Teenage Years

I was a little stumped on what to share this week as my week has been pretty benign. I thought I would ask the youngest person I know who reads my blogs to give me inspiration, my son. He asked that I write about Relationship Advice, or the trials and tribulations of my teenage years. I have decided that Teenage Years it is. My Teenage years were a rollercoaster ride of emotions, experiences, and interactions. The years can be divided up into School, Friends, Everything Else. This will give the clearest picture of what my teenage years were like.

Calwell High School

Calwell High School

School

School for my teenage years was, like every child in Canberra, into two location, Calwell High School for grades 7 to 10 and Lake Tuggeranong College for grades 11 and 12. Calwell High was a public school in a mid to low socioeconomic area. There was no uniform, only a colour code that was barely adhered to. The teachers tried their best but were worn down by years of attitude and filth. Most of the schools funding a resources were spent replacing or fixing equipment and facilities that had been destroyed by students. Fights were frequent, and often involved weapons of both the ad hoc and very deliberate type. There were issues with violence, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and general poor behaviour. Police visits, both called and random, were commonplace. There would be a fence erected around the school, not to keep people out, but students in. Often relief teachers would be asked to come in and baby sit 2 to 3 classes at a time, which is somewhere near 100 children.

With the scene set this is the High School I attended. Before I go any further I don’t regret going to the school, I don’t resent my parents for sending me there, and I don’t blame anything on anyone outside of the situations described henceforth. My earliest memory of the school was outside the art class room, a class which to this day I have never excelled at. I was standing out the from with my backpack over both shoulders, shirt tucked into my jeans, and sneakers on. It was the 90s leave me alone. I was approached by one of my classmate who said if I didn’t want to get picked on I should untuck my shirt and only carry my bag on one shoulder. I thanked her for the advice, acted upon it, and continued to wait outside. No more that 5 minutes later it would prove that no matter what I did I was going to get picked on. I was not the statuesque man mountain I am now, at the time I was the better part of 5′ 2″ tall and rotund to say the least. This drew the attention of the Jocks, my mildly ethic looks and distinct lack of ethnicity caught the attention of the Lebanese and Greek crowd, and the catty girls followed the jocks so you can guess where that went.

Through my 4 years that I spent at Calwell I was seen as the short, fat, nerdy kid. I was picked on, harassed, bullied both verbally and physically every day of my schooling life. This did grate on me, I did spend days, weeks, and months dreading the very thought of going to school. I did though continue to attend most day short of a physical ailment. And though it was emotionally and physically tough to do so, it did build resilience and toughened my exterior. I learnt how to read people better. I learnt how to take a punch. How to stand up to people at the right moment. I learnt how to survive in a less then pleasant environment. All of this while still trying to study and do well enough to pass and succeed.

Lake Tuggeranong College

Lake Tuggeranong College

My graduation from Calwell High School was an absolute blessing. It meant the end of torture, beating, bullying, and the start of something new. The reason why this was such a God send was years 11 and 12 were not compulsory for Canberra students, and most of the bullies dropped out, and the ones who stayed behind realised that between graduating December one year and coming back to school the next I had grown nearly a foot to a shade over 6 feet. So bullies were no longer an issue. Classes were interesting and engaging. Free lines were amazing. And life just got better. Not to mention the light was at the end of the tunnel. GRADUATION!!

Despite the release that was Graduation, what it really marked was the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. It meant responsibility, bills, cars, loans, bills, rent, mortgages, bills, and more responsibilities. And though I took these in my stride, securing a full time job straight out of college, securing my own home by the age of 19, and joining the military at 22. It certainly didn’t mean the transition from school to the real world was without issue. Poor financial choices, poor friend choices, and poor life choices in general meant I hurt my family for my own selfish need or gain, and that is never right. Yet another lesson learnt really.

