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.

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.

Future of Work 2017

For the fourth year in a row, I attended the Future of Work conference, hosted by the Centre for Workplace Leadership. This year was very different, smaller scale, one day and on the University of Melbourne Campus. Last year it was at the picturesque Fed Square, and the two years previous, at the Melbourne Convention Centre, also known as Jeff’s Shed.

The funding for the first three years had come from the federal government as well as generous sponsors. This year, no federal funding, and limited sponsorship. Despite the different funding arrangement, it was a worthwhile experience and I was really glad I went.

A much greater focus on gender and diversity this year than in previous years, less about technology and disruptive innovation. I had several people say hello to me from seeing my tweets about the sessions and presenter quotes. My most active time on Twitter tends to be at conferences like this, and specifically this conference, over the last four years.

I had a few conversations with newbies, volunteers, staff and previous attendees. I also had a good chat with the previous director of the Centre for Workplace leadership, about his extended sabbatical, health and upcoming projects. In the past the events had become like family, this year with so many of the former crew not present, it was a different feel. At times I noticed myself feeling like it was a bit of talkfest, stuff we’d covered previously and not progressed, notably education and HR practices.

One session stood out, the YLAB crew talking about intergenerational workforces. Really walking the talk about how they engage young people and how they bring older and younger workers together. It was certainly the most interactive and interesting session. The final session with Michelle Ryan was also a highlight, debunking the myths about why women don’t get to the top or into leadership positions. Her research really looked beneath the assumptions and the ‘fix women’ approach. She also agreed to a podcast interview which is pretty exciting.

At the end I also got into a great conversation with a woman from BHP who was on the final panel and a guy who had recently taken over from a prominent career transition company, I had seen him approach speakers and felt suss but then when I actually spoke to him and heard that the first thing they check in on with a new client is wellbeing, that impressed me.

So much more to share and that will come, I wrote in my notebook, provided at registration, (yes, so analogue!) on each of the learnings from the sessions, and will share more as the concepts percolate.

 

This is post 28 of 45 posts for 45 years.

Stage Performance

What does a 5 year old’s dance performance and public speaking have to do with eachother? Having attended the dance performance yesterday, something the instructor said made an impression. She said something about developing the confidence of the students.

This brought to mind the participants of the program I ran for CMY last year. Many of them had never done any public speaking so when it came time to pitch their business on stage at a performance hall, many of them freaked out. Even though we arranged for them to come and try the stage out for a mini-practice run before the big night, there were a lot of nerves. Making sure walking up on stage to pitch wasn’t their first experience of the lectern wasn’t enough to calm them.

But if you can imagine your first experience of being on stage at 5 years old and having regular exposure to this kind of thing at a young age, you might not be so nervous at the graduation of your entrepreneur program when you join your fellow classmates to pitch your business.

It made me think how lucky Lily is to have the chance to dance her heart out with a big group of girls her age and older, to test out her stage legs. Food for thought.

 

This is post 27 in 45 posts for 45 years.

MYAN Conference

I was at the MYAN conference today, that’s the Multicultural Youth Australia Network which is the national body of the organisation I work for, CMY, the Centre for Multicultural Youth.
I was asked to help with the world cafe being run by master facilitator and sector development lead for CMY, Linette Harriot.

There were close to 70 people in the room and we had over a dozen tables of young people, youth workers, education and employment professionals. The topic was education to employment. We had a handful of panellists sharing their experiences before we turned to the group and got them to discuss the issue of what it takes for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds to successfully transition from education to employment.

The discussion was lively and the buzz in the room was exciting to be around. We had very astute and proactive volunteers helping out as well. One noted a table that was having discussion that was really going beyond surface ideas.

One of the stand out comments for me was a representative from an innovative and highly successful employment service that noted the important difference between education being outcome focused, you do the work, you get an outcome, to employment which is probability focused, you can apply for a job it’s not a given that you’ll get it. And they’re likely to face additional barriers with both unconscious bias and overt racism.

 

This is post 26 in 45 posts for 45 years.

Water body

Twice today my body was immersed in water. First for an hour in the floatation tank, 800lbs of salt in a big beautiful pod were your body is buoyant, held, floating fully relaxed.

The second time I was doing laps at the pool with my partner. Third week in a row. Water bourne exercise. Almost the opposite of the chilled out nature of the float.

Another encounter with water today was the counselling session I had, first time with a new therapist, first time in a few years since I last sat in the chair. Her approach brings in a bit more somatic work and body wisdom which I’m looking forward to but also a bit freaked out by and named. She was great, I talked about how my awkward self might struggle a bit, but cognitively I know it’s a good thing, just might take a bit to get the rest of me there.

I did manage to dive deep enough into the pain and water came out of my eyes. There’s been so much that’s happened this year, and I’ve been really good at putting my pain aside and getting on with it. My body wasn’t so cool with that, after three weeks of illness, insomnia was the next thing to alert me to the need to do some serious self-care. So floating, swimming and therapy are all part of that plan. I’m getting started and it feels good.

 

This blog post is 25 in 45 posts for 45 years.

Unnamed Emotions

Yesterday I was driving along Bell St to Fairfield. I saw a group of people with a banner and a painted wheely bin, a few people were holding signs and wearing t-shirts with the cause or statement written on them. I strained to see what it was about. I saw the words Manus and Mining. I think they were making a link between concessions made to get Adani mining in Australia, while we treat detainees in Manus in a subhuman way.

Image taken from media: Protesters from the Refugee Action Coalition hold placards during a demonstration outside the offices of the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Sydney, Australia, April 29, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray

I tooted my horn in support. I waved and did the ‘thumbs up’. A couple of them waved back. One person looked at me in disgust, anticipating that I wasn’t in support of their actions. Once he realised, I could see his face change, I was relieved to see he understood I was with him.

The interaction left me emotional. A sudden rush of emotion filled my body. I wanted to weep, instead of trying to understand it, and figure out if I was just proud or maybe feeling guilty for not joining them, I let my emotion be. As the second wave came a few moments later, I struggled to stay in what felt like a weird combination of pride and pain. I got curious about the wisdom it had to offer.

They were expressing their dissatisfaction about government actions by literally taking to the streets. Good on them! In response I felt the pain, I also felt proud of them. I felt the pain of all the people who are pissed off that our government is putting peoples lives in danger and letting dubious companies come extract minerals from our land. It’s infuriating. And as I gave myself permission yesterday, I felt the feeling. I felt the pride and pain in the same emotion.

Our language for emotions is pretty limited, and to describe the feeling isn’t an easy one. But it feels important to try. It feels important to name it however awkwardly, and imperfectly. Have you ever experienced that? Where you struggle to name what you felt? I’m curious if it’s similar or different to my experience.

 

This post is 24 in 45 posts for 45 years.