Posted in Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 17

It is now Saturday July 4, 2020. Week 17 of my diary of a distancer posts, although I didn’t write entries for weeks 11-16.

They were tough weeks and I felt there was nothing much to communicate. Life rolled on for me; work was work; birthdays were celebrated – at a distance. Well, at a distance from me. Not being able to travel to Tasmania for the three June birthdays was tough, as was not being able to travel to NSW for my mother’s birthday.

I admit to falling into a hole I’m only now climbing out of.

It was tough in other ways too. Protests were held around the world – people protesting about being locked-in, others protesting about police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, still others protesting about racial inequality more broadly. Dissent and civil disobedience followed … and arguments flew from all sides.

One argument went this way:

Other arguments went in very different directions but I refuse to give them any space by repeating them here.

So things have been happening in some parts of the globe that affect other parts. We are, after all, living on the one planet and the ripple effects of our actions and our beliefs don’t stop at our national – or state – borders.

It’s a bit like our bodies – something happens in one area which then impacts other areas and as the ripples move around and across and through your body it feels like it’s never going to end. That’s there’s always going to be pain. One area subsides just for another area to flare up. The physical starts to play with the mental and the emotional and back again. And it’s ongoing and thus distressing.

Just like the current situation with coronavirus. It goes quiet, and then flares up in another hotel room/suburb/region/country. There’s no end in sight. It’s ongoing and that adds to the distress.

After a period of relative quiet, COVID-19 has re-emerged in Victoria, and so Victorians are now not welcome in other states. Except if you’re part of an AFL team. Then you can go to Queensland to ensure the season continues, but ordinary Victorians cannot enter unless they’re willing to be fined or sentenced to gaol time.

Such is life. Money talks. Sport is important, it would seem, for national well-being.

Or something.

Not so The Arts it would seem. The Arts, as a sector, has been hit particularly hard by the lockdown. But there’s no other state to go to as a way of surviving – unless we’re talking a state of unemployment or sheer determined survival. Many people have turned to TV and movies for solace in this time yet many of them deny the importance of the arts to the economic or social or cultural or intellectual fabric of our society.

Luke McGregor – Australian comedian – made an argument for the role of the arts in national well-being on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering last week.

We don’t need the arts to survive … but they give us a reason to‘ – Luke McGregor

In many cases, the arts gives us the means to survive as well. I’m don’t mean in terms of financial support, but I mean in terms of an outlet for our creativity, for communicating, for seeing differently, for noticing, for making connections between ideas and perspectives and views and beliefs and values and thoughts and actions. And more.

And an outlet for connection with others.

Without an outlet for creative expression some of us may not have survived as well as we have through this on-going, never-ending (it seems) saga of COVID-19. While personal ‘creative expression’ might not have much to do with The Arts, I for one acknowledge the essential role the arts plays in my life.

I listen to music. I read books. I view works others have painted or photographed or sculpted or designed. I watch movies that started with an idea and grew over time, involving many (many) others in their production. People who have made artistic choices about sounds and movements and locations and backgrounds and lighting and music and no music and points of view and camera angles.

I watch and listen to others performing – dance, music, singing – and I am in awe of their determination and talent and desire for creative expression.

All of the people who make things, who produce things, design, craft and tinker and even those who, like me, play at the edges of creative endeavour … The Arts is there as a means and a reason to survive. They add something to the lives of those who spectate. They add much more to those of us who engage. They enrich us in ways simple spectating cannot do.

Click the image for more information about why The Arts matter

We are not a family of artists it has to be said, but many of us do like the creative outlet photography provides, and so I was thrilled that 15 family members contributed to our latest photography challenge: Ordinary Objects.

Our first challenge was the Alphabet of Isolation.

Cover design: Tim Moss

Our second was Images by the Dozen – a project in which we took images of the numbers 1-12 without using the actual numbers.

I designed this cover

The Ordinary Objects project required us to photograph 10 ordinary objects:

  • Something you eat
  • Something you eat with
  • Something you cook with
  • Something you see with
  • Something you put on your feet
  • Something you wash with
  • Something you wear
  • Something you drink from
  • Something you find in the garden
  • Something (not someone) you love

Fifteen family members, ranging in age from 4-81 and across four generations, contributed. We live across four states of Australia with one family member in the UK. As with our other projects we’d get together on a Sunday night and share our images. Yet another magazine to add to our collections as a physical memento of our creative decisions and expression.

I designed this cover too

Our next project is Variations on a Theme. Six images, all of the same theme/idea of each individual’s choice, but with variations.

My theme is abandonment. It’s meant I’ve taken photos of a type I wouldn’t normally take – I’m usually quite conceptual, but this time I wanted to try something different and so have expanded my photographic range slightly.

Here’s one of the first images I took for this project. Mind you, I’ve since adandoned this image as I went in a slightly different direction … but that’s the way it goes!

Abandoned as the urban sprawl creeps closer

Another image we drove miles to shoot, was also one I reluctantly abandoned as the church didn’t feel abandoned enough. I particularly love the Australian feel of this scene, with the gorgeous gum trees surrounding the church.

I was after something that looked a little more abandoned

We finalise our Variations on a Theme project next week and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone’s come up with.

Connections through creativity.

What’s kept you connected with others through these anything-but-ordinary times?

Posted in Family, Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 10

I missed yesterday.

Well, not entirely. The day still happened, and I did stuff … but I didn’t write a blog post.

It was one of those beautiful autumn days we sometimes get in Melbourne: icy start but eventually warm enough to get the washing dry, a tiny waft of breeze to help the leaves spiral from the trees, and a no-cloud day which made it perfect for a late afternoon walk around the neighbourhood.

Walking late in the day

And no writing.

The week for me has felt a bit like those old cartoon backgrounds that keep repeating as the character runs across the screen. A window pops up every now and then, and then you notice the same door re-appearing and the pot plant on a stand.

The illusion of movement without any real progress.

The numbers keep going up, and not just of COVID-19 cases. Numbers of people calling for lockdown restrictions to be eased, numbers of people not social distancing in supermarkets and department stores.

Numbers of people out for picnics or gathering inside others’ homes.

Numbers of people wondering what life will be like when the lockdown is over … when we’re able to visit family interstate, to head out to a favourite cafe or pub, or return to our workplaces.

