Takahe to start 2018

SONY DSC

2018 began well for me with a visit to the Orokanui ecosanctuary where we had the opportunity to see takahe up close, including a mum feeding her chick.

In addition to seeing the takahe, it was a great day out for us all as a family. The weather was good, kids were happy and we had plenty of time to enjoy a picnic, explore further than we have on previous visits and finish the day with hot chocolates, coffee, and well-brewed tea.

Being able to enjoy a bush walk together with everyone happy is something we treasure but doesn’t often come together as we might like. There are lots of things that can put a dampener on an otherwise good experience so it’s good to recognise and fully enjoy when it is a good experience. I remember taking kids for short walks when they were younger, trying to negotiate tree roots with a stroller that was not built for such adventures but was all we could afford, hearing complaints about having to walk uphill, at those times we dreamed of when we would no longer need to push or carry children and could enjoy a simple bush walk together.

Having happy, healthy children, being able to enjoy a beautiful public space alive with natural wonders – this is a blessing I try not to take lightly. Appreciating such things and being thankful for them is a good way to begin the year.

2017, week 32

Rabbit fight!

Misty (the light grey rabbit in the photo above) and Dusk (the black bunny) have been fighting a bit lately and on Saturday morning (5th August) I noticed that Misty had what appeared to be conjunctivitis in one eye. On closer inspection we realised he had a scratch on his eye and some fur missing below the eye, so it would appear that his brother attacked him. We had some chloramphenicol eye drops at home from the vet so I used these in the injured eye and it has cleared up nicely now.

Warmer weather

After complaining about the cold last week, this week has been pleasantly ‘warm’ and dry in comparison:

Mon 7 August High 20°C, Low 4°C
Tue 8 August High 12°C, Low 4°C
Wed 9 August High 9°C, Low 7°C
Thu 10 August High 14°C, Low 4°C
Fri 11 August High 15°C, Low 0°C
Sat 12 August High 18°C, Low 4°C
Sun 13 August High 17°C, Low 5°C

Water blasting

My wife returned the faulty water blaster to Bunnings and got a new replacement which is working much better so I spent most of Saturday afternoon cleaning the concrete driveway area in our back yard.

Army Cadets camp

Our 15 year-old daughter spent the weekend at a camp for her army cadets unit learning navigation and how to use the radios. Thankfully she avoided injuring herself at this camp and had a great time.

Consuming

Reading

  • A DNA App Store Is Here, but Proceed with Caution: I guess this had to arrive sooner or later – consumer DNA sequencing which claims to inform you various genetic traits, ranging in usefulness from whether you are a carrier for 67 different genetic disorders, through to gimmicks such as a scarf coloured to represent the proportion of bases in your DNA. (see Helix online store. You could easily kiss goodbye to thousands of dollars on this stuff and learn little that is truly useful – just my opinion as a biochemist. See your doctor if concerned about genetic disorders).
  • I have been reading a bit lately about social media, smartphones and how these are having negative impacts on people, particularly teenagers. A couple of representative, good articles are: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? (on The Atlantic, note that this site does not like ad blockers) and Understanding our digital persona.
  • Also on the topic of social media, I’ve been considering how to move stuff that I’ve posted on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to my own website (this one). This also includes evaluating what is even worth moving, there is plenty of junk. I have manually transferred a few things but this is going to be a very slow process if I was to shift everything. My consideration of this was prompted by this article: Bookmarks, favs, likes – backfilling years of gaps.
  • Another article which has been timely and helpful to me is Writing As An Act Of Worship. I can easily become quite preoccupied with blogging and so have to question why I am doing it, is this what God would want me to be doing with my time and energy? Kris Camealy’s article reminded me of who needs to be in charge of my writing (God) and that self-promotion should not be my goal.
  • I found another encouraging article the day I Googled ‘why do people read blogs’ in a fit of self-doubt over whether there is any point in keeping a blog these days. So here is a few reasons why people read blogs.
  • Poetry: I’ve been continuing to read poems by Philip Larkin this week and also enjoying Scape by Luci Shaw, refreshing poetry from a Christian writer.

Watching

My media consumption is decidedly not Christian in flavour: Game of Thrones and Vikings. Both quite violent and containing a lot of sex scenes. Judge as you will.

