Travel

Day 22 – UBC – In the Shadow of Mount Warning

Day 22 – UBC – In the Shadow of Mount Warning

The only trouble with living close to an iconic landmark or attraction is that you rarely get up close and personal with it. How many attractions are in your area that you seldom, or have never visited? You know they are there but you keep saying “One day I’ll climb that mountain”, or “One day I’ll visit that castle”, but that ‘one-day’ slips further away until you start saying, “I’ll get there, some day”.  And that’s how it was for me, living in the shadow of Mount Warning, in the beautiful Northern Rivers area of New South Wales – my one-day just kept slipping by.

Then ‘one-day’ a friend mentioned a cafe she had been to, that I hadn’t. We consulted our diaries, decided on a day and time, and headed out of town.

Rainforest Cafe

We were in search of the Rainforest Cafe, nestled in the leafy surrounds of the base of Mount Warning, otherwise known as Wollumbin, which is the Aboriginal name for Mt Warning.

So we sat by the creek at the Rainforest Cafe, under the trees, and sipped our milkshake, and coffee, and ate amazing Middle Eastern cake. In the process, we managed to prove that there is no better place for a relaxing breakfast, lunch, morning or afternoon tea than the Rainforest Cafe at Wollumbin. And then, to offload the calories, we walked through the trees beside the creek, taking photos of nature at its best.

Okay – this isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken, but I love the effects..

There is no shortage of colour, shapes and rays of sun to capture in photographic spleandour. You just need a full battery on your smart phone and you’ll have plenty of content to upload on whichever Social Media you subscribe to.

On the Steep and Narrow Road

When we left the cafe, a right-turn took us up the hill towards the majestic Mount Warning. The road was steep and narrow; there isn’t a lot of room for passing another car on that road. But luckily there wasn’t much traffic and my friend’s car made the climb seemingly effortlessly.  Although, when we reached a plateau’d car-park near the top, there was a slight ‘hot’ smell coming from the engine. Compact car – steep climb, what more could we expect?

Rise and Shine, Australia!

The Bundjalung People are the original custodians of the land surrounding, and beyond Mount Warning. For them, the mountain is a sacred site. With respect for the Bundjalung people, I would rather treat the site as sacred ground and not climb to the top of Mount Warning. Just to be able to see its beauty up close and personal from a lower point, is all I need.

Mount Warning is said to be the first place in Australia to witness the birth of every new day, as the sun peeps over the mountain, ready to warm the earth below.

While it boasts a New South Wales address, Mount Warning is still close enough to be a short trek for South East Queenslanders, and visitors to the Gold Coast. The uniqueness of its peak makes Mount Warning easily identifiable, from both sides of the border. Seeing Mount Warning from a plane, while taxiing into the Gold Coast Airport, is the warm welcome-home you look forward to, after travelling far and wide.

The only thing that says “Welcome Home” louder than Mount Warning, is the Tweed River, as you drive along Tweed Valley Way on your way into Murwillumbah. Only then do we appreciate the real beauty of where we live.

What! You don’t believe me?

Then come and see for yourself. Oh, and let me know when you’ll be heading into town and we’ll meet for a coffee, I know all the best places, and they are all in the shadow of Mount Warning.

See you in Murwillumbah!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, 4 comments

Day 20 – UBC – Five Ways to get Rid of Ants!

It isn’t a picnic without ants, but having them take over your kitchen is a whole new ball game. The tiny ones find their way into places you didn’t even know you had. Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of ways to get rid of ants, so here’s a list of my top five suggestions.

How to Get Rid of ANTs

  1. Talcum Powder – this was one of the first things I tried. The theory is, if you leave a trail of talcum powder along the path ants take, they won’t step in it. I tried it. It worked. But it didn’t stop them completely. The ants outsmarted me by finding new paths into the same kitchen. WARNING! Don’t breathe in the fine powder, as it could be harmful.
  2. Ant-Rid – Yep! This worked – temporarily. I used Ant-Rid a very long time ago; long before ants built up an immunity to it.
  3. Borax – mixed with anything that is sweet. I used Maple Syrup, but you could use honey. I mixed the concoction into a sticky, gooey mess and then dripped it across the top of the cupboard, which is where the ants were making their pilgrimage. It worked – but it was SO messy. WARNING! Don’t use this method if you have young children or fur-babies. Apparently, Borax isn’t kid-friendly or pet-friendly. Actually, I think the jury is still out on whether it is good for anyone to be exposed to it. There are warnings about prolonged use – it can cause skin irritations; and even warnings about the risks of ingesting it (I can’t imagine why anyone would want to). But, I’ll let you decide that one, if you choose to try this method.
  4. Cornflour – that’s what we call it in Australia. I think it is called Cornstarch in the US – but don’t quote me on that. Whatever it is called, it works. I don’t know how it works, but it does. It is safe to use – after all, we cook with it – right? You just have to get used to the white trails around your kitchen. I’d rather a solid, static white trail any day, to the moving, black line of ants climbing the wall.
  5. Diatomaceous Earth – (DE) – Food Grade. This one definitely works – and is safe to use around the house. Not only is DE safe for pets, you could add some to their food to improve their overall health, as well. Oh, and it has health benefits for humans too. BUT – with any fine powdery substance, be careful not to breathe in the fine dust.

