Wednesday, September 30, 2009

4. Postcards

When it comes to postcards when travelling I always have the best of intentions. I but the postcards very early on my holiday, and then never end up posting them in time; this means that I normally arrive home before the postcard.

Now for me Twitter, Facebook, email and texting probably help me stay in touch with my husband and family while I am away. Aside from texting, the other options provide an awesome way to send photos to people. Living in the ‘digital photography’ age means that people can take a photo, and then upload it instantaneously for people at home to view.

So, sorry postcards it will be electronic for me now on in. It also means that I do not have to negotiate the post office to get stamps.

3. Duty Free (best and worst)

Love Duty Free shopping. It feels like I am getting such a bargain, when in reality I am probably not. I really enjoy smelling all the different perfumes and looking at the gadgets. I have not brought perfume duty free for years because I was a Le Reve consultant and had all the perfume I could ever ask for.

For the past few years my alcohol allowance (and often my boss’s when we travel for work) has been allocated to my good friends. I end up coming back with between 3-6 bottles of dark rum for them. We are not really spirit drinkers, so it is not really a big deal.

I have just discovered that there is a Walker & Hall at Auckland airport which is fantastic, as I am addicted to my Pandora bracelet.

One thing over the past 8-12 months that has really irritated me has been the forcing out of Regency Duty Free by DFS. It was so underhanded and in my opinion just wrong. I think that competition keeps companies honest, and competition is not always a bad thing. After all the fighting and arguments for and against, I know see that they have brought in another duty free shop called JR to Auckland airport. Which leads me to think perhaps they did not want “just one” duty free shop, but wanted Regency out; might have to do a bit of research on that.

2. The little packets of nuts

I wrote this halfway between rainy Auckland and the super sunny Gold Coast, listening to ‘Ego’ by Beyonce. I did actually write it on a sick bag (not used) because I had nothing else to write on.

There is not much that I can say about those small bags of nuts that you get when you fly. Honestly, I think it is more of a domestic travel thing however; I can talk about in-flight food.

Normally when I travel I tend to select the vegetarian option as I do not eat red meat or pork. This usually saves me from some near-miss food disasters and it also means that I get my food first; getting my food first means that I can sleep and relax.

I think that Emirates offer the best in in-flight food and entertainment. You get a cute little menu, although I often wish that I had not taken the vegetarian option when I look at Mark’s menu. Also, on their website they have the LARGEST choice of different meals for people who have allergies, or do not eat specific foods.

The only truly hideous meal I have had was flying from Chicago to LA when I got a vegan meal instead of vegetarian – YUCK!

Weight-loss guru Susan Powter slams in-flight food, and suggests that people take their own meals when they fly. Before flying this time I ate before I got on the plane, and slept through breakfast. It is also impossible now to bring your own food options when you fly unless it is pre-packaged.

My suggestions for in-flight food if you do not enjoy it is to either eat before you go and check which food you can take on the flight with you, or choose an airline like Emirates that will offer you better choices.

Monday, September 21, 2009

1. Air Travel

It is the night before I am due to travel to Australia to meet my gorgeous new nephew in the Gold Coast. I said to @josiecampbell that I would write a few blogs while I was away and this is the first blog in a list of 13 that she gave me as suggestions.

I do not really enjoy too many forms of public transport and have really whittled them down to cars and trains/planes if I absolutely have to. This may seem cliché but prior to 9/11 I loved flying, there was something amazing about being able to go from one country to another with a great deal of ease. I really wish that I was like a bird and could fly without having a metal shell around me.

Unfortunately, the events of 9/11 will permanently be etched in my brain. I will never, ever forget the people who died in those planes or who jumped from the buildings because it was preferable to being burnt alive. On the flipside, I also understand that 1000’s of innocent people have lost their lives as a result of war and/or terrorism, and I hate it. It makes me feel heartbroken that we cannot live in a world where all people can co-exist peacefully despite their differences of race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, size etc. But that’s probably another blog altogether.

