My 2018 in a nutshell

Well, well, well, lookie here, it’s the 1st of January 2019 and as my Gregorian calendar indicates, it’s the start of a new year. I don’t know what it is about us as humans that like to measure time in such linear fashion and rinse and repeat. I mean what even is time? Why don’t we mark every week, neigh every day as a new year, a new opportunity? Okay, there’s probably scientific reasoning behind the modern calendars, but let me have this.

It feels like so long ago now but we went to the first Ōtaki Summer Camp and learned so much more about all the political issues and youth activism going on in Aotearoa. In that website pic you can see us and my bright blue top listening attentively to Deborah Manning, human rights lawyer. Sadly we won’t be going this year due to baby, and well, age. But we would go back again in a heartbeat.

I started Te Ataarangi classes to learn te reo Māori. I fell off towards the end of the year but I’m determined to get back into it. When you miss one class it’s oh so easy to tell yourself to miss another and before you know it you’re so far behind you don’t want to be a burden on your group. But really, the folks at Te Ataarangi Upper Hutt are lovely and very knowledgeable. They won awards don’t you know?

Michelle and I were accepted into our Tikanga Māori correspondence course through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa which we’re still underway in completing. We’d recommend anyone give it a go and learn about the values and traditions of Aotearoa’s indigenous culture and some new te reo Māori along the way. Just keep in mind there’s a long waiting list!

My grandfather of 97 years passed away marking the last of my grandparents. He now rests peacefully with my grandmother. He was lively right up until the end and a great example of determination against great odds. I will share something about his impact on me in a later post.

Michelle and I started on our parenthood journey. It’s not long to go now (like literally January, it’s here). We attended antenatal classes with trepidation but it turned out to be a pretty relaxed affair, besides my frantic scribbling of notes. If you need to know the 120 signs of pre-eclampsia I can tell you, just let me find my notebook.

Michelle and I began another journey into zero waste. What with climate change and our child is coming into the world, we want to leave no trace as the old Scout motto goes. I started blogging about it and fell off. There are so many great resources out there you don’t really need me to say the same stuff.  Go to one of the talks from The Rubbish Trip and I dare you not to feel inspired. It’s only baby steps, our waste had decreased drastically making use of our compost, but our recycling is still way up there and we hope to decrease that further.

We saw P!nk in concert and among Dunedin’s sights, we had a little roadie further south, seeing the house in Invercargill where my mum grew up, and looking out to sea from Bluff’s iconic signpost.

I turned 30.

I said goodbye to Binge With Me. I’m so grateful for the contributors to this little site, but we just didn’t have the time or energy to keep it going. That and writing fiction is unsustainable, I still want to write three pages a day (ideally). Plus, who can keep up with TV these days? I’ve also taken a break from Toastmasters while we bring our new one into the world.

2019…
For most of the year, I’ve been recording what I’ve been grateful for each day and because each passing day things do begin to blur together and it’s only when you stop and take a moment you realise all the individual unique things that you’ve experienced.

For next year I will stop recording it for all to see and practise more internal gratitude (we’ll just have to see how that goes). And I’ll pick up 1 Second Everyday again, especially with it being baby’s first year to help with the memory jogging.

I want to make a concentrated effort at blogging. I mean it this time! Well, okay I won’t be strict about it, but when there are issues that are important to me I want to take a stance on what I believe in and I need more than 140 characters. And maybe, just the occasional dad blog…

Zero Waste Bathroom

Zero Waste kitchen is taking some time. There’s still so much food we buy in plastic. I even tried going to the local butcher with a container but they used the bag to pick up the meat, a kind of makeshift plastic gloves… still better than styrofoam I suppose.

Zero Waste Bathroom, on the other hand, is almost a reality. Just a few days ago I made toothpaste. Toothpaste!

Toothpaste

1 Tbsp Baking Soda
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
15 drops Peppermint Essential Oil

  1. Mix together in a glass jar.
  2. If coconut oil is hard, place glass jar in hot water for a little bit.

I’m still getting used to the toothpaste. Even with the generous drops of Peppermint, the baking soda is what cuts through to my taste buds almost immediately. As for fluoride, I get plenty of it in my drinking water so that’s not a problem. My main issue seems to be the coconut oil that goes hard between uses. I don’t know if I fancy melting my toothpaste before every use!

Now, some people like Bea Johnson use “tooth powder” which is just sprinkling baking soda on their toothbrush. I’m not quite there yet! I’m still using my bamboo toothbrush which surprisingly has bristles still in great shape, even after a month of use. Though today I’ve had this weird taste & feeling in my mouth all day that I haven’t been able to shake. Either I’m craving that clean feeling from a strong Colgate toothpaste or I used a bit too much baking soda paste this morning. It’s a work in progress.

