Christmas bush.

Last night we went and got our christmas tree. Yay!!

I love the smell of pine in the house. It reminds me of happy times. I am from a family of people that love to celebrate. Christmas is a time when everyone drops what they are doing and pulls together to have fun.

My mother is a clever woman. Many years ago she started a tradition of having our family christmas dinner on christmas eve. At the time, people thought it was a bit strange. Now that we are grown up and everyone is getting married, we all have to share our time amongst families on christmas day. We never have to miss our family dinner though. Now, rather than being unusual, we are envied. Good on you mum!

In NZ, christmas falls right in the middle of summer, so we have several weeks off to head to the beach. As well as being clever, my mother is a workaholic. She works harder than any person I have ever met. It is not unusual for her to work an 18 hour day. The christmas holiday is a time when she blocks out her calendar, and family become her number 1 prioity (although to be fair, we know we are her prioirity when we need her). Well, maybe number 3 – right after champagne and strawberries!!!

Anyway, back on topic – this year our christmas tree is a thing of beauty. It is quite small – more of a christmas bush really. But what it lacks in stature, it makes up for in character! Check it out…

Tree

See you in the spring.

A year ago yesterday, my last grandparent died. My nan. She struggled with cancer for the last decade of her life, but she did it with dignity. I have never known another person to have suffered so much without complaining.

Her name was Gwendoline Lucy Oliver and I love her very much.

She lived through The Depression of the 1930s and then through the Second World War (she worked as a nurse). After the war, she married her primary school sweetheart and had 3 daughters (the eldest of whom is my mother). Things were looking up for a while, until her marriage broke up as the result of an awful betrayal. My nan never again found love. I often wonder what made her choose that life for herself.

In a cruel twist of fate, after working her entire life as a Urology nurse, she was eventually diagnosed with bladder cancer. Can you imagine being slowly killed by a disease of which you have such intimate knowledge?

She never stopped laughing though. Or whistling. She sounded like a bird! As a child I thought it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. In retrospect, it was. It was the soundtrack of her life.

She had lots of funny little sayings. She never said goodbye, she would say “See you in the spring”. My childhood is filled with memories of baking and gardening with her. Every easter we used to pack up the car and head down the line to Palmerston North. I used to love those holidays.

When she deteriorated to the stage that she had to be hospitalised, we bought her a budgie for company. She named him Tim (a small name for a small bird) and taught him to talk. He would say some of the most hilarious things. When he was naughty she would ask us to take KFC in to her and she would eat it in front of him.

She was a tiny woman, but I have never met another with such spirit. I love you nan and I miss you. See you in the spring.

Nothing is more tiring than thinking with your heart.

I have just come back from a weekend workshop for Youthline counsellors. It was one of the most exhausting but rewarding weekends I remember (and there wasn’t even any alcohol involved!).

You will probably be surprised (after that introduction) to hear that the entire weekend was spent lying in sleeping bags in a large room with 150 other people. I know, endless possibilities…

The purpose of the weekend was to forge relationships and to challenge ourselves. For 72 hours we spoke and listened. There were times when we just sat in silence, digesting what had been said. I heard people telling their deepest secrets, and admitting things they had never before admitted.

I don’t cry very often, but I think I cried a couple of litres this weekend. I am someone who smiles a lot anyway, so today my face aches!

I don’t really know where I am going with this post, but the experience was so intense that I am having trouble letting it go. As you know if you have read the rest of my blog, I am someone that believes strongly in the beauty of the human spirit, so to spend a weekend listening to people being courageous enough to share experiences in the name of helping others was pretty profound.

I really do suck…

…at gardening. It is driving me mad! I was given the coolest miniature lime tree that sits in a pot on the deck. At first it looked so healthy and shiny – I was really proud of it. I watered it once a week, and gave it special citrus fertiliser, and put slug pellets in it’s dirt. I was the perfect plant mother.

Then something  bad happened.

It’s leaves started falling off. At first it was just one or two a day so I didn’t really notice. Then it got up to 4 or 5 so I ignored it. Now it seems to shed a whole trees-worth each day while I’m at work. It certainly looks like a whole trees-worth lying on the ground.

I inspected it carefully and noticed some little scaly things on it. I told mum about it and she gave me some special spray. I know it was the right spray because it has a picture of the scaly things on the front. I sprayed all the leaves like it said on the side of the can. The leaves still fell off.

Then I noticed a spider. I sprayed some other stuff that is supposed to kill spiders. Still more dead leaves…

Then I noticed a caterpillar so I sprayed some caterpillar stuff on it. I gave it some more fertiliser and some more slug pellets too, just in case. You wouldn’t believe it, but the bloody leaves are still coming off. It’s almost like it’s teasing me. There aren’t many leaves left now. I’m getting worried.

There are lots of baby limes on it. They are about the size of peas. There are more limes than leaves now. I would be happy about that, only the limes don’t seem to be growing.

I’m desperate. I don’t seem to be able to do anything right. The weirdest thing is that there is an equally cool miniature mandarin tree right beside it, and there is nothing wrong with that tree. It is shiny and beautiful.

I’m getting desperate. What must the neighbours think?

It’s the truth.

You know how everyone has someone in their group of friends that they go to for advice? Well recently I have realised that that person is me. It kind of sneaked up on me a bit, and to be honest, I’m not sure that I’m really qualified for the job.

Unfortunately, people never ask for advice when things are going well. It is always when their relationship is in crisis, or they are thinking of breaking the law or running away from home.

