I wrote this poem a while ago, but it seems so relevant at this point of 2020. Every time my Christmas fairy lights flick on lately, I think of this poem.
It’s the time of year when people want me to attend parties and end of year gatherings for work or other groups. They want me to sparkle, but I feel as though I am still so tangled and frayed and broken, I just can’t.
Yet again, I find myself ‘faking normal’ and smiling and nodding while wishing I could go home and go to bed instead. It’s a well-practised skill that, quite honestly, I wish I had never had to learn in the first place.
Hence my choice of new Christmas decoration, hung lovingly on my tree in honour of the mess that 2020 has been.
I have posted about excellent history podcasts on a number of previous occasions.
During the recent weeks of spending a lot more time at home, I’ve discovered a couple more that are interesting and enjoyable.
‘That Was Genius’
Each week, Sam and Tom share an interesting story from history that fits into a chosen theme for the week. Not safe for listening at work or in the presence of children, it’s irreverent, sweary, and hilariously funny, I started at the introductory episode and subscribed before I got to the end of the second one. It has proven to be brilliant entertainment during the coronavirus lockdown. Having already listened to 37 episodes in the past two weeks, it’s fair to say I’m a fan.
‘Cool Canadian History’.
I love history, and I love Canada. This podcast is the perfect opportunity for me to pursue both at the same time. The topics are varied and always interesting, and the host David Morris is enjoyable to listen to.
This is a British podcast which focuses on the macabre, spooky, and eerie events of history. The first episode is on Jack The Ripper, but the topics that follow are quite varied and are not limited to people or events of the UK. The material is well written and the podcast is easy to listen to.
‘Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities’
Another podcast, this one American in origin, that explores the inexplicable, the unsettling and the curious stories of history. Aaron Mahnke delivers two shows a week, exploring the history of people, events and objects with unusual and sometimes bizarre stories to tell. Some of the tales are coincidental, while others are more sinister.
‘You’re Dead To Me’
Hosted by Greg Jenner of Horrible Histories fame, this podcast offers a weekly discussion on a topic of history with the aim to make it interesting and relevant to the everyday person, including those who haven’t taken much of an interest before. The guests are interesting, drawn from all walks of life, and deliberately not all academics. I started at the introductory episode and have listened to half a dozen or so now. The topics have been varied and the quality has been consistently. ‘You’re Dead To Me’ looks like a keeper.
Five More Great #History #Podcast #RecommendationsTweet
If you think kids are the only ones who suffer ‘back to school’ anxiety, think again.
On the evening before school starts back for the year, I usually hit a patch of anxiety that keeps me awake into the wee hours of the morning.
Today, my brain has hit fast-forward and has dumped me in that patch just about as soon as I woke up.
I know it’s not logical. I know I am good at my job. I love my workplace, and a number of my colleagues are also my good friends. I love teaching. I’ve done my preparation.I know that I will go back tomorrow and everything will be okay.
Today, however, my brain is playing a different tune. I am plagued with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. I am fearful of nothing in particular and everything in general. I know I can do it but I feel as though I can’t.
This is what happens when anxiety, introversion and impostor syndrome get together for a wild party: they don’t get messed up, I do.
What many people don’t realise is that many of their own kids’ teachers go through the same thing every year and every term. Some experience it much more frequently, even daily.
To look at them, especially at work in the classroom, you’d never know it. But it is real, and it is genuinely awful.
I don’t know what the solution is. The only thing I know how to do is hang in there, try to take care of myself, and keep going like I always do.
Despite having worked hard, going more than one “extra mile” and achieving some good things, I have spent much of the past few days feeling absolutely, irretrievably inferior. Totally sub-standard. An awful disappointment.
It’s not a new experience, by any stretch of the imagination. It happens far more often than most people will ever know or realise. Even so, it is never pleasant feeling as though most of the world thinks you’re rubbish.
