I took an opportunity the other day to wander through the Otakaro Avon River Corridor (residential red zone). I wanted to get a sense of it – where it’s up to and how its looking. Before I note my impressions, here’s the back story.

Stephen and I recently joined the Dallington Residents Association. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages, but just haven’t had the time. With Stephen less involved in hockey, and me travelling and working less, now seemed a good time. So I answered a call for a new DRA secretary. It’s a great little group with some good ideas, but maybe lacking direction and a bit out of touch with the resident population. Dallington has changed massively since the earthquakes. We lost approximately half our residents, and I suspect that a lot of those were older people. Demographically, Dallington is now a young suburb, with almost half of the residents being under 30. That’s in stark contrast to the DRA, where the average age is probably around 60. While the DRA has some great ideas about community events and beautification, I think it has been slow to react to the changes that the earthquakes have caused.

This month Regenerate Christchurch released a discussion document for the various land use options its considering in the area. At our last DRA meeting, I suggested that we could hold a workshop for residents on the options, with the objective of producing a submission from the DRA on our view of the options. The committee agreed, and that workshop is scheduled for 31 October.

So this is why I found myself wandering along the new Otakaro bike trail thinking about regeneration.

And what was my sense? It’s a beautiful place. The river looks as though its well on the way to regeneration all on its own, taking parts of the neighbourhood with it. And that feels right. Maybe for this area, regeneration means letting the river find its place again. Maybe it’s about giving the land a chance to settle, and then we can figure out what bits to give over to the river, and what bits we can use again.

I stopped along my walk to look at the plants and trees that now delineate the house boundaries.

In my logical brain, I look at the land and understand that its an valuable asset. We can’t realise that asset unless we use it for something. But in my heart, I feel sad for the people who had to leave. I know some of them went willingly – they took their money and found more stable ground to rebuild on. But a lot of people left only because they had to. If that was my former home and I was faced with the prospect of it being sold on to new homesteaders, I’d be upset, and maybe angry. It seems too soon. Leave it alone for a while. Give people a decent chance to grieve.

How long does that take? It feels like seven years isn’t enough. It might take 20 years. Or fifty. Can we afford to wait that long? I think we can, out of respect for the people who were moved out.

Two months in…

I’ve been at my new job for two months now, and I’m loving it!

The first month was really just about getting my bearings – figuring out who everyone was, what they did, and what I did. The second month has been about getting into the flow of work and making sure my awesome team has everything they need to get on with business.

I don’t think I truely appreciated how stressful my previous job was until I left. With the benefit of two months of distance between me and Synapsys, I can see more clearly how difficult it had become to work there. My current job is busy, but nothing like the kind of craziness I dealt with every day at Synapsys. I would walk away from my desk each day feeling like I hadn’t even made a chink in the mountain ahead of me. And then there wild be a new, bigger mountain the next day!

It’s been challenging to get a crash course in a whole new subject matter, but also really interesting. What started out sounding like a different language is starting to make sense. And the staff at work  are genuinely committed to what they are trying to do.

I am so proud of what we’ve already achieved, and we have so many more adventures ahead. I can’t wait!

Out with the old…

I start my new job on Monday. No-one was more surprised than me when I handed in my notice at Synapsys. I loved my job and I loved (most of) my workmates. I wasn’t seriously looking for a new job, but when I saw a Programme Manager position, I applied without even thinking about it.

It’s frustrated me in the last couple of years that my job had become almost all-consuming – so intense that it didn’t leave much room for side projects. I’ve blogged lots of times about cutting back, doing less, keeping life simple. I’ve done it, but I haven’t liked it. I have seen all the amazing creative things going on around the city, but I haven’t been able to get involved. I’m hoping this new job will give me a chance to get my sticky beak into some of that stuff now. I’m super excited about that! And of course nervous too … it’s a hard transition to make going from being at the top of my game when I know what I’m doing, to knowing very little about the industry I’m moving into. But I am ready for the challenge.

I will really miss some parts of working at Synapsys – mucking in and getting things done together, knowing that when the shit hit the fan my workmates were there for me – professionally and personally. I must admit that I am surprised to find myself in the (rather large) Former Synapsys Employee Club. I thought I would be a lifer.

