Saturday, May 14, 2016

Q is 13!

14th May 2016

Dear Q,

Today is not only your special day but A SPECIAL DAY… today you are thirteen
                 Officially a teenager! (OMG!)

In Jewish Culture they teach that turning 13 marks the occasion of departing boyhood and entering manhood. “Today, I am a man…” is the phrase that the 13-year-old proclaims during his ceremony (called a bar mitzvah). It is not as much a religious birthday party as it is recognition of reaching a traditional milestone of maturity and responsibility. It is a momentous reason to celebrate!

But how are you thirteen all of a sudden?!
It seems not so long ago that you were 11 (last year!?!) or even 9 (yeah… you were nine, I remember). How do you even live in that body when it is growing so quickly! I can’t imagine what that is like!

The past 13 years (the good times and the pretty damn sucky and awful times that you do not like to think about) have all contributed to the foundation for the Masterpiece called Quentin.

You would not be the you you are without all of those times – so, bad or good, I am grateful for them because your youness is incredible – and not perfect (because no one is) but you don’t need to be perfect to be amazing and incredible (believe dat).

I am so proud of you. I know that you can’t appreciate that so much yet because you get hyper focused on things you have done that you think of as hugescrewups and notgoodenoughs and think that cancels out the good stuff but it doesn’t work like that and my life experience lets me see a more balanced view. I see, value and appreciate all the caring, kind, clever, strong, smart, resilient, persistent and respectful things you do that you don’t give yourself credit for.
I haven’t known you forever but I do give thanks to the universe for every single day of your life before I arrived in it and now I acknowledge that you have reached a momentous achievement.
You are at that point … 13!!!
No longer a child but well on the way to becoming all that being an adult is.

I want you to know that I am so thankful for the awesome gift that you, in all your youness, are in my life.

You may think that I am the teacher in this relationship – and yeah, it started out that way but you are a teacher too (accept it) and that was without even trying to. You have taught me how to love unconditionally (not expecting anything in return), how to enjoy the small things in life, how to persevere, how to put aside ego and expectations and accept and when everything else seems hopeless – just love. The really important stuff.
I know that I will continue learning from you in the years to come.  

As your 13th birthday has approached I have been looking back at our collection of shared memories through photos and videos I have of our times together…building stone sculptures up the Brook Sanctuary, caching with JayJay, horse camp, Clip n Climb and finding huge tortoises at Auckland Zoo before sprinting to the airport so we didn’t miss our plane.
The times when I kicked your butt in bowling and when you seemingly effortlessly kicked my butt in everything we ever played on the playstation.
Cooking leaves for me on the hot plate up the Maitai, walking over the Tahuna hill to the hydroslide with Jason and Timaima, constructing Benny’s spaceship out of Lego, getting teary sitting in the hospital on my own waiting for you to come out of surgery and desperately hoping you were ok. Watching you sleep in the back of the car somewhere between Kaikoura and Cheviot, respecting the size of pack you hauled across the rocks to The Bach, feeling my heart pound as you dealt with the fear of being in a kayak in the ocean on your own. The time you really impressed and surprised me by leaping into the freezing pool at the Riwaka Resurgence. Being covered head to toe in mud from the Muddy Buddy, your selfie view zombie movie at the stick hut on the Boulder Bank, your Manliness Rage on the beach at The Bach, gumboot throwing and wheelbarrow racing at the Dovedale Fair,  family BBQ’s at Rabbit Island and building used dishes towers with Laron where ever we’ve just eaten. Picking berries for Christmas and the look on your face with Christmas Lights reflecting off it. Your decision to not let Texas take off after the other horses in a mad bolt along the lake at horse camp.
Dancing with you as your salsa partner.
D sitting on your lap reading you his story in class then your scream as he attacked your face!
The time you climbed the climbing wall blindfolded. Birthday breakfast at Morrison’s Café, spoons over your eyes and the look on your face as your huge dessert came out at Lonestar, you in a panda hat doing a maze puzzle on a plane to Auckland, peeing my pants laughing watching you walking across the floating pathway at the Maitai Dam. Your huge grin at your swag line of marshmallows you won at cards at The Bach …

You are now 13 years old and as you begin your journey as a teenager I want you to know a few things. 

