Day 10 – UBC – 10 Shades of Winter

Day 10 – UBC – 10 Shades of Winter

Bears hibernate in winter, and so do I. At the end of Autumn I snuggle under a thick blanket, and I don’t peep out from under the covers until the first signs of Spring. While the 10 shades of winter are making their presence felt outside, I stay inside, where it is snug and warm.

The 10 Shades of Winter!

  1. cold!
  2. naked trees (barely a leaf in sight)
  3. frost on the ground
  4. ice, on any flat surface that bares itself to the elements
  5. drab, dreary colours
  6. so many layers of clothing –  you feel like the Michelin man
  7. days that are too short and nights that are too long
  8. hot (healthy) soup, instead of ice-cream (just kidding)
  9. hot chocolate instead of milkshakes
  10. cold!

Luckily, I live in the northern rivers area of New South Wales, where winters aren’t too bad. Yes, they can be cold, but this year the winter has been mild. So I have ventured out, a little, but usually late in the morning, and I make sure I’m home before dark, because that’s when the cold sets in.

And as for hibernation? While the 10 shades of winter are out there, I’m in here, snuggled under a blanket – or two.

Will someone wake me up when Spring arrives?

Only when the 10 shades of winter have disappeared, and Spring is here, will I be ready to come out.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 4 comments
Day Nine – UBC – Inspiration

Day Nine – UBC – Inspiration

People move in and out of our lives. Some stay a long time, others drift in, and stay just long enough to get to know us, before drifting out again. But it is the people who inspire us, regardless of how long they stay, that make the biggest impact. It doesn’t matter how you define inspiration, it’s what it does for us that matters.

And speaking of definitions, Inspiration is defined as: “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. Or, it can be “a sudden brilliant or timely idea”. R Kay Green in the Huffington Post looks at inspiration in terms of: “… what inspires us most are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. We appreciate when someone has the ability and willingness to be selfless, creative, innovative, or just dares to be different”.  I can think of a lot of public figures who could make it onto the list of people who inspire us, but that’s another story, for another time.

Who Inspires Me?

If daring to be different defines a person as inspiring, then all of the students I taught, qualify. My students were different, and yet the same as any other child. Different, because each had a disability that might have made them look or act a little different. The same, because they, like all kids, wanted to learn, and enjoy life. They inspired me every time they achieved a goal that the rest of us take for granted. For them, most things required a lot more effort and perseverence. I was, and still am very proud of them all.

And if ordinary people, doing extraordinary things fits the definition of inspiration, then the teachers I worked with are my inspirational heroes. Anyone who says that teachers only work from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon, has never known a teacher. Just ask the family of a teacher – they’ll tell you. When most of us have settled down at night to watch our favourite show on television, teachers are marking papers from the day’s lessons. When we decide it’s time for bed, teachers are planning the next day’s lessons. And they do it because they love what they do – providing quality education for the next generation, to prepare them for life. They want the best for every child.

From Beach to Bush

Some of the hardest working teachers I know are the ones who gave up the comfort of city-life and headed to the country.

Teachers in schools in Central Queensland, and beyond, may have given up their city-living comforts, but they gained so much more in return. When teachers choose to teach in schools away from cities, they become part of a larger family, they endure, and give all they have to the community. And after three years, if they haven’t met the love of their life (a lot of them do), they return to the city, and are never the same again. They have a maturity and ‘can-do’ attitude that is hard to beat.

In that small country town, there was no office-supply store at the end of the street, or department store on the corner; resources were made out of whatever was available. Teachers shared what they had, and gave moral support at times when immediate family was needed, but was not there. They took care of each other. And they made friendships that would last a lifetime.


Some Teachers Never Went Back

Of course, there can be an added bonus for heading out west. Many of the single teachers who left the city – found love in the bush – usually in the form of a single farmer or fellow-teacher. They may have driven into the country town, unattached, but certainly didn’t return to city life, unattached. And for the ones who met and married farmers?, well, that country town adopted a new family, and they are still there, raising children of their own.

