Put on your shoes

Over the worst of winter, it is freezing (literally) in the mornings in Canberra. Getting up and going for a run is somewhat difficult when it is dark outside and it is well and truly below zero degrees. I am also one of those people that can struggle to get out of bed to exercise even when the weather isn’t objectionable. I know that I will enjoy the run once I get up and get going and that I will feel good afterwards. Once out the door and going, I enjoy the feel of putting my body through its paces and the release of endorphins that occurs. Yet I still struggle to get up, put my running shoes on, and get out the door.

Today was a warmer morning of about three degrees and with the earlier sunrises now, it was daylight early enough to squeeze in a run before work. So against the odds, I extracted myself from under my cosy doona, put on my running shoes and off I went into the beautiful Canberra morning. It was pleasantly warm and thew sun was streaming through the trees.

I would like to say that it was a beautiful morning and once I was outside I hit my stride and off I went. But as all runners who haven’t run in a while know, the first run back is always awful. I think I made it about 300 metres before I walked the first time and in reality I probably walked more than ran. The only advantage of going so slow was that I had time to stop and have a look at the wattle along the way. The wattle was in full bloom and its bold yellow flowers against its green background is simply stunning. I don’t think the photos from my phone really did it full justice but it was definitely well worth getting out of bed for.

Despite the substantial walk element of this morning’s ‘run’, I still enjoyed it once I got going and felt better for it. So now my first run in ages is out of the way. Hopefully the next one will be better, provided of course that I can get out of bed sometime in the near future to go again. I just have to manage to put on my shoes.

The Joy of Cooking

I have never been the world’s most enthusiastic cook. I cook to feed myself but have never understood the joy that people get out of cooking. To me, cooking dinner is a chore that must be undertaken. However, about a year ago I started baking. Baking was different to cooking. Maybe it is the pure self-indulgence of baking something that I don’t need in order to survive, or the achievement of creating something. Whatever it is, baking relaxes me. I get lost in the process of finding a recipe of something I want to make, gathering the ingredients, measuring everything, following the recipe and even in cleaning up afterwards. I even tend to wash the dishes by hand as that is part of the process for me (my partner thinks this is a little crazy given we have a perfectly good dishwasher!). In the last year or so I have made numerous batches of chocolate chip cookies (a favourite in our household), chocolate cakes, banana caked, slices, muffins and even an apple pie one day. One of the cakes I have made in the past that I really liked from both a cooking and eating perspective was a Raspberry Swirl Cake. Last time I made the Raspberry Swirl Cake, I didn’t ice it because it didn’t last that long before it got devoured. Yesterday however, there were strict orders that it could not be touched until I had a chance to ice it and therefore make it complete. It turned out pretty well.

When I started baking, one of the dilemmas I encountered was that my partner and I are not able to eat everything I bake if we have any intention of not ending up putting on large amounts of weight. While I do get enjoyment out of eating a little of what I bake, most of the benefits of the process for me is in the cooking itself. Therefore, over the last year, we have worked out which of our friends enjoy home-made cooking, some of whom are far too busy to indulge in baking themselves. This means, we can turn up to people’s houses or invite them over for home-made whatever and earn some serious brownie points. Not only do they think we are great but it means the baking gets put to good use without us having to eat it all. Perfect! Today we were helping some friends who have been moving house. I ducked home and grabbed the almost complete cake I made yesterday and took it around for afternoon tea. Everyone took a break and enjoyed the cake and it got mostly demolished. I left the remainder of the cake there for their kid’s lunchboxes tomorrow. The cake will get completely eaten, we didn’t have to eat it and I got the enjoyment of baking it.

So another weekend has passed and another cake successfully made and eaten and I suspect the Raspberry Swirl Cake will be requested and made again in the not too distant future.

Education as a life-long process.

As a 16 year-old, I was looking forwards to the end of school. The end of tests, exams and education. Then I decided to go to university. Okay, so three more years of education it was to be. In reality I spent four and a half of the next five years at university. But what then? My basic degree didn’t qualify me to do anything I really wanted. So, I took a year off and then embarked on another two years of university education to complete a Graduate Diploma and a Masters degree.

