Back in MY day…

There have been a profusion of cute little notes and things on Facebook recently about how different kids’ lives were back in “our day”. It recalls a bygone era when kids rode their bikes to their friends houses, climbed trees, stayed out til dark. Kids were smacked when they were naughty, didn’t answer back or swear, they knew their place.

It sounds like a lovely place and time, but it doesn’t ring true for me. The 1970s, as I remember it, involved adults being able to beat children without fear of consequence, children being abused behind closed doors and nobody talked about it, women being bullied by their husbands and having nowhere to go for help. Children had no rights – they couldn’t answer back, or speak out. Women were not the equals of men in the workplace or at home.

I am glad I don’t live in that world anymore. And I am VERY happy that my children have had a different life than the one I had.

Yes the world has changed. The world has been changing as long as humans have existed. This time is not like the time you grew up in, and children have different experiences than the ones you had. It doesn’t make yours better or more valid than theirs.

But some things never change. If I want my children to be socially responsible, thoughtful, well mannered, it’s still my job teach them how. The amount of TV they watch, the music they listen to, the games they play have less influence on them than people think. I am still the biggest shaper of my children’s lives – I still have the most influence over what they think and how they see the world. They watch everything I say and do, and they will copy me. If I want my children to spend less time in the cyberworld, then it’s up to me to turn the computer off and go play with them. Or maybe join them in cyberworld and enjoy the marvels of the wide world out there with them.

Don’t worry, one day they’ll be lamenting about ‘kids these days’ and recalling that golden age of smartphones and iPads and goodness knows what else!

This one from Facebook, I love:

First written by Judge Phillip B. Gilliam in the US in 1959, it was recently reproduced by a Northland high school principal.

It’s just as true now as it was then. And for parents as much as for the kids.

Open letter to Teen-ager

Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teen-ager. What can we do?…Were can we go?

The answer is GO HOME!

Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job.

Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons. And then when you are through – and not too tired – read a book.

Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities.

The world does not owe you a living…You owe the world something.

You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.

Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady.

You’re supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years.

They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure.

But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request.

In Heaven’s name, grow up and go home!

– South Bend Tribune, Sunday, Dec. 6, 1959.

 

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Mother’s Day

I’ve always made a bit of a big deal of Mother’s Day. Not as a kid, but once I became a mother. I know that people complain about it being overly commercial and all that, but I love it. I can take time out to think about how far I’ve come as a mother, and (hopefully!) get a bit of appreciation for all my hard work.

When I think of Mother’s Day, I think of it in relation to me as a mother, but never really think of my own mother at all. Which may seem callous if you don’t know me. I really feel like I don’t have a mother. I don’t remember her for the first few years of my life, and she left when I was 10. Since then she has popped back in and out of my life, sometimes quite painfully. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that she isn’t really my mother. I have someone who gave birth to me, but she isn’t my ‘mum’. I know what it really means to be a mother, because I have being doing it hard-out for 25 years!

So Mother’s Day for me isn’t about cards and gifts (although I do love those), it’s about taking time to be with my children and appreciating the relationship I have with them.

Me and my beautiful children
Me and my beautiful children

Five years ago today

Five years ago today I met Stephen for the first time. It was a blind date. It had been a big day for me – I’d just sat and passed my restricted driver license and it was my first trip out alone with my car.

We met at Metro cinema, to see Man on Wire. I spied him before he saw me, and was instantly impressed – he was wearing a Serenity t-shirt. It’s one of my favourite movies! Less impressive were the sneans, but I chose to overlook that.

I wonder what his first impression of me was!?

We went into the theatre, had a brief awkward moment over the ticket payment (I paid for my own) and settled in. The movie was not especially memorable, but the company was. Before the movie started we talked about work and technology and gadgets and all manner of other things. We held hands in the movie and it was lovely.

Afterwards we went looking for somewhere to have coffee. The only place open in town was McDonalds. We grabbed a takeaway and sat in Cathedral Square beside the Chalice and chatted some more. An English couple came along and started talking to us about their trip, and asked us lots of questions about ourselves. They didn’t realise we were on our first date and we didn’t like to say. It was awkward and funny.

Stephen walked me back to my car (I had to be home by 10pm with my license curfew!), we had that strange half-hug-cheek-kiss thing and said goodbye.

