July 2023

25 Jul Dad, I’m Hungry…

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 24.7.23


You’ve got to love a Dad Joke. No really, you’ve actually got to because it turns out they are good for your mental health.

This is especially true for kids – lucky, because they’re the ones who have to hear them most. A recent report in in the British Psychological Society journal says these puns and cheesy one-liners that illicit eye rolling and exasperated sighs are extremely beneficial because – get this – when your dad embarrasses you with his dad-joke nonsense, you learn a crucial life lesson: that embarrassment is not fatal.

I don’t know if I fully appreciated this before – that blushing does not kill you. Understood it on some level, sure, but had never articulated it. You may want to die, wish the ground would open up and swallow you, but you are not in any danger of literally carking it.

And so when you say, “Dad, I’m hungry,” and he says, “Hi, Hungry, I’m Dad,” what he is actually offering you is an opportunity to become resilient by experiencing a little bit of humiliation … and surviving.

Think of Dad Jokes as a vaccination, then, against embarrassment. Experts tell us to really dose up our freshly minted teenagers because they are super prone to mortification, particularly in relation to their parents. But give them a good jab with unfunny jokes and eventually they’ll become immune.

And the prize here is that, the less prone you are to feeling awkward, the more likely you’ll find the courage to be yourself. Think about that – if the prospect of falling flat on your face doesn’t bother you, you will cheerfully risk the high wire. We magically remove a barrier that hold us back from adventure.

My dad did a reasonable line in Dad Jokes. We’d pull into Waipukurau on a family road trip and he’d say, “Waipuk? Why not!” and we’d groan gently in the back seat. If asked, he would tell you the best time to visit a dentist was “tooth-hurty”. Mostly we’d just love that he was in a bouncy mood – another Dad Joke benefit is that it indicates everyone’s heart is light.

Anyone can do a Dad Joke. Though as a mum I went less for the word-based humiliations in favour of dressing up for it. Like that time – weary of waiting in my car for my teenager to emerge from events – I told her I’d be arriving in pyjamas with Crocs and a cowboy hat, and she probably didn’t want me to come inside? Very prompt, she was.

Also, you don’t have to be a kid to benefit from the Dad Joke styles. This has always been part of my approach to MCing daylong hui, especially the ones where people who aren’t comfortable with public speaking have to do some.

If you, as the high status person – the one who is the professional, and in charge – are willing to make yourself look like a bit of an idiot with the odd lame joke at the start and yet maintain your equilibrium, it gives everyone else a bit of wiggle room to fail, have less fear of a misstep and more confidence to relax and be themselves. At which point you will be like an award-winning scarecrow because – wait for it – you will be outstanding in your field.

So get out there and share some classics with your kids and mokopuna. Help yourself to my current favourite which is that I have successfully managed to weigh a rainbow and it turns out it was pretty light.



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17 Jul The Joy of Boredom

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly –  cover date 17.7.23


There is a good chance you are reading this in a moment snatched between school holiday pickups and drop-offs. Or maybe you’re hiding from the kids in the other room where it’s quiet, but keeping an ear out for signs of trouble.

Ideally what you’re hearing is an ebb-and-flow of chatter. Not shouting, but not total silence either. It is in the absolute lack of sound that the trouble lives. It means they’ve either just done something unspeakable or are about to. These are the only times kids are silent, except when they’re glued to a screen or asleep.

We do our best to keep them happily occupied – tougher during the winter breaks. Even so, at some point you know they’ll find you – likely when you’ve made coffee and opened the secret biscuits – to tell you, “I’m bored”.

Kids assume this phrase is akin to one of those “in case of emergency, break glass” alarms that will have us instantly flicking on our siren and racing to their emotional rescue.

Can I suggest we don’t? Can I posit a theory that sitting in the feeling of “boredom” is good for a person?

Full disclosure: I hanker for a bit of boredom so maybe I’m projecting. I love what I do and so forth, but I really do fancy the idea of space and silence to see what happens next, what new activity I might discover.

Boredom, as I remember it, is not being able to think of a single thing you could be doing. Either that or having stuff to do but not finding any joy or meaning in it.

So a weird state to aspire to, I guess. Except I am old enough to remember what happens after that. Properly bored, left to your own devices, you will come up with something. A “something” which is clarified by the long list of activities you have rejected. You know what you don’t fancy doing right now – drawing, a puzzle, chucking a ball against the side of the garage – so when you hit on “bake a cake” the discovery is especially sweet.

Parenting experts (who may or may not have children, they often don’t say but you will have your suspicions) give advice like you should tell your bored child to go for a walk and think about it, and come back with three ideas for things they would like to do. Ok, but I guarantee those three things will be a) expensive, b) irritating and c) messy.

And while the Devil might find work for idle hands, he’s not the only employer in town. There is also Imagination which needs a bit of space to wiggle its fingers, too.

I don’t mean lock the kids in an empty room and leave them to stare at the walls. But let them discover things. The puzzles, the recipes, or the ball that needs bouncing.

For sure, check in with them – are they bored, or are they lonely? Because if they genuinely need a playmate – or your attention – that’s a very human desire.

But it is also very human – and ok – to not feel great all the time. If we run around protecting new humans from ever feeling bored they’ll be 30 and quite needy and possibly living in someone’s basement.

I don’t know if you’ve met grownups who constantly need to be entertained but, trust me, it’s not good. Finding your own way out of boredom is an essential skill. Look at you – you found a thing to read. Nailed it.


