Monday, March 12, 2018

Sporting shorts - Round 1, 2018

Rugby League
  • The NRL started this weekend - and surprise surprise there are a few upsets with the Tigers and Warriors both getting up for wins. Melbourne started off well, and it was great to see the Knights get up too.  I do feel their the team most likely to surprise everyone this season.
  • The Warriors managed to win their first game in Perth (from nine attempts).

  • While we are still waiting for AFLM to start, the women's competition has been great. Five teams are in the running to qualify for the Grand Final. The five teams are Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, Adelaide, and GWS. The two key games are the Bulldogs v Melbourne and the Lions and Giants. I suspect the Bulldogs will play Adelaide in the final. But we'll see, it has come down to three live games. Here's what each team needs to do to make the final
  • I won't read too much into the form of teams during the trails, so yes we won two games, but I'll wait and see how they go in their season opener against West Coast.
  • Have to say I'm really enjoying the 'Don't Believe in Never' campaign tied to the season launch. Some really wonderful stories in the campaign.

Super Rugby
  • The Hurricanes and the Blues both had really good wins. I've been enjoying see the form of the (Melbourne) Rebels too.  

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Ponderings from illness

Most of you already know, but way of background, almost two years ago, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer, had a tumour removed and a stoma created for urine. Since June 2016, I have been having Chemotherapy almost every forthnight. In December, 2016, new tumours were discovered in my lungs and pelvis.

I thought I'd write a little reflecting on my time being 'sick' and offer a few thoughts on what has helped me.

I feel very blessed that those I'm walking through life with, have been wonderfully supportive to me, and my family, and their support has often taken the form of some of the things listed below.  

(1)  Most important to me is continuing relationships as they were. I have really valued the conversations I've had with friends and family, and how these conversations have not only been about me, and how I'm travelling, but also feature how the local sports teams are going, the latest news in politics, music and cinema, I love hearing your hopes and fears, what's really going on for you. Yes, I may have an illness, but in many ways it isn't different to the cross you bear. Another way to put this is, while I have cancer, I am not only cancer. I retain all of the interests I've always had, and one of them is you, the person I'm speaking too.

(2) Time is so wonderful and a precious gift to give. I really enjoy spending it with you, doing what we always did. Sure, I do need to be more conscious of whether there are bathrooms, and if there are, are they easy to get to, but I'm otherwise the same. The hard thing here is I might sometimes need to say no, or cancel. Trust me, I hate doing it. My energy is so varied sometimes, each cycle is different. Know that it is not personal.

(3) Among the best gifts I have been given, aside from you and your time, was a box of DVDs, a hard drive with movies and a netflix voucher. At various points I've spent a lot of time sitting on the coach. I'm trying to, hoping to, do that less - but it is always great to have something to watch when I do. For my birthday last year, I was given vouchers or contributions towards nights or meals out. Fiona and I really cherish that.

(4) Another great thing is to bring home cooked meals. It is a wonderful feeling to know you don't need to cook, you can just throw something in the microwave at there's dinner. At the moment, I'm enjoying cooking, so we're okay.

(5) Another great thing you can do, is ask my family how they are - ask Fiona how she's doing and how the kids are going. They are experiencing it all too, in a different way, with different concerns, so it is great for them to know they're not alone. Get to know them for who they are. Please talk to us, before you talk with them.


The next few are things I'm learning or trying to learn (it is a slow process, two steps forward, one step back).

(5) The first is some thoughts about prayer. It certainly hasn't been easy to be faithful in prayer. It is a struggle sometimes. How do you prayer to 'The One Who Hears' when it seems He hasn't heard you. How do you pray for the same thing week in, week out. What should you be praying for, total healing, because if you have faith mountains will move, because God will give you the desires of your heart; for His will to be done remembering His will took Christ to Gethsemane, and beyond, for His Glory, and for our salvation.

It's a little of all of those right. I pray for healing, because I believe God's powerful, I pray for God's will to be done because that's salvation and redemption, ultimate healing and restoration.
I think what I'm learning about prayer is its communion with God, our Father. In whom is love and mercy. So I talk to him, and tell him all of that, I'm honest, I tell him I wonder where He is, but I love and trust Him completely.

