruggedness of this entirely male-staffed western dining experience. We all went home full and confused but happy. Restaurant #4 Allan and I popped onto a patio by the slopes for a quick snack. As we were seated, the server said that only half the menu was available because they were understaffed. We are living in crazy times. Everyone was struggling at the height of ski season with skeleton crews and limited menus. Was this COVID induced? I saw an affirmation posted on Facebook that said, “the world is understaffed at the moment, so be kind to the ones who showed up.” It summed up perfectly what we experienced. We were in a luxury world with minimal instant gratification. Everyone we encountered fell into the pace of things as we did because if you didn’t want to wait, you should stay home and cook for yourself. Or wait, no, we WENT OUT and COOKED FOR OURSELVES. I don’t know, times are confusing, and we keep trying to

find normal, but it seems these minor changes to our expectations are now standard. I didn’t mind it, and it gave us a lot to talk about on our trip.

So despite my lack of skiing skills, the sprained little finger, the below zero temperatures, and near failed meals, we loved it. Because for me, it wasn’t about being the best on the slopes or having a 5-star dining experience; it was about our people. We made unforgettable memories together as friends/family. We watched our kids bond and bloom on the slopes and over a deck of cards. And we thanked God every chance we got for the many blessings he gives us every minute of every day. And that my friends was Steamboat.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Snow Days

I’ve never been to Colorado, but after the flight we’re boarding, I’ll be able to check that off my list. When I was in high school, I watched all of the affluent families take off to ski in the winter and wondered if I would ever be one of those people. We’re not rich, but today we are headed for the slopes. I have only attempted to ski once. I was in my 20’s fit and slim. And after 3 hours of a ski lesson on a bunny hill at Innsbruck, Austria (which I swear was not a real bunny hill, it was steep!), my friend’s instructor dad suggested I rent a sled. I was an epic failure on skis. However, I am keen to try again. Not quite as fit but maybe a bit crazier. I’m praying my sweet friend Laurel who has volunteered to teach me, will have the patients of a saint. I want to do this. I tried getting back on my rollerblades a few blogs back, and if you remember, I ended up giving them away. I hope since my feet will be attached to the ground on skis, I’ll have better luck this time. Pray for me.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Everything is still

Now that our romantic weekend in Manhattan is over, everything is still and quiet. Zoe has returned to school, Paul is hard at work, and I am working hard to get my feet on the ground with my new digital marketing business @MRKTcommunications. What I really need is work! So if anyone needs someone to manage the online presence of your business or organization, I’m your gal! (small shameless plug for the new brand).

I have been sitting here looking at the photos from our whirlwind weekend in the big apple and am so thankful to have had that ALONE time with my husband. It’s so important, especially when the other distractions of life sweep us in different directions. I’m savoring the crazy late-night drinks with Karaoke, walks through Chelsea dreaming of living in one of those stunning row houses, fantastic pasta at Zia Maria’s, people watching in central park and the beer garden, standing atop the One World Observatory, watching police dogs pose for Christmas photos in the Oculus, cruising on the ferry to see lady liberty and Ellis island and snuggling in bed watching the 100-foot wave and A Boy Called Christmas. And we can’t forget our last morning where we trained down to the Brooklyn Bridge and took a sunrise stroll over to Dumbo where we had the most fantastic coffee and breakfast at Butler, then zoomed up to grand central station for a photo op and then hoofed it to see the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Yes, we had one of the most magical times. The best part of the trip was watching the amazement on Paul’s face every time we turned a corner. This man was a trooper. I had him walking 10-14 miles a day for four days. When we left.our house I told him we were driving through Florida to NC to hike and camp. I wish you could have seen the look of confusion on his face when I pulled into the Fort Myers airport long-term parking lot. It was great! He was so relieved we weren’t going hiking because he’s not a fan. We may not have hiked the wilderness but we did urban hike. He says urban hiking is excellent because you have distractions to keep your mind occupied. I agree, but nothing beats the lush green and earthy smell of the trails.

So I’m home, looking at the floor because it needs sweeping again, getting ready to make my bed and get my 10,000 steps in; then I plan to practice some singing and do some more writing. Everything is still, but I can’t stop moving; my mind doesn’t let me for too long. Oh, and hey, I’ve lost 12 lbs in 6 weeks with Noom! So that movement is getting me positive results. I’m loving life.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Manhattan’s a crazy place

It’s almost 4 am and Paul, and I have been out bar hopping in the village. We walked for miles only to find that every jazz bar we hoped to pop into was closed. We ended up at a fantastic karaoke bar where everyone was kind full of life and song. In each place we have visited in Manhattan, a facemask, proof of complete vaccination, and ID have been required. They are cautious here, and most of the people on the streets wear masks. I had to ask Paul to put his on became he is accustomed to the non-mask-wearing ways of the south.

We met a group of fun ladies from texas, and I had the opportunity to sing with an amazing man from here in the city. I have had so much fun. Despite dreading laying down to bed because of the spins I’m sure I will experience (too many gin and tonics), I can chalk tonight up to a beautiful memory.

I love Manhattan. The people are welcoming and kind, and there is a buzz of life around every corner. I have left Paul in bed sleeping and taken a 3:45 am walk. The city is still, and the only movement is the trash collectors. The front desk of the Sonder is quiet, and most people are sleeping in the city that never sleeps.

I am looking forward to another exciting day with Paul in the big apple and am thankful for the time we have here.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Up up and away again

I’m off again, this time with my husband, Paul. Zoe and I returned from NZ just eight days ago, and I’m sitting high above the clouds once more, headed towards a weekend of excitement and romance. Paul and I had been apart for 5 MONTHS!! We need time to reconnect and get in sync. I told him we were taking a driving trip through Florida and stopping way up in NC to go hiking. I thought telling him we had a 14 hr drive ahead of us would cause dread and throw him off my actual plan. We left the house at 4:45 am and headed north on 75. Zoe called us to tell us there was a heavy fog advisory. We drove through the thick haze and listened to music singing along to Ed Sheeran and Paul Simon. Paul relaxed in the passenger seat next to me and wrapped up some last-minute business calls; despite the early hour of the day, his guys were awake and on their way to work.

I had packed all of Paul’s bags, so he was not fully aware of what to expect or where we were headed. He did, however, know he had to throw on his jeans and wear comfy shoes for heaps of hiking. He knew we had headed someplace cold. The thick socks and winter coat that I toted along with us were a dead giveaway. Zoe called us on Facetime on my phone, and Sabrina, Molly, and Annabelle called us on Pauls. It was 11:30 pm in NZ, but the girls were winding down from a movie night and drinks with friends, so they were still awake and eager to get in on the excitement of my surprise.

