Travel

July UBC – Day Six – Was I Stronger Than I Thought?

July UBC – Day Six – Was I Stronger Than I Thought?

You never know how strong you are until something goes wrong. When life throws all it has at you, you can either crumple, or stand up to it. I found out I was stronger than I thought.

There was a year in my life when everything came apart – it just slowly unravelled, and by the end of the year I knew I had to do something drastic. Without going into too much detail, the problem centred around the job I had at the time. I was a teacher, but I had taken on a promotion position that involved a lot of stress. It’s funny with teaching; you go into it for all the right reasons, but the only way to progress to higher ranks, is to leave the classroom. And in my usual non-planning way, I kind of fell into the promotion situation – temporarily at first – and then for the long haul.

Stress is a Killer!

Along with the stress of the job, I had a few personal things happening as well. It was complicated, and it was really bad timing, but, when are problems ever well-timed? I loved the core essence of my job – the kids – but coping with the other things that make up the sum of what keeps a school going, is hard. Anyone who knows a teacher, knows what I’m talking about. Could I handle another year of stress? Could I handle even one more day of stress? The answer was a resounding, No!

As One Year Ends…

As the end of the school year came hurtling towards me, I  knew there were some tough decisions to be made. There were a few options – okay, they weren’t brilliant, but they provided a faint light at the end of the tunnel. And I was reasonably sure it wasn’t the light of an oncoming train. The first thing I knew for sure, was that at least for a short time, I needed to walk away. Scanning the online job portal became my morning routine for a few weeks. I scoured the pages of jobs, always finding an excuse for not making the call that could take me away from it all. Days turned into weeks, and the situation suddenly had urgency. Then one morning, I made the call that would change my life.

Central Queensland needed a teacher for six months. If I could talk my way into it, this could solve two problems: I would be back in the classroom, and I’d be away from the stressful situation of my current position. Six months was all I needed. Because I already held a permanent position at my current school, I had to do a lot of talking to swing the temporary transfer. Government departments are so technical!

Moving On

The Principal understood my position and had actually suggested I take leave, so he was happy to endorse the move. The problems I had faced were the result of some serious mis-management issues, mixed with a shot of bullying. By the time the Principal became aware of the full extent of it, it had gone too far. My motto throughout life had always been: I can handle this. But I had slipped to one of the lowest points of my life, and would have contemplated resigning from the job I loved, if I hadn’t made the decision to take time-out, instead of leaving – with with my soul and spirit in tatters. This was one time when the I can handle this motto, failed me.

That year was tough, but so was the emotional roller-coaster I felt as I packed up my car, ready to drive the 677 kms to a place I had never been. The trip would take close to eight hours and my car was packed to the rafters, with everything I imagined I would need for the next six months. Yes, I even had my trusty old Espresso coffee machine on the back seat. Thank God I had the foresight to pack it, as I was to discover that good coffee was nowhere to be seen on weekends and late-nights in the tiny town I was headed for. Accommodation was part of the deal, so I only needed the small stuff. My teaching resources accounted for every other available space in the car.

When I couldn’t squeeze another thing in, I headed out of town. But first, a coffee with my best friend. We met at the coffee shop on the brink of the motorway; the motorway that would lead me to one of the biggest changes of my life. Saying goodbye to my best friend, the one who had been my closest ally for the past year, was hard to do. But, I reminded myself that it would only be for six months.

Leaving the sun and the surf behind…

On The Way

As I turned the car onto the highway, a wave of terror descended on me. What could I have been thinking? Was I serious? Yes, it had been a tough year. But, driving eight hours into the unknown? Was I crazy? My mind started doing a juggling act between the lesser of two evils. I kept driving. Ideas rushed through my mind, one after the other, each posing valid arguements, for and against. I kept driving. At one point I almost gave in – I almost turned around. But then, thoughts of the most stressful elements of the past year took hold; I maintained the position of ‘straight ahead – keep going – it will all be okay. I kept driving.

Within days of arriving, the new school year began and I knew I had made the right decision. It was like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. From the first day at my new school, I felt like I had come home. The effects of the previous year weren’t easily shaken off, but it did get better. It took at least six months to be able to breathe easily again, and fall asleep without fear of nightmares.

Six Months, And Then….

Oh, and the six months? By June, my new Principal asked me if I could arrange a permanent transfer. That was one decision I didn’t have to think about. I picked up the phone and rang my past Principal – he was happy to sign it off. And the six months? I stayed in that tiny town for five years, and met some amazing people. In my second year there, I was asked to step back into the Administration role, and I was ready for it. That same year, parents and administrators from the six schools I serviced as part of my role, nominated me for a national teaching award. I felt very undeserving, but honoured, and made it into the final round.

There is absolutely nothing like a country town and country people to restore your faith in yourself. You just have to be brave enough to accept the challenge of surrendering the known, in exchange for the unknown.

I did it! And it changed my life!