I have been giving this some thought. I have come to the realisation that the reason people come to me is because I don’t give them an opinion. I somehow manage to talk around in circles until they come up with the answer themselves. It is a skill I am cultivating. It is a rare person that wants to hear the truth…

Anyway, in the midst of one of these giving-the-impression-of-giving-advice sessions with a friend last night, I said something that I didn’t really think about first. It had a profound affect on her, and she said that it has given her a new perspective. What really amazed me about the situation was that what I said wasn’t that amazing. It is one of the fundamental rules by which I live. It is just how I am. But if it helped her, maybe it’ll help someone else, so… I told her not to spend to much time thinking on things.

All I said was that if it comes from the heart, it can’t be wrong.

It’s the truth.

Nothing turns normal people evil like…

… shopping malls pre-Christmas.

There is something about buying under pressure that makes us crazy. There is something about buying under pressure in a mall filled with a million other people buying under pressure that makes us psychotic. For that reason, I have sensibly finished my Christmas shopping already.

Well almost. I have one gift left to buy. And boy am I feeling self riteous!!!

I am going to start bringing it up in conversations, so that I can tell people how clever and organised I am. It is going to become a sort of sport for me. I guess it’s possible that it will end in disaster – I may become so hated that I get no gifts myself.

Hmmm… maybe this requires some more thought.

Hitting the road.

There isn’t much I like doing better on a summer weekend than hitting the road and heading down the line. Every time I make it out of the city (which unfortunately can take quite some time given the state of Auckland traffic) I am struck by the beauty of this country, and by how fortunate I am to be living here.

I heard on the news yesterday that part of the reason that NZ is so clean is because of the small population. If that is true, I hope it’s not the only reason. I feel sad to think that there is any person living here that wouldn’t look out their window and realise not only how fortunate they are, but how much of a responsibility they have to keep this place as pristine as it currently is.

On Saturday afternoon I packed up the car and headed down to Tauranga to catch up with my sister and some friends. Thanks to my new car and my heavy foot (although that is not something I condone and therefore should not be skiting about) the trip was quick and enjoyable. I cranked up the stereo and smiled as I rounded each corner.

If there is anyone reading this that hasn’t experienced NZ before, drop what you are doing right now and book some flights. You don’t know what you’re missing.

Aotearoa

Why is it called a cold?

I’m at home with a cold. Seems strange then that I am sweating like I’ve just run round the block 100 times. I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself, but there is no one around to listen to my moaning, so I will probably get through this with my dignity intact.

Annoyingly, as a general rule I am a person who chooses to dig out the ugliest outfit I can find when I am home sick, and spend the day looking like some kind of swamp monster. Today however, there is a guy here putting down carpet, so I have had to clothe myself in a semi-respectable way. I don’t want the rumour going around in carpet laying circles that I have bad taste in clothes. You never know where those carpet layers may pop up.

The carpet looks great. Annoyingly though, in order to clear the rooms for it to be laid, we have had to move all furniture from the carpeted rooms, and stack it in the non-carpeted rooms, of which there are few. I am spending my day watching soap operas in the lounge between spare bed, the writing desk and the bureaus from my bedroom. It is kind of like being in the huts that I used to build as a kid. There is a small tunnel that I have to crawl through to get to the couch.

During the soap opera ads, I go and put furniture back into the already carpeted rooms. Due to the lack of energy brought on by the cold, my furniture to ad ratio is about one to one. It is conceivable that I will be sleeping in the hut tonight.

It is obvious that I have my priorities straight though. I have set up the computer.

Anyway, all this typing has exhausted me now. I am going to have to go and have another sleep.

A game of two halves.

Rugby is the winner on the day!!!

For those that have no idea what I’m talking about, it was announced this morning that NZ has won the right to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Woop woop woop.

The RWC is the third largest sporting event in the world (in terms of TV viewing stats – 3.4 billion viewers), and should bring something in the vicinity of 65,000 tourists to this country. That aside, we are one of – if not the biggest – rugby nations in the world, and this is the first time since the cup started in 1987 that we have won the bid. It’s a big day for New Zealand.

The All Blacks are already favourites to win in France in 2007, and chances are that we’ll win at home too.

While this may seem trivial to many, we are a staunchly patriotic country, and this is a big deal for us.

Bring it on…

The real meaning of life.

I’ve been published! Woop woop woop. The book is called The Real Meaning of Life by David Seaman. Here is my submission… (if you’ve read the rest of my blog, some of this will sound familiar, it’s pretty fundamental to my life)…

Every morning when I wake up, the meaning of life seems slightly different. I am not sure whether that is because each day I am slightly closer to the end of it, or whether with age I simply become more philosophical. Probably both.

There are obviously many factors involved. A new goal gives life new meaning. A new achievement puts a new perspective on it. A loss makes it suddenly seem much more precious.

The year began badly. One day I woke up and started having seizures. They got worse and worse. It looked like a brain tumour, but it turned out to be epilepsy. Now I am on medication for the rest of my life. It makes me clumsy. It makes me forget things. It makes me throw up. I felt for a while that perhaps life had no meaning at all. Perhaps we just bowl through it – with random events striking us along the way. So much of life didn’t seem fair. I spent so much time contemplating the meaning of life that I started to get bogged down in thinking. I suddenly realised I was forgetting to do much actual living. Now I realise this was a great year. It was the year I didn’t get a brain tumour.

I started living again. I started running to work every morning and looking at the things around me. I started running with my head up, not worrying about falling over. I started spending the time I used to spend contemplating the meaning of life thinking about things I can do to make mine good. I started thinking about the people around me – family and friends. Without thinking at all, I realised that for me, that is the meaning of my life: the people who love me.

If everyone truly treated others as they would be treated, life would be a whole lot better for all of us. It is such a simple solution, but one that so many people fail to comprehend.

The indigenious people of my country – the Maori – say it best.

Te tangata, te tangata, te tangata. The people, the people, the people.