All The Little Girls…

I was never that fussed on having children. I know you’re not supposed to say that, but kids just never registered on my life’s ‘to do’ list.

As the years rolled by after our wedding day and we were unable to get pregnant, my concern was not that we would go through childless, but that my wife, Danelle, would go insane. She had so set her heart on being a mother, that to not be able to get pregnant was the worst fate she could imagine.

In the end we had 10 childless years as a married couple, which meant we had lots of holidays, lots of space in our lives and the chance to smash the mortgage a bit more than couples who did the ‘kid thing’ early. I enjoyed the freedom of those years and as a bloke who had never had much experience of children I quite literally didn’t know what I was missing.

It wasn’t that I was ‘anti-kids’. I was agnostic about children – unsure if they would add or subtract to our lives, or if I would even like being a father. If Danelle had given up the pursuit for children before we launched into the IVF process I think I would have been quite content to spend my life childless.

But we did go through the IVF process and became pregnant on our first attempt. Even then it still didn’t register for me in the way it did for Danelle. I knew that somewhere in the distant future we were going to have a child. I hoped that would be something I would enjoy, but it felt like anticipating a holiday in Mongolia. It could be good, but you never know…  Danelle moved from despair to elation as we prepared for this child while for me it was business as usual but with pre-natal classes thrown in.

Then it happened.

Around 8pm one night we rushed off to hospital and spent the night there before Ellie was born early the next morning. If ever there was a ‘before and after’ moment in my life then this was one of them. After the birth the nurses needed to take Danelle away for a bit of ‘after-care’ and they asked me if I’d like to hold her while they were gone.

‘Sure’ I said, but I was completely unprepared for what came next – for the torrent of emotion that stirred me, melted me and confused me all at the same time.

I had a daughter and now I was feeling things I’d never felt before. It was like someone had flicked a switch in me and suddenly activated ‘dad mode’. I didn’t even know I had a ‘dad mode’, but I knew now I was happy to be a dad and I wanted to be a good dad. I was glad my first child was a daughter as I grew up in a home where men shook hands and cuddling was for girls. I genuinely wasn’t sure how I would manage cuddling a newborn boy, so having a girl felt like a win.

I remember doing some random reading about the development of girls one day as part of my job as a youth worker and one of the pieces of research that left a mark on me was the finding that teenage girls will rarely go ‘looking for love’ in all the wrong places if they know without a doubt that they are loved by their father. I wanted her to know that anyway, but this information made me a little more intentional about it. I did not want her ever wondering if ‘daddy really loved her’.

And while this may sound simple and unspectacular, from the moment she could understand words of some form I began to tell her about ‘all the little girls’. I would go into her room at night, pray with her, cuddle her and then I’d look in her eyes and ask her a question:

‘Hey, have I ever told you about all the little girls?’

‘No?!’ she’d say, without fail every time (and often with a degree of mock surprise). This was my cue to tell her one more time.

‘Well… if I could have all the little girls in the whole wide world and put them in a big, big, big, long line, up and around the moon and back, and if I was only allowed to choose one little girl, to be my little girl, my best and my favourite, my kindest, bravest and most beautiful by far, do you know who I’d choose?’

‘No?’ she’d say (without fail every time) and then she would look directly into my eyes and wait for the answer – the same answer as every time.

‘I’d choose you – every single time.’ I’d see her eyes smile, and she’d hug me. I’d like to think that smile was from the security of knowing without doubt that her dad loves her – that he always has and always will.

As a child she would often ask me to tell her about all the little girls – sometimes several times a day. Over the years as Ellie got a little older and matured into a beautiful young woman, she didn’t ask as much to be told about ‘all the little girls’ and now as a teenager she doesn’t ask at all, which is fine and appropriate.

But there are evenings even now, when I will randomly wander into her room and ask her ‘Hey have I told you lately about all the little girls?’ and she will stop what she is doing and look me in the eye and say ‘I don’t think you have.’

And that’s my cue.

(published with Ellie’s permission)

The Cheat









It was October of 1980 and I was in year 11 at Scarborough Senior High School. I was an A grade English student and had always done well at both assignments and exams. We were about 3 weeks away from the end of year exams when a friend approached me in the courtyard and said excitedly, ’Hamo, I was just in the English office and I found the exam papers sitting on Teacher X’s desk. No one was around, so I took one. Do you want to see it?!’

I couldn’t believe someone would be so bold – so stupid… If he got caught he was history.

But that question, ‘Do I want to see it?…’

What a question to ask a competitive and often unscrupulous 16 year old. I wish I could say that I hesitated, pondered his offer and declined, but I didn’t hesitate at all. Instead I just said ‘Show me!’

And he did… And it was the paper… the actual questions that we would all be facing in 3 weeks time. I had them in my hand and I now had the opportunity to absolutely blitz this exam! If I couldn’t get the top mark for the year group then there would be something wrong.

