The ebbs and flows of 2013

As I stood in the shower in the gym this morning, I realised I wanted badly to just stand there and let the water run down my neck. It would only be a few hours at work this morning before we all go home as the office would be shut at noon.

There was no pressing work needing to be done and as long as I make it in by 9am I should be fine. I didn’t need to be in at my usual 8am and I had taken longer on the cross trainer and moved on to the stationary bike and my gear had been soaked. I was just going to stand under this hot shower and imagine being washed and rinsed of all my cares which have piled up over the year.

I had started this year looking for a home, church wise. I got to a point I didn’t bother if I was going to church on a Sunday. I could only see the negatives in churches and the people in them. The brouhaha in my previous church had escalated, affecting people I cared about. I did things in response which though I would do again in a heartbeat, I wished I didn’t have to do.

I have had Kiddo leave home a second time, to a land close to my childhood home. Singapore feels foreign now. The new felt old. Or is it the old felt new. It is a city state which is modern and yet traditional and conservative at the same time. It is singularly far from home where Tress and I are. Other than a little dog, all we had was our work and our home.

Work was increasingly busy. I was asked to be in arenas I didn’t want to be in. Locking horns and battling in cauldrons and with people I did not think or wish to be in or with. An environment which is chalky at best permeated. Unhappy shareholders who no longer trust the board or management, translating into a cascading tide of finger pointing and – dare I say it – bullying. All I want is work. I want to go in, do my work and go home and drink my wine. Watch my footy. Walk my dog. Be with my lovely wife. But the mistrust, the second guessing, the finger pointing, all add up to make each day a laboured one, from which I continue to seek to escape. But the scriptures have taught that work is good and all that is part of work, so I remain grateful. Head down…

It has been a year with various changes and challenges. As tiring as it has been, I almost don’t want it any other way. I am learning to take each tide as it comes and ebbs. It all adds to this tapestry I did not know was being weaved. And in the midst of all that, I have had the constant love of Tress and Kiddo and the soothing, blessing presence and company of Tress my lovely and loving wife. I am ever grateful for her.

2013, in as much as I want to be washed and rinsed away as though I am standing under a shower, I also simply want to experience the sensation of being pushed and sucked by the ebbs and flows of the tides. Thank you my Lord for 2013…


Great finish to the week

I left the office early today- just on 4.30. Tress and kiddo picked me up from the station and we went home and I started preps to get dinner going. The girls had gone shopping and picked up some fish (leather jackets) and chook wings for the barbie and I went about with the marinade as soon as I got home. Dinner was great and we were all stuffed silly.

Dinner done, all three of us pottered around in the gardens. Kiddo and I watered the plants while Tress did some weeding. We started at the back and side gardens and finished up on the front. The neighbours’ kids were in full flight on their bicycles and scooters and as the little black Jedi mossied around with the kids while we did the gardening stuff, I felt very grateful and contented.

We went back indoors just after 8 and Jackson/Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings came on and we sat through it, switching to our own DVD versions mid way and continuing with the Two Towers. It was a satisfying and peaceful evening for which I was (am) so very grateful.

Being there

Cover of "Being There (Deluxe Edition)"
Being There

I had a meeting last Friday arvo from 3pm and when I got back to my desk at 4pm, I couldn’t believe what I saw on the screen – England had crumbled and had lost something like 6 wickets for 9 runs. After checking I had no urgent calls or emails to respond to, I quickly went to the tea room and joined a few other blokes who have been watching the game.

The day ended with Australia well on top so the unpleasant scenes of Australia’s first innings were well and truly erased.

As usual, I was very tired on Friday night and when we met up for dinner at the Enrik café with Jason and Mel, I was just happy to be in a busy but pleasant restaurant so close to home with Tress and some very dear friends. Dinner was very good and we just stayed on and chatted for a bit before leaving.