So by this time I had my VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education or year 12 qualification), two Bachelors degrees, a graduate diploma and a Masters degree. At this point I swore, never again. Never again would I embark on more education.

A few years later, I had moved into an area of my profession that I didn’t really think I had the qualifications to handle. I could just go back to what I was doing or I could embark on further study. I had also start to wonder what would happen if I wanted to change professions during the course of my working life and the consequences that having a very specific Masters degree would have on my options. Enough time had passed and my thirst for learning had returned. So, I decided to take the more challenging option and returned to study a further Masters degree. This time, doing so while juggling a job that was highly demanding and involved far more hours than your average full time job. Luckily, my job also involved lots of travel and I soon discovered time on airplanes was valuable study time. I finished that Masters degree a few months ago and this time knew that it was not a case of swearing I would never study again. I knew it was pointless to say I would never study again, not just because I have a thirst for learning but also because I view education differently now to when I was sixteen years old.

When I was sixteen, I thought education was something you did when you were young, but then you finished. Now I know, education should be a lifelong process. Even within my profession, things change over time. Our professional governing body requires we embark on continuing professional development in order to keep up and offer services which are up to date. This is a sign of the world we live in.

Our world does not stay still. It changes all the time. Things progress very rapidly and to not learn is to get left behind. The kids graduating from high school and university now are far more knowledgeable in areas that are currently in demand from the job sector that I was when I graduated high school all of those years ago. If I was not to study, I would quickly get overtaken by the newer, up and coming generations. They would be the ones that get the good jobs and I would be left with the scraps. Like many people, I have no desire to be left behind by the younger generations which means I need to study and embark on further education. In a world where things change so quickly, learning is key for everyone. If you think about it, this is not just true for our work lives.

Look at the members of the older generations and who are unable to use computers and other technologies which form a key pillar to all aspects of our lives. Have you ever wondered how they let that happen? How did they not keep up? Truth be told, we are also at risk of ending up in a similar situation. With technology changing so quickly, it is easy to be left behind. If we want to continue to use the technology that we value so much in all areas of our lives but which changes so quickly, we must continue to learn and educate ourselves in how to use the latest and greatest tools and gadgets. Training, learning and education is the key.

The need for education, however, does not mean that everyone must embark on multiple higher education courses. We are lucky enough to live in a world where learning and education are at our finger tips. The internet means there is almost unlimited information that can be readily accessed. This information can be easily accessed simply by looking up topics of interest. If you don’t have internet or a computer, there is always the local library. With free access to internet and computers in most libraries around the country, accessibility to information is at an all-time high. Of course once does have to be careful about what they read on the internet and the quality of information but for anyone who is unsure, there are also a plethora of courses run through various institutions that are free to access.

In the few months since I have finished studying, I have done a chemistry course, a physics course and a course about the social side of changes in agriculture. All of these are free. I found something that interested me and I put aside the time to learn. I am sure that it won’t be long until I start something else because the one key thing I have learnt above all else over the years is the value of continuing to learn. Education in one form or another is not something that we should view as a process that occurs and stops, but rather a key element of our lives that is a lifelong process.

Wollongong

Today I headed to Wollongong for work. I have only been to Wollongong for work once or twice before and not in my current role, so not for a number of years.

Wollongong is an interesting place. There are beaches, a golf course, light house, significant industrial areas and lots of cafes. While serving as a local hub, it definitely also has the vibe of a beachside town. In the past it was a significant coal mining area that was also known for its steel industry. Today however, it has moved away from a dependence on heavy industry and now incorporates contributions from industries such as information and technology, business, finance, heath and aged care, education and research, and a significant tourism element.

The first time I went to Wollongong was in 1994 for the Australian University Games. I was playing Rugby Union and that trip was as much about partying, the atmosphere and what happened when tent city blew down, as it was about the sport.

Today’s trip however, was about work. While a 10:30am meeting made for an early start it meant it was over by lunchtime. Usually when I travel places for work I go in, do what I need to do and get straight back in my car and go home or on to the next location. Given the weather was meant to be nice today I packed my lunch and after my meeting finished, I headed towards the beach and sat and ate as I watched the water in the sunshine.

