Monday, March 31, 2014

Time to think...


I was talking to an acquaintance the other day about ADHD, more precisely, my experience of ADHD.

I found myself saying - as I often do, speaking and hearing my thoughts as the words erupt from my mouth - that I often need to hide away after a full day at Uni. I come home and I feel exhausted, so I lay down and nap.

Friends have noticed this phenomenon remarking that I am regularly absent from social media between 4-8pm. I am not napping that entire time, usually, but yes, this certainly is something I do often.

When I got to bed, I don't usually fall asleep right away. I will lay in the silence of my room and think. Think about the day and process all the unfinished mental business.

Busy - ness.

You see, as an easily distracted person, I find most of my thoughts are left dangling throughout the day. Ethereal threads of conscientiousness drifting in the breeze of conversations and rushing about.

When I lie down, I am able to gather up some of these threads and tie them off. Tuck them back into the fabric of life, contextualise them.

ADHD is a lot like Autism in that the person living with this disorder has no filter for the world - or perhaps they have a filter, but it's holly. So, throughout my day, my sense take in everything, all the sounds and sights and smells and textures and flavours. It all goes in, and I don't get to process much of it because, well, I'm human and it's impossible to process millions upon millions of stimuli every day.

I filter out what I can. I expend most of my energy attempting to focus on what I need to be doing now, or next. Far too often I become distracted, and yet, I muddle through.

But it is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting, and at the end of the day I still have so much back log of unprocessed 'stuff', that I will collapse in a heap for a while to manage some of it.

The Grumpy Old Man was listening to a radio program last week talking about the impact of technology on people, particularly young people. The program was describing a subconscious state of mind which continues to process stimuli while people are in a resting state. However, as young people spent so much time focused on technology, apparently they are not in this resting state as often as their parents were at the same age.

Less time process stimuli equates to less self-awareness and less learning. Considering how important my downtime is to my wellbeing, I can't help but be concerned that the kids are not getting enough unplugged time to process all that is happening in their lives. Is this why so many children become irritable and antsy when they do not have access to technology? Do they become overwhelmed by the back of stimuli they have to process?

I think these are important questions.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Unpursued Passions...

Since he first learned to use his vocal chord productively, Lukas has been a lover of music. When he was little the Grumpy Old Man and I often marvelled at how he provided his own soundtrack to his life. Constantly making up songs and singing. When he sung songs others had made up - nursery rhymes and later songs from CDs and radio - he always sang them pitch perfect!

The Grumpy Old Man's mum is a very good singer, but never pursued her passion for music beyond owning a lot of music and listening to it and singing along at home.

On my side of the family we have many great songbirds, both on mum's side and dad's side of the family.

Lukas has always wanted to learn an instrument, but we've never had the money for it. Then in late grade five we signed him up for a terms worth of guitar lessons ($240!), but he just didn't practice. We couldn't figure out why not, but in grade 6 we didn't bother with lessons.

Signing him up for high school, we found he could do a music elective and have a full years lessons as well for just $350, so we decided to give it another go. This time he seems to have grasped the opportunity with both hands. I think because he is surrounded by other enthusiastic musician and they are expect to perform at least once a term at a lunch time school concert (for the rest of the student body, rather than for parents). At the end of the year they will record an album. 

Watching Lukas throw himself into a life long passion has got me thinking.

I write, I love writing, I am good at it. That is one passion.

I love colour, and last year I put a lot of effort into tackling painting on my terms, and I had a lot of fun with it. That has been another passion.

But there is a passion that lives with me every day, that I have not pursued in years.


I sing every day. When I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I'm tired, singing makes everything so much better!

In the car, I hate it when the Grumpy Old Man wants to listen to talking heads on the radio. I just want to sing!

But it has been many years since I sang in any organised fashion or since I received any kind of instruction in singing. I think I need to investigate avenues for doing this again. I know I can sing quite well - I have been told by people who know. I sing best in groups because I don't have a particularly strong voice, but I think I could increase the strength of my voice if I had a good tutor.

