Living Life Out Loud and Feeling a Bit Exposed…

I’ve made a very conscious choice to wear faults and failings, as I do my triumphs and adventures, on my sleeve.

Sharing thoughts, experiences and feelings with the world; online and often, is commonplace for me.

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At worst, it opens me up to judgment and scrutiny from strangers and haters. At best it opens up my heart and life (and message folder) to people who become great friends and allies in the altogether hectic, painful, beautiful, difficult and wonderful life.

Wow, I started in with the pithy pretty early in this blog.

Hang in there please, this should be good and useful stuff if you manage to shovel through the schmaltz and stick with me until I wrap this up.

So, why am I so open? Am I simply an insecure and needy exhibitionist type? Do I crave acceptance and absolution from strangers and friends and plead my case regularly and publicly in an attempt to win you all over? Am I so arrogant that I think an audience will benefit immeasurably from my experiences?

There’s almost certainly an element to all of these things.

Here’s the thing that I keep coming back to though:

Every person who lives and breaths is amazing, complex, beautiful and we all have some ugliness mixed in in varying degrees at various times.

I sincerely feel that the distance between each and every one of us decreases with candor and sharing. I also believe that the absolute shortest distance between people is shared laughter.

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I share stories and very actively toil to add an element of humour when I share thoughts and experiences. Sometimes it is in the form of self-deprecation, sometimes the stories I share are absurd enough that they require no finessing to be funny.

Here’s the thing though; You and everyone else has absolute power to twist anything I share. You can throw confessions or thoughts back in my face. You can alter and contort any of my experiences or stories with simple additions, exclusions, amplifications or exaggerations as you see fit.

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Once I share anything, it is no longer exclusively mine. By virtue of taking the time to read the words I write, you own a bit of real estate in my life, my heart and my head. I give it to you and anyone else who chooses to read my blog or anything I share freely.

Some people put a great deal of effort into building walls and feeding an identity that makes them feel safe or secure. Some people put their best face forward all the time and want to convince themselves and the world that they have their s*** together.

I have no hope of ever convincing anyone that I have my s*** together. I am a hot mess with a big heart and high-ideals. Being as deliciously different as I am means I am privy to hurts and helps far superior to anything I’d ever have imagined I’d feel or know.  I feel like I have the freedom to be myself openly and honestly, and I feel like that makes me a better friend, role model to my children, and generally a happier freer person because I don’t have to worry about people finding out about the real me, as the real me is the me I get to be most of the time.

It also means I see greatness, brokenness, faults and fabulousness in everyone else I see and meet. There’s not as much distance between you and me and everyone else on this planet as some people perceive. We’re all fighting battles, and we’re all learning in varying degrees and with varying speed and success.

I am an observer and a participant in this life, as we all are.

Even after years, or decades, of living life out loud, I am still absolutely devastated when people interpret my kindness for weakness, my vulnerability for feebleness, my quirkiness for foolishness, or my earnest for naivety.

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I share my learning with people, in the hopes that they will share theirs with me, and we’ll both be better off. My opinions and beliefs are changing all the time based on the stories and opinions people generously share with me.

The absolute best and worst part of my existence is people.

Being naked and vulnerable as I choose to be means there are people who don’t require much encouragement to decide that they are far superior to me in some or many ways.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, people hurt other people in cowardly, backhanded or childish way.  Sometimes our closest friends and staunchest allies break our hearts with words and actions, despite having the absolute best intentions.  Because I choose to let people into my thoughts, and life so actively, people can hurt me without too much effort.  I get that.  And for the most part, I can take the good with the bad.

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Because I openly and honestly share my struggles with ADD, depression, parenting, professional life, friendships, marriage, self-esteem, relationships, power struggles, pain, loss, Love, learning, travel, health, hope, happiness and sadness;  some people dismiss me, or attack me, with my own words. Other people engage with me on a level of trust and Love and friendship that makes this whole life more manageable for both of us I think.  It is a risk we all take when we share a bit or ourselves I suppose.

If you take the time to read or share any of this with me, you get to decide how you relate to me, and my journey. You get to decide if you find my choices and behaviours uplifting or abhorrent. You get to decide if you feel superior, equal, or comforted. You get to decide if you see some of yourself in my observations and experiences. You have total control over how you decide to pick up what I am throwing down as I share these (and any other) words with you.

So, thank you from the very bottom of my heart for sharing the journey with me occasionally, frequently, or closely. Please take it easy on me, and anyone else that has the courage to share a bit of themselves with you.  And you can be as open or as guarded as you want with your life and experiences, and I will go ahead and keep living my life out loud and feeling elated and vulnerable at differing times and to differing degrees.

Guess that’s it for today.

Thank you, especially because this was a long one, for tuning in and sharing the journey with me.

Bittersweet Birthday in Brisbane. Baby James is One Today

After an appalling pregnancy and a crippling case of pre-natal depression that sent my heart and mind to places I never could have imagined, a miracle bursting with joy, laughter and Love arrived in our world very early on a crisp April morning over Easter weekend in 2014.

We are a year on now, and we’re all more in Love with him than ever, but he’s growing up pretty fast, and is absolutely the last Hobbit child to come up the ranks.  Makes me a little sad.  Also looking forward to some independence again!

I can’t begin to tell you how well this child fits into our family and among our friends.

He is bursting with life and Love and smiles ALL the time.

Just thinking about him and listening to him splashing around in the bathtub with his big brother Adam as I attempt to get this blog out for you brings happy little tears to my Hobbity eyes.

I guess, he must have been sucking the joy out of me and building up his reserves while he was growing in my tummy, as he is absolutely one of the most joyful people I have ever met.  And I don’t begrudge him it, as now that he is on the other side of the womb, I have felt nothing but Love for the little man.

So here is a quick journey through pictures of our first year with James David Leondard West.

Smiling three and a half months before he was even born.

Smiling three and a half months before he was even born.

Lynelle (we went to high school together) at my very last hospital visit before James arrived.

Lynelle (we went to high school together) at my very last hospital visit before James arrived.

Meeting another gorgeous gestating girl at the Skid Row/Ugly Kid Joe concert.

Meeting another gorgeous gestating girl at the Skid Row/Ugly Kid Joe concert.

Gearing up for a quick and drugfree birth.  So they weren't just braxton hicks, they were actual contractions and an actual baby came a few hours later....

