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 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 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 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!

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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

A (brave) new year

I know the year can now no longer be considered new, but as this is my first blog post for 2020, I thought I might be able to get away with calling it new.

January in Australia wasn’t great … and for many people it’s still not great. The media spotlight has moved on, but that doesn’t mean those impacted by bushfires have had an end to their misery. There is still much work to be done in many communities to rebuild and rehouse and rethink decisions about how to live. And that goes for all of us, not only those directly impacted by the fires.

It felt like the longest month – January – and now I imagine the rest of the year will zip along speedily and we’ll be saying ‘Christmas carols already? How can that be?’. That’ll be April with the way things seem to go in the retail world!

But I digress.

A brave new year.

I stumbled across this (I don’t even know what it’s called – poster, meme, soundless soundbite, bit of fluff from the internet …?) a little while ago and it spoke to me. Loudly.

I desperately wanted this to be my year. I didn’t want another year like last year where it started poorly and didn’t seem to get better. The year ended, for me, with a trip to Caboolture hospital in mid-December after fainting for no reason, hitting my head on the table as I tipped off my chair, ending in an untidy heap under the table. I felt for Hunter, one of my grandsons who’d come to spend some time with us before we headed home. A fainting grandmother is not something any 10-year old needs to see.

A CT scan revealed a tonsular herniation and a brain scan when I came home revealed it was within normal limits. But that was no reason for fainting. Apparently, I just did. And apparently that’s of some concern.

I also had what will now be an annual mammogram and ultrasound and received the all clear. Yay! Things were finally looking up.

Christmas was spent in Sydney with good friends, Mum and Tim, and a few days after returning home we had the delight of having two of our grandsons come to stay for five days. Toi is 6 and Korbin is 4 and both were an absolute joy. I took an extra week off work and it was a wonderful additional break.

Then back to work … and somewhere along the way I read the words above and thought to myself “yes, I do want this to be my year”.

I determined to say yes to things, to do things I might ordinarily be cautious about doing, weighing up the risks and benefits and deciding that it was too outside my comfort zone or too expensive or of little pratical value.

And so to being brave and doing things that challenge me.

Last year sometime, I read a journal article in which the author mentioned The College of Extraordinary Experiences. I was so intrigued I looked it up. It’s a conference that happens once a year in a 13th century castle in Poland. Five days with around 80-100 people from across the globe, all from different walks of life, all learning about and engaging in designing experiences of one sort or another. Unlike a regular conference, this was one you had to apply for.

I didn’t do anything about it for months.

And then I thought ‘why not? If other people have a shot at attending, why not me? I can learn as well as anyone and even if it’s uncomfortable sometimes, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.’

I applied.

I had an interview.

I was accepted.

You cannot imagine how excited I was.

But then I had to see if the university would support me in attending something that is far outside the bounds of a regular conference and would have no easily communicable benefit.

I put in a proposal in which I outlined as many benefits as I could bring to mind.

I waited.

And waited.

Late last year we were having lunch with Alison in North Melbourne. A very cool little car pulled up out the front of the cafe and I instantly admired it. We went to a car yard and sat in one and kicked the tyres. We talked about why we might buy a second car but none of the arguments were compelling enough to convince me. We didn’t do anything about it.

But then Tim said something that provoked me to think differently. He does that a lot.

And so I bought a car.

Well, not bought, but leased.

Not the kind of car I had originally admired outside the cafe, but one that had a much better safety rating and more of the features I was used to.

My new Mini Cooper

 

Two years ago, Tim (husband) gifted me a photography workshop in Sydney with two fabulous photographers. I learnt a lot and it changed the direction of my photography from that weekend on.

Last week, Tim (one of the photographers who facilitated the workshop), wrote to me saying that he’d watched my progress with interest over the intervening two years. He then invited me to a 5-day photography retreat in New Zealand in late April. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have even responded, but the words ‘be brave’ were still thumping around in my head, and so I said ‘yes, I’d love to attend’. And so I’m heading to NZ in late April to learn more about photography from two very experienced photographers. I know it’ll be a challenging five days, but one that’ll be filled with learning and opportunities to develop my photography skills some more.

I am getting off the couch.

 

I decided I needed to move more, regain some fitness, lose some weight, get stronger and so I signed up for a weekly Friday morning physio rehab session. Rob, my physio, said it would be challenging.

I went to the first one last Friday. It was challenging, but I’m already beginning to feel better.

I asked Tom, my trainer, if we can get back to doing deadlifts – something I’d had to stop last year when I was told to do gentle exercises only. Deadlifts are not a gentle exercise. I deadlifted 45kgs on Monday and am keen to become strong enough to lift my body weight. Of course, that’ll be easier if I weigh less!

 

My manager called late on Monday afternoon.

She’s accepted my proposal and so I’m off to Poland in September to participate in The College of Extraordinary Experiences.

