Tag Archives: school

Weekend Coffee Share – 1st June, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

How are you?

I don’t always ask that first up. However, given everything that’s going on at the moment, I wanted to see how you are and hope you’re going okay. It’s fine if you’re not. Well, it’s not fine, is it?!! However, with so much going on in some parts of the world, it can be very overwhelming. I wanted to acknowledge that and simply say: “we’re thinking of you”.

All of this seems so far away from our backyard, which has been receiving considerable attention during “iso” and is actually improving. On the other hand, so much else has gone down the toilet along with all that precious loo paper. Yet, in this modern world, nothing is faraway. Much of the time, we end up absorbing foreign news as though it were our own. Besides, many of these issues such as the coronavirus and inequality, are global concerns. Our daughter’s been following the George Floyd protests very closely via Tik Tok and wanting to join a local protest march here in Australia supporting Black Lives Matter. I said no due to concerns about the coronavirus. However, I’m also concerned about her safety if things get out of hand. Although protesting and having having a heart for social justice are in her genes and I’m proud of her, I’m still her mother and it’s my job to keep her safe.

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Our Daily Timetable Provided A Phantom Framework to School At Home. 

Meanwhile, last week was fairly stressful. The kids returned to school after being in lock down for a month, and that was stressful, chaotic and strangely felt just as weird as doing school from home. Students across the board aren’t themselves. My SIL also started treatment for breast cancer and I feel like hitting someone, something over the head with a baseball bat over that. How dare they! I’m sure many of you would also like to join a protest march against cancer. The chances of survival have improved a lot, but that still doesn’t mean you want your loved ones going through all of this. My other concern is trying to be an adequate support person. I know all of us have done it. We’ve meant to write the card. We might even have bought the gift. However, nothing makes it into the mail. You don’t ring. Time drifts by and added to procrastination, there’s the guilt, embarrassment, even shame. After all, don’t we all want to be the one who drops off a meal just when it’s needed? Buys that much needed soft blanket to keep them warm during treatment? Anyway, I finally managed to post a card yesterday about 4 days after I wrote it, and I stuck in a shell I found on my walk around Patonga. At least, now I’ve done something.

Like many others, I’ve also been struggling to sleep and have found myself in a dreadful cycle of going to bed around 3.00 am and waking up at Midday or even later. Indeed, I’ve ended up on “Rowie Time” and it isn’t working for me, or anyone else. While I’ve heard about how to break challenging sleep patterns, I haven’t really wanted to until now that I’m ending up with a few scant hours of disappearing sunlight every day, and I also need to help get the kids off to school. Anyway, you’ll be proud of me today. I actually got up at the official wake-up time of around 7.00 am. It’s the first time I’ve seen the morning for quite awhile and I’ve been quite energetic and productive, which has surprised me.

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A Molten Sunset Through the Norfolk Pines, Patonga.

Although it’s the first day of Winter, I also managed to lie on a blanket outside on the grass in the sun and read a few chapters of my book. I was pretty stoked, as I can’t remember ever doing this. Two of our three dogs, Rosie & Zac, were just as happy. A human lying the grass on a rug, made for an easy target, and Rosie repeatedly dropped the rope toy on my back and waited beside me with baited breath.  Clearly, she had no respect for my serenity, and Geoff wasn’t any better. He said I’d invaded the dogs’ territory. What did I expect? As usual, I was out numbered.

Meanwhile, last night was a dramatic night on Masterchef. As I might have mentioned before, Masterchef started filming before Australians went into lock down, and this very weird, unnatural state of “social distancing” became our way of life. While it might be a relief for those who don’t like to be touched, not being able to hug our non-residential family members and friends has been difficult and quite frankly weird for most of us. Moreover, for some people living alone, the complete lack of physical contact from anyone, has been exceptionally hard. One of my close friends is a swinging from the rafters character who lives alone, and all the venues from Churches, gyms, cafes to pubs and clubs are all closed. It’s the sort of thing you’d do to torture someone, not to be kind.

Anyway, while we’ve been doing social isolation with the family and dogs at home, I’ve loved watching pre-iso Masterchef with everyone hugging, talking, laughing being friendly. It was so good to be surrounded by normal and leave this fruitcake world behind for a few hours. However, now the madness has caught up. Last week, the contestants were spread-out through the kitchen “social distancing”. However, nothing prepared me for young Jess’s heartbreaking elimination where the tears started to flow, she crumpled, imploded and no one could reach out to physically touch her. It was hard to watch on TV, and I had a pretty good idea that she was going from the ads. Moreover, I know, we all know, NO HUGS. However, how unnatural and unhuman is this? There wasn’t one person on that show who wasn’t shattered and feeling the need to come together. However, instead of their usual huddle, everyone went through this standing alone. It must’ve been so very hard for everyone there, her very close friends and  Masterchef Family not to be able to comfort her in a physical way as was their norm only a week or so before. It is madness. If I didn’t already know this strange world we’re living in is utterly mad, I knew it then as Jess exited the Masterchef kitchen distraught and alone (no doubt some assistance must’ve been given off camera). It was heartbreaking.

