Streaming Services – A Blessing or a Curse?

On demand TV is in most households in the developed world, but technology has provided us with a double edged sword.

From the moment we rise in the morning until well after our head hits the pillow at night – and if we choose so, every moment in between – the availability of any and all genre of visual media is literally at our fingertips.

TV is no longer limited to that one screen in a living room where the family gathered, if not to discuss world events reported in the news, then to enjoy nothing more than the comforting presence of one another in the combined enjoyment of a prime time show.

TV-time is no longer an opportunity to learn the skills of diplomacy and the benefits of democracy, as streaming has eliminated a need for these, when almost every member of the household has individual access to at least one screen.

TV has also become a minefield of censorship with guardians needing the skills and opportunity to enforce parental controls in a world where often their children are more tech-savvy than they are themselves. Navigating the tricky territory of viewing that was once restricted to certain hours, now being available 24 hours, is all but impossible.

At one time a parent could survive with just the extra set of “eyes in the back of their head“, but now with individual small screen devices in separate bedrooms across multiple family members, those eyes are simply no longer enough! The reality is that you’d be spending all your (usually very little) free time checking from one child to another to enforce, or ensure, that innocent minds are not being assaulted by any of the gratuitous violence (and worse) that is freely accessible.

On the flip-side, one can binge on whatever they desire without the frustration of other family members and their variety of interests. Children can laugh along with their favourite cartoon characters as much as they like, teens can dine on a 24 hour diet of music clips, while adults pick and choose as they please… Even if the kids haven’t gone to sleep yet!

Our positive flip-side is that we have created our own family viewing time around an oldie, but a goodie, in “Friends” – I guess you could call it “designer primetime“.

There were moments when I saw ‘on demand TV’ as the death of family time, but with a little gentle persuasion (and perhaps coercion), I am beginning to see the way to a new era of family viewing.

How has the availability of streaming services affected your household dynamic?

Too Many Minds

A busy day at work, a rush to change, and then a brisk walk to the dojo.

Opening the door into the small hall with plain walls and a smooth clean floor of pale wooden planks, was like opening a door into another, much simpler, world.

Sensei – his long thick steely grey hair held neatly back from his face – would greet us warmly. Laugh lines around his dark eyes softening his expression, as his manner became serious and we all knelt in a row on the floor before him. Our crisp white karate gi almost crunching as it folded with the movement of our bodies.

Before reciting our dojo kun – a set of rules to be followed in our training hall, and to guide us in life – he would quietly request that we empty our minds in order to gain the most from our training, both physically and spiritually.

Upon rising to our feet, we would breathe deeply and begin our rigourous training.

There were occasions when our focus would falter. We might misjudge our blocking move in anticipation of a strike, resulting in a painful reminder of the importance of being “present” in the moment.

Sensei Endo-San, a man for whom I have great respect and hold in high esteem, would approach us and place his hand gently on our arm while looking directly into our eyes, then quietly say… “Too many minds”.

These three simple words, in the many years since I have seen him, have often echoed in my thoughts.

Whenever I sit down to write yet another lengthy “to do“ list, trying to fight off the sense of overwhelm that accompanies “too many minds”, I remind myself to “empty my mind” and focus my thoughts… The task at hand becomes much clearer. The sense of overwhelm begins to dissipate. It is easier to focus on the important and anticipate the best course of action.

Do you sometimes find yourself with “too many minds“?

Reality Check.

Grey skies cloud my coffee break…

A gloomy all enveloping blanket of grey greets my upward gaze. I recall the fleeting conversation I had earlier this morning, suddenly realising that it is symptomatic of the human condition to experience envy – to imagine that the “grass is always greener on the other side”… But is it?

Locally, we exclaim frustration about the seemingly endless drizzle dumped upon us by “La Niña“, while in the northerly, typically tropical region of our country someone else is complaining of their “El Nino“ weather pattern causing an unseasonal dry spell.

I wish for a little sunshine to get rid of the dampness, whereas only ‘a stone’s throw’ down the track, others are still cleaning silt from every nook and cranny of their flooded homes!… Reality check!

I enjoy the comfort of having my own space to live and thrive, while others struggle to eke out a living, or an endangered animal is hunted and killed in its own habitat… Reality check!

