A Happier New Year, 2017 Style

When another New Year rolls around, quite a few of us make resolutions to make this year different from the last.  We’re going to lose weight, or stop drinking so much, or run three times a week.  How often we stick to these resolutions really depends on our outlook and our drive to make such a significant change in our lives.
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“These Are Not the Emotions You’re Looking For…”


Okay, so got a cheeky Star Wars reference into yet another post about my depersonalization and depression; score one for me.

Seriously, though, yesterday was a very difficult day for me.  It honestly didn’t start out that way.  I woke up early as I had an appointment with the sleep specialist to check on how my CPAP machine was going.  It went very well, and it made me very happy, which made my mood quite bright and cheerful.

On to our second chore while we were out: work.  I needed to swap over the back-up drives (which I’d forgotten to do last Friday) and also some work on allocating student loans to the appropriate Public Trust accounts.  The second part really didn’t need to be done yesterday, but because I was at work, I thought it would be easier to get everything done in one fell swoop, so I could spend the time during this school holidays actually relaxing without much work at all instead of working every day, a little here, a lot there, and forgoing the whole reason of having a break like I normally do.  One of the things I am learning in counselling is I need to step-back and have some “me” time a lot more often than I have been over the past 20 years or so.

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Worlds Apart

By the time you read this, I’ll be jetlagged to here and back in Chicago on the first evening on our a six-week visit.  I honestly am excited beyond words.  Well, as excited as I can be with depersonalisation (although it does come ashore and retreat like the tide, and really depends on the day and how much stress I’ve had that day).

I was texting back-and-forth with my sister-in-law Darcie on Sunday, and the subject of living in New Zealand and visiting my stomping grounds in Chicago came up.  I have spoken about this before with other people, so the concept isn’t exactly new to me, but I thought it seemed timely to bring it up again.


You Can Say “Happy 4th of July” But You Can’t Say “Happy Waitangi Day”?!?

Many countries have a national day, a day that’s a holiday but celebrates or recognizes their heritage, culture, and history.  In the USA, we have Independence Day, more commonly called “The Fourth of July”.  It’s a day where we acknowledge the country’s brave founders, men and women who declared their independence from the British Empire in a document called the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776.  The rest, they say, is history.

Fourth of July Fireworks near the Statue of Liberty
Photo from The Hot Sheet Blog – http://www.thehotsheetblog.com/2012/06/25/phoenix-fourth-of-july-celebrations-and-fireworks/

When I lived in the US, we would either gather with family or with friends (or a combination of both) and see the local parade before having a BBQ and maybe watch the village’s fireworks display that night.  It’s usually a day to hang out, celebrate, and enjoy your freedom.  The key word here is “celebrate”.

Most importantly, when you see friends and family or even people you don’t or may barely know, you say, “Happy 4th of July”.  It’s just kinda a normal thing to say.

New Zealand’s equivalent to Independence Day is Waitangi Day.  Originally not always recognized as a public holiday, Waitangi Day switched its name to New Zealand Day for a while until Muldoon’s government felt the name “New Zealand Day” detracted from the significance of the day:  the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British and Māori on 6 February 1840.  And so, the name reverted back to Waitangi Day.

The first Waitangi Day I spent here, I went around wishing everyone a “Happy Waitangi Day”.  People kinda looked at me like I was nuts; they were probably thinking I was some crazy Yank who had no clue what he was talking about.  Noel said that one really didn’t wish people a “Happy Waitangi Day” in New Zealand.  I knew there had been issues around the day, most significantly the injustices some Māori felt the British had created under the Treaty.  To be honest, the New Zealand Government has, for the most part, made big leaps and bounds in addressing these grievances in an attempt to help Māori achieve and succeed.  At least, I kept telling some people who’d go on about how poorly the British (and then New Zealand government) had treated Māori, they didn’t displace Māori from their land then place them on reservations or segregate them from the general public like other countries with indigenous people had done. *cough* America *cough* Australia *cough* Many African countries. *cough*

The Fourth of July in the US is a day of celebration and recognition.  More importantly, it’s a day of pride and patriotism for the country.

Waitangi Day is a public holiday.  Some people have BBQs, some just chill and hang out, some go shopping.  For more radical activists on both ends of the spectrum, it is a day of protest, activism, and division.

Protests at Waitangi Day Celebrations
Photo from Stuff. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6370107/Waitangi-flagpole-protest-ends-quietly

Case in point from this year:  Titewhai Harawira threw her toys out of the cot because marae elders wanted another kuia (female elder) to lead Prime Minister John Key onto the Waitangi marae.  This is the same woman who told former Prime Minister Helen Clark she couldn’t speak on the marae due to Māori protocol not allowing women to speak on the marae yet doesn’t follow that same protocol herself.  She made Clark cry.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of Helen Clark, but the woman was our Prime Minister; she deserved more respect from a woman who claims she’s full of mana.

