Birthday Blog – 35 Years of Adventures and Counting

So this morning I woke to a very cheerful nearly three-year-old standing in the porthole window of our cabin looking out across the deep blue vastness of the South Pacific.

“It’s morning mommy, and this is your BIRTHDAY!”  Shrieked my chubby cheeked little tiger.

“Yes it is sweetheart.” I grinned and then covered my face with a pillow and attempted to get back to sleep.

This time last year, I was being led on an amazing adventure – with quite seriously every wish I’d ever mentioned to my husband and bestie A.M. being delivered to me in rapid succession.  I woke up to coffee and cuddles in bed, and opened a custom made replica of the dress that Baby wore at the last dance in one of my all time favourite chick flicks Dirty Dancing.  I was taken for brunch, then a photo shoot accompanied by one of my oldest and dearest friends P.  Then a limo ride through Auckland accompanied by a handful of the most amazing and fantastic women in my life.

Then a surprise Birthday party at the Northern Club (arguably the most exclusive and swanky venue in the country!) where over 100 of the most wonderful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, came to share this wonderful night with us.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone that made the most magical night of my life possible.  I know it took you months of planning, and I also know that my birthdate is the day that A.M. experienced the biggest loss in her life – a poignant and painful anniversary indeed.

So thanks.  I really did have the time of my life.

It must be said, that I am the luckiest little Hobbit on the planet to have the friends I do.  I know that, and I am sorry if I don’t say it or show it as often or as well as I ought to.

And words escape me to express how much I appreciate being married to my best friend, sincerest confidant, head cheerleader, and the inarguable Love of my life.  Okay, words don’t escape me, I could go on at length, but I will attempt to keep it short.  He has stuck by me through many a freak out/batshit crazy episode and believed in me when I have lost all faith in myself.  He’s done some painfully stupid and hurtful things – as have I – and evidence strongly asserts that we’ve learned a lot from every down turn and major battle in our nearly 11 year long relationship, and we’ll likely make it through the rest of this lifetime together.  And this is the greatest gift I can imagine, and I get to enjoy this gift every single day of my life.

After the single most amazing night I could imagine last year, this year I opted for the sneaky escape plan as I so often do.

I researched trips to the South Island at length, as the idea was to sneak down with Grumpy for a luxurious and romantic weekend.  Prices for luxurious and romantic weekends away in New Zealand are exorbitant.  So I started to look further afield at the islands of the South Pacific.

After much Googling and travel review scouring, we worked out that it would cost relatively the same amount to go away someplace flash for four days together, or get on a boat and sail to Vanuatu with the entire family and my business partner and dear friend (the Ginja Ninja) and satisfy my do-gooder addiction by delivering medical supplies to the Maternity Ward in Port Vila, just as we did three years ago when we had a baby-moon after third child was born.

So we snapped up three of the last four available cabins on the cruise, and we contacted Midwives for Vanuatu.


A brief discussion on the phone with L got the ball rolling.  L had already heard of us, and was very receptive to working together to kick Midwives for Vanuatu into high gear.  An amazing and self-sustaining charity, these two women have kept working tirelessly in the islands to promote maternity, sexual and general health.  They are dedicated to operating transparently and not afraid of rolling up their sleeves and getting on with things.  We hope this is going to be a long and fruitful relationship between myself, our Communication (PR) firm, and the amazing Charity headed by two utterly brilliant and vibrant midwives who have already done wonderful things, including refurbishing the maternity ward back in 2009.

A call went out on Facebook to collect linens, cloth nappies and general supplies to bring with us.  A call heeded by dozens of kind individuals around Auckland.


Doctors Without Borders also came to the party and donated some basic and much needed medical supplies.

L and C came round the night before our embarkation, and packed up 6 suitcases filled with the Love and generosity of strangers and friends.


One of these suitcases was filled with stainless steel surgical supplies to be delivered to the chief surgeon at the hospital.  A prior failed attempt to deliver these instruments had left the team feeling somewhat demoralized.  As anticipated, the suitcase was confiscated by security, and I was sent down to the belly of the ship to explain who we were and that the sole purpose of our trip being to deliver these medical supplies to Port Vila.  I also had to assure them that we were not drug smugglers or ne’er do-wells.

Staff on the cruise line (which I will not mention until I have spoken to their communication department for clearance) could not have been friendlier or more supportive.  They gave me the appropriate documentation and I promptly filled it out and delivered it to reception.

