Month: August 2018

Nature’s Mirror To The Sky

Nature’s Mirror To The Sky

When the water is crystal clear, I look across the river and see the sky, the clouds, and the trees, mirrored on the surface. That’s when I am seeing nature at its best. And that’s what makes the Tweed River so spectacularly beautiful. When I drive along Tweed Valley Way, I glance across to the river as often as I safely can. This really is Nature’s mirror to the sky.

Nature’s Mirror

Mother Nature’s Palette

The colours of the water mirror nature’s palette of colours. It’s as if Mother Nature has spent the dark hours of the night mixing the vibrant blues and greens, for those lucky enough to see her masterpiece in the morning light. Artists and photographers try to capture the beauty, but few can do justice to what nature provides for us, free of charge.

Shades of Blue

Nothing can be more beautiful than looking into the mirror that Nature provides, right here on the Tweed River. 


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Gutenberg Is On The Horizon!

Gutenberg Is On The Horizon!

WordPress is introducing Gutenberg as a new way to add and edit content on WordPress websites, based on a Block Editor concept. The full WordPress 5.0 version isn’t available yet, but the (Beta) Plugin is. When WordPress 5.0 arrives, Gutenberg will be built-in to it, and it will change the way we build WordPress websites.

Disclaimer:

    I’m not an expert in Gutenberg, or creating websites. This post is simply to show you how a novice website builder (me), has installed the Gutenberg plugin, and started using it right from the get-go. I created this page on my iPad Pro, not a desktop or laptop, so if things look different on your screen – that might be why.

MD

At the WordPress Meetups I attend, I’ve been hearing about how good Gutenberg is going to be.  And when I found out that a Gutenberg (Beta) plugin was available, I thought about installing it – but I didn’t.

I sat back for a while, and waited

Eventually, curiosity got the better of me, and I installed the plugin. And then I sat back again, and waited. Installing a new plugin is one thing; activating it is something else.

I was a bit hesitant because I had read some reviews that hinted that it wasn’t quite ready – one review even suggesting that it might break your website. I was excited about trying it, but certainly didn’t want my site to ‘break’, even though I’m not sure what a broken site looks like.

When the videos from WordCamp Sydney 2018 were released recently, I couldn’t wait to see them. I followed the link to YouTube and tuned in to see the Panel Q&A on Gutenberg. An experienced website builder gave it the thumbs up – having activated the plugin – with no adverse effects on her site.

That was all the encouragement I needed. I activated the plugin and figured out where to start. Super fast – super easy.

So what does Gutenberg do?

Right out of the box, I began by adding a Quote to a blog post I had started a few days before I downloaded the plugin.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. 

Albert Einstein 

All I had to do was just click on the + sign, and add a block to write a Quote in. What makes it really easy is being able to add the author of the quote, in a pre-determined place. Before Gutenberg, I used to spend a lot of time trying to make sure the author tag stayed close to the quote, without being picked up in the formatting assigned to the quote itself, usually a Heading. With the Gutenberg block – it’s all taken care of.

It doesn’t matter that I started the blog using the traditional method – Gutenberg just slid into place, effortlessly.

And to see if using Gutenberg from scratch is just as easy, this post was created using Gutenberg – from beginning to end. It couldn’t have been easier. 

Block-based, and easy

It’s the blocks that make Gutenberg easy to use. Instead of building a page in a single block, Gutenberg provides multiple blocks for adding text, images and quotes (plus a whole lot more). By having everything in blocks, I can move them up or down the page without having to mess around with cutting and pasting.

Each item is in its own block. This paragraph is in one block, and the images (below) are in their own. This gives me the flexibility to move things around without the risk of losing the whole page, or messing things up.

It gives the page flexibility

Adding a new paragraph still works the same way. Hitting the Enter or Return button moves the cursor down to the starting point of the new paragraph. But instead of continuing the text in the same Block as the previous paragraph, Gutenberg slips a new block in, without you even noticing – until you want to change something. When you click on the paragraph, you open up the Block – and the manoeuvreability comes into play. You can easily change the paragraph to a heading, or move the block up or down the page, or even convert the text to a list.

Adding a photo

Just click on the plus-sign to add a Block and the available options open up. Select the Image icon, and add your photo. You still have the same features –  either select a photo or image from your Media Library or upload a new image. It’s all just easier with Gutenberg. 

I Love It!

This is only scratching the very outer layer of what the Gutenberg plugin can do. I have only played around with the parts that are relevant to me, right now. As my needs grow, so will my learning.

In writing this naiive and humble outline of my short journey with Gutenberg, I hope I have inspired you to get that domain name you’ve been thinking about, download WordPress and the Gutenberg Plugin, and start creating your own website.

And for the more experienced WordPress website creators, I can’t wait to read about your journey with the new Gutenberg (Beta) Plugin. 

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My Annus Horribilis!

My Annus Horribilis!