It’s not as though any of us is perfect. I certainly make no claim to be… which is a good thing because I am most definitely not.
And yet, when others discover a flaw or weakness, or find I have made a mistake, they very often speak or act as though they feel they have a right to be outraged and judge me for my imperfection.
So here’s a news flash.
I am not perfect.
Neither are you.
Everyone makes mistakes.
Everyone misses a beat every now and then.
But you know what is more hurtful than someone making a mistake?
Treating them as though they are less than you.
Because, you know, they’re not.
If someone does something that bothers you, or offends you, and you feel the need to talk to them about it, for goodness’ sake, be kind. And if you can’t be kind, then wait until you can.
And please, please, oh please, go to them and speak to them rather than anyone else. Going behind their back and kvetching about it is only ever going to cause more complications and trouble, so unless that is your actual intent, it is a response that should be avoided.
Similarly, there is nothing achieved by being judgemental. In fact, it is entirely counterproductive.
Sure, they might comply with what you ask or insist of them. But they might do that if you simply asked them to do something to resolve the issue, too— especially if you ask nicely and say please.
The saying that “you get more out of people with honey than you do with a stick” became a proverb for a reason: it is generally true. It is certainly true of how I respond to people.
If someone treats me with kindness, I will do everything in my power to not let them down.
If they dump judgement on me, I am just going to keep on beating myself up over it, because if someone tells me I am not good enough, I will believe them. I will also probably never again fully believe that they have any respect for me at all.
And if someone else, completely unknown to them and in different circumstances, tells me the same thing, I will believe both of them, twice as hard and twice as long.
It’s not deliberate, and it doesn’t matter if that is not your intention: that’s how I am wired.
The consequence is that it makes everything I need to do in a day more difficult. I doubt myself and second guess everything, even the things I know I am good at.
To be honest, life is actually hard enough without that. It’s bad enough knowing that I made the mistake in the first place, or that someone resents me for not measuring up to their standards. Add chronic pain, anxiety and depression into the mix, and it very quickly becomes both exhausting and excruciating.
It’s almost certain that that doesn’t just apply to me, either. Many people have internal battles or burdens of one kind or another that they keep hidden, but which add another level of complexity to whatever else they have to deal with in a day.
So when someone screws up— and we should all understand that everyone will, from time to to time— be kind. Tell them gently, person to person, and let them fix it, or at least try to.
Please. And thank you.
Don’t misunderstand me: I am not being flippant or casual in saying ’Thank God It’s Friday”.
And especially not tonight.
At the end of yet another really sucky week in a succession of variously sucky weeks, I can honestly say I am so thankful for the fact that it’s Friday night and I am free of any obligation to look or sound like I know what I’m doing, stick to a schedule, wear proper shoes, or talk to anyone that I’d rather not talk to, for two whole days.
I’ve come home from work tonight, fed the dog and fed my dad, done the dishes, and consider all my obligations to have been met. I am currently hiding under a quilt in my living room so that the universe might not know where to find me.
And if you see someone poking pins into a voodoo doll that looks like me, do me a favour and take it off them, will you please? Gently? And maybe give it coffee and pizza. Thanks in advance.
Believe it or not, I’m one in a million.
A million authors writing to entertain others.
A million poets bleeding their souls onto the page.
A million people trying to help others.
A million people who are actually loyal.
A million teachers going the extra mile for their kids.
A million people caring for someone they love.
It might be easy to get lost in the crowd.
It’s easy to feel insignificant.
One tree among a million in the forest, so to speak.
But I know I am one in a million.
We all write and grieve and serve and give of ourselves differently.
Each of us is unique.
Each of us is a distinct blend of personality, talent and substance.
Not a single one of us is worthless.
I may not stand out among the million.
I may never strike it rich or become famous.
I may never be someone else’s ideal.
I cannot be perfect.
The truth is, I don’t have to.None of us do.
What matters is the contrast with some of the other people on this planet: the hateful, the cruel, the greedy, the selfish, the power-hungry, the narcissists.
