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