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 4 comments
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Four

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Four

As America celebrates its National Day of Independence, we reflect on what independence means for us. With independence comes freedom from oppression, freedom of speech and freedom of choice. Day Four of the Blog Challenge celebrates July 4th; America’s Day of Independence. God Bless the United States of America and keep safe all who live under the banner of the Stars and Stripes, wherever they may be.

On my many visits to the United States of America, I have been touched by the level of patriotism of its people. You don’t have to travel far to see the Stars and Stripes of the American flag, proudly hung from buildings and homes, or hear the National Anthem.

Home of the Free

The first encounter with the home of the free, for thousands of immigrants, is the iconic Statue of Liberty. Standing tall and proud on the eastern coast of the United States, the great dame welcomes all who sail past her, as they arrive in New York. She represents independence, freedom and the promise of a better life.

The bronze statue was a gift to the American people from the people of France and was dedicated in October 1886. The inscription on the tablet in the left hand of the statue reads: JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4th 1776).

1776

On the fourth day of July, 1776, thirteen states unanimously passed the Declaration of Independence in Congress. The declaration signified that the thirteen sovereign states were no longer under British rule. This momentous day in history was to become a national day of celebration as the thirteen states then, became the fifty states of today.

To my American friends, regardless of where in the world you are today, celebrate the birth of your independence with pride. May your travels always lead you home, to once again touch the soil of the land you love.

And for all who are serving their country in places of war and conflict, stay safe, and God Bless you all.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, Writing, 0 comments
Is My To-Do List Specific Enough?

Is My To-Do List Specific Enough?

Is my To-Do List specific enough? I like to keep agendas broad, just in case something unexpected pops up. But in keeping it broad, am I defeating the purpose of having a To-Do List?

After the meeting on Tuesday morning – the one I forgot I had – I agreed to meet with a few colleagues at 9 o’clock yesterday morning. The meeting wasn’t on the horizon when I planned the week, but it would serve a very practical purpose. I hadn’t met one of my colleagues before and the meeting would provide the opportunity to meet, and get to know her.

Let me digress a little…

We are all retired.

To use the word ‘colleagues’ sounds a bit technical in the formal sense. But, even though we are all retired, we are on various committees in our ‘retired-ness’, so technically we are colleagues.

Back to my To-Do List

At least I was prepared for yesterday’s early start. I even washed my hair before rushing out the door. There wasn’t enough time to do due diligence to the making of my first-coffee-of-the-day, so for the third day in a row, the coffee vending machine won. The coffee doesn’t taste as good as Josh’s, but hey – coffee beans are coffee beans when you are desperate. As long as they  contain the essential ingredient (caffeine), that’s all that matters. So with coffee in hand (tick off Item One on the To-Do List), the meeting began (the meeting wasn’t on the To-Do List – so I couldn’t tick it off).

Writing was on my To-Do List for Wednesday, but with the proviso of ‘hopefully’. The plan was to pack and start the drive northwards early in the day, which would leave plenty of time for writing when I got there.

It Didn’t Happen

As usual, after any meeting, there is a need for cofffee. A trip to Re Cafe Nate solved that problem.  By then the day had warmed up a bit so I decided to indulge in a Milo Malt with double malt and a double shot of Espresso. It tastes just like a chocolate milkshake – only caffeinated. The team at Re Cafe Nate have nailed this – I get my cafffeine hit, as well as my milk shake fix, all in one container.

The To-Do List for the week

By the way, when I tuned into SBS on Tuesday night to watch Who Do You Think You Are?, it wasn’t on. It seems the series has ended. I hope the producers are busy making the next series or there will be very little need to have a TV in my house. So I can cross that part of Tuesday night off until then.

Coffee Time

I doubt there will ever be a day when I don’t tick off Item One – Coffee. As I’ve said before, no day starts without it. Without coffee, I’m showing up – but there will be no meaningful participation.

Packing and driving north were on the list, but with no assigned time. In my mind though, I had envisaged doing both before midday. The strategy of keeping the list broad is to allow for the unexpected. And lots of the unexpected happened yesterday.

One of the advantages of living where I do is the like-minded people who share the love of our twenty-eight acres of bush land. There is always someone to connect with during the course of the day. And yesterday was no exception. When a neighbour brought a piece of paper to my door with the words ‘The best of Hot Chocolate’ written on it, and the question ‘How do I buy this CD?’, the only solution was to fire up my iPad, find the CD online, and hit the ‘Buy’ button. Some a lot of my neighbours don’t have Internet – in fact – they don’t even have computers. And since we don’t have a store in town that would be likely to have the CD, online buying was the most feasible solution. But it wasn’t on my To-Do List

It was a long drive to the North Side

The drive was easy, for most of the trip. And then there were the roadworks that turned the highway into a carpark. The traffic was going nowhere, and I was stuck in the middle. But with the car-radio tuned in to Question Time in Parliament, there was enough entertainment to keep me occupied while I waited. When I arrived at my destination I was tired, and it was just about dinner time. I did manage to squeeze in about fifteen minutes of writing before dinner, but I just couldn’t get it finished before turning off the light at sleep-o’clock.