Some workplaces have indicated that working from home will be an option after this – possibly forever. I sincerely hope mine will be one of them. It’ll feel strange to go back to a windowless cold office now and chat face-to-face with colleagues. I can’t think why I’d want to do that or why it’s a better way of working than how I’m working at the moment.

Working from home suits me. I don’t have little children or pets to distract me, although I get my share of phone calls from my daughters asking about high and low modality words and about phonemes and graphemes. It’s not the same though as a two-year old seeking my attention as soon as I start a meeting, or a dog running around and around the couch while I’m working.

Jimmy, formally of Giggle and Hoot fame, has been keeping me entertained this week with his spot-on observations of life with little children, particularly in this era of working from home. This video applies just as much to parents working from home when their Zoom meetings start.

 

 

Sarah Cooper has also been keeping many of us entertained with her lip syncing of US President, Donald Trump’s press conferences. She doesn’t edit the audio – just does a great job of lip syncing to it. The little flourishes she adds make her videos even more entertaining.

What’s been keeping you entertained this week?

One thing that’s kept me busy – not sure how entertained I’ve been, but I’ve certainly been busy with it – is creating the magazine for our numbers project. Ten of us are engaged in a photography project – to take 12 photos of 1-12 without including the actual numbers.

The favourite image I’ve taken is my number 4:

Four(k)

I’d had a different idea in mind initially, so we shot that and then we started playing around with the idea. The afternoon light was beautiful and when Tim held the strawberry out in front of him, it hit the strawberry and the ends of the fork’s tines nicely. I like that – when you play with ideas and one of them works. It worked that Tim was wearing a dark hoodie too – made for a great backdrop.

Through doing this project and the alphabet one, we’ve come to an even stronger realisation of how different we are as photographers. Tim has a wonderful eye for detail. He can wander around and see things that I’d never notice in a lifetime.

I, on the other hand, plan all my shots, storyboard them and then play around with the original idea as I shoot. He’s more of an observer and documenter and I’m more conceptual in my approach. Neither is better or worse – except when I try to document what I see. That always turns out worse!

Although, having said that, two magazines I created a few weeks ago turned up this week. One is Country Shops of Victoria and Tasmania and the other is of bus stops. I am so thrilled with them. They don’t sound terribly interesting I know, but I get a little frizz of pleasure everytime I look at them. It was my attempt at documenting and I think it turned out okay.

I’m now keen to do more.

Again, a week in which connections and creativity featured heavily … and the other stuff just kept repeating in the background.

Stay safe out there …

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 9

As I write, it’s May 9 2020. Many parts of the world are slowly emerging from restrictions due to the spread of coronavirus. Restrictions are beginning to ease in parts of Australia too.

Some people are concerned about this, others are cautiously optimistic that life will return to ‘normal’ soon, and others are pressuring governments to ease restrictions more quickly.

We might all ‘be in this together’ but we’re certainly not in the same boat. The same storm perhaps, but not the same boat. Everyone’s experience of lockdown/self-isolation – call it what you will – is different.

It’s alarming and distressing to read that instances of domestic violence have increased, as have calls to helplines such as LifeLine.

Through the week, I read a tragic story of a 12 year old boy in the US who hung himself in his wardrobe in mid-April. His father blames coronavirus. His view was that as his son wasn’t able to go to school or meet up with his friends, he had nowhere to put his energy (particularly his negative energy) and so took this very drastic step, perhaps, his father said, not fully realising the finality of his action.

There are other situations, just as tragic.

For some, then, this period is particularly difficult. They’re in the storm but in small boats, or boats with one oar, or boats that don’t have a lot of supplies. They’re tossed around by the waves and the wind and can find no safe anchor.

We can’t imagine that our own experience of this time is the same as others.

I’ll own that statement. I don’t imagine that my experience of this time is the same as others.

It’s why connections are so important to me. It’s important to me to stay connected – to others, to ideas, to creative pursuits, to routine, to family, to physical and mental health.

For some, unexpected connections have made this period of time less unsettling than it might otherwise have been.

ABC News Breakfast shared a story on their Facebook page of a man in Wagga, NSW who is drawing a crowd during his trombone practice. What a delight – a time for people to come together – to sit and listen, to tap their feet, to wander into the sunshine, to reminisce. Connecting the past with now, connecting memories to others, connecting sound and emotion.

There are examples of this sort of connection between people happening all around the world. If we can, we should seek them out as they can bring pockets of light into what otherwise might be a dark time.

I’ve also been struck by the connections some people are making as they seek to make some sense of this time. Poet Lorin Clarke writes from the perspective of dust motes as they watch humans spending more time at home. It’s clever, this way of seeing things from another perspective and making connections across people’s experiences. And then putting images and music and a very particular kind of voice to this, adds to that sense of connection across more than ideas – across aesthetics and art forms too.

And then there are those who can sum up experiences many of us will recognise, in seemingly simple ways. My friend Taimi, shared this on her Facebook page earlier and I laughed out loud (I won’t tell you which particular image made me laugh the most).

If our things could talk

Graphics like this can connect us to others – even unknown others – as they allow us to know we’re not the only ones putting the dishwasher on more often or rarely using the car.

We spent a few hours one night through the week listening to Wes Tank rapping Dr Seuss books over Dr Dre beats. Connections again – between words and sounds and beats and voice and cleverness and creativity and silliness and more. See if you can do it!

 

And then there’s connections to things I didn’t know I was missing. An email arrived just the other day, and I glanced through it disinterestedly until I saw the words ‘Slow TV’. My attention was immediately caught.

A car company filmed a driver driving through the NSW countryside for four hours. It almost made me cry!

There’s a world out there that I haven’t connected with for weeks … months. There are hills and trees and bumpy roads and grassy verges and sky … all that sky. There are horizons that go beyond the back fence, two metres from my back door. There are sheep and road signs and beautiful music to accompany me on this journey of what might be described as nothingness, but which I describe as bliss. Absolute bliss.

Connection to country. Who knew it was something I missed?

