Category Archives: school

2020 in review

Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year 2021 workbook asks you to describe the year just gone by in three words. It’s left open to you how you interpret this: you could, I imagine, choose three words that describe the year from a global perspective, from a personal perspective or anywhere in between. There’s one word I’ve heard more often than I care to remember that has been used to describe 2020 that I never want to hear again and I have no intention of using it. It starts with unp . . . .

And that is the last I will say about that word.

I’ve chosen three words to describe the year from my own isolated perspective from the bottom of an island at the bottom of the world. They are:

  • Unexpected
  • Inconsistent
  • Introspective

Unexpected because I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine that the world would be thrust into a pandemic that shut everything down, took so many lives, and shook everything up, leaving people jobless and causing so much worldwide despair, uncertainty and confusion. On a personal note, I didn’t expect the issues I was having in my workplace with noise to be (temporarily) resolved by having to work from home. There were other unexpected things too, not all good, and not all for this blog.

Inconsistent because, while I made a lot of progress in some areas I wanted to work on and I achieved a lot, I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped in other areas. I completed my uni course, and I had some good results at work but, there were other areas I was less successful in developing (no judgement here, just stating a fact) and they continue to haunt me. A lot of that is connected to me not being able to stop procrastinating and giving into distractions. And not getting into an exercise routine that works for me.

I struggled to find a third word but I chose Introspective because I started to work on some long standing personal issues in my head that are preventing me from being the person I want to be. It was hard work but rewarding, and I think I am starting to discover small chinks in the façade I’m trying to break down.

I would also add interesting to the mix . . .

I started the year with beautiful sunny Sunday morning photo expeditions, a couple of times with a good friend and other days by myself. It seems like so long ago now . . .

Sunday morning explorations with my camera

A major focus of my year was my uni program, of which I had three units to complete. The first one was intense, involving a lot of self examination and analysis, which left me feeling drained but also with some very clear ideas of what areas of my life I specifically needed to work on. I finished the course in October and received my qualification in December and am very glad that’s over but also grateful for the opportunity to have done it and learned so much.

I managed to keep reasonably healthy in 2020, not least because I have now gone for nine months without drinking alcohol and, as a formerly very regular moderate drinker, I’m particularly proud of my efforts to do this. I read the book The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, and it totally changed the way I looked at alcohol. I’m not saying I will never drink again but for now I’m very comfortable with my decision not to.

This book changed my life

I had a potential issue with my eyesight that I had to have checked out a couple of times during the year but it all seems to be okay for now and the professionals are monitoring it. I got a hearing test at the start of the year, which revealed I have a low noise tolerance, which makes sense of all the issues I’ve been having at work and in other situations. I’m not sure what we do about this but a retest later in the year showed that my sensitivity had increased and I still don’t really know how to manage it. I kept up with my dental checks and my physio visits to resolve long-standing neck, back and posture issues.

I’m grateful there was never a time during the lockdown that I wasn’t able to go out on my regular morning walks. That would have made it a lot more unbearable.

Morning beach walks, muwinina Country

I started riding my bike to work, which became a whole lot easier when everyone had to stay home because of the pandemic and, as I said at the time, while I didn’t love riding in the traffic, I didn’t necessarily want the roads to be clear because no one was allowed outside. I stopped doing it as much (at all) as the weather got colder, the buses stopped charging fares and, eventually, when I was working from home full-time. It’s something I will start to pick up again when I go back to work after the holidays.

Bike riding to work

Another habit that I actually stuck with was reading, and there were a couple of things that made this possible. First, my goal was to develop the habit, rather than to set a number of books I wanted to read, which the pressure to read a certain amount off and allowed me to just focus on doing it. Second, keeping my no alcohol month going the whole of the year led to me going to bed earlier, which meant I could read in bed before I went to sleep. As of today, I have finished 34 books, which is 13 more than in 2019 when I set myself a target of only 12 books to read and never really stuck with it after I’d finished the 12th book.

The most powerful book I read in 2020, Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

I didn’t do as much work on learning Photoshop as I had intended at the start of the year when I signed up for a bunch of courses. Even though my uni work took up a lot of time, I still had a lot of free time that I could have done this work and I’m not sure what was stopping me. It’s not like I have to do the courses all at once or that there’s a time limit. I can do them in my own time, and maybe that’s the problem. I’ve worked well to deadlines where there is a clear assignment to complete but with these courses there are no assignments, just instruction and it’s up to you to play around with what you’re shown and see what you come up with. This is one of the areas I’m disappointed that I didn’t achieve very much in, and I want to do more in 2021.

I completed the major photography project I wanted to do this year, which was to spend 50 days making a photo a day with my 50mm lens. I’m really pleased with that project and it’s made me appreciate and understand that lens a lot better. I certainly won’t be keeping that one stashed in the bag again!

50mm photo of the Aurora Australis, the day before she left Hobart for the finial time

I had a couple of exciting moments in my photography in 2020 too. In January, one of my photos was published in Australian Photography magazine.

My first photo published in a national publication

I was equally chuffed when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court asked if the court could use one of my photos of the court in their Christmas cards this year.

Supreme Court 2019

And just before Christmas, I found out that one of the photos I had taken of the Hobart Magistrates Court at the Open House Hobart weekend had been chosen as a winner of their photo competition, which was a lovely way to end the year. I’ve really enjoyed my photography this year.

Hobart Magistrates Court 2020

I was lucky to be able to get away for a couple of short breaks during the year. We had a trip to Bridport in the July school holidays. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and couldn’t remember it at all, so it was great to be able to explore a part of Tasmania I wasn’t familiar with.

Old pier at Bridport on pyemmairrener Country

In October we had a night at Port Arthur, a place I am always somewhat reluctant to visit because of the many sad layers of history held by the area. And then, as a reward for finishing my uni course, I took myself off to Launceston for a photography retreat and I had a wonderful time photographing some of my favourite buildings and walking all day.

