Living, working, and educating in regional New South Wales
I live and work on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia.
I work in the higher education sector. My educational career has traversed Arts (Literature, Japanese, and Cultural Studies), Secondary Education (English, Japanese & Special Education), Learning Development (Disability Support) and Higher Education (Regional).
I'm unapologetically interested in advocacy, politics, and popular culture.
When I'm not at work, you can find me wrangling two adult children, myriad pets, and one long-term spouse.
Opinions are my own.
A local perspective on the inherent ableism of NSW’s current policy settings with regard to COVID. Shawn, Gina, Mac and their extended family are friends of mine, and live in the next suburb over, so this is very close to home.
Here’s why we are so scared for Mac and why we are desperate not to be caught in the ‘let it rip’ tide of COVID that’s hit NSW and Australia.
Thanks to vaccination, we are now less worried about the disease than we are about the potential treatment and/or lack of it he would receive in an overwhelmed hospital and health system as a very young adult with severe disability. Mac, Gina, and I are triple-vaccinated and we have done everything possible to follow the health guidance of the likes of Dr Kerry Chant for two years. We have been significantly isolating for the entire time. Even when I returned to face-to-face teaching for a brief time at the start of last year, we did it without fully embracing the ‘return to normal’ we were encouraged to do. As those who know Mac know, he does not talk or walk…
I had a perfectly timely plan that centred around WordPress Wednesday and December 1 (traditional lights-on day) aligning this year.
But life got in the way, so welcome to Thursday, December 2.
At the moment I’m working 14 hour days because of HSC marking at night (and on Saturdays), so very little is getting done at home. This is not good because it’s Christmas lights time.
So on Monday, Miss Almost-23 and I both took a day’s leave and worked on decorating the house. Because it’s the most industrious time of the year.
According to my Facebook memories, her enthusiasm kicked in approximately eight years ago. In response to her sudden self-promotion to Head Elf, her brother apparently announced, “Now there’s two of them everything should get done faster, Dad!”
Now, I know some people have beautifully curated trees and decorative themes, and while this is something to which I’ve always aspired, in reality we’re a little bit closer to the “Christmas threw up on our house” end of the spectrum than I’d like.
And as much as I annually check out the Balsam Hill site and sigh over pre-lit flip trees, I just don’t feel, as a proud owner of a mortgage or two, that I can justify it quite yet.
Aforementioned Head Elf and the Spousal Unit, however, have both acted as the devil on my shoulder, telling me I need one. Child the Younger, who has thrown to the Grinch side of the family, tried to convince me to instead buy a very economical and pre-decorated one from the discount store where he works. The very concept baffles me, if I’m honest.
Then the Spousal Unit had a moment and told me that he likes “our” tree. I told him I was looking at an additional tree, not a replacement tree, and suddenly he was on board again.
(We have two living areas: a family room and a formal room. If that’s not a recipe for two trees, I don’t know what is!)
You see, the reason we can’t have a beautifully curated colour themed tree like the ones above is that our tree’s “theme” is pretty much the history of us. There are the decorations made by the kids when they were in preschool. Sure, I tuck them away at the back, but they are there. There’s even one that my son made in Science a bit later on.
There are the decorations made by my friend Jody and my late bonus-mother, Sue.
There are even the clay present tags my niece and nephew made several years back.
But mostly, there are the “special” decorations chosen each year to represent something that’s happened in our lives. The idea is that the kids will eventually take “their” decorations with them, but we don’t seem to be there yet. Possibly because they have a curated, colour-themed tree at the flat. In fact, they also have a matching garland after I stopped in at Bredbo on the way back from a conference two years ago and the lovely staff dutifully went searching for a white garland, which the Head Elf/Child the Elder had, up until then, found elusive.
Some of our special decorations date back a long time; others have come a long way. Courtesy of multiple trips to Disneyland, we’re heavy on the Disney decos. That Cheshire Cat was the best surprise though … the smile glows in the dark. Magic.
