Rest in Peace, My Little Buddy

Rest in peace, Levi

14 February 1996 — 16 March 2014


I usually associate a song with a pet’s passing, but I think this time, I’m too emotionally numb right now to think of one.

Levi was an amazing little buddy. His tail was always wagging, usually so hard it was a blur, and he seemed to smile at us. As he grew older, and his vision and hearing started failing, he didn’t seem to smile as much, but his tail still wagged, especially for his chorizo or Schmacko, the former of which was the mode of delivery for his Vetmedin and diuretic pills and the latter of which was his most favourite treat of all time (not the brand name Schmacko, but he knew the word meant “treat” and we gave him Beggin Strips, which he loved).

In the last few weeks, he had started to fail. His breathing grew heavier and he was not as active as he used to be. Last Saturday, we took him to our vet, the wonderful Chantal Moreton, who upped his medication but in a moment of instinct, gave us her home phone number, just in case we needed it. Yesterday, we needed that number because Levi refused to eat, arched his neck when he was breathing, and his breathing was through his mouth with a strange clicking noise.

Chantal found that his chest was full of fluid and his heart was having big problems. She said she could give him oxygen and shots of this, that, and the other thing, but that was what his sister Nyota went through, and she had to be put to sleep a few hours later because she was very distressed and coughing up blood. It would only buy him a day, maybe more, and Noel and I decided that he couldn’t spend his last few days in a strange place when he was blind, deaf, and distressed. So we made the hard (but right) decision to have him put to sleep.

I love my little buddy, and it’s so hard to see his cushion in front of the fireplace, indentation where he used to lay. It’s hard not to have him following us around, or checking up on us wherever we are in the house, especially when I get within 10 feet of the fridge or his snack cupboard. But, wherever he is, he is at peace and no longer struggling for breath.

Levi, you were a lion in a puppy’s body, and you were the best little buddy anyone could ask for. I love you, give your sister and aunties a kiss and cuddle from us, and rest in peace, my boy.

A Funny Story about Phoebe and the Earthquakes

Phoebe scooping candy out of the candy bowlOne of the best ways of dealing with grief and the passing of someone beloved (whether that be a friend, family member, or pet) is to think about the good times.

There are plenty of funny and amusing stories Noel and I could tell you about our cheeky cat Phoebe, who we sadly had to put to sleep on Monday after a short illness, pictured above in one of her more mischievous moods, but one that keeps sticking out in my mind is an earthquake story we have about her.

Now, an earthquake like the 22 February 2011 quake that struck Christchurch, causing heavy damage and quite a few casualties is not something to laugh at.  But even in the darkest moments, there is light, humanity, and humour.

We’d returned home to find our house thankfully in one piece but stuff was down everywhere.  Jenah and Levi were scared (and rightfully so) while Phoebe had that attitude of “meh” that she always seemed to have.  Sissy was hiding, spread out flat under the couch, and that took us a while to find her, fearing (at first) that she was under a pile of suitcases or other larger objects down around the place.

While we had water, electricity, internet, and pretty much everything but phones, we knew that it might not last, so Noel and I took measures to safeguard ourselves as much as we could.  Noel filled the bathtub up with hot water from the water cylinder (as we knew that had been boiled and contained no contaminants) to a moderately deep level, but not deep enough to have a large aftershock slosh the water all over the place.  He closed the door and walked away from our emergency water supply.  (I had been prepared enough to buy bottled water a few weeks previously, just in case.)

Our friends Dave and Shaun and Emma and Phil came to stay with us as Emma and Phil had lost many of their services to their apartment, and Dave and Shaun wanted to be with other people.  It was a very safe feeling to be all together in one place.

The next day, somehow the bathroom door was left open.  None of us really thought much about it as we were still dealing with the trauma from the day before.  Phoebe and Sissy were somewhere in the house, as they normally were; we’d assumed they were sleeping on our bed or in the sun or something.