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Friends

Friendships are forged out of need, circumstance, opportunity, action, or some mixture of all. My high school friends were a mixture of all of the aforementioned. During year 7 the three ladies above where running a performing arts lunch project in which young teenagers explore their emotions, behaviours, and reactions to different scenarios that were plaguing young people. I participated because i was both interested and it provided a lunchtime safe haven. However, the friendship wouldn’t truly kick in till Tegan, the one in the hat, found me one day crying in the playground. You see I had a rather savage falling out with people who I though were my friends, were in actual fact they were just using me and teasing me about it behind my  back. Tegan invited me to come and hang with her circle of friends, some of whom I knew, like Kate and Sophia (left to right in the photo). This friendship, though I never would have guessed it at the time, has survived trials and tribulations of high school, college, real life, mortgages, relationships, breakups, arguments, and every thing else you can imagine. Though I don’t talk to them as much as I used to, or should for that matter, these three are some of my closest friends. And I truly miss them all.

Everything Else

Teenage years are a mixture of hormones, bad choices, bad skin, bad people, bad circumstances, and bad more bad choices. I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason, and I wouldn’t change a single part of my teenage years. Not the beating, not the dodgy school, not the dodgy girlfriends, the bad choices, the bad focusses in life, nor the body choice of first house to move to into. Every single choice and experience has made me the person I am today, and you should equally treasure your life choices for the same reason. I have totalled cars, blow up engines (yes plural), hurt people, hurt myself, pushed the wrong people away, held onto the wrong people, prioritised the wrong things, and as always made bad choices. I wouldn’t know what I know about now with cars if not for the little accidents along the way. I wouldn’t know what I know now about people if I didn’t have all of the negative experiences, and a whole lot of positive ones too. Don’t be too quick to move out of a situation, unless its not safe in which case leave that place yesterday, as it may be trying to teach you something. It may not make sense now, but and 10 or 20 years time, it may become relevant.

Teenagers

Teenagers

I may not have enjoyed every day of my teenage years, but it has made me the resilient, well rounded, educated, compassionate, caring, loving person I am today. I don’t regret a day, and neither should you. Enjoy the simpler times that are the teenage years, before everything becomes even more complicated.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Legacy

Last week I discussed Mentorship in my article Walking With where the idea of providing what someone requires to achieve the goal they have set is a kind of Patronage. This week I want to discuss Legacy. If we consider Mentorship as answering the question of How, Legacy is answering the question Why?

Legacy is what and who we leave behind to carry on when we are gone, in both the physical and mortal sense. As a Scout Leader I am imparting my collected knowledge and wisdom onto the Scouts in the hope that they take it with them into their lives and make their worlds a little bit better. As a member of CQUniversity’s SRC I try and leave the University a little better than I found it through culture change, policy changes and initiatives that better the Student Experience for all. As a Father I endeavour to teach, show and guide my children through life in the hope they won’t make the same mistakes I did, that they go further, do more and achieve their goals, just as my parents did for me.

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The creation of Legacy is less about planning and more about being responsive to the environment you are in. As a parent, the needs of my children change constantly. I can’t plan what they need to make their lives better. I can plan strategically by ensuring that I remain employed, feed them, ensure they receive a good education, and stay safe. But I cannot plan their career, their partners, their lives and where they are going to live. As a SRC member I must be reactive to the needs of the students, I can also be proactive and identify issues before they become problems for the students and the University. The Peer Assisted Study Scheme that I helped develop and implement was birthed from an inherent need the students didn’t know they had. I saw a void in the support structure of the TAFE students and endevoured to fill that void. This, I hope, will leave a lasting legacy on the University and the student body. When a student graduates feeling supported and feels empowered to go further with their study, I can stand tall knowing the legacy I left contributed.

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This whole blog, not just this post, is about Legacy. I share my stories, my life, my journey and my reflections in the hope that others will read them and make positive changes. I know people who have contacted me directly and shared how different posts have pulled them out of a tight spot, or steered their lives into a new direction for the better. That’s why I write, to inspire, to reflect and make real impact on people’s lives.

I encourage everyone to think about their Legacy and what they are leaving behind. If we don’t think of Legacy we are destined to leave either nothing, or worse a negative Legacy that is actually a detriment to the next generation. As a challenge, take a moment this week to reflect on what you are leaving behind and make a concerted effort to change it. Start living life selflessly for the next generation, start the small turns of the ship now before we run aground, make the world of tomorrow better today.

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What did you reflect on? What are you going to change about your legacy? Make a declaration today in the comments section below, who knows maybe your change will help someone else change their Legacy.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Walking With

I have been reflecting this week on my personal journey, my failures and triumphs, the good leaders and the bad, the men and women who invested their time in me, and those who left a lasting impression. I reflected on leadership and the importance of Mentoring those who we lead and not just giving blind directions. I reflected on the importance of walking a journey with someone beside them, not in front leading blindly, or from behind barking arbitrarily.