Tessellated Pavement near Eaglehawk Neck on paredareme Country

Kramstable adapted really well to online school and I was impressed with his commitment to his work, his ability to self-direct and to manage his workload. The schools did a huge amount of work to ensure that kids could continue learning during the lockdown and I have nothing but admiration for them for what they achieved. Thank you seems like such a lame things to say to convey how grateful I am for what they did. It has been wonderful watching Kramstable learn and grow this year, and for it to start to become more obvious what his strengths are and where his passions lie. The high point of his film work was his nomination as a finalist in one of the categories of this year’s My State Film Festival. It’s also exciting to watch his work and interests develop outside of school. Seeing his dedication sometimes makes me wonder how my life might have been different if I’d had such a passion as a teenager and had been supported to pursue it in the same way I hope I’m supporting him.

Sadly, Bethany the Australorp chicken and Rex the rabbit died earlier in the year. Two new chickens joined the flock in November, Dorothy and Shirley, who are black copper Marans and are very cute. After a month in a cage in the chook yard, they are now finding their feet with the big girls, some of whom are none too pleased to have them there.

The new chickens

Aside from the working from home, covid didn’t have a massive impact on my life. I don’t like going out much, I detest shopping, I don’t play or attend sport and I don’t enjoy being around large gatherings of people. I spend a lot of time at home anyway, and I love it. So I pretty much did what I always did, it’s just that I didn’t have a choice any more. Regular Friday night dinners at the bowls club were replaced with trying out various takeaway and home delivery options from local restaurants and pubs. I actually reversed my no caffeine strategy and started getting takeaway coffees from my local cafe (I am sorry for the plastic, but they weren’t allowed to use keep cups). I’m not sure why. One day I felt like a coffee and it was a valid reason to get out of the house and one day tuned into a couple of times a week, turned into every day. And when they were allowed to reopen, it because my go-to place to write. And a place to work when I needed a change of scenery.

Monthly review at the coffee shop

I realise that I am incredibly lucky that this was my experience when so many others suffered greatly and many continue to do so. I am so grateful for having the job I have and that the Tasmanian Government did what it needed to do to keep our state safe. I haven’t stopped being grateful for being in the position that I’m in this year.

It was, indeed, an unexpected year.

A weed is just a plant growing in a place someone doesn’t want it to grow in

Unravel Your Year asks you to consider what the gifts of 2020 were. I know for many, this would be difficult. I offer the following.

2020 brought me the gift of afternoon walks. Instead of being at work all afternoon, packing up and catching the bus home, I packed up my home office and went for a walk every day. I watched the afternoon light dance on trees, rocks, water and the opposite shore, and I made photos of what I saw. I would never have been able to do this if I hadn’t been working at home.

2020 brought me intense self reflection and the deep inner work that I need to do to start to heal myself.

2020 brought me a confidence boost that tells me maybe I do have an artistic side.

2020 brought me a brain that is no longer befuddled by alcohol, and the clarity and health benefits that go along with this.

2020 brought me respite from a work environment that was becoming increasingly stressful and difficult for me to cope with. My stress and anxiety levels are lower than they have been for a long time as a result.

A friend recently posted that we all need a little more yellow in our lives. I agree. You can never have too much yellow!

Goodbye, 2020.

You were not the year I expected you to be. I know the challenges you have presented, both on a global level and to me personally, are not going to disappear when the clock ticks over to 2021. In reality, the date on the calendar is just an arbitrary thing anyway. The sun is going to come up tomorrow, covid is still going to be here and I’m going to have the same struggles I have today. The climate emergency hasn’t gone away and there’s a lot of work to do. However, the end of the year is a good time to have a bit of a reset, to re-examine my priorities and goals, and make sure the course I’m on is still the one I need to be on.

Thank you, 2020, for the gifts and the opportunities you have offered me. I ticked 18 things off my 20 for 2020 list. I haven’t made the most of everything, but I think I’ve made some progress and I have learned a lot. I intend to continue to learn in 2021.

One thing I know, 2020, is that I won’t forget you in a hurry.

20 for 2020: week 24

Week of 8 June

My 20 for 2020 list.

After a weekend where I put off doing any work on my uni course (thing 8) until Monday, which was a public holiday, I succeeded in not doing any work on it at all. Instead, I spent the day writing, thinking, editing photos, wrestling with my computer and doing some work on my home studio (thing 11).

I also learned that if you put a flash on a camera the wrong way round, it doesn’t work. Who knew.

After getting my 100 per cent habit score for reading last week (thing 14, which I am happy to report I am still doing and actually finished two books this week), I passed another milestone this week.

Tuesday was the 100th day since I’ve had a drink. If you’d told me back at the start of the year when I decided to go a month without alcohol (thing 5) that I’d still be alcohol-free more than two months after finishing that challenge, there’s no way I’d have believed you. Regular drinking had been firmly ingrained in my identity for many years and, although I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be, I enjoyed drinking and I couldn’t imagine a time without alcohol.

I might write about my experience later or I might not. I don’t want to sound like the preachy ex-drinker, and I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up for. But what I can say right now is that I believe that being alcohol-free is the best thing I can do for myself and I have felt better this last three months than I had done for many years as a regular drinker. I don’t feel any need to go back to where I was.

20200613 Hinsby Beach 2

Subtle afternoon colours

This week, Kramstable went back to school, which I think he was happy about. I have been really impressed by the work the schools have done to transfer students’ learning online for this last couple of months. I know I’m lucky to have a young person who is very self-directed and who adapted well to the situation and who’s old enough to be trusted to work independently. I imagine my experience working from home and supervising online learning would have been very different with a younger child or someone who isn’t as driven as Kramstable is. I’ll miss having him around during the day but I’m glad he’s able to go back to face to face learning. It makes a big difference, as I’m discovering with my uni work (thing 8). Two-hour zoom sessions aren’t anywhere near the same as the intensive three-day workshop we were supposed to have. I’m really struggling to get engaged with the work in this unit and I miss the opportunities to have the deep discussions with my fellow students that we’d been able to have in the previous units.

20200610 Workking at the Picnic Basket-1

Studying at the coffee shop

However, everyone is in the same boat and it’s just something I have to adapt to. Complaining isn’t going to get my work done!

