Today is my 59th birthday. I guess getting older beats the alternative! I’ll be at work. I won’t be doing anything special. My lovely family and friends will ring me, send texts or Facebook messages and wish me good luck for the year ahead.
I greet the day with a little trepidation. I like to use my birthday as a trigger to take stock and reflect on what I have done over the past year. 2020 has certainly been interesting so far!
About 2 1/2 years ago I set myself an ambitious list of 60 things to do before my 60th birthday. I don’t think I am halfway through yet. I made some modifications when I realised some of them were not SMART goals and I had no real control over whether they were achieved or not. I modified them again to align with the Year of Zero Goals.
There are a cluster of about 15 that I will be doing in the days leading up to the actual day and involve the celebration trip I plan to take. I am happy to leave those on the back burner. I may refine them further.
There are two goals, dear reader, that you can help me with. I set a goal to reach 1000 followers on this here blog and 500 on my Instagram account. I am not even halfway there! It’s taken my 3 years to accumulate the readers I have. The curve is not rising steeply enough and at my current rate, I project I’ll reach 1000 by 2027!
I am therefore asking for a tiny little birthday gift from you all. Please introduce and recommend my blog to some of your friends. They may enjoy the crazy ride of unconnected stories as much as I do writing them!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-social or anything, but perversely I am sad that the restrictions for COVID19 are being lifted. I have been enjoying my State-sanctioned semi-solitude. I had a perfect mix of interactions with others and being allowed to retreat all worked out.
It’s a selfish stand, I know because I wasn’t all that disadvantaged by them. I kept working through the whole time, was able to get out and exercise and had a steady stream of activities to keep me occupied. I was not affected by the great toilet paper shortage or scarcity of other items due to some uncanny coincidental forward planning. I didn’t have kids to home school. I didn’t get sick. I had already planned a low key year. I did miss seeing my grandson and daughter, and that’s about it. One other big regret was not being able to attend my good friend’s funeral at the end of April.
At work, I was able to be proactive and not reactive. Every item on my daily to-do list was crossed off, and I left at a reasonable time. I didn’t have students to discipline. The parents I did talk to were appreciative and not berating me for dealing with their children.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not anti-social but with most of the teachers working from home, the constant stream of interruptions to solve other peoples’ problems dwindled to next to nothing. They return en masse this Monday, bringing their problems with them. (11/5/20)
A rumbling low-level of anxiety is beginning to penetrate my calm as the invitations to “catch up now that we can” are starting. It’s not that I went out partying every weekend anyway but having to stay at home, HAVING to be cocooned because I was told to, gave me a legitimate reason to stay quiet and at peace.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t want to see people, but this time to be slow, deliberate and self-sufficient was tantalisingly comforting. The bluer than blue skies have already started to brown over as more and more people are going about their business.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-social, but I have discovered that I am also not pro-social either. When I am with people, I feel on guard. Will I say something stupid? Will I accidentally offend someone? Does my hair look alright? What will they think of me? The internal monologue never ends. Sometimes it’s so noisy I forget to listen to the person in front of me. That voice has been so quiet these last two months. I guess it proves that even though I am friendly, loud, bossy, speak in front of a large crowd etc I am in essence a socially awkward introvert.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-social, but I could live in this bubble forever… I think… As long as the bubble had a door. It might be different if I didn’t have the option to leave when I wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am antisocial, but I might re-gig my world a little so I can keep the calm for longer. Please don’t be offended.
WOW! This is my 200th post. I chalked up the 100th post on January 1 2019. So it’s been a busy year, and I am not quite at the end yet.
Although not as eventful as previous years, I have still been trying new things and keeping my mind active.
Travelling to Scotland
Two courses with the Australian Radio Film and Television School; one on documentary making and the other on mobile video content creation.
A jewellery making course with a local Illawarra designer
Completing an online SEO course which will hopefully boost visits to this blog.
I have continued running and entered into 3 x 10km events.
I remain proud of the fact that I have posted at least once every week and recently twice a week with the introduction of my Photo Of the Week challenge.
Thank you to those who visit frequently and take the time to like and comment. It’s always nice to know there is someone out there. I think my 60 for 60 goal of 1000 followers is a pie in the sky, but you never know!
Several weeks ago, I reported that I had very carelessly lost Iain, my wee travel companion. I surmised that I had perhaps left him on the rooftop of my car while I packed my things or that I had simply left him on the rocks at Salen Jetty.
