Another Day in the Backyard

‘Do you eat marmalade?’ Sally calls out after she has backed her ute into the street.

‘Um… yeah… I guess… My wife will eat it.’ I reply.

So she drops a jar on the front seat of my car. ‘I make it, but I never eat it.’ she says with a cheeky cackle.

Sally is a 70 year old ex-crayfisherwoman turned farmer who lives in a neighbouring suburb and who I’ve worked for several times in the last few years. She lives alone after caring for her sick mum for the last twenty years. She’s tough as nails, a bit rough around the edges and kind hearted all in one quirky package.

A new retaining wall she installed has created some work for me – some plain grunt work digging trenches and laying pipe and some problem solving, wondering where the old pipes run and how I can make it all function again.  It sounded like two hours work on the phone, but on arrival I ring my next job and tell them to expect me after lunch. Its often that way at Sally’s place. I think her favourite phrase is ‘while you’re at it…’

As a farmer, she knows retic and knows exactly what she wants, so everything needs to be run past her before moving on. I’ve learnt that – its done Sally’s way or its done again.

At 9.00am after just an hour of work the rain sets in so I head indoors to sit at her kitchen table and have a cup of tea. She’s a self confessed hoarder and the room is full of random boxes, papers and junk that probably meant something to her once, but now just fill space. She lives between this house and her farm in the midwest that she manages on her own – no mean feat for an older woman.

‘I lost 21 sheep last week to bloody dogs,’ she tells me. She gives me the rundown of how the farm is going and then asks how I like my tea. Without the slightest blip of conscience she uses a vile racist description to tell me she likes hers very strong. I don’t think she realises how offensive her words are and I am bemused, but beyond wanting to correct her. It isn’t an offense to her and it won’t help for me to go there.

She has no clue how to use her printer to print my invoice out, but she can find the weather radar on her ipad quick as a flash. ‘This is only a quick shower’ she says, ‘but the next will be a big one…’  (and she was spot on).

I head back outside to work while she drives down to Yanchep to book a flight to Darwin for a friend’s birthday. She still uses travel agents and doesn’t trust the internet.

As she gets back a local restauranteur arrives to check out her fridge that is for sale. ‘Oscar’ chats with her, agrees to a price and then after an extended conversation, leaves with a bunch of shallots and some helpful gardening advice.

She potters out the front and tells me a bit about her life – never married – ‘not for lack of offers’ – she assures me. But she didn’t want to spend her life ‘waiting from someone to come home from the pub.’

‘Fair enough’ I say.

‘There have been a few blokes (and one son as a result) but I always wanted someone taller than me and stronger minded than me…’ she laughs.

I laugh as well… She’s 5 ft 10, but that’s not the point. ‘Stronger minded than you?’ I say. She cackles again and makes me another cup of tea as we continue to chat. I near completion and ask if she wants me to backfill the trenches, but she tells me she will do that. (I thought she might)

‘Nothing hard about that!’ she laughs, so I will leave and she’ll get on the shovel and clean up.

When its all done its $1100.00 which is good because she had budgeted $1-1.5K. She pulls out her cheque book and assures me she only has tradies in when she can afford to pay – although I reckon she’s got a few bob in reserve. We have another laugh about what kind of crazy job she may have for me next time and then I drive off.

I leave Sally’s at 12.30 and head for Dave’s house. I debate whether to head home for lunch but instead I pick up a pie to get me thru what I’m hoping will be a quick job. Dave & Edna are kiwis and long term Yanchep locals whose retic has ‘been on the dick’ (or ‘duck’ if you’re a kiwi) for several years, but they have never got around to fixing it.

It looks simple, but turns into a complex problem. Each step of the way Dave is watching me and cursing the retic ‘F$%k me. I hate this stuff’ he says.

‘No’ f$%king idea’ he says, when I ask about what work was done previously.

‘F$%k!…’ he yells emphatically as I finally work out what the problem is and explain that its not gonna be fixed today.

What I thought was going to be 15 minutes turns into two and a half hours and another extended conversation. As I’m packing up out the front and chatting with them I realise I have been here before – but at night. They are the local ‘Christmas lights house’. Dave tells me they have two sea containers of stuff that they store each year waiting for December to come around so they can decorate and serve the local community. Light, snow machine and Santa – the whole bit – people come from miles around to see it.

