Author Archives: cessley

About cessley

I am a bereaved parent. I write to give hope to other bereaved parents who are fresh in their grief. I want them to know life begins again. It (life) is forever changed, as are you, but one day, you will smile again. You may travel, you will make new friends, your heart will mend, though never heal and it will be a painful ride. It is one step at a time....sometimes, even one breath to the next is all we can seem to live through each day. But each day will be a new beginning, a different beginning, a different you. I have two surviving children: Amy, who is married to Brandon, and they have one daughter, Avery, and one son, Dylan. and Eric who is a doctor and is Clifton's twin brother. Clifton passed away when he was nearly two years old. As any bereaved parent knows, it is tough, REALLY tough trying to live after the death of a child. I lived in Shanghai, China for three years after the death of my son, and then lived in Beijing for two years. I am discovering life again, one step at a time. I returned to Oklahoma in February , 2020 due to the uncertainty of the virus. Little did I know the uncertainty would follow me across the ocean. This is nothing compared to the death of a child. I will survive!

It’s August.

Who could have imagined my son and I would be the only ones in our immediate family with jobs and an income? A teacher and a doctor (though his hours as an ER doctor have been cut).   I’ve only been with out a paycheck for August, so I can’t complain. I have had some financial setbacks, minor in comparison to others, but enough for a teacher to at least notice. 

I tried to withdraw $500 from my account in China.  The ATM did not disperse the money though the bank in China charged my account as if I had received the cash. What a nightmare trying to sort this.  But I am thankful for my friend, Melissa who has an international phone plan and lets me use her phone to call China.  It’s not looking good for the recovery of the money. It’s hard to solve these problems being 7000 miles away from the bank and the lack of my Chinese speaking skills, of course complicates things.  There were other China expenses that weren’t anticipated at the end of the contract but I will survive the loss.  Mine are not nearly as bad as so many millions of other people. 

The $500 ATM withdrawal attempt hurt a bit but a bigger sting came when someone thought they needed the kid’s swings in my front yard more than I did. They cut them down and took them last week in the middle of the night.  So strange, as there are many of these swings in the neighborhood and only mine were taken.  The kids were so disappointed not to have their swings when they came over.  I hope somebody’s kids are enjoying them. Though, I would have loaned the swings to them if they would have just asked, probably would have even thrown a couple of masks. 

Strangely enough, I go for a few days each year in August wondering what is wrong with me as I experience an overwhelming feeling of sadness, sometimes even feeling like I’m sinking into a bottomless pit. 

Then it’s like….”Oh, I know, August 19 is well on it’s way.”  This is the day my son died.  I never forget that my son died, never.  But I don’t really keep track of days in August. They are pretty much all the same, except for the couple of days before August 19, August 19 itself and the first day of school.  Other than that, I never know what day it is. I used to know when Sunday rolled around but that’s even hit and miss these days.

To me, it is the worst time of the year, August. Emotions are all over the place.  The last couple of days have been really difficult.  I don’t know why the whole week before my son’s  death is so hard but it always has been. I guess maybe I think “Could a’ Would a’ Should a.”  I re-live everything up to the point of his death. 

The struggle is real and this go round is compounded with the addition of Covid, the violence, hatred and uncertainty in our country, the theft of the swings, loss of money in the ATM and family members losing their jobs. It seems like a lot to process. These kinds of things can take a person down a deep dark tunnel if you allow it.  Life Sucks if you let it!

 I certainly see how people can be depressed during this unprecedented time in our lives.  It is hard sitting alone day after day all by yourself in a normal situation but now, my goodness.  Give someone a call who you haven’t spoken to in a while.  Check in.  You never know how happy you might make someone.  It’s worth it!

Today however, has been just an amazing day.  It brought happiness and heart felt joy for a moment in time that was much needed.

The DK’S (daughter’s kids) spent the night last night so they kept me busy or maybe I kept them busy, who knows. This morning at 5:42 am, my phone rang.  I’m so glad I heard it! My sweet neighbor across the street had gone into labor. She and her husband, (the doctor who was sleeping in his RV during the onset of Covid) needed to go to the hospital and her mom was an hour or so away but headed toward Tulsa as fast as she could travel. In the meantime, though they needed someone to stay with their kids so they could get to the hospital.  I got the DK’S up and we walked across the street to be with their children while waiting for grandma to arrive from Enid.  They will never know the joy it brought to my heart to help in such a small way.  I needed them more than they needed me this morning. 

Later on, my daughter and her husband came over and helped me with some much needed chores.  My friend Barb randomly stopped by and we all had lunch together.  It’s the little things these days that bring so much happiness and sanity.

After the kids left, Barb and I were sitting in the front yard.  My neighbor, (the other doctor on the street) hurriedly came out her front door, throwing on her shoes and was headed to the hospital to deliver a baby.  It just made me smile to see her hurrying around to get to the hospital to help bring new life into the world. 

Mr friend and I decided to go to Sam’s Club. While there, I ran into three more friends, Jason, Lisa and Cheryl. It was so great to see all of them and actually speak to people.  Sorry friends,  but when I see people now, I talk forever!  I heard from my friend Stephanie this evening who I’ve not seen in such a while. It was great to chat with her. It’s the little conversations and the amazing friendships that fill the heart these days. 

At home, I do for the most part remain positive but sometimes I just feel like banging my head against the wall.  I have two friends who constantly amaze me with their positive attitudes in the midst of this Covid-Chaos.  It is always so great to talk with or text them.  Every day without fail, I receive a good morning greeting on facebook from one of my most positive friends.  I’ve come to look for those greetings everyday now as a great start to the day.  It’s always nice to know someone is thinking of you, or me, I guess. 

Thanks everyone for making this such a great day! I wish you all a day filled with positive people in your life, random people stopping by, messages from friends, a happy family, a life free from financial stress and swings in your front yard. 

Send someone a message today.  Let them know you are thinking about them.  You just might make their heart happy. 



Are we satisfied with the actions of our leaders that we feel we don’t need to try harder to contain the virus?  

