Call of the Countryside – Te Aroha

Years of chaos, confusion, hustle and high flying have taken their toll on many people. The global pandemic put the breaks on in a huge and abrupt way for millions of us. It brought some industries to their knees, and others were given the opportunity to emerge. Zoom shares skyrocketed, online sales figures shot through the roof, and some urban dwellers decided to sell up and slow down. Lockdowns, layoffs and learning have led many Kiwis (including Damon and I) to a wish for a simpler and more self-sufficient life.

We will be focusing on plans to develop and regenerate 50 acres north of Auckland. We are tethered to city life for some time while the kids (youngest is nearly 7) grow up and get through school, but shared custody and planned sabbaticals mean plenty of time to focus on feathering our country nest. Damon has also made the difficult decision to let go of his gorgeous Blacksmith’s Cottage (built as a token of Love for the Blacksmith’s wife in 1891) in Te Aroha.

It is with a bevy of bittersweet emotion we are announcing the sale of this beautiful heritage homestead on Koromiko street in Te Aroha.  Since being serendipitously stranded there for the February week-long lockdown, we have finally managed to get it to reach the rather lofty Damon standards that see it finally ready for sale.  Every weekend we have meandered back down to the village together, and I have fallen hook line and sinker for this sleepy little town that time forgot.  Just wanted to share some of the many discoveries, attractions and distractions that made me fall so in Love with this aptly named village in the Waikato.

Here’s a list of my personal top ten attractions in and around Te Aroha 

  • 20 Koromiko Street (a home with so much history) – Damon purchased this home when it was in need of some serious Love and attention. It had been a bit of a “party house” before he bought it in 2006. When he purchased the house, he found that many locals and people he knew had some connection or memory of it. This rich history and prolific profile only served to further Damon’s desire to restore and renovate this beautiful historic villa. Rather than go on and on about the house, I will share with you a few pictures of the cottage after weeks (years for Damon) of elbow grease and vision whipped it from a bit of a fixer upper to a lovely and inviting space.
  • Te Maunga – At an impressive 952m high, Mt. Te Aroha is the highest point in the Kaimai-Mamaku ranges (thanks department of conservation website) It is an ever-changing backdrop to this sleepy little town that seriously feels like it stopped the clock in about 1972. There’s a horn that blows thrice daily to tell long since silenced factories in town it is time to get to work, eat lunch, and knock off for the day. The mountain has been listening to this and watching the towns ebbs and flows for many decades. My personal favourite thing about the mountain is that there is gold in that thar hill and this majestic Maunga is not about to relinquish it under any circumstances. In stark contrast to a very closely neighbouring town (Waihi) mining never took hold here and the plights and tragedies surrounding each and every attempt to emancipate this mineral are documented in the town’s history, at the museum and also at the foot of the walking tracks at the longs since abandoned Waiorongomai settlement location. This mountain is magic and has seen peace and bloodshed at its feet for centuries. Highly encourage people to enjoy this sacred location through the scenic cycle way, or any way that suits you.
  • Walking/tramping – I had NO idea how much there was to do and see in this area. From the wetlands to the mountain. From one of the highest waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere to bush walks and rural views, this area is replete with options for every tramper from novice through advanced. Again, I will spare you my verbosity and share some of our pictures from a handful of the hundreds of walks that are possible in the area.
  • Classy to Kitsch treasure hunting – Paeroa is known as a preeminent antique hunting destination town, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. There are, however, heaps of hidden treasures all around the place. I got some beautiful authentic antique petticoats in Morrinsville to feed my daughter’s latest obsession with cottage core. There is also one of the most fantastic antique furniture restoration stores I have ever seen right on the Main Street of TA. Again, pics or it didn’t happen.
  • Te Aroha Mineral Spas – this is the crown jewel in the TA tourism spreadsheet. People come to enjoy the therapeutic warm waters from near and far. I had no idea it even existed. Being a Thames girl I spent many an evening soaking in the Miranda hot pools, but these spas are absolutely stunning with period buildings and a wide range of options for kids, couples and anyone wanting some pampering. Mid week specials were an extra treat as we were able to soak for a discounted rate after Damon spent his days working and on zoom calls and his spare moments painting and plastering.
  • Surprising Culinary Scene – Food, I am a fan. I have packed on the quarantine 15 and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. There are quite a few family owned and operated ethnic food establishments that are affordable and delicious. Thai in Paeroa and Morrinsville was amazing and the Indian restaurant in Te Aroha is clearly run by someone who has cooked for family and friends and makes their dishes with Love and care. Absolutely impressed by these places and felt great to support these small local businesses every night we were in the area. For more upmarket culinary experiences you can also visit the Falls (you will need to book, it is ALWAYS full and with good reason) or the Waihi hotel (amazing Bluff oysters, great staff and superb atmosphere) or any number of impressive Italian and Contemporary restaurants.
  • Hamilton Gardens – Just. Wow. I had no idea how magnificent and world class this place is. Treat yourself to a visit soon. Here’s some of my pictures.
  • The People – I met so many wonderful women who are raising families or relishing the good life here in the Waikato. Many had escaped the rat race up in the city, one is a Share milker from Auckland who I met at the local arts and crafts store on Te Aroha’s main drag. I adored them all and everyone we met is/was so friendly and magnificent. There’s a big difference between country and city protocols and I will take the provinces hands down, I am perhaps a little too rough around the edges to fit firmly in the city’s fast paced and flippant social scenes.
  • The Pace – escaping the race. Just bliss.
  • Meeting Mittens – Last, but not least, was meeting my fiancé’s rescue cat Mittens. A sweet, chatty, and very timid little kitty who wouldn’t come near us for our first couple of visits and then wouldn’t leave us alone when she became comfortable. She slept at our head every night on our last visit, and followed us as we walked over to the spas for an evening soak. The reason I am bringing this up is that she is an absolute sweetheart and we all Love her so much, but she needs a forever home. We will keep her with us until a perfect place is found, but we already have two male rescue cats and a rescue dog (who she hates) and rescue chickens. She’d make someone who needs a cute and chatty feline friend very happy and she is very low maintenance indeed

So, thanks for sharing my enthusiasm for this terrific little town! Hope you have a chance to check it out soon and fall for it as hard as I have.