Each trip, I would ask the kids to pick a decoration. This ranged from the ridiculous (“Really? You want a plastic M and M guitar ornament as a memento of this trip?”) to the sublime (“Well, yes. I do think Baymax tangled up in Christmas lights is the coolest thing ever.”) to the downright dangerous (“Sure. If we wrap that huge, fine, spherical Jack Skellington bauble very, very carefully, we can get it home on the plane in one piece. Probably.”)
Other times, we’d pick something that represented their year: Jamie’s obsession with Cinderella, Robert’s with Angels baseball, Jamie’s “graduation” from high school.
And then there was the time when Rob and I travelled to the States for Ellyn’s wedding. In New York, he found a Minnie Mouse-as-Liberty decoration and asked, “Mum, do you think this would be a good gift for Jamie?”
Why, yes, Son. In fact, it’s perfect.
Speaking of Ellyn, she’s represented, too. Back when she and Jamie were concurrently undertaking dance lessons, I bought some absolutely heinous (in my opinion) pink, glitter, ballet slipper decorations. They both love pink. And glitter. And dance. One slipper hangs on our tree; the matching one was sent to El.
For her part, she sends us representative ones from her state.
Because that’s another thing: when I travel, I try to find a decoration. It started with my Vancouver lights bear. Ros was with me when I bought him, and has of course been on many conferences with me in various places so she knows about this little habit of mine. Which means I have a lot of bonus decorations from when she’s visited Christmas markets in far-flung places.
We also have some matching ones, from joint trips. Matching Texas stars, for example. And also these matching paua shell angels, a personal favourite. Picked up in an airport after believing that perhaps I had missed my chance to find something on that particular trip, and look at her. She’s beautiful.
There are a bunch of decorations from our family travels. We’re missing South Africa and Antarctica, but all the other continents are represented, which is not bad going from our little regional Australian outpost.
It’s pretty much the history of us and our family, both biological and the ones we’ve claimed. And family times – the positive kind! – is what Christmas is all about. And so, from our family to yours, and to quote one of Ellyn’s gifted decorations: Merry Christmas, Y’all.
This week, our graduate will be admitted as a lawyer.
Once again, the process is not exactly what anyone intended.
Owing to a fixed date in her timeline and the Christmas shutdown, Child the Elder couldn’t wait to see when in-person admission ceremonies would come back. And owing to the changed HSC dates, I’m in the middle of night-marking season, so a trip to anywhere, let alone Sydney and back, is pretty much a non-starter.
Oh, and it’s her Dad’s birthday that day, too.
So: on Friday I will finish my day-job and then race home to watch her get admitted online, while her Dad will interrupt a flex day with his brother to get to the same location so we can watch together. We’ll then retreat to our separate corners.
Her brother has been tasked with transporting the physical gift we got to mark the occasion.
Then on Sunday (the only official day of rest from Marking!), we will get a chance to congratulate her in person, and to mark Tony’s birthday as a family.
And then she and I are taking Monday off, to hang Christmas lights on the house. (Well, take the day off from the day-job, anyway). Because otherwise, it might never get done.
So, it’s all happening in Chez Coleman.
Now, can anyone explain to me why, when I googled “lawyer images,” the above was the only option that wasn’t a bloke in a suit?
NSW has hit its next milestone on the “Roadmap to Freedom” – 80% double-vaccinated.
Unfortunately the published freedoms associated with 80% have changed a few times and so we now have a certain amount of ridiculousness baked in. So some people who had most definitely heard that at 80% we could travel to Greater Sydney but didn’t hear the subsequent update of “actually, not until November 1” may have been popping up to Shellharbour to the shops.
And on the same day that I’m allowed to travel the 90-odd kilometres to Wollongong to see my kids, other folk will be landing in the International Arrivals Hall to see theirs. Which is fine, but hardly the hallmark of a carefully staged return to normality.
