Thoughts: Camping 2020

I’ve just returned home to Auckland after a week camping with my teenagers. This has been something I have instituted each year in January for the last eight or nine years. It has been a time of presence, of renewed connection, and it’s something I value deeply.

We stayed at the Coromandel Town Top 10 – our second time. The first was six years ago, so I was curious to see how the experience has changed.

I have to say, the campsite is looking good. Better than I remember it from 2014. The staff were all very friendly and kept the place looking immaculate.

The joy of camping is all about getting a bit rough – but not too rough. One still needs WiFi/Data and ample power sockets to keep all devices charged!

Every tent needs fairy lights!

Each year I acquire at least one new ‘thing’ to make the next trip better. This year was a Campmaster three-burner stove and 2KG gas cylinder. It was great being able to cook at our tent rather than have to fight for space in the communal kitchen, elbowing between the pairs of German tourists and the very grumpy mums and dads who were wrangling hordes of children-under-5!

It was a different week though. Teenagers don’t have a lot of motivation (generalisation, yes) and are quite happy reading, napping and watching YouTube.

They’re still a bit camera-shy

I did manage to get them out of the tent for road trips around the Coromandel. Driving the 309 Road across to Hahei to go see Cathedral Cove was fun. Master 17 is learning to drive so he was paying a lot of attention to a road that curved, had few lines, and became gravel. He wasn’t feeling all that confident…

I did misrepresent the walk to Cathedral Cove somewhat, and Miss 14 wasn’t entirely impressed. She didn’t actually complain but in her words ‘Oh it’s a nice beach. Lots of people’ kinda summed up her feelings.

It was interesting watching Master 17 take photos of rocks, trees, paths etc. to use in creating textures. He’s getting into 3D modelling and rendering and wanted to see how much better his own photos would be than stock textures. I was very happy to see this!

Camping is also an opportunity for me to experiment with a degree of ‘feral’. I don’t grow facial hair as a rule so it was a curiousity for me to see if a) I could and b) how grey I actually am. Happily the result of a 8-day trial wasn’t too horrific and I am not traumatised by grey. However, I felt it made me look older which is something I am NOT trying to achieve. So as soon as I got home, off it came.

Coromandel really is a special place. I thoroughly enjoyed getting into ‘nature’ and given I work in mental health and wellbeing these days, it was a great reset ahead of the 2020 work-year.

I do have a tinge of sadness though. I wonder how many more of these weeks I’ll be having with them. They’re getting older and have their own lives. It is quite possible that that was my last. I really hope it wasn’t. We shall have to see.


Thoughts: 2020 Goals, Dreams and Aspirations

Happy New Year, one and all!

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent time reflecting on the year just passed, and thinking on where I want to be at the end of 2020.

I wasn’t in a great headspace 12 months ago and I didn’t go through this exercise then, so I can’t review goals set. That being said, there really weren’t any – I was surviving.

Since I started writing down goals mid-year in order to track and celebrate the achieving of, on reflection, I’ve realised that I have actually done a lot in 2019. And so, onwards and upwards we go!

For 2020 I have decided that my theme will be: freedom and responsibility. The two should not be separated.

I have come up with some intangible goals. These goals are more mindset or lifestyle goals. Designed to improve myself as a person:

I want to consciously make a difference (well, continue to consciously make a difference) in my workplace, in my social networks.

I will consciously make an effort to positively impact everyone I come into contact with.

I have also set some tangible goals:

I have set a goal to read 100 books this year.
I have set a goal to get good at making Vietnamese Pho.

I have set a goal to start to learn Mandarin properly (more than just dabble).
I have set a goal to travel (this one is seriously overdue).
I have set a goal to enable my teenagers to spend more quality time with their cousins.

I want to drink less, stay up later, be more social, cook for people.

I want to use my gym membership more than the four times I used it in 2019.

And perhaps THIS is the year I learn to snowboard…!

Where do I want to be in late December 2020?

Physically in the same apartment (hopefully). It will be nice to not have to move house for a while.