And, of course, as always, there’s connection to family. To Mum, and my sister Deb, and my daughters Rochelle (and on weekends her husband Michael) and Emma, and their kids, and Alison, and to my daughter-in-law Kaz (and even more grandkids), and my cousins Cassandra and Jenny (and often their kids), and sometimes to my nieces Sarah and Eliza and sometimes their kids too. We exercise together every day (those of us who can make it), then chat – or listen to all the kids saying hello to each other.

It’s a fabulous connection – four generations and multiple arms of family coming together as often as we can to keep physically and mentally healthy. As has been emphasised as we’ve exercised more and more, exercise is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel, and exercising with family feels good!

And on the back of that connection, we also connect creatively. We’ve completed our Images of Isolation project and are into our Images by the Dozen project. We’re all to take 12 images – representing the numbers 1 to 12 without actually having numbers as a feature of the image. It helps keep our brains busy, our eyes seeing differently and our connections strong.

These are just some of the connections I’ve made this week. What connections have you made? 

Posted in Family, Life

Diary of a distancer: Week 8

Time is strange, isn’t it? When we watch the second hand on an analog clock, we think time is regimented, neatly segmented, that one second is the same length as another second. The first minute of each hour lasts as long as the last minute of the hour.

We talk about time as if it’s a commodity – we can use it, waste it, spend it. It’s something that can speed by, or drag, or simply pass. For some, time is money. For others, it’s life. Was there ever a beginning to time, will there ever be an end? We think we know what it is – that it is something we can comprehend. But is it?

And we each have our own perceptions of time. Days either drag or speed by depending on how you spend your time.

And so we’ve made it to May.

March dragged by … each day feeling like a week. What day is it, was a familiar refrain, so much so that a weatherman in the US started telling his viewers what day it was each day – in much the same way they do on Playschool. [Please note: I do not endorse Fox anything, unless they’re on my sister’s PJs and slippers]

Then April came and went, seemingly, for me at least, in the blink of an eye.

Where did that go? Ben’s birthday on the 10th, Easter, extra leave afterwards, four days at work, then annual leave, Byron’s 1st birthday and Tim’s on the same day. A photography challenge and creating a magazine from it, plus creating magazine of my Bus Stops of Victoria and Tasmania and Country Shops of the same (I promise you, they’re more interesting than the titles make them out to be), exercise, exercise and more exercise.

Connections and creativity.

Mental and physical health.

What a month.

And now, May. Ronan, my third grandchild, announced this morning that it’s only 27 more days until he’s a teenager. He sounds like one already – the deep voice grunting monosyllables as he lies on the couch (after doing a tough workout, I might add). He’s almost as tall as me now, probably will be by the time I get to see him again.

And BOOM!

Time distorts. Slows down, almost to a crawl. It’s possible I wouldn’t have seen my grandchildren during this time in a world without ‘rona (although Easter, so you never know) but knowing I can’t see them yet and not knowing when I’ll see them again, seems to elongate time.

It’s the same when you’re waiting for your examiners’ reports after submitting your PhD. The clock ticks off each second in its usual way, but each second seems that little bit longer than the one before, especially when you know the reports are back and your supervisors have seen them but aren’t allowed to tell you the outcome. Each second grinds by, especially when you focus on that one thing you want more than anything.

The email from the Graduate Research Office with the outcome.

This is the situation for one of my PhD candidates this week. The weekend will be unbearable for her and each day next week that she has to wait will feel like a month.

And then it’ll be over. The email will arrive, the restrictions on our movement will end, and time will resume its regularity.

It feels long in the ‘during’ … in the living of it. Time is drawn out during the waiting, during the uncertainty, when we aren’t sure of the outcome, when we aren’t sure what the world will look like on the other side.

But then things will resume, perhaps differently resume, but the seconds will continue to tick by as they always have. Will we go back to our old regular routines or have we learnt something from this time of enforced isolation? Will we continue any of the new routines we’ve established?

All the new routines I’ve established are about creativity and connection. Why would I drop them once this is over?

It’s a question worth musing on.

**********

I wonder if Louis Theroux will continue doing duck walks when this is over? (We did them this morning and while the kids didn’t seem to mind them, the older adults in the group were mostly non-plussed).

2950697B-BFFA-4C96-AC88-32E64933E102

**********

Our alphabet of isolation wrapped up to wild enthusiasm on Sunday night. I’m adding one image per day to my Instragram account – I’m wondering what will end first … my alphabet images or the restrictions we’re currently living with.

I’m hoping my images will be a good reminder of this time, as, over time, I’m sure I’ll forget some of the details. Like toilet paper shortages. The supermarkets have now lifted restrictions on how much you can buy, but remember at the beginning of this outbreak how people were fighting over it?

What was that about?

And this will be a reminder too.

 

Stay safe and have a great week. I’ll leave you with this image of a flower I took a number of years ago. It’s colourful and unlike the flower itself, this image hasn’t seen the ravages of time.41345344-0C8E-41A6-A363-84CF30B5D891

 

 

 

Posted in Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 7

You know, when I started writing these ‘diary of a distancer’ posts, I never imagined I’d still be writing them seven weeks later. I actually had no idea how long I’d be writing them for, and no expectations or otherwise about the length of time we’d be in lockdown, but seven weeks is a while, isn’t it?

How are you coping? Are you starting to feel a bit of cabin fever? Or have you been getting out and about, pretty much as normal and so haven’t really noticed?

I’m not getting out and about anywhere near as much as usual, and there are days where I really feel it. Yesterday, for instance. I had to go to Camberwell to get my flu shot and it was such a lovely afternoon that I was very tempted to head off up the highway. It was one of those rare blue-sky Melbourne autumn days, there wasn’t too much traffic and I had the day off (yes, another one). But no matter how tempting it was, I headed home, although I did take the long way round.

I’m surprised I’m not dealing with cabin fever. I usually dislike spending holidays at home – something I’ll be doing all next week. I was supposed to be going to New Zealand on Sunday – this year was my year for travel – but of course that’s not happening and as I can’t cancel my leave, I’m have to spend it at home. Strangely, I don’t actually mind the idea.

