A new reality

We have started to plan things as a family that we want to do and places we want to visit once life returns as much to normal as possible. I’m not just talking about level three or even level two but more so when we are at level one or even out of the Covid-19 levels all together!

We want to travel up north and explore the sunny beaches. We would like to travel down south to see family and spend time sightseeing in our own country. We also can’t wait to go to the ski slopes of Mount Ruapehu and spend some time playing in the snow. My boys have never seen snow. Usually we would try and take off for an overseas holiday to Fiji during the winter, but with overseas travel off the cards for the foreseeable future, we are excited about exploring our own country a little more than we normally would.

We take it for granted I guess, like it will always be there and now seems a perfect time to be getting excited about travelling around New Zealand making memories.  We spend most of our time in the Bay of Plenty with occasional trips to Auckland. It’s time we saw more of our own backyard!

And what better way to help build our economy back up after things return to a ‘new normal’ than to spend money in our own country.

If and when we move to level three, a lot won’t change for me. I won’t be sending our children back to school to add further pressure to teachers who are already coping with teaching online and surviving lockdown themselves.

As much as I don’t really love homeschooling, home is still the safest place for us to be. My husband will return to work in the construction industry if and when he is allowed and with no jobs of my own at the moment I will continue to homeschool my two monkeys at home.

I do look forward to the future when we can travel overseas again.

I got in touch with a good friend of mine who is a Travel Agency owner, Deborah Kay to get her perspective on the future of overseas travel.

“It’s been so sad and upsetting for many of our clients needing to cancel or postpone their much anticipated and longed-for holidays. But we need to have hope, we will get through this. I’m focusing on the future and where we will be, come February / March next year. That’s my vision for when people will start to look at booking and planning their future holidays. Airlines are ready to expand services as soon as demand increases. We may have a bubble with Australia, some South Pacific countries and possibly Canada initially and who knows as the days and months’ progress, other countries might make the grade. We will get through this, we will travel again, we will appreciate the beauty of the world even more so, knowing how quickly that privilege can be taken away from us. We look forward to helping even more people be able to travel, to explore the world, to fulfill their dreams, but I think the difference will be how much more conscious people will be about protecting the world even more so. She’s a beautiful place out there!”

Until such time that international travel can exist again for Kiwis, I look forward to domestic travel around our country and exploring our beautiful and unique landscape.  

I also long for the simple things that I took for granted before lockdown. Simple things that provide us with a sense of normal freedom and choices as we live our daily lives.  I can’t wait until I can go to a BBQ with friends, dinner out at a restaurant with my Dinner Club girls, or spend time with extended family members without worrying about leaving our bubbles of safety!

I can’t wait to walk in to a dance or aerial yoga class to teach my students and perform on stage again.  I can’t wait to walk on the beach and paddle in the waves. I can’t wait to shop locally, drink coffee, smile and chat with strangers. I can’t wait to we don’t have to worry about where every single one of us has been and where we are going.

As some contact between people returns, albeit at a distance, takeaways reopen and an extension to our bubbles to include more family we’ve missed, maybe it will start to feel like a return to normal. Albeit a new normal.

We will start to look forward to simple things again, things we took for granted before lock-down. We will start making bucket lists, setting goals and returning to work where we can to rebuild our economy and our lives.

Positivity, hope, expectations and dreams will help us all continue to abide by the rules set out for us by our government. As a nation we have survived the Christchurch Earthquakes, the Muslim Shootings and most recently the devastating White Island eruption.

We will survive Covid-19 too.

Finding reassurance

I drove my car this week for the first time in 27 days. I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription and came straight back home. My husband has done our essential grocery shopping and apart from bike rides to exercise and entertain the boys, we’ve remained home the entire lockdown.

It felt strange driving a car on our deserted roads. I actually felt more relaxed and happier when I arrived back home.  The past month on lockdown has been about finding reassurance in the information available to me.

I’m sure this is the case for many others. The trouble is sometimes, knowing where to find that reassuring information from.

We can’t compare New Zealand to other countries. While we can use their information and experiences to better inform our government’s decisions, we are tracking our own path and defense of this virus.

While some may say it has been an overreaction, lockdown has undeniably been the right choice for our country.

The level of deaths per day in some of the countries around the world is just incomprehensible. In a country like ours those numbers would be absolutely horrific. No one would be unaffected. We are just too small. If the virus had followed its own trajectory, without intervention, we all would have known someone who had died.

Jacinda Ardern and our government have saved lives. Not just the Labour Party but all our cabinet ministers for working together regardless of their policy beliefs or party agenda.  By staying at home and following the rules, so many of us have helped to save lives.

I am proud of that, no matter how frustrating and hard it has been at times.

I have had about three or four sources of information that I have entrusted over this time for my information. Firstly our government announcements and news updates most days at 1pm or 6pm have been invaluable and aimed at a level where most people can comprehend the information without too much medical or scientific jargon. Dr Ashley Bloomfield, our Director of Health has been outstanding and alongside our Prime Minister has encouraged us as a nation to keep going even when it feels tough.

Secondly I have found the NZ Covid-19 website, Instagram account of Dr Morgan Edwards and Siouxsie Wiles at The Spinoff as my major secondary sources. I’ve actively avoided other sites, or Facebook articles shared of any other information concerning Covid-19.  Too much of the wrong information causes panic, anxiety and stress.  Let’s just stick to facts. 

The New Zealand set up dedicated site for Covid-19 is helpful. It is relevant, has the latest updates and even an entire area to help with our mental health and well-being while being stuck at home.

I contacted Dr Morgan Edwards who I began following on Instagram at the beginning of the pandemic, right before we went in to lockdown. She is a true professional, using Instagram as a platform to share helpful, correct information especially targeted towards mothers and soon-to-be mothers.

She offers her followers many a chance to ask questions and she will do her best to answer them all in a caring professional way. I have been thoroughly impressed with her range and depth of knowledge and her personable delivery of her content and information. She makes understanding Covid-19 easy!