I have savings goals I’ve written down to achieve, so I’ll continue to be careful with spending.

Love? Who knows.

Health? On track.

Finances? On track.

Today I’m happy. I’m content. I plan to continue to be so in 2020.

I wish you all the very best for your 2020.


Thoughts: 2019

Wow. What a year I’ve had.

It started hard. A hard decision made and a significant life-change initiated.

The theme I set myself for 2019 was growth. And I really have grown. I’m quite satisfied with what I’ve achieved – emotionally, financially, work-related things and personal things. I’ve found a balance that is working.

I have Gratitude. Gratitude for the friends that were there for me when I needed them. Whether they were asked for help or not. They knew. A roof over my head. Regular encouragement and support. They had my back and I’m so so grateful for them. I think of M, of R, of S. I think of my colleagues – D and T. Every day I pause and reflect. I look to think on at least one thing I am grateful for. It puts things in perspective.

I’ve focused on Joy. I find joy in pretty much everything. The work I do does take me to dark places and I have found a way to balance it. In the office, I bring joy. I bring fun. At home, I find joy. I do my weird little dances whilst waiting for things to marinade or dough to rise.

I’ve focused on Kindness. Simple rule to live by really – “don’t be a dick”. If it’s not kind, don’t say it. Don’t attack people who have differing opinions. Talk to them. Understand them. Understand their perspective. Treat them with respect and kindness. Everybody has a story that acts as a filter and sometimes you need to take the time to hear it, understand it and truly listen. And sometimes you just need to keep your mouth shut (or fingers off your keyboard)

This year I turned 50. Honestly, I really wasn’t that happy about it. But with the benefit of a few months passing, I’ve realised that the significance of that particular milestone is that I’ve actually lived and closed-out two lifetimes. And now I’m starting a third. The Simon of 2019 is not the Simon of the past. Sure, the core is there, the essence, but the conditioning of others, the expectations of others, the imposed values of others really aren’t an impact any more. I now take these external things into consideration and I discard the things that aren’t helpful, that aren’t kind. Those things that would try to influence me in ways that aren’t me, are identified early and dealt with.

So, a platform has been set. Now to think about 2020 and what I want to be doing in 12 months time.


Thoughts: The Slippery Slope to Christmas

As I sit here, in the last working day before a very well-deserved break, I’m reflecting on the forthcoming Christmas celebrations.

This year will be very different to the last.

I’m spending quality time with my teenagers. I’m not going to be driving 160kms back and forth across Auckland on Christmas Day. I’m not going to be walking in to a Christmas gathering that is already in full flight that I hadn’t been a part of organising. I’ll be spending quality time with people I like. This is a very good thing indeed.

This year I’ve not subscribed to the desperate rush to buy gifts for people unnecessarily. This year I’ve not subscribed to the desperate need to decorate – to buy a tree, to buy baubles, to buy all the red, green, silver and gold things. (Actually I’ll do this next year!)

It’s been freeing.

I do hope that your Christmas experience is all that you want or need it to be. I do hope that if you are isolated and feel a bit off-balance, or alone, that you reach out to the people you like and let them know. Your friends will step up.

All the best everybody!


Thoughts: Learn to Celebrate the Wins

I have to confess that the last few years have been quite challenging, across pretty much all aspects of my life, but as I write this, I am reflecting on the fact that I am happy. I am content.

How did I get to this place?

It occurred to me that when things in life challenge me – be they personal challenges or work-related challenges, I actually have choice around how I react to them (do I panic and lurch from crisis to crisis?) or do I respond to them (take a breath, take a step back from the situation and consider all options). I have learned to recognise when I have absolutely no control over situations. As such I have learned to accept these situations and as a result of this acceptance I lose no energy or sleep because of them.

Don’t get me wrong. Tough situations are tough. They do have an impact. They do force change upon us. But for me, the key was developing resilience – that ability to bounce back quickly to the pre-crisis state.

