Writing

Weekend – What Weekend?

Weekend – What Weekend?

Weekends: those magical hours between Friday night and Monday morning. You close the door of your office on Friday afternoon, and look forward to two days of blissful R&R – that’s Rest and Recuperation in old Military terms. There’s nothing like waking up on Saturday morning, knowing that you can roll over and go back to sleep. The weekend looks good from any angle!

But what happens when the weekend loses its lustre? What happens when the weekend becomes just like any other day? 

We call it Retirement!

When you close the door on the office for the very last time, you know you’ve hit retirement. The defining line between weekdays and weekends disappears. Timetables are for bus and train trips, and reports only relate to weather. Work!, becomes a dirty, four-letter word (anyone remember Maynard G Krebs’ reaction to the word?)

Retirement – the new phase of your life where – Yes!, the world really does revolve around you. Possibly for the first time in your life you are free to make decisions that are best for you: “Will I go out today? Nah… I think I’ll sit on the verandah, drink coffee and read a book.” I can do what I want, when I want.

When you settle into retirement, either every day is now a weekday, or every day is now a weekend. I chose the latter. Those days that start with M are no longer feared or dreaded. 

Cup Half-Empty or Half-Full?

Mine was always at least half-full, but since I retired, my cup is closer to full (usually with coffee). I have filled it with all the things I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. While I was working, every time I came across something interesting to do, or new skill to learn, I promised myself that I would do it when I retired. Needless to say, the list of things to do and learn was pretty long by the time I closed the door on my work-life.

Working my way through the list!

The first, and most important task was to learn to write creatively. My career was filled with factual report-writing. And there’s nothing like report-writing to stifle any creativity that you may have had prior to your career. Reports: a case of re-telling ‘the facts, and nothing but the facts’. Not much wriggle room for being creative.

And now there’s my Blog – where I get to try out different styles of writing. There is still a lot to learn, but I think I’m slowly moving into a zone where I feel more confident. I can relax a little, and really enjoy the whole writing experience – well – as far as my experience has taken me so far. I’ve only just started flexing my creative muscles so I know I have a long way to go, but I’m definitely enjoying the journey. 

Being retired, and being the centre of my own Universe, means I can be flexible. I can write when I want to – not when I have to. 

But What About the Challenge?

Ah, yes, the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Where am I up to? 

Day 6

As a blogger/writer, do you take the weekend off? 

Paul Taubman – Ultimate Blog Challenge

I had a bit of a chuckle when I read the topic for Day 6 – which is roughly where I am up to – despite it being the tenth day of October. My first thought was, ‘Weekend, What Weekend?’. Every day is a weekend. 

And I guess that answers the question…

I have posted Days 1, 2 and 3. I’m skipping Days 4 and 5 of the Challenge – until later. So that means I’m up to Day 6. Just saying….

Maureen
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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 2 comments
The Dawn of a New Tomorrow

The Dawn of a New Tomorrow

The bell signals the end of learning for another day. Students make a rush for the door, and the temptation to join them is overwhelming. You sit down at your desk and dream of the dawn of a new tomorrow. A tomorrow with no bells; no lesson plans; no marking; and no report-writing.

When you are a teacher, the lines between day and night are blurred. Three o’clock signals the end of learning for students, and the start of paperwork for teachers.

It’s going to be another long night. Before you start tomorrow’s planning, today’s marking screams at you. Thoughts are sloshing around your head – and they need to find their way into the books to be marked, before they settle into a pool of useless, random words. Leaving the marking until later never ends well. So you open the first book, pick up your pen – and start.

Image from Pixabay.com

And Lunch?

Image from Pixabay.com

Your stomach reminds you that playground duty kept you from the staffroom, for yet another lunch break.  Along with the empty feeling in your stomach, you crave coffee. Another one of life’s simple pleasures that eludes you in your teaching day. Hot coffee and students don’t mix – Workplace Health & Safety posters adorn the staffroom walls.  No chance of forgetting. You make a mental note to stop by the coffee shop on your way home.

When is Enough, Enough?

The teaching weeks roll into teaching months. Before you know it, you’re beyond retirement age, but you are still on the treadmill. Love for your job, and dedication to it, are no consolation for the tiredness you feel. That weariness that chases you down at the end of each long day. Your non-teaching friends are in bed at a reasonable hour – you are up late, planning and writing reports. It takes its toll. Your health starts to flash warning signs – Enough is Enough!

And one day it all comes to a grinding halt. The plans you made to keep working until your seventies, not that you are too far from that magic number, disappear. You wake up one morning and think “I can’t do this anymore”. And that’s the day the resignation papers fall out of your pocket – onto the Principal’s desk.

The dawn of a new tomorrow

When I closed the classroom door for the last time, I didn’t have time to think about it too much. As soon as I made the decision to fill in the retirement-forms – I booked a cruise. I needed something to separate my working-life from my new retirement-life. And I needed something to console me in the raw days following my departure from the world that had absorbed me for more than half my life.