I can’t help my feelings, and it is my right to complain (without inflicting it upon others), but for those of us lucky enough to have time to pause and think – and I very much appreciate the fact that I am one of them – that another symptom of the human condition is compassion. A quality we should all practice a little more, because not far away, there is someone likely to very understandably and justifiably think our “grass is greener”.

So as I sip and muse today, I might wish for a shard of sunshine and hope for a glimmer of blue, but I will also pause to be thankful for the people I have in my life. I will be inspired by those who take action to improve the life of those less fortunate, by those who fight for the plight of the endangered.

I will give myself a gentle mental nudge as a reminder to appreciate what I have in my here and now, and that perhaps the grass is not always greener somewhere else.

Flip the perspective (add a shimmer of sunshine) and the grass looks pretty green!

From HIIT Session, To Hard Hit.

Damp drop-offs from a cozy car.

I sit this morning, clutching my freshly made and steaming hot coffee for warmth, as I gaze out at the leaden grey sky enveloping my little piece of the world. Droplets of water wind their way down through the specks of dust welded to my windscreen. The children were a little reluctant to step out from the coziness of the car into the cool damp day. A day in stark contrast to that of not so long ago when I energetically stepped out for my second HIIT session…

The sun was shining brightly, but still retained the freshness of early morning. I inhaled slowly and deeply as I began walking to warm up, preparing my mind and body for what I reasonably expected would be an alternating experience of easy… Hard… Easy… Hard… Easy… Hard… Easy… Done!

The landscape was gently undulating, the surface a relatively smooth black tar road winding through bush alongside a country creek. I wasn’t wearing the most suitable shoes for the session, but given the fine conditions and obstacle free surface, what could go wrong?!

I picked up the pace and began my first set of higher intensity running, pushing until the timer gave me permission to slow down again to recover ready for “round two“… Easy, hard, easy.

I had barely regained my breath when the shrill sound of the timer screamed at me to speed up again. Still recovering from my first HIIT session, my somewhat sluggish muscles struggled to keep up the pace, but I pushed on as the gradient of the road fell slightly in my favour and gravity gave me a little more speed with no extra effort. “A walk in the park“ I thought smugly to myself.

As my right foot struck the barely-downward-slope of the surface, the ever so slightly increased impact put an almost imperceptible jolt through my struggling-to-get-fit body. I felt a painless “pop“ at the base of my right buttock and my leg suddenly stopped functioning, but my left enthusiastically continued to catapult me forward… Easy, hard, easy, hard… Splat!!!

My body parts struck the solid black surface in rapid succession – first the small embedded pebbles gouged my knees as my elbows and palms were thrust forward colliding with the ground in a vain effort to protect my upper body. Although, thankfully my face did not impact too harshly, my teeth thought my lips would provide some cushioning.

The slow motion spectacular – in my mind’s eye – concluded gracefully with my face to the ground and my back arching, my toes attempting to tap gently on the back of my head, in what I think skateboarders and the like might describe as a “scorpion“ pose.

The dust settled, my body relaxed back onto the ground and I paused for a moment, not actually sure I was still all in one piece. Slowly I lifted my limbs and managed to get upright. I glanced around, furtively hoping that no one had witnessed my clumsy humiliation.

As I took my first step I realised that the popping sensation was in fact my hamstring tearing, and it was beginning to hurt! I had no choice but to hobble back to my car (which I am sure was a lot further away than I first remember parking it) to slink home with my tail between my legs, nursing the pain of my wounds, and temporary defeat.

Nursing my wounds.

In the time that has passed since, I have recovered well but am not yet quite up to running. The recent rainy weather has provided some extra recovery time and I’m now looking forward to the opportunity – and a break in the weather – to both regain my dignity and a semblance of fitness.

I guess it will be literally always “one foot in front of the other” on the journey to health and vitality.

Have you encountered an unexpected and unseen obstacle on your journey?

Nothing like that first H I I T!

Not so long ago, I completed my first ever HIIT session, and wow!…

It was easy… Hard… Easy… Hard… Easy… Hard… Easy… Done!

I was surprised at how “easy” it was to achieve. I simply incorporated it into my regular morning walk. The first five minutes was at normal walking pace to warmup, then 10 seconds of running hard and 50 seconds back to walking pace. Repeat three times and finish my morning walk as usual – Job done!

How would I describe it? Great! With the regular “breaks“, I could still enjoy the sunny warmth of the morning, I could still inhale the heady scent of seasonal blooms as they sent out their almost-impossible-to-resist invitations to the bees. In fact, I could hear them buzzing in a chorus of delighted response.