I had no idea that night how much my life would change as a result of that night. All I knew is that he was cute and funny and sweet and I wanted to see him again. Which obviously I did. Our second date was Ironside Thai and a walk around the park. Our third date was Tulsi, a drive in the Port Hills, the beach. We’ve been inseparable ever since. It was love at third sight.

Stephen, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love your patience

I love your solidity, you are always there for me

I love that I can depend on you utterly and completely

I love that you laugh at me when I’m being stupid (it’s really annoying at the time!)

I love that when I ask you to, you take me seriously and listen hard

I love your humour – Dad jokes!

I love your energy and commitment to the things we do together

I love that you say, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”

I love that you have grown my world and we are fulfilling our wildest dreams together

I love that my children are your children, and your child is my child

I love that you are a committed and involved Dad, even when it’s awkward

I love how you’ve embraced being Poppa to Wyatt and Arlia

I love that you don’t let me boss you around

I love that you are smart

I love that you are always expanding your knowledge of things you are interested in

I love that you know how to slow down, and are teaching me how

I love that I get to spend all my days with you

I love you.

Stephen and Bebe
Our very first couple-selfie

This one time when we built a roller rink

You might have heard already, but Stephen and I have been building a roller rink. It’s an outdoor pop-up rink in a space that was left when the Christchurch Convention Centre was demolished.

From this...
From this…
To this...
To this…

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The project has been about two years in the making. I conceived of the idea some time after the Christchurch TEDx conference, which took place in May 2011. We were still reeling from the February earthquakes, the city was closed and life was pretty bleak for most Christchurchians. This TED event was like shining a light into the darkness for me. People spoke passionately about the opportunity that the disaster represented to our city. It was hard to take in at the time, but it got an idea brewing in the back of my mind (it’s like the wild wild west back there, you wouldn’t want to go in alone).

The speaker that resonated most for me was Coralie Winn. Her idea wowed me. Here was an everyday woman who had taken an idea and run with it. I’ll let her speak for herself.

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Coralie’s development, the Pallet Pavilion, gave me the courage to come back into the centre city for a look. I was too scared to go near it before this, but my curiosity about what was developing in pockets around the place – pop-up spaces – drew me back in. So awesome. And it was the Pallet Pavilion that encouraged me to think my idea just might work.

The Pallet Pavilion
The Pallet Pavilion

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I wanted to build a small-scale, outdoor roller rink. First, there were lots of questions I needed to answer:

  • How would I fund it?
  • Who would help me?
  • Where would I build it?
  • How would I design it?
  • Where and how would I get supplies?

One by one, my questions were answered.

I was initially helped along by the amazing, fabulous, inventive people at the Ministry of Awesome, via their Awesome Evening, and Coffee and Jam. They gave me an outlet to speak about my idea so I could get feedback and encouragement. I started to think I could actually do it!

Oh the irony then, when after a pretty demoralising meeting with CCC about funding, I decided I wasn’t going to get the money and I should just give up. I spoke at a Coffee and Jam session about my lack of success, and what I might do next. And the VERY NEXT DAY I got the email from CCC that I had been successful in securing $12,000 to fund the build.

Things started (slowly) falling into place. The funding came through from the Transitional City Projects fund; I started Roller Restart with a group of friends and interested people; LiVS helped me find a site, and then a bigger, better site in a great location – a stone’s throw from the Pallet Pavilion; and I got advice from a range of people on construction (honestly, I started with Google and Youtube: “How to build a deck”), including F3 Design. Shane at Mitre 10 Mega Hornby was very helpful in getting me a great deal on materials.

The plan
The plan

Then it was just a matter of waiting for the the weather to improve enough to start building. The weather has been less than ideal. We built for a couple of weekends in the rain, and then the last two in the beating sun. Not that I’m complaining. I love being outside in the elements, no matter what they are.

And we are almost finished! I have blisters on my fingers, sore arms, sun-burned shoulders, and bruises all over my shins, but it’s been an amazing experience. Sometimes Stephen and I are there by ourselves, hammering and drilling and scratching our heads about levelling. Sometimes we have people pop in and out, doing their bit to help. It’s been hard giving up every weekend to do exhausting and sometimes frustrating work.  When I get discouraged and think it’s never going to happen, I put my head down and get on with it, because it HAS to happen. Our community roller rink is tantalisingly close.