We drove through the heavy fog, and when I saw the airport exit sign, I said I had to go to the bathroom. I asked Paul if there was some place to stop before you got to the airport and then missed it. Then I told him I had to turn around and pull into long-term parking. At this point, he was on to me and said, “ well, you will probably have to go to the bathroom in the airport or maybe even on the plane.” I pulled up our boarding passes on my phone wallet and asked him to read them for me. He said, “RSW to Newark, WERE GOING TO NEW YORK?” The girls were still with us on the two phones watching his reaction on face time. Paul reacted to the big reveal in his excellent laid-back way, slowly and calmly saying, “ wow, cool, so we’re going to NY.” Sabrina laughed at his chill expression. Typical dad.

We are in mid-flight, snuggled in our seat side by side, looking down at the scattering of clouds that cover the hills and winding roads on the face of the earth below. The smell of pretzels and biacoff cookies fills the cabin. And the toddlers in front of me peek through the cracks of the seats singing and kicking around with energy and youthful bliss. It’s a beautiful morning, the seat belt sign is off, and it’s smooth sailing—a perfect start for the weekend to come

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Home again

Yesterday I felt terrible. I walked around my neighborhood and felt rubbery and disoriented. I was trying hard to stay awake until at least 8 pm. Jet lag didn’t seem to hit Zoe, but for some reason, I always suffer more coming back to the states than when I go to NZ. Man, we were away for a little over 1/3rd of a year. That is crazy.

I was satisfied with the length of time I got to spend with my girls while away so much that none of us even cried when Zoe and I left for the airport. I found it unusual because I’m most of the time a blithering bawling mess. I know we will be back, though. I’m back in sunny Naples and so happy to sleep in my bed, snuggle my husband and play with our dogs.

Zoe’s friends have not left her side since the first day we returned. It’s fantastic to see. We are blessed with love, family, and friends on two continents. We travel between two of the most desired tourist destinations in the world. Both places are beautiful and have beaches and that, my dear, is a must for me. I am, however, really missing the hills, views, and random hiking trails of NZ. I woke up this morning wondering where I can drive to jump on a great hiking trail to explore but can’t be bothered traveling. SERIOUSLY! I am all traveled out at the moment.

Today I’ll unpack my bags and store my luggage until next week when we head out for another wee adventure. Watch this space.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Noom?

Since I’ve been in NZ, I have grown accustomed to taking 1/2 marathon length walks and hiking every trail I come across. This is reminiscent of my early days in Nashville, before our big move to this country in 2002. With every step, I’ve explored and found places my husband hadn’t even been to, and he grew up here. The bushwalks and urban hiking have been the highlight of my time while visiting the City of Sails. My walks are most enjoyable because it’s been with our daughters and my close NZ friends who share my passion for the outdoors. With all of my recent activity, I have firmed up more than ever in the last five years, and my endurance has grown very strong. My current fitness has made me more positive about myself and my ability to get back into fighting-fit shape.

One morning about three weeks ago, I was looking at Facebook, and a photo of a friend popped up. She is someone I admire for her work and strength as a single mother. And I always felt body-positive beside her because we were both beautiful, voluptuous women. Her face popped up in my feed, but I had to enlarge it to make sure it was her. I haven’t seen her for over 18 months, and she has changed. She is THIN; I mean, she doesn’t even look like the same person, thin, but in a stunning happy, healthy way. I scanned my friend’s Facebook account photos to make sure it was her. I went back a year and found the voluptuous version of her and then flipped through her images, watching her shrink as time progressed to the present day. I Read posts to see if she had been Ill, and there was no indication of anything sinister. And then I realized she had made some changes to the way she approaches food. I sat in silence and overwhelming jealousy, envy, and self-pity. Very unattractive character traits that probably contribute to weight gain. I had the wind knocked out of me for some reason. I was disappointed in myself despite my recent progress and personal fitness success. I thought, “shit, I want to lose weight like that! I eat healthy! WHYYYYYYY!!!?” I pondered that I take meds for my Panic Disorder that make me happily put weight on, and I accepted that. It’s a thing I have to live with; I get it. But I didn’t stop there.

I messaged my friend and said, “wow, you look wonderful. Keep up the good work!” She responded with, “Noom aided by Covid shutdown, which kept me from restaurants.” Noom? This is the third incredibly shrinking friend I have heard of using this method to make healthy changes in their life. I did some research and after finding info on NOURISH by WebMD ( https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/noom-diet) which stated, “Noom’s Healthy Weight Program is a comprehensive wellness plan, with food, exercise, and mental health aspects built-in. The idea is to change your behaviors so that you not only take off the weight but maintain the weight loss long-term.” I committed to trying it; what do I have to lose besides 75 lbs or 34 KG, right?

Well, I’m exactly 14 days in, and I’ve lost 4 lbs; That’s 2 lbs a week. I feel good, and it’s not stressful or restrictive. It’s output = input with support and a course to reprogram your psychological approach and relationship with food. Anyone who knows me knows my shape has been a battle, and just when I decided that it didn’t matter if I was slim just as long as I was fit, my friend popped up and reminded me to try harder.

So I am. The reason I want to weigh less is so that I’m agile and move easily and quickly. I want to live a long mobile life and be able to roll on the floor and hike mountains with my someday grandchildren. I also owe it to myself to feel and be the best version of myself I can be for myself. So, Noom? At the moment, hell yeah, Noom. Watch this space as this is another attempt in many.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

The Pacific is calling

It’s crazy to think about how long we have been in NZ. We had intended to stay six weeks and instead planted ourselves here for four and a half months. The thought of going home at this point feels strange. Our youngest girl and I have gotten into a rhythm here in our home away from home, and we can’t imagine being without my middle and oldest daughter. I’m in two minds over returning home to America. Not because I don’t want to go home to my lovely husband, extended family, dogs, and bed, but because it will be hard to leave Sabrina and Molly here. When our three girls are all together, they seem to complete each other and at the same time make each other crazy. It’s a family thing; most people get that. I keep picturing us packing our stuff, driving to the airport, and kissing them goodbye as we depart. It’s a depressing thought. I will, however, leave with the peace of mind that they are thriving in school, their friendships, and work. And they are surrounded by family that loves them in a beautiful, safe land across the water. The Pacific is calling Zoe and Me home, and it’s time to get my head around it and accept the fact that we are leaving.

This visit has given us so much as a family. Our youngest needed her sisters, and my heart needed to feel them close. I needed to heal my mind and recalibrate. The 18 months we were apart were gut-wrenching. The following separation won’t be for so long, and we know now that we need to make plans for the future where our complete family unit is involved. This trip has allowed me to formulate a clearer picture of how we will manage the logistics of our bi-continental family.

