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!

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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.

Love is …..

What is love?

Apparently that is one of the most searched questions on Google. I know I have asked it myself.

Love is an emotion I am not sure I feel or receive.

Odd, isn’t it. I am married to my best friend. I have three kids. I know I probably do love them, but identifying that emotion is beyond me.

I know when I am cold. I know when I am hot. Happy. Sad. Hungry. In pain.

But I struggle to identify love.

Yes, I say I love things. Chocolate. Coffee. This book. That movie.

I don’t tell people I love them. Even when alone in the middle of the night, sitting with my dying mother, I found it hard to utter those three words. Eventually I did. Maybe she had been waiting for them all her life too, she died two hours later.

No-one told me they loved me when I was growing up. It was not the done thing.

I have lived most of my life struggling to even like myself, let alone love me. I took it as read that perhaps I was not very loveable. Even Andrew doesn’t really declare his emotions for me. The language of love in our family is a strong dialect of sarcasm. My kids are incredibly fluent. Though Robbie checks in with a touch on the shoulder as he passes. Jonny steals my glasses as he goes by. Juliet talks to me these days – high praise indeed. Andrew says, if he doesn’t add “you stupid bitch” to the end of his sentence, that is good enough.

But last night I felt something which I assume was love. For a person. Luckily it was my husband. He has been particularly supportive as I wrestle with a problem. I looked at his face. And this huge wave of warmth and emotion swept through my body.

Love.

Wow. I love my husband!!

Did I say it? Nope. Too chicken.

Maybe when he wakes up. Though the emotion I feel towards his snoring is definitely not love!

PS: Some of you might poo-poo the sentiments expressed above. Please remember this is what I feel, not what you perceive me to be or feel. My journey of healing through counselling has reinforced the importance of owning my feelings and emotions. No one has the right to judge me on those.

I know I have warped views on some things – love, sex, body image. I am working on them in my own time.

Celebrations

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.

Puppy Love

Piper is staying with us for 12 days while her mum and dad have a break in Los Angeles. Piper has stayed with us many times since she was a young pup of eight months. Her first visit was to help cure our young son, Jonny of his wariness around dogs. He was eight and weighed about 25kg. Piper weighed about the same.

On that first night Andrew and I went upstairs to tuck Jonny in. He was surrounded by a lot of big black canine love. I guess he was over his wariness.

Now Jonny is 18 and filled with teenager stuff. Piper is 12 and showing signs of her maturity. She no longer comes on 10k runs with me, she is on meds to stop her incontinence, and her muzzle is whiter than it was in her youth. Her days are filled with many nana naps.

There are still signs of her youthfulness. Taken to a park after 24 hours of rain she ran and bounded and leapt and darted all over the place for about 10 minutes. She dived into the lake and chased the odd seagull. She still has a fondness to get over excited about stones and anything resembling a stick – even if it is still attached to half a tree.

Our house is also home to two cats. Billy is the elder and about the same age as Piper. And Adidas is five. Both these cats have grown up with Piper visits. But it has taken a long time for them to tolerate her. To start with both would become extremely scarce during the day, and very nocturnal while Piper was asleep upstairs.

They don’t bother with that now. But they have perfected feline warfare.

One will sit on the bottom stair, just beside the front door – effectively blocking two escape routes. The other will sit beside the lounge door which is close to the bathroom/laundry door, effectively blocking those routes. Piper will fret between them. She is the size of a large labrador with all the courage of the Lion in the Wizard of Oz. Billy will wait all day under our bed for Piper to come in for a nap, then a stealthy paw will whip out and attack. Adidas will spend the day asleep on the dog bed. Both cats will spend an extraordinary amount of time in the kitchen waiting for food, theirs or Piper’s. It doesn’t matter. It torments the dog regardless.

Piper is asleep on the bed next to me, having a snoring competition with Andrew. Billy is lurking under the bed. He will sit there patiently until Piper gets down and then will hiss and growl.

Adidas will be sleeping on Piper’s bed. Just because she can. Last night she came upstairs and posed like a sphinx on the bed. Piper would come up to sneak onto the bed, see the cat, and whimper pathetically. This went on for about 30 minutes.

We love having Piper to stay. We appreciate that she is so well behaved. We respect her intelligence by spelling out the word W-A-L-K-I-E-S. We are amused by her telling it is time for the aforementioned activity when she comes to us with her lead in her mouth. We are overwhelmed by her affection and her belief that she is just little lap dog.

I love dogs. But I am not sure I want one for ever. Piper is a great compromise.

Plus when she goes home on Tuesday, her grateful mum will leave behind a bottle of duty-free gin. I think we have the best of both worlds.

