This year I put on five kilos. It doesn’t seem much but it’s difficult not to notice the jeans that used to gape at the back don’t anymore. The shorts I’ve worn for the past three summers are now awkwardly pulling across my hips. And the tight, short skirt I love but always think twice about wearing is sooo out of the picture right now. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t happen all of a sudden. I knew the scales were showing a higher number each couple of weeks. It was a long and slow process piling on the kilos- a weekly one of rushed morning muffins and Friday blueberry bagels on the way to work. It was my Friday treat of Thai for lunch. It was my new reality of sitting for more than 10 hours a day. At the end of September I knew it was time to do something. I’m not a huge fan of fad diets, the latest being Paleo, but I knew I had to do something otherwise next year would just be another five. I looked into a few diets and just as I like to cook, I combined a few that worked for me. I haven’t cut out sugar or gluten or foods not eaten by my Paleolithic ancestors. I just cut down. For a month now I’ve eaten 1200 calories a day (give or take the odd day where I’ve blown out big time!) It’s hard. I’ve had to change almost every meal I eat: portions, types of food and frequency. It’s also great. In tracking exactly what goes in my body, I’m accountable for the bloating, the aches from ignoring my lactose-intolerant stomach and my conditioning to need sweet after every savoury. After a month, I know what calories are wasteful, I know what foods will stop my stomach from growling at my 11am meeting and I know what foods I can snack on to my hearts content. The daily nutritional report makes me think through recommended daily intake of vitamins and my consistent lack of iron. It’s going great. In cutting most store-bought processed foods and going back to basics, I’m sleeping better, I can concentrate longer and I’m losing some of the five kilos. In fact, two and a half kilos in four weeks. I read earlier this year in one of those classic click-bait articles 10 things you should get under control by the time your 30. One of them was healthy eating. I’m realising why – healthy eating has huge benefits. Alas, enough about weightloss, I’m actually keen to share my latest new favourite breakfast/lunch/dinner food – corn fritters. Their versatility is amazing. A bit of avocado on top is great for breakfast, broken up and in a salad at lunch, or served with a delicious salsa a great summer dinner. I tried one recipe a few weeks back, but today I decided to mix things up. Corn, zucchini and quinoa fritters with avocado, tomato and capsicum salsa Fritters: 1 can of cornThe kernels of 1 husk of fresh corn 1/2 of creamed corn 1 zucchini, grated 1/3 red capsicum, diced 1/4 cup raw = 1/2 cooked quinoa 1/4 cup milk (I used Lidell’s new hi calcium, low fat lactose free milk) 3/4 cup self-raising flour (would have used whole meal but didn’t have any) 2 eggs (I’ll probably scrap one of the yolks next time) 1 teaspoon ground cumin Fresh parsley Fresh spring onion Salt and pepper to taste Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Add extra milk or flour until the consistency is like a pancake. Lightly spray a fry pan with vegetable spray and cook at test fritter. Taste. Adjust any flavours or consistency. Cook the remainder. Makes 24 x 8cm fritters 101 calories per serve (2 fritters)   Salsa: 1.5 avocados, diced 1/2 tomato, diced 1/4 capsicum, diced 1/8 red onion, small dice Juice of half a lime Fresh coriander and parsley Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Done! Serves 4 68 calories per serve — It’s always amusing to see the end result of my cooking – and it’s not the food.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
“The closer you can get the divide between your day-to-day and your faith, the more effective you will be for the Kingdom – and the greater joy you will have in your work.” – Mike Baird, Premier of New South Wales, Crusader Business Breakfast 29 October 2014 Today I stood in Church Street Mall Parramatta and asked people what they thought leadership meant, or other questions to that effect. For sharing what they thought leadership was on social media using #ithinkleadership, I gave them a voucher to get free food.  It’s all part of ‘Food for thought‘, a brand activation for a current campaign at work. I must have spoken to at least 400 – 500 people today, reading or listening to them as they explained what they thought leadership was. There was the expected answers: an ability to listen, honesty, charisma, understanding etc. Being in the heart of a labor electorate, the critiques of Tony Abbott were frequent and far from positive: not Tony Abbott, he’s a liar, he doesn’t listen, he changes his mind. There were the ill-thought out responses and a good number of complete uncertainty. It is a great question and I think it’s a great concept. It is also an extremely labor intensive concept to explain. My mind wandered as I stood and waited during the lulls of engagement. I looked around the (nicely renovated!) square and saw the faces of people who had no basis for understanding good leadership and no reference point of a great leader. As they sat on seats, benches, under trees and milling about the area I realised the huge opportunity that square was for sharing Jesus. I realised the huge potential to turn the conversations I was having to Jesus. The remark to shift the direction of the conversation was in the deep of my heart and on the tip of my tongue: “What if i could tell you, I know the perfect leader?” “I agree listening is a good attribute, the greatest leader I know listened to even the least of men.” I realised this was the divide – the divide between my faith and my day-to-day. The yearning to share the good news, but the reality I was not there to do so. What would it look like to do that? If my heart is there, why shouldn’t I pursue the direction that would enable me to evangelise? About halfway through the day a middle aged man came up and I explained the process to him. He was wearing a Moore College polo shirt and keen for an 8-hour slow roasted beef sandwich with fancy ingredients that essentially make up coleslaw. As he stood to the side and crafted his thoughts, I waited in expectation. He gave me a little pick me up – the hope of a meaningful response.  