Happy Old Year’s!

In my mother’s home country, New Year’s Eve is celebrated as Old Year’s Night, and this year that seems somewhat appropriate.

While people can fuss over their plans for the year ahead, set resolutions that they don’t really intend to keep, or to put out wishes for how they want things to be in future, I find myself this year looking back at what happened instead.

In my short experience as a parent, it seems that there is very little time available to sit down and reflect on the journey. As I woke up today though, I realised just what a journey the past year has been.

This time last year, my wife and I were still living in Singapore, and contemplating the move back to Australia that we would be doing in April, ahead of the bump being born. I was still waiting to hear from my work if they would still employ me from Australia, while my wife was essentially on the downhilll run with her teaching job as she prepared to finish up in late March.

Since then, it feels like a non-stop rollercoaster, but only now do I look back and just see how far we have really come.

Coming home to Perth in April was thrilling, but involved a lot of adjusting back to things, with probably the biggest adjustment being living with my parents. But that was nothing compared to the call from my wife who, after a routine check-up, was being prepared for an emergency Caesarean. That, thankfully, never happened, but did set us on our toes until our little bubba was born at the end of May.

After weeks of twice-weekly visits to the hospital for monitoring, two attempts at turning the breach baby and a delay of one day, our little bubba came into the world on 31 May, and then life started to change radically.

Well, as I’ve written before, it really changed a few days later when she came home from the hospital.

Then we hit the brutal learning curve that is being a first-time parent. Not only was there feeding, nappies, vomit, more nappies, disrupted sleep and all that goes with (did I mention the nappies?), but we also had hip problems that required our little froggie to wear a leg brace for a few months.

And I also encountered first-hand how fathers can get postnatal depression. And I think for me, the key learning was that, if you’re struggling reach out for help, because with the right help life can be much, much better.

In my case, a few months of antidepressants has helped my mood to return to normal levels, and with the stress of a new baby out of the way, I’m feeling great. And now my doctor has put forward a plan to step down gradually on the meds and that should be it taken care of, for now at least.

Over the year our little baby has grown into an infant, who is now able to interact with us, with a big gummy smile that would melt steel, and parts of her personality starting to show. And to think that in seven months she has gone from a tiny, helpless, screaming child is just mindblowing.

As for work, this year saw me change locations but continue to do the same job, and I think that my colleagues and my boss have been pleasantly surprised about how well it has gone.

The other thing new at the end of this year is our housing situation. We finally got the bulk of our renovations done at our new house, and moved in a couple of days before Christmas. We’ve still got a few small things to do, and we need to get a lot of storage to really put things away, but I’m gradually getting to know the house better and it’s becoming more familiar. I’m looking forward to creating a lifetime of memories in it.

As for 2017? Who knows!

I’ve not been one for waiting until the new year to make resolutions, so let’s just say that I hope to grow into being a better father and husband, becoming more loving to those around me, and perhaps to blog a bit more often.

So, from our family to yours, happy Old Year’s Night!

Peter Dutton: A Christmas Carol

Trigger warning: This is a politico-religious-national identity post, so grab a helmet and a lunchbox before you dive in.

There’s nothing like Christmas to bring out all sorts of ‘political correctness gone mad’ stories. Today’s is courtesy of Immigration minister Peter Dutton, and it has me pretty riled up.

As reported in this article from Fairfax, minister Dutton was on talkback radio in Sydney, and riled up when a caller complained about their grandchild’s school moving to a secular Christmas celebration without traditional carols, or heavily modified ones.

The minister told the caller:

“You make my blood boil with these stories…it is political correctness gone mad and I think people have just had enough of it.”

On that, I kind of agree. Let people sing their Christmas songs, because it is up to the individual to decide if they want to engage with the Christian element of it or not.

But that’s not what got my blood boiling, it was Dutton saying that we are “a Christian society.”

In context, here it is from the report:

“Angered by a talkback radio caller whose grandchild’s school eschewed traditional carols for a secular celebration, Mr Dutton said the “vast majority of Australian people want to hear Christmas carols” as we are “a Christian society”.

Before I launch into it, I want to make an admission – I am a Christian, so in some sense I have a vested interest.

But the more and more I look at Australian society, I am convinced that we are not a Christian society, and I really question if we ever have been.

Let’s look at the history: we inherited Christendom after the British Empire landed and settled here, illegally dispossessed indigenous people that have been here for thousands of years before, and turned it into England’s gaol at the other end of the world. Most people transported here may have carried with them a societal form of faith (majority Church of England or Catholic), but there is very little that shows that the Australian land was founded as a “Christian society.”

Like most of the British Empire, Christianity pretty much just came with the turf. For most of our history, people would identify as Christian, but more from a cultural aspect, than those whose lives are being transformed by Christ.