I even went so far as to corner the very attractive South African Chief Medical Officer on the ship to explain our situation and have him pop in and look over the supplies to verify that it was all kosher.

He was absolutely lovely, and also very supportive.  I am hoping I’ll be able to report back more on this kind and gentle young man who has a very interesting and varied back story; including several years being a flying doctor in the outback of Australia.  Definitely one of the human beings that I feel blessed to cross paths with on our adventures.

So after a couple of amazing stops at Champagne Bay and then Pentecost Island – the moment of truth was upon us.

April 25th 2013 and we were making our way into dock at Port Vila.

With three children, three adults, 6 large suitcases and a big green bag of linens in tow, we made our way to the reception desk on the cruise ship to await our fate, still holding onto the possibility that we might be denied customs clearance to deliver the goods.

The rain was bucketing down in sheets as the gangway touched terra firma.  We were not looking forward to a long and tedious wait in the customs office, soaked to the bone with three bored and restless children nipping at our ankles.

Luckily… that was not what was in store.

We were lent two large umbrellas and escorted all the way from the reception desk to the customs office.  Greeted with smiles and simple questions such as: “Is this your first time in Vanuatu?” and “Are you going up to see Janet at the hospital?” And a marked absence of the usual supercilious and officious intimidation that can occur at some border stations (the journey by car into the States from Canada comes to mind) was all we had to contend with.  Ginja Ninja insists I also mention the fact there was a plethora of high fives.  And the high fives helped him to fulfill his Ninja goodness.

The border official then called his brother in law to come down and pick us up directly from outside the customs office and take us to the Hospital and then to Seaside Shanty Town.

Our driver – William hefted the heavy bags into the van and headed up to the hospital.

Joy, relief and trepidation bounced around the rickety van as we headed into Vila and up the hill to the hospital.  The stars aligned, the fates were kind and we had nearly finished our mission to deliver the medical supplies on behalf of our new clients.

And that is where I will leave this Blog for today – I’ll finish the story off tomorrow as you’re probably tired of my meandering by now.

Tune in tomorrow.


Dee Hobbit

Searching for Truths About Altruism

Contrary to popular belief, altruistic and philanthropic behaviour does not automatically make you a nice person.  Some of the people who have effected the most positive change in my lifetime, and throughout history, have been rather unpleasant personalities by a variety of standards.  And I think that’s just fine.

Being blessed as I am to be surrounded by geeks in my social and professional life, I am frequently reminded what a genius, and possibly a tyrant Mr. Steve Jobs was.  Apple changed our daily lives the world over, and also stood by political figures and causes that I personally feel very strongly about.  Steve, himself, was more than a little bit controlling and inflexible, and not the type you would ever want to trifle with.  Numerous accounts of people who knew him have led us to believe he was not a very nice man.  But he did some very good things, and left a legacy that is omnipresent in modern society by and large.  Apple is also well publicised as being one of the “stingiest” of all the multi-national corporations on earth today.  They are working hard to shake that (arguably well deserved) image

The conundrum of the Gates empire and subsequent philanthropic foundation being possible through dubious and even cut throat legal and business practices has long caused my head to ache.  Bill and Melinda Gates do great work, and are thoughtful and involved with the innumerable charitable endeavours they involve themselves with.  The Microsoft empire was, however, strengthened to monolithic proportions through anti-competitive behaviours and even bully tactics.  Do ends justify means?  It is all a bit too much for me to digest, but I do wish more people gave back on the scale that these guys do if they have the means to do so.

I’ve heard a lot of accounts of Mother Teresa being a prickly and driven character, and some accounts even suggested that her priority to convert the sick and suffering over helping, educating, or comforting them to be misguided.  I wasn’t there, so it is not my place to say how right or wrong, or righteous or misguided her actions were.  What I can say, is she left a legacy and lived and breathed a life of sacrifice and service.

Even in NZ, with the Glenn, Todd, and Tindall foundations.  People have strong feelings about these richest of Kiwi family empires, how they earned their money, and how they are now giving back to the community.  At least they’re doing some good and giving something back.  And with the kind of money they have, I strongly doubt their motivations are just tax exemptions.  I like to believe that they are giving back because it feels right, and successful business management can easily translate into successful charitable endeavours, so good on them.

Here’s my take on all of this:

Doing something to try and help is a good thing.  Having the conversations about who gives an how they do, is also good.  We need to think about things, we need to work together, and we all need to roll up our sleeves and chip in where and how we are able.

