Bob the Builder

10 weeks ago I had a plan, a slate roof tile off the Christchurch Cathedral and four lengths of manky 4×2.

I was standing in this dusty shabby room with six other newbies while a couple of “experts”, looking highly competent and able, industriously worked on wine racks and drawer units.

Somehow today I brought home this. A coffee table featuring my slate tile as an inset centrepiece.

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The roof tile was a gift to Andrew and me about five years ago. The Cathedral Chapter had to re-roof the cathedral and decided to sell the tiles to recover some of the costs. Post earthquake the ruined Cathedral crumbles away in the square. I found the slate tile when sorting out a cupboard. It needed to be used somewhat significantly.

The timber has been recycled from someone’s house. Someone’s home. Destroyed by the earthquake. Demolished by Cera. I don’t know where it came from but I am pleased to give it another life.

When I first cut it to length and fed it through the thickness planer I loved how the mankiness was stripped away to reveal the hidden beauty of rimu and kauri. I used the rimu laminated together for the table top. The sturdy kauri became the four legs.

I feel quite confident myself using a variety of powertools, though the skill saws still scare me slightly. But the planers, the router and the sanding machines, even the biscuit joiner – no worries, mate.

Yes, there were cock ups along the way. But they are how only visible to my own critical eye. And actually I think they add to the rustic charm.

I still need to glue the slate down in the recess. The legs need to be unscrewed and then glued and using longer screws re-attached to the table top. Finally I need to seal and finish it so we can use it as it was designed to be used. A coffee table. Not evidence that Bob (what my boys call me) is having a mid-life crisis.

My course ended tonight. I said good bye to Bruce the tutor. Some people will have to return next term to finish their projects. But my father is really looking forward to helping me finish mine. He has made a couple of pieces of furniture in our lounge. I can’t wait to add my own creation to the collection.

I am feeling pretty chuffed. And so relieved it sits flat and solid on the floor!

From nature to nurture

Wow. What a wonderful weekend.

Which although began on Friday afternoon made me stop and stare on Saturday morning when I was setting off for a frosty run through big country.

Seeing the sun rise turn the mountain range a rich peach colour.

Moments later the brighter sun illuminates the feather fronds of toetoe which shine golden like tinsel.

Looking back at the crisp sharp edges of the mountain ridge which serrates the intense blue of an early morning sky.

Wow. You don’t see that sleeping in on a Saturday morning in Christchurch.

I wasn’t in Christchurch though. I had a girls’ weekend with four fantastic friends.

It has become an annual tradition that the five of us get away somewhere. Like most Christchurch women we gravitate to Hanmer as it is less than two hours drive from home. The small town offers something for everyone whether you want to be excessively active or gently stroll, shop til you drop, soak in the thermal pools, wine and dine or coffee and cake.

Our tight group met between 15 and 20 years ago through playcentre. We have shared the highs and lows of parenting, marriage, careers and families. We all bring our own unique piece to the complete group.

This weekend was much needed as 2014 has brought about many changes in our working lives. No longer is there a window of opportunity when we are all available to grab a coffee during the day. Our busy lives often mean weeks go by without any opportunity to catch up.

This weekend we did.

Maybe the idea of a weekend away is to relax. I always find I pack so much in I need a day or two to recover. My legs hurt from running on steeper than usual trails. I ate and drank far more than I usually do. I stayed up late – for me! And my tummy muscles still ache from the belly laughing sessions we had.

Wow is for weekends away. Time with friends, friends with whom you feel so comfortable sharing the good and the bad, friends who you know are really laughing with you when you muddle up their names, Shawn and Dona. Friends who would happily answer to Robyn, because when three out of five were given that name at birth, it just makes sense that the others use it too.

So to the other two Robyns, to Dawn and to Shona, this is for you!

Family Ties

Shhhh. My family are sleeping. Andrew, my husband of 20 years, and our three progeny. All asleep in their beds. My family.

I caught up with more of my family last night. My siblings. My older sister, my older brother, and my younger brother. We do this occasionally, just us. No partners. It was pleasant. We have long abandoned childhood hierarchy and now meet as equals. Well mostly equals! We laughed and talked, caught up on each other’s news. We had fun. My brothers both surprised me with gifts for my birthday. I obviously have a drinking problem being given two large coffee cups (that’s morning drinks) and a bottle of gin (evenings sorted!)

We were acknowledging our mother’s birthday this coming Saturday. She died shortly after turning 70, almost 11 years ago.

Across this city are more members of my family. Dad lives with his girlfriend, the younger woman. I jest. Dad will be 88 in August. Noeline is a month younger. We are happy he has found someone to live with since Mum.

My mother in law has been a widow for almost 15 years. She had heart surgery last week following a heart attack a month ago. For the past five days she has been “imprisoned” in a rest home convalescing. Today her family are busting her out. She is going home. She can do this because if her family’s willingness to support her.

My brother-in-law will drive her to her appointments. My daughter will move in from today for at least two weeks, to sleep over and be there as company and in case of emergency. Other members of the family will help out as well.

One of my sisters-in-law has told my mother-in-law she cannot rely on her family for ever. Pam knows this. But apart from weakness from being unwell preceding her heart op, she is fine. She can tend to her own personal hygiene needs. Arrangements have been made to deliver a daily hot meal and for someone to vacuum, clean the bathroom, and change the bed.