I now always get nervous before I fly. I feel physically sick, and just can’t wait until I am on the ground again. All I can think about is what happens if we crash, or the plane breaks up in the air (thanks ‘Lost’)? What would I do? Would I panic? Resign myself to my fate? Who knows how one would react until they are put in that situation. In saying that once I am up in the air I do not feel as bad, perhaps it is because once you are in the air you cannot get out until the plane lands.

The other reason I dislike flying is because of my weight. I am conscious of whether the seatbelt will fit, and whether I will be stuck in the middle section with no easy way out. Will I have a free seat next to me, so I can put the arm rest up for comfort? Will I knock the person next to me? Let’s not even get started on the toilets.

To me there is really only one thing that I can fix and that is to lose weight, to make travelling more comfortable. Maybe this will help lessen my fear of flying as well??

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


On the 1st January 2007 I read an article in the paper about a guy named Chris Flack who the year before decided to try 100 new things. He made this decision at the pub with his mates!

I decided that it was an amazing idea and alongside my family and friends (probably with a slight post New Year glow), to write a list of things to do during 2007. Mine was a bit different to Chris’s list and I included medium-term goals and also one off things. I also emailed Chris to tell him what I was doing, and stunningly he replied back; I now follow is blog and also find out what he is doing via Facebook.

I embarked on my mission with confidence and enthusiasm. I got to number 8 and then things ground to a halt altogether. My 8th “thing” was to volunteer for a non-profit organisation. I came across this organisation on a NZ website and decided to approach them to see if they wanted administrative help. I didn’t hear anything for about 4-6 weeks and then out of the blue I received an email. So I started with 1 day a week checking their phone messages. I felt as though I could do more and in typical “Vanessa” style I jumped in with two feet; at the damn deep end.

I just want to make a note here. I also wanted something to occupy my time. I felt incredibly lonely at home as Mark would sleep most of the weekend away and I was often up at 7am on a Saturday and Sunday, so for hours I would be struggling to fill this time.

Over the next 2 ½ years I dedicated a lot of my time, blood, sweat and TEARS to this worthy cause. I do not want to discourage people from volunteering for non-profit organisations, but please heed these words of warning. Think very carefully about the organisation that you want to volunteer for, do not get involved in their petty/childish games, and absolutely make sure that they have processes and a business plan that they follow. Also, make sure that they have a board of trustees to keep the committee in check.

My commitment to this organisation just about broke my marriage, my wedding nearly didn’t happen and my relationships suffered with friends and family. I now absolutely detest a couple of people that are still involved. I do think about the great things that they have achieved, and are still achieving. Nevertheless, I feel a deep sense of sadness and frustration towards their pigheadedness. I am also stunned by the utter lack of regard for other people and also adults who are just wankers and completely rude and hypocritical! Also, the absolute nastiness and bitchiness was mind blowing (even from men)!

Please do not think that I am trying to be a martyr as I can take responsibility for my own actions; however a lot of bullies worked for this organisation and I do not cope well with bullies at all. I also struggle to ask for help and instead try and tackle everything without help. I know my weaknesses, and certainly know what I need to work on.

What are the good things? I met some absolutely amazing people, and one of them is someone who I want in my life forever. I love her without conviction and I am honoured to call her a friend. We got 3 beautiful cats that have helped bring joy to our household.

Things that I think they could do better: Have a business plan. Have PROCESSES and make sure that these processes are adhered to. Don’t have one process or rule for one group and another for some else. Ensure that the committee make decisions that benefit the organisation and also adopt a consultative approach. Also, the person who started the organisation needs to be removed from the committee.

Monday, September 14, 2009


My mum and dad adopted me when I was about 10 days old. It was a time when adoptions in New Zealand were closed, and therefore you were not able to know who the birth parent/s and family were.

My parents were absolutely over the moon to have me, as they could not have children of their own. They felt blessed to have me, and my homecoming was a huge deal for them and their friends. I once asked my dad if he regretted not having a biological daughter of his own to which he responded “you are my daughter”.

From an early age, my parents were very open with me about my adoption and the circumstances surrounding it. I was adopted out as a result of sexual abuse and my birth mother made the hard decision to give me up. I grew up as an only child and would always ask my parents if they would adopt another child, or even adopt one of the countless “permanent placement” kids who appeared in our local paper.