I am beyond excited.

I’m not sitting on the couch. I’m not waiting for things to happen. I’m making them happen. I’m saying yes more. I’m more positive. I’m extremely grateful that I have opportunities and the means to make the most of them. I’m making changes.

It’s going to be my year.

What does your year hold?

Posted in Life

Un/scrambled

You  might think this is a post about eggs.

It isn’t.

It’s a post about ideas … or maybe not ideas so much as thoughts.

Or threads, but not of the clothes variety.

As an introvert I have a very quiet outer world – I’m not the ‘greeter’ – you know the one, the person who exuberantly says hello to everyone in the office each morning, or the one who bounces up to each person at a party to welcome them even if they aren’t the host.

I’m going out on a limb there you realise. I’m such an introvert that I don’t go to parties – apart from the one I’m going to today. But that’s different because that’s my eldest granddaughter’s birthday party and the only other people there will be my children and grandchildren. Maybe an odd friend or extended family member as well, but ostensibly a family party.

Family parties, when everyone there is an introvert, are interesting, particularly when there’s so much family.

Only three of my five children will be there, but between the three of them they have 10 children, plus four steps. It makes for a lot of people – who, yes, are all related, but who have more conversations going on in their heads than from their mouths.

I’m making it sound as though we stand aroung not talking, and that’s not the case at all. We talk non-stop. We’re just all so worn out at the end of it from talking so much that we need alone time to recharge.

But I digress.

Scrambled.

Thoughts.

Threads.

My sister wrote a comment on my previous blog post along the lines of ‘you have so many ideas’ and she also wrote, in her own blog, ‘I might look like I’m doing nothing, but in my head I’m very busy!’

I completly resonate with that sentiment – it’s a hallmark of an introvert – the quiet on the outside but busy on the inside thing.

And that called to mind this image I saw on social media a while ago. 

unnamed

I love those opportunities to have deep conversation with someone in which the scramble of thoughts/threads gets unscrambled.

I usually pay for those conversations, but that’s okay because the person I’m paying knows how to take the tangle and unravel it a little. Or maybe it’s because they listen so that I do the untangling myself, just by getting the threads out of my head and therefore out of the ravel.

[If you can unravel something, does that mean you can ravel it?]

When my students didn’t know where to begin in writing a university assignment, I’d tell them to just start, to put something down on the page and keep tugging gently at the idea/thought/thread through writing, so that eventually there are lots of ideas on the page and you can re-arrange them as required, throw some out, develop some further, add new ones, so that eventually you have a piece of writing that is as clear and unscrambled as you’d want a university assignment to be.

[Unlike that paragraph, which had too many ‘so that eventuallys’ in it. I could edit it but I like the forceful movement forward it implies.]

Deb’s right. I do have lots of ideas/thoughts and I’m getting much better at recognising when they’re in a tangle and knowing how I might go about untangling them.

I talk.

It’s exhausting. But ultimately far less exhausting than having the thoughts continually scrambling around my mind.

If you want some clarity – talk to someone trained to listen.

An unscrambled mind is so much less exhausting and far less heavy to carry around.

 

Posted in Life, Photography

It’s not a headlight

I stopped listening to Enya some time ago, without making a conscious decision to do so. I guess I just didn’t need her anymore. Her music had seen me through a few challenging and difficult months, but I’m through them now and so no longer need the calming effect she had on me.

I woke up on Monday morning two weeks ago and immediately felt a different sort of energy in my body. It was a really interesting experience; I just knew that something had changed. My breast was still discoloured and peeling but the fatigue I’d been experiencing was gone. Just like that.

Then it was Easter and I had 10 days off work, travelled to Tumbarumba to visit family, then came home and faffed around home for the rest of the week. It was fabulous. Lots of time spent taking photos and deciding which ones to include in my developing portfolio; lots of time talking photography with Tim, discovering, then almost obsessively watching, Sean Tucker’s videos on YouTube; seeking out others’ work to draw inspiration from; doubting my own capacity as a photographer then coming across an image that causes me to catch my breath and think that maybe I am okay at this, then doubting myself again.

I went back to work on Monday and just about every colleague I ran into said how well I was looking. Many of them also commented on how fabulous my hair was looking, with one woman telling me I looked 400 years younger! All because I was wearing it down, rather than tied up to keep it off my face. There’s less grey when it’s down!

So spending time with Tim, my mother, sister,  brother, uncle, neice, nephew and great neice over Easter, spending time at home in the week after Easter, realising I don’t need to listen to Enya anymore, and being complimented on how good I’m looking has meant the last two weeks have been great.

Much, much greater though is the fact that I’m a grandmother again. Yes, grandson number 9 (aka Byron) is now 9 days old and I’m heading north at the end of the week to introduce myself to him. I’m feeling as excited as I did when my first grandson was born just over 20 years ago (and just in case you didn’t know me then, that’s VERY excited).