I (re)learned a valuable lesson this week from a podcast I used to listen to regularly. This is The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency. In this episode, they discussed the importance of focusing on only one goal at a time to avoid having fragmented effort and not really achieving anything. I could immediately see that this was something I was trying to do. Right now, I can see the Photoshop course on my list (thing 7) and I can see my uni course, both big projects that will take a lot of time and commitment to complete. But instead of focusing on one of them really intensely and getting it done, I’m dabbling in the uni course, wishing I were doing the Photoshop work, feeling bad I’m not doing that and not really focusing on the uni work either because the Photoshop work is hovering in the back of my mind. So I’m getting stressed about not doing the uni work either. This podcast was a brilliant reminder that I need to stop scattering my focus on too many things, even though I want to do them all, and acknowledge that right now is not the right time for the Photoshop work. Once I have made that space, I can focus on the uni work without feeling guilty about not doing the other work. I’m not quitting. I’m pausing, and I need to do this without guilt. Photoshop will still be there in a month when this unit is completed and I’ll be able to spend time on it then, knowing that I put my best effort into my uni work and that now it’s time to refocus on my art.

It seems such a simple concept and I think I’d forgotten it and was stretching myself too thinly. But worse than that, I wasn’t doing any of the work I needed to do on anything. I was stressing out about having so much to do that I wasn’t doing any of it. That really isn’t the way to get anything done. It’s time to put some things on hold, refocus on one thing and get to work.

But . . . (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) what about my commitment to 15 minutes of creative work every day? I had been doing that in the mornings after my walk, but with my 30-minute mindfulness practice taking up that space, I didn’t want to get up even earlier to fit that in and it’s falling through the cracks. So I had a look at my afternoons. I go for a walk after I finish work every day before my afternoon mindfulness session. Then I have a period of about two to three hours, depending on the day and whether it’s my night to cook dinner, to do whatever I want. That might include sorting photos, deleting emails, writing, paying bills, scrolling social media, reading . . . or maybe . . . working on my uni assignment (yeah, right).

20200610 Waiting at the library

Clicking and collecting at the library

None of it is particularly well-directed, which is fair enough in a way after a day’s work. It’s not a super productive time of day but it’s a couple of hours. Sure, there are some things I need to do in that time, but there are other things I don’t have to do, so there is time to fit in things I really want to do. 15 minutes of space to work on photo projects? Look no further. Having already decided not to do the Photoshop work at this time, I still have plenty of other creative work to do and one project that jumped out at me was my Hobart Street Corners project, which I have neglected for several months. Editing those photos doesn’t take a huge amount of creative energy but it still allows me to dabble in my photo art. So that’s my new focus while I’m not fully engaged in the Photoshop work. It keeps me engaged but it’s familiar work so fear and resistance are less likely to put their hands up and try to stop me.

At least, that’s the plan.

20200613 Hinsby Beach 5

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 10 (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 2 (8, 11)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 4 (7, 13, 17, 22)
  • Things not started: 6  (2, 9, 12, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 6
  • Days I read a book: 7
  • Days I did my yoga stretches: 7

20 for 2020: week 14

Week of 30 March

My 20 for 2020 list.

Things continue to change in the world at a rapid rate as the covid pandemic wreaks havoc across the world. More and more people from my work are working at home as we are told to stay at home unless we absolutely have to go out for work, to get food or medical supplies or to exercise (alone or with no more than one other person). People are joking that the world of social distancing and staying home is something introverts have been doing for years, and I can relate to that.

20200401 Bus Mall 1001am

Deserted bus mall being cleaned. The construction work is still going on.

Adding a couple more days to my working from home routine is a welcome relief from the noisy open-plan office (which is remarkably not noisy now, because most people aren’t coming in any more). And the weird thing about that is, I have endured the noise for over two years and now it’s so quiet, it’s unnerving because it’s not supposed to be so quiet. And that makes it hard to concentrate. As opposed to weekends when I’ve gone in to study with no one there and been super-productive because on a weekend it’s meant to be like that. It gives me a real sense of unease to be in there at the moment and I’ll be relieved when I don’t need to go in there any more.

20200330 Macquarie & Harrington St 904am 2

Macquarie Street, Monday 30 March 2020, 9.04 am

However, working from home while there are other people there doing the same thing has its own challenges. It seems to make a big difference, just having other people in the house, to how it feels to be there.

20200330 Stay at home

Front page of the Mercury, Monday 30 March 2020

All very small problems compared to the scale of this issue and the chaos, fear and tragedy it’s causing across the world and I’m sure I will find ways to deal with it. I’m grateful that I still have my job and that my workplace is still a safe place to be.

While the schools were still open this week, they asked us to not send our kids if we were able to supervise their learning at home. With at least one parent at home every day, we were in a position to do that. Kramstable has been working on the material set up by his teachers this week, and I’ve been impressed by his ability to make himself a schedule, that includes breaks, and stick to it each day. School holidays will start a week early to give the schools more time to put learning resources online for next term. The school has been great with its communication and I am really impressed with the work everyone is doing to make this as minimally disruptive to the kids as possible. We’re in for an interesting time over the next few months adapting to new ways of learning.

20200331 Frilly pants edit

I can’t ride to work in these pants but they are brilliant house pants

I am trying to hold myself to as much of a routine as I can in this strange world, which means going on my non-negotiable walk every morning at 5.30 (or thereabouts), doing my 15 minutes of creative work, getting dressed, eating breakfast and having movement breaks during the day whether I’m working at home or in the office. I’ve started to add a morning mindfulness activity into the mix to try and keep myself more grounded but I think I might need to work this in a couple of other times during the day.

I’m rolling with my 20 things as best as I can. One of the big ones was completing 30 days alcohol free on Tuesday (thing 5). I did this in March last year for 19 for 2019 and went straight back to drinking almost as soon as I’d finished. I struggled with maintaining drinking in moderate amounts, in not drinking on weeknights, in not drinking late at night . . . and the result was I was feeling really down on myself for not being able to control myself better. I couldn’t understand why I could easily go without a drink for a month but then rarely go one night after that.

This time I did my 30 days in conjunction with the book The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, which offers you new ways to think about alcohol, why you drink and whether alcohol is really giving you what you want.

