Dreaming Again

perth-to-canberra-1987

Last night I had that same old dream, it rocked me in my sleep, and left me the impression that the sandman plays for keeps. – Larry Norman

I did indeed have the same old dream last night. It’s a dream that comes around now and then.

I dreamed about preparing to cycle across Australia.

Let me assure you it was a good dream. It wasn’t a panicked nightmare that had me waking up in a cold sweat. It was a happy dream. A very happy dream.

The dream was another reminder that it’s been way too long since my last Nullarbor crossing in 2003 when I rode from Perth to Hobart. It seems almost a lifetime away from my first of five crossings back in 1987. The picture above is me looking a bit nervous in Kings Park as I was about to begin a ride from Perth to Canberra. (Click on the photo to get a beter look at my worried face.)

I’ve cycled across Australia in my twenties, my thirties and my forties. I’m now in my fifties and while nothing’s in concrete, I’m making plans for another crossing. Probably in 2018.

While my heart remembers endless days of cycling, battling wind, rain and hills, and the thrill of overcoming, my body keeps trying to remind me it’s not as young as it once was. Even the gap between my 1990 ride to Adelaide and my 2000 ride to Sydney let me know that body parts wear out and a lot more training is needed to go the distance. I can’t even imagine the amount of preparation my body would need to get ready for another crossing.

1987 – Perth to Canberra
1988 – Perth to Canberra
1990 – Perth to Adelaide
2000 – Perth to Sydney
2003 – Perth to Hobart

I’ve taken part in dozens of rides throughout Western Australia and even a couple on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, but none of them compare to pushing the pedals for thousands of kilometres to cross our wide, brown land.

So … are you interested in taking a month to ride across Australia? Let me know and I’ll keep you informed if anything comes together. 🙂

In the mean time, I’m only a couple of weeks away from my annual ride from Albany to Perth, the Ride for Compassion. If you want to support children in poverty through Compassion, you can donate via this link.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to ride across the Nullarbor again, but I can certainly keep dreaming …. and planning.

Do you have any big dreams you’d like to fulfill? Are you making plans towards those dreams? Take a first step and share that dream in the comments section of this post.

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Choose Your Anger

fist

I was getting my Saturday off to a good start, waiting for the coffee to kick in, and scrolling through Facebook when I saw a headline.

Anger consumes iPhone 7 queues at Apple stores as phones sell out around the world.

I must admit it made me feel a little bit angry myself. I wondered if the anger of those missing out on their preferred model of iPhone 7 was anything like the anger I saw first hand in Haiti in April 2008, when horrendous price increases put basic food items beyond the reach of most people, forcing them to eat dirt. It was the time of the global financial crisis which resulted in the global food crisis.

After begging the government to help them put food on their families’ tables and getting an indifferent response, people began rioting. Their anger resulted from the frustration of seeing those they loved starve. At least five people were killed in the riots and many were injured.

Haitians were comparing their hunger pains to “eating bleach” because of the burning feeling in their stomachs.

In March, people began complaining of a hunger so torturous that it felt like their stomachs were being eaten away by bleach or battery acid.

In a matter of days, “Clorox hunger”, named after a brand of bleach, was being talked about in slums and villages across the country. – Aljazeera

I’ve seen plenty of other situations over the years where anger is a justified response but I thought of Haiti today because that was a turning point in my life. Being caught up in the riots and facing very real danger as we were evacuated from the country at that time is one of the milestone events that have shaped me into the person I am today. I was there with Compassion Australia and it was that trip in 2008 that started my journey towards beginning full time work with Compassion in 2013.

Yes, I know that we can all get angry about a range of things that don’t really matter but getting angry about not being able to spend over $1000 is probably just wasted energy.

Anger can be a powerful motivator to bring about positive change. So why would we waste it on simply not getting our own way?

When I get angry in traffic I have to remind myself that I’m just being childish and that I should just get over myself. While others’ driving habits may be annoying from time to time I’m not achieving anything by wasting my emotional energy over their misdemeanors.