There’s a danger in pushing yourself beyond a reasonable day, with your iPad and keyboard within reach. I have been known to fall asleep with my fingers precariously hovering over the keyboard, only to awaken to find a whole lot of gibberish typed, or half a page deleted. Either way, it isn’t a good look and can often be deadly. So writing came to an abrupt end,  only to be resumed after first-coffee-of-the-day today – which may have been closer to midday than would normally be acceptable.

But hey, retirees shouldn’t have deadlines, right?

Would I stay on task more easily if I was more specific about the items on my To-Do List?

I’ll work on figuring this out and let you know….

May All My Deadlines Be Flexible

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
The Funny Things Kids Say

The Funny Things Kids Say

Having been a teacher for more years than I care to mention, I could write a book on the funny things kids say and do. In fact, one day I just might do that. But for now, I’ll keep it short. You’ll be able to read the unabridged version when I write the book – someday. And I’m sure the topic will centre on the reading process – which always seemed to elicit a funny anecdote, or two.

I’ll apologise (in advance) to any student I taught way back then, just in case they read this and recognise any of the stories as theirs. I will change the names to protect their identity, but I have no doubt they’ll know who I’m talking about.

Please, past students – no hate mail! Just know that I loved every one of you and I will be forever grateful for what you taught me. Since you will all be grown up by now, and probably have children of your own, I hope you can look back and enjoy the memories as much as I do.

It Was All About The Reading Process

The reading process was always a big part of our day. It happened right after the morning routine of ‘check-in’, followed by meditation (…had to call it ‘relaxation’ back then), and then the reading process. I structured the lesson so that I could listen to every child read – and there was never a shortage of volunteers to be first. I made a big deal of every improvement, no matter how slight it was. By praising every effort, every new sound or word learned, I was ensuring more of the same. And each day, a book was sent home to be read to someone in the family. My mantra was:

“Read the book to someone at home, and have them sign the data sheet” – followed by “If everyone is busy, read to your dog. Don’t forget to dip their paw in ink and put it on the sheet”.  This was usually met with laughter, but they got the message.

And to make sure the students read – a lot! – I scrounged books from everywhere. Library off-casts; charity shops; family members. Anything with words on it that I could get my hands on, ended up in our classroom. Books were literally spilling out of the two large bookcases (that I’d also scrounged) that made up ‘our library’. I made sure the books covered the wide variety of interests of the students:

      • fishing books for Roscoe (do you like my creative name-change?)
      • cricket books
      • first-aid for Alan (yep! That’s what he wanted to read about)
      • farm books
      • the newspaper for Lockie – the Courier Mail actually – it wasn’t easy to manipulate because it was still a broadsheet back then
      • John didn’t particularly care what he read – he just wanted to find as many of his spelling words as he could
      • recipe books
      • books of maps
      • phonebooks – Brett was always in a transition stage between one foster home or another. He didn’t stay long with any of them. The phonebooks provided him with the comforting thought that he might one day find someone he knew, from another time in his life.

The system worked

The routine was simple: the class had free reading time, while I listened to individual students. There were no rules about what they read, as long as they were reading. I should explain, at this point, that most of the class was at the ‘emerging’ reading stage – some having emerged more than others. Lockie was probably at the very low end of the emerging scale.

I’ll never forget the Monday morning that the Deputy Principal wandered in to introduce us to the new school Psychologist. Mac spotted Lockie hunched over the Courier Mail, seemingly reading the page, and was obviously confused, knowing that Lockie wasn’t up to that level of reading. Eventually curiosity got the better of him and he sauntered over to see what was going on. Lockie kept on reading – he was not about to be distracted. To put Mac’s mind at ease I offered an explanation – Lockie was probably catching up on the weekend sports news. When I got to Lockie’s desk, I could see the paper open at the financial pages. Without missing a beat, I explained that Lockie was just checking his stocks and shares – no big deal – well, not in my mind anyway.

The Deputy left with an incredulous look of disbelief on his face. That look was aimed at me, not Lockie. I was curious about how Mac explained it to the new psychologist? He probably assured her that I was in more need of her services than any of my students.

Don’t Forget To Bring Them Back

The students could borrow the library books at anytime. We even had a borrowing system. The data helped me re-stock the shelves with more of the most popular genre, see who was reading what, and when, and who needed a reminder to bring their book back.

While checking the data one day, I noticed that Roscoe hadn’t returned the fishing book he’d borrowed weeks earlier. At the next opportunity, I causally asked him if he was going to return it anytime soon? His response has stayed with me all these years.

”I can’t”, Roscoe nonchalantly replied. “My dog hasn’t finished reading it yet.”

“Okay, Roscoe”, I said. “Just bring it back when your dog has finished… reading it….” My voice trailed off at the end of the sentence as I pictured Roscoe’s dog, tucked up in bed each night, reading the book about fishing.

I gave my head a shake, and carried on teaching.