Gearing up for a quick and drugfree birth. So they weren’t just braxton hicks, they were actual contractions and an actual baby came a few hours later….

Whew.  Hi there James!

Whew. Hi there James!

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Meeting one of the people I adore most in the world. My Daddy Bruce

Meeting one of the people I adore most in the world. My Daddy Bruce

Adam feeding his very own baby :-)

Adam feeding his very own baby 🙂

Big Brother Daniel

Big Brother Daniel

Auntie Leigh and Steph and James

Auntie Leigh and Steph and James

Adam and Steph having a snuggle early one morning

Adam and Steph having a snuggle early one morning

Auntie Sarah

Auntie Sarah

Big smiles from James on my Birthday morning (he is six days old)

Big smiles from James on my Birthday morning (he is six days old)

In California with Aunty Cat and Mommom.

In California with Aunty Cat and Mommom.

Granny's shoulders at the big kids' parent teacher interviews

Granny’s shoulders at the big kids’ parent teacher interviews

Hanging in Pauanui with the only girl cousin Amara and Bapo (Pappa Strat)

Hanging in Pauanui with the only girl cousin Amara and Bapo (Pappa Strat)

The whole family

The whole family

Aunty Cathy

Aunty Cathy

Aunty Cathy and Uncle Bob at Granny and Poppa's house.

Aunty Cathy and Uncle Bob at Granny and Poppa’s house.

Wellington and running in to Delightful Danni!

Wellington and running in to Delightful Danni!

Up to no good with Hayley!

Up to no good with Hayley!

Visits with Kyrin

Visits with Kyrin

Looking pretty cute in an outfit Katie got for him

Looking pretty cute in an outfit Katie got for him

Happy as a bug in a rug in Matakana

Happy as a bug in a rug in Matakana

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Barcelona tiredeness

Barcelona tiredeness

Helping dad read the menu in Roma

Helping dad read the menu in Roma

Sneaking in some sleep in Italy

Sneaking in some sleep in Italy

Barcelona Tapas

Barcelona Tapas

Norway.  Airport.

Norway. Airport.

First steps at four months?  No... just a camera trick :-)

First steps at four months? No… just a camera trick 🙂

Taking a wee nap under our favourite willow tree in Central Park

Taking a wee nap under our favourite willow tree in Central Park

Auntie Lara

Auntie Lara

Uncle Derek

Uncle Derek

Meeting the cousins from Calgary

Meeting the cousins from Calgary

You!  You are AWESOME!

You! You are AWESOME!

Auntie Emma and Kiwi cuz Quinn

Auntie Emma and Kiwi cuz Quinn

more smiling

more smiling

All of us

All of us

Black and white, quiet moment

Black and white, quiet moment

Phteven's idea of parenting.

Phteven’s idea of parenting.

Yoda

Yoda

Meeting one of his two god mums... The other Godmum has heaps of beautiful pictures with James but doesn't like me sharing them online.  Sigh.

Meeting one of his two god mums… The other Godmum has heaps of beautiful pictures with James but doesn’t like me sharing them online. Sigh.

So I have hundreds and hundreds of pictures of James, but this is just a small collection I wanted to share with you.  We’ve had a great first year getting to know this guy, and we thank all our friends and family who have tuned in and watched him grow up in the chaos that is our family!

XXOO

Dee

Children, chores and failed chocolate chip banana cake.

Today is the birthday of one of my most FAVOURITE humans in the whole word. We’ve been friends for nearly two decades now. I am currently fighting with a banana cake attempting to make it look like a heart…

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Not winning. We’ll be popping in to surprise her at her work later today.  We’ll deliver a cake (probably not this one though) and some cuddles. I am pretty confident writing about it, as she’s probably not going to read the blog during the day.

My beautiful friend delivering a speech as a bridesmaid at our Valentines day renewal.

My beautiful friend delivering a speech as a bridesmaid at our Valentines day renewal.

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Steph LOVES her Auntie P.

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Not a stitch of make-up and absolutely one of the most gorgeous creatures on earth. Here she’s helping get things organised. She’s good like that 🙂

My darling daughter absolutely adores her Auntie P (birthday girl) and insisted she help make the cakes. She helped, and she made a magnificent mess in the process.

The children are always keen to help cook and bake, and anything they see as fun. But when it comes time to clean up, they make themselves suspiciously scarce.

They have been asking me for a chores list so they know what to do and when for months and months. I wrote one for Stephanie that she referred to and observed her duties with impressive discipline.

Both the older kids are obsessed with the concept of pocket money. A couple of budding capitalists? I doubt it, but I have no problem with putting in place a reward system. Here’s what ours looks like, feel free to steal it and tweak it for your own purposes if you’re a parent.

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We also have a fines list, similar to the pocket money chores list only it is negative amounts. You get the idea. I won’t publish that as the things the kids get fined for at this point could be embarrassing to them one day, and I am mindful of the Internet making it tough for you to forget after you’ve put something in the public forum.

So I’ll edit and post this short little sneak peak into Hobbit life for the week, jump in the shower, and head into town to surprise our perfect princess P.

I think I am just going to buy a cake…

Have a great day wherever you are and whatever you are up to!

XXOO

Envy is an Illusion

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Not sure about you, but I can’t really help myself looking at other people and feeling more than a little bit inadequate.  I have friends who are doctors, lawyers, activists, and working in a variety of other interesting and successful careers.  I am 36 years old, and quite frankly, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

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I also have friends who are supermums.  They keep tidy homes, feed their children a diet of gluten free and vegetable rich concoctions.  We throw burgers and chips and sauce at the children as we rush around the city and the planet doing whatever it is that we do. 

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We were in the kitchen surveying the chaos and mess a couple of nights ago.  We entered into a discussion about our financial situation, and our plans for the year and so forth.  Pretty normal stuff really.  The conversation took a tangent about risk and reward and whatnot.  Elon Musk came up (as he frequently does in our house not surprisingly).  He invested every single penny he had into Tesla and really put himself on the line to pursue his EV dream.  And with the success of Tesla, and his insatiable thirst for innovation, he went on to great things with SpaceX.  And Grumpy got a wee pout on his face.

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“You know he’s like a few months younger than me.”  He said in genuinely downtrodden tone.

I have to admit I laughed. 