I’m not sorry to be leaving behind the timesheeting, the difficult clients, the travel, and most of all, trying to get things done on a shoe string with not enough time or staff. The past few years I’ve known I could do a better job every time if I had a bit more resource. That’s frustrating. I’ve had to learn to walk away from “just good enough” jobs. That’s okay sometimes, but I didn’t like that it had become the norm.

So onwards and upwards for me! Eek!

Good Riddance (time of my life!)

Man it's been a busy few months. I feel like I have barely had time to breathe, let alone write anything. So this blog post is rather overdue!

Megan and I went to see Green Day in May. It was amazing. It's hard to find the words to describe what it means to me to have been there together, singing at the top of our lungs. For me, there is music, and there is music. Most of it I don't care that much about, but some music really means something. It's not just because the band is cool and the lyrics are good, but because of what it connotes. 

I started listening to Green Day the year I started university – 1995. It was a watershed year for me. I separated from my husband and made a decision that I needed to get serious about this growing up business – I had a 3 and 6 year old after all. Every day I would drop the kids off to school and pre-school, and then my day would be my own. I'd catch the bus to uni, and on the way, I'd plug into my Discman and switch my brain from Mum to independent young woman / student. The bus was like my transition zone, and Green Day was my companion in that transition. Green Day was the soundtrack to my changing life. 

Later, Green Day accompanied me while I struggled to get fit and lose weight – at first treadmill running with my Discman and then with my cherished iPod brick. It was always my go-to music to lift me up when I needed a boost. 

And of course my kids grew up listening to Green Day. It's something Megan and I had in common when she was an emo teen. It must have been horrifying for her to share her (very uncool) mother's taste in music. 

Being at the Vector "Spark" Arena together, singing along to every word, was powerful. It moved me to tears. And it was a really great concert – so epic to hear them live … I'd say one of the best times of my life.

Next post … all about the good riddance part…

Visiting the Art Deco capital of New Zealand

I achieved two bucket list items this weekend – visiting Napier and seeing one of my favourite bands live. 

I've wanted to visit Napier for the longest time, but have just never managed to get there – so many places, so little time! Years ago, I read about Napier's distinctive Art Deco buildings and wanted to go see their magnificence in person. After the Canterbury earthquakes, my interest was renewed – how does a city that's been flattened by an earthquake look after it rebuilds? 

The majority of Napier city buildings were destroyed by an earthquake and subsequent fire in 1931. The rebuild started almost immediately, and took place at the height of the Art Deco period. And 85 years later, it still contains 140 of the original 165 buildings built during this period. That's a remarkable achievement in itself – the city has ensured that the buildings have been carefully preserved – they are so colourful and interesting! 

We took a great walking tour of the city – we purchased a pamphlet from the Art Deco centre and meandered our way around, reading about the buildings' history as we walked. It was a very well-done tour that would benefit from becoming more digital – an audio tour, or even QR codes on buildings would be fun. 

One aspect of the building decoration that I found really interesting is the prevalence of Egyptian motifs. In the pamphelt, this is explained by the fact that Tutankhamen's tomb had been discovered in 1922, and interest in ancient Egypt was high.  If you look at some of the patterns on buildings, you can certainly see the influence. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Napier – it absolutely lived up to my expectations. 

Rise Up

Bruce Springsteen was in town last night. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to go, but it was great to see all the photos and videos from friends.

One video in particular caught me out – on the way to the gym, walking past the 185 Chairs and the former CTV site, I was moved to tears watching a video from the concert last night – Bruce singing a special tribute version of My City of Ruins.


He wrote the song about New York City after 9/11, but its equally fitting for Christchurch on 22/02.

There’s a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door’s thrown open
I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone
My city of ruins
My city of ruins
Now the sweet bells of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves
The boarded up windows
The empty streets
While my brother’s down on his knees
My city of ruins
My city of ruins
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Now there’s tears on the pillow
Darlin’ where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again?
My city’s in ruins
My city’s in ruins
Now with these hands
With these hands
With these hands
With these hands, I pray Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for the strength Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for the faith, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for your love, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for the strength, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for your love, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for your faith, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for the strength, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up

The one where I baked a cake

I really don’t like cooking – I’m not very good at it and I don’t have the patience or passion to get better via practice. But I decided to bake a vegan chocolate cake for Megan’s birthday. Wyatt, Megan and Antony are dairy-free, and I can’t eat anything fun, so I thought it would be good to bake something we could all eat.