Creating

I’ve not been particularly creative over the last week. My ‘blogging time’ has largely been spent trying to reduce the cpu load of this blog and doing some tentative experimenting with static site generators.

What I have been creating at home is a rough version of this:

Mine is only ⅔ constructed, using old broom handles and in good kiwi tradition #8 wire . Getting the wire through all those bits of broom handle is not as easy as I thought it should be!

2017, week 31

In case you are wondering why I’m using such boring titles for these posts, my rationale is that they are not really intended to attract lots of readers but are more of a personal record of what’s been happening in my life. I need a way to title them that has a simple logic (i.e., year, week of year) and is unique so that the URL can stay simple but not conflict with any other pages on my site.

About time for another weekly update.

Early starts at work

As our large (1,500 students) first-year biochemistry course gets into full swing, work has become busier and I’ve been having to start earlier each morning so we get the labs cleaned up and reset ready for classes at 9am. By early I only mean 8am, but that actually entails catching a bus at 7:20am in order to get there on time since Dunedin has such a great public transport system (sarcasm!). In winter this does not feel like fun.

Cold

While the weather has not been particularly bad by Dunedin standards, it has just been mostly overcast, damp and not getting much above about 8°C for most of the week, so I feel like I’ve been living in a refrigerator. The house we are renting is also not well insulated and we are only heating the living area (kitchen/dining area) so it is cold in the hallway, bedrooms and bathroom – not inviting. A further factor is that the firewood we recently got is damp so doesn’t burn well and electric heaters just aren’t enough to warm the place up.

Also, I’m getting older and more sensitive to the cold!

Weekend

From what I can recall the weekend was mostly spent at home. I had my usual Saturday sleep in, tried to clean up the concrete outside but the waterblaster we bought only a few weeks ago refused to work so will need to be returned under warranty. On Sunday we went to church which was good.

Funeral

Unfortunately one of my wife’s uncles passed away last week after a long illness. We took the kids with us to Oamaru for the funeral on Monday and although sad at least it was a celebration of a good man and a life of faith. I was glad to be able to take our children as our view is that it is good for them to learn the full spectrum of what life involves.

Dad in hospital

My father spend a few days in Dunedin hospital this week for surgery he has been waiting on for some time. The surgery itself went well but it did take a few days for him to recover and be able to return home.

 

2017, week 30

Something I’m wanting to do is to keep an online journal as part of the function of this website. Obviously it is public so some things would not be appropriate to publish here, but considering how much of what is posted to social media networks can easily become public this is probably not too different.

Downpour

A significant event for our region was the recent deluge of rain and associated flooding last Friday and Saturday. Fortunately our house was not affected in any major way beyond some leaky spouting and a very muddy back yard. We did bring one of the rabbits (Cloud) inside overnight on Friday as his hutch was leaking and he had become a bit wet. He got a dry cardboard box of hay in the pet playpen for the night and once the rain eased on Saturday I moved all three of the rabbit hutches onto the concrete driveway to get them out of the mud.

(The image shows the Leith Stream on Saturday 22 July above, then at it normal flow two weeks later below)

Blog housekeeping

Despite the lack of new writing on the blog, I have been busy cleaning up all the old posts that I imported a few weeks ago. This involves fixing broken links, editing for obvious errors, adding images back, fixing fussy things that annoy me such as correct hyphens and ellipses. I’ve also tried to clean up the categories and tags to enable some of the older stuff to be found by association, though there may not be many people who actually navigate website by following tags and categories like I do myself.

Other website work has included tightening up security of the site and trying to speed up the loading time of the site. Slow site loading is one of the prices to be paid for the convenience of using WordPress and bringing that time down to something acceptable takes a surprising amount of work. So far I’ve managed to get it to something I’m satisfied with, and while there is still room for improvement what remains to fix would take a lot of time and expertise that I don’t currently have.

Trampoline

Last summer our 5+ year-old trampoline got a small hole in it, which steadily became bigger and bigger until it could no longer be used. We promised the kids that we would get another trampoline for next summer. Heather recently won an auction on TradeMe for one at a good price so we picked it up a couple of weekends ago and despite the cold weather it was an instant hit. For our kids the trampoline is a great way to get them moving and active after crouching over computers watching Youtube for hours.

Work

The second semester teaching has been underway for several weeks now, though I would not say we are run off our feet setting up labs as yet. That will come in a few more weeks.