Dr Morgan Edwards is a Specialist Anesthetist who has special interest in Obstetrics and is a mother of two young children.  Her Instagram following has ‘quadrupled’ since the lockdown began.

Dr Edwards is passionate about providing reassuring information. This way women and their families will be able to understand Covid-19, the lockdown and procedures that impact on them.

“I’m really worried about the mental health impact this pandemic might have on our pregnant, birthing and new mums. The fear of the unknown, the loss of in-person appointments and scans, the changes to birth, such as those around access for support people, and the changes to postnatal support. But all of the evidence tells us that empowering women with good information is a really positive thing. I am really proud of the community of healthcare workers that I’m part of – both in my workplace but especially on social media. I hope that in some small ways we are able to help make this time less uncertain and give women the tools and information they need to feel empowered. I am also seeing and reading some really positive and empowering stories of strong women having positive births at this time and that is just incredible.”

“I absolutely acknowledge the huge privilege I have to have a reliable job right now. I squeeze social media in when [my children are] asleep or if there’s a quiet moment at work.”

Dr Edwards suggests New Zealanders especially pregnant women, mothers and parents continue to get their information from reputable sources.

I know I have appreciated finding Dr Morgan Edwards’ Instagram during this past month and I’ve asked her a few questions myself. Her final piece of advice for all of us is:

“These are unusual and stressful times. Be kind to yourself and protect your bubble and your mental health as best you can. If you’re pregnant, trying to conceive, or have a new baby then this time might not look like how you imagined your journey through parenthood? It’s important to acknowledge and grieve that. But you can still have a positive and empowering experience! Kia kaha – you’ve absolutely got this.”

While the news media provides stories around every possible avenue of our Covid-19 saturated lives, it can all get a bit too much reading article after article. Likewise scrolling the internet, Facebook or Instagram means that information is often exaggerated or incorrect. Remember to limit your media intake!

It is beneficial to remember that taking time out to just live more slowly, appreciating all the positive things we each have to be grateful for in our bubbles has been invaluable during this time.  

I hope that as we complete the final week of level four lockdown, we will all continue to work just as hard to keep us all safe and reassured at level three.

We’ve got this, if we all work together!

Homeschooling is not for me!

Today marks one week since I began homeschooling my two boys in lockdown.

Today marks one week of survival.

As I sit here grabbing a precious few moments to write, they are back on their devices to give me a moments peace.

I had planned to write this week about finding reassurance and hope in lockdown. That article is still coming, I just haven’t been able to give it the attention it deserves so there might be two from me this week.

Homeschooling…

My boys do not sit still. Ever. Pay the primary teachers ALL the money. They sure do earn it in my opinion! I’m about ready to apply for an essential service job just to get out of the house away from homeschooling. I’m joking of course…

I’ve read the articles about not being so hard on ourselves as we endeavour to teach our own children, I’ve listened to the experts say ‘it will be okay’ whatever we manage to achieve with them.

Homeschooling… the act of teaching your children at home. I have quite a few friends who are homeschooling their children and for whatever reasons it has worked really well for their families. Some choose to homeschool because of personal choice, their remote location or beliefs and I am supportive of their choices. But it is not for me.

I think that if I had chosen to homeschool, it might feel a little different. I would be able to let my children take the lead in their learning and decide what they want to focus on each day or week. With lockdown and my children already enrolled at a wonderful school, I am following the programmes set down by my sons’ teachers.

These programmes are wonderful. Carefully and lovingly planned out to cover all areas of the curriculum. And I am sure that there are children ticking off and completing each and every task. Neatly and tidily. But not my kids. Not my boys. These teachers are truly amazing and have gone above and beyond in this pandemic reality.

However, at the moment it is feeling like a chore list of tasks to get through. Without peer competition, involvement or side by side teaching and learning, I am finding my eldest son a little painful to work with. He requires constant reminders and pressure to complete each aspect of a task. It doesn’t help that our personalities are almost identical! We are both quick to fire up or react and get bored if we are not interested in a topic. We have been focusing on ‘school’ from 9am to 12pm with a break for morning tea. Today I even packed two lunchboxes to help stop the continual snacking from the pantry.

My five year old is slightly better to get involved in his tasks. Our personalities seem to compliment each other more and he will work well at the one or two tasks set for him each day. He is so stubborn though. In saying that, his work is much easier and less time consuming, so once he finishes his tasks, with my husband working on our business, I then have to direct play based learning at the same time as monitoring and helping the eight year old stay on task, which is difficult when he has a very short attention span and a distracting younger brother to contend with.

I am feeling the pressure of task completion. I know I shouldn’t. My children will survive, they won’t get too far behind, they will learn in different ways, they are loved and this is just temporary. Blah, blah, blah. But I don’t want to be the mum who gives up for my own sanity, although I already have each day at different times…

Yesterday school began at 9am. At 9.01am I yelled, walked out of the dining room and slammed my office door. I am so mature…

After an apology from both sides and a cuddle we restarted our already fragile day.

My sons’ teachers have also provided excellent support for each of their classes, face to face meetings and class video chats as well as being only an email away if we need them.

I don’t want to be the mum of the kids who didn’t learn anything while I home-schooled them. But I do feel like they are just ticking boxes with me, rather than actually learning content or curriculum if that makes sense. I’m a secondary school teacher by trade after all. If only I could teach my own subjects all day long – PE and Dance it would be. Although if I’m honest my boys don’t want to dance as much as I want them to.

I have a lot of teacher friends both secondary and primary. They are all working tirelessly, teaching online and planning engaging content that I bet they are hoping their students will attempt and complete. Some of them are also struggling with homeschooling their own children during this time, juggling their students alongside their own children’s needs. It is tough.

With level three approaching next week (and a bonus week of level four!) I fear my homeschooling days are far from over. I need to work out a way for this to work better for us. Do I completely ignore the programmes we’ve been given and lead our own learning throughout this time? I struggle with maths and to help someone understand something you don’t even understand yourself, is near impossible.