It was raining on Sat – the weekend forecast had been a wet one – so I couldn’t work on the garden. After the usual dry cleaning run, I said to Tress the wet morning would mean less congestion at the new fruit and veg market on Canterbury Road at Forest Hill (Strawberry Point) so we quickly went over and got our green grocery for the week, and then we drove to Mount Waverley and met Simon, Tress’ hairdresser. A hair cut had been long overdue for me and much as I was sure Simon had barely woken up when he worked on my mop top, I was glad I had it done.

After lunch (at Madam Kwong’s Kitchen of course) and a quick visit to a property auction, we (or I) spent the rest of the arvo just vegging out in front of the telly, watching the cricket. My right Achilles had caused me grief anyway so it was a perfect excuse to just spend a cool and wet Sat arvo doing nothing except watch Michael Clarke and David Warner chalk up satisfying tons.

The rain continued pouring on Sunday. There was an AGM after the service and Tress and I decided to stay for that meeting, to get a soak in of some of the issues the church had faced in the past year. It ended close to 2pm. We went to Madam Kwong’s Kitchen again after that and since it continued to pour, we just decided to go to a shopping place and walked around.

The service was a thanksgiving one and numerous people publicly gave thanks for a whole range of matters. A familiar pattern emerged very quickly – that of life’s many challenges. Often, these challenges require solutions. A way forward to resolve the matter at hand would always bring relief and pave a way towards a brighter future.

What’s become crystal clear however is that other than solution or a way forward, often those facing life’s challenges just need someone at their side. This person need not have any answers – just being there to provide support and perhaps add strength, clarity of mind to deal with the issues or challengers and the assurance that no matter what happens, there is someone who would be there for them. That someone would certainly help countervail any tendency to over-internalise the challenges one faces.

Facing challenges is probably another one of life’s certainty. In recent weeks, we have seen a cancer patient succeeding, heard about another patient failing, seen a young man battling depression, been with a couple who lost their first born infant child, and been touched by other departures of others who have spent considerably more years.

In all of these experiences, the presence of another as they navigate their paths in dealing with the challenges, has always been what’s deeply treasured. Being there for someone matters. Praying for someone is often a throwaway line used in such circumstances and prayers may or may not happen. The Lord may or may not intervene. But as members of the community we find ourselves in, being there for one who is faced with these challenges, is often what we can and ought to do. Sometimes, like Peter Sellers, “Being there” is what matters. I need to think about responding to this more meaningfully.

Gout Treat

I woke up at 4 this morning with a sore toe. Instinctively and probably still sleeping, I trudged to the kitchen to look for the Arcoxia tablets. There were none in the pantry but again instinctively I got out into the car and got a strip of that lifesaver tablets and took one.

When the alarm went off at 5.30 the pain was still there so I decided to give the gym a miss. There goes my planned 8km. I slept in, and when Tress got up and got ready for work, I decided to take the day off sick. The soreness hasnt gone away.

So here I am, waiting for the doctor’s clinic to open so I could go and get a scrip for Arcoxia top-up’s. I need that pain to be totally managed before this weekend, when Tress and I go up to Canberra again. I dont want anything to mess that up.

I have also made up my mind to leave my present role. Preferably however, I want to find a legal or quasi legal role first, before I do. Staying in this role has so tainted my views of ministry and people in it, that I need to get out before my relationship with these people become badly affected.

I was just checking my emails and saw an invoice coming in. He is a retired professional and helping the office manage an IT database upgrade project. If I was in his shoes, I would have done it voluntarily, no questions asked, no second thoughts. Another retiree was to do some “deputation” or representative work in the country. Again at costs to the organisation. It isnt paid work but expenses fully reimbursed. I can only wonder what a week or two driving in the country can chalk up in terms of costs.

Maybe I need to revisit my concept of serving. After all mine is also a paid role, not voluntary. Although I minimise costs by foregoing a lot of entitlements a full time paid staff would have, and have hardly lodged any claims, always thinking this organisation need to minimise its costs. My boss does that too but a lot of other people dont. Almost nothing is done on a volunteer basis without pay or reimbursement.