1. You can and have handled a lot in your life already - but remember that your brain, like the rest of your body, is not yet fully formed. Which is why it is still a sensible idea to respect and follow the people who care enough to support you with boundaries and rules – and yeah, we’ll probably be pissed at you sometimes – can you imagine what life would feel like if we didn’t get frustrated when we think you are heading towards screwing up your life??
We love you, so sometimes it’s gonna be like that. There should and will be times that it may seem like those rules and boundries aren’t fair. That may be true but know that they are made because you have people in your life that care about you and are doing the best they know how to do to get you in a steadfast position for your future. Accept it.

2. One of the sure things in life is that it will always be changing. There are going to be rough times as a teenager. There will be awesome days and days when it feels like everything is against you.  I remember feeling like this a lot when I was a teenager. There will be times when you are stressed and overwhelmed. This happens to all of us.
Remember you have come through lots of stress and been overwhelmed many times already in your life and you survived! The world didn’t end and things did not stay feeling stressful and overwhelming. It will be important to remember this in those times.
 Also remember I have your back NO MATTER WHAT.
 It is important to share your concerns in some way with someone – the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” was invented for a reason! Being vulnerable can feel scary, like you are cutting yourself open and leaving yourself free for wolves to rek, I know, but sharing with the right person can literally unburden you and relieve stress. It also frees your brain to come up with creative solutions and the other person can come up with solutions too. You do not have to feel alone.

3. You are a young man of love. Have compassion towards others (and yourself). Include this as a core value.
I expect you to act in ways that are thoughtful, considerate, kind and responsible (to yourself as well!!). I know I’ve told you this before and I will continue to because it is important to your youness that you know that people care enough about you to have expectations for you and of you (I also expect you to have expectations of yourself).
Be the person you want others to be to you (even people you do not know, people you don’t like as well as people who don’t like you – their behaviour towards you is irrelevant and should not change your core value of treating all people with compassion). Be the person that people can count on and trust.  Treat people with respect and give everyone a chance.  Remember that, just like you, everyone is fighting their own battles that we know nothing about. 

Commit to loving others, even (or especially) when you don’t feel like it. Forgive people (different to forgetting btw). Challenging, I know, but facts are that being mad at someone else is exhausting, a waste of energy and doesn’t help you be happy.  It’s like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die – and the rat is just out there running around peeing on mattresses and making nests in bach ceilings having the time of its life (ok, I went on a tangent) anyway… you may help them see that they can love themselves too. Sometimes being open and caring is dangerous to you, but sometimes it is free-ing for you and others. Strive to learn the difference.

Be honest with yourself and others – life is too short to waste energy and time keeping track of hidden truths. Own your feelings and stand by them and yourself! I cannot emphasize enough how ok it is to feel how you feel. Denying it just causes headaches – literally and metaphorically. Plus, respect people enough to be real with them. If they don’t respect and accept your feelings they aren’t worth your consideration.

 Oh, and while I trust you to be kind and responsible in person (and on the Internet btw), I do not trust everyone else to do the same, and you should not take it for granted that people will always have your best interests at heart, (and unfortunately this can and will at times include people you think of as your friends). I am trusting you to be your own main source of keeping your self safe in ALL situations when you are out in the world. You have the last word on what is safe for you, please use it no matter who you are with. It is your right to say “No” at any point, even if you only just said yes a few minutes before. Your safety is more important than disappointing people.
You will learn when to cut out of a situation (and/or people) and do it.