“Yes darling, he is.  He also has one more child than you do, and is a Billionaire.  I can pretty much guarantee that if you stay married to me, you’ll never be a billionaire.  So, yeah, you’re a pretty big failure.  I’d probably just pack up your things and go live under a bridge somewhere if I were you.  Your life is really very terrible.”

After a bit more playful mocking we wrapped up our conversation, and I was left to think about how absurd it is to compare oneself with other people. 

Here’s some conclusions and gems of wisdom that occurred to me as my brain was processing all of this:

 

–      A bit of comparison is probably healthy, but as soon as it starts eating away at you, or makes you feel bad, you’re officially in unhealthy territory.

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–      Comparing yourself to others takes effort you could be spending doing cool stuff instead.

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–      The people you might think have a super sweet gig are actually fighting their own battles, facing their own demons, and feeling their own inadequacies.

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–      If you spent the time being grateful rather than feeling a bit ripped off, I’d hazard a guess you’d be surprised how much happier you are (even happier than the people you used to envy)

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Won’t go into to much detail unpacking the stuff I’ve just said.  Most of my contentedness comes from being able to be truly happy for the success of those around me, and abundantly and consciously grateful for the blessings in my own life.  True joy never stems from what we have or feeling better than other people.  True sadness can, however, come from comparing myself to others. 

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I get really fed up and feel like running away from my life.  Because I am tired, because I see what single or child-free people are up to (all that sleep, all that rest, all that freedom, and all that excitement and adventure while they are out experiencing new things and new people), or because I’ve taken a few too many blows and had to learn a few too many consecutive hard lessons.  Or it is as simple as the fact I’ve worked myself up into a right royal lather by trying to be all things to all people and failed rather impressively.  Because, you probably will fail in big ways and in small when you attempt ridiculously lofty and unattainable goals. 

The feeling passes and I again realize that the crazy, mixed up life I lead is actually fairly fantastic, and more importantly, of my own design.  I chose to marry Grumpy.  And we chose a family, and then we chose a larger family. I’m happy to trade frequent late nights out partying for early morning cuddles and sticky faces and fingers as the children help bake on a Saturday night.  And I am happy to be at the beginning of what I hope will be a very successful career, while so many other people are so much further along than I am in their professional lives.  We all have to start somewhere, and nobody can do it all.   And for the most part, things are going very well.  This is in no small part owing to the fact I’m surrounded by truly wonderful people.  People so much greater than me!  And yeah, occasionally I am jealous of them and the fact they have their stuff together so much more than me, but I put that to the side and just feel thankful that they are in my life at all.

Wherever you are and whatever you are up to as you read this, I hope you are able to celebrate your gifts and blessings and feel joy instead of jealousy as you go about the rest of your day.

Thanks for reading.

XXOO

 

Careful what you wish for

I’m bossy.  You can sugar coat that and say I’m assertive.  Sheryl Sandberg would have us “Ban Bossy” but as many of you know, I am a die hard fan of the simple, unfettered, stone cold and occasionally uncomfortable truth.  And the truth is, I often think I know what is best for everyone and too often force my agendas and opinions on the people I care about the most.  I am pushy, occasionally self serving, and very bossy.  If people don’t ascribe to my ideas, schedules or plans, I can turn into a right royal P.I.T.A, and I’ve been known to pack a sad of epic proportions when things don’t pan out the way I desire.

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I’ve been encouraging (nagging) my long-suffering husband Grumpy to get back into the office for quite some time now.  Why?  He is amazing and has so much useful code rattling around in that brain of his. And he often complains about suffering from a recurring case of a big gaping empty, and when he’s busy and engaged, the empty is kept at bay.

So after four years of nagging, he’s back.  He is making huge and positive breakthroughs in his code, and I sincerely hope with his team as well.

The kicker in all of this being, I have been quite miserable and unsupportive, as he started back with regular (and full) days when our son was two weeks old.  So after several years of begging and pleading with him to march that brain of his back to his desk, he picked this point in our lives to comply with my ardent demand to do so.  Just days after I’d had our fourth child.  Awesome.  Fan-freaking-tastic even.

*Very loud and insistent interjection from Grumpy:

“YOU (expletive) MADE ME!  How can you keep complaining when the only reason I am back is because you INSISTED. (Many colourful expletives)”

I keep complaining anyway.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

When he’s not working there, he’s in the garage or his home office putting the finishing touches on a project involving a component for Electric Vehicles that he has invented and is now testing successfully.

I am genuinely proud of him and all that he’s doing.  Although we’ve had a heaped helping of stresses and trials, both in and out of our control, I haven’t seen him this happy in quite a while.  And all this contentedness is despite the fact neither of us has had more than 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep in a row since welcoming James into the family.

Still, I find the timing of all of this stuff quite exasperating.  And boy oh boy do I make Grumpy suffer in the wake of that exasperation.  Guess I should rein (I am always tempted to spell that reign…) that in for fear of scaring him off.  Nah, I’m a hot mess, and he knew that when he married me, so he’ll just have to handle the occasional spattering of venom while I struggle to maintain some semblance of sanity.

Meanwhile, back on planet Dee, I am bound and determined to change the face of reputation management and Public Relations by successfully unleashing a socially, environmentally and generally conscientious Social Media/PR firm that offers sound and empowering advice and support to people and organisations.

With the help of my business partner, a very dear friend (and kind of business partner) and a spectacular network of like-minded individuals, I aim to change the communications landscape of NZ and eventually the world, by sticking to a simple plan:

Encourage people to be honest and authentic – because the truth will set you free and take you exactly where you need to be.  I want people to start, engage in, and nurture conversations for good.

So, with a five-week-old baby asleep in his hammock next to me, I am furthering this epic vision and moving forward.  Thanks to the ongoing efforts and friendship of my patient and passionate partner Pauline, the momentum is fantastic, and we’re well on our way after a series of hard earned professional wins.

With all of these things coming to fruition, I ought to be seriously satisfied?

Well, I’m genuinely grateful.

I am also, undeniably exhausted and in a fairly constant state of feeling frazzled and fantastically overwhelmed.  For the most part, that’s okay, provided it feels like we’re moving forward and making a notable difference or inroads into our lofty goals of a cleaner, greener, kinder, fairer and more interesting world.

While there is magnanimous momentum in many corners of our lives, something always has to give.  It has been a rare occasion indeed that I am able to get into the kitchen and create, which has always been one of my absolute joys.  The older kids are feeling edgy and we’re having trouble staying abreast of the many spectacular dramas of childhood and pre-pubescence.