It turned out pretty well too! I think maybe the cake tin was too deep and small, because it took an hour and a half to cook all the way through – instead of the recommended 45 minutes. I think I’ll need to buy a different tin and give it another try.

Anyway, here’s the recipe – super simple!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup oil
2 cups cold water
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla essence

Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
Pour into a greased and lined 20cm cake tin and bake at 180°C for 45min or until the cake springs back and a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for about 10 min after it is taken out of the oven and then turn out on a wire rack.
Ice when cool.

I’m in training!

I started training for the City to Surf today, with a 6km run. I felt slow and fat after two weeks of eating and not really exercising, but it was good to get out and stretch my legs.

The City to Surf website has 10-week a training schedule that I have chosen not to follow too closely, with four runs per week ranging from 20-90 mins. I think it designed to ensure you finish in the top 10 runners! I will be lucky if I come in ahead of the fast walkers, and that’s fine with me – 14km is a long way…

I will be aiming for 2-3 runs a week for the next 12 weeks, but broadly following the ever-increasing distances.

I’ve run the City to Surf twice before, and don’t remember it being that hard, but both times it was 12km rather than 14km, so it will be a bit more of a challenge this time around.

Year in review: 2016

This year I think I finally achieved a level of balance in my life that I've been working towards for years. Life was busy, but so much less intense than the past few years. Here's how it went down.

January: We start the year in Kaikoura with Megan and Blair, where it rains without stopping for three days – we play a lot of cards. We journey to Temuka to collect Bronwen. We visit Okains Bay for some family fun. We go to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, epic! I go to the gym a lot and walk up the bridle path with Stephen and Bronwen. I tick off a bucket-list item by going to Waitangi – a tropical paradise. We get a coffee machine for home, love it.

February: I do a lot of running in preparation for the City to Surf. The Valentine's Day earthquake happened – scary but fine. We commemorate five years of shake, rattle and roll. It finally feels like things have moved forward. Leap Year, so we get an extra day, and Steve gets a birthday!

March: Stephen and I celebrate five years of wedded bliss – a delicious dinner at Spice Paragon. I have a fun roadie to Dunedin with my girlfriends. Christchurch Armageddon – bigger and better than ever, with Richard Dean Anderson! Running, running, running. I finished the City to Surf (half) with my best time ever, boom! The whole hoard goes camping at Kaikoura – me, Stephen, Antony, Jade, Wyatt, Arlia, Megan and Blair. This is followed by a quick trip to Hanmer on the way home with Nick and Rach, where we take the time to deface Kylie and Todd's newly framed house-in-progress.

April: Happy birthday Rachel! I go on a lovely retreat with my girlies at Lake Brunner – it rains a lot. I try burlesque dancing, roller skate on the pier, do a lot more running. Larry the Learning Lemur visits and I knit him a jumper. Poor Wyatt ends up in hospital for a week with appendicitis. I get a shiny new toy – my iPad Baby Pro, it's omg awesome. Dead End Derby puts on an epic show with Batman v Superman, then the fam travels to Dunedin so LDR can beat the Bonnie Brawlers – Bronwen and I ref. Stephen and I (and about a million Thompsons) descend on Foxton Beach for my sister's wedding – I discover that my new brother-in-law is the brother-in-law of my brother-in-law (he was married to my sister's ex-husband's sister). We get a cleaning service, it is life-altering! I am awarded "Volunteer of the Year" for services to senior league ice hockey.

May: At work I am promoted and start a new role – Learning Management Systems Lead, Dale joins the team. The Frompsons take up knitting – we all knit a scarf. I retire as DED Secretary, an important letting go. We have an epic fun time in Nelson with ORDL, I'm honoured to bench them.

June: Armageddon Wellington, yeah! So good. Stephen and I play a bit of (actual) squash, I'm better than I thought. I travel to Nelson for a getaway with the girlies. The iPhone turns 9 (aw…seems like only yesterday…).

July: Megan and I go to Knitting Club, there are pyjamas and cups of tea. We teach Wyatt and Arlia to play Catan. Pokemon Go happens. We have a lovely mini-break in Hanmer. I get awesome new roller skates. Star Trek Beyond is release, I love it! The fam attends the Mainland Mayhem roller derby tourney in Dunedin, it snows!