If it had happened today I would have taken a photo of the exam with my phone, but instead I had to borrow it, take it home and copy out the questions onto a piece of paper. Even photocopiers weren’t readily accessible in 1980. I wrote the questions down and returned the paper to my friend, Brian – yes his real name… The weeks that followed had me practicing my answers to this exam and literally memorising my responses to the questions. I wrote and rewrote my answers so many times that I could do it in my sleep. For one piece of descriptive writing I even ‘pre-wrote’ the answer on a sheet of paper of the same kind as would be used in the exam, slipped it up my jumper and took it in with me, dropping it out onto the table while no one was looking. That one answer got a 10/10 and a rave review from the teacher marking it.

I didn’t get caught. No one spilled the beans and we made a ‘clean getaway’.


I finished up with a 92% for the exam which I have to say was a tad disappointing all things considered. Worse though was that my nemesis Fiona Watson managed to get 95% without cheating. I think I wanted to beat her more than I wanted to get a good result, so I was utterly bummed. Still 92% was a decent outcome and with exams over the summer surf was beckoning.

We all farewelled school for another year, but in the back of my mind was a nagging voice saying ‘You cheated…’ It wasn’t loud, so I managed to ignore it, but it just kept on quietly tapping on my conscience. Much like a dripping tap, some days it was all I could hear.

You cheated. You cheated. You cheated. You cheated. You cheated. You cheated. You cheated. You cheated. You cheated.

You get the idea.

At this stage in my life I was a ‘fledgling Christian’, which is another way of saying I sucked at it. Sometimes I was driven by a desire to follow Jesus and his way, but equally often I was subject to my more base desires and unable to resist the lure of the temptations around me. This was one of my darker moments.

I did know that I needed to do something to make things right. But what?

As the holidays ended I decided I would go back and see the Head of English, tell him what I’d done and take whatever consequences there were. I wasn’t going to dob anyone else in. I’d just cop the heat for it and take whatever consequences came. Suddenly my 92% was looking very shaky but I knew I needed to do this.

So on day one of year 12 I went to the English office and asked to see Mr Nelson on his own.

‘Yes Andrew, what I can help you with?’

‘Well, I cheated on last year’s English exam.’ I thought it best to cut to the chase.

‘Right,’ he responded, waiting for me to continue. At this point I realise now that he had no idea at all what I meant when I said cheated. How do you cheat on an English exam anyway?!

‘You see, one day when there was no one in the English office a friend of mine went in and saw the exam papers sitting on the desk and he took one, and he showed it to me and we studied it before the exam.’

I was confessing this with fear and trepidation, just wanting to get it off my conscience and make things right. I hadn’t given a thought to what reaction this might evoke in him, other than anger at my cheating. He caught me off guard with his response.

‘Well Andrew, thanks for coming to see me and letting me know.’

‘What will happen now?’ I asked.

He shook his head, looking as if he didn’t care, but (as I later realised) actually because he was in a bind. If I were to lose marks people would know and would want to know why. And the answer would be simply that ‘someone’ was careless enough to leave a stack of English exams on a desk in an unlocked office and a bunch of year 11 boys now had inflated grades as a result. Explain that one to your boss… HIs silence was simply him digesting and processing where this could lead.

Eventually he said, ’Nothing Andrew. The marks will stand. Thanks for letting me know.’

‘Ok,’ I said and left, wondering what had just happened.

What had just happened? I had followed an inner prompt to set things right regardless of the consequences and I’d done it. At the time I didn’t understand why I wasn’t punished. Later, when I was working as an English teacher, in the exact same school, the moment came back to me and I smiled. The same principal was in office as would have been there 12 years previous and he would not have seen the funny side (if there was one) of the stolen English paper.

So while I walked away with my grade intact, what mattered more was that a teenage boy had taken one faltering step towards being a good, honest man. I had said ‘no – that’s not who I want to be’ and I had drawn a line in the sand. In years to come I would go through theological college with a bloke who was copying the papers of past students and handing them in as his own. I was bewildered, but I guess that’s where it leads if you don’t draw your own lines early.

I don’t want to hold myself up as some kind of overly virtous kinda bloke, because that’s not who I am, but I do know who I aspire to be and I also know that when I screw up I need to fix up, otherwise I will learn to overlook my flaws and accept them as normal.

Maybe you’ve got a load on your own mind, a weight of stuff that you need to repair. It takes a bit of courage to lean into that, but its also the first steps in becoming the person you want to be, rather than the person you will become if you allow cowardice and fear rule your life.

There is a Homeless Man in My Street

There’s a homeless man in my street.

He wasn’t always homeless but he is now. It’s winter and its cold and he’s homeless. And I wonder what I should do… We don’t see homeless people in our suburb. I don’t even know if there are any others, but to have one in your own street… well, its disturbing and unsettling.

He doesn’t ‘look’ homeless – not like the picture above. He is neat and tidy, he smiles at you and can be seen reading a book on a park bench often during the day. He could be someone’s dad, or grandad out for a quiet stroll.

