Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Giving Up...

Do you have days when it all seems too hard? Too much to handle. Days when you just don't feel strong enough to keep going?

Today is one of those days for me.

I have already cried twice today.

I really wasn't sure that coming into the office was a good idea. If anyone speaks to me I may just flying into a thousand shreds.

The stressors are building up and I'm not sure I have the resources to deal with them.

There's the colloquium, of course, I still haven't done any more work on that chapter because I feel a bit overwhelmed by the editing that needs doing. My supervisor seems to have confidence that I can knock it over in a day or two, but I just don't know where to begin.

The sale of the house is deeply affecting me. I know it shouldn't really, these things happen, but I'm getting old and I just want to feel settled and I'm afraid this is how my life will be - forever at the mercy of someone else's needs that I have not influence on.

Last night the president and the events manager of the club I'm secretary for at Uni quit. They have their reasons and I'm okay with that, however, there was no warning this was going to happen. Out of the blue there was an email saying one had quit, followed shortly after by another email saying the other quit a week ago but was asked to wait with announcing it.  As Secretary, I feel as if I should have been given a heads up. To be honest, I feel abandoned. This on top of the other stressors, is too much.

I was to give up on everything. I want to just go home, go to bed and give up.

Only I can't.

It is just not in me to do that. So, I have a cry, and then I suck it up and plod on.

But I feel sad to my core, and the tears are never far away today.

Life often doesn't turn out the way I imagined it would.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Right, where was I?

Saw my supervisor on Thursday. I have a plan for this next week to make the necessary changes for the colloquium - which feels so close now - the document has to be finished in the next four weeks! Doing a field trip to Iceland is definitely on the books! That's a lot of 'yay' right there! I don't have to present at a conference to do a field trip which means I can schedule it to suit my needs, rather than a specific conference time, though if the two overlap, that's fine as well!

I am also still planning on going to New Zealand in November - to this conference. It is far more nerve wracking for me to go to New Zealand than to Iceland. In Iceland I know a bunch of people who can meet me at the airport, offer me accommodation - and are family (yes, I'm talking to you guys). But I don't actually know anyone in New Zealand! Have never been there, don't know my way around. It's a whole other ball game!

In other news, we had the first 'Open for Inspection'. I don't now how many people came, because I was entertaining the kids at the local shopping centre. The Grumpy Old Man - who was at the house only to open it for the agent and lock up after said there was someone waiting in a car when the agent arrived, and when the GOM left him after opening up there was one other person there as well. So, that was two.

The agent told us that he'd had a few enquiries from investors and a couple of those investors had asked if the place was tenanted with people who might want to stay on after the sale. That would be ideal for us, so fingers crossed! Two more 'Open for Inspection's (Saturdays only) and then the auction...

My hormones are wreaking havoc with me at the moment. This is because I haven't been particularly careful with myself. The mild lactose intolerance has flared into quite bad, and very annoying, IBS, so I'm cutting right back on dairy, even cutting it out of my coffee.

I've been drinking coffee without sugar for a couple of weeks now, and that's been okay (yes, I still kind of crave the sugar, but that's because I haven't stopped drinking fizzy drinks yet).  Next step is to properly cut out the choc/chips/coke/soft drinks again. These have a similar affect on me as alcohol has on others. They cause me to feel relaxed and rewarded after a long, hard day, but inevitably I wake up feeling a bit depressed and drained, and even actually physically ill. So, they have to go. Goodbye night time snacking, hello crochet!

The kids are back at school, though last week was a three days soft return of sorts. Erik and Lukas did the 1.5 hour maths tutoring session on Thursdays (we thought it was two hours long, so the tutor hung around with the boys for an extra 1/2 hour of his own time, bless him!). Erik said he learned more in that 1.5 hours than he's learned in the past year at high school! I wouldn't go as far as to say he was excited about maths, but at least he didn't come home saying the tutoring was pointless (as sure sign he was prepared to resist us on being tutored). Lukas also enjoyed it. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come!

