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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
My Twitter friend Lana tweeted the other night that she was writing a list of 30 things to do before she turns 30 in November. Since I’m turning 40 in November, I thought this sounded like a great challenge. Thanks for the inspiration Lana! Her blog is here.
Each time I achieve one of my goals, I’ll blog about it. If I don’t achieve them, I’ll blog about that too. Here it is, my 40 b4 40.
Write a list of 40 goals to achieve before I turn 40
Host a tweet up BBQ at our house
Have a relaxing long weekend in Queenstown (completed 13-14-15 Jan, I haven’t relaxed so much in years!)
Visit Tintagel Castle … this one ain’t going to happen in the next 12 months (completed 07/09/15)
Stay overnight in a castle
Learn to drive a manual car
Run 10km (completed as a lead up to the Chch Marathon 10km event 27/05/12)
Run 5km in 35 minutes (5km in 35min 45sec, 29 Jan)
Own an iPad 3 (lined up for one on release day in York, UK, 16/03/12)
Visit Singapore (twice, on 01/03/12 and again 21/03/12 but only the airport)
Save $10,000.00 (in time for our honeymoon 01/03/11)
Bake a cake ( baked a few in the year)
Buy a new car (this one is not going to happen this year, I got a new kitchen instead!…ooops got a new car as well!)
Drive on the M1 in England (I didn’t do it personally, but I was in the car)
Visit 3 Apple Stores (Bath, Brighton, Regent St London, and Glasgow)
Celebrate my baby girl’s 20th birthday
Finish the Millennium trilogy by Steig Larsson (finally finished the third book 28 Jan, good series, the third one dragged on a bit in the middle).
Learn how to use MS Project (I’m getting there with this!)
Give blood (24/11/11 and again 23/04/12)
Visit 10 cafes in Christchurch and review the coffee / service on my blog (they are over here)
Celebrate one year of marriage somewhere interesting (In Christchurch, then Singapore, then Brighton, UK)
Visit the birthplace of Captain Cook (15-16/03/12, Whitby, UK – what an amazing place!)
Visit Melbourne (booked for the end of August!)
Tell my husband I love him every day (yup, even when I was mad)
Go on a cruise (booked for March 2014)
Cook a three course meal for my husband (did this on 2nd March 2013, better late than never!)
Take a moment every day to be grateful (I do this every morning)
Stay sober every day (17 years and counting)
Meet 10 new people (hallo roller derby league!)
Complete 40 blog posts (achieved this a little late – on 01/01/13)
Visit Napier (completed 7-8-9/04/16)
Plant a herb garden (completed 2016, albeit by the gardener)
Teach Bronwen how to apply make up
Visit the Franz and Fox glaciers
Take my grandson to visit a train
Go jet boating (I’ve decided this is an insane idea. I get horribly seasick)
Stephen and I recently went to Auckland to visit with my brother. Usually, I love going to Auckland – I really enjoy seeing my little nieces and hanging out with my big bro (see Birthdays and Such for more on this).
So this time, as well is the usual crowd, we were visiting with my mother, who was over from Australia to visit with my brother and meet her granddaughters for the first time. Spending time with my mother is something that requires mental and emotional preparation for me. My mother and I have a difficult history. Let me recount some of it (without airing too much laundry). Remember, family-members-reading-this, it’s just my point of view. Feel free to offer your own POV below.
I am the second youngest of my mother’s seven children (my younger brother has a different dad). My mother tells me that she had post-natal depression with each of her children that got progressively worse with each arrival, so I imagine it had reached a fever pitch by the time she got to me. From all accounts, neither of my parents were that excited about my appearance. My parents separated when I was a baby and I lived with my mother until we moved away from Christchurch to Auckland when I was about five. Life was fairly busy between ages 5-10. We moved around a lot, various people came and went, including the rest of my siblings. Honestly, I don’t remember much of it.
The next bit I remember very well. Not long after my 10th birthday, my mother told me that I was being sent back to Christchurch to live with my father and stepmother – people I really only had a passing acquaintance with as far as I was concerned. I was devastated by this. For a lot of years after, everything in my life was measured by before and after this time. It changed everything I knew about myself (and I was only just starting to figure that out at age 10). I felt unloved and unlovable, rejected. By my mother, but also by my father and stepmother who didn’t seem especially interested in me.
After I left Auckland, I had limited contact with my mother. I recall her coming to visit with me in Christchurch before she left for Australia, and then a couple of phone calls after that. I guess I was confused and angry, I didn’t want to talk to her. The next time I saw my mother was in 1993 when she came to visit from Australia. I was 20, it had been 10 years. I struggled not to be angry. I had tried to put those 10-year-old feelings behind me in the subsequent years.
Seeing my mother and having those feelings bubble up all over again gave me the impetus I needed to deal with them. It took me a few years more, but eventually I made peace with how and why she left. I understood that actually, it wasn’t such a bad deal. She did what she had to, to survive. And she left me with family. And there were some nice people in amongst that lot.
So if we move forward a few years, my mother has popped in and out of my life irregularly since then. I like that I see her, but I don’t really have a mother-daughter relationship with her. I call her Albie, not mum. She likes to give me advice about how to run my life, how to be, how to conduct my relationships, raise my kids. This I don’t like. She has no right. I know I’m not alone in this – she bosses everyone around. She is very opinionated. I do my best to ignore it. But it grates.
I think my tolerance for my mother is a couple of days every couple of years. After that, I remember why I don’t like to spend time with her and need to get away again. It’s sad really. I would have liked to have a mother, I’d like my kids to have a grandmother, my grandkids to have a great-granny. But at least I have resolved in my head and my heart not to hanker after something that will never be.
So when I say I am looking forward to getting married and becoming a Frayle, this might help explain it. It feels like moving on.