A Treasure of an Island

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I have few particularly distinct memories from primary school, most are kind of vague with the details blurred with a thousand other memories.  Let’s face it, most days a school were pretty much like the last (or perhaps that’s true of life in general).  However, there is one memory that has been seared so determinedly into my brain that just the mere thought of it takes me back to that spot, sitting on the floor in the library, second row from the front and slightly towards the window side of the room.  It was a grade 2 “cultural performance” – culture in Horsham in 1986 being pretty thin on the ground – a dance and music group from the South Pacific.  I thought it was THE BEST thing I had ever seen, better even than the Moscow Circus (which was a BIG deal in those days) that my parents spent a fortune taking us to.  The women were so, so beautiful, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.  Their voices had a melodic quality –  quiet, soft yet for me deeply affecting.  Their movements so light and fluid.  The men on the other hand were strong, definitive and striking.  They moved with vigor and incredible pace, the beat from the drum hammering with such intensity.  I was transported from that grey breeze-block rural Victorian school, to an Island paradise and ever since I’ve been drawn to the South Pacific.

Our most recent adventure was to Samoa, beautiful, awe-inspiring and ever so charming.  I loved everything about it (except the brief bout of food poisoning, but I won’t hold that against the whole country).  Lots of people seemed surprised, even puzzled, when we said we were going to Samoa.  I guess Fiji is the obvious choice for that part of the world, especially with kids.  But I was looking for a cultural experience, something to bring back those feelings of 8 year old me, a place that could offer Miss 6 and Miss 8 something more than a resort.  And although we did stay in a pretty flash new resort (because a bit of luxury is nice too, right?) we also got the cultural perspective I was hoping for.

Samoa’s tourist industry is still pretty fledgling, in comparison to places like Fiji, but that’s all part of the charm.  We also went at the very beginning of the dry season (which was still pretty wet), so there were very few other tourists around.  Our tour guides, the resort workers, the taxi drivers, all treated us with such warmth, like they were personally welcoming us to the country they loved so much.  Every conversation started with “Is this your first time in Samoa?”,  followed by “Are you New Zealanders or Australians?”  They loved the kids, there was lots of touching of their heads and terms of endearment for them.  The girls were a little unsure about it at times.  And while everything happened on ‘Island Time’ – don’t expect your morning coffee to take any less than 30 minutes to arrive – the charm and warmth of the people was by far the highlight of the trip.

Other highlights included: the Apia flea market – which I failed to photograph for whatever sill reason – and fresh produce market.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum – this is his house and the bed he did most of his writing in.

Piula Cave Pool and the nearby sea turtle sanctuary

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The Fia Fia Night (the tradition food served during this was delicious!)

Watching Mr Good and the girls spend so much time having fun in the resort pool.

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And getting out and have a bit of fun with my camera after a long hiatus.

Samoa, go there!  You won’t be disappointed.

 

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The Year of Sometimes Saying No

So I’m sure most of you have heard of the book The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  It’s not one that I’ve read, though I do plan to… at some point…. eventually.  It sounds interesting, a year of saying yes to every opportunity that comes along and it certainly (from what I understand, not having actually read the book) seems to have worked for Shonda.  But I’m taking a different tact this year, one that will hopefully work for me.

You see, I’m a yes person naturally.  I pretty much say yes to everything.  I remember distinctly, burned into my brain, the advice Dad gave me when I got my first taste of employment as a 15 year old working the checkouts at Coles – ‘You say YES.  If they ring you with work, with extra shifts, with extended hours, you say yes.  If you don’t say yes, THEY WILL NEVER RING AGAIN!’  Okay, so that maybe my teenage brain exaggerating the message slightly, but you get the idea and I GOT THE MESSAGE.  I ALWAYS said yes – I earned quite a sum for someone without any real expenses.  And I have to admit it paid off.  I saved that money and then, again thanks to Dad, I invested it.  Years later that investment paid for my first car and a significant portion of our first home deposit.  That advice, given to fifteen year old me, has pretty much ruled my life for the last twenty years.  Mostly that’s been a good thing, however I’m at a very different point in my life now and I’ve decided to be more discerning with what I say yes to.