Come visit and have a look – we are at 100 Peterborough St (between Colombo and Durham Sts).

Taking a break ... dreaming of completion
Taking a break … dreaming of completion

Raro

I haven’t blogged about our recent trip to Rarotonga yet! We got back ages ago and I’ve been flat-tack since then. My life keeps me very absorbed, never a dull moment!

In the week before I went, someone jokingly asked why I’d want to go there (they know me well!). I’m not keen on sand, salt water, beaches, have trouble finding food I can eat, don’t drink or party. A tropical island doesn’t really appear on my top 10 list of things to do. I’m more of an action-packed adventure kind of gal. No roller rink, no ice skating … what will I do with my time?

But I did have a good time. I was surprised to find some nice little cafes. I loved the motorbikes – zooming around with no helmet, free as a bird was an awesome feeling. I liked the beaches (unusual for me). Looking out my bedroom window the first morning was surreal. Picture postcard perfect.

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Of course, the company is what really made the holiday. I love that a huge group of us can meet in some random location and there we all are – the people I’ve known all my life – familiarity in a strange place.

I don’t think I’d go back again though, lovely though it was. It’s nice to tick it off the list and know that it’s not my kind of thing.

Motorbike club
Motorbike club

 

Never give up

A long time ago I made a commitment to myself to try and do some kind exercise every day.

Some days, it’s easy. Other days, like today when I’m tired and still sore from yesterday’s session, it’s hard.

And on these days, when I debate in my head “will I, won’t I, go to the gym”, getting there and getting it done feels like a huge achievement. I always feel better when I go. It feeds my body and my mind.

And there is nothing quite like the relief of being done!

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The joys of home repair, part 2

So I got a call from the lovely Ganella yesterday. She called at 12 noon to ask if she could come round to visit right now.

I was at work, I explained.

She pushed: “How about at 12:30pm?” It would be in her lunch break, so the least I could do is pop out in my lunch break too.

Oh fine. I agreed to meet her at 12:30pm. So I finished what I was doing and raced home, making sure I was early this time. She was three minutes late (but who’s counting, other than her). It turns out she’s German. In my mind, this explains a lot.

The meeting took about five minutes – I explained in person what I had been saying in emails for the past six months, and showed her what needed to be fixed. She said she’d organise someone to do the work, we shook hands, she left. No reference was made to the phone conversation, no apology was forthcoming. But whatever. I just want our house fixed and signed off so I can stop thinking about it.

So here’s the thing. Is it reasonable for me to be slightly annoyed that she expects to be able to pop around at a moment’s notice? What does she think I do with my days? I can’t be the only homeowner she deals with that has a JOB. I did explain to her that I had to take time off work every time someone had to come over to fix something, or when they call a meeting to discuss our work. She didn’t seem at all concerned about this, but it is really starting to irritate me!

I’ve encountered a similar attitude with most of the contractors I’ve had to deal with. They seem genuinely surprised and sometimes annoyed that I can’t be at home during the day for them to pop over. Am I missing something here? Maybe I should start suggesting we meet at their place, just so they get the point that they are at work, JUST LIKE ME.

What’s the solution? How do other people manage this problem? What do people do when they can’t just leave work at a moment’s notice to let someone into their house to do repair work?

The only solution I’ve come up with is to leave a key and hope they don’t rifle through my undies drawer while I’m not there. Once I even left a key in the letterbox and $300 on the bench and just trusted a contractor (who I’d never met) to do what we’d agreed. He was actually incredulous that I was so trusting, but I didn’t have much choice. And he did a great job, so phew.

The joys of home repair

Okay, well I am gobsmacked.

I arranged to meet with my project manager from Fletcher’s EQR (New Brighton Hub FYI) at 11:30 to sign off work that begun December 1st last year and is actually still not quite finished.

I arrived at 11:33, I figure I’m still within a 5 min window of “they may be late due to traffic etc.” (which I was). No one was here. I waited until 12:30, figuring maybe they were running really late. Then I called the Hub to see what happened and maybe reschedule.

So I spoke to a Community Liaison person (I think Ganella?) who said she was here at 11:30, stayed 5 minutes, then left. That can’t be right, I think. We must have just missed each other. So whatever, I’m not going to argue about 5 minutes, we need to reschedule.