I poured myself into planning for the cruise from Sydney to Singapore. That trip was to close the door on my working life – sealed shut – never to be reopened; and it worked! I came home refreshed, renewed and excited about settling down into a normal life. 

Or, So I Thought!

The years of getting by on less than eight hours sleep had become stuck somewhere in my Body-Clock, and it wouldn’t budge. I found myself unable to put my head on the pillow before midnight – but I was still waking up at five or six in the morning. The problem was, there was no planning or report-writing to fill the evenings. I subscribed to paid television – but that didn’t work; there never seemed to be anything worth watching. 

I started writing. I had always loved writing and promised myself that one day I would write a book. Perhaps that ‘one day’ had arrived.

The website I dabbled in, while still teaching, suddenly had meaning. It had been sitting there, half-baked, for years. Now it was time to get it into the oven. 

And the idea of a Blog started to gel. I’d been hearing about, and reading blogs, for a long time. 

Writing; Website; Blogging

The three started to overlap, then merge, until it was only natural that they would become one. And from the ashes, my Phoenix arose.

MaureenDurney.com emerged.

My humble musings from the early days are often painful to revisit. But put into perspective, they are a yardstick by which to measure the distance I have travelled. I can see the improvement in my writing, in my website management, and therefore in my blogging.

What has had the most impact?

The Ultimate Blog Challenge!

Writing within a time-frame and to a specific topic has reined in my verbosity. The challenge dictates a blog-a-day for thirty-one days. You can’t allow yourself the luxury of extra words when the clock is ticking away beside you. Well theoretically, anyway. I still need to work on the length of my blogs. And that is a work-in-progress.

MaureenDurney.com is keeping me focused. It is absorbing me – drawing out the passion that I used to pour into my teaching. It is my new life. Learning new skills is exercising my brain, just as Professional Development did in my teaching days. 

And The Book?

The book is another work-in-progress. And the Ultimate Blog Challenge is pre-requisite learning before launching full-on into it. With my long teaching days behind me, and with the dawn of my new tomorrow, I can now devote my life to Blogging. 

MaureenDurney.com is alive and well!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 4 comments
October Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

October Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

I’ll call it ‘Third Time Lucky’, for want of a better philosophy, but the Ultimate Blog Challenge is back. I made a weak attempt in January, then slightly better in July, and have signed up again for October. I’ve dusted off my iPad and sharpened up my keyboard, so let’s go! 

Why Am I Doing This?

I learned so much from the first two challenges that I couldn’t resist coming back for Round Three. I saw the difference the challenges made to my writing, and I know I can learn a lot more. 

And one of the great things about the Ultimate Blog Challenge is the people you meet on the journey. Accepting the challenge is a lot more than simply posting a blog each day – it’s about reading other people’s blogs. When someone makes a comment on one of my blogs, I immediately feel connected to the reader.   Leaving a comment for another blogger makes a connection with them. And it makes a difference. We don’t sit and write each day to have nobody read our writing, no matter how humble it might be. Seeing a comment at the bottom of a blog, validates the time and effort of writing it. It makes it all worthwhile. 

So, what is the Ultimate Blog Challenge?

The challenge lies in being able to address a set topic, within a specific time-frame. Since there are only twenty-four hours in a day, that’s all you get, from the time you get the topic of the day, until the next one arrives in your inbox. 

For someone like me, the ticking clock is my biggest motivator. Without the time-frame I’d spend way too long writing each blog. Writing within the confines of a day ensures I get a hurry-on. And that in turn makes sure I use less words instead of more. 

One of the things I’ve noticed about my writing is that I’m getting much more contained in my ‘wordiness’. 

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”

N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

When recycling isn’t a good thing!

Recycling waste is great for the environment. Recycling blogs isn’t good for the challenge. Each blog has to be new content. Perhaps a new spin on an old theme would work, but re-posting something that has already been posted doesn’t fit within the Blog Challenge guidelines.

Here’s to writing one blog a day for the month of October!

May we all succeed and arrive at the end of the October Ultimate Blog Challenge with thirty-one blogs, done and dusted.

This is my first blog for the month.

Enjoy!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 8 comments
Life Happens!

Life Happens!

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

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

Should I Lurk in the Shadows?

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

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

It’s About the People

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

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

Everyone has a story, because life happens!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 0 comments

Day 21 – UBC – Does it Matter Where I Sit?

When I visit a friend or relative’s home for the first time, I usually ask “Does it matter where I sit?”. Everyone has their favourite chair, or seat in the house, and I am wary of plonking myself down on my host’s favourite chair. And one of the most common questions asked of writers is: Where do you write? Like the rest of us, writers probably have a chair or place that they prefer, while writing. I know I do.

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

We all have habits, right? Some good, some not-so-good. And some of us are more bound by habits and routines than others. My morning routine of ‘coffee first!’, is sacrosanct. Pity help anyone who stands between me and that first coffee of the day. Once I’m caffeinated – I’m fine, and the immediate vicinity is once again a safe place to be.


Part of my routine features the chair I sit in to write. My favourite chair in summer is by the door, leading out to the verandah.  The chair is comfortable and rocks just slightly, and with a breeze coming through the door, writing is easy.

