A bit of this and that...with added frangipani.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Trading Family Chaos for Delightful Distractions

We're moving house in September. The one thing that I'm looking forward to most is that in the new place, I'm determined that I'll have a room dedicated as my office. I spend the majority of my day at my desk, and my current set-up depresses me.

It's in the darkest part of the house, and because it is in the living area off the kitchen, it means I have a big sign on my forehead that says "Please disturb me, I live to serve you." My desk has become a dumping ground for school notes and all those things that nobody knows what to do with. There's an inch-thick layer of dust on everything, because I hate pulling everything out to get in the nooks and crannies of that space - and because let's face it, I am not a white glove kind of person in the housecleaning department.

A few months ago, I bought a smaller desk and set it up in front of the window in the master bedroom. It was intended as a place to go when I needed to work without interruption. I didn't use it as much as I thought I would, because my monitor and keyboard etc, were still in the other room. It was more conducive to work to stay where I was in the high-traffic area.

Yesterday, in anticipation of a manic month of client work, I bit the bullet and moved almost all of the peripheral equipment into the master bedroom. Now I can play soft music on my computer speakers, I have a proper keyboard and mouse and my huge monitor is a welcome relief to my eyes.

So as I sat there at my new desk, wondering why I didn't make this change ages ago, I ignored my children banging on the door ("Mu-um, he looked at me the wrong way!!") and sat down to some focussed work. 

From my new vantage point, I could see into our back yard. A flash of blue caught my attention. Thinking it was perhaps a Forest Kingfisher, or something equally exciting, I ran outside with my camera and snapped this little Rainbow Bee Eater. It's the first time I've seen them in our backyard, so I was chuffed at the capture, but I realise now that despite my efforts to reduce distractions, I've just traded one distraction for another. At least the birds are pretty to look at, and far less stress-inducing than the family's chaos in the other room.

Rainbow Bee Eater
If you work from home, do you have a dedicated office space? Do you suffer from being distracted by your surroundings?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Saturday Games Night - Take 2

On a Saturday night we try to do a family games night. We're kind of hit and miss with it, depending on whether we can muster up the energy after a day of soccer parenting.

We were fully prepared to play a few games with the kids on Saturday night, but a mishap involving some drops of water on the kitchen floor and an 11 yo running in the house when he shouldn't have been, resulted in a grand accident. Mr11 slipped on the water and landed on his head. With the possibility of a concussion necessitating an 8-hour wait in the emergency room, we were relieved not to find any symptoms of it. He ended up with a goose egg and a very sore head, and we, as his parents, instantly aged 10 years. 

Games Night was a non-starter on Saturday, so we took up the ping pong paddle on Sunday afternoon instead. Not really, somebody lost the only ping pong ball we had, but we did play:
  • Wally (our kid-friendly name for the popular back-packers' card game, S***head), 
  • dice (aka Farkle), 
  • Angry Birds Board Game, 
  • Agitation, 
  • basketball, 
  • tennis, 
  • a bazillion games of Connect Four (because Mr11 found that he could beat me so he was stuck on "Repeat")
  • and we finished off with a drawing competition (which I won, because I couldn't bring myself to throw the comp for the sake of my children - luckily Will had no such competitive streak so he lost in grand style, so the boys were second and third)

Anyway, loads of fun was had by all, including our nephew, who was dropped 'round to visit his big cousins.

I was saying to Will this morning that I slept well last night. Looking back on the list of activities from yesterday, I can see why. I think I was just plain worn out. 

Do you do Games Night with your loved ones? What's your favourite game to play?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Photo - Aboriginal Dancers

Aboriginal Dancers waiting to perform at NAIDOC closing ceremony - Tjapukai
Yesterday, we attended the Open Day at Tjapukai. I'd never been before, and despite the throngs of people, we all enjoyed learning about bush medicine, Aboriginal weaponry and mastery of the didgeridoo. One of the highlights of the day was watching the Aboriginal Dancers. I took a number of shots, but forgot to adjust for low-lighting when we were in the dance theatre, so the best photo was one of the ones taken out in the open. This is one of my favourite photos of all that I have ever taken.

