28 June 2007

Bucketed down

The river in town flooded last night. Today we didn't get a drop, but I had to try three different ways to get to work this morning because there was a lake in the centre of town and quite a few roads were closed.

Last day of school tomorrow. Woo hoo.

27 June 2007

Dragging my way to the end of Term

The last three days.....
I've just had an interesting couple of days. I've had the pleasure of having three awesome young ladies from NSW stay with us, whilst they participated in a netball carnival ran by our school. It was such fun. They were delightful. I have the flu, I feel exhausted by the usual mid year things, reports, freezing weather, short days and had a couple of unusual unpleasant events. I was not looking forward to having visitors.
Infectious Joy
Amazingly, I have thoroughly enjoyed the visit. Although I continued to ache and be tired, yet when the girls were around, I laughed and listened to their enthusiasm, feeling better. The time flew when they were here. Their high spirits and energy really lifted me up.
Yet again, I am reminded why I love being a secondary school teacher. Young people are just great to be around and they share their passion for life so generously. I feel really grateful for my job. Even if I am counting down for the term to end. Now, like the old person I am feeling right now, I'll drop into bed and dream of holidays.

23 June 2007

Pumping Up Your Tyres

In Praise of Praise
When we say 'I pumped up your tyres', or 'She/he pumped up your tyres'. It's a bit of a joke designed to let each other know, we put in a good word for someone or heard some praise about them. Everyone wants to hear that about themselves. It makes you feel good.
Inflated Tyres
I've had my tyres pumped up this week a couple of times. When I returned to school after being away for a few days, my students greeted me enthusiastically and welcomed me back. A parent at the supermarket told me she wanted to line up behind the best teacher in the world according to her two kids. I felt great.
I could certainly travel smoother with my pumped up tyres. It's been a challenging week or so and those things helped. Perhaps I am self-aggrandising when I write this, so be it. I am sharing it because I want others to realise that those kind of comments can carry tremendous weight. Many people talk about the negative feedback and challenges in public for teachers. That happens. So it's good to be able to share the positive ones too. They really make a difference.
Anti Acknowledgement
The Age: Last But Not Least discusses authors acknowledgements and takes a critical look at the ulterior motive of the writer who lists many benefactors. Caroline Baum asks

"Could it be that a culture already geared to excessive confession and public displays of emotion is guilty of nurturing the current trend? Is it also perhaps an attitude borrowed from that most egomaniacal of public arenas, Hollywood?"

Where is the harm in being grateful to people who have supported you? I don't think it takes anything away from someone to praise and acknowledge others. Particularly in a book, readers aren't compelled to read it! I don't remember thinking too much about the authors acknowledgement pages unless I have been looking for further reading, checking sources to determine the historical accuracy, or that one time when my partners ex included him in her thanks;-).

Apples for Apples
I realise that an acknowledgement in a book or at some award ceremony is quite different to a spoken thank-you or acknowledgement, yet I think it's similar stuff. I don't see the harm in thanking others or praising one another. I would encourage it.

20 June 2007

'Don't Call Me Ishmael' by Michael Gerard Bauer

Award-Winning Author of 'The Running Man'
Michael Gerard Bauer wrote 'The Running Man' and it won the 2005 CBCA Award for older readers. I found this book totally different. I loved them both and was pleased by how different they were. What a versatile writer! 'The Running Man', I found to be a more intense and intimate story, wheras 'Don't Call Me Ishmael', is less mystery more comedy, yet equally well written and enjoyable.

School Life well captured
As a teacher I found the characters well written. It described many aspects of school life so well. I particularly enjoyed the vice-principal character. Does every school have a Mr Barker? I know ours does.

"Mr Barker was the school's 'go to' guy. If ever a water or food
fight broke out in the yard or someone had money stolen or accidentally swallowed the lid of his pen ....... or put his fist through a window because he didn't realise it was shut....or got his head stuck between the railings of the stairwell..... or if ever anyone had to be found, patched up, talked to, yelled at, disciplined, restrained or revived then the inevitable cries would go up, 'Get Mr Barker. Find Mr Barker. Go see Mr Barker. Try Mr Barker. Ask Mr Barker.'"(pg 64)

Many of the student characters and dilemas I've seen before. They were beautifully and humanly described by Bauer.