I’ve been taking photos each day of the work completed by each son, more for my own success and feelings of accomplishment to add to their Educa stories as if to say to their teachers – “I am trying!”

I think back to what we have completed as a family in lockdown and we have achieved a lot. We have completed building projects, a new hut in the backyard, endless bike rides around our neighbourhood, Lego, card games, board games, read books, painted artworks, exercised and Tik Tok videos in the garage. We have completed cooking and baking activities and the boys have improved on tidying up their toys, picking up after themselves and putting things away. My eight year old has created the most phenomenal Minecraft world – his creativity and imagination for building things on this game blows me away, each time he proudly shows me a new structure or house. We have bonded over late night family movies and cuddles and no need to rush in the mornings. It has been nice to have dad at home more, without him constantly being at work early in the morning or late at night. It hasn’t been all bad by any means. We have and are sharing memories and surviving lockdown together in our safe bubble.

I never wanted to be a primary teacher, much less at home with my own children.

My husband is working throughout all of this and provides additional help when he is home with small schooling tasks. Of course as is Murphy ‘s Law, the boys work well and first time he asks for him.

It feels helpful to have written this down. I cannot wait to return to normality. I cannot wait for my sons to be back at their school. Not only for my own respite from teaching them, but for the social interactions with their friends and the hugely undervalued teaching that their teachers provide for not only them, but entire classrooms each day. My boys seem to learn ‘schooling things’ better from their own teachers.

I will keep persevering. I will keep trying. I will try to keep my cool, providing a loving, safe space for our homeschool experience. It isn’t meant to be the same as real school and I need to remember that.

They will continue to learn love, fun and safety at home with me. They will continue to feel valued, loved and happy. They will continue to receive lessons in kindness and caring attitudes towards others as well as any life skills I can slip into their learning.

Lockdown at level four and soon to be at level three is (hopefully!) a once in a lifetime experience for us all. And as the mummy bear in this house, I have the power to make it a good one.

Repetition madness – Losing control?

Coping with lock-down stress is something I am living first hand. Usually I feel so much more in control. I am a normal mother, with a normal life. Two kids at home and a husband in tow.

Put me in a lock-down bubble and I fear its making me lose control. I am motivated by my own success. Be it professionally or personally I live to feel valued, reassured and appreciated. Who doesn’t? I long to contribute to the bigger picture and ‘feeling stuck’ at home during this lock-down period is challenging for me.

Don’t get me wrong I know that this is for the greater good, for the desired outcome and response to combating Covid-19 in our country. I will stay home as long as it takes. I have and will abide by the rules set down by the government during this time. But I don’t find it easy.

I know that I am blessed and safe, I have food on the table, my favourite people around me and a comfortable warm home as winter approaches. But.

During lock-down I have had plenty of time to think. Like the rest of New Zealand I have found myself with an extreme amount of extra thinking time. Some of which is spent on beneficial thoughts and at other times detrimental ones.

I’ve worried about the ‘state of the nation’. I’m worried about my children being my homeschooling experiment. I have worried about my husband and our business and how will it possibly recover or whether we will have to lay off staff in the future. I’ve worried about strangers battling Covid-19, deaths that are occurring, about the essential workers on the front-line, watched the news and worried about our entire changing world. I have worried about tourism and the flow on effects from all the affected industries and job sectors that will undoubtedly change forever.

Then I’ve worried about me. About how selfishly it seems I am not handling this stay at home lock-down business.

I cannot wait to travel again. But even the thought of travelling during this current phase of our lives seems like a distant dream or memory of a time gone by.  I have reflected on my past travels a lot over the last three weeks and feel blessed at the countries I have visited and the memories of places I’ve been. But I want to see more, visit more countries and I pray that the world recovers so that one day we can all do so safely once again. I do not believe long-term that Covid-19 will stop kiwis from following their travel dreams overseas. However, I am realistic enough to know that it will not be the same for a very, very long time.

It is important to recognise your own changing mental health in your own bubbles. My favourite people are the same ones that drive me absolutely barmy sometimes. It is ludicrous that you can love someone so much and at other times, just want and need time out from them.

I have developed cooking and baking skills I never knew I had or wanted, just because I have felt bored. I’ve been baking up a storm and therefore eating up the same storm.

I have felt jealous. Irrational jealousy of the essential workers who still have a focus and a job to do during this time. Jealous of hubby’s long list of house renovation chores and the skills he has to complete them. I have asked many a time to help but he’s happy chugging along by himself and feeling in control of something.

I am sick of playing games, finding activities for my children to do, to have them attempt something for five minutes before being bored or uninterested with what I have planned.

I feel guilty at the amount of device time, but also thankful it exists.

I’ve eaten my feelings, cried out my feelings, yelled out my feelings and tried to hide from them by sleeping the hours away. It is a scary thought to wish days of your life away or for them to go faster, knowing that you will never get that time back.

I’m no stranger to mental health, depression and anxiety. But usually I have more control over my triggers and environment and enough stimulus to get me through. I am stifled at home and I don’t like it. I love my home but I want a break from it. I feel so unmotivated to do anything. I thank God that the weather has been kind to us during the lock-down so far. Weather affects me so much and I am thankful for the sunshine.

I long to write about another current news event, one that is untouched from Covid-19. But I find that my interest and motivation to write about anything other than my feelings at the moment is in the too hard basket.

I feel torn that I’m wishing this precious family time to go faster and valuing the special uniqueness of being altogether in such unusual circumstances.

I’m dreading the school term starting back this week. Homeschooling my own kids was never on my to do list. They don’t really listen to me the way my students used to.

I’ve drunk more alcohol than I have in the past year these last three weeks. Not to get drunk or party the night away, but just to have one or two drinks each evening. That’s not like me. And it isn’t working for me.

Everything I want and need is at home and I’m still not feeling happy.

I live in a beautiful home in beautiful surroundings with an amazing view. But I feel anxious and have itchy feet. I’m sick of biking around my neighbourhood.

