Reflection and Protection

I’ve just been reading a few of the harrowing and heart breaking real-life mental health crises the activist and advocate Mike King has been sharing on social and traditional media. It highlights that we are a nation faced with a genuine epidemic, and I have so much respect for all those who share their stories.

At the same time however, I know for myself, that I need to protect my own wellbeing, and that may mean I need to manage how many of these stories I engage with. Heaven knows I have been very open with my own mental health happenings, hoping it might help someone somewhere. But I’m still in recovery from a disastrously inaccurate diagnosis, the wrong medication, and a domino effect including a plethora of self-destructive behaviours.

I write this today happy, healthy, calm and unmedicated. My own recovery leaves me hopeful that we can get through the tough times and experience a brighter more hopeful present. I would love to see some earnest changes in our society and mental health system to support others to feel unashamed and have access to the help they richly deserve.

The best place for some of us to offer support, advice and advocacy is simply by taking our own mental health needs seriously so we are well enough to be a part of this conversation as it evolves in our homes, workplaces and wider society.

I am not saying you should ignore the weight of the accounts that are being published. If you are of sound, mind and body, and touched by these incredibly real and important conversations, I hope they will spur you into actions that could have wonderful knock-on effects for healing yourself or someone in your circle. I’m also not saying turn a blind eye. I’m suggesting it might be a good time to implore some of my more sensitive readers to consider putting your own mask on so you are in a better position to help those around you.

Channeling the sadness and anger you may justly feel when faced with the reality of the mental health crisis here in Aotearoa will be different for everyone. If you are hurting in any way and you stumble across this little blog, I want to remind you that YOU are a worthy, beautiful, miraculous being. And that whatever state you are in as you read this, you are incredibly important, and there is the possibility of comfort and joy on the other side of the types of pain that are being discussed online. But also, you are not responsible for every person, crisis, or event that makes you feel something. AND… You must take care of you before you can help anyone else.

That’s all I wanted to say. Reach out if you read this and need a virtual hug. As you know, I am really bad at getting back to people in a timely manner but it would be an honour to talk to you as I have the bandwidth to tell you honestly that you are wonderful.

Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July. It’s internationally recognized as American Independence day, and conjures thoughts of fireworks, hot-dogs, sparklers and block parties for people around the world.

 

Old Fashioned Summer Picnic

Old Fashioned Picnic with Slice of Watermelon

People around the planet are familiar with this day, thanks to movies and television. We’ve all seen the images in American films, portraying these celebratory scenes. The cliché is generally a setting with kids running slow-motion through the street with red and white gingham tablecloths dotted out of focus in the background. Props like lemonade, ketchup, mustard, and smiling veneers of perfect housewives and happy families feature heavily in my own mind’s eye when I think of the 4th of July.

 

I’d take a stab at saying the vast majority of my Kiwi friends and family covet this kind of fairytale to some degree. It seems so idyllic, so full of energy and community. So very, what is the word I am looking for… Patriotic.

 

Kiwis are a bit more low key. I find more joy and sense of community in Matariki than I do in Waitangi day (our 4th of July equivalent). Waitangi day, sadly, often seems to turn into some racial and moral soap-box. We don’t have big block parties and BBQ’s.  We have a long weekend in the middle of our antipodean summer, and we get together to roll our eyes at the sorry state of affairs. We get together, and carry on to love the stuffing out of our special people at beaches, baches, parks and playgrounds across this beautiful island nation. We laugh, we eat, we toast, we talk.

 

So.

 

On the way to the airport to fly home to Auckland, the iconic Kiwi Poet Sam Hunt was on the radio. He was being interviewed by Paul Henry (who I can’t help but like despite, or perhaps because, he always seems to have his foot in his mouth) for his birthday and to publicise his new book.

 

Sam Hunt is a seasoned eccentric. He was born to be so. He left school at 16 with a brain full of knowledge. The intelligence he cultivated wasn’t generally gleaned from his traditional academic path. His mother was a huge fan of astronomy and poetry, and his father was a barrister with a love of words and debate. He was nurtured in fertile soils of knowledge, and went off on many adventures, and those adventures have turned into poems and stories that I hope most New Zealanders get to feel percolate through them, as his life experiences and words are so deliciously human, and quintessentially Kiwi.

 

Sam Hunt gave me a gift for his 70th Birthday this morning.

 

He gave me some poignant phrases and his candor and humor lit a spark inside of me that has been smoldering for some weeks and threatening to go out completely.

 

Sam Hunt, along with the irrepressible Paul Henry, gave me a renewed sense of self, and reminded me that words, to me, are like sunlight or rain. New Zealand is my home. I chose it, it chose me back, and this place contains the majority of my purpose and passion.