What I'm learning, is to try and pray whether I feel I want to or not. God knows and loves me intimately, and He knows my longings, and what is ultimately best for me. Death and sickness are not natural, they will be done away with. Until then, we wait.

You won't find an answer to the question of 'Why'. I think it's better to think, how can I make the most of the life I have now been given, in other words 'Why Not Me?'. God, can and will use the experience to bring some good. Good, perhaps meaning changes in me, and others.  If in walking this road, I've helped another traveller find their way , I can take comfort from that.

(6) I have also been thinking on how to help myself in the low times, when I just want to curl up into a ball. One of the ways I've learn to pick myself up is reminding myself of what I have been blessed with, or can be thankful for.
  • The top of my list is my family, it is so very grounding looking a photos of my wife and our kids.  The joy they bring is indescribable. It's the little and big things, wrestling the kids, listening to them giggle, sing, seeing the cheeky looks on their faces, building random vehicles  or putting the Sylvanian families to bed, enjoying fish and chips at Balmoral, looking at the animals at the Zoo, reading and praying together. 
  • I'm so very thankful for my family, their support and prayerrs. I am so grateful that my brother and sister have come and sat through Chemo with me.
  • Throw time with friends in next. One of my big highlights of the past few months was being able to spend quality time with my friends and their kids too.
  • It is also great to make a list of things you can do, or remember doing that can build you up.  For me so much of it is about music. Listening to music at home or while I'm out and about. I still love buying a brand new CD, opening to packaging, and reading the booklet while hearing the album for the first time. There's just something amazing about using all of the senses to hear a new album. In the modern age, I just download from itunes and listen through earphones, lying in the dark. I still think that is the best way to hear new music or discover old favourites. I also really enjoy putting CDs together for people too. so if you want some music let me know - and I'll put something together for you.
  • I'm really thankful for books - I enjoy getting lost in a good story and I still really enjoying a bunch of non-fiction too. I haven't read too much about cancer, truth be told. 
  • I love a good film, with great characters and dialogue. Something to take me into another world, another time, and other lives. 
  • I just love looking at the world after a storm or rain shower - everything looks and smells fresh.
  • Walks in the sun and just after a rain shower.
  • Time spent on the beach, I'm not a big swimmer, but I love looking out onto the ocean, listening to the waves, building sandcastles.
  • Seeing the sunrise - there's something special watching the light spread through the sky, and light up everything.
  • I love watching people, seeing friends chat, parents interact with their children, kids running around playing together - creating elaborate worlds or stories.
  • Coffee shared with friends or family. Conversations about anything and everything.  I know I especially shouldn't drink so much, but life is short and coffee is great.
  • Another is looking back on the memories I have. Memories of places I've been, people I have spent time with, and experiences I have had. All of them are positive energy and provide fuel for the fight.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What I've been in to - February 2018

Hard to believe, but we're almost at the end of February, so its time again to write about what I've been reading and listening to. 

Well I've managed to read a few more books this month. The first was from Tanya Marlow 'Those Who Wait'. The book is about seeing God in and through disappointment, doubt and delay. The book uses the stories of Sarah, Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary to talk about finding God as we deal with disappointment. What I really loved about the book is the stories it wove about how these biblical characters may have felt as they waited for God's promises to be fulfilled. In her book, Marlow includes chapters that talk about why she made certain interpretations as she retold these familiar stories, also highlighting that there were other ways you could read the story.

The other book I've been working through is Samantha Lane's book Roar.  Roar tells the stories of some of the players and coaches from the Women's AFL competition, which launched during 2017.  I really enjoyed reading it - and hearing how much the competition and game mean to these women.  I am totally blown away by the book, and the women who shared their stories.

I've posted about this briefly elsewhere to, but the music on heavy rotation during this month has been Andrew Peterson, Sandra McCracken, Christa Wells. I've only just got Sarah Blasko's new album so am expecting to listen to that a bit more. First impressions, I just love her unique and powerful voice. The songs are so emotional and human. Well worth checking out.