A few minutes later he showed me his post – it was as generic and vague as the rest. Looking to engage and also a little deflated, I said: “Oh I was expecting something about Jesus?” He looked up with confusion: “Sorry? Why did you expect that?” I pointed out his Moore College shirt. We made a few more words of small talk before he left (a little embarrassed, i think) to collect his sandwich. A few hours in and I was exhausted. It was 30 degrees and I couldn’t handle another gripe about needing to actually do something before receiving free good.  My colleague and I dismissed our other colleagues and volunteers for the day and started to mentally pack up for the day, while in reality waiting for another hour to pass and in hope of a post-school crowd that we had promoted the activation to. My mind digressed again and I started to think about what I needed to do when I got home when a young couple and an adorable little boy wandered over. In classic small talk style, an art I still need to perfect, I spoke to the little boy in the pram first – way too young to actually respond – before turning to his parents and start explaining the concept. The conversation flowed and the man started to explain what he thought leadership was. I quickly noted the John 3:3 tattoo on his arm and started to the trawl through my bible knowledge to narrow it down. The man’s response was one that I by and large agreed with,  so I decided to ask what the reference was in hope of a fruitful conversation. “…Jesus explaining you must be be born again…” He didn’t need to finish before my acknowledgement was enough for him to realise I knew what he was talking about. The conversation flowed and we introduced ourselves – much like long lost family members do – jobs, home church, how we came to know Christ, similar circles etc. I was very aware of my colleague behind me likely listening to our conversation but continued to engage. I shared my angst in wanting to shift the leadership conversations I was having to Jesus. He shared that he and his wife had previously done walk-up evangelism in the square and thought I was perfectly placed to do so: undercover working in the activation and a great lead in question. “Except that I may lose my job,” I remarked. Appreciation of that reality, the conversation came to an end. I realised they were hungry and I probably should do my job. The conversation played on my mind for the afternoon. My job today was to raise the profile of the university amongst the people of Parramatta within an overaching framework of leadership. Closing the divide between my faith and day-to-day could not look like the exercising the yearnings of my heart to shift the conversation to Jesus. Closing the divide today looked like being patient with the men and women who knew little English and had no understanding of the overall concept. It was responding graciously to those who grumbled to themselves after determining it was too hard to participate and we were unreasonable in not just giving away the food. It was listening (via his friend and makeshift interpreter) to the depressed Irani-asylum seeker who had been waiting jobless and homeless for a permanent protection visa for more than five years and understandably had little respect for the Australian leaders who kept him in this holding pattern. It was then responding with a brightness of spirit, giving him a voucher for free food and from afar praying for him while he ate it. It was letting my colleagues eat lunch first, despite my shared and equal hunger and exhaustion. It was working with integrity (not leaving early and going straight home) and generosity in staying to the end of the day, working through blisters and an aching back when there was an option to leave. It was praising God for meeting a brother and sister who could and did do what I was unable to do today. As Mike Baird found himself, closing the divide may not look like what you expect but rather living and persevering faithfully in all that you do – whether it’s leading a state or giving away free food raising the profile of an institution. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8 A shout out to the lovely Dave and Sam Jensen – I trust we’ll meet again one day! Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
