Do you believe in karma?
I like to do things for other people. It’s not because I’m saving up brownie points to get into heaven. It’s not because I think it will allow me to come back as something better. It’s not because I’m hoping I’ll get something in return. I do it because…. well, because it’s just who I am.
In my last post, I wrote about my way of coping with losing a job I love by making resources for others to use in my own time. I didn’t do it to show off or to look good. I did it because I saw a need and I like helping people. Well, okay, and I also like making things and this seemed like a good use of my time.
I’ve also written about losing my job and how it wasn’t about the money.
As a casual relief teacher in an environment where students are now studying from home, I knew there would not be opportunities to teach until schools fully reopen so I found a way to fulfil the joy I have for teaching in other ways. It felt good.
Do you believe in karma?
Today I did my first of three days of work at my school.
I still can’t believe it.
For some reason, they were short on teaching staff and a member of staff I had chatted to recently on one of my runs around the river mentioned how crushed I’d been to lose my job and how much I would miss the kids.
So they called me and offered me three days work with a possibility of more in the future.
I don’t know if I believe in karma in the full religious understanding of it but after the events of this week, I have to believe that what you put into the world will come back to you.
Do good things.
Give what you can.
It will come back to you.
The announcement finally came. It was predictable and I was expecting it but it still hit hard.
On April 7, our state government announced that students would continue to learn at home for Term 2, due to start after Easter. So another three months of unemployment for me.
But, as a dear friend said to me, “You can take the person out of the teaching but you can’t take the teaching out of the person.”
I’ve been finding a way through.
I have you wonderful people in this amazing blogging community to thank for the first step. When I first wrote about losing a job I love, many people asked if there was a way to communicate with the students online. Being a casual teacher, I don’t have access to those platforms at my school but then Dan mentioned recording videos and a germ of an idea sprung up in this still fertile mind (it’s all that bullcrap I store in there).
My ‘thing’ when teaching is music. I get a lot of jokes about moving out of home when I’m working because I walk in and out with an enormous suitcase and a guitar on my back. The suitcase holds a collection of instruments and song props – my own ‘bag of tricks’ as all good CRTs carry. I’ve previously mentioned that a favourite song is “When You’re Happy and You Know It” done with all sorts of different emotions and different actions to match.
So, I took a deep breath and I videoed myself singing this song, doing eight different emotions. (Trust me, this was huge. I am not a fan of being on camera.) I then split them up into different videos and edited them to include the PCS (Pictorial Communication System) card for that emotion before and after the song.
The videos are not flashy. They are just me singing and playing the guitar with no great video effects. It’s because I wanted it to accurately replicate what it would be like for the kids at school. Truly. It’s not at all because I honestly couldn’t be bothered doing that much editing. Besides, there’s a plethora of flashy songs on the interwebs for the kids to access. How often will they get to see ME this term?
I also tried to keep the file size as small as I could while trying to keep a reasonable standard because some of our kids won’t have access to great internet.
Here is where I want to thank my lovely friend Naomi who has been my cheerleader through this process. She was the one I sent them to first because I knew I could trust her to tell me honestly if they were okay.
Fortunately she thought they were more than okay.
The next step was to send them to a suitable focus group. Luckily I am great friends with a number of preschoolers (even related to a few) so I sent the videos off to this treasured cohort and received a very positive response.
Last step – send them to the music specialist teacher at my school. I needed a gin and tonic before I could hit that send button despite all the previous positive feedback. Sharing your own creation with others is like sharing some deep uncertain part of yourself.
To my enormous relief, my work was received with great enthusiasm and gratitude.
The videos are on YouTube but marked as Unlisted so you won’t find them without a direct link. While I wanted them easily shared, I didn’t particularly feel like making myself available to the world’s troll network.*
However, in the spirit of community and doing new things, I’ve included one of the videos here for you to have a squizz at what you helped create. I chose Sad because this is the one the kids always find hilarious at school and the great-nephew also declared it his favourite, with a giggle.
My other task to keep the sadness away has been to build activity boxes for a couple of three-year-old coffee buddies I know. I knew their parents would appreciate a bit of help keeping these bright and active little boys occupied over the coming weeks. Along with my colleagues Fellowes and Carl, I’ve been madly producing resources over the past week to box up and deliver as an Easter surprise.
