20. What makes me happy

Hands-down, my family.

I grew up in a dysfunctional and disjointed family that never gave me a sense of belonging that others experience. As an adult I’ve been able to build good relationships with all my siblings and that makes me very happy.

But it’s the family  I created for myself that makes me happiest. Nothing gives me more joy than the regular casual get-togethers that we have. They are my reason for being.


19. My favourite movie

I was asked the other day what my favourite movie is. My standard reply is The Princess Bride, because this was my favourite movie for the longest time – but I don’t think it is anymore.

How do I define my favourite movie? It’s the movie I know all the lines of dialogue from because I’ve watched it so many times. It’s the movie I can watch over and over again and still enjoy. It’s a movie that gives me an emotional reaction.

At the moment I think my favourite movie is Love Actually. It’s become something of a tradition for Megan and I to watch this movie at Xmas together, so I see it at least once a year, and I never get tired of it.

18. A photograph of myself

So many to choose from…

This one is of my favourite people in the world – no special occasion, just hanging out eating dinner.

Every Friday afternoon, I pick Wyatt and Arlia up from their Mum and we hang out together and then find somewhere to have dinner. Sometimes it works out that everyone can come, and this was one of those times. This was at Nandos.


17. The last book I read

I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s Road to Little Dribbling. I’m enjoying it, but it’s slow-going. I used to love reading, but I have less time and patience for it these days. I work with my brain all day and when I crash at night I like to chill with a bit of TV or a movie.

I read more non-fiction than fiction. If I’m going to take the time to read a whole book, I want to learn something from it. Which is probably why, when I read fiction, I prefer science fiction – I like reading about interesting ideas that make me think.

But I have to say, I much prefer listening to audiobooks. The last book I listened to was To Pixar and Beyond, about the founding and success of Pixar studios.

The perfect combo for me is Audible’s Whispersync service. You can buy a digital book and then the audio version also. The whispersync part is that the book and audio versions stay in sync with each other – so I can read on my iPad for a while, and then jump in my car and pick the book back up on my phone as an audio version – on the same page I was just reading. That’s pretty awesome.

16. My thoughts on education

I struggled with formal compulsory education – I didn’t fit in with the structure and discipline of school. Sitting still for five hours a day listening to a teacher and only learning what someone else wanted me to – that was hard work!

I managed to make it through my first year of high school before I pretty my zoned out. I was much more suited to self-directed learning, which is more like what I got when I did Correspondence School after Antony was born. I did two years of home-schooling when he was a baby, then did a year in an adult education class. Going to university really opened my eyes to how awesome education could be. I was able to choose from 100s of subjects that interested me, and within each subject, follow my own thoughts and ideas.

So when my children also struggled with formal education, I wasn’t concerned. Because I valued knowledge and had taught them to also, I knew they would get an education one way or another – just maybe not in the traditional sense.

So Antony made it all the way through high school but not to university. He’s a self-taught successful web developer – he’s pursued his life-long passion for computery things and is making a good living from it.

Megan, a chip off the old block, made it through about two-and-a-half years of formal education, and left as soon as she could – at age 16. And also self-taught, she’s doing well for herself as a marketing assistant.

What I know is that education does not equal knowledge, and getting an education in the traditional sense does not necessarily lead to a smart person or a happy life. Some of the most successful people I know have little or no formal education.

I believe that education comes from being curious – asking your own questions and having the means to answer them for yourself, from experimentation, trial and error, from failure and success. It’s about paying attention to the world around you – observing what’s going on and taking time to reflect on what it means. It’s not taking the world for granted but always questioning (this one annoys people around me!). It’s about making connections across what you see and hear – putting it all together in meaningful ways for yourself.

Education is knowing something not because someone told you it, but because you have thought about it or observed it for yourself.

15. Where will I be in 5 years?

If the Canterbury earthquakes have taught me nothing else, I have learned that life is unpredictable. I know where I would like to be in five years, but of course who knows where I’ll actually be.

I would like to be working in a job that makes me happy and is interesting and challenging, I would like to be living in my home with Stephen and 21-year-old Bronwen, who may be just finishing her last year at university. I’ll be 49 and Stephen will be 51! Antony will be 33 and Megan will be 30, Wyatt will be 13 and Arlia will be 11. I hope my kids and their kids will be happy and healthy.

14. My three healthy habits

My whole life is just a series of healthy habits…where do I start! I’ll break it into three categories: eating, exercise and personal.