I am incredibly thankful that we have spent time with my father-in-law and the girls’ granddad. He is precious to us, and every memory we can make with him is priceless. I only wish I could have brought his son with me. Paul is dying to get over here to visit his father and extended family. He’s keenly aware of his dad’s age, and he is feeling the weight on his heart of not being able to get to him. He has been busy working while we have been having fun. I owe my man big!

Anyway, in the last 12 days here, I will be taking stock of the priceless friendships I have here and the memories I’ve made with the girls and limited extended family. We wish we could have seen more are of the people we love and miss but, well…COVID. In reality, the primary goal was to be with Sabrina and Molly, and thanks to the COVID isolation, we had their undivided attention. I can’t complain about that!

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

In The Stillness

It’s been two weeks since my last post as a blogger; that’s a big gap between writings for me. It’s been a strange time. It is for everyone here in NZ and around the entire globe. The covid lockdown has left me in a mental fog and, at the same time, opened my eyes. I’m finding that the lack of stimulation from others in the world outside my family unit is stifling my creativity yet forcing me to think deeper and longer. I’m inspired to write by new conversations or activities; there has been little of that. Despite this, I have been amazingly fortunate to be with all 3 of our girls. Many of us cling to our birth or chosen families. And some have been torn apart. I’ve found the stillness and time to bond on a deeper level than ever with mine. We have watched movies, grabbed coffees, lounged around, celebrated, studied, laughed, cried, walked, and ran. We’ve been fortunate to hash out and begin healing lifelong issues that the chaos of the world’s continual stimulation masks. Forced to face the head-on problems that may have pulled us apart in the future, we have grown together.

Stillness forces us to look at ourselves with nowhere to run or hide. It allows us to check-in and acknowledge ourselves, run a physical, emotional, and mental diagnostic. I have been in a prolonged state of stillness on this visit to my home away from home between NZ and the US. A handful of scattered socially distanced outdoor encounters with those I love leave me feeling thankful and emotional. And though our interactions have been limited and short, the energy of being in their presence has been much needed. Just seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those outside our bubble offers rejuvenation and an opportunity to share and plug into someone else’s world and connect to their physical presence. I have had baking left at my doorstep by my ever-kind Airbnb hosts. And even the gift of an unexpected warm croissant, sourdough loaf, or pineapple cake gives me pause for gratitude and joy.

Stillness is healthy; yes, we need it to heal, understand, listen and grow. I would be kidding myself, though, if I said stillness was all I needed. Stillness is a portion of our existence. The same as socialization, touch, exercise, nourishment, and shelter, all of these are equally necessary for fulfillment, joy, and peace. At the moment, our world is complicated, and obtaining all things needed to feel whole and human is not easy to come by without restrictions or anxiety over what we lack. Humans need humans to survive and thrive. We bounce off of each other’s energy, take what we need, and pass it along. Everyone keeps saying, “when we go back to normal…” I don’t even fully remember normal, and to our youth, this is normal. We can view it as good or bad, yet it simply IS.

I have found solace in not dwelling on what was or what will be, how great things were, and how much better they’re going to be. I wrestle with the arms of our new reality, and I’m pinned to the mat. I try to tap out, surrender and give up; I think a lot of us have. I give in to my downtime and consider my next move into the unknown, trying to make choices that will allow me to hit the bullseye of a moving target. And while I’m aiming, I focus, draw in a deep breath, and find that right now, the living is in this single minute, hour, and day.

Today is my new normal. I sit still and silent and check-in with myself. I acknowledge my feelings. I am still here; I’m alive, loved, healthy, fed, sheltered, and safe. And that should be enough.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Seasons

Here it’s spring, and everything is waking up. Flowers are blooming, and trees are filling in with lush green foliage. Here in NZ, the seasons are opposite to the US. At home in the northern states, it’s fall, and the trees are bare, there’s a chill in the air, and the great pumpkin is about to visit (Charlie Brown reference). In Florida, where I have lived most of my life, fall equates to being able to turn off the AC and open our windows. I break out my favorite boots on crisp evenings and get excited about swimming in the cold waters of the Gulf. We’ve had a few arctic swims here, and though it is bone-chillingly painful when you first dive in, it’s also addictive because it initiates a natural high.

The health benefits of diving into what feels like a giant popsicle are enough to hook me. Being a voluptuous woman with a panic disorder, I love that 5 minutes of ice swimming promotes weight loss and alleviates anxiety. Our Uber healthy 22 yr old daughter told me this, and I believe her. She’s a fit researching meditating guru that I would follow to the ends of the earth. While here with my girls, I have been inspired to move more and think about my health and how it affects our future. We admire the lifestyles of centenarians and have been focusing on getting in our life-extending 10,000 steps a day with meditative walks and metabolism-boosting relaxed runs. I feel good, more alive than ever.

I am in a season of inspired movement motivated by my family. Dealing with some bouts of depression, I find that my goals come and go like the seasons. My best intentions are to be consistent and keep the positivity of my routine moving, and when I can’t or just don’t, I forgive myself. I give in as the trees surrender to fall and let go of their leaves swaying in the breeze in a rejuvenating sleep until the chill passes. When my spring arrives, I burst onto the scene with color and energy. I come alive with renewed vigor. I think every person’s body clock runs slightly different. And “routine” varies for each one of us. The seasons are opposite between NZ and my home in the US, or it’s frigid in the north of America and never-ending summer in South Florida. I have learned over time to give my body what it needs in each season of my life, and right now, in my mind, it’s spring.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

The Southern Cross

The Southern Cross

I stand outside my rented flat looking up at the stars shining in the clear sky as they float over Devonport. The Southern Cross hangs in the cool crisp air, and the streets are quiet. I’ve been writing all day. After walking 10 miles, I listen to jazz, sip wine and work on my book. I’ve gotten a lot done. I’m able to collect my thoughts and settle into the stillness that surrounds me. My youngest daughter sleeps on the pull-out sofa in the living room. A man walks past briskly, taking his Australian shepherd for its nighttime walk under the street lights. Dim light glows in the windows of the homes that surround us, and everything is still. The sound of music, conversations, and footsteps in the house above us fill the night air.

I am at peace knowing that I’m making progress on my memoir and want to continue but have to get some sleep because I have 2 Zoom meetings with the US in the wee hours of the morning. The COVID cases here looked terrible today, 45 in the community. I’m not sure whether we will go to level two or not when they re-evaluate this coming Tuesday. I walk up and down the hilly sidewalk along the empty street just outside the fence of our flat and wonder if I should ask my hosts to extend my booking for yet another week. The thought of living on top of my girls in their one-bedroom flat makes me anxious, and this peaceful place I have found would be hard to leave if we are all isolated together with no end in sight. This lockdown is an unusual situation and one everyone in Auckland has to accept and get through together for the greater good.