Humanity gets it wrong an awful lot.  It has been suggested that aid that has been given to war and drought ravaged areas of sub-saharan Africa has arguably made things worse and caused long term damage.  Well meaning do gooders coming in and digging wells, building schools, distributing medical and nutritional aid has taken some of the onus off of the governments there to do their duty to help and protect their people and set up robust social and economic policy as well as to police human rights and civil liberties as per United Nations guidelines.

The developed world has sat by in the information age while genocides, ethnic cleansing, and terrible atrocities have happened (Rwanda, Bosnia, Syria are just a few examples).  Feeling bad about it changes nothing, ignoring it changes even less – but how on earth do we stop it from happening again and how does one little person such as myself your you effect change that will eventually reach the necessary channels to STOP these atrocities.  I have no idea.  I wish I had some clue or a suggestion of what we could do, but I don’t.  I do know we have to talk about it.  And I do know that we have more power and a louder voice as individuals than ever before in history – so perhaps we should be using it?

Sorry for getting a bit uncharacteristically heavy – I’ll bring it back down to my normal tone now.

Everyone gives in different ways, to different causes, for different reasons, and in varying relative amounts.  Some people volunteer in their own community through churches and schools.  Some people give a few hours here and there to local animal shelters.  Some people really go the distance and leave well paid jobs to volunteer in remote and desolate locations with the peace core, like a guy we know from Seattle named Doug who is one of my heroes, and a great source of inspiration.

I’m going to lay it out on the line now and explain quite honestly why I do choose to do charitable work:

I give because I am addicted to the feeling I get from helping.  Seriously.  It is that simple.  I am a total junkie when it comes to the connectedness I feel with humanity and the universe when I reach out to a stranger, friend, animal, or connect with a cause that I believe in.

There isn’t much selflessness in it, I “do good” for my own gratification, not because it makes me feel bigger or better than another person.  It does, however, quiet the demons I battle with, and it make me feel safer in the world as a whole when I get off my bottom and do some work that I can see is affecting positive change that is far bigger than any one person.  I need to do this so that I feel like there will hopefully be far reaching positive impacts while the forces of evil and greed are working in other capacities to do harm to the planet and most of the people on it, for the benefit of very few.

I encourage you to find your motivations for contributing to the world around you, and not feel guilty about it if you do find that your being just a little bit selfish in your selflessness.  Personally, I think that’s pretty healthy.

Here’s a few suggestions that I hope will help more people to be more involved and volunteer and contribute more to worth causes and campaigns:

1) Make it easier – Well run charities and events have very clear expectations for those giving their time and resources.  If we all had easy access to charitable endeavours, and they were organised and rewarding, more people would be more inclined to chip in.  I’d be happy to get the kids out on a Sunday afternoon to pick up rubbish on a beach, or plant trees, or make sandwiches for a good cause, if I knew how and when to get involved.

2) Don’t Judge – I have to work on this one.  After working with countless individuals and charities, if people rub me up the wrong way or I feel like their motivations are askew or for whatever reasons ill-aligned with my own ideas of goodness and light, I can find it difficult or unenjoyable to work with them.  People should be celebrated for giving up their time as it is the most precious resource any of us have.  People should also be given the boundaries, training, and guidelines to make the most of that time and feel appreciated, respected and useful.  Some people want a big public song and dance, other people want to quietly and humbly work away at tasks without anyone making too much fuss over them.  Some people want to lead, some people want to be given tasks and quietly go about them.  A really great charity or event will take the time to get to know their employees and volunteers and get the best out of them by figuring this stuff out and working with them in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable and valued.

3) Follow your passion and let others do the same – If you are a leader, encourage people around you to help you out or get involved with causes and events that they might enjoy. If you see something that needs to get done, get stuck in and DO IT!  If you are a more introverted “doer” type, then find something that you are interested in that you might not have had the chance to get involved in (animals, art, sports, etc.) and make contact with organisations and let them put you to work beavering away in the background as it suits you best to do so.  Volunteering is kind of addictive, and once people start getting out and getting involved in community and charitable causes and events, they’ll generally want to keep helping for lots of reasons.  It may be that they enjoy the social aspect, want to up skill, desire a feeling of accomplishment they might not be getting in other areas of their lives, want to “pay it forward”, crave recognition… Who CARES why they do it, but good on them for getting up and giving it a go!  Start a conversation with those around you about volunteering, and encourage everyone you know to get up and help out with something that is close to their hearts and will make them feel good.  It really is a win win when people find a good fit and help out with something they feel good about.

