Am I supposed to enjoy marking exams quite so much?
These kids are awesome!
These students prove that exams can be positive learning experiences.
Am I supposed to enjoy marking exams quite so much?
These kids are awesome!
I’m looking for positives. Feel free to help me out!
Balance is something I often aim for, but things don’t always work out that way.
I’ve just been looking at the poems I have written for my next collection, and the majority are quite dark. I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to write some more positive or happy poems to balance it out.
Easily done. All I need is for the universe to be nice to me, and for wonderful people and happy events to inspire me. No biggie… right?
If you’d like to inspire me, leave a story, an observation, or a happy experience in the comments!
Why We Should Celebrate International Women’s Day.
As I was driving to work this morning, a caller to my favourite radio station was critical of the fact that the station was observing International Women’s Day as part of the day’s programming.
“What’s it going to achieve? Do you think you’re going to change everything in one day?” He spoke politely, but went on to dismiss the value of this, and every other, “touchy-feely day”.
While my initial instinct was to dismiss him as a sexist pig, his cynicism challenged me to consider that there might be many folks out there, and possibly not just men, who doubt the benefit or validity of such an observance.
This is what I would like to say to those with that mindset:
Observing International Women’s Day is definitely not going to change everything on one day. That’s not what anyone is expecting.
It is a chance to celebrate the changes that have been made, and to remember those who worked so hard to introduce them. It’s not even exclusively about gender equality – so many women have made significant advances, even when it was still almost entirely a “man’s world”. Think of Marie Curie or Ruby Payne-Scott making significant scientific and mathematical discoveries that have had a huge impact in many other areas of society. Think of Rosa Parkes and her courage that inspired so many. Think of the countless women who have worked for freedom, or justice, or civil rights for all people, not just women.
It is a day to remember that the rights and freedoms I have as an Australian woman were fought for by many – not just the suffragettes. Nurses at the battlefields of major conflicts, teachers, doctors and medical researchers, writers, women who raised their sons to respect them and therefore other women, lawyers, filmmakers, journalists— they and countless others have contributed to the privileges I enjoy in the 21st century.
It is a day to remember my own mother, grandmothers and aunts who worked hard to provide and care for me, but also to teach me and demonstrate for me what it means to be a woman of strength, confidence and integrity. It’s also a day to think of my sisters, cousins and friends who encourage and stand beside me when life is hard, because they model those same qualities for me time and time again. They remind me of not just what I am, but who I am.
It is a day to consider what legacy I pass on to my nieces, my students, and my readers. What do I want them to learn from my example? I want them to know they are enough. Strong enough, good enough, beautiful enough, deserving enough, talented enough, smart enough, and worthy enough. They do not have to take any else’s bullying or abuse. They do not have to accept other people’s bad behaviour. They are under no obligation to “measure up” to the yardstick of anyone else, male or female. They can make of their lives anything that they decide upon and set their mind to. They can face challenges with courage, and they can overcome whatever would seek to undo or defeat them.
These are the women I write of in my poems, blog posts and stories about women of strength and beauty.
That, my friend, is what this day helps me to achieve, because it sharpens my focus on those things for a time.
So, happy International Women’s Day 2018.
I hope that you will think of it in terms of gratitude and humility. I also hope that every woman will use it to both be inspired and be inspirational.
Sometimes, a small surprise can mean a whole lot more than its face value might suggest.
This morning didn’t seem any different than most when I left the house to head to work, but it proved to hold two lovely surprises.
The first surprise came in the form of a shop assistant who remembered me as her teacher from a number of years ago, and happily recalled the things she had studied and learned with me. An adult now, and with a different hair colour, I had not recognised her, but she knew me straight away.
It was nice to hear that she thought the books we read and the lessons we drew from them were valuable, and that history classes were interesting. It was wonderful to see that she had grown up into a confident, friendly and polite young woman with a lovely personality.
Of all the fond memories she recalled, though, one in particular had a profound effect on me: “You were the one teacher I ever had who showed me that it was okay to just be me, because that’s who I was meant to be. It’s something I have never forgotten.”
Wow! What a privilege to hear a former student say those words. I have struggled for many years with self acceptance, and as a teen I knew full well the agony of not fitting in with a particular crowd. Even then, I had the strength of will to resist peer pressure and not buy into many of the pitfalls that offered themselves to me at bargain prices and opportune moments. But that didn’t mean I was free of the wish to be someone or somewhere else – a desire that has recurred several times since.
Yet, somehow along the way, I managed to communicate something valuable about self acceptance to at least one teen in a similar situation.
I wonder if that knowledge would appease or satisfy those who think I push too many boundaries. Being part of a fairly conservative school, church and family, I take both pleasure and pride in not exactly looking conservative. I don’t intentionally break the rules, but I don’t mind testing their limits. My opinions often differ, and my willingness to assert them can make others uncomfortable. I don’t see that as a problem, though. There is merit in challenging people to see different perspectives and to accept differences. I’d like to think that people might become so used to my differences that I will need to think of something new to do to keep them on their toes.