Monday Poem

Looking for more leaves so much behind

We break our brains just hoping to find

Something truly worth feeling

Not transactional dealing

In you are the answers to the questions you’ve asked

Yet we attended schools in the hopes that we’ve passed

The measure and bell curve 

What we want or…

deserve…

Joy is a gift bestowed to the ready

Life is a chore requiring a steady

Moral compass, hope, insight, passion, truth, adventure

Or perhaps a nap when we really can’t venture

Farther into the greater chasm of the great unknown

Look to see what is given not told or easily shown

It wasn’t ever going to be easy

There’s no such thing as power or glory

You are the answer to the questions you seek

You are the truth when your voice gets to speak

Simple is something we don’t get to endure

Hope springs eternal… of that I am sure.

Suffering is sublime and struggle a gift

And your duty is not hard, it’s simply to lift

The you that you were who you see in a stranger

Out of themselves and t’ward safety from danger 

You can count calories, deeds, actions, possessions or money

But you know nothing comes from counting those false “blessings” honey.

If you’re still lost in the trappings of some day

Know that choices will find you and say:

“Today will happen if you embrace it or hide.

So be there completely with your arms open wide.”

Kindness is simple you know when you are.

Path of least resistance will lead you, not far

You are the author of the fate that you choose.

Be yourself.  

That’s yours.

You own it.

With that you can’t lose.

How Now

There was a post that flashed by my feed on Instagram a few weeks ago. A beautiful young woman with empty eyes on the left, and the same face with soulful kind eyes on the right. Apparently nearly 20 years had passed between pictures but the soulful eyed woman did not appear much older if any older at all. Her caption was something about wanting to hug the sad and angry young version of herself, which was viscerally relatable.

What I wouldn’t give for five minutes with my younger self. The most broken version of me really only surfaced a few short years ago when I set out on some wild trajectory to yell loud enough about carbon divestment that the whole world would hear me and I’d hoped to drown out the constant internal dialogue screaming at me that I was broken and unworthy. To hold her and tell her to brace and be brave, and learn to say the word no, much earlier and more often. She wanted so much to be loved and worthy, and really couldn’t comprehend how much she already was.

Over a year has now passed since I walked away rather abruptly from the trappings of fast paced high flying false friends and frenzied adventures. I’ve turned my back on luxuries that only made me feel empty. I’m still pampered and powerfully connected to people (only those who I choose and actively choose and support me as I do them) but my days are calm and my evenings are most often quiet with a few social and soul satisfying sessions. I still get sad, bicker with my family, and sometimes my partner and I argue and feel insecure or unsure, but the constant nagging desire to end my life has completely quieted. I’m at peace with my choices and my mistakes and ensconced in richer, healthier routines.

People still judge me harshly and snipe mean remarks or recount my mistakes gleefully, I can only assume to make themselves feel superior.

How now is life different to the insatiable people pleasing and “look at me!” days that weren’t that long ago? How now do I decide what to pursue and what to ignore? How now do I manage stress? How now do I exist?

Well, every day I’m hugging the frail version of me by choosing calm and not caring to nurture the needs of people who probably wouldn’t cross the street to throw a blanket or bucket of water on me if I burst into flames. I’m still deeply and importantly in Love with most everyone I meet, and see potential and opportunity in situations a lot of the time. Boundaries and clarity are how I roll now, there’s nothing more interesting happening than this.

Another Think Coming

Etymology doesn’t have much to do with what I wanted to talk to you about. I’m here to check in with you. See how you are. So many of us have had cause, pause, and necessity to re-examine and re-think so many things this year. I’m genuinely curious about where your thinking has led you, and as such, I am going to share with you a glimpse into my various re-thinking in this surreal reality we are wading through.

What a year. How are you holding up? Did the vast and varied changes tip you up or top you up through 2020? Have you stayed a similar course to the way things were in the before time? Are you in one of the industries that’s been crippled, changed, or created? Are you, like me, packing a quarantine 15? Have you chosen to completely change your situation by moving home, career, or changing your personal situation?

Did you know the etymology of that phrase “another think” which so many people mis-speak as “another thing” coming? Well, if you do, cool, and if you do not, let me enlighten you with this article from the guardian that pointed out the evolution of the phrase, and crystalised my choice to stick with “another think” rather than accept “another thing”. Both phrases are valid, I’m just stating the fact we have a choice about which phrase we use if we choose this phrase for any reason.

I’ve been keeping a bit quiet, however, recently my confidence is returning.  There’s no shortage of observations and stories to share, there’s also no rush back to the dizzying pace or crippling loneliness and emotional pain that was standard operating procedure before 2020.  There’s more than a trace of shame in admitting that this has been the best year of my life on this planet so far.  There are others like me.  People who had a chance to slow down, or were forced to do so.  People who have made significant and brave changes to their priorities and trajectories that they’d never dreamed possible.  

I’ve mic dropped my old life and chaotic schedule completely and moved toward an arguably obsessive interest in regenerative practices and carbon capture.  I crashed and burned rather spectacularly and twice after screaming into the void for a decade about carbon divestment.  I still LOVE divestment.  But that’s someone else’s journey now as I am too tired to keep battling the bureaucracy and bullies that have surfaced through the years.  Needed to slow down, and soil is seemingly less sexy and therefore less likely to attract greed and hubris I hope.  Guess we will see…

For years I was stuck in the cycle of doing the same dumb stuff and expecting a different result.  As is in my nature, I did not make changes by halves.  I stepped out of my marriage (never my deep and integral friendship with Phteven my Phoulmate) any and all public and professional roles except those I could actively commit to in good faith, and completely retreated to the safety of my family and tiny social bubble to rest and re-assess.