Just an old garden rake

I was mowing our lawns today, and because the catcher doesn’t work very well on our lawn mower, was using an old bamboo leaf rake inherited from my grandfather to gather up the grass clippings. The irony is that this old rake, with many tines broken off, is still more effective than a newer metal one that I have in the shed. The thing is probably older than I am, yet still it gets the job done.

But effectiveness is only part of the reason I like using the old rake. I don’t recall actually seeing my grandfather use that particular tool, but when I use it I’m reminded of him. He could be a cantankerous old sod, but it is still good to remember him. He certainly took care of his tools and implements better than I do, his workshop was always orderly and he took great pains to mend things and keep them in good order. To the extent that his wheelbarrow had an improvised tyre made from an old bicycle tyre wrapped around the wheel several times and held in place with bits of wire.

Using his old rake also got me thinking of their house, with it’s funny outside toilet that had a golf ball on a chain to flush it with. There was always a box of neatly split kindling by the back door, and the old wooden building blocks that my father had as a child. The way Nana and Granddad always used cloth napkins and had the table properly set for every meal. Sunday roast dinners that my grandmother managed to cook in a tiny little kitchen which became swelteringly hot when the oven was on.

Which got me thinking of the tragedy of my grandmother ending her days in the confusion of Alzheimer’s disease, forgetting and forgotten. I now wish I had put more effort into visiting her in the nursing home during her final few years. It was hard to visit someone who had no idea who I was, and those were the years when my own children were babies and toddlers so life was already very full.

Recently I read an article about caring for elderly parents as they slowly died. Something which stood out to me was the following:

Around holidays and birthdays, rejection and abandonment surfaced, especially when the “family expectations balloon” popped because distance and responsibilities prevented other family members from gathering. (H. Curtis McDaniel How Long Till I Can Die? A 5-Year Journey in Hospice Caregiving)

There will always be conflicting responsibilities and demands on my time and resources, but this article reminded me that to someone who is facing the loss of everything, what they value most is being loved by those they have spent their own lives loving.

As lives are lived and years tick by, families generate their share of issues, disappointments and disagreements. Things are said or not said, done and not done. Choices are made by people we thought we knew that show how much we have grown apart. Our own lives and families are an immediate demand upon us. Yet I suspect that my parents and siblings still long for a phone call, letter or visit to reassure them that I’m still thinking of them and want to remain part of their lives.

In the end all we are left with is memories, regrets and odd items that remind us of those who went before us and in their own way loved and nurtured us as part of their family. So maybe it is just a beaten up old garden rake, but to me it means much more than being just a rake.

Current status

Done

 

  • Lab Technician
  • Biochemist
  • Administrator
  • Technical writer

 

Doing

 

  • Poison Information Officer
  • Working rostered shifts​
  • Fathering 3 kids
  • Loving one wonderful wife

 

To Do

 

  • Visit Shan State in Burma
  • Work regular hours

 

A thousand thousand reasons to live

Purakanui

Last Monday afternoon our little family made the most of all having the day off together on a glorious sunny day and went for a picnic. We have all been hanging out for such times together, this is our favourite way to unwind and relax as a family. The kids loved it, the dogs loved it, and the parents loved it. My heart rejoiced, God is good to me.

Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me … (Isaiah 8:18 ESV)

All week I have mulled over what to write with our picnic in mind. Nothing has quite ‘clicked’ so this post has sat simmering in the recesses of my mind. So I’m simply going to leave you with a quote from a novel I read recently:

There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.
(Marilynne Robinson, Gilead p227)

Gifts I have noticed recently (#943 – #953):

943) My wife turning our partly renovated cottage into a cosy home.
944) Putting a ‘Thomas’ puzzle back together for a wee boy who is sad at brokenness.
945) Our Queen remaining honourable for 60 years.
946) Family picnic on a glorious sunny winter afternoon.
947) A handful of wild flowers from mum.
948) Wild passionfruit.
949) Squeaky swings.
950) My new reading glasses.
951) John Kirwin being knighted.
952) A frown from my wife reminding me I am being lazy.
953) Warming frozen fingers by the fire.

Missing them

Alone at work in the middle of the night.

Alone at work in the middle of the night.

I don’t enjoy this. I want to be at home with my wife and three children, together in the same house, sharing our lives.