August: I change my name legally from Brigid Susan to Bebe Brigid. I knit my first hat, just in time for the awesome Rangers Tekapo hockey weekend. So much fun! The Canterbury Red Devils make it to the finals of the NZIHL by the skin of our teeth, but lose to the Southern Stampede – they dominated the season. I knit my second hat, for Arlia. Running, running, gym, gym, gym.

September: I get a delightful new iPhone 7, and Stephen gets his Apple Watch Series 2. There is a lot of running and gym-ing. Bronwen goes to Japan! DED puts on Pokemon Woah! roller derby edition.

October: The month starts with a trip to Kaikoura, bliss. I get my Apple Watch Series 2 – it's omg awesome. Apple Pay comes to NZ, yuss! It's like magic! The Arts Centre reopens. Megan and I get tickets for Green Day, Megan and Bronwen get tickets for Panic At The Disco, and Stephen and I get tickets for Dixie Chicks – 2017 will be the year of the concert. We attend Auckland Armageddon, so so good! We house swap with the Mount Albert Thompsons, as they happen to be in Christchurch for Labour Weekend. Bronwen gets her learner licence.

November: We get PlayStation VR! I thought it would be a gimmick but it's amazing. Bronwen wins a math prize at school. The Kaikoura earthquake extravaganza happens. We are all literally and figuratively shaken up. Stephen gets a brand-new Mazda 3 with all the bells and whistles for his birthday. Zoom zoom. We have a very nana-ish Gilmore Girls viewing party – everyone is home in bed by 10.30pm.

December: Megan leaves home, sadface. The Synapsys team celebrate Xmas with painting and sipping. I celebrate Xmas day at the gym, yeah! Followed by waffles and ham of course. Stephen and I get new AirPods! Stephen, me, Antony, Wyatt, Arlia and Bronwen go camping at Temuka – it rains. Stephen and I conclude from this that we need bigger, better tents for bigger, better camping. Stephen and I finish the year the same way we started – kicking back in Kaikoura. There is a big mess to clean up at the caravan, but it survived the earthquake well.

Summarising this year is easy – lots of family time, lots of new gadgets and a lot of New Zealand-based travel. Various configurations of the Frompsons travelled to: Kaikoura (4 times), Okains Bay, Waitangi, Hanmer (2 times), Nelson (2 times), Lake Brunner, Foxton Beach, Dunedin (2 times), Wellington, Auckland, Tekapo (2 times), Temuka (2 times). Stephen and I also both travelled to Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin several times this year. That made it a busy year because we had a lot of weekends away, but it was all fun stuff and there was a lot of relaxation in there. I think this has been my best year yet for doing less and saying no more – ironic considering I decided not to make it one of my goals for the year. Maybe that helped!

30. My current goals

Gah, this one again. I find goals so hard to write about, not because I don’t have any, just because they are so mundane. Throughout my 20s and 30s I worked hard to lift myself out of some fairly difficult circumstances – two kids at 19, no high school eduration, divorce, addiction. My goals were lofty and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to achieve them. I sobered up, went back to school and got a Masters degree, the kids grew into sensible, well-adjusted adults. I got a great job, and then another great job. I married a wonderful man, purchased a home, went on several overseas trips. Became a grandmother. I have a great life.

I feel like I’m on the right trajectory now, the ship is self-piloting. All I need to do is make small course adjustments here and there.

So how do I set goals when life is just as I want it? Last year I said this:

If my goals were to be things that I knew I could achieve in the coming year (i.e. things I know that I will actually do), they would go something like this:

1. Buy all the Apple-y things

2. Go to the gym a lot

3. Spend a lot of time at the ice rink – playing hockey and supporting others

4. Spend lots of quality time with my beautiful children and grandchildren

5. Travel within New Zealand – Wellington, Auckland, Waitangi, Dunedin are sure bets

6. Try and carve out space for relaxation but not really succeed, realise that relaxation is not really my thing

My goals for 2017 are not dissimilar. I suspect 2017 will involve less ice hockey than previous years, since we have a good crew sharing the league admin workload, and Wyatt and Arlia aren’t playing. On the travel agenda are Kaikoura, Auckland, Napier, Bluff, Brunner, and probably Wellington and Dunedin at some point.

My biggest goal is to work on some home improvement. We’ve spent the past few years using our extra money for overseas trips, and have made a decision to stay home this year and do some renovating instead – our bathroom and laundry need an upgrade.