Last night I signed up for the 100DaysOfHappiness Challenge. I'm hoping this will create a stronger habit of seeing the things in my life that cause me happiness. Feel free to join me, I am posting to instagram!

This was today's photo:  Sunshine, particularly on a brisk autumn day, always makes me happy!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Aiming at a moving target: academic philosophy...

I didn't do a lot of work over the long weekend, but I did manage to get the chapter edited and sent of to my supervisor. She was very quick to read it and return it by the next morning with lots and lots of tracking comments…


So, now you know what I'll be doing at work today!

This got me thinking about the various stories - almost like urban legends - I've heard of authors submitting already published manuscripts to editors under a pseudonym and getting them back covered in editing marks. No matter how well you polish something, there will always be something you can improve on.

I had mum go through this essay with me. Mum is a very good essay writer, and still my supervisor had plenty to say on how I needed to change things. Once I've changed everything to her standard, there will be no guarantee that the panel who will be assessing my work will be impressed. It is all a matter of preferences and opinion. 

This is why I can't afford to take criticisms personally. Criticisms aren't about me, they're about the person providing the critique. They're about that person's preferences and understanding of how something should appear to be considered valid. My job is to aim for hitting the centre of their target as closely as possible - the fact that that target is constantly moving depending on who is holding it, is basically my problem, not theirs.

That's my little bit of academic philosophy for the day...


Saturday, April 19, 2014

How a haircut cost me a pair of shoes...

It's the end of the school holidays, and time for boys to get hair cuts. My boys hate having their hair cut; if left to their own devices they'd have long flowing locks down to the ground, I think. Unfortunately, they are not great at hair washing, and aren't terribly keen to tie their hair up for school - which the schools would require. So, about four times a year I battle with them to get their hair cut.

I'm trying to compromise on what constitutes 'a cut' and so Erik and Lukas have shaggy cuts with long fringes - I hate these cuts, I really do, but I guess I have to relinquish some of the control as they get older and seek to define themselves as individuals (like everyone else - actually, just. like. everyone. else)...



If it were up to me, they'd all have short cuts like Ari...


His hair is wet here, it's quite short, but he does actually have hair, it's not a buzz cut; just a smart short cut, that can be spiked if he wants, or parted...

Bryn had a BAD day at the barber's today. I did tell the barber to neaten the back but not cut too much off, just a couple of centimetres. The barber just cut, and cut, and cut and while Bryn's hair isn't ├╝ber short, he was hoping for something closer to what Erik walked out with (see above). 

Sadly, he was in a flood of tears when we left. The poor younger barber in the shop was worried about him (it was the older one who had cut Bryn's hair). I said the hair cut was fine, just a bit shorter than Bryn had wanted. 

And then I had to go console the distraught eight-year-old who was vowing and declaring he would NOT be going to school next week, or even next term, until his hair grew back!

I found myself promising to make it up to him, and then I found myself buying him a pair of shoes he really doesn't need, but has wanted for a while...


And then I worked some magic with wax and hair spray and showed how his hair cut wasn't all together horrible, it was quite like the 10th Doctor's hair...





And finally, he was smiling again - and it only cost me $40 in the end for his 'horrible haircut'...


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do We Really Need a Long Weekend At Easter?source

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I'm all over the place today.

You see, my plan to spend five solid days at Uni this week writing up my chapter for colloquium (just the first draft, I'm trying to be a bit realistic) has been somewhat thwarted by the fact that tomorrow is Good Friday and therefore a public holiday, which means the Uni will be shut.

Because Monday is also a public holiday, the University, in it's grand wisdom has decided to shut down for four whole days. Now, I'm meeting my supervisor on Thursday next week which means that by Tuesday night I need to have this first draft chapter in her inbox. Tuesday is my regular braille lesson, so I won't get to Uni that day as driving to the other side of Melbourne, doing a lesson and coming back takes most of the day.