‘Its just us doing our ‘but’ for the community’ says Dave.

They tell me stories of the people who come to visit each year. Those who come early and complain because the lights aren’t on at 6.30 and those who arrive at 11.00pm and expect them to get out of bed and entertain them.

‘Its must make you think about giving it away?’ I ask, imagining how I’d be feeling if that happened to me.

‘Nah – no way – we love it.’ Edna says.

”F$%k yeah’ says Dave.

As I drive home I realise yet again how blessed I am to work as a tradie in the local community and to spend time with people like these. Beautiful, earthy, genuine people who have generous hearts and kind spirits.

In the evening I chat online with Ian Robbo, a theology lecturer in the East doing some research on the whole idea of being a ‘bivocational / tent-maker’ pastor and whether its a helpful thing or a hindrance to ministry work.

I remember I used to feel sorry for the poor blokes who had to work a ‘secular’ job because their church couldn’t afford them full time. These days I can’t imagine being sentenced to full time ministry work again. I certainly wouldn’t be encountering the likes of Dave & Sally on a daily basis, if at all, and that is worth more than you can ever imagine.

Screen Time Reflections

The last 6 months have been super slow when it comes to running a retic business and I’ve found myself with a fair bit of time on my hands. Also since January I have had an ongoing muscular issue that has seen me most days in mild pain/discomfort and looking for a distraction.

Since March I have noticed my ‘screen time’ has increased (it was already in the ‘significant user’ zone) and my use of ‘the screen’ (primarily social media) to simply kill time was growing. Alongside that my ability to hold a complex thought for an extended period seemed to be decreasing. Reading was becoming harder and study harder still. I was concerned at where this was heading and while I’d known of the idea of ‘brain re-wiring’ for a while I didn’t like the thought of investing the effort required to get things back on track. So one day two weeks ago I decided to take back some control.

Yeah – it was pretty much like that. ‘Enough of this – time to stop some stuff and recalibrate how my mind operates.’

All the research around this area indicates we are headed for 20 second concentration spans and a life dominated by screens. I’m a fan of technology, social media and the internet. I like what it has brought to our lives, but I’m also aware of its double edged nature and my own seemingly easily addictive personality.

To begin I read a couple of books, the most useful of which was ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport, a book that suggests that in the future the ability to think and concentrate for long periods will be a rare (and valuable) commodity and that we need to regain the ability to do this kind of work.  ‘Shallow work’ is low value and easily replicable, but deep work requires extended time of concentrated focus. He offers insights into how we can do this, but that’s for another post some other time.

I have noticed over the last few years that when I sit to write a sermon or to read a book I am quickly distracted by random thoughts and apparently ‘urgent needs’.  I wrote them down one day. The list looked like this

  • ‘check weather for Saturday’,
  • Invoice X’
  • ‘has Y paid invoice? – check bank acc’
  • does Bunnings sell shed door flashings?
  • when is McGregor / Mayweather fight?
  • when is high tide?

All answers are available online so I find myself feeling that ‘this is important NOW’ so I chase down the answer. And what I am doing gets fragmented – smashed actually!

So i’ve put in place some practices to try and establish new patterns and habits. Here’s a bit of what I am doing to reshape my way of interacting with the online stuff. I’ve put these in order of how valuable they have been to me.

Mornings Go Analogue – I often used my tablet for my morning prayer and Bible reflection, but on opening it there were always a million notifications to deal with – so sometimes I didn’t get to the Bible and got distracted down a Facebook dogleg. I regularly gave up on meditation and prayer and just surfed the net. Lately I have been practicing using a ‘book’- a Bible with pages – before I pick up my phone/tablet. Its a small discipline, but it sets the tone for the day.

ALL notifications off – And then it simply makes sense to turn notifications off for EVERYTHING and I have been doing this over the last week or so. It has freed me from the distraction that comes when I am reading a book. Someone liked my instagram post… better check it out… Its just phone calls and text that get thru and often the phone is on silent after 5pm so even then I may not get them. The effect has been quite dramatic on my ability to focus and interestingly I had no idea just how many apps had automatically turned themselves to ‘notifications on’.