Today, for example, our eldest son had a pencil flung at him by a classmate, which left a nasty gouge on the surface of his iris and now he requires drops.  I must confess, the only reason we made it to an optometrist to get it looked at was because I brought the children to the mall in lieu of having to cook for the family because it has been such a busy day.  He’d hardly complained about it, but when I asked him how it was it became painful again, so off to the optometrist we went, “just to be on the safe side”.  You know how it goes.  It did make me stop and wonder how much regarding our bourgeoning brood we are oblivious to because of our commitments and schedules.

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And don’t even get me started on our social life.  We’ve missed so many parties and catch-ups and seen less and less of all of our favourite people.

I’m not complaining though.  Probably sounds like that, a step up from a white whine to a fully-fledged champagne complain, and that’s not what I am trying to get across at all.  I think I just want to share with you the benefit of my experience.  We all ought to be careful what we wish for.  Because we just might get it.  And when dreams start coming true and stuff you thought you wanted finally starts happening, well, that is when the real work begins.

So here we stand only a few unsteady steps into the journey to the top of the next mountain we’ve decided to climb.  And let me tell you, we’re already absolutely knackered.  Happy, but so very tired.

Writing this blog made me stop and think.  Most of us are guilty of the when syndrome.  “I’ll be happy when…”  or “I can stop worrying about this and that when…”  or “I’ll do that thing I’ve always wanted to do when…”  And you know what, I think we’d all be better off and considerably happier if we made an effort to be happy now. To do things now.  To try things, even though we could very well fail, now.  So that’s what I’ll be working on this week.  Changing my own when syndrome into a now superpower.

Kids Losing (and winning) Their Marbles

So every autumn/winter is marble season at the local school.  A group of at least moderately geeky kids mobilise themselves to play, trade and battle it out to win rare and cool marbles to add to their collections.  I whole-heartedly encourage the children to play marbles.  They are timeless, inexpensive, and unpretentious.  Trading them and earning them is also a kind of elementary study in basic economics.

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Mass production of glass marbles dates back to 1884. There is a rich and varied history surrounding the culture and collection of marbles.  So Marbles have stood the test of time.  It is a legacy the children can share among themselves and as the years go by, perhaps their own children.  It pleases me to see/hear about the kids sharing or giving marbles to other kids as they have an absolute surplus as we have acquired quite a collection of marbles both new and old from various sources.  We unabashedly use the marbles as bribery and blackmail.  We can giveth and we can taketh away their smooth and spherical treasures.  And we have listened to them bragging proudly about their most prized large and rare marbles.  So guess which marbles are the first to be confiscated when behaviours are less than ideal?  Mwwaahhahhahahaaa! I am such a mean momma sometimes.

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Of course it isn’t just marbles.

We have been swept up with several childish fads and trends.  The things we allow include:

–      Pokemon

–      Star Wars Franchise (Particularly the Pre-Disney Sell Out Phase of the Franchise)

–      Comic Books (particularly Batman and Superman and am always happy to see the kids reading them)

–      The Harry Potter Franchise

–      Bey Blades (this trend has truly passed now though)

–      Fraggles (and anything Jim Henson is seriously encouraged!)

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–      Lego

–      Douglas Adams

–      My Little Pony

–      Care Bears

–      Original Smurfs

–      AstroBoy

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–      As well as anything that encourages them to read/draw/think and use their imaginations, with a minimum of ongoing capital investment for masses of merchandise from their parents.

We have put our foot down and curbed or denied our children other trendy traps including (but not limited to):

–      Trashpacks

–      Disney – We are undeniably hypocritical in this capacity, as we still go to and enjoy Disney theme parks and  are booked on a Disney cruise through Europe this September, because they are kid friendly.  Steph has several Disney themed dresses, Adam went through a Mickey-Mouse Clubhouse phase. HOWEVER we explain to the older children that the mega-corporation of Disney is not as innocent as it seems and the founder may have had some grave character flaws and scary social views.  I’m still researching this, and quite keen to watch Saving Mr. Banks the film, as it apparently touches upon these things.  Many of us are familiar with the claims of anti-semitism, misogyny, nazi sympathy etc.  I never knew the man, so cannot say what is and isn’t true.  I do, however, feel it is important to point out the the kids that he was flawed like everyone else, and his legacy is massive and not always above reproach in its tactics or philosophies.

–      Hexbugs

–      Smiggle (we make an exception at Christmas and they get a haul of Smiggle stationary in their stockings, but that is it for the year)

–      Barbie

–      Bratz dolls

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–      Monster High dolls

–      As well as countless crafty plastic sparkly trends that Steph sees advertised and yearns for.

All of the parents we know and Love have different lists of what they will and will not allow their kids to play with.  Some parents enjoy following the kids excitement and penchant for setting trends with various toys, franchises and merchandise ranges.  The fact that we all do things differently is what gives us a rich tapestry of children, who then grow up to make up the vast and varied society we all face as adults.  So it is what it is and I cannot and will not condemn people for their choices in parenting in this or many other areas.  Buy your kids as much or as little as you want, as you please.  You do your thing and I’ll share with you how I do mine.

One of my FAVOURITE families (who’s son’s Birthday we just missed because of baby brain – DOH!!) don’t even have a Television and keep a close eye on the entertainment their two terrific children are exposed to.  The kids have educational toys only, and don’t seem to fall into the trappings of trends.  While I admire their resolve and philosophy, I am a path of least resistance parent, so TV (or more accurately YouTube) is a staple and a digital babysitter in the Hobbit household.

So there’s another brief peek into the happenings of Hobbity existence.  I Love this time of year, and the delicious sounds of the knocking and clicking of marbles.  We may have to put them away for next year’s marble season as having many marbles floating around the house with James being a one year old working through the oral phase of his development may end badly indeed.  I’ll let you know what we do if you’re interested.

Have a great weekend everyone.  I am off out to grab some supplies for an impromptu party tonight! The kids have been begging for a party, and their seriously social parents are more than happy to oblige.

Take care, and thanks for reading.

XXOO

 

Dee

 

 

Holidays, Hospitals, Happiness and Hobbitses – Part One

Easter weekend saw the met service (that is the Meteorological service – in NZ we call it the met service, and it is our go-to source for all things weather related) spreading gloom throughout our island paradise by telling us all that it was going to be a grey and rainy long weekend.