 

We are all connected here, intimately. We are a community, diverse yet similar on so many levels. We are the underdog that rises triumphant, time and again. We are temperate and volatile, and sit waiting the next shake-up, as we are perched precariously on the ring of fire. We are humble, we are brave, we are loud, we are quiet, we are busy, we are calm, we are beaches and bush and bathed in brilliant golden sunshine.

Seems to me, Sam Hunt, and thousands of eccentrics before and after him have been labeled a spectacle. He’s spoken up and spoken out about many things, in his art and on a variety of fronts. He personifies a lot of the freedom of thought and speech that we enjoy in New Zealand, and that America has tirelessly fought for and debated.  So thank you for that Sam.

I am also, openly and unashamedly grateful to be in a safe, sleepy island nation where I am free to think and be a part of this society. I can find people who agree, or who disagree, and I never, not for one split second worry about someone pulling out a gun to hurt me or anyone I Love. Not on a motorway, or shop, school or movie theatre.

A nurse can throw a dildo at a politician in protest, get international media attention which seemed to leave both the woman who threw it, and the man at whom she threw it, somewhat better off. He handled the situation with humour and gained international media attention.  This, many have said, left him looking like a pretty decent bloke.

She got her point across to millions and millions of people here and around the world. She also gained a very solid fan base for a while there, and then was given the chance to slip back into relative anonymity. No jail sentence, no talk show circuit, no Chewbacca mom getting paid for autographs carry on for her. Because this is NOT America. Nothing against Chewbacca mom of course, we just do things a bit differently around here it seems.

 

I wish the United States of America peace and enlightenment on this, the day they celebrate their independence.

 

I hope that they put down their guns, and only people who can use them responsibly can pick them back up.

 

I hope they do not vote in Trump.

 

I hope they learn to care for eachother and their own and the rest of the world’s resources a bit better.

 

Wait… I wish that for New Zealand too!!!

 

Anyway. I could go on, but I won’t.

 

Just wishing everyone a very happy 4th of July in America and around the world.

 

Maybe we can all declare independence from some of the things that no longer serve us today, and move forward with confidence and kindness for a safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable planet.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

XXOO

The Best Bits

It is 3:38 am.

The baby woke me up and I can’t get back to sleep and I am just thinking about the bits that I like.

What do I mean?

Well, you know how there’s a bit in a bunch of songs that you like, and that’s your favourite bit? Or a bit in heaps of different movies that you like, or a bit about your kids, or a bit about food, or that bit about whatever activity that you can possibly think of that really makes you feel warm and happy and makes your brain think, ah, I really like that bit!

That is what I mean.

So, I am going to time myself and type freestyle till 4:00am about just some of the bits that I like:

  • That bit in Cat Stevens: “Can’t Keep It In” When he says: Now don’t you run don’t you hide… The whole song is one of my favourite bits from the very first note till the last one, I adore that song so much, but that particular bit is so great.
  • The smell of earl grey tea and the warmth of the cup in my hands as I sip it and feel relaxed and uplifted at the same time… I do like me some tea.  Yes sir-ee.
  • That bit in the Titanic movie when she realizes that wealth and “privilege” is kinda like its own prison, when she looks over and sees the young girl learning table etiquette. I’ve always liked that bit.
  • That bit when I walk in the door and my baby sees me, smiles and gives me massive cuddles.
  • That bit when I go away and someone watches the house for us while we are gone, and we get back, and it is pristinely clean and feels so good to be home.
  • That bit where we get to New York and head to the park to sit under our favourite willow tree by the turtle pond and give our baby their first ice block.
  • Any bit that involves newborn cuddles.
  • That bit when someone I thought didn’t like me says something absolutely complimentary. That’s a great feeling.
  • That bit when someone who I don’t have a great deal of faith in (so someone I don’t like very much) says or does something really awesome and cool and I can’t help but hold them in higher esteem for it. Pleasant surprises are so great when it comes to dealing with people.
  • That bit where I leave Steve in the hotel to watch the baby and I stand in line ALL NIGHT to hold his place in the line for the keynote at WWDC and meet at least five fabulous friends who are glorious geeks and we stay in touch FOREVER!
  • The key change in Woman in Chains, and watching how much all my children enjoy singing and dancing to Tears For Fears songs.
  • That bit where my eldest son delivers a wry/dry and hilariously insightful take on something that leaves me splitting my side laughing and beaming with pride at his comedic timing and ability to deliver some seriously excellent material as a total straight man. He’s been doing that as long as I can remember, basically since he could talk he has been a master of sardonic wit.
  • When my daughter snuggles in and hangs out with me and says “Guess what?… I Love you.” Heaps of times for no reason.
  • When she wins an award or certificate because, although she wins heaps of stuff like that, every single time she is SUPER excited and gracious and beaming with pride.
  • When my 4 year old just about loses his temper and brings it back and controls it and makes awesome decisions to be good and not lash out or lose it. And then he gets praised for displaying fabulous self control and he beams as bright as the sun about it and gives me huge four year old cuddles.
  • That bit when someone you respect says something nice about you behind your back and it gets back to you.
  • That bit when someone who was mean, or dishonest or bullied you turns their life around in some meaningful way and becomes a better human being, and maybe even contacts you to say: Hey, I know I was a jerk, and I am pretty sorry about that” and you can be super proud of how far they have come and you get to feel extra good about letting go of the pain they handed you, because in that moment you TRULY understand that hurt people hurt people, and it is always nice to see someone’s hurt healed up a bit or a bunch.
  • That bit where my husband pulls me into his arms and kisses me passionately in public and the kids are like: You guys are SO gross, everyone can see you!
  • That bit where I wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t get back to sleep, so I listen to my baby and my husband making sleeping sounds (tonight it was a symphony of snoring and James giggling in his sleep)
  • That bit where I look up at the clock and only have a few more seconds until I have to stop writing…