One thing that has helped me develop this resilience was developing a plan. Understanding that there are controls/frameworks I have to live within (long boring story) and planning for my future, taking these frameworks into account and instead of feeling constrained by them, making them work for me. Harnessing them. Allowing them to chip off the rough edges and to help me develop focus. I am a much better version of myself today than I was two years ago.

I could have been wallowing in a ‘poor me’ mental state but I chose not to.

I think that we pay too much attention to the negative. The bad things that happen. The office politics that get us down. The increased workload. The day-to-day stresses. If we pay attention to the negative, we allow the negative to increase. We start looking for the negative. We feed the negative. And the negative compounds. I suspect this is part of the human condition.

To counter this I have learned to celebrate the wins.

I now look for the little positive things that happen and I revel in them. It may be a win at work. It may be seeing growth in a colleague. It may be finally getting the roommates cat to sit next to me on the couch (this one was hard to achieve!). It is important to reprogramme your mindset and change your focus.

Recognising and revelling in the little wins is one thing, but it is important to go a step further. I’ve created a list. It is a list of goals or milestones that I want to achieve or acknowledge over the next three years or so. It’s a ‘living document’ which I add to regularly. The list items are currently mostly financial goals around saving etc. but they’re also practical goals. They’re also milestones to look forward to: A new place to live. Home ownership. Significant birthdays of my kids. That sort of thing.

And the amazing thing is, since I wrote this list at the beginning of July, I’ve ticked off three things already. There is an acceleration occurring because they’re written down. My sub-conscious and my conscious mind are working in concert to achieve these things.

So, write things down people. And when you achieve them, celebrate them with something that is occassional. For me, it’s wine, a cigar and a firepit. What is it for you? What will you do?

Good luck!


Thoughts: The Joy of Coffee

I have always enjoyed coffee.

I’ve thought of myself as a bit of a coffee snob, given a professional lifetime of consuming way more coffee than is probably healthy.

I have cut down in practice, but things may be changing.

I’ve been very happy with my Bialetti stovetop coffee maker, and the acquisition of espresso-ground coffee to use with it. (When I’m feeling flush my go-to coffee hookup is eight thirty here in Auckland).

And then a close friend gave me beans. Kona coffee beans. From Hawaii. I love my close friend.

And down the rabbithole I went. Damn it, this always happens.

Step one. Acquire a grinder. Done. Pleased with the incentive actually as I’ve needed one for my cooking explorations. Check.

Step two. Develop the routine of beans to grind to coffee. Check.

Step three. Ask myself, how hard can it be to roast my own?

And there it is. There are benchtop roasters available. Experts suggest that the old school popcorn air fryers are awesome. Couldn’t find one. Other experts use a skillet.

Not me. I found this. A ceramic hand roaster. And it’s awesome.

Quick research as to use thanks to YouTube.

A source of green beans located here in Auckland. Started with the least expensive option as proof of concept, and it’s looking good.

My house has coffee aroma. My day starts with a significant caffeine hit. I start talking really fast.

It’s a fun journey.


Thoughts: Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness is defined as:

“The perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status”

And Kiwis are shit at it.

In the interests of a social experiment (and because I was a soooo bored) I took myself to Sylvia Park (a mall in Auckland for those reading who don’t know).

I have made some observations:

People don’t seem to understand the concept of walking in straight lines.

People don’t seem capable of scanning the ‘room’ and working around it.

People don’t seem to understand the keep left rule. (You all DO know the keep left rule, right?)

Several times people walking towards me gave me eye contact (a good start you’d think) then walk in to me. Apparently I’m supposed to give way to them? I was maintaining line and pace… correctly. So, what???

Several times people exited stores, looked around, saw me, and then walked out in front of me, and stopped dead in their tracks, thereby creating a situation whereby I needed to swerve or stop in order to avoid unsolicited physical contact.

Several times family groups exited stores, spread themselves across the available walking space, and stopped dead in front of me leaving me no where to go.

What is this madness?

Are we so self-absorbed we don’t think about the serenity of correct pedestrian habits and protocols? Do we not care about the perambulation of others?

As a country we can do better. We need to do better.

Anything else is chaos.