Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year in Review

Well, the year 2011 is coming to a close and we're all gearing up for the new one - making plans, shrugging off negative vibes from 2011, and generally looking forward to all that 2012 has to offer. For me, it's been pretty hectic, but fun all the same, with a lot of good things balanced out with a couple of bad things. But today as I look back over the year, I'm focussing on the good, so here are my 2011 highlights:

That day it snowed in every corner of New Zealand - a once in 50 years event

Celebrating my dad's 50th birthday rugby-style

Celebrating my little brother growing up and turning 21

A visit from one of my good American friends I met at Camp Livingston three and a half years ago

Watching the All Blacks win the world cup!!!

Ticking off the Bucket List

I have a new page! It's called Bucket List and it contains, yep, you guessed it - my Bucket List! All 80 items of it...

Everyone should have a Bucket List. It gets you motivated to do things you've always wanted to do instead of sitting there watching TV and an advert comes on saying "when was the last time you were Fiji'd?" and you say, "Oh, I've always wanted to go to Fiji", but make no move to actually save for it.
So next year, since most of my list is travel stuff, which I'm saving for in 2012 so I'm a homebody for the year, I'm planning to cross off:

7. Learn to play guitar

38. Learn how to cook a roast

67. Get a New Zealand tattoo

72. See Kitty, Daisy and Lewis in concert

77. Learn to make pasta from scratch

80. Learn to make sorbet

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Water for Elephants

Basically, one of the best books I have ever read. And I've read a lot of books.

Jacob Jankowski is one exam away from a degree in veterinary science when his parents are killed in a car accident. With nothing left for him, his life is thrown into turmoil and while moping along the railway tracks trying to escape his life; he makes a split-second decision that will change his life forever. He stows away on a train carrying Benzini Brother's Most Spectacular Show on Earth, where he meets Marlena, a beautiful circus performer, and Rosie, a misunderstood elephant.

This book has everything you could want from a book. It has a quirky old man, a magical circus, corruption, beatings, illness, death, mystery, crazy people, a stampede, and, of course a love story. But it isn't any old love story - it doesn't overwhelm the story and leaves room for the other, minor, unconventional love stories to shine through.
The prologue is enough to have you sitting on the edge of your seat - unlike a lot of books that take awhile to lift off.

Now the movie. I was a little bit nervous about watching the movie after I picked it up at the DVD store and all it had on the back was a blurb about the love story between Jacob and Marlena. I packed a bit of a tantrum in the store - "That's not all it's about! What about Rosie?! What about crazy August?! What about old man Jacob?!" But my sister assured me it did not focus solely on the love story and so I rented it and breathed a sigh of relief when it began with old man Jacob.
The movie did not follow the story exactly and even cut a few characters, but it worked. It totally worked.
I was also worried about not being able to get past Robert Pattinson as vampire Edward Cullen, but he surprised me. He is so much more than Edward Cullen, and I hope that role doesn't stick to him because he's actually a pretty great actor and really became what I imagined Jacob to be in the book.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rest in Peace Natalie Murphy

Some of you may have followed Natalie Murphy’s story, some of you may never have heard of her. Natalie Murphy was a 35-year-old mother of a gorgeous little boy named Jackson and wife to her soul mate, Greg, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, after she found a lump the day before she gave birth. She was given two to five years and sadly passed away yesterday.
I never knew her, but when her story appeared on, I spent a whole day flicking to her blog and reading her whole story in my spare time, and was devastated when I heard this morning that she had passed away.
She had expected to live at least until New Years Day, when she was going to renew her vows with her husband of nearly ten years, but she didn’t make it.
When I heard her story, I was so moved I sent her a personal email about how she had touched my life along with that of probably thousands of other New Zealand women.
Breast cancer is so common, everybody knows somebody who has suffered from it. My aunty was diagnosed at the age of 36, and until I read Natalie’s story, I had not actually realized just how young she was. Thankfully she survived and has never had a relapse, but the thought of having it in my genes is never far from my mind.
I know that Natalie has helped saved so many lives by publicizing her story and I hope doctors clinics and hospitals will be inundated with women under the age of forty wanting mammograms, and I hope those women don’t back down in the face of the health system. Natalie was mucked around for months before she got a proper consultation after her midwife told her the lump could have just been her milk coming in. It may not have saved her if she had been seen to earlier, but we all know cancer spreads fast, so maybe she could have been saved.
After months of anger, Natalie accepted her fate and decided to embrace life and enjoy the time she had left with her husband and her little boy. By doing this, she was an inspiration to so many of us who often take life for granted. Her courage was unbelievable, especially when she said she was “the luckiest woman in the world” while facing breast cancer.
Following a story such as this really makes you take a look at yourself and think, “What would people say about me if I died? Have I truly squeezed every last drop out of my life?”
Not only does it make you look at yourself, but it also makes you look at the things around you. What matters more, your flat screen TV or your mum? Your car or your dad? Your wardrobe full of clothes or your sister? Your Nike shoes or your brother? Your computer or your soul mate? Your brand new couch or your best friends?
I for one would trade a lifetime of TV for my mum’s health, I would walk everywhere if it ensured I would have my dad around to watch his grandkids and great-grandkids grow up, I would wear rags just to hear my sister laugh, I would run in bare feet for a hug from my brother, I would write letters and visit libraries to grow old with my soul mate, I would sit on the floor for a night out with my best friends.

This is the email she wrote me, this is the kind of person she was – she probably received hundreds of messages and had a toddler and her health to take care of, but she took the time to reply to my email, which I wasn’t expecting. Rest in Peace Natalie.

Sarah, what an awesome email and a truly lovely response to my story. It has touched me and warmed my heart to know I have affected your life in such a positive way – you are right, this is the only gift I am really looking for. So thank you for writing, for listening, for learning, for wanting to be the best person you can be. You are a shining light honey so make sure others see your light too – never hold back.
All my love