While devastated by his loss, I found another travel companion, Iain mac Iain. His black watch kilt and shawl at odds with the Royal Stewart tartan of his “father”. But hey, you have to make do with what you have, and I had a very generous donation of black watch tweed from my Airbnb host in Lewis.
At the Kylie Concert
In the gardens of yet another castle!
Hoping to get lucky!
Iain mac Iain was a valiant replacement. Forever seeking out his father, befriending other seemingly lost or abandoned travel mascots, he made it home safely to Australia after spending the better part of a month in Scotland. He had some grand adventures and has appeared in many unknown facebook posts as he was included in other people’s family snaps.
I sought the help of the good people of Salen Jetty. I messaged the shop as soon as I realised he was missing. We stayed in contact and finally the day after I flew back into Australia an Iain- sighting was made on Facebook! True to his armoury loving-self he was found sitting on top of a canon! My Salen Jetty shop contacts were quick to claim on my behalf.
Now, three weeks after that first sighting he is here with me in Wollongong, Australia having a grand reunion with his dad! After an awkward handshake and a few minutes of small talk, it was man hugs all round!
Thanks to the power of the interwebs and the friendliness of a small community, we have been reunited! If you are ever in Salen Jetty, please drop in on these good folks, tell them you read the story of Iain and thank them on my behalf!
Thank you also to my friends who have joined in on Iain and Iain’s journeys, we’ve had some fun!
I don’t remember what I was dreaming about, but I was in one of those stages of sleep where my mind was buzzing, and even though I was sure I was awake, in reality, I was still unconscious. One of my dream-characters reminded me that this month marked the 10th anniversary of me leaving the marital home. Me walking out and into my own little bedsit, so we could “have some space to think things through”.
I took an independent step. I was proactive.
Another dream-character piped up with the idea that it must be getting close to 10 years since I raised my voice in anger. Ten years since I have screamed with murderous rage and ill intent… At anyone.
I am not saying I haven’t been angry or upset since that time – of course, I have, but since then I have never been in a frame of mind that was so filled with venom and hate.
So much has happened in those ten years. So many good things! I still lament the 10 years I wasted before that, in trying to stitch together something that was shredded and beyond repair. Why did we do that to ourselves? It’s not only me who wasted time. It wasn’t just me who lost good years in the technical “prime” of our lives.
That is all inconsequential now. Now is what counts, and where my head is NOW. If you have been reading this blog, you will know I have been rejoicing in the discovery of a new found creativity that has been hidden below the surface. It took a while for it to bubble to the top and make its way through the cracks, but it’s here – NOW.
I am happier although I am still restless. Something else is out there waiting to be discovered. And before all my friends get excited, it’s not another partner!
One thing I have learned is that I don’t need to be in a partnership. I have good friends, a loving family and an intentionally busy life filled with interesting pursuits and being coupled won’t add to this. Not NOW.
If you are in a broken relationship, it probably won’t get better. Leave! Don’t stay for the children’s sake. The kids will do better in a settled home. They don’t need to feel or hear the hate that seethes out of your skin. If there is violence, they don’t need that either.
Don’t waste 10 years. Don’t waste five!
Take the plunge.
It might be cold when you first get in, but you’ll warm up!
I have never had dreams of being a astronaut but the prospect of a week at Space Camp in America was exciting. Educational, related to my work as a science teacher and 100% tax deductible! After a few emails back and forth with my science-nerd travel buddy Bec, we had applied, been accepted and booked. We built a science-based trip around the week in Huntsville, Alabama. It would start with a few days in San Francisco, a week in Montana doing a dinosaur dig, a road trip through Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. We flew to Alabama from Los Vegas after a few days of non-science-y luxury in a casino resort.
US Space and Rocket Center
The US Space and Rocket Centre is not part of NASA but has close ties to them. They have lots of equipment related to the Apollo Missions and a decommissioned space shuttle. They run summer camps for children and occasionally camps for educators. These Educators’ Camps are for STEM teachers and concentrate on the disciplines of maths and physics as they relate to space travel. We spent our days participating in hands-on activities that we could use in our own classrooms. The photos below show an experiment where we made our own heat shields. The idea was for the egg NOT to get cooked.