We are finding other anomalies as we attempt to un-secure the campuses that were in secure mode. For example, we know we are educational facilities, which means we have to follow the 80% roadmap and not admit unvaccinated people. TAFE, with whom we share sites, are evidently NOT educational facilities because their staff and students don’t need to be vaccinated unless they’re visiting a facility that requires it. Like a preschool, because it’s an educational facility.
Also, because we are an educational facility we are under the pre-existing mask rules ie wear them unless you are in your office by yourself. Because even though we have whole wings of offices, we aren’t in office buildings.
Still with me?
In non-COVID times my son lives in Wollongong half the week and home with us in Nowra the other half, because he has Uni in Wollongong but his main part-time job in Nowra and frankly, no one would want their young person having no option but to commute that distance at night, when tired and/or on freshly minted P plates. He is not allowed to cross between regional and metro except for work or compassionate reasons. He has to cross into regional NSW to take his job back up, because the government support is disappearing because it’s not needed. It’s not needed because you’re meant to go to work now. He worked both days this weekend. We still don’t know whether he was or wasn’t allowed to stay here in between, given his two addresses and the anxiety his mother would have felt about him going back and forth for no reason other than we didn’t know whether or not he was technically meant to sleep in the room he’s slept in between the ages of 6 and 100-odd days ago.
He was allowed to come down here to go to work on Saturday but our daughter wasn’t allowed to be here on Thursday night for her (online) graduation ceremony. They have the same address as each other up there, and the same address as each other down here.
It’s going to be a long few weeks until December 1, when we will once again throw open every door to every person because vaccination status will no longer count.
As for how the first day back on campus went, let’s just say: migraine by dinner time, and I’m working from home today. Will try again Friday.
Anyway, here is a story on the aforementioned graduate, along with some bonus pictures from her shoot with UOW photrapher, Paul Jones. Hopefully in November we can get some with her – and ones where she doesn’t have to be searching for her on brand “Why” and can smile naturally!
All my Facebook memories at this time of year seem to have been me giving last minute advice and messages of good luck to my former tutoring students (including my own offspring … yes, when they were in Year 12 they dutifully turned up each week to the tutoring centre I’d worked in pretty much their whole lives, much to the amusement of their peers in our small group sessions).
This year, of course, the start of the HSC has been delayed. Consequentially, so has HSC Marking. We now won’t start marking until close to the time we usually finish, and it will continue into December. As a result, and because of the compressed timeline to get the results processed and through UAC in time for University offers, NESA is doing an unprecedented (there’s that word again!) second call for applicants. So if you have recent HSC teaching experience, jump on board, jump online and join us for an educational experience that is quite literally like no other. In my experience, you won’t find a better bunch of people with whom to work.
In keeping with my HSC-styled musings, this morning The Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces”–all about letting your daughter go and waving her goodbye as she begins adulthood–started playing in my Spotify list. This also seemed kind of prescient since Child the Elder is graduating this evening. It’s a postponed and online event and for a few brief hours last weekend we thought we were going to be allowed to sit on a couch in the same location to view it, before state pollies “clarified” that no, metro and regional areas wouldn’t be allowed to cross the streams for day trips just yet, after all.
So instead we’ll be sitting on our separate couches 92 kilometres apart. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can get together and have a properly celebratory meal and take some frame-able photos for what is actually a pretty significant moment in her life.
Congratulations, Jamie. We love you, we miss you, and we’re very proud.
Can anyone explain to me how the days are interminable at the moment, but the weeks roll by very quickly?
Not a lot is happening here on Cold Coleman Farm. The cat continues to monitor my work, stopping only to become distressed when her nemesis, a local roaming feline with buckets of attitude and little else to recommend it, harasses her through the front windows. Said feline usually waits until Scout is apoplectic and/or leaping against the glass and smacking her head, then heads into the backyard and starts in on harassing the chickens.
When I chase it away from there, it heads under the back fence to annoy the neighbours’ cat. Those neighbours are homophobic jerks whose kids only seem to communicate by screaming, so I’m OK with that as an outcome. Not that I have any proof that their cat isn’t as horrified by its owners’ attitudes and habits as I am.
