Coming in to the light

No, I have not emerged from three years in a religious retreat in a desperate bid for conversion.
I have, on the other hand, come out from a dark place that involved bullying (welcome back to high school), intimidation, aimlessness, powerlessness and depression. It’s good to be out, and I had some great help.
The bad situation was at work. It was ugly, and I felt completely trapped. In the end it was resolved when the bully was removed. Mine was not the only complaint, but I’m told it helped. What helped me, along with the love and support of the people around me, was professional counselling. It’s not something I imagined putting my hand up for, and I didn’t do it for a long time even after the bully was gone. But eventually I did. I found myself sitting at my desk, angry, frustrated and feeling completely ineffective. Nobody (at work) told me I was no good, but few people told me much different either. Amazing how the human mind will jump to, assume or at least consider the worst when left to its own devices.
The counsellor (a psychologist I’m pretty sure) was great. She allowed the conversation to wander a fair bit but showed insight and directed the discussions when it was helpful to do so. She didn’t insult my intelligence with sweeping generalisations, and she put forward confronting ideas that I just had not considered.
Moral of the story – don’t be ashamed of the help. It doesn’t matter how smart or strong you are. We all fall and certain hurdles and rejecting the help just delays resolutions.
I’m stronger than I was, and I’ve learned things from the experience. Hopefully enough that I will never again end up in that shadowy place (“you must never go there Simba”).

Splash

I have almost been back at work for three weeks, long enough to work through the phases of denial, depression and acceptance that I do actually have to work for a living and might as well just get on with it. I did ease myself back in, namely by taking a long weekend that turned the first two weeks back at work in to four-day blurs that seemed to slip away quite satisfactorily.

My Christmas break was unique (I suppose they all are), because of the sheer weight of activity that it involved. This might sound like we took day and weekend trips, visited multipel tourist attractions and enjoyed the companionship that only comes from spending quality time with one’s family. What crap. For the first time I can remember I lost weight over my Christmas break……6kg in fact……by virtue of two things: two karate lessons a week and persistent physical strain from projects around the house. Do you remember that nice view from my place? It came with a hill…..and pushing wheelbarrows of sand up that hill was funny for about five minutes. With the pool, the base for the water tank and various other things I went up and down that hill enough times for anyone’s lifetime. The upside? Well, I needed to lose the weight, and the pool is fantastic.

Thank goodness we paid someone to put this together.

Thank goodness we paid someone to put this together.

 

The results, I have to say, are great so far. The kids (and Beloved K and I) are loving the pool. We’re in it nearly every day, and it makes a real difference when you’re feeling too hot or just had a rough, wearying day.

Child S lets us know just how much fun it is in the pool.

Child S lets us know just how much fun it is in the pool.

 

Child A can see clearly now the water is not in her eyes.

Child A can see clearly now the water is not in her eyes.

 

The karate lessons have been interesting, and I feel like I’ll stick to them this time. The feeling at the dojo is welcoming, and I will have my first belt grading test in about three weeks. I think part of the secret is I’m not just doing it for exercise/weight loss. I love it the most because Child A and I do classes together, and having done it for five years she is much more advanced than I am and can (and does) tell me everything I’m doing wrong…..great father/daughter time. I’ve continued keep reasonably healthy, watching what I eat, walking the dog in the mornings (a couple of times a week, anyway) and doing the karate classes. I also gave up beer for February which, apart from the temtpation repeatedly (and deliberately) offered by my neighbours each weekend, has been pretty easy. And no, I haven’t just switched to an equivalent amount of wine! In all I’m down by 8kg, the belt has come in two notches and my size 43 business shirts fit again.

Musical update – I still can’t sing a note, but Child A is in her high school’s concert band number two, and Child S has had his first two viola lessons. I could give you the inside view on Child A’s venture into secondary education, but I think that’s a whole separate post. I wonder when that will happen!

Cheerio!

Santa Post…..he delivers!

What better way to start a seasonal blog post than to give a 2000-year-old bloke in a red suit the credit for Australia Post’s delivery work. OK…he does it all himself, but I’m sure Auspost is getting a cut in there somewhere….aren’t they our last true government monopoly?