Therefore, today is my last day at Uni to get words on paper with relative peace. Dave asked me this morning if, since I was going to be home tomorrow anyway, he could drive down to Brighton to see a friend. I have to confess I bit his head off. I'm stressed. He could visit his friend any day while the kids are at school, it doesn't have to be a day that they're all home and need supervising.  I find it incredibly difficult to concentrate on work at home with the kids constantly bickering or in hysterics of one variety or another, or asking me a million questions. On top of this I no longer have a CCTV at home and so reading is all but impossible for me, there.

The thought of trying to get work done while solely responsible for the well being of four kids was just too much.

On top of this, I'm finding myself incredibly resentful of the need for a long weekend at Easter. Yes, Australia, being a child of England, was settled on Christian values, however, we're very much a secular country these days - in practice, anyway.

So, why should those of us who just don't believe in the whole Easter story be forced to put our lives on hold for four days because a minority of people do believe? Yes, I'm completely serious. I know Aussies like a holiday as much as anyone else, but well, it's damned inconvenient to me that the University isn't even open on Saturday.

I got in the lift with the Vice Chancellor yesterday and she commented that the weekend could not come soon enough for her. I said I just wanted to be able to get into the office to work. She said I needed to 'down pens' and take a break! Of course, she has no idea who I am, she probably thought I was staff. I bet she didn't 'down pens' when she did her PhD, though!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remember all the people you've been...

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Many months on, I'm still grieving the end of the 11th Doctor's time. I know, I know, he's a fictional character. Anyone with a heart has connected with a fictional character at some point and I connected with the 11th Doctor. I adore the 10th Doctor, he is dashing, isn't he? But the 11th had elements of me in him. Restless energy, and the constant running away. In the end though he came to the realisation that while you can and will change throughout your life time, if you try to forget who you used to be, you'll only get yourself in trouble. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The other day, in a discussion about a friendship, I found myself talking about friends I have on Facebook now who knew me when I was a teenager. We haven't been in the same room in 25-30 years but they know a me my friends today would not recognise.

In another conversation with my mum the other day, she was commenting on my chameleon nature, how whenever I enter a new group, or new environment, I take on the characteristics of that environment. As she put it herself, when she picked me up from a coach line, or airport, she could never be sure if she'd be picking up a someone in a floral dress with brown spiral curl hair and hiking boots, or someone with a sleek black bob and dress in clothing better suited to the 19th century (she calls that my 'goth period', although I never did do the goth thing).

I have been many people over the past few decades, and to me those people often seem like other people - previous incarnations of me who are nothing like me essentially. I feel as if I have lived at least four lives. But I have to remember all those people, what they went through, what they learned and why they changed, because if I don't, I might find myself reliving the past and that is something I absolutely never want to do. 

I do not romanticise my past. I never want to be 18 again, or 26, or 37, no thanks, those days are gone.

I sometimes wonder who I will be next. 

I want to work in academia, and I look at other academics around me - especially now that my desk is in the sessional's room, I look at how they dress and the expressions on their face and I'm not wholly sure I want to change to be like them. I want to do what they do, but can I really change that much? I don't know...


Monday, April 14, 2014

Published...

Back in the office this morning, after what feels like an age away. Didn't feel like I managed to get much done last week, which means this week's effort has to be mammoth. Five thousand words, no less! My aim is to write one thousand word a day between today and Friday. I don't have braille this week, so that means I should be able to be at uni every day.

The book I need to from Melbourne Uni arrived on Saturday, which is fantastic because I felt quite hamstrung without it. I have an outline pretty much sorted, so it is really just a matter of breaking it down and writing it up. The hardest part is the referencing, but my supervisor has said to use whatever style I'm most comfortable with, which makes it a bit easier. 

Yesterday I had a visit from one of mum's old students from Tabor in Melbourne. She had been to the launch of Tabor Adelaide's anthology 'Tales from the Upper Room', and she had picked up my complimentary issue as well as two others for me. 

So, now I've been published in four anthologies. I'm going to take individual shots of these books and post them up in the margin of the blog. Along with articles and various other bits and pieces, my body of work is slowly increasing. I would like to vary the source of publication a little bit more, but I can't complain!