Sadly, the opportunity to prepare for and stop the spread of the virus came and went months ago.  The world watched as China’s nurses and doctor’s pleaded for their lives and the lives of their colleagues. We watched as they were building hospitals in ten days and dragging people out of their apartments who were infectious. Once the first case was diagnosed in Washington, the USA’S complacent reaction was an indication of things to come. 

Complacency said this is no worse than the flu.

Complacency says I’m still going shopping.

The complacent are disregarding the highly contagious nature of the virus.

Being complacent has put a horrible strain on our medical system.  It is causing our doctors and nurses to sleep in RV’S in their driveways.  It has caused the death of nearly 7,000 people in the USA; 16 of those deaths by March 29 and more than doubling to 38 by April 3 in Oklahoma. 

Complacency has led to women making masks for health care professionals as quickly as they can. They are being mailed and given to doctors and nurses across the USA because they don’t have enough PPE.

“Heroes Work Here” signs are being seen at hospitals.

Complacency has led to loved ones dying alone in hospitals. Supermarket shelves being emptied. People losing their jobs.  School closings. 

People losing millions from plunging share prices.

Please don’t let complacency continue to burden our health care system, our livelihood, and the health and welfare of our friends and family.

 I have a suitcase sitting in my living room reminding me not to become complacent. I walk around it everyday, not that I need a reminder that my son’s health and that of so many of our medical professionals and first responders are in jeopardy.  I think of that everyday. 

It reminds me to think forward and to remind people to disinfect their front door handles, washing machine/dryer handles, glasses, etc. It reminds me to be prayerful. It reminds me that I have to return to Beijing to fulfill my employment contract, and it reminds me that I need to live life to its fullest inside my home!

The suitcase is packed and ready for a 14 day Chinese quarantine at a government facility upon return to Beijing. It is filled with Clorox Wipes, a roll of TP, snacks, just add water soups, bowl, spoon, etc. ( I’ve seen pictures of the food other teachers have been served in quarantine upon their arrival) I still need to add sheets, a pillow, towel, and flip-flops so I won’t have to touch anything, wherever it is they decide to quarantine us.

What I don’t understand about some people’s complacent actions is why is all the toilet paper gone? If people are happy with the lack of enforced lockdowns and continue to go on as normal, why are beer and potato chips selling out and being restocked as if we could never find them in the stores again? Some must not be that convinced.

Complacency is not going to stop the spread of the virus or its economic impact.  

Staying home is going to help, but the spread is quite significant now. 

Be vigilant in your actions so we can enjoy our family and friends sooner, than later… and we won’t be subjected to binge watching Tiger King!


Rattled to the Core!

I wrote in a previous blog post “Will their Smiles Still be Seen?” about all of the sulphur being released into the air during the peak of the virus in China, presumably due to all of the crematoriums burning so many bodies everyday. This is what I was reminded of today as I was tending to essential business at the Post Office (mailing masks to my son and his colleagues at the hospital in Lawton, Oklahoma). 

I saw something so disturbing to ME and had it not been for the masks in my hand that just might be needed due to the shortage of REAL MASKS, I may have gone running out the door from that post office lobby. 

Which by the way, when I am at the grocery store, or gas station I don’t see people wearing masks at all.  I know there seems to be some debate over whether they help or not, but if you have stockpiled these masks and you aren’t going to use them, why keep them?  Please send them on to our healthcare workers.  I have an address of a hospital or two if you need willing recipients of all the masks that are sitting in your cabinet or on your shelf. You can even go to and find someone who needs masks more than you need them  collecting dust on a shelf.

Sorry, Back to the Post Office Lobby.  I honestly felt as though I might be sick. I just stood there for a minute trying to take in the visual I had in my head. I saw Italy and the military trucks transporting bodies, I saw friends dying alone, I saw myself getting out of the sulphur filled skies of China, I saw my son. 


Behind the counter, at the post office was a roll of stickers, which read

“Cremated Remains.”

Perhaps they always have these stickers, however I have been using this particular post office several times a week for years, (except of course when I am in China) and I have never seen them sitting out on the counter.  I guess mailing cremains is more common than I thought.  Actually, I’ve never thought about it. 


I proceeded to the counter and wanted to ask about the stickers, but I couldn’t get any words to come out of my mouth. I was barely able to insert my card into the reader and I wasn’t about to use my un-gloved hand to touch the machine.  I finally got the card in the slot. I had mentioned to a friend a day earlier that “I don’t easily break, but I am about at my breaking point.” I guess I’m really there!  Seeing these stickers caused so many flashbacks, flash forwards and questions in just the few seconds I was standing there. 

I thought: 

1. Are we already to this point or close to it where we will, or already are mailing cremains because family members can’t go and pick them up? 

2. Will we be enlisting the services of the National Guard to carry bodies from Expo Square to the crematorium?  

3. Will people die alone? 

4. Will family members be wracked with guilt not being able to be with their loved ones when they pass away?

The answer to the last two questions above, is YES. It is already happening. I’ve seen on the news nurses holding the hand of a dying patient while trying to FaceTime with the patient’s loved ones from their homes sending their final goodbyes.

What about the first two questions listed above? Wait to be seen, I guess.

But, so many people think the “limited” guidelines that have finally been put in place, don’t apply to them. I rode my bike the other day along the river trail.  It is great to see so many people getting exercise, running or riding their bikes. But, there were SO MANY PEOPLE gathering in large groups. Children were climbing on the benches along side the trails and then putting cookies in their mouths. It didn’t appear that the adult was washing down the bench or the child’s hands before they were seen putting something in their mouths.  

If you are going to use the trails, keep it moving. Please don’t stop and gather in large groups. Maybe bring your own blanket to sit on rather than a bench that everyone else sits on. If we can’t follow the established guidelines, or use our common sense, we are only subjecting more healthcare workers and first responders to unnecessary risks. 

I stayed inside for 7 weeks, 4 weeks in China and 3 weeks in the states upon my return. Here, I didn’t even have to totally stay inside, I could have gone on a bike ride or walk around the neighborhood according to the Health Department. I chose not to do so. I took my trash can to the curb at night when no one was outside. I wore a mask to do that. I stayed inside an additional week just to be sure.  I did it for you.  Can you do it for others? 

