Onward and upward

In my Year Ahead post, I alluded to the fact that Stephen and I were both looking to change things up a bit in our work lives. I can happily report that this has now happened. A few weeks ago, Stephen stepped up into a much more senior role within Gough Group. It means that he’s much busier and more stressed, but I can see that he’s also really loving the challenge.

And on Friday last week, I said goodbye to my colleagues at Regenerate Christchurch and moved on to a new role at Pegasus Health. There were lots of reasons for wanting to make this change – the main one being that the organisation has significantly shifted its focus since I arrived. Most of the people I was working with on delivering regeneration planning have now left, the work we were doing has wrapped up, and the future work programme for the organisation has not yet landed. It seemed like a good time to exit. Added to this, the Council recently voted to reconsider its funding of RC, with a proposal to cut its financial contribution by 75%. Based on the work we’ve completed and the likely work ahead, this seems entirely reasonable. And lastly, it has become increasingly clear to me that the voluntary work I do in my community with the Dallington Residents Association, coupled with my future plans, are incompatible with my work at RC. I have regularly found myself in potential conflict of interest situations which mean that I am not able to fully contribute to conversations taking place at work and in my community. And if you know me, you’ll know how much that bothers me. I like to have an opinion about everything, and I am always happy to share it!

So my time was up at RC and it was time to move on. 

It’s Day 2 in my current role as a Senior Project Manager at Pegasus Health. So far it’s been busy and confusing – to be expected. But the people seem hardworking, and the work looks like it will be really interesting. It’s a new role and still being defined, so there will be scope for me to make it my own, which is just what I like. I’ll report back on how it’s going once I’m less confused!

A Splendid Torch

Sometimes when I’m running around like a mad thing trying to figure out how I can fit in all the meetings and catch ups with people, I pause and wonder what the heck I’m doing. I spend hours each week doing volunteer work for various organisations. Why?

This is why…

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw – A Splendid Torch

Do you think this desire to be useful in service is something that is becoming less valued nowadays?

Blog, I missed you!

Poor old blog – I posted a great plan for the year and then just got on with it! Now it’s October and I realise I haven’t blogged all year.

So, what have I got to say for myself? It’s been a busy one!

In August last year I joined the Dallington Residents Association, as they were looking for new members and a new secretary. I put my hand up for the job. I blogged about that here.

Then in May this year, the Chair resigned and I found myself in the role of interim Chair (and voted in as the new Chair following the AGM in May). It’s been a big learning curve for me to be involved in local community politics, and hugely rewarding. Our committee is a group of very dedicated and long-serving members of our community – they’ve been very supportive and helpful as I learn the ropes. I couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of people to work with.

It’s lucky that I really love doing this work, because it’s like a second part-time job! I probably work 10-15 hours a week on top of my ‘real’ job; attending meetings, keeping in touch with people, helping to plan activities, representing the committee in discussion of local issues.

It’s probably good that I’m a sticky-beak!

Good Riddance (time of my life!)

Man it's been a busy few months. I feel like I have barely had time to breathe, let alone write anything. So this blog post is rather overdue!

Megan and I went to see Green Day in May. It was amazing. It's hard to find the words to describe what it means to me to have been there together, singing at the top of our lungs. For me, there is music, and there is music. Most of it I don't care that much about, but some music really means something. It's not just because the band is cool and the lyrics are good, but because of what it connotes. 

I started listening to Green Day the year I started university – 1995. It was a watershed year for me. I separated from my husband and made a decision that I needed to get serious about this growing up business – I had a 3 and 6 year old after all. Every day I would drop the kids off to school and pre-school, and then my day would be my own. I'd catch the bus to uni, and on the way, I'd plug into my Discman and switch my brain from Mum to independent young woman / student. The bus was like my transition zone, and Green Day was my companion in that transition. Green Day was the soundtrack to my changing life. 

Later, Green Day accompanied me while I struggled to get fit and lose weight – at first treadmill running with my Discman and then with my cherished iPod brick. It was always my go-to music to lift me up when I needed a boost. 

And of course my kids grew up listening to Green Day. It's something Megan and I had in common when she was an emo teen. It must have been horrifying for her to share her (very uncool) mother's taste in music. 

Being at the Vector "Spark" Arena together, singing along to every word, was powerful. It moved me to tears. And it was a really great concert – so epic to hear them live … I'd say one of the best times of my life.

