The circle of life

Today as the world mourns the loss of Robin Williams, my family welcomes the next generation. Baby Boy Sewell was born today, a big cuddly 4.2kgs following an arduous three days. Last I heard he was still not officially named. I imagine his parents are still a bit overwhelmed. It was definitely labour!

He is my great-nephew. His proud great-grandmother rang us from a different hospital just after 9pm with the news. Her life is also waning. At 86 years of age things are beginning to fail at an alarming rate. And each malfunction triggers another event. At present she is in hospital on almost total bedrest to heal a fracture in her pubis bone.

The circle of life.

There is a lot of death in the world today. And much of it seems to be the result of people’s actions The Israel-Gaza conflict, Syria, planes being shot out of the sky.

And then then are people who decide to end their lives by their own actions. Like Robin Williams. Everyone is talking about Robin. About his depression. His addictions. And so I won’t.

I am going to hope Baby Boy Sewell gets the chance to grow old. I hope he never feels the need to take another person’s life. I hope he never feels the need to take his own. For all those jihadists, terroists, Isis-ists were once newborn babies filled with hope and promise. Robin Williams was once a newborn baby whose only worry or fear concerned food.

The circle of life. Let nature take its course.


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!”

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.


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


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..




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!



Happy birthday.

Two little words which say so much and so little.

My birthday is very soon. It is a “big one”. For a number of years peer pressure has been on. “What are you doing for your 50th? You have to have a party.”

Well, actually, I don’t. And I am not.

I am not worried about turning 50. In reality I will be one day older than the previous day, an experience I have coped with every day since the first morning after my birth in 1964. I am really looking forward to being in a new age group for running. Fist pump!!

I am worried about the birthday rituals.

Growing up birthdays were big. One of my early memories is standing on a chair in the kitchen beside mum. She was mixing a cake. For me. For my third birthday. We were talking. I remember happiness.

I remember turning five and going to visit Granny, a little wizened body in a bed. I showed her my new school suitcase. It was brown. It was a Sunday. I started school the next day with two others. I was only in that class for three weeks, getting fast tracked through the primers.

I had a party at seven. Again at 10. I remember my friend giving me a card telling me how great it was to be in “double number digits” – I remember her getting the words muddled. I was also one of the last in my school year to hit the double digits. Only Rachel was younger and she was a Seventh Day Adventist so they didn’t even have birthdays. I remember being horrified at that thought.

I quite like the idea now.

I had my 19th birthday in London, accidentally finding a gay bar in Hampstead. My 23rd birthday in Vancouver, almost getting arrested for drinking on the beach. My 24th birthday in the Sinai, riding a camel with no steering!

My 30th was set in 1964 – ladies a plate, men a crate. My 40th was a girls’ own karaoke party. And a big family dinner.

I like birthdays. But recently not my own.

Is it the advent of FB where your worth is measured by the number of people listed as friends. Where you post your birthday openly. And total random strangers wish you a happy day. My birthday is not listed. The people who matter to me know when it is.

So the big five oh. A couple of years ago I said to Andrew I didn’t want a party. But I wanted to acknowledge it in a big way. Like doing the Coast to Coast. Not Ironman, too cliched. He vetoed that idea. Put me on a lifetime ban. Too expensive to enter. To expensive to outfit yourself. Too much time/money to be spent in training. I acquiesced.

The Big Five marathon in Africa? Nope too expensive for us both to go. I wanted to share such an occasion with someone.

He said he would take me away for a week in the sun. I chose northern Queensland. He would organise it. Time ran out. He had no passport. No flights booked. Nothing. I offered him an out and said what the hell. Let’s go to Queenstown.

But less than three weeks out, I cannot trust him to have done anything. With three children, a business, his mother having a heart attack, I can see my birthday just slipping down the priority list.

I wish it would just slip off the radar completely.

Because honestly, I would rather not have it. Then I cannot feel disappointed.

But it is not presents I crave, but presence. It is not a FB reminder to post something inane on my wall, it is knowing that someone thought of me and what would make me smile and feel loved. Any day. Everyday. Not just one day.

I am over birthdays. I think we should celebrate our love for people every and any day. I am part of this initiative called paying it forward, where you randomly give or do something for someone because you have been thinking of them.

It has been fun. A dinner voucher emailed to a friend in the US for her local restaurant. Flowers to cheer up a friend having a bad day/week/life at work. And the smiles on three friend’s faces when I gave them little brooches I had made (pretty badly) celebrating their unique careers – priceless.

I like birthdays. I like presents. I like cake. I like parties. I’m just not that keen on my own. Unfortunately, the alternative is death!

Happy birthday. So cliched. Here’s to celebrating Happy random thinking of a special person day.