One positive is that my barista skills have improved so much that if all else fails I might get a job in a coffee shop once the lock-down is over.

I miss going to work, I miss being a part of a team, I miss the focus of deadlines and being busy.

My sleep is affected. I either sleep too much, or wake up for hours on end thinking about all that is going on in the world.

Social media is an escape. But one that comes with a warning. Too much time spent on it and I feel on edge. I forget what’s real and live in a dream sequence of other peoples’ mashed up lives.

I’ve joined my family up to Tik Tok to make cringe worthy videos of us dancing or acting the fool. Just to have something to do. Just to have something funny to focus on and a challenge of learning new movements.

We combat each others stress in our bubbles, that of our partners and of our children. I can almost feel my own stress in the room around me and surely that is affecting my bubble.

We’ve learned to laugh at ourselves more, I’ve played hour upon hour of music to sing along to and escape with, to still the memories and overworked treadmill of my thoughts going round and round. I miss adult conversations that exist outside of my home-life, outside of my bubble. I miss hugging my mother and father and taking my children to visit their grandparents.

I’ve started a million things yet barely finished one.

I even started a 1000 piece puzzle merely to complete 18 pieces before calling it quits.

I have knitted two entire rows. I’ve painted a picture. I have yelled. I’ve written poetry. I have yelled some more. My kids bounce between feral and wonderful. Between physical games and cuddles and being device zombies. I feel guilty letting them have extended time on their devices but relish in the quiet stillness it provides me.

Some days I feel happy, in control and set goals.

Others I mope around, moaning, yelling, growling, for no other reason than I feel down. I’m taking my feelings and emotions out on my husband and children and I know I’m doing it. I long for me time. Real me time. Escaping from myself and this lock-down existence.

The days are so long. The results are the same. Housework calls my name and I complete groundhog day tasks again and again.

The mess shows we’ve had fun and played games together. But I feel guilty because my mental health likes the OCD cleaniness better.

I have set daily goals just to get me through. Ticking off completed tasks just like you would in a normal situation in the outside world.

I know my triggers that produce more stress and anxiety. In a normal situation they are easier to control. I feel guilty for not feeling content and happy with what I have at home. I see others relishing in this lock-down time and yes I admit there are positives like going slow, more family time and making memories, but I really do struggle with the monotony of it all.

I have excellent support networks, people – family and friends who reach out to me. I am loud and outspoken enough to ask for help and reassurance but that doesn’t make it easier in your own head. The wheels keep turning, the endless thoughts keep looping, the worries stay the same and the motivation is still zero.

I have exercised most days, even when I do not feel like doing so. We have reached out to our neighbours and shared recipes and food without making physical contact. I have completed daily challenges set out by my friendship group, played Lego, drawn pictures and watched Paw Patrol. We have built huts, inside and out, gardened, celebrated Easter, face-timed loved ones and some days just got dressed.

When will we meet our new normal? I’m so stressed about homeschooling that I feel sick in my tummy. And I’m a teacher who is dreading it? Imagine how others are feeling.

When will all of this return to normal? What is the next step? How do we regain control over something we have no control over in the first place?

I feel at times like I must be a completely selfish person. I love my husband and children more than absolutely anything in the world but it isn’t enough for me. I crave my independence, my freedom, my creativity that usually flows and my choice to live contributing to our collective lives.

I miss my friends from all aspects; dancing, work, school mum’s, family, best friends and more. I am an extrovert who needs introvert time. But time that is free from mum-life and being stuck in a bubble.

I find myself torn at the hate I feel for feeling this way and just wanting five minutes completely alone by myself.

I think though, that maybe, it is okay to feel all that I am. It is okay to feel a conflicting range of emotions during this experiment that really, none of us signed up for. Identifying and being kind to ourselves as well as others, is something I need to remember and apply.

So keep getting up. Continue to get dressed. Move your body. Sleep, rest and be kind to yourself and your bubble. Put lippy on if it helps you feel good. Phone a friend or read a book. Whatever YOU need to do to get through.

My home bubble is only as happy as I can help make it. Week three in lock-down has definitely been the hardest and longest week yet. Let’s hope that it is only up from here.

The loss of Bauer

I’ve spent many moments trawling the pages of my favourite fashion magazine, dreaming up ways to get my hands on the fashion within.  

I always flick through a magazine first. Looking at the pictures, captions, titles and layout.

I read the spine notes, always identifying the journalists, photographers, models and contributors on each page. I look at the layout of the photos to text and how aesthetically pleasing it all reads.  Then I will go back over again from back to front before choosing the most interesting articles to read first. Only after that will I read the magazine cover to cover.

I have always loved the editorials, stopping to dream or imagine that I could one day write for such a publication.

I drool over the most expensive pieces of NZ fashion while at the same time secretly proud that New Zealanders are creating content and fashion that is comparable to that on the world stage.

We all have our favourite magazines. And Fashion Quarterly was mine.

This past week has seen Bauer Media NZ close its doors.  With it the sad loss of many jobs for employees and freelance contributors who have serviced Bauer’s popular publications for decades.

The decline of print media and the unavailable revenue from inactive advertisers during this surreal Covid-19 lock-down, has been cited as the main reasons for the closure.  

Undoubtedly we are all devastated, but not surprised. So many media giants all around the world have had to move with the times to combat the loss of print media in a time where online journalism has precedence.

Simon Wilson from the NZ Herald wrote about the loss in his article “Why the end of Bauer magazines is a blow to everyone.”

He wrote “The Listener is no more. Along with Metro, North & South, Woman’s Day, NZ Woman’s Weekly and a host of other magazines. All gone, with the sudden announcement from Bauer Media NZ that it is shutting down, immediately, and will not start up again.”

“We have lost so much and we will lose more, because where Bauer goes, others will follow. The company’s CEO, Brendon Hill, made the reason clear enough: the Covid-19 crisis has destroyed Bauer’s advertising support.”