My second surprise was a note on my desk from ex-students who had a reunion on Saturday night. I attended the reunion: it was a lovely evening of catching up and reminiscing. I didn’t realise, though, that they had left me a love letter on their tour of the school. How gorgeous that they still know how to make their English teacher happy and proud.
A day with family, holding a brand new baby, can make you see things from a new perspective.
I spent most of today with family, welcoming my new great-nephew to the family. It was a day full of love, laughter and baby cuddles… and lots of photos.
Holding my beautiful baby boy made me overflow with all sort of love. Seeing my 86 year old dad holding him made us all more than a little emotional. Another picture of four generations – my dad, my brother, a niece and a baby boy – is a wonderful blessing that many families don’t see.
I have also observed multiple times today how awful I look. That has been my first reaction to every photo I am in.
In addition to chronic pain and depression, too many months of anguish, stress and anxiety have taken their toll. I have cried every day for at least 250 days. I have feared and I have despaired. And it shows.
BUT I have also survived. It doesn’t really matter how crapful I end up looking. I’m stronger than everything that has tried and still tries to bring me down.
My heart and soul have bled onto pages and screens, but my words have touched, encouraged and inspired people on the way. My writing have been praised, and my books have won awards.
So when you look at me or see pictures and think I don’t look so great, you just remember that I’ve earned it.
In the aftermath of the US election, it’s important to remember that there’s anger on both sides. Many, many people in the US, as well as elsewhere, feel marginalised and overlooked. For some, it’s been many years of actually being treated that way. For others, it’s hopes and dreams that have been kept out of reach by social forces that they haven’t been able to change or address. You only have to study a little bit of US history to see those things happening.
I think of this election as a pressure cooker – after a long time on “high”, the thing blew its lid off and left a heck of a mess when it did.
We must remember that people don’t always vote from a perspective of good policy. People vote because they long for a change, they yearn to be heard… or at least to feel as though they have been heard. Sometimes it’s a reaction to something as visceral as revulsion over what one candidate or the other has done or is accused of doing. There was a whole lot of all of that in this election.
This election in itself won’t fix anything. A new president, regardless of identity, is a figurehead. The real problems lie in the structure of the society under that leader. The anger and polarisation of the American society will only get worse while people engage in anger, vilification and distrust – of their leaders, yes, but particularly of each other.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t hold their government and its actions to account. I’m a very firm believer in doing that. But let’s not destroy each other in the process. Let’s ensure that our commentary is focused on what needs to happen, what needs to change, and how we can work together to achieve that.
Personally, I don’t think either candidate was a good choice for uniting the country, or solving the underlying problems. That has to come from the people, and it starts with one, then two, then more, choosing to build rather than tear down.
I pray for America, and I pray for the world that still looks to her for military and international leadership. I pray for Australia, because we’re guilty of all the same things.
Today, I choose love. I choose encouragement. I choose peace. I choose friendship. I choose positive over negative. I choose proactive over passive.
Will you join me? Will you work to make a difference, too?
There’s always a bit of trepidation when you do something new and you’re not sure how it’s going to go.
There’s always a bit of trepidation when you do something new and you’re not sure how it’s going to go. ‘Leaf’ has been available for just over three months now, and I’m very thankful and excited to be getting positive reviews.
I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but I am really thrilled about these two readers’ responses that I’ve received recently.
Both of these people, and others who have given my writing positive reviews and ratings, have encouraged me more than they realise. Sometimes being a writer is a really lonely thing, because there’s a whole experience and process you have to go through before you can know if anyone is actually going to understand and connect with what you’ve written. To know that my poetry has had such an effect on people is both motivating and incredibly humbling.
It’s amazing how much help there is out there for writers when it comes to promoting their work and raising their profile…
It’s amazing how much help there is out there for writers when it comes to promoting their work and raising their profile.
Like anything in life, there are a few sharks out there who want you to give them your money in return for not very much at all.
There are also some great websites and services that offer great services and publicity without costing your life savings and a ransom worthy of your first-born.
Goodreads is a two-way service for both readers and authors. Readers can rate and review books, update their friends on what they are reading, and engage in different reading challenges. It links very conveniently to Facebook and blogs. Authors can set up a profile and blog that are aimed at increasing readers’ awareness of their works, and giving their books publicity and promotion. It’s easy to do, and I’m very happy with my profile. Goodreads gives regular updates on Twitter, promoting authors, books, and reading in general.
Quotesrain is a thriving literary community that presents authors and quotations from both famous people and the authors themselves. It’s visually rather lovely, too, so it’s quite relaxing to browse around. Quotesrain is also on Twitter.
