To be honest, 2019 wasn’t a great year for me. I struggled with motivation to exercise and suffered from numerous injuries which put me out of action. I also re-gained weight after losing 26 kg last year. I’m really hoping that 2020 is better. To help prevent injuries, we are taking wwoofers more regularly to stay with us and help around the garden, which seems to be the root cause of all of my injuries.
Here is a list of my goals for next year.
I am aiming to forge a new career path for myself and ultimately generate my own income stream. This is a long term goal. I have a few ideas on how I am going to achieve this and will update you as things progress. I’m keen on developing Anita’s Garden and creating a bespoke gardening business. I already have my first project. I will be assisting my former boss who lives in London remotely, with his large garden. I’m keen to remain active during the New Zealand winter period and seeking projects in the Northern Hemisphere is one way to ensure that this happens. Before I take on paid work, though, I need to ensure that it is possible to help people remotely. As I assist him with his garden, I will provide reports on my blog.
In the Circle
I plan to continue developing In the Circle, my online lifestyle magazine in blog format. This encompasses Anita’s Garden, the original gardening blog which In the Circle grew from. If you would like to contribute to my blog or want me to feature you or a project, please get in touch with me at email@example.com
I intend to maintain the garden that I currently have. I will be replacing one rose which died (the first rose I have lost since I started gardening in 2012)
Health and fitness
One of my main goals for 2020 (and indeed the coming decade) is to continue on my health and fitness journey. Despite its ups and downs, I’m in it for the long haul. This includes healthy eating and tracking my calorie intake with the app My Fitness Pal. For exercise, I intend to continue going to Les Mills Howick as it’s a great gym. I now see my personal trainer every six weeks for a programme update and weigh-in as it was too much seeing her once a week and weighing every week. I also plan to continue running and swimming, which are covered separately below.
I want to continue running, focussing on 10k. I hope to join the second half of the YMCA 10k Summer Series at the Auckland Domain. If I’m well (ie I don’t have a relapse) and I’m able to get a place, I’d love to do the Motutapu 10k off-road race in March, but we’ll see if I’m fit enough to handle it. My old boss at Bell Gully who used to be an avid runner as well told me that it’s tough. I’m a bit upset that I missed the first half of the YMCA 10k Summer Series, which began in October this year, but you can’t look back. I’d also like to enter the Sri Chinmoy 10k races held at the Auckland Domain during winter to keep me fit. I’m still chasing Maureen, one of the instructors at Les Mills Howick who also does them and hope to one day beat her!
I’d like to continue swimming recreationally at the local pools year round. My goal during summer is to go to the pools every day in the evening, if possible, for a 45 minute swim.
It’s hard to believe that not only is this year drawing to a close, but also the 2010s. I’m going to be turning 40 next year. Yikes! Here’s a summary of major life events during my 30s.
I’m quite proud of myself as I feel I have a lot to show for the past ten years. They were certainly not without their challenges. Here’s to another good ten years!
Over the past couple of months, I have been really struggling with life. Normally, I enjoy exercising but as I mentioned in my post about procrastination, it has been a real struggle to get through my daily workouts, even with the help of my personal trainer Alice who I see once a week. While I’ve continued to write about Anita’s Garden and develop In the Circle, I have felt despondent about whether either of these projects are really going anywhere. It’s winter and seasonal affective disorder affects a lot of people, including myself. I often feel depressed at this time of the year. It’s cold, grey and wet. Growth in the garden slows considerably and there isn’t much colour outside to cheer me up.
The other thing on my mind is finances. I’m still learning how – and whether it is indeed possible – to earn a living year round as a blogger and gardener. Gardening is seasonal. Revenue only flows in during spring and summer when my plant nursery is open and I sell seedlings to the public. I’m still looking for ways to extend this so I can support myself year round without recourse to state funds. As some of you may be aware from previous posts on my blog, I suffer from schizophrenia, which is regarded as a disability. I’m therefore entitled to be on the sickness benefit, or welfare. However, this doesn’t make me comfortable with receiving money from the state for doing nothing and I hate having to admit that I have a disability. I want to work and earn my own money, without being dependent on the state. I had to look for alternatives to law because the Law Society in New Zealand makes it very difficult to obtain a practising certificate if you have a mental illness.