The title picture is from Mick Inkpen’s storybook, Kipper’s Birthday. About a dog who invites all his friends over for a birthday party “tomorrow” but forgets to deliver the invitations. Consequently he celebrates alone, feels unloved. But the next day, his friends turn up with things for a party. Kipper is a much loved character to my kids.

I had a dream …

My brain hurts.

I woke with a jolt this morning just before 6am. I had been having a dream, a version of the perennial dream I have when my “to do” seems “too much”.

This time I was going on a trip, I think on a ferry. I was lined up to board when I realised I didn’t have my wallet. I had to return to my hotel room and check. But I had already handed in my key. And I would lose my place in the line for boarding. Possibly even miss the ferry. I actually remember, in my dream, contemplating the need for a wallet, money, cards, on my trip. I decided they were essential.

I went back to my room, a convoluted side trip in my dream which involved escalators and a ballroom. I still didn’t have my room key but somehow had the master key to all the rooms. I stealthily entered. There was my wallet, still on the bed. And my phone. Oh, I hadn’t realised that I didn’t have my phone too.

Lucky I had gone back. But then I remembered that ages ago I had booked a trip to Fiji. For next week. I had no accommodation. And I needed to lose some weight. A feeling of panic overwhelmed me. Such a lot to do, and I still have this trip to complete as well.

I woke up.

I don’t have a trip to Fiji next week – but I do have my daughter’s 21st birthday party. Which is still being organised because the little Princess is pulling all the strings and being a major Drama Queen. If it was just any ordinary birthday I would say, sorry, sweetie, you have pushed your luck. But 21sts are big. A rite of passage.

I am now receiving all info re the party from her dad, who better tolerates and negotiates these dramatic episodes.

Unfortunately for me, he also lives in a make believe world, one where fairies produce birthday cakes and clean houses and dinners for 30 at the swish of a glittery wand.

Meanwhile I am just taking my list one item at a time, wishing I did have a trip to Fiji next week for recovery, and counting to 10, to myself, a lot.

I can also tick update blog off today’s list.

BTW I do have highly complex dreams and usually can remember them in great detail. Poor Andrew usually has to suffer through my retelling of them.

A Stitch in Time – and other words of wisdom.

Yesterday I stitched the last little cross in a piece I was making for my daughter’s 21st birthday.

It had been three years in the making, most of that stored in a bag in the lounge. The project seemed too daunting to start. But I was determined I would get it done. A few false starts in spring saw a little progress. But by October I realised I needed a plan.

One hour a day, at least five days a week, I would sit on my bed and stitch. I had to sit on my bed as I could use the bedside lamp to shine directly onto the fabric. One of the reasons I had been finding it so hard to do was I could no longer sit downstairs in the lounge at night and stitch whilst watching TV. My eyes are too old! I also was trying to do it secretly, without juliet knowing. Though I am sure she does – she is her mother’s daughter and incredibly nosey!

And slowly I made relentless forward progress. Mmmm, that sounds familar. Yet another facet of my life which is directly related to marathon running. I had a plan (one hour a day) and a training programme (the pattern for my project) but it was up to me to make it happen.

Like a lot of things in life, mistakes were made. Some required unpicking. Some were put in the “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Afterall the piece I was stitching is headed “Words of Wisdom from your Mom”. What better advice to my daughter could I give than that.

With Christmas and summer holidays looming, it was going to be touch and go if I would finish it in time. I worked on the more complicated portions aiming to get them all done before Christmas, leaving just the top and bottom phrases to complete while away.

Our first week of holidays was at Lake Rotoiti. New Zealand was stuck under multiple winter weather systems. The upside of this was I could happily stitch away all day, as Juliet had chosen to stay home in Christchurch. Actually when asked if she would like to come away she said, “Let me consider that. A week in a small house with old people and two smelly boys, or a week in an empty house with two cats and just me?”

Yesterday I completed it. All it needs now is to be washed, pressed and framed.

And yes, laying it out flat on the floor was definitely a Wow moment. I felt accomplished. Pride. Pleased.

The weirdest thing about cross-stitch is it really is an unlikely thing for me to do. But I love the feeling of creating something out of nothing, of watching a blank canvas fill with my work. It probably is a bit like a puzzle, all the counting squares and matching dots and squiggles.

But it definitely fulfills my need to be creative. The past decade or so this need had been supressed. By life, circumstances and desire. And it showed. But already I have a few other projects in mind ….

Cover photo: Juliet and her mum, Paris 2012 – a rare mother and daughter photo.

Pattern for “Love from Mom” by Sue Hillis
Relentless Forward Progress – A Guide to Running Ultra-Marathons by Bryon Powell