Call the Ant-Busters!

If you have a serious problem with the little crawlies that insist on lining up along your kitchen benches, you might need to seek professional assistance. Finding the nest will help.

Even though I have shared my list of five ways to get rid of ants, I would prefer using methods that deter them, rather than cause them any serious harm (or fatality!).

Deterrants:

Keep benches free of anything sticky and sweet that might attract ants; wipe benches with Pepperming Oil; keep food in sealed, airtight containers; wipe known ant-paths with Peppermint Oil.

Hopefully, with these proactive measures in place – I won’t have to use any of the more deadly strategies.

Well, that’s the plan, anyway.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments

Day 13 – Number Thirteen – Lucky or Not?

Of all the numbers that make up our world, number thirteen probably has the worst reputation of them all. Whether you are superstitious or not, you more than likely avoid walking under ladders, or crossing paths with a black cat on any Friday that has the number thirteen (13) attached to it. I know I do.

But on the 13th August, 2013, I didn’t have time to think about superstition. My day started, as it usually did, at 7.30am. That’s the time I would put my cafe-bought coffee down on my desk, unpack my laptop, and start sifting through the hundreds of emails that greeted me each day. From then on, it was full-on. Classes to visit, students to attend to, paperwork to handle, and if I was lucky, it wasn’t a day that I had to drive an hour to another school. I was lucky that day.

And then it went pear-shaped, in a BIG way!

The bell had rung to signal the end of learning. I frantically put the finishing touches to a report that had to be written, and started gathering up the information I needed to take to the Staff Meeting. The one that usually started at about 3.10pm and finished anywhere between 4.45 and 5.00pm (if we were lucky).

Without warning, one of my favourite students came rushing in. He was obviously upset about something, and proceeded to unleash his pent-up frustrations on my office. It looked like a bomb had exploded, well, it sort of had, by the time he was finished. I managed to calm him down enough to get him onto his bus, headed for home, when the second attack arrived.

Strike Two!

Another student, also having had a bad day, unleashed a verbal barrage in my direction, then stormed off. I could only hope that he had settled down by the time he walked home.

The first thing I had to do was phone the mother of the first student, and warn her that she may be collecting a tornado from the bus that afternoon. Given that the bus ride was an hour long, she may be lucky enough to have him arrive in a calm state – but I doubted it.

I made the call, gathered up my staff-meeting documents, and arrived late. What could I do? Some things take priority over meetings, and warning a parent of impending trouble was one of them.

The Paper Trail

At the end of the meeting, I trudged wearily back to my office. It was now time to face the paperwork that goes with any kind of student melt-down. Oh, and before I could sit down to do that, I had to put my office back together.

By the time the paperwork was done, reports written, parents called and plans put in place for the next day, it was after 7pm. And it was dark! I put my jacket and briefcase over my left shoulder, turned off the lights, and locked the office door.

Wow, it was dark!

It wasn’t the first time I had left school that late, but it just seemed darker than usual. As I turned the corner near the Administration office, I noticed that the sprinklers were still on. As I was wondering why Barb (our Groundsperson) had left them on, my foot stumbled across a hole in the cement. It all happened so fast, I can’t tell you much about the next bit, except that the weight of my briefcase and jacket, slung over my left shoulder, pushed me faster and more heavily towards the cement path. I put my right hand out to stop my fall and felt the weight of everything on my left side come crashing down on me.

There I was, sprawled out across the path, grateful that anyone with any sense was already home. My not-so-elegant departure had not been witnessed by anyone, therefore my dignity (what was left of it) was reasonably intact.