Moby Dick and Debating
Authors of books for young adults have a civic duty to make good things cool, I believe and Bauer by introducing young readers, in a realistic way to Moby Dick and debating is doing a great service.

The humour was the highlight of the book. I was very amused by so many aspects of this book. I especially loved the English teachers first lesson. I was just as gripped as the characters, to see how she was going to deliver her promise. The peg in the pants scene was equally impressive.

CBCA Award 2007 for Older Readers
This is the third book I've read in this category now. I have no idea how they would choose. This book is quite different from 'The Red Shoe' and 'Red Spikes'. I imagine it would be more popular with young people, but I think I enjoyed the other two more. It will be interesting to see. I hope I finish them all before it is announced. I'm half way through the older readers, so maybe I will just focus on that section.

19 June 2007

Teeth and other pains

Dentists - Aagh
My son had braces put on today. A couple of weeks ago he had to have 2 teeth removed to accommodate this. It didn't go as hoped and the root of the tooth broke off and was lodged up somewhere(don't want to go into much detail as it makes me sick to think of it). On Saturday, he had it removed by a dental surgeon and then finally today, the braces went on. He was swollen and brave.
Don't Do It!
I have fought the braces all the way. I objected to teeth being removed. He is seventeen however and he wanted them. I hope it is worth the pain and expense. I can't bear it. I had overcrowded teeth and had heaps removed and some orthodontic work. I don't think it was worth it, but I'm hoping the technology has improved, for his sake.
Bye Auntie Karren
She was a strong, down to earth woman, a hardworking and humble person who was much loved. She made me laugh with her honest observations she would make and just cut through the bullshit and say what she saw. She shared her life with my Uncle, who will miss her deeply. They ran a business together, were hospitable to the large family we have, loved their kids and grand kids, travelled together and had a good life.
My response
We had a big family funeral today for my Auntie. With report writing and dentist appointments mingled in with all the day to day goings on in my life, I had managed not to think about it much, other than to commit to quitting smoking, which seemed like a rational thing to do. My parents are away and couldn't come back, so it was easier to stay in denial. I knew my brother and the rest of the family were doing all the right things. Today however it was harder. It was good to see all my family today rallying around my Uncle. It was a good funeral, as funerals go.

I have a big headache now and I'm going to bed.

17 June 2007

Last Man Standing

To Quit...
I am reflecting today on quitting smoking. This is going to be a long post. I have made a commitment to myself to get hypnotised. I have to write a list of reasons why I want to quit. The counsellor knows it isn't worthwhile unless I really want to. I really do want to. I have chosen hypnosis because I want to do this calmly and mindfully. I intend it to be an exercise in self-improvement, rather than a ugly and uncomfortable withdrawal from addiction.

Past attempts
I am scared I am going to fail at it again. I have tried a number of times before. I thought I would write this reflection on my blog post to add some leverage to my intention. There is nothing quite like telling the world you are going to do something for making you follow through. I have tried patches, gum, hypnosis, cold turkey, zyban and nicotine lozenges. Hypnosis was the least damaging and most empowering, so I am going with that again.

Freedom from Addiction
I intensely dislike being unable to choose. I hate the panic I feel when I am running out of cigarettes. I am not in control of my own behaviour and this has health, social, financial and time consequences. I remember a doctor once said to me " I don't know how you find the time!" and I was furious about that. I see myself as a really busy person who gets a lot done. Yet when I have quit in the past, I have so much extra time and accomplish so much more.

Social Smoker

I feel like the last man standing as far as smoking goes. It used to be a great social event to go outside for a smoke. All the best people were out there and there was always laughter and wickedness that I enjoyed. Now it feels like the best people have quit and I am left with the people who don't really care....about themselves. A harsh thing to say as a couple of my best friends in the whole world are still smoking with me, but I want them to stop too. I am not a social smoker though. I am totally addicted and smoke in any circumstance.

Fear of Death
My Auntie died this week. She was a smoker and she had a lot of cancer. She was only in her fifties. That's young, particularly when you are in your forties. I am no longer prepared to race towards premature death. Other family members who were smokers have also died.