This year is the year of sometimes saying no.  And I said my first no quite recently.  It was invigorating, liberating, empowering….. and kinda pretty darn scary too.  You see I got offered a job, a proper non-teaching, paying (though not well) job.  I’d applied for this job.  On paper it looked great.  Then I interviewed for this job (terribly – the fact that they even wanted to hire me came as quite a shock, I wouldn’t have hired me!).  I came to realise, during the interview, that this job might not actually be the job for me (it was all KPIs, sitting at a desk on the phone etc).  Finally, a friend gave me another piece of advice that really stuck.  She said when you interview for a job, it’s not just them deciding whether you’re right for the job, but also you deciding if the job is right for you.  It was a revelation!  And I realised this job was not right for me….. so I said no thanks.

Saying no to an actual paid job when I currently don’t have an income feels like a pretty big deal and I’m well aware of the fortunate position I’m in to be able to do that.  But given that I am in that position it also seems crazy to take a job that I know is not going to be a good fit.  And so, my gap year at 37 years old continues with the dream goal of being able to do something that I love, perhaps something involving writing (that really would be a dream) or books.

This whole changing career thing at close to forty is a pretty daunting prospect.  A little voice keeps whispering ‘You’re too old for this” and “You should have it figured out by now” but I’m trying to keep those other more positive voices shouting over the top of that little one.  I’d love to hear of other people’s experiences/advice about career changes so if you’ve got something to share please comment (or share this post with others that might be able to offer me some insight).

Until next time….

Barbara

 

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Hate Face

Right now I’m reading a novel (one so good I feel hung over) called The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  There’s a line in it from one rather sad and lonely character Ismay, it reads “It’s a well-known fact that hate shows up on your face once you’re forty.”  Ismay is attending the wedding of her brother-in-law.  He’s marrying for the second time, after his first wife, Ismay’s younger sister, died.  She is in a terrible marriage to a man who constantly cheats on her and she has had seven miscarriages in the last twelve years with no surviving children and now no hope of one.  She is forty-four years old.  She has very good reasons for being said and lonely, bitter and inside (though mostly well-hidden) hateful.  Ismay is not the character you are supposed to connect with in this book, she is secondary.  It is AJ or Maya or Amelia you’re supposed to love (and I do), but Ismay and this line also creep in.

This line creeps in because I feel it, I feel bitter and hateful and I wish I didn’t and I hoped it would fade.  It hasn’t.  And I’m not Ismay, I don’t have a terrible life, a terrible husband.  I haven’t experienced her loss.  Nevertheless, hate and bitterness reside inside me.  What happened to me has happened to thousands of people, I lost my job.  A job I loved and was good at and it happened in very unpleasant circumstances.  It was unfair and hurtful, that is where my (mostly well-hidden) bitterness and hate comes from and I wonder, is it showing up on my face?

I do my best to put a positive spin on things.  “Think of all the books I’ll be able to read” I tell myself.  Or “I’ll get back into blogging” I think – it seems wrong to write a post like this on a blog about the good life.  “Time for a change of career perhaps, that could be exciting” I say to people.  Except, how the heck does one change careers?  I don’t even know where to start really.  it’s not so much exciting as incredibly daunting, frightening.  The few jobs I’ve applied for haven’t even sent the thanks but no thanks email – I just get radio silence.  With one exception, I’ve had one interview….. oh it was so, so bad!