Next post … all about the good riddance part…

The one where I baked a cake

I really don’t like cooking – I’m not very good at it and I don’t have the patience or passion to get better via practice. But I decided to bake a vegan chocolate cake for Megan’s birthday. Wyatt, Megan and Antony are dairy-free, and I can’t eat anything fun, so I thought it would be good to bake something we could all eat.

It turned out pretty well too! I think maybe the cake tin was too deep and small, because it took an hour and a half to cook all the way through – instead of the recommended 45 minutes. I think I’ll need to buy a different tin and give it another try.

Anyway, here’s the recipe – super simple!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup oil
2 cups cold water
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla essence

Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
Pour into a greased and lined 20cm cake tin and bake at 180°C for 45min or until the cake springs back and a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for about 10 min after it is taken out of the oven and then turn out on a wire rack.
Ice when cool.

Money-rich, time-poor

This week I did something I never thought I would ever do – hire a cleaner. We had a cleaning service come and give our whole house a spring cleaning – windows, sills, skirtings, dusting, fridge, oven, floors, bathrooms, the full noise. Our house is gleaming!

They are coming back on Tuesday to do a regular clean, and then every Tuesday after that. It feels so luxurious to pay to have someone do my chores – I’m totally embracing it.

The cleaning service comes hot on the heels of the gardening and mowing services we employed last year. This all feels extravagant, but also really awesome. It’s so nice to come home on a Monday and see what work our gardener has done – she moves things around, plants things here and there, and obviously has very green thumbs (unlike me!).

I understand now what people mean by the phrase money-rich, time-poor. I am happy to pay people to do things for me so I have time to do other things instead. I actually don’t mind cleaning at all – I find it soothing and satisfying. But I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to fit into my week – I feel like I’m always cleaning and tidying, because I have to do little bits all the time to keep up with it.

It’s not like I’m using my new spare time lazing around. The reason I have so little time is all the unpaid work I do for derby and hockey. I do this work joyfully and with gusto. Both these sports have expanded my world, taken me to new and interesting places, stretched my skills (and my patience at times) – they give back to me as I give to them. But the reality is that giving my time to others leaves less time for cleaning the loo. It seems like a fair trade to me.

Crowd-sourced decision-making

We’ve been thinking for a while about getting a coffee machine for home. We’ve been using a French press for years.

French press
French press

Lately I’ve been hearing about this amazing new device called a Nespresso. They seem to be everywhere, and people who have one rave about it.

Nespresso
Nespresso

We saw lots of them when we were travelling last year, and we talked about getting one. I liked the idea of homemade espresso with very little mess / fuss. I wasn’t 100% convinced though – they seem to produce a lot of waste in the form of little aluminium pods. And you can’t choose your own beans. Then I tried a cup at a client’s office the other day, and it was pretty nice coffee. I asked around and the evangelists had me sold. I was ready to go out and buy one.

But before I did (still nagging doubts about those pods), I asked Facebook to tell me what they thought.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 10.42.56 AM

A very interesting debate ensued. On the one hand, people said:

I’ve had one for 2 years, Nespresso pods are good but now I use supermarket ones for half the price I love it, totally different taste to plunger, still take a bit to get the quantities right, milk, water, pod strength but you can get a good proper coffee machine taste, never the best but good, as for waste – the plastic I use in 2 weeks would be less than one plastic meat tray, and the aluminium ones are recyclable.

Yes for sure – and I said no to a coffee machine for years. Had one for a year now and wouldn’t go back.

 It’s great. Easy to use, great selection of tastes, and the milk thingy always makes your coffee look cool.

George Clooney

They give you a card at the shop with a chip in it and when you go to the shop you are auto logged and they greet you…by name. So register your name as Mr Clooney….for shits and gigs

But George Clooney…

We’ve had one for about 4 years and couldn’t live without it. I personally think the coffee tastes great but our machine (Maestria) does allow for you to adjust more than the basic machine and we do run more water through each capsule to extract more coffee. The pods are recyclable in Chch in the standard recycling but if you want to make sure you can now drop them off at the Nespresso Boutique in Ballantynes at the proper recycle station. Supposedly they are infinitely recyclable. We recently tried another Eco-brand of some sort but it didn’t cut the mustard flavour wise.

Love ours! Our one you steam your own milk too, which gives you part of that satisfaction of putting a little effort into your coffee, but sans mess!

It was pretty convincing stuff. No mess, and George Clooney!

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But then…other people gave me pause for thought…

A very clever marketing campaign backed up by great service to make you feel part of an exclusive club, while you drink weak, overpriced coffee and damage the environment, despite the well-intentioned recycling programme.