It seems these days when we are presented with an easier and faster way to do something, we are going to take that route, regardless of the circumstances.   This is the society we have created.

This crisis isn’t one of those circumstances.  There is nothing fast, easy or convenient in dealing with this virus.  We must be patient!  We must follow the guidelines.

We are a nation in crisis. Do your part so you don’t receive a box in the mail that reads ”Cremated Remains.”

Will their smiles still be seen?

Are you doing your part? 

Watching this pandemic unfold while sitting in China was an eerie experience.  I kept up with the daily death toll, while listening to so many ask “What’s the big deal? The flu kills more people than this each year.” Yes, the flu does kill many but we don’t shut down borders, restrict air travel and activate the National Guard for the flu. 

So much confusion over this new virus and where it came from, how contagious it is and how it continues spreading so rapidly.  Of course not knowing the language and unable to watch Chinese TV and understand it, we (teachers) relied on news from our own countries, USA and New Zealand. Each reporting something different or new.  Chinese colleagues were relaying different information.  Our heads were spinning.

I remember hearing that the Chinese government placed the city of WuHan on lockdown, but told the citizens it was going to be effective the following day.  This gave millions of people time to leave WuHan before the city and it’s people were on lockdown.  Begin the spread. There is a lesson to be learned there.

business locked and closed in Beijing

Once this city was on lockdown, others soon followed. Schools remained closed and still are closed. Stores and businesses began to close. The only establishments that were to remain open were those of necessity, supermarkets and pharmacies. Deliveries of all kind; food, groceries, TaoBao, etc. were stopped.

Heed their actions?

Beijing, a city of 20 million plus people were staying inside.  I could look out my apartment window and see only a few people in the park, here and there. We would go to the park, donned in our “protective wear” to walk, gather information on the virus and count our daily blessings. Upon return to my apartment, I would remove my shoes at the door, wash my coat, gloves and clothes.  I wiped down my front door handle and the floor.  I cleaned my glasses and took a shower.  Every day without fail.  Who knows what could have been lurking on my clothing?

During our walks and toward the 2nd or third week into our self-imposed quarantine in Beijing, we noticed more “smog” or “pollution” in Beijing than normal.  Data at this time suggested an increase in the amount of sulphur dioxide in the air, possibly from the crematorium burning so many bodies each day. We were nearly 1000 miles away from WuHan but seeing the effects in the air quality. This just made me think of how the skies must have looked at Auschwitz-Birkenau in the 1940’s with ovens operating continuously, burning bodies on a daily basis.  What a tragic time in our world’s history!

Now the military in Italy are transporting coffins of people to cremation centers.

We are watching all of this unfold in other countries, yet are we doing everything we can to stop the spread? I felt guilty picking my car up from the shop today. I wore gloves and wiped down the counter, the door handles and pens at the dealership. I stopped by the store to pick up a few things, again feeling guilty,  and saw my friend, Rex, there.  No hugs, just an elbow bump and that was too close for me. 

I have remained Virus free and have made very nerve-wracking decisions to get me to this point and back to the USA. So it is possible, we just have to do our part.

 Travel restrictions should have been put in place for Spring Break Holiday weeks ago in the USA.  I feel lockdowns, restrictions and quarantines should have been in effect prior to this week. California leaders estimate 25.5 million people will contract the virus over the next 8 weeks but even knowing this, people go on about their non essential business of the day. Let’s pull it together and work for the safety of our city, state and country or the spread continues.

The National Guard has already been authorized to provide planning and guidance throughout this situation. So it looks like the State of Oklahoma is preparing for the worse. Until local and federal government leaders provide more uniformity across the country, it will get worse. As in China, some places did this, others did that. The spread continued.

I know it is all new, we weren’t really sure what it was capable of at the onset, but now we are seeing the effects of this virus. It is our civic duty to act with the best interests of our families, friends, doctors, nurses and first responders at heart.  

My son, the doctor and his beautiful ER doctor friends, I hope their smiles and those of all ER physicians can still be seen

Overall, I was in quarantine for 7 weeks.   I survived.  You will, too! so DON’T let it! Find something to do and someone to help. You will feel so much better during this time of insecurity.

Stop the spread….Do it for our real heroes, those who don’t know what they are being exposed to on a daily basis; first responders, health care providers and my son, the doctor. 

6PM Phone Call

While I was writing my post last night and got the SKYPE call, my heart started racing, I grabbed the phone, shaking, dropped it, tried to open it, FACE ID wouldn’t work, finally typed in the code and had a connection with the Health Department.  I was clearly rattled as my conversations with the health department had ended. 

During this short time of just trying to answer the phone, I started thinking back to my post from April 2011, “4AM Phone Calls are Never Good.”  I hope there will never be another phone call like that one.  Nothing compares.

How Eric survived this accident is beyond me.

Though, there was another call about 12 years ago when Eric called from a stranger’s phone and said, “I’m ok, but I had an accident on the highway. The state troopers, fire, ambulance and life flight are here, and they say I’m lucky to be alive, but I’m ok.”

Well if Life Flight is there, then you’re in good hands!  I won’t worry! GEEZ! (sarcasm)  I sped down the highway,  couldn’t even get pulled over for speeding. Emergency personnel were all at the scene of the accident as I noticed when I arrived.


Ok, Just answer the SKYPE call. Say something. You know it’s not the kids.  The Health Department wouldn’t be calling about the kids.


Hello had a BIG QUESTION MARK at the end. I was finished with my quarantine.  I had no symptoms. Why were they calling?

Was somebody symptomatic whom I had been near?

Was someone ill on the plane ?

All these questions and thoughts swirling around in my head for what seemed like forever, but in reality, was only a few seconds.

The health official was just calling to tell me they were going to be in the area for dinner and asked if I wanted them to bring my official, signed “You’ve completed quarantine and you’re free” paper to my home, rather than mailing it!  


I laid back on the couch with a sigh of relief.

I’m still good to go, physically.  

