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.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Skated Away

The rightful heir of the roller blades!

I used to fly down giant hills, jump curbs and skate backward on my rollerblades; I was fearless. I did it for about ten years, so you’d think jumping back on them would be like riding a bike; you never forget. I used my Mothers Day rollerblades three times, and on the third day, I fell. I didn’t hurt myself, but as I lay on my back on the pavement looking up at the sky with an aching posterior, afraid to move because I was sure I broke every bone in my body, I thought, why am I doing this? (I was barely moving when I fell, and I didn’t even fall hard. I’m a baby, a brave baby.) Each time I skated, I put on more clothing and padding. I even considered wrapping a life jacket around my backside to add additional padding to my butt. I am acutely aware that I have 100 lbs more on me now compared to when I skated as a young fit gal, and this present-day voluptuousness doesn’t fall well. All three times I rollerbladed, I was shaking like a leaf and sweating bullets. I was petrified, but I wanted to do it with my sweet daughter, so I sucked it up and gave it my all. She was so encouraging and excited that we were doing something sporty together (I think). I didn’t want to let her down until gravity pulled me down, and then I just parked them in the closet. So yesterday, I gave them away to a dear family friend who put them on and skated after only an hour like gravity doesn’t exist. She’s 12, and her feet are the same size as mine. She rollerbladed with our girl Zoe the way I wished I could, and I watched on with joy over the happiness I had just given someone else and breathed a sigh of absolute relief that I never have to get on those things ever again. I will roll with my girl however my next purchase will be a scooter with huge wheels

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Poolside, Express Staycation

US and the sinister skinny drinks!

AUTHOR NOTE: I don’t drink unless I am on an outing with friends or family, and there have not been many opportunities for those outings lately, so I haven’t drunk much and have become a lightweight. Now my story.

I took what I thought was the last sip of my skinny Pina cola. I had only had one, and that was perfect. They weren’t cheap, and I drank every drop. My Niece and I sunbathed by the resort-style pool with her two children; I haven’t seen them for over three years, and it was a joy to be with them, so we were celebrating. After two sips of her skinny drink, my niece was done. She slid her almost full plastic cup over to me, and I happily drank it. The sun was beating down, and as my body became relaxed, I slowly melted into the lounger where I lay. The pool was huge, and the sound of the waterfall began to lull me to sleep. I dozed for a second and then hopped in the inviting clear sparkling water where I floated weightlessly free with mellow content. I noticed my niece shifting the wet towels on the lounge chairs, and I took it as a sign she was ready to go.

I said, “are you leaving?” She looked at me puzzled, “well, we can…, yeah we’re probably going to go soon.” She thought that I wanted to, so she packed up. I did the same and headed for my car. I secretly fretted as we left the safety of the pool. Had I known we were going home so soon, I would never have finished her drink for her (she seemed to really need help disposing of it, though). In retrospect, neither one of us was ready to leave. It seems we got our wires crossed trying to read the hidden messages our body language was sending. Due to our lack of communication, we packed up for no reason. In my car, I sat in the driver’s seat calculating how much food and water I had consumed, my weight to alcohol ratio after two vodka filled skinny drinks and regretted drinking that second one (don’t judge readers, I’m sure there is some point in your life where you have done this or something like it).

I sat in the parking lot patiently waiting for the minimal buzz I had to pass. I drank my two-liter water bottle till it was empty and did some writing, read social media, clipped my fingernails, listened to music, checked my emails, did some writing again, and then decided to head for home. I was not loopy, but I knew the alcohol was present in my bloodstream. (Ok, I wasn’t loopy, but I did feel VERY relaxed!) I called my husband to keep me company while I drove home and he was concerned (loopy Jeri is not often a normal state). I had two blooming drinks; I don’t even think driving with two drinks and two liters of water in your system is illegal, but I felt like a hardened criminal. I was in a part of town I had not ever explored and decided to stop at CVS for dog treats.

I saw a smoke shop next door and peeked in. The shop, stocked with bongs, CBD, Vape pens, and everything “Marijuana” was stoner central (no, it wasn’t a dispensary, that’s not legal in Naples). I quickly walked in and back out again. I walked further along the plaza and popped into the liquor store. A woman greeted me at the door and, noticing my wet hair and dress, said, “did you just come from the beach?” “No, I was at a pool,” I replied. She was a small Indian woman with kind eyes that looked me up and down as If I was out of place, and she couldn’t quite figure me out. I was there for a teeny tiny pack of cigarettes.

I thought If I just had one, It would snap me out of this foggy feeling. The kind woman called her husband to the front to help me. After asking for the skinniest tiniest pack of Virginia Slim menthols anyone could ever smoke (literally, you practically need tweezers to hold these things and a magnifying glass to see them), he asked me if I smoked often? Man, you had to answer security questions to get a pack of smokes; now I truly felt like a fugitive. I didn’t hold back; I told him everything I knew for fear of failing whatever secret test I was taking. In one giant run-on sentence, I said, “OK! I had a couple of drinks by the pool a little over an hour ago and my daughter will be home from school soon If I ever feel tipsy I usually smoke a cigarette and it makes me feel normal again I would never smoke in front of my children so I thought I would grab a quick one here before I head home!”

I stopped talking, and as usual, there was silence as I realized I said more than I needed to. The couple started at me, and then the man looked at me and smiling said in a soft indian accent, “You are a good mom. Be careful driving home.” I passed, I passed the test. There was hope for me yet, so with confidence, I sat outside the store, on a bench drying off and smoking the anti buzz remedy. “You are a good mom” rang in my ears. I had felt so guilty over my morning staycation actions and was so worried that I had not done my day perfectly, but now I could relax. I did snap out of it. I took my time getting home. Overall I spent 2 hours traveling 20 minutes because I was ultra-careful and waiting until it was safe to get behind the wheel. I haven’t touched those cigarettes again since I bought them; that was a few days ago, and I have maybe smoked one pack total in the last four years. I used to drink wine with my mom, and we would have a social cigarette together on the patio, but nothing more than that. Since she has been gone, there hasn’t been much thought of doing it.

This event has led me to wonder about the anxiety I manifest for myself over needing to do the right thing, appear to be the perfect mom, sister, etc. (when anyone who knows me knows I’m not, but I sure do try). I know I’m not the only one who does this. We all have our reasons for wanting to appear perfect on the outside. I understand why I hold myself to high standards. There are reasons I won’t just let go and go wild like my head sometimes tells me I should, but every once in a while, a girls just gotta have some fun, you know.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Days of Covid and George

(This story is a time capsule of words and thoughts shared from my diary. Written one year ago today, June 5, 2020.)

The mood of the day, gray, rainy, calm, quiet, hopeful yet frightening, motivated, loved, and slightly bored.

My feelings are all over the place this week as the world erupts with bubbling issues of racism, isolation, fear, and depression. The deaths of George Floyd over a counterfeit $20 bill and Ahmaud Arbery shot by a retired police officer and friends while he was running; have sparked peaceful protests and riots not just in America but around the entire world. In Auckland, NZ, there was a peace march of 9000 people to support #blacklivesmatter. Our two oldest daughters were there, marching with the others, demanding a global end to systemic racism. I am so proud of them. While proud of them, I’m dying to get out there and peacefully protest myself. Our youngest daughter fears for my safety and begs me not to; she is scared. Business owners are frightened. Businesses of every kind in towns around the US, broken into, looted, and burned. A Target was destroyed, along with CVS and Walmart, who had to close over 100 stores until there is order. Angry groups don’t care if you are rich, poor, white, black, Asian, Hispanic; they are fed up and are destroying people’s businesses and lives to make a loud screaming statement.

#nolivesmatteruntilblacklivesmatter I get it. I don’t blame them. I am ashamed to be white at times. I can’t express enough how I long to be united with black brothers and sisters (united with all races actually), and no matter how much I try, I will never feel the pain of the scorn heaped upon their backs repeatedly, heartlessly. We are one race, the human race. We all love, bleed, rejoice and grieve the same. We are one people. I am confused and angry, even sad and again ashamed of the way some (many) in my country, entitled Americans, still embrace racism and, on top of that, have responded to COVID-19 with anti-masking and misleading lies stating that it’s all a hoax. Over 500,000 people with families, spouses, and children, parents and friends who loved them, were killed by a hoax. Yes, Information is misleading or confusing. Politicians are worried about money over lives; Americans have lost jobs in the 10’s of millions. People are dying, starving, committing suicide (because it’s all too much). The world is riddled with rising mental illness cases, and many of us are hanging on by a thread. It’s a crazy time.

It’s hurricane season now, and we’ve had homes destroyed in our Florida brush fires. I thank God for today’s rain as it slows the flames. Yet someone in another community is praying for the rain to stop because landslides have washed their homes into the sea, taking more lives. Global warming, I say. Today people and parties do not respect each other, and our leaders are greatly divided. Some deplore Mr. Trump and his cronies, saying he is the “worst president in the history of all presidents.” He has been referred to as ignorant, a coward, and at times evil. The world feels as if it’s going mad. The chaos reminds me of scenes flashed on the news when I was a child, during the ’60s and ’70s.

I was laid-off from my job on March 20th and forced to get a lawyer and threaten litigation to get my last paycheck for three weeks of work. What is wrong with people? I don’t understand. I’m gun shy at the thought of working for anyone again. I don’t want to sell ice to Eskimos, and I don’t want to be an easy to replace cog in another machine. My husband and God have provided well for us through all of this, and I am thankful. Today, in the stillness of this very moment, I love my life, but there are people lost in depression who are in the process of ending theirs.

Beyond my front door, the world around me is in chaos. In my home, there is safety, love, and contentment. Privileged folks make home repairs and renovations in isolation while others walk that fine line of living paycheck to paycheck while tipping over the edge into homeless obscurity. There are rich who can’t fathom what it’s like to go hungry as they lay their heads down at night on a mountain of soft Down pillows. Then there are the devastatingly poor who are struggling to fill the stomachs of their fearful starving children and provide them an isolated online education while sleeping in cars, under bridges, in bug-infested woods, and abandoned houses. Now is a time when there is much to do. We must find common ground rise from our complacency and plan for a better tomorrow as we isolate. We need peace across the aisle and over the back fence. “There’s a change a comin” it’s time, we’ve been “woke” and what we’ve seen can’t and shouldn’t be unseen.

(Looking back on last year’s writing, I think we are changing with each tiny step forward. We have changed political leadership. We remember the lives of those we’ve lost. While #blacklivesmatter isn’t speaking as loud today, I haven’t forgotten, and those with a conscience, bravery, heart, and voice are still talking, protesting, and will fight till their last breath (hopefully peacefully) until we have evolved into an actual accepting, loving, multicultural society. With vaccinations administered to half of us, we are coming out of our homes and returning to the office maskless in some places here in the US. I have the privileged opportunity to write my blog and memoir. Brush fires in FL are minimal this year, and hurricane season is approaching. We don’t know what storms we will weather yet; we can get through them better together if we learn from our past, allow ourselves to grow, fight against morally wrong behavior and actions and unite as one people, a beautiful blend of colors. The colors that God chose to paint the world we live in on a planet we must equally share in love.)

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Hiding Behind the Hedges

I’m in there somewhere.