My week trundled along as the week before had – except I managed to work for four days this week, unlike the 1.5 days the week before. More Accounting exams to review. I now know what a journal entry is – it’s not, I learnt, an entry you make in a journal of the diary variety, but has to do with debits and credits. I’ve looked up information about the role of a board of directors, more governance than I knew existed, and I’ve read lots and lots of exam questions about liabilities and assets, and debits and credits. It hasn’t grown any more interesting I have to say.

We had two birthdays to celebrate this week. Both on Thursday. It had always amazed me that in a family as large as ours there weren’t any shared birthdays, but that changed last year when Byron, my youngest grandchild, was born on Tim’s birthday. Byron had had some cake with icing when we spoke to him, and it’s fair to say that as a child who hadn’t had much sugar before, he was super-charged on it!

Tim had no sugar and so wasn’t quite as wild, but was excited at the prospect of eating fancy restaurant food for his birthday. He’d discovered some weeks ago, that Attica was still cooking, and better still, were delivering. Luckily for us, we live in their delivery area. What a fabulous meal! Seemingly simple, but completely delicious. We’re also fans of the way Attica has embraced the enormous changes they’ve had to face, in light of the pandemic. They haven’t focused solely on their own business, but have considered those who haven’t been formally included in the ‘all’ of ‘we’re all in this together’. They have a soup project that’s helping feed newly unemployed hospitality workers who are on temporary visas.

While some ‘leaders’ are making inane and dangerous ‘suggestions’ for tackling COVID-19, others are taking matters into their own hands and doing something worthwhile and real and kind. We’d much rather support people like that.

We even got the good plates out!

We’ve been stepping up the exercise this week. We’ve still mostly been doing the 10-minute seniors workout with The Body Coach, but we’ve been tacking a cooldown to the end. The cooldown is harder than the seniors workout, but we all acknowledge we’re getting stronger and feeling good for it. It’s been lovely to have Rochelle, my eldest daughter, join us again this week and of course the bonus of seeing lots of the Tassie grandkids. Kaz, one of my daughters-in-law, also joined us when she could, and today Rochelle’s husband Michael joined in too. As did Mum, Tim, Deb, Rochelle, Kaz, and cousin Jen.

Yesterday I changed things up a bit. We started the 20-minnute Ultimate Beginner’s Low Impact Workout and did that again today, plus the cooldown today. Even Michael had a sweat up by the time he finished, although he went a fair bit harder than us ‘beginners’. Mum was thrilled that she could plank for the full 30 seconds!

On Wednesday in my personal training session, I asked Tom when my workouts were going to get easier. He didn’t sugar coat it. ‘They’re not’, he said, ‘because as you get stronger, I just make it harder. You lift more weight, do more reps, or do exercises in a different order’. On Friday he was true to his word. It was tough, and apparently I complained. A lot. But I still did 60 seconds of bicycle crunches, had a 10 second rest to catch my breath, did another 60 seconds, another quick breath catcher, then a final 60 seconds.

I was way too out of breath to do any complaining after that.

I wonder if that was deliberate?

I’m having a hard time moving today … but I’m putting that down the after-effects of the flu shot.

We finish our Alphabet of Isolation project this week. Last Sunday night we had quite a chaotic sharing of images among the eight or nine of us involved in the project. Now that we’ve ironed out some of the technological challenges, I reckon we’ll be in a better position tomorrow night to share the second half of our alphabets. We’re going to create a Blurb magazine with all the images, and it’ll be a great reminder of our time in isolation.

Here’s my D-M.

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I returned to a previous post yesterday, just for comparison. Three weeks ago, on Friday April 3, there had been 1,098,006 cases of COVID-19 and 59,141 deaths.

On Friday April 24, there were 2,828,826 cases and 197,099 deaths.

I’ve found that now the numbers are that high it’s even more hard to compute, but also more difficult to think of each of those 197,099 deaths as individual people. To see the number of new deaths for Italy and Spain now, I catch myself thinking ‘oh, it’s only 497 today’. When did 497 new deaths ever mean ‘only’? It’s so easy to become immune to what the numbers actually represent.

While we don’t know when this is all going to end, we do know that many people are still suffering in a range of ways. The best thing we can do is stay home and stay safe.

 

Posted in Life, Photography, Writing

Diary of a distancer: Week 6

Week 6! Six weeks of self-exile from the world. Not that it’s been strictly necessary to stay as at home as I’ve stayed, but with no real reason to go out, it hasn’t seemed to make any sense just to go out for the sake of it.

Six weeks of working from home – which I’ll look to turn into forever weeks of working from home on the other side of lockdown.

This week has been the best yet, mostly because it was a short work week. I had Tuesday off (thanks university enterprise agreement), and then on Thursday lunchtime, after one and a half days of work, I decided to take leave for the rest of the day and the next day too. Yes, I managed a day and a half of work before needing more time off.

Can I retire yet???

Over the Easter long weekend, we engaged in a photography challenge – Images in the time of Coronavirus: An alphabet of isolation. Photos from around the house and yard (if you’re lucky enough to have one) – one image for each letter of the alphabet. Deb and Grant decided to join in, and we had a sharing session on Sunday night of the first three images (not necessarily in alphabetical order, although as Tim and I had shot the alphabet by then, we shared our A, B & C).

Mum joined us for the sharing session, became inspired and has decided to join us. I’ve had a sneak peek at some of her shots and her list, and she’s going great guns. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

Emma, my youngest daughter, mentioned through the week that she’s running out of things to do, so I invited her to join in. She’s made a very strong start.

Jada, one of my grand-daughters, is also keen to join in, and I’m looking forward to seeing her shots.

Hopefully various other family members will jump on board too. It’s always great to see what people come up with and how they think and see the world.

Deb reckons my photos are very artistic – I don’t think she said ‘too’ artistic but she said ‘artistic’ in a way that momentarily made me think she saw this as a competition. Not that she’s competitive, my sister (ha!!!), but she does like to win the sibling war!

Here’s my A, B & C. I’ll reveal more next week.

A is for Apple

B is for books

C is for chocolate

Talking of the extended family … we’ve been doing exercises (Mum, Deb and I) at 6pm every night for a few weeks now. We put on a Joe Wicks workout for seniors and follow along as best we can. Alison and Emma often join us as well.