This lead me to write about, what I believe, is the most important facet of Leadership, and that is Mentoring. The understanding between two individuals at different points on their journey to walk together and learn from each others experiences. This may sound like a different model of mentoring than what is commonly taught, namely where an experienced person takes an inexperienced person and attempts to impart knowledge and experience on them. I kindly draw your attention back to the person leading from the front. Or where a person will share their experiences with staff or individuals via a mass email while never actually allowing time for the people to engage with them personally, I draw you attention to the person barking from the rear.

I therefore want to share the three points I feel are integral in Mentoring, along with some experiences I have had with good and bad mentors, and pitfalls and windfalls of mentoring that I have discovered along the way. The three points I will cover are; Neither Equality nor Equity, Be the Example, and Never Stop Learning.

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Neither Equality nor Equity

Simply put Equality is everyone receiving the same thing, and Equity is everyone receiving what they need to meet a socially perceived goal. I never liked either of these labels as they are both narrow in their view. In leadership Equality presumes that everyone should benefit from 10 minutes of mentoring from their Mentor, regardless of actual need. And Equity presumes that everyone should receive what they need to be at a certain knowledge base, productivity level, or personal understanding of  leadership. Both of these ideas are flawed.

Not every person can be mentored in the same manner, with the same material, with the same time allocation, Equality. Just as a fish cannot be competently judged on its level of success by its ability to climb a tree, Equity.

I therefore believe that everyone, we as leaders take on, should receive what it necessary for them to succeed in the goal they have set. This may seem like a watered down version  of Equity, but hear me out. Understanding that an individuals have differing ideas on what success is, what achieving that success is, and what the mentoring relationship is, has already fundamentally changed the idea of Equity. Remembering that Equity has a pre-established level or goal. Therefore the amount of mentoring, support, instruction guidance, leadership and opportunity for that individual is dependant on both the goal and the ability of the Mentor. Neither of which are fully supported in the idea of Equity.

I have recently being tutoring a collection of Nursing Students in Mathematics, the collection of individuals is vast and experiences doubly so. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, goals and aspirations, and expectations for the tutorial. Understanding this as a leader and mentor, endeavoured to ensure that the goals of each individual were met, while giving each of the students the amount of instruction or guidance they required. For some this was just being a part of the group discussion, for others a more guided approach. In each instance a positive result was recorded. I encouraged each of them, and for those reading this I continue to encourage you, to share what they learn, be the next generation of mentors, take the time investing into someone else and showing them that they matter. I feel the best word to describe this is Patronage. Patronage is a older term that was used when someone, a Patron, would support someone else in their endeavours. This could have been financially, morally, with experience or in whatever fashion the person needed to achieve their goals.

Carey Lohrenz, The Corps Group, female fighter pilot

Be the Example

I had the pleasure of sitting in a service at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Rockhampton one Sunday morning listening to a sermon by the Senior Pastor Dr Robert Bakss and he made the point “Sometimes we are the only Bible a person may see, live like it”. This really struck a chord with me in my Christian walk, but it resonates with other aspects of my life also, especially Leadership.

As leaders we have the need to set and implement culture, strategy, rules, and regulations, we are expected to uphold them all but most of all portray them. We cannot expect anyone else to follow our lead if we do anything less.  As a young Naval Officer we where expected to be able to lead a group of 25 – 35 people of varying experiences, age groups, and backgrounds. It was expected that our influence and our example was strong enough that those we lead would follow that example. We we charged with their safety, they personal development, their mental wellbeing, and their career development. We were praised when our Sailors did well, and were reprimanded when they did not.

Lord Baden Powell once said “Show me poorly dressed Troop and I’ll show you a poorly dressed Leader”. Most people will follow someones example before they arbitrarily follow a written rule, regulation or culture slogan. As a leader be the example of an employee, team member or peer that you would want to lead.