Leaving my house, when I do choose to do so, I kind of see like taking a first, backward step off a mountain with my repelling gear. That first step is the hardest, but after that it is an amazing experience, soaring to the next landing as you push yourself away from the wall with your feet. I need to push myself away from the front door and out into the sunshine today.

I will carry my “release” paper with me for a while, especially if I need to go to the doctor or dentist while I am here. I hope I won’t have to as I don’t have insurance while in America.  I would have to go travel to another country for medical treatment for anything to be covered.  But then there is the risk for infection again and so the story repeats. 

Thank you everyone!  I’m going to get ready for the day and go sit in the sunshine in my magic chair!

I love you all!

TULSA WOMAN Released from Quarantine by the Tulsa Health Department


Breaking News:

A Tulsa  woman recently home from Beijing, China has been in quarantine in her home and has been symptom free from the coronavirus during her 14 day quarantine. 

Today, she is a free woman.

Oh goodness.  I’m now the “Tulsa Woman. “

I’m a free Tulsa woman! 

 I’ve completed the mandatory quarantine established by the CDC, which was monitored by the Tulsa Health Department. As of 4:40 p.m. on Friday, February 28, I took my final SKYPE monitoring call for a temperature reading for the health department.  

temperature monitoring form, 14 days complete, no fever, no symptoms

I was told as long as I remained symptom free through the rest of the day, I would be released from quarantine and free to go on the 29th.

Would I go out at midnight and drive around the city?

They wished me well and I knew I wouldn’t have further contact with them unless there was an emergency.

During this quarantine period, I discovered that at a local hospital in Tulsa, administration, infectious disease specialists, lung specialists and others were being briefed on a contingency plan for the local coronavirus case quarantined at home in Tulsa in case treatment is needed for that individual. 

 ME!  That individual is me!

This was in relation to me choosing this hospital when asked by health officials where I would like to go should I have an emergency.

Then they contact that hospital to notify them of my selection. Lucky hospital.

 The good news is I’m not infected and that local hospital is prepared with a contingency plan for anyone who may become infected later on.  It’s great to hear our local health care providers are talking and prepared for an emergency such as the coronavirus. 

How do I feel?

It’s great to know I can come or go as I please. 

However, with the increase of Coronavirus cases in the USA and two more people being investigated for the virus in the State of Oklahoma, and with the flu season at its peak, questions from friends regarding the incubation period, and finally upon receipt of some hateful messages, I have chosen to stay homebound for just a bit longer.

I do not have symptoms!

People say masks don’t work, even though they are sold out across the globe. Surgical masks don’t keep the smaller airborne particles  from sneaking through and around the non-fitted areas around the mouth and nose and N95 masks need to be properly fitted, but I will keep my masks handy and wear them in larger groups of people for a while when I do finally go out in public, anyway.  The mask may just stop that one, large droplet expelled from someone’s mouth when someone sneezes or coughs my way.   Can you imagine if I caught the flu now after being released from quarantine? People would worry it was “The Virus.” What a panic that would be!  I didn’t escape the virus only to come down with the flu.

There have been questions in regard to the incubation period.  I have had several friends asking if the period had been extended from 14 to 24 days and suggested I stay inside longer.  I can guarantee you I have contacted the health department and asked these questions.  They are in constant contact with the CDC and they have been told the 14 day period is sufficient.

I am honestly doing my due diligence as a citizen and following all protocol and guidelines, even beyond the established quarantine period to ease the minds of people in Tulsa.

Finally, the last factor that determined my extra stay in my home are the messages I have received via facebook messenger. I imagine these people saw a story on one of the local news stations, or googled my name and took the time to look me up on facebook and sent me a message filled with questions of hate. I did not bother to respond and only deleted the messages.  

Am I letting this final factor bother me? 

I wouldn’t say I am staying home because of the ugliness, but I do understand the fear.  I lived it everyday for 4 weeks in China. The difference is I channeled these fears into something more positive and tried to help others rather than criticize or judge them. 

I understand people are scared and as humans, we often fear the unknown. However, this fear can manifest into other strong emotions, such a hate, but should not be directed toward people of any race.  The virus is the problem. 

How about turning this emotion into something positive to help and support people?  I have seen support beyond measure from my friends during this crazy time in my life.

My SKYPE APP is calling.

Who could that be?

As of right now, this minute, it is 6:00 p.m. on Friday night.

It is exactly one hour and twenty minutes after my release from the Tulsa Health Department. 

The only calls I receive from SKYPE right now are from the Tulsa Health Department.

 It is the Tulsa Health Department. 

My heart is jumping out of my chest right now!


If I only had a Crystal Ball

‘When will you return to China?’

“Do you have to go back?’

 I’m asked these questions every day.  The answer is ‘I don’t know.’  

Yes, eventually I will have to return.


 I assume.

Who knows!

I have recently checked flights from Tulsa to Beijing, and it looks like it is possible to return to at least the Beijing Airport.

There is a flight from Tulsa to Dallas to Los Angeles with American Airlines, then on to Tokyo with United Airlines and from Tokyo to Beijing by way of Air China.


There is also a flight from Tulsa to Chicago by way of American Airlines, Chicago to Seoul by way of Korean Air and Korean Air from Seoul to Beijing. 


My normal route is Tulsa to Dallas to Beijing with American Airlines. 

The State Department has recently issued a Level 2 warning for travel to both Japan and South Korea, which means they are urging caution to travelers to those countries.  

This is how the warnings began while I was in China.  There were warnings not to travel to Wuhan, Level 2. Over several weeks, the level heightened and is now a level 4 for traveling in China.

The Coronavirus has spiked recently in South Korea. As of this writing it appears 5 have died and 500 are infected. 

Japan was criticized for their handling of the quarantined cruise ship docked at a Japanese port. 

So if my only way back is through either Japan or Korea, would I really be asked to return to school?

A recent message from school stated:

We received a message from the BDA Social Development Bureau this morning:

  1. Any staff currently who are outside of Beijing should not return to Beijing without notice from the school.

2.   Under very special circumstances, should a staff member need to return to Beijing, he/she may only return to Beijing upon school and BDA Social Development’s Bureau’s  approval.