Science teachers work as teams
We worked in teams, my team, Destiny; had teachers from the US, Canada and Bec and I from Australia. Destiny trained for two simulations; landing the space shuttle and piloting the moon lander. I am afraid to say we crashed the Space Shuttle! Even though we all knew it was a simulation it was a very intense experience. Using the thick folders of procedures the “real” astronauts use, we flicked switches, punched in numbers, and ran a communications log. The two hours went by in a flash and we all emerged in a cold sweat.
Space Camp Food?
We stayed in student accommodation at the near-by University of Alabama in quad-share apartments. Comfortable but not glamorous. All our meals were at the camp centre. I have to say this was the worst part of the experience. The meals were not good, although the meals provided for the teachers were 100% better than those provided for the kids who were on camp at the same time!
I made some strong friendships at Space Camp and keep in contact with several team members. It’s probably a once in a lifetime adventure that I wouldn’t repeat but my life is richer for it. I still look back on my photos and giggle at the fun we had. The white rabbit belonged to my niece and nephew and he was the trip mascot.
The fee for the camp was all inclusive. It was around $US750. There was a scholarship which could cover the cost but we didn’t get that and had to pay ourselves. There were very few opportunities to spend money as our time was almost completely booked up with Space Camp activities. We went out to a nearby bar once. So apart from the initial cost we didn’t spend much.
This machine simulates the use of an external jet pack.
Back in the dark ages, in the dim, distant past when I was married, my husband bought me a very luxurious black leather briefcase to celebrate my birthday the year I got a big promotion.
Thirty years later I still have that briefcase and while I no longer carry it around with my sales catalogues and business cards, it does hold some very special papers.
These days I call it Pandora’s Box. It’s filled with old journals and copies of letters and emails between my ex and I when we were going through the meaty part of the break up. All the gnashing and wailing. All the justifications and arguments. All the pitiful pleading.
Declarations of love on Sunday where superseded by obscenities by Wednesday. I have trawled through it a few times with different effects on my psyche. In the Wine and Wedges days, (circa 2012) when things were fresh and we were still in each others lives, I would dissolve into a heap of misery and have yet another glass of wine! I would look for clues as to when and where I could have ‘fixed things”. In more recent times, I have vowed to create a big bonfire on the beach and dance around the burning ashes with glee.
Recently, I went through the stack of double sided sheets again. I started to put them back into chronological order to make better sense of them, thinking to myself there must be some blog-able gold in here somewhere! I could write a very murky expose about the demise of a relationship over a long period of time with all the indelicacies that would conjure up. But no, I am not that type. This post is about as tacky as I am prepared to get.
I was pleased I could read all the wretchedness and despair with a dispassionate eye. I came away feeling vaguely amused and not at all sad. I did however tsk-tsk at the time it took us to take the final plunge. The time we both wasted trying to patch the hull of our Titanic. But still we came out the other side and I for one am stronger.
Much of the writing is over the top emotional dribble. Streaming consciousness on overload! But some is gold. Of course, most is contextual and obviously a reply to now forgotten conversations. The papers cover the time from November 2006 – late 2008. At that time, I was in the middle of completing a Masters degree and I must say my vocabulary was much wider than it is now. I seem to have gotten less eloquent!
Now, when I talk about my divorce and my ex, I report that it was a relatively amicable separation and that we can still talk to each other in a civil tone. Reading back over this huge body of work, reminds me that it was really a death by a thousand cuts but some of those were bloody big gashes.
I am not going to spill the proverbial beans. I am not going to write that tell-all expose, but here are a few of my favourite lines, some of the passages that amused me. They are all from my words not his.
...I had other things in my head but they are like shadows now and I keep losing them…
…as I read back over this, it is only part of what I wanted to say and I feel like I can never explain. It’s all the chicken and the egg story. I am not sure where the seed came from but our life has been covered in lantana. We are still underneath it somewhere but now it’s too late to clear it away. I stand here knocking on the door of your heart with the weed killer! …[oh dear!]
…I can not explain… once you get caught in the turning lane you just end up going with the flow….
Ten reasons why I like you…
…. 10. You like watching the same daggy TV shows, you don’t like John Howard, you have a compatible outlook on world politics, religion, the relative merits of free range chickens and social justice. [chickens were a theme even back then!]
Maybe one day I will get around to that bonfire. But for now I think I‘ll keep Pandora’s Box with it’s oversized memories to remind me of a once passionate time of my life. One that I don’t want to relive, but a time that changed the course of my life irrevocably.