Capsules are expensive and only available in their “boutiques” (far and few between) and online. The only good, strong Nespresso I’ve had was when I used 2 pods in one cup – making it even more expensive. Not to mention that Nespresso is from Nestle – one of more evil multi-national corporations which should be boycotted (a company with a CEO who doesn’t believe that water is a basic human right, a company that used child labour in Africa on cocoa plantations until 2005 and of course aggressively pushed formula in Africa for years resulting in an unnecessarily high infant mortality rate.)

Back to coffee, we have had a Breville Fresca for the past 4 years, which has a built-in grinder. We love it. I don’t buy takeaway coffee anymore, ever. I also like that I can buy whichever beans I choose – fair trade, organic etc.

Hmmm, I have purposefully boycotted Nestle all of my adult life…

 

Drinking coffee is not just about ‘getting your fix asap’. If you buy a proper espresso machine you’ll experience the joy of making a good coffee yourself. You can learn, experiment, refine your skills and it only takes a little bit longer. You can make the coffee just the way you like it best… not how Mr. Nespresso thinks you should drink your coffee.

Plus if you multi task, you can make a coffee while having a meaningful conversation with somebody who really knows your name and who is really interested in you and not just in your wallet. You don’t have to suffer through all the fake marketing bullshit so you feel ‘special’… together with the millions of other Nespresso drinkers all over the world.

And as a bonus your soul doesn’t die a little every time you drink a ‘soy vanilla caramel late with rose sprinkles on top’ because you’re not putting another ‘pod’ in the ground. That alone has got to be worth something.

So yeah… do you follow the crowd… or do you drink coffee?

Yeah, family coffee-making and meaningful conversations, I like!

 

Espresso machine is a much better option in my opinion. Much more control, can support local roasters.

Local roasters!

 

These were also convincing arguments. The two sides of the debate perfectly summarise my take on this – I like the idea of the easiness and no-mess-ness of the pods, but like the idea of making my own coffee using non-evil corporation products.

Reviewing the arguments carefully, I noted that the ‘for’ arguments all focus on the convenience of the pods, and the ‘against’ on the value of brewing your own coffee using beans of your choosing.

So I started my research again, this time including espresso machines in the mix. I had thought (wrongly) that these machines would be out of our price range (i.e. several thousand dollars). What my research showed was that there are lots of semi- and fully-automatic coffee machines in the $500-$1000 range – about the same as the Nespresso.

I showed my research to Stephen and we narrowed the options – don’t want a milk container attached, do want to be able to make steamed milk, don’t want a portafilter, do want to be able to use beans or ground coffee, do want a decent sized water container.

And so we found this little beauty.

ECAM-22110SB-left
Delonghi Magnifica S ECAM 22.110.SB

And it is magnifica! It is exactly what we we wanted. It makes a great brew using any beans we choose, we can select different strengths, make two coffees at once, make short or long blacks, and steam milk, and it is no-mess. And for $1000 it includes a four-year service warranty.

I’ve been slightly over-caffeinated since we got it…

Derby

I made a big decision in December to quit playing derby. I gave it a good two and a half years, and it’s been an epic roller-coaster ride. When I started, it was to keep Megan company. I’d been rollerblading a few times, was enjoying ice skating and was keen to learn to roller skate. I signed up for freshmeat never intending to actually play roller derby. I love to skate and I’m glad I learned, but I never enjoyed the full contact aspect of derby. I don’t like hitting or being hit. Though, in honesty, it’s actually been really good to learn that getting smacked to the floor repeatedly really isn’t so bad – it doesn’t hurt as much as it looks like. I don’t mind the bruises and actually I am quite proud of some of them. They feel earned. Which probably sounds nutty to some.

I worry a lot about getting injured. I’ve seen more injuries in the two years I’ve played derby than in my seven seasons of ice hockey. It scares me a little. And derby has been hard on my body. People argue with me when I say I’m too old for derby. I’m not saying that I’m chronologically too old – at 42 there are people my age and older still playing. But my body is old and beat up. I haven’t taken care of it and it’s pretty wrecked. I have to be careful what I do with my poor body if I want it to carry me around for another 40 years. Last year I spent a lot of time in pain – legs, hips, back, feet, elbow (my poor elbow!). Just ask my massage therapist and osteopath. They are both very polite about the sport I play – they’d never tell me to stop, but they both support my decision that’s for sure.