So, as of now, I cannot return to my apartment in Beijing without permission. For how long? No need to even think about it. There is no answer.

Will I now miss my son’s graduation in June? I already have the ticket. How would the quarantine work?  Do I need to cancel the flight? So many things to consider. Good thing I have all day to ponder these things, I guess.

If I only had a crystal ball. 


I arrived in Tulsa on Friday, February 14, Valentine’s Day.  Not a valentine in sight!  But that’s ok, I wouldn’t expect a kiss on this Valentine’s Day anyway. I have to wear a mask so it would be awkward.

The CDC said they would contact me immediately if there was a problem.  By Sunday, the Health Department contacted my daughter as I listed her as my emergency contact.  I don’t have a working phone in the USA. 

The Tulsa Health Department needed to reach me.  They needed to interview, ask me questions, and monitor my temperature readings.   Ok!  This doesn’t sound like too  much of an emergency. I had expected this. My friends who are from Mississippi and who left Beijing a week before me said the Health Department is monitoring them, as well. I’ve had a couple more friends return to the USA and the procedure appears to be the same. 

It sounds routine. Ok, That’s fine.  

I told my daughter, Amy to call them and tell them they could come anytime. I wasn’t going anywhere!  

I feel a bit like ET and think of the famous line, “I’ll be right here.” However, I don’t have the long glowing finger. I consider that a good thing!

The Health Department officials arranged to meet me on Sunday after 10am in my home.

I notified my neighbors and told them not to become alarmed if they see a vehicle from the Health Department arrive in my driveway. 

Luckily, they arrived in an unmarked vehicle. They asked questions at the door, asked to see my temperature readings, then proceeded to come inside.  I of course, kept my mask on the whole time.  They gave me a few more masks to have for later.

I answered their questions:

Where have you been?

Why were you there?

How long have you been there?

Have you had a fever?

Have you been in contact with anyone from Wuhan?

What flight were you on?

What seat were you in?

There were others, but I don’t remember them.

They monitored my temperature reading and it was normal.  They explained they would expect a temperature reading twice a day, once by email and the other would be monitored in my home.

They asked if I had questions.  I asked how many people do they see a day in relation to the coronavirus?  They could not answer that question as it was confidential.

I asked if there had been quite a few people return to Oklahoma from China.  They could not answer that question as it was confidential.

I asked why they didn’t wear a mask when they entered my home?  They said they knew from my temperature recordings over the past two days and how cautious I appear that they weren’t in danger.  I kept my mask on my face. 

I told them I was impressed that they didn’t arrive in a marked car. They said they arrive in unmarked vehicles so as not to cause alarm.   Makes sense.  How many houses do these people visit?  And, it’s not just for CoronaVirus.  They visit all homes of people who the CDC tag as a “potential threat to the public.”  What a job to have, eh?

So if you are feeling scared of being infected by this virus or any other, consider how these people must feel. They are the first to be in contact with them,   er …uh…us, I mean. 

Wow, that’s crazy! I guess we never know when we might become one of “them.” Whoever “them” are.  I just feel we need to be more kind and less judgmental toward everyone, you just never know what lurks around the next bend.

They were very considerate and offered to help in anyway they could if I needed anything. 

I was left with a hand out about the Virus. 

“What you need to know about 2019 Novel Coronavirus” 

What are the symptoms of 2019-nCoV?

fever, cough, shortness of breath.

I have not had any of these nor do I know anyone who has had these symptoms.

 I had a few papers to complete and sign. There is a “Symptom Monitoring Form for Returning Travelers” which includes two weeks of recording the following:

check of temperature twice daily 

documenting the presence or absence of the following:

 muscle aches, headache, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea. 

So far, the answer is no to all of these questions.

As far as the temperature readings, I email my temperature each day at the same time to the Health Department.  The second temperature reading is monitored.

One of the Health Department employees came for two days afterward to monitor me taking my temperature.

Now, the second temperature reading is a Skype monitoring.  They are very considerate of my time and always call before my online classes begin at 5:30pm.

There were actually three ways I could have been monitored:

  1. I take my on temperature and watch for symptoms on my own and just report to them by telephone
  2. Take temperature and record absence or presence of symptoms on my own and once by health department officials
  3. A Tulsa Health Department official will conduct TWO in person visits each day and document all recordings.

I was #2 simply because I had been in China within the past 14 days, not because I had any symptoms. Had I arrived from another country besides China, I would have been a #1. Glad I’m not #3!

During my quarantine period I have to exclude myself from travel outside Tulsa County unless I have permission, but it could only be in my personal vehicle.

I must exclude myself from public places; shopping centers, movie theaters, and group gatherings.

Exclude myself from workplaces 🙂

The best one was I could go jog outside, walk a pet, ride a bike as long as a maintain a 3-6 feet distance from others.

I have no intention of going outside for a jog or bike ride until after the 29th.  Then it will only be limited for a while.  I am being considerate of the feelings of others during this trying time. 

If I have a medical emergency and must contact 911, (if I can dial it from my China carrier) I must identify myself as a recent traveler from a novel coronavirus outbreak country.  After 14 days, I am good to go!

I must say being quarantined in my own home isn’t that bad!  I have the most wonderful friends who keep me supplied with groceries, lunches and dinners!  Some are running my errands and cleaning my yard. Others stand out in the cold and visit with me while I am inside where it is warm.   I am just amazed at the incredible “homecoming.” 

I may just extend my quarantine if I can keep receiving all of these wonderful treats and visitors at my door everyday!  : )

Not knowing what to expect when I decided to leave China, I decided it was best if very few people knew I was coming home. It was a rush job to get internet, transportation and some groceries in my house before I arrived. I didn’t know if I would get through the screenings at the airport, or quarantined somewhere besides my home since I stayed a considerably longer time in China. We (teachers) had no idea what was really going on due to so many conflicting news reports. I didn’t know what the reception would be like.  But the man at the airport was my first realization that “It was ok that I came home.” Thank you man at DFW airport!