Oh well, that's probably enough procrastination for today. Best get back to the grind mill!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Understanding my own strengths and challenges...

Aside from my mum, I have known and socialised with more (sheer numbers) and a greater variety (ages, demographics, cultures, races, sexual orientation) than anyone I know - and as I said, I've known a LOT of people.

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Since a very young age, I have travelled and lived overseas, and socialised with the very, very poor and the highest stratas of society and influence. All this exposure means I know people quite well. I know what motivates people. I can pick a personality type very quickly and I'm am almost never surprised by anything anyone says or does.

As a writer, I'm an observer. I observe and make mental notes about people and environments all day long. It is just the way I am. If you raise your brow, I'm watching, if you lower the pitch of your voice, I'm listening, if your body stiffens as you speak, I can feel it without even touching you. You may be standing right next to me, speaking directly with me, or you may be on the other side of the cafe reading a book, I'm still watching you.

As a person with low vision, I main not see details, I'll admit that much, but you'd be surprised by what I recognise from having seen an action up close first.

As a person with ADHD, taking it all in but not focusing on much of it means I sometimes register information only after I've left the environment, but still it manages to seep into my consciousness.

I'm a bit like Sherlock, actually - emphasis on 'a bit'!

I also have a major challenge when it comes to people. Although I know, intellectually, what motivates a person; it might be fame or infamy, it might be love, it might be the need to fill a deep emptiness inside that the person is not even aware of, I cannot understand how people act and speak the way they do.

How can people be so selfish, so callous, so pointedly hurtful? How can people think it's okay to act and speak the way they do? How can people ignore what they ignore? How can people live with their choices?

Sometimes this not understanding how causes me to feel outside of humanity - like I don't belong, I don't speak the language or comprehend the culture. For a person like me who has been exposed to so many people from such a vast variety of backgrounds, that doesn't seem to make sense. And yet, there it is. My strength does not mitigate my challenge at all.



Monday, April 07, 2014

The Futuro™ Night Wrist Sleep Support for Carpal Tunnel

Do you suffer from numbness in your fingers or joint pain in your wrists? You may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and you may be suffering unnecessarily. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is actually quite common in Australia and impacts people's daily lives, reducing the number and variety of activities people feel comfortable doing.

For many, many years, I have suffered with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both arms. This means from time to time my pointer finger and my thumb go completely numb, seemingly for no reason at all. At first it was just annoying - no one likes pins and needles, right? But as the years have passed it has become quite a worry as the episodes increase in length and frequency.

I suffer more in my left hand than my right hand, for some reason, so for the purpose of this review, I tested the Futuro™ Night Wrist Sleep Support on my left hand.

It was recommended I try the wrist support for at least a week; I ended up trying it for two weeks because it took a little getting used to. You see, I tend to sleep with my hand in this position...


Most often my hand is tucked under my chin, just like this, putting pressure on the median nerve and making my pointer finger and my thumb go all numb and/or with pin and needles. I wake up with numb fingers almost every. single. day. It is not at all what I call fun!

So, I gave the Futuro™ Night Wrist Sleep Support a go for a couple of weeks...


As you can see, what the wrist support does is gently positions my hand and wrist to prevent pressure being put on the median nerve. It's rather brilliant really, in its effective simplicity! There are deep cushioning beads on the inside so my hand lays in a nature slightly curved, relaxed position on a soft pillow inside the support. At the same time it is resting against a firm splint to prevent me from adopting my habitual folded wrist position. I didn't wake up with numb fingers at all during the two week trial, not once! I really liked the slim-line design with air holes to allow air circulation so the supported didn't feel heavy or hot to wear. Though I wore the support on my left hand, it can be worn on either hand.


I'm quite excited to have found this product because I know people who have required surgery for their Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as they were getting to the point where they would drop items they were carrying because their fingers would suddenly go numb, or they would have shooting pains in their wrist. I am happy to wear a non-intrusive wrist support while I sleep to prevent aggravating the condition during the night, if it means being pain free when I'm awake and possibly avoiding surgery!