Then there’s the intensity of it. Two hours, three times a week. In my busy life, that’s a huge time commitment. It doesn’t leave room for much else, and I’ve slowly given away other things I enjoy to make room for training. I’ve quit running, dancing, Sunday dates, gym classes, winter ice hockey, all for derby. In my league, part time is not an option. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no middle ground, no “social derby”. One of the things I love about hockey is that I can do as much or as little as I want, and no one really cares. If I wanted to, I could skate every other day, go to all the trainings and camps, skate outside, practice my shots. Or I could just be mediocre and have fun playing once a week in the B Grade. I love that. It’s not an option in derby. Like I say, it’s intense. And not for me. Right now I feel like the love of derby got beaten out of me in the past year.

The problem is, I really love to skate! I wish wish wish we had a roller rink that I could socially skate with my family. In lieu of that, I’d love to be a roller derby referee. One of the things I loved about doing freshmeat was learning the rules. They are plentiful and complex and interesting. As a ref, I’d get to skate, and I’d have to really know the rules, and no one is allowed to hit me, and it’s free. Sounds perfect! It means I’d get to keep participating in a sport I really enjoy, and it’s something I can continue to share with Megan and Bronwen.

So maybe it’s not so much quitting as it is shifting from player to zebra. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m going to give it three months. Once the season starts in February I am taking a three-month hiatus to see how much I miss it. If I don’t, I know I’ve made the right decision. And if I do miss it, I can jump back in!

A thing that actually represents another thing

You know how sometimes when you are mad or sad about something that isn’t that big of a deal, it’s actually about some other deep-seated unresolved issue? Like how I irrationally dislike someone and then realise it’s because they sound like / look like / act like my mother. Well, I just had this realisation about a jacket.

It was a really nice summer jacket. I got it from Farmers, it wasn’t expensive or cheap – just right. And I got it just before I left New Zealand on my big overseas adventure / voyage of discovery. So the jacket is imbued with meaning (though I never really thought about it like that until now). It was my freedom jacket. And it was a good jacket – it fitted me really well, it was super comfy, and suitable for many occasions.

So what happened to this amazing jacket, you ask yourself? I left it in the building in High Street on February 22nd, 2011. I had the presence of mind to grab my phone on the way out of the building, but nothing else. My poor little jacket was hanging on the back of my chair. I’ve been missing it every since. There have been other jackets, but none have been just right (too rustly, too short, long, tight, loose, wrong colour etc. etc.). I think right back in the recesses of my mind, the loss of my jacket is connected to everything else I lost that day.

So spring rolled around again this year and I started to really pine for my lost jacket. I went looking for one just like it – and I can’t find it. I even looked for a pattern with the idea that I could get a new one made. I’ve kind of found one similar on Etsy, and I’ve been debating with myself about getting it for a couple of months. Which is what led me to the realisation that the jacket has meaning beyond a piece of clothing.

Buying a new jacket is moving on, closure. It’s a good thing, but it’s also saying goodbye. Deep.

A new jacket for a new life
A new jacket for a new life

me, my jacket and the Corvette
Me, my jacket and the Corvette

Me, my jacket and my BFF have fun in NYC
Me, my jacket and my BFF have fun in NYC

Me and my jacket have fun on a rooftop carpark in old Christchurch
Me and my jacket have fun on a rooftop carpark in old Christchurch

Me and my jacket visit Apple world headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Me and my jacket visit Apple world headquarters in Cupertino, California.

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My new jacket?

It’s the little things…

Jeez, it’s been ages. Two months. I think about blogging all the time, in fact just yesterday. I think of something to say, or about something that just happened, and then I post it on Facebook and Twitter and move on. Social media is easy and blogging takes time and effort. Sad but true.

Anyway, I did something momentous (for me) today – my first lone roadie. I drove from Palmerston North to Wellington. In a rental car. In the dark. And the rain. It took just over two hours. It might not seem like a big deal if you drive all the time, but it is huge for me. The idea of that much speed for that much time scares me. There were bridges! There was one bridge with a curve, and up hill, and a BUS coming the other way. That one made me sweat a bit. And I drove all the way through Wellington city and out the other side to drop off the car.

When I got my driver licence in 2011 (on my 39th birthday), it gave me this amazing sense of freedom. It made so many things possible that were just difficult to do before … imagine going to hockey on the bus, argh. A couple of weeks ago I thought about driving to Timaru. I’d need to bring Stephen along, I thought to myself. I can’t drive myself, I thought. There are bridges. And it’s a long way! So now I know I can. That’s really cool.