Bauer’s CEO Brendon Hill went on to say “”Publishing in New Zealand is very dependent on advertising revenue and it is highly unlikely that demand will ever return to pre-crisis levels.”

Even our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was “gutted” that Bauer Media was closing its doors.

I’ve always had a subscription to Fashion Quarterly. Sometimes I paid for it myself. Sometimes I would receive a subscription as a gift and other times my Flybuys rewards would pay for the pleasure I felt when reading the magazine.  Each time it would arrive in my letterbox, I would wait until I had a quiet moment alone to relax and show it the love it deserved.  I can only imagine how proud everyone who worked there was each time an issue was published. It truly was a piece of art.

I can’t remember when I first started coveting Fashion Quarterly magazines but it must be around 20 years ago. They are a favourite of my selfish things to buy and indulge in.

Likewise Listener and Metro always provided quality articles with intriguing, relevant and questioning journalism which contributors produced to a high standard. I was proud to be a New Zealander when reading these articles and learned a lot from them.

I feel sad that Fashion Quarterly was just becoming more ethical in regards to sustainable fashion and longevity of clothing. They were looking to explore other areas of fashion in New Zealand, such as renting, vintage, second-hand and fashion culture that was produced in a sustainable way that was meant to last. This was exciting for so many of us interested in this field.  Fashion Quarterly didn’t really get the chance to explore this new avenue fully and sadly never will.

Welcome Back Slow Fashion Owner Dianne Ludwig has been pondering the closure with many thoughts clouding her mind.

She says “Bauer shutting up shop not [only] represents a loss of jobs in publishing and incomes for many freelancers, but it will result in the disappearance of local content.   And somewhat ironically this comes at a time when local community and local stories are even more important.”

“Fashion Quarterly Editor Zoe Walker, was one of our industries strongest advocates for championing to buy local and buy sustainable.  In its 40 years history Fashion Quarterly established itself as a premium fashion publication – New Zealand and luxury fashion brands all part of its mix.  For local brands featuring in Fashion Quarterly was always important and it helped cement the fashion credentials of many local labels. Our fashion industry doesn’t have the advertising or public relations budgets of the large international labels so Fashion Quarterly was able to tilt the playing field to give our local labels a chance.”

Like Dianne said, many established local designers and up and coming designers will no longer have an equitable world-class platform in which to launch or display their designs.  It will be interesting to see how many New Zealand labels and fashion houses will be affected. 

Dianne continues “With the Covid-19 lock-down you have to wonder how many of the local fashion businesses and manufacturing will survive.  Now with local fashion stores closed and most not allowed to ship online orders, it’s just got harder still.  With their racks full of winter stock and overheads continuing to tick over these local labels need New Zealander’s buying local fashion.  Who will help tell their stories, which sell the clothes?  Ironically under our current lock-down the fashion currently being shipped into New Zealand is imported fast fashion.  Glassons who don’t make locally, are still shipping, as of course are all the large international brands, locally made labels stand little chance.” 

A good friend and fashion teacher Charlotte Remmerswaal, has been collecting, saving, reading and inspiring many of her students with her favourite magazines for over a decade.  She says “I’m absolutely gutted. I’ve been collecting these for 11+ years and they are all in pristine condition. Not only were these inspirations for myself but as visual images for my classroom and students. At least I can look back in years to come at a great magazine that represented New Zealand culture. I’m actually really gutted.”

I also asked Wendyl Nissen, former Editor of the NZ Woman’s Day, for her thoughts on the sad saga and she replied:

“This morning I decided to get a new tattoo. It would be just two words: Woman’s Day. In the early 90’s my first editor’s job was caring for that magazine because the Australians had finally decided it could have its own New Zealand edition. It went on to be the top selling women’s magazine in New Zealand history.  With the closure of Bauer NZ, Woman’s Day will still be available here but it will be the Australian edition, all that hard work convincing the Aussies we had our own unique culture down the toilet. Gone too are icons NZ Woman’s Weekly which I also edited and the Listener which my husband edited. My only hope is that Bauer saves the archives and gives them to the National Library – decades of New Zealand culture and history are in them.I think there is more to be told about why this happened and I will watch as it slowly floats to the surface.Meanwhile I mourn. I’ve gone through shock and sadness, now I’m just angry.”

Sadness, shock and anger will no doubt face the many professionals who have not only been left without jobs and income, but a passion for the work that they loved.

These days online content seems to overrun physical publications.   It appears we would rather be on Facebook and Instagram, or watching Tik Tok or Youtube videos.  We read memes, watch videos on absolutely anything, follow online bloggers, share poorly researched and incorrect information and rely on the internet for our news. 

With many media companies working hard to provide a parallel online digital presence, it seems this is the way of the future and has been going that way for a long time.  Online subscription services help to cover the loss from physical advertisers and pay employees for their journalism, but in no way covers all the costs. Online readers who complain or moan about having to ‘pay for their news’ only fail to understand that this is the way it must be if they want online content at all.  Without premium content helping to cover costs there is no way print media would survive.

This past week we have lost so many household favourites. The Listener, Metro, Next, Fashion Quarterly, NZ Woman’s Weekly, Women’s Day NZ and many more that we have grown up reading or seeing our friends and family enjoying.  Iconic reading material that either provided hard-hitting, up to date and relevant world journalism delivered on a national level or escapism from everyday life while being privy to exploring and viewing the lives of others.  

These magazines connected us to so many other people, countries and events.

Each publication was a masterpiece of graphic design and highly produced content.

Even showing up to the doctors or any other reception area, there were small moments of joy at being able to stop, pick up a magazine and have a quick read before appointments. I guess we will be all on our phones even more now.

The loss of magazines has been in the pipeline for ages.  Many of us do have our favourites but how many of us actually still purchase physical magazines if we weren’t already receiving them on subscription?

Perhaps someone else will snap up these magazines? Could individual media companies or new style companies snaffle up the magazines in the areas they are interested in and somehow manage to continue to produce a physical magazine alongside online content? Perhaps then some titles could survive? Bauer Media NZ definitely had a lot more to do with moving some of their publications content online, to drive interest and to keep up with our technologically saturated lives.