Against this background, I have sought external help. One of our family friends, Christine Jull, recently became a life coach and has been helping me tremendously through her business KIS Coach Me in a relatively short space of time. Christine is very smart and, like me, has a corporate background. She has a Bachelor of Business Studies and an MBA, with over 25 years of experience in leadership, technology, audit and projects with organisations around the world. I know Christine because she used to work at the Inland Revenue Department, where she was my father’s boss. Christine is also a qualified Yoga teacher with an impressive 500 hours of experience. After going through a few health problems herself, Christine moved out of Auckland to the beautiful Matakana coast and started life coaching. So far, we have had two sessions over the phone. Christine has helped me in the following ways:
If you’re looking for a way forward to work through career, health and life issues, I highly recommend talking to Christine. She offers a free discovery call and can use this time to help you with goal setting, like she did with me. She works remotely via video calls and it doesn’t matter where in the world you are. For more information, you can reach Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org
In this section, I will be profiling inspiring individuals who have really moved me. I want to engage with their ideas and encourage others to think about different topics which affect society. To start, I can think of no one better to focus on but Max Harris. As many of you will be aware, Max is also a University of Auckland Law School alumnus with a stellar academic record. He went on to clerk for Justice Sian Elias at the Supreme Court in Wellington (New Zealand’s highest court) for eighteen months. He was then awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where he undertook the notoriously arduous BCL (Bachelor of Civil laws) degree. Max also graduated with a MPP (Master in Public Policy) from Oxford.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Max then went on to become an Examination Fellow at All Soul’s College at Oxford University. This position is typically awarded to between one and three people each year, for a term of seven years. Candidates are typically the very best in their disciplines and come from all around the world. Candidates must sit a gruelling twelve-hour written exam, which is described as the most difficult examination in the world. Four to six finalists are then invited to an oral examination at which between 50 to 60 All Souls Fellows interview the candidates. There are about a dozen Prize Fellows at All Souls at any one time, and around 75 Fellows in total. Examination fellows receive lodging and meals, as well as the rather enviable opportunity to study whatever they want without having to sit exams. It is in this environment that Max is currently working towards a doctorate which focusses on constitutional law.
While it’s hard not to be bowled over by his glowing credentials, what really impresses me about Max is the way some of his observations about society resonate deeply with my own. Despite undertaking many years of academic study, both in New Zealand and overseas, he is surprisingly pragmatic. His idealism is refreshing and it’s hard not to like the man behind some ideas about how the world can be a better place. For example, Max believes that we need to rethink what belongs on the left and what belongs on the right. He gets to the very root of my own personal struggles with politics, which for me has always run deeper than simply ticking a box based on a party’s policies. Max also believes deeply in the importance of community, which is something that I value as well. In recognition of his tremendous achievements, Max was named a 40 under 40 Influencer by the University of Auckland Alumni Association. In his interview, he says:
I’ve always admired people who are humble and watching how they carry themselves has been really important for me. I’ve also come to realise there’s only so much we can do on our own; individual effort and personal qualities only go so far. It’s how we relate to other people, how we join together to tackle issues we care about, how we treat other people and how we address structures in society that is important.
While I have not yet met Max, I’m also impressed by how humble he is, despite his amazing achievements. On a personal level, perhaps the most amazing discovery is that Max has actually made me care about politics – not so much the dramas in the Beehive on a day-to-day basis, but rather the deeper issues that the government needs consider and how best they may be addressed. From someone who doesn’t bother voting, if only you were to run for PM, I’d give you my vote Max.
Over the coming weeks, I will be reading Max’s book The New Zealand Project, which was published in 2017. In his book, Max sets out his vision for the challenges confronting New Zealand. I hope to draw from Max’s book and engage with his ideas closely in future blog posts.
