Friday, June 24, 2011

Paul's End of Season Speech to the Boys

Just so you don't think this blog is all about me, what follows is Paul's speech to the Cross-Country team, presented at the team dinner the other night. He has over 70 boys on the team, 50 of which were at the dinner, 36 of whom competed at the nationals in Ashburton last weekend. For the first time ever, Paul came home with quite a stash: socks, a Cars mug, a bottle of wine, a bag of fudge, six boxes of chocolates and most importantly, some very thoughtful cards. So I guess his speech went over pretty well! Here it is:

Cross Country Speech 2011, by Paul Dominikovich

The standard of speech making has been very high this year. Feeling some pressure here I decided for my address to seek inspiration from the classics. The Titans went to Gettysburg, but I couldn’t get any help from “four score and seven years ago”. Churchill rallied the troops well, but tonight hardly seemed like a night to “fight them on the beaches”. Baxter used “not many have died from running cross country” to good effect, but the moment for that quote had passed and he was probably lying anyway! But then my inspiration arrived and it was the merging of ideas from a familiar movie trilogy and the great Martin Luther King himself.

I have a dream. Well, actually, if it’s all the same with you, I had a dream. I had a dream that I found a DeLorean which could hit 88m/h and had 1.21 gigawatt of energy at its disposal and a fully functioning flux capacitor. And in my dream, I went back to the future to the year 2036 a mere 25 years from today. It was a strange dream though. Half the year 9s had married the same girl, Olivia I think. Dean Coplestone had gone rigid on a bridge hold and seemed stuck their forever and Justin Bishop was still trying to get young boys to take off their clothes!

But there were other visions too. Guys sitting around reminiscing about races won and lost, recollecting various anecdotes about trips and training and sharing their lives and families with their teammates of oh so many years previous. It was a great dream.
And there was me, off in the corner - looking remarkably trim and fit - with a stupid grin on my face feeling as proud as can be of men who had shared enough in their youth together that made it natural for them to return and pick up after years or decades apart.

So, is there any foundation to my dream? Do the experiences of today have enough substance to make possible the reunion of the future? They should. The older guys in the room will tell you and you young guys have worked it out that we have a team spirit and unity like no other. Life has taught me that long after the cups have been returned and the medals misplaced there is a bond and a brotherhood that goes deep with those whom we choose to share life with. The post-modern world we live in has got it wrong. Fragmented families, high pressure jobs, neighbours we don’t know and cyber friends are no substitute for an inclusive team of motivated, purposeful individuals who care for others as much as themselves and genuinely want the best for those around them and a few laughs along the way.

So what makes a team special? What sets one group apart from another? What have we done that many have failed to grasp? Well, leadership is important. I’m the figurehead and Chaz gets the cup, but there are numerous leaders in this room. Tidying the bus, training regularly, dressing well, considerate language and encouraging talk are a few of the many traits of leaders.
Culture and tradition must be established. Be it “go hard no excuses” or “Year 9s on the dishes” there are things that make us unique and not a carbon copy of other teams. Add to that unity. All are of equal value, dissent is not tolerated, cliques are avoided, jokes are respectful and discipline is present. And finally, we must also acknowledge our place. We aren’t the centre of the universe, many have gone before and others will surely follow. We are a just a small part of something much larger than ourselves.

So, as the DeLorean returns and the space-time continuum appears intact and the dream reveals itself for what it is, I look around the room with thankfulness for the time spent over many years with the men of the team, I gaze with optimism at the next tier of senior lads who offer just as much in the coming year or two and I choose hope for the youngsters here who still have their schooling before them. And finally, I have this one over-riding burden for us all. And that is that we are all better people from our time in this team. The lessons we have learnt, the times we have shared and the experiences gained have contributed to our character in such a way that we really are changed for the better. I say with all sincerity and with some emotion, that it is emphatically true in my case and I am forever thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the New Plymouth Boys’ High School cross country team.