I dont know, maybe I just need to have a good think about what I am doing, where I am now, what I want to spend my time on, etc. I know I am just not fulfilled. At all. Having told myself to go easy on food and having unsubscribed from stuff like Foxtel, I come home each day just looking forward to taking the little black jedi to the park and let him frolic with other pooches. When the park is used for cricket or footy training like it has been, I get a bit lost and the walking around the blocks thing becomes a disappointment. I’d come home after say 45 minutes and plonk myself in front of the tele for a bit, simplt deplete of anything enjoyable or fulfillng. I’d feel the day had gone by with God knows what achievement or accomplishment. There isnt even the simple satisfaction of having done some work I’d consider fulfilling.

Maybe that’s why I’m sort of happy to just stay at home today, away from the office. Sore tore notwithstanding.

One chapter closes…

Kiddo, Tress and I spent the whole of Saturday doing stuff together. We went to the Dandenongs in the morning and did the Kokoda Memorial Track (“1,000 steps”). Kiddo has been really fit and was the first one up. I was next and a surprisingly fresh looking Tress was in tow, a few minutes later. We took a longer but more gradual route down and when it was all done, we felt good and had a good brunch at Olinda. We did the unpardonable and had pies at Pies in the Sky. A bit of warning – the pies appear to have lost some of their attraction. They don’t taste as yummy as they used to and the “floater” (in pea and ham soup and a scoop of mash on top) certainly wasn’t the extra $9 or so – it was very dry and bland.

After leaving the Dandenongs we went to get some dried foods for Kiddo to survive on in the next few weeks when crouching in the trenches that are the tiny rooms in the halls of residence in the ANU, as well as some storage containers and packing boxes from Bunnings in Vermont. We got back just after 1.30pm, I took a short snooze before cleaning the house for the dinner party in our home on Sunday night.

Tress did some cooking, as well as the usual rounds of laundry and Kiddo went about packing and placing all her stuff in the spare bedroom to help us all gauge how much space she needed in the car. Kiddo did as much of the packing as possible and we all have a much better idea now, of the stuff we would be carting up this weekend.

That night Kiddo went for an 18th birthday party in Bulleen – that of Sammy her best mate. We took her to the dinner and went to Box Hill ourselves.

Church yesterday was in really hot and windy conditions and the cell leaders meeting in the arvo was a bit testing for that reason. I got home around 3 and got ready for the dinner party at home for Kiddo’s church friends. We had a Sri Lankan lady do the catering and we picked up the food (from church). It was a longish night but I think Kiddo enjoyed the time with her friends from church, that she has made in the last 8 years here in Melbourne.

It was the last weekend of this chapter in Kiddo’s life. Next weekend a new chapter begins.

Elliptical Ride

I’ve been down to a max of 2 runs a week now. Most weeks it’s just once. Other days I’d be on the elliptical cross-trainer – less impact.

This morning it was a very labored 7k. It took more than 45 minutes. Extremely embarrassing except it doesn’t bother me much these days.  It no longer bothers me I don’t do a 10k in 45 minutes, and as long as I’m doing some form of cardio work out at least 3 times a week, it’ll do by me.

The bigger worry is the lack of picture of the future. I don’t know what I want to do. I guess I can go on doing what I’m doing now, but that would mean (after February) coming home to an empty house for a couple of hours before Tress comes home, and wondering what else I can fill my time with other than doing my MST studies. I’m not sure if I should be returning to a legal role instead. It would be more satisfying in terms of doing work each day, to just turn it on, boom booom boom, and then coming home at the end of it all before doing 1-2 hours of MST studies.  The pay packet would be heaps better too, which would come in extremely handy given what has to go to the nation’s capital city to keep kiddo going.

Yesterday I sort of worked out kiddo’s calendar, to have the key dates set out so that we have a better idea of whether any given weekend would be a good one for us to be with her. I think I’ll see a fair bit of the Hume Highway going forward. Maybe missing a few weekends at church here in Melbourne too.

I wish the route ahead is as “non-impact”  as the elliptical trainer.

