31 July 2007

Night Sky

Full Moon Shooting Star
Last night I couldn't sleep. It was a full moon, which I didn't realise until I stepped outside hoping some almost fresh air would change my state of tossing and turning in bed. I saw a shooting star. I was quite astounded because I wasn't expecting to see one on such a bright night. I was also delighted.

Upcoming Heavenly Event
Today I received an email as follows:
*Two moons on 27th August 2007*
*27th August; the day the Whole World is waiting for ......
Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will cultivate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65 Million miles of earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again.
Astrology Anyone?
Well that excited me no end. I'll definitely be up for that one. I can't find much info about any astrological implications of this event, but I will stay on the alert and let you know if I do. Any astrologers able to shine light on this one?

30 July 2007

Macbeth and Son by Jackie French

Jackie French has combined fascinating historical knowledge with classical literature to weave a delightful and gripping novel. Macbeth and Son is a story combining a contemporary Aussie kid's life and a historic tale over 1000 years old. It questions the nature of the truth and demonstrates kinds of courage.
It is one of the shortlisted books for younger readers in the CBCA Awards 2007. I would highly recommend it.

28 July 2007

Thanks J K Rowling

I have finally completed the latest Harry Potter. I guess it has only been a week, yet it was really burning a hole in my attention span so to speak. I kept wanting to read it and attempting to steal time from other activities. I had a delightful surprise this week at school when a friend put her copy (she had finished it) on my desk with a block of chocolate after hearing me complain about sharing with my son. He finished the same day! So I had a copy at home and at school and slotted in reading in every spare moment.
I was totally satisfied with the conclusion to the story and am very grateful to J.K. Rowling for the many hours of pleasure she has given me and my loved ones. We have all read it now and can discuss how it ended. It is the general consensus in my family that we are satisfied with how it ended up.

27 July 2007

Planting Trees

It feels so great to do something practical. We took 50 kids from our school out to a park today and planted 900 trees. I am exhausted tonight, but I feel satisfied. The kids really threw themselves into it. When we asked for volunteers, my entire class immediately volunteered and brought their forms back the next day to ensure they got to go. There were plenty of kids in the school who wanted to go, so we had to make it a first in best dressed arrangement. Kids were rushing into the office before school to try to be the first and the cut off occurred before homeroom started.

If you were cynical, you could say it was just about having a day out of the classroom. I believe 80% at least though want to do the right thing. They want to make a difference and are quick to jump to opportunities to do so. I see many kids doing amazing volunteer work in my community and I will tell you more about some of the things they do soon. Today it's the tree planters day.

We could harness this enthusiasm and good will more often. If only we had the energy to keep up and keep it safe!

25 July 2007

Offline Life

I have been busy offline lately. I felt my Internet usage was becoming a little invasive in my life and whilst having a bit of a stock take of the things I do with my time, prompted by some personal growth reading on Steve Pavlina and Craig Harper's sites I must admit. I have rearranged my routines to work better for me and have spent less time online as a result. I am feeling pretty good about it to be honest.
As it is winter here in Australia, I have been struggling for the past month or so, to get up at 6.00 and do my 20 minutes on the stepper. I had all kinds of excuses, my heart monitor battery needed replacing, it was too cold, I had the flu. I would do it for a few days and then stop. So I solved this dilemma this week by doing 30 minutes after work. I am now getting up guilt free in the morning and not resisting getting out of bed so much because I know I have done my exercise the night before. I will probably go back to mornings when it gets a little lighter and warmer in the mornings. I am pleased this is working now, as life has become easier. Why didn't I think of it earlier?
Housework and Lunch
As I am not squeezing exercise into my mornings, or avoiding exercise to be more honest, I've been able to make a healthy lunch to take to work and tidy the house before I go to work. When I get home, I do a couple of chores before exercising and it's really satisfying to come home to a tidy house.
I am going to bed at the same time at night, even though I'm not always getting up earlier to exercise. I read a little longer and get a bit more sleep. I really believe enough sleep is a really important ingredient in a busy life. I can't function if I don't get it.
I have also been going to the movies once a week, because I love film and have decided to make the time for myself. It has improved my level of cheerfulness. I feel like I am treating myself well and I'm happier. It's a simple thing really and I'm amazed at the difference it has made.
Over to You
I haven't bored you with all my little routine changes just for the fun of it. I reflected today about how much happier I have been this week and wondered if this wasn't worth sharing with others. A few simple changes might be enough to snap you out of a bout of winter blues, or get you back on track.