Suddenly, we heard a splash.  All of us looked at one another — a splash? — and then it dawned on us that the bathroom door was open…

Out came a soaked Phoebe.  She didn’t seem angry or upset, but she did have this look of, “Oh, by the way, the water in the bathtub hasn’t evaporated yet.  Just checking.”

Normally, Sissy is the water-obsessed cat, but obviously curiosity got the better of Phoebe and she fell into the tub.

Needless to say, we all found it pretty funny, but we ended up using all that water for non-drinking purposes!

Below, here’s a clip of the Wolf from Shrek.  This is the same attitude Phoebe always seemed to have, and a nonchalant “What?” became the catch phrase Noel and I would use for some of her rather “meh” looks.

Rest in Peace, My Little One

Rest in peace, Phoebe

7 November 2002 — 29 July 2013


“Goodnight my angel, now it’s time to sleep

And still so many things I want to say

Remember all the songs you sang for me

When we went sailing on an emerald bay

And like a boat out on the ocean

I’m rocking you to sleep

The water’s dark and deep, inside this ancient heart

You’ll always be a part of me”

– “Lullabye (Goodnight, my Angel)” by Billy Joel

Our Roller Coaster Ride of a Week

This week started on a high: Noel’s business partner Don and Noel won a lifetime achievement award from their peers at the New Zealand Beauty Industry Awards.

This week has ended on a low: our beautiful cat Phoebe is most likely terminally ill.

I’ve shared the link above about Noel and Don, so you can read about it there if you’d like.  I’ll talk about Phoebe and what’s led up to this in this post.

Now, Phoebe has always been a rather big cat.  She’s pushing the scales at around 12 pounds / 5.5 kilograms.  As a Tonkinese, she can be big.

I’ve written before about how we came to adopt Phoebe and her little sister Sissy in earlier posts.  So, if you want the backstory on our own Tweedledum and Tweedledee, have a look there.

About 6 years ago, as we did every year, we took Phoebe and Sissy to the vet for their annual check-up.  In the same carrying cage.  Big mistake.

They were fighting in the cage.  They were fighting outside the cage.  They were covered in claw-marks and bite-marks and bruises.  We were covered in the same (from them fighting).  The vet was a bit more level-headed and had padded herself up to the nines.

But the fighting didn’t stop there.  Oh no.  Sissy decided to push the issue at home.  For an entire month!  And it wasn’t pretty.

So, having another conversation with the vet after hauling another pet into the consultation rooms, she and I came to the conclusion that, if they were indoor cats, they didn’t need to be vaccinated or checked-up-on as often.

With Celeste, then Nyota, then Jenah, then Levi falling ill, to be honest, I haven’t had the money to take Phoebe or Sissy checked up on.  They didn’t seem to need it, and they have always been pretty happy and healthy.

We have given the cats the same food for years now.  After Celeste’s passing, they seemed pretty happy with that food, and it was a weight management food we could get at the supermarket.  Phoebe actually never lost weight, and Sissy never gained any, but it was tasty to them, so what the heck, right?

A few months ago, the manufacturer changed the formula.  Phoebe started to lose weight, while Sissy started to gain it.  We didn’t really think further than the pet food.

Last week, I noticed Phoebe didn’t quite seem herself.  Noel commented on it as well, but there were no outward warning bells.  She seemed a bit more quiet and reserved, but she still wanted her cuddles and petting, and she and Sissy spent a lot of time together, and so on.  Phoebe just seemed… not as rambunctious and a little quieter.  We chalked this down to getting older.  I mentioned this to Jacqui, our neighbour, who was looking after the cats over the weekend we were in Auckland for Noel and Don’s award.

On Monday night or Tuesday, Jacqui mentioned about Phoebe being quieter, and that she felt I was right.  By Wednesday night, we noticed Phoebe’s breathing appeared a little more rapid than usual, but we weren’t sure if this was over-joyous purring (as she purrs… a lot) or something more serious.