One hundred thirty-six million Americans were fully vaccinated as of May 31st; according to “Our World in Data,” that’s 41.4% of us; so we are slowly opening back up. I watch as people begin to shop, dine and socialize again and in my head, hear, “Please notice that the seatbelt sign is off, and you are now free to roam around the cabin” (that’s airplane talk, seems I’ve taken one too many flights in my lifetime). I’m getting out there tentatively and still wear a facemask even though my husband and I have chosen to vaccinate fully, and our 15 yr old at this point is 1/2 vaxed. I’m anxious and gun shy. I do Shipt shopping for a couple of hours a day, a few days a week, to offset the cost of my smoothie bowl addiction. When I’m out there in the stores walking around shopping, I feel traces of the paranoia that had set in at the swell of the Covid 19 pandemic run through every fiber of my being. I’m sure a lot of people are still feeling uneasy. Pre vaccination, I was anxious and downright angry about antimaskers rubbing past me while I shopped, and sometimes I would comment to those who wore their masks only over their mouths, saying, “ Hey, you know that mask only works if you cover your mouth and nose.” I admit I was sometimes downright shitty and would glare at people who came too close without protecting the people around them like I was, and I would think, “what an asshole, what a selfish human being!” I would get upset because I was in the store working. Though I was sweating bullets due to 53-year-old menopausal hot flashes behind my mask, I still found it monumentally critical to protect others, myself, and prevent the spread of this crappy disease that some had the nerve to call a hoax. What became most apparent to me due to the pandemic and how people reacted to our new normal was that the narcissistic, entitled “give me liberty or give me death” monster is real. It took over the most unsuspecting of friends and family, tread on you like a pack of wild kids running over ants on a crowded playground, and got stronger the more you objected to it! It’s been hard not to judge through the Covid days.

Frankly, the last year and a bit have been exhausting. I got to a point where I didn’t have energy left to follow the news, CDC guidelines, my friends opinions and beliefs on social media, the trumped-up election commentary for or against it, look for a new job, worry about being separated 9000 miles from my two daughters, wonder when I would be able to hug them again, think about when we would be able to start paying ALL of our bills again, poor health I was experiencing and the body numbing feeling that my world was closing in on me; so I hit my wall. Mental health was a struggle well before all of this. I have battled an acute panic disorder, anxiety, and depression since I was 13. It came on as my hormones changed while going through puberty. The tween years is an expected time of onset for this kind of hereditary disorder. Covid was exceptionally challenging for me and has changed my thought pattern somewhat. Because everything had gotten so heavy and so hard in the world outside my home, I had taken to isolating and staying inside when I could. The CDC had suggested we stay home when possible, and I had no problem with it. Our 15 yr old was also home and doing school online; plus, we have our two dogs, who, by the way, were highly thankful for Covid isolation because they got to snuggle us every day.

I got too comfortable in my bubble, and Isolation for me over a long period is not good (it’s not really good for anyone). In my mid 20’s I suffered from Agoraphobia which, according to Wikipedia (for those of you who don’t know), “is an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms of anxiety in situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape. These situations can include open spaces, public transit, shopping centers, or simply being outside their home. (in my case large crowd of people). Being in these situations may result in a panic attack. The symptoms occur nearly every time the situation is encountered and last for more than six months. Those affected will go to great lengths to avoid these situations. In severe cases, people may become completely unable to leave their homes.”

When I experienced Agoraphobia, I was one of the lead singers of a top 40 band that performed 5-6 nights a week in Naples. People would say, “wow, you must be having a blast!” But in reality, 50% of the time, it was terrifying. I would spend my mornings and afternoons in the safety of my home or rollerblading and running alone, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was sleeping; in fact, I became addicted to sleeping during the day (it’s an escape, it’s a thing). If our phone rang, I refused to pick it up. The thought of talking to anyone made me panic and feel nauseous. It was extremely hard for me to grocery shop at that time; it seemed like everyone in town knew me even if I didn’t know them, and they would stop and talk to me every few aisles. After a while, I started leaving my cart in the middle of the store and hiding in my car where I would go numb with panic, become disoriented, and have to call my then fiancé to save me in the parking lot because I couldn’t move my limbs to drive my car. I viewed the world in single slow frames because my visual tracking was off due to overstimulation in my brain. On one occasion, my husband Paul and I went car shopping at a huge open-air car market in NZ. It was shoulder to shoulder with people. Somehow I lost hold of Paul’s hand, and when we got separated, I went into fight or flight mode. I tried to hold it together, but as my anxiety began to surge, I started shaking uncontrollably and crying so hard I could barely see through the tears. My limbs began to lose feeling just as Paul found me, and when he grabbed my hand again, I furiously yelled at him, “why did you leave me like that? I was scared, and you just left me!” My poor husband, if he had no mental health issues before we married, I’m sure he does now; please pray for him.

The act of panicking and running into triggers became a vicious cycle. The more I isolated or felt abandoned, the more those triggers flicked on, causing my issues to accumulate like onion layers building up into a more complex series of disorders. Peeling back those layers to find some semblance of normal Jeri inside has taken years, long sessions with several kinds of therapists and doctors, and begrudgingly but very necessary, medication. It’s been hard, and even though I have long periods where everything is running smoothly, the fact remains that there are still a few fried circuits inside me that, if tapped the wrong way, set the cycle in motion again. So fast forward to today, I am finding it hard to move outside of my head and my house, to fight the urge to continue to isolate even though the reason to do so is diminishing. I don’t talk as much daily as I did pre isolation, and when I do, I verbally puke out any and every thought that hits my lips because I don’t know when I’m going to have the chance to do it again, and I can’t help myself.

We planted some Clusia hedges in front of our house during our home improvement stage of Covid isolation, and I have been excited about how lush and green our new landscaping looks as it grows. But I found myself looking at them this morning as I was pulling out of the driveway to go Shipt shop (which I make myself do, so I have to leave the house for something), and for a second, I caught myself thinking, “I can’t wait till those grow so tall no one can see our house. Then I will be able to step out on my patio and sit there in comfort, and no one will see me hiding behind the hedges.” It’s not an irrational thought; everyone wants privacy, but I am mindful of these thoughts of wanting to hide and putting them in check while taking baby steps to break out of my bubble and roam freely around the cabin in an attempt to get back to a life that feels free and somewhat normal.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

We made it!!!

It’s over! 31 days in a row of trying to blog something meaningful, with depth and heart that isn’t just fluff and stuff. Only you can be the judge of how I did on capturing your attention. I know I did my best. It was tiring trying to keep up with a 31-day blog challenge. My husband got a little frustrated at times that my nose was in my iPhone notes or computer every day, and he made several comments about how obsessed I had become. But hey, as I told him, “blog challenge or no blog challenge, I have found my rhythm, so get used to it; I’ll often be writing and for long hours sometimes.” I missed 6 out of the 31 days; that’s not too bad. I didn’t write on the days where I honestly had nothing to say. I gained about 100 new followers on my @jerisbraindump Facebook page alone. Thank you to all who have followed and are engaging with sharing and comments on my stories. I have gained 54 new WordPress.com community followers and about 100 more between Instagram and Twitter. I enjoyed reading the stories of fellow bloggers in this challenge, and I’m sure we will all keep an eye on each other from this point on. I think the story I loved sharing the most was “Mother”. It contains memories close to my heart, and I had a chance to bear my vulnerability. You all shared and commented and showed support as fellow parents, and again I thank you. I will continue to blog while working on my memoir. I haven’t forgotten, at one point, someone asked when I would post me singing; here you go (find the link at the end of this blog). I enjoyed having a blog family. Keep in touch.

NOTE: I don’t own any of the writes to the music I’m singing. I used to sing this song for my girls when they were little. I just recorded it on my phone with an app for you all recently. Enjoy! Part of Your World (from The Little Mermaid) https://www.smule.com/sing-recording/1826154647_3755224429

#blogboost #theultimateblogchallenge

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

The Bloggess (no I’m not a stalker)

I didn’t read any blogs until recently. I picked up a book by an author named Jenny Lawson, and it grabbed me. The first book I read of Jenny’s is the second one in her series of memoirs, Furiously Happy. If I ran into Jenny Lawson on the street or went to her famous indie book store, The Nowhere Book Shop in San Antonio, TX; I wouldn’t get all Stephen King Misery psycho Nurse Annie Wilkes on her and say anything creepy like “I’m your number one fan!” But I would graciously tell her she spurred on my creativity and thank her. Her ability to voice her truth in my language helped me move past my fear, doubt, and insecurity into a place of inspired confidence through laughter. Jenny’s words had an impact on me because of where I was in my life at the time that I picked up her book. It coincided with me coming to a close on a several-month battle with depression and a panic disorder that left me incapacitated for several months. Jenny Lawson is not a hero or superstar; she’s not a Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, or Elon Musk. She’s not Shakespeare or Ruth Bader Ginsburg; no, she’s a mom, wife, small business owner, woman fighting a battle with mental illness, and The Bloggess.

I have other people I admire who have shaped my life, but at this moment, this is the person whose voice has spoken to me. She’s not poetic or brilliant in her writing. She scratches lines out in her books and adds humorous lines over them, going against the better judgment of her publisher. She’s not exhaustingly fighting for a cause like other female authors I know these days who have gone beyond telling their story and decided to take over the world. I like Jenny’s style because she doesn’t seem to try to be all things to all people; she just is. (at the moment, watch this space; the fame demon may whisk her genuine nature away too). I like that she feels real and isn’t desperate to be a superstar. Most of all, I like how it feels to relate to her experiences, to understand her words, and to feel like you are reading the writings of a good friend who sees you. I have sent her a message on Twitter because she started following me (very cool), but she probably thinks I’m some creepy fan girl stocker. I’m not; I’m just Jeri from the block, also a mom, wife, and someone who has been wrestling with mental illness for a long time, trying to navigate around anxiety which has shut down some of my dreams and frozen me in my tracks, making it hard to relate to others, feel sure of the decisions I’m making and be comfortable in a room full of people. I encourage you to read her stuff. You may not see genius between the covers, but if you aren’t too much of a snob to laugh till you cry at the ridiculousness of life, you may just feel relief in knowing you’re not the only freaky person in the world and it’s ok.

* The Bloggess *Nowhere Book Shop

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Who’s watching you?

Twirling girl Jeri Moore…

Fully immersed in my little universe, I am unaware of the world around me. When I’m writing, I can sit down at 10 am, thinking I have hours to pen my truth in silence, and then suddenly my daughter walks in the door from school. I find it hard to imagine it’s 2 pm already and feel she has played a trick on me and come home from school early. Have you had that feeling? Have you experienced those times when you’ve been doing something you love and are so focused that the passing of time seems irrelevant and unnoticeable? If you have experienced this like me, you have possibly found your passion. I have had more than one in my life. Those passions are writing and reading, playing the piano, singing, rollerblading, hiking, running, and baton twirling.

This morning I invited a few people I love to share something they remember about me, and my sister accepted the challenge. She sent me a comment by text that sparked the idea for today’s blog entry. You see, during several of my full immersion moments while practicing my baton twirling, my sister was sitting on the outside looking in. Because I was laser-focused and determined to be the best, I tuned out everything and concentrated only on twirling. I was so determined to sharpen my skills I would practice with as little light as possible outside at night and depend on my timing and senses to feel when to snatch the spinning baton that was falling towards me out of the air. Sometimes I would miss, and often I would end up with a few bruises on my face, arms, and legs. I never felt the pain, though, because I was on a mission. I never noticed someone sitting there and had forgotten how often my sister was watching. I would never have imagined the feelings she had for me as she stared on at me feverish, laboring for perfection. The truth is, You don’t always know who’s watching you, and you can never be sure what they see. I have always looked up to my big sister, and the text she sent me following my request for a memory made me realize while I was stressing and striving to be my best, someone was standing right beside me who already thought I was.

I am 53 now, and the text from my sister reflects a memory she had of me when I was in my teens.

“Jeri, the only memory I can think of is when you were in high school, and you were head majorette. I would sit and watch you many, many evenings while you practiced your twirling. I was so amazed at how cool it was that you could do that so incredibly well and how hard you worked at it. I was so proud of you ❤️. I am still proud of you! You were a very talented person. Then and now!” T.A. (My sweet sister)

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

What’s stopping you?