23 July 2007

Queenie - One Elephant's Story

The beautiful and nostalgic picture book 'Queenie-One Elephant's Storyby Corinne Fenton and illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe was shortlisted for the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books. It was also a notable for the picture book category.

It tells the story of an elephant that lived at the Melbourne Zoo, delighting audiences for almost 40 years. Teachers notes provide many links to the curriculum. It's a delightful story and a beautiful book.

22 July 2007

My Big Birkett by Lisa Shanahan

Older Readers Shortlist - Read
The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It as it is known in some parts is the final book from my challenge to read the Older Readers section of the CBCA.
There are many parts of this book I truly appreciated. The author describes the feeling of the final night of performance beautifully:

"After the curtain fell on the final scene, I had that same feeling I get on Christmas night; fierce joy, stabbing regret and an intense longing to do it all again, folded together like nuts, raisins and glace cherries in a fruitcake."(p281)

I have seen young performers experience this many times and I think Lisa Shanahan captures the experience of being in a school musical or play very well in this novel. Like "Don't Call Me Ishmael" she makes lots of great references to classical literature of Shakespeare's 'Tempest".
My Big Birkett is a multi faceted story that has heart wrenching moments. It illustrates the family of notorious troublemakers, that are the part of most communities, in a compassionate way. I love this paragraph also that is how I feel so many times:

"One of the things that scares me most is the feeling I'm going to drown in the flow of other lives. You can be celebrating because your sister's given birth to a healthy baby or you've won lotto or the lump in your knee isn't cancer after all, and yet, across town someone is devastated because their grandma died, or they failed an important test or they have no food. Sometimes when I think about these competing lives, even in my own town, let alone the whole world, I feel too tired to move."(p290)

My Choice
I found this book a lot like "One Whole and Perfect Day", an excellent read. My choice from this section would be one of the red books.

21 July 2007

Shift Reading

I'm glad my son had to work today. We bought the latest Harry Potter from his place of part time employment when I dropped him off and I had most of the day to read it. When I picked him up, it was his turn. We are fairly dignified about sharing the book now, but it hasn't always been like that.

I remember around book 4, we had one copy to share between 3 of us and the kids would take a plastic chair up on to the garage roof and sit up there and read it, mocking me. I am fairly afraid of heights. I knew if I went to the gym, or the shops, the book and the kids would end up on the garage roof and I would have no way of retrieving it until they were hungry or it got dark. Funny memories!

Our Harry Potter books have been read and reread. We've been to all the movies, yet only the first one all together on opening night. The movies were ok, but not nearly as gripping and fun as the books.

I've enjoyed what I've read so far, I'm almost reluctantly reading it because once it's done, it's done. My next shift will come in an hour or so when he goes out for dinner.

20 July 2007

Monster Blood Tattoo Book One: Foundling

Imagine a world where there are monsters of all shapes and sizes and fear factors and whilst the humans of the world are very focused on killing them using all kinds of means, you feel empathy with them. The orphan with the girly name, Rossamund, faces just this dilemma.

Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling by D.M. Cornish is another shortlisted book from the CBCA Awards. I found it tough at first, which is possibly a reflection of the genre and the limits of my imagination. Often when I start a fantasy book it takes a little to get myself a picture about the settings and characters.

I look forward to reading the rest of the series. The characters are interesting and lovable and the adventures and mysteries have me hooked now.

17 July 2007

Solo Harry Potter

Going to the Movies Alone
Tonight I went to see Harry Potter on my own. My son had already seen it the first day, and no one else I knew was interested in going. I'm pleased I went. The first time I went to a movie on my own was in Fremantle when I was visiting my lifelong friend Jane. I went to see a 'not to be missed film', the title I can't recall right now. I was in my early 30s. It was great. The experience of watching a movie alone that is. I have done it several times since then. I had previously thought of going to a film as a social activity and had really deprived myself.

Making Choices
I am always telling the young people I teach to choose for themselves and to do what they want to do, not what all their friends are doing. I have noticed lately that I often go along with what my significant other, or kids or friends want to do. I have committed to doing more things that I freely choose to do, even if I have to do them alone. So tonight's excursion was just the beginning.

Harry Potter
I did enjoy the latest Harry Potter. I have read all the books and seen all the films and look forward to the final in the series. I am delighted with what the author J.K. Rowling has achieved for herself and for the world.