How did I feel after my first HIIT?

Well, after I recovered from the muscles burning in my suddenly leaden legs, and the aching of my chest as I gasped for breath. As the sweat dampening my back started to evaporate, and my craving for a cool drink grew… I realised what I actually felt was elation!

I had a silly smile (at nobody in particular) on my face and thought – although this is only day one – my first HIIT was absolutely worth it! I can understand how some people get really addicted to their High Intensity Interval Training.

Day two… well that’s another story altogether! A funny/not so funny story which I might work up the courage to tell next time… ☕️😊

Gone, But Not Forgotten.

As I sit in my comfy chair surrounded by the peaceful emerald refuge that is my garden, the deepening and all-enveloping grey clouds race overhead in what is turning out to be a successful bid to take over the retreating blue of the sky. The mood of the morning is transforming from the hopeful reflection that accompanies early dawn to one of a more sombre musing. The heavy darkening sky adding weight to my thoughts.

Wisps of the lonely notes of “The Last Post“ played on a bugle drift from my living room. The breeze carries a slight chill and the strong scent of rosemary from my garden. All haunting, beautiful, pertinent and emotional reminders of this day, as we honour the members of the original Australia & New Zealand Army Corps (the ANZACs) – all volunteers – who fought at Gallipoli, in Turkey, during 1915.

This is a day of celebration and commemoration of all those since who have served and died for our freedoms. A celebration tinged with sorrow for their loss.

As a young child, I remember standing quietly at our village school service listening with respect to the story of the ANZACs. Despite not yet fully understanding, the intense emotion of that occasion is vivid in my memory.

Years later as I watched all our own children place a wreath in honour of fallen soldiers at their school service, I was filled with a sense of pride, not just in my children, but in the bravery of those men and women.

One of the most meaningful and memorable Anzac Day commemorations for us as a family, was during “lockdown“ (mid COVID-19 pandemic in 2020). The children had crafted a row of blood red egg-carton-poppies to represent fallen soldiers. The neighbours too had created symbols of remembrance. We all stood silently in our driveways as the watery light of dawn began to illuminate and warm our faces, and we could acknowledge each other’s presence. A distant neighbour’s bugle echoed eerily along the banks of the creek towards us – perhaps as it did along the muddy trenches at Gallipoli. The scene, the sound, the emotion etched into our memories for a lifetime.

Do you have an Anzac Day or Remembrance Day memory you’d like to share?

Do a Little, Rest a Little.

I recently spoke of the rhythm of life. Of how there is always that easy backbeat, with the occasional riff. I also mentioned that sometimes the backbeat can fall out of sync with life.

Well, this is one of those times where that rhythm skipped a beat, lurched forward and then fell in a heap! An unwelcome riff interjected, jarring against the faltering backbeat.

COVID-19 has finally reared its ugly head. Our family now knows what so many countless others have experienced before us.

We are a relatively healthy family. Perhaps that coupled with the fact that we are all at least twice vaccinated, seems to have held us in good stead. Perhaps general immunity levels and the evolution of the virus has seen it lose some of its “sting”.

We have been affected in varying degrees, with barely a sniffle for some, common cold symptoms for others, to a nasty flu type illness with a lingering cough and fatigue. Thankfully, for us that seems to be the worst of it – the story has been far different for many others.

A cup of clarity to fade away the grey.

Like the weather lately, my clarity and outlook transitions from bright and clear to cloudy and a little grey. One minute my thoughts are stagnating, and then the next, a free flow of ideas.

The rhythm of my life is finding its feet again, but for now it has also become a post-Covid mantra… Do a little, rest a little, do a little, rest a little.

Do you have a post-Covid mantra?

Overqualified v Inexperienced

This statement calls for a string of over-used but highly appropriate clichés…

A catch-22 situation.

Caught between a rock and a hard place.

No win situation.

Between the hammer and the anvil.

The list goes on…

Remember when you were fresh out of school? Keen to make your mark on the world. Excited to make your first dollar. Looking forward to making a difference – making a contribution. You started “knocking on doors“…

Suddenly you realised that all the enthusiasm in the world was not going to make up for a lack of experience in your chosen field. Whether it be years of study or oodles of aptitude, it seems that potential employers wanted one thing – proven experience.