I first met ‘Bert’ 5 years ago when white ants had attacked our timber floors and I needed someone to repair them. He lived in the next street, worked in timber flooring and I figured I would use a local guy. He came around to quote on the job and spent maybe 5 minutes on the quote, before producing a package he wanted me to look at – a CD and some documents.

Bert had an invention he was trying to get investors for and it wasn’t going well. He showed me his invention, told me all about it. I wasn’t interested as it seemed like a bizarre concept no one would ever be interested in. But he was convinced… obsessed… consumed by it.

I never did get the quote, or the floor fixed.

A couple of years later his house was on the market. The word around the neighbourhood was that he had invested all of his money in the invention and had lost the house as a result. It was a significant house and very sad as he had built it himself. But the invention needed to be pursued.

I heard nothing more of Bert for another 2 or 3 years. Then I got wind that he was living in a local share house with a young couple. He lasted a few months there, but drove them crazy with his constant badgering and salemanship. They had to kick him out to stay sane.

He went to another house in our own street, but after 3 weeks hadn’t paid his rent. Again he was asked to leave.

Now he spends his days on the street, lives under a tree at the top of the hill and when the weather hits he takes shelter in a half built house across the road from our home with the perrmission of the owner. He can be seen most evenings walking the beachfront and watching the sunset before walking past our home to the top of the hill, or the half built house.

I bumped into him again down the beach one evening as I was flying my drone and taking pictures. He introduced himself, unaware that I knew who he was, and asked the usual questions about the drone – how far it can fly, how much it cost and so on. I answered him and chatted for a few moments, but with an aircraft in the sky I needed to pay attention to what I was doing. It was then that he began his sales pitch.

I politely declined and told him I needed to concentrate. He mumbled under his breath and took off.

Then I left home yesterday with Lucy my dog to get a quick evening walk in before sun-down. He was already walking up our street. I said ‘Hello Bert’ and he stopped to talk. I didn’t want to talk as rain was pressing in and I needed to get the dogwalk in before getting drenched.

We chatted briefly and I asked him when he would be finding a home again. He told me he is waiting for the invention to be taken up and to become profitable. Then he will be rich. He launched into telling me again about the invention and his ideas for changing the world. In his Eastern European accent he is hard to follow, but I got the gist of what he was saying. I told him again that I wasn’t interested in his invention and I excused myself. By that point he was ranting and railing about the environment and ecological destruction etc etc… He continued at volume as I walked down the street.

Maybe he’s just eccentric. Maybe he’s a little crazy. I don’t know for sure and it seems no one can get past his obsessive talk to who he is. He has been rude to people, harsh and even a little aggressive at times.

He has evoked curiosity among some neighbours and nervousness among others.

At our local coffee shop last week he became a topic of conversations between an older lady and myself. She is also a Christian and lives at the top of our street. We both looked at one another and said ‘We have space in our homes… but… but…’

What would Jesus do? I’m really not sure. Sure – he’d want to help the man. He’d love him. I just don’t know what that looks like.

I left a $50 note at the local cafe last week to help with their food bill as he sometimes drops in there for a feed. But was that a way of ‘helping’, or just a way of appeasing a burdened conscience? I never know for sure.

As I drove home from church last week I felt disturbed that a man was walking the street – my street even – in winter weather, while we lived in homes with spare rooms.

And I wonder, will we be held responsible in some way for that callousness? If there are sheep and goats, am I a goat?…

I tell myself, there is a reason he is on the street and offering him a room in your house or a key to your caravan may band-aid his symptoms, but it won’t solve his real problem. I think thats true.

But I still dunno if Jesus would say that…

So there is still a homeless man in my street.

Putting it Out There


I’ve started writing a book.

I’ve been pondering / meaning to / thinking about compiling much of what is on this blog into a book of some shape or form for ages, but for various reasons it hasn’t happened.

Some of the struggle has just been plain laziness – writing takes effort – watching Netflix doesn’t. Some of it has been a health issue which has meant sitting still has been hard, but some of it has also been that each time I have sat down to try and do it I have felt blocked – stuck – and unable to ‘find my voice’ so to speak. I have literally slammed the lid of the laptop shut in frustration because I have been unable to get going.

Last week I had a brief text conversation with my mate Phil who produced the Dad Book and he suggested organising into sections of work. That helped. I started to frame my various posts in different categories and the wheels started to turn. Those sections have already morphed several times, but that was a catalyst to get me moving.

However the ‘aha’ moment came when I was able to describe the precise type of book I want to write and who I want to write for. The book is intended to be a collation of my existing blog thoughts (15 years worth…) and more recently talks from 98.5FM and big brekkie episodes. There will also be some new stuff that has been sparking as I’ve been writing. So it will be short reflective stories of 2-3 pages in length that can be read in 5 minutes over breakfast, on the train or in the toilet (if that’s your thing…)

When I started to mentally picture who I wanted to write for, the faces I saw weren’t the faces of people in my church community – or in any church community for that matter. I think those people may find the stuff useful, but I started to see faces of my friends who don’t have church connections, but with whom I have conversations about life and faith and spirituality. These are people who want to live life well, and who are open to considering the Christian story – if it is framed in a way that makes sense.