Gee, I wish this virus would go away! Pack its bags and never come back!!

Talk about understatement!!

Meanwhile, I made it out for a walk and a paddle this week. For the walk, I drove about 15 minutes away to Patonga and walked along the beach and onto the rocks and photographed the sunset. Then, yesterday, Geoff and I drove round to Tascott on Brisbane Waters (a 15 minutes drive the opposite direction) for him to get out for a sail on the laser while I paddled around on the kayak. The Sailing Club is starting to open up again, and Geoff wanted to get the Laser out for a test sail as the winter series starts up next weekend. It was good that he did, as there were a few problems to iron out. Although there was no wind, and so he didn’t manage to get the boat set-up and ended up Sailing In The Park. However, we did make it out on the kayak. I went out by myself while he was working on the boat and then we went out together. This was in our big yellow two-seater plastic kayak we affectionately call “The Bathtub”. For awhile there, I was Paddling Through the Clouds. I could’ve been a thousand miles away from civilization, except main road traffic was rumbling past beside us.

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Tascott Looking Towards Woy Woy

Aside from waking up early this morning and lying out in the backyard soaking up some rays reading my book, I also managed to fit in some gardening. We visited our elderly neighbours on Saturday and we’ve been very close to them the whole time we’ve been living here. They’re about 90 and they’re English. As children, they were living in London during the blitz and were sent away to the country for awhile, but ended up going back and Mr attended Sandhurst Road School which was bombed on Wednesday, 20 January 1943 when a German fighter-bomber dropped a single 500-kilogram (1,100 lb) bomb on the school at 12:30 pm, killing 38 children (32 killed at the school and 6 more died in hospital) and 6 staff and injuring another 60 people. He and his mate were walking back to the school after lunch and the plane actually shot at them as they walked down the street. It was terrifying, but makes for a great story now. Anyway, they have quite a lovely garden, and I took some cuttings from the geraniums and planted them in compost from the worm farm. They should take off like Jack’s bean stalk with all those nutrients. 

Sunset Tascott 2020

A Much More Muted Sunset At Tascott than Patonga.

Lastly, I managed to get a contribution off to Friday Fictioneers again last week. I was quite thrilled with last week’s contribution which drew from such a plethora of sources to build a story all of its own. This piece was called Salvaging The Masterpiece.

As I head off, I wanted you all to know that I’m thinking of you. Some of you I know quite well and have a reasonable idea of your whereabouts on this big small world of ours. Others, I don’t. However I am conscious that we live in troubled times and I am thinking of you wherever you are.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 19th May, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I guess I’d better ask all of you how you’re going first up and what’s happening around Covid 19 in your neck of the woods? You might need something stronger than a tea or coffee to get through that conversation. So, I’d better off you some chocolate. What do you prefer? We’ve acquired quite a stash in lock down. I’ve been doing the shopping online and snapping up chocolate on sale. It’s much tastier than toilet paper.

Quite frankly, I don’t know whether I’m Arthur or Martha at the moment. While I’m “creative” and not necessarily a great one for routine, I usually have the bare bones in place. Those activities which form a scaffolding and framework for the week and some sense of direction when you wake up in the morning. Indeed, you might actually wake up in the morning even the most chaotic and disorganized people and the freeist of free spirits have their anchor points. Indeed, I’m sure I had more structure when I was backpacking through Europe wandering like a cloud without a watch and no itinerary whatsoever, than living like this in Covid 19 lock down. What am I supposed to be doing? Where am I going?

Well, most of the time, the response to the latter is nowhere. Although I have been out for a few walks. This is what you term “exercise”, which sort of takes the buzz out of it to be honest, even if it does involve walking along our gorgeous beaches.

Oh, and before one of you remembers that I went down to Sydney to see my parents last weekend, I’ll stop being melodramatic, and express some gratitude for how well Australia’s getting through the coronacrisis and what a difference this has made to people like myself who are at high risk, and also to people with chronic or life-threatening conditions who depend on hospital beds. We’ve seen horrific scenes around the world but somehow we’ve been spared. It’s hard to understand, and I hope we have a handle on it now that restrictions are being lifted. It would be an absolute miracle.