4. Even teens need safety nets. I understand and accept (better than you!) that you are not perfect. No one is. You will make mistakes – growing up is the best time to do that, when you have people around whose role it is to support you through that. However, know that I expect you learn and grow from mistakes. Mistakes = Learning.
 If something goes wrong, no matter how bad it is, know that I will be there for you and I will support you and nothing could make me stop loving you.
Please know that you can come to me with any questions, uncertainties, challenges and worries, whether for yourself or someone else – no matter how you think it will make me feel (that will be my problem to deal with, don’t let it put you off when you need support!). I’ll be there, even if it’s just to provide company while you do the challenging thing. Ask me, I will be there.

Watching you grow into a teen who has a beautiful viewpoint and strong opinions (that you reflect on and question and refine), a delightful and cheeky sense of humor, a kind heart (that is evident in your support of others and in your encouraging comments) and watching your growing confidence and acceptance of all your youness, continues to be a wonderful joy and privilege.

Marianne Williamson once said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of The Universe. You playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

You have been given marvelous gifts that are unique to you. When you use them, it gives others the green light to use theirs. Be self-assured, confident, and proud of all the things that make you, you. Be proud of your strengths and aware of areas you aren’t so strong.
I trust your impulses and am proud when you reflect on an issue or situation and take action. I respect your mind and have tried to give you enough slack in the rope to find your own way, make your own mistakes, and identify your own successes. So do that.

5. Remember you are your ultimate priority; you are of little real use to others if you are not well within yourself.
You will not find peace of mind in this world until you accept yourself  - flaws and all. It is what it is. Accept and be confident that you are good enough as you are now and as the person you will develop into.
Until you do that you will always be vulnerable to the many things that many people will do and say that will make you feel not good enough. Unfortunately sometimes those people are the people closest to us that we love the most and are the most intimate with – understand that they are battling their own demons (that’s also know as their baggage) and things they say and do really are not about you at all and all about themselves and things that have happened to them.

6. Be mindful of your thoughts as your thoughts will become your future. Your thoughts become your words and your words become your actions and your actions become your habits and your habits become your values and your values guide your future…

7.  You are a good big brother.  D might not show it but he respects your decisions.  He watches everything you do and say, often imitating you. He has confidence to do things because he sees you do them first. Be a good role model for him.  When you make mistakes, admit them and then change your ways.  He is going to be there for you long after Dad and I are gone.  Make time for him.  Nurture your relationship with him.

8.  There are going to be girls (and women) that come and go in your life. There will be a number of them before you find the forever one. Remember also that you will think that every one of them is the forever one at the time.
Choose the ones that are special for reasons other than just that their focus is you. What attracts you to them should not just be that they are always with you. What else do they do? Do they play sports? Do they want to be a lawyer? What goals do they have for their life apart from being with you.
Relationships should be equally supportive and feel good. It is not your job to constantly bolster someone’s confidence in any relationship – or their job to bolster yours. They are not the other half of you or you them. You are a whole complete person with or without them. You add to what they already have in their life – not make their life whole.
Most importantly, treat them with respect, and respect yourself.
There will be heartbreaks.  And it will at times feel like all the hope has been sucked down a big drain and boiled to nothing in the centre of the Earth (yeah – it will be that dramatic!) – but just remember your youness. Life will go on and get better again.
You have not mentioned girls to me yet which is weird because I know they exist. Just so you know… you can trust me with that stuff…I am one, so I know some things.

9. Be a young man of purpose, reflection, strength and courage. Enjoy growing, developing and working to achieve. It makes you interesting! Don’t fall into the culture of mediocrity. Be more than where you come from – think bigger than what you are comfortable with.
What is the point in living a life that is just ‘ok’?
Your life is a precious opportunity waiting for you to do things with it. Try things, make mistakes, change behaviours, reflect, try a different strategy. Learn. Encourage yourself just like you would someone else!
Carry on being the first person to volunteer and the first one to step in to help. Be your own leader.
Be a different kind of tough – resilient, reliable, persistent, thrive in adversity.
Challenge yourself and reflect on those negative statements and thoughts that may come up in your head – are they fact based? Are they useful? If not, get tough with them and make a conscious effort to phase them out!