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17 Jul On Not Travelling Light…

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 10.7.23


You will have felt it at an airport luggage carousel or train station or anywhere people depart and arrive. A discernible moral judgement being made about the size and weight of a traveller’s baggage.

Somewhere along the way, “travelling light” has become aspirational. Being able to move around the world carrying the fewest possible possessions makes you – if not as saintly as a nun or monk revered for eschewing worldly goods – then at least someone efficient, streamlined, self-contained.

In movies, a character arriving with a mountain of matching luggage is shorthand for wealthy, pampered and out of touch. Those bags are there to tell us this person is not like us.

Though you don’t have to bring the whole mountain to get a bit of side-eye. Turn up for an overnighter with something bigger than what is officially deemed “an overnight bag” and you’ll get, “How long are you planning to stay?” delivered with more or less humour, depending.

I know these things, and I also know I am capable of travelling light with the regulation under-seven-kilos, carryon-only, bare essentials. But here’s the thing: I choose not to. I’ve tried it both ways and have landed on the side of Big Baggage.

My feeling right now is that, while I spend this much time away from home, I want to take some of the good bits of home with me. Not the cat, obviously. But I’m learning the things that make me comfortable at home also bring me comfort in a hotel room, so they’re coming in my suitcase.

Exhibit A: scissors. You would be amazed how often, when you don’t have scissors handy, you need them. Errant threads, sturdy labels, or individually wrapped teabags which are supposed to have a starter-tear to get them open but you’ve landed a full batch that just don’t.

Travelling light – and reluctant to carry scissors through airport security in my hand luggage – I recall finding myself scissorless in New Plymouth. I bought a pair at a local bookstore only to discover back in my room that I couldn’t get them out of the packaging without … erm … scissors. Chicken, egg. Except you don’t need scissors to crack open an egg.

So now little scissors are in my checked luggage, along with a lightweight Bluetooth speaker so I can make a hotel room sound like home, good soap, my favourite room spray, a travel coffee plunger and ground coffee (not beans and a grinder, that would be crazy), a potato peeler because I like to buy carrots for snacks, hat-scarf-gloves because even when you check the forecast you can’t remember what 8 degrees cooler feels like but suspect it requires woolly things; the book you’re finishing plus the one you’re about to start.

This plus fresh undies and so forth is about nine kilos, a smidge more than the permitted weight for carryon. And I am nothing if not a stickler for the rules about how much you can stuff into an overhead locker. I watch people jam something the size and weight of a side of beef up there and I think it is fair to say the side-eye I get for my checked-in suitcase is nothing compared to the side-eye I give to that sort of nonsense.

Though the irritation passes quickly enough when I remember that pretty soon I’ll be brewing fresh coffee and listening to jazz in a room that belongs to a hotel, but feels very much like home.



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03 Jul Measuring It In Coffees

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 3.7.23


Where would we be without coffee? Not just uncaffeinated but also unable to understand the value of anything from a gym membership to a charitable donation, it would seem.

“The equivalent of a coffee per week!” a journalist will tell us to help us get our collective head around an annual rates rise to the average Auckland household of nine per cent. Though I so rarely buy coffee by the takeaway cup I had to research what that meant.

This is not because I don’t like coffee – I very much do. But I work mostly from home so I am pre-loading on domestic caffeine which means at any subsequent visit to a café the best thing for my heartrate and anxiety levels is to order a soothing pot of chamomile tea and just look at it.

Indeed, the first thing I do each day – sometimes before I am awake – is grind coffee beans and fill the plunger, a procedure sneered at by coffee aficionados who tend to disapprove of a plunger. This is why in the privacy of my own head I refer to it instead as my “French press” to give it a little je ne sais quoi of a matin.

Anyhoo, my research (I googled “How much is a cup of coffee in NZ?”) reveals the going rate is around $5.50. Thrift-hounds, though, can find it for as little as a couple of bucks while those looking for single origin beans cold-brewed by someone with one of those inexplicable mini-beards known as “a soul patch” could pay triple that.

Armed with this information, I did a quick bit of reverse engineering on my annual rates bill and can confirm a nine per cent increase would indeed be the equivalent of a slightly-above-averagely-priced coffee.

The takeaway coffee trope exists to represent affordable luxury – something you could live without but can treat yourself to without totally blowing your budget.

But I feel we need more options for putting the price of things into perspective for non-coffee drinkers and those who lean towards other pleasures. You will be able to make your own list of little luxuries that bring you joy, that let you know life is not just about bread, but also roses.

Here are three of mine. Fresh dates (equals two coffees, sure, but the box lasts several days); good soap (equals two coffees if it is French milled, and mon dieu it should be); and comfy knickers made locally and sustainably in a way that is good for the environment (four to five coffees but they should last almost forever and not be at all prone to bunching).

So let’s all try more creative thinking and fresh perspectives. My potential rates rise, for example, of around $6.70 per week is also the equivalent, annually, of eighteen kilos of cheese. Now there’s an image I can get my head around.

Or at an annual level, my rates increase is roughly the equivalent of thirty-eight boxes of tampons, which would get a mother and two daughters through one year of menstrual cycles. These are not a luxury, obviously, but knowing the comparative cost of necessities is useful, too.

Or it’s around six bras. Or ten really good novels. Or ten bad novels – they cost the same, weirdly. Which is yet another reason I love my local library, and feel like paying my rates is a useful thing to do.



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