How on earth can you gain experience if you are never given the opportunity?! How can you prove yourself without the chance to even try? Surely with your excitement, your freshness, your years of study or perhaps nothing but pure aptitude… surely you are worth the gamble… surely someone is willing to take the risk of great reward as you embark on your journey into a working life.

The flipside to this coin is for someone with years of experience and a proven record in their field. Someone who is ready for a change of pace in their career – maybe to knock it back a gear or two, or even to get off the beaten track of their career path and switch it into four-wheel-drive.

Someone with a treasure trove of wisdom to impart to the next generation coming up through the ranks. Someone who wants to get back in touch with their grassroots, to find the original flame that ignited their passion… surely that person, should they choose not to continue climbing the corporate ladder and decide to take a sideways leap of faith, applying for an unexpected role… Surely that person would be nothing short of a gold mine and mentor for their lesser experienced colleagues?

So what do you do when you get caught between a rock and a hard place? What do you do if a potential employer considers you “overqualified” or “inexperienced”?… The only thing you can do is keep knocking on doors! Keep searching for that job – that steppingstone or that leap of faith. You will eventually find that opportunity, or person, who has the same vision as you. That someone who is willing to give you a chance, no matter how many years of experience or lack thereof that you bring to the table.

So whether you are the “old hand“ or “new kid on the block“, keep the flame burning, and the important thing – as a wise person I know often says – is to “never give up!”

Do you have an “overqualified“ or “inexperienced“ story to tell?

Live the Rhythm, Love the Riff!

The rhythm or the riff?

A great song will always have a great rhythm – it’s okay to mix it up by adding in a great riff – but it won’t come together without that rhythm.

Life is a bit like a song, as much as some of us live for and thrive on that memorable highlight – that great riff – we all need the everyday backbeat to hold it together.

Just imagine you are out on an open road in the country; sapphire blue sky overhead, cruising along a corridor of charcoal grey tarmac, flanked by deep green trees on either side. An easy beat plays in the background. Suddenly the speakers start thumping out some heavy metal. The electric guitar starts to scream, and you can’t help yourself, you just have to wind down that window, press a little harder on the accelerator and belt out a few of the lyrics along with it. The wind snatches them from your mouth and they disappear into the emerald blur whizzing by.

It doesn’t matter that your audience consists only of the startled birds perched on nearby branches, it’s still feels great… Exhilarating!

Soon enough, the music has quietened. Your pulse and your pace slows as the easy rhythm returns. You relax back into your seat, continuing on toward your final destination.

Every now and then that backbeat loses its rhythm. An extended holiday or break from work, the leap from primary (or elementary) school to high school, a shift in career expectations or goals… even a pandemic! That verse in the song of life might falter, there might be a few bars you would rather forget. It might even include a great riff. But keep your feet on the ground and you’ll find that rhythm again… Ready for the next verse in the song of life.

I love a rhythm with a touch of country – a routine with a touch of family. I also love to mix it up a bit… And you can’t beat a great riff from the master himself, AC/DC’s Angus Young!

There is nothing like a great soundtrack to enhance the spice of life.

My rhythm faltered for a while, and so did my musings, but with a few bars I’d rather forget and a great riff or two, the backbeat has returned and so have my Morning Coffee Musings 🎶

Snapshot of a Koala’s Paradise.

Wow! The air is truly still. Not even a leaf in the very treetops is moving. The sky is a blanket of pale grey and the air around me is clean, clear and moist, almost as though the cloud has descended to meet the ground.

The scent that hangs heavy in the air is exquisite – the essence of a eucalypt forest. I breathe so deeply, feeling completely refreshed by the aroma, almost as if it were nutrients invisibly encapsulated within the air. This must be a koala’s paradise!

The plants are vibrant green. Greens of all shades. The thin narrow olive coloured leathery leaves of the bottlebrush trees dangle gently in threads from the rough, dark, gnarled, twisted trunks and branches. The warm deep red of the blossoms suspended with the leaves like decorations on a Christmas tree.

The asphalt of the road is charcoal black with just a glint of the moisture that has washed it clean.

My footsteps as they strike the road are dull and the bird calls are without echo. The humidity in the air seems to be holding the sound close to the ground. I feel as if I am in a room with a closed door, but that the view is infinite.

I re-live this morning’s walk as I enjoy my morning coffee… I am feeling refreshed and energised, ready for the day.