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!

15JamesBBlog5

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

15JamesBBlog35

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

The Friendship Formula. Is There a Formula?

Today, I was chatting with one of my best friends for nearly 20 years.

P and I go back so far we can’t pinpoint when or how we actually met. We’ve been allies and friends through ups and downs. Which is strange to some people as, on the surface, we could not be more different.

She is elegant, thin, organised, has impeccable taste, looks like Audrey Hepburn and is as discerning with her relationships as I am open and willing to connect with EVERYONE. Yet, evidence clearly states, that we work.  We both actively choose to maintain an honest, and significant friendship.  She knows my faults and foibles, and I hers, and we can roll our eyes at each others shortcomings.  If, however, anyone were to say anything untrue or unkind to me about her, I’d take it like a personal attack and go heartily into battle for her.

So this morning’s topics covered included, but were not limited to:

  • Christening my youngest son (her and our friend R’s Godson)
  • Birthday plans (belated and future)
  • Current state of play for both our careers
  • Social calendars
  • Friendship
  • Family
  • Food
  • Travel
  • Marriage
  • Equity Theory: we had to cover that in our undergrad comms degree, here is a picture:

EquityTheory

  • Renovations
  • Pathological overachieving
  • Emancipation from drama and silly people
  • The fact I have FAR too many children (but we Love and like them anyway)

I feel much better, stronger, and more able to deal with my own, and other people’s challenges after this chat. The vast rejuvenation of spirit came about even after just a short opportunity to connect with her over the digital superhighway.

Friendship confounds me. Luckily, it doesn’t elude me.  I’m an active (all-be-it only sporadically available) participant in more functioning and healthy relationships than I could ever have imagined.

Strange and wonderful really. Especially when you consider how lonely, broken, bossy, awkward and ostracized I was (or at least felt) when I was little.

So, as is the case with all the things, I want to know MORE! I want to know WHY!

Science concedes that friendship is an absolutely integral part of our lives. We are social creatures, and our alliances get us through the unimaginable things that get thrown at us from time to time. Friendships also offer us context, clarity, and comfort. The people we spend the most time with can shape our opinions, world-views, political, social and even religious ideals, and even our own self image more than any other factors we are exposed to.

An absolute army of academics has dedicated careers to unraveling the phenomenon of friendship.

So, am I able to Dee-ify this vast body of work in a crude but coherent manner for anyone inclined to read this blog?

I’ll try.

Here goes:

“Good” people make great friends, and therefore attract healthy relationships that help them, and others, to thrive. Good people are not perfect, and they do not expect you to be perfect. Truly good humans are beautifully broken, resilient, kind, open to change, and actively look for the best in themselves and others. People who choose to Love, respect and forgive themselves make and attract the best relationships. They don’t always have the most friends, sometimes they do, but they get to take part in good, healthy, honest and nurturing experiences with other humans. These people fix themselves first, because that is the first step to a fuller, and more rewarding existence.

*Disclaimer: Even people who have their S*** together fall down and mess up. They still suffer, they still hurt, they still make mistakes, and they still have to make it through very difficult life experiences that are completely out of their control. The difference is, they own their faults and learn from them instead of playing the victim or laying blame.

The kind of friend (and the kind of person) you are will naturally affect the kind of friends you choose and the kind of people who choose you.  Givers get, and the way you treat people will directly affect the kind of company you keep.

Sure there’s lots of other factors and influences that dictate who we choose to let into our hearts and homes. But generally, it is as simple as this:

Put out good stuff, and it comes back. Put out crap, you’ll eventually get a smack.

There is an inexhaustible collection of poignant pithy saying to corroborate my considerable claims on cohorts.


walkwiththedreamers CharlieChaplinLoveYourself WeAreMagnets

I’ve attached a list of really good scientific and psych articles on this subject if anyone wants to go a little further.

So, in conclusion; be the kind of friend you’d like to have. Be okay with walking away from toxic relationships.  Fix you first.  Love yourself (all of you, even the bad bits) and seek out honest, kind, inspiring people.  And for goodness sake, surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

And here is a handful of Sciency articles on Friendship:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-importance-of-friendship/0001381

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201212/the-new-science-friendship

http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/science-friendship-signs-youre-meant-ffs/851194/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equity_theory

Attempting to Unravel the Truth About Beauty – Part Two

Beauty – Part Two

The human race’s obsession with attractiveness is probably, in essence, quite innocent.  Displaying and acknowledging attractiveness can be argued to be a perfectly reasonable evolutionary mechanism employed by most (if not all) people to help determine health and vitality.  We’re naturally drawn to attractive people as it is generally synonymous with health, vitality, fertility, and good genes.

I can’t be bothered talking about any of that.

I do, however, want to wrap up this conversation about beauty.  Seeing as it is my blog, I’ll give this final installment the Dee treatment, and just share with you my own personal opinions on what is beautiful, basically ignoring the screeds of research I’ve been wading through on the subject.