Because of not working over Easter, I was able to do exercise at 10am as we do on the weekends. That proved to be a popular time and so we’ve regularly worked out with my cousins Cassandra and Jen, my friend Michelle, who joins us on non-work days, and this week my eldest daughter Rochelle joined in, as did my niece Sarah.

It’s become the highlight of my day. It’s chaotic – lots of kids wanting to say hello to various older relatives and to each other – but we huff and puff and get the workout done, then settle in for a chat.

This week we’ve been doing flexibility and mobility work with ‘The Strength Temple’. It’s been fabulous and I can feel myself improving each day.

 


This week I also added another personal training session with Tom, my PT. That means at 7:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings I sign into Google Hangouts and there’s Tom, ready to get me working hard for 30 minutes. The Turkish Get-ups are the hardest, but on Friday morning I kind of managed to do it with the 15kg weight rather than the 10kg one I’d been using till then. I don’t do it properly mind you, but the sitting on the floor and getting up again is a big enough effort for me these days. It takes ages to get on the floor and then get up again! Doing that and lifting a 10 or 15 kg weight at the same time is huge and everytime I lift the 10kg weight above my head, I feel like I’ve won a prize. While I can get the 10kg weight above my head, I’m not even going to try to get the 15kg one up there!

I also do squats with the 15kg weight in a backpack strapped to my back and a 10kg weight clutched to my chest.

If I’m not getting stronger there’s something very wrong with me.

On the days I don’t have a PT session at 7:30am I tune into Facebook Live for X-Train on Tuesdays with Alex – which just about kill me – and on Thursdays I do a beginners’ HIIT workout.

This morning I joined Tim on his daily 6.8km bike ride … with its seven hills. The first three are the absolute worst, but once they’re done the rest of the ride is good – some nice downhills to counter the ups. It was nice to be outside and have some fresh air on my face and sunshine on my back.

So, an exercise session at 7:30, flexibility and mobility at 10, and then as Alison’s been working and hasn’t been able to make the 10am session, we’ve been doing another one at 5, which Tim joins in on too.

On Wednesday night I also did a physio rehab session with Rob, my physio. One of the tougher exercises I do there is a scapular pushup – on a bench, rather than on the ground as this guy is doing, but it still makes me sweat!!

It feels like a lot of exercise! It’s certainly more than I was doing before isolation and I’m hoping like mad it counters the gingernut biscuits I’ve been having with my after dinner cuppa.

Lots of exercise, daily catch-ups with family, photography … with a smidgin of work thrown in this week.

This coming week is going to be tough. Five days at work … how ever will I cope?

This coming week is birthday week for two of my favourite people. Byron, my youngest grandson, turns one on Thursday, the same day Tim celebrates his birthday. No candlelit dinner out at a fancy restaurant, but we might just have a candlelit fancy restaurant dinner at home.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite moments from this week. This is a song for the times, particularly for those of us trying to work out how best to do online teaching and learning … by Makeshift Macaroni on TikTok.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life

Diary of a distancer: Week 5

See Week 4. Repeat.

Except, without working on Friday, and now being the mother of a 41-year old. Yes, Ben, my eldest son turned 41 yesterday or, as he told me, 14,974 days.

Talking of numbers … the numbers this week are much bigger than last week.

1,700,816 cases as of April 11, 2020, 7:38GMT (5:38pm Melbourne time). Of those, just over 22% have recovered.

It’s easy to look at the numbers and forget to feel anything, because … well, because they’re just numbers.

But they aren’t, are they?

I read an interesting piece in The Guardian yesterday, written by a junior doctor. She made the point that politicians and some commentators have the perspective of gods – in that they see the big picture. They see the numbers of people hospitalised, the numbers of ICU beds and ventilators and PPE required, the number of refrigerated trucks to house the bodies of those who’ve died, the numbers of businesses affected, the number of unemployed people … numbers. But she was seeing people. People struggling to breathe, people struggling to cope, people who are fearful and anxious and scared for their own lives.

I’m finding it a challenge to deal with patients who are so unwell because I wish this hadn’t happened to them. When you’re providing one-on-one care, it hardly registers that there are hundreds of people in the same position. We talk of curves and peaks but that has nothing to do with lived experience. Politicians and journalists now speak with the perspective of gods. They have an overview of the situation that I just cannot have. As a doctor I feel like an ant standing next to an elephant: I can barely make sense of what I see, and it’s hard to throw my tiny weight against it.

We can look at the numbers and keep the situation at arm’s length. We can protect ourselves from the reality and head off to our holiday homes at the beach or in the bush. We can flaunt our privilege, like Justin Timberlake did in a radio interview recently, when he said that him and his wife weren’t exactly coping with ’24 hour a day parenting’. Is there any other sort?

Apparently, there is.

While I don’t flaunt my privilege, I feel it. I have a house, it’s (mostly) warm, there’s food in the fridge and running water. Things it’s so easy to take for granted. I have the technological means to contact members of my family so we stay connected.

I also have a job I can do from home, unlike many of those in places like New York where the coronovirus has split the city into two unequal parts.

Different boroughs, even different neighborhoods within each borough, are experiencing coronavirus almost as though it were two different contagions. In wealthier white areas the residential streets are empty; parking spots that are fought over in normal times now stand vacant following an exodus to out-of-town weekend homes or Airbnbs.

In places like the Bronx – which is 84% black, Latino or mixed race – the sidewalks are still bustling with people making their way into work. There is still a rush hour. “We used to call them ‘service workers’,” Williams said. “Now they are ‘essential workers’ and we have left them to fend for themselves.”

Source: A tale of two New Yorks

I feel uneasy everytime we get a parcel on the doorstep. Someone has had to put themselves on the line so that I can eat and have the medication I need. Someone who can’t work from home has packed that item, and someone else has delivered it. Am I putting them at risk? Or am I keeping someone in a job they might otherwise not be in? The answers seesaw through my mind and I’m yet to feel as though I have an answer that I feel at ease with.

Perhaps it’s both and there’s no easy way to reconcile my dilemma.

I’m writing to remember, so that next year, when all this is over (will it be over by this time next year?), I can look back and read some of the things I’ve been thinking about during this time of isolation.