I have re-assessed.  I have re-thought.  I have retreated.  I have rejuvenated.  I have not retaliated only emancipated myself and others from any non-virtuous cycles.  There are some serious concerns I’ve had the time to consider, and I am genuinely hopeful for the first time in a very long time about my own future, and that of humanity and the planet.  We’ll all need to be ready for another think coming.  And another.  And I guess we will all adjust if, when and how we best can if we are given the opportunity and information to help us make thoughtful choices.

I’ve never shied away from ruffling feathers or questioning things or asking for clarity. I’ve also been regretting my previous choices to let the whole world into my heart and head at times. This meant some pretty dark and vulnerable bits of myself were laid bare over the years. A few times this has had devastating results and offered truly sad, dangerous or evil people to do some grave damage. It’s also weeded out a lot of evil and drama and taught me the power of no. No is a gift to the person who gives it and receives it. No is powerful and is the only way to make space for heartfelt and enthusiastic participation in only those things and to those people who deserve a yes. 2020 really helped me create and observe the boundaries and culture needed to keep me and my family protected from harm and even unnecessary stress and drama. Not going to lie, there’s a few gentle waves of schadenfreude (joy at others’ misfortune) as some peoples’ active propensity toward dishonesty and antipathy to authenticity and grace often leaves them hoisted on their own petard. I do not relish or enjoy anyone or anything suffering needlessly, but I always celebrate and feel joy in the prospect of growth. Not sure if the past few months living with a Buddhist have affected my idea that suffering can be a gift (there was a time long ago that this sounded like nonsense) but it is just one of the many re-thinks I am still thinking about. Put simply, there are some people who have a lot of growing to do on their journey, and sometimes that takes a shove from the universe or experience or society to set into motion. As such, my faith and optimism stays guarded at a safe distance from people who have run out of chances to disappoint me, but I will celebrate any win or evolution I observe from the safety of my chosen and trustworthy tribe.

I want to speak clearly to those of you who I know have struggled this year.  Whether I have had the honour of holding you in my heart and arms and speaking to you about your struggles or online.  Or if you’ve been treading these stormy seas without mine or many other people’s knowledge or support.  If you have been wading through difficulties, redundancy, divorce, isolation, change, and challenges of any nature, please reach out and keep reaching until you find safe and adequate help and guidance.  I will not tell you that these things were sent to try us, or that you have to toughen up.  The fact is, I don’t believe that we are only given what we can handle.  Many people are forced into absolutely extraordinary grief, challenge, hopelessness and pain and it is confounding how anyone could manage that level of torment.  Sometimes it could be consequence of illness, decisions or luck, sometimes it just sucks. 

Now for the good part.

There is so much magic in the world.  There are so many glorious opportunities and people.  Metaphorical rock bottom is arguably the only place to build a truly sound foundation, but as one of my absolute heroines of history and the universe Jane Fonda famously said:

“It’s never too late. It’s never too late to start over, never to late be happy.”

Even if you have another think and change your priorities or even your entire life and turn your back on some of the things that were difficult and insurmountable it won’t be a smooth path and there is no guarantee of success or satisfaction.  If you find a new and brighter path following your bliss, you are still going to struggle. Struggle is inevitable.  Failure is inevitable.  But success and joy are impossible if you stay siloed in a system that doesn’t even give you time or access to the things you really want to say yest to.  All I want to leave you with is the philosophical nugget that perhaps you can and should put effort, struggle and resource into things and people you truly Love and are worthy of you and your gifts and talents?  Perhaps you should spend your time and energy on activities that give you joy, and avoid people, things and situations that are unsafe or unfulfilling?  

I am embarking on a whole new trajectory, and facing fear and doing it anyway.  A new relationship, a new family culture, a huge new project.  Any of these things could fail.  But fear of failure would have seen me rotting in some dark corner hiding in a bottle somewhere.  So, I am armed with a tribe of fierce friends and trusted allies, but most importantly, I am making decisions and taking risks that are well thought through and considered, rather than rushing off in all directions attempting to be all things to all people.  I will honour my past and always be a clear and enthusiastic advocate for divestment, innovation, collaboration, diversity and social justice.  But I will no longer hand over all that I am and all that I have and keep nothing back or safe for myself.  That’s it.  That’s the epiphany I wanted to share and am hoping someone out there needed to read. 

Wherever you are, on the planet or on your own personal journey, I really do wish you the best.  

Triggered

The 10th of September is world suicide prevention day. Triggered? I suspect I am not the only person who has been, so I will do what I do and speak to this demon publicly, because if I stare it in the eye it can’t devour me. I am confronted by the entrance of another dark tunnel, but today, I know to pass through it because it’s safe, warm and bright just beyond this darkness.

Today the urge to give up has returned.  It’s not unfamiliar, but incredibly unwelcome.  I’ve been triggered by small setbacks this week, and have retired to the safety of my bedroom.  A simple and insignificant event has cracked the foundation of the dam and now I just need to cry it out I guess.

Today, like many days for many people like me, the only thing that matters is staying safe and strong as the unreasonable and unwelcome desire to end the suffering gives way to a kinder, more rational internal dialogue.

I’d planned to run a few errands, and be home in time to grab the kids.  My car needed a charge so I could manage the round trip, so I plugged in at one of the stations and walked over to have a coffee.  Someone unplugged me, which is fine.  They said:  Sorry, I needed to unplug you, and I said:  That’s fine, today I just need to fight the urge to kill myself.  A weird and massive truth bomb probably far too out of context for most people to process, so I’ll add that run-in to the barrage of shame and self-loathing that I clearly need to honour and work through today.

