Furbaby

Things are pretty quiet at Coburg Hill at the moment. That will all change next week when we get a new dog.

Emma has been researching dogs for a month or so, and a few weeks ago sent me a message saying “I think I did a bad thing” which was code for, ‘I inquired about a dog without consulting you’. She didn’t hear back from the inquiry and began to learn a bit about how it works with various rescue organisations, how well resourced they are to be able to respond to inquiries or not.

She also became focused on Chinese Crested dogs. Yes, the ones that look like a cross between Gizmo from Gremlins and an ugly Clydesdale horse but miniature.

Thankfully that fad passed and she put in an inquiry for a dog that doesn’t like men, growls at big dogs and unknown if it liked cats. Other than that it seemed like a good fit. (Uh, yyyeah.) She reflected on it and withdrew her application on a gut feel that it wasn’t quite right. Good call. And I know it was hard for her given how much she had put into the applications and actually getting to the point of being shortlisted, made it hard to withdraw and I respected her choice.

Two hours later she got notice of a mini fox terrier that was good with cats, other dogs and is very friendly and cuddly. What more could you ask for!? There was only one photo of her and she was in a town 3 hours away but it felt like a good match so we brought B up to meet her and it went really well. Because the dog was surrendered to the Council pound the rules are quite strict and they won’t release her before she has been desexed, which I totally respect.

When we drove up we talked about the pros and cons of things like, oh, I don’t know, getting another dog, and um, marriage. In both of these conversations I got more present to the positives, tho still didn’t really think we needed another dog until we got there. And I fell in love with her. Chances are there will be lots of photos in the coming weeks of her when we get her home. She will be post op so will give her some space to just chill as much as we can. But once she’s feeling up to it, it’s play time!

 

 

This is post 34 in 45 post for 45 years.

Community Consultation

I have just returned from a community consultation for a footbridge that was washed out just about a year ago. We discovered it would be at least two years before a replacement was constructed. After spending all day in a facilitation training session, it was pretty disheartening but not surprising to see zero facilitation skill displayed by the council reps nor the bridge engineers presenting their findings. In essence, the outcome was not an experience of being consulted, especially when the question about who was recording what the community was saying couldn’t be answered.

It was pathetic, and my faith in council has dropped to just about nothing. The start of the meeting didn’t thank people for coming, didn’t state the purpose of the meeting, where they were at in the process and only just outlined how the meeting would go. When chaos broke out and the engineer answering a question became a 1:1 conversation and people started talking amongst themselves, the council representative did nothing. At one point several painful minutes later he got the attention of the room and then quietly said, if there’s nothing else… not, does anyone else have any more questions, or thanking people, or being clear about next steps. Clearly a box-ticking exercise, not a genuine interest in drawing on the care and commitment present in the room full of local residents.

From the Friends of Edgars Creek website, not an image used in the presentation.

The wisdom in that room was vastly underutilised, people who clearly knew the area better than the engineers and council staff, people who had lived there and had family living in the area for 40+ years. People who had seen three bridges built, and washed away. Many of the people in the room were from Friends of Edgars Creek, had planted up the area over years, noting that Melbourne Water had provided funds for planting, yet they were the blockage in terms of standards for a bridge across a waterway they manage.

There was so much disconnect, the Edgars Creek Strategic plan being raised as a factor in the planning, yet the engineer and council rep not seeming to know about it. Later we heard they had been provided with a copy, but it wasn’t acknowledged. Very poor communication skills. I’m considering writing a letter and making observations about my experience and what could have made a difference. My cynical self noted that council really doesn’t give a shit. That the right hand not knowing what the left is doing is just normal, and the care factor in being any different wasn’t sufficient enough to warrant a letter.

The upside is that I got to see who cares about the issue. Lots of longtime residents, very few young people, a couple of families, mom’s talking about the impact it has on getting their kids to school, many members of Friends of Edgars Creek talking about the plantings, the strategic plan and clearly a strong understanding of every angle, incline and tree in the vicinity. It’s nice to know that people care and that as a new resident of a reasonably unwelcome development I can contribute to the expression of care for the place we live in.