The Futuro™ Night Wrist Sleep Support is part of the 3M Futuro Therapeutic range, which includes the wrist support for treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and the Futuro™ Night Plantar Fasciitis Sleep Support for treating Plantar Fasciitis - you can find those products here. The Futuro™ Night Wrist Sleep Support is also available at all leading pharmacies and retails for $69.95.



Disclosure: I have received complimentary products and fee payments to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions expressed are purely my own.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Sugar Jar is Nearly Empty...

And that is how it is going to stay.

I decided last weekend, when we came home with yet another 2kg bag of raw sugar, which I knew would not last the fortnight, that that would be the last bag of sugar we would be buying. Period.

Yes, our family is full of sugar addicts.

A while ago, now, I started having sugar in my coffee. I don't need sugar in my coffee. Most often when I'm out and buy coffee I get it sans any sweetener, but at home I have two sugars, and if at a friend's house and they ask, I'll say two sugars.

The Grumpy Old Man has always had sugar, and I think he probably won't give up sweetening his hot drinks, but he has in the past used stevia, and he can go back to do that now.

There have been two things that led to this move. First, the boys have started regularly drinking tea and coffee, and Erik and Lukas, who make their own, drink melted sugar with a bit of coffee on top, I suspect. It is BAD!

Secondly, at my grandmother's funeral (part b) last month I found out she had one of her kidney's out many years ago, and then just recently, one of my aunts became extremely ill (coding) with kidney stones - which she thankfully passed; she is on the mend now.

Kidney stones are caused by, among other things, too much sugar in the diet. Now, I know my aunt has been careful with her diet, but what that says to me is there is probably a family susceptibility to kidney problems. This frightens me. I've already had my gallbladder out - I'd really like to keep the rest of my organs!

Also, diabetes is as common as freckles in my family, on both sides. and here I sit, 42, overweight, and consuming far too much sugar. That's just a tad insane! I suffer from hypoglycaemia and I know just how badly affected I am by blood glucose spikes, but I have ignored it most all of my life.

So, the sugar jar is nearly empty and that is how it's going to stay.

As well as this I'm swearing off soft drink. I love bubbles, so I'll have mineral water or soda water, but no more sweet soft drinks.

This is where I'm starting. I won't commit to more than this right now because I just want to make this work first.

Friday, April 04, 2014

My 'Dirty Little Secret' in Parenting...

So, today I want to talk about something that is not at all PC.

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It's my parental "dirty little secret", if you like. I'm sure I will be judged on this, but I was thinking about it and maybe I'm not alone…

In this day and age parents are expected to see the good in their child at all times. Along with not smacking and not yelling, we're also not supposed to project our expectations onto our children. We're supposed to celebrate them and focus on the stuff we really admire about them.

I do this. I really enjoy that I get along quite well with my kids, we have a very open and honest relationship and we actually 'hang out' a lot at home and talk about stuff. In many ways, my kids and their father and I have a lot in common in terms of interests, and while we may not have the same tastes exactly, there is openness to exploring the other person's taste on both sides. It really is great.

I admire my children's talent - they each have obvious talent in different areas and I really appreciate this.

But - there is a but.

I'm highly academic and particularly with regard to my older children, they have not reached a level of interest in academia that I have. I know, I struggled at their age as well, but for me it was because I wasn't challenged. For them, it seems they just don't care.

A friend of my\ine was very excited the other day because her child received an excellent report from high school. I totally get her excitement. I would have been just as excited had it been my child. Academic success is something I prize highly because I can relate to it. I don't think people who score well in education are 'better' people (neither does my friend), or even brighter people. Intelligence comes in many forms and I know my children have a variety of intelligences, they just aren't the academically measurable ones.

So, yesterday I cottoned on to the fact that every 6 weeks the high school provides a GPA assessment of my children's academic performance. It is rated from 4 (highest) to 0 (lowest) ranking. My kids received averages of 2.10 and 2.04 in the first round of assessments, and then 2.00 and 1.67 is the second round.