Do you have a passion you haven't pursued? What is stopping you?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Out of Exile!

I moved into my new work station last Monday! It has only taken nine months to get a work station on Burwood campus! Yesterday was probably my most productive day in those entire nine months. I was able to PhD work, and committee work without having the anxiety of travelling between the two campuses. 

I share an office with session staff (so lecturers and tutors), which is just fantastic for me, because it gives me the opportunity to get to know a few faces. 

Colloquium is under three months away. The plan for March has been to polish off the creative aspect of the Colloquium document and do all the research for the chapter which will accompany the creative work. I will have two chapters; a literature review and then an actual chapter from the thesis itself. 

The chapter will be on Iceland and Identity as the creative work consists of stories from my Icelandic family (mostly) and form part of how I have developed a sense of identity through hearing and retelling family stories.

There will also be a chapter on Flash Fiction itself and how, while being very compact, is still able to tackle deep issues in life, such as identity and ambiguity. The third chapter will be on ambiguity - I think. Ambiguity in flash fiction writing and ambiguity in identity formation, perhaps - haven't really delved into much yet, but that is looking like a good direction to head in.

Did I mention I have a new work station? I'm very excited about it - it's like finally coming home after living in exile!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Time flexibility is an illusion...

I was having a chat with some other mums who study yesterday and I found myself relating that while I am officially an 'on campus' student, because I don't have lectures to attend, my time seems to be often considered as less important than other people's time.

That is to say, because I don't *have* to be in a certain place at a certain time - or risk failing - there seems to be a perception and an expectation that I can and will be available when it suits other people.

Now - in the interest of owning my own stuff, because that is important to me - I have done little to discourage this perception and related expectation. In an effort to please and accommodate others, I have told people my time is more flexible than theirs. However, I neglected to point that out I still have a workload I am committed to - that is at least forty hours of work on my PhD per week.

And so I find myself forced to schedule my time and be far less flexible that I have been in the past in an attempt to make it clear that my time is actually important.

Yes, I could go to this and that social gathering, but unfortunately, no that is occurring when I have time scheduled to study in the middle of the week.

I know we have real estate agents coming to the house on Friday to photograph the place and draw up floor plans, and I can see the house is a mess, but actually, keeping the house clean is not my job because my job is to complete this PhD so I can become gainfully employed so we don't have to rent forever.

I understand that I signed up for these committees - and I absolutely want to contribute - but these committees are and will remain prioritised below my family and my degree.

It has taken this past week of panic for me to come to the realisation that flexibility is something of an illusion. I may not have weekly blocks of time committed to other people, where I will be penalised for not attending, but I have a long range commitment to finish this degree and in order to make that happen, I must manage my time as if I had classes and appointments every day. It is really the only way to make it clear to myself and everyone else that my time is, indeed, precious.

Also, I think, because I don't have classes, people just don't know or understand what I am doing. The work I am doing in this PhD is hard work. My brain is having to stretch every day to accommodate new information, new perspectives, new concepts and words, on top of that I have to take what I am reading, make sense of it and then add to that information in a relevant and incisive manner. I am not merely writing a bunch of fictitious stories, I am talking about issues of identity and ambiguity both within a person and within a text. I am working with highly abstract concepts - and then I have to turn around and figure out how to be at all the parent teacher meetings at high school while also picking up my kids from primary school and finding a new home for us to live in, while organising a shopping list…

I am incredibly flexible, my time really isn't.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How I got my boys to do the dishes!

Hands up those of you who just LOVE doing the dishes!

Come on, let's see some enthusiasm!


Yeah, me neither...

Mostly I palm it off onto the Grumpy Old Man. Here's why. I don't like getting my hands wet and I especially don't like how my hands feel after washing the dishes. Before you start on about using gloves, I loathe gloves!

I have to say though that this past week or so, washing the dishes has actually been kind of nice, no really! I kid you not! You see, I got to try out this new product from Palmolive...