This post is 33 in 45 posts for 45 years.

Xmas is Coming

Not long before we have Christmas Lunch at our new place for the first time. I’ve been reflecting a bit about this given it’s not something I celebrate and the animosity I have toward the consumerist frenzy it’s become. The waste from obligated giving is sickening. Don’t even get me started on that.

So not surprisingly, I’m not usually one for Christmas time, it doesn’t mean much to me other than a chance to be with family and eat great food. This is the first Christmas in our new place so I’ve been keen to have it here and not go away for the occasion. The most part of the last 8 years or so I have been going to Mildura to celebrate Christmas with Emma’s family.

I remember one time a few years ago, asking what I could do to help, Rita hadn’t had time to put the decorations on the tree so, given I’d had a fair bit of experience in the past, I was quite happy to put these old skills to work. I was a bit surprised that it actually brought back memories of decorating the tree with my mom and my brother in Canada when I was younger. There was a familiarity that went beyond the mechanics of draping a tree with tinsel.

This year we’re looking for an alternative to a Christmas tree per se, Emma has sent me pics of pineapples decorated like Christmas trees, books stacked to look like a snowman and reindeer in festive decor. I’m quite happy to have an unconventional approach, it’s how I roll. We’ve even looked at inflatable tree’s that require nothing but air and a bit of space, oh and a spare power outlet to plug in, which are in short supply in our living room. So that may not work. I’d much rather use something we already have or something that doesn’t involve waste, like the pineapple.

I’m keen to make the most of it despite the mixed feelings I have around the whole Christmas thing. I haven’t quite gotten to giving myself permission to enjoy it just yet, I’m still cranky and annoyed but don’t want to bring this to my family gathering either. There’s no getting away from the fact that I will be celebrating it and being grateful for my new home. So I’ve got a couple of weeks to shift it. Here’s my public declaration that I will.

 

 

This post is 32 of 45 posts for 45 years.

 

Ability

Today is the International Day of People with Disability. Listening to a story on the radio about Nas Campanella who usually reads the news for Triple J, a national radio station in Australia. She spoke of her experience as the first news cadet who is blind to be hired as a newsreader for the ABC, as part of a piece on International Day of People with Disability. She talks about being blind and using a cane to walk instead of a guide dog and that she also has another condition that affects the use of her hands, which means she can’t read braille.

The interviewer plays a section of audio that reflects what she hears when she’s reading the news (that she also compiles). It’s a speech program with a robotic voice reading the words of a document for the newsreel, as well as her own voice and beeps that indicate timing. It would take a lot to be able to manage all of those sound streams going on at once. Pretty impressive ability! She takes the words from a document that she hears through an automated reader that is virtually lifeless, into a human form. She brings life to it making it interesting to our ears.

It gave me a whole new appreciation for her work and made me wonder about what it might be like if we have robot or automated news reading. But she helps illuminate the distinction, the human element. I became curious about how much we really acknowledge this and about how many other listeners on this Sunday arvo radio show are making this connection.

Triple J is not a commercial radio station and is government funded through the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, it’s one that survived massive cuts to public broadcasting decades ago. Its audience is generally people under 40, so it may be an audience that does think about automation and humanity, or not, I really have no idea. I don’t know anyone else who listens to Triple J and I don’t really talk about the fact that I listen to it. I mostly listen to it for the news so hearing a story behind the newsreader is a bit of a treat for me. 

And to hear what this woman has overcome to get to where she is. It’s quite remarkable that she has used the skill of listening for a role that has thousands of people listening to her nearly every day of the week. She’s 26 so she was born at a time when using technology to help her through school was possible. Audiobooks and automated speech to text made it possible for her to have documents translated into a form that she could consume. Nas Campanella has a university degree and is also a motivational speaker.

On this International Day of People with a Disability, what can we do to be more inclusive and mindful? Does this challenge the way you see people with disabilities? They are much more capable than we expect, have more ability than we give them credit for. For me this challenges my own notion of what ability is about, valuing the contribution their abilities afford and what they can teach us about our own perceived limitations.

This is post 31 of 45 posts for 45 years.