We also had parent-teacher meetings yesterday and it seems my kids are really just doing the bare minimum of requirements, and sometimes not even that.

I am so disappointed. I really am.

I know they are prioritising computer games and social media over study, despite my attempts to limit their access.

I also know, this kind of behaviour is very normal for kids their age.

I know, academic performance is not a good measure of a person's value.

I know I shouldn't be disappointed, that I should focus on the positives; they are happy and healthy, they have friends and enjoy going to school most of the time and they are talented in other areas.

But, I'm still disappointed.

I still feel like I'm somehow failing because I cannot impress upon them the opportunities they have at this high school - opportunities their father and I never had. I cannot manage to translate to them how rewarding study can be.

I'm afraid, too.

What if I'm not pushing hard enough? What if I push too hard? 

I'm sending them both along to maths tutoring after school, next term - at the school (it's free, thank goodness). One child really just needs help because maths is not his 'thing' and so he isn't putting in enough work to keep up with his peers. The other one is, according to his teacher, 'intuitively brilliant' at maths, but relies too heavily on doing it all in his head and refuses to write out calculations in longhand so his teacher can see his methodology, she feels that he is struggling a bit because the maths he is doing now is more complex and really needs to be written out - I want him to dedicate this time, each week, to doing the paper work required so he gets used to it.

I've changed the home wifi password, in hopes they can only access wifi when I sign them in. Windows 8.1 is thwarting this somewhat because it doesn't allow the user to 'forget a network' easily. So I may yet have to lock the devices up - literally behind lock and key - to prevent the kids wasting time on it (especially overnight when one of them is prone to sneaking his devices back to his room to watch movies, instead of sleep).

I feel like I'm having to battle my kids, though. It feels bad. I want education to be enjoyable, but I also want them to take it seriously and utilise their opportunities.

So, there it is, my 'dirty little secret' of parenting. I feel disappointed in my children's academic progress.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Autism Awareness Day… Autism and the workforce.

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It's today.

This time last year, we didn't have a diagnosis for Erik, so this is my first Autism Awareness Day with the knowledge that my child is one of the 1/100 Australian children on the spectrum.

Last night the Grumpy Old Man and I were watching Parenthood. One of the characters in the show is a teen boy named Max who has Aspergers. Even though I know the actor is only playing a part, I marvel at how much overlap there is between Max's interactions with his environment and Erik's. A whole conversation of 'I don't know' answers because he can't express how he is feeling about a difficult situation. The 'You said!' straight down the line, black and white interpretation of the 'rules'. So similar!

There is one major point of difference between the character of Max and our son Erik. Max struggles to make friends. Erik really does not struggle with this.

And that is ASD - as individual as the individual.  Not all people with ASD are loners. Erik certainly isn't.

However, the show did touch on something, last night, that worries me. Max's dad pointed out that part of the reason Max had lost the only friend he had at school, was because the other kids had begun to notice the differences in Max. That is to say, what might have blended in in early childhood as socially unaware, was beginning to stand out like dogs balls by the time Max was 15.

I'm sure Erik will always manage to find friends - he is just that sort of person. My concern is how he will go getting work. Another character int he show, Hank, becomes disturbed when Max throws a tantrum in his shop over the cancellation of an afternoon's plans, so he finds a book on Aspergers and begins reading up on the syndrome. As he reads, he recognises himself and his own struggles throughout life, particularly in his work, where he sometimes misses out on photography jobs for no reason he can understand.

In the episode, they show just that kind of situation. Hank in an interview, unable to detect the subtle non-verbals the interviewer is sending out about what he is hoping for from his prospective employee. Hank misses out on the job, and cannot understand why.

This is my biggest worry for Erik. As talented as he is, if he cannot process the subtle cues in conversation, the grey areas, how will he cope?

It would be great if employers were more aware, and understood how to speak with a person with ASD , so the employer could benefit from the employee with ASD's talents. Maybe by the time Erik is looking for full time employment there will have been enough Autism Awareness Day that employers will start taking note?

I hope so!

Teenagers and the failing parent...