I Could Never Figure It Out…

The response from Roscoe haunted me until about a year ago. I must have been thinking about the bigger picture that day – the context of the whole reading process back then.  Suddenly, it made some sense. I had to assume that because I always insisted that the kids read to their dog if all the humans in the home were busy that night, that Roscoe may have decided to cut out the middle man and just give the book to the dog to read. My reasoning might be way off the mark, but it has given me a small measure of closure on the matter. Better not think too much about it, just in case I’m wrong.

Naturally, I didn’t expect to see the book again, but true to his word, Roscoe returned the book to the bookshelf a few weeks later, and in good condition – not even slobbered on. Obviously, the dog had finished reading it. All was well with the world, and life, as we knew it, went on.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
It’s The People We Meet That Makes The Difference

It’s The People We Meet That Makes The Difference

 “One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.” — Edith Wharton

Travel enriches our lives, but it’s the people we meet that makes the difference. It isn’t where we go that makes travel so enriching, it’s the people we meet that bind the places together with the fabric of life, that makes us richer for the opportunity to go beyond our tiny corner of the globe.

It’s The People We Meet That Makes The Difference

My recent trip to Seattle wouldn’t have been as enriching without the people encountered along the way. So many of the wonderful people I’ve met in my travels would have remained strangers if I hadn’t found a way to talk to them. Everyone has a story to tell. Luckily I seem to have a knack for finding a way to start a conversation with just about anyone. And I have formed many new friendships because of it. A comment here or there opens up the world, but also makes the world a much smaller place in the process.

it’s the people we meet that makes the difference

Louis from Brisbane

While having breakfast at the Cheesecake Factory, 700 Pike Street, a young man was ushered into the booth next to me. I could hear his conversation with the waitress, and since I’m fascinated by accents, I was tuned into his – slightly English – with a touch of Aussie. When you are a long way from home, an Aussie accent is the golden thread that links you with the homeland you are missing. When he finished his discussion about the menu, I had to ask, “Where are you from?”.

Where Is Australia?

As usual, an Aussie’s initial response when travelling is simply, ‘Australia’. It’s a big place, and for most Americans, ‘Australia’ is usually enough. Even those less travelled Americans have a reasonable idea of where Australia is, or at least they’ve heard of it. With a little more probing I discovered that my dining-neighbour was actually from Brisbane. Now that’s a little closer to home, given that I live about 100 kilometres south of there, and it is my nearest major city. Louis’ fascinating story of life in a military family resonated with me – having spent many years ‘married’ to the Australian Defence Force, and the travel involved in a military lifestyle. Louis was on his way to Las Vegas, but needed advice on the best means of getting to the Airport.

Giving Directions Like A Local

Feeling more like a Seattle-local than I deserved to, I knew exactly how to get to the Westlake Station and that the Airport Link was probably the easiest, and least expensive way to go. Whether he needed it or not, my travel-buddy and I took Louis under our (collective) wing and walked with him to the station, helped him buy a ticket, and bade him farewell as the train approached. He seemed genuinely appreciative, but I’m sure he would have made it on his own. After all, he seemed like a very capable young Aussie who had followed in his father’s military footsteps.

it’s the people we meet that makes the differ

David Montague entertains travellers at Westlake Station Seattle

Local Talent

Once Louis was safely on his train to the Airport we made our way back to street level, but as luck would have it, a musician had taken up a key position mid-way. And in true travel-friendly style, we stopped to listen. My travel-buddy is a classical music fan and the instrument David was playing was a little unusual – or at least – the way he was playing it seemed unusual. A lengthy conversation ensued, culminating in my travel-buddy being given a CD of David’s unique music. A few extra dollars found their way into David’s instrument case in appreciation, and we continued our journey to higher ground. We had just made another American friend to add to our growing collection of global-friendships.

it’s the people we meet that makes the difference

Olga, from Belarus

Olga From Belarus

And who could forget Olga! When we stepped into the Cheesecake Factory that morning, Olga was our waitress. When we left at the end of the meal, we felt like Olga was an integral part of our Seattle eperience. Olga is the kind of waitress who takes an already good meal and turns it into a great dining experience. It’s no wonder the Cheesecake Factory is such a popular place for Seattleites to dine. Great food and even better service from outstanding staff.

it’s the people we meet that makes the difference

Lyn – a great ambassador for the Cheesecake Factory

And The Beautiful Lyn!

The reason we decided to have breakfast at the Cheesecake Factory was Lyn. We had ventured in for a late-night snack the night before and were greeted, and taken very good care of, by Lyn. Before we’d even studied the menu that late night, Lyn arrived with a basket of absolutely delicious bread samples. It made the task of exploring the menu so much more enjoyable –  there were so many choices. Because we weren’t overly hungry, having eaten much earlier, we apologetically settled on a milkshake. Lyn understood completely and was back in no time with our fantastic shakes.