Personally, I have to admit that the stress of having the coronavirus hanging round, particularly after having a few major asthma attacks during the Australian bush fire crisis and being locked away for a few months n the air-conditioned loungeroom, it’s a lot to deal with. The fact I’ve survived and got through without a scratch,  seems to minimize the battle and it’s like it never happened. My house didn’t burn down. I didn’t lose the lot. Nobody died. No trips to hospital. However, what our family has been through wasn’t nothing, and we’re not the only ones fighting these invisible battles beneath the radar either. It’s very hard, because it takes so much energy and thought to speak out that your emotions become quite intense and if the person you open up to doesn’t at least acknowledge your experience, you just give up. You don’t try again. Rather, you become silent, even though you might still be talking and the words are still coming out and your face, all except for your eyes, are smiling. In so many ways this is dangerous territory, because you’re rapidly disconnecting not only with those around you, but also to much of your self. That’s something those of us who know somebody who is going through a bit, especially an invisible battle, need to keep in mind.

Anyway,  restrictions are easing throughout Australia. Last Wednesday, our son returned to school for one day. That was quite interesting. When I asked him how it went, he mentioned the absolute silence. With so few students there, it was so quiet. He said that he could even hear the local trains going past, where usually he could only ever hear the horn. Our daughter hasn’t gone back to school yet. However, it looks like they’ll both be back to normal school hours next week. To be honest, that really freaks me out, and yet it’s perhaps a return to normal that we need, although I’m still concerned about them bringing home the virus and you just can’t presume that the kids will be okay themselves if they catch it. Meanwhile, having them home has felt like an extended holiday and it’s been great not having to drive them around. My son and I have been doing some cooking together and our daughter’s painted the back of her bedroom door cow pat, which looks really cool.

While some people have been Spring cleaning as their lock down activity, I’ve been writing but we’ve also been working on the house and yard and getting some renovations done. As you may recall, we bought a camper caravan for me to escape to if I need to quarantine from the family. It’s still parked out of the house, while Geoff sorted out the backyard, repair the garage roof and trimmed the bougainvillea before we could even start on restoring the camper. Then he won a few pallets of floorboards last weekend at an auction and  now I’m slowly moving the china out of the cabinet and relocating it wround the house. I don’t know if you’ve quite been on the hunt for real estate like this trying to squeeze your treasures into every nook and cranny. My friend works in a giftware shop and she does this all the time, and has a few casualties along the way. So, far so good. The piano is also going to be dismantled and put out for council cleanup. It’s really crappy, but I’m hoping I might be able to salvage some of the bits to stick them up somewhere around the house. I also want to make a sculpture of my grandmother the concert pianist where the pedals could become her feet. I’m not sure about how I’d build the rest of her, but I have some brass cuckoo clocks up in the roof, which I also thought about incorporating into a sculpture. By the way, what with storing up all these components, you might actually get the idea that I can actually sculpt, when I’ve never made a sculpture before in my life. That said, i did buy some wire and glue to make these papermache figures. Anyway, needless to say our house is bursting at the seams from all my inspirational ideas.

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting back into blogging again. I did my first Friday Fictioneers post for quite while and I also wrote  couple of poems which were inspired by Henri-Frederic’s: Journal Intime. I haven’t posted these as that limits what I can do with them. However, I did write a three part series reflecting back on our precious dog, Bilbo, who we lost three years ago. This wan’t soemthing I’d planned and to be perfectly honest, I woudl’ve opted for something more uplifting and funny at this point in time. However, there is humour in these posts as I reflect on Bilbo’s antics and I share about how we worked through our grief in perhaps some unconventional ways, which might help someone else get through their situation and perhaps feel less alone. I also want to leave these memories and reflections for our kids. They don’t pay much attention to Mum’s scribblings at the moment and I often feel I’m writing to myself when I really am often writing for them. That’s just the way it is and at least i have you friends out there who appreciate and encourage me in the present.

Anyway, here’s a link to the first of these stories which talks about Bilbo’s diet: The Dog We’ll Never Forget

My apologies for scooting off. Time has just flown away and I need to get to bed before sunrise this morning.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

Best wishes and please stay safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Dipping Our Toe Back into School.

Yesterday, our son returned to school for the first time in over a month. Sure, school holidays were thrown into the mix for two weeks, but they didn’t feel like school holidays, anymore than school from home really feels like school. Moreover, without leaving the house for the usual dance, violin and scout runs, it doesn’t feel like term time either. Indeed, so much of the scaffolding which keeps our lives together and provides this strange reassurance called “routine” is gone. That said, my husband is working from home and I’m still beavering away on my WWI research and writing.

Meanwhile, it’s change of seasons and it’s cooling down here in Australia. Indeed, I’m spending my days snuggled up in my PJs all wrapped up in my dressing gown, which even had a hood. However, I’m far from idle. Well, to be honest, that depends on which part of the day you find me. My hours have gone dramatically out of kilter and I’m getting to bed around 2.00-3.00am and waking up at lunchtime. But, hey. At least, I have a routine. It’s just not a very good one and it is something I’m at least working to change in theory.