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Never Stop Learning

As leaders it is important to never stop learning, and there is ample opportunity to do so. I had the amazing privilege of serving under the then LCDR Brett Westcott, on Patrol boats early in my career. He was a even handed, professional leader who knew what someone was capable of before they did and could draw it out of them. He never expected perfection but did expect excellence. And his crew gave it to him. One of his parting words before I posted off was “The day you stop learning is the day you become dangerous”. And its true, the day you believe you know everything about your role, your job, your career or even your family is the day you begin to decline into mediocrity and potentially make dangerous mistakes.

I have taken those words and made it my goal to learn something every day, from someone, in every situation, good or bad. I believe that everyone has something to teach you.  A leader who is task orientated, narcissistic, or a slave driver who has no concern for people, families or anything out side their own world, anyone who claims mentor status but doesn’t allow the time for those they mentor, all have some of the best lessons to take away. Most of these lessons are going to be what not to do in your own leadership, or with your own team, but they are all valuable lessons none the less.

If you have been following my blog for a while now you will know that I am the Scout Leader for the Warripari Scout Group, I have about 20 Scouts every Wednesday and more when we involve the region on camps. These Scouts have taught me more about my leadership, patience, modesty, honesty, impact, and time management then I think I would have ever received from a book. Every week I have the pleasure of watching them grow and develop into the young leaders of tomorrow, learning lesson after lesson, and I am glad I get to be a part of that journey.

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Thats my take on Leadership, it is in no way intended to be all encompassing, nor is it designed to be definitive, just where I am in my journey thus far, and some thoughts for others to reflect on. Do you have something you would like to add? A lesson that you have learnt from your Journey? Share it with us in the comments below, and lets get the conversation going.

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

 

Baby Lessons

There are numerous baby websites, books, journals, and magazines that will gladly tell you that there is a million things you should get for your new bundle of joy. Couple that with friends, family, mothers, in laws, outlaws and everyone in between, there is a lot of information to sift through.

With the announcement of My wife and I having our second child together, third in total, this week I felt it prudent to share some lessons learnt from the first one, Darby. I will cover the things that I Would do again and the things that I most certainly Wouldn’t.

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Would

  1. Invest in a decent bedroom fit out – Darby’s bedroom suite, graciously paid for by my Parents, was of a good enough quality, that we are actually able to pass it down to the next child.
  2. Buy Nappies, or diapers for our American brethren, in bulk – Quite frankly the 96 pack of Huggies that we were purchasing, sometimes felt inadequate
  3. Buy wipes in bulk – In the midst of a poo-nami you can never have too many wipes, they can be found in packs of nearly 400, and sometimes this doesn’t seem enough
  4. One Piece outfits – I WOULD BUY ALL OF THEM!
  5. Invest in a good quality Baby Car Seat – the one we bought Darby, well actually my parents bought this one also, is so good that we could use it for the new bub and buy a bigger one for Darby
  6. Teething toys/rings/jewellery – If the child can chew it they will, might as well make it safe for them
  7. Take regular photos – In the first 12 months of Darby’s existence I took something like 9000 photos, on my phone. I still feel like I don’t have enough
  8. Spend more time reading – I don’t feel like I have spent enough time reading with Darby, it is something I am currently rectifying but feel that I should have done more earlier
  9. Buy Nappy Poop Bags – These things are basically dog poop bags, for babies, and I tend to buy whichever is cheaper. When you child opens the back door to hell in their nappy, these things make it bearable enough to make it to the outside bin
  10. Feed my child Formula – We endeavoured so hard to make sure Darby was breast fed as long as possible, but you can’t squeeze blood out of rock, so my wife and I have decided this time we will go for as long as we can, and if thats 3 days before formula, then so be it
  11. Continue to Vaccinate my children – I will never not vaccinate my children, EVER!
  12. Let my wife spend more time at home – We were in a financial pickle with Darby, and as such my wife very graciously returned to work after 3 months. This time, however, we are going to try and have her home till the children are at least in school
  13. Let them eat dirt – Seriously there isn’t much in dirt that can hurt them long term, let them eat it
  14. Continue to encourage social activity – Spend time with other mums and dads, especially ones with children the same or similar ages, the children love the play and interaction
  15. Use a Bumbo earlier – These little foam chairs are amazing, supportive and encourage great posture. Sometimes I wish they made them for adults
  16. Heed this advice – There is plenty of advice out there, these are some simple things I have found with experience and common sense
  17. Johnsons Night time Baby Bath – Seriously, I don’t know if there is Nightquil in this or not, but it actually does what it says it does