There are plenty of ‘apologetics’ books – the ones that provide evidence and reasons for faith, so that base is well and truly covered by people smarter than me. But what I’d like to do is tell stories like this one and this one and this one – that have their focus as the kingdom of God and what that looks like and give people a vision of what life looks like when lived Jesus’ way.  I’d also include a few like this one that is more pointed, deliberate and maybe even confronting.

When Jesus wanted to communicate with people and either develop understanding or provoke curiosity he told stories. I guess he did this because stories draw people in and stories are somewhat ambiguous at times (“The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed”… “A man had two sons”…) Stories are less directive and didactic but stories have power because they often appeal to the heart. So my hope is to write a collection of stories – some mine and some I have picked up over the years that all point towards the nature of the kingdom of God, but in a gentle and maybe even subversive way.

I have often thought that I’d like a book to give to friends who are open to faith, but who wouldn’t gel with the whole ‘evidence based’ approach, but they are hard to come by.  When Sheridan Voysey produced Unseen Footprints I finally felt I had a more narrative shaped book that I could hand to people who were asking faith questions, but I don’t know of many others. So I am hoping to add one more to (very small) collection

In ‘Christian world’ we have what we know of as ‘devotional books’, those books that we can use to help us connect with God thru a brief piece of writing and a reference to a section of the Bible.

I guess this is a ‘devotion book’ for people who don’t share our faith, a collection of short reflections, unashamedly written from a Christian worldview, that could be read each day and that would give food for thought as well as light for the road ahead. I’d like to finish each chapter with 2 or 3 helpful reflection questions as well as providing some relevant part of the Bible for people to explore if they wish.

My hope is that it could be something people could give to a friend or a neighbour confidently and without cringing, knowing that the content would be engaging and provocative as well as solid – that it would fuel further conversations and if people didn’t buy into the whole faith thing then they would at least have some common sense input for living life well.

One of the things Phil said to me was that part of actually getting his book completed was ‘putting it out there’ and making it public that it was happening. From that comes the drive to follow through and not look like a guy who can’t finish what he starts. So this is me doing the same… saying I have started and I intend to finish. If all goes to plan I hope to be finished by the end of winter – 3 months. I dunno if that is overly ambitious but as a retic and turf bloke who worked a whole 2 hours last week I reckon I have the time on hand if I can use it wisely.

Cold Turkey









I wrote a similar post to this one 5 years ago, but this is where life is at 5 years on…

Around the middle of 2013 I stopped drinking alcohol – just totally cold turkeyed it.

It was a massive decision because I loved alcohol – although that was the problem – some days I loved it too much. Over time a single glass of red wine with dinner had become a ‘big’ glass, then two glasses, or three… And some nights it just seemed a waste not to finish what was in the bottle. It would go stale and that would just be silly.

I didn’t touch a drink until I was 28 years old, but over a period of 15 years from then I knew my alcohol consumption had grown from occasional and rare, to daily and usually more than was healthy. On the days I wasn’t able to open a bottle of red I missed it. I felt tetchy and irritable… One night while home alone I ploughed through a bottle of red on my own and then fell asleep on the couch. I woke up feeling ashamed and hid the bottle. I knew that was a problem but I decided I wouldn‘t drink that much again (until next time). Some days I would drink cask wine rather than bottled wine because with casks there is no telling how much you’ve had… Like all addicts I learnt some tricks.

In hindsight I didn’t consider myself to have an ‘alcohol problem’… not me! Although I realised that stopping and moderating was harder than I thought. At times I would talk with Danelle about how much I drank and we’d agree that I needed to be a bit more disciplined. Truth is she was deeply concerned but knew that getting angry with me wasn’t the answer. The fact that these conversations cycled around every few months was a sure sign that I wasn’t actually being more disciplined. I was losing the battle and I knew it. I just didn’t want to admit it.

I hated losing and I really liked wine. It was a bad situation to be in.

I considered just giving up many times, but I always came back to the belief that it was healthier to learn the practice of moderation than of abstinence. Abstinence would have been an admission of failure. I still believe that and I would rather my children develop the capacity to enjoy a glass of wine rather than having to avoid it altogether.

The problem was that moderation just didn’t work for me.

Then in the midst of my struggle I woke early one Sunday morning with a bizarre memory reverbing in my mind of a friend who was struggling with (literal) demons and who couldn’t get free. We had prayed for her, sent her for counseling, tried every kind of exorcism we could think of, but nothing worked. I had never been able to understand why.

As I woke early that morning I sensed God say ‘You couldn’t get rid of those demons because she didn’t want you to. She didn’t want them to go.’ My friend had been used by her father as a ‘medium’ since a very young age and these demons had become a part of her life back then. They had been with her for 30 years and while they tormented her from time to time, they also gave her an odd sense of security, comfort and familiarity. It was as if they had become her companions and she couldn’t see her way to clear to living without them.

