Others’ Crossroads

The two most important persons in my life have had a contrasting week. Kiddo has been accepted as an associate with the TFA program and now awaits placement. It would be a 2-year commitment and I guess depending on the placement outcome, other decisions will be made. Tress on the other hand, has had a challenging few weeks and last week made the decision – at least psychologically/mentally – to do something about those challenges.

In the background, as I whir away in this hip semi industrial fringe of Melbourne CBD, I too see people walking past intersections of life. In my short time here so far, I had invested time in a few people of which 2 have already been moved on. Both are males and we (the 3 of us) have had several lunches together and were just starting to build a relationship of sorts.

These movements have been intriguing to witness and be part of. Life’s vicissitudes have taught me to simply appreciate each day as it comes. Living, engaging and embracing the present is a relatively new mantra but I’m learning the values of the here and now, of being here every time.

Tress has been – as always – concerned I got enough rest and stop and put my feet up sometimes but I’ve been given a new lease of life. The return to Melbourne has made me embrace life here a lot more. It is physically draining by the end of most weeks but that too is to be embraced. The experience of being dried out late Friday, having little energy to kick on late to celebrate the arrival of yet another weekend, is yet another experience I am embracing. Sometimes there’s a tinge of the sense of the unbearable lightness of being.

Yet, when I witness people approaching crossroads – especially those dearest to me – I loosen my embrace of the present and think instead what can, will or ought to be. I want Kiddo to make a life for herself and embark on a full on journey. I want Tress to enjoy each day as she pours herself out at her work and seek to make life better for everyone around her…

Even as these crossroads are around Tress and I now, we continue to chug along our normal weekends. We both dropped into our hairdresser’s – Simon in Mt Waverley – first thing Saturday morning, after which we came back, pottered around the house and took the little furry ball for a longish walk, before the anticipated wet day later on. Lunch at Madam K again and then it was off to FHC to check some details of our coming break to Five-O land before we got some groceries and went home to cook the week’s meals. I made lots of soup as I listened to the Hawks’s crescendo of a finish against the Lions up in Brisbane.

Very early on Sunday I got up to watch the Champions League final. I urged Atletico Madrid on, hoping they would avenge their loss in 2014 to the same team – their more famous cross town rival. They succumbed finally in a penalty shoot out – just. Their 4th kicker hit the post which allowed their rival’s iconic superstar (Cristiano Ronaldo) to slot in the winning kick.

At church later that morning, Peter talked about bringing joy at/to work and I wondered again, if that message made any impact on Tress. We later bumped into Ronald and Cat at lunch. They’re old friends from Klang and have been living in Melbourne for many years. After lunch we decided to visit Eastland – it was still cool, a bit wet and we wanted a place to walk around but away from the wintry conditions. We bumped into Natasha – Tress’ cousin – together with her squeeze.

Later we walked the little fellow again, and then went home, made some red bean soup and settled down to some TV before heading to bed.


Weekend & Wishing it was Warmer

It was a difficult week for the Hawks last week. Roughead had a relapse of his cancer and on Friday night when they took on the Swans, many thought it would be a gigantic battle to lift themselves off the emotional weight of their much beloved colleague’s battle. They worked hard, but Sydney was very good and it was difficult to find that edge and so went down in a low scoring game. Tress and I watched it at home as I was really tired from the week’s activities.

After the game I sort of slumped into the couch and just felt like lying there – the level of tiredness, the low energy level – I was really under.

On Saturday morning after a bit of a sleep in we did a quick house clean before heading off to Madam K for lunch as usual. We then dropped by a housing development project site – we wanted to check out Uncle Seng’s latest project in Burwood.

When we caught up with U Seng and A Anne the previous weekend, they had talked about their latest project. They asked us to also consider sub-dividing our home to build two homes – occupy one and sell the other. While I said to them I’d not presently do anything like that – it changes the character of our street and I disliked the overbuilding, the ever increasing density and the ever decreasing flora and fauna – we really have been thinking about our home. I had even checked out re-development/re-building our home on a 1:1 replacement basis, ie demolish and rebuild a single home.

After checking out the Burwood site, we went off and got some stuff to cook. I was going to cook the week’s lunches and Tress was going to make a fruit platter for Alex’s birthday party later that night. The little black jedi had an extended walk and after that I started cooking and Tress did her fruit platter.