So she launches into a tirade about how I am wasting her time and she is not prepared to reschedule with me at this time, and how she has bent over backwards to help me out and unlike me she doesn’t make people wait for appointments, so she has to go. And then hangs up on me.

Now, if you know me, you know that I am very polite when dealing with people over the phone. I understand they have a job to do, and they are not trying to make my life difficult on purpose. I wasn’t rude, I didn’t yell. I even asked for forgiveness for the 3 mins I was late if she could just reschedule with me.

Now I am sitting here thinking WHAT THE ACTUAL?? Let’s think about this. I’m wasting her time when it has taken us SIX MONTHS to get sign off for the work on our house and it isn’t EVEN FINISHED YET?!?! She has bent over backwards to help me when I have never actually met her, and have emailed asking the work to be finished at least five times over the past six months (extremely politely every. single. time. BTW).

And who the fuck is this Ganella person anyway? I thought I was meeting with my project manager Adele and the builder Steve. But actually, had I been palmed off onto some community person who was supposed to be … smoothing the waters because our job was taking an unreasonable time to get finished?! She needs a new job title.

So now what I have is an unfinished house, and Ganella telling me that I can have sign off when it suits her to come and see me, but she won’t tell me when. And look out if I’m not home and wasting her time again. Because obviously I just sit around at home all day waiting for EQR people to come over. It’s not inconvenient at ALL to take the afternoon off work REPEATEDLY so I can meet EQR people and discuss why my job’s not finished, or to let tradespeople in so they can do one of the many jobs on the list and then come back again next week.

So yeah, I’m gobsmacked.

Also, it made me cry. Not cool.

Keeping up

I’ve been trying to blog at least once a month, but to be honest, there hasn’t been much new to say. Lately my life has descended into a whirlwind of work, roller derby, gym sessions, family time, ice hockey, housework, coffee dates and sleep. So let’s talk about that.

It might sound like hard work to some people, but I love having a busy life and I’m not very good at going slow. Sometimes when I’m running from activity to activity I wish I had more spare time. But the reality is that after a couple of hours sitting around at home, I’m ready to do something more interesting.

From what I gather, some people need quiet time to rejuvenate. I reckon I’m the opposite. I’ve been that way for a long time. When I was younger, people would tell me it wasn’t good to be so busy, that I should be careful or I’d burn out. I used to listen to this advice – I struggled against my desire to do a million things at once. But then I’d feel like I was missing out on things I really wanted to do. More recently, I’ve paid less attention to that advice – I’m busy and happy.

The trick is to find the balance. I do get over-tired and it’s not fun when I have a meltdown (just ask Stephen). This usually happens when the things I want to do clash with the things I need to do, and I try and do both. Then sometimes it gets a bit out of hand. Case in point, every hour of my day last weekend, Saturday and Sunday, was accounted for. I didn’t have a moment to spare. I couldn’t have one of those every weekend. But this weekend will be more low key, so it balances out.

The most important thing to me is that I always make room for my family. As much as possible, my whirlwind world revolves around Stephen and the other important people in my life. Luckily Stephen is always up for an adventure so we get to experience life in the fast lane together. I’m having the time of my life.

February 29th, 2012

This day has been a focus point for me for the past four years. On February 29th, 2008 I wondered where I’d be on Leap Day in four years time. Let me tell you the story of that day, and what happened after it. It’s not a short story, so get comfy. Or flag it altogether, I promise I won’t be offended. This is my story, for me.

On February 29th, 2008 I was lost. My life had been changing for a couple of years, so I didn’t notice the lost-ness creeping up on me. By the time it hit, I was a goner.

I don’t know where it started, but a couple of memories stand out. Coming home from work one evening in October 2006, a fleeting thought crossed my mind: “I’ve fulfilled my purpose in life…there is no point to me any more”. In the biological sense, I’d done my job. My son was soon to turn 18 and I was examining what I’d done with my life.

And I had a good life – a great job that I loved, two awesome kids, a stable relationship, a nice home. Lots of great friends.

