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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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?
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
I first read this book when I was 9 and I loved it from the start
The voice of Stevens in this book is a real delight
A favourite from my childhoold, but it’s a real book of its time
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.