My healthy eating habits

Other than eating too much sugar (which is the devil these days apparently), I have fairly healthy eating habits. I typically eat 5-6 times a day, and smallish amounts. My daily intake goes something like:

  • Breakfast: Cup of sultana bran, 1/2 cup milk, coffee
  • Morning tea: Oaty slice, coffee
  • Lunch: Chicken and rice or salad or sandwich, fruit
  • Afternoon tea: cereal bar
  • Pre-gym: Protein shake
  • Post gym: Toast or cereal or sandwich or salad or something random that I feel like eating

I’ve been eating like this so long I can’t even remember how I did it any differently.

My healthy exercise habits

Exercise is a cornerstone of my healthy life. In 2002 when I changed my life by beginning to lose weight, regular exercise was key. It wasn’t just about weight-loss – exercise makes me feel happy and healthy and strong.

When I started playing roller derby and was training 3 x 2 hours a week, I had to give up a lot of the other kinds of exercise I was doing, and it made me feel unhappy and I gained weight. I’ve learned that what’s best for my body is regular exercise and lots of cardio. So I exercise a lot – but aim for variety.  At the moment, my typical weekly exercise is something like:

  • Monday: 30 min run or 45 min cross training class + 60 mins yoga
  • Tuesday: Game of ice hockey
  • Wednesday: 30 min run + 60 mins yoga
  • Thursday: 50 min spin class
  • Friday: 45 mins yoga
  • Saturday: 30 min run +  60 mins yoga
  • Sunday: 30 min cross training class + 30 min strength class

Sometimes I will miss one of these out if I’m tired or if I’ve had a busy week, but I have built a life around doing at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday. It truly is a habit now – I feel weird not doing it.

My healthy wellbeing habits

This is all about taking care of my psychological health. Here are the things that I specifically do to ensure that I’m happy on the inside:

  • I practice daily mindfulness each morning – taking 10 minutes or so for reflection on the day ahead, which helps me to manage my emotional health
  • I am purposeful about how I spend my free time and who I spend it with: I spend time with people I care about and make specific time for my relationship with my husband
  • I aim to get eight hours sleep a night
  • I have regular massages – I can’t emphasise enough how important this has been to my stress management and general sense of wellbeing
  • I try to pause when I am agitated and figure out why I am upset and what I need to do to resolve it
  • I actively take time to enjoy moments – warm sun on my face, a good cup of coffee, a comfy chair, literally smelling roses when I get the chance

13. What’s in my fridge

Did I ever mention that I’m not really into cooking? Our fridge contains mostly convenience foods – things I can grab on the run, cook quickly, or eat without cooking.

In the past (and also in the last year or so) I have made a habit of eating my main meal at lunch time, and then not really eating much at all in the evening – hence Brinner.

So then, the contents of my fridge:

  • Lots of types of drinks
  • Milk and cheese
  • Eggs
  • Spreads and sauces
  • Soup and rolls (for Soup Sunday)
  • Fruits and veges
  • Packet chicken, ham, salmon

At least the food wouldn’t have time to spoil if there we have another natural disaster…




12. My favourite childhood book

In hindsight, my favourite book as a child is very telling…


I was a girl in search of a mother, the same way the little bird in the story was.

I was a prolific and quick reader as a child – I would often read a book a day, more on weekends. I loved the Famous Five and Secret Seven series’, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl. I was drawn to sci-fi and fantasy books, although there wasn’t a lot in that genre in the 1970s and 1980s – I read a lot of fairy tales instead.

I stopped reading as leisure once I started university – I had the pleasure of books beaten out of me after six years of hard slog, and I’ve never really got back into the habit of reading.

Instead, I love to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I love to be read to. Where I used to read, now I pop in my headphones and multi-task.

11. The best trip of my life

It’s hard to pick one, they have all been so good! My two top all time favourite would have to be the Capitals Tour I did in 2007-8 with Megan and Jo – we went to England, Scotland, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and LA. It was epic and fun!

Then in 2011 for our honeymoon, Stephen and I went to England and Scotland. We spent three weeks wandering around castles, churches and abbeys. It was a year after the big quake and life at home was hard work, so it was amazing just to be out of Christchurch and the daily grind of post-quake life.

For both trips the thing that stands out is that we had not made specific plans for where we were going before we left. We booked the first couple of nights accommodation only, and then just wandered where we fancied. In 2007 this was a big leap of faith, but once I’d done it once, I don’t think I’d want to do it differently. It’s such a great way to travel – going where you want, when you want. If you get tired you can set down for a few days, and if you get bored, just move on.

Stephen and I have started planning the next big one – probably for 2018. It will be better than ever!