Toolbar Bookmarks deleted – on Chrome I had all my primary bookmarks loaded on my toolbar, which meant I would often realise I hadn’t looked at ‘X’ for while and would check in. Inevitably I would get stuck in the ludic loop and emerge an hour later Since I deleted it I have noticed I rarely visit Swellnet or Coastalwatch etc…

Practicing Waiting – more about that here, but essentially not pulling out the phone to kill the 5 minutes I ‘wait’ for a doctor/kids/train etc. I want to have that headspace I used to have as I think it was valuable for allowing ideas to percolate. This is so damn hard! I often feel like I have so much to do, but by practicing not doing it I seem to be re-training my brain and my capacity to behave differently.

 Mono-tasking This was one of my biggest struggles – watching TV without surfing the net or firing off a few emails and invoices seemed like wasted time… Why not kill two birds? Well… Because I can’t do it very well and I end up not remembering what I have watched. It also fuels an addiction and seems innocuous at first, but when I found myself reaching for my tablet every time the TV was on I realised I was settling into a new pattern that wasn’t going to be healthy.
Going Phoneless – when I walk the dog I used to take the phone and listen to a podcast / take photos / maybe even just skim social media. The same when I’d go to the shops, or drop into see a mate. Now I try to leave it at home when I can unless I know that I’ll need it for a call. I do feel a bit naked without it, but maybe that’s just an adjustment that needs to be made.
Not in the toilet – yeah… I am one of those people… I guess its like reading a magazine, but lately I found myself grabbing my phone each time I went to the toilet – again its just a simple practice, but one that needn’t have crept in in the first place. I can stop doing that very easily and it is another small step back to sanity.
Car Ban – I am one of those people who will read texts when stopped at lights and enter GPS stuff on the go. I am guessing that is only a hop and a skip away from engaging in other stuff. I find it hard to ‘not touch’ when I’m driving, but the last two weeks have shown it can be done if I am conscious of it.
Not in company – This was a hard & fast rule for me that I stuck to pretty rigidly for a while, but then I noticed others doing it – checking in and ‘checking out’ of the conversation, so I began to do it too when I was getting bored, even though I didn’t like it. Its pretty rude really, but it seems to have become the norm. Now I’m the self righteous one tut-tutting while others do it… ha…
Logging Activity – I began by doing this manually in my notes, but have now downloaded a couple of apps for my devices that track my time in them. I imagine that feedback will be valuable as I like to see stats and that often helps me know if I am ‘winning’.
I’m a long way from completely giving up screens and internet activity as I think its a part of our world and we just need to figure out how to do it wisely. When I’m not digging holes and laying turf, I spend most of day on screens, some of it work and some of it play, but it is unavoidable. I watch Netflix on a screen, I edit pics on a screen, I read the newspaper on a screen. I rarely buy real books now so even ‘reading a book’ involves a screen.
How has it been?
Trying to re-train myself has been quite challenging – certainly not as simple as flicking a switch. I have had days when I have done it easily and then other days when I have been weary and turned to a screen to zone out. I’m interested to see what develops in terms of increased concentration span and renewed ability to focus, because I believe Newport is correct that these are key skills that we need to cultivate.
One immediately observable change was in how I prepared my teaching for Sundays. For the last few years I have been doing a couple of hours of reading and thinking on Monday and then doing other things Tue-Thur. I always found that when I picked up the computer on Friday morning I could jump right in and write a sermon quickly and easily – because over the week there had been ‘background processing’ happening. The raw ideas from Monday were ticking over in there even if I was unaware.
This year as my screen time has increased I have found preaching hard every week. I have rarely hit a Friday where I have been able to sit down and smash it out like I used to.
Last Friday after just two weeks of trying new things I woke on Friday at 4.30am – not my usual practice – but felt awake enough to jump up and get started on work. I turned wifi off and managed to get a 25 minute sermon – 9 pages of text – written and edited in 3 hours. I didn’t have any fantastic ideas to work with when I sat down but as I began, the ideas flowed and it all took shape. Maybe it was just the difference of having mental processing space?
Either way – I’m on a mission to re-capture a less screen dominated life and a less zombie-like existence. I’ll let you know how I go.

 

Practicing Waiting

I’ve been in the process of reviewing how I use screens and tech stuff and one of the things I have been doing as a result is ‘practicing waiting’.

That might sound a little weird so I’ll explain.

You go to meet a friend for coffee and get there first – 5 minutes early – so my normal procedure has been to crack open the phone and check email/ FB/ Instagram/News etc until my friend arrives. I’ll do the same when stuck in a long queue or when waiting in the school carpark to pick up my kids, or in the Doc’s waiting room – in fact any time I am in danger of being bored or mentally unoccupied.