I want to save my anger for the injustices I see around the world. Poverty, racism, abuses of various kinds, exploitation of the vulnerable, these are the things that should be making us angry and causing us to act. We need to choose our anger. We need to stop stomping our feet like a two year old who doesn’t get their own way and look outside ourselves.

Maybe I’m just overthinking a simple headline about a phone but hearing about people getting angry over not being able to spend what would be more than three years wages for many people on this planet makes me …. angry.

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If you want a few more details on my time in Haiti with some other Australian broadcasters, check out this video. It contains clips showing just a glimpse of the situation outside the Port-au-Prince Compassion office just before a rock came through the window we were standing near. The video, while still fairly rough, shows a little of the scene before the rock attack.

You can see the beginnings of the crowd heading down the street, some armed with crude weapons.

The next thing you see is the shattered glass in the room where it all happened and then a bit of a debrief between members of the team. Several of us, including me, had a chance to talk over the situation. This was really only the beginning of the danger we faced. Things got a lot more intense later that day and the following morning.

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I blame it all on my dad

(This is my annual Father’s Day post.)

We can trace a lot of things back to our childhoods. For better or for worse it’s those early years that form who we are.

I’m now coming to realise that there are many things that I see in my self today that can be traced directly back to my father and the influence he still has on me.

I blame my father.

I blame my father for the fact that time and time again I suddenly find myself awake in the middle of the night. I wake up and sense someone is in the room. Someone small and furry … with whiskers. It’s one, or often both of our cats wanting to get in under the covers. I love cats. I love them because my dad loved cats. He loved most animals but especially cats.

I blame my father for some of the music that is still stuck in my head. Dad was almost 44 years older than me and so his musical tastes weren’t exactly ‘current’. Which explains why to this day, among an very wide range of music in my collection, covering many different styles, I still listen to Bing Crosby, dad’s favourite singer. (Just don’t mention that I also listen to Sinatra. Dad was certainly not a fan.)

I blame my father for the fact that I’m a qualified chef. Dad was a chef and I followed that career for a number of years. I completed my four year apprenticeship then decided it really wasn’t for me, but it has given me skills I’ve been able to use ever since. It also meant that some years later I was able to work alongside dad for a week when he was cooking at a camp on Rottnest. It was a memorable week.

There are many more things I can see in me that come from my dad. Some good, some not so good. I also know there would be many other parts of who I am that I don’t even recognise as coming from dad but are still part of his influence.

It’s Father’s Day in Australia.

This is my fifteenth Father’s Day without my dad. George Thomas Olsen passed away in August 2002, just a few days before his 83rd birthday and around a month before Father’s Day of that year.

I really do miss dad but it’s not with an overwhelming sadness because I know he’s in a better place and I know I’ll see him again one day.

I still wish he was able to see Emily and James growing up into the wonderful young people that they’re becoming and to get to know Pauline even better.

I look forward to a new day when we’ll catch up on everything we’ve missed over the years.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Today won’t be a sad day because I’ll be spending the day being a dad to my own children and working hard to ensure that there are many ‘good’ things that they’ll be able to blame me for in the years to come.

(Yes, that me with my dad and mum in the picture above. You can click on it for a closer look.)

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MasterAthlete

MasterAthlete

When did the Olympics start? I think it was a few weeks back but it’s starting to feel like months.

I have to admit that I watched a fair bit of the opening ceremony but since then I’ve just seen updates in my news feeds or on telly. I’ve never been a big Olympic Games watcher but I think I’ve seen less than ever this time around and I think I know why.

The format is tired.

Yes, there have been new sports added over the years and some older, less interesting sports removed, but it’s essentially been the same for such a long time.

The ancient Olympic Games were held from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. After that the idea was pretty much rested until Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. Sure, there were a few attempts at reviving some sort of games related to an Olympic theme along the way but they didn’t really come to much.

I reckon it’s time to freshen things up. Let’s create a mashup of the Olympics and MasterChef.

MasterAthlete. I think it’s got a great ring to it and the possibilities are endless.

We’d start with three judges including two professional athletes and an acclaimed sports writer. Then hundreds of amateur athletes would battle it out for the honour of becoming MasterAthlete 2016. The MasterAthlete would win $250 000 and the opportunity to train alongside some of the greatest professional athletes in the world. They’d also be given a monthly column in Muscle & Fitness Magazine.