Courage is feeling fear and still taking action, still doing what is right because it is right. It comes from knowing and accepting yourself and it is what real strength looks like.
The Universe has a purpose for you, we may never know exactly what it is, but working towards something and earning that thing feels so much more fulfilling and rewarding than sitting around blaming the world and making excuses and ultimately doing nothing.

10. Every day above ground is a good day and a blessing.
 Every day  (great, good or seeping with wretchedness) has a lesson or opportunity for you to grow, learn, develop and be grateful.
Remember at every step you have choices – even if it is just in attitude. Life can seem tough and unfair and the next minute/hour/day it will seem beautiful and full of possibilities. That’s how I worked out that it was all about what was going on inside me not what was happening around me.
That’s what it’s all about here — stretching (do things that are at least a little out of your comfort zone), growing (reflecting on things you know and believe and seeing if you still need them and throwing out the ones you don’t), becoming who we are meant to be.
 In my experience life always gives you exactly what you need in order to learn the next lesson – accept it.
Just make sure you keep choosing and don’t do too much cruising!

I don’t know what the future holds for you, but I can’t wait to be a part of it. There will be challenges and mistakes and those are things that add spice and opportunity to our lives. In the very least they will all be overcome somehow and there is reward in that!

There will be times when you feel as though you don’t have the answers, aren’t capable of much and everything is a barren apocalyptic wasteland of desolate hopelessness but trust me (if I don’t happen to be around to tell you), that’s just a temporary feeling and it will pass if you let it be felt and then open the door for it to leave. Denying feelings doesn’t help them not exist; it actually just makes them linger longer. Feel them and then let them go on their way.

I am so proud of the young man you are becoming. You, sometimes quiet, learning how to be a man while still being a boy. Sometimes needing me and sometimes not.
We’re going to figure this out, you and me.
You're going to figure out how to grow up.
I'm going to figure out how to be there as you do. We’re going to continue to mess up and learn and forgive each other and carry on.

You bring joy to my heart and I love being in your life.
I cherish cracking up at your stories, your selfie face, watching you step across a room to support someone when they need help, playing Ark with you, singing with you in the car, seeing you wrestle your brother, hearing you stop midsentence to challenge your own thought that is about to come out of your mouth, talking about shows with you, listening to your jokes, watching your happy dances and hearing about your day (the real list is endless!). 
You, Sir, are SwaG.
Thank you! You are strong source of lumins in my life. I am here for you every step of the way, as long as you and The Universe allow, until then, please know you will never be too big to hug me, hold my hand or say you love me. 

I love your Youness,

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” - Oscar Wilde

(EDIT: thanks to those people on the net who already blogged various letters to young teens - I read and got snippets from you that I heavily modified....respect.)

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Just finished my third session in the Virtual Learning environment of the VLN.  Things are so hectic in there I have not taken any screens my self yet - but my co-ordinator did!

This was from the second session where we dipped our toes into the galaxy just to see what that was like... the numbers out there are RIDICULOUS!

The start of today's session involved a triad of multi-tasking. Not just two things but three for a minute or two. That gets the blood pumping and the synapses firing!!

I have been creating and expanding the potential for more interaction (something I perceive as vital to engage students in a format that has the potential to slip into a mundane fact filled lecture) - however that system is not entirely in my control as it involves students actually remembering to do the small tasks such as going outside and spotting for the moon - so that they DO have something to contribute in the next session.

If today's session had not been taken up with ten minutes of techie issues it may well have scored low on my expectations for interaction because no one did go outside and look at the moon this week 
(and it was a blue one too. Figuratively, not literally...).

