Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A letter to my future great grandchild

Waikato Vital Signs Community Engagement.

We invite you to imagine a child born in 2076 - perhaps your great-great-grandchild, perhaps a descendant of someone close to you – but probably a child you will never meet.

If you were to write a letter to this child about your hopes and dreams for your community - what would you tell them?

Dear great grandchild,

I hope as you are reading this, you are sitting somewhere on the banks of the Waikato River, coffee (or what ever you young ones drink these days!) in hand, and enjoying the amazing view - and the fantastic cityscape, before you.  The river has always been considered the jewel in the crown of Hamilton City and I hope that the generations who have come after me have continued to care for it, and see it for it's beauty as well as the intrinsic importance of the very thing that resulted in Hamilton being created in the first place. I hope the city still showcases this, and that theres a vibrant cultural life on it's banks.

The Hamilton Gardens, already world famous now, are no doubt another icon in the city, loved by all and the centre of community for many.

As the world gets smaller and smaller due to the digital age we live in already, I imagine that the need to get into the outdoors is greater - and I'd like to think, more desirable than ever. I'm guessing you are probably doing work that hasn't even been invented yet, but that is more to do with computers than people, and for that, if no other reason, I am sure that wide open spaces are in hot demand!

I don't think for a minute though, that in the next 50 year there will be a demise in the social aspect of life - in fact my guess is that it will be more important than ever, for the same reasons as fresh air and exercise will be.  I hope that the people you share your life with are as committed to the well being of each other, and of wider society, as those that share mine. Our family - founders in Hamilton a hundred years and more ago,  has a long and rich history of giving back to the community - I wonder now which part of this will be your calling?  The disadvantaged? The arts? Sport? (that's an unlikely one given your family heritage but who knows!).  Always remember that just a little time given can make a difference to a lot of people.

The world as I know it now has not changed so much I think - perhaps there is more automation...self driving cars, computers and machines performing tasks currently done by people, the faster/stronger/better/bigger way of doing things is certainly part of our culture now.  But people need people regardless - there will always be room for human contact, helping each other, engaging in debate, enjoying music and culture, getting outside and appreciating nature - and I hope that in the future, just as now, these things will always be important to us.

Hamilton will be a multicultural (and I hope welcoming and tolerant) community in 50 years time. I wonder what your heritage will be by then? Will you be bi-lingual? Well travelled? In 60 years you will be an adult and likely have children of your own. What will your dreams and hopes be for them for 2116?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

CELF - Capstone Project: The first 100 days of leadership

Friday, March 25, 2016

Indifference, apathy and a healthy dose of so-whats

So the New Zealand flag will stay as it is.  I'm sorry to hear that - there was something rather nice about the idea of being part of history in the making (or the changing, as it may have been). I voted for change - but not because I wanted to see a different flag, or preferred one over the other.

Anzac Day is barely a holiday any more. And yet the media tells us 'more and more' people are turning up to Dawn Services to honour the fallen soldiers.

And now there's a big debacle about shopping on Good Friday. Should shops be open - we're not a Christian country any more after all....etc etc

Well actually, its been quite some time since my last confession, but here's my take:

The flag.  I voted for change because...well actually because I don't really care about the other one. I really don't.  This stuff about 'we fought under that flag' - I don't get that.  The freedom of NZ was not dependent on the picture on the flag. The flag symbolised NZ, true, but so does a silver fern, a kiwi, an All Black.  I don't care. I just don't care.  I wasn't one of those Kiwi travellers who stitched a flag on their backpack. I wore a silver fern for a while, a kiwi t-shirt from time to time, but the flag? Yeah nah.

Anzac Day...kind of the same.  Call me a cynic but I'd say there's a power of a lot of people who go to a Dawn Service because its an interesting thing to do, not because its a good thing to remember the soldiers who died fighting for NZ.  Or to remember those military who are still serving NZ.  Its entertainment.  A bit like, I'd dare to suggest, singing Christmas carols is for others.  ANZAC day a day off - yes I'm all for that because I don't think it's necessary for the shops to be open every day of the year.  But because it's ANZAC day? Nah, it's just another day to me.

And Easter. Ah Easter. Memories of Easter camp, special services at church, less so eggs and hot cross buns for me.  But most people - probably 90% - don't even see this as the context for Easter.  Should it be a public holiday? Refer previous comment about ANZAC.  But to honour the ''true meaning' of Easter - I don't care. I don't need a particular day to think about the Easter story. And I have a major discomfort that those same 90% who would most likely call the Easter story irrelevant at best, and a mad fairytale at worse, are still more than happy to take the stat day income and leave entitlements.  But actually I don't care.

The things that I am passionate about are not flags, holidays, religious observance, ritual.  

More is the pity that the energy that went into the flag debate - that of the close on 2 million people who voted - could not be put to better use.  What a different country we might live in then.  And issues like the pattern on a flag, the importance of a day in the year, whether the shops are open - those issues would not matter any more anyway.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Advice for my 13 year old daughter (that I wish I'd got myself....)