16 July 2007

Woolvs in the Sitee by Margaret Wild/Anne Spudvilas

Woolvs in the Sitee has great notes for teachers on the Penguin Woolvs in the Sitee site
I look forward to sharing this CBCA Award Shortlisted book in the Picture book category with my students tomorrow when they start back at school. I began today and enjoyed catching up with my "school" friend and planning for the term ahead.
This book is suggestive and really teases your imagination. It is definitely a picture book for older readers. The pictures add much to the tension of the story. I totally enjoyed it the second and third reading and look forward to sharing it and hearing the meaning students take from it.

14 July 2007

New Moon Tonight

Mystic Medusa inspires me to follow the advice of my other favourite astrologer Yasmin Boland for tonight's new moon. I am going to write some intentions in my journal and light a candle at 10.05 to add some weight to my focus.
Holidays End
I am experiencing the general regret that the holidays are over and a little angst at how little I've achieved.
Learning Experience
Most school holidays I go away for a week with my significant other. We go for little local holidays in self-contained holiday houses and just get away from it all. We walk, nap, eat, watch movies, read and generally refresh ourselves. I chose not to go this holiday. I felt like I had too much to do and I'd had the flu and I just couldn't be bothered with the effort it would take to get away. I have probably achieved less than I usually do during the holidays. What was I thinking? I should have gone!

13 July 2007

Navigating Midlife:women becoming themselves

Middle Age

Navigating Midlife:women becoming themselves by Robyn Vickers-Willis has sidetracked me from all my intentions this week. I think it has been a long overdue personal stocktake. My wonderful new masseur lent me a copy of the book. I must admit it took me a little time to accept that I am in midlife, or middle aged. Denial! I guess writing the post about turning 30 also caused me to reflect on age related matters. Not that I will ever accept that the number of years defines who you are or how you are to behave, yet it was an interesting realisation and the book provided much needed reflection.

Personal Growth

There was nothing shattering or new to me in this book. I began doing personal growth courses and reading when I was in my early 20s. I think it was a little too early to be honest. Intellectually, I could understand much of what I read and experienced, but I had little real life experience to apply it to. I haven't really focussed as much on personal growth the past 10 years or so. I have occassionally read a book, watched a DVD, read a few blogs and just stuck with the practises I have found most helpful, meditating, exercising, journalling and have picked up and put down other tools as needs arose.

Useful Tools

This book reminded me of the stages and growth times and allowed me to focus on my current stage. I enjoyed it and feel I will reflect on it for some time. I particularly enjoyed the second half of the book that focussed on the many ways we can become more ourselves.

Australian Difference

The other thing I really loved about this book, is the author was an Australian woman. I could identify with her experience. Many books I have read in my life have been written by international authors and whilst it's really no big deal, it's great to really know the society and environment the author is speaking from. I always appreciate Australian things for this reason. Perhaps it's because when I was growing up there were so few Australian authors or films I was exposed to.

11 July 2007

Mercury Goes Forward..

Anyone who is into astrology would probably know that Mercury has been through a retrograde period from 15th June to 9th July. So it has gone direct now. My communications don't seem to have got the memo about this however. My phone has stopped working. Yesterday I was trying to get in touch with my significant others who are scattered about the country and experienced a number of frustrating attempts back and forward to get basic information I needed. Mobiles had gone flat, others were out of range, each call came when I was driving or in some other way unable to hear or get to it. Grrrr. So much for mass communications.

08 July 2007

With Hindsight 30 was......

Ghastly for me. However, to be completely honest, I'd made rather a mess of my life by then and it was possibly the best thing that ever happened to me in a nasty yet useful way. It's over 10 years ago now, so with that kind of space from it, I can see the benefits.

Karen Cheng asks about turning 30 in her post The Big Three Oh- Women Turning 30 - I'm glad you asked Karen!

Picture This
On my 30th birthday, as the sun was coming up, I was barefoot in a muddy field with an aching back and my precious babies sleeping in the backseat of my celica, whilst I cut not nearly enough asparagus to make it worthwhile. My once beautifully manicured hands were calloused and cut. There were rows of asparagus ahead of me to cut.

How did I get there?
I was separated and trying to raise two kids under 5. I'd been in decorating business with my friend and business partner. It was long hours and I felt I didn't have enough time for my kids. I hoped that by selling the business and taking casual jobs, I would get more time and have a more peaceful lifestyle.
It took a lot of convincing for the farmer to give me the job so I was too stubborn to leave after promising I wouldn't quit in the first week. I barely made a living and had help every day from fit, experienced blokes who would see me struggling and jump the fence and cut out my rows so I'd finish before the asparagus went off in the field.
I remember one day picking up my daughter from kinder and one of the mum's asked me if I'd been to Bali cause I had such a great tan. I rushed out to the car so I wouldn't blubber in public. It was a painful time.