And those are just a small handful of some of the best bits… There are so many more best bits every single day.  And it was really nice to stop and just write some of them down.

The Sudden Death of David Goldberg

It is well after midnight.

Our one-year-old son is in bed between my husband and I as he is both teething and has the sniffles. He’s waking every 20-30 minutes. It will be a long night.

JamesSleepingBetweenUs

We discuss the annoying necessity of being politic and diplomatic, which is not really a strong point for either of us. Genuine, enthusiastic, passionate, knowledgeable or engaged we can both pull off effortlessly.

Suffering fools and/or “playing the game” does not, however, come naturally to either of us.

He is crafting messages, responses and presentations. Some of these are for people and entities we admire and trust, and some that make us sigh and roll our eyes, but engage we must, and engage we will.

We discuss the week ahead. It is as full as any we have grown accustomed to lately. That means we will be working from the crack of dawn till hours after the sun retires for the evening.

I ask him for the hundredth time if he has sent off the raw footage for editing or to the partners that hosted us on a recent PR trip up and down the country. He asks me if I have finished my personal bio or written the copy for one of the several websites. The answer to both of these questions (nagging) is no, but the list of things we HAVE accomplished is as vast as an ocean stretching endlessly out around us both.

This is all completely normal stuff for married couples that work together, or even in the same industry as far as we are concerned.

We each act; as sounding board, champions, devil’s advocate, support, hindrance, help, annoyance. Yet, we are a team.

I get to live every day in the knowledge that I have a partner who cares about the same things that I do. He supports me in good times and in bad. He helps to make sure our kids, household and lives keep chugging along.

He is also working vehemently and tirelessly on projects that we both feel, will make the world a better place. This makes me weak in the knees and so proud of him that I worry my heart might beat right out of my chest some days.

Sometimes we drive each other crazy with frustration or poor communication. Sometimes we get to the point we can’t even stand the sight of each other.

Most of the time, however, I can’t imagine a life where we aren’t attacking the same problems, or working towards the same goals, albeit from completely different angles.

We were married in 2004.  Just like they were.  We met in geek circles as did they.  We have eerily similar original last names, as do they.

We have four exceptional and unique children with exceptional and unique needs (all children are exceptional and unique and need exceptionally unique things as far as I am aware, just as an aside). The Sandberg/Goldberg team were sensible enough to have two children who they both nurture and support in equal measure if reports are to be believed. We are blessed with a diverse and amazing group of friends who all have integrity, make us laugh, keep us honest, and do not tolerate douchebaggery. The outpouring of Love and respect I have read lead me to believe they choose to work and play with similarly good and engaging people.

Life makes sense when we are together. I am no longer completely sure where one of us begins and the other one finishes, as we both occupy so much of the each other. Two halves of a whole, but not so much with distinguishable borders, like a coin or the well-known yin and yan symbol. At this point in our lives, I’d say we are more like an alloy. Melded quite inextricably together with heat and pressure.

Enough metaphor.

The reason I am writing this blog is that I am undeniably shaken and heartbroken by the news of the kind, clever, gloriously geeky Dave Goldberg’s passing.

Sheryl Sandberg is firmly in my top twenty, of smart girls to look up to.

These two are, or I guess more accurately now, were, the ultimate Silicon Valley power couple.

Humble, kind, successful, powerful, respected… and torn from each other when he was only 47 years old.

USA David-Goldberg-Facebook-Sheryl-Sanberg-husband-pic

I am not suggesting Grumpy and I are a power couple, or in any other way anywhere near the league of team Goldberg/Sandberg.  What I am saying, is that I have always found their relationship inspirational and relatable.  Days without my husband are unbearable.  We have seen each other nearly every day for well over a decade now, and that works for us.  I cannot begin to imagine life without this.