I can’t help anyone or do anything when I am hurting this bad and truly terrified of most people.  I am consumed with fear and shame and uncertainty.  Feeling like I fought hard for people and a planet that don’t need or want my help, and won’t hear or respect my pleas for change and collaboration.  Today, my mind is stuck, like a skipping record, repeating: “You’re a failure.  Who do you think you are?  Everyone would be better off if you took that hurricane offline.  You can’t do anything right.  Those mean, cruel, opportunists who tell you you’re a train wreck and only tolerate you when you’re giving them something they need are right about you.  You’re worthless.  You’re wrong. You don’t deserve all the wonderful things that you have.  You haven’t earned anything.  You make such a mess and so much chaos and confusion wherever you go and everyone would be better off if you were gone”  

Today I just need to survive, quietly, until these feelings pass.  And that’s actually all that matters when the sadness gets this bad. 

I won’t be able to run those errands now, and that’s okay.  I can pick up the plates for the treehouse another day.  I can look for the fiddly little lightbulbs that need replacing in the china cabinet another day.  I can record the interview for my son’s media studies project another day.  

Keeping going when it gets like this was a rather unsuccessful strategy for a long time in the past, and the more there is pulling you in different directions the higher the chances you will be torn apart.  

It has been a very tedious and painful journey stitching myself together since my incredibly public nervous breakdown.  I get to deal with the stigma and fear every day.  And my heart aches just thinking about the cruelty and ignorance some people choose when they’re confronted with their own or other people’s mental health issues.  We all fall down and we all get sick sometimes.  Recovering takes time, patience and effort.  

We all need a strategy.  Lately, mine is as simple as seeking safety and silence to compensate for years of being a screaming spectacle asking people to be kind and collaborative as we face an uncertain and difficult reality.  Trees and bees and food and lovely cups of hot tea have replaced an insatiable need to be seen and heard, and told I worked hard enough and made a difference.  Chasing external validation is a treacherous path, and opens you up to so many snakes in the grass, false friends, sycophants and all sorts of false starts and dead ends.  

A heathy mind, soul and body are aligned and able to create and sustain magic when we feel safe, secure, supported, and have some certainty.  Something to do, something to Love, and something to hope for carry us through and can be incredibly contagious.  It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that sadness and instability can and will affect others as well.  

There is a very high chance that tomorrow whatever chemicals and subconscious demons I am battling will have had their say and I can again keep them at bay and carry on with my journey.  Maybe even be helpful. Kind. Rational.  Encouraging.  Available to someone at the very moment it will be infinitely useful to them.  

Not today though.

Today, I need to just finish these sentences.  Decide if I am brave enough to share them.  Wonder if it will help someone.  Or hurt someone to open up this wound and show it to anyone who happens to come across these words today.

We are going to be okay.  I am not ready to reemerge and need to be protected in the safety of my small and trusted tribe for a bit longer.  

I feel a bit better.

Time to put the kettle on.

One Year In

I did not want a partner.

The joys of juggling suitors in the short stint of singledom was a giddy rollercoaster.  I adore being adored.  And there’s no shortage of adoration available to a hurricane who was willing to endure a few less than stellar matches in order to taste the magic of some incredible moments.

While my marriage drew to a dramatic and overdue close, I travelled the globe for work and play.  Every weekend away was a whirlwind romance novel and I cherish each adventure and misadventure.  From the beautiful black haired/blue eyed apple farmer to the 6’8” genius Big Bear who to this day calls me Little One and accuses me of sporting an incurable case of Hipster.  He can’t talk.  Dude owns (and uses) a sous vide and a successful and consistently-sold-out-of-stock microbrewery.  Love him and his opinion still means more to me than most.

So how did this hurricane end up securely and traditionally coupled several years ahead of schedule?  Well, here’s my version of events.  His may be different. You could ask him but I doubt he’ll share too much as he is as aloof and sensible as I am peppy and outrageous.

One wintery evening at the end of July 2019 I was sitting on the porch with my dear friend (NOT romantic interest, and I know there’s been rumors) Wiebe.  We sat as we had many times before. Wiebe was a few short days from departing his Auckland home (my house) and heading back to the Netherlands where his electric adventure began so many years earlier.  We spent a long time discussing our romantic situations that evening.  I must have manifested something in that conversation, as I told my tall carbon neutral tourist friend that I thought it might be time I start to think about a traditional relationship.  Like, just one.  He laughed. 

A few days later my future walked through the door and basically didn’t leave. A day without him is rare and curiously, Covid and lockdown sealed the deal for us as a couple. We arrived home from Miami, NYC and LA and locked ourselves away off grid for two weeks without even stopping to hug the kids. We did, however, kidnap the cat.

So the wonderful Wiebe has long since gone back to the Netherlands and my heart hurts but the smile still sprouts on my face thinking about how dear that big beautiful oaf is to me. He even finds time to cheer me on from the banks of Amsterdam’s canals and tell me to stop being a bitch to the boy if/when I am. Yes. I do have an occasional but extraordinary capacity for flying off the handle. Recently mastered a strange ability to completely lose my shit without ever raising my voice. Calm, silence and seething are unfair weapons in my arsenal these days. Upon reflection, this is not actually an improvement, and can be every bit as cruel and unnerving for my loved ones as screaming and tears. I’m working on me every single day. Hope whoever and wherever you are as you read this you have the courage to do the same, because being honest and having honest people who call you out with clarity and kindness is integral to being a better version of yourself. Those same people also have to honour and worship you like the divine being that you are sometimes too.

How was that for a tangent!  Pretty epic.  

Where was I?  Oh yes.  My Boyfriend and how I happened to acquire his constant and incredibly comforting companionship.