The highlight of Andrew Peterson's EP Resurrection Letters - Prologue is the song Last Words which is a beautifully constructed song featuring Jesus' last words on the Cross. Just a really thought provoking EP.  The album beautifully prepares our hearts for both Lent and Easter.

I've also been listening to another band called 'A TreehouseWait'. Totally recommend listening to them too. Great lyrics and a unique sound.

It's kind of fitting to post here that it has been twenty years since I saw U2's Sydney PopMart concert, my first U2 show. The enduring memories I have from the concert, are the man who climbed up a lighting tower during Where the Streets Have No Name, the fact that the band could not use their lemon due to an electrical storm, the band playing One (in memory of Michael Hutchence) illuminated only by the electrical storm, and the crowd singing INXS' Never Tear Us Apart after the show finished. The album Pop is still one of my all time favourite albums, and the concert one of the best I have ever seen. Hard to believe that's now twenty years ago.

Sporting shorts

I don't know about you, but I've really been enjoying the Winter Olympics. Sadly the coverage this year has been fairly ordinary. There's something I just love about watching an event where either New Zealand or Australia are not very likely to win. My favourite story from the Olympics so far is the Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecka who shocked the field to take the Alpine skiing gold medal.

I've really enjoyed the start of the AFLW competition. From my point of view more people need to see these amazing athletes play the sport they, and I, love.

I was also disappointed by AFL-X. Which really seems like a televised training drill. Disappointing because money was directed away from the Women's Game to AFLX-, disappointing because the women's game deserves its time in the sun.  The real driver behind AFL-X seems to be the desire to play the game on rectangle fields, and maybe win hearts in NSW and Queensland (with a quicker form of the game and make an event like the Rugby. Some have also said that its part of a plan to develop an international game.  It's disappointing an international game would come ahead of a team based in Tasmania. Yep, North Melbourne and Hawthorn play games there; but I feel Tasmania deserves its own team, given their history in the game.                   

Read ABC's take on the AFL-X here. My gut feel is that the game will be back next year with a little bit of tinkering.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sporting shorts...

So, its time for the annual, how much egg can I get on my face post. Especially seeing as the trails start next weekend. Here's a top eight for the AFL and NRL. 

AFL: (Not in order)
Sydney, GWS, Adelaide, Geelong, West Coast, Richmond, Essendon ad Melbourne.
Hawthorn are a good of making the finals again too. I'm picking Melbourne as my darkhorse; each year seems to be an improvement on the last one.

In terms of the Premiers - I'm leaning towards Adelaide, though Sydney are a chance (more so if they don't lose the first six games like last year),

NRL (Not in order)
North Queensland, Roosters, Melbourne, Brisbane, Parramatta, Penrith, Cronulla, St George.
At the moment, I think that I'm favouring North Queensland, or the Roosters to win the title. Depending on how Melbourne covers its losses, and the representative season, they could well go back to back. 

The most confident prediction I'll make is that the Warriors will have another disappointing year. 

I'd softly lean to Queensland winning the Origin series. Australia will beat New Zealand, if they play this year. 

Other sport:
I really love the Winter Olympics, primarily because I can watch it for the joy of the sport. I'm not really expecting any New Zealanders to place in the top three so its fun to watch the best in the world go at it. 

Next week the UEFA Champions League returns - with a couple of great ties to look forward to as well.

The Women's AFL game between Fremantle and Collingwood attracted a crowd of almost 42,000. The 41,975 is the largest crowd for a women's AFL game in Australia. The only larger crowd for a women's sporting game in Australia was the 58,432 who saw Sweden play Brazil during the Sydney Olympics. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Sporting short.

Time for a new post on this sporting life.