About the chickens: those little cluckheads have been causing chaos.
I was in a video conference yesterday when I heard a thump. The Spousal Unit also heard it. Neither of us investigated immediately.
Later, I walked past the kitchen door and saw an enormous amount of yolk on the patio and thought one of the chooks had had some kind of severe medical incident. I raced outside, to be greeted by this:
Currently, we have no ability to get our excess eggs to our kids, no workplaces in which to offload them, and Facebook Marketplace won’t let words like “eggs” be published in case it’s your own ova you’re trying to sell. So we had about a dozen lying uncollected in the nesting box, another dozen and a half inside, and three dozen or so that I’d brought in in this bucket. The bucket had been out in the coop and there was some wet straw around the eggs and Tony reckoned he could smell it in the kitchen (which was noteworthy in itself – he can be in the same room as a burning dinner and not notice!), so I stuck the bucket on the BBQ and thought I’d get to it later.
The chickens investigated and upended it before I got that far.
I saw the mess, cried out a slight character assassination (the kids next door paused in their loud play; maybe they thought they were the little a***holes in question), and burst out laughing. The clean-up provoked more laughter throughout the afternoon. I was really puzzled as to why I kept finding yolky drips, even elsewhere on the patio.
Turns out that if there’s yolk all over your pressure cleaner wand and you use the pressure cleaner to clean, you also need to clean the pressure cleaner. Who knew?
I haven’t written for a while, but then again, there’s been nothing to say for a while. We’re in Week 2 of regional lockdown, and expecting an announcement tomorrow that it will be extended again. With cases surging in the West and sewage surveillance detection in the South, a pretty-underdone “plan” on the return to school across the state, and daily new cases now above the 900 per day mark, lifting restrictions seems pretty reckless.
So maybe our esteemed government will go ahead and do that, after all.
The NSW government continues to not make a real call about the HSC. They talk about certainty but really, if any Year 12 students gets a positive diagnosis, the whole year group will be out of exams for a fortnight or so. It only runs across four weeks from start to finish and it starts in seven or eight weeks. So proceeding is inherently uncertain and they only way to have certainty would be to say, exams are off and we’ll go by your assessments.
One of the big ideas has been that the students could sit exams outside. I laughed at that one. Better pray for no big winds. Also, I had really bad hay fever during my HSC and I’m thinking that being outside among the pollen probably wouldn’t have helped that situation.
I should add that I sat the HSC at Lithgow High School. My husband delightedly told me that Twitter was alight with people lampooning the “plan,” citing that it had snowed in Lithgow during the HSC last year. I pointed out that we’d had a bushfire during ours. It was a bit distracting when teachers came in and started collecting keys from my peers, so they could move the seniors’ cars before they all became potential bombs.
Closer to home we’ve had bucketing rain and gale-force winds. Thankfully, we had some trees trimmed and used a cherry-picker to take down our advertising banners at the Shoalhaven campus about ten days ago – right about the time lockdown was called.
Other than trying to disentangle the mixed messaging of the daily pressers, I’ve been extending my brain by undertaking some online professional development. I’ve done this through two main channels; one formal, and one informal.
First of all, I’ve enrolled in another short course from UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM). I did one last year during my first WFH period, and the one I’m currently doing (Leading with Resilience) feels much more directly related to my role, so I may redo the budget and explore another option or two later in the year.
Apparently if you do enough short courses you can “stack” them into a certificate. I’m not sure whether I’m keen enough to pursue this option, but I love that it is there.
I’m also currently doing an AGSM leadership course that’s free to alumni, so while they overlap this week and it’s a bit busy, they kind of also fit in well together. The latter has probably ten times more people in it and the synchronous classes are in the evening, so it feels a lot more chaotic than our boutique little one where there are fewer than thirty of us and I’ve probably chatted to most people via breakout room by now.