What matters is that I stand against the things they accept.
What matters is that I am true to who I am, to my priorities, my values, my faith.
What matters is integrity.
That’s what stands out in this world.
That, more than anything else, makes me one in a million.
Snapchat has been the subject of much controversy in the past – mostly from people who have never used it. I know a lot of people have been vocal in their criticism of the ease with which teens could use it to send pictures of their naughty bits to one another. To be honest, they haven’t ever needed SnapChat to do that. And, in a further moment of not-so-surprising honesty, I’ve never used Snapchat for that either.
It’s like anything: you can use it sensibly, and be careful who you add to your contacts, or you can be an idiot and endanger any bit of credibility you ever had. Snapchat is definitely not alone in that regard.
Contrary to all the negative press it has had, Snapchat is actually pretty cool.
The process is simple:
- Take a snap, choose who you want to send it to, and send it.
- If you want everyone to be able to see it, you add it to your “story”.
- If you don’t, people will only see your snap if you actually send it to them individually.
- You can choose how long you want the photo or video to last. Once the time you set expires, it’s gone.
It’s important to remember that people can take a screenshot, and people can be offended, so common sense and decency are still required.
I have great fun using Snapchat for quick, easy contact with my family and friends. It’s also a great way to quickly and easily share a moment in your day in ways that are hard to otherwise express.
In that respect. It’s super duper effective.
It’s actually great for introverts because we can communicate meaningfully without actually having to make, or answer, a phone call. I have found that if you send enough Snapchats, they know you’re okay and what you’re doing, and don’t actually try to call anywhere near as often. That may sound awful, but if you ask any introvert you know, they’ll tell you it’s a fact of life: talking on the phone for any length of time is hard, especially if you’re tired or unwell.
I also use it to share my comedic genius with the world. You’ve got to take your opportunities where you can get them, after all.
My absolute favourite use of Snapchat, though, is when my family use it to send me baby spam. I’m one of those aunties who can never get enough pics of my babies so Snapchat offers a great way for them to send me pictures without all the cranky “we don’t want baby spam” whiners on Facebook and Instagram getting their noses out of joint. Snapchat makes it easy to be a lot more direct and “one on one” with your pictures.
You don’t even have to take a photo every time. You can just use the instant message function if that’s all you want to do. But then… why wouldn’t you take a photo every time when you’ve got those filters to play with?
Seriously, the Snapchat filters are fantastic. One minute I’m a washed out, permanently exhausted 50-something English teacher, and the next, I’m a cat… or an emu… or a pirate… or whatever the filters of the day offer. Sometimes, I have instant makeup and smoother, younger skin. Sometimes I can add a piercing or a tattoo. Finding out what the filters are each day is as much fun as using them.
Its easy to edit a picture using the menu at the top right of whatever picture you take This allows you to:
- add text, labels, and/or stickers
- crop your photo
- doodle or write on your picture
- attach a URL or website to your image
- cut out part of your picture to create a sticker
You can also easily save any picture you like to your phone’s camera roll, using the little down arrow icon at the bottom left of the image.
There isn’t really a lot that annoys me about Snapchat, but I probably should mention:
- The silly, click-bait stuff they post on the “discover” page. Ugh. Once I’ve looked at my friends’ stories, I swipe away from the page.
- On specific dates – Christmas, New Year, that kind of thing – the ’Snapchat Team’ send pictures or videos that you have to watch to get rid of them. Some of them are clever. Others… not so much.
- Occasionally, there will be a filter that makes me look uncannily like my brother. I’m really not so keen on those, but it is kind of fun freaking out his daughters and our sisters with the pictures. And no… I’m not going to show you what I mean!
For me, the frustrations are very minor compared to the fun I have with the app. It’s a keeper.
Today, I am feeling very low. So, I am trying to focus on things for which I am thankful.