I wasn’t scheduled to speak at church that Sunday morning, but I woke with a strong compelling sense that God wanted me to speak to our people about the demons in our lives that we allow to remain because they bring us comfort in some shape or form. I’d call it a ‘prophetic’ type message and I guessed that God woke me up because he really wanted to speak to some people in our community about their ‘demons’.

So I rang our other pastor, Ryan, who was scheduled to speak and who had done the prep work and explained what I was feeling. He ‘got it’ and was happy for me to bring the message to the church. I was glad as I felt someone really needed to hear this stuff!

As I spoke I felt like I was saying something potent and true. I spoke of recognising the things in our life (our demons) that hold us back from the full life that God intends and just ruthlessly excising them – showing no mercy. I didn’t hold back with calling people to deal brutally with their demons.

After the service I was drinking a coffee and chatting with some friends who (completely out of the blue) began to tell me how they had given up drinking and it was the best decision they had ever made.

‘You should try it Hamo!’ they said enthusiastically.

They didn’t know anything of my struggle, but they were telling me of their own freedom. In that moment I sensed God speak again and it dawned on me that the message today wasn’t for some lucky person in the crowd – it was actually intended for me.

God had put his finger on my life and literally said ‘alcohol is one of your demons and you can choose to excise it and live free or you can live with it and be in bondage to it.’

I wish I could say it was a quick decision.

That morning I realised that I needed to make a brutal choice – to leave alcohol behind – most likely for ever – and to find the better life that Jesus had in store for those who follow him.

That was an embarrassingly hard decision – because I loved my evening red – but I believe it was a choice between life and death – not physical death – but a slow spiritual death that would ensue if I chose to ignore God and simply do my own thing. Jesus said “you can’t call me ‘lord’ and not do what I say.”

It took me a week to make the decision – a week of wrestling with who I wanted to be and the shape I wanted my life to take. As I played out the different future scenarios – one with alcohol in the mix and one without it – it was a ‘no-brainer’ logically speaking. But when it came to making the actual decision I just couldn’t do it.

I didn’t want to become an alcoholic. I didn’t want to have to resign my leadership role because I had a drinking problem. But more than anything I didn’t want to be one of those Christians who lived a double life – who was a fake. I realised I was either going to quit drinking or quit being a Christian altogether – because you don’t get to pick and choose which things you will say ‘yes’ to God on. It became that stark for me – I couldn’t lead people into ‘Christlikeness’ while I chose not to go there myself – what a sham that would be!

Eventually I surrendered – took a deep breath and made the call.

I shared my decision with some friends. In telling the story to them I realised I was in essence offering a confession of a life that hadn’t been what it should have been. I was also drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘stand with me on this one.’

As I write this we are 5 years on and I haven’t had even a sip of anything alcoholic since the day of the decision. Oddly enough it hasn’t been that difficult. I am better at the ‘all or nothing’ decisions and not so good at the moderation ones.

People have asked me if I miss it. I do. I miss it a lot. I sometimes crave a good wine. I watch others drink and I wish I could too… but I can’t… not yet…

I didn’t sense God saying I needed to stop forever and one day I may enjoy a glass of wine again. But right now when I imagine opening a bottle of wine I don’t see myself enjoying one glass and then putting the cap back on. In my mind’s eye I see 2, 3 or maybe 4 glasses getting downed and I realise that time definitely hasn’t come yet.

I believe alcohol – like so many things in life – has been given to us by God as a gift to enjoy -but not all of us are equipped to manage it well. I still believe moderation is the best approach, but I also know some of us can’t do moderation well. In years gone by Christians didn’t drink alcohol. It was considered evil. Now we have got past that, but in our freedom we often run the risk of indulging more than we should.

My observation is that this ‘freedom’ has come at a price as many Christian folks who previously would never have touched alcohol now regularly drink to excess. Its a problem for us folks…

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has this struggle. Maybe you find yourself battling the same issue and need to make a tough call. Maybe it’s something else that has a hold of you.

The simple challenge is make sure nothing controls us other than the Spirit of God himself. I found it almost impossible to be a moderate drinker but when I quit altogether I found I had power to resist that I never knew existed. I believe God has given me the ability to do what I couldn’t do on my own and I believe he will give you that power too – if you want it – if you need it.

Driving with the Handbrake On

Last week I read an interview with Bono that enquired about his recent ‘health scare’. (I’m not sure how recent) In the interview he declined to discuss the issue because he felt it a bit rich for a wealthy white westerner to be complaining about ‘health problems’ when around the world millions are dying from preventable causes and do not have access to health care. Fair call.

I have felt similar over the last 12 months as I’ve battled a disturbing and chronic health problem that I can’t seem to resolve. Honestly – my life is pretty damn good. I don’t want for anything, and I’m very content with all parts of where we are at, so to complain about a small problem has felt a bit indulgent. That’s why I haven’t said anything.