Except for you, you are the only thing holding you back. I hear this in my head when I read quotes like this, and I wonder, Is this 100% true? Maybe I’m the only thing keeping me from reaching my goals and fulfilling my dreams, obtaining love, happiness, contentment, spiritual well-being, and all of life’s creature comforts? Well, first of all, that’s a slightly extensive list, and I tend to overthink things. The quote above is motivational and, in the most simple terms, accurate. If I do what I think this quote is suggesting, “let go and let God,” which means letting go of all of the negative stuff in my life that’s blocking me like fear, anxiety, loneliness, and self-doubt and hand it over to him/her to hold while pursuing my purpose; I have the motivation and confidence to start over, draw a line in the sand and approach life from a new perspective. If I overthink letting go and starting over and what in the universe could stop me, my head spins. I don’t mean to be a negative Nellie, Karen, and let’s not forget Dick (it’s not just the women who annoy us people), but there are a few realistic items that would hold me back from letting go and starting over or make it pretty darn hard:

• losing the funding provided by my hard-working husband so that I can work a flexible job and write for virtually no money at all! (not everyone has that!).

• I have an eternal need to say precisely what I think all of the time. (Admittedly, I don’t always pick up on social cues and have a knack for taking things a bit too far. Even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, which includes doing good deeds and standing up for my rights and the rights of others; it never ends well).

• My anxiety and how socially awkward I feel inside when in an office environment or in a crowd of people socializing where I feel like I have to say anything and everything so there’s no dead air floating around. (I usually say something random and inappropriate and hear people say, “oh Jeri” in a tsk, tsk kind of way, not a surprising kind of way, and if they don’t say it, I see it in their eyes). Disclaimer: This usually leaves me with an uneasy feeling when departing people, and I’m never quite sure if we’re still friends or ever were.

• My children and husband. I wouldn’t let them go to start over. In fact, if we’re talking about things in the universe that could stop us, I would most likely jump in front of a rapidly moving meteor for them, and just like my previously mentioned habit of taking a stand for people and myself, I’m reasonably sure the meteor thing wouldn’t end well).

What I’m saying, I guess, is that looking at that beautiful sentiment above while heartwarming and encouraging makes me feel a bit prickly depending on what I’m considering letting go of and what I’m starting over. I am also confirming the fact that I totally overthink things.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Where do I put this?

Lately, I’ve been blogging, and there are several days where I sit in silence, just rattling around inside my head digging up memories or imagining the future coming up with things to write. Some days it flows easily, and others, I feel mentally drained. I’m writing in a 31-day blog challenge, and at the moment, I have missed 4 out of 22 days. I’m not going to punish myself for the missed days or fret because I didn’t do it perfectly. I’m just going to carry on and do my best.

I have been struggling with what to post and what to keep for my memoir. There is some very personal stuff that could help others out there but also so emotional. I’m not sure I want to be that exposed on the World Wide Web. I’m sensitive to my family and whether they’ll be prepared for the things I’ve written. I’m finding it hard to speak my truth without shocking or potentially hurting those I love; It feels selfish. Most of my Blog posts are witty or light-hearted and, at times, informational, but now that I am in a secure routine in my writing, I feel I have more profound items I want to share. It’s hard to know what space to do this in.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

My Viral Experiment

I experimented on Facebook. Seeing that I’m new to blogging and trying to understand what my audience likes to read best, I’m still unsure what stories attract my readers. In my experiment, I tried to see if I could make a post go viral in two ways. (there are proven methods, I know. My problem is that I don’t know what they are yet! HELP NEEDED!!!)

1. PPC (pay per click) advertising (I put $50 towards a story post that had gotten the most attention 1x per month).

2. Asked 100 of my Facebook friends and family to share my story on their FB timeline (not all 100 people shared, I understand putting a story written by someone you know personally on your feed is a big ask).

That said, I found that neither method made my post go viral. My post had almost the same amount of views both ways. I was surprised to see an unpaid boost in readers of my blog, with just 13 out of the 100 people I asked to share my Facebook page post kindly giving me a hand. BY THE WAY, THANK YOU!

Let’s be realistic; there is the scary thought that my writing is just crap and not “viral” worthy. I have to push that thought out of my mind, though, and write on! My blog is still in it’s infancy (only 2 months old). Following my passion and the joy I get from it shouldn’t be measured by statistics. Maybe I’m just documenting my life to leave behind for my family and generations to follow (maybe by the time I’m dead and gone, my children and husband will care to read my blog, seriously).

All is not lost, though. Things are ever-changing in the online space, and as a blogger, I’m still learning. Gaining knowledge from this experiment is a win because even small gains are growth. Feedback from those in the know is always appreciated.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you find your viral sweet spot? What gets your followers excited? Please comment and share.

♥️📚🐝🖊️♥️

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

This Is Me!

This Is Me!

If I had a theme song, what would it be? Boy, that’s a hard one for someone who loves music as much as I do to answer, especially if you’re asking me to choose just one. My theme song would have to be a music mash-up. I would pick a song that might say I light up the room when I enter it, only because that’s what my mom used to tell me. I loved that woman. If my theme song were to honor how she thought of me, I would choose the song I played the piano and sang in my first solo performance at Naples Park Elementary School in my 4th-grade choir class by Debbie Boone, “You light up my life.”

Or maybe my theme song is what I hear in my head as I perform my duties as a mother. I shout out orders to my captain/husband while leading and keeping my little soldiers in line like Wonder Woman in 1984, fighting the war to end all wars. Picture me walking down the hallway slamming the doors on my children’s messy bedrooms and kicking toys, school books, and clothes out of my path, turning my back on the evil mess. I walk in slow motion shaking my head with a cocky grin followed by a pyrotechnic explosion erupting in a blaze at the end of the hallway behind me! That theme song would be by Hans Zimmer composed for “Wonder Woman 1984”.

My theme song could also show my tender side—the side of me where I love deeply, wholeheartedly, and with lifelong devotion. My husband is a happy lovable teddy bear but not big on saying constant sappy I love you’s. I’ve grown accustomed to his minimalist expression of the L-word, but every once in a while, I pull out the big guns and play the song that we did our first wedding dance, too, to see if I can get some mushiness out of the man. Now that I think of it, maybe this is more of a theme song for our marriage, not me. Anyway, honey, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”

Then there are those times when I want to be with the girls, my sisters, nieces, and friends. This domestic Goddess still contains a lot of party energy that rarely gets tapped into these days. When I get to let my hair down and jettison some of what’s left in this pent-up party tank, I dance like no one is looking (or at least I hope no one’s looking). Yeah, that’s right, one glass of wine or two gin and tonics, and I’m a madwoman dancing on the lowest coffee table I can find (because I just can’t hop up on a bar as I used to and I would be doing this in a living room at this point because I can’t stay awake long enough to reach the rowdy wee small hours of the morning at a raging night club where you would actually see people dancing on a real bar). Come on, just picture me all punked out and off my face tearing it up to my fun side theme song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper, or better yet, “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse (RIP). (It’s hard to imagine, but this really happens, maybe once every ten years).

And finally, there’s my day-to-day Jeri theme song, one that keeps me going, boosts my confidence, and reminds me that I am all that I need to be for me and no more. The song that I can sing scream and cry out all at once, and it awakens any part of me that may feel weak or need a helping hand. Yes, this is my newfound anthem and real-life theme song. I love the chorus,

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em out I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me Look out ’cause here I come And I’m marching on to the beat I drum I’m not scared to be seen I make no apologies, this is me”

Yep, the song that suits me and my life most at the moment is “This is me” sung by Keala Settle and The Greatest Showman Ensemble. And on that powerful note, I drop the mic, and I’m out.

You can find my music mash-up songs on YouTube by clicking the bottom links.

• “You Light Up My Life” https://youtu.be/b07-yKnKRMQ

• “Wonder Woman 1984” soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer. https://youtu.be/HkYCoMAINus

• “Girls just want to have fun” https://youtu.be/PIb6AZdTr-A

• “Rehab” https://youtu.be/KUmZp8pR1uc

• “This is Me” https://youtu.be/wEJd2RyGm8Q

WHAT’S YOUR THEME SONG?

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Let’s Talk About Our Writing

Last week I suggested and shared some links to technical blogging tools that I use. I said, “use these tools to amplify your writing voice and build your audience.” I suggested that you start with one blog account and take it slow. And also noted that “taking it slow is better than doing nothing at all.” While having and knowing how to use all of the gadgets, platforms, and software available for blogging is handy, it’s not everything. The list of links I provided is a vehicle for distributing our stories to the public (and your mom, face it, your mom is always the first to comment on your work). Those blogging and posting tools are necessary, but I want to talk to you about another critical component to being a blog writer, so let’s talk about our writing and what we use to get the written word from our brains to paper or screen with authenticity.

Before I can take my written thoughts and throw them up on the World Wide Web or into the cloud, I have to access some essential tools in my possession. These basic yet necessary and powerful tools took me a long time to learn how to use, maybe longer than learning to use the online tools and platforms I have shared with you. Over time I have fine-tuned these essential tools and discovered that having a clear understanding of this component of my writing is imperative when telling my story.

If you are an artist, singer, writer, or chasing any form of creative endeavor; you have probably searched high and low for that one thing that will make you relevant, pull people in, keep them hooked and give them the desire to share your creative genius with everyone they know. I have honestly spent years reading about how other successful people have found their voice. I have followed their journeys to see where that magic moment happened, that defined them, made them unique, and set them apart from us ordinary folk. What set them on the road to success? Through all of my searching, I found that no two stories are the same. The successful people we look up to and model ourselves after come from varying backgrounds. Some lived in cars with their family and desperation drove them, some had been in the right place at the right time, some were born in the spotlight and chose to carry on a family legacy, and some had greatness thrust upon them (yes, some of those that we look up to found success by accident). But what if all of these individual universes made up of complex stories flavored with personal experience, perception, beliefs, and unique environments use the same tools to accomplish their goals?

I believe they do, and I think I’ve finally discovered what they are in me, and you have got them in you too. I think we can all express ourselves authentically. You have had these tools and have been developing them since the day you were born. You don’t have to go out and buy them, and you can’t download them on your computer or phone as an app.

These special tools are our HEARING, HEART, and HONESTY. Let’s call them the 3 H’s. Remembering to pay attention and use these internal tools intentionally is not always easy. Sometimes I forget to tap into the 3 H’s and write a fluff story that falls flat. It takes time and practice to implement the 3 H’s. And because I make myself write every day, no matter what, I’m not always going to hit it out of the park.

Here’s what happens when I implement the 3 H’s:

When I HEAR or listen in silence, what I hear comes through clearly. It is important to me to listen to my inner voice. I also listen to the voices of those around me (discerningly). Being still and learning to listen patiently helps me understand the world around me and allows me to paint a distinct picture of where I and others fit in my stories. If I only listen to MY voice, I fear I will become very one-dimensional.

When I open my HEART, I tap into authentic emotions. I show my vulnerability and, by doing so, set myself free. Writing from my heart allows me to share my ideas, dreams, compassion, anger, desires, fears, pain, and joy with humanity. Being able to speak from my heart, I believe, makes me relatable to others. We all feel something whether we play our cards close to our chest or put our crazy out on the front porch. I speak from my heart and have seen firsthand how it has helped others open up, face, and share their emotions. I believe this is what pulls people in and gets them hooked, and because it has come from deep in my soul, I feel good knowing I’m not just bullshitting people, which brings me to the 3rd H.

When I am HONEST with myself about my past, present, and goals or dreams set for the future, I can share my truth. My truth is my voice. Finding my voice as a writer has been the most challenging thing for me to do (it’s an evolving process). In the past, I had trouble writing in my voice because I was afraid of offending someone or revealing too much of myself; doing this caused me to write inconsistently or not at all. After a while, writing felt like a chore because I wasn’t honestly putting on paper what I wanted to say. I found my honesty by setting a timer for 10 minutes a day and just writing the first thing that came to my mind. (If you decide to practice this, DO NOT stop to think about what you are writing, just let whatever flows into your mind flow out. Also, please DO NOT go back and correct or read it for a week) doing this helped me to loosen up and freed me from my inhibitions. When I read what I wrote in my 10 minute “stream of consciousness” sessions a week later, I saw honesty and authenticity instead of fabricated thought.