Benefits of the Harsh Experience
I saw the most amazing sunrises and dragonflies. I made some good mates and for the first time learnt why labourers drink beer. It tastes damn good after hard work! It was a physical challenge.
I knew I was insane doing it so hard . I had a BA and lots of skills and it was one of those turning points that makes you get your act together. It took a while but I made progress to making a better life from that day on.

I still feel ...
In Karen's reflection she says she still feels like she is 24. Even when I turned 40 I still felt like a kid. I don't think age is about feeling a certain way. I did have expectations of having my act a lot more together when I was 30 than it was. I felt like a failure in so many ways and I didn't match up to my vision for 30. I started to feel that it was time to take my life a lot more seriously and that I had to stop fluffing around.

10 Years Later
Turning 40 was bliss in comparison. I not only felt pleased with my life but had the perspective of how painful it had been only 10 years ago to amplify my gratitude. I feel like I am now living the best years of my life. I know you can decide this at any time.

07 July 2007

Massaged and Loving It

Highly Recommend Massage
If you have never had a massage in your life, as so many people tell me they haven't, commit to getting one today. I've been having around 4 massages a year for the last 20 years. I'm about to start having one a month though, life is too short!
Shop Around
In this time I have probably had a couple that weren't satisfying because I paid too much and received too little, yet on the whole, the massages I have received have been little hours of bliss in life. At times I've had to try different people for all kinds of reasons. It's a bit like hairdressers, sometimes you have to shop around to find the one that is just right for you.
Finding the ONE
I tried a new masseur yesterday. I have to say I was thrilled with her service. Excellent pressure, clean, tranquil space, warm towels, great price and a very positive and professional lady. The massage was a pleasure to receive. She used the quality essential oils that I prefer and a fabulous blend. Later in the day I felt a little tender, which always is the sign of a beneficial massage to me, much like those muscular pains after have a great workout at the gym. Yet during the massage, there was no pain, only relief and relaxation.
Affordable Proactive Care
Massage relieves stress, which is a big cause of disease. It improves your circulation and elimination. There are many types of therapeutic massage yet even relaxation massage is beneficial. Having a regular massage, whilst seemingly indulgent, could arguably be a saving due to the health benefits. Preventing disease has to be better than treating it. When I was struggling financially, I was fortunate enough to have friends who were studying massage and I was the crash test dummy for them, so got my massages for little or nothing. There really is no excuse to go without the health and well being benefits. Ask around to find a good reasonably priced person in your area. I have found people working from their homes are cheaper and usually just as well set up.
Massage Exchange
I massage my family and friends but I am not professional and I conk out pretty quickly. When they reciprocate it is a similar experience, they don't last long enough! Whilst I think it is a lovely nurturing thing to do this for one another, it is no substitute for paying for and receiving an hour or more in a beautiful candle lit room, scented with essential oils, wrapped in a warm towel, in well trained hands.
How to Spot a Great Service
Short fingernails is a must. Many beauticians have long nails and whilst they create a great environment and have lots of other elements in place, can't really apply pressure as well as trim nailed counterparts. Cleanliness and warmth are vital as I find it difficult to relax in other circumstances. Discuss price up front. Around $50 an hour is what I have generally found is a fair price.

06 July 2007

One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke

Family Focus
Families are the focus in this contender for the Childrens Book Council Awards shortlisted for Older Readers. In One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke an interesting family of characters is assembled, complications are listed and neatly resolved by the end. There is warmth and magic as the broken down things in the central teenagers life come together at the end to form the whole and perfect day.
People with Flaws
I liked the characters and settings. I loved the grandparents especially. The grandmother living in her beautiful world and creating magic and harmony for the family. The cranky grandpa who threatens and rants in the family, yet privately is not racist or cruel. They were believable and offered insight into the ways children, parents, grandparents and community interact and form happy alliances, warts and all.
There was compassion in this story. The characters cared for others. Each of them demonstrated their vulnerability and extended care for one another and outsiders and this was the strength of the story to me.
CBCA Award Comments
I found the start hard to get involved with, and feel this book isn't in the same league as the previously read shortlisted books. Yet having said that, it is a pleasing tale and is well worth a read.