I’m not very good at doing nothing. My ideal holiday involves people, activites, museums, sightseeing and the like. The typical picturesque sit-by-a-beach and relax is torturous. Add waterskiing, sailing, beach cricket, kayaking and you’ve got my attention. Last week I took three days annual leave and went camping with a group of friends from home. The camping trip is a yearly, if not more, trip from the group of 80% teachers enjoying their holidays. My previous life of vomiting words on to a computer screen during the holiday period is no longer and so they invited me into their fold. By the afternoon of the first day (the morning involved driving, setting up a comfortable campsite and lunch), I was making activity suggestions. Frisbee. Kayaking. Tennis. Anything?! A dear friend sitting across from me in our circle of chairs joked, “Mel, you do know how to do nothing, right?” I laughed – it’s what I do when I don’t know what to say. As the three days ensued, my usual pace of life took a dramatic shift. I become familiar with ‘doing nothing.’ A how-to guide for people who don’t know to stop and do nothing: Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
We’d been talking about it for a while, but it wasn’t until Sunday midday that I realised.  I’d just poured a glass of water and I looked up to the white board to see my dad’s sketch. “He’s gone?” “He’s really gone?!” “I didn’t even get to say goodbye!” Cue legitimate tears. They took me by surprise; the drought had broken. I can’t even remember the last time. It was possibly my sister’s wedding in 2012 – but even then I fail to accept they were real. But as the rain poured down outside, warm tears rolled down my cheeks. Dad and Laura were speechless. Sammy, or to some, Chester, was a pain in the butt of a dog, but dearly loved. In his youth, he bounced – like my sister’s Tiger toy.  For the first few years, Laura couldn’t go outside without someone else present. Sammy could jump higher than Laura stood tall. In his middle years, he barked – thunder, male voices, birds. He was always on guard. In his old age, he cried. He ran and groaned at the birds who stole his food. He looked confused at Bella’s disgust as he stole another of her beds. He cried at night to let us know he needed to relieve himself. I’ve never been a huge animal person, but there’s something special about your childhood dog. The excitement of choosing, then naming him. The joy of walking to school, knowing full well he set the pace and you trailed behind. The frantic times we ran down the street, around the corner and up the road after he escaped – driving the car and opening the door got him every time. There was even the time he bit the weird neighbour’s sheep at the end of the street – I got flashes of him being the evil dog in Babe. But Sammy, SamSam, Puppy – right to the end. You were our little bitzer. Goodbye.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
I’m not offended easily but if there’s one sure way to offend me, it’s to call me busy. “Oh I’d love to catch up, but I know you’re busy” “Mel, you are so busy – you do too much.” And today’s “Hi Mel, I know you are busy, but I have another busy thing for you to think about.” I don’t think calling someone busy is a common way to offend, but it strikes a chord with me because it involves a judgement. In one’s assumption that I am busy, or too busy, they are assuming I am not interested in them or that I don’t have time for them. More than that, I think I interpret them as questioning my priorities and my ability to balance them. The reality is I’m not busy and I’m definitely not too busy. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I have been stressed because I had a lot on my plate. I remember to a time about three years ago when I was studying full time, worked two part-time jobs (saving for exchange to America), lead Sunday school at church and helped out an afternoon kids program and lead a bible study group at university. I also managed to attend evening church, two bible studies and play netball one afternoon a week. Every day for five months I just moved from one thing to the next, familiarising myself with the quiet hours of the morning to complete essays. That was a time when I was too busy. Friends told me I dropped off the face of the earth. And I see now I did. But now, post-study and working full-time, I question Rowan Kemp‘s statements that “At uni, you have all the time in the world. You will never have as much time as you do now.” He said it many times during my four years at the University of Sydney, but I’m just not feeling it. I don’t have assignments to do when I get home, I’m no longer leading in energy intensive roles for the Sydney University Evangelical Union and I don’t move from one thing to the next. Days now are very routine. I wake at 6, leave at 7. Start work at 8.30. Take lunch at 1. Leave at 4.30. Arrive home and eat at 6. Go to sleep at 10. I limit myself to two, max three evenings out midweek and must must must be in bed by 10.30pm so I can function and be a good worker the following day. What is unaccounted for is two hours commuting and two or three hours each evening, a total of five hours per day midweek and then weekends. I’ve got more time now than I’ve ever had before! Today, I told someone today not to think of me as busy, but engaged, active and/or energetic. Unfortunately I did turn down the request for my assistance because I’ve just taken on a new project that will stop me from doing today’s request well. Working full-time means making decisions about how to spend your time, what and who you invest in.  I’m still working it out. But while I do, please don’t think I’m too busy. The nights where I sit at home drinking a glass of wine, reading a book or catching up on the latest episode of the latest tv series are no longer few and far between. I love people. I love to chat with people. I love to do things for people. I love to bake for people. I love to organise people. Please don’t think I’m too busy for you. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)