Also on Twitter is All Author, a service of Quotesrain that will promote my book via social media for a year for just $24. There’s another level of promotion I could sign up for, but I’ll see how this goes first. I only signed up yesterday, and they’ve already tweeted both my books at least once. I’m pretty happy with that!
Finally, there’s the Indie Writers’ Cooperative on Facebook, where authors are encouraged to share the links to their works, promote their events, and to help each other out by sharing one another’s links, works and events. It’s a positive and encouraging environment where writers can meet and help each other out with a little healthy cross-promotion.
All in all, it’s been a productive and quite enjoyable exercise.
A promotional quote for ‘Leaf’ made at Quotesrain.
I was reading a newsletter in my school staff email this morning when one paragraph really caught my attention.
“Can you remove yourself from people who are negative or holding you back?
The quality of our lives will depend on the quality of people with whom we surround ourselves… It is a sign of our maturity to identify any negative effects of others and then have the courage to remove ourselves from that influence.” (Vital Staff, 2015, 14)
This is a truth that many people don’t realise.
I’m not just talking about people who don’t like your haircut or the way you dress. I’m not even talking about people who don’t share your views on politics or religion. I’m talking about those people who bitch, backstab, undermine, conspire and manipulate so that people they perceive as “powerful” will see and treat others in a negative and often quite destructive way.
I know the effects certain negative people have had on my life in the past, both personally and professionally. I’ve seen friendships and relationships eroded gradually until they no longer exist. I’ve seen different people nearly bring down a church, a school, a family. It’s ugly. It’s an incredibly awful thing to experience.
I’ve also experienced the benefits of removing those people from my life. It hasn’t been easy, nor has it been painless, but it has been totally worth it.
Negativity is a cancer that attacks and weakens from within. We often can’t detect it working away under the surface, threatening to overtake and kill the very thing it’s feeding on.
When we do realise it’s there, the best way to treat it is to cut it out and leave it behind. We can’t afford to allow it to continue to grow, because it will gradually choke the joy, and then the life, out of us.
I can hear some of you thinking, “But wait. You’re a Christian. Aren’t you supposed to love and forgive and all that?”
Sure. Love and forgiveness are at the top of the list of ways in which we’re meant to treat other people.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to allow people to continue behaving in ways that are hateful and harmful to themselves and others. How is it showing love to someone if others just let them destroy every relationship they have? How is it forgiving or restoring them if there’s no stand against the behaviours that will eventually destroy both them and other people?
So, when it comes to my friendships, relationships, and interactions with other people, I will continue to choose to surround myself with the positive and constructive, and excise the negative. I can, and will, continue to remove the negative people from my life.
There’s no compulsion for you to follow suit. There’s no obligation for you to keep me in your friends list if you think I have a negative effect on you.
I know not everyone will like me. I realise that even the people who like me don’t like everything I do or say. It would be naive of me to think otherwise.
You know what? I’m entirely okay with that. I don’t need to be liked by everyone. I don’t need a fan club. And I am more than happy to accept that there are some who will be much happier without me. That’s life.
I do not desire to be everything to everyone. At some point earlier in my life I did, but I have long stopped trying to achieve that, because I found out the hard way that it simply isn’t possible. That’s a sure-fire recipe for heartbreak.
What I do desire is for the people close to me to continue to be positive and constructive in my life.
I relish the freedom to choose who and what will speak into my life and influence my thoughts and actions, and the freedom to be who I am without always looking over my shoulder, afraid of the judgement and negativity of others.
Happy Mothers’ Day – to all mothers of beautiful children, children in heaven, furbabies, step-children, borrowed children, otherwise acquired children…
And to those like me whose babies were only in their hopes, wishes and dreams… I hope today is an opportunity for love rather than bitterness, positive rather than negative, happiness in our blessings rather than misery because of what never came to be.
I truly believe that life is what we make of it. If one chooses to be bitter and negative, that’s all they will have. If one chooses to be positive and look for opportunities to live, smile, laugh, feel and share, the whole world opens up for them.
My life has been so blessed because of the beautiful children I have been allowed to share, borrow, and help to raise. My family and friends have been so generous in this regard. Each of those kids is “mine” in a very special way, and I hold them in my heart and thank God for them every time I think of them.
Some are grown into amazing adults – some are married, some have their own children whom I am also allowed to share, some have gone on to forge the career they dreamed of. Some have just started to move into adult life, finding their feet and making their own way as they pursue their dreams. Some are still young enough for me to hug and discuss what’s happening at school or with their friends. Some are still babies; what an amazing blessing to be still be cuddling and loving “my” babies and seeing them grow, learn, wonder and return the love that is lavished upon them.
I will never try to tell you that being unable to have my own children was not heartbreakingly painful. However, that’s not what I want to focus on here. On this Mothers Day, I want people to know that I have grown and learned my way through that, and that I have been richly and deeply blessed by “my” children and by the wonderful families who share them with me.