Everyone loves a freebie! Did you know that you are entitled to free stuff from many vendors across the entertainment and dining industries in Auckland on your birthday? I thought I’d put together a list of some of these freebies for those of you who are interested. Don’t forget to take a form of photo ID (with your date of birth) when redeeming any of these great deals!
Attractions and amusements
o Sky Tower – free admission to the observation deck https://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/offers/sky-tower/go-free-on-your-birthday/
o Kelly Tarlton’s – free admission https://support.kellytarltons.co.nz/hc/en-us/articles/115000664392-Can-I-visit-for-free-on-my-Birthday-
o Auckland Adventure Jet – free ride http://www.aucklandadventurejet.co.nz/ride-free-on-your-birthday
o Gloputt Mini Golf – play for free on your birthday https://www.gloputt.co.nz/
o Muffin Break – free muffin during your birthday month for Muffin Break Club members who are registered online https://muffinbreak.co.nz/muffin-break-club-terms-conditions/
o Columbus Coffee - free coffee or hot beverage for you and another person for members of Columbus Coffee Rewards https://www.columbuscoffee.co.nz/columbus-rewards
o Jamaica Blue – free slice of cake on your birthday for loyalty club members https://www.jamaicablue.co.nz/loyalty-program/
o Habitual Fix – free smoothie on your birthday for Habitual Fix Addicts members https://www.habitualfix.co.nz/terms-and-conditions.html
o Denny’s restaurant – birthday guest dines free with one paying guest https://dennys.co.nz/new-promotions/
o Valentine’s – free meal for the birthday guest with 3 full paying adult guests http://valentines.co.nz/
o Gengy’s – dine for $1 with three other paying guests, within 7 days of your birthday https://www.gengys.co.nz/special
o Lone Star - $20 reward voucher https://www.lonestar.co.nz/loyal-birthday-reward
o Cobb & Co – free main meal for the birthday guest with a minimum of four guests ordering one main from an age-appropriate menu (the birthday person can be one of the guests) https://www.cobb.co.nz/promotions/
o Mission Bay Café, Auckland $25 reward voucher https://missionbaycafe.eft.plus/
o Mexicali – free meal for members of the Cabana Club https://www.mexicalifresh.co.nz/cabana-club-tcs
o Burger Wisconsin – free birthday burger for loyalty club members https://www.burgerwisconsin.co.nz/
o Burger Fuel – free birthday burger for members of the VIB programme https://www.burgerfuel.com/nz/faqs
o The Cheesecake Shop – join and receive a $5 voucher for your birthday https://www.thecheesecakeshop.co.nz/cake-vouchers/
o Krispy Kreme – four free doughnuts on your birthday https://www.krispykreme.co.nz/offers
o Optihealth – free one hour treatment http://optihealth.co.nz/
o Postie+ - $10 rewards voucher for your birthday https://www.postie.co.nz/rewards-terms-and-conditions
o The Body Shop – 20% discount for loyalty club members during their birthday month https://www.thebodyshop.co.nz/love-your-body-club
Country Road - $10 reward voucher https://www.countryroad.co.nz/rewards-program
I’ve been writing my blog In the Circle for 18 months now. I thought I’d write a bit about blogging for those who are interested. The irony doesn’t exactly escape me, here I am writing a blog post about blogging!
What is a blog?
A blog is a bit like an online diary, where the blogger makes entries (which are called “posts”) about specific topics. Blogging is nothing new; it has been around since the 90s. Some say it is outdated but I beg to differ. As the author of the blog, you are in control about what you write about. As I have said before, blogging isn’t senseless babble. A blog can and should be informative and educational, whatever the subject matter. A blog should add value by stimulating further thought and discussion about different issues. Remember that while blog posts are short and appear easy to write, this can be deceptive as it is actually harder to draft something that is shorter than longer in length.