Not a bad way to take a break before heading back to Canberra really. The good thing is it looks like I will get to go back again in a couple of weeks. Think I might pack my lunch again…..

It snowed!

Living in Canberra we get a lot of cold weather. However, it does not very often snow. Today was one of those days where it actually snowed in Canberra (well parts of it anyway). When it snows in Canberra, it is an exciting event and seems to unleash the inner child in many people. The snow today was not forecasted but late morning the temperature dropped and white flakes started falling from the sky.

As soon as the snow started, social media feeds became swamped with reports and pictures of it snowing and the news websites hastily filed reports detailing where the snow was falling, how long it may last and how much snow may fall. Things came to a standstill. Children were let out of class to look at the snow and adults displayed child-like excitement as productivity came to a grinding halt while workers stepped outside to look at the snow. There was not enough snow to build a snowman and in most areas it didn’t even settle on the ground. However, the excitement and buzz was definitely present. People who live in areas where it snows regularly would be unlikely to understand the excitement generated by such a small amount of snow but to Canberrans, the excitement was contagious.

For the rest of the day, the first thing people asked was “Did you see the snow?” I went to a meeting tonight and the conversation was dominated with talk about it snowing today until everyone settled enough to concentrate on the task at hand.

It is unlikely to snow again in Canberra this year. Tomorrow it is forecasted to be a standard Canberra winters day complete with a morning frost and sunny skies in the afternoon. So our inner child that was unleashed today when it snowed gets put away again. Until next time the white flakes fall from the sky.

Brisbane

Like many people, when I first started travelling for work, I thought it would be glamorous. Airports, planes, hotels. What’s not to like right? As anyone who has ever travelled for work will know, it is not so glamorous.

Travelling for work tends to consist of early mornings, late nights, packing and unpacking bags through security and a delicious combination of airport and airplane food. Not to mention the nights alone in hotel rooms. Tiring- yes, glamorous- not so much.

After only getting home from Townsville and the Sunshine coast a few days ago, today I went to Brisbane. I didn’t have to leave home until 8am- that’s late for a travel day and felt rather luxurious. Furthermore, unlike Canberra, it was nice and warm in Brisbane today.

So after my luxuriously late start, I grabbed breakfast in the airport lounge and boarded a plane. I managed to knock over some work on the plane and landed in nice sunny Brisvegas. With some time to kill and a document I needed to print I headed to the lounge for its free printing service, lunch and the chance to use free Wi-Fi to knock over some more work.

At the appropriate time I jump in a cab, head to my meeting and following its conclusion it is back to the airport to once again for free Wi-Fi to finish off some work and dinner in the lounge.

As I ate my scrumptious dinner in the lounge which consisted of a small quiche (not bad) and a hotdog with sauce (not so good), it dawned on me……..every meal I ate today consisted of airport lounge food. For anyone who has ever spent considerable time in airport lounges, you will know, while having access to airport lounge food is a novelty at first, after a while it becomes repetitive and not particularly appetizing. Although, it is still more palatable than paying exorbitant amounts of money for food in airport cafes that generally isn’t any better. Every meal in a day at an airport lounge though- that is not so good and a little sad!

So as I head home tonight, I will land just after 9pm and my luxuriously late start seems not so luxurious but rather an essential requirement to avoiding the potential resultant exhaustion that comes on those travel days where the start is early and the finish is late. But hey, my flights have all been on time today and tonight I get to sleep in my own bed instead of a hotel so who am I to complain. All in all, a pretty good travel day today even if I am looking forwards to not eating airport lounge food until at least next week.

I Can’t Run

I call myself a runner. I like to run. I like the sense of accomplishment I get from finishing a run and I enjoy the endorphins running causes to be released and the effect that has on my mood. However, I also know I am not a good runner. I am not speedy, and my ability to go long distances has definitely deteriorated over the years with age and life getting in the way of consistent running. However, I would not say I can’t run even if I am unfit enough that running a couple of hundred metres leaves me gasping for breath.