Have sent a follow up email to the principals of the schools with students in the class to try and gain some support for those issues. I am quite uncomfortable with just lecturing at them as I know that is potentially a wretched yawnfest!

Another strategy is to come up with more mindsparking deep thinking questions that are opinion based but time is a bit of a limit there as well, perhaps. 
We discussed our nearest star today - I had asked them 'how long it would take to get there and who would go' as their between class thinking last week - however not everyone did that so the deeper thinking part (who would go) did not actually spark for some of them until they heard in today's show that it was 78 000 years.
So then we talked about the Battlestar Galactica concept - a community of people travelling through space to a destination that they themselves would never reach but many many generations in the future would.

Then I blew that all away by saying that then it would be too late because in 33 000 years time that wouldn't even be our closest star anymore, MUWUHAHAHAHAH!

P.S. Yes, I realise there is a danger that my sense of humour is really only funny to me.

Monday, August 3, 2015


3 Aug 2015
Dear Quentin,

On this day, that celebrates the first day that your brother drew breathe in this world, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the crucially important role you have played in raising him and guiding him through the world to this day.

You were his first friend and playmate.
You have been his constant companion.
Memories of you go back as far as he can remember.
Of all the people he knows, you have been with him the longest.

You two can communicate with a look and you speak the same language of shared life experience, movie quotes and  song lyrics. You share memories of family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys, good times and the truly terrible.

You have practically the same sense of humor. You grew up with the same jokes and watched the same funny shows.
You feel free to share things with him and laugh about stuff that others might judge you for, because he finds them funny too!
You are the one that makes him laugh the hardest and you laugh with him.
You were there, influencing him and encouraging him forward, as his personality developed.

Neither of you realize it but he looks up to you.
He has seen you at your worst and the world didn’t end and he still wants to be like you in so many ways… and then (of course) he strives to be better than you at as many things as he can (but only because he saw you do it so he knows he must be able to as well!).

Nobody will ever be able to tolerate (or forgive) your craziness like he does.
I thank you for being the one that forgives and tolerates his craziness as well.

One day he’ll ask for fashion advice, dating advice and even career advice when he’s ready because he values your opinion.

You and Dylan are lucky because you don’t have to work at keeping a relationship with your brother going like you do to keep a friendship going.
The two of you will always be able to pick up anytime, right where you left off – whether you talked to him an hour ago, two months ago or two years ago (don’t EVER go that long without talking to your brother!).
You are the person he talks about the most. He doesn’t share very much with people he doesn’t know well but when he does you feature as a main character in his stories. Being a big brother can often be better than being a superhero! (I have seen that quoted somewhere and now I know what it’s about!).
Even with me he doesn’t shutup about you. He can’t help himself. You have to know he loves you.

And when the day is done and the world feels like it’s all a confused tumble and we are drained of energy and feel depleted… it is those times we need someone to simply be there… not to fix anything, say anything or do anything but just so our heart knows we are not alone in the world… and you do that for him.
You are that person that he can sit in a room with without having to say anything at all and be completely comfortable, relaxed, rested and recharge himself – and that is a rare and valuable gift you give him.

He will be in your heart for a lifetime.

Whether either of you realize it or not – or if he ever realizes it or not ….you will always be the person he is most comfortable with; the person he can really be himself with.

Being a big brother is a responsiblity and that’s something you didn’t ask for. It can feel like a burden at times but from his point of view you get a bunch of firsts he will never get.
You are paving the way to being a man for him.
Because of you he can try anything that you do.
Your presence in this world gives him confidence, strength and courage to be bigger, brighter and bolder than us all.
That is a role you can be proud of.

Thank you for always just being there when he needed someone to watch something with, rap to, be with, complain to, hug, game with, talk to, swear with, fart on, yell at, sing with, leap on, eat with, sleep near, laugh with and generally bug the crap out of.

You are valued and appreciated.

Big brothers rock…and don’t you forget it!