I know it won’t fix things, but it’s a positive distraction from my own misery.
Most of these are in no particular reason, although the first four are in the right place at the top of the list of what I am thankful for today:
- My best friend. For so, so many reasons that I can only barely start to count.
- Encouragement from friends. Even when life really sucks, they have my back.
- My dog. Abbey the Labby always knows when I need extra love.
- Scout Kitty purring on my lap. She, too, has been extra attentive.
- The lovely quilt with which I have wrapped myself. It was a gift from my best friend at Christmas time, and given that I can’t hug her today, it’s the next best thing.
- The audiobook I’m listening to. It’s good to give my mind something else to do.
- Peanut butter on toast.
- Coffee. In all honesty, I am thankful for coffee every day. You all should be, too… because even if you’re not drinking it, I am.
- Downtime, and the fact that I got all those exams and reports done. I really don’t think I could have maintained that pace much longer.
- The fact that I do not have to sit upright on stupid courtroom seats for one single minute of today. My spine has been brutalised this past week.
- Pain medication. Enough said.
- A Poet’s Curse. I’ve been reading it for therapeutic reasons last night and today. It helps.
While in Bendigo for the Tudors to Windsors exhibition this weekend, my best friend and I hatched a plan to take another trip soon. We want to visit Daylesford, a beautiful town renowned for its quirky shops and several vintage bookstores.
My friend wasn’t travelling home with me today, though, as she had to go to Melbourne instead. So, I had the opportunity to go exploring and find out more about where we were planning to go.
The prospect of road trip on my own is one I welcome. As an introvert, that kind of time alone is hard to come by, and the past five weeks have been intensely busy and very people-y. So, after I dropped her at the Kangaroo Flat railway station for the 10.27am train, I headed off to see what I could see which, as we all know, is the reason why any bear goes over the mountain.
It was a cracker of a day. The sun shone broadly in a big pale blue sky, but it wasn’t hot. It was, in fact, a perfect late Autumn day for driving through the countryside.
My first destination was Castlemaine, a pretty little town with tree-lined streets and lovely old buildings that date back to the Gold Rush, like so many other towns in this region, Bendigo included. I boosted the local economy with my purchase of a large coffee, and kept going.
You don’t have to travel far out of Castlemaine before you’re in Campbell’s Creek, where there is a fabulous used book store called Book Heaven, where I stopped— in the interests of research, of course. I excelled myself by only staying half an hour and only buying three books, even though I was entirely unsupervised and, in all honesty, I could have been there all day without even realising.
Driving on toward Daylesford, I came to a small town named Guildford where there was a sign to the left, pointing up a sandstone track, that said ‘Guildford Lookout’. I’m the kind of traveller who loves a good lookout, so I headed up the track to the top of the hill where I found myself surrounded by pretty countryside dotted with a few autumn coloured trees. It was a really good opportunity to break my journey with a bit of a walk before continuing down the road.
Daylesford seemed quite vibrant and busy. I didn’t really feel like walking the Main Street and shopping, but then, I very rarely feel like shopping, so that came as no surprise. Instead, I followed some signs and headed down to Daylesford Lake.
What a gorgeous spot! Walking along the shore was lovely, with a wide and level path that led past a cottage to which I paid very little attention until I was on my way back and I saw a sign on the back of the building.
If that wasn’t fate inviting me in, I don’t know what it was. It was lunchtime, and this wonderful little shop sold books, coffee, and food. Perfect!
Once again, I found three lovely old books to add to my collection while my lunch was being prepared. My lunch was delicious, and I was very pleased to find that all the books were half the marked price— until I discovered that the shop is closing down. That was a real disappointment, as I was hoping to come back next time with my friend.
Even so, it was a very happy and satisfied booknerd that walked back into the car to drive the rest of the way home.
I have had the most delightful weekend: time with friends, exploring bookshops, connecting with history, and a relaxing drive home. It really would be greedy to ask for anything more.