Often when friends tell me they need a cheap form of exercise I suggest they try going for a run. All you need is shorts, t-shirt and a pair of runners and off you go. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need all of the latest gadgetry to go for a run. Look at kids- they run and run all day long and don’t require anything special to do so except a desire to get to the next point quickly. As adults, we can also run with minimalistic equipment and don’t actually require heart rate monitors, a GPS enabled watch etc.

When I suggest to my friends that they try running, often they will say, “I can’t run” or “I am not a runner” or “I tried running once but couldn’t”. As I probe further, I discover it is that they can’t run very far or very fast. Not being able to do something well is not the same as not being able to do it at all.

We live in a day and age where we get used to getting things instantly. Emails, text messages and information are all at our fingertips in an instant. That doesn’t mean that being good at things is also instantaneous. Being good at something still takes time and effort even in this age where other things are instantaneous. This blog for me is largely about improving my writing. I can write an essay well, I can write a report, I can write a presentation. All of these forms of writing I can do well. However, creative writing or writing a blog are areas I have never really tried. Am I good at them? Probably not really yet. Can I get better at them if I work at it? Of course! Would I call myself a writer? This is maybe where I need to take my own advice. I will probably never be a professional writer but I can put words on a page, formulate ideas, publish my blog or write a story. Am I a writer? Yes. Will I ever be the best writer in the world? I think I can safely say no. Am I a runner? Yes, will I ever be a professional athlete? No.

I do know that not working at something is the fastest way to guarantee not getting better at it. So, whether it be running or writing, we should all remember that you don’t have to be the best at something to get enjoyment out of it or benefits from it. We should also not expect to be great at something the first time we try it. If we could be wouldn’t everyone do it? So put on your running shoes and go for a run even if you only make 50 metres. Tomorrow you might make 100 metres. Pick up your pen and write something or draw a picture. Whatever it is you think you aren’t good at, go and give it a try, work at and you might just surprise yourself or at least have some fun along the way.

Mt Taylor

Today while many of my friends were tackling the 14km City to Surf fun run in Sydney, I was having a lazy day. After a sleep in and late brunch followed by some writing, I realised at 2pm that I had walked an entire 925 steps. Just a little short of my 10,000 daily target.

Since the sun was shining, I decided it was time to get up off the couch and go for a walk. Since I am not really fit enough to run too far but wanted some decent exercise I decided going up a hill was a good idea, specifically Mount Taylor.

Mount Taylor is not too far from my home but I made a tactical error by accidentally taking the long way to the bottom of the mountain meaning I had walked over 2 kms by the time I even got there. It was a beautiful day and the Kangaroos were out in abundance. Usually the keep their distance or hop away as soon as you get close but there were a couple of game ones out and about today. This one in particular did not seem to be scared by someone plodding along down the path towards him or her.

When I set out from home I was determined to go all the way up to the summit. Seemed like a good idea. Getting to the top would bring awesome views and a sense of accomplishment. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, I wasn’t so sure. Maybe I will just keep going until I reach 3kms. Or maybe I will turn around at that bend. When you are looking at a nice steep hill upwards, it can be hard to stick to the original plan and this is what I was looking at:

However, I talked myself into it and managed to get all the way to the top. There I was greeted by the expected sensational view and feeling of accomplishment at having toughed it out.

Of course the good thing about it being all uphill on the way there is the nice easy downhill on the way home.

Townsville

I am lucky enough that I get to travel to different places for work. Today I went to Townsville. Townsville is a place I had never been before this year and have been three times in the past six months. Living in Canberra, this is a great time of year to need to go to Townsville as I get to defrost in the warmth of Townsville after being in freezing cold Canberra. Usually I land, go to the hotel, and get stuck straight into work. However, today it was still daylight when I got to the hotel and after a day of traveling, I felt the need for some exercise so I went for a walk. It is always good to stop and look around in new places, you can see some unusual things. If I hadn’t gone for a walk in Townsville today I would never have seen this:

How often do you see a giant dinosaur on the side of a building? I certainly wasn’t expecting it!

Further exploration also yielded photos of boats on the water and the nearby river:

Apart from the dinosaur,  my favourite pictures of the day came from the blackboards at one of the local pubs:

think that makes it time for a cold beer……….