We promised news on the retaining wall before Christmas, and here it is. The two-person petrol-powered post-hole digger was a great success, until we got to a couple of really hard, dry spots that it just couldn’t deal with. Cue the electric jackhammer. This thing rocked (so to speak), and dug holes to our heart’s desire. Eight sleepers went in as posts (extra postcrete was required, but it’s cheap) and they were left to stand and set for a couple of days. On one fine Saturday the rest of the sleepers were put in as panels and the Great Wall was born

Yesterday I put a coat of bitumen paint on the back of the wall to give it some water proofing before we back-fill it. I put the second coat on this morning. Bitumen paint is great stuff as long as you don’t get it on any hairy parts of yourself. Naturally I discovered this after the first coat. You, dear reader, can imagine the rest.

Good wishes are extended across the country to all the people I care about. Brother Joe in the far north, Sister Nell in the middle, Father Ron (who was heading home from hospital today), and Mother Nicki and the rest of my family and friends in the far south.

Tomorrow we are looking forward to Christmas madness of  the usual kind….With Sistern Nell and crew coming over for a (mostly) seafood lunch.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Cheerio!

And then the sky went green….

Many readers will have heard about the stroms that have afflicted my part of the world in recent times. Sunday was particularly impressive. There we were, enjoying a quiet beer with the neighbours while the kids played an exciting game of cul-de-sac cricket, when the ominous clouds that had been approaching became significantly more ominous.

With the words “nah, the weather bureau warnings don’t include our council area” having just passed my lips, the sky literally turned an aqua-green colour that I had never seen in something as large as a sky before. Let’s just say you wouldn’t paint your house that colour, but it does have a place in certain mild-minty toothpastes. Within 10 minutes it was bedlam….the dog ran off (in to a neighbour’s garage), the 100km/h winds blew out of the south, which happens to be the direction our front door faces. About a dozen towels plus some dog blankets were used to soak up the water that came in under the front door and front window frame. The neighbour’s back fence blew over, and after the storm passed I joined a gaggle of other neighbours in jerry-rigging it back up again with rope. Won’t last though….the termite-ridden posts snapped off at ground level.

Some more of the dirt under our house was washed down on to the concrete pad underneath, covering it in slimy mud and further exposing some of our footings….not good. It has basically accelerated the Great Retaining Wall Project, for which I hope to provide pictorial evidence at some point. We had several quotes for doing a retaining wall, ranging from $3500 to $8500. Deeply suspecting that somewhere back in my family tree is hidden a long line of economic conservatives, I thought something along the lines of “stick that” and made plan B. Plan B arose when my urge not to spend between $3500 and $8500 on a retianing wall surpassed my belief that I was completely incapable of building one myself. Plan B consists of buying no fewer than 41 2.4m x 200mm x 75mm treated pine sleepers, 11 bags of post-crete and enough really big screws to put the wall together myself. At the moment digging post holes is a problem because of the shaley rock in the ground, but for the sake of an $80 hiring fee I suspect I’ll be hiring a two-person post-hole digger to get the job done. After that it is concrete the posts in, drill holes, use drill with socket to put screws in and Bob’s your uncle…..one uncertified-by-engineers retaining wall to help prevent our house washing away. The best news is the total cost should be less than $1000, leaving enough cash to finally build the shed to hold the crap that’s been under the house for a year.

Final project news….we seem to have made the decision to put an above ground pool in the back yard. Beloved K will make all the appropriate calls for installation quotes etc. and hopefully we’ll have it ordered by the end of the week.

Stay tuned before Christmas for more construction news!

Cheerio.

Crash test Grandma

As most of my avid readers would know, I’m in Melbourne at the moment. In theory it was a quickfire trip for Grandma’s 90th birthday, but as she fell over and cracked her head and her pelvis on her actual birthday on Thursday, the party has been cancelled. I was going to cancel my trip as well, but the compassionate people at Jetstar advised that I would forfeit the fare to here and have to pay $40 to change the return flgith to another date (and then another $40 to change it again if I couldn’t use it on that date). Thanks for the compassion Jetstar.
I’m sitting at Mum’s place on a cool but sunny Saturday morning, digesting breakfast and getting ready to get in to the day. I got to Melton about 3.30pm yesterday, Mum picked me up and we went straight over to see Grandma. She was asleep when we got there so we left her to it for a bit. Don and Shirley were there. The nursing home is pretty amazing…..fitted out a bit more glittery and glammy than I expected, but really nice and comfortable. There was a notable absence of bad smells, cramped spaces or grumpy staff…..all really good. I met the director of the place who was really nice, and very switched on. Met some of Grandma’s friends as well….apparently she doesn’t really talk to many of them, but they all really like her. Is the no-talking what they like? Who knows. After about half an hour Grandma woke up and chatted for a while. She knew who I was, and was surprisingly on top of what had happened to her. She knew she had fallen over, knew she had missed her birthday (Shirley, Mum and Jan were on their way there to do family-cake with her when she fell) and responded to various people with a few different versions of how she was. She is in bed and was expected to stay there for a few days, but apparently after we left she did get up for a short while – painfully but manageable – so that was good to hear.
 