It’s been a year since a wintery Wednesday evening when an acquaintance I’d never given too much thought to popped in after he had a mid-week board meeting.  I will spare you the details, and spare myself the embarrassment of having to recall too many of those details, but I wanted to take a minute to finally, publicly and clearly announce my return to the throws of an ultra-traditional, frequently cheerful, fiercely guarded and apparently fabulously- fated union.  He is Damon, and I am Dee, according to my dear friend Richard, that clearly makes our couple name Deemon.  I’ll take it.  And an absolutely unbelievable year I am quite confident that together we are a Deemon of change, joy, hope, tolerance, laughter, and strength.  All of those great things only happen when we are willing to put our fears and insecurities aside long enough to plan and execute magic… this, if I may be so bold, is one of the many constant conundrums of coupledom.   The execution of magic. We are working on our strategy in this department every day.

People often ask couples how they met.  Well. Damon and I met a few times very briefly before ending up at an eco or sustainability conference several years ago.  We were in a room listening to a presentation from a sustainability rep at a commercial fishing entity. She spun a very long and winding yarn about how serious the organisation was and will be about protecting our oceans.  Damon called bullshit with some hefty facts on his side, and I, being the me that I so often am, flew to the defense of some woman I had just met, because being a woman is hard work at the best of times.  I said something along the lines of “calm down, she’s just doing the presentation she’s been hired to give us…”. Or something like that.  Damon stormed out of the room and onto the pages of our unique narrative as this story gets told (and embellished if I am the storyteller) around the globe and will do as long as even echoes of our union persist.

It seems worth mentioning that we did have a huge argument a couple of weeks ago, which knocked the wind out of our sails a bit.  Starting over with a new partner is not simple but it can and should be healing, invigorating, and safe, which this dynamic so often is.

I have less than ten words left to keep under my self imposed 1000 word limit for a blog, so will end this conversation rather abruptly.  If you’d like to hear more please ask.  I’m some way through a piece explaining our strange and meandering journey as a Covid couple.  There were quite a few friends like us, locked down together with very pleasant results.  Let me know about your experience and certainly let us know if you’d like to hear more about ours.

Kids These Days

 

Spending time with my teenagers and their friends is a fundamental part of life for me while I am wrapped up safely in my bubble as the world outside struggles and changes beyond comprehension.

 

We road trip, and I ferry the kids around for social activities such as mini golf, laser tag or ice skating.

A couple of days ago, my 15 year old son and his friend joined me in LOLGAS and we headed out on a grey Sunday and had a slow but steady fully electric run from Auckland to Rotorua.  Here’s the time-lapse so you can experience in a few seconds what took us three hours to get through.  You’re welcome!

I’ve travelled through Japan and across New Zealand’s North island several times with these two quirky and clever kids.  I always enjoy time with my eldest son and his very funny friend.  This trip, I’d also planned for her highness princess Stephanie to join us on this adventure, but she is deep in the thick of her own teenage wasteland, which, thankfully includes zero incidents of getting wasted on substances stronger than Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  Her world and her friends lives and loves are ever changing.  I am blessed to watch from a safe but protective distance as the girls maneuver through their friendships, follies, and feelings together and find themselves and their place in the fold.  Old friends have returned and introduced new dynamics and drama and feelings can run high in their hearts and heads as they struggle through this incredible changing landscape.  It’s a lot.  But it’s a blessing to be confided in and able to offer sound advice, that is really rather surprisingly well received.   Most of this advice is just:  Don’t be a jerk.  And speak up and be brave in the event you notice someone clearly bring a jerk. Okay, I use much stronger language than the word jerk, but the sentiment is accurate.

The girls and their colourful rainbow miriad of friends and acquaintances identify as anything from witches to Buddhist and transgender to sysgen are a wonderful eclectic bunch.

Daniel and his friend are facing their puberty with less Tik Tok and “spilling tea” and more sharing ironic and often dark memes that embrace painful social commentary, and meandering through the world finding meaning in Reddit rabbit holes and edgy YouTuber takes on a society that is crumbling and cracking because of the sins of their predecessors.  The terms “Okay Boomer” or “Yes Karen” are ultimate insults when I am deemed to be making poor choices as a consumer, caregiver, role model, or human being.  Acknowledging skewed priorities and selfish entitlements and behaviours is an amazingly powerful and unforeseen circumstance of being a parent to people who are on the precipice of independence and adulthood.

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about our adventure is that we basically did nothing at all.  

The weather was bad, attractions were crowded, and we really didn’t leave with any sort of itinerary.  So we opted for very early nights and lots of eating.  I went to an antique store (more on that in the next blog) and we went to a place called bargain world and bought recently expired soda and candy that we decided it was too risky to consume.  Massive fail as environmentalists and/or conscious consumers, but the comedic value of our adventure is impossible to do justice to on this medium.

The highlights were watching the Lorax and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on DVD (yes, DVD… the zillenials had a great laugh) and almost going to Bible World and driving through the 3D adventure land parking lot and not bothering to wait for a park.  We all agreed that crowds are just not where we were at.

So, in lieu of treetop adventures and tourist activities we had lots of time to talk about the state of the world and their state of mind.  They have a lot going on in their heads.  They worry about the world and want to feel impactful or at least honourable as human beings in the face of information the receive and take in.  They actively bemoan hypocrisy and entitlement, knowing that we are all guilty of these things daily in our safe little world.

I’m reminded of my partner’s paramount gem of wisdom this week, which keeps creeping into conversation daily and that is this:

 

“Accountability feels like an attack when you’re not ready to acknowledge how your behavior harms others. To admit that you were wrong is to declare that you are wiser now and that another really dope version of you is emerging. Keep evolving and go as far as you can go.”

 

The best I could do in finding the source of this incredibly loaded and important thought is an account called 47 Chakras that tweeted it in December 2018.

 

The kids have, likely without meaning to, highlighted the struggle we all have juggling shame, guilt, accountability, responsibility, kindness and impact.

 

I have said it thousands of times, and will say it again.  We must do the best we can with what we know and when we know better do better.