What do you think? Isn't she beautiful with the make-up around her eyes and the feathers in her hair?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

FYLP - Mad for Mad Men's Soundtrack

A few months ago, we got Netflix in Australia. Finally, the antipodeans could enjoy the shows that have been gracing screens of devices across the US and Canada for years.

I jumped right in, and I've already watched every available episode of Weeds, Orange is the New Black and Mad Men. I love my Netflix and consider it the best $11 I could spend each month.

When I first started watching Mad Men, I was gobsmacked by the sexism, and it never ceased to amaze me that people blatantly littered and had quite different ideas about child rearing than is common nowadays. I felt like I was developing lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver just from watching Don Draper smoke cigarette after cigarette and suck back whiskey like it was water. But I was equally amazed at how quickly the series drew me in and before I knew it, I was as hooked on Mad Men as Don was on his smoke, drink and womanising.

The music in the series was also a welcome trip down memory lane. Of course a lot of it was before my time, but that's never stopped me from enjoying the golden oldies before. I sometimes think I was born in the wrong decade.

Anyway, one of the songs that stood out for me the most was Brenda Lee's Break It To Me Gently.

It immediately seemed familiar to me, but just couldn't place where I'd heard it before. Then Google reminded me that Juice Newton recorded it in 1982.

I can't really decide which version is my favourite, but oh well, who says I have to choose! 

Have you watched the Mad Men series? What do you think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Getting Back Into the Pool

Getting Back Into the Pool

Mr9 has taken swim lessons since he was a baby. Eventually he grew to hate it. He couldn't stand the shouty swim instructors always telling him he should go faster. When he got to Year 2, I'd had enough of the whingeing every time swimming lessons were on, so I said that he could take a year off, but that he'd have to go back after a year. That was two years ago.

Earlier this year, while he was swimming in a friend's pool, I noticed that his first instinct, if he wanted to get anywhere, was to just go underwater and push off from the side. He could get by, but he'd need a refresher course if he was going to have freestyle as his go-to swimming stroke.

When I was his age, I could barely lift my feet off the bottom of the pool, but then again, I lived in Canada and apart from a few short weeks of summer, there wasn't great opportunity for swimming. That changed when I moved to Sri Lanka and we were in the rec centre pool daily. We had a six-week course of swim lessons in PE class and before long, I was a fish. We even learned synchronised swimming - can you picture me in a flowery swimming cap? Nah, we didn't have to wear one of those, but it would have been funny, though I wouldn't have thought so at the time. 

It's amazing to me that I could learn to swim in such a short period of time, but my son who has been taking swimming lessons for years, is still learning. I suppose it's a timing issue. I've heard that kids can't master all the actions, required for swimming proper strokes, until they are at least six. Seeing as I let him stop shortly after that age, it explains a lot.

Anyway, I'm pleased to report that his freestyle is coming along nicely, and he just needs to work on his breastroke. I kind of lied to him in that I said he'd only have to swim for the first term, but as I sign him up for another term, he's not complaining. I think he likes his instructor, because she says he's very strong and she doesn't nag him to go fast.

When did you learn how to swim? How long did it take to learn? Ever tried sychronised swimming?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sometimes, I AM the expert.

Recently something went wrong with the shopping cart set-up for one of my clients. I support my clients with their email broadcasts and newsletters and have done for years, but I am not experienced in setting up a shopping cart from scratch. It's something I've always left to the 'experts'. Anyway, we realised that something was wrong when an order was placed, but no money came in to pay for the order.

I looked at the settings and nothing looked awry. I did research on the support website to see if somehow I had accidentally altered some settings. The support website was offering little support. I tried to log a support ticket, but received error messages. I tried to contact the company via their email address and received bounce-back messages. Every direction I turned, there seemed to be a roadblock. It was getting to be source of stress for me as I wracked my brain trying to solve this problem, all the while wondering if I had done something wrong to cause the problem in the first place.