Now I’m that weird guy who is just sitting there… without a phone, or at least without using it. And I dunno how you go with this, but I find it hard… It feels like wasted time – when I could be catching up on the inevitable info-barrage that awaits.

But I’ve been reading and learning about the importance of being ‘bored’, about the need for ‘brain down time’, to allow fresh thoughts to percolate and generate. I used to have lots of fresh and fun ideas, but in recent years they seem to have diminished and I am fairly sure its at least partially because my brain never gets a rest. I am always grazing on some form of information so the possibility of my brain firing a new spark is limited.

Its both very difficult to wait and yet also very easy.

You just sit there… and keep on sitting… until your friend arrives, the doc calls you in, or your kids turn up. Its not fun, but I get the sense that it is good for the mental health and may be another piece of the puzzle when it comes to changing up my mental habits.

Loving Lucy

Back in June we almost sold our dog Lucy. She had been driving us mad for over a year with her constant banging on the door during the night and I had grown to really dislike her.

In speaking to her, I called her ‘dog’ or ‘stupid dog’. Some days I would just look at her and say snarl ‘Gumtree’ in a menacing tone… I think she knew she wasn’t my favourite ‘person’. Eventually she played up enough that I was able to win the argument to move her on. However, when the time came to do it I was overcome with a deep sense that it was a wrong decision. It was one of those internal gut responses that I can’t easily articulate, but after making the decision and finding a new owner I woke up several times during the night disturbed and regretting it. If you believe like I do that God speaks into our world, then I would say ‘God was getting my attention.’

So I not only relented on selling her, I made a decision to love her and treat her well – to make sure she felt loved and part of the family. Its meant giving her much more attention than previously, speaking to her kindly and allowing her to be around us much more rather than locked outside.

Immediately after we made the decision to keep her she had a bad night – crashing and banging 3 or 4 times before I eventually had to tie her up. But since then she hasn’t misbehaved at all. She sleeps thru the night and doesn’t disturb us. She doesn’t get panicky and wired. She’s like a different dog.

Danelle tells me its because she now feels loved by the ‘head of the pack’ and as a result she feels secure. Maybe she’s right… maybe its as simple as that. And what’s interesting in all of this is that over the last few months I’ve started to like her again. I’ve looked forward to seeing her when I come home and I have enjoyed having her around.

Is it as simple as knowing you’re loved and feeling secure? Maybe it is…

That said I went out last week to drop the kids to school and left Danelle in bed. It was a cold morning so I left Lucy on her bed in the lounge room. When I came home I noticed the covers on the bed in the spare room had been well and truly ruffled up. I thought Danelle must have been sitting on it or been doing something in the room, but a brief discussion had us both realise that this dog now felt loved enough to make herself at home on the bed…

That’s still a bridge too far for me.

Changing Our Minds (Back Again)

Well Eugene… You really caused a stir, ‘changing your mind’, only to not really change it at all.

All suspicion aside, if you were ever in doubt that this is the litmus test of orthodoxy in 2017 then this is a clear indicator. Get the ‘gay thing’ wrong and you’re history – no matter who you are.

I doubt Petersen has much interest in the actual ‘debate’ outside of dealing with real human beings – which is possibly why his initial response felt simple, clear, and affirming. He’s a pastor. But when it comes to the flip side of the conversation – the theological argey bargey, he realised he is still conservative. That’s my interpretation of what may have happened. I doubt the removal of his books by various stores would actually sway a person with real integrity. He answered some questions in one state of mind and then as he reflected and had push back he decided to change positions. I’ve done this plenty of times in conversation, on FB and on blogs, but my name is not Petersen and I don’t have his influence, so no one really cares.

But the hostility he experienced for the short time he ‘switched’ means this can never be an open and genuine conversation because too much is at stake.