If I were to list activities that help my mental health, I would definitely include laminating with rotary cutting close behind. I’m also a big fan of Velcro. So making these resources was like being in my happy place.
I knew I well and truly had my teacher hat on when I found myself with fifty gazillion tabs open in my browser from eleventy hundred different education websites and blogs looking for ideas and resources. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’ve obviously never done lesson planning.
As is always the case, it started out as a tiny idea that probably would have fit into a standard envelope that then morphed into a major undertaking for which I had to buy a packing box for delivery.
But boy, did I have fun? You bet your last dollar. Or my last dollar. In light of my current situation, I probably shouldn’t have been wandering the virtual aisles of the local office supplies store and hitting that Buy button quite so regularly but it’s always been way more fun to spend money on other people than on myself so really from a mental health perspective it’s money very well spent. Cheaper than therapy anyway.
And this little episode during a video chat with one of my little friends after he opened his box made my day:
A: Thank you for my box of things just for me! It’s awful!
A’s Mum: Awesome. You mean awesome.
My little teacher soul has been fed and will feel able to carry on for a little while.
I’m finding a way through.
How about you?
*If you really want to see the full playlist because you’d love to see all the videos or you can think of some little person in your life who would enjoy them, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the link.
One of my survival methods in those times when I’m feeling overwhelmed by thoughts of what may lay ahead in these Lockdown Days (and those waves rise up several times a day) has been to take myself out of myself (if you get what I mean) and reach out to others to find out how they are faring.
The act of caring for others brings a surge of positive energy and helps keep the feelings of isolation at bay. One of the most important things we can do in this crisis is try and maintain a sense of community and mutual care.
Taking ourselves out of our own heads for a while and listening to someone else can help put our own problems into perspective. As challenging as our own issues may be, we need to put our heads up once in a while and check on the other people in our lives.
So, when I saw this clip from James Corden recorded at the end of the At Home version of his Late Show, his words resonated with what I have been experiencing.
“Reaching out to somebody else who you think might be struggling too is pretty much the best thing we can all do right now because we absolutely will get through this.” – James Corden 31.03.20
And then he finished with a performance of the song “You Will Be Found” by the cast of the musical Dear Evan Hansen via social distancing rules of course. (Yes, there is something of a consistency of musicals in my coping mechanisms…)
Watch it. It will lift you up. It may also make you cry but in a good way. And then go and check in with someone you know. You’ll help them and you’ll help yourself.
Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found
I’ve escaped to my she-shed. I have The Sound of Music* on my laptop, a glass of Four Pillars Shiraz Gin and tonic to hand, also a (large) packet of sweet potato chips and there are pretty candles inside and out and the city lights twinkling away.
*Yes, tragically I am quoting whole tracts of dialogue and singing all the songs. It’s my own special Isolation Sound of Music Singalong.
How are you surviving the close quarters with your loved ones?
I lost my job yesterday. I work as a casual relief (substitute) teacher in a special education school. On Sunday, our state government announced that schools would be closed from Tuesday. It made sense. We were due to finish for two weeks of school holidays at the end of the week anyway so it’s only an extra four days. And I’d be happy to view it as that except that in the current environment, nobody actually knows how long this will last. Three weeks, six weeks, six months? It’s the unknown that gets to you.
Permanent and contracted staff will continue to be paid. Casual staff will not. I was booked in to replace a teacher for the whole week but that’s now ended. Should schools remain closed after the holidays, teachers will revert to the online provision of a program. How that works with high needs special education, I don’t know but what I do know is that online teaching will not require casual replacement teachers so there will be no work until the schools open again.
I’m luckier than others. I know that eventually, when this crisis is over, schools will reopen and my work will return. Others will not be so lucky as extended lockdowns send businesses to the wall. We’re also in a pretty solid financial position so we will survive the loss of income. I know I shouldn’t complain.
But here’s the thing – it’s not about the money.
I love my job. Work is my happy place. My students fill my heart and soul with joy and satisfaction. It’s the loss of this that has me feeling weighted down and my heart aching.
What will I miss?