My Outside Space

If I want to write early in the morning, this is my ‘go-to’ place. Of course, there’s another little habit that goes with that seat – when I sit out there, I have to have a coffee beside me.

Where Do You Write?

Inside? Outside?

On the Move

While travelling this great planet of ours, I’ve discovered a few places I like to claim as my writing-chair. Top of the list would have to be coffee shops and cafes.

Here are some of the places I’ve sat, with iPad and keyboard stragically placed, and churned out a blog – or two. Usually while sipping about eleven or eight coffees.

My Local

Re Cafe Nate: my neighbourhood coffee shop in Murwillumbah. It can get a bit busy here because the locals all know how good the coffee, food and service are, but it’s a great place to write; thanks Josh, Desley and Don.

West End Brisbane

Between The Bars: West End, Brisbane. This is my home-away-from-home coffee shop. Great coffee and great service; thanks Nick and Mal.

Seattle: WA

RedWing Cafe: Seattle, US. Tucked away in Rainier Beach, this is the best place for just hanging out and writing, on a cold winter’s day. The coffee, food and service are outstanding. And that’s all the encouragement I needed to sit and write. Thank you Anthony, Sue and the fantastic team who kept me fed and caffeinated while I wrote, early this year.

Berhampore (Wellington) NZ

Rinski Korsakov: Berhampore. What can I say? This was just the cutest place – with a table in the front window for people-watching, when inspiration waned. Luckily, there was no shortage of great coffee and carrot cake, when I frequented Rinski’s in September 2017.  Thanks Jet!

Where do Famous Authors Write?

J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, came up with the idea for the series while on a delayed train, but wrote in cafes in Scotland. Could it be the coffee that provides the inspiration?

If you have ever asked a writer – “Where do you write?”, what was their response? Do they favour cafes, or a park bench? Do they prefer a log cabin in the woods, or a bench on a busy street?

My guess is, writers have a favourite place when it comes to the serious business of writing. Inspiration, on the other hand, can happen anywhere.

Write On!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 2 comments

Day 17 – UBC – Follow That Blog!

I don’t care that today is the twenty-third day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge (July) and I’m officially six days behind – I’m persevering, right to the end. The challenge for Day 17 is to make a list of blogs that I follow. So, rather than giving you a list of my favourites, I’m going to explain why you should follow that blog you’ve been reading.

We all have favourite authors – I know I have – but are we as loyal to bloggers? My favourite author is Bryce Courtenay, and before he sadly passed from his earthly existence a few years ago, he was publishing a book every year. I read almost every one of them. He was my favourite author because I had come to expect a certain style in his writing and I trusted that every book would hold my attention.

An E-Book Gathers No Dust

Before technology took such a formidable hold on our lives, bookshelves bulged at the seams with our favourite books. Most of us collected the works of a few authors, but we probably had a smattering of non-descript interest books as well. I know my shelves had their fair share of DIY projects;  recipe books; self-help books; and anything else that held my interest long enough to read about it.


Gradually, my bookshelves gave way to a Kindle e-Reader. Technology had opened up a world of reading. I could search the Internet for e-books (electronic books) and download them to my Kindle with just one click. But the best thing was, e-books cost a whole lot less than hard-copy books and I didn’t need a lot of shelves to hold them. E-books gather no dust!

There’s An App For That!

The Kindle eventually gave way to a Kindle App on my iPad and iPhone. My i-devices are just as portable as the Kindle, but much more versatile. I can choose any book from my e-book library, wherever I am; I always have at least one of my i-devices with me. Another advantage is, whichever device I am using, the reader automatically opens the book at the page I was up to on the other device. Alas, I now have a box full of redundant bookmarks that I have collected over the years. But, that’s a small price to pay for convenience.

Technology is marching on, and we now have Bloggers – and God Bless every one of them. We no longer have to search for and buy books on every subject from Arthropod to Zephyr. All we need to do is find a blogger whose expertise matches our interest, and Voila!, we have an endless supply of reading material.

Not only can we read about our favourite subject, we can interact with it. Bloggers usually provide a section somewhere on the page that allows you to ask questions and/or make comments.

And the best news is…

Bloggers usually have a wealth of information up their sleeve. Their blogs might provide an overview, or a sample of a much longer discourse on the subject. And they often write e-books. By reading their blogs, you can get a feel for their knowledge and expertise, and make an informed decision about buying their e-book. It’s kind of a try-before-you-buy offer.

So, rather than just read a blog that you like, FOLLOW the blog. That way, you’ll keep up with current information; get to know the writer’s style and level of expertise; and, buy their e-book with confidence, if they have written one. Perhaps the Comment Section on their blog site would be a good place to suggest an e-book, if they don’t already have one. An e-book would be everything you wanted to know about the subject, in one handy format, rather than wait for the daily/weekly/monthly instalment in blog form.

Follow That Blog!

All you have to do is search for blogs on your favourite subject, read a few, decide which one meets your needs, then Follow That Blog!

Simple!!!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 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