Lyn Was More Than Just A Waitress…

she beamed happiness! It seemed that making diners feel comfortable was her mission in life. And her mission was accomplished when we promised to come back again. Breakfast at the Cheesecake Factory was sealed for the next day. You can imagine how we felt at seeing Lyn pass by our table the next morning. She remembered us, and stopped to say hello. I may have asked her if she had slept there the night before, but she assured me she had actually made it home for a few hours sleep.

That’s What Makes A Great Dining Experience!

And just to reinforce what a great place the Cheesecake Factory is, Lyn’s two daughters work there as well. That says a lot about a restaurant. The Cheesecake Factory is high on my list of places to eat in Seattle – in fact – anywhere in the US that is lucky enough to have this great chain as a dining option. I can’t guarantee that other places have staff like Lyn and Olga, but I look forward to hearing from travellers who have experienced the Cheesecake Factory in other cities. Does Seattle have the best staff? I’m hoping to test the theory every chance I get in my future travels across the US of A.

And It’s What Adds The ‘Enrichment’ To Travel

It’s about the people: the Louis’, the Olgas, the Lyns and the Davids of this world, who contribute to the richness of our travel experiences. The buildings and landscapes of foreign places will live on through the photos we take, but the people we meet make a lasting impression because of the way they made us feel. Many will become friends that we stay in touch with.  Others will be thought of from time to time, rekindling the same warmth we felt when we met them.

From The Heart – I Thank You!

To all the beautiful people of Seattle, and especially the ones I’ve mentioned in this and other posts – thank you. It might have been just a kind word or gesture, but it created a lasting memory of a city that cares, especially about travellers with strange Aussie accents, like me.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 3 comments
2018: Will It Be The Most Productive Year Of My Life?

2018: Will It Be The Most Productive Year Of My Life?

The Lunar (Chinese) New Year begins today, the 16th February 2018. It isn’t a significant year for me in any way – just the year I’ve chosen to stop all the ‘fluffing around’ and get serious about being more productive. And what better way to start than having at least one goal ready to coincide with the Lunar New Year. After all, it’s about new beginnings, isn’t it? 2018; Will It Be The Most Productive Year Of My Life?

Just to sort things out a little for you, I’m referring to the era that I call ‘Post-Career’, herein referred to as PC Time. When I looked back on most of my career years, I could identify at least a few achievements that were significant for that particular year. Since I retired in April 2016, there haven’t been too many significant achievements looking back at me from the rearview mirror of end-of-year reflections.

That has to change!

So here I am, with 2018 looming large around me. The urgency is in the fact that we are more than half-way through February and I still haven’t committed any plans to paper – digitally speaking of course (does anyone still use paper?) – until now.

Distractions

Barely a day goes by that isn’t filled with distractions – so I have to devise a plan for how to ignore them. That isn’t as easy as it might sound, since some of those distractions are mighty interesting. One of the significant distractions in my life is the location of my home. My humble abode is nestled amongst twenty-eight acres of natural bushland. As any Aussie knows, bushland means birds. Not the Alfred Hitchcock variety (that’s another story!), but the beautiful kookaburras and magpies that gently sing me awake in the morning and signal the close of day in the evening. If I could just be satisfied with hearing them while I work, it wouldn’t be a problem. The problem stems from the hours spent, camera in hand, waiting for the perfect photo of a kookaburra in flight.

2018; Will It Be The Most Productive Year Of My Life?

It’s the kookaburra’s fault!

And The Justification For The Distraction?

I’m always intrigued by the ingenious reasons we use to justify the things we do, regardless of whether they are ‘right’ or not. I justify my bird-watching activities by assuring myself that one day, that photo of a kookaburra in flight, will be the perfect addition to something I’m writing. It might be years before that happens, but I’m convinced it will.

2018; Will It Be The Most Productive Year Of My Life?

Well, I almost got it…

Rule Goal Number One

Schedule Writing Time For The First Waking Hour (Or Two)

That could be a problem before I even begin. In PC Time, there is no set waking hour. Don’t get me wrong, I still rise at an acceptable time, for a retiree. But now I have the option of not rising, if I don’t want to. While the magpies and kookaburras sing me awake most days, there are times when I let their melodic calls sing me back to sleep.

How will Goal Number One be impacted when I roll over and pretend I haven’t heard the day starting?  Will it be lunchtime by the time I’ve finished my hour (or two) of writing?

Does it even matter?

The answers to these questions will depend on what events are vying for my time on any given day in my usually, almost empty, Post-Career diary. While most days roll in and out with nothing more than writing, taking photos, eating and/or socialising, on the agenda, some days are different. Sometimes there’s a 9am meeting scheduled, or an early morning coffee at ReCafeNate with my name on it.

Revised Goal Number 1

Devote One To Two Hours To Writing, Every Day

Perhaps we fail to meet our goals because they are not quite as realistic as they could be. Nothing happens until I’ve had my coffee, so the hour immediately following my opening-eyes experience, has to involve coffee. When I’ve had the coffee, then I can do the writing. And here’s where a bit of creativity could help. I usually brew my Espresso coffee at home. But sometimes I saunter across the road to ReCafeNate for the pampered feeling of having Josh make the coffee for me. If I took my iPad with me, I could make the coffee last an hour while I write. If I’m really getting into the writing, a second cup of coffee would see me through the second hour. And I could check off my exercise for the day as well. While it isn’t a long walk to ReCafeNate, it is uphill.