So there they are, the tools that I find the most valuable in my life as a blog writer who is also working on a memoir and dabbling with some short fiction ideas. Focus on the 3 H’s; meditate, silently observe, ask questions, try not to talk for a change (if you’re a talker). Open your heart and share it with others (it may get broken, use that shit). Be honest; always be honest. The older I get, the more I realize that life is too short for BS, fake people, being stuck in toxic relationships, letting others control me, and constantly smiling through the pain. Instead, smile because you feel empowered over having just shared your truth with someone. Remember the saying, “the truth will set you free”? Well, it does.

Use the 3 H’s above, and once you’ve put your words into writing, grab the handy links below, turn up your voice and touch others’ lives. I believe there is no failing in writing. The act of documenting your life is one of creating a legacy that will be here when we are long gone. Did the cavemen or Egyptians worry about the pictorial stories or hieroglyphics they carved into stone and left for generations to come? (I don’t actually know, but I say NO!) If I’m sharing my truth, history, or dreams, I know It can’t be wrong. So come on! Let’s WRITE!

HELPFUL LINKS:

My main webpage is https://jerisbraindumpblog.com (this is a WordPress site).

Comprehensive list of the channels, tools, and accounts I have adopted (please comment kindly, follow, like, or subscribe to any or all of my channels, and by all means SHARE!!!, the point of this is that we’re working to tell our stories and to be seen and heard):

• WordPress https://jerisbraindumpblog.com (BLOG)

• Blogger https://jerisbraindump.blogspot.com (BLOG)

• Medium https://medium.com/me/stories/public (BLOG)

• Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Jerisbraindump (WordPress automated posting)

• Twitter https://twitter.com/BruntonJeri (WordPress automated posting)

• Tumblr https://www.tumblr.com/blog/jerisbraindump (WordPress automated posting)

• Reddit https://www.reddit.com/user/Jeris_Brain_Dump (WordPress automated posting)

• Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/jerimamma/jeris-brain-dump-personal-stories/ (I haven’t figured out how to automate this one yet; however, it is linked to WordPress)

• Anchor https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episodes (this is the tool I use for creating excellent Podcasts where I read and record my blog for friends and family who don’t like to or have the time to read). Anchor is easy to use and allows you to record from your phone or computer. I sit in my closet and record, so there’s no background noise. Anchor then distributes my Podcast to their affiliates:

• Spotify https://spoti.fi/3nZzw25

• Apple Podcasts https://apple.co/2R1Kzfi

• Google Podcasts https://bit.ly/3f1ATtg

• THERE ARE MANY, MANY MORE CHANNELS ANCHOR PODCASTS ARE DISTRIBUTED!

• YouTube https://youtu.be/iIzuHRTaMt0 (I had to use a tool that turns audio into a video format to be posted on YouTube. YouTube doesn’t allow audio-only posting. I recommend Wavve; it’s easy to use and free. (FREE IS GOOD!) https://wavve.co

Other handy tools I use are:

Bit.ly to shorten URL’s

• Grammerly.com for editing and correcting text before posting a blog (if you don’t have a trusted proofreader, this is a MUST!!! Even this excellent tool doesn’t replace the sharpness of a trained human editors eye)

Me working on the 3 H’s
Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Five Tips for Rollerblading Over 50

I used to rollerblade daily. Everywhere, for miles, in flat Florida or down the steep Tennessee hills. I was addicted to rollerblading and running for years. I learned to rollerblade when I was 23 and stopped after I had my first child 22 years ago (I did rollerblade 10 miles one time since then in 2012, I don’t know how I did it).

Lately, I have been dying to run and get back into rollerblading. I have missed the charge I got out of both activities as a fit young woman. I also miss the body I had (pre-babies 22 years ago). My body didn’t quite bounce back after children, and no matter how much I have worked out or dieted, I have never been thin again. At this point, I don’t care if I’m skinny; I just want to have fun, fly across the pavement with the wind blowing through my hair, feel young and be fit again.

For this past Mother’s Day, our 15 yr old daughter and my lovely husband gifted me with Zetrablade Elite W Rollerblades! We drove 1 hr to the only store close to us that had my size and bought those with a full array of padding. I also looked for ski poles, but the store was out of stock. (My daughter didn’t want me to work back into blading with ski poles anyway. She said, “once a ski poler, always a ski polar.” She may be right).

We found an excellent park on the waterfront with a mile loop of smooth pavement. I suited up and prepared to wow my family with my rollerblade skills. I always bragged about how I used to jump things and do extreme downhill blading with no fear. I put on my new wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads, and finally, my rollerblades. The moment of truth had arrived. I stood up and immediately felt beads of sweat begin to roll off of my face. I hadn’t even moved yet. I looked at my family with an awkward smile and said, “I got this, it’s ok, hold on, hold on.” It turned out the “truth” at that moment was that I was no longer fearless. I suddenly became aware of how tall I was on the rollerblades and how far away the ground was. All I could hear in my head was my heartbeat and “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” I was acutely in tune with my new 53 yr old body and the weight of it and thought, “man, this is not going to fall well!” I WASNT EVEN ON THE PAVEMENT YET! I toddled across the grass in slow motion, and my sweet daughter cheered me on with positive affirmation, “you can do it, mom. Just take your time.” I had to skate. My whole Mother’s day was building up to this very moment.

I mumbled nervously as I reached the edge of the sidewalk and carefully positioned myself to place my left foot on the concrete and push off the grass with the right foot. I thought, “shit, just do it!” I pushed off and, to my surprise, glided a few feet across the pavement. I literally went 3 feet and was shaking so badly I thought I would fall apart. I was now sweating buckets, on the verge of puking, and almost burst into tears. My husband said, “are you ok, honey?” NO! I WASN’T OK! But I wasn’t going to let him know that.

I said, “oh yeah, just a little shaky’” and held my hand out so he could see that I was a wreck. There was no turning back, though; I made myself do it. I Ski plowed, in and out along the pavement, pushed off my right back foot to keep moving slowly forward along the mile-long concrete track, and promised myself that no matter how terrible this felt, I wasn’t going to give in. I stepped off the pavement from time to time along the path and walked through the grass. OMG, my inner thighs were killing me, and I think I had engaged my glutes; I mean really engaged them for the first time in years, maybe decades. I fell one time; forward and landed on my wrist guards and padding. To my great surprise, it was very cushy and didn’t hurt at all! A group of 40-50-year-old women walked by and cheered me on, “way to go, there’s no way you’d ever get me on a pair of those again; you’re a brave woman!” My sweet girl said, “Hey, they gave you mom creds!” I looked behind me to see that I had gone a half-mile. I was doing it. I was still alive and in one piece. I realized that I might be able to recapture a bit of my youth after all. I finished the mile path and passed the car. I did it all again! I went another mile. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, that I was skating and really doing it.

I showered the nervous sweat of the day off of me when we got home that evening. My legs and inner thighs were so sore, and I knew I would be feeling it in the morning. I was so proud of what I had accomplished. My family showered me with tons of hugs and kisses all evening. I think they were proud of me too, and it felt good.

I have advice for any of you out there who want to recapture your youth with something as daring as rollerblading. Here are five tips for rollerblading over 50:

1. Suit up! Wear every pad available (if I had a pillow, I would have duck taped that to my backside, seriously don’t be afraid to do that).

2. Wear a helmet! (I didn’t, and my sisters saw me in photos and gave me hell for not doing so)

3. Take it slow and know that a tiny step is larger than not taking any steps at all. (Take the first step, push off that grass and ride across the pavement like you own it, and also pray).

4. Focus and breathe! You have to breathe; if you don’t, you’ll get dizzy and pass out, at which point you will crash to the pavement with all of your weight and probably get hurt. (Again, SUIT UP! PUT ON EVERY PAD THEY MAKE!)

5. Make a promise to yourself to put your rollerblades on at least three times a week. (Push yourself; remember how you learned when you were younger. Your mom told you to take that stuff outside because you left rollerblade marks all over her clean floor, but you were hooked. You would wear them to bed if you could, but they’re hard to roll over in and harder to go to the bathroom in the dark in, so you didn’t, but you still did it in the house and got good at it because you were obsessive about it). Be consistent like that.

BONUS TIP:

6. Have fun, make fun of yourself, be gentle with yourself, and don’t forget to take Advil and ice those sore muscles at bedtime. It’s day two that hurts the worst.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Mother

My children have inspired me to grow as a person, caregiver, friend, healer, disciplinarian, and nurturer. Thank you.

I put off having kids until my early 30’s. I was scared to become a parent. I was afraid I wouldn’t do it right. It always amazed me that you had to get a driver’s license to drive a car or operate heavy machinery not to harm yourself or anyone else. Still, any idiot could have a child and totally destroy a new untarnished soul or have the means to crush their hearts with little to no training. Not everyone has role models to mirror their parenting skills after. Not everyone grows up with two parents; some children have no parents. In my eyes, parents were complex, broken, sad, confused, sometimes scary people who loved you fiercely or chose to ignore your very existence. Sometimes parents may be your best friend and forgot they’re supposed to be parenting, sometimes the child has to be the parent, and that’s what I had to do from time to time.

I watched my mom struggle, love, escape, evolve, regret, search for joy and find herself as a parent. Torn, she made her children a priority and tried to define herself, cutting out a patch of freedom from her burden of parenthood with limited means and no real support. My example of love came from someone who desperately wanted to be loved but struggled to show it. She had no model to go off of herself. She wanted to be close but felt confined and smothered by the clinging nature of those who needed her or depended on her. She wanted to be fun and was but didn’t know where to draw the line. She wanted to be the mother everyone could talk to and adore and at the same time needed someone she could lean on and talk to, and in her world, that was hard to find. The family was important to her, and keeping relatives close was imperative. My mom took pride in keeping in touch with her siblings and needed to feel that never-ending connection. My mom’s parents had died well before she was out of her teens, and she craved that bond; having it strengthened her and gave her a sense of home and belonging. Mom and I made the journey to be with her siblings several times in my childhood; It was paramount that we have those family connections. Whether there was family around or not, my mom was lonely, and watching the pain she struggled with made me uneasy and unsure about becoming a parent myself. It seemed to bring her more sadness than joy. And my dad was no parent to me; he just plain left.

I didn’t have babies around me growing up. I didn’t have a lot of cousins, nephews, and nieces, or minor siblings to hold. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was petrified. Would I be a good mom? I wasn’t ready. Paul and I had gone to a picnic, and there was a newborn there. The glowing mother asked me if I wanted to hold him to practice a bit. She gently put her baby in my arms, and though I seemed comfortable and cooed Into the sweet baby’s face, every fiber of my being was screaming to give the baby back. I was afraid I would drop it, break it, or squish it. No good could come from holding that tiny miracle. I smiled, said thank you, and handed him over almost as quickly as she placed him in my arms. Paul took a turn next. He is the baby whisperer. The minute my husband touched that baby boy, it relaxed, having been crying from the jostling of being passed around like a hot potato between his mother and me. Paul made faces at him, and he rocked him gently in his hands. Paul was secure and comfortable, and the child felt safe in his arms, you could tell. A smile crossed my face as I watched this and listened to the mothers surrounding us saying what an amazing father Paul was going to be. Inside I was crushed, though, I couldn’t pretend to love holding that baby, and I felt jealous that Paul had more ability to nurture a little soul than I had in the tip of my pinky finger.