20200402 The Alcohol Experiment

The Alcohol Experiment

I was reluctant to try this experiment because I was worried that the result might be I would never want to drink again and (at least I thought) I rather enjoyed drinking. I won’t say too much other than it has completely changed the way I think about alcohol and made me realise that I don’t really want to drink at all right now. Never is a long time, and Annie cautions against committing to never drink again for the rest of your life, so I won’t say I never want to drink again. But right now, especially right now when the temptation might be to drown out the fear and anxiety about what’s happening in the world with alcohol, I don’t want to drink.

The good thing about this book is it asks you to consider what you want to do after the 30 days, not just run you through the 30 days and leave you on your own, which I was when I did my alcohol-free month last year. Being more mindful and informed this year, I think I have a much better chance of not getting back onto that slippery slope that I fell onto last year. For now, I have made the decision not to drink.

20200402 St Davids Park 2

Autumn hasn’t been cancelled

I have been working on my photo project (thing 1) and I’m now into the tidying up stage of it. I’ve been reading before I go to sleep (thing 14), which is not my favourite time to read, but it’s the only time that’s working for me at the moment.

20200401 Walking

Reading about walking

I did a bit more work on my monthly review (thing 22) to try and work out my goals for April. I got a bit lost last week when I did it and am still not sure what I’m tying to do. I feel very unsettled and ungrounded at the moment but I think that’s probably a very common reaction to what’s going on in the world around me, and the fact that the world as I know it is very different to the world I was in this time last month.

20200405 Sunrise Taroona Beach

Walking alone is still allowed

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: #5
  • Things completed to date: 7 (4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 3 (1, 14, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (3, 7, 8, 11, 13)
  • Things not started: 7 (2, 9, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit this week: 7
  • Days I read a book for at least 15 minutes:  7

20 for 2020: week 6

Week of 3 February 

School went back this week. I had the first two days off with Kramstable before I went back to work and he went back to school. I always find January a bit unsettling because there’s no real routine. I work longer hours at the start of January to cover some of the days leave I need to take at the end of January before school goes back, so my normal routines never quite fit the January days. Some of them are long work days and some of them are no work days when I spend time with Kramstable.

QNTI20200205 Waiting for Mark at school edit

Back to work colours

The family issue I’ve been dealing with has added an extra layer of complication into the mix, as has having to undergo a fairly extensive process of self-analysis for my uni assignment (thing 8) in only three weeks. The time I’d like to have devoted to this wasn’t available to me and I had to make use of the time I did have to do this as well as I could.

I spent several hours undistracted in at work on Saturday trying to complete the assignment and then I spent an excessive amount of time on Sunday being incredibly nit-picky to try and get the word count down. It was a frustrating process because every time I read it through, something else occurred to me that I needed to say that was relevant to the assessment criteria. I spent hours shuffling and reshuffling sentences and paragraphs until I had a story that flowed well and said everything I could reasonably expect to cover in 1500 words. Except that it was closer to 2000 words. By this stage, after two days, I couldn’t bear to read through it again and try to cut more out. Removing anything else would have disturbed the flow and lost important parts of my story so I decided to hand it in and accept any consequences for exceeding the word limit.

This was a self assessment and personal development plan and what I wrote relates well to other development work I’m doing, some of which made it into the essay and some of which didn’t. The stuff that didn’t make it in is still important and I’ve kept it to feed into my master development plan. (That sounds more impressive than it is, but I’m working on it.)

After the family issue and the intensity of the uni work, I’ve tried to re-establish “normality” by being more committed to the “just 15 minutes” of my creative work first thing after my walk. This week I did it every day, an improvement on last week’s two days. During this time, I worked on my photo project (thing 1) and on some other photos I wanted to edit.

I had a bunch of photo collages for my journal (thing 4) ready to print as a result of last week’s sprint to get all of 2019 finished last week and then forgot to take them to get printed on tightarse printing day, so they can wait for another day. In the meantime, I have eight collages already printed, so I trimmed them all down ready to stick in the book. Progress.

Setting up the studio (thing 11) isn’t as big of a thing as it might sound. I got a dodgy backdrop and lighting kit from eBay a while ago to experiment with portrait making. It also has a green backdrop that Kramstable is interested in for his videos. There’s only one or two places in the house where I can set it up, and it has to be packed up again when I’m done with it; I can’t leave it there all the time. So this week I moved a pile of stuff away from one of the potential setup areas, got everything out of the box and that was enough for now. At least I made space.

I had my hearing test (thing 16). Lots of things came out of it, including some issues that are related to my master development plan. It’s interesting that health issues in one area show up as problems somewhere else and the solution is not always as simple as addressing the presenting issue. As the audiologist said, everything is connected. Among other things, I was assessed as having a low noise tolerance, which explains why I always feel so anxious and tense when I’m in noisy environments—and “noisy” for me is a lot quieter than most people would consider “noisy”, so it doesn’t take much to trigger this. Not an ideal situation when work in an open plan office! The next step is to talk to my GP about how I can manage this.

It was a full-on week.

Summary for the week
• Things completed this week: 1 (16)
• Things completed to date: 3 (10, 16, 18)
• Things I progressed: 4 (1, 4, 8, 11)
• Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (3, 6, 13, 14, 22)
• Things not started: 10 (2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21)

19 for 19: week 6 update

Week of 4 February 2019

20190210 Sunrise Taroona Beach 1 edit

Happy Sunday

This was a big week. Not only was it back to school week but it was Kramstable’s first week of high school. Yes, I am the parent of a high school student! Where has that time gone? It doesn’t seem like eight years ago I was fretting over him starting Kinder and preparing him (and me) for his first day in the education system.

And now, here we were starting a whole new chapter. Only in this chapter, he will be on his own. Where at primary school I had heaps of opportunities to be involved with Kramstable’s class, from parent help in his classroom in the early years, talking to his teachers in the mornings when I dropped him off (before he put a stop to me taking him in to school) and going on excursions to places I would never have otherwise had the chance to go to, high school is different. I don’t imagine there’s anything like that, no chance to be directly involved and to see what he’s doing at school. (Though I do believe there is an online classroom that his teacher is setting up so that we will be able to see what his class is doing so I’m looking forward to that.)