You never know, when I am ninety I might just write that steamy expose!
Thank you to all those who have signed up to follow my blog. I hope you are enjoying my weekly posts. It’s been more than a year now and I feel like I am really getting into the swing of things! Stay tuned for updates on my trek to Outback Australia and more products in my store.
Australia is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Australia – Queen Elizabeth the 1st (She is Elizabeth the 2nd in the UK but only the first Elizabeth we have had) has very little sway these days in terms of our laws, the parliament and that sort of thing but we still get a public holiday to celebrate her birthday. Even though her actual birthday is in April we celebrate it on the second Monday of June. It’s a welcome holiday. By the time June has come around, winter has usually hit and the Indian summer of May has ended with a bang. It’s probably raining and it will be cold(ish) It’s a perfect weekend for inland retreats at wineries or being indoors with a book and a fire and catching up with friends.
When I was a kid, Saturday of the Queen’s Birthday weekend was Cracker Night. There would be bonfires, pretty fireworks and explosive crackers in nearly every backyard. My favourite was the Catherine Wheel which would be nailed to the fence. It would spin around as jets of coloured sparks shot out the sides. The neighbourhood would be shrouded in smoke and the poor dogs would be going crazy.
You could buy crackers at any corner store, regardless of your age. My dad used to blow up our home made letter box every year. He’d fill it with bungers and attach a long wick and then run. The wooden box would get shattered into thousands of sharp, splintery missiles and we would squeal with glee from our hiding spots.
My family must have been a bit more careful than other families. I don’t remember any one getting hurt although my hair did catch on fire once when an ember jumped out of the bonfire. Despite our own personal luck, because in retrospect, I think it was good luck rather than good management, every year you would hear of a another 10 year old boy who had blown his hand off or blinded himself or suffered some other horrific injury because they had taped a few large bungers together or had tried to build a bigger, better explosive.
It became (sensibly) more difficult to buy crackers. You had to be 18. Then it become illegal to sell them in NSW. You could still buy them in the Australian Capital Territory, so people would take the drive down there to stock up for an illicit cracker night party. The firework shops were cheek-by-jowl with the porn shops (Canberra, incidentally also being the only place you could buy X rated movies!).
Many community groups had public firework displays which varied in quality. Over the years, these have petered out too. I guess the expense got too much. Perhaps, the audience got too used to the HUGE New Year’s Eve Fireworks that light up Sydney Harbour. What community groups could afford were fizzlers in comparison.
Last Saturday night would have been cracker night but I didn’t hear one. Not a single one. It’s a shame. Another fun, old tradition that has gone by the wayside.
It made me think, what will today’s kids remember? Oh wow I sat indoors all day playing Total Domination against some random in the US? It was like… So totally awesome!!
…somehow I don’t think so. Will their memories be totally devoid of the types of rich stories that made up my childhood and adolescence?
This year, my Queen’s Birthday Weekend was filled with reminiscences of other kinds. A weekend full of “remember whens” at a 40th high school reunion. Unfortunately, it was only a small gathering. We danced to old 70s and 80s tunes. We argued who was the bigger loss to the world – Lennon or Bowie? We talked about old teachers chasing the girls who were smoking in the playground (not me!!) We talked about those who had not come to join in the party.
Those who had left before the HSC (the NSW matriculation qualification) and had gone into more manual labouring jobs complained that their bodies were beginning to give out. We all complained about our failing eyesight. We compared photos of our adult kids and for some of us, our grandkids. We settled into an easy rekindling of old friendships and lamented that so few had made the journey to Old Bar, NSW.
As we tried to put names to all the faces in the old school photos, there was one girl, at the end of a row of the 1C photo that no-one could remember. I’d hate to be that girl. Why did no one know her? We had no special story for her. That made me sad and I wondered if there were other people looking at other class photos who wondered who I was? If there were some people I had never made an impression on? In my own Robyn-centric world I find that hard to believe but I guess I was not the centre of everyone’s universe!
I don’t know if we will have 50th reunion. By then I will be 67. I hope I will continue to enjoy the same good health I have now. I hope I will tick off some more of those bucket list items. But most of all, I hope I can contribute some good memories to the students I teach.
In 2038, I hope some kid says at their reunion, “Do you remember that old chook Ms Lang? She was a bit crazy!” and smile.
Tall tales and true! (Mark and Craig both school buddies since kinder!)