This separation is the way it has to be during this particular season. There are some benefits but the cost of separation is high. For some, perhaps, not having the family routine we had become so accustomed to would be a trivial thing. I have a good job, an adequate income, this is a great blessing.

Yet the evening routine with it’s ‘jungle hour’ when the kids become hyped-up and unruly, the wrestling of baths and pyjamas and nappies while trying to catch snippets of today’s news and tomorrow’s weather from the telly. Wanting to collapse with a cup of tea, just my lovely wife and I, but needing to do the bedtime routine first. The dishes to wash, toys to pick up yet again, stories to read for the hundredth time (does he ever tire of Thomas the Tank Engine?).

I miss these things, the mess of being a family together.

I tell myself it is worth the trouble

This year we are attempting to do some Lent devotions as a family when possible. It is a somewhat stumbling effort, but the kids do seem to like it and even our three-year-old is getting the idea, or at least he likes the candles!
For us the best time to do a ‘God talk’ in this format is immediately after dinner while everyone is still at the table and the kids have not yet switched into jungle hour mode (totally hyped, loud, disobedient and cranky). Some evenings the meal doesn’t end neatly however, and bringing everyone back to the table and settled becomes quite a challenge.

To plan my devotions I use the reliable and scientifically proven organisational approach called last minute rush. In this case flicking through the gospels in my Bible looking for a Jesus story that isn’t too long, can be explained to a six-year-old and I haven’t used in the last couple of weeks. Tonight my background accompaniment was middle child having a melt-down over a lost homework book, with boisterous boy playing melody and strains of tired ten-year-old on strings.

Then I couldn’t get the first candle to light (the one in the photo – can you see why?) and little boy decided  he needed to help me. He was most indignant when I refused to give him a lit match! He was correct in assuming I needed help.

By the time I said ‘amen’ we had everyone together around the table.

Our carefully chosen (ahem!) passage for this evening was Matthew 21:18-22, leading to discussions of how large a splash mountains would make on landing in the sea, the meanness of Jesus in killing a fig tree, and how cool it is that God can make impossible stuff happen.

With a young family and me doing shift work, our attempts at devotions are erratic at best. Yet even when it seems the kids are not paying any attention and we are all tired, I convince myself it is worth the hassle. I just pray my children find good churches when they are older with pastors who can straighten out their bizzare theology!

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
(Matthew 21:18-22 ESV)

Marching into Lent with candle in hand

Advent wreath

I did not grow up in a Christian home. The number of times I went inside a church as a child can be counted on one hand and although my Mum did make some early attempts to teach my older sister and I some of her Catholic faith that didn’t last long.
I became a Christian when 18 years old, single, with no kids. My first child changed my life when I was 32 and had already spent over a dozen years as an adult learning about God. Also, none of the churches I have been a member of use a liturgical calendar so there are elements of church traditions I know very little about.

So while I understand how important it is to teach my children about God and model faith to them, I have very little idea how to make it happen in practise. My wife and I are slowly gathering various ideas which we try out, adapt and use as the basis of faith-filled family traditions. Fortunately with young children it only takes several repetitions for them to gain an expectation for such stumbling traditions to continue.

With this in mind I ordered one of Caleb Voskamp’s Advent to Lent wreaths in October last year, unfortunately too late for it to arrive before Christmas. After a 12 week journey across the Pacific ocean it did arrive last Saturday, in time for the Lent countdown to Easter.

With it’s beautifully finished oak spiral and figure of Christ hauling his cross, our wreath has begun counting down to the dawning light of resurrection at Easter.

I am excited to have this visual and tactile aid as we endeavour to incorporate the living symbolism of Christianity into our family life.

A purist might say that props should be unnecessary; I am simply filling my life with more stuff and indulging in the human penchant for replacing interaction with God with man-made traditions. My reply to this is that I know my weakness. Materialism is unnecessary but inevitable because I have a physical body living in a materialistic social framework. Therefore I manipulate this natural tendency such that my heart is turned towards God by the stuff in my life rather than away from God by the independence that comfort brings automatically.

The physical presence of a wooden spiral in the middle of our dining table with a candle and figure of Christ carrying a cross on it is already reminding me that there is a meaning to life far beyond the usual daily grind. That is gain.

Lent candles