For the shower I’ve been experimenting with different soaps. Some I’ve had reactions to, so it’s been a process of trial and error. The main thing is turning away from body wash in plastic bottles. Shampoo and conditioner I don’t use very often anyway and I’ve been trying shampoo soap, but it just doesn’t have the same feeling as the lather you get from liquid.

I’ve been using shaving soap which seems to work well. I just need to invest in a metal razor. I’m still using my Gillete with disposable plastic blades.

Deodorant

2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup baking soda
1/3 cup cornstarch
10-15 drops essential oil (I used frankensence)

  1. Mix together in a glass jar.
  2. If coconut oil is hard, place glass jar in hot water for a little bit

So now I have identical glass jars sitting in my bathroom with identical looking substances. Here’s hoping I don’t go to work one day with Peppermint armpits. The first time I used this stuff I did get a little red and sore in my armpits which was probably a reaction to the baking soda. I have since added more coconut oil and will hopefully see some change. My partner bought a deodorant stick in a cardboard tube for a whopping $18. I tried to put my homemade deodorant in there but because of the coconut oil it completely hardened and the stick wouldn’t raise.

Zero Waste really is an uphill battle. The conveniences we’ve found over the years are so ingrained it’s hard enough to change your own behaviour let alone others in your life. I’m perhaps creating more anxiety in my life by having to watch people toss recyclables straight into the trash. But there are things I’m enjoying, like getting more into composting and organizing jars in my pantry. Little by little I’m making life changes and eventually, this will culminate in my new and improved lifestyle that is simple, more efficient and of course, better for the planet.

Zero Wasted: Beginning my zero waste journey

Since Liam & Hannah from The Rubbish Trip came to town with their presentation on zero waste I’ve been looking into more and more ways of reducing my waste. I thought recycling was a good thing but from this presentation, I really learned it’s only making the most of a bad situation (plastics especially can only be recycled a number of times). Our consumerist single-use plastic culture is damaging our planet. Plastic is a non-renewable resource. We need to go back to the time before single-use plastic made such a dent in our lives.

Like any do-gooder I understand this zero waste stuff can come across as preachy. I can only speak from my own experience. You do what’s best for your situation. As zero waste isn’t the norm, it’s certainly not the easiest or the cheapest to get started. All we can do is the best we can. The more eco-friendly items we demand from the makers of the things we buy, the easier it will get.

I’m going to try and keep this blog updated with my journey and the discoveries I make along the way. As I’m going to be a parent soon I’m also feeling the moral quandary that is bringing a child into a dying world. Thanks, First Reformed!

Although I’m only one person I personally want to reduce the impact I make on the planet, and hopefully, as more and more people start to do so, we might get to see some real change. The banning of single-use plastic bags in New Zealand is a great first step but we have to do more than just bring our reusable shopping bags to the supermarket.

Upcoming posts:

  • Zero waste hygiene (toothbrush, soap etc.)
  • Buying bulk (eg. The Nude Grocer)
  • Zero Waste Kit (coffee cup, drink bottle etc.)
  • Food waste & composting
  • Bring your own containers (deli meats)
  • Book recommendations

Three Things About Me: Michael G

Since in Toastmasters I am tasked with writing speeches I thought I’d post them here. It’s where most of my writing happens these days! This one is an “Ice-breaker”, the first speech you do at Toastmasters. I’ve done an ice-breaker before but the new online system Pathways launched, so here we are.

Tonight I have the pleasure of re-introducing myself.

Having joined Toastmasters in 2013 many of you may have missed my inaugural introduction.

Mikey, Harry Potter, Gray, Magic Mike — these are just a few of the names I’ve been given over the years. But here at Toastmasters I’m more well known as Michael with a G on the end.

Initially, I joined Toastmasters to overcome my fear of speaking in public — which is a little silly because you can never really get over that fear (the desire to fit in and be accepted is just too strong), but you can certainly develop skills so that you feel more confident in your ability.

Now my goal is to use public speaking in the digital realm with audio and visual mediums like online videos and podcasts. You probably know what a podcast is, but just in case, it’s like a downloadable radio show where the hosts usually have a chosen topic of discussion. Some have interviews, others tell stories, and some are just conversations about the latest movies.

But that’s all future stuff. I’m sure you all want to know what I’m currently about, which is three things; home ownership, board games, and cocktails.

I have lived in Upper Hutt for all my twenty-nine years on this planet Earth and at this rate, it’s looking like I’ll never leave. In the year Two Thousand And Seventeen, I purchased property with my partner of three years.