At Alex’s, we caught up with some acquaintances and made some new friends. There were at least half a dozen other families there, none of whom we knew well. In fact more than half of them are people we wouldn’t have recognised if we bumped into them on the street. It’s often like that in Alex’s home. I said to Tress there were a couple of blokes I could at least have proper conversations with so it was good. It was in any event, always very good to be able to catch up with Alex and his family, and friends.

At about 3.30am on Sunday morning, a little buzz went off on my iPad and I got up and about 15 minutes later, got myself out of bed. It was the one chance Man Utd has to win a trophy. They were playing Crystal Palace in the FA Cup Final and it was already the second half. United had been lethargic for much of the season and the first 60-70 minutes were the same. I had not been following their season too closely – other than their very ordinary games under Louis Van Gaal, it has become increasingly difficult to follow games half way across the world, with such unfriendly hours for us Down Under.

United triumphed after extra time – Lingaard’s winning goal in the second period of extra time was like a missile arrowed with great venom into the top right hand corner of the net –  and Tress and I went back to bed at about 6am (she had joined me just as extra time began).

Peter started a new series in church on Sunday – it was about being fruitful on the “frontline” and was based on Gal 5:13ff. I had wanted to stay behind for the “Faith Effect” session by Manna Gum’s Jonathan Conford but the half hour wait, and the general tired sense didn’t help so after chats with a couple of people (Warren and wife, Mark Sneddon) we left and went to Westfield in Doncaster. Tress had wanted to check out a lego set of the Millineum Falcon for Zack, our nephew in Klang as well as try and get Kiddo’s phone plan changed to give her more call time.

We had lunch in a Japanese ramen place and maybe due to my general sense of tiredness/lethargy the very rich soup made me unwell and it took a bit of walking around before I felt better. The Falcon was too big to send by parcel so we parked the idea and the phone plan for Kiddo was also a bit tricky as she was on a plan which was a sort of one-time offer so any change would mean she goes off that special feature… yada yada… Kiddo probably just have to manage her calls better or work harder to pay off bigger mobile phone bills I guess.

We got home, walked the little fellow and then went home to cook some soup for the week’s dinners. Tress looked at a job much closer to home and put in an application. We settled down just before 6pm to finally put our feet up…

As we were driving in to work this morning we talked, as we have for a bit recently, about Kiddo. It would be a selection day of sorts soon for a teaching program she is considering, I think it was going to be tomorrow or Wednesday this week. She has also put herself up for more studies for a teaching qualification in the Australian Catholic University. At the same time she is also looking for a job, mostly with the APS. All these, as she clocked up increasingly busy hours with tutoring and RA work with her professors as well as plan her future with Mic.

Not for the first time, I wished she was going through all these in Melbourne – where she can be home with us, where the meals we cook will include her and our walks, our social interactions, our church life can all include her. Also not for the first time, I wondered what would have happened if she had remained in Melbourne and pursued the BA/LLB course she was offered for Monash University here in Melbourne, instead of going off to Canberra to do that PhB in ANU.

Our nest has been empty for well over 4 years now but I’ve never ceased wondering.

This morning as we were about to leave for work I asked Tress why she closed the door of Kiddo’s old room. She said it was to keep out the cold. I wonder how much warmer our lives would be if she never left Melbourne.



Autumn Ending

A place like the Mulgrave Country Club sounds a bit posh. When we rocked up on Friday night to catch up with Jason and Mel and U Marloney/A Hooi over dinner, it felt a bit more like an RSL. Maybe half a notch up. Maybe it’s egalitarian Australia. Maybe it’s what that joint was intended to be.

We had a good time catching up nevertheless and before we knew it almost 3 hours have wheezed by. Tress and I noticed however, that when the conversation turned towards how ICC is, Jason and Mel sort of switched off, turned away even. I guess 3 years notwithstanding, there is still a bit of rawness.

We got home, and half willed the Crows on but the Dangerfield inspired Cats remained strong and the maestro’s return to Adelaide didn’t give the Crow Eaters any joy.

On Saturday, the little fellow had a grooming appointment in the morning so we brought him across the street to the oval for a bit of a run around, before Amber (his groomer) showed up with the mobile cut and wash unit. When he was done, Tress and I washed up and we took a little drive to the peninsula.