Anybody wanna get ‘Petersened?’. Ummmmm… No thanks…

A couple of years ago I took off on holidays to Bali with 5 books, three advocating for an affirming approach to homosexual relationships and two of the conservative view. I wanted to really dig into this stuff and explore it – openly – to the point where I was prepared to come home and quit leading our church if it came to that (because I don’t think I could hold a progressive view and keep leading the same church – we aren’t ‘there’)

And as I read the books I felt myself warming to the tone and language of the progressive writers (Gushee, Venn Brown and Brownson), and I felt the pain they expressed both for themselves and for those who find themselves gay and struggling. And then, as I read the books by the conservative authors (names forgotten) I felt a harshness and theological wankerishness that made me want to distance myself from them. I really disliked the matter of fact approach that seemed to exude no pastoral compassion whatsoever.
But at the end of the day I just couldn’t see the progressive argument clearly in scripture. I read and listened, discussed and explored and some more, but it just didn’t gel with me.

Theologically I found myself still conservative. And in fact last week when I had to speak from Romans 1:18-32, the more I read the passage depicting the downward spiral of morality as people moved progressively (no pun intended) away from God, the more I became convinced of the conservative position – theologically…

But it leaves me with the pastoral dilemma. How to respond to gay folks, Christian or not in this time?

I really feel stumped by this as one who is unashamedly conservative theologically.

A friend posted on FB recently looking for a church in Perth fully accepting of gay Christians and I wanted to say ‘hey we could be those people’, because I’d like to be… But truth is we are not – and I am not.

And then I hear a phrase like ‘welcoming but not affirming’ to describe churches and I feel it reads like an oxymoron. Who will feel genuinely welcome while being unaffirmed in their sexual identity? I don’t think we can go that route and not think it will backfire.

Is it more honest to say ‘gay folks not welcome here’?..

But I really don’t want to say that either – (not because it’s a cultural faux past), but because that’s not even close to what I feel in my heart.

Perhaps Bill Loader’s approach is best – summarised, he would say ‘the Bible is clearly against homosexual relationships, but we are now in the 21st C so we need to ditch those teachings and accept that our new context requires new thinking’.

I find that argument more compelling than the re-interpretations that just haven’t been at all convincing in my opinion. My fairly ‘high’ view of the Bible prevents me from taking that route.

That said after 53 years of evangelicalism indoctrination maybe I am simply incapable of any fresh reading of scripture. Or maybe I am tied by my pastoral role and need of income to being unable to even conceive of a way other than the one I have always held.

I have no doubt those are real factors in my own processing of the question.

Then some would suggest that if we accept Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God and read all scripture ‘through him’ then he would surely be far more gracious, accepting and embracing than the conservative view seems to allow us to be, suggesting that maybe we need to go back and re-read the biblical text again. Jesus certainly wouldn’t behave like so much of evangelicalism in this regard.

My hunch is that somewhere between 10 and 50 years time this will be a non-issue – like divorce is today. Divorce was once in league with the ‘unforgivable sin’, (40-50 years back) but now it is accepted as inevitable and unfortunate, but generally not disqualifying in any way. I remember the days when divorcees couldn’t attend church, take communion, teach Sunday school and certainly not serve on leadership teams or as pastors.

I sense culture will move us (as the church) to acceptance of gay relationships as normative and that gay folks will be part of our churches just as straight folks are. I imagine it will happen incrementally, and maybe one day young people will look on us in our older years, perplexed at our curious and somewhat disturbing views on sexuality… that is, if we still hold them… because we are not immune to these forces either.

So – people have often asked me for my view on this subject and I have hesitated to give it, initially because I hadn’t done serious reading & reflection and then ironically because I had done the reading and reflection. Reaching a position of stability in my thinking only served to create new challenges and issues that I am still unable to resolve adequately.

I don’t know why some folks have known nothing other than a gay sexual orientation.

I don’t know how we help gay folks find faith and acceptance in Christian community.

And yet if someone walked into my church tomorrow I know my instinctive response would be to welcome them, hear their story and try to help them find a place of belonging… Aint that conflicted?…

So maybe Eugene felt a bit of that stuff going on over the last few days. Maybe he will change his mind again. Maybe I will too…

Either way let’s be a lot more gracious with one another as we try to process with integrity a theological, pastoral and cultural issue that currently seems to be bringing us undone in ugly ways.

If there is a greater and more significant ‘cosmic spiritual conflict’ going on – and our battle is not against flesh and blood then surely we have to see that in this time we are getting brought undone by our enemy as we attack one another and ‘fight for the truth’, meanwhile leaving all manner of carnage in our wake.

Consider the Possibilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in February we went down to Busselton with the QBC crew to swim in the annual Jetty swim. As a family (well… Ellie, Sam and I) we started training mid December when we headed off on holidays, so by the time the event came around we could allI manage swimming a kilometre with no trouble.