Palmolive have just release a new range of dishwashing liquids and I had the opportunity to try out their Palmolive Divine Blends Vanilla & Berries dishwashing liquid - which retails at $4.99 for a 700ml bottle of the ultra concentrate. This is a really luscious dishwashing liquid and it smells heavenly! In fact, the smell of it brought the boys to my kitchen - that'd be Lukas and Bryn, I'm talking about. They thought I was baking something! (in their dreams, it's been a while since I had time to bake)

So, guess what happened next?

Yep, that's the boys washing the dishes for me! Bonus, hey?

Of course, you know kids - they love bubbles, but you have to ask yourself, did the dishes actually get cleaned? Well, yes they did! This liquid is powerful stuff, and even though it they were washing pots and cups together (argh!) all the dishes passed inspection because the liquid actually did 'cut through the grease' and left my dishes sparkling - exactly as it promised to!

Palmolive also have a smaller 375ml bottle, in the scent of Violet & Apple Blossom, it retails for $3.49. I haven't had the pleasure of trying it yet. 

The Palmolive Divine Blends range is available in all leading supermarkets, but if you're lucky, you could win your very own bottle of Vanilla and Berries blend to try at home! I have three to give away and all you have to do is answer one simple question:

Q: Which unique aromatic experience did the kids and I have while washing with Palmolive Divine Blends?

Who knows, maybe the Palmolive Divine Blends Vanilla & Berries will work it's magic* on your kids as well!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I have received complimentary products to facilitate this review. However, Digital Parents Collective covered the administration fee to host the giveaway. As always, all opinions expressed are purely my own.

* Palmolive makes no claims that their dishwashing liquid is magic, but I cannot put the enthusiasm of my kids wanting to wash the dishes of their own free will down to anything else!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Reasons I'm a 'bad' mum...

I'm such a bad mum. I know I am by the feedback I receive from others. I'll say, 'Oh, yeah, I tell my kids if you touch anything in this shop I'll rip your arms off and beat you about the head with them.' and other mums look at me in horror. I am a bad mum. But actually, I hide a deeper secret about how bad a mum I am...

I don't take my kids to the dentist - I know, I know, this is truly terrible - I don't have any philosophical beef with dentistry, I'm just traumatised by my experiences with it and so I fear stepping into a dentist office. Unfortunately, the Grumpy Old Man is also similarly traumatised and so he is also too afraid to go to the dentist with the kids. As the years have passed I always thought I would get onto this, I planned to get onto this, and I came close a couple of times, but in the end the fear always gets the better of me.

This is pretty much my view of dentists...

The other day, I was sitting with extended family and they were all talking about terrible experiences going to the dentist themselves or taking their children to the dentist. I sat in silence because the consensus was pretty much that it's just something you 'have to do'. My eldest will be 15 in less than three months time and he hasn't even been for a check in his entire life.

Oh the shame!

With the new national Denticare scheme in place, I know we are now eligible for up to $1000 per child in free dentistry (certain types of procedures - which I'm not sure what are just yet) and so I don't even have the excuse of not being able to afford the appointments. I want to find a dentist I know will be gentle with my kids and who might also show me a little compassion despite my status as a completely useless and bad, bad mother.

I don't even know where to start though.

How do parents choose a good dentist for their child?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My little entrepreneur...

According to economist Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950), entrepreneurs are not necessarily motivated by profit but regard it as a standard for measuring achievement or success. Schumpeter discovered that they: 
greatly value self-reliance,
strive for distinction through excellence, 
are highly optimistic (otherwise nothing would be undertaken), and
always favor challenges of medium risk (neither too easy, nor ruinous).

Read more:


A few weeks ago Erik lost his phone. He didn't tell us he'd lost his phone for a week, so by the time we found out he had completely forgotten where he even had it last. I got him to look through his room, and eventually he was hunting around under his bed and brought out the crate he stores all his precious things in. He pulled the lid of but left it sitting over half the box while he pulled things out, looking for his phone. It was obvious to me he was hiding something so I told him to take the lid off the box completely. In the box was a neatly folded mustard coloured pair of jeans I knew I hadn't bought for him.