But First, a Milkshake…

Somehow, I managed to get myself back into a vertical position, gather up all my belongings, and wonder if my laptop had survived the fall. Everything seemed fine – except for my right wrist. I hadn’t ever had a broken bone before so I had no way of knowing if my wrist was broken, or just severely sprained. It looked odd, felt odd, and it hurt.

I managed to drive with my left hand only – very grateful for the automatic transmission – and made it to the local cafe that was still open. As you do in any crisis, you stop for a milkshake. But my right wrist was not ‘right’. Luckily, home was not far away, and I made it there with everything intact – with the exception of a bone in my wrist that was making its fractured state well-and-truly felt.

The Emergency Department

Figuring that I would have to sit in the emergency department at the local hospital for a few hours, I managed to put on some warmer clothes, and drive myself the short distance to our very small hospital. The first question that was asked, of course, was how did it happen? As I recounted the story of falling over in the dark as I was leaving school, the bewildered look on the faces of the medical team prompted another question. “Why were you leaving school in the dark?”. That question didn’t warrant a legitimate answer. It was too complicated. A simple ‘Paperwork’ sufficed.

And to this day, I remember the date that I broke my right wrist. It was 13th August, 2013. Am I superstitious? Nah. It just happened.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments
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
Brisbane River Lights

Brisbane River Lights

When you find yourself in Brisbane at night, go to where the light shines brightest – on the Brisbane River. The lights from the buildings on each side are reflected on the water, providing a palette of shimmering colours. The Brisbane River lights up the dark night, while providing the best views of the city.

Words describe as much as they can, but the photos tell the real story. As often happens, I didn’t have my good camera with me on this trip, so the photos are opportunistic moments captured with my iPhone.

Tall buildings in background with Brisbane River in the middle of the picture
Ordinary buildings by day, become spectacular buidlings at night

Ordinary buildings by day become towers of magical colour by night.

The Fast Way….

If you have already eaten, or plan to eat later, then the best way to see the Brisbane River at night is to get onboard the CityCat. Stopping at most of the terminals along the way, the CityCat gives you the option of disembarking and exploring on foot, or staying onboard for the round trip. Either way, from a vantage point on the deck or a seat inside, you’ll be mesmerised by the light-show as the lights of the city buildings are reflected in the water.

Take the CityCat

The CityCat is one of the ferries that ply the Brisbane River. The Brisbane River is the longest river in South East Queensland and flows for 344 kms, from the Brisbane-Cooyar Ranges to Moreton Bay. As the river meanders through the city, RiverCat ferries link Hamilton at one end, to the University of Queensland at the other.

There is no better way to experience the beauty of Brisbane

Iconic structures of old, mingle with the new; each one significant in their own way. The lights from the buildings light up the darkness as they spread across the water, and light the way ahead.

From the dock at the Northshore Hamilton Ferry Terminal, Eat Street becomes a haven for pedestrians in search of local and International culinary delights. If you are hungry enough, you can leave the CityCat at Hamilton and take an easy eight-minute, flat walk to Eat Street. But you’d better bring your money with you as you will be overwhelmed by the choices of dining options at Eat Street.

From the water-side of Eat Street

Brisbane Night-Lights are Spectacular

Brisbane City at night is hard to beat, and the CityCat provides the best platform for viewing, and taking photos. There’s a Kodak moment at every turn.

You can see history depicted in the colours that light up the Story Bridge each night; the different colours represent an historical event or raise awareness of future ones.

The Story Bridge in all its splendour

And Then There is the Slow Way….

If time is on your side, then the best way to see the city is on the Kookaburra Queen, where you can eat, drink and dance the night away while viewing the Brisbane River lights. There is something special about being onboard the old paddle-wheeler: the sound of the wheel churning through the water; the romance of standing on the deck of this grand old-lady of the river; the food. It all makes for an evening that is hard to forget.

You’ll need to set aside about three hours for the cruise on the Kookaburra Queen. The trip will cost more than the CityCat. but the very reasonable price tag of most of the packages includes dinner and entertainment. With the onboard dance-floor primed, you can trip the light fantastic as you make your way along the river. And the light-show on the water provides the perfect back-drop.

And, back to the CityCat….

When you don’t have three hours to spare, take the CityCat, where the light-show from the Brisbane River lights won’t disappoint you.

It doesn’t matter where you start your journey, the CityCat will lead you through the magical wonderland of Brisbane River lights.

So, what are you waiting for?

Grab your camera and a couple of friends, and make Brisbane your next night out. Oh, and don’t forget to share the photos you take.

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, 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