On the day of the event there were no real nerves and even though the swell was up and the water cold we all got out bit done fairly easily. Sam and I swam the second leg for our teams and Ellie did the final leg. None of us set any records, but once it was finished we looked at the jetty differently.

Sam was the first to say it, ‘I reckon I could swim the whole thing dad…’.  As we chatted we realised we all felt we could probably do it – admittedly with a little more training.

If you had asked me prior to the weekend if I thought I would be able to swim out and around the jetty I probably would have laughed. It is 3.6kms – a fair swim by any stretch and well beyond me.

But having done one part of the swim and seen other people complete it, I think we all realised that it is quite achievable – if we were willing to give it a go – if we could get beyond the mental conditioning that had made us think it only for the elite.

It made me wonder how many challenges I fail to pursue because I have already written them off as too difficult, or how many opportunities I miss because I just can’t visualise myself getting there – because I have cast myself in a certain mould or because fear or laziness have taken hold of me.

Sometimes you just have to jump in, get started and then along the way discover that you are more capable than you realised. Of course it may not all go to plan, but that’s still a lot more fun than not even bothering.

So what’s the opportunity you are fudging on because you can’ see yourself pulling it off?…

What Kinda Year?

As we close the door on 2016 and begin 2017 its time for my own personal reflection.

The biggest shift for us this year was that our kids went back to school. It hardly sounds momentous, but after 6 years of homeskooling we had got into a pretty good groove with life, so having them re-enter the system has taken some adjusting to.

Danelle was the one who needed the break, as anxiety and related gut issues had got the better of her in 2015 and the change was forced on us as much as it was the right time.

The kids did really well at school, Sam being the academic he is and Ellie the hard worker, they both got really good results in their end of year reports. They have thrown themselves into all sorts of activities and have found their feet socially and academically. All that crap about home schoolers not being able to slot back in… yeah…

However it took Danelle a little while to adjust to the kids ‘not needing her’ as much, and to let them just get on with their own homework without her assistance. No such problems for me…

Back in January both kids got baptised, a beautiful day for us as parents. You always want to see your kids own their faith for themselves – and while I’m aware there is a long way to go in life – neither of them took the step lightly and both know what they are about.

Danelle’s anxiety eased as she settled into a new rhythm and she managed to get a better life balance for most of the year, including a day of work at the school, something she enjoyed immensely. We have both enjoyed making a more significant connection with the school community this year.

I started the year with some new found energy for leadership in the church scene and we enjoyed a really good year in QBC. Having made plans and formulated ideas at the start of each year I’m always amused to look back and see how the year actually turns out. It was a mix of ups and downs – we farewelled a number of people courtesy of the economic downturn, which was actually very sad as we are a pretty tight bunch, but by the end of the year the church had also grown quite significantly and on Christmas eve we were pretty much at maximum capacity for our auditorium.

I don’t put much stock in numbers and we haven’t chased them at all, so its been curious to see the church grow more this year than previously. I wouldn’t say it was down to our clever planning, but there is clearly some things people like about who we are. We’re still a pretty laid back family like bunch of people, raw and terribly unsexy, but I guess for unsexy people maybe that’s the appeal. No one to impress…

Late in the year we were given an opportunity to start an Out of School Hours Care facility in QBC in 2017. It was late August when we started into it, but even with the short lead time its now ready to go in Feb this year. When I say ‘we’, it was really Danelle and Janet who shouldered an enormous amount of work as they ploughed thru red tape and bureaucratic BS to finally get there. Its a significant project for us as a church community and not one we went into lightly. Both Janet and Danelle worked flat out for a few months and unfortunately in the process Danelle’s anxiety levels climbed, which aggravated her gut issues so that after 3 days on holidays she was in trouble. Its gently gently now as we try to get the job done without her being a mess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My business slowed to a crawl in January and didn’t pick up again until September. It was wonderful… I realise that may sound weird, but once I got past being worried, I slotted into a new pace and found it suited me much better. Currently I am coming back after holidays and 4 very busy months (Sep-Dec) and while I was hoping for a similar downturn this year, I’m currently almost fully booked for January even before its started.  I’ve been sending back quotes that are significantly higher than usual and people keep on saying yes, so even when I don’t want the work I seem to keep getting it.

