Thoughts: A First and Much Gratitude

One of the pleasures I’ve had to cut back on in recent years has been going to arena concerts. The reasons are many and varied of course, but I’ve trained myself to not be too bothered by FOMO. It’s been a bit tricky with all the bands I grew up with doing potentially their last tours.

I’d decided against seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers, mainly due to not being able to afford tickets when they were released all those months ago. I would, once again, live vicariously through the experiences of my friends, both real and virtual.

Last a Thursday I got a text from my bass-playing 13yr old daughter: “The Chilis are in town, how appropriate do you think they’d be for me?”

A conversation ensued, and at the end of it, I was taking my kids to see this band, and it would be their first-ever concert. She’s been learning bass for nearly a year and loves Flea’s playing. What an opportunity for her. My son is a drummer. To expose him to Chad Smith live – just wow.

My ex – their mother – paid for all three of us. ‘ I’ll take it out of child support’.

I am humbled. Gobsmacked. And so full of gratitude for this gift. This memory.

Thoughts: Foodie Heaven

Over the last ten years or so I have recreated myself in the kitchen and I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. I came from a cooking position of making mashing potato, boiling Westie veges and doing unspeakable things to meat (yes, this is still standard fare in Palmerston North – I know… ;-0 ) to discovering Jamie Oliver.

Jamie opened up a whole new world for me. I guess in a sense he is my Julia.

Anyway, I started to obsess. I adore cookbooks and discovering new cuisines. I love having a functional kitchen but most importantly I love having a full collection of herbs and spices.

In New Zealand we are served well by the large supermarket chains who have shelves full of beautifully packaged products by Greggs, Mrs Rogers and other assorted importers/packers/distributors. This is all well and good, but the reality is that this is a really expensive way to obtain your ingredients. Especially when you need to stock up.

Some years back I was introduced to Mahadeo’s – a foodie heaven hidden away in Eden Terrace – and it’s become a regular stop for me. They specialise in Indian cuisine and all that goes with it. Herbs and spices are presented in bulk bins and are very inexpensive. Do you want Paratha or Naan? It’s there. Methi leaves? They’ve got them. What I really like about this store is its vibe. It’s authenticity. The owners are fantastic people too.

To give you some idea of why you should shop there, I just purchased 21 different types of herbs and spices, ~50g of each, and the total bill was just over $10.00. That’s all. (NZD!!!).

So, if you’re into your food and cooking, and you live for exploring cuisines, I do recommend you explore markets such as Mahadeo’s. These stores are scattered all over the place in the cultural enclaves that have formed over the years. There are many in Auckland, and if you’re reading from other parts of the world, do venture out, explore and discover a world different from the one you’re used to.

Thoughts: Friendships are Weird

So, here’s the thing. I’m a guy who makes friends easily. On the surface at least. But my reality is that my friendships are, for the most part, mostly really really great acquaintances.

People often come into my world and then they leave. Everyone has different journeys. We all play a part I guess.

I’ve always held the view that the Universe connects you with people for a reason. It’s not necessarily immediately apparent, but there is a reason. It could be years before the reason is revealed, because the Universe needs to lay the groundwork. Prepare the fertile soil. Plant the seed… (too much?)

Moving from acquaintances to close friends. The close friends I have are few, but intensely valued. The connection made is deep and timeless.

Which is why I found it unsettling recently when I learned that a friend, (one I consider being in the close, few, rare, precious, category of friends), told me that she’d been angry over something I’d said to someone else. From about 5 years ago.

And she hadn’t told me about it because “she’s not confrontational “. 5 years she’s held on to this. 5. Years.

This was, of course, quite upsetting to learn.

But it didn’t ring true.

So I went through years of recorded Facebook conversation (being the vehicle of said communication) and I realised that I had not done that which I had been accused of. Someone else did, and I have a really good idea of whom.

My problem now is, do I share and redeem myself, or just keep it quiet, thereby protecting the relationships that would be tested if the truth were outed?

I’m leaning towards the latter. I’m already the bad guy and I know I’m not so I sleep quite well at night. My friend has vented so she sleeps well at night.

Complexities indeed.

Friendships are weird.