I’ve opted to share five things that I think are beautiful to illustrate my point on this subject.  I am leaving out countless others including:

1)  Integrity

2)  Grace

3)  Smile lines and well-earned physical signs of living a full and interesting life

4)  Honesty

5)  Humility

6)  Generosity

7)  A warm smile

8) Health and vitality (regardless of what the scales may say!)

9)  Confidence…

The list could go on and on.

However, for today’s blog I am sticking to five things that I think make women truly beautiful:

1)  Strength and resilience

I realised again last week that there are a number of absolutely amazing women I am lucky enough to know, that have overcome some gargantuan obstacles in their lives.

I am lucky enough to have met women who have faced (and overcome) addictions, mental illness, hard times that I can’t even imagine being faced with.  Women who have survived life-threatening illness, cared for others tirelessly (be it a sick or severely disabled child, family member, or in some cases they have made the care of others a career), mind numbing loss, war, natural disasters, poverty, abuse.  These ladies have experienced rock-bottom and climbed out with an understanding and resilience that is impossible to describe.  Although you can’t immediately put your finger on it, just being around them, you get a sense of the strength and understanding that can only come from the experiences that they have faced and overcome.

I have dozens of examples I’m intensely eager to share with you, but these are not my stories to tell.  So I’ve scoured the web for images of the strength that I am talking about, as a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

Image

Rescued from slavery in the sex industry. Strength and beauty embodied.

Image

Iconic shot of an Afghan refugee – her eyes say so much, the pain, the wisdom, the things she must have seen. Beautiful and haunting.

Image

Drew Barrymore, one of the more well known recovering addicts in the spotlight.

Image

Survivor.

Image

Hurricane Katrina survivors supporting each other. Touching and beautiful.

2)  Vulnerability

Image

While there is a time and a place for being tough but fair, or for “putting on your big girl knickers and getting on with things”, there is also something absolutely beautiful and human that can only be seen when we are exposed and vulnerable.

Image

The other part of the beauty of vulnerability is that, even the most amazing and effective women have vast and gaping imperfections.  Being privy to that, and seeing just how broken we all are is fascinating, comforting, connecting and refreshing.

Image

Perhaps there is something a bit more basic and visceral about vulnerability and its association with beauty.  We are, apparently, the fairer and weaker sex.  There is something magic in being  swept up into strong arms in a moment of weakness.  Something so romantic about needing protection and rescuing.

But only sometimes.  There’s a big difference between being an occasional damsel in distress, in need of a hero, and a consistent mentality of being a victim and not just getting on with things.  While I truly think it is beautiful and more than a little sexy to be vulnerable on occasion after you’ve been strong for too long, there is also something quite sad and ugly about expecting other people to solve the world’s issues for you.

Image

3)  Connectedness

There is something exquisite and enticing about the effortlessness that some women include and embrace those around them.  These are the women who get down to eye level when they talk to children, they look you in the eye when they are talking to you, they are frequently found quietly (and often thanklessly) doing what needs to be done in their homes, families, communities and even the world itself.

I really enjoy people watching, and looking out for examples of the beautiful things I am talking about in strangers.

Old couples holding hands or sitting together and so comfortable with their partner that you can hardly tell where one of them ends and the other begins.

Image

Image

 

New mothers looking into their baby’s face, radiating a contagious sense of peace.

Image

 

Seeing a couple on a successful first (or early) date and witnessing the energy between them.

Image

 

Teachers, trainers, coaches, community leaders working with a group and being able to see the cohesion and enthusiasm that their words and energy plant in the hearts and minds of their captive audience.

Image

 

This is connectedness, and it is absolutely magnificent.

Image

Again, I have an almost limitless supply of stories I could share with you about friends and family who demonstrate this amazing connectedness.  But, they are not my stories to tell.  I hope you get what I mean, and I added some more stock photos and pithy sayings I am sharing in an attempt to illustrate this point.

4)  Kindness

Kindness is beautiful.

That’s it.  Full stop.

Image

5)  Humour

There are few things as appealing and attractive as laughter.  Just overhearing people laughing releases positive endorphins in most people.  Smiles and merriment break down barriers, ease tension, bring people together and, not to put too fine a point on it, make life bearable.

Image

Being able to laugh at our self, and each other, without malice or envy, is about the shortest distance between two people I can imagine.

So I’ll wrap this post and subject up with some pictures of gorgeous funny women who have influenced me directly and from a distance.

Image

Image

Image

 

Image

Image

Image

Image

Reflective NY Blog from Somewhere in the Middle of the Tasman Sea

This time last year we were traveling all around North and South America with my family, my best friend and his family.

Checking out Glacier National Park in Chile

Checking out Glacier National Park in Chile

Have been missing them, and remembering what an absolute comfort it was to share the adventure with them and the handful of friends we made that trip.  At least we will see them IMMIDIATELY – IF NOT SOONER (our friend Gabriel’s catch phrase) once we arrive back in our beloved Land of the Long White Cloud on Monday as they are there visiting for Christmas.