He'd been asking me to buy him these jeans for months, but as I stood there staring at them it occurred to me he hadn't mentioned them in a few weeks. I asked him point blank if he'd shop lifted them. He said he hadn't, he'd bought them with his own money. The thing is, he doesn't get any pocket money. So, I asked him where he'd been getting money from.

He told me he had a small enterprise going at school where kids were giving him money and he was buying them energy drinks at the mall on his way to school and charging a dollar retail broker's fee. In that moment I was both aghast and proud.

I had to sit him down and tell him trafficking energy drinks like V and Mother to 12 and 13 year olds was a bad idea! He said he'd researched the drinks first to make sure they were okay and that, anyway, the kids' parents bought them these drinks after school all the time. So, I took him to the product sites and showed him the recommended daily limit for these drinks was one per day and I pointed out that unless the kids told their parents they'd already had one that day, he was putting those kids at risk. I said he was banned from buying energy drinks for kids at school.

So, last week I found out he was still running his enterprise when he told me he was going to buy hair colour and asked if I'd colour his hair for him. He said I had said he, 'Couldn't buy them energy drinks, drugs or alcohol, but you said didn't say I couldn't buy them chips or chocolate or regular soft drinks.' I had to laugh - he wasn't put off by the obstacle I'd set for him. He'd done what every good little entrepreneur would do, and branched out into other markets.

I have to admit, I'm proud of his ingenuity and initiative. I cannot believe the kids at school are will ing to pay a full $1 commission on a can of soft drink, but I guess he is supplying a demand. He has built up a loyal clientele by creating a trust relationship (the kids trust him with their money overnight).

I knew not giving my kids pocket money would motivate them to make their own money!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

C'est La Vie!

Look, it's me in my element! Well, sort of. I worked the Mature Aged Student Club (MASC) stall at Deakin University for O Week, yesterday (I'll be there tomorrow and Thursday as well), and we managed to sign up over 40 members on our first day. Marije (the lovely one to my left in the photo) told me I was 'very good' at the whole talking to people thing. I guess I've had a lot of practice through the Salvos. I don't mind talking to people when I'm in some sort of official capacity - like club secretary.

Today, I had a braille tutorial, I really didn't feel like going; was quite stressed and down in the mouth. My nanna died on Sunday and I'm very sad that I couldn't go to be with her in her last days (we knew her time was close because she had another stroke on Thursday). It looks like I might make it to her grave-side ceremony (the funeral is tomorrow in QLD, but she is being laid to rest next to grandad in Shellharbour on Monday next week). So, I didn't feel like doing braille, but Jordie, my braille tutor, is just so lovely, she had me laughing in no time. Yes, braille is funny!

I'm 'Executive Editor-in-Chief' of a new magazine at Deakin for students aged 21 and over, it's called 'A' and it was launched yesterday, and it looks great, if I say so myself! I'm very excited that this went from concept to e-publication in just three months - and over Christmas break even!

We sent a copy off to the Pro Vice Chancellor, just for fun, and she sent back the following email...

The message was sent to our publisher, because he sent her the link to the magazine. Pretty awesome, huh?

We had the real estate appraiser come look at the house yesterday afternoon. The Grumpy Old Man says the young man was in his mid-twenties (they get younger all the time, don't they?), and that he was extremely polite and friendly without being smarmy or suck-uppity (that's a word, trust me, I'm an executive editor-in-chief of a 'constructive and helpful mag'). When asked he said it wasn't a given the house would go on the market as it's a family investment (so everyone would have to agree). He also said that the market is currently levelling out again after a growth in November and December, and that it's mostly investors buying, so there is a good chance that if the house was sold, the new buyers might want to keep us on as tenants. He noted that we are very keen to stay on at the property - and he could see we take care of the place.