But if you’ve wondered why this blog has been so neglected then this might help to explain. Back in January 2017 I developed a problem in my butt. I thought it was a haemorrhoid and I ignored the pain for a bit but when it didn’t go away I went to see the Doc. By this point it felt like strong pressure from inside my butt pressing out – like I needed to go to the toilet – but I actually didn’t…

So it was off to have a colonoscopy to make sure it wasn’t cancer (nope) and then from there it was ‘diagnosis by elimination’. It seems I have developed chronic pelvic pain – a constant spasm of the inner pelvic muscles that results in a really sore butt – a literal pain in the arse…

People describe it as like having a golf ball stuck up your bum… It’s an accurate description – (although I have never actually put a golf ball up my butt before)  It means sitting is uncomfortable and sore. Walking isn’t so bad. But I just can’t sit still for any length of time without squirming in pain.

When I say ‘pain’ maybe 2-3 on the pain scale so hardly the end of the world, but enough to distract me from anything I am doing.

It has taken its toll on all of my activities that involve sitting still for extend periods of time – writing being one of them. It has improved a little bit over the year and I have tried various means to deal with it – physio, stretching, meditation, none of them particularly effective. Google suggests some people acquire this problem and are never able to resolve it – yeeha… So going out to dinner with friends has been hard, driving has been hard, being at church has been hard… just relaxing has been really difficult. And being unable to resolve it has been hardest.

I have never had mental health issues, but this year I’ve had to make a conscious effort to stay positive and not to be overtaken by despair. Part of that is knowing that some people I know have far worse issues than I do and get thru. Part of it is that life just requires me to press on and keep getting things done. It’s given me a level of empathy for those who struggle with ongoing pain that I previously wouldn’t have had. I think that is a good thing, but I’m pretty weary from it now…

So this year has been like driving with the handbrake on – looking at a sunny day thru scratched lenses – whatever metaphor works for you. I can still do everything but it’s been restricted and as a result I feel like I haven’t achieved as much or been effective in what I have done. It has been hard to sit and think and write and reflect like I used to without giving up and going to lie on my bed. Most evenings I leave the lounge room around 8 and lie on our bed because it eases the discomfort, but it also takes a toll on family dynamics.

I’m not sure if 2018 will see this issue resolved or whether I will just keep ‘learning new things…’

I hear botox can help so that is possibly my next port of call, but in the meantime I just carry on.

The hardest part has actually been my struggle to think ahead and to see the future because I have become consumed with the immediate – relief of discomfort. As someone who likes to think ahead and plan the future that has been frustrating and dis-orienting.

So – this isn’t a ‘poor me post’. Really its not. I have hesitated to even write this – not because its ‘personal’, but because I’m really not suffering like some folks suffer and I’m writing this from the comfort of a big chair on my balcony on a balmy summer night in Yanchep. Life is good. But a part of it sucks right now. As I’ve talked to friends over the year about what they have been struggling with I’ve wondered if I’d swap my ‘problem’ for theirs and often the answer is ‘for sure’, but the reality is that a problem free / pain free life isn’t gonna happen for anyone so sometimes we need to learn how to live with pain.

I was chatting with my mate Scott today about hiking (his thing) and how sometimes it happens in cold and rain and ugly weather and that sometimes it really sucks – but sometimes you just have to ’embrace the suck’.

Right now I’m trying to ’embrace the suck’, learn from it, grow in it, but I’m also hopeful that things will change this year and I’ll be back to normal – or at least something else will suck 🙂

So if you’re wondered ‘what happened to Hamo blog?’ then this might help explain… (And the image above – the evening sunset in Yanchep – is completely unrelated except as a reminder that we live in a beautiful place and life is very very good.

The Squeeze

squeezeIts been a year of transition.

The kids went back to school at QBC, Danelle has picked up some work there and by virtue of having to fit into school schedules we have started to live a somewhat ‘normal’ life.

We now have children to get to school every morning, and home every afternoon… there is homework… and lots of it… Our lives have become governed by school hours and school terms.

I realise this is how most people live, but I’m not enjoying ‘the squeeze’. I’m not enjoying the sense of conforming to the rules of suburbia and there is a part of me that is wondering how long we can sustain this kind of life, or if we even want to.

‘Oh don’t be silly – of course you can sustain it – just look around you – everybody does it!’ I hear someone say.

And I’d say ‘so what?! Who said it has to be this way? And what impact does it have on those people?… Is it all good?’

Obviously we made these choices for a reason. One of my life’s mottos is that ‘life is a series of compromises’. You just can’t have everything you want all the time and sometimes you simply have to be willing to trade ‘x’ for ‘y’. We have made a choice to trade some of our freedom (and Danelle’s sanity) by outsourcing education to a third party.

But I didn’t actually realise how much of a family life change it was going to be having the kids back in the system. We originally made the decision because Danelle was struggling to cope with the demands of two kids in more advanced schooling and by sending them back it took that load off her plate. And it has done that… she has not struggled with anxiety anywhere near as much and the sheer weight of planning their education is no longer hers.