We are partners. We are equals.  We are astoundingly different human beings with obviously different personalities and strengths.

The idea of losing the biggest part of me is unfathomable.

The clock ticks well past 1:00am. Phteven is still working. Our four year old has joined us in our bed because he’s had a bad dream. The ten year old was not far behind him.

While I finish off this blog to be handed over for my husband to edit, he gets up to administer a dose of antihistamine to our oldest son so we might all get some much needed sleep.

Tomorrow I will be exhausted and probably pretty grumpy as is often the case these days.

But I will be thankful. I will be thankful for the moments as they occur and as they pass, and I will be thankful for every day I get to be a part of team West.

Rest well David Goldberg.

DavidGoldbergHeadshot

Office Arrangement Awesomeness Makes Today a MAGIC Monday!

I’ve been moping around a little bit lately with that “why do so many people mistake my kindness for weakness and take me for a fool?” kind of storm cloud raging over my head.

Dramatic selfie of Dee moping.  Poor poor pitiful me. Boohoo.

Dramatic selfie of Dee moping. Poor poor pitiful me. Boohoo.

Total waste of time, because the moping kept me from seeing all the amazing people around me!

ImpromptuShowerForJames

Almost exactly a year ago, we had a last minute pot luck before I have birth to our fourth and final child. Just about everyone we asked came along, the kids played, the parents laughed, and I am still absolutely chuffed to know each and every person in this picture (although I wish I saw them all more and we weren’t all so busy!)

My very outgoing personality, and Grumpy’s huge heart combine to make us a very accessible, very open, generous and trusting team. We had a hitchhiker couch surf at our house for two years on and off at the beginning of our relationship, and we’ve had dozens of people and families stay with us or use any one of our holiday homes for various reasons. We like giving back, and we like showing strangers and friends the kindness that was shown to us as we maneuvered through life and sometimes needed a helping hand.  Most of these experiences have been GREAT.

Sometimes, unsavory characters creep in and leave me feeling depleted and actually pretty pissed off.

truth

truth

Well, the dark clouds have lifted.

BrightSunshineRoadAhead

With a workweek full of adventures and interesting campaigns and clients, four healthy, happy, and (despite being watched by their father for a good chunk of the weekend while I slept) currently uninjured children to go home to later today for laughs and cuddles, and so much to look forward to and be excited about this year, I am feeling absolutely reborn!

Our home is currently bursting at the seams with good people who are enriching our lives and CLEANING and ORGANISING everything!

I want to share with you, just how rejuvenated that help cleaning and organising has made me.

A friend from high school in Canada got me in touch with a woman who was planning on coming to NZ for a bit. We met and chatted over social media, she came for a visit with her travel companion and very dear friend Danielle, and they were only mildly scared of me and my incessant chatter and ADD-licious ways. They didn’t have any solid plans, so we agreed that they’d stay in our apartment and we’d cover room and board if they’d help us out with some things (like cleaning and kids).

A few weeks later, I arrived home from an overseas trip to San Diego for a conference (and to visit some very good friends) to a clean garage. A clean house. Clean cars. Happy kids.

A few weeks in now, the girls came in and completely renovated and finished my somewhat sad little office over the weekend. They spent all of Sunday sourcing picture frames, buying second hand furniture, moving things around, hanging curtains, and being proper angels on earth to me.

NerdDorkcupsNewOfficeHappyDee

My beloved Nerd/Dork retro cups. Too small to drink out of as I have a bucket of tea, not a cup, but definitely one of my favourite things in the world. Maria gave them to me on my 34th Birthday. She is also great. Most people are I believe.

OfficeAwesomeJenDan3

Retro desks, that it turns out I paid waaaayyy too much for but I love them anyway. My friends cleaned up the whole training room and put away all the bits and bobs.

CleanDeskHappyDee

Clean desk! Wonder how long it will stay this way?

OfficeAwesomeJenDan

Training room at the ready!

OfficeAwesomeJenDan2

Clean desk sans Dee selfie 🙂

OfficeAwesomeJenDan1

Come over and have a chat with me at the office anytime! It looks great!

OfficeAwesomeJenDan6

Fffffffoooooosebook.

OfficeAwesomeJenDan7

Nerd Dork in pride of place (as it ought to be!)

OfficeAwesomeJenDan5

Tidy little kitchen with plenty of geekiness.

OfficeAwesomeJenDan4

Training room ready for some lucky guests to come and feel all cosy and LEARN some cool stuff!

Fave pic!  Great spot for it Thanks ladies!

Fave pic! Great spot for it Thanks ladies!

So, if you are having a tough run and dealing with not-so-great people, hang in there. And, as far as I can tell, there are FAR more good people out there than bad ones, and even the ones who leave us feeling a little tired and scarred have something to teach us, so please keep your heart and mind open, and keep letting good people in. I know I will!