Write First – Illustrate Later

Theoretically, the first goal of the ‘2018: most productive year ever’, is to focus on the writing. Instead of having thousands – yes, you read that right – thousands of photos that I might (or not) ever use, by getting thousands of words written, then I can focus on the specific photos that I need to highlight the text. Besides, I might even get lucky and put the already thousands of photos I have to good use, before I take any more.

Well, that’s the plan – I just hope I can stick to it.

2018: Will It Be The Most Productive Year Of My Life?

I’ll keep you posted on my progress….

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 3 comments
Day 6 Blog Challenge – Thank You For Making A Difference!

Day 6 Blog Challenge – Thank You For Making A Difference!

Making A Difference!

How often do we say to someone we meet, “Thank you for making a difference!”

My personal experience is – ‘not nearly enough!’ And I meet people almost daily who make a huge difference in my life; I just don’t tell them that they do. Maybe in subtle ways they get the message, but they need to hear it loud and clear.

Today I’m going to shout out to some people who are changing my world, one coffee at a time.

Seattle

I arrived in Seattle on the 11th day of December. It was cold! Probably not cold in local terms but definitely cold in Aussie terms. When I left Australia on the night of 11th of December, it was hot! No, it wasn’t the shortest flight across continents in history, or space travel, it’s just the quirky bit about crossing the International Date Line that landed me in the US of A seemingly two hours after I left the fair shores of Brisbane, Australia.

But here I am in the beautiful city of Seattle, meeting some really amazing people. All have had a profound effect on me but there are some who have made a bigger difference in my life than they will ever know.

This Is A Shout-Out To RedWing Cafe!

My second home in Seattle: The RedWing Cafe

Collectively, the staff at RedWing Cafe have been responsible for maintaining my sanity, and therefore the safety of others, for the duration of my holiday. Individually, they brightened my day every time I made the twenty minute trek down the hill from 63rd Avenue S to be greeted by a warm smile, friendly hello and large Cappuccino as I walked in the door.

God Bless You All At RedWing Cafe

Anyone who knows me well or keeps up with my blogging, knows not to approach me before I am caffeinated. Am I addicted to coffee? Yes! Generally I have just one cup of coffee a day, therefore I don’t think my health is compromised in any way because of the addiction; the safety and well-being of family, friends and the general public? Now that’s a different story. My one cup of coffee, best partaken of early in the morning, is the difference between:

  • civil and grrr!
  • pleasant and ‘stand clear!’
  • ‘Hi there’ and ‘just give me the coffee and no one will get hurt!

Anthony co-owns RedWing Cafe with Su; Bringing a successful business to 9272 57th Ave S, Seattle

Su and Anthony brought their vision of a much-needed cafe to the Rainier Beach area at 57th Ave S. Their dream has made a huge difference to the lives of the locals who call this area home.

Su (and Anthony) own Redwing Cafe;

It Really Is A Serious Problem

The severity of my addiction goes beyond having a hot beverage of caffeinated liquid in either a ceramic or paper cup. If it was that easy I could simply make a cup of what is generally considered Instant Coffee, within minutes of opening my eyes each morning, and the world would be a better place for everyone. But since my discovery of the Cappuccino, especially a large one with a double shot of espresso, the instant variety is no longer a part of my vocabulary. It just doesn’t happen!

It’s Complicated!

There are Cappuccinos, and there are Cappuccinos! There are some that I struggle to describe in terms of real coffee and there are some that I would walk over broken glass to get to, well, almost. It comes down to how conscientious the Barista is about their craft – and believe me – pulling the perfect shot is almost an exact science. There is a little wriggle room, but not much. My heroes at RedWing Cafe have perfected the craft of pulling the perfect shot and consitently provide the ideal combination, every time. Steamed milk blended expertly with the perfect shot; what more could I ask?

Danielle greets everyone with the same great smile that says ‘Welcome! We’re glad you’re here.’

The Coffee Is The Best!

This is a great photo of Danielle but trust me, she looks even better with a large Cappuccino In her hand; as long as it has my name on it. Danielle, you make great coffee!

And it isn’t only about the taste of the coffee; RedWing Cafe provides the perfect place to sit, either alone or with friends, and just soak up the incredible atmosphere.

Just one of the beautiful tables handcrafted by the very talented Shawn

It’s About The Ambience …

From the amazing tables lovingly handcrafted by Shawn out of a maple tree that once shaded the owner’s backyard, to the menu that specifically caters for vegetarians and vegans but is equally enjoyed by those other people (the carnivores).

The menu caters for all tastes and a variety of dietary needs

Master Craftsman

I was lucky enough to be sitting at my favourite table when Shawn called in for a coffee. His craftmanship is reflected in so much of the outstanding decor at RedWing Cafe. Warmth and comfort emanate from every table and piece of timber on an otherwise cold, wet Seattle day.