During my early teens, my mum and I would have the odd fight were I would bring out the “you are not my real mother” argument out. It was not until I got older that I truly realised just how incredibly hurtful that this was.

When I turned 14 (and I remember this clearly as we were having renovations done at home) I was going through a pretty rough time, and also I guess a bit of an identity crisis. I did know a lot about my birth mother and father, but sometimes paper is just not sufficient. I came home from school and my mum sat me down and told me that she had something to tell me, and that she did not want me to hate her. Over the next few hours my mum explained that when she took a trip (when she was studying archaeology at University) in 1982 to Africa she was afraid that if anything happened to her that she would not be able to help me find my birth family. So she approached a contact, and managed to actually get my birth mother’s real name. Obviously, nothing happened to her on the trip and she kept that knowledge to herself for nearly 8 years, as she did not believe that she could legally tell me.

Mum then proceeded to say that with my permission she was going to drive up north (the following day) and see if she could meet my birth mum. I was stunned, but never angry. I adore my mum and dad and they have always been incredibly supportive and loving. I could not wish for a more amazing set of parents. I consider my mum a brave person and what she did for me next was one of the most truly beautiful, selfless things that a person could do for another.

My mum travelled up north the following day (a Friday) and went to my birth mother’s home. As she did not know if the family knew about the adoption, she just had to pretend that she was a friend of my birth mother’s. It did not really work as we found out later that her husband knew exactly who she was. My twin sisters were home with the measles! My birth mother was not home, so my mum stayed for an hour or so and then disappointedly decided to leave.

As she drove through the small country town, she saw a woman by a car on the road. My mum decided to take one more chance and approached her, and asked if she had adopted a daughter out about 14 years ago. The answer was ‘yes’ and my mum said “well I am her mum”. Anyway, they both sat in the car while mum showed my birth mum photos of me growing up. They both cried. They then went back to my birth mother’s house and met my step dad and the twins. The irony of the whole story is that my birth mum was a nurse for a number of years at my doctor’s surgery and they lived just down the road from us.

It was an incredibly emotional time for my parents and me; luckily I had some very supportive friends around me at the time. I got to see photos of my mum and her family and it was like looking at carbon copies of me. Suddenly, I felt a little closer to feeling complete. I met my mum for the first time a few weeks later, and when they all came back from holiday I met my step dad and my 3 sisters.

Over the years it took me time to adjust to having an instant family. Some feelings are not instant, and it was a lot for them and us to take in. I think that my step dad struggled a bit for about 18 months, then one summer holiday’s suddenly we just clicked, and things having amazing with him and I ever since. He was around for my birth and while my mum was pregnant, and could fill in a lot of gaps for me. As I got older I did struggle with forming stronger relationships with my birth mum and it is an absolute credit to my mum Pat that she would ask me if I had talked to my birth mother and helped me to forge a strong, solid bond. There is no jealously between these two strong, beautiful women.

My family has grown and I went from having no siblings to having 3 half sisters, a half brother and also another beautiful young woman Grace who I proudly consider to be my sister. There are so many similarities between my sisters and I that it really strikes home that there are some things about us that are heredity and others that are part of our upbringing.

Yes, it has not been easy but the trip has been well worth it. I have an amazing relationship with my mum and dad, and also my birth mother and step dad. I not only found family members but a huge amount of their close friends who I consider to be my family. My mum and birth mother absolutely adore each other and neither is threatened by the other.

Earlier this year I came into contact with my birth father. I had a huge amount of support on the evening and I think a lot of people where worried about how I would react. As it was a huge family dinner I never spoke to him. However, I left the restaurant with the definite knowledge that while I carry his genes; he is in no way my father. I actually felt nothing toward him, not hate, not anger and certainly not love. I felt indifferent.

The person who is my dad is the man that was with me as I grew up, that gave me piggy backs that gave me hugs, has a heart of gold and a huge propensity for love and the man who gave me away on the day of my wedding. My step dad is a strong, grounded, amazing man who has had to deal with a young woman who looks almost identical to his wife and a little like a man that he probably detests. My step dad along with my mum and birth mum also gave me away at my wedding.

I feel complete and have a strong sense of who I am, and I have a beautiful, loving, caring family.