05 July 2007

Reading Challenge Stocktake

Premiers Reading Challenge
At school our kids participate in the Premiers Reading Challenge at year 7, 8 and 9. They need to read 15 books in a period of around 6 months. Most of them complete this and I try to challenge them to extend themselves a little. 10 of the books they read need to come from a list. I like to complete the challenge also and read 10 from the CBCA Award shortlist. The CBCA Award winners are announced during Childrens Book Week which is 18th - 24th August. This co-incides with the end of the Premiers Reading Challenge, which for schools is 17th August.
My Challenge Progress
The challenge began on the 31st January and in this time I've read; 'Don't Call Me Ishmael' by Michael Gerard Bauer , 'The Red Shoe' by Ursula Dubosarsky, 'Red Spikes' by Margo Lanagan and 'One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke. From my own choice books, I've read 'The Lollipop Shoes' by Joanne Harris, 'The Witch of Portobello' by Paulo Coelho, 'The Journeys of Socrates' by Dan Millman, 'Stalker' by Hazel Edwards , 'The Running Man' by Michael Gerard Bauer, 'The Zahir' by Paulo Coelho, 'Theodora's Gift' by Ursula Duborsarsky, 'White Time by Margo Lanagan, 'Flying South' by L M Elliott and 'I Heard the Owl Call My Name' by Margaret Craven. So I've actually over read in my own choice section. Well I guess that is the challenge! I have the last two from the shortlist for older readers, and one of the 2007 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books shortlisted books, because it had red in the title of course. I aim to read these during the next week.
In Summary
So I've read 4 out of 10 from the CBCA Awards shortlist. I have 3 here from the list to complete and would like to read the Catherine Bateson's book 'Being Bee' in the Younger Readers Category as well as the one with Macbeth in the title by Jackie French. That will make 9. I've read two picture books from the list, so I will reread them and review them and then my work is done. Work - that's a joke, I love reading. It's been great listing this. It made me realise some more progress made.

03 July 2007

Home Insurance in Gippsland

Two of my friends have been shopping for household contents insurance in the last week or so. Both have mentioned to me they can't find an insurance company willing to ensure anyone in Gippsland due to the floods. I remember the last time I looked into insurance, the person on the phone read to me the list of situations where the insurance wouldn't cover damage. After hearing all the exceptions, I decided against it. I couldn't think of much that could happen that would be covered.
On the news this evening it mentioned that many of those who had their homes damaged by the flood waters were finding they weren't covered by their insurance policies.
Perhaps all the people in Gippsland should check their policies and stop paying their premiums if it is of no value to them.

01 July 2007

Saturday Night's Full Moon

Sometimes, when I am not too cranky, busy, tired, etc, I will drive my son and his friends to their assorted Saturday night engagements. I have seen some sights during these times and last night was no exception.
Parties, Gatherings, and other names for a Riot
Young people have a lot of difficulty convincing parents to have them in the family home on a weekend night. I have negotiated with my son about the specific meaning behind the word 'gathering' or 'few'. I learnt to be very clear about numbers after having a party. When I take him to little 'shindigs' and there is overflow onto the street, I have empathy for whichever parent didn't get clear about numbers. I assume the parent is home, or at least aware when I say that. I heard a classic story about an individual who sent a mass text to friends, inviting them to a get together, and in the frenzy to get the news out, included the absent parental unit. Oooops!
Pre outing drinks
The outing is preceded by assembling at someones house and having a couple of bevvies, whilst completing final touches to grooming. Straighteners, assorted hair products, alternative outfits etc are lugged to the nominated house and the girls all have a 'prebrief' (before the event debrief). I have heard harsh comments. Once all the final touches have been made a number of photo's are taken, often appearing on myspaces.
Most Recent Event
Last night I took them to an 18th at a venue. Looking splendid and slightly tipsy, they joined the throng on the footpath. After a visit to the supermarket, I did the parent thing and drove by again to check they had got in safely. There had been a problem with this venue as the host had been forewarned that only a small number of under 18 year old would be allowed in, yet the birthday celebrant had clearly invited many more than that.
The Debrief
It was an early, yet eventful night. The debrief happened at the end of the night, with another parent and a smaller, still upright group. As a teacher, I get drips and drops of what has occurred over the next week, yet last night all the information poured in on the spot. There had been friends lost, wandering, beaten up, broken hearted and the usual written off by alcohol. The most glamorous, beautiful young people, time and time again, shred their careful appearances by drinking too much.
I worry about fights, alcohol, self-esteem, about my son and the kids I teach. I am concerned about them all. It is a juggling act to stay open enough that they could call you if they need you and to not condone or support their risky behaviours. There are many parents who are prohibitive and clueless about what really goes on. I think this is dangerous. I don't feel judgemental about these kids. I love them. I know, nothing new here, but it is scary to watch.