I had Thursday off to work from home, and I took Levi in to the vet for his weigh-in.  There, I spoke to Chantal, our usual vet, about Phoebe.  She said to keep an eye on her, and if anything out of the ordinary seemed to be happening, or if her breathing got worse, to bring her in.

When I got home, I looked at Phoebe and her breathing was pretty weird.  I mentioned it to Noel, but he dismissed it at first.  Since I had to pick up some groceries from the supermarket, I left again, and he had another look at her.  Her breathing was at twice the rate of Sissy’s; something was up.

Dropping the groceries off, I called the vet and booked another appointment.  Phoebe seemed pretty happy to be going for a car ride, talking all the way (as she does), and once at the vet, Chantal and Angela (the vet nurse) seemed to think Phoebe had some sort of chest infection.  Her heart rate was fine, her breathing seemed okay, but there seemed to be a little liquid or something in there.  Chantal wanted me to go to their main branch to have Phoebe undergo an x-ray on the (very slight chance, according to Chantal) that Phoebe actually had a diaphragmatic hernia, which is where her diaphragm (which is responsible for helping you draw in and expel air in breathing) would have had a rip or hole in it, affecting her ability to breathe.  So, off we went in the car, during rush hour traffic, to get Phoebe x-rayed.

A new vet there, Kate, and the vet nurse took Phoebe off for x-rays.  Kate came back with the x-ray and a somewhat serious face, and she put the x-ray up for us to see some sort of line running through her liver, bisecting it into two separate areas.  She suspected a diaphragmatic hernia, but she didn’t want to operate on her own if that was the case.  Kate explained a whole range of factors came into play with this sort of hernia, and if they could repair it or not.  Phoebe and I were to go home, make Phoebe comfortable and make sure she wasn’t jumping or climbing high distances, and come back in the morning with her for surgery.  If her breathing did get worse, we’d have to take her to the after-hours vet to stabilise her.

I came home very upset, as there was a risk Phoebe could not make it, and Noel was very upset too, as she is very much his cat.  We had a very solemn dinner at the JAndersons across the road, then came home to spend some time with Phoebe, Sissy and Levi.

That night, I didn’t sleep very well.  Noel, full of a cold, didn’t either.

Phoebe in her carrying case

Next morning, we got up at the normal time, letting the pets into the main part of the house.  Phoebe climbed into her cat carrying case, and Sissy rubbed the door until it closed, then walked away.  Noel said his good-byes, just in case, and Phoebe and I fought the winter frost and rush hour traffic again to get to the vet.

At the vet, Angela was on duty, as was Tania (who was there when Jenah passed, and has been a vet nurse at that clinic for a while).  They were surprised to see me, so I explained what happened, and Angela was in a bit of shock because Chantal had mentioned the hernia as a very unlikely cause of Phoebe’s breathing difficulties.  Tania and Angela calmed me down, told me it was a rather routine surgery, and that Mike (the head vet) would be looking after Phoebe.  Since our vets are very experienced and very knowledgeable, we knew Phoebe was in good hands.

All Friday morning, we waited.  To be honest, we thought we’d get a call around 12 PM to 1 PM, but about 11 AM, Mike called.  He explained he’d taken more x-rays, and Phoebe didn’t have a hernia (phew).  That particular x-ray showed a vein of fat that made the liver look as if it was separated into two areas, but other x-rays showed the diaphragm in tact.  She did have fluid in the chest cavity around the lungs and heart.  He’d tried to get some out, but couldn’t, so he’d have to try with Phoebe being sedated.  All his scans had shown this fluid.  Blood tests, taken the day before, didn’t indicate anything was out of the ordinary, although he was waiting on the white blood cell results.  Her heart rate was normal.  At this point in time, he thought it could be some sort of chest infection, something like feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) or another type of virus, a bacterial infection, or the dreaded cancer, although he said the last bit could be confirmed by the white blood cell count, even though he didn’t see any mysterious areas on the x-rays.  He’d call back when he’d had a chance to drain and analyse the chest cavity fluid.