Gabriel and the children at Sabatini's at breakfast

Gabriel and the children at Sabatini’s at breakfast

So much has happened since then. Some things have been wonderful, others terrible, and many simply indifferent.

The year has brought unspeakable grief, as well as lofty and hard-fought triumphs and accomplishments, both for us personally and for people we know and admire.  New babies have arrived, while other children and people have been called away too soon, leaving a lot more questions than answers, but living on forever in the hearts and minds of those left to mourn them. Couples we know and Love have purchased homes or tied the knot, while others have made the final arrangements in going their separate ways.  Just like any other year, 2013 has been punctuated with joyful and terrifying new beginnings or anticipated, sometimes shocking, or even on a few occasions, long overdue endings.

On balance this has been the year we have stayed closest to home since our first ever-overseas trip together more than a decade ago.  Unfortunately, staying close to home did not mean getting all that much closer to those we know and Love.  The year whizzed past and appointments were made and frequently not kept to spend time with the people we hold dearest.  In a household that used to open its doors several times a month, or even a week for dinners or parties, we found that just getting the kids fed and watered and meeting work and general commitments and appointments left us with precious little time or energy for much more than sleep.

Perhaps we haven’t made the strides we’d have liked to in our environmental and alternative energy initiatives.  But we’re always moving forward, however stifled the pace may seem. We’re palpably close to re-wiring so that we’re hooked up to the 8 Kilowatts of solar power that is collected from the cottage to service our primary property in the city.  That’s going to feel great.  My parents bought us a worm farm for Christmas (thanks guys!), our third electric vehicle will be arriving soon, and Grumpy is still working on a stunning little micro-hydro system to ensure we can power through our energy needs (including charging the cars) during the rainy days of winter up in Matakana.  And last but not least, I am still making plans to try and get us completely off grid for 6-12 months and surrounding the move with the single most elegant and engaging PR campaign EVER!  Do I have to stay in the country for that whole time?  I guess if we actually do plan on being carbon neutral, my travel addiction will have to take a back seat for the duration.  I break out into a cold sweat just thinking about it though.

Some other stuff has popped up, big stuff that is taking priority at the moment and will do throughout the year.  I have faith that it will come together how and when it should though.

So, as is customary, I will start the year with lofty and ambitious ideas about the things that will be accomplished with some Hobbit planning and savoir-faire.  I’ll likely fall short early and hard and probably just carry on much the same as I do every year.

I will, however, share with you a short list of things that will absolutely be made a priority this year, and I encourage you to take a few moments to do the same.

1)  Laughter will be an absolute priority:

We already laugh loud and often, but instating some sort of quota and ensuring it is met might be something worth investigating.  Is there an app for that?  There ought to be.  I may get Grumpy working on it…

2)  More nature, less Internet: 

I may have to take extreme measures such as joining a tramping club or finally buying a paddleboard or sea kayak so we can walk to the bottom of our yard and venture out onto the harbour.  Finally planning and planting the extensive food forest we’ve been talking about for years now.  So watching it grow, and raising the kids to get out and pick and appreciate fresh fruit and vegetables was once a pipe dream that is set to become a reality.

3)  More visits: 

More, actual, look people in the eye and hear what they are saying and share words and hugs and laughter in person instead of on social media VISITS.  A few months ago, I ran into a woman who I Love and admire beyond words. I had not seen her in person for nearly a decade.  We caught up in Manhattan of all places, and just touched the very tip of the iceberg on what has come to pass for us since our exceptionally close friendship way back in the late 90’s.  She is only just up the road, and I mean to see her, and so many other people, and when I do, it is a touch of magic and the most effective and sincere remedy to the constant nattering of my frequently troubled mind.  Friendship is a mighty force indeed, and one that I fear I take for granted.

4)  Get rid of stuff. 

I want have a serious desire to just have less crap!  I’ve taken an awesome step in the right direction by curbing consumption this year.  I used to relish shopping and picking up trinkets or hunting bargains on our travels or even in our own back yard.  I took a 6 month self-imposed shopping sabbatical which successfully changed my habits in that department in a real and lasting way.  Christmas shopping was an absolute chore this year, and precious few people got gifts.  Yet, as far as I know, all the salubrious and flourishing relationships remain pretty much in tact.  So yes.  Less stuff.

5)  Take it easier.

So, among the many things I know, yet frequently choose to ignore is that failure is actually an option.  Trying and falling flat, can be a far more fruitful and useful endeavor than getting something right or having it fall easily into place.  And as long as a person is always moving, learning, and growing, there’s no need to move mountains all the time.

There’s a fairly long list of other stuff I intend to do of course, but I shall leave it there.

Hope that the New Year is safe and amazing whatever you may be doing.  And if 2013 was less than stellar for you and yours, I do hope that you are able to leave it behind and have a much better 2014.  It’s my year (Chinese Astrology) and I expect great things are afoot.