I make my way back inside and decide to shower and settle in for the night. I have found a calm place in all of this isolated stillness which is maddening. The long walks, runs, rented flat, volunteer online marketing for the mental health coalition and writing have been my saving grace. The icing on the cake is my visits with my girls. Just knowing they are a few blocks away and happy in their space makes me feel good. I want everyone to be comfortable during this stressful time. Mental health is hard to maintain in isolation. It’s hard to stay sane when you can no longer tell what day it is without checking the calendar, and there is no definitive light at the end of the tunnel. Still, I am blessed to be where I am, where I’m supposed to be at this moment. I am productive, healthy, and happy. I have gotten what I asked for, time with my girls, time to write. What more could anyone want.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

A trip within a trip

I am lying here writing on my phone in a bed, a real queen size bed. I have been sleeping on a twin trundle bed for nine weeks in the one bedroom with our three girls. We were laid out like sardines in a tin, snuggled side by side on our mattresses. It has been cozy, and we have had some good times in the flat. We’ve also had some tense and challenging times. Not many but a few. On the whole, though, I am so proud of how the 4 of us have managed to be in lockdown in that one-bedroom flat. We are a great team.

So, now I’m lying here in a different flat just a few blocks up the road from their place. A place opened up, and Zoë and I moved there for seven nights. It’s adorable, and we are so comfortable. We are delighted to give Sabrina and Molly a break and their space back, even if it’s only for one week. When we walked into this quaint little garden cottage nestled on the bottom floor of an old Victorian villa, freshly baked bread was on the counter with a sweet note from our host. He had baked it for us before we arrived. It’s quiet here and peaceful. I’m an empath, so I tend to feel everyone around me and become overwhelmed with too much stimulation. Taking this break from our crowded space has relieved me of the feeling of soaking up the emotions of every person at the flat. The girls are also exceptionally sensitive, and we had gotten to the point where we were bouncing off and draining each other. Even with the best intentions and hearts full of love for each other, this happens. So now my mind is quiet, and I can write and revel in the calm of feeling nothing but peace. I will cherish this time and look forward to continuing to share space with our girls at their flat again with renewed energy and hopefully fewer lockdown restrictions. The minute we hit level 2, we are hitting the road for a hike for sure.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Progress

After five weeks in level 4 lockdown, we have finally moved to level 3! We still have to stay in our homes going out to exercise and shop for essentials. But we can expand our bubble to close family or friends, keeping it “small and exclusive.” It’s incredible how a tiny bit of progress gives me fulfillment. The highlight of this level is that we can now order contact-free items for pickup and order from Uber Eats. Sushi! I want Asahi Sushi! I craved it at home in America, and I’ve craved it all lockdown. Oh, and Flying Rickshaw INDIAN, yummmm! There’s excitement and mixed emotions among the girls. They can return to work and are essential for contactless pickups of items at their place of business. I think they will be happy to have some breathing room and a change of scenery.

In my little universe today, we’ve proudly launched a CAREGIVERS webpage I have built for the Collier Coalition for Healthy Minds. I filmed testimonials and wrote content for this, created the social media accounts and all content and edits of photos. I spent my time in NZ isolation learning to develop this digital piece to deliver on my promise as a volunteer to contribute to this fantastic and vital cause. CCHM is a community response to mental illness and substance abuse. This page is a crucial resource spot for caregivers who need support as much, if not more at times, than those who are ill. I have first-hand experience here because I suffer from an acute panic disorder and depression, I have since my early 20’s. And though I have loving support from my husband and daughters, I often feel they need someone who can support them. My issues can be draining and, at times, scary. The CAREGIVER page we launched gives tips and schedules for support groups of all kinds! I am so proud to be a part of this and happy that the board has allowed me to participate. I needed this win.

There is peace and calm in the flat as Molly, and I bond over cookie baking, and the laidback quiet life of Covid lockdown continues on another level. There isn’t too much to report, no house fires, breakdowns, or medical issues. I’m getting ready to leave for my daily walk under the long white clouds. It’s drizzling, and I’m happy to have another day with our girls and another day in NZ.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” NA

Steps in a positive direction are being taken all around the world. Many of our military soldiers have left Afghanistan ending the 20 yr war, Inspiration4 the first entirely civilian crewed SpaceX mission, has successfully launched and is orbiting the earth. And on a smaller scale, I achieved my first of many 3.15 mile/5 km runs probably since 2008. To say I was excited is an understatement. If I could do back handsprings to celebrate, I would have, but even in the best of shape, I’ve never been able to do those.

We are sadly still in lockdown here in Auckland, which means everything but grocery, gas, pharmacy, and utilities are closed. We are in the 5th week in isolation (additional to the two weeks Zoe and I spent in MIQ). Our three daughters and I have been holding up in their tiny one-bedroom flat. The only option for escape or sanity is to exercise outside. That, for the most part, means walks, runs, and biking. So I have been walking and walking and walking. First 3 miles daily, then 5 or 7. I got to the point where I ran out of land to cover unless I doubled back. Last week I decided to make myself run on any area flat or downhill. To my absolute amazement, on the second attempt at this, I forgot the flat and hills and just kept running. My legs are heavy, and I may run as fast as the tortoise racing the hare, but I got into the zone I used to get into as a young runner and did what I thought was no longer possible for me. I have watched my daughters run over the last 13 years and dreamed of running again. With failed attempts to get back into it, I’ve often tried to convince them that I used to be a runner, and I’m not sure they believed me. On my first run of 2 miles/3.21 km, Sabrina and Zoë walked behind me. As I pulled away from them, they doubted my ability to get very far. I forgot about what they thought, though, and kept peddling my feet along the pavement through the cool air. Man, the freedom of running can’t be beat.

There’s also something empowering about knowing that you may someday be able to outrun a hungry predator if needed, something I had decided I was beyond in my previous blob state. I figured I would inevitably be gator bait sometime in the future. At the end of my first attempt, the girls caught up with me. As Sabrina walked beside me, she said, “I’m proud of you, mum. You can talk a pretty big game, and I have to admit, I didn’t think you would do it, but you did. Good on you!” So I’m charged up and feel like I’m getting younger. I’m heading for a new pair of Hoka’s instead of a walker and triple X spandex covered by an even larger T-shirt to cover my bits. Being here with my girls has empowered me; I call it the power of 3. They encourage me, push me and cheer me on, then celebrate my wins with me. They make me feel special, and I’ve needed that. I’ve needed them, their energy. So between running, I am blogging, chipping away at my memoir, and developing the social media presence and website pages for my favorite non-profit. I’m in isolation yet more productive than ever. We live on a postage stamp, yet I have been moving and stretching myself wider than I have in over a decade. Who knows what ill achieve next! In the profound words of Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” or in my case, woman and womankind.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

STOP SCROLLING!