Tim and I had been talking just days before about how we have so many grandchildren, yet there are no double ups with birthdays. That is, until now. Byron was born on Tim’s birthday, making it an extra special day! At least I think that’s the way Tim’s viewing it.

The year so far has been difficult and challenging and confronting, but I feel like I’ve reached the end of the tunnel and I’m happy to announce that the light at the end of it isn’t the headlight of an oncoming train!

I’ve learnt to listen to my body, to rest when I needed to, to exercise when I can and not push myself too hard, to not be too bothered about what I eat, to give myself a break and know that if I didn’t get to something one day, I’d get to it another day. I’ve learnt to not feel guilty about taking the time I needed to get well, to let my body and mind recover from the trauma of surgery and treatment, and the fears and uncertainties that come with a cancer diagnosis.

And I’ve had reinforced for me how fortunate I am to be surrounded by incredibly generous family and friends who have done all they could to support me.

I am indeed blessed.

All I need to do now is sort out the pain in my chest caused by the scar tissue. Any ideas for how to do that?


Here are some of the photos I’ve been taking over the last few weeks … most of them are a long way out of my comfort zone, photographically speaking, but I’m enjoying the challenge.

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From Empire at Burnham Beeches

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Mmmm …

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Part of Melbourne Central I’d never seen before

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Nicki serving icecream

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Centre Place, Melbourne

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Saskia

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Honour Ave, Macedon

 

 

Posted in Life

The final countdown …

I’ve had fifteen radiotherapy treatments so far and fatigue has hit me hard.

It’s a feeling of total energy loss and of heaviness in my body. Apparently, fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer and cancer treatment and can stick around for weeks and months after treatment. 

It doesn’t affect me all the time – at the moment, for instance, I have some energy (mind you, I just ate dinner) – but at other times of the day it hits and I’m left feeling empty and almost unable to move.

It’s weird though because resting doesn’t always help, so it’s not like I should quit doing exercise or should start laying around all day watching Netflix – as enticing as that sometimes sounds. In fact, that might make it worse. In the spirit of not resting too much, I walked the 1km to the local shops yesterday morning and found it very difficult to walk the 1km home. It was a very slow trip back.

Fatigue hasn’t only affected me physically. I’ve found it’s taken its toll on me emotionally and mentally as well. I’m exhausted after an hour and a half at work, I can’t concentrate on tasks that would normally be unproblematic, I’m more short-tempered than usual, and I’ve been having trouble sleeping. So much so that my GP prescribed sleeping tablets. I’m so desperate for a good night’s sleep I’m even taking them.

Fatigue isn’t the only side effect of my radiotherapy treatment but it’s certainly the one having the most impact on me at the moment.

Information the Cancer Council’s published on coping with fatigue tells me to exercise if I can, and if I’m already used to exercise, to take it easier than normal.

My GP told me on Thursday to only go to the gym if I find it enjoyable, to not push myself, and only ‘do nurturing things’ there. I made sure to tell Tom, my trainer, that that’s what my GP had said, and on Friday I had a very nurturing workout. No deadlifts, all weights reduced, and I didn’t have to go as fast on the bike or cross-trainer as usual. I have to say, I did feel better afterwards.

The Cancer Council information also advises to ‘do the things you need and want to do. If you have people around you who are able and willing, let them take on some of your usual activities’. As I have no family in Melbourne (apart from Alison), this seemed to be an impossibility. That’s not to say Tim isn’t fantastic, but I can’t rely on him for everything.

Fortunately for me, Emma, my youngest daughter, John, her husband, and Lincoln, their 3 year old son were prepared to come to Melbourne to help us out. Emma has driven around Melbourne like she’s done it all her life – driving me to work, to treatment, to the class I’m taking two nights a week in the city and wherever else I’ve needed to go. Between her and John they’ve made endless cups of tea, packed and unpacked the dishwasher countless times, vacuumed, put washing on the line and taken it in, replaced the battery in Tim’s scooter, gardened, been on bin and recycling duty: in general, been a huge support.

I have to admit to being worried about having an energetic 3 year old  around, but Lincoln has been a true delight. He’s such a sweet boy and loves stories, telling them and reading them. His new favourite is Pete the Cat, but he’s also partial to Russell the Sheep and Giraffes can’t Dance. We read stories in my bed the other evening before dinner and he fell asleep to the soothing sound of my voice.

John and Lincoln went home to Tassie yesterday, while Emma decided to stay for another week to continuing supporting me in my final week of treatment.

Yes, only one week to go and then I’m done with radiotherapy!

It’s been a confronting, challenging journey but I’m blessed to have so much support.

Let the final countdown begin!

Love spending time with this gorgeous boy!