A New Normal (again)

This morning I received an email asking if I knew how to find one Dr Roslyn Weaver. Well, yes, as a matter of fact; I’d just been chatting with her over Messenger a few hours earlier. Oh yes, and I saw her a bit over a week ago, right before she went on her honeymoon and then moved to the UK (again–she moved there several years ago, and then to Canada, but now she’s back in England with her freshly minted husband, who resides there). And so we’re back to the future, still on different continents and in different time zones, but it’s somehow also very familiar.

The author of the email is trying to get in touch with Ros to send a copy of a publication that in her words, has been a long time in the making. This was also apropos because we’d been commiserating over publications that have disappeared into thin air once all the work was done. Notably we once both wrote chapters for an edited collection on Glee that has never seen the light of day and now, twelve years in, we figure the content is pretty well out of date!

But, just 24 hours before the aforementioned email, I received another one, saying that a co-edited collection on which I’ve been working has passed peer review.

My chapter within it was first written nine years ago. Then in 2019 one of the other contributors reached out to ask if the publication had ever happened, and after some sleuthing and checking that the original publisher was no longer interested in the long (un)dead project, we decided to take it on ourselves.

This was my motivational screensaver for quite a time, there.

And so, just like that, I go from not having any research projects on the go, to really needing to prioritise reading and acting on the feedback and getting it back to the publisher in as timely a manner as is humanly possible.

To add to the timeline crunch, we have another (our last!) SAL period coming up and I’ve also been asked to “reduce my leave liability,” which means effectively heading to regional Victoria in a few weeks to hang out with one of my favourite adopted siblings and my faux-niblings, only this time I won’t have to log on remotely and work while I’m there.

And I also decided to take a small step towards something we’ve been planning since April of 2021. For the first time in my life, I’ve worked somewhere long enough (and not as a casual!) to qualify for Long Service Leave. I’d pretty much ignored that milestone for a couple of years, because COVID hasn’t been conducive to travel and we had our bonus unpaid three weeks each year to use up as well as annual leave. But, luck permitting, next Easter we will head Up Over for what I am officially calling baseball leave.

Anaheim,CA/Los Angeles. Oct 29 2016, The main entrance of Angel Stadium, a major league baseball team in Anaheim,CA.

Apparently it will be a new manager at the helm after the canning of Joe Madden overnight. It was only a matter of hours between me putting in the paperwork and his shock dismissal.

All I can think is, my boys Jared Walsh, Shoei Ohtani and Raisel Iglesias had better still be there in Season 2023.

Milestones

It’s been a busy few weeks.

Our SAL (Special Additional Leave) block overlapped with the NSW school holidays this year, so those of us still actively affiliated with the Uni (one as a student, one as staff) tacked on an extra couple of days in order to facilitate a border-crossing adventure.

Now, before you get too excited, it was just a domestic/internal border, but even that has been a challenge for the last couple of years.

So when we were trying to figure out the best way to get to Queensland to see my in-laws, and to celebrate our son’s 21st the same week, he came up with a solution: we’d all go to the Sunshine Coast to visit Nanna and Grandpa, and then we’d stop by Movie World on the way home to mark his milestone birthday.

Ever optimistic, we also planned a couple of fun stops on the way home, including a visit with my Aunt and Uncle and going to see The Phantom of the Opera on Sydney Harbour.

Just before all that kicked off, though, I spent my Saturday in Batemans Bay with our team at the launch of the Wattle Walk, a community art project to mark the beginnings of bushfire recovery; which has somewhat ironically been been delayed by another large scale disaster, Covid.

So on the Friday I went to the launch of the Southern Shoalhaven Country University Centre in Ulladulla, then headed to the bay to help plant 7000 woolen wattle branches, and then finally we headed North.

with Mayor Amanda Findley at CUC Southern Shoalhaven
Planting time

The Wattle Walk was a big hit locally. We ran craft workshops on Saturday, and were pleasantly surprised at how many people came out, despite the ongoing rainy weather we’ve been experiencing. The installation was actually extended by a week at the request of the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden, who were finding they were getting lots of new visitors and lots of positive feedback.

Heading North was a bit of an old-school road trip, with two “kids” in the back, ie my son and his partner. My daughter and her partner joined us at the Sunshine Coast. We had a nice little reunion with The Scottish Grandparents, but unfortunately Nanna was carrying the coronavirus and was not yet aware. We had the most amazing accommodation at Twin Waters, with plenty of rooms and living areas, including a great covered area on the ground floor where we could host the mobility-challenged for our Good Friday lunch.

The resort pool was slightly warmer than the unit’s one, and also boasted a lovely view of one of the eponymous Twin Waters.

All the Colemen and Coleman-adjacent people

Blissfully unaware of the virus hiding in plain sight, we enjoyed the random Good Friday fireworks (theologically speaking, that’s not a day of celebration, organisers!) and the Easter bunny arrived with chocolates and dorky pyjamas for all.

Easter Sunday was largely spent in a car, most of us contorted with knees around ears in order to accommodate 6 people and luggage, after several iterations of the travel plan were changed and/or abandoned.