It then seems that around the 1970s and 1980s, that started to change. Most people started pushing back on the Christian cultural identity, and the seeds of the rise of secularism were planted. Nowadays, people who may have previously identified as Christian are more likely to tick ‘no religion’ when it comes to a census, or admit they are agnostic or atheist.

And, I am more than happy with that. Even as a Christian, I think that having a secular society, as long as it is respectful, is absolutely fine. Jesus never wanted people to wear a tag, attend church once a week and be part of a ‘religion’ that loads people up with a whole bunch of do’s and do-nots. As I read my Bible, I see Jesus calling people to follow him, have their lives transformed, and to work with him transforming this world by following only two ‘commandments’ – love God, and in the same way, love others.

So back to what set me off – a ‘Christian society’.

Minister Dutton, if we were a Christian society, wouldn’t we have a more generous set of immigration policies than those that are overseen by you?

Wouldn’t we look at Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, and see people jumping on boats as our neighbours, and follow the example of welcoming and taking are of them? Would we not heed the teachings of the Old Testament to “welcome the alien in our land” and to seek their welfare, lest we be judged for not?

If we were a Christian society, would teachers, doctors and, yes, even church ministers, be risking jail terms to speak out about abuse of asylum seekers in Nauru and Manus?

If we were a Christian society, wouldn’t we have laws that would allow full and open access for journalists to write stories about immigration? Or, as even the Australian Border Force admits, that the boats haven’t stopped, rather than hiding behind secrecy of ‘operational matters’?

If we were a Christian society, would we pillage our foreign aid budget to pay for our ridiculous camps in Nauru and Manus, and continue to reduce the overall allocation of foreign aid for the sake of our own ‘needs’?

Sorry, minister Dutton, going by the evidence of your own portfolio, I just can’t describe Australian society as Christian. And, like you, I’ve also had a gutful, but instead of our treatment of refugees.

Patching, painting and eagerly waiting

In the last week I have come to learn a universal truth: when you think you have patched all the little nicks and gouges in a wall, and move onto another task, you suddenly find 20 other ones that haven’t been done.

As I mentioned earlier, we took possession of our new house on 27 October. Since then, we’ve been selecting paint, preparing to paint, painting, getting quotes from various trades, and doing some more painting.

And now, we’re so close that I genuinely have problems falling asleep at night because I get so excited when I think about moving in.

Not that I’m looking forward to the moving process. At our old house, we have a shed full of all our possessions that we left behind four years ago when we moved to Singapore. It was hectic, and towards the end everything got shoved in boxes and put in there.

And I mean, everything. At least I’m told so – I missed the last part of the packing up.

Living in small apartments in Singapore cured me of the need to have heaps of stuff. I guess knowing that we would move back to Perth at some point stopped us from accumulating too much, and nowadays I shudder when I think of how packed up that shed is, and how much we will have to cull from it for the new house.

But then, things start to get exciting. For me, it started this week when, after agonising over paint choices, and seemingly taking forever to get going on the process, we started to see our colour go up on the walls.

And soon, all the issues around paperwork, all the difficulties in buying this house that we’d been facing, and the daunting to-do list that made me feel like we had made a big mistake buying the house, all didn’t seem so bad.

Because it was slowly, with each stroke of a brush and roll of a roller, becoming our house.

I don’t mean that to be possessive. In fact, one of the things that I’m looking forward to is being able to share the house, having people over for a drink or a barbeque, laughing and crying with others, and watching our little family expand into the space.

But there is a certain pleasure in having your own place and space. In time, this house will transform from a roof and four walls to become a home. It will be a sanctuary and a refuge, hopefully not only for us, but for everyone who enters.

So with much help from friends and family, a few nights after work, and with some professionals doing their thing, very soon we should be realising that vision.

Looking forward to having you around once we’ve moved in.


Crazy – but good – times

It’s been some time since I posted last, and a lot has been happening. I’ll be explaining more in future posts, but here’s the Cliff Notes version:

  • WE BOUGHT A HOUSE! Yes, finally the settlement happened, and we are the owners of another big pile of debt house, one which we are slowly turning into a home. There’s a bit to get done before we move in, but work has started, and we’re already received our first utility bills.
  • I’VE BEEN TRAVELLING. Singapore, Sydney, Hong Kong and Manila. Mostly for work, but with liberal amounts of pleasure thrown in as well, including the once-in-a-lifetime experience of flying in light aircraft over Sydney Harbour at night.
  • BRACES OFF! Our little girl had a follow-up x-ray on her hips, and they are looking good. She’s no longer having to wear the brace at night, but that brings with it other challenges
  • CLEAR HEADSPACE. My anxiety and depression has been very much under control, and my doctor has given me a plan to start stepping down my antidepressants.
  • GETTING SO BIG! Our little girl is getting bigger all the time, doing more things and turning from baby into little girl. While some people mourn the loss of babyhood, I’m loving seeing my little girl transform before our eyes.

More on all this to come next week, so stay tuned!