Later, Paul and I drove home in silence. I broke out in tearful sobs and said, “I can’t do it! I can’t have this baby; I don’t even know how to hold one. I’m going to mess everything up. There’s no way I can do this perfectly.” Paul listened as I freaked out and declared impending doom on our baby due to my lack of ability to mother. I couldn’t imagine ever holding a child and feeling at ease like Paul did that evening at the picnic. I had anxiety over the possibility that it would all fall apart, and I, without the proper training and a parenting license, would crash and burn, killing everyone along for the ride. Paul reached across the car and put his hand on mine. He spoke gently in an attempt to calm my nerves. “Jeri, when you hold your baby, it will be easy. You’re carrying the baby now inside you, and it’s safe, and your both fine.” he said, “you don’t have to know how to do it all right now; motherly instinct will kick in.” I didn’t feel immediately better, but there was truth in his logic, which gave me comfort. He gave me hope that somewhere in the fiber of my womanhood, I would understand my role as a mother when the time came. I played his words over and over again as we made our way home and locked them in my heart as my pregnancy progressed, hoping that I would instinctually fold my newborn child in my loving arms and it would feel natural, meant to be, and beautiful. Maybe my mom had the same fear I had before the birth of her children. Perhaps she always just wanted to do it right but, in the end, did what she could. She was an unlicensed driver carrying her kids on her journey over every bump, dip, and pothole in the road. She stayed true to her role as a mother with the skills she had acquired, not skills that someone had taught her. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Me and my Mamma Snuggling ♥️

As I realized this about my mom, I decided to educate myself on parenting and childbirth. I felt that the most significant and crucial step in becoming a good parent was to be true to who I was and be sure of myself so that it was clear to my baby or babies that they were planned and loved from the moment we realized we wanted them to conception and birth. My next step was to surround myself with solid parenting role models. I found them at church, at the Park where I volunteered, and in my women’s writing group. I gobbled up the wisdom of seemingly healthy moms and dads who came across my path. I prayed that God would guide me, and I leaned on Paul. He knew how to do this.

It was Paul who one day, while sitting at a stoplight on Westend Ave in Nashville, TN said to me, “it’s time for us to have a baby” I was shocked at the suggestion. We had been together for 5 yrs and married for 2 of them. “I’m not ready; I’m still working on my music career,” I said nervously.

Paul shrugged and let out a frustrated sigh, “You’re always going to be working on that! It’s time; I want to have a baby.”

Begrudgingly I said ok and started processing the idea the only way I knew how; I set a firm date on my calendar. If it was in writing, I couldn’t back out. I think I still have the calendar with the date in it.

On the official “day to get pregnant,” I went to a girls’ luncheon. I naively told my girlfriends, “I’m supposed to get pregnant today.” they looked at me in surprise and offered me good luck, fertility, support, advice, and lots of food as if I was already eating for two. When I walked into our old brownstone apartment that afternoon, I felt like a nervous virginal bride entering territory that was mysterious and frightening. I shook as I entered my bedroom, knowing Paul was in bed. I had the feeling a big part of me was about to be sacrificed and offered up to the God of fertility and life. I laid down and found that Paul was sound asleep. I nudged him and said, “hey are you having a nap?” he said, “ yeah, I had a couple of beers this afternoon.” Already I was worried that this was a bad day to get pregnant. What if the beer tainted our unborn child? I was a confused mess, but a plan is a plan. I laid there next to Paul and tried to quiet my mind. I, too, dozed off after a while, and when we woke up, I reminded him of our commitment for that day and made good on it. We had made love a million times before, but this was different; we were now on a mission to bring new life Into the world. It changed the way I approached Paul and the way I saw sex between us. It was now not just a physical act of love and release but a spiritual right of passage. Like so many others, we were attempting to join the ranks of parenthood.

The magic moment ♥️

We didn’t get pregnant right away, but it wasn’t too long after we began trying that my breast became sore, and I felt a shift in my hormones that caused me anxiety and made me glow. We had taken a vacation with my mother, the childhood road trip we had taken to visit my mother’s siblings and hometown so many times before. Paul and I continued our efforts to get pregnant in every place along our journey on that trip. We discussed getting pregnant with the family members we visited. We made love in a tent, bed and breakfast, hotel room, aunt and uncles houses, and finally under a waterfall in Shenandoah national park. There that day, in the trees among the rocks with the smell of earth and moss all around us, there was a magic that touched us. We knew something special had just happened, and we even documented it with a selfie, well before the cellphone selfie had become a thing. The next day we packed the car to return home to Nashville. I was tired, moody, and my breasts felt tender.

I had all the signs of being pregnant. I took a store-bought pregnancy test, and it came out positive (I saved it and still have it in a ziplock baggie in my hope chest). Our baby journey had begun, and the road ahead was unfamiliar. We were about to become unlicensed parents, and it was all at once exciting and scary. Admittedly I was apprehensive at the start. Having the first baby seemed impossible, and there was no way I would have predicted that Paul and I would have three beautiful girls or how much they would mean to me. Paul was right; my motherly instinct did kick in. I have gotten so lost in my children that I can’t remember what it’s like not to be a mom/mum, and that’s ok. I am happy to give myself to them fully in the short time we have together. Snuggling them is my happy place (whether they’re 2 or 22). They are my everything, inspiration, pride, joy, and love, and I wouldn’t trade being their mother and all of the lessons we’ve taught each other for the world.

The baby whisperer with girls. ♥️♥️♥️
Posted in Personal Journal Blog

When Do You Work?

I don’t work a 9-5 job. I lost my admin position in March of 2020 when COVID 19 hit the world. I spent a great deal of time over the last year reevaluating myself and what I wanted for my future. I wasn’t sure when the world would heal from the effects of the pandemic, and I needed to make some decisions for myself that gave me peace and lifted me out of a long bout of depression I had been in and couldn’t seem to shake. I had been looking for another job as an admin assistant for upper management. However, that position was never one that made me happy and left me feeling empty. I dreaded working for another power-tripping company owner or organization leader. What I wanted to do was follow my passion and dreams, not help someone else with theirs. I’m sure many people have rethought their goals and aspirations since the onset of covid, and after my isolation-induced struggle with my emotions, I decided to look out for myself first for a change.

My best friend and husband had been encouraging me to go public with my writing for years. I considered the idea for several months while I stayed still and watched how people had changed their approach to life; as a result of covid, I decided to follow suit. So again, I don’t work a 9-5 job. I don’t work, I write. I write when I’m inspired, no matter what day it is. To help supplement income, I take odd jobs shopping for people or delivering packages to them from a platform that allows me to make my own schedule. I make what I need each week in my own time with no boss, and I take a break or knock off for the day when I get the urge to jot down another story. It doesn’t matter to me if I write on the weekend or during the week. In fact, I’m lying in bed right now at 10:30 pm on a Saturday, writing this while my husband snores next to me.

My life has changed since March 2020, for the better. My goals and focus aren’t about what title I can have or how much money I make annually. Those things look so superficial to me now. Don’t get me wrong. I respect those who have found a title, money, and happiness in the corporate world (as long as it’s true happiness); it’s just not for me. I feel free, and my life has balance and meaning. I am fortunate that my husband supports me in my efforts financially. I know not everyone with a dream has someone like him in their corner. I am a writer, and I write because it is my voice. It’s what gives me authenticity. I hope everyone can carve out enough time to find that deep within themselves.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Essential Blogging Tools

I started seriously building my online presence and blog space in early March 2021. Seeing that this is early May, I don’t have a lot of stats to go off to show proven success with the methods I have researched and applied. This doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing, though. I have worked as a successful social media marketer over the last ten years and have kind of figured it out for myself. Writing a blog without formal education is hit and miss at first (so I take tips from other successful bloggers). The key is to constantly research, listen to those who have proven success, and continuously fine-tune. One year in, I may have a whole different idea for my blogging methods.

I started with a blank slate and built WordPress and Blogger account pages. If you google those, you should be able to find them. WordPress even has an easy-to-use app for iPhone that allows you to create and post content on the move. I LOVE IT! We all know that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” so It made sense to me to put my blog content up online in as many forms as possible without creating a digital monster I would spend too much time feeding. You don’t want to have so many accounts that you don’t have time to focus on your primary goal, which is WRITING YOUR BLOG!

Time will tell if the tools I am currently using will be the most effective in building my audience and monetizing my efforts. Please click the links I provide below to see what I have created in various spaces, even if you don’t stop to read the stories.

My main webpage is https://jerisbraindumpblog.com (this is a WordPress site). Anytime I post a story there, the widgets I use within the site builder push my posts to social media channels I have chosen to link to WordPress. Doing this saves a lot of time and is very handy. Another great feature of WordPress is that there is a community of other bloggers who live on that platform where we connect. We all follow, comment, and share each other’s material which is essential when building your audience. On top of my website, I have a podcast and utilize Youtube. Learning how to do all of this took a great deal of research and study, and you may notice here and there that I’m still in the trial and error stage, so be gentle.

Below I have created a list of the channels, tools, and accounts I have adopted (please comment, follow, like, or subscribe to any or all of my channels, the point of this is that we’re working to tell our stories and to be seen and heard):

• WordPress https://jerisbraindumpblog.com (BLOG)

• Blogger https://jerisbraindump.blogspot.com (BLOG)

• Medium https://medium.com/me/stories/public (BLOG)

• Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Jerisbraindump (WordPress automated posting)

• Twitter https://twitter.com/BruntonJeri (WordPress automated posting)

• Tumblr https://www.tumblr.com/blog/jerisbraindump (WordPress automated posting)

• Reddit https://www.reddit.com/user/Jeris_Brain_Dump (WordPress automated posting)

• Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/jerimamma/jeris-brain-dump-personal-stories/ (I haven’t figured out how to automate this one yet; however, it is linked to WordPress)

Buy me a coffee https://www.buymeacoffee.com/Jerimb/posts (this is a platform that will help you monetize your blogs by giving your readers the option to subscribe monthly).

• Anchor https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episodes (this is the tool I use for creating excellent Podcasts where I read and record my blog for friends and family who don’t like to or have the time to read). Anchor is easy to use and allows you to record from your phone or computer. I sit in my closet and record, so there’s no background noise. Anchor then distributes my Podcast to their affiliates:

• Spotify https://spoti.fi/3nZzw25

• Apple Podcasts https://apple.co/2R1Kzfi

• Google Podcasts https://bit.ly/3f1ATtg

• THERE ARE MANY, MANY MORE CHANNELS ANCHOR PODCASTS ARE DISTRIBUTED!

• YouTube https://youtu.be/iIzuHRTaMt0 (I had to use a tool that turns audio into a video format to be posted on YouTube. YouTube doesn’t allow audio-only posting. I recommend Wavve; it’s easy to use and free. (FREE IS GOOD!) https://wavve.co

Other handy tools I use are:

Bit.ly to shorten URL’s

Grammerly.com for editing and correcting text before posting a blog (if you don’t have a trusted proofreader, this is a MUST!!!)

Finally, these are my babies! My Apples are sacred; NO ONE touches my Apples. I WOULD BE LOST WITHOUT THEM! When I got my first iPod in 2003, my family nicknamed me “Gadget Girl,” and it stuck!

Apple’s MacBook Air https://www.apple.com/macbook-air/

Apples iPhone 12 Pro https://www.apple.com/iphone-12-pro/

I hope you find this helpful. Use the tools provided to amplify your writing voice and build your audience. You don’t have to do all this, so don’t get overwhelmed. Start with one of the blog accounts. Take it slowly; that’s better than doing nothing at all. So get going! BLOG!

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

The Leader of the Band

I had many music teachers who touched my life and influenced me but none more so than Merrill Jerome Edwards. Jerome was my marching, symphonic, and jazz band director, instrumental studies teacher, church choir director, role model, and at one point, my rock.

I remember my freshman year, sitting in the back of the band room on the last row with my clarinet, which I didn’t play very well (hence the last row). I was in marching band only because I wanted to be the lead singer for the high school jazz band, which I had spent three years in middle school preparing for with my then band director Harold Moyer (also a dedicated teacher who introduced me to the whole idea of singing with a jazz band or any band for that matter). You see, if you weren’t in the marching band, you couldn’t be in the jazz band, so there I was, one of the last chair clarinet players (a small price to pay for high school stardom).