I don't want to set a bad example to my kids or to the kids I teach. I love them and I want to demonstrate living healthy to them. I know it hurts my parents, kids and loved ones to see me smoke. They are scared for me and I can relate to that when I see people I love take risks with their wellbeing. It's not fair. My relationships suffer from this habit.

I enjoy being healthy. I like having circulation in my feet and hands. I like to breath easily when I exercise, or even when I wake up. I want to stop snoring and having sinus pain.

Taste and Smell
I know from my previous quitting times how much better the world can taste and smell.

Time and Money
I want that time and money for more exciting, adventurous and positive things like home improvements, travelling and learning.

I can think of lots of reasons why I smoke. Most of them are historical and have been eclipsed by the addiction. I started smoking when I was young and rebellious and all my friends smoked. Most of the adult women I admired were smokers. I wanted to be like them all. I continued smoking because nobody could tell me what to do. I wanted to be a rebel. I didn't care, I wasn't afraid, it was the least of my bad habits (or so I thought) at times. I thought I was invincible. I was angry and it helped. I wanted a treat - a coffee and a smoke. I didn't want to put on weight by eating a treat instead of having a smoke. I know most of those reasons are redundant or ignorant now. I am just addicted.

I think how is always more important than why. I have learnt a lot from my last experiences. I know I can not have another smoke if I am going to give up, so I am going to rid my home of all butts and buts. I am going to listen to the hypnosis tape each morning whilst I exercise and at night before I sleep. I am going to quit on the last day of school so I have a two week head start before I have to say no to going outside with my smoking buddies at school. I am going to start a room painting project to give me something valuable to do with my time. I am going to take extra vitamin B and eat healthy fresh food. I am booking a massage for myself as my treat and will reward myself with a handbag I have been wanting to buy at the end of the holidays. I know I will have the support of my family and friends. This week I am going to make a treasure map of the lifestyle I want to live when I am free of this addiction. I am letting go of something that no longer serves me and I am ready.
I have read the book Allen Carrs Easy Stop Smoking
I will use the following web pages to support me also:
Natural Therapy
QuitNow - National Tobacco Campaign
Quit Vitoria
Wish me luck.

16 June 2007

I've found Gnod

Gnod is amazing. I love it. If you click on this image and have a look at the authors on the list, they consist of many that I have read. You can also explore maps of music and films. When you click on another name in the map, it takes you to another map. I would have adored this when I was a kid and ran out of books by my favourite author. The closer the names to one another, the more closely linked they are. This is a great recommendation for when you are looking for something like.....

15 June 2007

Women Who run With the Wolves

My musing on Red Shoes has led me back to that classic resource Women who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Chapter 8, titled 'Self-Preservation: Identifying Leg Traps, Cages, and Poisoned Bait' contains 'The Red Shoes'.

"There is an old women's teaching tale about the plight of the starved and feral woman. It is variously known by the names "The Devil's Dancing Shoes," "The Red-Hot Shoes of the Devil," and "The Red Shoes." Hans Christian Anderson wrote a story by the same name"(p215)

She speaks of a 'loss of instinct' and warns to 'guard the treasures of our basic natures'. This theme was certainly present in 'The Lollipop Shoes'. I am looking forward to exploring further this chapter. In rereading I hope to discover what is drawing me to this little story.

The Kate Bush site GaffaWeb has a discussion about Red Shoes and compares the Magyar-Germanic version from 'Women Who run With the Wolves' to the Hans Christian Anderson version.

13 June 2007

The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris

The sequel to 'Chocolat', a long time favourite of mine, 'The Lollipop Shoes', is every bit as delicious as the original. I felt I could smell the chocolate and taste the sumptuousness of the feast described. It is just a pleasure to read.