- the utter joy on faces as I play my guitar and we bop along to I’m A Believer or Down On The Corner
- the hysterical giggles when I sing all the funny voices for the different emotions in If You’re Happy and You Know it (angry and sad are favourites – that my students find my singing a song while crying as hilariously funny is slightly disturbing)
- the literal tears of pride when a student achieves a learning goal for the first time
- the cheeky and mischievous grins
- finding that new way of doing something that means a student has a better day
- the cheerful greetings as I walk around the school – as a CRT, all the kids know me and I know the name of every single one of them
- working as a team with my Education Support co-workers, the true rockstars of special education
- singing made up songs while pushing a swing to give a student with difficult behaviours a happy play time
- all the feels – when my students are happy, sad, angry, upset, proud, unwell – they touch my heart so deeply
And I worry. I worry for the students for whom school is their safe space, the only place they receive what we call ‘unconditional regard’ and are nourished in body, mind and soul. I worry for the parents forced to give up work to care for their child every day and the financial impact of that and the lack of respite they will receive from the intensity it takes to care for a special needs child.
I know I am luckier than so many others but sometimes you just have to acknowledge that pain in your heart and what is causing it. I am grieving and the only thing that will fix it is a return to the job I love. It will come but it’s likely to be a long and challenging journey to get there.
How are you bearing up under the conditions imposed to combat COVID-19?
One of my favourite books is Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s one of those books that made me go, “Oh. So it’s not just me then.” It describes all the great things about introverts even though it’s a struggle to get that known because we live in a world designed for extroverts.
The subtitle of her book is “The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. Well, the world has just gone a little quieter.
Containment measures are being implemented across the world to try and stop the spread of COVID-19. People are being asked to stay in their homes and only go out for essentials. Non-essential activities have been cancelled.
The Australian Football League has just suspended the season. My son messaged me with the news and Messenger gave me the option to reply with “Yay!” It’s a little worrying that my phone knows me so well…
Of course, introverts around the world have responded to these extreme measures with “You mean I have to stay at home, limit contact with people and avoid crowds? Sweeeet!”
Introverts have been doing this for years!!!
Look whose suddenly the cool kids at the party now!
— Windswept Joe (@windsweptjoe) March 12, 2020
But what does it mean for the extroverts of the world? Well, dear extroverts, you get to walk in our shoes for a while. It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it? It feels unnatural and way outside your comfort zone, doesn’t it? It has sucked all the energy out of you, hasn’t it? Yeah, tell me about it. I live it every day.
Do not fear, extroverts. Help is at hand. I have long advocated for extroverts to make friends with at least one introvert. Introverts make deeply thoughtful, compassionate and loyal friends. We may not be good at chitchat but we’ll give serious thought to a request for advice. We’re unlikely to want to go to a party with you but we’ll come around and help you with a task whenever you ask. We won’t be the ones making the speeches but we’ll make sure the dishes are washed and the chairs are put away.
But now, we really come into our own because we know how to spend vast amounts of time alone.
This will be good for you, I promise. You’ll have more time for reflection, for new activities, for careful thought and consideration.
It doesn’t have to mean hours in front of the television. Read a book, do a jigsaw puzzle, make some art. Lie outside on the grass or sit on your balcony and just watch the clouds go by or contemplate the stars. But do it slowly and deliberately. It’s not a thing to be completed as soon as possible, it’s something to spend time on and as much time as you have (which is likely to be lots, let’s face it).
If you’re craving physical contact, go outside and hug a tree.
If you’re allowed to leave the house, find a remote natural area and spend time in the nature. I promise it’s just as rejuvenating as a boisterous crowd if you allow your mind to settle in it.
Since contact with others has to be so limited and deliberate, utilising various virtual arrangements, take the opportunity of one-on-one contact to really talk to someone. And, more importantly, listen. Really listen. Who knows what you may discover about a friend that you never knew about them?
Take the time to be less task-oriented and just BE.
Extroverts, you can do this. After all, introverts have survived in an outgoing world for millennia. Surely you can survive a few months?
And remember, if it is all getting too much, your introvert friend will always be there for you. Because that’s what we do.
Just don’t expect it all the time. We’ll be enjoying the lockdown.
So “social distancing” is gonna save us all from #CoronaVirusSeattle.