 

The theme of young adults being curious, optimistic, educated and assertive is not new.  The youth have been front and centre of narratives in wars, revolutions, and times of change since stories of old were first passed down at fireside tribal gatherings.  Mythology and history are littered with the factual and fictional fights won and lost by the young.  From King David vanquishing Goliath, to Joan of Arc becoming a teenage martyr and leading a revolution, the energy and involvement of young people and the impact they have as individuals and groups really ought not surprise anyone.

 

Today’s teenagers are a powerful and vital force, despite being marginalised and sidelined as has been custom for centuries.

 

My kids and their friends make me proud and give me hope.  They’re never afraid to hold up a mirror and let me know if I am falling short of the morality and authenticity I profess to practice.

 

These kids have adopted a strange optimistic nihilism that sits in some strange and complimentary symmetry with a can-do attitude of activism when faced with things they feel they can impact.  They are both incredibly conscious consumers, Daniel is actually a practicing anti-consumer, and his friend won’t allow me to buy anything from a chain or channel that he has researched and deemed to be socially or environmentally unsustainable.  They actively engage with their peers and teachers in conversations and debates about energy, electrification, boycotting products and services, and real talking about terrifying geopolitical realities.

 

They both report almost daily to me on the atrocities faced by Uighur Muslim population in China.  There are reports of draconian measures from forced labour to eugenic sterilisations in what, if the limited reports are true, is a humanitarian crisis not seen since WW2.  We can’t just pop over to Xijiang province to check it out and invite detainees over here to NZ for safe haven.  What we can do, however, is make an active choice not to purchase goods or services from a long list of alleged tech and manufacturing giants who are reported to be capitalizing on these unthinkable atrocities.  And don’t get them started on Yemen, Syria or the DAR.  That all sneaks in on their radar too.  And it hurts us all a bit to know how safe and lucky we are to be in New Zealand and in very comfortable and secure financial and general positions.

 

We are discussing our own short YouTube series entitled “Now You Know” where we research current events and situations through veracious and respected sources, and recommend ethical options for goods, services and activities.  Sitting idly by in absolute comfort while people and the planet struggle here and globally is not the modus operandi of the teenagers I am blessed to know.  And there are so many more just like them.

 

They’ve heard me ranting and raging about injustice and inequality and they’ve watched me rush into battles of all sorts over the years.  My children’s first protests marches were attended in front packs, and I’ve broken my brain arrogantly trying to be the change I want to see in the world.

 

I got a lot of things wrong, vehemently defending and trusting the wrong information advice and individuals.  This is not unique to me.  Some philosophers would argue it is a gift to suffer.  As long as we learn.  And after being kicked squarely in the guts by countless people who I tried actively to help, I’m fairly confident I’ve learned a thing or two. The kids have had front row seats to it a few times, and take absolute pleasure in removing the sting of it all by laughing about the absurdity and entitlement they’ve watched unfold.  It’s actually great for them to know that not everyone is honest, and the best of intentions can sometimes end in disaster.  But those disasters and the resulting wounds mend and make for excellently entertaining stories when enough time has passed.  The youth I know don’t seem to have the hubris, insecurity, blind ambition or passive aggressive insecurity of so many broken and jaded adults (many in positions of power).  The kids I am watching grow into kind, funny, resilient adults just want to be heard, respected, and surprisingly, held accountable.

 

Don’t get me wrong, they’re often lazy, slovenly and spoiled too.  Perfectly imperfect messes who teach me something every day.

 

So, as you charge through your grown-up gauntlet, I implore you to take an opportunity if it exists to really talk to a teenager.  If none belong to you personally, borrow one from a friend or relative and bring them bowling or on a hike so you can ask them what their thoughts on life the universe and everything are.  If you listen, I can guarantee you’ll learn something, and almost certainly laugh a bit too.

 

 

 

 

A Very Beautiful Backyard

For the last decade it has been unthinkable that I could or would be more than a few short weeks without boarding a plane for work or play.  This Jetset life ended abruptly in March 2020, when I, along with around 5 million other Kiwis, became securely (and in my case gratefully) grounded here until further notice.
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In the financial year ending March 2019, Tourism accounted for 5.8% of our nation’s GDP and sent $16.2 billion NZD circulating through our economy.
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That tap has all but dried up for the time being.
While nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, this is absolutely the time to be planning and preparing for a cleaner, kinder, more resilient and robust tomorrow for Aotearoa.
While we take this rare and unforeseen opportunity to reflect on what has been and what could be ahead of us, can I also implore you to get amongst it and go and see friends family and partake in enjoying any number of locations and attractions.
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This is the perfect time for us to be exploring our own back yard.
While it took me several weeks to adjust to the idea of being out of lockdown (not because of germs or transmission, I just really enjoyed isolation with my bubble) I am now furiously planning activities and adventures. We have a ski trip, thermal road trip, meaningful meanderings, and several romantic journeys lined up to enjoy over the next few months.
A girls weekend in the far north and a blissful couples adventure on the West Coast of the South Island has whet my appetite for travel and adventure in our stunning and varied back yard. We’ve had the whole place to ourselves just about anywhere we have happened to be. It has been wonderful, if not a bit surreal, to escape the crowds but it has also crystallised in my mind the importance of domestic dollars being spent to keep our local tourist spots viable until the borders reopen.
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Tomorrow we will head up to the Matakana Treehouse to visit our tenants (who have, unsurprisingly become friends) and then perhaps go on a lovely walk out in Tawharanui or the Dome Valley. Monday my daughter and her bestie have accosted me to be the bus driver and we are op-shopping on K-road and maybe take in a museum or gallery as well. Tuesday after my BNI meeting I am packing the 15, 13 and 6 year olds into our EV for a carbon neutral adventure to Tirau. Yep, you heard it right. Tirau. Hot pools then antique shopping and we are all pretty excited. Then lunch with friends in Hamilton before heading back home to prepare for the trip to Rotorua with the teenagers in tow.
Accommodation has not been so available or affordable in decades and there’s fun to be had on any budget. Day trips or a journey to visit some of the whanau you haven’t caught up with in a while can keep the pennies in your pocket, or you can splash out on luxury spa weekends that would have been booked out or out of reach when we were competing with deep pockets of wealthy overseas visitors.
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I’ll wrap up for today. Just needed to say that this is a great time to get out and about in our pacific paradise. Might see you out there sometime soon! Wave if you spot LOLGAS.