But most of all, teachers worked tirelessly for every student they taught. I’m not saying that city teachers don’t work hard, they do, but country teachers seem to do more because of the isolation and because they are so much a part of the community. Teachers become a central part of the town they choose to call home, even if only for a few years.

They are:

  • at the football game on Saturday afternoon cheering on the local team, especially the junior teams
  • training students for the Opti-minds competition during lunch breaks
  • driving students to the Opti-minds competition on a Sunday in August – leaving town before daylight for the two-hour drive
  • with the students all day at the Opti-minds competition – encouraging and supporting them
  • at the annual Coal Festival, manning the food stall –  or with the kids, on the back of the decorated truck (don’t even ask about Risk Assessment!; it’s all good – trust me)
  •  supervising Homework Club, and tutoring, after school
  • teaching photography classes after school, and supervising the Disco night
  • at the local campdraft or river festival – helping out and cheering on the participants
  • in front of the grocery store on Saturday morning, selling cakes they’ve baked, to raise money for a local cause or the Coal Festival Entrant
  • at every fundraising event held by the Parents & Citizens Association
  • communicating with parents
  • at school on weekends to prepare for the coming week, and planning lessons late at night
  • missing family and friends in the city, but still giving everything they have to their new community
  • busy making new friends, and being part of a much bigger family
  • learning from each other

And Inspiration Is?

The country-service teachers I worked with who immersed themselves in the community; gave so much of themselves; made the country their home for three years or more, and changed the lives of so many people.

When I think back over my long life, I can think of moments of inspiration. Sometimes, the inspiration was the student standing in front of me, who had just achieved what we didn’t think they would. But mostly, inspiration was reflected in the eyes of the teachers who called Central Queensland their home. They were the ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

Who, or What Inspires You?

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments

July UBC – Day 8 – Every Kid Needs This!

If you have an interest in Education at any level – I’m sure you will enjoy hearing Rita Pierson speak about why every kid needs a champion. I believe Rita is right, and every kid needs this – they need a champion; someone who believes in them; and someone to advocate for them. I had a teacher like Rita in the formative years of my formal education, and because I had a teacher like Rita, I became a teacher.

So, What Are Your Thoughts; Do All Kids Need This?

Does every kid need a champion?

Did you have a teacher who was your Champion?

What difference did, or would a teacher like Rita have made in your life?

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 1 comment
July UBC – Day Seven – It’s Just As Well I Love Writing!

July UBC – Day Seven – It’s Just As Well I Love Writing!

Day Seven – and all is well. I’ve almost managed to stay on track, although sleeping hours have been reduced to around five hours a night. My pre-sleep hours are devoted to writing, editing, adding photos, making sure all my SEO ducks are in a row, and publishing my daily-post. But I’m loving it, because I love writing.

One of the biggest challenges for me is avoiding diahorea, of the writing variety. I just get carried away and can’t stop myself. I’m sure I could talk underwater with a mouthful of marbles, and my writing is no different. Just give me an iPad and keyboard and walk away. I’ll still be there, typing away, when you get back. The word ‘challenge’ means that something is going to be difficult, right? My challenge is sticking to the KISS Principle (Keep It Short, Stupid). I get as carried away with writing, as I do with talking. It just happens! And that is why the July Ultimate Blog Challengs is so worthwhile.

I Wouldn’t Do It, If I Didn’t Love Writing

In the morning hours, I read other people’s posts and add comments. There is no sense spending hours writing a blog, if nobody reads it. And the only way anyone can be sure that we have read their post, is to leave a comment. A few words of encouragement can go a long way towards staying on track.

At night, I write. And any spare moments of the day, I write. I love writing! Being able to craft words into a sentence that sounds okay, is what keeps me writing. Re-living events of my life, describing places I have travelled to, and honouring the people I have met on the way, keeps me writing. I still have thousands of memories stored away, so I’ll be writing for a long time yet.