This prospect didn’t bother me a bit, as we had planned to head up to our cozy off-grid holiday home high up in the Matakana hills just north of Auckland.  There’s a warm fire, big fluffy blankets, amazing local produce right on the doorstep, magnificent Matakana markets, and the children even survive without the Internet for a few days.  They play in the clay, clamber up hills, skin their knees, climb trees, make forts, sharpen sticks, fight, laugh, cry, scream, yell and carry on like feral little creatures.  It is absolutely wonderful!

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Three-Year-Old BatBoy son Adam after making a fantastic mess

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The little dots in the middle of the picture are the children scrambling up hills

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Chasing each other with sticks. Cause, well, boys do that sort of thing.

Happily, it turned out that there were only scattered showers, and the whole weekend was absolutely gorgeous, and warm but crisp, and the night skies were clear and beautiful and the stars twinkled over us just out of reach of our fingertips it seemed.

Sadly, we arrived to a less than perfectly presented property.  The last time we had been up was the re-wedding.  We left without tidying up, and our guests also vacated in a very big hurry, so it was left in a less than pristine state.

We’d planned several times to get up and tidy up after the event, but kept getting side-tracked.  So after 8 weeks had passed and we had finally made it to the property, it was in a less than welcoming state and required a phenomenal amount of scrubbing and disinfecting and general faffing to get it to the standard we are now comfortable with.

As it was Easter weekend, we had the whole family join us for a big Easter dinner, some cribbage, some chaos, and everyone got stuck in and helped with some cleaning as well.

Grumpy and I had discussed the plan for the week, which included the rather large inconvenience of having to give birth to our fourth child on the 25th of April (ANZAC day).

He’s been very busy inventing a new product for the EV (Electric Vehicle) market that we will be shipping in the next month or so if all goes according to plan. He had set himself up a make-shift station to get on with his soldering and fashioning for the prototypes and circuit boards he’s been working on.  So he was quite happy to work quietly away while I waddled around the house cleaning, scrubbing and nesting like a small, round, madwoman.

I simply MUST share some of the after pics of upstairs with you…

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Biggest comfy holiday bed 🙂

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Our silk rug from China. The dragon and the phoenix… a really beautiful and poignant love story. And RED. We really like Red.

 

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I suggested that he should just head back down in the Leaf and work till the wee small hours of morning as he has been prone to do most nights over the last month or more of R&D (Research and Development).

“I’ll just come down tomorrow after I’ve taken some pictures of the house as neat as a pin.  It will take me all morning to get it up to scratch anyway.”  I had told him.

And that was almost what happened.

I managed to get the master suite looking ship-shape and had just been taking pictures of the results when I started to get stronger and more noticeably painful “tightenings” as they are sometimes referred to.  I passed it off as nothing, just some Braxton Hicks, and carried on with my cleaning and ran a bath.

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Before jumping briefly into the bathtub, I mentioned the pains to Grumpy.  Now, he is not renowned for his intuition, but he looked me up and down, put down his soldering iron, and started to pack up the car.

“I think you’re having a baby, baby.”  He said quite calmly and matter of factly to me as I waddled my way up the stairs and into the bath.

“Meh, we’ll see.  Google said these BH things happen mostly at night and can get quite strong for days or weeks before labour, but yeah, lets head back to be on the safe side.  Shall I drive the Leaf and you take the van?”  I suggested nonchalantly to him.

“Okay.” Was his equally nonplussed response.

However.  After emerging from my nice warm bath, I realized that driving may be a less than brilliant idea.

He messaged Anna, we texted our LMC (Lead Maternity Carer) and headed down to Auckland just before midnight.

Arrived at the maternity ward to a mean and matronly old battle ax that was standing guard at the desk and ripped shreds off of us for not calling ahead.

So, me, being me, handled the whole ordeal in an undeniably and embarrassingly Canadian way.

I apologized for not calling ahead.  I apologized for showing up in the middle of the night.  I apologized for having gestational diabetes.  I apologized for my midwife being off-call.  I apologized for over-reacting and suggested perhaps I should just head straight home, as surely it was nothing, just some false labour nonsense, and I really felt quite genuinely terrible for being such a bother at this time of night.  And then, I apologized for erring on the side of caution, but explained that I labour and give birth very quickly indeed, and due to my poor health and history, thought it best I just pop in, if nothing else, for some monitoring.

Looking back now, I proper want to take a time machine and rip some shreds off that matronly old meat ax.  What on earth is she doing working in a maternity ward and making women feel like they are a terrible inconvenience for showing up at hospital, very possibly to give birth?  Grrrr.

So Grumpy called Anna.  They chatted.  He handed me the phone.  I continued to spit out apologies and said I was terribly sorry for bothering her so late, and would be fine to just go home.  But apparently, nobody there could do an internal and she’d had to drag her tired self out of bed to check me out anyway.

I felt terrible.  I knew she had to work in the morning.  I now feel terrible for feeling terrible.  Terrible isn’t it.

It was at around this point I got a flash-bulb image that coincided with a very strong contraction that said: 3:33.  I’ll be here by 3:33.  It looked like a red digital alarm clock face on the inside of my eyelids. Not sure how or where that stemmed from, but it was very vivid, and it turned out to be absolutely accurate.  Weird or what right?

Shortly after Anna arrived, she plugged in the Nitrous Oxide, I gratefully sucked away and spent the next two hours in an almost out-of-body state that I am sure I can’t accurately describe, so I won’t even try.

James arrived at 3:24am.

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I bid farewell to our dear friend Anna and my bedraggled husband just before 6:00am.

I got a very welcome visit from a dear online friend of mine, Mel.  We chatted and laughed.  I swore like a sailor, she snuggled with James.  We laughed and bonded and I felt very pleased indeed to know that good people like her were all over the place, and my prolific social media meanderings have been a vehicle through which to find wonderful, quirky and kind souls to connect with.  Thanks Melanie.

To be continued…

 

Dee’s Vows – 14/02/2014 – Valentines Vow Renewal

Aside from myself (and our children), I know you better than any other soul on this planet.  I know your fears, your faults, all the wonderful things about you that keep me falling in Love with you over and over again – even after all these years.