Not social isolation, of course. Well, not for many of us. We’re lucky to live in a country with a relatively reliable internet connection, and to have access to so much technology. And we’re lucky that there’s a ready supply of pens and paper for children to use when they write letters to those living in aged care, or to their own grandparents. Who says you need digital technologies to stay connected?

But we now talk about having a ‘Zoom’ as if we’ve been doing it all our lives – and even many oldies who hadn’t thought FaceTime was worth their while are now using it to stay in touch with family members. HouseParty is something I’m hearing a lot about, but it’s mostly negative at this stage, so I’m staying clear of it until I can see a use for it.


I scrolled past a Facebook post earlier that mentioned something about the ‘interminable long weekend’, and I have to say, I haven’t felt that at all. If anything, it’s going way too fast for me.

Tim set us both a challenge yesterday – a photography challenge (my favourite kind). We are to take a photo of things around the house for every letter of the alphabet.

We set to work yesterday, writing lists, storyboarding ideas (well, that was me, Tim doesn’t storyboard), and then we got clicking. It meant the day sped by, and even better, meant I wasn’t sitting in front of a computer all day.

I mentioned it in our post-exercise hangout yesterday and Deb decided that her and Grant would join in … so between now and the end of the month we’ll be taking photos that we’ll compile into a book I’ve decided to title Images in the time of coronavirus: An alphabet of isolation.

Or should it be ‘from isolation’? I can’t decide.

Plenty of time for that.

Anyway, while I was taking a photo for ‘I’ yesterday, I noticed the yellow rose out the front was open, so I captured it and thought I’d share it with you.

 

Posted in Family, Life

Diary of a distancer: Week 4

Monday

No alarm went off at 5:55am, consequently I sleep till 7. Check the stats. 784,741 cases world-wide, 37,774 deaths. Sit for a moment, reflecting.

Into my workout gear and get my personal training studio (formally known as the lounge room) ready for my PT session with Tom. Dial into Google Meets and there’s Tom’s cheery face, ready to encourage me to move my body.

Half hour workout done (puffing and sweaty now), it’s time for breakfast, then I head to the office to start work, still in my workout clothes.

Daily Zoom check-in with my team; Tim brings me morning tea as I start a Zoom meeting that goes for an hour longer than expected because the conversation about ethics and integrity in sports management was so engaging (who knew?). I head home for lunch with Tim, then after lunch audit some Accounting units to find examples of good online teaching practice; mentor (which really means teach) in the Transforming Digital Learning FutureLearn course that has students from around the world in it; give feedback on an Accounting exam (not on the actual content, obviously); then around 5:30 I pack up and head home (which really means go downstairs).

Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb. I found some ‘seniors’ workouts with Joe Wicks The Body Coach and as they’re only ten minutes long and he has a great style we’ve decided to use them this week to help keep our bodies moving.

We have a quick chat as we cool down from the workout, then it’s time for dinner, Azul, shower, social media check, bed.

Azul, an intriguing strategy game

Tuesday

Wake at 7am. Check the stats. 858,361 cases, 42,309 deaths.

No PT session with Tom this morning, but I join in the 7:30 X-train class on Facebook Live run by Alex. It nearly kills me. Breakfast, head to work still in my workout gear.

Search for and read lots about online teaching. About being student-centric. About communicating with students. About low-bandwidth teaching. All stuff I already knew really, but I like to read how others communicate the message as there’s always more to learn. Tim brings me morning tea and I receive a Facetime call from Jordy, my grandson, who turns 11 today. I’m able to say hello to all 11 grandkids in the house. Lunch with Tim, then it’s back to auditing more accounting units before giving feedback on learning outcomes and alignment in an Economics unit. At 3pm it’s time for the daily Zoom check-in with my team during which I miss a phone call from Rochelle, my eldest daughter. I write my ‘almost-daily digest’ post on MS Teams for the wider team to consider, then give feedback on another accounting exam, before heading home.

Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb, quick chat, dinner, Azul, social media check, forget to shower, bed, but not before watching this mash-up for the 100th time.

Wait for the drop

Wednesday

7:05 this morning. I’m slowing down. Poor sleep last night. Too hot, too cold, knees too sore.

Check the stats. 935,232 cases.  47,198 deaths. Not an April Fool’s Day joke.

Another killer workout with Alex at 7:30, this one focussing on the glutes and legs. Breakfast. Zoom meeting. Tim brings me morning tea. Another Zoom meeting during which I miss a phone call from Rochelle. FutureLearn mentoring. Head home for lunch with Tim – I’m enjoying this part of the daily routine. I give feedback on another Economics unit’s learning outcomes and alignment. After trying to figure out what ‘mean square regression’ is and if I’d ever use it, I give up. Faculty staff meeting. 294 staff members on Zoom all peering at the screen, checking out each other’s backgrounds and trying to peek into others’ open cupboard doors, trying to figure out just what washing is flapping on the clothesline behind the Dean’s head. One dog barks and soon we have a dog chorus! All microphones are quickly muted. It’s now time for my daily check-in with my team and then a meeting with an Accounting lecturer about his online teaching and the ways he can support others.

Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb, quick chat, dinner, Azul, shower, social media check, bed.

Sleep better as pain in knees minimised with Panadol Osteo.

Thursday

7am. Check the stats. 1,015,096 cases. 53,172 deaths. It’s getting completely mind-boggling now.

My workout gear is getting a workout. I’ve stopped wearing anything else. [Note to self: wear proper clothes on the weekend.] Great workout with Tom at 7:30. The Turkish Get-ups are the worst, but I think I’m getting better at them. Breakfast.

Virtual morning tea with the wider team. Meeting with an Accounting lecturer about her online teaching and the ways I can support her. Re-work some learning outcomes for the Team Dynamics unit. Meet with Team Dynamics teaching team and Robyn, one of my team members, and make some decisions. We’re effectively modelling how teamwork can be done – if only the students could see us in action! Can we replicate that in the teaching of the unit? It’s a good question and one I think we can consider a bit more.