 Since I was able to pass all the screenings and health checks,  I chose to announce my arrival since people kept asking when I was coming home and I was already here.  I couldn’t lie and say I wasn’t home.  

Plus when I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be #4 on the list of “People under investigation for Coronavirus” and becoming “Breaking News”  on the local tv stations, I thought it would be ok to share my whereabouts. I just wanted to be as transparent as possible as I sensed the concern over the spread of the virus. Understandably. But, I also began to realize there was a genuine concern for my health and safety. I am absolutely in awe of all of the well wishing and friendship I’ve encountered over the past week. 

This experience is far from over.  We (teachers at our school) received an interesting email, just yesterday, from our school principal.

How will this end?

The Journey Home, Part 3

I took a deep breath and said, “Excuse me sir, I have just returned from China and am wearing this mask for both of our protection, I just wanted you to know that. Feel free to get up and move if you would like. I won’t be offended.”

He looked at me, leaned forward with his arms on top of his thighs and said, “Nah, it’s ok. I will just stay here and talk to you, it’s ok”

“Ok, I just wanted you to be aware. I’m really surprised nobody is wearing a mask in here but me!”

By now the lady on the other side of him has become interested in the conversation but never says anything. I can tell she is listening as we make eye contact several times. She smiles.

At that moment, I had so many thoughts and feelings.

What a very kind man!
(I might have moved to another seat!)

Maybe this virus isn’t as bad as it was starting to sound! Neither of these people seem concerned about me sitting here.

Should I have stayed in China after all?

Isn’t anyone concerned about the virus, where are the masked faces?

People don’t mind if I sit amongst them, even with my mask covering my face and my visibly obvious bag of bleach wipes, disposable gloves and shoe covers?

What the heck? So then $$$ signs flashed through my head. If you remember, I had chosen to stay in China to save money over the holiday. Shoot! I guess I should have stayed there!

Then quickly shifting to “No, I needed to leave for my sanity.”

Then “How much is a one way ticket back to China going to cost?”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m almost home”

I’ve had some pretty good discussions with myself over the past 5 weeks as I have sat in self-imposed and now mandated quarantine.

Well, back to the man who surprised me by staying and offering to talk with me. He lives in Dallas but grew up in Enid. He was going to see his wife in Tulsa who is taking care of her father while he is in the hospital. We had a great conversation until it was time to board. Other than the customs and immigration officers and the CDC workers, he was the first person to actually speak to me once I was “home.” I will always remember that act of kindness.

The next piece of good news was the American Airlines announcement, “Passengers, we have a very full flight, so if you would like to check your carry on, please come to the counter now and we will check it for free.”

I just about ran to the counter to get rid of that bag. I was so happy! The guy behind the counter placed the tag on the bag and bent to pick it up. He said, “Ohh…” and walked a little lopsidedly to put it with the others.

It was a full flight to Tulsa. I always choose to sit near the window. I feel it is “safer” in regards to catching fewer bugs on a flight. Fewer people can make contact as they pass by in the aisle. I know I bump into almost everybody when I board a plane as I am usually carrying a huge bag or two.

I wiped down my seat, arm rests, seatbelt and tray with my few remaining bleach wipes and buckled up.

trying to read this book on my inhales, as my glasses fogged over on the exhale

As it is not a long flight, I thought I would read a few more chapters of my book before I made it to Tulsa. This didn’t last long though. I could only read the pages on my “inhales,” as my glasses would fog over with every exhale, due to the  mask on my face. But it would clear when I inhaled. It didn’t matter how I adjusted my mask, I couldn’t clear my glasses, except for my inhale. Do you know how many pages you can read on an inhale? Not many, it is more like a paragraph and if I got to a really good part on the page, I held my breath so I could finish the paragraph before I exhaled again. I thought I might choke and then have a coughing fit and have all kinds of attention that I didn’t want.

I finally gave up on the book and just listened to the many people sneezing and coughing on this flight. I just cringed and tightened my mask every time they coughed. I didn’t come all this way to get sick now! Besides, I MUST stay healthy!

I wondered at that time, “If the flu kills more people in a year than the Coronavirus (up to now) why don’t people take more precautions? Where were their masks?” I just hunkered down in my seat and hoped the tall guy next to me didn’t start coughing or sneezing. He didn’t talk to me. I’m sure I was a sight. It had already been a 24 hour journey from China door to Tulsa, I traveled with my mask, goggles and gloves, and my hair was sticking up and out every which way, around my mask, over the straps that hold the mask in place, hair was everywhere. Mascara running down my face, eyeliner smudged.

While descending, I looked out the window thinking, “I’m glad to be home.” I wondered why it took me so long to decide. But of course these are just thoughts that go back and forth in my head all the time. I quickly remembered it took a long time to make the decision to go home because I didn’t know if traveling on a plane was safer than staying on self imposed quarantine. I didn’t know what the reception would be like once I arrived. Plus, I was helping Heather with the baby.

Walking up the jet way seemed so free-ing. Mainly because I wasn’t dragging that dang bag behind me, but I was home. Fresh air. Water from the tap. Friends and family. Of course, I didn’t really know what would await once my luggage was in the car and I was home.

So who was brave enough to pick me up from the airport? Don’t worry! I didn’t ask anyone to pick me up. I wasn’t going to UBER or taxi and potentially expose anyone to what I knew I didn’t have, but I guess couldn’t be 100% certain. I was and continue to be very cautious and aware of people around me.

Remember my friend Shack who offered the words of encouragement during the snowstorm and my luggage fiasco? We had pre-arranged my transportation. He and his wife, Annie went to my house to pick up my car and drove it to the airport. My flight landed at 7:35 pm. They were gong to have my car at the curb about 7:45/8:00p.m.

The luggage took a little bit of time but I saw my car outside and went and tossed my 15 pound bag inside. I had to go back inside and retrieve the rest of the bags. Shack waited in the car, and Annie in their truck behind my car.

My 75 pound bag that I hauled all over the place was first to come out. The zipper had ripped open! There was a flip flop and a card from John 3:16 mission placed on top of my bag. It made me laugh for just a second. I can understand how someone might think the flip flop would have been mine since my bag was open, but just the way the flip flop was placed on top of my partially opened bag with the card placed on top of that, was funny to me.