Around 12:30 PM, Mike was on the phone again.  White blood cell count was back.  It was pretty normal except one was slightly off, but it didn’t sound like anything to worry about.  He’d got about 150 millilitres (5.1 US ounces) from the chest area around her heart.  It was a yellowish thick liquid with little white clumps in it, and he was sending it off for analysis.  A slight chuckle came over the phone; Phoebe had been sedated so they could withdraw the fluid with the use of ultrasound, but she’d fought them, so they had to put her under for a while.  That’s our Phoebe.  He’d eliminated some of the infections that it could have been, and he mentioned putting her on antibiotics as a way to clear up the infection.  That gave us a bit of hope.


By this time, Noel and I seemed pretty relieved as we understood that Phoebe probably had some sort of chest infection that antibiotics could easily clear up.  Mike said we’d have to wait for the results from the lab on the fluid around her heart, and we could go from there.

Around 4:30 PM, Mike phoned again.  This time, his voice was that type of voice you really don’t want to hear, like you know bad news is coming.  The results were back in, and while not super-conclusive, they showed that she had a possibility of having FIP or cancer.  While I can’t remember exactly what he was reading, a result of below 0.04 would indicate she had FIP, and a result of 0.08 or higher would indicate she didn’t have FIP  Her result was 0.06: a grey area.

Either way, it wasn’t a good result.  He kindly said that, if either diagnosis was the correct one, Phoebe did not have long to live.

I was in shock.  Noel asked me what he’d said, and I relayed it back to him as best as I could and then started to cry.  We were going to pick her up and talk with Mike to see what our options were.

The car ride there was very quiet.  We fought rush hour traffic (again) to get to the clinic.  Mike took us into the consultation room and showed us the x-rays and the beaker full of the fluid he’d taken from her chest.  He did explain again the two things he thought it could be, FIP or cancer, and told us he would get the lab to run another series of tests on her blood.  These tests could tell us which proteins were elevated, which might give us a better clue on what exactly she was facing.  He’d have the results on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Until then, Mike said, we were to keep Phoebe quiet and spend some quality time with her.

Phoebe talked and purred all the way home.  Noel was holding her cage, very upset, and crying.  I said I’d drive because I knew he’d be upset.

So… now it’s like we’re in a lobby, between life and the beyond.  Where do we go from here?  Is it actually FIP or cancer?  Could it be something else?  How long will we have to wait if she is dying?  If we have to euthanise her, do we go out on a high note or do we wait until she’s not well?

I hated playing God with Jenah.  It doesn’t feel right to me.  What right do I have to make that decision for her?  But another part of me knew that there was no hope for her, and letting her go was far better for her than letting her suffer.  And that goes for Phoebe as well.

Noel and I have been crying quite a bit.  When he starts to cry, I start to cry, but my insides scream a prayer to God that He gives me strength to help Noel and Phoebe through this.  Sissy, of course, has not helped matters by hissing, spitting, roaring, and generally being a bitch to her sister, like she did all those years ago, because she smells like being at the vet.

These last few years have been difficult years for us.  This week is a prime example of what has happened.  Here’s hoping that, whatever happens with Phoebe, it happens with no suffering, no pain, and us by her side.

NaSA Owners Noel Turner and Don Kendall Win Lifetime Achievement Beauty Industry Award


Sorry for being so quiet over the last few months, but work has been busy. One thing I’d like to share with you all is that my fiance, Noel, and his business partner were honoured last weekend with the New Zealand beauty therapy industry’s highest honour: The Contribution to the Beauty Industry award. Very proud! Read more below.

Originally posted on Beauty Blog by The National School of Aesthetics:

Don and Noel Win Contribution to the Beauty Industry Award 6 July 2013 Every 2 years, the New Zealand beauty industry gets together for the New Zealand Beauty Expo and the New Zealand Beauty Industry Awards.  This year’s awards were hosted by former New Zealand Idol and current X-Factor New Zealand host Dominic Bowden.