The self-wallowing, I am aware, is not a good look on anyone.  There ARE some actual positives.  I have read dozens of books already – and I’ve realised I probably love reading more than anything else. Can I do that for a living?  I’ve walked my girls to school and home every day and have watched Miss Five (nearly Six) start prep, it’s been a little shaky but things are improving.  We’re about to embark on an amazing family holiday to Samoa (outside the school holiday weeks!).  But still, at night, when the lights are out, that bitterness creeps in again.  That thing I can’t shake.  That thing I haven’t put a voice to until now.  Perhaps putting it out there, into the ether, will lessen its grip.  That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

And as of today, I’m going to try writing again.  They won’t all be bitter, self-pitying ravings, but they won’t all be about the good life either.  I hope that’s forgivable even if my blog is called The New Good Life.  Should I change names?

Barbara.

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Miss Four – I am a Whoo-man

Okay, time to brace yourself for a second entirely indulgent post about my children, this time, the younger, Miss Four.  After all it’s only fair that I redress the imbalance.  One day I will print these posts out for my two girls to read about themselves.  That might make up for the fact that I never kept a baby book for either of them (does that make me a terribly neglectful mother?)

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Miss Four is a creature of stark juxtaposition, a complex little being that leaves me guessing and puzzling over late at night.  In many ways she is like me.  Stubbornness that knows no bounds, a somewhat explosive temper (though thankfully her tantrums tend to be confined to the home or Nana’s house), she is one who knows her own mind and will not have it easily changed.  I’m sure that will hold her in good stead in years to come, but it does offer up certain challenges for us as parents right now.  She is incredibly cheeky, a complete stirrer and very, very funny.  I often call her my cheeky monkey, her reply “No Mum, I am a Whoo-man (Human)!”

In complete contrast to her sister, she is born to be a vegetarian (and gardener, she like to dig in the dirt and help me plant and pick).  She dislikes just about all meat, she will swap a chop for a few bits of broccoli with her sister any day.  Mushrooms must go in everything.  I kind of love this about her, but I do worry about her iron levels as she grows.  And growing is something she does quite slowly – she is the embodiment of the term Pocket Rocket.

For some time now Miss Four has been desperately holding on to the baby role.  I remember when I first brought her home from the hospital I wanted to hold her close all the time.  It was a feeling from somewhere deep inside, I didn’t want others to hold her, and it was something I couldn’t shake.  Perhaps I knew then there would be no more babies and I had to breath in every moment I could.  And perhaps I somehow passed that sense on to her.  She has been reluctant to move on at just about every point, toilet training was traumatic (and still not complete), talking started beautifully then stalled for a long time (we’ve just finished a series of speech therapy sessions that have made a big difference), she just loves to be carried and getting her to sleep in her own bed has been an ongoing battle.  When she does end up in with me (a fairly regular occurrence) she sleeps with both arms wrapped around my neck like she’s worried I’ll sneak out and leave her.  She doesn’t want to let go!  We still have an incredibly close physical bond (at times it borders on clingy). But of course in true Miss Four style, she really doesn’t like a lot of physical contact from others and hates kisses.

When I think about what the future holds for these wee conundrum of mine, I really don’t know what to expect.  I know she will love Kinder, lots of kids to play with (she’s very social) and mostly playing in her own way without too much direction which is just the way she likes it.  Plus lots of time outside, also a must for her.  School, on the other hand, worries me a little.  Bending to someone else’s ways may prove a challenge.  I worry that I haven’t read enough to her (not something that even crossed my mind with Miss Six) because she’s less interested in books than her sister and doesn’t sit for long anyway.  I worry that she speech will delay her in other ways. I worry that her fine motor skills are not what they should be.  In short, I worry.  I hope my worrying will be unwarranted.  You know, it would not surprise me if the exact opposite turns out to be true and she flies at school.  I just don’t know what will happen, that just about sums up Miss Four in many ways.

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Have you met Miss 6?

I feel like writing today – it’s something that hasn’t come to me a lot lately, hence the lack of posts.  Or if it has, I’ve channeled that into writing for work or uni.  Today I’m going to indulge in some purely selfish writing, writing about my girls.

