As we lounged on our picnic blankets in the icy wind at Christmas in Park, with thousands of other Aucklanders, young Matthew (still 5) pronounced “this year is nearly finished – I think we should all say what our best thing was this year, I’ll start”. Ever the conversationalist!
For Matthew “my first year at school” was the very best thing – a year in which he joined the ‘big boys’ and truly embraced formal learning, and all the fun of being part of a rambunctious real boys’ school environment. Taking away the academic prize for his class (and a stellar school report highlighting a talent for languages) rewarded just one side of this multifaceted young man, with his physical talents shining through on the rugby (and apparently also cricket) field, in the pool and in the advanced trampoline squad at the gym club.
Isabel too had a big year of a very different kind with half the year literally consumed by the harsh reality of leg-lengthening surgery, to add what sounds like a scant 4cm to her originally 10cm long left thigh bone (actually a 40% increase in bone length!). Her sheer courage and determination shone through, along with her extreme obstinacy (wonder where she gets that from?) – and was recognised in the award at her school of the overall school prize for Resilience & Perseverance. The trophy is almost as tall as she is!
In truth, at least part of the recognition goes to her mum, dad and brother, who have taken this journey with her every step of the way – we will all celebrate with them on 17th January when the steel brace currently piercing flesh, muscle and bone, is removed and she can get on with all the things she loves doing. I believe there is a long list – headed up with going to the beach, climbing a tree and jumping on the trampoline (the latter may have to wait a little longer while the bone strengthens!)
A big year for both grandchildren – and yes, I am thankful for having them both in our lives, and truly thankful that they have parents who not only love and nurture them, but teach them the importance of independence and courage, and the value of family.
To Pip and Howard – you make us so proud. We too celebrate your ‘best of 2017’ – a promotion for Pip in her roller-coaster job with a tech startup company (which is technically well beyond the ‘start-up’ phase of its life); and Howard’s gig as manager of the New Zealand AFL team to the world cup in Australia (and that his day job enables him to do these sorts of things!). I am so thankful that you two found each other, celebrated your 10th wedding anniversary this year, and make such an awesome team.
I am thankful for Rob and Jenna – that they too have found each other, visited us for Christmas, and so very clearly make each other happy. I love that you’re enjoying life, are happy in your work, and give us a reason to visit London regularly! Of course, I’d love it even more if you were closer to home… just saying.
At the other end of the age spectrum, I am so thankful for a year with mum, for being able to see her every day now she’s living in the back part of our house, and for the difference that her little dog Amber has made to her quality of life. It’s never easy for a mother and daughter to live together – but boy, does it beat any of the alternatives!
Christmas dinner for 40 people – all seated in our dining room – was a massive highlight of my year, and I’m thankful for not only our wider family, but our very good friends who came, ate, drank and were merry. Having good friends who know you, understand you and are there for you no matter what is indeed one of life’s great blessings.
It’s been a big year for me and Peter too – Peter told Matthew that his best thing was discovering he still has what it takes to make a difference in business, as he volunteered to take over as CEO of a lingerie company that we’ve invested in, that needed a guiding hand. Not that any one of us ever doubted his capability – and it is awesome to see the results he’s achieving with his tiny team, as they drive for growth in online sales (and Peter learns a whole new language of e-commerce jargon). Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks!
Who would have thought he’d end up running a bra business in his retirement. Our dinner party conversations have taken on a whole new flavour! And so I am thankful that he is (mostly) enjoying the new challenges that this job brings – and also for the fact that it hasn’t stopped us from continuing to enjoy lots of travel and other fun times in our retirement.
While I am immensely thankful that we live in New Zealand, I am equally thankful that we get to go adventuring in the wider world as well. Cycling in Greece in September, with a side visit to London, was so much fun. A study tour to China in October, to get a sense of their high-tech revolution was eye-opening and inspiring – and a reminder that travel expands the mind (not just the waistline!), even the old minds like ours!
For me the year has been one of consolidation – stepping away from some of my roles to focus on those where I feel I can truly add value. A diverse portfolio of young company boards and mentoring roles still keeps my brain working – and gives me good reason to at least try to “keep up” with the changes in the world. The recognition of my contribution to angel investing in New Zealand, with the award of the Arc Angel NZ trophy in November, was a massive surprise – and renewed my determination to continue doing what I can to support start-up company founders to grow great global businesses from here in New Zealand. I am thankful for the entrepreneurs that I work with, for their drive and their courage – and thankful that I have a small bit of experience to contribute to their journeys.
In the words of a very good friend (and no doubt some other famous person)… HOW LUCKY AM I?
They say you make your own luck – and that is in part true. I believe that luck follows gratitude; and that to feel truly lucky, you have to appreciate the positives in whatever life throws at you. For many people, in my family, my community and the wider world, 2017 has not been a great year, yet even through the stories of tragedy and great harm, there is always a story of courage and resilience that shines through as well, and a reminder for the rest of us that things could always be so much worse than they are.
So here I stand, feeling thankful, blessed and yes, a little bit lucky, on the cusp of 2018 – my 60th year. Surrounded by close and distant family (a truly kiwi whanau), great friends, appreciation and love from those around me and opportunities to make a difference in my little part of the world… indeed, how lucky I am!
(PS. Thank you to Don, Jenna, Pip and Rob for fabulous photographs used in this post!)