Safe at Home

Our youngest son turned 6 yesterday.  His father and I have spent most of his life unravelling strings that tied us together as a couple and fortifying a newfound friendship.  Poor wee James was the most difficult of all four pregnancies, yet he was hands down the happiest, easiest, most cheerful baby imaginable.  He was clearly smiling on sonogram images and as soon as he was born, he settled down for a sleep in the arms of a dear friend who was a nurse on the ward’s arms.  He shone his signature serene smile at her as we chatted cheerfully together in the wee small hours of the morning of April 22nd 2014.

My new, and very patient and gentle partner and I were overseas while the world was falling apart in the face of the current pandemic.  We were the third flight to land from overseas when screening measures were introduced here, and we took our responsibility to isolate very seriously.  After discussions with the nanny, my ex and the kids, Damon and I went North to our peaceful property perched high on a hill amidst 50 acres of trees and gentle breezes.

 

We spent our 2 weeks quarantine together sans children, and only had to venture to the end of our road in the car to get Internet/4G signal.

 

Since returning to the family home and flinging myself whole heartedly into my role as mother and matriarch of this happy little kibbutz-esque acre of solitude, we have discussed at length if/how and when we would return Jamie to the family fold, while clearly and completely observing the rules and regulations of level four.  So, after several weeks of separation, my son was returned to my arms, and will not be leaving my bubble now until, I am assuming, level two lockdown.  His return has made me feel whole, grounded, content and complete.

 

Jamie was born into chaos.  I went back to “work” less than 36 hours after he arrived, and rushed around founding, funding, and forcing my own brand of activism on the world whenever and wherever the opportunity arose.

 

Now, after being attached more or less at the hip to him from his 6:30am arrival in our room, through to his 7pm bedtime ritual, I am not, and never will be, the same person as I was when I left for the last trip of it’s kind of my lifetime on February 27th 2020.

 

After reading, singing, and snuggling with my sweet little morsel of magic, he often tries it on and negotiates for another glass of water and sometimes gives me crocodile tears and explains “something is really bugging me, and I am trying to understand what it is” and I kiss his soft little six year old cheeks and we talk about his feelings.

 

“You make me feel safe, I feel safe when we are together.”  He explains to his hot mess mother in earnest, and I hear him and hold him until he concedes his acceptance of the fact he really must sleep in his own bed even though it requires some bravery and effort to settle in and let sleep take hold.

 

This conversation with my son elucidated feelings I was having trouble putting into words, and am now risking the judgement of anyone who takes the time to read this by admitting, I really have never been happier in my adult life than I have been since this surreal and undeniably scary series of events has kicked off.

 

Speaking with a few select friends and colleagues, burnout among us is common.  Some of us really, truly needed a break, and never would have slowed our pace without being forced to do so.

 

Back in November I hosted an overly ambitious, over-catered, overly complicated, overly stressful, and incredibly over budget series of events that quite honestly broke me.  I’m still working through it all in therapy and recovering from the extreme mental and physical fallout from not feeling heard or honoured, rather just paraded around like a prize pig and forced to foot the bill for something I really could have and should have had far more creative control over.  But five months after the fact, I regret nothing as it was a swan song for the ages and a unique opportunity for me to see good and greed, compassion and cowardice, and most importantly and appropriately, to show the world how unbelievably successful our plucky little nation has been at collaboration and innovation in electrification of transport.

 

New Zealand has been an absolute crown jewel in the international revolution toward energy independence and carbon divestment in our light fleet.  These are facts, there is plenty of evidence to substantiate my claims, and it was an honour to play a small part in that narrative here and around the world.

 

But all of that striving and stress is not a place where I feel safe.  This isn’t an admission of defeat or an overly dramatic exit, it is just my first opportunity to say openly that priorities change, and I am truly out of puff after throwing myself so extensively, authentically, and precariously in a critical path I was never equipped to manage.

 

Power and/or money are something some people will do anything for.  Security and a sense of importance is paramount in some people’s journey.  These people keep popping up and I simply cannot manage dealing with them.  I can’t shake the need/instinct to see the best in people and extend a constant stream of the “benefit-of-the-doubt” serum until every conceivable last chance I can extend them has run out.  I am not ruthless, crafty, cunning, or ambitious enough to play in that paddle pool any longer.  Business the way it was done in the old system could be cruel and calculating and I am now far more interested in a new normal. I feel that my place in this new trajectory is going to look different than the somewhat eccentric, “larger than life” brand I have projected over the years. It took all the resilience I could muster to keep up with the chutzpah filled hurricane I felt I had to be.

 

Now, all I want, is to feel safe.  To create and fortify that safety for my three amazing kids and a very small handful of trusted and true friends and family moving forward.

 

I want to keep the pace of peace that I’ve enjoyed for the past 8 weeks.  I want to cook, create, plant and plan.  I want to be available to my beautiful bubble and be very fussy, fastidious and firm in my choice of tribe and endeavors from here on in.  I want to share what I have clearly and completely without depleting myself to a state of PTSD.  And I want to see the other empathetic activists I have known, loved, and respected doing something similar.