Shawn called in for a coffee and stood humbly by one of the outstanding tables he carved for the cafe.

It all works to make RedWing Cafe my home away from home and the perfect place to write. My favourite writing-space is upstairs in either of the two back corners, but the downstairs section works just as well.

Ed is always ready with a smile and warm welcome

Everyone at RedWing Cafe makes a contribution to creating the perfect place to enjoy a great coffee and spectacular food.

Tyree takes care of the food department and makes the best Avocado Toast on the planet!

The combination of fabulous coffee, food and exceptional staff make RedWing Cafe the place to be in Seattle if you are in need of a great place to hang out.

Franky keeps everything running smoothly in the kitchen and dining room.

Franky, Tyree and Brett make sure hungry diners enjoy the best food, every time. Did I mention the Avocado Toast? You really haven’t lived until you’ve tried this RedWing Cafe speciality.

Brett creates another breakfast culinary masterpiece for a diner on-the-run

My apologies to the many people behind the scenes at RedWing Cafe that I either didn’t meet or have the opportunity to photograph; just know that you all contribute to creating a great dining experience and I thank you all sincerely.

Tristan is just one of the great Baristas who keep the coffee coming in my direction.

Thank You RedWing Cafe For Making A Difference

Judging by the people I meet at this amazing place, I’m not the only one whose life has been changed for the better by the staff at RedWing Cafe. I may only be passing through Seattle for a short time, but I will be holding up each and every one of the inspiring staff of RedWing Cafe as a yardstick by which to measure cafes in the future.

RedWing Cafe – I Thank You – And I Will Return

Ready to write!

To sit at my favourite table again and indulge in a Cappuccino and Avocado Toast, surrounded by such happy and dedicated people will be all the incentive I need to return to Seattle. I look forward to walking through the door and greeting you all with “G’Day – I’m Back!”

Until then, keep doing what you do best:

Making a difference in people’s lives, one coffee at a time, at RedWing Cafe

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 13 comments
Day 4 Blog Post Challenge

Day 4 Blog Post Challenge

I believe in starting where I’m at…

It is Day 4 of the Blog Post Challenge, yet this is just my second blog post. By my calculations I still have another two posts to write today so that when the Day 5 Challenge lands in my inbox tomorrow, I’ll be ready for it. But for now, I will just start where I’m at and focus on the number ‘Four’. Four Seasons to be precise – or lack thereof.

Where I currently live, the seasons are neatly compartmentalised into four distinct categories: hot; cool; cold; warm. There is enough variation in the weather to justify cluttering up my wardrobe with those quirky three-quarter sleeve, light weight tops that are neither hot nor cold, depending on the season. But it hasn’t always been that way. I have lived in climates that have been singularly extreme: hot and hotter; and where there were only two categories: hot or cold.

My Island Adventure

For two years I called Penang home. It was two of the most memorable years of my life and I could happily have stayed there forever, but duty called me home. Penang is a tiny island off the mainland of Malaysia. There were only two variations in the weather: it was either hot, or hotter. The ceiling fans rotated at a rapid rate twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. They never stopped!

Penang has one of those climates where you step out of the shower, dry yourself off, and within seconds you need to repeat the process. But I loved it! Friends would ask if I missed winter while living in such a hot climate and the response was always a resounding – No! I still hate winter with a passion, but that’s another story.

My Inland Adventure

In 2011 Central Queensland beckoned me. I loaded up my car, a small sedan, with everything that I considered to be essential for a six-month adventure, and I drove. The car was so heavily laden that when I stopped along the way to buy a supply of coffee beans, just in case I couldn’t buy them there, I had to be very creative about how to fit them in. Had I known what was in store for me, weather wise, I could have sacrificed all those quirky three-quarter sleeve tops and made room for more practical things, like more coffee beans.

Crickey! Another hot day!

Four Seasons?

I arrived in Moura late January. It was hot! And it stayed hot – very hot, until one day the weather Gods turned the heaters off. No warning, no transition; just no more heat. Summer ended and winter began with nothing more than a day between them. At the end of winter, summer began in the same way. The cold switched off and the summer heaters turned on without any warning. No Spring, just as there had been no Autumn. The three-quarter sleeve tops stayed safely stowed until I made my way back to a temperate climate. Despite the lack of four distinct seasons, my love of living in Central Queensland persuaded me to extend my six-month adventure to five fabulous years that are etched lovingly in my Most Memorable Years album.

Those Quirky Tops!

And those quirky three-quarter sleeve tops? I’m glad I kept them. For the past four distinct seasons in my new home, they have served me well.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 6 comments
Blog Post Challenge

Blog Post Challenge

The Pen Is Poised And The Gloves Are Off!