It would have been awesome 5 years ago, but right now my body is showing signs of wear and tear and I’m not sure how much longer I can sustain this. I used to consider giving it up from tiredness and sheer exhaustion, but this year I came back from mid year leave with screwed up knees after trying to get back into running and while they are still mending, my hands have struggled and got really sore from overuse. I’ve been popping anti-inflammatories for the last 6 months pretty regularly, but I’m just not winning.

Selling the business doesn’t excite me, nor does trying to employ someone. Its just so sporadic that I can’t guarantee work. I had hoped to take someone on last year, but when things died so quickly I had to let him go as there was barely enough work for me. I am wary of going that route again as its hard for everyone.

I’ve just started swimming again as prep for the Busso jetty swim in Feb and after a month of swimming my dodgy shoulder is just hanging in there. Just 1.5ks every couple of days seems to be as much as I can tolerate so hopefully I’ll get thru to Feb without too much pain. Its been great to do it with the kids and see them really improve their own performance and confidence. I wouldn’t say swimming is a Hamilton family speciality, but we are getting better as we go.

At the start of the year I changed cars again – from the classic 1987 60 series to the almost new Colorado and there have been no regrets there. I have to admit it is nice driving a car and never having to worry about ‘that noise’ or whether ‘its supposed to feel like that’, or whether its getting to the end of its life.. We also changed the caravan yet again for an expander with bunks. We are hoping this will be the last change until the kids are older. But who knows… Some days I think the caravan is wonderful and other days I look and see $35K gathering dust in my driveway and feel like its a stupid idea. A few bad experiences in caravan parks have left me re-thinking the whole thing a few times now, but letting the caravan go would be hard…

What does 2017 hold?

I’m not sure at all. I have felt change in the wind for a while now, but I still seem to keep on rolling with the same stuff. I’m not chasing anything new, but I get the sense that at least with retic is may get forced upon me.

I’m ready for some fresh inspiration, new vision and challenges, but I’m wary of just manufacturing those things. I’ve ‘been there done that’ and it usually ends up just being very wearying.

So that’s the year that was… and hopefully 2017 will be the breath of fresh air I’m hoping for.

The ‘Tamala’

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-6-17-41-pmSam’s been asking for a ‘billy cart’ for a while now and last weekend he decided it was time to make it happen.

He downloaded a plan off the net and priced up the parts at Bunnings. It came to about $165.00, a bit more than I wanted to cough up for a cart, so we began to talk about other options.

As is often the case it was Tamala Park (the local tip) to the rescue!

We went there Sunday afternoon and picked up two old fridge trolleys – one for the wheels, axel and frame and the other just for the wheels and axel. The two trolleys cost $15.00 total.

If you really needed to buy wheels on their own then they are about $25.00 each in Bunnings (which is really bizarre because you can buy a whole trolley in Bunnings for $24.95…)

We hunted the furniture section of the tip for a plastic chair to use as a seat and picked a cool red seat for another $5.00.

Then we hit Bunnings for a piece of timber, some saddle clamps and fixings. We spent another $10.00, but truth be told I had most of the stuff in the shed and when you live in an area where there is lots of building going on you can pick up scraps of wood pretty easily.

From there it was all trial and error to get a finished product. Its a project that needs a little bit of adult input to angle grind and drill holes into steel, but the kids can also do parts of it and feel like they have achieved something.

This is the ‘instructables’ version using plywood as a frame – a fair bit more expensive than the ‘Tamala’ version

cart

Some basic instructions:

  1. Use an angle grinder to cut the top and sides off the trolley you will use as a frame
  2. Get your piece of timber for the front wheels and screw the axel to it using 18ml saddles. The width of the timber is worked out by putting the wheels on the axels and then measuring in between.
  3. Drill a hole in the front middle bar of the trolley to fix the front axel / wheels to. Make sure this is perpendicular to the frame or the wheels will sit wonky. (We messed it up the first time.)
  4. Drill holes in the timber for the rope and thread thru with knots on the underside.
  5. Use duct tape to attach the seat to the frame squarely and then drill some holes thru the seat into the frame and back. The use some self tapping screws with washers to hold the seat in place and you can remove the duct tape.

It took us an hour or so to make it – and probably as long again to gather the parts!