^SD

Thoughts: The Staggered Start to 2019

Today is February 6th, Waitangi Day here in New Zealand. It’s kind of like Australia Day or Independence Day in the US – but not.

I sit here, not working. The weather is nice though, so that’s a plus.

The last couple of weeks have been irritating. I had a decent break over Christmas and New Year. Recharged the batteries a bit. Was able to have a bit of a hard reset. Turned it off and on again.

Then, oh wow, did I have to hit the ground running. My field of work requires a lot of resilience and an ability to empathise fully whilst deflecting. It can be challenging. Some of the things people share with me are quite confronting.

But then we have today off. Waitangi Day. In the middle of the week. We had a weekend. Then two days. Then a day off. Then we have two more days of work. Then another weekend.

And last week we had the Monday off for a regional day.

I have found these micro-breaks incredibly disruptive.

Sure they’re nice to have, but really. Are they necessary?

Remind me in the months between Queens’ Birthday and Labour Weekend how great micro-breaks are. That’s when they’d be appreciated.

Thoughts: A Quick Roadtrip with my Kids

Every year around this time I have taken my kids camping. It’s been something I instituted post-marriage with the aim to broaden their horizons somewhat and maintain a good bond with them.

It’s worked.

This year was a little different owing to a few changes and uncertainties that came about in 2018, so we only had three days to make something happen.

I decided to take them up North. They’ve actually been around Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri a lot (their mother’s dad has a timeshare they’ve been able to make use of).

I wanted to show them some of New Zealand that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. My daughter expressed that she wasn’t particularly interested in New Zealand and it’s history. She loves the Romans (but hasn’t read Asterix – go figure). I guess it’s her age and the education she is exposed to.

We based ourselves in Kerikeri. The campground there is well appointed. Enough trees to cope with the 32C heat. It borders a river and it was fun cooling off. And trying not to kill myself by slipping on algae-covered rocks. I’m not really great with ‘outside’. I’m sure I used to be, apparently not now.

I enjoy getting them involved in cooking. Deciding what to buy at the supermarket then taking responsibility for its preparation. They complain of course, they’re teenagers after all, but they do do the doing. I also like them to see me interact with other campers. These places are magnets for tourists and locals alike. My kids are fairly introverted and shy so I feel it’s important to show them how to socialise.

One of the people I talked with was a Maori guy, one of four. He politely asked if he could share the BBQ I was using (of course he can) because he was cooking up a feed of mussels for himself and his three mates. I asked if he’d gathered them. “Yes” he said. “From Countdown”. Sigh. He also didn’t have any cooking suggestions I could learn – “I just put them on until they open and they’re sweet eh?”. He gave me one to try. His approach to cooking worked just fine.

As a side note, everyone has Bluetooth speakers and personalised playlists. This group had a particularly excellent Soul, RnB thing going on and were having a bit of a singalong.

The next group I talked to were Indian. A family. They were cooking corn on the cob direct on the gas hobs. But for me the interesting thing was the seasoning they were going to use. A mix of chilli pepper, salt, and then a squeeze of lemon. Spectacular. It was fun being able to talk to them about their cuisine.

Day Two was the core of my plan. Now, my kids aren’t that interested being taught stuff, learning, when they’re in holiday. Tough dad eh? We got on the road early to drive from Kerikeri to Cape Reinga. It’s an interesting drive, very different landscapes, interesting fauna (we saw cows, sheep, hawks, turkey, emus and more). Actually, we were lucky and saw some shepherds with their dogs working a flock from one paddock to the next, across the highway. Was something pretty special to witness.

As we drove, I pointed out to my kids, the small communities anchored by a church and graveyard and maybe a shop. How NZ was and still is.

Note: Telecommunication coverage is appalling in the Far North – given the potential for tourism there I think it needs to be looked at.

I loved seeing how many people make the trip to see the Cape and its surrounds. It’s quite something being at the top of the North Island.

We headed home, stopping off at Te Kao for an ice cream. (Do it, it’s obligatory). We detoured through Totara North as it’s where my kids maternal grandmother grew up. (There’s literally nothing there so it didn’t take long). We visited a site where gumdiggers worked in terrible conditions locating and digging up kauri gum. I actually got interest from my son. He now knows why gumboots are called gumboots and not Wellingtons in this country.