It doesn’t end there, good people.  No, one of Titewhai’s offspring decided to disrupt a re-enactment.  One of her other sons, Mana party leader and MP Hone Harawira, who isn’t above courting controversy himself, stated that Waitangi Day is, “about focusing on issues that were important to Māori.” Two of Hone Harawira’s nephews assaulted the Prime Minister on Waitangi Day in 2009.

(Noel said yesterday, when the whole Titewhai bun-fighting over who would lead the PM onto the marae affair raised its ugly head, that he thought the entire family should be tied to a flagpole or banned entirely…)

Those from the other end of the spectrum probably have or will emerge to say that that Māori shouldn’t have any special rights above others and the Treaty of Waitangi should be scrapped, or Waitangi Day should be de-legitimized as a public holiday in place of another national day, like ANZAC Day.  Even former ACT MP Dr. Muriel Newman called Waitangi Day “Our national day of shame” and argues her reasons why it is.

I personally don’t feel these actions are solutions to the problems.  Sure, Māori may have legitimate grievances, but there are many other days throughout the year and many processes, including the Waitangi Tribunal, to address these.  Likewise, those non-Māori calling for the abolishment of Waitangi Day (and everything associated with it) should push harder to make it a day of celebration.

I think there’s a small fringe of radicals on either side of the political spectrum, jumping up and down, making a lot of noise.  Of course, to sell papers or raise ratings, the media latch on to this like a leech to its host.  This kinda stuff sells.  It might sell, but it’s divisive and destructive.

Even Labour leader David Shearer, a man I honestly don’t have a lot of time for, expressed his opinions supporting celebrating Waitangi Day in the Dominion Post today.

In the US, the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall”, is important.  United, as a nation, we can do anything.  So, as our national day, the day on which our modern nation of New Zealand was essentially created, as an agreement between non-Māori and Māori alike to co-exist harmoniously, we need to think of ways to celebrate those things that make us different but, more importantly, those things that make us great as a nation.

Let’s go forward and use the day wisely, as a celebration of all things New Zealand, all things Kiwi, all things that makes this beautiful, wonderful country great.

Happy Waitangi Day!

Happy New Year… Nearly a Month Late!

Happy New Year… nearly a month late.

I have to admit that after I posted my Christmas decoration blog, I was facing burn out with all the tasks to complete at work (results, diplomas, international examinations, graduation, et cetera) and once we hit the Christmas break, I vowed I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want to do and just relax.  It worked pretty much, which, for me, is no small feat.

Christmas came and went too fast for us.  Noel wasn’t well most of the break, so that meant we really didn’t do much.  To be honest, that was fine by me because I spent the time doing stupid silly things like playing Sims 3 (which ended up being more stressful than not because the damned newest expansion pack, Seasons, doesn’t work very well on pretty much everyone’s computers) and being a little creative.

The New Year hit me rather hard.  I admit, I cried.  I was glad to see the end of 2012, which had been such a roller coaster of a year for me, tacked on to the end of 2011 like the false ending of, well, a roller coaster you think is going to stop but it picks up again for another final lot of thrilling and scary spins.  I missed Jenah.  Some of my friendships seem to be getting more and more distant, and it’s hard enough to try to make friends in Christchurch as is.  I was homesick.  But I was finally feeling emotionally slightly better.

2013 arrived, and, at first, it felt no different from 2012.  There was still that apprehension about work with the Targeted Review of Qualifications (TRoQ) and our upcoming External Evaluation and Review (EER), all through NZQA, plus the looming threat of whether we’d get enough students to meet our funding requirements.  No pressure.  No pressure at all.

I don’t know why, but something came over me to say that life is not all about work.  I seem to be going back to that message all the time.  My parents and grandparents instilled in me the value of working hard in the job you are in to be successful, but this wave of longing to expand my horizons, almost to the level of panic, rushed over me.  And then I felt suddenly positive and creative and raring to go with that.

One of the creative ideas I have been toying with is creating my own Star Trek movie using CGI.  I have seen some excellent ones and some not-so-good ones, and it irks me that some of the not-so-good ones act like they are better than Aliens.  I’m not that great with the whole CGI thing but I do have a sharp image in my mind about settings.  It would obviously not involve the characters established in the movies and TV shows, so part of the challenge would be to set up new characters the viewers would care about.  And I was also thinking of cobbling together some of my ideas and characters in my fan fiction universe to accomplish the movie (although only a featured starship, one of the enemies, and a region of space would show up with a few cameos from some of the other characters).  I have been thinking of a good piece of drama.  Sure, there could be a few phaser blasts here or there, but a character drama really is what has made some Star Trek episodes and movies great in the past.  Plus, whoever helps me with the CGI won’t die from establishing too many special effects shots!