Fairy Tales
Woven into this story are fairy tales told to Vianne by her mother and the theme as I have previously mentioned of the 'Red Shoes' and the allure of glamour and brightness when life is glum. There are other fairy tales throughout this novel in various forms. I love the imagery and the retelling.
Celebrating Life and Love
This is a story about the value of love and the awakening of living to the fullness. It has all the magic of the first novel, culminating in the mouth watering feast that decides the fates of the central characters. The administering of sweetness to the random and forlorn characters that frequent the shop, highlights how lonely and loveless strangers can create a warm circle of friends.
The villain in this novel is not the church but a dark magician who appears so like Vianne, yet intends evil. The bad witch who sees this loveless reality

"....by then we'll all be sand, except for the One who has always been; the one that builds pyramids;raises temples; makes martyrs; composes sublime music; denies logic; praises the meek; receives souls into Paradise; dictates what to wear; smites the infidel; paints the Sistine Chapel; urges young men to die for the cause; blows up bandsmen by remote control;
promises much; delivers little; fears no one and never dies,
because fear of Death is so much greater than honour, or goodness, or faith, or love...."(p448)

frightens me more than the previous villain in Chocolat. The manipulative woman who entices and lures the teen to turn her power to satisfy lust and manipulate others is scary.

I wish I still had it to read and I'm going to check ebay for another Joanne Harris book as she is a writer that never fails to lure me into her story in an enticing way.

11 June 2007


Tomorrow I need to get back into exercise. I am extremely soft on myself. I haven't exercised for over a week. I have a million and one excuses as we all do when we indulge ourselves in sloppiness, but the reality is not exercising doesn't make my life easier as I like to kid myself. I had to think about why I stopped and I realised it was because my heart monitor wasn't working. Probably needs a new battery. I don't use it because I have some kind of heart condition or anything. It's just to ensure that I am going hard enough. I need that feedback to ensure that my exercise on my stepper isn't just a stroll in the park, and is an effective workout. That's how slack I am!
Self-Imposed Limits
In our household our internet goes off at 9.45 everynight. My techie partner has set it up like this so that the kids don't spend all night online. It's really a good idea as it gives you the chance to get a good nights sleep and creates a limit that becomes a foolproof system. I think I was the first to ask for an extension of that time and when it wasn't granted I was cranky. I am over it now though and I have been thinking about other ways that I can create healthy limits for myself in other areas of life.
Creative Limits
I have noticed at school if the kids have free reign to create a short story or any kind of project or peice of work, they spend so much time trying to think about what to do or write, it becomes a nightmare for them. When I first started teaching, I thought if they could write about whatever they wanted it would make it easier for them. WRONG! Now I create some kind of limit and it flows easier for them. I am always willing to negotiate with anyone who has another idea, yet it's rare any student takes me up on that. If any of what I am saying rings true for you read Presentation Zen: Can limitations and restrictions be liberating? The answer for me is too right they can.
Many parents say children need boundaries. As a teacher in the classroom I know students operate best when there are clear boundaries. I need boundaries too. In fact it would be great if I could somehow create some device to prevent me from getting coffee until my exercise was done. Any suggestions anyone?

10 June 2007

Do you like the new look?

Let's get the shoulds out of the way.
Yes, I should be correcting so I can have my reports done on time. They are due Friday and it's a long weekend here. Queen's Birthday weekend is always really meant to be correct and write reports weekend. I usually don't though. I have a really tidy home.

It's warm too cause I have just upgrading from the wood fire heating to a reverse cycle air conditioner. It's lovely to breath without creating a fog inside. It's awesome to flick a switch and not have to bring heavy loads of wood in and then spend the time it takes getting the fire to start. I don't miss the fire at all, but if ever I do, it's still there in the corner.

Flitting around the Internet
So I have updated the template of my blog, thanks to joining Bumpzee and receiving a lovely visitor to my site from snokky who has Life in the Country and a wonderful template that I decided I could do with. I haven't finished the renovations yet, a bit like my house! I am searching my backups for this particular photo to put on the header.

Social Networking
Bumpzee is a social networking site and I have realised lately that I haven't been participating very much in any online communities. I thought I'd see what it was like before I outright reject it and go back to the solitude I like. So here's to a new online experiment for me.

09 June 2007

Red reading

I am currently reading 'The Lollipop Shoes' by Joanne Harris. I haven't finished it yet, so this isn't a review. I realised that this is another variation of the theme of 'The Red Shoes' fairytale. The lollipop shoes in this story are bright red shoes belonging to a witch character who is seducing the young daughter of a 'good' witch. This is a huge simplification of the enjoyable journey of this book, however I have to say there are interesting parellels.