This year, the New Zealand Beauty Industry Awards were held on Saturday, 6 July 2013 at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. We are very proud to report that some NaSA graduates and their clinics were finalists in various categories in the awards, including Nicola Quinn and the team at Nicola Quinn Beauty and Day Spa (Christchurch) and Jess Telfer and the team at Cocoon Beauty and Day Spa (Rangiora) being finalists for the best clinic award. Nicola and her team won the Clinic Marketing Excellence 2013 award. Congratulations to them and to all the winners and runners-up on the evening.

The final award for the evening was…

View original 298 more words

I’m Like an Old Man. Seriously.

Okay, well, I have to admit, I’ve always been a bit clumsy.

It comes and goes, so when I’ve bumped into something and got a nasty bruise in return, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll probably hit it at least 3 times more within the next 48 hours or so.  Just my subconscious self reminding my conscious self what they can do to one another, kinda like an internalised stand-off or something.

I remember sometime in my late teenage years, finding a report my own mother filled out when I was in Kindergarten, and feeling slightly hurt at the comments at first, then realising that she was absolutely right.  For some reason or another, she was acting as a gym monitor for us, and what she wrote was that basically, I was a clumsy, uncoordinated child.

Something that I have learned from being a clumsy person is pretty good balance and how to shift my weight to catch myself when I am falling or whatever.  One icy winter in DeKalb, I went to visit Yves at his house between classes, backpack slung over my shoulder.  Approaching the little concrete porch in front of the front door, my feet hit some hidden ice, and I fell forward towards the porch.  Somehow, I managed to get my backpack between me and the concrete, and the thing that was bruised most of all was my ego.  From what I remember, Yves wasn’t home, so, unless one of his neighbours was spying at me from behind closed curtains, no one saw me do that.  Phew.

A few Thursdays ago, I was home alone, doing my normal Thursday routine.  I’d eaten my breakfast and read the Press online, checked my Facebook and email, and that was that; it was shower time.

The shower was fine.  Sometimes it can get a little slippery in there when shampoo or liquid soap gets between your feet and the tiles in the shower, but normally it’s pretty good.

Now, our ensuite bathroom has a double walk-in shower.  The shower heads are on opposite sides of the shower with a small shelf in between on the far wall.  The shower wall facing the bathroom itself is glass up to about 6 feet / 1.8 meters tall in a metal frame.  The full glass door fits neatly into this frame, but the frame surrounds the outer edge of the door on the top, bottom and side so water doesn’t leak out.

Noel and I never shower together or use the shower head closest to the door.  We only use the far shower head.  I think this is because it is enclosed so tends to be slightly warmer (even though it’s on the corner of the house).

I finished my shower and grabbed my towel.  After drying myself down and squeegeeing the glass, I wrapped my towel around me and went to exit the shower.  Bear in mind that the floor at the door-end of the shower was not wet.

I pushed the glass door open, but found myself slipping, with my head moving backwards and my feet slipping out towards the door.  Somehow, my balance kicked in, I righted myself, but I slipped again, and started falling head-first and sideways out the shower door.

My hands grabbed the door, trying to steady myself, but I managed to rip the glass door clean off the hinges in the process.  My body hit the floor, cushioned slightly by the floor towel, with my legs knocking over all the large shampoo and liquid soap bottles on the shower floor, and my midsection landing squarely on the metal frame around my right lower rib and right kidney areas.  My right arm protected my head from hitting the tiled floor.  In the process, the glass door came free from my hands, but I caught it before it hit the ground.

Normally, I would’ve panicked or been upset or really angry with myself, but I think years of earthquakes have drummed that level of emotional shock out of me.

Laying on my side, half in the shower, half out of the shower, holding a rather heavy glass door, my mind struggled on what to do next.  It did know not to panic.

First, I looked at my lower rib / kidney area.  Not bleeding.  Good sign.

Second, I wiggled my toes and moved my legs.  Not broken, not bleeding.  Good sign.