We headed to the Montalto winery, and sat down to a very lovely lunch. It was a gorgeous day and after lunch we wandered along the grounds, which has a large display of sculptures spread within and beyond the vineyards. It was lovely walking on the grounds, wondering what those sculptures were saying and just soaking in the sun on a balmy late autumn’s day. We weren’t the only ones to take advantage of the unusually warm weather 2 weeks out before winter. A good crowd was there and as we were leaving the winery, we noticed the car park was full and more people were making their way in.

We stopped by a couple of clusters of quaint little shops in Red Hill South. On the second stop, we went into another cafe – the shamelessly named Epicurean – and had some coffee and shared a cake. I suppose we were swept along the Epicurean mindset…

After leaving the peninsula, we stopped by our usual grocery joint at The Chase and picked up some stuff to cook the week’s meals. Back home, we walked the little fellow to milk the sunny and balmy day, before going home to do the cooking (for me) and ironing (Tress).

Cooking done and meals tucked away in the freezer/fridge, we sat down to watch the Richmond v Swans game. It was a thrilling game and Tress and I were saying how good it was to see the Tigers fighting hard against the mighty Swans. Rance, Griffiths and Riewoldt were all hugely impressive and even young Rioli (Daniel, Cyril’s cousin) kicked a couple of goals. It was a guy called Sam Lloyd however, who gets a after the siren kick. 5 points down at the siren, Tress and I were both on our feet watching as we waited for that little fellow Lloyd take his kick. The Sherrin sailed sweetly in between the main uprights to give Hardwick just the second win after Round 8. It was unbelievable drama.

Sunday after church we headed as usual to Madam K but only to stop by to pick up some takeaway. We had arranged to see U Seng and A Anne in their home for lunch. U Seng had rung a few days earlier to ask if I could witness some documents for him so we arranged to have lunch on Sunday. I mentioned this to A Hooi on Friday night and so she and U Marloney joined us a bit later and it was very nice to catch up and talk about what’s been happening to our respective families and our holiday plans.

We left just before 4pm, headed home and walked the little fellow. At the oval, we caught up with an old acquaintance whom we got to know a couple of years back. She had a couple of pooches – a westie and a king charles but the king charles had died some months back.

Scruff looked like he really enjoyed the time with a number of dogs all running happily in the oval. We only headed home when it was turning dark.

It was a lovely weekend with lots of time catching up with friends and family, as well as taking in the beautiful surrounds of Melbourne. It really is a blessing to be living in this part of the world. We often hear that being born in Australia can be a bit like winning a lottery. Sometimes, in some seasons in our lives, living in this part of Melbourne feels a bit like that – even on a Monday morning which was 6.5deg at 6am.

Tanzania and beyond, and other pre-winter weekend fun…

Every few months, a men’s breakfast meeting happens in my church. A few blokes would wake up very early on a Saturday morning and head to the church kitchen to make really good breakfast. A few dozen men would catch up over breakfast and then listen to someone speak.

Andrew Jones and his family had been in Tanzania from 2012 and recently returned to Melbourne. He has been a missionary there. He spoke on Saturday morning and for nearly an hour, everyone listened intently. I hung on to every word. He was a very good speaker.

Andrew simply spoke about his childhood, his family and how as a missionary kid himself, he grew in the Lord to eventually serve as a missionary himself. He grew up in Benin in West Africa and had his formative Christian years there and in Murrumbeena Baptist Church. His mother came from a family of Baptist ministers and he himself initially served as a youth minister in Syndal Baptist, then moved on to something known as Caleb Ministries, before turning to the corporate sector (Medibank Private) because his wife said to him he needed a real job if they were to start a family.

It was an earlier start for a Saturday than I would have liked but that breakfast meeting charged me up for the weekend. It was refreshing as well as reaffirming, that there are genuinely strong and caring men in my community.

I went home around 9.30am and immediately went to work on the garden, trimming the tall hedges, mowing and tidying and cleaning the yards. Tress also did much weeding and cleaning up bits and pieces of different parts of the front, side and backyards.

We headed to Madam K’s just before 2pm and it was crowded so we headed to Shangrila Inn again, after which we went back, walked the little fellow and watched a local soccer match. It was a glorious day weather wise and we wanted to stay outdoors as much as possible, as surely it won’t be long now before real wintery conditions kick in.