Tips for writing a blog
o Try to keep your blog active, by posting at least once a week
o Keep your posts short and punchy so you don’t lose readers’ interest. I try to keep my posts to no longer than a one page Microsoft Word document
o Be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort drafting posts behind the scenes. You may need to research topics before writing about them to come across as authoritative. You may find it helpful like me to progress different pieces in parallel as ideas come to mind. Jot down ideas and thoughts in a written journal or a Word document so you can incorporate them into posts later on
o Don’t be afraid to tackle personal and/or controversial topics. This is what can make a blog interesting to readers. In my own blog, I have covered my struggle with schizophrenia, which I was diagnosed with eight years ago. As I have said in a previous post, hopefully I have gone about covering my condition in a classy way through a series of educational and informative posts, rather than airing my dirty laundry in public
o Don’t forget that you can’t cover everything in one post. You can always do what I do and divide large topics, exploring them in a series of posts
o Make your blog stand out by keeping all of the content original. In saying that, don’t be afraid to quote other people as I have done, to give your post context or ideas/topics to follow on from
o Work on developing a personal voice and sense of style. This may take awhile, so don’t give up if it seems difficult. I was used to writing like a lawyer (my former profession) and it was hard getting used to writing like a blogger
o Cross-refer to previous posts you have written to engage readers more into your world
o Have a guest blogger make an appearance on your blog from time to time. You can read guest posts on my blog here and here
o A blog can be a great and inexpensive marketing tool for businesses. In the Circle grew out of a gardening blog I started when I ran a boutique plant nursery called Anita’s Garden
o Disappointed with readership stats? Don’t be. You need to develop a strong track record of posts. Building up your readership can take time
o Publicise your blog. Put the link to your latest blog posts on your social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. The more you link to your blog, the more visitors you will receive. If they like what they read, they will hopefully bookmark your blog and forward the link to others. This is the best way to build your readership
As readers of my blog will be aware, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago, back in 2010. Like many people who have this condition, I am single. Sometimes I think this is a blessing in disguise, as it is difficult enough for me to look after myself, nevermind anyone else. However, there are times that I think it would be nice to be in a relationship with someone for company, companionship and love. Humans are designed to interact with one another, not to live and be alone all their lives. As I mentioned in a previous post, a major revelation for me was that instead of spending all my energy searching for someone who would accept and love me with schizophrenia, I first had to learn to accept and love myself with my condition, which wasn’t easy but I got there in the end.
Although I haven’t given up entirely on finding someone, the odds aren’t exactly in my favour. For one, I’m 38 and the pool of single people, especially male, at my age is very small. I read somewhere on the internet that statistically speaking, those with schizophrenia who are married tend to have met their partner before they were diagnosed with the condition.
So why can it be difficult to find love when you suffer from schizophrenia?
o The stigma attached to mental illness makes it difficult to attract potential dating partners
o Many people with schizophrenia such as myself are unemployed, making yourself an unattractive partner
o Misunderstanding about the condition and its symptoms may lead others to believe that schizophrenia is worse than it actually is
o Weight gain due to schizophrenia medications can make you look less attractive and affect your self-esteem
o The condition of schizophrenia itself makes it difficult to relate to others, thus being in a relationship
o If one considers having children, there is the risk that the condition will be passed down to them
o Then there is the more general challenge of finding a suitable partner (applicable to anyone), including a small pool of eligible people, which shrinks as you become older
Things to remember are:
o Having schizophrenia doesn’t define who you are. Your condition is just one aspect to you as a person
o While having schizophrenia may make meeting someone more challenging, it isn’t completely impossible so don’t give up
o If someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, schizophrenia and all – they’re not worth knowing!
o Don’t forget what I said above – before you can find someone that will accept and love you with schizophrenia, you first need to accept and love yourself with your condition
What can you do to improve your chances of meeting someone? Basically, someone with schizophrenia who is looking for love should do all the things that anyone would, including leading a full and active social life. Try to join clubs and associations as a way of meeting people. A gym can be an excellent way of making friends. I personally wouldn’t recommend using a dating site to find someone, both to people with schizophrenia and those without it, based on previous bad experiences. Others may take a different view, however.
Comments? You can contact me at email@example.com. Are you male and single? I dare you to ask me out on a date! I promise I don’t bite….