For the most part we are really happy with their school situation, but lately I’ve been noticing the squeeze – the forces being exerted on us that are shaping us into the predictable patterns of suburban life (and I get that they aren’t all bad – people need to know how to ‘fit in’ as well as how to think for themselves.)

That said, for the last 6 years I have always liked that at any time I could say ‘hey let’s down tools and take off for a few days down south!’ And we could… Or ‘Hey the surf looks good today Sam. Forget maths this morning and lets hit the beach’ And he could…

Earlier in the year I offered Sam a day off to come surfing with me and he told me wasn’t allowed. ‘What?!… I’m your dad boy! If I can’t give you permission then who can?!’

‘Yeah… we aren’t allowed to wag school dad,’ came the autobot reply. My butt cheeks clenched tight.

The squeeze… literally…

It started right back then. Sam is a natural law abider anyway, but what kid wouldn’t take their dad’s offer of a day off school?!

As part of our arrangement with the church we choose to take a lower salary in exchange for an extra two weeks holiday each year. It was partly to help the church with the $$, but it was always my intention to make sure we spent plenty of time on the road travelling.

That was great when we could shoot off up north for a month over July and then slot another couple of weeks in at other times, but now the mid year break is just two weeks. Exams come at the end of term and apparently it isn’t cool to skip them… And then it’d be tough on the kids for them to miss all the start up stuff in the first week of term.

So we fit in.

Part of the challenge is running a seasonal business, and yes – that’s my choice. So we can take 4 weeks over Christmas, but apart from the crowds and the premium prices its also the prime time to make some good $$.

Perhaps this is just how it is and we need to suck it up and slot in. For the next 4 years our life revolves around our kids’ education and their adolescent years. I do think there is an element of inevitability about that. But I also hope that when we (and they) come out the other end we haven’t become so entrenched that we have lost the ability to think for ourselves and choose our own path.

Or in the immortal words of the not so well known philosopher Forrest Griffin, I really hope the juice is worth the squeeze…



Like Going to War?








One the day I got married I woke at 8am and was ready by 9am for a 10am wedding. I love being a bloke. It was a Saturday so I opened the newspaper as I usually did on and as I was thumbing thru read the quote for the day:

‘Marriage is an adventure. It is like going war’

GK Chesterton

True story… with an hour to go I had that thought to ponder.

Now I help other folks get ready for marriage and every time I sit down to do some marriage counselling with a young couple about to get hitched for life we do the ‘Prepare‘ course, a comprehensive questionnaire that looks at how the two individuals think in various areas of life. It asks questions about communication, conflict resolution, finance, sex and several other important aspects of a successful relationship. Its comprehensive and very worthwhile so if you’re newly engaged make sure you get a marriage counsellor who can do it with you!

It also does an assessment of how realistically the couple are viewing their future marriage relationship and provides a score for ‘idealistic distortion’, in other words, to what extent the future is being viewed through rose coloured glasses and to what extent it is being viewed with a healthy dose of realism.

Almost without fail (among those who have never been previously married) everyone approaches it with a strong sense of idealism and the expectation that because we are so in love nothing could ever go wrong. I am yet to find a couple who approach marriage with a strong sense of realism.

What’s with that?…

Well its obvious isn’t it – they haven’t had to live with the same person day in day out for years on end, so they haven’t yet encountered the challenges that come with that kind of relationship.

Everything looks wonderful from the front end. What could possibly come unstuck for two young people so wildly in love?

Part of my role in preparing people for marriage is bursting that bubble to some degree. I don’t want to engender cynicism, but I do want to ask;

What if one of you gets really sick?… what if one of you farts in bed?… what if one of you stops feeling attracted to the other?… what if one of you develops an addiction – alcohol, porn, drugs?… what if you decide to work shifts and FIFO rosters and end up hardly seeing one another… and then you find someone else who lights your fire?… what if you just get really busy and bored with one another?… what if one of you goes off sex?…

The list goes on. So much can ‘go wrong’ in marriage if you are unprepared and idealism is a sure way to walk in blindfolded. So one of my key questions in marriage prep is to ask ‘what don’t you like about your partner?’ or ‘what annoys you about your future spouse?’ If you can give me an answer to those questions then chances are you seeing a bit more clearly.

If not then give it time…

Part of a maturing love is knowing what irritates you about the person you love but accepting them anyway and loving them so they can become the best version of themselves.

Marriage is adventure, but it doesn’t have to be like going to war…

Someone Has to Go First









As a retic & turf bloke I sometimes find myself laying lawn in the rain and those days are nothing but a long miserable grind. Even with a raincoat on, my clothes get damp, my boots sodden and the rolls of turf weigh almost double because they get waterlogged too. Everything is difficult and depressing, harder than it should be, but you keep going… you slog on, because you have to, because there is no other option – no way out.