He didn’t want me to walk with him to school at all. That time has long gone. I convinced him to let me come with him on the first day so I could take a photo of him outside the school, and then I’d leave him alone for the rest of the year. The rest of his high school life. That was the deal.

I ended up getting better than that because his friends’ mother wanted to take a picture of the three of them on their first day at school because we’d missed getting a photo of them on their last day of primary school. He agreed, we got our photos on the school grounds, and then, with very little in the way of goodbye, they wandered off into the throng of students to find the teacher who was pointing the grade 7s in the right direction, with not even a glance behind them.

That was my first, and last, high school drop off. I actually felt okay about it. I think I got all the emotions I was feeling out when he finished primary school and once that was out of the way, starting high school was just the next step in a process I had already come to terms with.

I think Kramstable treating it as nothing more than another school day helped too. If he’d been nervous or worried I’m sure that would have rubbed off on me. But he was very cool about it all. I left the school, confident that he’d be fine.

As I was waiting for the bus to go to work, I scanned my facebook feed. It brought up this photo from 2011. Eight years ago.

20190206 Snail IG

Eight years ago

Eight years ago, the owner of this hand started kindergarten. Today, he started high school.

So it was a big week, which ended with me coming down with a very unpleasant head cold that put me out of action most of Saturday. As a result, I didn’t get a lot done to progress my 19 for 2019 list. But that’s okay. I have a year to do it and I know some weeks will be good and others won’t be. Life happens.

This week’s baby step in taking better care of me (thing 6) so that I can do the things I want to do this year is to continue to focus on staying hydrated and doing my deep breathing. I picked up one of these klean kanteen water bottles this week, which I really like because it has the sippy top rather than a lid. I’m finding I’m reaching for it more often to take a drink, whereas with the screw top, just having to unscrew the lid was an extra step that sometimes I couldn’t be bothered to take.

20190210 New water bottle edit

Bright orange makes me smile

In Atomic Habits, James Clear describes this as the Law of Least Effort, and he says that we naturally gravitate to the option that requires the least amount of work. He says to create a habit you need to make doing the right thing as easy as possible and reduce the friction associated with good behaviours. Taking off a bottle top is a tiny thing, but it’s still something else I have to do before I can drink my water. (Yes, I could probably just leave the lid off, or use a glass, but that’s not so practical for carrying the water around with me.)

I’ve also been reviewing my breakfast options to see what works best for me. A couple of the things I’ve tried this week have been the Chocolate Coco-nutty Granola from the I Quit Sugar for Life cookbook and avocado on toast. The avocado is definitely the winner out of those two; though the granola is yummy, it’s not overly filling.

I haven’t done anything on the photo course this week (thing 1) and haven’t put any more photos into my folio (thing 2). I ordered an ND filter (thing 7).

I finished reading the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyce, which Kramstable got for Christmas. He wanted to watch the movie on Friday so I read the book in advance so I’d know what I was getting into. I’ve now completed six out of the 12 books I wanted to read this year (thing 5).20190207 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas cover

I printed three photo collages for my 2018 photo journal and made two more weekly collages (thing 11). I entered another 33 beers in my beer book spreadsheet (thing 12) and I’m continuing to get more familiar with Lightroom as I use it (thing 19).

Status for week 6:

  • Things completed: 3 (8, 19, 15)
  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things I progressed this week: 6 (5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 19)
  • Things I’ve started but didn’t progress this week: 3 (1, 2, 16)
  • Things not started: 7 (3, 4, 10, 13, 14, 17, 18)

 

the end is here

After yesterday’s epic post about how I was feeling about Kramstable coming to the end of his primary school life, I started to write about his Year 6 leavers’ assembly today, the day before his last official at primary school.

I don’t need to do that.

Well, I do, but it’s just for me.

All I need to say is, after reading all the support I got from my friends when I posted it on Facebook, thank you all for your kind words and I am glad I’m not the only one to feel like I do.

The assembly was great. I cried (actually, I cried before I even got in the door) and a lot of people did. It was a beautiful farewell to a group of amazing kids, most of whom I have known since kinder, and to a wonderful principal who is also moving onto new opportunities and challenges.

It has been a joy and a privilege to watch these young people grow from little kinders in 2011 to the almost-teens that they are now through excursions, assemblies, sports carnivals, music, TOM, and everything else I’ve been involved in over the last eight years.

I wish them all the best as they move into high school. It is an exciting time full of new opportunities and experiences.

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Farwell gift

I love what their principal said in her farewell speech. The things she said to always remember make a pretty good list to live by: stretch yourself, use your strengths, show you care… and the school itself. Even though I will no longer be directly involved in the school, I guess I will always be a part of the school community. 

I wish their principal all the best too as she moves into a new role and takes on the challenge of making a contribution to education in a different way.

It’s been an intense day and I survived.

 

everything ends

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Friday | Waiting for the boy after school in this spot for the last time

About eight years ago, I wrote this piece about Kramstable, then known as Juniordwarf, getting ready to start kindergarten and how nervous I was that everything was about to change. I actually didn’t write that much because Sarah MacDonald from the ABC had just written a post on the same thing and she had written everything I was thinking so perfectly that I couldn’t have written a better post, so I copied it into my post (with permission, of course).

It is now just under eight years later. Kramstable has been at the same school all this time, moving from three days a week Kinder to full-time Prep and through the grades up to where he is now, Grade 6. During that time he, and I, have changed a lot and I am getting ready to say goodbye to the primary school where he has spent two-thirds of his life.

I don’t feel ready! I don’t feel like I should be the mother of a 12-year-old who will be starting high school in just under two months time. A near-teenager. Just like I didn’t feel ready to give up my four-year-old to the formal education system way back in 2011.

Primary school has been something that’s been constant. It’s formed part of my identity. My kid goes to that school. I’m a part of that school community (though I never was any good at participating in bake days and when I got raffle books I ended up buying all of the tickets myself). It’s something steady that has almost always been in my life and that, until this year, I had never given much thought to as being something that would one day end.

Yet it will, and that day is two days away.