Tomorrow, my 13 year old daughter starts college. It hardly seems possible that she about to go to high school - and I suspect I am more anxious about it than her! She's been at a small country school for the first 8 years of her education, and we've experienced all the highs and lows that go with the big fish little pond/undiagnosed learning issues/little town clique life that we live.

But there it is, and over the summer holidays, as I've watched her shoot up taller than me, with better skin and hair that I ever had, let alone as a teenager, I've been thinking about what I want her to know as she starts this 'next stage' in her life. 

My days of high school weren't exactly fun. I was a total nerd who struggled to make friends and as I was in the 'little bit fat and got red hair' category, never really felt like I belonged nor was accepted. I was smart enough, as it turns out, but never realised this at school despite being in a high stream and doing weird subjects like art history and music. I left school at 16, and to this day regret that I never graduated, and that I can't even really look back on those 4 or so years of high school with rose coloured glasses. For all that though, I have turned out OK, made some lifelong friends, and can pick out a few high lights (and laugh at a few cringe worthy moments - skirt around my waist when I tripped on the steps comes to mind, as does the day I nearly knocked myself out on a lamp post because I was so busy looking to make sure the class bully wasn't too near me...).

But I digress. Here's my letter to the little princess, now not so little, and the things that I wish I'd known when I started high school:

It's tough being a teenager sometimes eh! And, it can be scary doing new stuff, and its a lot of change for you - here's some stuff to help guide you through it all...

Be a friend and be friendly - but remember that not everyone will want to be friendly back, nor be your friend, AND IT DOESN'T MATTER

Try everything - music, sport, clubs and groups - and remember that you won't like all or them, nor be good at everything AND IT DOESN'T MATTER 

Work hard - focus in class, do your homework - and remember that even though you might not be excellent at everything there'll be some things that you will shine at, and through that you'll find your way through school - AND IT DOES MATTER 

Think about your choices - people, classes, how you spend your class time and your free time - and remember that there will always be things (and people!) that can distract you, that can be unhealthy,and some that are just plain dumb or bad for you. Choose wisely because IT DOES MATTER 

Be kind to your mother! (and your father...)and all the other grownups in your life, who it will feel like are are constantly on your case, or annoying you, or asking too many questions, or all of those things at once. Lots and lots of people care about you and they are NOT trying to make your life miserable! But they want the very best for you and are interested in your life. Sometimes they will be your taxi driver, funder, counsellor or escape hatch. Answer their questions, smile even when you don't want to, (change your dress if you are asked too by your mother!) and treasure them because just like you, THEY MATTER

Remember this - you are a kind, interesting, talented and thoughtful girl. You have amazing potential and the chance to shine. Grab that opportunity with both hands! 

Love you!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tis the Season to be Jolly - The Annual Christmas Poem - 2015

Tis the Season to be Jolly

I like to think I'm organised, by shopping through the year
Snaffling up the bargains and squirrelling here and there
Which means of course come Advent, when all the rest are fraught
I'm the one who's oh so smug, my presents all but bought

But therein lies a problem - my recalls just not great
And so the Christmas present stash got rather over weight
(And to add insult to injury the challenge that I had
was triple gifts for Mum in there, and not a thing for Dad)

I also found a gift or two I'd bought as 'special things'
A ball gown for Niamh's formal dance, a pair of Angel Wings,
A pile of books, a stash of pens, a clutch of fake tattoos
The list went on, the pile it grew, but nothing I could choose

So fatefully, so fatefully, I headed for the city
A list this time clutched in my hand, (and budget mores the pity)
At last! At last, the work was done, the gifts all fit to wrap
All that was left was cards to write (and perhaps a Nana nap)

The tree is trimmed, the lights are hung, and ornaments abound
I've filled the fridge, and pantry, and had some friends around
I draw the line at Christmas tunes - that is a step too far,
but do concede if by some chance I hear them in the car

I've even soaked the Christmas mince, it's languishing in brandy
My Masterchefs will make the tarts (they really are quite handy)
We've wrapped the gifts and trimmed the tree, made visits far and wide
I swear we couldn't be more festive even if we tried

We've 'done the lights', a late night shop, and Tree-Awamutu
Just Christmas Day itself and  midnight mass still yet to do,  
It is the season to be jolly, and for a time I'll be 
but  Boxing Day can't come to soon - so I can pack up that darn tree. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Power of Words

I was recently asked to create an exhibition for the Te Awamutu Museum. This is my essay, which will be displayed in the cabinet with my chosen items.


 As a young girl I dreamt of being a journalist -  I wanted to write for a newspaper, or be a reporter for a radio station (the idea of TV was rather beyond my comprehension).  Or maybe work in a library - that was appealing too. How else could I feed my insatiable appetite for words, and for reading, as well as prove the critics wrong!? (who said I talked too much and my written word just wasn't very good). I had my first article published in the NZ Women's Weekly when I was just 7 years old - and so began a lifelong love of words. 

