Sometimes I've heard people say "nothing surprises me anymore" – I'm obviously not there, yet, as this week has had more than a few surprises.
Turns out some people in New Zealand think that a Maori dressing up as Santa is a big deal. I find that weird — it's okay by me if a mythical fun Christmas figure gets adapted to reflect our country's indigenous culture.
The recent run on people breaking into hard-working charities and stealing their collection jars or just causing damage certainly surprises me. I hope not to be surprised by the good people of Whanganui rallying around to support those affected.
I am surprised more people don't eat out at La Quattro, the Mexican restaurant in the bottom of Victoria Ave.
I might be spoiling a best-kept secret as I like not having to book a table, but the food is great, the service friendly, and this week they gave away excess food to people in need.
Sharing what they have, particularly with homeless people often living at that end of town, was a really nice touch.
It's the time of the year we think about giving — and not just to our nearest and dearest.
If you're motivated to give to people in need, don't discard things that are worn out, awkward or broken.
And please think of the person who's going to be receiving your gift – give something thoughtful. Or even better, if you can afford it, donate cash so those coal face organisations who understand people's needs can help make Christmas special.
On the weather front, I've been surprised people in New Zealand have been hit by lightning several times this week.
I thought it was an unlikely risk, but it turns out we need to be a bit more careful in this run of storms and take heed of the advice to shelter.
I'm newly-appointed to the Bushy Park Trust and at this week's celebration for their awesome volunteers I was surprised to see my boys sit quietly at the edge of the wetland, listening for a spotless crake after a recording was played.
Nothing popped out of the rushes this time, but they seem stimulated by the idea of discovering something new in nature.
The next nature surprise I'm looking forward to is taking the boys to Mosquito Point and seeing if they're up to a leap into the river from the reinstated swing.
I was pleasantly surprised our district councillors voted in favour of something with obvious risk in these more cautious times. It will add enjoyment to that favourite spot of mine.
Last week, I was pretty surprised to hear some commentators criticise the allocation of funds to support cycling in schools.
Those criticisms don't make sense to me — biking offers kids so many benefits and not everyone can afford a bike, or a bike that suits their ever-growing children, so helping secure cycling skills at school is sensible.
On a sad front, I was surprised to read this week that in 2017 police were called to a family violence incident every four minutes – and that's only the ones reported.
Police are currently running a campaign to recognise strangulation as a high risk crime, and I'm sad that for some people Christmas is a stressful time when they face greater likelihood of being hurt by those who are meant to care for them.
I certainly don't want to see any more "surprising" news stories about how the husband who murdered his wife and children was "a good bloke".
I'd love to say I'm surprised about the claims of bullying in Parliament, particularly regarding last-term National Party ministers, but I'm not. I've worked closely with ministers' offices in the past and know firsthand the truth of this.
So my wish for the crazy run into Christmas is that our lives are filled with more surprises of joy, appreciation and taking opportunities for positive change, and fewer of the unpleasant kind.
*Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member