Third, I looked at my arms.  Not broken, not bleeding.  Another good sign.

Fourth, I looked at the glass door.  Slightly chipped with some small shards of glass on the floor, but it was amazingly in one piece, and even more, amazingly very heavy.

I laid there for about five minutes, or what seemed like five minutes, trying to figure out what exactly to do with the door.  In the end, it was propped against one of the sinks with the bottom propped against the wall until I could stand up.  (Unfortunately, I managed to scratch the mirror above the sink in the process.)

After I secured the door against the wall, I got upset and started to cry.  It actually gave me a delayed fright, and I landed with quite a thud.  My side was quite sore, and I wondered if I should seek help from Carolyn or Judith, one of neighbours home during the day, or should call an ambulance.  Again, I knew I hadn’t broken anything, but I have to admit that I was analysing whether or not I might be bleeding internally.  Having a look in the mirror, I saw my lower rib / kidney area was red but it didn’t look like it was bruising.

No, there wasn’t an earthquake.  No, I wasn’t drunk.  No, I didn’t have a seizure or dizzy spell.  The only thing we could think of, analysing it a few days later, was I had some shampoo or soap on my foot and slipped.

Eventually, Noel made his way home (after I had called him and told him the story), and he helped me put the shower door back into the frame.  The door’s hinges were fine; they only needed to be snapped back into place.  The frame needed a little bending, but it too was okay.

He looked at my side where I landed and said a bruise was coming up.  I had a look at it and the voice of Nurse-Mom came into my head, that, of course it was going to bruise and I’m fine.

We went out and bought anti-slip mats for the shower, with Noel asking me, “Are you sure you’re okay?  Do you need to see the doctor?” with me being the stubborn German that I am, replying, “Nah, I’m fine.”

Over the next few days, I found myself moving slower than usual.  Climbing stairs was quite the painful little chore.  James and a few other people said they couldn’t believe I didn’t take the day after off from work to recover (and I did need that, I found out on the weekend, because I slept something like 12 hours each Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night, and I had a nap on Saturday).

And the bruise?  It was magnificent.

So… now every time I get into the shower or bathroom, I move like a little old man. Seriously!

2 Years Ago Today, Our Lives Were Turned Upside Down… Again

Unit 8, Amuri Park, Christchurch, 13 June 2011I woke up in the middle of the night.  It was one of those half-awake, half-asleep moments, where you seem to be somewhere between dreaming and waking.  After the 22 February 2011 quake and subsequent aftershocks, I hadn’t been sleeping very well at night, so waking up several times a night was more normal than not waking up at all.

But at about 2 AM on 13 June 2011, waking up was something different.

For those of you who haven’t heard me tell these things before, I remember my dreams quite vividly.  Sometimes, these dreams come true, although they are slightly different in real life than they were in the dream.  (A man wearing a blue tie instead of a red one, things like that.)  I have also had visions, one of which was a dream of my brother’s best friend (who had died a year earlier) that transitioned to me waking up and him standing beside our bed.  No, it wasn’t an afterimage.  I kept rubbing my eyes, looking away, blinking, and he was still standing there.

In short, I see some pretty weird stuff.

At 2 AM on 13 June 2011, a whitish glow was coming from the door from the hallway into the bedroom.  I looked over, and there was a tall being standing there.  She (it struck me as a she) was tall, lithe, thin even.  Her face did not appear human but did have the standard two eyes, one nose, one mouth combination.  She had wings, and they were sitting neatly behind her.  Her attire was somewhat robe-like but somewhat alien and magnificent as well.

Again, I did the eye-blinking, rubbing eye thing, but she was still there.

I wasn’t scared.  She held her hand up, non-threateningly towards me, and said, “Don’t be afraid.”  Her voice was calm and soothing.  Her demeanor was quick but composed, as if she didn’t have much time and she needed something important to tell me.  “Today is going to be a very hard day.  You’re going to be upset.  For a while, you won’t know if you’ll make it through.  Have faith.  You’ll be fine.  Everything will turn out okay.”