Bebe and Antz

On my son’s 18th birthday in November 2006, I had an overwhelming sense of sadness. For his passing childhood, and for the loss of my own youth. I grieved the teenage-hood I never had because I was too busy raising two young children. I know it was my choice and I never regretted it, not even for a moment. But sometimes when I saw my little people growing up, doing things I missed out on, it made me sad.

That moment passed and life moved on. But I think something shifted without me realising it. I had a growing sense of dis-ease. Like a faint voice in the background that got louder as time went by.

Restless, irritable, discontent. This was me.

My partner was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. He shut himself away from me and didn’t want to face it. That’s just not the way I do things, so I faced up to his mortality on my own while he ignored it. We grew apart.

My job changed from being a joy to a chore – I was bored, and had no room to move. My contented life was unravelling.

Fast forward to the end of 2007. I had planned a trip for my daughter’s 16th birthday. A big OE for us both – London, Paris, Athens, Rome and everywhere in between. The thought of that adventure kept me going through 2007. The faint noise had become a din. It threatened to drown me out, but I didn’t realise that then. I thought I could move through it – my attitude to life was that everything would be okay eventually, just wait it out.

I experienced the joy of watching my baby girl turn 16 in Paris. So grown up. So didn’t need me anymore (I thought to myself).

Bebe and Meagle

At some point during our holiday, my brain made a decision that would change everything. I have trouble saying that ‘I’ made the decision, because it didn’t feel like I was deciding anything – I felt compelled to change my life. It felt necessary for survival. After I came home in January, I ended my relationship with my partner. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. He had recently recovered from intense chemo and things were looking up. He might recover. This was my dilemma:

Do I stay with him only because he has cancer, and wait to see what happens? Or do I leave now, and become that girl who broke up with her boyfriend even though he’s dying of cancer? Rock / Hard Place.

Like I said, it felt more like a compulsion than a choice in the end. It’s one of the few choices I’ve made in my life that I feel truly bad about. It wasn’t the wrong choice – I don’t regret it, but it sits uncomfortably … if that makes sense.

At the same time, I made a decision to leave. I needed to get away. All the things that gave me joy in the past suddenly felt like they were crushing me. So I ran. At the beginning of February 2008 I quit my job, sold my house, left my partner. I’d never been so miserable.

Here’s how I remember February 2008. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. Everything I ate made me feel sick. I could only sleep for a couple of hours at a time before I jolted awake, exhausted but unable to sleep again. I got to cracking point in mid-February and went to a doctor for advice. She suggested I had a form of anorexia nervosa. She prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping pills. I didn’t trust myself to even fill the prescription. I tore it into tiny pieces and scuttled back into my misery.

On February 28th 2008 I was at bottom. I was too tired to do anything. I lay in my bed too exhausted to get up and eat or drink. I felt done. I was chatting online to my friend Scuddy. He told me I’d feel better if I got up, had a drink of water, ate some toast and went for a walk. It sounded so simple. So I did it. And I did feel better.

Whatever had descended felt like it might lift. It was like I could see a tiny glimmer of light down a long black corridor. I woke up the next morning with a resolve to find myself. I used to be happy. Where had that Bebe gone? She was there, I just had to figure out where exactly.

It was February 29th, 2008. Leap Day. It seemed like a good day to make a change. I took a bus to town and went to a jewellers. I purchased a plain silver bracelet. On the inside of the bracelet I had inscribed, “To thine own self be true”. To forever remind me of this day. I went home and figured that I had four years to find myself. In four years it would be February 29th again, and I’d be somewhere different. I thought about that unimagined future, and it gave me hope.

The voice that had been a din, drowning out all thought, whispered, “you can be anything you want, you can do anything you want”. It scared me, but another feeling was in there too, interest. What would I be? What would I do?

You know the rest of the story. In slow steps, I got to here and now. I left, I wandered, I cried, I found myself, I found peace. I came back, found a new job, became a grandmother, met Stephen and resumed life amongst the humans.

From this vantage point, I look back on 2008 Bebe and I’m thankful. As painful as it was to hit bottom, bouncing back up has been an amazing experience – because it is such a contrast. I’ve been able to reinvent myself and find a life for myself that is beyond my wildest dreams. And it’s a better life because it’s purposeful. I’ll never forget how I felt that day and what I did next. And if I ever do forget, I have a little jangling reminder on my left wrist.

To thine own self be true