4) Be patient, kind, and compassionate – Everyone is busy.  And it seems that the race to keep a roof overhead, food on the table and still meet the ever increasing “needs” of family and social responsibilities means people are more stressed and have less down time than ever.  That’s why, whenever anyone gives their time or resources you must be gracious and appreciative and as flexible as you can when you are dealing with them.  Take the time to find out who your volunteers are, how they like to work, and what they do and do not like, and try to be as accommodating as possible when you’re dealing with them and chances are, they’ll be back to give their all time and again if you call on them.

Not everyone you work with or volunteer with is going to be your best friend, and there will be times when personalities and agendas rub you up the wrong way.  Suck it up, and remember, some of the world’s most effective people stepped on a lot of toes, and rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way while they were changing the world.  So get out there, find your passion and take deep breaths and focus on the bigger picture if and when you run into people who test your patience and resolve.  Someone, somewhere has probably felt the same way about you at some point too.  But without us all pitching in and giving it a go, nothing will ever change for the better.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Love, Love, Love, Love… Crazy Love.


Today was the 127th anniversary of the murder of a young Auckland girl named Emily Keeling.

Although still feeling very much under the weather, I dragged my weary Hobbit self into town for a marriage counselling appointment and then carried onto my next appointment to observe the anniversary of this fateful day for Emily Keeling.

Two fairly recent, but inarguably dear friends and I ventured into the city to pay homage to her at her grave located underneath the Grafton Bridge.  We left her flowers and notes, and talked about how far our society has come, and how far we still have to go.

Both of these friends have been kind enough to let me volunteer with them for the Friends of The Women’s Refuge of which my friend A is the president.  This is the charitable trust that brings Sculpture on the Shore to Auckland’s Fort Takapuna every two years.  An amazing event, and the largest single fundraising event for New Zealand’s Women’s Refuge on the calendar.  Our mutual desire to support women and address the very real issues of domestic violence here in New Zealand, made our visit to Emily very poignant indeed. 


These ladies are kind, funny, low maintenance, ethical, and ever so slightly older and considerably wiser than I.  I cherish their friendship and opinions a great deal.  Particularly in the past few weeks as I struggle to come to an understanding of what Love is.  Grumpy and I are going through one of our roughest patches in memory, and the advice and candour I’ve received from these lovely ladies has lightened my burden and my mood, and convinced me that although we’re navigating through stormy seas, we’ll come out stronger than ever if we’re both willing to work through our (many) issues.

Not all relationships are so healthy and able to be introspectively, or in any other way assessed or appreciated.

The man who shot Emily, and then himself, was a Love-struck, fairly recent immigrant from England named Edwin James Fuller.

Details are sketchy, but apparently Emily’s father did not give his blessing after Edwin had asked for her hand; and seeing as he believed himself to: “Love Emily Keeling as no one ever Loved before.” He had to kill himself, and her as well if she would not marry him against her father’s wishes, according to his suicide note.

In New Zealand, an average of 14 women die at the hands of their current or former partners every year.  In very recent memory Christie Marceau, Sophie Elliot, Annie Liu, Ranjeeta Sharma… this list could go on.  And many more that never make it to the news.

I am blessed to be in a relationship that is fairly consistently devoid of jealousy, condescension, and bullshit.  This relationship does, however, come with a fair heaping helping of baggage and issues which my husband and I both have the freedom to bring up in an attempt to work through.  I won’t air that dirty laundry here.  Anyone who knows us well knows what we struggle with, and none of it is scandalous, rare or even all that interesting.

The tragedy of all of this may have made a wonderful Bronte-esque novel, and teenagers the world over might see it is a dark and beautiful homage to the intensity of young Love.

I just think it is terribly, terribly sad.

Love is not angry or jealous.  If you truly Love someone, as a friend, partner, parent, child, or Lover – wishing to harm them or yourself as a result of your feelings for them is not what I would ever classify as Love.  It is passion without purpose and the ultimate in egomaniacal, narcissistic and self indulgent evil.

One of my complaints about my long suffering husband is the lack of fire in his belly when it comes to standing up for me.  Today has given me plenty of food for thought on this matter.