While we were in there (nearly a couple of hours) she had half a dozen other residents and at least as many staff members pop in to her room to see how she was doing. Her respoonses seemed to depend on who was asking, and ranged from “no use growling” to “shocking”. Jan came a bit later on in the afternoon. A bit later Shirley and Don left and we left about half an hour after that (about 6.15-ish). Considering that Grandma hit her head on a table on her way down, she actually looked fairly good. She has a bandage around her head to protect her ear stitches and other cuts and grazes, and a couple of new bruises on her arms and hands. She has either a fractured or cracked pelvis, but she is able to lift her right leg normally and her left leg a bit, so she hasn’t been completely immobilised by it…definitely a good thing.
 
Mum was exhausted because she and Jan had spent the entire night in the emergency department. Grandma was actually discharged at midnight and they were waiting for patient transport, which they kept promising could be there “at any time”. When it arrived, they found out the service doesn’t start until 6am. Grandma complained about the roughness of the ride back a few times yesterday.
 
Beloved K, please tell Child A that Great Grandma liked the card that she made and read it a couple of times. Joe, your flowers arrived, along with some from Aunty Mollie and Uncle Les, about three minutes after Don Orr asked a staff member “have any flowers arrived because we were expecting some”. Ask and ye shall receive it seems!
 
Today I will head up to the shops with mum, if only to pick up a cheap hand-held radio so I can listen to the Collingwood game this afternoon on my way out. We’ll go and see Grandma again, possibly around lunchtime. I’m catching the 1.53 train to Spencer Street (I don’t care how many signs call it Southern Cross Transit Centre). The 3.55pm bus from there to Avalon gets to the airport about 4.40pm, so I’ll have some sitting around to do before my 6pm flight back north, which gets in at 8.05pm. I might have to buy the Saturday Age…..dare I live the dream?
I’m looking forward to getting back tonight….and spending Fathers Day at home with Children A and S….maybe walk the dogs, kick the footys (better than the other way around, apparently!) and…and…and whatever, as long as I get to spend it with them and Beloved K.
Last but not least, I must say something in this blog that I can’t say at airports…..why the hell do I always get picked out for the explosives residue test? I got it again at BNE, and I’ll probably get it at Avalon. Seems to happen to me just about every time I fly. Was it the neatly shaven face? The threatening-looking Auskick backpack? The Fantasy novel under my arm? What!?! Needless to say the looks on the faces of the people who do this important task don’t exactly invite a lengthy discussion about their methods of choosing targets. I’d love to read that profile, just so I know how I get picked every time.
Cheerio!

Speeding to September

We’ve had one of those months where everything seems to be somewhat of a blur. You turn your back for a second, and the next thing you know Child S has turned 7, Child A is about to turn 12 (who allowed that?) and my annual leave for the school holidays has been cancelled because there is just nobody else to do three different people’s jobs.

Who is Child S at 7? He is a funny, quite cheeky, clever boy with passions for Warcraft (a computer game) and footy. On Saturday night he played footy at the Gabba, half time in the Lions game. He got lots of kicks, and absolutely loved the experience. He played in the centre, which means he has already been identified as having a lot more run than his dad ever had….ever!

Who is Child A at (almost) 12? She is smart, a bit sassy, who has a firm grasp of what she doesn’t want to do but is not terribly decisive on what she wants to do……decisions are not really her thing. She has a sharp sense of humour that makes me laugh nearly every day, and loves her footy (possibly because she’s daddy’s girl, but aren’t they all at that age?). Child A loves her Warcraft as well. She has quite a clear insight in to herself….for example at the markets on Sunday she bought a badge that reads “I don’t have a shot attention span, I just……Look, a kitten!”

Beloved K has been sick…..really sick…..sick enough that I had to take Friday off work to get her through the day. Suffice to say, when the thought of swallowing water makes you want to throw up, you’re sick. She is largely recovered, but is down 4kg.

It was nice to catch up with Jury and Nephew J on the weekend…..and pass on a belated birthday present. Jury’s work schedule might mean we don’t catch up for another couple of weeks, but I’m sure we’ll get there.

Other than that, there are plans left to make…..more birthdays, a smidgeon of travel and work work work.

Cheerio!