Quick lunch break today and then a meeting about assessment and technologies we can or can’t use to support it in this time of no in-person, invigilated exams. Rochelle calls and this time I answer it. She was bitten by a wasp on Tuesday and had a nasty reaction – bad enough to send her to emergeny. On Wednesday she was back there after 2-year old Felicity pushed a cotton bud into her ear and pierced the edge of her ear canal. Blood everywhere apparently, but no lasting damage. Focus back on work: give feedback on an Accounting exam, audit more Accounting units. I’m learning lots about accounting – mostly that it’s boring – but decide not to tell the Accounting staff that. Attend the virtual launch of the Successful Minds mentor program developed in the Faculty. See connections between it and my Engagement Framework, and immediately after the launch, meet with the Student Experience Director to discuss.

Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb, quick chat, dinner, Azul, shower, social media check, bed. It rains all night, though Tim doesn’t hear it.

Friday

Alarm goes off at 6:45. Sounds strange now, given we haven’t used it all week. Check the stats. 1,098,006 cases. 59,141 deaths (that’s 12,000 more than two days ago).

Into workout gear and for the first time in 6 days, I head outside, into the car, remember how to switch it on, and drive to my physio rehab session. One more shop has closed on Glenferrie Road, cafes open with TAKEAWAY ONLY signs in their windows. Lots of tradies not practicing social distancing out and about. Lunges kill my knees but Rob, my physio, says they’re good for me. Head home without the usual traffic on Auburn Road. Breakfast, and then an unusual event. A traffic jam on the way to work. Tim was heading off at the same time as me and so the stairs were a little more congested than usual.

Rochelle sends me a photo of her place early this morning; heads down, all working on their school work!

kids
It looks like a one-teacher school!

Two meetings at the same time … attend half of one, drop out, dial into the other. Put the cat amongst the pigeons by suggesting something that’s way too far out of their comfort zone. Remind myself not to push too hard and manage to bring it back under control. I can hear their breathing quieten as they realise I’m not going to insist on the ‘best’ approach and am willing to settle for a compromise. Lunch with Tim. Meeting with some of the team that quite quickly descends into silliness. It’s Friday afternoon, the end of a long, long, long week. We discover the 3D animals you can create by typing the name of an animal into Google and then how you can take photos of them as if they’re right there with you. In the image below, the faces of my colleagues are blurred to protect their identity.

A bit of silliness on a Friday afternoon

 

The end of another week wearing headphones so I can hear the Skype calls coming in, participants joining a Zoom meeting, or the funny-sounding dial of the MS Teams meetings … how many ways are we communicating? Lots, it seems. The final daily check-in with my team for the week, and then it’s time for virtual after-work drinks with colleagues, something I never did before the lockdown.

Daily exercise at 6pm with Mum and Deb and Alison, a longer chat today because it’s Friday and Deb’s excited about the Tumbarumba Rail Trail virtual opening that happened earlier in the day, and because Alison is there and it’s lovely to see her. Hopefully she’ll grace us with her presence again. Dinner, Friday night movie, forget to shower, bed.

Saturday

Sleep-in till 8:20. Just what I needed.

Check the stats.

Nope, can’t do it.

Weekend exercise at 10am with Mum, Deb, daughter Emma, cousin Jen. How lovely to be able to connect across four states, five locations, multiple generations!

Shower and proper clothes. Well, if trackpants and a hoodie can be called ‘proper’. At least it’s not workout gear.

As I start writing this blog post I get a Facetime call from my grand-daughter Lily who lives in Queensland. We convert it into a Zoom meeting so she can show me the game she’s playing on the computer. We hang out for a couple of hours, then, as it’s almost 2pm I say goodbye and head downstairs for lunch. Where is the day going?

Rainy afternoon … really rainy. Time  to curl up with Josh, a book I was reminded of through the week when my sister tagged me in a Facebook post, encouraging the sharing of favourite books. Here are mine so far:

The weeks seem so long these days, but it’s great that we can stay in touch with various parts of the family.

Ben sends me photos of himself in isolation which, he claims, isn’t too different from his everyday life. The trees surrounding his place give a degree of comfort and it’s good to see him smiling.

Daniel Facetimes while Byron is splashing in the bath. Byron smiles when he hears my voice and it’s lovely to ‘see’ him splashing and having fun.

Rochelle sends me videos of the four year olds doing their daily exercises – jumping through the rungs of a rope ladder that’s laid on the ground, then kicking a soccer ball around a series of cones; plus photos of the bean bags she’s made for another day’s activities, the table tennis net she sewed so the bigger kids could have a tournament.

Chase sets up Zoom so Hunter and Lily and I can hang out on a wet Saturday.

Emma joins us for exercises and Sakye and Lincoln pop their heads in to say hello.

I’m keeping my physical distance from others, but we’re certainly not socially isolating. The days trundle by, some parts more the same than others … but we’re healthy and fit and connected, and for that we’re all thankful.

Posted in Life

Diary of a distancer: Week 3

‘Distancer’ doesn’t appear to be a real word, but I’m using it anyway. If now, in these times of turmoil and disruption, isn’t the time to come up with new words I don’t know when is.

Are you staying in? How are you coping with it? I’m reading tweets and blogs and Facebook posts and am impressed by some people’s creativity and good humour. Of course, there’s lots of the opposite but I think it’s extra important to seek out the light in what could otherwise be considered dark times.

I laughed out loud when I saw this photo in response to the Australian government’s decision to limit haircuts to 30 minutes.

F30E38CA-C546-42E9-B47D-AD64889ECFB0_1_201_a
Not sure of the source. I saw this on Facebook.

Thankfully, the government quickly rescinded the decision!

I’m impressed by people like Dana Jay Bein, who can adapt song lyrics to fit a particular situation, like his adaptation of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (sung by Adrian Grimes)

Or like Chris Mann, who’s done a number of adaptations, including My Corona

I was even more impressed to come across a Facebook group called The Kindness Pandemic (if you’re on Facebook, check it out. It has loads of stories of people being kind to each other).

I’ve spoken with my work colleagues much more in the last week than in the previous few months, even though their office is (usually) just down the corridor from mine; it seems extra important to stay connected. I have a daily check-in with my team every morning and on Thursday mornings the wider team have a virtual morning tea.

One of the highlights of my day, though, comes at 6pm, when I’ve ‘arrived home from work’. I hook up with my sister and my mother and we exercise together. We exercise along to the Healthy Tasmania’s Kitchen Sessions (they’re on Facebook). Each session is just ten minutes and the kinds of exercises they do are suitable for everyone. We then spend some time chatting about our day before heading off to have our respective dinners.