Later that night we watched “The Help” on Netflix and the familiar themes of black American woes were softened by moving and funny moments.

Sunday was the usual. After church (“All Ages” service for Mother’s Day) and lunch at Madam K we went home and cooked our meals for the week. When that was all done I rang my mum and Tress also spoke with hers. It was good talking to them. We also spoke with my niece who was visiting Klang from Penang. She was on a week long holiday before starting a matriculation course at the northern tip of peninsular Malaysia. We talked about visiting Malaysia for Chinese New Year in 2017. That would be really good, especially if Kiddo is able to come along.


Trump? Yes I’m afraid so…

I thought I knew a little bit about America. I thought it was a champion of freedom and all things good, of sorts. You know – Mr Nice Guy extraordinaire. The sort who’d go around to a neighbour’s home if he thought something’s not right, and fix it – even though it’s not his home. Someone who cares about his neighbour basically.

Maybe the America I thought I knew is really only a veneer that is projected onto a screen through some very friendly lenses. Maybe its is those Hollywood lenses. Or CNN/NY Times variety. Or even the Tim Keller variety. You know, rose tinted benign ones. Certainly where leadership is concerned.

I think I really do not know America, at all. Or really very little – too little – about it. If I knew a modicum more of what America really is, surely I’d seen Trump’s triumph with less shock and horror.

They now call him the presumptive nominee of the Republicans. The GOP now has a Grand Odd Pot as its representative in the November shoot-out to earn the right to be the leader of the world’s sole democratic superpower.

Some conservatives have predicted this for a while now. Welcome him even. Sure, we want small governments with small taxes who protect individual liberties and a nation’s sovereignty and the GOP generally believe that, but Trump? Really? Thankfully we logged off Foxtel middle last year and no longer watch CNN, FOX and other American news channels. I really do not need to see a Donald Trump  v Hillary Clinton presidential election.



Friday with Jason and Mel

A new restaurant in our neighbourhood opened for business last week and so last Friday night Tress and I decided to check it out. Earlier that day our friends Jason and Mel messaged us to say they were catching a movie that night in our area and asked if we wanted to have dinner. We told them our plans and so we had dinner together.

We chatted as usual about work and other matters – just catching up. We talked about church too and Jason came across as not really interested.

They’ve left ICC for nearly 3 years now, and the effect of what happened is still real and the harm remains. The once caring, dynamic, inspirational and energetic leaders have turned away, and are still uninterested in being part of a faith community. I told Tress my observation and I said to her I was affected by that. Their reticence to re-engage has persisted notwithstanding the passage of time and I wonder if more time is needed, or is an alternative church the answer.

I suspect getting to the root of the matter is what will really resolve the matter. But that requires long and possibly painful conversations, which I’m not sure parties involved are willing to get into. Least of all Jason himself. Mel I’m not so sure but she was a bit twitchy on Friday night too, and hopefully that was entirely due to the very spicy and a touch unpleasant dinner in that restaurant with obvious teething issues.

So I dropped Jason a short note this morning, saying I would be praying for him again.

Saturday with Micah et al

After a good brekky made by Tress and a quick vacuum clean around the house, we went to Madam K’s picked up some “kueh”s and headed to Maribyrnong for little Micah’s first birthday party.

We caught up with his parents, Ruth and Jonathan, 6 chek/6 chim, and a few others as we spent the arvo with little Micah. He’s an adorable kid – feisty, curious and independent.

We left just before 4pm, got to Forest Hill Chase for Tress’s quick optometry visit and then headed home to walk the little fellow on a beautifully sunny late arvo.

Video and Wok Sunday

On Sunday after church we headed to Madam K again but we were met with a big crowd so we couldn’t get a table. So we made our way to the Shangrila Inn and after lunch, we got some grocery and after walking the little fellow, Tress got to work making a short video clip. Her Convent Klang class of 1983 is celebrating a collective 50th and she was asked to send a video greeting. After 3 takes she was happy and so sent off the clip to the organiser.

I did some cooking for the week’s lunches and dinners as Tress continued to work on our visas for the June holiday, and then on to doing some ironing.

The work was all done by 6pm and we then settled down to have some fruits, watch TV to catch the start of the new MasterChef season, before ending the weekend.