 

In conclusion, this has been a strange and surreal time for so many of us.  Here in New Zealand we are blessed beyond belief to have a kind, strong, science-based assembly of leadership.  We are poised on what I hope will be a return to a thriving middle class, a closing of the chasm between haves and have nots, and access to opportunities to enjoy much more safe and satisfying pace and path for every individual, not just a lucky few.

 

My role in this new normal, is to be enough.  To know when to say when, and to continue to prioritize the most powerful forces in my life.  My special people, this amazing and magically mending planet, and the chance to slow down the pace to a level that allows me to really enjoy the simple and significant things like birdsong or an afternoon nap.  Not a day passes that I do not feel blessed to have these choices in a very real way.

 

Wherever you are and however you are feeling, I wish you enough too, and strength and safety as we navigate an uncertain future that is palpably pregnant with hope and possibilities.

 

Kia Kaha.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

What Do You Want?

This is the first blog I’ve published in over four months.  I’ve started dozens, and slunk back into a hole, but I think it’s time to climb out of it and get back in the ring now.

Brace yourself, it’s pretty raw.

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Few things in my orbit are as frequent and confronting as this tiny, seemingly benign four-word sentence:

 

“What do you want?”

 

How many people have a clear and enduring answer to that question?  I’ve felt and observed that wanting sometimes eclipses having that very thing. There’s also some pretty basic and universal needs/wants that we all crave or covet, perhaps at the expense of basking in the appreciation of blessings we’ve just grown so accustomed to we take them for granted.  And, in my experience, there is no emptiness that quite rivals getting things you want without sacrifice and struggle.

 

From the outside looking in, I’ve created a personal brand that is incredibly and authentically vulnerable, but also stroppy and forthright, and even considered bossy, and I have been told recently almost relentlessly driven.  We all have vast and varied sides to ourselves, and our strengths can also be the source of struggle.  We all want things to be easier at times, and we’re all striving and sacrificing to carry on through challenges and ups and downs, but maybe that’s part of the magic.

 

This is the conundrum I want to unpack a little with you today.

 

I’m just coming out of yet another lengthy and exhausting relapse of fatigue, anxiety and sadness.  Burning out is just as much a part of existence as breathing, and that’s actually a choice I actively make and I am not complaining about it, just honouring it.

 

Slowing down and cocooning myself with my family and flaking out of most social and general engagements has been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on goals and the incredible journey so far.

 

Today there’s been some big national announcements putting one of my proudest and most challenging projects back into the spotlight.  Owning ChargeNet and being a visible and public figure in the EV movement at home in New Zealand and internationally has been a blessing beyond anything I could have imagined growing up.  It has also, on more than one occasion, nearly broken me completely.

 

But I’m still here.  And for the first time in months I have the strength and self-esteem to put my thoughts down with the goal of sharing them with anyone who happens to have time to read this.

 

It bears repeating, that when this company was born, our public intention was to install 75 public fast chargers to adequately remove the barrier of range anxiety and open up all of Aotearoa to EV drivers.  We are fast approaching 200 stations and have more exciting and important projects to look forward to.  I want people to know how humbled and grateful I truly to be any part of it, and I want customers and partners to understand that most days are hard work, and the momentum is only possible with support and collaboration.  I say this on so many days and in so many ways I worry that it is starting to sound like lip service or a skip on a record, but I WANT you to know that I know there’s hundreds of people directly involved in this epic narrative, and growth has removed the possibility of me being able to name and thank all those who are integral to the growth and success of this incredibly important movement.

 

So that’s the professional confession out of the way, let’s move onto the real cringe inducing guts of this blog.

 

A week ago today I had a dinner meeting where the only question was the four letter trigger.

 

Here’s the bullet points of the conversation:

 

  • I want people to real talk, and I am happy to be the person who gives them the platform to do so
  • I want to go down scratching and biting or, even better yet, be an impactful part of whatever it is going to take to get people and the planet out of the tailspin we are in and back onto solid and sustainable ground
  • I want to be present and available for my children and for them to know how much I Love them and how proud I am of them
  • I want to feel safe, and heard, and not taken for granted or advantage of
  • I want to be responsible for my own decisions and actions, and free to take ownership of mistakes and move on
  • I want to laugh
  • I want to be a part of a trusted and true tribe
  • I want to stop being hard on the people I Love and respect the most while giving my biggest smile and too much energy to strangers
  • I want to spend time with people who fill me up
  • I want to say: “let’s have that long overdue coffee” and actually do it far more often
  • I want to be more able to identify and be protected from toxic people
  • I want to create the distance necessary between myself and chapters and relationships that have failed, and not blame or be blamed for that failure
  • I want to do more good than harm
  • I want to let anyone who will listen know that most days are hard work, and life’s absolutely not fair sometimes, but it’s like that for everyone
  • I want to be Loved for me with all my faults and foibles, and held to a high standard of behaviour and character, and to be corrected with kindness
  • I want time in my romantic bubble with my main squeeze
  • I want to see people get excited about the future again, and be a part of communities and events that are based in Love, respect, tolerance and enthusiasm
  • I want people to be free to be imperfect, and applauded for the work they do to improve their own lives and the lives of others and the environment
  • I want to be alone sometimes
  • I want a great manager who helps me to do wonderful things but doesn’t push me until I break
  • I want to see people shine
  • I want to see people show bravery and be entitled to some failure and learning
  • (This one is very VERY specific, so brace yourself) I want our customers and partners to realise how far New Zealand has come in the electrification of transport in a very short time, with a fraction of the resources of other countries

 

… I won’t keep going… even though there’s way more on the list and I am now tempted to start rattling off the things that are irking me, and that’s not what this blog is about, I will write another if I need to percolate those thoughts through this medium.

 

So this year, expect to see a bit more of me now that I am finally strong enough to engage with the world again.

 

I hope you take the time to ask yourself the four-word question, and I hope you are blessed with a path that gives you enough struggle to appreciate the things that you want, work toward, and find.

 

Thank you for reading.