I have been so incredibly lucky to have been able to participate in Kramstable’s school life in many ways. When he was little, I used to take him to his classroom and read books with him until the bell went. I used to take turns at parent help in his classroom, helping kids with their reading and other things I don’t actually remember. (It was a long time ago . . . ) I do remember leaving after these 90-minute sessions feeling happy to have been able to do it but so exhausted at having spent that much time working with a large group of four/five/six-year-olds. I was always in awe of the teachers not only doing this for six hours a day but for coming back day after day to do it again and again.

I went on excursions and never managed to lose a child, so I think I did pretty well there. I went to places I didn’t even know existed. I swung on ropes, I patted a shark (well I didn’t, but I could have), I went bushwalking, and I learned about sustainable buildings and Tasmanian Aboriginal culture. I really felt part of it, which was great, because Kramstable is one of those kids who gives away very little about what he does at school during the day. So one of my most treasured experiences was to sit in on his class waiting for an excursion to start and actually see the class in action.

As he got older, he didn’t want me to stay any more but I would still take him in most days. Some days I’d stay and talk to his teacher or chat to some of the other parents and I’d pick him up from outside his classroom. At the end of Grade 4, he said he didn’t want me to come in with him any more and that I could walk him to the school gate. The school gate quickly became the end of the street and, eventually, I hardly even saw the school in the mornings. No more chats with the teacher or catching up with other parents. That was it. I wrote about it here.

We used to catch the bus in together a couple of days a week and it got to the point earlier this year when he didn’t want me to go on the same bus with him. It wasn’t enough to leave him at the bus stop when we got off, he didn’t even want me to get on!

In the end, it worked out well because it meant I could go in earlier to work. I’d initially been reluctant because it was another thing to let go of, but there was no reason not to let him go by himself. He knew the way and was confident catching buses and it shifted into being the new normal rather quickly. One day I said to him that sometimes I might have to catch the bus with him and he said, “no mum, that’s old”. According to him, I couldn’t even catch the same bus as him, even if I wasn’t with him. He said he wouldn’t get on it if I was getting on; he’d wait for the next one. I did have the idea to leave earlier and walk to the next bus stop and get on there, after he was already on, so he’d have to be on the same bus as me but I never did it.

Now, one day a week, he’s stopped going to after school care and he comes home from school on the bus by himself. That was a big step too, though I’m home by the time he gets here so he isn’t coming home to an empty house.

In conjunction with all of the travel changes have been the new opportunities he’s had as he’s moved through the school.

In Grade 4 he joined the choir, which performed at the annual Combined Primary Schools Band and Choir concert at the Derwent Entertainment Centre, an event that has been running for over 40 years and is a wonderful celebration of primary school music. In Grade 5 he started playing the clarinet for the Year 5 band in the same event and this year he asked to take on the bass clarinet. His teacher had been concerned that he might have been too small to play this instrument but offered to let him have it at home over the holidays to practise and see if he could do it. Watching him find something he wanted to do and then devote himself to learning how to do it, and to work around his potential limitations, was something I will treasure always. And it was such a joy to go to the concert in November and to see the result of all the hard work the kids and the teachers had put in over the year.

He participated in Tournament of Minds, his team winning honours at the state final last year and winning the competition this year, which enabled them to go to Darwin for the international final, where they were awarded honours. I loved watching how well he worked with the others, how committed he was to the project and how beautifully he performed.

He applied to go to a leadership conference earlier in the year, which he was accepted for. He put himself out there as a candidate for house captain and had to make a speech to the school about why they should vote for him. Even though he didn’t win, I was so proud of him for nominating himself. It couldn’t have been an easy thing to do. He and some of his classmates auditioned for a TV show and, while they didn’t get selected, Kramstable and another classmate were invited to take part in one of the episodes. That was very exciting!

Even though I haven’t been as closely involved at school this year, it’s been an amazing final year of primary school and I’m grateful that his school gives the students so many opportunities to stretch themselves. Watching him find things he loves and go out and do them has been wonderful and so rewarding for me as a parent.

Now I have to face the reality that his time at primary school is almost over and this will all be gone in two days time. We’ve been to the high school orientation day and it’s huge, with more kids in Year 7 than there are at his entire primary school. I asked him if he’s excited and he said no, he was “interested”.

Every time I think about this stage ending, I can feel the tears well up and I know that come tomorrow, when they have the leavers’ assembly, I will be a complete mess. It feels like such a big ending, the end of everything I’ve known for the past eight years. As I said at the start, primary school has been a constant, something that has always been there. I feel really sad that it’s ending. I’ve felt like it all year, knowing that this is the last time we will do this thing, or it’s his final something else. Last sports carnival. Last Book Week costume. Last swimming carnival. Last band performance. On Friday I waited for him for the last time at the spot where we meet on Fridays after school and yesterday we caught the bus home together for the last time. Today I got the last school newsletter and he caught the bus home for the last time. Next year he’ll walk.

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Monday | Waiting for the bus with the boy for the last time

It’s all been such a big part of his life, and mine by extension, for the last eight years and I think it’s okay to feel like this. I feel the way I feel and I’m not going to try and squash that.

But I also remind myself that, while this stage is coming to an end, he is moving into a new stage and he will have new opportunities when he gets to high school. When he’s there he will face new challenges and he will have new experiences to explore, new things to learn and new ways to grow – and those are goals I have for my own life. To constantly explore, learn, challenge myself, and grow. What he’s about to do is exactly what I aspire to and I want that for him just as much as I want it for myself. So, while the ending is sad, this stage has to end for the next stage to begin.

Thank you Kramstable’s primary school for all of the opportunities you have given him, for getting him ready to move into the next stage of his life and for giving me so many chances to be involved and to learn new things. Thank you to all his teachers and his principal for challenging him, encouraging him to grow and for supporting him when he needed it. Or, as he put it in a note to his principal, thank you for helping him evolve. I am proud to have been part of your community and to have watched my son go through the first eight years of his formal education within your walls. I will look back on this time with great fondness. I will have beautiful memories and he will go on to high school and make new ones.

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Tuesday | After his last bus trip home from school

 

Art from trash

Two years ago I was lucky enough to go with Kramstable’s class on an excursion to, among other things, the Art from Trash Exhibition.

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It’s an annual event run by the Resource Work Cooperative at the Long Gallery in the Salamanca Arts Centre, which “encourages the reuse of discarded materials in the production of amazing visual art”. I didn’t go last year, but found out about this year’s exhibition in time to make sure I set aside a lunch hour to go and check it out.