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Here we are listening to some speeches at the very relaxed ceremony

There is a great irony; that you, my “atheist” husband, give and restore my faith and hope in so many magical and inexplicable things.

I can honestly say, that you – despite all your failings, and all our fights and all the mistakes we’ve both made, rekindle my belief in God, Love, Immortality and maybe even in Superpowers.

Your kindness.

Your humility.

Your calm and logical approach to even the most complicated and terrifying situations.

Your intelligence.

Your ability to do maths!  To a brain like mine, that’s bordering on mysticism.

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Steve was called in for some IT support at the Treehouse before the ceremony

These are your just some of your super-powers.

And when combined with my super-human capacity to be a bossy miss fix-it, and desire to save the world one person or cause at a time, we have made a fairly formidable team.

You give me the strength and resources to busily go about attempting to change the world in big ways and in small.  You support me in every single effort – even those that you know are destined to failure because I often lack your ability to think or plan things out or think logically and plainly about “details” or “consequences”.

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Have been holding this hand for many years now…

Living our lives the way we do has, at times, made either one or both of us very vulnerable.  Trying to make a difference in this world and in the lives of others leaves us wide open to scrutiny, and at times, the alterior motives and agendas of some less than forthright or ethical people.  And sometimes I get tired.  Because I wonder if all of our trials and efforts are in vain.

But then, every night, I lay down next to you.

Sometimes we even talk (other times we just DM or facebook…) and when we talk, we talk about our friendships and our family, and we talk about so much that is wrong with the world and so much that is right… And how unbelievably lucky we are to have eachother, and what we can do next to make the world a little better.

Somehow, we have earned the Love and respect of good people who are fighting just as hard as we are to make a difference where and how they can.  And no matter what gets thrown at us, or who or what breaks our hearts – we keep on living this crazy, busy, geographically diverse, and amazing life together.  Striving for the same things and enjoying so many adventures as we do.

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Short, sweet and often hilarious speeches

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Gorgeous group of ladies who have been there for me for a very long time and through a great many ups and downs.

Today, as we stand here in front of so many of our friends and family to affirm the vows we made more than a decade ago – I want to thank you – openly and publicly and with all my heart for being the absolutely amazing force for good in mine, and so many others’ lives.

Believing, as we both do, in some sort of karmic balance that can positively affect the world around us the good in our hearts and actions, or teach us what we need to learn –  I wonder what on earth I could have ever done to deserve a Love like ours.

Despite all my faults, the emotional rollercoaster I seem to constantly be riding, all of my many mistakes, and my occasional but impressive proclivity to fly completely off the handle – you stand firmly by me.

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You make me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world.  You patiently wait for my dark days and depressive episodes to pass.  You take my hand and share in the euphoric highs that I sometimes get to enjoy.

You are helping me every day to raise three (and soon four) of the most amazing little humans I have ever met.

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With Daniel, our eldest

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Stephanie-Jane – our only girl

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Adam – our own little Batman and total firecracker. He did summersaults and busted out some rad dance moves throughout the ceremony and the day.

I know I nag you sometimes, but you are the most wonderful father and role model and we are all so blessed to have you.

I could go on for hours, or even days about just how much I Love and appreciate you and all the reasons why.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of facts about our journey, because I think it is really important that people know that happily ever after takes a phenomenal amount of work.

Because we’re pretty much an open book and live our lives out loud (or I do and you kinda have to follow my lead) there’s no secret that we’ve both done some epically dumb stuff over the years.

We’ve had some fights that one or both of us thought might have been the end of our relationship – but somehow, we both choose to fight for our Love and keep standing together – till death do us part.

Being married and sharing this life means choosing each other, in the face of temptation, boredom, adversity, doubt, and even anger and regret.  Through the many changes we have gone through as individuals and as a couple – we have been strengthened by the trials that threatened to tear us apart.

The reward for these efforts cannot be reasonably elucidated, even with my extensive vocabulary and propensity for prose!

The reward is waking up nearly every single morning to a warm and familiar set of arms.  The reward is having someone to share every trial and triumph with.  The reward is a kind of immortality that comes from not just creating the lives of our children, but gently encouraging them to be the funny, moral, kind, caring and responsible people that we are both so proud to watch them become.

We are two halves of something whole.  I don’t make any sense without you and I think your light shines a bit brighter with me by your side.

Like you always say:

Neither of us is anywhere close to perfect, but we are absolutely perfect together.

Thank you for the last ten years. And I can’t wait to get on with the rest of our lives, and I’d hazard an unquantifiable guess, the rest of eternity with you.

I Feel Him Rolling – I Ain’t Hating!

Yesterday, I was not merely pleased; but ecstatic, surprised, delighted, comforted, jubilant and more than a little bit relieved to be feeling my first real, sustained and absolute peace and acceptance for the wee soul that I’ve been growing for the past few months.

I had a regular checkup conducted by a locum, as my lead midwife is shoveling her own personal piles of poo at the moment the poor lady.  The locum (who has been a practicing midwife since the 80’s) confirmed that the baby had rolled and is no longer breech, but facing the direction he ought to be.  He is not currently engaged, and I’m measuring and feeling on track, contrary to the scan results, which told us that I am growing a 95th percentile monster baby which will need to come out early.  A completely different take on things came from this appointment.  Clearly I need to take extra care and be extra vigilant counting movements and so forth, but if he is happy and wiggling, I am very hopeful he will stay put until his due date on my 36th birthday, and perhaps, I can even experience my first (and only) natural labour without being induced.  All very heartening news, particularly after a less-than-positive visit to the high-risk maternity clinic last week.

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Here I am with our eldest son Daniel at 27 weeks. The kids are all quite excited to meet their new little brother.  It is nice to be joining in on their enthusiasm finally

If you haven’t already figured it out, this is going to be an unabashed pregnancy post.  So if you can’t handle the jandal, best to tune out now.

For those of you wishing to join me on the journey through this narrative, settle in, as there’s going to be some raw nerves exposed as we wend our way through today’s blog.

This pregnancy has been on the cards since our third child (who will be 4 in June) was born.  A much discussed and wanted addition to the family, it took us 18 months of TTC (Trying To Conceive) to get anything more than a chemical positive test.

So why wasn’t I over the moon when the bloods came back confirming we’d managed to plant one that stuck?  My reaction was sorrowful, and shameful and a far cry from the picture perfect joy I’d planned to be feeling.