The shortfall will be picked up by her family. Because they want to help her. Because she was miserable in her rest home box. Because even though it would have been better if she had moved out of the four bedroom rambling family home 10 years ago, she didn’t. It is still her home. And she wants to live there as long as she can.

It will make more work for us. It won’t be forever.

Family. Everyone has a family. You cannot be born without a mother or a father contributing those first cells. My family is very traditional. Mum. Dad. Kids. Other families are made up of different combinations. Most are connected by genetic make-up. But not all.

I may not always like my family, but I am glad to have one. To be the middle child in the middle generation. To know I have history behind me and the future ahead.

So let’s drink to family. Cheers!

(It is early morning as I write this, so I raise my coffee cup!)

Losing the labels

Hi. My name is Robyn and I like hugs.

That was a strange sentence to write. For so many years I have been Robyn who doesn’t like hugs. It was a label I gave myself. Along with shy. Fat. Frumpy. Worthless.

These labels are peeling off. The ink fading. The words no longer relevant.

These labels have been my security blanket. They have defined me in my mind as others would see me. I feel exposed and vulnerable without them. But it is time to let them drop off and be forgotten.

I have grown. Which is a good thing because it means that I am not just alive but I am living. But without any labels how will I and others know who I am.

Who am I?

Hi. I am Robyn. I like being hugged.

Hi. I’m Robyn, I am Andrew’s wife, and mum to three wonderful people.

Hi. I’m Robyn. I am a runner. Actually I am the Canterbury marathon champion! Now that’s a pretty cool label.

Hi, I’m Robyn, and I’m ok.

A sight to behold

This morning I was treated to an awesome natural wow. It is one I get to enjoy many times a year but it still amazes me everytime I see it.

The Southern Alps, covered with a fresh dump of winter snow, as seen from the top of the Port Hills.

I run most Sundays up there, for about 90mins. It is usually an easy 15k of conversation, the hardest part being keeping the conversation going as we keep an even pace up and down the undulations.

The Alps which reach a height of more than 3000m lie 70 west of Christchurch. Most days I catch glimpses of their majestic glory. But to see such a wide panorama from the many vantage points on the Port Hills. Wow!

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Picture credit

Cover picture credit

To sleep or not to sleep, that is the question.

Insomnia must be one of the loneliest conditions known to mankind. I should know. I have spent many a dark cold hour awake while the rest of my world sleeps.

Lately I have been better at staying in bed all night. Sometimes even staying asleep for most of it. But for the past month my mate Mr Sandman has been MIA.

Tonight I slept spasmodically from about 9:30pm until 3am. I tossed and turned for about 30 minutes and then I took action.

There was some computer work I needed to do. And so I did it. Downstairs in the office which is mostly used by our 16 year old son to play complex online games with his mates. Downstairs in the office where everything which doesn’t have a home gets dumped. Downstairs in the office where empty coffee cups, dirty plates, and chocolate wrappers litter the floor and desk surface. Phones go flat in here. Important papers become buried. Pens, scissors and sellotape are never where they should be.

I sat amongst the chaos and in the middle of the dark and lonely night I put to right a spreadsheet. And it felt good to send that off via Google drive. One less worry to weigh me down.

I have a number of worries which churn around my head at night. My mother-in-law is having heart surgery on Tuesday. Meanwhile we have been taking turns at sleeping over at her place in case she needs help in the night. It is not arduous. It is just a disruption to routine.

We also need to keep her clear of bugs. It is winter. Damp, cold, dreary winter. Bugs are thriving and picking on my boys who perhaps are not poster boys for a clean healthy lifestyle. All three men in my family have sore throats and queasy tummies. I don’t want either.

There are a few other things which have been putting pressure on me lately. Nothing major but the accumulation of little sticks soon becomes an unmanageable bundle.

On Friday I threw my toys out of the cot. Just enough to let it be known to the world that i had too much on. It felt good.

And funny enough, other people stepped up and took responsibility.

So wow. Wow for being big enough to say, “hey, I cannot handle all this.” Wow, for having people around me who understand that sometimes life does get too much and sharing the load is easier all round. Wow, for saying no and not feeling guilty.

And now I hope to snuggle down and have a little more sleep.

50 wows for 50 years in one run!

Today is my birthday, my 50th.

I celebrated with a run as I like to do on my birthday. It was awesome.

Andrew dropped me at the start of this track. He arranged to pick me up 90 minutes later at Moke Lake. His parting words were, “you know you are insane!”
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I ran through bush, bird song being the only other sound I heard. It was still. Cold. And almost raining. It was also straight up until I hit this spot beside Lake Dispute.

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A big tough hill, but I ran all the way over it. I might be literally over the hill, but certainly not figuratively!

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I found a cute wee musterer’s hut settled amongst the matagouri and bush. I preferred the musterer’s accommodation we had the other night, but this was authentically New Zealand..

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Then an easy downhill track through a paddock of cattle beast, who carried on eating as I ran by.

Traversing Moke Lake, around the head and back along the shingle road until I met my support person. He had bananas and a peanut slab!

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