As I look back on our married life, I would see that the hardest times haven’t been the sharp disputes and angry arguments, but rather they have been the ‘slog’ times when it feels heavy and dark and like there is no alternative on the table, with no future except to keep going.

On those days I’d rather lay 200 rolls of waterlogged turf in driving rain than keep pushing on in a relationship that seems to have lost its rudder and has drifted into darkness.

But it happens from time to time as for various reasons our lives begin to become parallel tracks rather than one interconnected track. (And yes – I write that in the present tense because it is not a ‘one off’ past experience that we are now immune to.) It happens slowly at first as we get busy, distracted and pre-occupied, self centred even… but then one day a little while later you look at each other with indifference or maybe even resentment and wonder ‘what happened?’

Well… a lot happened, but not much of it happened together, intentionally, or with the other person in mind.

The end result is a room-mate, a co-parent, a financial partner, a domestic assistant, but not a wife or a husband. And with those new identities comes a dark and disturbing loneliness, of being in the same room with someone you know and love (you think) and yet with whom you have little sense of heart connection or worse still a growing resentment and disappointment, (because its easier to blame than accept your own flaws.)

If you’ve been here then you’d know the inner angst that comes in these times, and the immense challenge of making a course correction when you have sailed so far off track. I’ve met couples who have never made the much needed course correction and who have slowly drifted into being co-habiting strangers, because its too difficult to even contemplate parting ways. There are kids to consider… finances… and even if we don’t like each other any more its just more convenient to stay in the same home even if we live separate lives.

That’s a dark picture, and I have tried to paint it that way intentionally because when you’re there the temptation is to look away and carry on hoping that the tracks will magically reconnect and the spark will re-kindle on its own. But if you’re reading this and saying ‘oh no… that’s us…’ then the challenge (if you are willing to accept it) is to pick up and move back towards the other person.

I’m no fan of divorce as a solution, nor I don’t subscribe to the idea of ‘falling out of love’. I do see that we can drift apart as we choose not to love, but equally I see that we can choose to love, to give and to put the other person first even when the raw feelings are leaning in the opposite direction and often that reignites the embers that are struggling.

These days we are better at spotting our tracks starting to diverge, but equally we are better at choosing to take early loving steps back together knowing that our marriage is built on more than a bag of warm feelings.

So if you’re there, then maybe its time to call it for what it is…

And then… someone has to go first.

Someone has to be the one to acknowledge the need and take the initiative. Maybe its you… Wherever you have drifted to, I believe its possible to come back from, but it starts with a single step… and then another…



Its been said you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.

This week one my jobs was installing some backyard retic and 70m of turf in a home in Alkimos, a job I’d usually knock off by lunchtime, but I was feeling a bit ginger and sore so it didn’t go as expected.

You see running hasn’t worked out. The very first run I did saw my knees hurting quite badly. I pressed on thinking it was just settling back into new routines and all would be well. The pain persisted so on return home I spoke to my physio who advised me to keep going. Probably not his finest moment… I kept going another two weeks dosing up on anti-inflammatories and hoping things would come good.

But they didn’t. I stopped the anti-inflams and went to see him, with a very sore left knee and clear swelling. My body was yelling ‘stop!’ but I was trying not to listen. This time he agreed I should stop running and I didn’t need much persuasion.

That was Tuesday morning as I was about to hit the job in Alkimos. I couldn’t bend down easily at all on the left so it was going to be a hard day either way. Then with the first dip of the shovel my back kinked on the right hand side. One of those random things that can happen when you’re tying your shoelaces or bending over to pick up the newspaper even. Suddenly I couldn’t bend at the knees or hips and both were shooting pain thru the body.

I pushed on and got the job done despite the pain – you do what you have to do – but midway thru as I was trying to kneel on the ground and join pipes I found myself thinking maybe my days of doing this are over… Maybe I need to give this body a break and go back to a more cruisy and sensible job.

The disappointment I felt was deep. And it made me realise I really enjoy what I do.

I still can’t really fathom that.

At face value its pretty basic manual labour, and many times over the last 10 years I have wanted to give it away. But in the last 12 months particularly I have found myself enjoying it – feeling alive in it – and that sense of disappointment wasn’t about losing an income, or the lifestyle that goes with it. I could employ someone to ‘be me’ – that would be easy – but it was about the possibility of losing the ability to do something I enjoy.

I’m sure I could pick up a full time ministry job somewhere, or even go back to teaching, but that’s not where my heart is these days. To roll into a local backyard on a sunny winter day and spend the morning doing some serious work that ends in an instant transformation is rewarding. The conversations I find myself having with clients often go to unexpected places and that is rewarding too. Knowing you are serving people and going to leave them with the best job they can get is also a good feeling.

I worked again on Thursday with the back pain easing slightly and the leg still dodgy and now I’ve got a week off when hopefully it will settle and get back to normal.

Some days you don’t like what you do. It annoys you and feels like an impediment to the life you wish you had. Perhaps it just needs to get taken away for you to realise its value.

That was my realisation this week – and I’m grateful.