Weekends, soon to be different

English: Category:Images of Canberra Burton an...
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The VTAC offers are scheduled to be released today. Any hopes of Kiddo opting for a BA/LLB course in Monash have been reduced to a mere theoretical possibility, as she has been really excited about doing the PhB course in ANU in Canberra instead. I have in fact, paid a deposit for her residential college in the Burton and Garran Hall (“B&G”). Tress had also set Kiddo up with a supplementary credit card and got it activated and ready to go. We’re likely to be taking that long hike to Canberra again, around the second week of Feb.

On Saturday, we made a vegetable soup together. It’s a continuation of Kiddo’s cooking lessons. The class took place in between two hefty sessions of cleaning. After the usual vacuuming, Tress, Kiddo and I settled down for some soup, after which I went out and continued hacking down our overgrown Silver Stirling hedges. Well not exactly hacking down but bringing them down from a monstrous 3+ meters to a more manageable 2 meters or so. Earlier that morning Tress and I had gotten up early to get to Tullamarine again – this time taking a young lady doctor from Mulgrave who was going back to Malaysia for a short holiday. We got to her home just before 7, dropped her off at Tulla just before 8am and got to the Vic Market to get stuff for a barbeque we did last night. So all in it was a long and busy day and after prepping the communion spiel and other bits I had to do in church the next day, the 3 of us settled down to a game of cards for a bit.

On Friday we had gone to the Knox for a movie – a very ordinary Sherlock Homes sequel (“Game of Shadows“). It was a disjointed and messy fare and loads of bomb blasts and slow-mo running, jumping and fist fights… sigh.

Last night we had 3 families over for a barbeque dinner. Sort of 3 families – one still has her hubby and kids in Singapore for their holidays, and she had returned to Melbourne early to go back to work. We again finished up late – it was about 12am when we got to bed, and gym this morning was sort of tough.

If it sounds like we’re trying to cramp our weekend, I guess I am. 3 weekends from now, our weekends will be very different. I just want to keep the good thing firing on all cylinders while we can.

Early Days, Choppy Start

We’re into 2012 now. I had wanted to stay at home and do a barbie or something like that for new year’s eve, or just organise a dinner with some friends – at home.

I really did not want to be in a restaurant on that day, least of all a restaurant anywhere in the city. Tress’ cousin has a restaurant in Docklands, which they just opened a few months ago. Naturally the lives of that cousin, his family and his parents would revolve around that business so Tress’ parents’ visit sort of has that restaurant as a hub of sorts, around which their activities revolve. Including the New Year’s Eve event.

That there will be more than 500,000 people flocking into the city that night was something the cousin was going to have to deal with regardless, albeit happily so. I think my refusal to drive into the city on that night with septuagenarian passengers and wards was not very well received. Anyway, mark that down as another of my regrets, which are slowly mounting anyway. Perhaps my new year resolution should be to minimise regrets.

We ended up going to a restaurant – a Chinese one – and had an ordinary dinner, came home for a couple of hours, before driving to the airport to drop off Tress’ sister who was heading back to Malaysia ahead of the rest. I was a bit non-plus why we had to wait there – I was at the Macca’s parking lot for about an hour, getting in and out of ¼ hour parking spaces – I cannot remember the last time we had to wait at the airport for a drop off, when an adult able bodied passenger was travelling.

The heat and the waiting at the parking lot on a New Year’s Eve sort of got to me and I just got real quiet on the drive back home. Yet another regret, I guess.

New Year’s Day was Sunday so we trooped to church. It was a hot day, and the Dockland revellers of the night before weren’t going to be there. My father in law was the only one staying with us – he was uncomfortable staying with Tress’ uncle in Point Cook for a number of reasons – so he was in church with us.