Apparently resilience largely comes from all the things we’ve been told to do since forever, like eating and sleeping properly, and exercising, and showing ourselves some grace and taking an occasional break. With some actual references and neuroscience to back it up and the accountability of homework, however, I’m paying more attention than when it’s the fad de jour of a women’s magazine. A lifelong insomniac, I moaned about the data on sleep hygiene, because it’s not like I don’t *want* to sleep. Yet I did as I was told and started using a sleep monitoring app. Knowing it’s going to register if I faff around and don’t turn it on until midnight has made a difference. And much to my surprise as someone who rolls my eyes every time the spousal unit talks about meditation or chattering monkeys, I was OK with the pre-sleep meditation loops on the app. I rationalised it away as I had been falling asleep to podcasts, so it was just different talking. And I quickly culled the creepy-sounding bloke for a nice female voice. I suspect I’ve never made it to the end of her reel. But I’ve slept through the entire night twice this week, which probably hasn’t happened since I was like, 5 years old. Or severely jetlagged.
I even managed to sleep through audible wild weather this week, which has not been a thing. Possibly ever.
The informal professional development is taking place in the form of SheMentors, which is a mentoring membership for women.
I’ll admit at first I was completely skeptical, having previously joined something similar that I’d first heard about at my Uni. You paid for each event, you were “matched” with a mentor and placed in a small group for a one-off chat. They also took place in Wollongong (more than an hour away) at 7am, so I had to be up VERY early to facilitate this. In my case, the mentor didn’t understand my context at all, and advised me to take some annual leave in order to meet a writing deadline. The one that is part of my job. She actually told me to use my leave to do my work when I was trying to hold that boundary in the kind of career where boundaries between professional and personal life are already incredibly blurry.
SheMentors and the alternative both involve a fee for mentoring, and at least one senior colleague at Uni was absolutely horrified by this, but I get that businesses need to get money to cover their costs, so I can find a way to live with that.
The cost structure is different at SheMentors. It’s a monthly subscription, so I’ve budgeted that in until the end of the year and will see how I’m going then. It costs what it used to cost me to be a member of a co/writing support group, until their plans and fees all changed. The monthly fee covers up to two mentor hours I book with women who have acumen in areas I’m developing, and I am expected to donate at least one in return. (Side note: I still have slots available for August. So if this is of interest to you–hit me up). There are also lunchtime webinars and social events. So far I’ve been to two of the former and I’m booked in for a new member coffee catch-up.
I’ve had one mentoring session and booked another (with the second mentor being a recommendation from the first, based on our conversation).
So far, I’m finding it to be really helpful.
I’m still an introvert, but–as my classes keep telling me–growth happens just outside of the comfort zone.
There’s not a lot new to update since my last post.
The VC’s Strategy Event pivoted to online (remember when “pivot” was synonymous with this, and this alone?) and her visit was postponed.
I’m under regional restrictions but my husband, who works in a school in the Shellharbour area, is under stay-at-home orders, so I can’t really go anywhere or do anything, either. I could go places without him, I suppose, but that’s not really in the spirit of the marriage nor the lockdown–if he is in any way an infection risk, you’d have to imagine I would be, too, what with living here in close proximity and all.
Theoretically his order will lift on Monday because he’ll have been home for two weeks and revert to being regional. But we’re anticipating an extension of orders in a bit over an hour’s time which would mean that if he goes to work for their staff development day on Monday, the clock resets.
Today is a day or great excitement in our household because our new oven is being delivered. Unfortunately it’s also a day of some disappointment since the sparky can’t come to install it until next week. So my plans to bake up a storm as I head into my leave period are on hold.
Tony and I turned on the Aussie v Aussie Wimbledon quarter final at 1.30am.
Six years ago today I was en route to London to see my dear friend and longtime collaborator, Ros Weaver, and we just happened to squeeze in a trip to Wimbledon on the finals’ weekend. It was a longtime dream come true and I still get quite a jolt during the coverage when I see the local shops or the Dog and Fox and have “I’ve been there!” moments.