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Wouldn’t

  1. Buy/use a baby monitor – Other than the fact that you can hear Darby from down the street, the monitor gave a false sense of security that was actually unnerving after a while
  2. Buy a huge complicated baby bag – They are heavy, expensive and complicated. Really a couple of nappies, a change of clothes and some food, you can fit that in any bag
  3. Buy a baby bath – Use the kitchen sink, child too big? Move into the laundry, use a Bumbo in the bath, they’re waterproof
  4. Buy any two piece outfits – Seriously the child is either going to be squirming, crawling or vomiting on the thing anyway, a one piece and a singlet is more than sufficient
  5. Try and dress for a fashion show – basically for the same reason as above, people may find it cute and adorable, but try changing a baby in a jump suit, that has no buttons, zip or other poop access
  6. Buy anything you can’t undo – if I have to remove something, or many things, to change the child, it’s too hard and needs to be thrown out
  7. Pack the kitchen sink – You can go to the shops for a five minute trip without anything, just the child and a rag
  8. Listen to all the advice – There is so much advice out there, if you try and do everything you will give yourself a hernia. However see point 16 of Would!
  9. Buy anything before the baby shower – Other than the fact you will no doubt inherit a lifetime supply of nappies and burping cloths, there could be something that you may not have thought of, or something that is expensive if not handed down
  10. Stress about people confusing your babies gender – My darling little girl has as much hair as George Costanza, and we refuse to dress her in pink. So naturally she gets called a boy fairly frequently, it used to bug me, but now I just laugh
  11. Try and see the child in the car – I set up an overly elaborate mirror setup in the car so I could see Darby when I drove, guaranteed she would roll over and knock it over, vomit on the mirror or otherwise ruin my plan
  12. Stress about whether or not she is going to wake up in the morning – SIDS is a real thing, and I know people who have been struck by it, so don’t mistake my words, but if you spend all night checking on your child every 15 minutes, you will be the one in hospital before long
  13. Fly with a baby – Unless I absolutely had to, I wouldn’t do it again

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So there is 30 Woulds and Would nots with the upcoming child. Do you have any hints, tips, tricks or Would and Would nots? Is there something you would move from one list to the other? Then add them to the comment section below. Or head over to our connect page and drop me a line.

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Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Childhood Rage – Part One

Following my post last week about how my wife and I Maintain the Rage in our marriage, my 15 year old son asked me why I haven’t written about him, and the joys of being a Dad. So here it is, Childhood Rage how I endeavour to raise my two children to be somewhat respectful, independent, useful and productive members of society, and how I Maintain my Rage when my best intentions don’t quite work out.

This topic is too much for one post, so I am going to split this over two weeks, this week will be focussed on what I do as a parent to achieve all of the things I mentioned previously, and next week I will go over how I regroup and Maintain my Rage when things don’t go according to plan. With that said, along with my wife as we are a united front, we maintain boundaries and structure, push for improvement and love unconditionally.

Maintaining Boundaries

Any good parenting course, book, blog or otherwise will  always talk about the need to maintain boundaries, to have rules in place, to be a parent and not a friend, and to know when those boundaries have become blurred or ignored completely. I know that from an outside perspective I can be seen to be a hard task master. A dear friend of mine shares a similar regime and he calls his a ‘Dad-Tatership’. Ultimately, I want the best for my children, I expect the best out of my children, just as they should expect the best out of me. I have a clear set of rules for my eldest son, who is nearly 15, including a chores list, do’s and do not’s, pocket money, and expectations for schooling. These are all outlined in a contract, which he signs, and we renegotiate every Summer Holidays. The rules and punishments he helps develop (that stops the fighting later on) and the expectations are listed by myself and my wife.

I run pretty tight ship, there is an expected bed time, there is an expected morning routine, there is the expectation that there is work before play, there is an expectation of manners and respect, and there is an understanding of knowing ones place. My son knows he can come and talk to either of us about anything, whether he takes that up is another thing, he knows we love him, he also knows the reason for the boundaries and expectations are to prepare him for the real world.