Hopefully we won't have to move.

I was told on Friday that I have been allocated my very own office at Uni, in a very central building. This is fantastic news. The catch is that I will have to wait until June, minimum, to get into the office. That means I won't be getting into the office before my colloquium. I was pretty pissed off when I first got this news, but really, I'm so happy to be getting my own office - a room to myself - that I can't really complain about the wait. I've devised a plan for trimester 1 - a timetable for myself - so I can get all the work I need to do on Burwood done over two days in the week, and then I can go to Greenwood for two days and go to Vision Australia on Tuesdays for braille lessons.

I'm being published - I mean besides in the magazine I'm editing - in a few weeks. I used to get extremely excited every time I got published but now - while I would never take it for granted - it's become something of a comfortable cardigan to wear, like, 'Oh, that's nice, published again.' I really need to get onto writing out my resume.

Speaking of resumes, Erik told me today that he and a friend will be writing their resumes to apply for work soon. I'm so glad he has a friend who is doing this too, because I don't know if he'd do it otherwise. He was all gung-ho about getting work until he was actually old enough to do it (which will be on Thursday). Suddenly, he had all these reasons he couldn't work, e.g. he doesn't like how dirty fast food joints are. I think he was just nervous. He said he didn't want to miss out on hanging with his friends, I reminded him he doesn't hang with them outside of school now, and even if he did he has no money to spend on drinks or movies or anything. So, anyway, he's making plans and I'm happy.

Lukas comes back from year 7 camp tomorrow. I didn't take a picture of him with his bag on Monday morning (I was still upset after hearing nanna had passed). I didn't see him off on the coach. I feel like a terribly slack mum. I'm trying to console myself with the theory that younger children fair better in life because they fly under the radar of overly fawning parents - maybe it was better for Lukas that I didn't carry on like a pork chop that my baby was going on year 7 camp. Let's hope so.

Erik was pretty happy to hear I might be going away for three days (that's the response you want from your family when you tell them you're going away, isn't it). In his words, 'Ace! Dad never makes us go to bed!' Busted, Grumpy Old Man, busted!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Looking for windows...

You know that saying, 'When a door closes, a window opens.' - well, I'm on the hunt for windows.

After not getting the note taking position I had interviewed with, I spent a day or two moping, and then figured I had better get on with looking for work. I figure my resume and interview skills could do with a bit of work. I also just need to consolidate all the roles I have had over the past couple of decades - particularly the past 10 years - and try and make them seem appropriate for a paid work place.

Being 42 and legally blind, I thought my best bet might also be to approach Vision Australia and see if they could assist in the process. I found out yesterday that because I am studying full time, they are not permitted to allow me entrance into their employment program. This is apparently a new Government funding policy thing which came into effect last October. It's a bit crappy because as a person with a disability, even 50% load is considered 'full time' and, well, the university cannot allow me to do less than a 50% load - assuming I was prepared to do that, which I am not (3 years of a PhD is long enough, I wouldn't want to be doing this for 9-12 years).

So, back to the drawing board, and back to looking for windows. The JobShop at the university has a couple of casual registers I want to put my name down on; one is for casual academic staff (so tutors and markers), and the other is for casual research staff. Of course, I'll have to put down that I have never worked for a university before, but I have to start somewhere.

To be honest, I'm kind of hoping that just the act of registering - of putting myself out there - will be enough for the Universe to see I'm for real and send something my way.

I have also started looking at rental properties in this area. The selection is depressing. They're either tiny (as in, we have far too much large furniture I don't want to get rid of), or they cost a bomb. It would be lovely to think MIL is going to just wake up one morning all jazzed about the idea of selling her family home of 43 years and buy a house to share with that, but that is about as likely as me landing a prime lecturing position this year (hey, Universe, if you could see your way to both of these I would be forever grateful)!

Still, keeping an eye out for the open windows. I know they'll be here somewhere.

Good Job!