Mr. Edwards quite frankly scared me! He was an ex-marine who had the features of our school mascot, the Golden Eagle. His steel-blue piercing eyes were deep-set on either side of his strong nose, his head set atop squared-off shoulders, a flat top military haircut, and high forehead. When he spoke, his voice boomed and rattled the bass drums lined up at the back of the room. He took his position as the Golden Eagle Marching band leader very seriously and expected his students to take pride in their involvement and do the same. Mr. Edwards disciplined us to through a military demerit system displayed on the wall behind the music chalkboard. If you were late, demerit, if you talked when he talked, demerit, if your uniform was in disarray when it came time to perform, demerit. Mr. Edwards wasn’t just there to bark orders and give demerits, though; he inspired us with his cheesy whit and stories of overcoming adversity, having integrity, and showing initiative. He detested apathy and spelled out the damaging long-term effects of being apathetic to his class regularly; as you can imagine, he was dealing with 13-18-year-old students who were in their most apathetic stage of life.

Mr. Edwards and the Golden Eagle Mascot

Mr. Edwards nurtured with strength and always laid it on the line. My first encounters with him included auditioning for the jazz band (I was the lead singer for four years) and asking if I could go to his office to purchase new reeds or cork grease for my instrument. Every time I approached to speak to him up on his conductor’s riser, I felt intimidated. I had no father figure at home, and men were bad in my mind. He would look down at me as I asked him my question and say, “look me in the eyes when you talk to me, Jeri Moore.” My eyes would have rolled out of my head before I’d have the nerve to follow that simple order. He said, “no one will ever take you seriously if you don’t look them in the eye.” It took me a good year and a half before I could stand eye to eye with him and feel confident. He was strengthening me, and I didn’t even know it.

It was clear very early in my freshman year that I had to drop my marching band instrument and twirl a baton to stay in the marching band to stay in jazz band. We live in Florida, and I don’t know who thought WOOL marching band uniforms in 90-degree heat with 78 percent humidity was a good idea, but we had to wear them, and it was murder. On top of the smothering comfort of the uniform, I was and still am very allergic to wool. As a result, I passed out at one of the first football games we marched in, and my body swelled all over. Of course, we didn’t know I was allergic to wool because I never had to wear it growing up in the Deep South. We needed a solution to this problem, or I would have to quit the band. Mr. Edwards quickly introduced me to Arianne Crawford, the captain of the majorette squad, who gave me express lessons on how to twirl, chose an audition song with me, and taught me a routine. By the end of the marching season, I was ready to try out and made the squad, never having to put on that nasty hot navy blue uniform again. My teacher’s tenacity taught me to overcome problems if I could come up with a solution. Not always something taught in school. I was also encouraged to use my common sense. Mr. Edwards made me accountable in many ways. For instance, by having to be in the marching band and on the majorette squad to be in the jazz band, my teacher developed this network of projects and people I had to report to who made me take ownership of the function I was there to perform. He was very clever.

Me! In the white keds and skimpy uniform to the right of the drum major front row center.

I needed the discipline I received from being a part of Mr. Edwards classes. I grew up in a household with a single mother, and as the youngest child of 5, my siblings had moved on in their own lives, and there was not a great deal of continuity and stability at home. Things were pretty fluid and inconsistent when it came to parental discipline during my high school years, and I needed just the kind of strict leadership Mr. Edwards had to offer. The lessons I learned as his student are valuable ones I have used repeatedly as a college student, employee, lead singer in pop bands, mother, and wife.

There was a point in my high school years when Mr. Edwards became more than the formative figure of leadership and musical power in my life. Around the end of my 10th-grade year, and as I got to know his sons in the youth group at our local church where we all attended youth choir with him as our leader, he became Jerome or Burr. (I’m not sure if we ever called him Burr to his face or not, but we thought it was funny either way). Jerome became a person who joked with us between songs and conducted our music sessions more casually. He made me feel welcome and treated me with respect as a musician while praising my abilities and encouraging me to solo often. I appreciated this so much. It was one thing to have applause from an audience or praise from your mom or family for your accomplishments. Still, it meant everything and had so much more value from a respected musician in the community who just happened to be somewhat of a father figure. I can’t imagine how many people felt this way about this man. He has touched so many lives throughout his career, and I know many of them admired him. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Edwards was not a perfect person; everyone has their flaws, but he cared about his students, and he knew how to get the most out of us, and that was his superpower.

Me! Second second person standing in the back.

The defining moment in our student-teacher friendship came when I was in a moment of crisis. I struggled with some weighty boy issues and was doing everything I could to keep it to myself. Jerome could see I was hurting, though. My emotion came through when I sang as I played the piano, and he could see me sinking into myself in class. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed me silently begging for a lifeline or not at that point. Still, he pulled me aside after class one day and let me know I wasn’t alone, that he would stand by me if I ever needed an adult to confide in, and assured me I would be ok. Our conversation wasn’t prolific, and his actions weren’t superb; he simply gave me a moment of assurance and safety. He said, “I see you, I got you,” in the only way Burr knew how and that gave me strength.

I was gifted with a voice but got lost in the shuffle of home and out-of-control teen issues. This teacher, bandleader, father and faith leader was an adult who seemed never changing, stable, and someone that I could trust. For as long as I can remember, he believed in me not just as a student who could be a success someday but as a human being. He could see the good in me even when I didn’t feel good enough. And in those times when I wasn’t good enough, Mr. Edwards, Jerome, Burr inspired me to be better, not because it mattered what others thought of me but because having integrity was essential and it mattered what I thought of me.

So, I dedicate this story to Merrill Jerome Edwards and hope that my words will reach and touch him the way they reached me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I learned to at bassoon to be symphonic band. Mr. Edwards told me I could learn to at it quickly so I did.
Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Pack Your Bags; We’re Moving! Tips from an international moving expert?

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.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

That One True Purpose

Lately, I’ve felt like the whole world has opened up. Not because I won the lottery or found out that secretly I’m the air to a small country in the middle of nowhere. No, not because of that. I feel this way because I have finally found myself. I have found my voice and that one true purpose. Making this statement is colossal, right?! I know that every human being out there at some point in their life has wondered why the hell they are here. I have for years. It didn’t click for me until recently at the age of 53. It was an accident that I found my purpose. I had hit my lowest point in life and thrown my hands in the air in defeat, swore never to leave my bed again, and then my purpose found me.

The life I’ve lived has shaped my purpose. I am the youngest of five kids, and by nature and according to Alfred Adler’s Birth Order Theory, I am a textbook 5th or last child. I’m a risk-taker, outgoing, creative, self-centered (but come on, who isn’t), competitive, bored easily, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, like to be pampered, (oh yeah, I like to be pampered), and have a sense of humor, did I say I like to be pampered? There is also a bit about being financially irresponsible, but that’s not me. I am that person who was journaling paper budgets six months in advance in those black-bound school journals before you could use digital budgeting tools like PocketGuard or Mint. I am the organizer in our house, the cleaner, fixer, mover, shaker, and disciplinarian. At the beginning of my relationship with Paul, we had a sleepover at my mom’s place (if that’s what you want to call it); I walked past the bathroom door as he had just opened it on his way out. I stood back and watched him silently go through my bathroom drawers. I would say that was creepy, but It was entertaining to watch the horror on his face over finding my hair ties, bobby pins, hair clips, and barrettes all separated and placed neatly into individual little Tupperware containers. I held my laughter in as he lifted one of the containers from the drawer, examined my severe organization, and let out an audible “holy shit!” Yeah, no, I think the creepy one in that scenario was me. Paul is still with me after 28 years and brings in the cash while I write, mother, obsessively rearrange our kitchen cabinet contents, wage war against plastic, and manage our finances and the house. He enriches our lives by sharing silly antics with our daughters, drumming up raucous play sessions, imposing his cool dude presence, and cleaning up the kitchen after I cook nightly. We are a well-suited match. He doesn’t worry much. There was a time when that was detrimental to our relationship because I obsessively stress enough for all 5 of us and got frustrated that his head was empty while mine was racing with thoughts (that green-eyed monster, jealousy is ugly).

Being a worrier, I find it hard to let go of things. Worrying less gets better as I get older because I don’t have the energy anymore. Worrying involves digging up a lot of information stored in our being. Humans process thoughts over and over again deep into their subconscious, where conclusions are formulated in a REM state; which I can never achieve because I’m too busy laying awake worrying and counting the number of popcorn bubbles on our stucco ceiling or naming all of the shapes I can see in the little bumpy plaster splatters. So worry is not really my only actual problem; there’s also insomnia; I’ve had that for as long as I could remember. I’m like Buffy the Vampire slayer, only older, puffier, and brunettish, only in the sense that she was a vampire, and they come out at night. I am a night dweller too, and I’m in no way scared of the light of the sun, but I do like to sleep in, so don’t ever invite me to catch a sunrise, please. If you wake me up anywhere before 7:30 or 11:30 am, I just can’t. Oh, I’m exaggerating, 9:30 am. If I didn’t take citalopram and journal, relieving myself with a brain dump, I would never close my eyes (hey, if I do a plug for Citalopram, do I get a kickback like my Dr’s? Come on, big Pharma, throw me a bone!). I usually fall asleep at about 2 am and then wake up late. I lay in bed reading, talking to our girls in NZ on FaceTime, or writing in the notes on my iPhone. At one point in time, I traced our entire family tree back to the 1400s, hiding under my covers. It’s a wonder my poor husband doesn’t have sleep issues because there is always a little glow of phone light coming from my side of the bed. I hold off on looking at social media until the early hours of the morning, 8:00 am. You early risers probably think I’m pathetic; I know, I can feel the way you’re eyeing the page, all judgie like. Just because Ben Franklin said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” doesn’t mean me and those like me are doomed to be broken, starving artists with limited intelligence and foolish banter till the day we die.

I make sense of my world by putting it into words and taking photos. I am creative. Most creatives have some quirky issues and are sometimes highly intelligent (I’m not saying I’m a genius or anything, but I am smarter than the average bear). People like me aren’t savvy in the conventional; you test well on national standards tests way, but in a more creative thinking outside of the box way. I wasn’t a standard student, and I wasn’t academically gifted. My teachers recognized my gift as a singer early on, and they tailored my school schedule to nurture my talents. I had voice and dance lessons after school, and by the end of high school, I had four music classes out of 7 a day. I would even get pulled out of academic courses to work on creative projects. I was fortunate to have a middle school and high school in tune and sympathetic to my needs. Big shout out to Gulfview Middle School and Naples High School. Best schools ever! 💙💛🦅

Even though I was encouraged to sing and be the captain of the majorette squad, I missed out in the English lit area. All of the brainy kids were in the classes that would have nurtured my desire to be a writer. I was fortunate to be put in Mr. Glancy’s class my senior year, he taught the advanced English lit classes, and he inspired me to read and love it. He had the cool factor and was skilled at getting inside the student’s heads. He could see I was a bit of an oddball but didn’t dismiss me. No, he sat me at the front of the room to sleep with my head on my backpack and made me wake up and engage. I’m thankful for that.

As I look back at all of the journaling I have done in my stack of notebooks and online, I realize that I have been a natural-born writer all along. I worked so hard at my singing career, but my silent true passion was always right at my fingertips. When I gave up hope during the isolation of covid, the only safe place to turn was inward, and that spilled out of my fingers onto paper and up to the cloud. I have been feverishly writing since that morning in March 2021 when I woke up and frantically searched the house for every one of my old journals and online diaries. I was desperate to speak my mind and didn’t want to burden others with my issues, beliefs, and ideas. I did what came naturally to me and wrote about the pain and confusion I felt. Over the weeks that followed, my dear husband noticed a calmness in me. My writing was healing me, lifting me, and giving me purpose. He has been so happy for me, and I have felt such relief and been much easier to be around (I’ve even started laughing at myself again). My lost feeling hadn’t started during COVID; in fact, the more I dive into my memories and document my journey, I find that I was wandering longer than I or anyone else knew. I know who and what I am now; I have a voice that I am not afraid to use. I’ve found a space I can be my authentic self in, and while doing it, I can share my words and help others find themselves hopefully (or I may just confuse you even further than you are now).