I received a lovely parcel in the courier this morning from Yates New Zealand. As I mentioned in the gardening section of In the Circle, I was placed runner up for the best use of Yates products in the Yates Spring Veggie Gardening Challenge in 2018. The prize was $200 worth of Yates products. You can see the products I won in the photo above.
For those of you outside New Zealand, Yates is a leading supplier of seeds and gardening products. The Yates family and business goes back many generations. I have great respect for the brand, which is why I decided to enter the competition despite being so busy around the garden in spring. Over the years, people from Yates have helped me tremendously, generously sharing their knowledge and passion for gardening. I’d like to share the thank you letter which I wrote to Yates and sent off today.
10 January 2019
To the team at Yates,
Yates Spring Veggie Growing Challenge 2018
I just wanted to say thank you so much for the Runner Up prize package I received by courier today, for the best use of Yates products. As a newcomer to the Challenge, I was elated with this outcome. The products I have been given will certainly be put to good use around our garden.
Although it was very challenging trying to maintain an interesting and active blog while developing the summer garden, I found participating in the competition incredibly rewarding. Admittedly, blogging was extra work I created for myself, but I actually found that it helped shape the garden. Writing about what I was doing around the garden - and what I wanted to do in the garden – gave me a greater sense of direction. I also learnt a lot from Sarah the Gardener and the other participants. Reading other blogs motivated me to be more active outdoors and to try to make the garden even more successful than previous years.
It’s of course difficult to promise that I’ll definitely enter again next spring because it depends on my other commitments and of course whether the competition will be held, which we shouldn’t take for granted. But all in all, it was a great experience and I will certainly do my best to return to the fold in September.
Finally, I wanted to single out a couple of individuals at Yates and thank them. I’d like to say a special thank you to Chris the Horticulturalist who without fail responded to my numerous gardening queries by email. I really appreciate his advice, which is always spot on. I’m also grateful to Shaun, who I met at the Mitre 10 Gardening Club event at Mitre 10 Mega Manukau last November. Sean helped me resolve a number of issues which had cropped up in the garden during spring.
I have the greatest respect for all of you at Yates because you are true experts in the gardening field (no pun intended) and have developed high quality, effective products which are constantly evolving to address new problems, pests and diseases. I can’t wait to use the products in my prize package – many of which are new to me – and will be sure to follow up on them in my blog, which I decided to continue after the competition closed because I enjoyed writing about the garden so much.
Thank you once again.
Are you sick of people asking you personal questions and insulting you to your face? Do you get annoyed at how the right comeback always seems to come to you later on? You’re not alone. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, I have increasingly experienced both of these. I’ve also been badly hurt by people very close to me and gossiped about in the neighbourhood. I have written a short post on this subject, which you can read here. I wanted to share some further thoughts in order to help others who lack the confidence to speak up in these situations. Intrusive questions often mean that you have to give away more than you want to reveal and you end up compromising your privacy. My poor aunt was forced to tell her busybody next-door neighbour about her son’s recent separation from his wife, even though it was something she didn’t really feel ready to discuss. When people insult you, it can be very upsetting. I used to work in biglaw, surrounded by educated, high-achievers who didn’t behave in this manner. They had much more class. Since I developed schizophrenia, my life has completely changed. No longer protected by the corporate bubble and now living in a low socio-economic area because my condition has impeded my ability to work, I have become exposed to people from all walks of life. While this is character building on one level, it has also made me realise that not everyone is quite as refined as the people I am used to associating with. But no matter how educated you are or where you work, you might still not be able to protect yourself from a family member or neighbour who behaves like this. When I was younger, I avoided confrontation at all costs, because I found it awkward dealing with these situations. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become very straight down the line and call it as I see it. The good news is that it does get easier to speak up when people upset you. By opening up about my experiences, I hope I can help others to learn how to as well.
