Chapter 39: Sheltering-in-Place at the Border of Crazy

Shelter-in-place are three words that have never been uttered in our lifetime. The last time our society was affected by those words was in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic. 50 Million lives were lost across the world. Hundreds of millions of lives, generations of people, forever changed.  

When I heard those words, my life was going so fast. Breath-taking, Lightning speed. I was living in a time-lapse of life-events. Always planning the next trip, the next dinner party, the next event, the next, the next, and the next. More excited for tomorrow than what I was experiencing that day. Never, ever-present in the moment.  

It’s easy to say that now. Living@, working@, teaching@, cooking@, exercising @ Home. 

Quarantine is a tough-ass teacher re-defining our daily life, and it happened without our permission; without being prepared. 

As you can probably tell, I’m feeling a bit philosophical …I miss that part of myself. I miss spending time just reflecting, feeling, and dreaming. In my short-lived college days, I remember cutting classes to hang on the quad at Brooklyn College. My friends and I would sit for hours staring up at the trees while we imagined what our lives would be like. A little glimpse into why I was a likely college drop-out. Mission accomplished. 

Now, I’m living this life, A life I could never even imagine as that 19-year old hanging on the quad in my ripped jeans, favorite GNR t-shirt, listening to U2, while smoking weed and arguing over human existence.

Then we were sold the American Dream. But that dream quickly became about the stuff that marks success: Cars, houses, jewelry, trips abroad, the latest fashions, the latest fillers…all to what end? Maybe to fill the emptiness. The emptiness that fills our souls after we stop talking about our existence. When commutes replace conversation, Travel to remote, exotic locations replaces dinner at Home with the family. Or after we stop cutting class, to just talk and connect and feel. Like Ally Sheedy aptly expresses in The Breakfast Club, “When you grow-up, your heart dies.”  

The inevitability of adulthood. Heartless, soulless, filled with all the things you are told you need and want.   

While I’m not here to suggest that we take a slacker approach to life, there is something to be said for slowing down. And that is precisely what happened when the world was told to PAUSE. To our shock and dismay, we were forced to Stay-at-Home. Panic. Sheer panic. 

And for some paralyzing fear…because Home isn’t a happy place for some people. It can be a nightmare as opposed to respite.

I am among the lucky ones. Following my slacker, college drop-out existence, I somehow found myself in a fast-paced, success-driven, workaholic life. Somehow I landed in a lovely home in a safe community that I share with my wonderful 10-year old daughter, my new fur baby Bella Fear and the love of my life, Mr. Pizza.

This life that I’ve worked so hard to achieve is a blessed one…I know how lucky I am. So, I won’t get on a soapbox about how to live your life while Sheltering-at-Home. I’m also in no way saying this hasn’t been fucking hard, what I’m about to share is the sixth phase of my mourning period, Epiphany.  

Yes, I’ve had quite an awakening while at Home these past 69 days…It felt good to reflect on what I’ve learned and how I commit to changing my life to honor these well-earned lessons. In a way going back to the beginning. My beginning. 

The immense loss of life should not have to be the sacrifice necessary or required to inspire us to live a better, more whole existence.  My proposal to you all is that in honor of those lives, we learn from this bitch of a lesson and strive to better our world, for our kids, communities and personal fulfillment.

Here are the 19 lessons I’ve garnered from my 69 days in quarantine and the lesson I commit to inform the next 69 years…