The world has indeed opened up as my mind has opened, as I’ve let go of my fear of failing and worry over being perfect. I’ve learned to take care of myself first now. I understand that taking care of Jeri gives me the strength to be there for others and still know when I need to back off. Yes, I am a writer, blogger, wordsmith, and expert through my life experiences. I am excited to be alive again and looking forward to seeing how my words touch others and continue to heal me. I am at peace knowing that one true purpose has finally found me.

This is where the magic happens.
Posted in Personal Journal Blog

What do a MacBook Air and Rollercoaster have in common?

Today I got my new MacBook Air! I am so excited. I kind of went online and bought it for myself, in silver for our Silver 25th Wedding Anniversary! So It’s from me to me, from Paul. He knew about it, well he knew after I bought it. I called him and said, “hey were you thinking of buying me a MacBook Air for our anniversary? It is, after all, the perfect gift since I have been writing so much lately!” My dear husband stumbled over his words a bit and wasn’t sure if he had said he would or not. No, he didn’t, never, not once, actually he didn’t even know I wanted one. I pulled the stop lever on his confused train of thought and exclaimed, “surprise, well you DID! I am so excited! I just ordered it! Thank you so much!” And THAT, my ladies and gentlemen, is how you get it done!

So, I dedicate this little blip of a story about my new MacBook Air to my amazingly understanding and patient, although sometimes oblivious and loving best friend and husband of 25 years, Paul Anthony Brunton. I can’t imagine life without you, well I can, but I don’t want to. You are the PB to my J, the cherry on top, the gravy on my potatoes, blah, blah, blah…. I love you plain and simple, even when I don’t.

The Newly Bruntons April 20, 1996 (first wedding ceremony, story for another time).

Did I say you’re still pretty hot for a 56 yr old man? Well, you happen to be trending right now. Dad bods are so in. With those brown, gold, grey curly locks of hair, dreamy blue eyes, and that sexy, now almost American, but still a slight bit New Zealand accent, you still do it for me. Also, did I tell you how proud I am of you?

You are an amazing dad; your daughters love you more than Harry Styles, Chemistry, Running, Ice Cream, and their friend groups, but not more than me. Sorry, I can’t say that; I would lose street cred. However, I know the truth, and they secretly love you most! AND, did I tell you I adore your hardworking, dedicated nature? You amaze me. No matter what happens in our lives, you always find a way to provide for us and enjoy it while doing so. You hardly ever complain. AND you have really been killing it lately, and good on you! It’s about freaking time; all of your hard work in life should pay off.

Ahhhh young love…

Being married to you has been like one never-ending 25 yr long rollercoaster ride. Thank God I love rollercoasters!! Oh, Hey, remember we took that trip to Atlanta and went to Six flags after our wedding just to ride all of the rollercoasters? Well, I suppose that set the tone for the years to come. It was a blast, scary, exhilarating, gave me a tremendous headache, and I think once made you puke or almost puke (no, that was the motion master 360). The best part of the rollercoaster rides is that I had you to hold on to for dear life as we dropped from 0-60 in a blink. Our hearts raced, and I thought I would have a heart attack (funny that a person with an acute panic disorder loves roller coasters), and our stomachs would rise to our throats as the bottom fell out. As we rode through the more intense twists and turns, we would scream, and towards the end of the day, we just felt numb by our one-millionth ride as we fell into a breakneck pace along the winding track. We rode those steal beasts for the thrill similar to the thrill of being newly married and all of the years to follow. Yes, this marriage of ours, the Brunton Coaster or Kiwi Rooter, has given me moments where time would stand still, and I wanted to freeze those forever (hence my obsession with photography and why I have always had a camera in my hand). Our wild ride has caused me panic, pain, and at times I’ve wanted to kill you and hated you, but let’s be honest, what married couple doesn’t experience that? You married me for my passion, and baby, you got it, all of it. You married every range of emotion known to man. One minute I needed you so badly I thought I would die without you, and the next wanted to run as far away from you as I could. Yet here we are, in love, happy to boot with so much good to show for our journey together.

Paul, ma man, I am looking forward to another 25 wonderful years with you, God willing. Though time has battered us a bit, and we may not be the babes we used to be, I see you, I mean YOU, just as I did the day I took your giant hand and promised to love you forever. I’m thankful for you, and I think there’s a pretty awesome ride waiting for us ahead. Happy Anniversary!

PS. A MacBook Air and Rollercoaster have nothing in common. Except for the fact that they excite me and have cogs, gears, stuff, and things. ♥️

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

On the Fringe

I dedicate this story to all those talented hairstylists who spend hours on their feet making us pretty, listening, and acting with great enthusiasm, as if they care about the never-ending verbal puking of stories we spill on them.

Something kept tickling my face as I slept, and it was starting to annoy me. Since I had to pee anyway, I decided to go in the bathroom and investigate. I walked in and looked in the mirror with tired eyes and stared at my bangs/fringe. It had begun growing down over my eyes and was getting super annoying. I made an unconscious decision to cut it. I opened the bathroom drawer and rummaged around for the elementary school craft scissors I had seen in there at some point in time. I’m not sure if the middle of the night is the best time to decide to cut your hair. I leaned forward into the mirror. I couldn’t see because I didn’t have my contacts in or glasses on. I tried to copy the line that my excellent hairdresser had cut previously. I sleepily snipped and snipped and, when I thought I was done, pulled the drain plug out of the drain, washed all the hair down, and went back to bed. I laid there for about 10 minutes and kept feeling a tickle on my cheek. I got back up and walked into the bathroom again.

My feet were rhythmically patting their way across the tile in time to my sound sleeping husband’s snoring. I pulled out the scissors again and snipped a little bit more, and thought, “yes, this looks much better, and that tickle is finally gone.” it was probably 3 a.m. when I fell asleep. My alarm went off, and I pulled myself to the bathroom, groggy, as any middle-of-the-night hairstylist would be. I flicked on the light and squinted at the mirror. “Oh, man, who cut my hair? Dang it! I thought I dreamt that!” I have a new crisp cut fringe. I’m pretty sure my hairdresser Nathaly is going to be pretty impressed with my cutting skills. Sometimes I have a hard time determining reality from my dreams. Often, I dream In color, and it’s pretty vivid. A few incredible times, I’ve had smell-a-vision and could feel being run over by a train. I lived, of course, in real life, that is, but didn’t do so hot in my dream. Since my recent endeavor was not a dream, I’ll have to live with my trainwreck of a haircut for a bit. Oh well, this too shall pass or grow out fast.

Word of advice, don’t run with or cut your hair in the middle of the night with these.
Posted in Personal Journal Blog

Grackle Granola

He looked down at me from the trees over his long heavy bill. His iridescent blue, bronze feathers shimmered in the suns glow as they lay smoothly on his slender frame. He blinked his round black dotted white eyes slowly and cocked his head to the side. He appeared to be sizing something up. I had decided to eat outside in the crisp, breezy, fresh air. The sound of our old rusty tin can wind chimes sang its way to my ears and merged with the sound of me crunching granola from my cereal bowl. The morning birds perched with silent indifference among a smattering of leaves still hanging from the trees following the last cold snap. The Grackle above was probably up well before me collecting his wormy breakfast, but from the way he was staring at me and my bowl filled with wholesome nutty cereal and creamy oat milk, I had a feeling he wasn’t quite full. Unlike his winged mates, his presence was hard to ignore. His growing raucous chatter made me uneasy, so I put my hand over my bowl then covered my head with my arm as he abruptly flew from his perch. He swooped downward, and I jumped up from the patio chair, spilling the nutty contents of my bowl all over my feet. My sandles made a squishy flip flop sound as I made a run for It. Soft granola slid between my toes, and I slipped on their rubber soles. My morning coffee had kicked in, and I suddenly had caffeine jitters that shook me like a can in a hardware store paint mixer. I looked over my shoulder as I grabbed the door handle and flung the door open wide, forgetting that the dogs were scratching earlier, desperate to get out and be with me.

The cocky little Grackle landed in what was left of my granola and began pecking the sunflower seeds from the gooey pile spread across the concrete patio. Though this all happened quickly, time slowed for a split second as the Grackle blinked up at me while swallowing the tiny seeds, and then suddenly, our black lab exploded out the open door and tore past me, barking and growling. The birds perched in the trees above abruptly flew off in one giant panicked swarm. Then without hesitation and a single huge chomp and gulp, the Grackle was gone. I could hardly believe my eyes. Everyone was hungry for breakfast, it seems. In shocked disbelief, I stood there with my mouth hanging open then promptly scolded Buddy. He licked his lips as he sat down heavily in the mess that still lay on the ground, looking up at me proudly. I, in turn, looked at him with grossed-out disgust. I cleaned up and put the dogs back in the house, then sat down on the patio and attempted to find peace while processing what had just happened—what a bizarre turn of events. As I began to ease back into my day, I found what had just occurred both disturbing and simultaneously funny. I chuckled as the thought occurred to me that we should never underestimate the power of breakfast, that all-important first meal of the day. This was an unusual thought, but what the heck? This was an unusual morning.

Posted in writing

FATISM

I have always noticed clear discrimination between skinny or athletic people and overweight/fat people. I am built like my mom was. Voluptuous, curvy, buxom, whatever you want to call it, I’m it!! I watched my mom my whole life struggle with her weight. She went to the gym; she tried every diet anyone could ever be on. She read countless books and fasted; she did it all. For short periods she would have unsustainable success. She would look thinner, but not ever skinny, for about six months, and then the weight would come back, and the battle would begin again. It was hard to watch her as she struggled with her emotions over feeling unloved because of her size.

Carole Sue was a beautiful woman, yet her self-esteem was shattered. She had the glamor of Elizabeth Taylor, with striking brown eyes that had a light blue ring around them and a smile that would light up a room and, oh my God, her laugh! That amazing jolly joyful laugh was infectious. She was strong and worked hard. She did have her demons, though, drowning her pain of abandonment with wine or Manhattans and focusing on her battle with the bulge. She always dressed stylishly even though plus-size clothes had not always been readily available until recently. Now fashion has begun to truely embrace the human body’s diversity and is slightly sympathetic to the fact that not all women’s dress sizes run between a 2 and 12. (Sometimes 14 in the less discriminating designer stores).

My mom told me that sometimes she thought she was unloveable because of her size. That’s sad! She said men always said to her that she had a beautiful face and nice legs. She thought they were saying that because they found the parts in between undesirable. When she died, I felt relief for her as she lay in the hospital bed. She looked peaceful, light, and free from her uncomfortable body. But, this story isn’t about my mom. I’m simply saying I get it, and I have experienced the same fat-a-phobia as she and other voluptuous women have.

As defined by Merriam Webster, it’s called: “fatism noun fat·ism | \ ˈfat-ˌi-zəm Definition of fatism: prejudice or discrimination against fat people.”

I used to be insecure about it and, at one period in my life, struggled with anorexia (a story for another time). Now I am secure and just keenly aware. Coping with a large body size takes up a lot of headspace. You feel it when you move, when you’re out in public, when you meet someone athletic or just plain skinny. You feel it even when your shopping for an outfit to “knock em dead” in. It weighs heavy on your mind. Yes, that was a pun. And darn it, I know it’s not punny.

I love the moment in Pitch Perfect when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) Is asked about her name,

I get it. I can relate. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve said it too. I’ve felt it and heard it. I also point out my imperfections before anyone else can.