Writing is a solitary confinement.

I like being alone with my thoughts; the only noise being the tapping sound coming from the keyboard, as words transfer to the screen in front of me. Life might go on around me, but I am oblivious to it, whilever I am engrossed in writing. And that could be the only problem with writing – I need ‘alone-ness’.

Sometimes I take my iPad and keyboard to a cafe, drink lots of coffee, and write. Apart from greeting the Barista and ordering my coffee, I can sit in perfect solitude. People come and go, and the screen in front of me is the barrier that protects me from conversation, when I need the quiet.

What About Writer’s Block?

When the words are trapped in my head, the silence is deafening. Sometimes coffee, or something stronger (like, chocolate), can be the elixir to dissolve the mental block, but not always. I am lucky enough not to suffer from writer’s block very often, but when it does happen, it can be terrifying. The sound of the clock, ticking away the minutes that will bring the deadline crashing down on you, doesn’t help. Not a word is found as you search the nooks and crannies of your mind. Nothing!

The harder you try, the more elusive the words are. And if you are lucky enough to have a phrase or sentence pop into your blank mind, you shudder, “Really?, that’s the best you can do?”.  There are times when no words are better than the half-baked suggestions that the other part of your brain offers. You know, that part of the brain that stores all the desperate words, for emergencies, when you can’t think of anything else to say?

There must be times when my readers pray that I would have writer’s block, at least once in a while. Until that happens on a consistent basis, I will apologise for the over-wordiness of my blogs. No matter how hard  I try, I just can’t seem to make them shorter. Every time I think I’ve finished a blog, ‘Poof!’, another thought pops into my head. And off I go again – another very long blog.

Since we are all bloggers in this Challenge:

  • what is your remedy for freeing up the creative flow, when everything else fails?
  • how do you meet the deadlines of the Blog Challenge?
  • am I in a minority, or majority of people who love writing?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Until then, I’ll just keep writing, because I love writing!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 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!

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 4 comments
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Five – Growing Old Disgracefully

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Five – Growing Old Disgracefully

Day Five – and I’m still on track – well, sort of. I didn’t post last night, which was technically Day Five for me, because I spent the day and night trying to fix the Comments and Subscribe buttons on my website. I’m still not sure they are working as they should be, but I learned a lot in the process. It’s all part of my ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’ story. And that, very conveniently, leads into the topic for today:

Teach something!

I spent more than thirty years of my adult life, teaching. Planning my career was the only long-term planning I have ever done, and luckily it turned out well. I knew from when I was five years old that I wanted to be a teacher, and even though I took the scenic route to get there, I got there in the end. See ‘Blog Challenge – Day Three’ for the low-down on how ‘unplanned’ my life has been.

I’m used to teaching children, not adults, although I have shared some skills along the way with the teachers I worked with. I have always valued learning, and because of that philosophy, I have valued teaching – you can’t have one, without the other.  Our attitude towards learning, shapes our lives as we get older. And that is where I am heading, because this is what I am going to teach you today.

How To Grow Old Disgracefully

Let me start with the traditional view of an aging person. How many of our grandmothers sat on the front porch, knitting needles in hand, watching the world go by? Or were in the kitchen, whipping up another batch of scones? And where was Grandpa? Well, he was either on the golf-course playing a social round of golf, or down at the creek, waiting for the fish to bite. Okay – that’s a bit of an overstated view, but you need to see the comparison I’m about to make.

Sure, you’ll still find some older people, knitting and fishing, and that’s a good thing. They lived through the Depression and really tough times and they deserve to put their feet up now and take life a lot easier. But a new breed of retiree is emerging. We, the Baby Boomers, or Boomers, as we are sometimes called, are hurtling full-on into retirement, if we aren’t already there. And we are different! Our world, from the mid-forties to the mid-sixties was very different from that of our parents and grandparents. By the time we came into the world, the Second World War was just about over, and the stringent rationing of goods and services was about to end.