  1. My daughter, MSP, has found a new artistic way to express her deepest feelings .Besides her passion for music and art, she’s discovered poetry. At the end of this blog, I’ve shared one of the poems that MSP was inspired to write while we Learn from Home. The lesson here is that adversity is often the breeding ground for creativity. 
  2. Meeting Mr. Pizza was serendipitous in so many ways. From sharing home responsibilities to voluntary foot massages to the belly laughs as we attempt to manage the trials and tribulations of living and working at Home. While I’m sure I would have survived during this crisis, I don’t know if I would have thrived. I’m glad Mr. Pizza and I were able to experience this together. If anything, our love and strength to co-exist through the good and the bad times are solidified. My love and appreciation for him have grown in ways that would NEVER be possible without the shelter-in-place order. 
  3. Nature is something to be respected and relished. I (we, as a society) took it for granted in too many ways, for far too long. Now, the sky is clear, the birds are singing, the bees are buzzing, and the air is crisp and clean. It reminds me of the mornings we spent in Pennsylvania at my grandparent’s summer home. It feels good to know that our natural resources are being replenished and renewed when we got this forced time-out. 
  4. I love to cook! Yes, I said it. While growing up, it seemed such a chore and only relegated to the women of the family, so it was never top of my list of weekend want-tos. Interestingly, my desire for safety has inspired a burgeoning Chef at Home. Trying new recipes and sharing them with friends has been a highlight. I do miss going out to eat. However, it will never replace the feeling of listening to music, while chopping onions over a steaming pot of water ready for the pasta to be cooked. It will never come close to the feeling of sitting at our dinner table while playing Table Topics for Teens with my daughter. Because of this, she feels encouraged to express her unique and ever-expanding view of the world. 
  5. Working from Home is more efficient and productive than going into the office. I’ve gained four hours a day to give back to my work, and my days are more fluid. And for a social, workaholic like me this is a revelation. Turning off can be difficult, but when I’m done for the day, I am Home. 
  6. Being relieved of my treacherous commute has been a gift. Think about it, I’ve gained back at least four hours a day back to my life. I’ve used that time so much more effectively and productively. I’ve launched more programs, pitched more ideas, inspired more innovation, and connected with MORE people in the past 69 days than in the past 11 years at my company!   
  7. I’ve genuinely missed board games. Those old school games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Twister have made quite a comeback and I forgot how much I love them. I also forgot how much fun Badminton can be and discovered that I’m actually pretty good at soccer (or so Mr. Pizza says). 
  8. My crazy Italian family remains my favorite. We’ve started a text chain that has inspired us to stay in touch daily.  Whether sharing fun activities with the kids, life milestones, childhood memories, or merely busting each other’s chops. My family and I have been in constant contact, and I didn’t realize how much I missed being part of their daily lives.  The way we are supporting each other through this experience solidifies how lucky I am to be part of the Mazzola M.O.B. (Maggiore. O’Leary. Bono) familia! 
  9. Dancing is life, and it’s the one thing I miss the most while being at Home. While my school is hosting virtual classes, ballroom is genuinely one of the only things you have to do with a partner. And it’s such a social event, that it’s challenging to set the mood in a virtual world.   
  10. Parallel parenting with my ex-husband was hard pre-COVID-19. Still, it was even harder to decide how to share custody during the Shelter-In-Place order. It has caused a lot of stress, fear, and anxiety. Right now, I continue to commute MSP to and from Brooklyn to Westfield.  It’s not easy, and it’s increasingly hard on her as she so loves being home where she has a backyard and Bella to play with…but I am encouraged that things have settled down into a new normal. For now. 
  11. MSP loves virtual learning. Once the NYC statewide tests were canceled, and the grading system was adjusted to reflect the current learning environment, she exhaled a big sigh of relief. Learning has become a more engaging and pleasurable experience for my 5th-grade soon-to-be graduate. She has her routine on lock and has become very independent and proactive in her approach to this virtual learning environment. Her guilty pleasure during breaks is filled with Lilly Singh and mind-numbing YouTube how-to videos.   
  12. Meaningless chit-chat has been replaced with deep heart-felt, soul-baring conversations. I’ve had more deep conversations with my boyfriend and daughter in the past 69 days, than in the past six months! 
  13. Work/Life balance is achievable.  I was brainwashed to believe that balance between work and life was not achievable. I used to say, it’s about time management NOT balance. Our partners, kids and furry kids need our time, focus and presence. It was crystal clear that I spent more time with my work colleagues than my own family and friends.  
  14. Getting dressed is a luxury. Even though I’ve been home, I make my bed every morning, shower, put my red lipstick on, and do my hair. I take great pleasure in these small luxuries more than ever before.  
  15. Teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters are the closest thing we have to angels on earth. Their sacrifice and willingness to put themselves in harm’s way is a calling that we should honor and deeply appreciate.  
  16. Sanitation workers, mail personnel, delivery people, construction workers, restaurant employees, grocery store workers all deserve the biggest tips and most tremendous thanks. They are our essential workers and frontline to keeping the world turning. I never appreciated them as much as I do now. 
  17. Every small contribution leads to an enormous impact. I moved to Westfield because of this incredible sense of community I felt was missing from my previous neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Staten Island. The quaint downtown was my respite each weekend, where I fell in love with so many crafty stores, boutiques, and restaurants.  I’ve found ways to support those businesses by shopping small and sharing those experiences on social media.  We can help our communities thrive by understanding the reciprocal aspect of helping our local businesses survive during these difficult times. 
  18. We’ve replaced car rides with bike rides. I forgot how much I love riding downhill on my bike after an exhausting ride uphill. There is such a reward in the feeling of letting go of the brakes and sailing downhill while the air blows through my hair as I yell out “WOO HOO!!!”
  19. The greatest lesson I’ve learned is the difference between need and want, the central divider between the essential and non-essential. What I need is shelter, food, my family, health, love and hugs. What I want (or wanted) was manufactured stuff that I was convinced by brilliant marketers and #FOMO to desire. Through the past 69 days, by going through the five (now six) stages of mourning, a shift transpired. What is clear to me is that what I need and want are now permanently intertwined. There is no difference because I have it all (except hugs…I can’t WAIT to hug again). 

As I think back to my 19-year old self, I think she would be proud of my success to date…yet, I think she would be even more delighted that I found her again through these 19 lessons discovered during the past 69 days. And now, I gotta resurface my ripped jeans and that GNR t-shirt. 

Below is one of MSP’s inspired poems along with a glimpse into our new daily life…

Sunny Side Up                                                                                                                                                     By: MSP, May 2020

The beginning starts with an end.  It’s like a sun in the middle and around the sun is the clouds. You would think the egg or the heart would stay still and wouldn’t run out, but the heart can’t take it.

The sun runs away slowly ripping the fluffy clouds into the nothingness.  That love is still there if the heart stays together and if it allows the lovers to stay.

The monster that eats your heart, that monster is hate.  You can escape it if you have the special power of love and if you could get past that monster then you are lovers that are perfect for each other.

The sunny side egg is more than you think, it is the heart of love!

Breakfast in bed with my girls on Mother’s Day.  Breakfast made by MSP.

Celebrating Mr. Pizza’s 56th Birthday with Italy-Inspired balloons from a local small business. Buon Compleanno Pizza!

Taking our own Elementary School Graduation Pics on our front lawn…photo cred: Cherry. Congrats to all the 2020 Grads! 

Introducing our new furry love! Please meet Ms. Bella Bear from Tennesee.  18 months old in the picture here.  Adopted: April 10th, 2020.  Photo cred: MSP

My den, aka home office, redesigned with new leather couch from Article, rug and pillows from The Citizenry and storage ottoman by Wayfair.  Mini paintings provided by MSP.  And a nod to my forever love, U2.  Poster of U2 from South Kensington London, December 1979 (poster provided as a gift from my bro). Proof that even though I’m a grown up, my heart didn’t die!

Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 10-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.

Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.

This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure

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