Time will tell as this Covid-19 pandemic plays out just what will happen to print media in the future.

I only hope some of these Bauer titles will make a fresh come back either online and/or in print, to continue to document New Zealand interest and culture for years to come.

Lock-down life.

It’s funny how you can become so used to something.

After some initial up and down emotions, I seem to have settled in to lock-down life.

I wonder if it’s because we have a potential end line in sight, something we are all hanging on to, something that is giving us hope.

Or maybe you just don’t really need much more than what you have at home.

It has been super important to keep a semblance of a routine. Actually getting out of bed, daily chores, entertaining and feeding the children and some house maintenance jobs seem to be filling our days. We relish in the long deadlines, with no other immediate plans on our agenda. No jobs or school to rush back to on Monday or pressing appointments or social events. Apart from potential financial ruin, dependent staff, loss of income and earnings and no bigger focus, not working has it’s benefits.

Dinner time is more enjoyable without rushing; food preparation is healthier and more loving, we have time to create in the kitchen.

Games and quality time spent with the kids is special and much needed, it distracts from the bigger picture. I am so proud of how my children have adapted and although there are frequent fist fights when frustrated, they have become even better friends.

It is so hard to stop Master five from constantly eating. He just wont stop. Sneaking snacks, brazenly climbing up the pantry and quite frankly eating more than his little body should! I think it is a mix of filling in time and being bored alongside actually being hungry.

The boys device time is going well. Most of the time anyway… A mixture of school based tasks, educational apps, youtube videos and minecraft are filling their spongy minds. And they are actually listening better when it’s time to hop off. Probably because they know they can go back on them again sooner rather than later!

My barista skills are improving with patience with the coffee machine. Slowly but surely I am learning how to make a cafe style coffee. I look forward to these moments in the day.

We have celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, my mothers birthday from afar and facetimed family and friends. My DC Club (Girls Dinner Club) have set daily family challenges that we can choose to partake in and these are proving to be hilarious highlights from this unusual time in our lives.

I’ve joined Tik Tok with the kids, only to be left alone when it actually comes to making videos. I’m finding it hilarious though, even as a dancer I am struggling with learning some of the moves!

I’m beginning to wonder if people will start to develop a type of ‘stockholm’ syndrome affect with our lock-down. Not that we have captors or kidnappers but more so with the comforts, safe-feelings and safety that comes from living in ones own bubble for so long.

There have been moments of absolute madness in our household. Fights, crazy outbursts of emotion and language that I’m sure have been entertaining for our neighbours as well as ourselves. I love my kids so much one minute and wish for five minutes peace the next.

I look forward to the movie style scenes that will hopefully happen as we all return back to normal in a few weeks time. Fingers crossed. I cannot wait to hug someone other than my bubble. Anyone will do really but especially my children’s teachers! Homeschooling is definitely not for me!

Surely we can beat this if we all do our part and stay home for now?

There may be other benefits for our nation as well, cured of take away cravings perhaps? Or our countries average fitness might improve from an increase in daily walks, runs and exercise workouts purely because it is something we have control over in lock-down.

Maybe we will have all saved a little bit of money? Businesses will benefit from our spending again after our release, however, I do worry about the recession flow on effects further on in the next year, as we cope with loss of earnings and missed opportunities as people prioritise what to spend their precious money on.

I pray that people will be healthier and stronger from our time in our bubbles. Perhaps we will all be more kind and caring towards each other, because for once in the history of New Zealand, this is something every single one of us has shared and experienced together? We know what we have each been through, sacrificed and enjoyed about being on lock-down.

I pray that New Zealand listens enough to stay home and beat this virus. I hope that someone invents a vaccine that can protect future outbreaks as well. Our world as we know it will be very strange and different for many months to come. Maybe even years. Somethings may even change forever.

Tonight I’m going to make my husband watch “The Greatest Showman” again. Partly because I love it and partly because its my turn to choose and I know it will annoy him!

Until then, its back to feeding the kids snacks, tidying up my whare and enjoying the beautiful weather that we have been lucky enough to experience while on lock-down.

Stay kind, stay safe and stay home.

About Unplain Jane

Jane Trask – BSpLs, Dip.T PE & Dance, Dip. Digital Photography.

Unplain Jane is a blog I have started to share my writing. I have a strong interest in current news, social well-being, mental health, physical health, sustainable fashion & environmental living, arts & culture, motherhood and poetry.

I always wanted to be a journalist, studying journalism, communication management, media and public relations and interpersonal communication as part of my Sport and Leisure Studies degree.  I taught Dance and Physical Education for 15 years in two New Zealand High Schools. After leaving teaching at the end of 2018 I have been doing opinion writing for the Rotorua Daily Post, Bay of Plenty Times and occasionally NZ Herald. I have also written local community news filling in for the Rotorua Weekender when needed. Since Covid-19 I needed a new focus and Unplain Jane is something I have wanted to begin for a long time.

Now seems right for me.

I love the way words form to tell a story or express a view – when they flow, you can really speak to peoples hearts and perceptions.” Unplain Jane.

“I love this chick. Relevant writing about the regular and extraordinary, always from the heart and always honest. She has an amazing ability to empathise with both sides of an argument and yet stick to her guns.” Jenny, Kiwi Sign.

“Unplain Jane’s writing is thoughtful and emotive. She captures what lots of us are thinking in her opinion pieces and is able to articulate it masterfully and backs it up with evidence. Her writing is interesting and captivating, she really has a way with words that makes me want to read until the end!” Haley, Teacher.

It doesn’t feel right…

It doesn’t feel right

To dream of a future

To dream at all

Living in the now

Is all we can manage?

The past has been left suspended

The future seems frozen

As though someone has forgotten

To write the most important piece:

An Ending…

Share, breathe

Literally watching you grow

I long for my freedom

But ache in the knowledge

I am learning so much about you.