At what point did it get placed on top of my bag? How did the flip flop and the card remain on top of my bag when it came flying out of the baggage claim chute and down the little ramp?

Anyway, I waited for the next two bags, hoping they made it in one piece on the long flight, too. They did. I gathered them up and started pushing them toward the revolving door. One of the wheels on one of the suitcases had come loose by now and it was hard to maneuver. I left the flip flop on the floor for its rightful owner to claim it.

A nice couple saw me kicking my 75 pound, ripped bag, and yelled at me,”Hey you lost something,” while holding the flip flop in his hand. I told him thanks but it wasn’t mine. He dropped it.

I rolled the good bag and dragged the broken one behind me, while kicking the other one to the revolving door. Again, I must have been a sight to see. I waited until the revolving door was void of people trying to exit then pushed, pulled, and kicked my way into the revolving door. I had to keep the bags moving with me. I got to the other side and the one with the loose wheel fell over. I quickly had to get the other two bags out of the revolving door and that one upright. I did it!

The nice couple said, “Bless your heart! Why don’t you ask one of the workers for help? I am sure they will help you.”

My bag that I dragged, pulled, and kicked thru two airports has seen its last airport, it has a hole in the bottom now

“Thanks, it’s ok.” I’m almost home now. I continued to push, pull and kick my way to the curb. It was nice to not have that 4th bag. At that point Shack yelled instructions from a distance about my key fob not working, he had left a Valentine’s gift at my house and yelled, “Welcome home!” He ran toward his truck! I don’t blame him a bit. I was so thankful that they took their Valentine’s evening to rescue me at the airport.
I hoisted the suitcases into the car. Climbed into the driver’s seat and rested my forehead on the steering wheel. It was over. I was home and Blake Shelton’s song, “God’s Country” was playing on my CD in the car. I didn’t remember what I left in the CD player two years ago. It truly is God’s Country. I then flipped it back to K95.5 Tulsa’s New Country Leader Radio station, which is what it was on when I got in the car. Cash and Bradley, the radio hosts gave me a shout out while I was in China.

I drove toward home and for a brief moment thought, “It’s over.”
By the time I reached my street, reality set back in and I thought back to what the CDC officer told me. Someone will be in touch if there is any problem.

By Sunday, I had contact with the local Health Department.

The Journey Home …part 2 (this is to correct the link that wouldn’t work)

As if the face masks, goggles, gloves and such weren’t enough of an ID that we had arrived from China, the unbleached lanyard was then around my neck. We just followed the “From China” signs.

It led us right along and next to the people who were arriving on other flights, not from China. The only thing separating us was a retractable queue rope set on two posts to organize the lines.

We just plodded along in the line walking up to the counter where they took our temperature again. They took the forms, asked where I was going and said, “ok.”

I didn’t have my boarding pass as Air China could not issue American Airlines boarding passes so I had to go to the counter to retrieve that first.

I was excited when they told me I had the whole row to myself! Yea! No one to cough on me, I can lay down and get some rest!

After my brief moment of excitement, I just walked along with the rest of the population scurrying from gate to gate or just sitting and eating dinner waiting on their flights.

There were some people in the airport with masks and some without. I was surprised to see the ones without. I went to the bathroom to scrub my hands, which are so dry now from my continued use of bleach wipes.

I just sat by myself, as I didn’t want to be by anyone who might cough or sneeze and I didn’t want anyone to be by me, just in case! I sat down next to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels to wait for my flight. I wasn’t going to be last call this time!

The smell of Auntie Anne’s is so fresh and delicious that I just couldn’t sit there. I decided to have a lemonade and a pretzel. I went back to my seat. I book off a piece of my pretzel to take a bite. Well, it hit the outside of my mask. I forgot to take my mask off!

I threw that piece in the trash. I didn’t know what kind of germ might be on the outside of that mask. I started to take a drink instead. ARRGGH! You guessed it, I didn’t take my mask off again.

I threw the straw in the bin, (that’s my new word) I learned it from the New Zealander’s I work with in China. Finally, I lifted the mask, took a bite and put the mask back down. I never touched the pretzel with my hand. Finished both the pretzel and the drink and headed to the gate. The line was long. It seemed like it was going to be a full flight. I was concerned about my empty row.

Envying the people i first class as I walked by with my 75 pound carry on and 15 pound personal item in the tight and narrow aisle, only hitting a few people along the way with my bags, I made it to 26A. The window seat. Ho Hum. The two seats beside me were taken. It was ok, the guy redeemed himself when he asked if I needed help with my carry on. He lifted to the overhead compartment. It just so happened the Kansas family from the previous flight were right behind me on the flight. The Kansas husband saw my seat mate take my bag and said, “So you found another person to help you with your bag!” “Yes,” I replied, if I walk around with a sad and pathetic look on my face someone will usually help me!” Though, I guess it was difficult to tell if I was sad and pathetic with my mask covering my face.

Truly, he was just a nice guy offering to help!

He was a young guy traveling with his girlfriend who also had just left Beijing. We had been on the same Air China flight previously. He was from New York but living in Columbia. She was from Columbia. Their stories were much for dramatic than mine. They lost their income due to the virus and couldn’t afford their housing anymore. Their city was in total lockdown only allowing one person in the family to leave the apartment at a time to go to the store.

It was a long flight from Seoul to Dallas, one of the designated airports to allow US citizens entry who had been in China. Bu the conversation was good, yet unbelievable at times.

Upon landing at DFW, the nice New Yorker lifted my bag down from the overhead and even continued to carry it down the aisle. SO HAPPY I WAS! He commented on what must be in the bag as it was so heavy. “How do you carry this?” A girl’s gotta’ do what a girls gotta’ do! I had packed like I wasn’t returning to China! Though, I know I will return as school has to open eventually, I would imagine, and I have to finish my contract. But even if it doesn’t open, I would still have to get final paperwork sorted and such so I could get paid.