YAY INTROVERTS WILL SURVIVE AND RULE THE WORLD
Quietly, of course. But still.
— Soozcat (@cosmicfunpalace) March 3, 2020
There’s been a recent phenomenon in community activity known as the “pub choir”. People gather in a pub at a prearranged time, learn a song, sing it together and share a drink (or two).
It’s funny that it’s seen as a recent phenomenon. Singing in alcohol-selling establishments dates back centuries. A singalong in the local tavern was a common sight in days gone by.
But then came records and movies and tv and Celebrities. And people began to believe that singing was the domain of only the supremely talented.
Community singing groups have done an admirable job in recent decades to try and disprove that view but if conversations I had the other evening are any indication, they can still tend to be seen by some as only for ‘singers’. If one does not see oneself as a singer, it’s easy to be scared off by an official singing group no matter how welcoming.
The pub choir, on the other hand, seems open to anyone who wants to just have a crack at singing a song. Perhaps it’s the beer hall vibe where raucous and imperfect singing is seen as acceptable. Perhaps it’s the attraction of being able to lubricate any nerves with a glass or two of an adult beverage. Perhaps it’s just that video footage of such events always makes it look like a whole lot of fun.
The other night I attended my first pub choir event. And I’m sold on the concept. It’s a simple set up, with a well known song chosen (and, it appears, one that just cries out for enthusiastic singing), easy-to-learn harmonies divided into high, middle and low and words and simple guidelines projected on a screen. Accompaniment on this night was a keyboard and drums.
The whole process only lasts a couple of hours with time for breaks factored in (for further lubrication if required). I went alone which was a challenge for me but before long I was singing along with newfound friends having a wonderful time.
And we well and truly built this city on rock and roll.
Have you ever attended a pub choir? What was it like?
Training for my next marathon has begun in earnest. Mindful of the fact that in previous long distance ventures I have been prone to boredom I have started exploring different places to run.
The Surf Coast Walk is a 44km stretch of walking and cycling track from Point Impossible near Breamlea to Fairhaven just past the Split Point Lighthouse.
I’ve most commonly used the sections between Torquay and Anglesea both in running races and as handy long distance trail training for events such as Oxfam Trailwalker.
Last week I ventured further down the coast and ran from the Split Point Lighthouse in Airey’s Inlet to Sunnymeade Beach and back and then a bit further towards Fairhaven to make up the k’s.
I love a lighthouse.
The Split Point Lighthouse was built in 1891 and is still operational. It was automated in 1919 but the lighthouse keepers’ cottages and stables are still in existence, the former now private residences and the latter a cafe. (I can’t comment on the standard of coffee as I’ve not yet sampled the wares at this establishment.) You can take a tour up to the top of the lighthouse most days.
The section of trail I ran is narrower and more secluded than the more populated stretch near Torquay and Jan Juc and I must say I like that. It was supposed to be an “easy” 9km run according to the training program but I suspect the hills, sand sections and stairs probably tipped it over into “slightly challenging”. It’s also always windy along the coast.
But what better way to train for a 44km marathon that traverses the Great Ocean Road than to run beside the ocean in the wind?
As I ran in the bush with the sound of the sea in my ears and the wide horizon to my right (on the way out) and my left (on the way back), I couldn’t help but think how very lucky I was to live in this part of the world and have such natural beauty right on my doorstep. And it propelled me to share it.
If you’ve ever thought about an Aussie holiday, please come and definitely put the Great Ocean Road on your itinerary. And maybe come soon. Between the bushfires and the coronavirus, our tourism operators and small businesses are suffering. Maybe even include a bushfire-effected area in your trip. The businesses will love you and you will be witness to the restorative magic and beauty of the Australian bush after fire. It’s a miracle worth experiencing.
I decided I wanted to include this in my blogging friend Jo’s Monday Walk despite the fact that I didn’t walk, I ran and it wasn’t on a Monday, it was a Tuesday but since running is really just very fast walking and Tuesday morning here is still Monday in much of the world, I’m calling it eligible. Jo is actually taking a break from blogging for a bit but I encourage you to explore her past Monday walks because she goes to fascinating places, takes beautiful photos and there’s usually cake. Click here: Jo’s Monday walk
Do you prefer to run in hot or cold weather? If you’re not a runner but partake in some other outdoor activity (cycling, walking, gardening, etc) do you prefer it in hot or cold temperatures? If you don’t do any outside activity, firstly what?? why not? and secondly, okay then, just in general terms tell me if you prefer summer days or winter?