I’m enjoying working from home and I’m not sure I’ll want to go back into ‘work’ when this is over. We have our routine set pretty well now: we exercise each morning, we eat lunch together most days (something we haven’t done since we moved to Melbourne over six years ago), we’ve stopped watching the news, and we sit at the table to eat dinner (now that my computer is off it) and chat about the day we’ve had.

We might bump into each other through the day, but generally we’re so busy we only come out of our respective spaces for food and toilet breaks. The tenor of our days is quietly industrious and we’re both tapping into a range of skills so one day doesn’t feel like the next.

I know we’re amazingly fortunate. We both have secure jobs, no little kids at home to make working from home difficult as it is for some, and we each have a space at home in which to work. Our life is, in some ways, not much changed from before we started isolating ourselves physically from the world. We both exercise more now than we did before, we eat better and the house is much more organised than before. It feels like we’ve created a little oasis for ourselves. It’s calm and quiet and so far, that’s keeping the anxiety and stress at bay.

We’re reminded of the outside world through social media of course, there’s no getting away from it. And we continue to be horrified by some of the stories we hear … but we’re choosing to focus on the good and the kind. We know we’re blessed to be in a position to do so.

One of the stories that warmed my heart this week was of some children in the UK writing emails to residents in a local care home to let them know the kids were thinking about them. That’s sweet!

As I mentioned earlier, I’m impressed by people’s creativity. The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra obviously can’t get together to play, so they used technology to enable them to create music together. Enjoy!

How are you coping?

Posted in Life

On living a disrupted life

Hello.

Well. Here we are.

It’s a cold and cloudy day in Melbourne. Nothing new there.

The washing is on, we’ve had breakfast, the bed is made, music is playing throughout the house. Nothing new there.

I’m sitting here trying to craft a blog post. Tim is out on his bike. Nothing new there either.

But it doesn’t feel the same.

On the surface life looks the same. We get up, shower (or not), have breakfast, check our socials, get on with the day.

But it’s not the same.

A week ago I’d never heard of worlometers.info/coronavirus but now it’s the first site I check every morning. If you take off the /coronavirus from the end, you get information on a whole range of things: how many hectares of the world have been deforested today, how many mothers died in childbirth today, how many cigarettes were smoked today, how many new book titles have been published this year. It’s a wealth of information. No, not all of it is cheery, but it’s still interesting.

Except, it’s also worrying. I probably shouldn’t check it every morning as it doesn’t really get my day off to a good start.

So there’s that. A less-than-cheery start to my day.

I worked from home all last week, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable (or unforeseeable, I guess) future. With that in mind we spent much of yesterday setting up a proper workspace for me. It means I can feel like I’m going to work in the morning and can return to home-life in the afternoon. It also means I can more clearly distinguish between home-space and work-space and not let them overlap in the ways they did last week.

I now have a long desk (trestle table, but let’s not quibble) with my ‘home’ computer on one end, and my ‘work’ computer on the other. I’ll be using them both for work – one for Zoom/Skype meetings and the other for developing resources, but who knows. I might flit between them or that might get too messy. It’s just one tiny thing that’s an uncertainty and in a world of big uncertainties it’s not occupying a great deal of my brainspace.

My husband also worked from home last week and will continue to do so until it’s safe to be in shared space with others. He claimed the ‘study’ early on, and so he’s well set up with clearly delineated work and home spaces. Each morning last week, when it was time for him to go to work, he’d kiss me goodbye and head upstairs. I’d hear him on what seemed like wall-to-wall Zoom meetings, supporting staff, providing them with ideas and calm reassurance that they can teach audio production and ensemble and journalism online. It’s interesting, after all this time of working for different universities, to hear him in action again. His interactions are different now that he’s a senior leader in his workplace and he’s been receiving a lot of praise for his calm and steady leadership.

We did encounter one problem, however. I’m blaming Cheryl from Sales (Tim tends to think it’s Stefan from Accounts) … but whichever of them it is, they can just stop. One of us will take a break and make a cuppa … and next thing you know the cup is empty and I have no memory of drinking said cuppa. The only explanation that makes sense to me is that it must be one of my new co-workers.

Things aren’t the same. The world isn’t the same. People are losing income. Many, many people are losing loved ones. Travel plans have been disrupted and businesses are failing.

The curve hasn’t yet flattened. Are we doing enough to ensure it does?

Many of us want to know why schools haven’t yet closed.

We have new daily routines … it’s clear that life isn’t the same.

I now tune in on Twitter each day to hear Ricky Gervais rambling for ten minutes or so. I look out for Ben Abraham’s impromptu concerts on Instragram. I watch videos of those in Italy and Spain playing music and singing together. I am disturbed to still be seeing people buying much much more than they need each day, leaving the shelves empty for those who come after them. I am extra concerned when I read about thousands of people on Bondi Beach (which has now been closed) and to read of the four cruise ships allowed to dock in Sydney.

I watch videos on how to wash my hands properly, videos of those with the virus warning about the dangers or not acting swiftly enough, and videos full of really vital information presented in easy-to-understand terms. (The last link takes you to a really useful video, and I encourage you to watch it if you haven’t already.)

The message is clear: Stay home. Buy only what you need. Wash your hands.

In the scheme of things it doesn’t seem hard advice to follow.

And yet … for many it seems beyond them.

And for me too if I’m honest. Being told to stay at home is different from choosing to, and so I feel myself wanting to get out more than I usually do. Luckily, I have a very sensible husband!

Life is disrupted. It’ll take some getting used to. Thankfully, unlike those in 1918 who were caught up in the ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic, we have loads of ways of staying connected. So while we might be staying home, it doesn’t necessarily mean we need to socially isolate ourselves. Physically isolate, for sure. But we don’t need to socially isolate.

And that’ll take some getting used to as well. This flow chart might help you decide whether you really need to go out.

Source unknown

Let’s be kind to ourselves while we make the necessary adjustments. It seems we’re in this for the long haul – a few months rather than days. Perhaps even longer. I’m sure we’ll work out how to live in this disrupted world, but it might take a while.

What’s been working for you as you get used to living a disrupted life?