As you’re no doubt aware, how to manage school and education during the coronacrisis has become a can of worms. My husband works in IT for Macquarie University in Sydney and on the few occasions he’s gone into the office, he’s said the place is a ghost town with bands of starving, marauding magpies descended on this solitary human in large, hopeful flocks. Uni is largely running online, aside from researchers who might need to go in to work to maintain whatever’s going on in the lab. A friend of ours in first year has mentioned his disappointment that the university life he’s long been looking forward to, has dried up and gone online. I remember what all of that was all about, and it was far more important than anything we learnt inside our lectures. So, I can definitely empathize with his disappointment.

Meanwhile, schools in NSW opened up one day a week for all students this week. We decided to send our 16 year old son who is in his second last year of school yesterday, but kept his 14 year old sister at home. These thought processes recognized the individual needs of our kids, the way things were being structured for the different age groups and also acknowledged the fact that the virus is still around. That while our stats are impressively good, there’s still that potential for the virus  to get out of the box. Moreover, since we’ve largely contained the spread, we haven’t anything approaching herd immunity, if that’s even achievable. So, we still need to be careful and our current status has been described as “precarious”. They’re expecting outbreaks, but they’re hoping to contain them through the tracking app (even if that doesn’t help you once you’ve caught the virus!)

Anyway, I thought teachers and parents in particular would be interested to hear how yesterday went. The first thing which really surprised me, was just how keen he was to get to school. Aside from visiting my parents on Mother’s Day, he hasn’t been outside for at least two weeks and had become some kind of extension of his computer screen. Yet, yesterday morning the night owl was up at 6.00 am bright-eyed and bushy tailed, through the shower and chose to actually WALK to school. It seems Sunday’s trip had woken him up and he was keen to get back out there again and really seemed to miss school and was keen to get back.

The school had put a lot of thought and preparation into making the school environment safe. Students have been divided up alphabetically to return one day a week and there’s a ratio of one teacher to nine students, giving ten in the classroom. There was a space of two desks in between students. There’s hand sanitizer going in and out as well as wiping down your desk along with no moving around between classrooms. They’re being absolutely vigilant and caring for the well-being of students and teachers as you would your own family. I am so grateful for that, particularly given my own vulnerability. I don’t want to be putting my own health needs before the kids’ education. Understandably, that’s become a huge strain. Indeed, I freely admit that I’ve felt the burden of Atlas on my shoulders at times. So, it’s been such a relief to have that burden eased.

Of course, I was full of questions as soon as our son walked in the door yesterday afternoon. He was my eyes and ears out in the real world…our intrepid reporter. Most of his friends were either allocated to different days, or were working from home, but he did see one close friend.

However, what really stood out to him yesterday was the silence…the absolute silence. He said he could even hear the trains going past, when usually all he can hear is the horn.  Somehow, that teeny little fragment of his day felt really precious…a truly unique and precious eyewitness statement, which was completely untarnished by other people’s opinions and observations. That’s what stood out to him, and as his mum who doesn’t often gets the details, I was over the moon.

So, now I’d like to hand the floor over to you and invite you to share how school is going in your neck of the woods. Just like it’s fascinating to try foods from different countries, how we do school is another intriguing point of difference, which is being made more interesting under the strain of the virus. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

I’m also very conscious that our situation here in Australia is exceptionally good here in Australia, and our hearts go out to you who are experiencing the worst and are losing loved ones and living under siege. We carry you in our prayers and in our hearts and send our love!

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Short Victory…Friday Fictioneers.

All James ever wanted was to eat a bowl of ice cream. However, James was severely lactose intolerant and ice cream was forbidden. Now a teenager, he was sick of everyone asking why he he had to have soy milk. Why can’t you have ice cream? What’s wrong with you? To compound his troubles, his mother hovered over him like a hawk. However, she wasn’t going to be at camp, and James had forged her signature on the medical forms. Finally, James indulged in his very first bowl of ice cream. All good until he got stuck on the bus.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…3rd February, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. You can have a slice of piping hot Peach Upside Down Cake with a scoop of creamy Vanilla ice cream with your choice of tea, coffee or whatever. I don’t know what possessed me to go baking tonight when the kitchen was already a bomb zone and the dishwasher is broken and the teenage substitutes are unreliable at best. Indeed, I suspect they have a few faulty circuits. However, being Sunday night, I felt the call of the Sunday roast, which thanks to still going through the Christmas ham, I decided to make a special dessert instead.

Peach Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake…Yum!

Last week was momentous. One by one, the rest of the family fell like dominoes returning to the real world. Tuesday, Geoff was back to work. Wednesday, our son was back to school and is now in Year 10. Our daughter had the longest reprieve. She went back to school for only one day on Friday and then she was off for the weekend again. It’s a tough life.