Life, for us, started well.

Education played a more prominent role, simply because it could. My father was forced into employment, rather than waste time on Secondary Education; he had eight hungry siblings to help provide for. I, on the other hand, finished my full quota of Secondary Education, and a lot of years at University as well. My future options were a lot better than those my father faced at the same age.

And speaking of ‘eight-hungry siblings’, have you ever wondered why families back then had so many children? For those of us lucky enough to be born into the era of contraception, spare a thought for those who went before us. That’s all I’ll say on that matter; the rest is up to you to figure out.

The Early Sixties!

They say if you remember the sixties, you weren’t really there. I’ll let you figure that out on your own as well. And just for the record – I remember the sixties well – and I was there. The position of young people in the sixties was so far removed from young people two decades ealier, that it is difficult to discuss them in the same article. They were worlds apart!

From our privileged beginnings, the recently, and about to be retirees of today, have a very different view of the world.

The Impacts on the Boomers

  • The end of rationing – which coincided with the end of the Second World War. Food and essential items started flowing freely again. My mother scrounged coupons to buy her wedding dress – I went into a store and bought mine with very little thought about the cost.
  • Education beyond Primary School (Elementary school) became the norm, not the exception.
  • Tertiary Education was affordable – no longer just for the privileged elite.
  • Development of the contraceptive pill –  gave families choices on how many children to have, and when to have them (I’m not taking a stand on this, I’m simply stating the facts).
  • Television – introduced to Australia in the late 1950’s – became more sophisticated and brought the world to our living rooms.
  • Vietnam War – Australia’s involvement impacted us in the Sixties and again, in our sixties. Our Vietnam Veterans are owed a debt of gratitude for their commitment then, and need our understanding now. I won’t add to this, but anyone who knows a Vietnam Veteran, knows the impact this war had, and continues to have on them.
  • Beatles and all things Rock and Roll! The music of the sixties belted out across neighbourhoods, loud and proud! It changed the way we danced, dressed, and looked.
  • Mods and Rockers – found their way into our existence in the mid-sixties. Crazy times!
  • Happy Days – featuring Henry (The Fonz) Winkler, and Ron (Richie Cunningham) Howard, showed us the cool way to breeze through our teenage years – hanging out in diners, driving groovy cars, and drinking soda’s, and milkshakes. Oh, and dancing in the diner, despite the ‘No Dancing Allowed’ sign. Perhaps this was the start of our irreverent view of authority.

SKI Club

For us Baby Boomers, the times were a-changing, and dictated much of what we do now. In our parents time, there was an emphasis on leaving our children a reasonable inheritance. Their motto was ‘work hard, save hard’. I am very grateful to my parents for all they did, but I would have loved for them to have spent the money they worked so hard for, on enjoying their retired lives more.

And that is where the Boomers differ. I love the Bumper Sticker proudly displayed on the back of many motor-homes I see, “SKI – Spending Kids Inheritance’. This new breed of retirees are known affectionately as ‘The Grey Nomads’. They’ve got it right!

Travel and learning are what Growing Old Disgracefully is all about. Our more affluent formative years have given us a different view of the world than our parents had at retirement age. We’ve had it easier than our parents did, worked hard and raised successful children who are financially stable. I’m sure they understand that it’s now time for us to get out and see the world!

Shanghai

Since retiring two years ago, one of the most memorable trips I’ve taken was to China. And there were three ninety-year olds with us; they kept up without any problems at all.

Flying into Seattle, one cold December night.

Now it is time to party!

Our roads are dotted with motor homes and caravans being driven by Boomers, seeking new adventures in this vast country of ours. Airports around the country, and around the world, are full of white-haired travellers going to, or coming from, distant destinations. And they are all smiling!