I’m stunned at how shallow some people are sometimes. One evening a mother, of our middle daughter’s friend, came to pick up her child, and I invited her in for a glass of wine. She was a small, attractive, tennis-playing woman who hung with the gossip moms of Naples. There is definitely a defined group, trust me. They know who they are, and I’m pretty sure I’m not a member of said group. Anyway, I tried to develop a relationship with her because our two girls were so close. She sat at my kitchen table while I cooked, with a glass of wine in hand, and began to spout out the local goss. She told me about a mom she knew who was going through a divorce. She said, “she is really nice, but she is overweight, kind of fat.” This was not the first time she’d made comments like this to me. I thought, what the fuck does that have to do with ANYTHING?! Was she insinuating that this was the reason her husband was dumping her? Then she said, “she’s a kind of large woman, but I’m friends with her.” My jaw dropped. I am 5’7” and 224 lbs. what about me? Why is she sitting in my kitchen? I’m a large woman!! I must be really nice?! I’m not a violent person, but I suddenly went red. In my mind, I went full Yosemite Sam from Loony Tunes on her ass. I wanted to punch her little tennis skirt-wearing body through the kitchen wall and certainly didn’t want to share my wine with her!! I could reverse it “she’s a tiny woman, kind of skinny,” but I wouldn’t be adding that she was a nice person. Yeah, switching it doesn’t quite have the same sting. I am afraid I could only say she was an ignorant, shallow woman. And that was the end of that friendship endeavor. WOW!! What the heck!! I fed her and kept smiling. I shooed her out the door the minute she took her last sip of wine and breathed a sigh of relief that she was gone.

Fat, fat, fat, fat. Man, the word echoes in my ears. The first time I ever felt conscious of this state of being was when I was at my sister Robin’s wedding. It was around 1977. She was 18, and we were out on her husband’s family farm having a field wedding. At the reception, I sat on my oldest brother’s lap, happily eating a big spoon full of icing off of the wedding cake. I was blissfully unaware of what was about to happen. My brother said, “you know you’re getting pretty fat.” I don’t remember what I said but I remember him slapping the spoonful of icing out of my hand. He looked so angry. I felt so stupid, ashamed for eating that horrible treat and being happy about it. I ran into the house crying and had no idea that this would be the first of many times I would feel this shame and sadness over my body or relationship with food.

We moved to Florida right after the wedding. My mom and I drove there from Ohio. It was a lonely time. I felt like my whole family was gone. Robin was married and gone; I’m not sure where Tami was; Bobby stayed in Ohio with my dad and, well, my Dad, yeah he was well and truly gone. It was clear I was not a priority for him. He had someone new to love, and it wasn’t us. Florida was hot, and I didn’t have any friends. I played a lot with my niece Shawn who is 5 yrs younger than me, but I always felt anxious being at her house with my older brother. Yes, the spoon of icing slapping brother, a real peach. He drank a lot. My mom had to work, and she was trying to find her way in this new environment.

Our TV became my friend. It was cool inside on the couch, and my new friend talked to me, made me smile, and took me away from the new life we had. I was a couch potato, eating frozen pizza, hotdogs with cheese melted on them, candy that I rode my bike to 7-11 to get, and any snack food that was lying around. I was like any other kid who liked to snack and watch TV. It didn’t have a good effect on me, though. I was at that age between 10 and 12, where you gain a bit before you reach puberty, and I was; as a result, a chubby girl, just as my brother had said. My mom struggled to find me clothes that fit at Sears, Kmart, and sometimes Goodwill. I wished I could squeeze into the thin girl sizes. But they never quite fit my shape. When I got to Gulfview Middle School, I wanted so badly to wear Levi corduroys, Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Jordache jeans as all the popular girls did, but they weren’t in our budget, and they didn’t fit me. Every young girl wanted to look like Brooke Shields in her jeans on the pages of Teen Magazine or extensive billboard campaigns, just teasing us with the flirtatious line: “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

A critical moment that scarred me was when a couple of football-playing boys in middle school called me p-p-p-porky repeatedly. I was ashamed again. I felt ugly and less than the skinny girls. Anyone would. Enough was going on at home that made me feel bad without having to deal with this too. I had found my singing voice by this time, and the band and choir teachers made me their pet project. They allowed me to use the practice rooms during lunch, and there I would sit quietly, alone at the piano keyboard, and eat my liver worst with mustard (not the most popular kids lunch) or PB&J sandwich. I was scared of the world inside the lunchroom and even more afraid of the courtyard where everyone gossiped or played when they were done eating.

At one point, I had made a friend, a good friend. She, too, was a chubby, loving girl. She talked me into eating with her and her friends in the lunchroom, and I did. It was so exciting having this newfound confidence and the feeling of belonging to her friend group. She had one friend, in particular, Renee, who was a small girl, shy and soft-spoken. These two girls made me feel like I belonged for the first time. And then one day, my pudgy fellow friend didn’t come to school. Renee showed up, distressed, quiet, and without her sidekick. She was hurting inside because Jurine had tragically died. She had been sitting on the easement grass near her house playing, and a drunk man ran her over. It was a hit and run. They say he didn’t stop because he thought he had hit trash cans. Our friend was dead, and our hearts were so heavy. I couldn’t cope with the loss and talked less and less to Renee. I went back to the practice rooms. Music teachers and music remained my friends. I ate my food there in peace and didn’t feel ashamed because there was no one to mock or judge me. I didn’t mention this to anyone at home.

I have told my girls about this sad and shame-filled time in my life. I told them a story about some football players sticking me on top of the school lockers, just outside the gym. The buses were lining up on the backfield loop, and everyone was leaving. I didn’t have a bus to catch because I could walk home. We lived on 7th street near the school in apartments that NCH owned. If you were an employee there, you could live in the apartments with a discounted monthly rent. My mom was a bookkeeper at NCH, so we qualified. Anyway, I remember making light of being put on top of the lockers to minimize the shame, but I honestly was afraid to climb down. It seemed so high off the ground. I lay up there helpless as kids walked by laughing on their way off Campus. The halls emptied. It got quiet and time ticked by. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so I couldn’t send a text to my mom or sisters saying, “Hey! I’m at the school stuck on top of a locker; save me!!! No, I just laid there and looked at the ceiling in defeat. P-p-p-porky played over and over in my ears. And then I heard a voice. Coach Stevenson was locking up the gym. He lived in our apartment building. I thought, miracle of all miracles!!! He said, “Hey, who is that on top of that locker? Climb down from there”! I said, “it’s me, coach, Jeri Moore, I’m stuck”! He couldn’t believe his eyes and seemed pretty compassionate as I told him my story while he helped me down. I rode with him to our apartment building. I knew his girls; they were my age. He seemed to be a good dad, and he had just recently divorced. He had struggles too. I knew this because I heard those good old gossipy Naples moms talking. My mom would be getting off work soon, and I just wanted to get home.

I wouldn’t say I liked school. And for the years after my dad had left, home felt like shaky ground. Nothing was secure, people’s emotions and actions felt unpredictable, and there were times I didn’t feel safe there either. But the TV would always have the same shows at the same time each day and night, and even if no one came home, I could count on my favorite TV friends to be there, along with the frozen pizza or hot dogs from the fridge. They were always there to give me a feeling of comfort and warmth. I would settle in and skip my homework. In fact, for many years, I didn’t even bring my school books home. I felt it didn’t matter if I got bad or good grades. My sister Tami was the only person who asked about my report card anyway. She’s the only one who would scold me about my grades and make me question my ability to learn or have common sense. Besides that, it was pretty safe to say I could settle In front of the TV, and there would be no threat of being pulled out of my safe, comfortable world of imagination (unless I had a voice lesson or performance). Everyone had their own lives to concentrate on.

In the fall of 2017-2018, our youngest girl, Zoë started 6th grade at Gulfview. She was so excited to be attending her mom’s school. On the night of the open house, she had so many cool things to show me, but there was one crucial thing that she wanted to share. Remembering my story about being put on top of the lockers there, she pulled me to the hallway where her locker was and said, “Mum, look, they made the tops of the lockers slanted so no one can put anything on top of them.” I said, “that is wonderful, Zoë.,” She replied, “don’t you remember what happened to you”? Of course, I remember it. Tiny scars fade, but they rarely, completely disappear and are forgotten. Then she said, “yes, well I guess they can’t do that anymore.” In her mind, it was a small victory. I am sure there were several reasons for putting a slant on top of the lockers. To us this an excellent feature to add. I remember those days and those kids and and have forgiven them. I even look back and chuckle to myself about how stupid it all was, yet i still feel a slight hint of sadness for that awkward middle school girl.

Written by Jeri Moore Brunton

Me in 8th grade at Gulfview Middle School
Posted in writing

Paper Vs. Digital Journals

Experience and Opinion

I always struggle with whether I should write my deepest darkest secrets, desires, and memories on paper or digitally. Let us consider the pros and cons of both options. When writing digitally, I can write as quickly as my thoughts process, and it flows like the spoken word. Digital journals can be loaded to the cloud and will not get lost in the shuffle. If you have had a life anything like mine, eventually, after years of writing, it feels like you are toting your library around the world. This can be a heavy job.

Fun fact, I am left-handed. No, the rumors of left-handed people are not valid. We do not write with the hand of the devil, and we are not possessed. Most left-handed people are right-brained, and some say, “the only ones in our right minds!” When writing digitally, I can write freely and cleanly, which is hard to achieve on paper as a lefty. I turn my journal cockeyed, hold my pencil in a fist hold, curl my hand above the writing line and pull my pen across the paper, trying as hard as I can not to smudge the ink or get oil from my palm on the page. When my pen hits the oil slick from my greasy little mitt, my pen stops working. This interrupts my flow of thought. My cockeyed handwriting and smudge paper problems are probably the number one reason I prefer digital journal writing over paper journaling. Typing my thoughts out is much less painful than writing them out, especially on those days when I have a lot to say. If you have ever experienced writer’s cramp, you will understand what I mean. That feeling when your hand muscles get fatigued from the repetitive motion of writing, pressing down on the paper, and for me, having a death grip on the pen! A digital journal will also allow for quickly placing photos in a story. Adding a visual makes your publication a bit more interesting and will give others a glimpse of the memories you are working so hard to preserve.

I think it is clear so far that I lean positively towards digital journal writing over paper journaling. But what about those fancy paper journals that are so fun to collect?! I admit that I have spent a pretty penny on beautiful journals over the years, stacks of books that I plan to fill with all my dreams, desires, secrets, angst, joy, and personal history. My journal is my therapy and is a safe place to blow off steam. It is also my preserved thoughts that I have intended to leave behind for my family when I am departed from this earth, assuming they want to read what I had to say.

I am a sucker for a pretty journal. I walk into a stationery shop or bookstore and make a beeline for the journal section. Oh, the fabulous covers, some with prints by classic artists, flashy fonts, affirmations, quotes from the great authors and poets who inspire me, words of hope intended to help lift you and get you through the day. Oh, and how about those engraved leather covers that feel like butter to the touch?! Oh, the smell of a fresh new journal. The warm earthy aroma as I flip through each crisp virginal page unspoiled by the touch of anyone else but me. The sensory joy that comes from using a paper journal goes far beyond the look and smell. Think of all the coloring you can do in it! If you are a creative person, then paper journals are not just a place to pen your most extraordinary thoughts. They are also a place where you can insert some artistic flare.

Now I’ll point out where paper journaling surpasses the digital journal. You can create either a “doodling journal,” or for those who use the left and right sides of your brain, are uber-organized and like to categorize your thoughts, you can create a “bullet point journal”! The “bullet point journal” is about more than making pretty penned headers with hand-drawn artistic fonts. No, the bullet point journal is about total thought organization. You tell your story as you go through the day, take meeting notes, keep track of important dates, create cute little calendars and fill each page with colors and fun decorative doodles. There are even journals shared between you and someone else. The latest shared journal I have come across and love is the “You and Me” or “Two-Person” journal. My teen and I shared one of these. She would write down her pubescent middle school struggles and fears, which would be too awkward to talk about face to face, leave it on my dresser at night, and I would write my thoughts, concerns, personal experience and advice, and hopes when it was my turn. Then in the morning, I would leave it in her bedside table drawer. This shared journal was an anonymous way of helping her navigate the wild jungle of crazy teen brain, pimples, sex topics, and smelly friends. Now that is something not as easily done digitally. The physical act of passing the journal made it feel we were members of a secret club all our own.

To wrap up, I’d say that there are pros and cons to both types of journals. Coming to this conclusion means that I will continue to tote my personal library of journals around the world with me, and my phone will be in hand for any lengthy brain dumps.”