My face did the “whatchatalkinaboutWillis?” look, but she repeated the last two lines, then raised a hand, and I felt the overwhelming urge to fall back asleep again.

In the morning, I remembered it and told Noel I had the strangest dream.   I glossed over what had happened and honestly didn’t think much more about it.

Work seemed pretty uneventful that day.  We were back in Unit 7 in Amuri Park and gearing up for the (delayed) final examinations for our senior students.  Noel was standing doing something in the board room, and Jacqui and I were sitting at our desks, across from one another, when a rolling, pitching, small-ish quake came through about 12:30 PM.  Jacqui and I laughed after an initial “whoa!” because it was such a strange-feeling quake, almost like the large pitching and rolling of a ship in moderate seas.  Noel didn’t feel it, and I commented that it felt like the small quake we had the morning on 22 February 2011 before the big one that afternoon, and I hoped it wasn’t a sign of things to come.

Me and my big mouth.

At 1 PM, Jacqui was helping a student who had just enrolled try on uniform tops to find her right size.  The student, her mother, and Jacqui were talking in the hallway, right off reception, with the file room door open.  Don and I were talking near my desk, him standing up, me sitting down.  Noel was in his office, chiming in on the conversation.

And then the earth started shaking.  Hard.

No boom, no warning sounds, just a really hard shaking.

I rose up from my desk, grabbed Don’s arm, leaned over and grabbed my backpack, then pushed us both into the door frame.

Noel held on to his desk as his office chair tried to take itself (and him in it) on a Contiki tour of his office.  We could hear others in the building screaming and startled, and the loud roaring noise of the earthquake.

The 5.9 quake subsided.  We all moved quickly towards the exits, and Noel sounded the general alarm.

As it was lunchtime at the school, most of the morning students had left already, and only a handful of students were around.  The evacuation was quick.  We stood in the carpark, shivering, looking at the building.  Some of the decorative concrete panels seemed to be slightly different than before, but the students, tutors and I talking about it weren’t sure if that was due to the February quake or this latest one.

Units 6, 8 and 9 — our sister units — had all been abandoned after the 22 February 2011 quake.  Unit 7 had been the only unit of its type that had been earthquake strengthened and suffered very little damage structurally in the damaging quake on 22 February.

Noel turned to the small, shivering group gathered there and wanted to say, “All right, everyone.  Back into the building and on with the day,” but the words, “Everyone go home” came out instead.

No one needed to be told twice, and everyone went on their way after gathering their belongings.  Jacqui asked me if I’d check on their house as she was going to check on her daughters, and I’d told her it was no problem.

We got home, and I called my Mom in the States quickly to let her know that we’d had another big quake but we were all okay.  Noel and I had checked the house, and besides a few things down here and there, everything seemed okay.  The pets were understandably upset though.

Around 2:15, after speaking to my Mom and feeling a little more comfortable about things, I went over to Jacqui and James’s house to check on things.  They had books off the bookshelf, a speaker had fallen and embedded itself in the living room door, and there was water from the pets’ water bowl all over the floor.  Clifford, their dog, was hiding in the closet, and their cats were nowhere to be found.  I texted Jacqui to let her know everything seemed okay.

Walking back across the street, for some reason, I picked up my stride.  By the time I got to our front door, I could hear why: a very loud rumbling heading very quickly our way.  My hands fumbled with the key, unlocked the door, slammed the door behind me, and like John Candy in the Great Outdoors, kept yelling, “Big quake!  Big quake!”

My back pressed against the nook wall and my arms braced against the doorframe, I felt the entire house lurch under me, and then go for it.  I could see the tree by the front door shaking wildly, my car bouncing up and down on the driveway.  The grandfather clock was chiming out of rhythm, my back cracked loudly, Noel was trying to talk to his Mum who was screaming so loudly on the phone I could hear her over the sound of the quake.