About us.

Our bubble.

I am watching you change

I see it in the ways you express your emotions.

You are challenged

But safe.

Safe with me,

In our bubble.

My mind is the worst place I can be,

At the end of the day.

It is busy

It feels stressed,

No space for clarity.

No space to make sense.

Thoughts are crowded and haywire.

Covid-19 Survival

And then the whole world walked inside and shut their doors and said we will stop it all. Everything.  To protect our weaker ones, our sicker ones, our older ones.  And nothing .  Nothing in the history of humankind ever felt more like love than this.” – CD

I lost my part time job this week. If I’m to be completely honest I temporarily lost three part time jobs. Two non-essential writing positions and one dance teacher position.

Covid-19 has meant a nationwide lock-down in New Zealand to help flatten the curve and stop the spread of this horrifically fast spreading virus. 

Since leaving full-time teaching I have relished in my new found direction of writing.  I always wanted to be a journalist, studying journalism, communication management, media and public relations and interpersonal communication as part of my Sport and Leisure Studies degree.  After applying for both my journalism diploma year and my teaching diploma, I received a TeachNZ Scholarship and so I went on to become a Dance and Physical Education Teacher for the next 15 years after University.

To lose my new found love so quickly after the opportunity to explore it began has felt heartbreaking amidst the uncertain surreal lock-down that is happening to us. I know for so many others it has been a lot worse. And I understand of course. Everyone does. 

Like many other times this week with the overwhelming sense of being ‘stuck’ at home has hit me, I cried as I mourned the one thing that was giving me some purpose and a sense of control.  I have worked for the past year with the most amazing team of journalists, who have helped me grow, given me feedback and helped contribute to my experience in opinion writing for the Daily Post and Bay of Plenty Times, occasionally making the NZ Herald and local news reporting for the Rotorua Weekender.   I have relished in these opportunities and completely and utterly re –fallen in love with writing.

I am hoping in time I can return to being a part of such a fabulous team. Until then I am going to continue to keep writing once a week with the same purpose, to share.  My opinions, my feelings, my emotions and my viewpoints.  I like to see both balanced sides to a news story or current topic and I look forward to writing from my heart.

 I’ve been on lockdown since I picked the boys up from school on Monday afternoon. It was a weird feeling knowing I was taking them home for four weeks without respite from my parents or inlaws, friends or other family members.  I haven’t needed to go out since, expect for bike rides around the neighbourhood, both boys and husband in tow.

The third day was the hardest thus far as my overactive mind and feelings of being overwhelmed and scared got the better of me and I cried. I literally cried myself to sleep worrying about people dying and funerals and what would happen and so on. All completely irrational and non-helpful thoughts repeating over and over in my mind.

After a better sleep, some exercise (tap dancing practice on a piece of plywood) and another bike ride around the block, I felt better. Stronger and ready to accept reality. Kind of like the baby blues after you give birth. You have no other option than to carry on and make this new form of reality and normal count.

I’ve stopped reading every article and watching every video about Covid-19. I catch up on the six o’clock news and read articles online in the evenings after the children are in bed. Watching every move this virus obsessed world was reporting on was making me obsessed and bringing my mental health down. I need to focus on making fun memories while on lock-down to ensure this is a safe and enjoyable time for my two little boys. In a way losing jobs is so insignificant to being their mother and having more time means I’m able to look after them better as well.

We seem to have got into an easy routine.
Wake up, breakfast, coffee, housework and jobs, device time, a little school work for the boys, reading, games and sports on the lawn, my husband and eldest have built a fort and we are slowing ticking off a few home maintenance projects that in ‘real’ life we seem too busy for.

Lunches and dinners have become more planned and less rushed, with dessert featuring a couple of times already! I have more time to bake and enjoy being in the kitchen, usually something I detest.

We’ve been playing happy families cards and it is hilarious to see crafty personalities come into play and hear such delighted and pure giggles and fits of laughter as we all try to outsmart each other. Bedtimes are more relaxed, family movies have featured and the usual wrestling, rugby and tackling continues.  I’ve been taking time in the afternoons to watch a movie or episode of a considered ‘girly’ programme or even a nap at times.  Husband and I are active relaxers and to slow down, it is almost impossible. This forced home detention style lock-down has meant we have to. There is no urgency to rush from task to task, job to job, into town, shopping unnecessarily or wasting money on things we don’t need. We have had to be resourceful and creative and challenged our own inner minds to accept this new normal.

We have disagreed, argued and apologised. We have given space when needed and walked away when we need a little break.  To think of the bigger picture, what will happen in the next few weeks, months or in the future is so overwhelming and questionable, it doesn’t even pay to worry or try. 

There are a tonne of things I miss already from the outside world! I’ve started making a list of what I want to do once lock-down is over. (Because it has to end doesn’t it?)

I miss my parents, family and friends, real coffee and teaching aerial yoga and dancing. I miss seeing people and smiling at the busy hustle and bustle of our city which I love so much.  I miss going to the beach and eating out.  And I guess just being able to do so if I wanted. Our choices are limited at the moment and it’s hard to accept.  I have come to a feeling inside that I will be able to do this though. Sure there will be many more emotions to chase up and down in the next few weeks but to feel part of something bigger than us, bigger and more important that is helping our entire country bounce back and avoid an even more hideous outbreak or exposure to Covid-19 makes me so proud to be a New Zealander.

I just hope everyone else is staying home too. We can only beat this if we all work together! 

We need to slow Fast Fashion down!

Sustainability. Recycling. Climate change. Current fashion buzz words that feature prominently throughout the media.

Our world is consumed by media projections of what next to buy. Fashion trends that don’t necessarily suit us or our body types but we somehow feel obligated to rush out and purchase.

The increase of influencers who play out their career opportunities by seducing our insecurities into thinking that we too need what they are currently displaying on their social media accounts. Whether they have been sponsored, gifted or affiliated to a particular brand or product, I too have purchased items without much thought as to where it was made, how long it will last and where it will end up when we discard it for the next new thing.  Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing that is produced rapidly by mass market retailers and suppliers in response to the latest trends.  The quality of fast fashion is not meant to last forever. It’s not meant to help save the planet or reduce waste. It is produced solely to make money.