Eh. Who knows at this point? No need to speculate. We will all find out in due time.

The New Yorker turned out to be quite the kind soul and gentleman. He carried my bag all the way to immigration where he and his girlfriend were stopped. I guess because she was from Columbia. I thanked him profusely and carried the bag thru the line.

We stop at kiosks now to complete our entry information rather than filling out a card on the flight. GO GREEN! I knew once I entered my information and it spit my “receipt” out, I was in trouble. I had a BIG BLACK X on my receipt.

I guess this was a better way to ID China travelers over the used lanyard in Seoul. I proceeded thru the line, waved to the Kansan’s and continued on. It was my turn at the counter. I took my passport and receipt out of my bag and handed it to the kind man behind the counter. I asked him why he was not wearing a mask. He started off with some story about a vacation and then got sidetracked. I guess he realized the BIG BLACK X meant something more. I had to lower my mask for the photo op. Also, by the way, the mask had to come off at each security check point as well. The “Body handlers” had to inspect the mask. They didn’t touch it, just had to look inside the mask.

The nice agent told me to follow him. I was his first BIG BLACK X. He took me to room and told me to sit down. I waited. He came back out and said come on back. A lady jumped up quickly and said, “NO! She can not come in here.”

Ok! I decided to stay where I was until they hashed it out. He took me back out and around the corner to another counter. He told me to wait until they called me . The man next to the counter waved me over. I am not really sure of his job, other than to wave me over. The guy behind the counter took my temperature and I filled out another form. I didn’t have my passport or my receipt with the BIG BLACK X anymore. I wasn’t too worried since I was in the USA. I didn’t need a passport to travel any longer.

I was beginning to sweat. So I pulled my mask away from my face a couple of times to get some airflow to my face. The guy behind the counter, who works for the CDC apologized and said he would be finished soon. He was. I went and sat and waited to be called again.

Next, a nice young lady called my name. She even pronounced it correctly. Most people do not. I walked to her counter. I dropped my big heavy bag on the floor. I just couldn’t carry it one minute longer. She had my passport.

She asked me some questions. She already knew my emergency contact persons name. I must have written on one of the previous forms, I didn’t remember, or they are THAT good!. She asked and verified my address, asked where I had been and why? Had I traveled to WuHan? and all those questions. She was very friendly! She asked if I had any questions: My first one was, “Why are you not wearing a mask?” She said as long as I had one, she was ok. Hmmm. Ok.

I asked, “What will the next step be?” We will contact your daughter since she is your emergency contact to relay any information that is important regarding your status.

“Like what?” If anyone is contagious on this flight we will notify you immediately.

“How immediately?” Oh it will be really quick. Within a day or so.

“So, if I hear from anybody it won’t be good news?” Well, not necessarily, it just means you were on a flight with someone who was contagious.

“That doesn’t sound like good news to me.” I thanked her, took my passport grabbed that dang bag and headed to security, again.

Unpack, bin everything, repack. Move on. Each airport is different as far as screening goes. I carefully packed all electronics and such in my 15 pound bag. But this time something was of concern in the 75 pound bag. Unpack. They didn’t find anything. Repack. Drop the bag to the floor and just drag it behind me. There were no wheels on this bag, and the handle was just long enough that I didn’t have to bend over too far to drag it along. Remember!!! I DO NOT PUT THINGS ON THE FLOOR! Disgusting!

I didn’t care anymore. I dragged that bag all over looking for the sign that would show me my gate. I walked forever looking for it. Where was the sign? No clue. Finally I found an open counter and they looked up Flight 2400 to Tulsa. It was in terminal B, gate 12. I walked to the sky train, dragging that bag along behind me, mask on face, sweat pouring down my forehead, armpits beginning to smell a bit, but kept plugging along.

I got a few stares, but this time there was no Kansan or New Yorker to help me. I found my way up the escalator and onto the train headed to B terminal.

Oh dang it, what number was it? 24? Yes, I thought it was 24. So I got off the sky train at gates 21-30. I walked down to try and find another board with the gate number. I’m not sure why they are so difficult to find at DFW, but again. No board in sight. No counters open. I walked left then turned and walked right. Closed counter. No board. Closed counter.

Oh my word! Did I really need what was in that bag? I stopped and had a rest. When I was ready, I traded arms with the bags, and carried both of them again. I finally found an open counter. I asked if she could look up FLIGHT 2400 to Tulsa. She said, (well you, the reader already know which gate as I mentioned it above) “B12.” I was at 22. “It’s just right down there,” she said.

Oh no, it wasn’t just right down there.

I dropped the bag and continued to drag it through the airport. Finally I saw B12. I couldn’t get there fast enough. I found a seat and sat down where I wouldn’t be next to anyone. I was so thirsty because I hadn’t had anything to drink on the flight. I didn’t want to use the plane’s toilet, just in case. Crazy, but that’s me. I don’t like germs. I don’t even use the exposed part of the toilet paper that hands from the dispenser. I tear it off and pull down a clean hidden piece.

I debated going to get something to drink but that meant I would have to drag that dang bag with me especially considering they had just announced “Do not leave bags unattended…..”

Should I get a drink? Should I not get a drink? Do I take my bag? Do I leave my bag and take my chances? The counter to the burger place was so close. I could still SEE the bag if I left it. But at this point, they can have the bag!

The battle was going on in my head again. Just make a decision. I got up and walked to the counter leaving the bag behind. I got my expensive drink and returned to my seat. Thank goodness. No problems.

I sat there alone with my cold drink and messaged my friend to tell her I had just dragged my bag all the way across the DFW airport. She was surprised I would do something like that. I would always get onto her when she would put something on the dirty floor or ground.

Uh oh! A man just sat beside me. What do I do? I have a mask. He does not have a mask. He probably hasn’t been in China. I have been in China. I think I should tell him.
I would want to know if I were the man.

I took a deep breath and said, “Excuse me sir, I have just returned from China and am wearing this mask for both of our protection, I just wanted you to know that. Feel free to get up and move if you would like. I won’t be offended.”

He looked at me.

In The Journey Home, Part 3 you will see what his response was to me.

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