This repetition of fairytales is something I love about being a reader. "Repetition Leads to Discovery" as some of my students tire of hearing me say. Everytime I hear a new retelling I get deeper distinctions about the message in the story. It is enriching.

I wonder if we are attracted to certain stories and books when we need to learn central things to our own heroes journey. Perhaps we just see the lessons we need right now in the stories we read. Some books linger in your thinking. I take the daily installment of reading and think often throughout the day and notice much.

Another book I am reading right now is 'Red Haze' by Leon Davidson. It is a CBCA shortlisted book for this year. I have learnt quite a bit about the Vietnam war and history through reading it. In SOSE we are learning about Australia's colonialisation by the British and I am interested in colonisation right now. There is always so much to learn. Vietnam's history is interesting and I would like to visit there. I imagine it would be a very unique place.

Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive, it isn't. ~Richard Bach

08 June 2007

The Australian Index

It's great to read blog posts from Australia. The Australian Index is a great resource and has organised blogs from Australians in a great way so you can find blogs to read according to your interests. It's a great place to browse and they regularly update and select posts of interest. It is becoming one of my favourite surfing places.

07 June 2007

Hand Sanitizer

I had no idea how widespread hand sanitizer is. Last time I visited my pa in the hospital, there were bottles of this hand sanitizer as you entered the wards and a sign asking you to clean your hands with this waterless hand cleaner before and after visiting in the hospital. I did.
My daughter tells me they have it at the primary school where she is working for the kids to use before they eat lunch. There is a small bottle on my desk. It says

"Instant Hand Sanitizer", subtitled "Kills 99.99% of germs"

I'm not sure why, but that seems really weird and sterile to me. I am not sure if I like it.
New Kills Germs Without Water
Are germs endangered species? That's a joke. I wonder are we taking clean to a new and bizarre level? Are there that many germs around that we need to maintain this kind of environment? These questions and more will never be asked by me again. In fact, I possibly will never mention this again.

03 June 2007


A morning spent reading on the Internet has been a little journey into the past for me today, riddled with co-incidences and revelations. I read my weekly 'Mystic Medusa' horoscope and her latest blog post:Bibliomancy: Tekhne led me to a link to review of a book she is reading about metaphysics, history and myth, some of my favourite subjects. The John E Mack Institute website however, was the real find for me.
Without wanting to reveal too much of my flakey past, I did a 'spiritual' course once and met John E Mack. He was one of the participants. My friend Shirley and I and around 20 others had this adventure that was so shoddy. Shirley and I discussed it last time we caught up and she asked whether I'd heard anything about John, as she really liked him. I thought he had died and today, that was confirmed on that website. He was a very interesting, humble and gentle man. When he listened to you, you really felt heard and Shirley was especially touched by his ability to listen and hear.
He died 3 years ago in an accident.
He was quite sick on that course and that was one of the objections I had about the course. They wouldn't allow him to deal with his health issues and I felt that was crazy and almost cruel as I could see he was in pain and I felt almost in collusion by being there and watching them deny him care. It was a very unpleasant experience for me. I ended up being totally outraged and basically throwing a tantrum, which was then put down to a flaw in my spirit. Still, on reflection, I learnt lots from that course about myself and about deferring to others. I had perhaps lost touch with myself and that was what it took to make me realise who I was.
Earlier this week in class (although I was hardly there, I did have a couple of lessons), a student asked me whether I believed in UFO's. John came into my mind. I told the kids what he'd told me about his research and that although I had no evidence, I trusted his and I personally do believe.
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01 June 2007

Courage to Care

This week has been excursion week for me. I think I have overdone it a little. I've been out 3 out of the general 5 working days at school. On Tuesday and today I went to Leongatha to the 'Courage to Care' exhibition. We took all our year 9 students to this event and since our school motto is 'Strong Minds, Compassionate Hearts', I think it was a valuable use of time.

The stories and speakers were courageous and focussed not on the horrors of their experiences but of the heroism of those who supported their survival of these wicked times. The exhibition has display boards of stories of the righteous.

The discussion groups after the talks and viewing the display helped us to apply the lessons and to see how we must retain our humanity and resist prejudice, treating all people as humans.