It was an amazing trip. In addition to watching the doubles’ finals on Centre Court, I had a few other pop culture and high culture highlights, as well–ranging from Womble-hunting on Wimbledon Common, finding Sun Hill Station, Abbey Road, and Mamma Mia on the West End, to watching Richard III at the Globe.
One day, we will travel again. But it’s just been confirmed that for the next week, we’re not going anywhere.
I don’t feel as though I have any one good excuse but when I reflect on all the stuff that’s going on, I realise there’s a lot of low-level of second order stress going on in the background.
One friend had surgery and the recovery wasn’t quite the seamless deal he’d been promised. The same week, his mother-in-law had a heart attack.
Another friend lost her grandchild suddenly.
My in-laws are a source of many conversations as we try to understand the increased but not identical needs they are developing as they age.
Sydney (including Wollongong) is involved in another COVID outbreak so we’re once again unable to plan more than a few hours ahead, which makes it impossible to sort out a practical way to get to Queensland to see if we can assist with the above. Nor can I pull the trigger on a quick overnight stay in Sydney to see a mate and a show. In fact, at this point, I’m not even sure I’ll get to the show in Corrimal Jamie and I are booked to see on Saturday night!
Child the Elder has finished Uni and transitioned to the workforce but we still have no details of her graduation ceremony (a month away) and she’s trying to ignore some tests her doctor has recommended. Child the Younger has been on placement in a school and managed to get sick and miss a few days. One of the South American children has had a COVID case in her household and sounds very much to my lay ear as though she’s had it, too.
And then there’s yesterday’s Barnaby Joyce news.
Against this backdrop, there’s been a lot going on at work. Last week, UOW-Shoalhaven hosted a regional campus planning day. Next week, the new VC is running (COVID permitting!) a 2-day planning event as a reset for the institution. And visiting the first of the regional campuses. Again, COVID permitting.
So all of that is why I have been feeling tired and generally quite grumpy and not very type-y.
I am working on it.
I have a couple of Physio appointments booked. I’m trying to plan for some nice things to do during our next SAL (unpaid leave) week. I’m on Day 3 of re-establishing my morning pages habit. I actually only do two pages rather than the recommended three, but in rather lovely kikki.K journals. (When the store went into receivership last year I bought up big on these and had them all monogrammed, just in case. I have several years’ worth stored away, so I’m missing out on new seasonal colours, but I’m sure I can cope with that).
At some point I will re-institute my morning walk but for now, I’m just trying to be kinder to myself. Which includes not beating myself up if a blog post meanders with very little purpose … Sorry.
It’s in the air. Our previous Vice Chancellor was farewelled on Friday, and the new one officially began her role this week. Sunday will mark four years I’ve been in this job. My son started practicum this week. My husband is going through a series of “lasts” in his career- notably, this week, his last ever Athletics Carnival. Next Monday, Child the Elder has her last University class ever.
I have come to no great conclusions about these cycles, so apologies if you’re expecting insightful wisdom. Still ruminating. Moreso, perhaps, since Melbourne’s latest de ja lockdown was announced a few hours ago.
On the one hand, time seems to be passing very quickly. On the other, things feel very Groundhog Day. Planning ahead or even just having one or two things in the calendar we might look forward seems almost as inordinately difficult as it was this time last year.
Sydney is relatively open; it is the only city in the world where Hamilton is currently playing. Yet organising a night or two in the city with those family members who want to see seems like it currently requires someone with more diplomatic and logistic skills than this mere mortal.
(I also hold a vague fear that it might feel like homework. The topic matter, understandably, isn’t exactly front and centre in Australian curricula).
Again, this pales into insignificance compared to the inconvenience my friends in Victoria are facing. Again, I have come to no useful conclusions. But in a time where I (ironically) feel too grumpy and out of sorts to make time for all the little routines and cycles that keep me from feeling grumpy and out of sorts, blogging has become my new morning pages.