Jonathon & Amelia

Back to school 2019.kwr

By the way, it was funny seeing photo after photo of kids of all ages, shapes and sizes heading back to school. Themes and variations. Parents should warn their kids that if they don’t smile at the camera or worse still, they frown, cry, snarl or make a stupid face, it’s going to spread like gastro all around the world wide web and haunt them forever. Facebook never forgets. It bringing these things back from the deepest depths of its memory and no parent can resist clicking share and making the bad photo do the rounds again.

Zac & Amelia reading

Even the poor dog has homework. However, he soon nodded off and went to sleep.

Anyway, we got through the first week of term one. I can tick that one off. How many to go? Can I stick my head in the sand now? Or, do I really have to face another school year.

Last night, I revisited my parents’ old holiday house at Sydney’s Palm Beach going through masses of photos and posted two of them:

Girl on the Sand

Above: Footprints Running Through Sand

Driving Through the Clouds

Making Tracks.

Meanwhile, I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week’s photo prompt featured a tee pee, and took me into the realms of Native Americans, which was right out of my league as an Australian who has never been to America and has a healthy respect for Indigenous cultures. I wanted to show respect and came very close to skipping this week. My piece was called: Natural Justice and also raised some interesting issues about how to view historic literature through our modern day concepts of equality and social justice.

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Gosford Sailing Club.

For Thursday Doors, I featured Gosford Sailing Club. Both my husband and son are sailing members and I am hoping to be able to start sailing soon myself.

Well, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Red Tree of Bangalow, NSW.

“There is a shade of red for every woman.”

-Audrey Hepburn

Please don’t mention red trees to my husband. Once when we were driving around Byron Bay, I kept pointing out red trees and wondering out loud what type of tree it was, which resulted in years of stirring and him or the kids pointing to every red tree we came across and calling out: “Red tree!!” I would’ve thought a bit of passion and enthusiasm was a good thing, but clearly you’re supposed to hide your love away. Be more contained.

“Red has guts …. deep, strong, dramatic. A geranium red. A Goya red … to be used like gold for furnishing a house … for clothes, it is strong, like black or white.”

–Valentino

Anyway, as soon as I drove into Bangalow on our recent holiday, I spotted the beautiful bright red tree in the grounds of Bangalow Public School. Indeed, I’m lucky I didn’t drive off the road. Red trees have that kind of effect on me, not unlike Chris de Burgh and his Lady in Red:

“Trees do not preach learning and precepts. They preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” 
―  Herman Hesse

 

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The Red tree viewed through the school gates. 

For those of you for whom the name “red tree” is woefully insufficient, and you need to know the official scientific names of trees, this is an Illawarra Flame Tree or Currajong.

It grows up to 35 m in the wild but only about 10m in gardens. The bright red bell-shaped flowers grow in clusters at the end of branches, often after the leaves have dropped, giving the plant a distinctive look. It is a deciduous tree that is often found growing alongside the Red Cedar in lowland rainforest habitat.

A few months after the jettisoning of the leaves, the tree produces masses of bell-shaped vivid scarlet flowers. They do not always flower annually and put on their best display maybe only once every five years, especially after a hot dry summer. In between these times, they may only produce one or two branches of flowers on the whole tree.

It produces a tough leathery dark-brown seed pod, containing rows of corn-like seeds that are surrounded by hairs that will irritate the skin and nose and throat if inhaled. They are toxic to many native animals and birds.

Backyard Buddies

 

red tree flowers

The twists and turns of these dazzling red flowers is so intriguing. I could stare at them for hours grappling with their idiosyncrasies. 

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. ”
―   Kahlil Gibran

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“Put on your red shoes, and dance the blues away322222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666.”

David Bowie

 

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“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.” 
― 
Wangari Maathai

 

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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These root protuberances reminded me of chicken feet. 

“I am old enough to know that a red carpet is just a rug.”

Al Gore

Dead…Not Buried…Friday Fictioneers.

All Deborah had ever wanted, was to hear her mother say: “I love you”. Yet, the words had never come, and now it was too late. She could only forgive. After her father shot through, Debbie was always branded “a mistake” and became her mother’s scapegoat. Indeed, when she was five, Debbie was surprised her mother didn’t drown her along with the unwanted litter of kittens. However, she was now a successful crown prosecutor, married with a family of her own. Yet, she never let go of Sally… the precious friend who shared her Vegemite sandwiches, and opened her heart.

….

100 words exactly.

Goodness knows what prompted this tale of desperate hardship after spending a wonderful Christmas with my family. By the way, by “family”, I mean a group of about 20-30 of aunts, uncles, cousins etc and that was after a chaotic few hours at home  with mad present openings and the kids and pups chasing balloons around the kitchen. However, it is also a time of year when you do become aware of those who are doing it tough and didn’t have their lives served up on a silver platter.