As for learning?, and this is the best part, we are still at it!. How many of the Bloggers on the July Ultimate Blog Challenge are over sixty years of age? I know I am. Let’s face it, if we’re retired, we have more time; if we’re retired, we’ve got more to say (think ‘Grey Nomads’ and ‘World travellers’); if we’re retired, we want to learn – and have the time to do it.

Fast Fiction Podcast Channel

A friend of mine is in her seventies and has been teaching me about Podcasting. She has written a lot of books over the years and is now turning them into Podcasts. Without even trying to promote it, her Podcast Channels have over two-thousand subscribers, in a very short time. This is not a traditional view of what a seventy-plus year old would be doing in her retirement years.

Growing Old Disgracefully, is alive and well!

In fact, I recently spent a day with this friend, and a friend of hers, for a day of learning and sharing. We had our technology of choice (mine is my iPad Pro) and we shared tips and tricks for podcasting and website creation and maintenance. It didn’t seem odd, until I stopped for a coffee on my way home late that night and the young Barista asked me how my day had been. As I told her of the day’s events, I noticed a look of bewilderment on her face. Here I am in my late sixties, relaying my journey with podcasting and my website, to a young person of today; only then did I have an awareness of how far from the expected norm we have ventured. I finished with “uh-huh, I guess we should have been knitting or basket-weaving, but I don’t think any of us know how to do that”.

The Boomers

The Boomers have lived through amazing advancements in technology and products and services that have had a life-long effect on us. It is only natural to think that our retirement years are not going to be the same as those of our parents.

My seventy-two year old cousin is in the final stage of his solo-motorbike ride across Australia. Sleeping in a tent under the stars, meeting other (grey) nomads along the way, and gathering enough content for a mini-series on Aging Disgracefully (if only he would produce it!). Look on a map of  the Nullarbor Plain, to get an idea of how gruelling the trip would be, especially solo, and especially on a motorbike. Russel is an inspiration to us all. Whenever I find myself faltering on the brink of traditional versus disgracefull aging, I think of my cousin. And then I plough through whatever it was that was holding me back.

Preaching To The Converted

I look around me in the village I live in, and I see the older, more traditional retirees, and the emerging Boomer retiree population. Well actually, you don’t see the Boomers much, just the empty spot where their motor home is usually parked, and the empty chair on the front porch. They are out there, and they are doing it! Trekking around in a caravan, flying to a distant destination, on another cruise; recording voices for the next Podcast; attending a WordPress Meetup or WordCamp; or sharing strategies for video-editing. They are debunking the myths of what older people ‘should’ be doing. And I love it!

We are Growing Old Disgracefully!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 1 comment
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!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, Writing, 0 comments
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Three

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day Three

I know where I have been, but do I know where I am going? If the rest of my life is anything like the days already past, then the answer is ‘No! I have no idea where I’m going’. Day Three of the July Ultimate Blog Challenge is about where my blog is heading. This has nothing to do with being philosophical, and everything to do with the topic of the day.

I have lived my life on a whim – not a plan

Impulsive? Yes. Forward planning? No. The only thing I consciously planned in my life was my career. I knew what I wanted to do, and I did it, albeit a little later than I could, or should have. But, in the great scheme of things, it all happened in a timely manner.

In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.  And that sums up my life – in reverse. “Life is what happened to me while I was busy avoiding plans”. Not consciously, of course, but as a consequence of my drifting nature. Like a butterfly, I flitted from one thing to the next. If someone was going somewhere, I tagged along. Since I didn’t have any plans of my own, it was easy to attach myself to the plans of someone else.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had made plans? If I equate making plans with stability, then I’d still be in my home-town, surrounded by the people I grew up with. I wouldn’t have lived interstate or across the world. And I wouldn’t have twenty-thousand photos and two-hundred videos on my iPad! Each photo takes me back to another time and place. I remember the day and the time, but more importantly, I remember the feeling of standing in front of the Taj Mahal, or meeting the fabulous staff at the RedWing Cafe in Seattle.