20170601 Art from Trash 12 - Toolbox by Stcott Fletcher

Toolbox by Scott Fletcher, made from recycled tools

It was fascinating to see what people can turn stuff that might normally be thrown away into.

20170601 Art from Trash 02B - 20th Century Dolls by Pirjo Juhola

21st Century Dolls by Pirjo Juhola,made from rusted wire, electrical wire, rock and other discarded materials

20170601 Art from Trash 03 - Tennis Racket Ukulele 2 by Mark Lleonart

Tennis Racket Ukulele 2 by Mark Lleonart, made from wooden tennis rackets and Huon pine scraps

20170601 Art from Trash 04 - Three Bags Full by Irena Harrison, Liz Toohey, Bec Williams The Three Weavers

Three Bags Full by Irena Harrison, Liz Toohey and Bec Williams, made from single use plastic such as pet food and coffee bags, and remnant leather

I really loved these bags (there were three of them) and the way The Junk Weavers have used old scarves on the handles of this one.

There was a separate section for schools and some wonderful artwork by primary school students.

20170601 Art from Trash 10A - More Than A Rooster by Grade 2 Albuera Street Primary

More Than Just a Rooster by Grade 2 Albuera Street Primary School

This piece recognises 2017 as Year of the Rooster and was the result of the students integrating their studies of Chinese, sustainability, art, science, maths and visible wellbeing through the inquiry questions “what happens to our rubbish?”, “how can we reduce, reuse, recycle, or rethink our daily actions?” and “what materials make up our rubbish?” They asked further questions on the disposal and decomposition time of plastic and decided to collect their plastic waste and create a rooster.

20170601 Art from Trash 06 - Our School by Grade 5-6 Lenah Valley Primary

Our School, by Grade 5 and 6s, Lenah Valley Primary School, made from coloured pencils

20170601 Art from Trash 05A - Bitsabot by Grade 5-6B Albuera St Primary School

Bitsabot, the class robot of 5-6B at Albuera Street Primary school, made from bits and pieces from electronic devices and appliances. 

This is the most creative use of a vacuum cleaner brush I have ever seen!

20170601 Art from Trash 07C - All That We Share by Young Migrant Education Students Tas TAFE

All That We Share, by the Young Migrant Education Program TasTAFE students, made from recycled paper bags and other assorted recycled materials

20170601 Art from Trash 08D - Mirror of Maleficent by A TAste of Togetherness Mosaic Support Services

Mirror of Maleficent by A Taste of Togetherness Mosaic Support Services, made from a mirror and old toys (Creepy!)

20170601 Art from Trash 09 - Necklace by Jeka Kaat

Necklace by Jeka Kaat, made from washers, jumprings and clasps

Ever wonder what do do with old Christmas cards you feel bad about throwing out? Wonder no more.

20170601 Art from Trash 11 - Ghosts of Christmases Past by Jen Duhig

Ghosts of Christamases Past collage by Jen Duhig

If you get a chance to call into the Long Gallery before the exhibition closes on Sunday, it’s definitely worth a visit. There’s lots of very cool and interesting art on display, and creative re-use of materials that were probably destined for the rubbish heap.

 

 

Spreading our wings

Until this year, I had taken Kramstable in to school every day that I went to work. In his early days at school, I’d stay until the bell went and we’d read stories, look at work he’d been doing, and talk to his classmates, their parents and his teacher.

As the years passed, the time I stayed with him decreased, until by the end of last year I was seeing him to the door of his classroom, and he’d be off. I think by Grade 4, I was one of not many parents who would actually go into the school with their child, but I really liked it. I liked seeing his classroom, looking at what he’d been doing, and catching up with his teacher.

But it was time for a change, and at the end of last year Kramstable said he didn’t want me to come with him to school any more. I knew this was coming, because most of the other kids weren’t being walked into school, but I still felt I like I was losing something that had been a big part of my life for six years.

He said I could walk him to the school gate, so that was OK; I’d still have a chance to go in if I needed to, but I had a feeling that as this year moved on, his drop-off point would get further and further away.

It did, but it happened so suddenly – only two weeks into term – that I’d not had time to recover from not going in with him, before he asked me to leave him at the end of the street.

Ok. That was unexpected.

And last week we’re walking from the bus stop, and we get to the place where Slabs had dropped Kramstable off the day before.

He says, “I got dropped off here yesterday. Bye.”
That’s even more unexpected. I say, “I think I’ll walk with you a bit further.”
We walk on a bit to the next intersection, him skipping ahead as always. We stop and look for cars. I say, “Don’t you want to be seen with me?”
“No,” he says, and starts to cross the road. “Bye.”
“See you this afternoon,” I say, feeling incredibly sad, but also slightly amused.
I watch him cross the road safely, and he’s on his way.
“Bye,” I say to myself.

I know that he has to become independent. I know it’s my job to equip him so that he does become independent. I know I’m not going to walk him to school forever. I’ve always known this, but it’s never been real until now.

Of course he’s not going to want to be around me forever. He’s growing up and, as he grows, he’ll need me less intensely than he has done. And that’s the way it has to be; the same way I needed my mother less as I grew up; the same way every child does.

But he’s been the main focus of my life for so long – over ten years – and it’s hard to accept that this is changing, and changing fast. He has depended on me, and I’ve given as much of myself to him as I’ve had to give.

I feel like I’m bonded to him in a way I can’t imagine being bonded to any other person, because he’s my son. He has made me laugh, made me cry, made me so very grateful and feel so very blessed. I can’t imagine life without him.

It strikes me now as I’m writing this that I’ve spent his whole life making him ready for when he’ll be able to leave me and make his own way in the world, but that I’ve done nothing to make myself ready. It’s a minor thing, leaving him to walk a bit further to school. It’s such a small thing, but it symbolises so much more than that. I wasn’t prepared for how much this would hurt.

The worst thing in the world would be for me to be clingy and to deny him the freedom he needs. To try and stifle his growing independence. He needs to grow his own wings and fly. And while I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming and I love watching him learn and grow, I am also feeling deeply, intensely, painfully his gradual transformation away from the boy he has been. The boy that called me “Mummy”, the boy that would always hold my hand, the boy that was happy for me to come into school so he could show me what he’d been working on.