It’s raining again…

I have got to stop endlessly scrolling on my phone. It’s chilly in the house, and the laundry is piling up. I haven’t gone for a walk for two days (at home 48 hr birthday celebration with our middle baby). My bottom is sore from sitting so long, eating white bread, chocolate, cheese, and drinking champagne. The celebrations are over, and it’s raining off and on. Sitting in the window seat, I aim to work on my book but end up looking for chemist shops that sell Tucks or Preparation H wipes in NZ. No one does. I’ll have to adapt. Eating a piece of Vogel’s toast with Nutella and bananas, I wonder what the fiber content is.

Man, I’m getting old. I just flashed back to me interrupting a conversation between my mom and her brother (they were in their early 60’s). I asked why they talked about their bowel movements and crap so often? Fast forward to right this moment; I get it. I am my mother’s ass (take that however you want). Yeah, we’ve been here for 20 days now. You know you’re getting cabin fever and tunnel vision when your world shrinks and your interests become limited to scrolling on your phone, your bathroom habits, and the apple supply on hand—still confused about what day it is between following the US/NZ calendars and waking up to the same morning over and over again with no clear view to anything that might vary my schedule with a bit of mood shifting excitement. The birthday was a good diversion. At this point, you start to wonder whether you even need to shower. I mean, who’s going to see you? You don’t need to change clothes and survive going back and forth from walking outfits to pajamas. I do have to force myself to be on top of my hygiene at this point, though. Others in the one-bedroom may find my smell offensive. I don’t want them to feel “yuck” about my presence.

We have days now where we go through waves of silence, false starts of activity, walking on eggshells around each other, walking in circles outside aimlessly (just to be outside), and celebrating and making the most out of the little things. Two items must be in the house and seem to keep everyone calm, apples and pasta (there’s more that I could add, but those are the staples). I’m planning on doing some online volunteer work today and will walk to the store after I wander around the hood searching for something new to see (all of the sites here are beautiful, so no complaints there).

I have learned while being here in the cold that I am genuinely HEAT INTOLERANT (we’ve had our suspicions, Paul and I). If it gets too warm in the flat for even a second, I have to stand out on the cold patio. It hits me with a sudden paralyzing weight, agitation, hot skin, sweating, and just an overall feeling of burning in the unforgiving fire of hell (can I say I am not looking forward to returning to the heat of Florida? Yes, yes, I can.) By the time we get out of lockdown in NZ, I may have built a transporter; yeah, I think I have time to learn how to do that.

Wouldn’t that be awesome? Then I could pop back and forth from my husband, sisters, dogs, and home in the US to my children in NZ at the flick of a switch. I could maybe benefit from having my DNA scrambled with each passage. A setting on my transporter could allow me to pick a gene rearranging feature on each trip with choices ranging from high metabolism, weight reduction and redistribution, best post-pubescent skin, hair texture (ooh, there could be a hair color feature to cut out transports to the salon). Heck, the transporter could be a cure-all for cancer, diabetes, mental illness, disorders, COVID (no face-masks on this flight), the common flu, and freakin hemorrhoids! The sky’s the limit. Let’s get real, though. I don’t need a transporter at the moment. I need to stop scrolling, put my phone down, shower, and get outside.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

The Flat

Eighteen days and we’re still here. There isn’t much to do. We have started to forget what day it is because none of us here in the flat are working so why should we remember? Yes, online school is still happening, but it’s all become very routine and familiar at this point. We’ve walked so much that the girls signed up to run a half marathon if we’re out of here in time, and I’ve gone from being able to walk 3 miles a day of the very hilly terrain of Devonport/Stanley Bay to 6 or 7 miles a day. It’s just hard to get someone to want to walk that distance at this point. We walk by cars parked down by the waterfront with people inside enjoying the view and past others taking their daily stroll, jog, skate (inline/roller/board), or bike ride. The repetitiveness of it is making it feel forced at times. Wait, really? Did I seriously say that? How can it feel forced when we walk among the beauty we are surrounded by, in the fresh air looking out over the clear blue Waitemata Harbour? Come on. Let’s not take the stunning environment we are in for granted. Admittedly It does feel like groundhog day, and isolation (absolute isolation where nothing is open except grocery, pharmacy, petrol, and utility) is starting to mess with our anxieties and personal issues. It seems a bit of a heavy feeling is creeping in as we go through our daily routines. We watch YouTube, laugh at Cody Ko’s Couples react (pretty funny), watch classic comedy, have drinks, squeeze together on the tiny back patio to lay in the sun, and dream.

We dream of what we want to eat when we can order takeaway food, Chinese, Indian, Sushi, and Pizza. We think about places we want to go when we get to level 2 (God willing, that happens before our time is up here). Places we would visit like Cape Reinga, Wellington to see family, and any excellent hiking place. Heck, we’ll be happy when we can go inside the house of our family down the road! The closest we’ve gotten to family visits since lockdown began 18 days ago is, of course, Zoom and Facetime. And we’ve been fortunate to have the ability to stop in front of the “other” Bruntons house, a bit up the road, on our walks, and yell hello up at them on their balcony. We have had some great breakfasts while isolated together, and man, our Molly, can cook some splendid authentic Italian from scratch. And Sabrina is replacing any dreams I might have of popping into a cafe on release. Who needs a cafe when you have a personal barista who rocks!

Who knew? Who knew we would travel 8000 miles to NZ where there was no community covid, and this would happen? We did our time in Managed Isolation (MIQ). In fact, between that and this level 4 lockdown, we have now spent 4.5 weeks of our eight weeks here IN ISOLATION. There is, however, a beautiful silver lining; the undivided attention of our three girls. I will not leave here feeling like we did not have enough time together (well, I can never have too much time with my girls; in fact, I never want to leave them). Having all 3 of them together is like holding a completed Rubik’s cube in your hand. All color, everything in its place, leaving you in total awe. Yeah, isolation sucks, to be honest, but when things open up again, EVERYTHING WILL BE OPEN, and there will be no cause for social angst or fear of getting covid from someone who just refused to cooperate. Community cases are decreasing daily, and I’ve got my eyes on that yummy sushi place down in the village.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

One Bedroom

We’ve lasted pretty well so far. The one-bedroom apartment is cramped, of course, but the 4 of us are putting systems in place that work. We’ve been in our family bubble in lockdown since August 18th. And on Tuesday, August 31st, the NZ government will reevaluate the country’s isolation situation.