Next stop, also obligatory and totally worth it, was Mangonui. They have the best fish and chips there. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Given the lack of feedback one gets from teenagers I can only assume that when they’re in their 20’s they’ll look back to the day they saw the Lighthouse…

Day Three. We packed up the campsite and got on the road. (I have to add that as they are getting older they are getting much more useful and helpful).

I wanted to take them West to see Opononi (pretty, nothing much there, had a dolphin in 1955/56 that was friendly) on the way to the Waipoua Forest.

It was good to show them how people live in the Far North. Either by choice or through circumstance. There are small communities dotted on the road. Shanty’s. Lean-to’s. Derelict. Rundown. Deserted and abandoned. It’s certainly not Howick. I was interested to see that despite the ruination of the buildings around, the churches all were in quite good condition…

Then we arrived in the Waipoua Forest. I wanted to make sure they saw Tane Mahuta whilst they have the chance to. (It’s no guarantee that access will be for ever).

All up, it’s been a great few days. Good company, good food, good conversation, good music. I am very grateful that my kids like to spend focussed time with me. Now to plan the next.

Thoughts: Xmas Notes

So it’s the downward spiral to the Festive season.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly noticed people are getting scratchy. Conversations I have through my work show that people are just OVER everything, and there is a lowering of tolerance for those little things that you’d normally let slide, and now you simply can’t ignore.

 

This piece about a Porirua Xmas Note leaver is a case in point. On the surface it’s amusing, but it belies the angst that this time of year can create.

I too have been the recipient of an Xmas Note this week.

 

 

My first instinct was to laugh. What kind of loser would go to such an effort to leave this note on my doorstep? (Not in my letterbox, or on the car).

I live at 19. I share a kerb with 21. It’s a free parking zone. There are no laws dictating where one can park. And there is actually plenty of parking on my street – you might have to walk 5 more meters, but extra step-count in your day is good right?

Have you been on the receiving end of anything like this? Have you left notes?

What are your coping strategies for getting through Christmas and maintaining your dignity and calm?

Mine? Today I moved my car. I parked it in front of 23.

 

^SD

Thoughts: Dealing with Annoyance

It’s sure been an interesting time in my life.

Processing the passing of my birth mother has been a bit of a big deal for me. I was able to be in the moment as well as being somewhat out-of-body at the same time, dealing with the various stages of grief that one goes through.

And now I’m in the stage of Annoyance.

Annoyance is the feeling you get when someone or some thing makes you fairly angry or irritated.

My mother has annoyed me. Yes, it’s a purely selfish response but I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed that she’s gone. And what’s worse is that she hated to annoy anybody. Which is partly why she is now gone. She didn’t want to be a bother so didn’t call her doctor for three days when she should have. Sigh. Lessons learned.

So how have I been dealing with this particular annoyance?

Well, I recognise that the source of it is completely out of my control so all I can really do is focus on the good things. The little time we did have. The memories. The fact that I was able to meet her and that she was able to meet her grandchildren. This is pure. And it is healing.

On reflection, I have learned over the last few years that I have an incredible resilience. I don’t get stressed about things. I don’t really get angry. I have learned to keep my mouth shut and listen (mostly). And consider my response to stimuli rather than react.

Yes, I have been living through the consequences of decisions that I made in the past – owning it, accepting it, growing from it, moving forward.

Yes, I have been impacted hugely by the actions of others. But I recognise that I have no control over other people and what they do or what they say. I don’t necessarily know their stories. Their pain. Their stressors. All I can do is look for the good in the situation.

This approach prevents me from burning bridges or removing people from my life on an emotional whim. Don’t get me wrong though – I am very good at recognising and understanding when a person is toxic for me and I have no energy in my tank to continue to give to them. Thankfully this doesn’t occur very often.

Someone once told me that their approach is to ask themselves ‘Will this actually matter in five years’? It’s tough to do when you feel the red mist starting to swirl but it is worth making the attempt.

Take a step back. Breathe. And get on with your life. You only have one.

S.