So with that thought in mind, and as is our tradition, let’s stand, and raise our glasses in a toast, to the Boys’ High cross country team.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Kiss from a Rose and Klimt Musings

Tired of Adam Lambert to clean by this morning, I rifled through my dusty cds and found an old favourite, Seal. Music and scents: they both have the power to take you back to another time and place entirely. As soon as the electronic chords of "A Kiss from a Rose" rang out, I was in the basement suite (flat) I shared with my roomate Rachel on West 10th Avenue in Vancouver. We were absolutely dead-pan broke, cooking things like legumes because we couldn't afford meat. The only nice things we had in the flat were a two-seater sofa (I had a chair crisis even then!) and a print of Klimt's "The Kiss" on one wall. And of course Rachel's stereo. Music played constantly but I would also listen out for the welcome flutter and thud of a thick letter from Paul coming through the mail slot. I was putting myself through Grad School wanting to be a counsellor and Rachel was saving/studying to sit the LSAT. We're both mothers and teachers now. She's working in Vancouver and I'm...unemployed in New Zealand. I guess that's true: with all my children at school I can't really rely on my stay-at-home-mum status anymore. Better get back to cleaning then.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Place in My Heart

"Almost Home" A short story.

The day dawned warm and clear for early autumn. Three-year-old Madeline, our second child of four, decided to wake the household early with the slamming of her bedroom door, as if to announce it was time to get ready for church. We’d been attending Inglewood Christian Fellowship the last few Sundays and were looking forward to seeing new friends again. Opening the doors to the back deck, I noticed there was a lot more dew on the grass and the leaves on the sycamore were starting to shrivel. Not a cloud in the sky though, except a wispy shroud over the top of Mt Taranaki. We decided we would walk; church was only five minutes up the road.

It had taken us ten years to realise that Inglewood was more than a suburb of New Plymouth. Fifteen minutes by open road was an easy commute and we thought nothing of the trip to the city. That is until we had four children under the age of five and going anywhere became an event in itself. More and more we came to rely on things nearby and discovered that Inglewood was a thriving community in its own right. By the time Sam our oldest was at school in Inglewood, we realised we had become entrenched in the community and all its activities except for church, hence the recent change.

Forgetting that at ICF a 10am start actually means “whenever you get here,” we arrived with plenty of time to avail ourselves of a row of seats. We needn’t have worried: numbers were down because of Taranaki Anniversary. Numbers were never very big anyway. An intimate gathering of locals.

Eventually the service was started by Neil, internationally renowned bovine expert, local vet and part-time preacher. He introduced the gathering to an elderly woman named Jesse in the back row, having recently moved up from Ashburton. I smiled along with others in her direction. There were a few songs and notices before Sam and the older children left for Sunday School, halving the numbers. Neil’s sermon followed. I was preoccupied with keeping Madeline and her twin sisters entertained, but I did notice that Neil forsook the pulpit and microphone in favour of sitting in a chair while he preached.

When Neil was finished, the intimate gathering transformed into a throng headed for the coffee table. I joined them for some much needed caffeine of the instant variety and turned to socialise with some new friends. The woman from Ashburton, Jesse, stood at my elbow. My smile reappeared but I wondered what I could talk to her about. “My mother was a twin!” she said through beaming smile and bright eyes. That’s all that was needed as she delighted in the girls clambering about my legs.

Jesse eventually went off and my eyes searched for the rest of my family as a man I hadn’t met approached: “I see you walked this morning. It’s gonna rain.” My face conveyed my disbelief and he replied, “The mountain’s got a hat on. Don’t you know that means it’s gonna rain Luv?” His wizened eyes told me he was a farmer and that there was no doubt. His wife joined us. “We’re Bev and Gary. How long have you been in Inglewood?” I sheepishly replied, “ten years,” assuming they’d wonder where we’d been all this time. “Hmmm,” they nodded. The message was clear; we were considered new to the town. Neil whispered smilingly as he passed, “Sandra and I have been here 35 years and we’re still not locals. You have to be born here.”

Finally reunited with Paul and our children, we made our way to the exit. We smelled the rain before we saw the clouds, that thick damp odour of wet leaves and steaming tarmac. Sam had to walk but we quickly put Madeline on her tricycle and the twins in their buggy, hurrying past the tangle of bicycles by the door. Madeline’s little legs went round furiously as we trudged along the footpath. “Almost home Madeline.” I smiled. Almost home.

Thoughts on my Craft

It is one thing to blog, to journal the events of your life and occassionally craft the writing for your family and a few loyal friends (all five of you!) to read. It is quite another thing entirely to write for the purpose of general consumption. You cannot begin to write a book (you know, the one you always meant to start) or a short story, a poem or a song without knowing in the back of your mind that the purpose is to have it read by others. That purpose alone is what has stopped me time again from putting pen to paper. Because at that point I have to ask myself, "is what I write actually going to be any good?" Writing is something I always thought I could do. My claim to faim is getting 100% correct on my grammar tests in school, and I must admit, I know when to use an apostrophe. But it's safe to say I could do that, rather than actually try to do it and face the possibility of failing.