We have three amazing, healthy, happy and very demanding children already.  We Love them with all and we are and like them very much as well.  They bring joy, laughter, chaos, and even sometimes a sleepy veil of calm into our world that you can only get from children.

I also have an absolutely solid support network, and we are blessed to be able to afford help around the house.  We have every intention of getting a full time nanny once the fourth baby arrives.

Happily ever after is my everyday existence, and I should feel blessed to the point of being genuinely giddy just to wake up in the morning surrounded by the safety and security of picket fence perfection.  The cherry on top ought to be the fact that we are lucky enough to have a fourth child brewing in my belly and know that we will be able to give them all the love and security they need to be happy and healthy in their journey through infancy, childhood and then life.

Nope.

I hated, yes hated the idea of another mouth to feed and starting all over again.  I was sick, I was tired, I was so resentful it made my skin crawl and my teeth clench.  Cognitively, all of this pointed me in a dark direction indeed.

Here’s the thing.

Despite the fact it is still, for the most part, taboo to talk about these less than maternal feelings, it is estimated that one in eight women suffer from some level of pre-natal depression.  The symptoms can be mild to completely debilitating.  Some women scarcely get out of bed for the duration of their gestation, others have much more severe issues including psychotic episodes or engage in self-harm.   Relationships suffer, and there is evidence that there may be a correlation between Pre-natal depression and an increased chance of anxious or depressive tendencies or episodes in the child.  Tearfulness, paranoia, self-loathing, hopelessness, despair, even grave thoughts of self harm or, the most unspeakable thoughts about the innocent life you are carrying, and, maybe, just a little bit… wishing it away.

These feelings are real.  They are terrifying.  They made me hate myself and feel shame and anger because I had every intention of relishing this final experience.

And goodness gracious, what a prat I am to be complaining when I know dozens of couples who have had their hearts broken trying to conceive or losing a child.  What the hell is wrong with me?  The only reasonable explanation is that I am a terrible person.

Try as I might, I couldn’t feel anything but despair and resentment when cognitively I wanted to feel joy and appreciation.

With support and/or medication (I am not medicated and have never had success with synthetic anti-depressants, but they are a necessity to many people I know and Love) and coping strategy, there is absolutely light at the end of the very dark tunnel.

When the sixth month loomed on the horizon and I realized that the only moments of peace or happiness I felt were when I was too busy to remember that I was pregnant, I accepted that it was time to face the fact something was wrong and out of my control.

I did a bit of research, and after a total melt down at a midwife appointment I was referred to maternal mental health.  I did not follow up, however, as I am not keen to take resources away from women who need assistance through the public system.  We are covering the costs of our own therapy.  Also, quite frankly, I have heard horror stories about intervention backfiring and women being labeled as unfit mothers, or worse, having children taken off them as a result of this illness.  That’s a whole other massive kettle of fish I don’t have time to get into today though.  Suffice to say, nobody has accused me of being unfit.  It has been pointed out to me that I am currently quite a genuine pain in the ass and need a great deal of extra support (which I am absolutely getting) from family and friends to get by.  The mental illness is magnified by gestational diabetes (despite doing everything possible to control my sugars and not putting on virtually any weight this pregnancy) and severe anemia.  But such is the life of a thirty something year old woman creating a human.  Again.  Apparently.

I’m lucky enough to be going through this pregnancy at the same time as at least a couple of exceptional women who are struggling with their own mountains of stress.  These women are my family.  One of them is coping with a toddler, juggling work, and making it through a rough first trimester, exhaustion and stress, pretty much as a single mum as her husband is called away for work for months at a time, and is currently offshore.  The other is working 12+ hour days, planning her wedding, suffering with terrible morning sickness, and also just moved house into a more suitable location for welcoming a new baby.

They are coping.  I am not at liberty to say whether they are also battling with chemical depression, what I can say though, is that it is nothing short of a miracle that we’re all pregnant at the same time and our children will be given a chance to grow up together and so close in age!  The statistical probability of all of this falling into place is actually quite mind-boggling, especially when one takes into consideration the amount of time spent trying to conceive for all of us.

So at 4:30am I sit here with a million other things to do.  Attempting to get this blog out and move on with the mountain of things that ought to be done before my husband and I welcome around 200 guests to celebrate Love, laughter, friendship and sustainability (social, marital, environmental, and general) at a big Valentines day vow renewal party to mark more than ten years together.

Which is happening tomorrow.  Bugger.

I just wanted to share with you the turning point (ha!  It happened when he turned… funny) in how I am viewing the undeniable blessing of welcoming another life into our family.

Yesterday, I found meaning in a bunch of stuff and I found comfort in that meaning.  Unlike my husband, I am a fairly spiritual person.  I believe that the cycle of life and Love is infinite.  I believe the echoes of people we have loved and lost come through genetically, in personality and in spirit in the new lives we welcome.  I also believe in astrology (temper your judgments, I think it is cool and that’s my prerogative) This child is due on my birthday, in the year of my Chinese astrological year (year of the horse in case you were wondering).  Not sure what the likelihood of that is, but I wouldn’t think it is huge.

This baby has been accommodating beyond imagination since the get go.  We had booked a Christmas cruise as a family vacation several months before conceiving this child, and you are not permitted to cruise past 24 weeks gestation.  The ship docked at 23 weeks and 4 days gestation, leaving us a whopping three-day window, so we didn’t have to cancel the family vacation.

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Here is Grumpy with the children at Luna Park in Sydney Australia

A few days before returning from California where Grumpy was attending a trade-show and Daniel (our oldest son) and I were sightseeing, I called back to Auckland and booked a 4D scan to see his face in the hopes I’d bond with him (didn’t work) and because of the way he was sitting and where all the stuff like the placenta is placed, the stenographer was quite certain we wouldn’t be able to get a clear image.  So I rolled onto my side, and viola, he turned around and smiled a peaceful little smile for us that I was able to share with friends and family on social media.

He was still breech the next day at the growth scan at the high risk maternity unit, so I’ve been asking him gently to roll over and face the right direction, and as is customary for this accommodating little man, he turned the night before my fortnightly appointment.

All of this got me to thinking:

He chose us.  He chose me.  And he’s coming to join us whether it is convenient or not.

And despite cognitively knowing this stuff before, I just couldn’t feel anything positive at the prospect of this until yesterday.