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II dragged a Latin phrase out of antiquity, and gave it modern prominence. I remember the speech well. When the Queen uttered the seemingly inoccuous Latin phrase, snickers (I mean – the smothered laugh variety – nothing to do with chocolate) went up simultaneously around the world. Did she just say Annus? Oh, wait, that’s Annus, with two n’s – right – got it. Given the events of that year, Queen Elizabeth had certainly endured her annus horribilis – or, ‘worst year’. My annus horribilis usurped almost all of 2010. Certainly not for the same reasons as the reigning Monarch’s annus horribilus, but just as horrible.

 

Horribilis or Mirabilis?

The year started okay, but took a steep nose-dive somewhere around the middle. I can’t account for how, when, or why, but it deteriorated rapidly.

While the ‘Annus Horribilis’ was unfolding, I kept thinking, “Something good will come out of this”. It became my Mantra. But while I was stuck in the middle of the ‘horrible-ness’ of the year, I struggled to really believe any good would come of it, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself.

I guess we all have bad days, but when a whole year falls apart at the seams, you know you have to do something different.

And that’s exactly what I did.

I packed up my car and drove

I left the city behind, and headed North-West. Away from the surf, sand, and Starbucks; the busy shopping centres and growing trend of ‘chocolate’ cafes, and from the friends I’d hung out with.

But not before kicking 2010 out, and welcoming 2011 in, with open arms. I don’t normally celebrate New Year’s Eve, but I did that year. I booked into a hotel in Brisbane, and watched the clock strike midnight over the Brisbane River, with fireworks lighting up the night sky and the water. As 2010 rolled out to sea, 2011 beamed over the horizon, and I knew things would be different that year.

A long way from home

Isolated – compared to the city I left behind – and yet surrounded by amazing people.

My sojourn in the bush began in January 2011 and was meant to last for six months, but six months turned into five years. Five years of isolation – time to reflect and grow; it’s amazing how strong you can be when you have to. And it’s amazing how your annus mirabilis can emerge out of the toughest moments.

The place that I was to call home for five years had no sand, or surf; no shopping centres full of trendy shops; none of the friends that I used to hang out with. And it was a four-hour round-trip to anything that even remotely resembled a city, or a Starbucks. But I loved every minute of being there. My annus mirabilis lasted the whole five years in that quiet little region.

Time to watch the grass grow

Going from a busy city to a small town gave me perspective – I found out what peace sounds like. When you are immersed in city life, you rarely stop to think about any other existence. The hustle and bustle of a metropolis keep propelling you forward, and you think there is no other way to live. And then you sit on your verandah, in a town of less than 2000 people, and listen to the grass grow outside your door. It is then you realise there are two sides: the noisy and the quiet – the busy and the slow – the near and the far.

After five years of the quiet, I needed the noisy – but not the noisy I had left behind. I wanted something in-between. The not so near, and the not so fast.

I found it in Murwillumbah, where I have the best of both worlds. The not so far, the not so quiet, and the not so slow, is right here in my own backyard.

A thirty minute drive to the busy and the noisy is easy when I want to be immersed in all the Gold Coast has to offer, including the sea, the sand and the Starbucks.

Now I am content to sit on my verandah and hear the muffled sounds of life around me – not the sounds of constant traffic – or the grass growing. Just the peaceful sounds of life – not intrusive – just there.

 My annus horribilis is a distant memory and has never been repeated. Now, every year is an annus mirabilis; each one gently rolls over to make way for the next great year.

Life in Paradise just keeps getting better.

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Washing Day

Washing Day

I had never thought of writing about washing day – until I was unpegging the washing from the clothesline one day. I don’t know why, but images flashed through my mind, and for an instant, I was taken back to another clothesline, in another place, and another time.

A Little Piece of Paradise

My unit is nestled amongst the trees, plants, and wildlife that fill the twenty-eight acres of bushland that I now call home. Even though it is quiet and peaceful here, it isn’t as quiet as the place that popped into my head on that washing day.

Before I found my little piece of Paradise, I spent five years living and working in Central Queensland. And it’s that part of my life that the washing day memory came from. I was living seventy-five kilometres from one small town, and seventy-five kilometres from the next, even smaller town. Smack-dab in the middle of both, with nothing but bush in between.

In the Middle of Isolation

Apart from a small school on one side, which was always deserted on weekends – there was nothing but bush on the other three sides, which were deserted on any day. My only company on Saturdays and Sundays, unless I drove to the general store a few kilometres away, was the wildlife.

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A school on one side…

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And bush on the other sides

Just Me and the ‘Roos

My routine on Sunday mornings, when I was at home (more about that later), was to sit on the back step with my morning coffee, and watch the kangaroos in the paddock next to my house. I discovered they have an interesting method of checking for safety – not foolproof I might add, given the number of flat ones on the road – but it seemed to work okay out there in the paddock. In the process of hopping through the bush, one of the larger ‘roos would stop, scan, and listen, with head up and ears back. The rest of the mob would then hop a little further into the paddock, usually in single file, and usually with some distance between each one. Eventually, they would congregate, but they were always on alert for the slightest sound or movement.