Zoe and I knew there was a possibility this would happen when we set out for NZ to be with Sabrina and Molly. Thank God we extended our stay, moving our flight from August 29th to December 1st! Our original departure date was August 23rd. We would have been back in the US by now with Paul. And though we all miss him terribly, I would not have been satisfied with the short time I had with our girls.

So here we are in intense togetherness—all 4 of us with our little quirks and tasks. Zoe has online school and gets very anxious before DBAs and tests. Molly and Sabrina are also studying online. Molly is used to her alone time, and Sabrina, like me, can’t settle her mind and body unless every item in the house is in its place. Almost all of us have issues with overstimulation which triggers, anger, tears, anxiety, and confusion. So the more I am helpful by endlessly tidying and cleaning, the more anxious it makes the people who seek solitary moments.

On the other hand, when we let things go and chill, let things lay around and pile up to minimize movement, more anxiety and feelings of fight or flight build up in those who seek absolute organization. We understand each other and the issues we each have. We talk through the tough stuff and make plans to minimize discomfort.

In our small space, we have decided to assign areas. Each person keeps their area clean. Molly has the couch, I have the window seat, Sabrina has her bed, and Zoë has Molly’s. We decided yesterday that from 10 am – 12 pm each day, we will go to our stations to have space inside the apartment, a quiet time we can look forward to while being together but separate, and much-needed study/work time. This sounds like a perfect plan; however, there’s one little mouse we can’t keep out of our pantry and in their space. That’s the one with the inability to stay still (ZOE! I admit that her mother has the same issue, but as I’ve aged, I’ve developed a bit more self-control, I said A BIT!).

There is no perfect solution to any situation, but we can try and do our best to respect each other’s space and reduce triggers.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Welcome to Deltaport (doing covid right)

The girls sit on the couch bunched together, laughing at the TikTok videos they’ve just made. I have done my typical Monica from friends thing and cleaned to the point of being unable to think of anything else to clean at the moment. We’ve been in a level 4 NZ lockdown since Wednesday the 18th. Today is day 4. Zoe and I escaped the red septic state of Florida, sat in Managed isolation for a fantastic $3575 for 14 days; were free as birds for two and a half weeks, and then, BAM DELTA in our backyard and SLAM lockdown.

The fact is, we don’t mind being locked down here in NZ. I rather be in Deltaport (Devonport) then the septic south of America. I watch people on our peaceful morning walks and think, no New Zealander knows how it truly feels to sit in the middle of the shit storm of covid and politics back in the good ole US of A. I sit here in this cooperative, compassionate country and look across the water towards my home. I see the madness that is my community. The “land of the free” has gun carrying, one-percenters, and right-wingers who say, “we will not vaccinate or mask! You weak people who are taking action, getting vaccinated, and wearing masks are Karens (and maybe Dicks too). We are out freely spreading and helping the mutation of COVID TO DELTA, and if you don’t like it, stay home!” It’s weird. Half of the nation is not free but being held captive in their homes by the diseased masses.

Covid has exposed the true colors of many of my capitalist neighbors, friends, and some family. People scream, “down with socialism,” and have never left their backyard to see the things that do work for more forward-thinking multicultural peaceful countries. My eyes have seen the glory of the growing of discord, and it ain’t pretty. Selfishness abounds where the masses are too vast to legislate to honestly and safely. Social media has scrambled good helpful information and poisoned minds on a deeper level than could have ever been reached in decades before. I used to be so proud to be an American. I trusted our politicians and hoped that they had their countrymen’s best interest at heart. I felt utter disgust for anyone who talked badly about Americans when I lived here among my NZ family and friends. Yet now, as I sit here cooperatively in complete isolation with them, with our daughters who have their feet on both continents by birth, I am ashamed. Now when someone says stupid Americans, I, without reservation, agree with them. What purpose does all of the discord and division over COVID/DELTA serve any of my fellow Americans? PEOPLE ARE DYING, HOSPITALS ARE AT 98 percent capacity, and now children and adults are deathly ill.

Shame on us! Our children have been sent back to school maskless by choice of their parents. If you’re reading this thinking, “well, if you’re so ashamed to be an American, stay in NZ,” shaking your head and cursing my words, then you may be part of the problem. There is always someone to blame in the US. Those who don’t feel accountable for the damage left in the wake of their boat weekends, parties, concerts, school events, unprotected travel, and family gatherings. I am sad that my husband couldn’t be with us for this extended visit. I pray every day that he protects himself and his environment.

I am so thankful to be in this small pocket of the world with sanity, compassion, and cooperation. Understandably NZ citizens will get mad about being in lockdown and closed businesses will suffer greatly. But they won’t implode and take hostages in their rage. The essentials are available; no one is marching on the capital with guns crying, “give me liberty or give me death!” or hanging nooses outside the Prime Ministers’ window and threatening to track her down and kill her! No, that’s what Americans do.

Here there is grumbling behind closed doors, because well shit, COVID and now DELTA. We will all be isolated until there are no community cases, and we will all slowly emerge from our homes. The businesses will fully open, students will go back into schools, people will party and gather free of disease, FREE to capitalize on the fact that EVERYONE can roam safely. And while COVID may be threatening to enter, there are guards at the gate protecting the masses. There is shortsightedness that my people in the US have that they don’t have here in NZ. They see the prize and forget who they trample to grab it. It’s sad and inevitable that there will be a collapse at some point because no one saw the big picture. God bless America; we need it. Anyway, yay NZ, doing Covid right.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Mandatory Quarantine

I was holding my phone when the alert alarm went off. It scared the crap out of me. I was reading an online book, and out of sheer reaction, I almost threw my device across the room. Once the noise stopped, I started laughing at myself, and then I read the message that came with the alert and thought, “Bummer!” And also not a bummer. So now I will get to be really close to our girls for seven whole days. We won’t be entirely couped up in their one-bedroom apartment. We will take heaps of walks, I’m sure, and just imagine the organizing we could get done! In reality, we will take heaps of walks, and then all of us will come home and get on our devices. All three girls will now be doing school online, and I, of course, will be watching and writing as usual.

I stayed home all day today and cleaned so we could enjoy being out and about for the rest of the week. So now I can say I did an extra courtesy day of quarantine to make up for all of the uncooperative anti-masking, anti vaccinating of my fellow countrymen (and women) in Florida, USA, which by the way, is now the epicenter of the delta variant! Yes, good old Florida, the sunshine state and the home of the fountain of youth. My home town Naples, Florida, declared by Forbes to be 2019’s “happiest, healthiest city in America to live in.” They are so healthy and happy and resistant to protect each other (like they do in NZ) that 75% of our hospital is housing covid patients again and only scheduling emergency surgeries. (I could be off by a small percentage but not by much, I’m sure).