So I will go now and try and get my head around everything and prepare for tomorrow’s party where there will be much belly rubs and pictures with family and friends.

Thanks for tuning in.  And if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, reach out.  It is more common than you think, and opening up a dialogue with someone who understands will help you both.  Not everyone will understand and some will make you feel like a royal asshole, but you aren’t.  And with help, you are going to be okay.  Even the big bag of crazy sharing this with you managed to pull through.

Much Love to everyone out there today.

XXOO

Dee

Touring Tasmania – Part One

Clocks had gone back two consecutive nights now, so in a round-about way we’ve had two consecutive sleep ins.  It doesn’t feel that way though.  Captain Batboy (our 3 ½ year old) wakes up full of vim and vigour at too early o’clock regardless of what the clocks say.  Meanwhile, Grumpy fancies himself quite the gambler and is out until two or three in the morning playing poker if the table is open.

So on the morning of New Years Eve 2013, we rolled out of bed and rushed to breakfast, as usual, just before it shut at 9:30.

The children were in a particularly talkative mood this morning, and solicited eye rolls, loud tongue clicks, and then a round of “Thank GOD they are leaving!” from a table of particularly prickly old battle axes that were perched next to us that morning.  Is it wrong that I find miserable people like this particularly amusing?  Hate it up ladies – these three noisemakers bring us laughter and joy till our sides hurt and our cheeks ache.  They have more Love, grace, generosity, and hope, in the tiniest corner of their Hobbit hearts than you appear have in all of your shriveled and twisted beings.  The life we lead and the adventures we go on together mean I have peace like a river in my soul as I go through life, and you’re just a shriveled up nasty old prune.  The vast majority of people have been absolutely amazing and friendly and complimentary of course, but you are always going to come into contact with jerks.  It is just a statistical inevitability.  As long as they exist, and so do you, chances are you’ll run into them at some point.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

Heading out exploring in Tasmania.

I had fully expected to be on my own traveling to the farthest Southern Tip of Tasmania this day.  Yet, my undeniable mini-me Stephanie-Jane insisted on spending the day with me, even though the chances were the boys were going to be having a much better time at a zoo or something.

So off we rushed to pack a bag and grab a credit card.  Steph “helped” me with my make-up as she always does by blowing away the extra sparkles from my eyelids and choosing the very brightest red lipstick I had “because it makes you look like my older sister or auntie or something mummy”.  And within 15 minutes we were headed down to the gangway to disembark on our day.

Here’s a quick series of pics from that day to illustrate my daughter’s cosmetics skills and our staggering similarities, for those of you not already familiar with one or both of these things:

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We wandered up to the taxi rank, populated by only two or three mid-size sedan taxis with blue writing.  I put on my biggest bright red smile and extended a hobbit hand for shaking to the grey haired bloke that made his way from the drivers seat to greet me as we walked up.

“How much to get to Port Arthur?”  I asked.

“Strewth.” Exclaimed the man.  I am not embellishing, they actually, fair dinkum say that here in OZ. “That’ll be a fair whack – like about $360.00 or so.”

“Okey Dokey.” I chirped.  “Jump in baby Jane.” And then I opened the door for my bubbly blonde clone and turned back to the cabbie. “You’ll have to bring me to an ATM if you’d prefer cash, as I don’t have any Ozzie dollars at the moment.”

“No worries Love, cash or card are just fine.”  Said the somewhat surprised but seemingly buoyed spirited fellow.

I was happy with the price, as it saved me the nightmare of being on a crowded bus tour.  With the two of us, it was also cheaper than taking the ship’s tour would have been.  Win-win.  I like it when that happens.

We made our way out of Hobart and Steph and I were our usual chatty selves, telling the man about who we are, our many travels, the baby in my tummy, her two brothers, her wonderful daddy and my wonderful husband and his amazing inventions that make our travel and adventures possible.  The man, who’s name was Viv, was far less chatty than us of course.  He had lived in Tasmania his whole life though, so was a font of knowledge and an amazing tour guide.

We found out fairly early on in the adventure that Viv had three grand-daughters and two more grandchildren on the way at the end of January.  We also found out that he had lost one of his three son’s to Cystic Fibrosis in 1994.  One of the brothers had never been to the grave-site and chose to remember his beloved younger sibling the way he was, while the other brother joined his mother and father in visiting the site at the crematorium every birthday and Christmas.  After 20 years he misses his son terribly, but feels blessed to have had 12 wonderful years with him when the doctors had told them when he was diagnosed at 6 months old that the prognosis was he’d be lucky to see his 6th birthday.

One of the strongest, coolest and kindest women I know is the president of the CF foundation in NZ and hearing this story reminding me of how very much I respect and admire her and her beautiful, tough, and consistently over-achieving eldest daughter who lives with CF.

Viv became a cab driver in his mid 60’s after leaving a long career as a fire door engineer.  He likes the hours, the flexibility, the freedom and the fact as soon as he turns the key and walks through his door, he has left his day behind and can focus completely on his life.

As we drove, he pointed out the vast charred areas that had been swallowed up by the infamous Tasmanian bushfires 11 months earlier.  Started by a smouldering stump a farmer lady had tried to burn out, which caught the wind and started one of the most destructive fires in Tasmania’s history.  This bushfire destroyed over 130 properties and claimed the life of one firefighter (who had a heart attack while fighting the blazes).

“I am not sure a person’s mind would ever recover from something like that… the poor woman.” I said to Viv.

“No, I don’t suppose it ever would.  Terrible really.” Agreed our gentle Tasmanian tour guide.

He asked if we liked berries – and my daughter’s eyes got as wide as saucers.  So Viv stopped at a local stall and bought us fresh raspberries and cherries that were consumed with great satisfaction.

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Our first stop was a lookout called Pirates Bay.

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We then wended our way down the hill and stopped to see the Bronze Dog.  There were angry dogs placed at regular intervals along the road to discourage convicts from escaping or something like that.  Didn’t seem like a very nice existence for a dog.  Nor a convict – but that part of the story comes later.

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I’ll leave it there for now as I am erring dangerously close to the 1200 word limit I have set myself to hopefully avoid boring my beloved readers to tears.

I’m nearly through editing the second installment as I publish this one, so I’d be honored if you’d tune back in soon.

Thank you again for sharing some snippets of our Hobbity lives, and I wish you well wherever you are and whatever you are doing.