We hope you and yours had a Merry and Blessed Christmas. “Happy Holidays” is more of an American saying, and not something we say in Australia and yet I acknowledge there is a place for it. It just feels a bit weird for me to use it myself. However, we all come together when it comes to wishing each other a Happy New Year. I am still working on my resolutions but they’re coming and I’ll be waiting until school goers back in February to implement them.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Randy Mazie

Best wishes,

Rowena

Speech Day 1928: The Life Lessons My Grandfather Heard.

As a woman, it’s already difficult to put myself in my grandfather’s shoes and know what it’s like to be a man. Moreover, not having a contraption like the Tardis to travel back in time, it’s also hard to rewind the clock back to 1928 when my grandfather left school as an 18 year old.My grandfather was also Catholic and attending Waverley College in Sydney, which is run by the Christian Brothers. Back at this point in time, there was a great divide between protestants and Catholics which I find hard to imagine these days, although its still rippling away under the surface.

Papa Curtin with Rowena 1969

My grandfather and I. 

Yet, almost 60 years later, I was also sitting at the back of the school assembly hall not paying much attention to what was being said. So, despite all these glaring differences, we were probably not all that different and had very much in common. The transition from the cloister of school into the next chapter has always been a big step.Yet, generation after generation, has gone before us. We were not alone. We have never been the first generation stepping out there trying to find out way, which I now find largely reassuring.  and I guess you just have to hope that most of them eventually found their way and as George Bernard Shaw said:

Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

Being a by-product of my own generation, these attempts to walk in my grandfather’s shoes, have taken me back to one of the greatest movies of all time: Dead Poet’s Society, (Indeed, it would be my favourite if Casablanca hadn’t got there first!)  For those of you already replaying the movie in your heads, I’m reminded of that scene where English teacher John Keating played by our very much loved friend and mentor, Robin Williams, is looking at the portraits of ex-students on the wall and says:

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it?… Carpe… Hear it?… Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

-Dead Poet’s Society

As it turns out, I have been able to read the words my grandfather would have heard courtesy of the old newspapers which are now online. Eerily enough, these words actually have a Dead Poet’s Society feel about them, as most of these end of school speeches do. By the way, my grandfather had attended Waverley College, Sydney run by the Christian Brothers and the Address was given by Archbishop Sheehan:

Archbishop Michael Sheehan.

“Your years of youth, my dear boys, are very precious. It is the time in which you build for the future. The opportunities which are now close to your hands will, if neglected, never come within your reach again. Your greatest enemy is the spirit of ill-will and idleness; your best friend is the spirit of obedience and industry.

Your whole life from childhood to death is a warfare, a struggle against temptation. Every victory you gain over yourselves and over the powers of darkness brings with it a strengthening of your will, a strengthening of your character. 

The process of building therefore of which I spoke a moment ago means more than piecing together the divers kinds of knowledge. Let us put it in this way: your task is not only to build for your-selves the house of knowledge, but also and much more to build firm and strong the fortress of the will.

‘How will you take these few words from me? I know boys too well not be be conscious that they listen to old people like myself with a certain amount of patronage, and with a secret feeling that we are out of date and possibly suffering from a touch of dotage, and that therefore any advice of ours is to be taken with a good grain of salt.

Well, it may shake you a bit to hear that the boys of every generation have had exactly the same thoughts, and that when they grew up they found their mistake. One of the chief temptations of your time of life comes from a kind of pride, from a tendency to underrate the advice of the more experienced.’ His Grace concluded by again congratulating the Brothers and the boys on a most successful year, and wished all present the blessings of the Christmas season.” Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), Thursday 5 January 1928, page 25

Whether you agree with the Catholic ethos or not, I found good wisdom in there. The Archbishop, who’d been born on the 17th December, 1870 at Waterford in Ireland, did a pretty good job of crawling into the boys’ shoes, seeing himself through their eyes and hopefully captured their attention. In his roundabout way, he first encouraged the boys to listen to their elders and hopefully thus avoid some of life’s predictable potholes. He also wanted them to have a heart, a love of God and be living breathing humans. He didn’t want them to be walking encyclopaedias, robots or money-making machines.  He wanted each and every one of those boys to have a rich and complex life. Catholic or not, there’s a lot of good advice to hold onto there and you can adjust it to suit your personal creed.

There’s one thing I’d particularly like add.

That is the importance of family, close friends and having meaningful relationships, which you carry with you throughout your life. Having lived overseas and travelled, I know what it’s like to be that random atom drifting through space where no one knows you, your history, or your family. Moreover, as an Australian living in Germany, there was only the odd person who knew what an Australian was either and I got away with a bit under that heading too.

While there can be real freedom and liberation in flying away from all those ties, I felt quite lost without them too. There’s a lot to be said for having shared memories within a close community where you can bump into an old friend down the street and have those shared experiences, insights and memories. We have been living in our home for something like 18 years. That’s really crept up on us and initially, it took a long time to get established. However, I now have a genuine, informed interest in the people around me. This has nothing to do with career, paying off the mortgage or even putting food on the table. However, there’s food we don’t eat and we also have to cater for our souls.