However, I have come to a crossroads in my life (I am 40 now you see) and I can ignore the signs no longer. I thought I knew what I wanted to do when the twins started school. I dreamed about it and made plans; I was certain. But it just didn't pan out. Paul, who knows me better than I know myself supported me in my plans but he knew better. He's always wanted me to take the time to write. My parents, the same. Some of my friends, ditto. On Saturday someone whom I consider to be intuitive and who doesn't know me particularly well but has been reading my blog, encouraged me to give it a go. She didn't know it had always been back there.

So I shall start with something already written in my next entry. It's the putting it out there you see, that's the challenge. I wrote a little story for a North and South competition a few years ago, called "Places in the Heart." I quite liked my little story but it didn't win, didn't get published and has never seen the light of day for public consumption. Until now.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I guess you could say I started preparing for my 40th back in November when I decided it was time to lose weight and change my frumpy image. My motivation back then was threefold: our trip to Canada for Christmas, the girls' 5th birthday in March which coincided with my need to become something other than a stay-at-home mum, and my 40th. I'll admit to vanity when I also say, I realised I had no grey hair and wanted the rest of me to match when it came time to party.

I remember while in Canada discussing my 40th options with friends Rachel and Anne. Anne was planning a trip for hers, either to Los Vegas or Seattle and Rachel's was still a year away. I floated with the idea of a girlie shopping trip, but knowing that my birthday would fall in the middle of winter in NZ, which is also Paul's cross-country season, I settled on a party. And from that moment, I thoroughly enjoyed months of planning and dreaming and working hard. 15 kgs later and it all paid off!

Knowing that all I wanted for my birthday was a significant piece of jewellery from Paul, I decided very early on to have a "sparkle" party and later called it a "Bling" party. I also thought it would be the perfect occassion for hanging up the Christmas lights and for serving sparkling wine. The challenge came in what to wear: I bought the shoes off TradeMe and bought the bling; then I tried on every single dress in New Plymouth, to no avail. Nothing suited my figure and I did not want to look like a sack of potatoes for once in my life. Finally, at the 11th hour, I took my friend Tigger for a shop and as soon as I tried on my top, she said, "that's it. That's the one." Then it was a simple matter of finding the right skirt and we were sorted. Phew.

June 11th finally came and the house was decorated in white frost cloth with silver balloons. I thoroughly enjoyed dressing to kill for the party. Especially in those shoes. Once I was ready with a fridge and pantry full of food and wine, Paul presented me with a little box. Inside was indeed bling! The most beautiful oval ceylon sapphire surrounded by two rows of little diamonds. I must admit, I had been ring shopping and narrowed down the choices to a few but Paul picked out the ring he liked best. And because I know he liked it best, I think it is the most beautiful ring in the world and I absolutely love it. Mind you, there's not much not to love about it.

The party started at 7:30 and we were ready ages early so enjoyed a little dance in the lounge with the girls. Finally our 30 plus guests started to arrive to the sound of George and Robbie on the stereo, and pretty soon my brain went out the window. It was rather overwhelming to have so many beautiful blingy people all there with the purpose of helping me to celebrate. I'm not normally one for being the centre of attention but I must admit I enjoyed it. I had a quiz for everyone, which they failed miserably but I hope they had fun using their creative intuition in answering the questions about me. My dear friend Claire got the highest points which is not surprising since she's one of those very special people who take a real and genuine interest in you. I also had a prize for best bling which went to Leanne and a spot prize which went to Janis. Paul had a wee speech prepared (not a song!) and a slideshow, followed by cake. There was plenty of food and wine, some beautiful presents and people eventually started to leave in dribs and drabs. Tigger and Mark lasted the distance until 2 am having a last glass with us, which was followed by perhaps 5 hours of sleep and feeling pretty horrible on Sunday, my actual birthday. 'Twas worth it.

I've decided that although the party itself was super-fun, it was all the planning, dreaming and preparing that got me through some emotionally difficult times lately. And since it is the beginning of winter, I'm thinking to myself, "what's next?" Obviously nothing so grand or expensive, but I feel the need to mark the calendar with as many social occassions as I can muster. After all, I have some pretty amazing people in my life. The fellowship and fun that we have together is soul-lifting. That can't be a bad thing.