Yesterday Tress drove her dad to Point Cook again. The mob was going to play mahjong at home all day, so Kiddo and I decided to just stay home. It was going to be a 40 degree day so we decided to go for a movie. Spielberg’s “Warhorse” was thoroughly enjoyable. The cycles of adversity and triumph and all the emotional in-filling through different countries and phases of the First World War could have been a cheesy tear-jerker but movie buff critiques notwithstanding, it was sheer pleasure for 2+ hours for me and Kiddo. Kiddo made the observation that it was an equine Forest Gump equivalent and I couldn’t agree more.

It has been a choppy and unsettling holiday period. The arrangement of Tress’ parents’ holiday is sort of messy and I have not handled it well. Sometimes episodes like this sort of reveal fault lines in relationships – give things a bit of a shake up to reveal the state of play. I’m not sure how this year will unfold.

“Reading Tea Leaves”

Last night we were at a dinner in Templestowe. It was a restaurant a good mate of mine had introduced us to last summer and while we really enjoyed the food and service, we have not returned. It’s probably to do with the distance and somehow summer just makes it a whole lot nicer to be in a place like that.

With us were a close couple friend and a young lady serving in a missions agency. She had given up what was probably a good job as a pharmacist to do this and the couple friend and us were just trying to know her better as a friend. We were at her home for dinner just a few nights earlier too.

We had thought we should maybe keep the night free in case Tress’ parents wanted a meal but Tress had caught up with them for lunch earlier and thought they looked too tired for a night out with us. In any event, I have come to accept their visits as something I have really very little to do with as they always seemed to be more concerned with pleasing Tress’ uncles and aunties and going along with their plans – which is all fine with me.

At the dinner last night the conversation was again (inevitably) on the future pathways of Kiddo and that couple friend’s daughter. They are both in the process of choosing courses which would probably go a long way in affecting not just their own lives but ours too.

This is likely to go on for the next 3+ weeks


Earlier today the office had lunch at Natalie’s in Mitcham. The Chairman joined us, as did a couple of other people. At the restaurant, Ron Barassi the legendary AFL figure rocked up in a pink polo and acknowledged someone from our table who said something. In a restaurant that was surprisingly quiet for this time of the year, the legend’s presence was even more strongly felt.

It’s 3 more days to Christmas and I still wonder 2012 would bring…

Weekend Blitz and Bliss

We saw the sun peeking through yesterday arvo just after 2pm. We were at a lunch but decided we must sneak away. The rain had been belting down all day Saturday and our plans to work the garden had been frustrated. We thought if the weekend was going to see any work done we had to leave that lunch soon, great food and wonderful company notwithstanding.

Jason and Mel have always dished out great meals and company. Generous to a fault, it is always difficult to say no to their invitation. So although we had said they should direct their generosity at other more deserving souls, we gladly rocked up anyway. We thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon which unfortunately we had to cut short if we were to halt the rate at which our little garden was turning into a jungle.

The fact that kiddo wasn’t there made it a little harder as other than the cries of the garden, there was no other reason not to just while away the afternoon over a really long lunch.

Kiddo had left earlier yesterday morning. We drove to Tulla just after 8am and after she checked in we did some quick duty-free shopping and she was off through the gates. We started missing her as soon as we got into the car and left the airport. Thanks to the wonders of modern day apps like “Whatsapp” and Skype however, we managed to chat with her later in the evening, as she enjoyed what looked like a really good dinner in Klang. She’d have plenty of that in the next 2-3 weeks.

Before we settled down to avail ourselves to the modern communications technology however, Tress and I tore ourselves from Jason and Mel’s place, got home and immediately changed into our “working gear”. I ducked out to the local service station to get some petrol for the mower and got back and started working.

We trimmed, cut, mowed, swept, washed and did as much as we could for the remainder few hours of daylight, which thanks to daylight saving and the impending start of summer, lasted till almost 8pm. As usual after working on the garden, a cold one tasted exceptionally good and the Tiger Beer Tress had bought a few weeks earlier came in really handy. It was sheer bliss to sit on the deck, looking at a cleaner and tidier lawn and sipping cold beer. What a way to end a weekend. Knowing kiddo would have a great time over 6,000 km away was a bonus.