From Stanley Park in Vancouver to the Taj Mahal in India

Lack of planning took me from my hometown on the Hawkesbury River, to iconic landmarks across the world. Walks through Stanley Park on a Sunday afternoon; standing in front of the Taj Mahal; posing for a selfie in Shanghai; sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; standing next to the Statue of Liberty. I lived on Penang Island Malaysia and in North America. None of the moves were part of any long-term planning on my part. They just happened.

 

Shanghai

Even my retirement, two years ago, just happened. While not having any set-in-concrete plans about when I would hang up the chalk for the last time, I thought it would be years from now – there were certainly no immediate plans. And then, I decided one day that the time had come. As usual, I just did it. I went from working long, long hours – to nothing. No transition, no slowing down, just an abrupt end. And in true butterfly style, I marked the occasion with a spur of the moment, two-week cruise to Singapore. Would you have expected anything less?

The End of the Road

My only concession to forward-planning was to buy a unit to retire in. At some time prior to my official retirement, I looked back on my nomadic lifestyle, and had a fleeting need for stability. In that moment of normality, I wanted to move one more time – and stay there. No more packing and unpacking. I would find a place for everything, and everything would be in its place. Well, maybe that was wishful thinking, but I’m sure you know what I mean. I wanted to set up a home and be happy to be home.

 

 

And that’s where I was when the reality of retirement hit me. This is it! No more early mornings and late nights; Or Mondays, or staff meetings. No more looking out on Thursday mornings to see if I could see the weekend coming over the horizon. Every day was now a weekend.

Suddenly I was faced with the void, the emptiness, the ‘what will I do now?’.  The website I had played around with a few years earlier, suddenly emerged as a life-line. Learning had always been a big part of my life, and getting my website up and running would take a lot of learning. I started going to WordPress WordCamps and Meetups to learn more. It was a slow process. I thought I had kept up with technology over my long teaching career, but this was a whole new ball game.

So what do you do with a website?

You blog!

My nomadic, butterfly past will provide an endless supply of content, and those twenty-thousand photos will find a home. Planning still isn’t a part of my vocabulary, but if I look back at how my life has turned out, I’m not worried. The butterfly approach has served me well and I trust will continue to do so. Technology changes constantly. As I flit from one thing to another, learning as I go, my website and blog will evolve. I would like to think my lack of planning will give me the flexibility to change as often as the technology that I am dabbling in.

I’m excited about where my website and blog could end up. Who knows, they might be destined for great things that haven’t been invented yet.

Day Three of the July Ultimate Blog Challenge has challenged my thinking, but not my lifestyle. The butterfly approach is alive and well and will carry my blog forward, ultimately reaching its final resting place when there is nowhere else for it to go.

Only then will I know where it is heading.

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day 2

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day 2

The Ultimate Blog Challenge is in full swing and I’m loving it! It is only Day 2 and already I’ve fixed a major problem on my website – a problem that I didn’t even know existed. I was wondering why I wasn’t getting any feedback on my Blogs prior to the Blog Challenge. If you want to get comments, you have to have a Comments button that is easy to use. And that’s what makes the Challenge so valuable; fellow-bloggers tried to leave comments on my blog. For some, it was easy – they had a WordPress (WP) account and could sign in and leave a comment. But for those who didn’t have a WP account, and didn’t want one, the process was flawed. Because of the valuable feedback, I was able to fix the problem.

Why Would Anyone Want to do the Ultimate Blog Challenge!?

For me, it was an easy decision. I love a challenge, and I wanted to flex my creative muscles. Writing a blog about a given topic is a good way to test my creative mettle. When I write about topics of interest, I already have the information I need, based on an experience, place or memory. I only have to gather the photos, and write about them. The text grows, and before long, I have published another blog.