And by property I mean my first home. An actual free-standing house, which was my main prerequisite. Sure, there were some nice units out there but for me, I like having my own space. And a deck. Having a deck is nice too.

We decided to buy right when house prices were at an all-time high because we’re smart like that. Really though, ours was an okay deal. Trentham to Timberlea, not that much of a downgrade.

In our new house sits our boardgame shelf bursting at the brim with boxes of all shapes and sizes. Did you know it’s not just Snakes & Ladders and Monopoly anymore? Board games have made a real resurgence in recent years, with designers coming up with new and inventive ways to play.

The problem is, now I’m a boardgame hoarder. Like that show Hoarders, except instead of a dozen cats and stacks of newspapers I have games on my shelf that I haven’t even played.

The price point isn’t anything to sneeze at either. Some cost well over $100, the ones with lots of components such as wooden meeples or plastic figurines. I should really go back to my video games.

Fortunately, now there are board game cafes popping up that let you play the hottest new games for only five bucks. Here’s a tip: Only pick a game if at least one of you have played it previously or have watched a video on how to play.

Last year I visited a board game cafe for my birthday and we spent most of the time struggling over the rules, which lead to some impatient players… especially when some of your friends are ambivalent about board games in the first place.

As well as a board game shelf, we also have a spirits shelf. No, not ghosts. Alcohol!

I don’t know what started it, but I got into cocktails. Now, I’m no bartender. An aspiring one maybe. I don’t have a hipster beard or a bow tie. I don’t flawlessly toss the cocktail shaker behind my head and I don’t pour with one hand behind my back or pour two at once. I measure out each spirit exactly into the cocktail jigger, down to the millilitre. I’m like this with my cooking, scientific precision. If I mess up and go over, who knows how it will turn out? Especially when you’re talking alcohol.

I don’t like cocktails overly sweet, it needs sourness to balance the flavours. My favourites would have to be a Moscow Mule (that’s vodka, ginger beer and lime juice) and Mojitos (white rum, mint, lime juice, soda water & a little sugar). It just so happens I have mint growing in my garden. Did I mention I have a garden? Margaritas are good too. Just watch that tequila.

By now I’m sure you’re thinking this all sounded like an opportunity for me to gloat. Yes, I have a house AND occasionally spare money to buy booze and board games. Yes, I’m grateful.

When you don’t have kids sometimes you do have a little extra money to play around with. We’ll see how these expensive hobbies stack up down the line.

I’m Michael G: proud house owner, board game hoarder and aspiring bartender.

Nice to re-meet you.

I became less bigoted and so can you

Yup, more reckons from another white guy. I can see the irony. I want to be less bigoted and I’m made great strides but I’m still learning. However, more than a few people are taking their sweet old time and that might be you. No judgement. Okay, maybe a little judgement. But we can work through it, together. For this blog, I want to share what I’ve learned, and afterwards link to some writers who can actually talk about these topics.

Now I don’t want to come across as self-congratulatory with this blog post title. The truth is you don’t become “#woke” overnight. It’s taken a lot of listening, and a lot of reading to get to the place I am now. And I’m still learning. We’re all still learning. Changing mindsets takes time. It wasn’t too long ago we had black people as slaves and women couldn’t vote (only last year were Saudi women allowed to drive). It almost sounds ridiculous saying it aloud. The same thing will happen ten years from now (hopefully sooner) when we look back at how we treated transgender people.

It’s taken a lot longer than I’d like to admit. Growing up as one of three children, my parents always demonstrated equality. When one of us got a treat so would the other two. And it had to be proportioned. Equality was an equal share of the pudding (literally). My grandmother had another view and tried to make each ginger slice as equal as possible but still managed to find the smallest piece for herself!

My old bigoted views

I held some bigoted views back in the day. When I was in college I didn’t care about history or geography or the world. I pretty much only cared about writing, computing and video games. Now all these years later I’m eager to learn more about the history of our country and the culture and the language. I now know these opinions I held were utterly incorrect, and that’s what they were — opinions.

  • I used to think it was unfair that some people got university scholarships because of their race. Whereas I, a White kid, had no such advantage. Nope, no privilege whatsoever.
  • When I was in Intermediate School I was enrolled in a te reo Māori language class for one session a week. When I realised not everyone was doing it and in fact, my parents had elected me in in it, without asking me, I began to rebel (as rebellious as a shy kid could). I’d show up but muck around. After that, I didn’t continue with the sessions. Ironically, now I’m trying to learn te reo and it would’ve been easier had I done it all back then.
  • When I was at College at every end of year prizegiving I believed that the waiata after each Māori student went up for an award was wasting time and unfair. How come they got a song? Where was my song as a Pākehā?
  • My best friend held an Iwi membership card even though I thought he was as white as me and was “cheating” the system.
Colonisation

I didn’t see my white privilege. We’re not equal, and we have never been. Māori have been prejudiced against and disadvantaged, time and time again because of colonisation. Just look at the stats of Māori in education, healthcare, and justice — just look at the proportions.