I am most definitely a cold weather runner. I dislike running in the heat intensely. So does my body. I can tell when my body is unhappy with me if I run in the heat because I get pins and needles all over and start to get a bit shivery. Of course, when that happens, I stop running immediately and seek shade and fluids.
So I have to wonder, given my non-preference for summer running, what exactly possessed me to take it up more diligently and enter four races over the peak summer. (Five if you count one at the end of November which is technically spring but given the way the climate is changing and we started having bushfires in September, I think we can probably count that one as a hot weather run.)
Well, for starters, there is a full marathon on the horizon in May so probably some training would be a good idea.
Then, of course, there’s just a bunch of really fun local runs on over the summer. Given most of them are run along coastal trails and a number are run as fundraisers for the local lifesaving clubs, one can only assume they run them in this horrendous season to capitalise on all the out-of-towners flooding the foreshore caravan parks. (PSA: We apologise for the excessive use of the word ‘run’ in this paragraph.)
Quite a lot of running beside the water
I’m sure some of you – particularly those from Northern climes – are wondering why anyone would try and run in 30°C heat. Well, I tend to wonder the same about people who run in sub-zero temperatures. I guess it all comes down to what you grow up in.
Last weekend’s run did make me question my life choices. The Bellarine Sunset Run Half Marathon event is an out and back from Portarlington to St Leonards. It was warm (as it always is) – about 27°C (80F) when the race started at 5.20pm – but worse, there was a massive headwind on the outward leg. According to the Bureau wind gusts reached 50km/h. I wanted to die.
Of course, a headwind on the way out did, after an interminable 10.5km, become a tail wind on the way back. At one particularly windy open stretch of track I reached a pace of 5.55 min/km simply by lifting my feet and letting the wind do the rest.
I guess we can all be grateful the event is not run in reverse.
Race result was better than I was expecting but more importantly there was bling. And cider. Sponsored by a local cider house, the post-race cider is a must.
Yes, they’re wearing jumpers (sweaters, jerseys, added warmer layers, you get the idea). This was last year when it was not quite so hot.
The best bit about a sunset run is, naturally, the sunset.
So, there’s still quite a bit of summer left to go so let’s see what other torture I can put myself through before the blessed cool of autumn (which as things stand may not turn up until June…).
And in keeping with recent practice, here’s an earworm. Just replace “loving” with “running”.
“Summer running, had me a blast!”
So, are you running hot or cold?
I’m not really much of a cat post kind of blogger but half my country is on fire and something lighthearted is needed.
Our cat Leonardo (more commonly referred to as Leo) appears to be undergoing a personality change. We think he may be developing dementia (he’s 12).
He’s never been a very chatty cat but lately he’s been positively loquacious. My favourite is when he wanders down the corridor in the wee hours of the morning miaowing in such a way that it sounds exactly like he’s saying, “Hello? Hello?” It’s hard not to call out “Hello!” in response.
While always enjoying sitting near people, he’s not really been a lap cat but the other night he went to sleep on the Husband’s lap and stayed there for half an hour.
When he asks for food, we put it in his bowl and then we have to stand there until he starts eating because if you walk away immediately he comes after you and asks to be fed. “I just did. It’s in your bowl,” we say. “What?” he says with his face. We sigh, walk back into the laundry and point to the food in the bowl. Once he starts eating it’s safe to leave. Although, a couple of times I’ve done that and he’s appeared back by my side again a few moments later asking for food. He has to be redirected back to the bowl where he goes “Oh, look at that. I have food!”
My latest project (and what prompted this post) is taking photos of the weird places he’s been going to sleep. It all started when I opened the blinds one early morning and saw him curled up asleep in the garden bed. It wasn’t even a warm morning. I was scared he was dead. He wasn’t. He just decided to sleep in the dirt and weeds (yeah, a Beautiful Gardens family we are not). And it went on from there. Enjoy Leo’s Sleeping Places.
You have to sing the title of this post to “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues. Because I always do, that’s why.