What would your advice be to a young person leaving school at the end of 2018? Any regrets? Anything you did or observed that worked well and you’d like to pass on? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I thought I’d better point out that these young men left school the year before the 1929 Fall of Wall Street. The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Stock Market Crash of 1929 or the Great Crash, started on October 24 (“Black Thursday”) and continued until October 29, 1929 (“Black Tuesday”), when share prices on the New York Stock Exchange collapsed. The crash, which followed the London Stock Exchange’s crash of September, signalled the beginning of the 12-year Great Depression that affected all Western industrialized countries. Wikipaedia These same men could well have fought or enlisted in WWII having had their own fathers serve in WWI. They didn’t have it easy.

 

Belated Weekend Coffee Share… 25th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s now Monday night here, so I hope you’ve have a great weekend . Although I’m turning up rather late this week, hopefully a few stragglers would still like to join me and keep the coffee and conversation flowing.

How was your week? Do you have any stories you’d like to share?

Well, I had a busy week and much of it was rather annoying because it involved medical appointments. I had one in Sydney, one locally with my GP and was back to the GP for an iron infusion on Friday, which will hopefully turn me into Popeye the Sailor Woman in a few weeks’ time once it’s take effect. These medical appointments weren’t such a big deal, and it was more a case of one appointment generating another and then they seem to breed like rabbits for a bit. However, fortunately they largely retreat back into their hidey holes much of the time these days and only reach this kind of frequency very occasionally.

After my doctor’s appointment on Monday, I headed down to Kirribilli for a coffee and set myself up with my notebook and started randomly writing. I love downloading my soul in pen on paper like this in a rustic old cafe, and it also feels so good for the soul to get all that stuff out as well.

Last week, the kids’ school held their annual Variety Concert over two nights. Our daughter danced on Tuesday night and our son was on lights the first night and backstage the next. What with having to drop him back and forth, my daughter and I also decided to watch the second concert as well. I’m really glad we did, not only because the acts were so good and we enjoyed some incredible entertainment, but also because I hope by being there, we might’ve encouraged some young performers. It’s very rare that you ever hear anything about being a “talented audience”. I’ve personally put in many years learning the piano, ballet and the violin, but no one even sat me down and encouraged me to learn how to be a productive member of the audience and be more than just a bum on a seat. Of course, my mother taught me not to crinkle lolly wrappers and not to cough, go to the toilet or talk during a performance and these days we also need to ensure we switch our omnipresent phones to silent. However, these things are more about the etiquette of being in the audience, rather than really getting into it. You can applaud with gusto and enthusiasm. Smile. Better still, you can compliment the performer afterwards, ideally pointing to something specific so they know you mean it and you payed attention. You see, while the performer’s talent might seem very obvious to you and that you might expect them to be egotistical and full of themselves, quite often I find the reverse is quite true. That many highly talented performers are perfectionists. Perfectionism is a state which can never be reached, and so far too many live with an agonising sense of their weaknesses and mistakes, rather than their incredible abilities to take everyone around them on a magical flight to someplace else, or even deeper within their soul.

Anyway, I digress. I am rather prone to philosophizing, and I guess sharing philosophical ideas over coffee is nothing new.

While I don’t really see getting around my local area as “travelling” per se, the beauty about blogging with people from all around the world, is that my own backyard become exotic. My backyard to travelling to you.

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Our local Beach during Winter.

Anyway, last Saturday Geoff’s sister from Queensland came down for a visit along with her son who has been living in Canada or the US for over 15 years. So, we met up with them at a local cafe and then decided he should see more of his own country before he heads back and took him for a drive to Patonga, which is located on the Hawkesbury River about 15 minutes drive away through the bush and round some fairly twisty bends. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Patonga, and I’ve really get to ask myself why I don’t get out and see more of the local environment when I’m surrounded by glorious beaches, stunning coastal views and the great Aussie bush. I guess, like for most of us, life gets in the way. There always seems to be so much to get done and so much of that really isn’t exciting either. It’s little more than crossing stuff off the list, but I know from past experience that ignoring it only makes it worse.

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Fishing Boats at Patonga.

Well, I guess it’s time to wrap things up here. I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit and I look forward to popping round and touching base with you as well.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Back to the Real World…a new school year.

It was the massive jolt that had to happen. The kids went back to school this week and the dreaded inevitable hit me like a Mac truck, as we switched from Holiday Mode to School Time looking and feeling like the zombie apocalyse.

Waking up at 7.00AM again was brutal. We’ve mastered the sleep-in over the break and while the kids went off on a few camps, I stayed put often staggering out of bed at lunch time, making the most of an empty diary.