50% of our prisoners are Māori and that’s over-representative and not okay.  And it’s not because Māori are violent or born criminals. Not only do cops hold a biasit’s generational (Neil Campbell); when people come from families broken down, in unemployment, lack of education and drug and alcohol abuse, all due to colonisation, children are going to replicate that behaviour. Putting them in prisons doesn’t help the issue. Organisations like PAPA have said prisons aren’t working. It’s a vicious cycle. They’re like universities for criminals and the main cause for reoffending. What rehabilitation? People are kicked back onto the street without support systems.

Not only did we (Pākehā) not honour the Treaty and took away Māori land but we took away their Sovereignty over their own people. We ripped their language and culture away from them and put them in prisons. If you stop to think about it, it’s heartbreaking. We shame Australia for what they did to their Aboriginal people but don’t take a long hard look at ourselves.

A step forward

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Equity, not equality:

Equality vs Equity. Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.

Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.

The fact is people aren’t born with the same rights or acceptance as everyone else. As a young activist (18) my only focus was on extreme poverty in countries like Africa and Papua New Guinea but now I know inequality is all around us even in somewhere as seemingly progressive as Aotearoa New Zealand. These are human rights, no matter your gender, race, or sexuality:

The right to get married and have children.

The right to equal pay.

The right to education and housing.

The right to fair and impartial justice.

The NZ community on Twitter has taught me so much, and I do my best to amplify their voices. As much as an RT has an effect. Some decry “Twitteratti”, “pile-on’s” and “crying into an echo chamber” (usually White journalists with large media platforms), but nowhere else have I seen a community that challenges and educates quite like this one.

Sadly not everyone in the world has the same outlook on equity. The Neo-Nazis in America chanting “You can’t replace us” clutching onto their Tiki torches because they’re used to their place on the pedestal and all the inherent perks that come with it. When they see others getting lifted up all they can see is how it can hurt them.

But I’m optimistic. As the years go on we’re finally listening, as demonstrated by the Black Lives Matter movement and sexual predators finally being removed from their positions of power, and even everyday sexual consent.

We’re all still learning. So take the time and listen. Before leaping in to shout “Not All Men!” or “She was asking for it”, or “What about White culture?” take a moment to think of your position of power and how others lives are being minimised.

No, it’s not okay to jokingly say the “n” word and laugh it off. No, it’s not okay to put on an accent of a culture that is already stigmatised. Punch up, not down.

Calling it out

With anxiety, I have a tendency to avoid conflict and so in the past I’ve let racism slip on by. I’m starting to stand up more even though I may not be an eloquent debater or have the appropriate soundbite. But it’s better to say that it’s not okay than letting it go, further entrenching the idea that us White people are the ones with the raw deal, “It’s PC gone mad I tell you!”

I’m still trying to be a better ally. I’m terrified of conflict and I’m not the most coherent of speakers, especially if someone’s looking for a debate. But if you see discrimination you need to call it out. And by that, I mean real discrimination, not “Women’s swim nights” and “Māori scholarships”. If you’re White (and a man), know that you didn’t get to this place of power peacefully. Others were tossed aside purposefully for your privilege. Now it’s time we step aside and actually get on an equal footing.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before, today is a new day and we can be better.

Still Learning

If I’ve said anything incorrect or hurtful please feel free to direct message me. And if you have suggestions for more writers or pieces please post them below!

Okay, that’s enough from me. Here are some of the writers you should read/watch/listen to and “school” yourself:

Māori – Waata News, Iwi Stations, Māori Television, E-Tangata, Leonie Hayden (Ātea), Mihingarangi Forbes (RNZ, now The Hui), Māori & NZ History Resource List, and your local marae

Pacifika and Asian – E-Tangata, Patrick ThomsenJames Roque, Roseanne Liang

Sexuality and GenderSam Brooke, LaQuisha St Redfern, The Male Gayz, Eli Matthewson, Speak Out, Emilie Rākete, Megan Bowra-DeanGeorgina Beyer

Feminism – Sarah Wilson (and Disability), Kirsten King, Anna North, Clementine Ford, On The Rag, Lizzie Marvelly