When I’m given a topic and have to conform to it, my thinking and creative muscles are stretched. I liken it to the effect of physical activity on the body – the more we stretch – the more agile and flexible we become. The effect of stretching the mind is the same; thinking out of our thought comfort-zones provides the mental workout we need to extend our learning. The Ultimate Blog Challenge provides the opportunity to gain intensified learning, and I’m excited about the possible outcomes from engaging in the challenge for July.

Day 2 Challenge

Rather than a formal topic, Day 2 is about letting people know why we do what we do. For some people, it’s all about a product or service that fills their niche or market. My blog-existence is a lot more personal.  There is no product or service – I just blog.

When I retired from teaching a little over two years ago, I needed something to fill the void. While teaching, I loved learning – from my students; from their parents; from my colleagues; from the people I networked with; from presenters at conferences. It was all about learning, and it was where I was happiest. That all slipped away from the day of retirement, and I was left wondering what a future without learning would look like. So, learning had to be a central point in my post-career life, and I had to figure out what I was passionate about, apart from teaching.

If you love what you do, it isn’t work!

Initially, I thought my learning journey would be all about websites, but I quickly discovered that writing was going to feature heavily in my web-presence. You can’t just have an empty website. Yes, you can have a page full of photos, but unless you are a very accomplished photographer, and I’m not, you need to explain the photos you post. And in explaining my travel photos – I wrote!

Writing creatively didn’t come easy. Years of report writing had taken their toll and my creative instincts had been held hostage in the process. At first it was a struggle, but I pushed on, regardless. At some point there was a cross over, from the hard-core, no-nonsense – just give me the facts – writing, to the creative – let’s have a bit of fun – writing. The more I wrote, the more my creative reflexes limbered up, until I was able to put together some half-decent travel tales. You could say I fell into my niche, the place where I’m happiest, rather than landing there through any conscious intent.

The Training Ground

When my creative muscles are up to it, I’m going to write a book. Like everything else in my life, I know it will just evolve. But the key element right now, is completing the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July. Practicing writing from a given topic is stretching my mental reflexes in preparation for conjuring up bigger ideas, on a much larger scale. Day 2 of the July Ultimate Blog Challenge is one of the stepping stones on the path to my ultimate destination.

Have I found my niche?

I hope so! Maybe I’ll have a definite answer at the end of July, so be sure to ask me.

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 0 comments
July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

July Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day One

This might not be a good start to the July Ultimate Blog Challenge! Am I doomed before I even start? I spent ages writing a blog post to prepare the few faithful followers of my blogs for what was about to happen. I announced that I was embarking on the challenge, explained how it had come about, and launched into a lengthy dialogue about the website for my blog. And just for good measure, I posted the blog on my website yesterday, which was the 30th June, in my neck of the universal woods. The topic for Day One is out now, and I’m doomed.

Let me go back a step. One of the major rules of the Blog Challenge is that you have to post a new blog ‘on the day’, not submit a link to something you posted earlier.

Why is this such a major catastrophe? I have been waiting anxiously all day, the first day of July here in Australia, for the Blog Challenge to begin. Because of the time difference between Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the Challenge only officially started a few hours ago.

Can you guess what the challenge for today is?

Tell your readers about the July Ultimate Blog Challenge and why you are doing it!

I’ve already done that! I posted it yesterday! That means I can’t post it again as the first blog of the challenge.

Disaster! Chaos! Heck!!!

Wait a minute. This is a challenge, right? And a challenge isn’t meant to be easy. Hmmm; that puts it into perspective.


I can do this. I have already told everyone about the Challenge, so now all I have to do is post these humble thoughts about how challenging the challenge is. Simple!

Okay, I’ve got this. This is my post for Day One of the July Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Oh, and another rule is that I can’t do the automatic post to my Facebook page, like I usually do, so you’ll need to check back on my page each day to find the post. Or, you could subscribe to my posts on the form below, then you will get an email to tell you when I’ve posted a new challenge. Either way will work.

Enjoy!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 10 comments
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