Contestants would talk endlessly about their ‘sports dream’ and about ‘doing this for their family’ (even though the competition would mean they’d have to be away from their family for several months). They’d talk about the pressure and just how far they’d come on their personal ‘athlete journey’.

Week by week the black active wear would come out as contestants fought to stay in the competition during the elimination rounds. The very best would be dressed in white active wear and compete against a professional athlete for an immunity pin which would entitle them to a generous head start in their next race.

The mystery box would bring added excitement as the athletes would have no idea what sport they’d have to compete in until the box is lifted. “When the lid came off and I saw the speedos, I was terrified. My specialty is weight lifting, so to know that I’d have to go up against the others in the pool really set my heart racing.”

We’d shed a few tears as our favourites left the competition because they’d left an element out of the triathlon. “It wasn’t until we got to the finish line that I looked around at the other contestants in their clip cloppy shoes and realised …… I’d forgotten to do the cycle leg”.

Imagine contestants arriving in the Master Athlete stadium to hear the judges tell them that they had to go from one side of the city to the other. “You’ve got an open sports locker. Get there any way you like. You can combine swimming, cycling, jogging or canoeing, but remember that in today’s challenge, running must be the hero of the event. Your time starts …… now”.

So there’s the basic concept but I think we need to push it just a little further. What other ways can you think of to create MasterAthlete? Let me know in the comments section of this post. I think we’re onto a real winner.

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Should Pokemon Go?

pokemongo…..

I was in Kings Park on the weekend. It’s a beautiful park that overlooks the city of Perth. While I was there I couldn’t help notice that there were thousands of people wandering around looking at their phones. They were all chasing strange creatures with even stranger names.

While millions around the world seem to be embracing the ‘augmented reality’ game Pokemon Go (it’s reportedly been downloaded by more than 75 million people around the world) there are many who are sounding warning bells. Some of the concerns are about people being so engrossed in the game that they seem oblivious to what’s going on around them. There have been reports of people wandering into dangerous neighbourhoods, walking across roads without checking traffic and a few people causing car accidents by playing the game while driving.

Imagine being so caught up in something that you’re totally unaware of your surroundings.

I don’t have to imagine too hard. While I have very little interest in Pokemon Go (which is not the case for others close to me) I did have a very interesting experience a couple of weeks ago. I had a couple of hours between appointments and so I sat down and started reading. I was totally engrossed in what was on the page. The thing that surprised me was that once I’d finished I looked up and I was in the middle of a very noisy shopping centre, surrounded by other people going about their business. It took me a few seconds to adjust to these ‘new’ surroundings.

No, I wasn’t suddenly transported there. I had been there all along. Before I started reading I was in a noisy shopping centre surrounded by people. Once I finished reading I was in a shopping centre surrounded by people. But while I was reading, I was in a very different world. I was on my own and it was quiet. I had tuned out everything around me.

I think that being able to restrict our attention and concentrate on matters at hand is part of being human.

Our ability to restrict our focus not only helps us attend to what’s important but I think it stops us being overwhelmed. It’s easy to start drowning in the deluge of information that comes our way every day in our technological age. It would be absolutely crippling if we had to engage with every piece of information that came our way.

We all choose where we place our focus. For some that focus is larger or narrower than for others but we all make decisions about what becomes part of our lives and what we ignore or leave out. The world is too big to take it all in so we make decisions that mean that even though there are events happening all around us, we don’t see them or engage with them all.

I guess our challenge is that decision of where we will put our focus and what we choose to block out.

Do we focus only on our own lives and those close to us and fail to see what’s happening around the rest of the world? Do we miss seeing those in need? Do we become deaf to the cries around us because we’re not sure how to deal with others who need our help?

The bigger question is, has our focus become so narrow that we’re unaware of something or someone bigger than ourselves?

Have we become so busy and focused on our own lives that we’re unaware that if we just looked up from what has captured our attention we might be surprised to find that God has been there all along?

Where do you choose to place your focus?

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