I cannot, will not deny myself this pain. I acknowledge it. It is real. I accept it as part of the transformation that I too must go through over the next phase of his life from being his provider and his care-giver into a role of adviser, supporter and (I hope) positive role model. Perhaps it hurts so much because it’s such a slow transition that will continue over many years to come. I can’t just rip the bandaid off and have a fully functioning adult before my eyes. I wouldn’t want to be able to do that. We have a wonderful journey still ahead of us.

He’ll still need me, even if he thinks he doesn’t. I treasure every moment he wants to involve me in what he’s doing, perhaps even more so now than when he was younger, because there are fewer of those moments these days, so they start to mean more.

And it occurs to me that, while he is still the centre of my universe, his decreasing reliance on me gives me my own freedom to focus on becoming the person I want to be outside of being “Mum”. So while this awareness doesn’t lessen the pain I feel, at the same time it inspires me and fills me with enthusiasm for how I might create my own future. In loosening the apron strings, I’m making room for my own wings to grow.

As I’m trying to figure out how to end this post without rambling on uncontrollably, I scroll through Twitter. This quote from Maya Angelou appears in my feed:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty”.

It seems highly relevant right now. The destruction of the old, the massive upheaval and transformation, and the eventual recreation into something new and beautiful.

2011 FOLIO 19 Butterfly

Even though there’s no actual end to this transformation – Kramstable won’t wake up one morning and be a butterfly, any more than I will – this quote still rings true in relation to the changes I’m going through. People say that it’s heartbreaking and difficult to let go, but it’s hard to convey to someone else how much it hurts until they experience it for themselves.

I’ve laughed and made jokes about how this has affected me, and have tried to carry on. I think that mostly we’re expected to accept this type of change, because our job is to prepare our children for the “real world”. There isn’t anything in the job description about taking time to reflect on different stages as our children move through them and to acknowledge how we feel.

I know it’s part of the job, but I’m not an automaton, I’m not a position number. I’m a person, I have feelings, and the process of letting go is upsetting me.

I think there’s value in acknowledging any kind of transition like this, rather just sucking it up and pretending we’re ok when we aren’t. This is the first time I’ve sat down and acknowledged how I really feel about it, and I’ve been surprised to find out how much it’s deeply affecting me.

It’s not the first time that a transformation has been painful, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But I’m ok with this. I’m grateful to have had an experience in my life that has meant so much to me, that moving on from it hurts this much.

Counting and running as I go

Counting and running as I go
New Norfolk, Australia

New Norfolk, Australia


In February 1979, our family packed up my father’s baby-spew green Datsun 180B (apparently the actual name of this shade is Datsun Spring Lime. Who knew.) and embarked on the biggest adventure of my life up to that point.

(Thank you Wikipedia for the image of the car.)

Our destination: Adelaide, where my father would be spending the whole year at university, and we were going with him for a two-week holiday before he packed us on the train to Melbourne (from where we’d catch a plane home) and headed off to campus life.

The trip would take us two days, and all I can remember of the planning stage was that my mother kept telling us how hot it was going to be (the 180B had the classic 480 aircon), and we saved up all our spare change so we could buy ice creams on the way. I seem to recall that Golden Gaytimes were quite the thing back then.

We’d booked a self-contained beachside unit across the road from West Beach near Glenelg. For some reason, I still have some of the paperwork and tickets from this trip, and according to the internet, the units are still there – or if it’s not the same ones, they have the same name, Sea Vista.

We travelled over on the Empress of Australia. I don’t remember much about this, or even the drive. We took the inland route rather than the Great Ocean Road, and we stopped overnight on the first day in Mount Gambier. I can remember the stunning Blue Lake we saw while we were there. I can also remember we went via the Coorong on the second day, which was exciting for me because the movie Storm Boy was filmed there, and I wondered if the kid who had been in the movie would be there and if we’d meet him. (Not surprisingly, he wasn’t and we didn’t.)

My memories are fairly hazy of the trip, but I know we went to the zoo and a marine centre, we took the tram, we went in some pedal boats on the River Torrens, we bought lollies at Darrell Lea, and we spent most mornings on the beach. Lil Sis and I befriended a cat, which inspired us (in our father’s absence) to wear our mother down about getting a cat once we were home. I can also remember quite vividly Lil Sis ‘barking’ back at a dog that barked at us, and it being completely bewildered by this.

The reason for this wander down memory lane is that in 2002 Slabs and I thought we’d do a similar trip on our honeymoon, but take the Great Ocean Road, as neither of us had been there. For reasons related to the Ansett collapse it never happened, and we did something completely different. But we always wanted to drive the Great Ocean Road, and after we fulfilled our New Zealand dream last year, we decided this would be the year.

We’re doing the trip in July rather than the September school holidays because it’s winter, so we’re hoping it will be less busy because everyone will be in Queensland to escape the cold. (Right?) We’ll have a couple of days in Bacchus Marsh first with Slabs’ family before we set off. This will include a trip to Sovereign Hill, where I vaguely remember going as part of a school trip to Victoria in primary school. (I’m yet to figure out how this happened, because I don’t know anyone before or since who has had a primary school trip to the mainland, and it seems now that school trips, at least in primary school, are pretty much things of the past. Ahhh, Camp Clayton, Port Sorell, you are the stuff dreams are made of.)

Post Great Ocean Road, we’ll go through some of the places we passed through when I was a child, so it will be interesting to see if I remember any of them. I doubt it, and expect they will have changed a lot. I have vivid memories of the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier, but suspect this is because I have one of those old off-centre square photos from the old camera (with the 126 film cartridge) I took with me, rather than an actual memory of the lake.

Today’s packing day. I’m giving my trusty Midori a break and trying out a different travel journal for this trip. That’s the one on the blog title. It’s by Mark’s, and must be the first journal I’ve ever bought that has instructions on how to use it (in Japanese). Kramstable will also be keeping a travel journal, and making a video of our trip. He’s decided not to do a travel blog this trip, so it’s all up to me.