Just because he does not come to my aid or defend my honour every time someone says something cruel or hurtful to or about me (which admittedly happens quite a lot as I am very loud, trusting, and unguarded, and therefore an embarrassingly easy target for insults) does not mean he does not Love and respect me.  I guess it just means his Love is gentle and enduring.  And I’m generally a pretty tough and independent little battler.  So maybe today was a good chance to take a step back and stop looking at what is wrong with my marriage, and start focusing on what is right.  And there’s plenty to be thankful for.

Rest Peacefully Emily.

Your story will be shared for generations through my own, and many other families.

I hope wherever you are when you read this, you know that you are Loved and that Love is healthy and safe and fulfilling.




Some other Emily Blogs (including my friend Su’s that is responsible for our visit today)



Great Expectations this Easter Weekend.

As is the case with pretty much everything in my life, I embarked up on this Easter weekend with HUGE expectations.  Not necessarily a bad thing, it is good to aim high.  Here is, however, a run down of expectation vs. reality for Easter Weekend 2013:


I was going to get together with my business partner and knock out some copy and strategy… like a boss…


Have not so much as texted my business partner, nor have I opened the CRM, nor have I done the research or copy I am responsible for completing before the end of this coming work week.  I will, as I always/usually do. It will most likely be a typical last minute dash to get it all organised.


I was going to take the kids to play on the beach and walk through the bush on our Island Paradise of Aotearoa… like a boss…


Friday we dragged the kids off to Long Bay for a quick play on the beach and some lunch before we collected our Japanese house guest Yoko after her day of site-seeing around Auckland.


Also managed to lug two of the three Hobbit children and said Japanese house guest to the Easter Show where we were frequently and loudly appalled at prices and made to wait nearly an hour longer than expected to watch the fireworks show (which was the main draw-card of why we went along).  The children have been between my parents house and our house and parked infront of the television for the vast majority of the weekend, with short bursts of outdoor play accompanied by Grumpy Hobbit Hubby who is currently designing them a tree fort so must take regular trips outside to survey his chosen building site.


I was going to clean the house and organise my filing and hang up my SCRUM sheets… like a boss…


None of this happened.  Thankfully my cleaner arrived early Monday morning to rescue me from the chaos of being home with all three kids for an extended period. 


I was going to make it to every single one of our numerous social engagements looking and feeling like an easy breezy, sexy character from some 1940’s film noir… like a boss…



Made it to a dress up party on Saturday night which was fun enough, and the food was extremely good, but faded well before 11:00pm and was home and in bed way before midnight despite having my parents watching the children.  Sunday was a couple of our mutual best friends’ party to celebrate changing jobs.  I was in bed knocked out with a rather impressive tummy bug while Grumpy Hobbit Husband attended and later told me that about a dozen of my favourite people were at the party and I hadn’t seen any of them for months and months.  Boo.


We were going to head over to Thames/Pauanui to visit some family and see some of the beautiful Coromandel.


Have not ventured out of Auckland.


I was going to bake and cook up an absolute storm to get us through the week with frozen pre-cooked and lovely, healthy goodies that would make Martha Stewart blush with envy.


Well.  Today the children have eaten Easter eggs and I just ordered pizza. Thanks to this terrible stomach thing, I’ve been on a diet of dry toast and ginger-ale.  Also, I haven’t turned on an oven or stove-top element in nearly a week now.


I was going to write a months worth of blogs which I could upload at my leisure… like a boss…


If I make it to the end of this blog without giving up and having a nap instead, I will be utterly amazed.

I could actually go on for some time with insights into the expectation vs. reality quotient that has occurred here at the Hobbit Homestead this Easter, but I won’t.

What I will say is this:

Despite being a fairly lazy and benign few days, I have had an excess of cuddles and kindness from my whole family, (even my mother in law – who is notoriously non-demonstrative).  I’ve also managed to see some friends before getting struck down with this stomach thing, and I can honestly say that I feel like the luckiest person on earth to know such a range of strong, interesting, entertaining and intelligent people.  And although I missed out on seeing some of our inner circle at the social gathering on Sunday, I got plenty of messages and well wishes from the people I did not manage to see, and the hostess of the party (who it has now officially been FOREVER since I have caught up with) was forgiving and gracious, and from what I gather they had a lovely party without me.

All in all, I feel rested, Loved and quite certain that days of productivity and pressure will return in short order.  

For today, however.  I think I’ll have another nap.

Happy Easter everyone.