They were comfortable with my presence, although they were aware of every move I made. Meanwhile, the mob grazed, and I watched and learned.

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The constant scanning, protects the mob in the paddock

It Is What It Is….

That was my existence back then; work all week, and watch the kangaroos graze on weekends. I always had a week’s worth of washing to hang out on at least one of those weekend days. And it was staring at the bush from the clothesline that drove home the reality of isolation. When I wasn’t at the clothesline, or watching the kangaroos from the top step, I was inside, planning for the next week at work.

I couldn’t see the isolation from inside. But outside – it was unavoidable – you just couldn’t escape the aloneness out there. Was it peaceful? Absolutely!

But the isolation was stronger

There were times when the aloneness was overpowering. The nearest big town was three hours away. I would drive there every few weeks and check into a hotel for the weekend – just for the socialisation.  I still took work with me, but it was accomplished over a coffee, in the hotel restaurant. The fact that my only social encounter for the weekend was the waiters, didn’t bother me. They were better looking than the furry-faced kangaroos, and communicated in a way that I understood. As much as I loved the ‘roos, they certainly didn’t compensate for a human to talk to.

Here in Paradise?

As I stood at my clothesline that day, I gave thanks for being here in Paradise. Having people around me to socialise with when I need people-time. And witnessing the beauty of trees, flowers, and fabulous bird life, in my quiet times.

Well, almost all the bird life. The Ibises and Brush Turkeys take some getting used to.

The Kookaburras and Parrots make up for the turkeys that destroy the gardens while building their nests.

Ibis: alias – Bin-Chicken

I’m still wondering what purpose the Ibis serves.

Gratitude

I’m grateful for the quiet reflective times spent in the other place, but not the isolation.

I’m grateful for the lessons I learned about strength and resilience, but not the aloneness.

I’ve finally come home to where I want, and need to be. And my clothesline here in paradise is a symbol of my new reality.

But even my little piece of Paradise might one day be just a memory, to be thought about while unpegging the washing, on another washing day.

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Life Happens!

Life Happens!

The July Ultimate Blog Challenge has been and gone, and August has arrived. My plan to post thirty-one new blog posts in July ended with just twenty-four – I fell short by seven. Some could argue that I failed, but I don’t see it that way. Why did I not achieve my goal? Because life happens!

Since July has come and gone, days are warmer, nights are shorter, and life is slipping back to a normal pace – not that I really know what normal is.

Should I Lurk in the Shadows?

In the words of John Lennon – “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Meetings; friends; coffee catch-ups; lunch catch-ups; paperwork; and sleep – although the sleep department was seriously short-changed throughout July. They all happened – and I participated – to the best of my ability.

When life happens, I need to be up close and personal and engage with it. Only then can I describe what it feels like. To blog – I need content, and to have content – I need to take life by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. Standing safely in the shadows, watching as life happens around me, just won’t cut it.

It’s About the People

While grappling with life in July, I met people who have a lot to say about – life; history; politics; philosophy; adventures; and everything else. Each story has helped me understand a little more about people, human nature, and the world I live in.

Through my blog, I hope to tell the story of the amazing people I know: some have journeyed with me for a long time; others, not so long; and some are strangers who take the time to connect – even if just for a short while. My life has been enriched because of them, and because of their story.

Everyone has a story, because life happens!

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Day 31 – UBC – Did I Learn Anything?

Day 31 – UBC – Did I Learn Anything?

The last day of the July Challenge – and despite all efforts, I only managed to post twenty-three new articles on my Blog in July. Did I fail? Did I learn anything? Was it worth it?

Did I Learn Anything?

Whether I consider it a failure or not, I managed a lot more this time than the last time I accepted the Challenge. I might have only made it to Day 23, but I definitely learned a lot, so it was worth every word I typed; every late night I had; and every nightmare about the 31st July, looming menacingly above me, as I slept.

I can now write a shorter blog, find the image I need faster – especially with Pixabay.com, and get the green SEO lights from the Yoast Plugin, without too much effort. But I still need to work faster. If nothing else, at least I know where my shortfalls are, and hopefully how to fix them.

Write On!

When the next Ultimate Blog Challenge comes around, I hope I am more prepared than this time. Yes, I had a few drafts ready, but they weren’t easily tweaked to fit the day’s agenda.

For the next challenge I plan to have some short blogs drafted – based on general topics – not too specific. Oh, and I will have a long list of photos ready to cover any special day that might arise that month – how did I not see the Fourth of July coming!

If you made it to the finish line with all thirty-one blogs posted, you are amazing! If, like me, you were dragging the chain a bit – I know we’ll get there next time. Now, I’ll catch up on cleaning a neglected house, and wash the car.

As I bid my fellow-bloggers goodbye, I hope that we will meet again. I will continue to enjoy reading your blogs, and look forward to meeting you on a page somewhere, sometime soon.

RyanMcGuire / Pixabay

Thank you for reading my blog posts, and for taking the time to comment.

So until the next Ultimate Blog Challenge – that’s it for me.

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