  • The Footy Season has started with the beginning of the 2nd Season of the Women's competition. Looking forward seeing the competition continue to grow. 
  • I enjoyed watching the Big Bash Cricket. My hope for next year is that the Men's and Women's Final are played on a weekend without international cricket and as standalone events. The Women deserve to play in a full stadium, with the traditional home ground advantage given to the highest finishing team. 
  • In contrast to the above, I would love to see us move to a system where the Grand Final of the Rugby League and Australian Rules Football competitions rotates around the country like the SuperBowl. 
  • On the SuperBowl - why was this an upset? The Eagles beat the Patriots earlier in the year, and they both had identical records for the season (13-3). Don't understand the hate for the Patriots, but also glad the Eagles won.
  • The highlight of the year so far seeing both Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki win the Australian Open Finals. I've run out of words for Federer - his achievements are staggering but above that I am impressed with the respect He has for the sport he plays, and how he recognises his place within its history. Federer is the fourth tennis player to win 20 Grand Slam Single titles (and the first man). The others, Serena Williams, Steffi Graf and Margaret Court.
  • Looking forward to the start of the Winter Olympics on Friday. Along with the Football World Cup, its my most anticipated sporting event for the year. I'm also looking forward to the Champions League restarting - with some mouth-watering ties set up including Real Madrid v Paris St Germain and Chelsea-Barcelona.
  • Impressed with F1's decision to remove the Grid Girls and replace them with Grid Kids

Monday, February 05, 2018

What I'm in to December/January

Boy those Christmas holidays disappeared. Can hardly believe school's started for the year. We had quite a busy January, catching up with family over Christmas and New Years, before taking a road trip to Victoria for a wedding, and then away with friends for the Australia Day weekend.

The trip to Victoria was great fun. The first time we'd driving long distance with the kids and they both coped with it fairly well. Planned breaks (and exercise) at McDonalds helped, as well as the Wiggles (their Meet the Orchestra CD is quite fun) and various audio-books. On the way down we also stopped at Holbrook, The Submarine and Museum there was a big hit. On the way down we spent the first night at Beechworth. Just a lovely town - with an awesome Bakery, and a rich history.

One of the many highlights of the trip was our day in Melbourne. We caught a bus into the city, and stopped at Brunetti'sReading Kids, before going to the Museum. Sad to say, but I definitely preferred it to any of the Museums in Sydney. The day we arrived in Melbourne we also went to the Collingwood Children's Farm - which I totally recommend. It was just wonderful for the kids. 

The other highlight of the trip was a visit to Hutch & Co in Lilydale. We visited the cafe because in an earlier life it was a shop owned by Fiona's family, and I can totally recommend the Tonic Expresso on their menu - a shot of coffee, with Tonic water poured over ice served with Lime. Just wonderful

It was really great to be off treatment - it meant that I had so much more energy for these things. I felt so much more myself. The challenge now is trying to retain some of that energy now I'm back on treatment. I'll have a scan later this month so we can see how things are going.  I'm trying not to be too anxious about this, as whatever will be, already is.

How else have I kept myself busy during the past few months.

I've read a little bit more over the past few months, not a lot mind you.  I finished Jamila Rizvi's book Not Just Lucky. While it is geared to women, I found there was a lot I could personally take from it, as well as being another helpful book to remember as my daughter grows up.  Since then I've started Zoe Daniel's Story Teller. If you don't know, Zoe Daniel is (or perhaps was) ABC's South East Asia Correspondent. The book is as much about the events she covered and her reflections on her working life. I've just started, so more later.

On my list to read next is Samantha Lane's book Roar and Tanya Marlow's Those Who Wait. Roar focuses on stories from the inaugural Women's AFL competition. Those Who Wait is a book about the perspective and purpose we can find through waiting for the fulfillment of our longings.

December is normally filled with Christmas carols and Christmas songs. While I did listen to a few carols, the album on high rotation was U2's Songs of Experience. I've blogged my thoughts on the album here. If its possible I think I like and enjoy the album more now than I did then. I'm still hoping their Experience and Innocence Tour comes here, but I have doubts.

In January, we went and saw the Carole King Musical - Beautiful.  I really enjoyed the musical.  I was familiar with some of the music but none of the story.  The musical told the story beautifully, and was quite fun.  One of the highlights of the musical was You've Got a Friend, it was beautifully placed in the musical and gave me the chills. Seriously, if you can go to Melbourne and see it, you won't be disappointed.