A warm fuzzy

This morning I went running. Not that unusual. I run five or six days a week.

I didn’t relish the thought of running this morning. It was dark. It was wet. It was cold. Autumn arrived overnight about a week ago. But once I started I was fine.

I ran my go-to route to Hagley Park (2km), the figure eight loop around both sections (8km), and back home giving me a total of 12km. A nice number to log before breakfast.

I needed to stuff my beanie in a pocket and unzip my jacket relatively quickly into the run. And then I just ran, at a comfy pace, probably close to MP. I zoned out, as you do. Thinking about breakfast, planning my day, muesli or toast, budgeting money in my head, peaches or rhubarb, remembering what I need to tell Andrew. Completely inside my head.

“Robyn.” Someone calls my name. I turn and another lycra clad person wearing a jacket and headband is running back towards me. I. Have. No. Idea. Who. It. Is. It is darkish. I am not wearing glasses. And I am pretty crap at matching names/faces.

“Robyn, I just wanted to tell you I am running my first marathon.”

My lightbulb clicked. This woman and I have spent some time together before and after races. I have also bumped into her in the supermarket. Christchurch is just a village really with only 400,000 people. I thought her name was Debbie. (Google later confirmed it. Phew!)

We chatted. She was running with a group of men and then carrying on to complete two and a half hours. I was tempted to say I would run with her but my stomach was remembering the promise of muesli, rhubarb and yoghurt.

She finished by yelling over her shoulder as she ran to rejoin her group, “Thanks, Robyn, you inspired me!”

Wow! A warm fuzzy for a damp dreary day. Thank you, Debbie. I ran a little bit faster all the way home.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Grey. Dark. Damp. Drizzle. Dreary. Describing the weather outside. It is quite uninspiring.

I am sitting on my bed post long run, pre coffee with a friend. The clocks went back overnight. We are officially into winter time. This morning I woke at 6:30am according to the clock, most of which are still in yesterday’s time zone.

I got up, tripped over the cats, more than once, and prepared for my long run featuring hills. In new time I left the house just after 6am. The ground was wet underfoot. Precipitation of some description had occurred during the night. The early morning was eerie. It reminded me of the morning of 9/11 which had had similar weather. That day though I imagined all those souls lost in the rush to get to wherever they were headed. I have checked the news headlines – no similar mass deaths have been reported.

It was a plodding sort of day, as it is when you need to clock up 30k. I ran towards Hagley Park. Visibility was poor and the few cars out and about made their presence known only by matching orbs of light. It was quiet.

Hagley was surprisingly devoid of human life too. I cannot remember seeing anyone through here. I left South Hagley, short-cutted through Tower Junction and headed down Barrington Street. There was more traffic and the occasional pairing of cyclists heading out, clad in lycra, headlamps flashing. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about cycle safety and should high vis wear be compulsory. The only thing hi vis about what I was wearing was my bright blue and orange Camelbak. Though Andrew asked me later if I was wearing a headlamp. Oops, no!

And then I was at the bottom of Hackthorne. 10k done. 20 left to do. It was time to head up. And up. And keep going up.

Now I was seeing other people, walking, biking, running. All ages, all shapes. I saw people I knew, two mums from dancing, a group from another running club, and others with whom I just swapped greetings. A fine drizzle coated me with a film of moisture. My hair was dripping. About 100m ahead people blurred into the grey haze. It was the sort of morning many would just roll over and catch some more zzzzzs. But the diehards and dumbarses were out there doing it.

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And that is my wow today.

Good on everyone who got a bit wet and a bit sweaty and a bit puffed this morning. I am sure whatever you did was your equivalent of my 30k (with 12 of those pretty much climbing). I am sure with whomever you shared your exercise time appreciated tye company, whether it was your usual training buddies, your partner, your dog, or the random voices in your head (pick me, they all cry!).

I hope your post exercise cuppa was just what you felt like – I had a ginormous bowl of trim flat white, and gluten free pancakes with banana, bacon and maple syrup whilst reading the Sunday Star Times at The Cup. Andrew being the best training support person a mad runner could have collected me from there.

And I really hope someone else reads this and is inspired to get out and do it even if the weather is a bit crap. Because it doesn’t matter how much money we throw at it, or what scientific advances are made, we cannot change the weather. And for most of us, most of the time, it is not too bad.

“When it’s pouring rain and you’re bowling along through the wet, there’s satisfaction in knowing you’re out there and the others aren’t.”
Peter Snell

Cover photo

Contents photo: taken from Sign if the Bellbird looking down Lyttelton Harbour.

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