Poor Paul, I hope he is protected and safe. He’s a Kiwi (New Zealander) that is pretty chill. In times like this, his “she’ll be right mate” attitude doesn’t always serve him well. My dear hubby is surrounded by many of “those” people I talked about in the previous paragraph. So, let’s all pray for him (and my sister, she works with him).

After hanging my last load of wet laundry on the drying rack in the living room, I stepped outside to get some fresh air. Cars, buses, and grocery delivery trucks whiz past. Molly and Zoe have run to the store to grab items from a list I gave them. Molly said, “mom, l may no be able to get wine. It may all be gone.” Adding, “Devonport moms ya know.” I didn’t even think to ask her to get toilet paper. I had to limit my order, we are without a car now, and they are carrying the bags up “Hell Hill” on foot.

Yahoo, I get to experience my first absolute level 4 lockdown Kiwi style!

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Bohemians

I stand on the patio of my girl’s victorian villa flat. Rangitoto sits out beyond me across the water in the night. I look up and close my eyes. “Thank you, God, for bringing me to my home, my girls.” I take a drag off my cocktail cigarette. I breathe out the charred smoke and then breathe back in the cool, moist air of the north shore. A long white cloud hangs over me. Spits of rainfall on my face, and I glance at the towels drying in the fresh air being laundered again by the rain. Inside, the girls are watching Woody Allan’s “Midnight in Paris.”

I think back to their childhood. Waking up on a Sunday morning, An empty wine bottle sits on the dining room table surrounded by the girl’s drawings and cards from playing Wally, dress-ups sprinkled across the floor. The morning sun shines its rays through our front door windows, regularly covered in chalk pen drawings. They could be seen from the street by every passerby. I stand on the patio out the French doors of my girl’s flat in the present and think of the hints of bohemian Gypsy life they have had. The way it shaped their free-thinking, style, and creativity. It rains harder, and I stamp out my cigarette leaving half of it for later.

We have moved from NZ to America and back, and no matter where we are, the only time I am genuinely home is when I am with my children. Each beautiful girl is a perfect one-third slice of a particular part of me. Yes, I see Paul in them too. I can spend 100 percent of my time in bliss with each of them individually, and though they are sparkling originals in their own right, I fit perfectly by the side of every one of them. I love them and feel complete. My world, the cool air I breathe, the complexity of me that I question when I’m in their presence. I sit down on the warm $10 college girl couch inside the villa and write as I listen to the movie in the background. Others move around the room, getting on with their business and preparing for bed. I spent the day snuggling in my pajamas, drowsily watching formula 1 with Molly. Zoe and Sabrina walked in after a long day in Auckland. The room filled with light and smiles. The commotion of my family fills the room. Sabrina says, “hi mom, we’re home.” And silently, I think to myself, “yes, we are.”

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Castings

When Sabrina was one of the faces of NZ fashion week

The first time I went to castings was when I was around 12 yrs old. If it wasn’t for the local playhouse, it was for dinner theater or jingle work. So when my girls were born, it seemed only natural that all three of them have an agent. Sabrina had her first agent at 18 months. She got a couple of jobs, but we weren’t too involved as 2 more children were born following her. Her sisters were in commercials on their own or with her, and they had fun. Molly and Zoe never had showbiz fever, though. Not like Sabrina. She wanted to model from the first time she watched America and NZ’s next top model. She was signed to her first agency at the age of 17 and left home. I’m happy that she has followed her passions, but it has been hard to lose my baby to NZ and the international fashion industry. The industry seems glamorous and exciting but it doesn’t pay unless you’re one of the well known models. So much of what she does drains everyone financially, and only now at the age of 22 can she be picky about what jobs she takes and demand the pay she deserves.

NZ fashion week is coming up. I’ve only seen her walk in Miami Fashion Week, so I’m excited to be in NZ now. I’ve taken her to castings a million times and played Mammager. We’ve walked the streets of New York, Miami, and now Auckland, bouncing from one designer to another. I don’t go in with her. It’s not cool to drag your mom to a casting or into your agency (well, not the NY agencies). Paul went with Sabrina to Greece and played poppager, walking here from casting to casting, waiting for her in cafes, and drinking Greek coffee. He loved it! Paul had even been offered a lead in an ad campaign (as a model) had he been able to stay in Greece longer he could have been a contender.

I love the conversations Sabrina and I have when we go for walks. We can wander on for miles and hours and never run out of things to say. These walks are when we bond the most. It’s exciting to be a part of her day and feel the buzz and excitement of her preparing for another modeling job.

Among a row of white gowns, I spy Sabrina in a sparkling wedding dress. The designer is talking to her about seeing her in the casting videos for NZ fashion week. Sabrina blushes and smiles in her sweet way. She is humble, gentle, and kind. Beautiful inside and out. She has modeled for this designer before, and the wedding dresses she has worn in the past are top-notch. Sabrina has very high standards for wedding dresses at this point, and finding one for her magical day will be a challenge. I wonder what kind of person my future in-law will be as I look on dreamily and my angelic girl in white. In reality, she will probably want a dress that’s as comfortable as her Pyjamas, just like her mom wore.

After castings, we wander in and out of shops and hike the city until our feet are throbbing. We turn into a small alley and down a flight of stairs. We have only eaten coconut ice cream all day, and I’m starving. We are the only ones in Renkon, and I order teriyaki salmon and rice. I guzzle water and a bottle of green tea with honey. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until I took a bite of my food. Heavy greasy, not the heavenly Renkon I romanticized while away in the US.

We end up walking 9 miles in total! I’m training for an inner-city walking marathon (I’m not, but I may as well at this point). In and out of shops we go until my feet can’t take anymore. We hop on the ferry and head home. The sun sinks below the Auckland harbor bridge and disappears behind the hills. It’s been a long casting day. I enjoy these moments with my big girl. These are the days I’ll remember.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

We’re Still Here!

I haven’t written for several days! My God, how time flies when you’re having fun with the three best girls in the world. We’re a bit cramped here in their one-bedroom apartment, but honestly, none of us seem to be bothered by it too much yet. My role here (while visiting) is to do what I’ve always done, shop for food, do laundry, dishes, make beds, and vacuum. An almost empty nester is supposed to do this for their kids. Look, they’re working, going to school full-time, trying to squeeze in moments with me, and attend dinners with old friends that I keep arranging (that they can’t make). It’s a lot! There is no time for them to clean and do homework on top of all of that. So homework comes first.