1. When people ask you very personal questions
This has been a problem with our neighbours, who are very nosy and were all over my mental illness even though we didn’t discuss it with them. They all saw Counties Manukau visit me when I wasn’t well in a health board vehicle. They’re always peeping out of their window, spying on us! They have asked us the following questions:
At the time, I was very unwell, so I just politely said that I would prefer to keep some professional distance between us. Now that I’m much stronger, my attitude has hardened and I take the view that if people behave like uneducated trash, they will be treated as such. In this situation, I think it’s fine to respond by saying:
Another little tip - if you limit contact with people who are nosy, they don’t have the opportunity to ask very personal questions!
2. When people gossip about you behind your back
In my experience with our neighbours, people who ask extremely personal questions are probably gossiping about you behind your back. Unfortunately, you can’t really do much about this, except be flattered that people find you interesting enough to talk about. Some people have no goals and hobbies. They are not looking to improve and challenge themselves in life. I’m not one of those people and find it difficult to understand how people can be like this, but there are a lot of them in this world.
If people are always talking about you behind your back, it’s fine to refuse to speak to them. Diplomacy doesn’t work with people like our neighbours. If you pretend as if nothing is wrong and talk to them when they see you, they will pump you for information about your life and continue gossiping about you behind your back. If you cut all contact with them, it will actually drive them nuts as they won’t know what’s going on in your life!
3. If someone close to you really hurts you
As I have mentioned in a previous post, my ex-best friend set me up with a guy behind my back. I went to a restaurant with her, thinking we would be having dinner together only to have my “date” walk in, unbeknown to me! Not only did she trick me, but she also picked someone that was way beneath her own standards, which said a lot about how she perceives me. I also found it extremely condescending that she chose someone with health issues on the grounds that we “could relate to each other”. She rationalised her behaviour by saying that she went behind my back because I might have shut the door on a possibility. I was outraged that she went over the top of me rather than respecting my right to say no. I ended the friendship.
4. When someone insults you to your face
Incident one. We used to go to a local beauty salon for eyebrow threading. The beautician’s husband was often lurking in the waiting area, despite the fact that it is a female beauty parlour, ironically reflected in the name of the business. As I have mentioned before, I have really struggled with my weight since the onset of schizophrenia, due to the side-effects of anti-psychotic drugs. The beautician’s husband told me that I was overweight and also pointed out that I had pimples. At the time, I was very unwell and too shocked to respond, but later burst into tears. On a side note, he doesn’t exactly look like George Clooney himself. I stopped going to that beauty salon and didn’t say anything to the owner, but the incident bothered me for a long time. A week ago, I actually returned there. I asked if I could speak to the owner in private after my treatment and told her what had happened. I explained that was why I stopped going to her and asked if she could sort it out for me so I was able to return to her, without the same thing happening again. I felt proud of how far I have come, even though it took me a long time to learn to speak up when people upset me.
Incident two. The Combat instructor at my previous gym always used to single me out on my technique in class. He would get off the stage each time and come up to me during the class to correct me. I hated being picked on and it destroyed my confidence. I didn’t like being put down infront of others. I couldn’t complain to the manager because he was the manager. I stopped going to that gym and re-joined Les Mills in Howick. I’ve never looked back. I also run and swim outdoors for cardio mostly, so I don’t leave myself open to being put down in classes. If I do a class, I try to make it a virtual one so there isn’t an instructor present!
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t come up with the right comeback straight away or say nothing at all like me. It’s natural to feel shocked and upset if people behave like this. You also might be weaker if you’re not well, like I was at the time of these incidents. As incident one above illustrates, you can always sort things out later on, even if it’s not as effective as nipping it in the bud straight away. It’s certainly worth doing if it’s still eating away at you as it did for me for a long time. As for the beauty salon, I’ve decided to continue going to the other place I found. It’s a bit like the incident with my ex-best friend. Trust is fragile. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If someone really hurts you once, there is a chance they can always do it again.
As 2018 draws to a close, now is an ideal time to start thinking about your goals for next year. Need some help with this task? To read about the importance of setting goals, as well as some tips for doing so, please click here.
Here is a list of the goals I have set myself so far for 2019:
1. Mental health
3. Weight loss journey