After seeing the musical, I was inspired and listened to a bit more of Carole King. Along with the musical CD, Carole King's album Tapestry, was also on heavy rotation. I also did some exploring and listened to a concert she did with James Taylor in the 1970s. (Live at the Troubadour). It has beautiful versions of 'You Can Close Your Eyes' and 'Fire and Rain'. I knew You Can Close Your Eyes because of the duet performed by Brooke Fraser and William Fitzsimmons.

The other highlight was Glen Hansard's new album Between Two Shores. I'd been hearing songs from the album since 'Time Will be the Healer' was released last year. I love Hansard's voice; and the songs sound great. Think they'll grow a more when they're played live, so hopefully we'll see him out here soon.

I didn't expect it but the new album from Andrew Osenga (The Painted Desert) has also been really great to listen to.

During January the other highlight was going to the Brickman Awesome show in Sydney. Brickman Awesome is an exhibition of some pretty amazing models made completely out of Lego bricks.  I couple of the ones which really jumped out at me were the Killer Whale, Red Back Spider, Rosewell and the Sydney Opera House.

It's actually been a good month for movies - I had planned to go and see the latest Star Wars film but I never quite got to do that, but I did take the time to watch The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, I found both to be really fun, a lot of cultural references for the mature viewer. The Lego Batman movie certainly is my favourite Batman movie.

If I can find a way to make it work I hope to see some of the Oscar nominated films. I was delighted to see Lou (a short film released with Cars 3) nominated in the Animated Short Film category. Will let you know how I go next month.                                                                               

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Year in review - Music and Reading

Time to recap the year in music and books.  I didn't watch any films though I'm hoping to see the new Star Wars film The Last Jedi.

I didn't read much this year - the standout was Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Rah.As I mentioned here the book is about the place of lament in the life of the church. The book focuses on the United States, but I feel pretty confident in saying that lament doesn't have much of a role in the Australian church. My goal was to read 43 books, I've currently read seven, so next year's goal will be a little less ambitious.

It has been a different story with music.  I've listened to quite a bit of music and I'd say it's been a good year.

The memorable releases during the year for me:

  • U2 - Songs of Experience
  • Julien Baker - Turn on the Lights
  • December - 33
  • Pearl Jam - Let's Play Two
  • Amanda Held Opelt - Embers
  • Nichole Nordeman - Every Mile Mattered
  • The Likes of Us - Roots and Wings
  • Taylor Leonhardt - River House
  • Lara Landon - The Never Again
As always, I exclude cover albums and live albums from my best of list. Although during the year I've enjoyed listening to Pearl Jam's 'Let's Play Two' which features songs recorded during the two concerts the band played at Wrigley Field (home ground of the Chicago Cubs), and December's album 33, featuring covers of U2 songs.

So onto the rest of the albums, the three that stand out are Nichole Nordeman's Every Mile Mattered; U2's Songs of Experience and Juilen Baker's Turn on the Lights; an honorable mention goes to Amanda Held Opelt's Embers. These albums are tied together by the personal nature and authenticity of the lyrics. The albums resonated with where I am at he moment in my life but particularly Nichole Nordeman and U2. Songs of Experience and Every Mile Mattered are probably my joint album of the year. I've found it really hard to separate them given their emotional impact on me. 

Both albums are really deep lyrically, and with Songs of Experience, I certainly notice different lyrics or notes each time.

In terms of live music, I saw three shows this year - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band; Fleet Foxes and Lisa Hannigan.  Of these, I think my favourite was Bruce Springsteen - He's just an amazing performer, with some really powerful and moving songs.  Lisa Hannigan was brilliant too, she has a beautiful voice and it was lovely seeing how delighted she was to be playing in the Sydney Opera House. 

Next year is looking great too.  I'm looking forward to the new albums by Glen Hansard, Katie Herzig, Christa Wells and Sarah Blasko, and we'll see what else comes along. 

On the touring front, on my wish list are tour announcements from U2, Radiohead, Pearl Jam and Bon Jovi, but who knows :).