Predictions

The perils of prediction. In our modern age of social media, if you make a prediction for a short-term outcome like weather, and it doesn’t come true, you’re subject to criticism. The recent ‘threat to life’ weather predictions made by the Bureau of Meteorology didn’t happen on Friday night as forecast. Weather warnings were issued via the news, the Facebook posts of the State Premier, and by text message to state residents.

Some regional towns were evacuated but because we didn’t have catastrophic rains in the metropolitan areas to the extent we were warned of, the predictions are being mocked. This concerns me, not that the bureau made a big deal out of something that hasn’t happened as they said it would, it’s the weather! My concern is that if people become dismissive and stop heeding these warnings, it could have disastrous results.

It also brings to mind my own reluctance to step out on a limb and share my predictions. At the Future of Work conference on Tuesday the first keynote speaker was on a panel and asked about what he expected to see in the future, he refused to predict because “projections are notoriously inaccurate”. Another panellist responded with a different sentiment that I appreciated a lot. He said he’d like to think it’s an opportunity to talk about what you want to see happen. This resonated strongly with me.

It gave me more courage to share my insights on the future, and what I’d like to see happen. I’ve played with this a little in my recent posts on the Future of Marriage, the Future of the TAC and the Future of Lawns. This is the tip of the iceberg. I have a lot to say about the future I want to create, and the concerns I have that we’re not prepared for what’s coming. We are facing a massive shift in the labour market and the skills we’ll need to ride the wave of disruption are not highly valued, nor encouraged in our society, not to mention widely prevalent.

The biggest prediction I have is that we are likely to experience a significant psychological crisis as the wave crests and people are no longer defined by their role at work, their level of productivity or contribution to the economy. This will likely lead to existential crisis and destructive anti-social behaviour if we aren’t able to find a new sense of purpose and a place to belong in society.

Until then, let’s talk about the weather and criticise those predicting the weather, because that’s much easier. While that’s going on, I might start writing more about the future I’d like to see.

 

This is post 30 of 45 posts for 45 years.

World AIDS Day

In 1998 I started working for an AIDS Service Organisation. Jim took me under his wing. He was in the Education Team, I was the new Volunteer Coordinator.  He was the first person with HIV that I’d met. He taught me everything I knew. He taught me about the virus. How to educate people, what an educational moment is and how to use this to fight ignorance.

He helped me understand why people still contracted the disease when they knew how to prevent it. He helped me understand the impact of stigma and taught me how to care for people with HIV and fight the stigma by treating people like human beings, who deserve love as much as anyone else.

Jim hated World AIDS Day as a single day of the year for people to show they cared and be off the hook the rest of the year. He resented the fact that for people who don’t have HIV, they can do a day a year, whereas everyone with the virus, lives with it every day. And many of them die alone, uncared for, rejected. For many, the self-loathing drove them to further risk-taking behaviour, isolating themselves, reflecting their perception of how they thought society viewed them.

In the years I spent working for the agency it was a time where the population infected was transitioning from predominantly gay men to the street entrenched community, sex workers and those who use drugs by injection. This brought a lot of conflict and tension into the space but our primary focus as health care providers was to be a safe place for people to come without judgement. This was difficult when the gay men judged the street people and vice versa.

But there were also people who used the disease as a reason to live life fully. I got to know these people, the ones who were hurting, the ones who were health-focused, the ones who scared me at first, and even the ones who frustrated the shit out of me. I learned from all of them. I learned to let go of judgement and see the human behind the disease, behind the bad behaviour and hurt, the acting out and the drama. I grew as a person because of my experience with them, because they let me help them. I am so deeply grateful to all the people I worked with, clients, colleagues, co-workers, volunteers.

One of the people who started as a volunteer for me is now the CEO. And the organisation is still full of people who care and are committed to providing a safe place for people to be, and addressing the complex issues associated with living with and preventing the disease. The stigma is still very much alive and fear is still a huge response to the word AIDS or HIV.

Jim passed away within a year of my return to Australia, but his cheeky smile and his quirky ways are still with me 12 years later. Thank you, Jim, I’m forever in your debt.

 

This is post 29 of 45 posts for 45 years.