Let The Blog Post Challenge Begin

Today I signed up for a Blog Post Challenge – to post a blog each day of January. So, I’ve taken off the gloves, the virtual pen is poised, and I’m ready to write. Given that I’m already a few days behind, I either have to write fast to catch up, or resign myself to the fact that I’ve failed before I even begin. I’ll try the former but live with the latter if I have to.

Ready To Write…

It’s Personal

My idea of blogging is that it’s a personal thing, well, for me anyway. I don’t have a set theme for my blogs, apart from the majority of them just neatly slipping into a travel theme. But I like to think I’m a personal blogger – someone who just writes because it’s fun and it usually seems like a good idea at the time. So if you choose to follow me on this quest, don’t expect miracles because there won’t be any. I’ll just be plodding along, building up my mental muscles and stretching my creative biceps as I go.

Inspiration?

When I travel, my blog is filled with photos, held together with the memories of being there. Inspiration comes easy when you have stood in front of the magnificence of the Taj Mahal, or the splendour of the Bund and Shanghai Harbour at night.

Standing in front of the Taj Mahal

The Bund – Shanghai

Or ‘No Idea’?

When I am not travelling, my blog is interspersed with silent pauses as I sit in silence, wondering what the heck to write about.

My day usually starts with a ritual coffee on the verandah to ease into the morning, and continues with nothing more exciting than a trip to the mailbox.

So dear followers, if you are subjected to a flowery description of the path leading to the mailbox, you’ll know I’m home from whatever exotic island I’ve recently travelled to, and I have no idea where the next inspiring thought will come from. And this is indeed the blog post challenge.

The path to the mailbox

Time Will Tell

One my favourite songs by Air Supply is ‘Making Love Out Of Nothing At All’. Now let’s see how I go making a story out of nothing at all. Can I create a gripping read out of something as mundane as opening the mailbox? Will I post a blog a day with the Blog Post Challenge? Only time will tell.

Given that I’m already a few days behind, I either have to write fast to catch up, or resign myself to the fact that I’ve failed before I even start. I’ll try the former but live with the latter if I have to.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments
The Beauty Of Seattle

The Beauty Of Seattle

Traveling – it leaves you speechless,

then turns you into a storyteller.   Ibn Battuta

The beautiful buildings of Seattle have left me speechless many times, but the beauty of the city is not only in its buildings and parks, but in its people. Seattle has some amazingly beautiful people calling this spectacular place home.

There is something special about Christmas time at Macys

At every turn, while walking around Seattle, there is something spectacular to photograph. Macys stands out with its Christmas window display, shining star, and the snowflake lights depicting what is typically winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

It is magic!

Tiny lights transform this street into a magical scene.

The lights draped around the trees transform the streets into a winter wonderland.

Pike Place – Markets

And The Shopping…

The Pike Place Market is one of the more famous landmarks of Seattle. A gathering place for tourists and locals during the day, transforms into a trendy area to dine or just take in the view of the water on the other side of the market shops, at night. And who could forget seeing the Market sign in the scene from the movie, Sleepless In Seattle?

The famous Seattle Fish Market

This  fish market holds pride of place at the front of the market, and the fishmongers still toss the fish to each other, ready to be wrapped for the waiting customer. Performing for customers and throwing the fish to each other has made the Pike Place Fish Market world-famous.

Modern buildings dwarf the icon but the Space Needle is still quintessentially ‘Seattle’

Seattle Icons

Another, and possibly older icon, is the famous Space Needle. If you ever watched an episode of Frasier on TV, you will no doubt have seen the Space Needle through the apartment window and in the logo. What used to loom large is now dwarfed by much taller buildings, but the famous icon is still reminiscent of all things ‘Seattle’.

The photo doesn’t do justice to the beauty of snow falling on Christmas Eve in Seattle

And the highlight was?

Standing on 3rd Avenue on Christmas Eve and feeling the soft snowflakes falling on and around me. My first white Christmas and it was spectacular!

On a snowy Christmas Eve in Seattle

Christmas Day in Rainier Beach, Seattle

The beauty of Seattle is matched only by the beauty of the people who call this spectacular place home. Seattleites have seemingly been touched by the magic of the city and exude the magic in everything they do.

God Bless You Seattle!

No matter where I go in Seattle I meet people who exude sincere hospitality and support:- Jennifer, Shawn and Jackson, the wonderful hosts at the Airbnb; the bus driver who stopped his bus late one night, crossed the street, and made sure we were okay as we waited for the bus home; Anthony, Su and staff at Redwing Cafe who feed my daily caffeine needs and make the best Avocado Toast on the planet; the shy young man with the great smile at Steak ‘n Shake who makes the BEST Butterfinger milkshakes; the staff at CityMD where I took my injured wrist to be checked; and far too many more to mention in one post. I love you all!

Rob, the young man with the fabulous smile at Steak ‘n Shake.

You have turned a great holiday into an unforgettable memory of a beautiful city, and I thank you all sincerely.

And the highlight was standing on 3rd Avenue on Christmas Eve and feeling the soft snowflakes falling around me. My first white Christmas! It was spectacular.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 1 comment