While I’m sounding like a human sloth, I’ve actually spent much of the holidays trying to get the kids, house, bedrooms ready for the new school year. In keeping with my belief that we are reborn on January 1st each year, I knew it was entirely possible that we could pull off the seemingly miraculous. That can all be encapsulated in one simple word…ORGANIZED.

Unfortunately, being organized for school isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s not as simple as making sure they have their uniforms, shoes and socks all set out. Of course, they also need the laptop, pen, paper, books, backpack. But that’s not the end of the list either.

“Wait. There’s more!” Since we’re going back to school, I can’t throw in a set of steak knives. That said, school wouldn’t be school without a metaphorical knife in the back, more likely from a friend you’ve loved and trusted, rather than the proverbial bully. Most of us are also pretty good at shooting ourselves in the foot too.

Going back to school is also about a place for everything and everything in it’s place, which means a clean, neat and tidy bedroom…and kitchen table for many of us and some way of making sure the dog doesn’t eat the kids’ homework as well.

That’s just the stuff you need to get sorted before the kids have walked through the gate.

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It’s only been a couple of days and all the gumph hasn’t come home yet. This has given me the chance to do what I fully intended to do two years ago when our son started high school. That is, draw up a grid showing the weeks of term on one side and the subjects on the other side. When I’d finished, I printed it out and suddenly my mind went blank. What was I supposed to do with it now? How were the kids supposed to use it? I had no idea. My mind went blank…an empty whiteboard with all of it’s circuits removed.

It was time to phone a friend.

I don’t know about you but how often to you come up with these wizz bang systems but don’t know how to implement them? How to convert dreams/plans into action?

I’m the master. A frequent visitor to organizing stationery shop Kiki K, I have all the tools to plan my week, menu, set goals, and even fly to the moon. Well, that is, if only I could ever get started.

Anyway, the subject grid is now sorted and we’ll write the big assignments and tests in there so we can trouble shoot and plan ahead instead of falling in a screaming heap, which has been our usual modus operandi. With both the kids in high school now, this planning will also help us identify times when they’re both going to be hitting the panic button and we can hopefully prevent a monumental meltdown x 2. After all, each of the kids isn’t living in isolation, but as part of a family and by getting the family machine well greased and in peak fitness, hopefully it will support them. Bring out their best. I feel it’s been holding them back in the past with four individuals coming and going and all sorts of unexpected hazards side swiping us while absorbed in something else.

Clock Sculpture Paris

This brings me onto what is a bit of a swear word around here…time management. How do you help them complete tasks in a timely manner? This has been a real struggle for me and this is what inevitable takes me into Kiki K.pomodoro timer

 

Recently, I was put onto a time management system called the Pomodoro Technique. This uses a tomato-shaped timer which you set for 22 minutes and then you focus on one task during this time. If you have an idea about soemthing else during this time, you jot it down on a post it note and keep going on the original task. When the time’s up, you can take a 5 minutes break. After four consecutive sessions, you can take a 20 minutes break. I spoke to my son’s teacher and she said that they basically do this and they call these 5 minutes breaks: “Brain breaks”. I also use a device called a Time Timer, which is a visual clock and shows how much time you have left in red and you can immediately see how much time you have left and can plan accordingly.

Yet, along with all this organization and the home study machine, we still need to have fun. We still need chaos, antics, laughter because we’re not machines.

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For better or worse, our dogs are very good distractors, comedy and stress relief while also adding fuel to the fire. Today, Rosie one of our 6 month of Border Collie x Kelpie pups, helped herself to a fluoro pink highlighter out of the pen jar on the kitchen table and chewed the thing to death. There was literally a pool of pink ink on the kitchen floor and splashes of ink on her paws. She was a very naughty girl, but she looked so funny that I had to laugh and photograph the proof.

I also went for a swim at the beach this week and it was so therapeutic just to feel the stress fall off my shoulders and drift far out to sea. Phew! What a relief.

A relief and a reminder that it’s all too easy to get too wound up and perfectionistic about all of this. Being organized is good, but it needs to serve a purpose and there comes a point where you have done enough and it’s time to let go. Step back. How far back, I guess depends on how the kids respond. However, experience to date, has shown the need to keep checking back in and knowing when those deadlines are coming up, even if it;s only to prevent a serious bout of gastro, asthma or the like leading to extended absences and avoidance.

It could also be helpful to reflect on our own less than perfect school days and give the kids a breather. They’re not 40 or 50 something and tackling their high school days for the second time. Rather, they’re teenagers on their first way through who also need to learn from their mistaks and find their own way through. By doing everything for them, it removes responsibility, and doesn’t allow them to think for themselves, which could well have greater long term consequences than a few late assignments.

So, as you can see navigating your way through the whole parent teen study thing is riddled with contradictions, but defintiely worth thinking about and not simply going with the flow to give your children the best chance of doing their best.

I would love to hear any tips you might have as either a parent, teacher or student which may be beneficial.

xx Rowena