I couldn’t believe this was happening again.  Having experienced so many quakes by that point, I think I was in disbelief at another two large quakes, but my rational mind kicked in to say that I was in the safest place I could be, not to move, and it would be all over in a few seconds.

It was a 6.4, the largest magnitude quake I’d experienced to this day (although the 6.3 in February 2011 was far more forceful and had a higher Mercalli rating).

Once the shaking subsided, I ran to Noel to see if he was okay.  He was fine but needed to get out of the house.  We dashed outside — this seems to be a natural reaction after a quake — and our neighbours started pouring out as well.

It’s a strange atmosphere after a large quake like that.  Neighbours seem to check on one another, to talk to each other, like a block party with shaking.

A city council truck pulled up.  The driver got out and said, “That was a good one,” and then, “We’re here to flush out the sewers.  Do you have a beer?”

Very strange.

It did take our mind off things, though.  We had to help the council workers by making sure our toilets had the toilet seats down and something heavy on top of the lids, just in case.  Since James and Jacqui weren’t home, I ended up going in and putting large stones from their garden onto their toilet seats.  In between this all, the earth was having a great old time, throwing a wobbly every few minutes.

Fast forward to the evening.  I’d forgotten to take the stones of the JAndersons’ toilets, so imagine their confusion when they got home to find a little earthquake damage and two large stones on their toilet seats.

Shaun and Dave came over to be with us, and we were talking about the day.

The phone rang.  Our work alarm was going off, and it wasn’t stopping.

Dave volunteered to go with Noel to Unit 7, while Shaun and I stayed at home and made sure everything stayed okay just in case there was another big shake.

It took a while, but Dave and Noel came back after an hour or so.  Needless to say, Shaun and I were worried about them.

Noel was nervous and excited and uncertain all at the same time.  I think the excitement was more general anxiousness.  He reported that the concrete panels we didn’t seem so sure about were definitely detached from the building.  They had slid down the uprights and were now sitting on the ground.  On one side of the building, they’d taken the trees and shrubs with it, ripping them out of the ground and crushing them.

The inside of the building was a mess again.  There was water dripping and leaking from somewhere upstairs.  This was dripping through the ground floor towards the back of the building, possibly playing havoc with the security alarm (as the system was towards the back of the building).

While Unit 7 was a wreck (but still standing), Unit 8 (as pictured above) suffered a partial collapse.  The same panels that fell off Unit 7 also had fallen off Units 8 and 9.

After a rather sleepless and quake-filled night, Noel and I met Don and Soni at Unit 7 to see the full damage in the daylight.

Knowing full well what happened after the last quake, we started to grab all essential things out of the building: student files, records, computers, servers, that sort of thing.  The park manager and our builder came down while Noel, Soni, and Don were in the building to say Unit 7 was red stickered and the guys needed to get out.  I yelled up the stairs for them to come out, which they did, arms full of the things we needed to survive was a business.

After a rather terse conversation and a very showman-like placing of the red placard on the building by the park manager, the owners showed up.  There was a conversation, much like one where you find out a loved one or close friend is dying, between Noel and one of the owners.  She promised she would try everything in her power to get our things out of the building.

And that was that.  Everything felt so final.

It’s amazing how life can change so drastically with in a day, or an hour, or even a few moments.

Unit 7 was slated for demolition.  The building could be saved, she told us, but the cost of saving her was a lot more expensive than bulldozing her and rebuilding a new building.  Units 6, 8, and 9 were going, and that would also mean Unit 7 was in the way of redevelopment.  The park manager chimed in that the structural engineers said the way the building performed in a quake was altered once two of those big panels came off the building.

In a few moments on this day 2 years ago, we lost about 95% of our then-26 years’ worth of belongings, stuck in a salvageable but condemned building.

I woke up every morning after that very upset or crying.  We did everything in our power to move on, rebuild, restructure, anything we could do to save the school, our staff, and keep on going.

The angel was right, though; we did get through it.  It did appear rough at first, and it was a challenge, but we have emerged out the other side better and stronger for it.