Another challenge would be to build up my non-Star Trek writing.  The problem with this has been that I get so bogged down in consistency that I can’t seem to just write something down and worry about the nitty gritty later.  I did have a successful shot at writing a short story for an anthology I wanted to create, although it worries me because the supernatural angle seems to have been done a bit too much.  I want to make it as realistic as possible from several different characters’ viewpoints but hopefully leave the stories ambiguous in the readers’ minds as to whether or not the characters are reading supernatural things into everyday events.  In my mind, this could lead to starting my Masters in Creative Writing in 2014, because I need to have several stories built up in a portfolio before I apply.  The thing that worries me is I feel very devoid of ideas right now.  The same old ideas keep churning over in my head, and I’m trying to distance myself from anything that can be construed as autobiographical or semi-autobiographical to be honest.

Of course, in all this, I’m afraid I won’t do well enough or that the standard I set is too high and I can’t reach it or I’ll just plain burn out or lose interest before I finish.  And the biggest worry is rejection.  But then again, what do I have to lose if I don’t do it?

Just last week, I received some devastating news.  My cousin Greg, who was a year younger than me almost to the day, passed away suddenly.  It has rocked me to the core, and made me more apprehensive about my own destiny and my own life.  If the earthquakes have taught me anything, it’s that you don’t know what’s around the corner.  Do I work my butt off to get these things I listed above done, and hope my work somehow becomes a footnote in history, or do I just drift my aimlessly in life like a boat without a rudder and hope I’m remembered for good reasons when I go?

Yes, 2013 is going to be an interesting year indeed.

And Now, What You’ve All Been Waiting For… Christmas 2012

Christmas lights all blurry
Christmas lights all blurry

Okay, so apologies for the delay in getting the Christmas 2012 blog going.  With work being busy, and Noel and I having a gazillion things to do lately, one or the other of us has been dragging our feet at one time or another.

All the Christmas decorations are up that will be up for this year.  We have quite a collection of Christmas decorations and things, and every year we miss a few here or there.  This year, we’re missing our Santa with a snowglobe (with a list of who’s naughty and who’s nice), our Christmas train for around the tree, and other little bits and pieces.

Our traditional Christmas tree
Our traditional Christmas tree

Noel and I have built up our Christmas collection over the years.  In our front living room, we have a traditional Christmas tree (pre-lit) with red and gold ornaments.  We skip the garland or tinsel because we have two rather rambunctious cats who would get the tree on the ground in about three minutes flat by tugging on the stuff til the tree couldn’t take it any longer.

Alas, I digress.

We also have a large light-up reindeer that sits in the window next to the tree.  It has Christmas lights through its antlers to make it look like it’s a bit clumsy.  It reminded Noel of Jenah so, of course, he had to have it.

The piano has a Christmas carol book open on it (this year: “Joy to the World”) and a small Christmas tree with white lights.  This year, Noel has added a menorah for Hanukkah, sitting on our relatively new hall table (right beside the front door).

Christmas wreath on the front door
Christmas wreath on the front door

Outside, we aren’t as garish as some of those houses with 9 gazillion lights, but we decorate what I think is tastefully.  Noel (who is less afraid of heights than me) climbs the ladder every year to put them up and take them down, and nice enough to put up with what he calls my OCD to make sure the lights are all on solid and not different random patterns (it irks me!).

This year, Noel brought out one of his super-duper cameras and took a picture of our house as the sun was almost fully set.

The house as the sun sets
The house as the sun sets

The funniest thing is that, this year, we seem to be the only house on our block to have such a display up, so people slow down and admire it pretty much all evening, which is lovely.  Glad that we can bring at least a little cheer to other people in what’s been a very topsy-turvy last two Christmases for Christchurch and the Canterbury region.

You might recall I said “our front living room” before.  That’s right.  We have two living rooms.  It’s rather typical in newer New Zealand houses.  The front living room is what I’d like to think is similar to where visitors were first received in old English homes.

The back living room is connected to our kitchen, with a breakfast bar and dining room, in an open plan.  We place quite a few Christmas knick-knacks around the place in that area.  The main Christmas feature, though, is our white Christmas tree.

White Christmas tree
White Christmas tree

Jacqui’s mother Ann bought this tree for under $5NZ at Farmer’s, where she works, a few years back.  It’s been an extremely durable tree and been well worth the investment.

This year, Noel and I bought new lights for it.  The first lot of lights were strings of 25 LED lights (blue) that had sparkly tinsel on them.  We would still be using them if they hadn’t been so short!  So we raided TradeMe and found 3 10-meter, 100 LED light strings; the above is the result.  I think it looks stunning.

While I realise all my friends and family are not Christian, and they know I respect them for whatever or whomever they believe (or don’t believe) in, Christmas is a very special time for me.  There is something in the story of a father who loves those under his care so much that he sends his own son to be sacrificed to save those under his care.  For me, though, I have very good memories of Christmas (for the most part), of fun with friends and family, and that’s why Christmas is so very special to me.

Happy holidays!

Christmas lights and ornaments
Christmas lights and ornaments