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I am a firm believer in no empty threats, if you tell your child If you do that I am going to kill you, and you don’t actually kill them, its empty, the child knows that you aren’t going to kill them, and therefore the assumption will be, they can get away with it. The threat of the other parent also doesn’t sit well with me either, as a parent you need to be able to discipline and control your child when needed, if you use the other parent as a threat or weapon the child is going to realise you do not have control of the situation and abuse it.

Words can be powerful for children, as can actions, the child needs to know that the punishment for breaking the rules isn’t because your angry, but because they did the wrong thing. This could mean the best course of action is to send the child away for 5 minutes to collect your thoughts and calm down, then go and see the child and calmly explain what the punishment is and why. It is also important to know what is going to allow the child to reflect on what they have done, a smack on the hand or tap on the backside can sometimes be the most appropriate punishment, but I know, for example, my son hates to be separated from people, and not be included in things, so the most effective punishment for him is to remove him form what is going on and leave him alone.

We have recently taken to the 12 Labours of Hercules as a punishment. The idea being he will receive a list of mundane, boring, but constructive tasks, like pulling weeds, mowing the lawn and washing cars, and have no electronic devices until the tasks are completed, the punishment will last as long as it takes for him to complete the tasks. If its a day, sweet, if its a week, sweet, the record to date is 6 weeks, for a task that actually only took two hours when he finally sat down to do it.

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Push for Improvement

First up I am just going to say, I don’t celebrate mediocrity, not with myself, not with my wife, not my children, not with anybody. If you complete a task as given, or complete something that is an expectation, like your job, I won’t celebrate it and tell you how awesome you are. I will thank you for completing the task, because acknowledgement is important, but no celebration. If you go above and beyond, or do something unexpectedly well, that will get celebrated. I expect a lot from myself, just as my parents did for me and themselves. This attitude is how I purchased my first home at 19, joined the military at 21, bought my second home at 27, and how I am now studying Nursing at University. I push myself to the absolute limit and expect nothing short of awesomeness. I am therefore going to expect the best from my children. Having said that, if they are just starting to learn the guitar and they smash out smoke on the water after 15 minutes, that gets celebrated, if six months later, they can still only punch out Smoke on the Water and haven’t progressed, I will start to push. If we push our children and expect better of them, they will continue to grow and flourish. Fight mediocrity and Push for Improvement.

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Love Unconditionally

I love my children, I love them when they are happily playing, I love them when they are quiet, I love them when I at my wits end and close to pushing them out of the car. I love my children. And that is unconditional.

Love, especially with children, needs to be that Agape Love, the unconditional, not matter what, kind of love. My children, God bless them, test me every day. My daughter just the other night pitched a fit because she was hungry, she pulled out of the cupboard what she wanted, pitched a fit because we prepared it for her, then pitched a fit because we served it to her, pitched a fit when we left her to eat it herself and finally pitched a fit when we ignored the previous fits. But I still love her. My son continues to push the boundaries between being stationary and moving. I have seen herds of frozen snails move faster than my son in the morning. I am perpetually frustrated by constantly telling him to chew with his mouth shut, or not talk with a mouth full of food, or do the simple tasks that he needs to do every day, like put on deodorant or comb his hair. But I love him.

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My children know that I love them unconditionally, even when I lose my temper and yell and scream, I love them. They also know that I am here for them no matter what. That’s what we need to be as parents – there for our children. We are not their friends, their play pals, or their life sized dolls, we are their parents. We are their protectors, their confidants, their guides, their sages, their fences around the play pen, the guardians in the night and shelter in the storm. We as parents need to act like it more often.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

Speed Bump not a Road Block

I write this post as I stare down the barrel of yet another shoulder operation, number four on the same side, in a long list of nine other medical procedures, totalling 13, that left me staring into the stunningly bright theatre lights. I then begin to think about how easy it would have been to just give up; to think that this is my lot in life, to think that my life is meant to be full of pain and misery.  But thankfully I did not. My faith in God, my friends, my family, and my own perseverance has me sitting comfortably today knowing that this is just another Speed Bump in the Highway of Life, and not in fact a Road Block.