I was contemplating reaching out to the VA community to see if I could find someone with more experience than me to help. There was still one thing I hadn't tried on my own - to call the shopping cart company. There is a time difference and the timing was never right, but on the Tuesday after the long weekend, I got on the phone and talked to a techie.

He suggested obscure workarounds (ie never in a million years would the average person think to try that) and changed some settings on his end in order to get things working. It was a success, and I was relieved to know that there was nothing I had done to cause the headache. I think some settings were lost with all the changes they've been making to their system recently.

It occurred to me later, that often I will refrain from trying new things or I will avoid touching things that I don't understand - because I'm no expert, you see. Sometimes, I am the only expert available, and there is no one to whom I can defer. Sometimes I just have to step up to the mark and try that new thing or fix that problem. Now, I know for some of you, you may be thinking, "What's the big deal?" A phone call might have been your first port-o-call.

I think that when you have been away from the mainstream workforce for a very long time, that your confidence in your abilities takes a hammering. As I try new things and find more and more things that I am good at, trust in myself is slowly building up. I love that feeling when I master a new skill or jump a hurdle that's in my way. I really don't know how I went on for so many years without experiencing that buzz. I suppose my challenges were about toilet training (the kids' not my own) and finishing the seemingly never-ending degree, but now my focus is shifting and I'm getting a great deal of satisfaction from meeting these challenges head-on. Slowly I am learning that in some things, I am the expert, and if I'm not, then I am resourceful enough to find one to help me.

Have you ever shied away from a problem thinking that you were ill-equipped to find the solution?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Flatfoot Blues

It's Sunday morning, and Will's had all of last week off as annual leave. He had plans to do all those things on his to-do list that are just too hard to get done during a normal work week.

Don't know how he's going with that, but I do think he's managed to tick off a few things, but equally as important is the fact that he's had a day where he didn't even get out of his PJs. The boys and I try to have a pyjama day at least once every school holidays. It's good for our mental health, and I don't see why Will shouldn't have a mental health day every once in a while too.

We've had Will's brother, Tom, staying with us since January, and he loves to cook. And we love to let him. I probably haven't cooked more than one or two meals since he arrived. So, since Will and the boys have been on holidays, we've scrummy lunches as well as dinners. I don't think I'm going to be able to fit any of my clothes anymore.

Will has to return to work tomorrow, and today, I had thought we might go to a new place we've never been to before - the Tarzali Lakes. Unfortunately, Will had an attack of hayfever last night and didn't get a wink of sleep. He's finally sleeping now, and I definitely won't wake him. 

If he's feeling up to it later, we might go somewhere more local for the afternoon. We just need to get out of the house and to do something in nature. I miss taking photos and feel like we haven't gone bushwalking in years.

It might be a while longer though as moving around is getting to be difficult. Apparently I have something called a calcaneal spur on my right foot - my flat-footedness is having some negative side affects. I can walk, but afterwards I end up hobbling around, because it hurts to put downward pressure on my heel. Weirdly, it's the worst when I first get up, after a night of resting it, or when I've been sitting for a while, not using it at all. Unfortunately, the remedy is pretty lame: use it less, take anti-inflammatory drugs and put extra cushioning in my shoes. 

This last one will be difficult as I tend to wear thongs the majority of time (stupid, I know), but I do notice it is less painful when I wear my runners, so I'm going to be reliving my youth and wearing my New Balance running shoes with everything. You remember that scene in Working Girl where Melanie Griffith wears running shoes with her business suit as she walks the streets of Manhattan to get to her office job? I remember doing that in Sydney. I cringe now at the thought of it - do people still do that? Anyway, I will surely be the height of fashion, at least now that I work from home, it doesn't matter what I wear. I can wear workout gear to match my workout shoes and no one will know the difference, except for the fact that my arse will be getting bigger instead of smaller, with all the non-exercise and eating of the brother-in-law's cooking.

Ah well, I can always take up swimming again and politely decline the brownies that Tom's planning on making later this week. What do you think the chances of that are?
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