Admittedly I’m exhausted. Auckland is one hilly place, and we walk and walk and walk!!! Yesterday we walked 12.12 miles (a half marathon). For you, kiwis, that’s just over 19 kilometers. Today we had some errands in town, and after the 4th mile of walking, I just couldn’t anymore. My old legs are beyond tired. So I’m snuggled under the duvet in bed. There’s a chill in the old Victorian flat, and a cold wind blows through every crack and crevice. Days like today stick out in my mind. I remember our life here—trying to shake the damp winter cold that follows you everywhere. My least favorite chilly NZ feeling is jumping out of the steaming shower and gritting your teeth as the frigid air envelopes your wet body. You quickly towel off and get dressed, shivering and covered with goosebumps; after the Florida heat, though, I am enjoying these cool days.

Everything is different here compared to home. Both places have their pluses, each a paradise in their own right. NZ has something so special, though, my girls. It’s hard to imagine when all 5 of us Bruntons will be on the same soil again. And trust me, the wheels in my mind are spinning. I can’t decide whether I need a time machine, transporter or 10 million dollars to cure our NZ/US family logistics issue. It’s not easy being in a bicontinental family. Each moment we get to be with those we love on either continent is precious and cherished so much. I’ve missed my NZ friends and family, and catching up with some of them so far has been an absolute joy! You know a good friend when you haven’t seen each other for YEARS and the minute you’re together, you gel again as if you never missed a beat. Love it.

We’re just taking one day at a time here in NZ, reconnecting, walking, watching, listening, and loving every bit of it.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Back to Middle Earth

#Piha

The first time I approached the Piha waves was over fifteen years ago. The rolling fold of water with its white spray is powerful and humbling. We drove the long winding roads and sang old familiar songs along the way. We walked through the black sand, and the memories of our babies running at our feet in days now gone rushed in and out with the crashing tide. I heard childish laughter in the cry of the birds above, imagined their tiny eyes looking up at me in excitement, and saw footprints in the sand. I imagined Nick running free and thought of how Binx and Ollie would love it here. They would be living their best lives. Picture our dogs chasing the birds into the water, tearing off across the beach, kicking up clouds of earth in their wake. Paul and I felt joy watching our children play with nick, growing and thriving in this wholesome grounding environment. It feels good to be here. It feels good to see our girls, now young women, find their way among this beautiful piece of earth and sea.

#Waiheke

We have hiked city sidewalks, trails through Island wine country, and sandy beaches. It amazes me how in one day you can take a boat ride, hike a mountain, pop in and out of shops and cafes in a small seaside village and dip your toes in the sea; all in one afternoon. The best of every world in one tiny pocket down under.

#Waiheke

I love walking and could do it for days. There is nothing more beautiful than the freedom of roaming on foot in a kind climate. I miss this. We are enjoying our home away from home.

#Piha
Posted in Personal Journal Blog

July 30 NZ /29 America, 2021, 54

The cold NZ wind slides across my face, and a slight chill touches my body. I look out across the balcony of my girl’s flat at the NZ sky. The familiarity of moments like this float back to me, a ghost of my past life in NZ. The Matariki sky has just faded with the closing of July, and I take a drag of my Virginia slims menthol (I’ve had that third glass of wine that calls for a smoke). The light below glows a dull yellow and white across Stanley Bay Point. I close my eyes and say thank you to God and my mother for bringing me to this place to ring in my 54th year of life. I swallow the last sip of my rose, and there is a buzz of peace that fills me. My three girls are lying inside, warm, safe and close. Joy fills my heart, and I listen to the old familiar sounds of a north shore NZ Friday night rising through the air. Trees sway in the gusts of wind, and voices howl in song as a group in the distance party’s, their voices ringing, rising to the stars.

I remember the days we lived here on the shore, in Belmont. The navy housing overflowed with young people. Drinks circulated with high energy, and the sound of laughter, loud voices, and music spilled across the road to our sleepy ears. I hushed them in my mind hoping they wouldn’t wake my girls, young at that time.

I put my cigarette out in my last drop of wine, flick the butt off the balcony, and head inside to my girls, no longer babies. The house is warm and still. Formula one practice races flicker on the TV as everyone lays sleeping. I’m weary from our day of hiking at Piha and Bethels beach. My birthday has been a three-day celebration.

#Piha

I’ve had dinner and drinks in Devonport township with Mark and Fiona this evening. We’ve caught up on so much and so little in our short time together. I bask in the love of their lingering presence and remember how much they meant and still mean to me; my NZ family. I left the restaurant locked arm and arm with my friend and sister-in-law and watched my brother-in-law as he leads us to the car. I felt an endearing enthusiasm for them that they may never truly understand. Over dinner, we connected with honesty and intently listened to each other with tender understanding. We took in every word, not wanting to miss a single moment of the days and years that passed between us. Moments forgotten memories and feelings revealed, we share smiles that have grown softer with age framed by greying hair and faded glistening eyes. There is love among us, not always spoken, but it is felt and apparent.

I am in a beautiful place, missing my lovely husband. The man who introduced this world to me, took part in creating our children and blessed me with my NZ family. I will climb in bed tonight, my world complete (-1) and my heart full. I am home, yet far from home. I am 54 and looking forward to another beautiful year and the days to come.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Our Final Day

NZMIQ journey

We’re here—the final day. Isolation seemed like it would feel like forever yet passed by in a blink. All of our days started running into each other, and with little variety in our activity, every morning felt like groundhog day. We’ve driven by car, flown two flights, taken one bus, and stayed in two hotels over 16 days to get to where we are now, and still, our NZ adventure is only just about to begin. We have eaten, slept, eaten, played games, slept, read, written, and binge-watched. We have laughed, thought deeply, jumped on beds, stared for hours out the window, and snuggled in front of the TV. We had repeated Covid tests and daily health checks. And dreaded the ringing of our phone in fear of that call, saying, “surprise, you’ve come back positive, and we’re moving you out of this hotel to Jet Park for an extended stay!” Our tests have all come back negative every time. We were aware that Covid could be lurking anywhere. And as it happened, a woman on our exact flight and in our hotel tested positive for Covid. They moved her on day two of our time here. We wish her well.

At 7 am Monday 26 July Zoe, and I will walk out the doors of our safe, friendly, quiet waiting place to the open and loving arms of family. All we will leave behind at Rydges MIQ is the essence of our presence. Every nook and cranny will be washed, scrubbed, sprayed, and ultraviolet light sterilized. And our organic and inorganic rubbish disposed of carefully.

We thank all the staff at #NZMIQ #RYDGES #AUCKLAND who have been so kind, careful, and patient. Thank you, #NZ for looking out for each other and having the smarts to make your country a safe, healthy place to roam freely. Thank you for welcoming us home with protection. We were more than willing to sacrifice 14 days of our lives in quiet reflection so that we can jump back into Kiwi culture and protect our friends and family.

We are packed and ready to head out. And we are looking forward to experiencing and embracing everything in our down under home to the fullest, freely and fearlessly. 14 hours to go.