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You are not Alone

A useless adage to those who have been in similar situations, where you find yourself completely useless, helpless, and physically alone for large portions of the day. You seem to receive an abhorrent number of messages and phone calls letting you know that you are not alone, and that people are there for you. But for a fair majority of the time, you are. Everyone is at work, school, daycare, running errands and generally going about their day to day lives, while you may be laid up, on couch, with you leg locked dead straight and not being able to move to go to the bathroom without assistance, let alone make a meal or achieve any housework.  This was my life for nearly 18 months, in one form or another, as I was recovering from a Bilateral Tibial Tubercle Transfer, Dr Google will sort you out. In the early portions of my recovery I was almost completely couch bound, struggling to hobble to the bathroom when required. After a period of about 8 weeks I was granted 15 degrees of bend on my knee, which felt much more after such a period of being locked straight. And so my recovery continued. Once I was ‘fully recovered’ the Doctor then moved from Left knee to my Right, and started the whole process again.  During this time my wife was working full time, my son was at school, my friends were all at sea, and I was left in our West Australian home alone for approximately 10 hours a day. An eternity when cooped up with only a dog for company or conversation. I did however have a lot of time to realise something. Despite all of this seemingly empty time whereby, to the outside observer, I was left with nothing but my own thoughts I was, in fact, never truly alone. Thanks to it being the 21st Century and not 1348AD, I was able to call or FaceTime my parents in Queensland and update them on my recovery and have a chat, I could email my friends at sea and catch up on all the Royal Australian Navy news, I had the entire collection of human knowledge in the palm of my hands, and a personal library that would keep me going for years. So I came to realise, no matter how physically empty the house was, I was never really alone, not if I didn’t want to be.

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Reflect

I have mentioned, once or twice, about reflection and its importance on our mental health, this goes double when you are in the midst of an adverse situation. It is all too easy to be in the middle of a scenario and not be able to see the other side of it, or to see the lesson that could be learnt, or to see how this could one day be of use to you. I know I have, numerous times. Most recently I had the unfortunate pleasure of having my bowel rupture, and if you think that sounds uncomfortable and unpleasant let me assure you, it is. Perforated Diverticulitis for those who’s Google fingers are itching. I was admitted to surgery and spent a further six days in hospital, wound up with a colostomy bag, and a gnarly scar for my efforts. I thought to myself, at some un-godly hour in the morning, How can this be? What am I going to do? What if this is permanent? How am I going to live with these changes? and they were and still are all good questions, some of which were only answered 12 – 18 months later. I took the time I had to consider everything, the what, the how, the why, the when, and really consider how I can make the most of this awful situation. I decided that I would take this as a learning experience, something that I can take with me and add to my book of life and share later on. So I changed my attitude, I asked every question of the staff I could, I watched every procedure I was awake for, I asked about worse case scenarios and best case. I became the worlds best and worst patient all at the same time. As I went through the next six months I would go under the knife twice more and spend another five nights in hospital, and have close to eight ER visits. I ended up with 55cm of scar tissue on my abdomen, muscles that are still rebuilding 12 months later and a cool story to share with all of you. But it has also given me a really powerful insight into abdominal surgery, stomas, recovery and the real day to day, life changing effects that surgery like this can have on a person. And as a nurse, this is going to be amazingly helpful. Did I think that immediately at time, NO, but has it come in handy already? You know it has.

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All things come to an End

The saying usually goes All good things must come to an end but I have found it just as true of the opposite, so now I go with All things come to an End. Just as a broken arm will knit, the movie Titanic will roll credits and the visit to the In-Laws will soon be over, all things come to an end. Recently I was undergoing a Nerve Conduction test to determine the cause of some random arm pains. The test is, to say the least, unpleasant. It went for nearly 30 minutes and basically the technician sends varying strength electrical signals through the nerves in your arms and causes the muscles to involuntarily contract. It is both awkward and painful. But it eventually came to an end, my recent broken arm knitted, my knees healed, my abdomen has mostly healed, the visit to my in-laws ended (I love you guys, you know I do), the Titanic eventually sank and Leonardo Di Caprio let go and sank into the abyss. Everything comes to an end; hang in there, it will pass, you will become stronger for it, and hopefully have a story or two to share.

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These three lessons I learnt are great for transitional issues, injuries, seasons of life, heartbreak, pain, and suffering. Some things won’t pass, and thats ok too. Just remember even though this speed bump may be a long one, if there is no downward side, then its not a speed bump anymore, but a new road for you to travel down.

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