Not 21 Any More

Since the age of 30 I have struggled with tendonitis of the ilio-tibial tract, a fairly stock standard overuse injury for people who run a lot, like I used to and I haven’t been able to run for a couple of years. Recently that knee has been hurting just from everyday use so I decided to see what can be done. I went to see the Doc and explained that I was over the minor pain, but more than that I wanted to run again. I asked what can be done to ‘fix’ this permanently?

He mumbled and muttered and basically said ‘not much…’

So I pushed him harder – ‘If I had 100K what could be done to fix this and get me running again?’

He sent me off with a script for an ultrasound and a cortisone injection (which is now in the bin). He didn’t want to know and once I had realised that I gave up and went thru the motions of listening to him just to get the consult over.

Waste of time.

So I decided to go see my physio – Damian. I like him because he is a straight shooter and knows his stuff. If anyone can fix me, Damian can.

‘So Damian…’ I gave him the history, some of which he already knew and then asked, ‘what’s it going to take to get me running again? If it takes surgery and major effort then I’m pretty much ready to sign up.’

Thankfully he suggested surgery is the last thing I need and probably counter-productive, so both the wallet and the mind breathed a sigh of relief. But, he told me he reckons he can get me running again in a few months. Here’s his plan.

Step 1 is some good shoes. I have good shoes, and have always worn good shoes, but he recommended going to see some of his physio mates who own a running shoe store and getting some that really fit my ‘problem’. Ok – I can do that. Sounds easy.

Step 2 – interval training… I cringed. My last experience of intervals was when I was playing basketball and doing some serious sprint training. Intervals really kicks your butt. Damian’s intervals were 10 minutes walking, 3 minutes light jogging, 10 minutes walking 4 minutes light jogging followed by 10 minutes walking.

‘Are you serious?’ I asked. ‘That’s so lame… I will be embarrassed to even do that!’

Damian tells me, ‘Andrew – you’re not 21 any more. You’re 52 and your body responds differently to exercise. It will take longer to get there, but if we do this right you will get there.’

I just hear the words ‘walking’ and feel like my next step is a gopher. I have always run with the idea that ‘running is running’ and I may walk the dog, but that’s about it.

And then the final stage we are working on now is some exercise to strengthen the muscles that are allowing the ilio-tibial to be overworked in the hope of easing the strain on it.

My hope is that by January I will be able to run 5ks without pain. Then from there I’d like to run a half marathon ( but I think Damian might just say ‘one step at a time…’)

Its hard accepting that I am not 21 any more. I want to put on some shoes step outside and run 5ks. But I can’t.

My body reminds me often that my youth has gone, but I would like it to shut up and start behaving differently. I live in the confident hope that one day I will get a new body – whatever that mean and whatever shape it takes – and I am ready for it. But for now I’d like to ‘re-tread’ this one and get a few more ks out of it before handover.

 

I’ll let you know how I go…

 

Wussification

woosification

Don’t you just love your local Facebook community forums as places of thoughtful sensible adult interaction?

This photo appeared on one of our local sites recently and I had to withhold comment because anything I was going to say was not likely to be helpful. Its a photo of a group of school-kids from QBC kayaking from Two Rocks up the coast to Moore River with their Outdoor Ed teacher and two adult assistants.

From the hysteria on the Facebook page you’d think they were about to grow big beards and hop on a plane bound for Syria…

A bunch of kids were off on an adventure – doing something that will stretch them, challenge them and mature them, as well as teaching them some valuable lessons along the way. Remember when we used to think that was a good thing? Remember when setting young people a tough challenge was considered part of growing up?

It was before the wussification of young people began… before we started to worry that they might get cold, hungry, home-sick, that they might get wet or that they’d miss their ipad…

A bunch of young people who’d prepared for the activity, were doing it and today they will get back home – probably cold – probably hungry – probably wet, but tougher, tighter and better equipped to face many of the other challenges life throws at them. And it will form memories in them that will last for many years. I still bump into my ex school students from the days when I ran the survival camps and inevitably we go back there in our conversation – because those were valuable times… maybe not that safe… but then that was the 80’s.

When will we realise that cocooning young people does not prepare them for the world they are living in and that we do them a disservice by shielding them from struggle? But when we take them out of their comfort zones and push them to new limits they grow and flourish and become better people for it, and as a result we become a better society…

Great work Brock and crew – I hope my kids are out there one day cold, wet, hungry, weary, but tougher, sharper, better people for the experience!