In a world of fast fashion, fast paced living, online and in store, it is all too easy to make poor buying choices.  Last year my new year’s resolution was to stop buying new clothes.  I wanted to make a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint in the fashion world and reuse, recycle and refashion my existing wardrobe. For a self-confessed shopaholic four months was all I managed, to not buy anything new for. I shopped very rarely during this time and made a conscious decision to only buy secondhand quality clothing.  I researched brands that focus on sustainability and longevity, quality made products that will last for many years to come. After the first four months I refocused my direction to include being able to buy some new products in my slow fashion challenge as long as I felt they met this direction.

Slow fashion has become a side interest that is extremely important to share with others.  Slow fashion isn’t only the recycling of garments that already exist, but the movement of designing, creating, and buying clothing specifically for quality and longevity. It encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and in an ideal world – zero waste. (Study-NY.com) I have new favourite clothing brands, some of which, that don’t even make their own clothes. Welcome Back Slow Fashion, In Search of Glory and Nine Lives are three of my current slow fashion passion brands as well as new comer Kaleidoscope Wearables. They exist only to recycle and resell quality second hand clothing that someone else has passed on or ‘Marie Kondoed’ from their own wardrobes. Other fashion labels such as Kowtow “Ethical from seed to garment” and Okewa Rainwear, with a line made from recycled plastic bottles, are slow fashion leaders in the industry. Florence and Fortitude is another new leader in sustainable ethical fashion.

Slow fashion doesn’t only confine itself to fashionable trends, it can relate to a lot of purchases in our lives. How much stuff do we actually really need? We can place too much emphasis on our happiness dependent on what we purchase and how it makes us feel when we do. Does fast fashion give us that fix of spending money in return for instant happiness, regardless, of how long our shiny new item will last for before we discard it? We regularly cleanse our wardrobes and feel instantly better when we gift clothing to charities, second hand stores or pass it on to someone else. But where does all this fast fashion end up, if not clogging up more corners of our earth?  What if we made better slow fashion choices to reduce the amount of fast fashion we methodically dump season after fashionable season?

Being slow fashion conscious doesn’t mean you have to love fashion any less. It’s about finding ways to be creatively outstanding, while reducing the mass production of products only meant to last a short wear life before being discarded.  Fast fashion without a doubt has huge environmental and social impacts on the fashion industry and our planet.  We often find ways to express or communicate who we are through our clothing choices and style. Let’s express ourselves in ways that also help educate our children about sustainable, eco or slow fashion in order to move forward reducing our waste.  There used to be between two-four seasons a year in the Fashion world and now there are as many as 52, essentially devised just to shift more continuous product.

In third world countries with clothing factories, the risk is carried by those most vulnerable and worst paid.  Price pressure drives these conditions, allowing garment factory workers to be in danger themselves because of poor safety and sanitary conditions.   This is an exploitation of basic human safety.

By justifying the cost for the economical profit and benefits that these countries gain by mass production, even though wages are low, factory disasters are high and some of the world’s most unsafe working conditions.  This all becomes excused because these human beings have no other alternatives.

Fair trade and slow fashion look to address important issues such as women’s development, social development and environmental development and to enlighten the buyer into understanding that their choices do matter, that they can make a difference.  Get to know where your favourite clothing brands come from. Are they just as desirable when you know the truth?

“Buy less, wear it more. Care for it. ‘Cos our love of fashion shouldn’t cost the planet”. Dianne Ludwig, Owner of Welcome Back Slow Fashion. 

I interviewed Dianne Ludwig the owner of Welcome Back Slow Fashion which is one of my favourite 2019 clothing finds. She markets largely on social media site Instagram and sells through Trade Me allowing her sales reach to target a larger range of buyers. Her interest and focus has always been in fashion and so she has seen a lot of what has happened in the industry over the past 30 years.  She sources quality second hand designer and vintage clothing and sells it online.  Her main driving force is to get people to value and look after their garments. She also provides her expertise on an industry advisory panel at Whitecliffe in the fashion faculty which is a huge leader in sustainable fashion education.

“I am 56 and I’ve loved fashion my entire life, but I’ve also come to see how the industry has become unsustainable. Prior to the late 90’s we didn’t talk about fashion sustainability. We didn’t need to. People weren’t buying piles of clothing and treating it as a disposable item. The current fast fashion industry has been built on the unsustainable premise of generating demand for cheap clothing and producing more clothing than the world needs, and doing so in an exploitative labour model, using increasingly scarce resources and fabrics and dyes which pollute.  It’s second only to the oil industry in terms of pollution.  It’s wrecking havoc on the earth for the sake of producing profits making clothes people won’t wear more than the few times. And getting people hooked on buying more and more things they don’t need that don’t make them happy” Dianne Ludwig.

Dianne provides her most important values when it comes to slow fashion:

  • Only buy what you actually need. If we can slow consumption we can break the industry cycle.
  • Avoid fast-fashion labels – they are not necessarily always poor quality but if we don’t buy them it sends a clear message we want clothes made sustainably and ethically.
  • Buy recycled
  • Learn how to mend clothes
  • If you can afford to buy new – buy labels which are sustainably and ethically made.
  • Try to buy local labels to help rebuild our New Zealand fashion industry, which fast fashion and globalisation have destroyed.
  • Avoid synthetic fabrics
  • Take good care of your clothes.

“Live a simple, less polluting life and be part of changing the fashion model. Fashion tells so many stories about what is happening in society at a given time. I’d like to think my current and future wardrobe tells a story of taking better care of the planet.” Dianne Ludwig.

So before you make your next fashion purchase, run it through the check list above and really make the effort to think about where it has come from and how long it will last.

I challenge you to make a change with how you view clothing and fashion.

Our world needs us to.