Yesterday we had a family get together for my Mum’s birthday.  I was helping Miss 6 get ready – yes, she’s six now!  It was a struggle, there was literally nothing in her cupboard that fit.  I’m so used to her wearing school uniforms everyday that I hadn’t thought to update her wardrobe in a long time.  Her top rode a good few centimeters higher than it should have and the sleeves were a long way from her wrists.  I looked at this girl, all arms and legs, and wondered how on earth this seems to happen so quickly and yet so slyly.  Where did all this length and height come from?

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And it’s not just the physical changes that have been stampeding forwards, she has become quite the school girl.  There are words and information and skills spilling out of every pore. She has so much she wants to say it is virtually unstoppable!  She is kind, considerate and compassionate.  Over the school holidays I’ve let her sit up and watch The Voice some nights.  She thinks everyone is wonderful and should be chosen.  She gets upset if none of the judges turn around.  And she worries about whether the judges are going to have good teams.  The feelings were genuine and quite intense.

The flip side of this compassionate little being is one that is a stress-head.  She worries quietly to herself and you really have to work at her to get it out.  The little signs start to appear, a reluctance to do something or go somewhere she would normally be jumping at, a lull in the constant chatter, and subtle withdrawing from her usual active days.  Little comments that might seem inconsequential to others, she takes to heart.  She worries about not being able to do something straight away.  She does not cope well with pressure or being rushed.  She likes to know exactly what is going to happen.

This beautiful being is blossoming in front of me everyday and it stops me in my tracks when I notice it.  I find myself sneakily watching her, seeing the changing expressions on her face, a look of concentration or determination.  She laughs with abandon and with her whole body (she thinks football commentators are particularly funny, I would have to agree).  She loves her sister to the point of smothering her (Miss Four is not that into physical contact and hates kisses!).  Books are still her thing, now reading them to me as much as me reading them to her.  You know you’ve got a glass half full kind of kid when they think schools readers are great!  To sit and watch this transformation take place is so incredibly life-affirming.  I don’t miss the baby stage, or the toddler stage, I have no desire to go back, but I do hope this next stage slows down just a little so I can see more of the beauty and wonder.  Forward, but not too fast.

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A mid-year book review – Part 1

Today marks the midway point of the mid year school holidays and I thought now was a perfect time to review what I’ve been reading.  Sadly, there have been times when reading for pleasure has been pushed aside for school work, uni work or just work in general, but I can’t live like that for too long so it always comes back to the front eventually.

I’m going to be very organised and go in order of how I read them.

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (the third in the trilogy) – Loved all three of these, perhaps the first more than the other two.  I would highly recommend these to anyone who likes a bit of YA action and have been spruiking them at school often.

2. The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey – ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!  This book ruined me for reading for a good few weeks, nothing else came close.  It’s a little like the TV show The Walking Dead, in that there are zombie-type creatures spreading havoc across the world, but this is even more original and the ending was just perfect.

3. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – Remember the young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going school and survived.  This is her story, it’s fascinating, but terribly written.  I had so much trouble sticking to this book.  The back story – written by someone else – was way too convoluted, detailed and dull, going way, way back in the history of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and it didn’t flow easily with the modern story of Malala.  I felt like there was too much pressure to get her story out quickly – while people still remembered her – but that she was no where near ready to write it.

4. Paradise by Toni Morrison – This was another difficult read one which I was disheartened by.  I’ve had Toni Morrison on my to-read list for ever so my expectations were very high.  This book didn’t live up to those expectations.  It’s premise, race relations flipped on their head, was brilliant and some of the characters were beautifully written and explored, but I was left wondering what the hype was about.  I think I’ll read another one, but I don’t think I’ll ever be singing from the mountain tops about this author the way others seem to do.

5. The Line of Beauty  by Alan Hollinghurst – this book took a while to get into, but is well worth sticking to.  It’s set in Thatcher-era Britain and followings the story of a young gay man, Nick Guest, as he tries to find a place for himself to exist amid the social and political turmoil of the times.  This book opened my eyes to just how hard it must have been for gay men to be themselves and to find space to be couples.  In many ways this is a tragedy, a depressing kind of read, but one that is written with such sublime language and a message that resonates loudly in times when marriage equality is being hotly debated.

6. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – Oh my goodness!  This book!  I’ve put off reading it for so long because I got it into my head that it was going to be too hard going.  And, of course, the premise is extremely hard to come to terms with – a mother dealing with the horrific act of a child and facing her own guilt at having given birth to and raised a person who could do such things – but the writing will sweep you up in a way that makes it near impossible to put down.  A book that challenges our ideas of mothers and sons, of families.  DO NOT read while pregnant!

7. Mother’s Grim by Danielle Wood – what a follow up to the previous book!  This book club read is a collection of short stories each depicting the ‘grim’ life of mothers.  I loved it, others had quite the opposite reaction!  The stories were bleak and often depressing, mothers who had made terrible choices in partners, or who had those choices forced on them.  Mothers who were trapped by circumstance.  This is not an uplifting read, but it is very real.  I had the thought, often, that that could be me if just this one thing happened/changed.  I recommend it warily, read at your own peril.

8. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – a re-read of a childhood classic.  It’s still a classic.  I just love the world Montgomery creates around her irascible Anne (with an e of course!), the strict but loving Marilla, the dear and kind-hearted Matthew and the loyal-to-a-fault Dianna.  This is one of a very few books that I will come back to all of my life, like a comforting blanket and the smell of home, it takes the hard edges off life just when I need it.

9. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall-Smith – this is one of the many First Ladies Dectective Agency novels, of which I’ve read most.  Set in Botswana with a cast of loveable characters, this is one for a rainy day or relaxing by a pool somewhere warm.  It’s easy to read, light and you can guarantee a happy ending.  McCall-Smith is one of my go-to authors when other reads are still playing on my mind.  It’s pure escapism, nothing to keep you up a night, but a delightful read nonetheless.

10. Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff – this books is like a punch right in the face, leaves your eyes watering and you struggling for breathe.  There is nothing easy about it.  The language is harsh and intense, the characters are often times despicable and the story is one of utter despair (with a little light at the very end).  It recounts the lives of various members of a Maori family living with violence, addiction and poverty.  It’s award-winning for a reason and if you can bare the intensity of it, I would highly recommend it.  But here I will let you in on a little secret, I listened to this one as an audio book.  It was read by Jai La’gaia, and his beautiful Islander voice added something wonderful to this very difficult story.  I’m not sure how I would have coped reading it myself.

Okay this is getting a bit long – so stay tuned for part 2, coming soon.  And as always, feel free to share what you’ve been reading lately too.

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Hello again

Oh dear, I feel very neglectful of my poor old blog, I haven’t posted since March and even this one is coming from my phone so it won’t be long. 

In that time my life has taken a slightly different tact. I’ve been working three days a week teaching in a local secondary school. I have been loving reclaiming my professional self. I’m having fun with all the new technology in classrooms now, chatting with delightful young adults full of ideas and opinions about the world and engaging with fellow teachers. My contract finishes soon but hopefully there will be more work coming. 

With me working the home life has also changed. A bit more childcare/before school care and very busy mornings. Mr Good has stepped up with combining working from home, housework and kid wrangling. 

My second year of my masters had a slow start but is churning along now. Of course it has gotten to a crunch time just as work also gets super busy (reports!). Despite that I am excited about my research project. 

We’ve had two birthdays and now have a six and a four year old and several more grey hairs telling me time is pushing on. 

All my usual blogging topics, gardening, cooking, reading etc have been pushed aside just like my blogging. I am missing being able to do everything I have done over the last four years but I also think I need to be realistic. There’s no point choosing to study if I’m not going to make it a priority and the same goes for working. Finding a manageable balance is what it’s all about. 

So while I will try to blog every now and again, they won’t be as regular as they have been in the past. 

Catch you again soon(ish). 

   
 

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