I was one of those kids who read cereal boxes. Who when going to the feed store for chicken meal, would read the ingredients on the drum.  Who had a radio going all the time (and who still holds the secret shame of listening to talk back and National Radio). Who probably would have had a blog, had blogs even existed in 1973!  But who didn't do well at school, hated exams, and was petrified of sharing anything remotely personal anyway. (It also didn't help that I was left handed, and so anything I wrote smudged the minute the ink hit the page.)

Words - words were everywhere.  My house had books of all kinds, an unlimited supply of paper and pens, and even a typewriter that was mine to use whenever I wanted to. I grew up in a house of conversationalists too - and it came as a great surprise to me to discover that most people DIDN'T discuss the state of the nation, women's lib, or the merits of the current Prime Minister over dinner, like we were wont to do! 

At 14 I was told by my teacher that  I wasn't very good at writing essays. At 16 I discovered that working in a library didn't mean I'd get to read books all day, and that I'd have to go to University to learn how to be a proper librarian. And at 18 I was told I wasn't 'tough' enough to be a journalist.  So that was that.  

So, I became a banker (as you do) and satisfied the itch by writing the occasional article for a community newspaper, and some strongly worded letters to the Editor of the Waikato Times.   At 20, I went overseas, and as email hadn't yet been invented, wrote long detailed letters home every week for four years - suitably censored for parents and grandparents eyes, but also full of long lyrical descriptions of the places I went, the people I met, and the food I ate. Phone calls were horribly expensive, so words were chosen carefully for those too (although they did include an engagement announcement, excited plans for return trips home, and the odd request for money...)

Time went on and I turned to technical writing - it was part of my job to write manuals, and training workshops.  Hardly the stuff of a great writer, but again, it satisfied the need for words.  The Internet came, and my typing became word docs, and eventually blogs, video logs, and web content.  Letter writing almost out the window, but not the dream of being a journalist - it lingered and still does. I write two blogs which have had more than 50,000 people read them. 

I established a local paper in Pirongia seven years ago - it's small and published only a few times a year, but it's mine and I'm proud of it.  This summer, it's twelve pages long, and my editorial is written about a former Te Awamutu resident for whom I had great admiration.

Words can be cruel and like many I've been on the end of a few of those.  But they can also be powerful - written or spoken, it is possible to change peoples life - indeed the course of history - with them.  

Whether it's a conversation 'over the tea cups', the power of a  strongly worded letter, a history changing submission to Government (as is the work of the Chamber of Commerce), a courageous conversation over the phone, or an attention grabbing headline that makes you sit up and think - or better, get up and act - the power of words is formidable.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015


I mentioned to a friend last week that I was feeling a whole lot let PollyAnna'ish that I usually am - she responded: 'you're allowed to you know'.  Yikes - am I!?!?! 

Never given myself actual permission for that before!

There are days and there are days - and then there are weeks, months even,  when you (erh-herm I mean ME when I say that obviously) that are so nutty that one (you, me, I) is not about putting ones  head up for air  but possibly just hoping that a few globs of oxygen are going to make it down as far as said head is buried.

That's how the past couple of months have been for me anyway - and it's probably my own fault. An inability to say NO when asked to do stuff, a tendency to operate by way of short bursts of productivity interspersed with long periods of pfaffing (a phrase stolen from someone else but SO good!), and a general sense that THE YEAR IS RUNNING OUT AND THERE'S STILL SO MUCH TO DO (what's with that anyway? - It's not like the world is gonna end on December24...) - these things are have resulted in me having massive to do lists, running from one place to the next, day in day out, cramming as much into my weekends as possible, going to bed too late, eating a lot of wraps and salad (not all bad but kinda sick of quick food), and imbibing fairly impressive quantities of coffee.  

I'm not really complaining as such - it's mostly all stuff I do want to do, including getting ready for a new job, finishing some overdue renovations on my house, starting some new projects at the office, the usual family and friend things - and doing kid stuff around my work schedule, but there's the odd day when I come up the drive after a 12 or 14 hour day and think - STOP THE WORLD I WANT TO GET OFF!!!!

The bummer is of course, that most of us, me included, don't get the privilege of opting out.  Pesky stakeholders like my Bank, my family, my community, my employers, put pay to that.  I am torn between admiring those that say 'and for that reason I'm out' and actually pack up and go, and thinking that they are copping out of being a grown up.  

Its the plague of the white middle class woman (and man) of a certain age - have a full and busy life, get a bit bored, get a LOT bored, try some new stuff, still feel bored, and decide that the only solutions is a 180 of life as we know it.  (yeah OK so I am a bit jealous of people who have the nerve to do that even if they don't have the means or the sense not to....).   

Its end of year - everyone is busy and stretched right?  My life is not non stop excitement - and I kind of miss the 'damn it let's do it' lifestyle I have experienced in the past - but it's still pretty full on. Good stuff - people stuff. Good for the soul if only I let it be stuff.   And no, quitting is not an option.  And the stress bunny that sits just inside my ribcage is just going to have to sit tight for a couple more weeks. 

In the meantime, I'm keeping this list handy - just in case I have the time and inclination to act on it's advice....(thanks eponis.tumblr.com, I might even take a selfie)