Our Gold Coast accommodation was laid out like a rabbit warren, which fitted our pjyama theme, and quite dirty, which was horrifying. But hey, it had lovely views, so I guess they catch a lot of people once. I actually wrote a review to this effect, but it seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the website. Go figure.

Rob had a pre-birthday dinner and cake to accommodate his sister’s flight on the evening of his actual birthday, which we topped off with a visit to Holey Moley.

We headed to Movie World as planned, and discovered that while the number of visitors was back to pre-pandemic levels, the number of operational rides and the staff on deck probably weren’t. Tony and I went into the 4D theatre and had lunch, and spent the rest of the day sitting on a park bench. The young people were in queues from park open to park close, and made it onto two rides.

By this time, however, Tony was starting to feel very ordinary indeed, so it was possibly a good time to be sitting quietly by ourselves.

Right after we arrived in Coffs Harbour–meant to be Step 1 of our leisurely journey home–Tony got a positive Covid result, joining his parents, 13 others on his mum’s ward, and his sister among those who’d got an unwanted Easter bonus. Our daughter and her partner would soon join those ranks.

We could only look on this from afar as we regrouped in our room and made sure not to have contact with anyone else.

So long story short, it was a long and unexciting trip home, after dismantling and cancelling all the fun activities. Followed by disinfecting every surface in the car (twice!) and a week of offering room service to the patient, who was confined to his bedroom.

The return to working on campus was equally eventful. Day 1 was setting up for Shoalhaven Graduation, Day 2 was Shoalhaven Graduation, and Day 4 involved traveling to Wollongong for the first on-campus and in-person graduation in over two years, where the student I supervised was awarded her PhD.

Dinner with the team

Special times, indeed.

O, Christmas Tree

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.

This isn’t ours.
Nor is this.

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.

This isn’t bad, all things considered.
It’s a Santa hat. With crystals on it. He grew the crystals. He was very excited.

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.

Significant appreciation for that garland is required. It took effort.

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.

A city adventure

The spousal unit and I are not long back from a mini-break. I had intended to come back to work after Easter for a day, and then spend a couple of days home with him, but the meetings to be held on the Tuesday after Easter one-by-one disappeared as people realised that it was school holidays and a short week and therefore not a bad time to take leave.

So I joined them. And we booked three nights in Coogee, and organised for Child the Younger to come home and keep an eye on the chooks and the cat. Scout, who spent the entirety of my working from home period under my computer monitors, is currently going through some stuff–as are we all. We lost her litter-mate (or “twin,” as I typically called her) about a month ago. After 15 and a half years, it’s a big adjustment for all of us, but Scout who’d literally never been separated from her a day in her life is really unsettled.

So with Rob and Scout ensconced in the house, we set off. When we were sent the “final” details on entry the night before we left, there was a casual mention of sorry, there’s no parking. Now, we’ve stayed in Coogee before (when I was doing block study at UNSW in my last degree and, prior to that, when the kids were still kids and did NIDA holiday programs), so we knew that searching for street parking could potentially take up the entire time. So we decided to abandon the car in Wollongong and use public transport in Sydney.

I suppose that should have been my first clue.

The second alarming note in the email was the orienteering instructions that came within it and casually mentioned that the entrance to the apartment was via an alleyway between a dive shop and a gym.

Found it!

After this auspicious start, we headed up the narrow dark alleyway that constantly sprayed and dripped water from possibly unsanitary places, to an intersection with another alleyway where we needed to turn left. This was also helpfully marked.

Turn left at the kegs

There was a lot of rubbish and empty boxes to navigate here, but at the end of this alleyway, we turned right into another one. More helpful landmarks were found.

Thankfully, we never found this being used.

Then we headed over the sewer pipe with a hole in the lid, the smell as good a signal as any that we were nearly there. Past the toilet with overflowing bin, discarded rubber glove and empty Sanokil bin, and up the very narrow, very steep and very uneven stairs to open the lock box and argue with the clearly very expensive “European vacuum door” which required my full body hurled at it to open, and which also came with complex instructions about how to use the keys to lock and unlock the door, which were different depending on whether you were inside or outside.

Welcome!

It was perhaps no surprise that the apartment was also a bit underwhelming. We imagined a couple of blokey blokes organising this as their rental home. There were some expensive/high-end items in the unit, but the finishes were not quite there. My personal favourites were the expensive floor-to-ceiling tiles in the bathroom, which had never had a post-grout clean, offset with a door stopper that was on back-to-front. The floor tiles also seemed expensive, but I washed them twice and the water turned black both times.

The decorating was quietly hilarious. Attention to detail was not really a thing.

Still, the location was, as it said on the box, just steps to local eateries. Technically, the property is on Coogee Bay road, although the labyrinthine alleyways were to be located via nearby Arden St.

The description failed to mention that it was also mere steps above the trendy eateries and therefore a doof-doof soundtrack was provided until 10.30 pm each night (midnight on Saturday). And for consistency, from 10am we could hear the loud bass and encouraging shouting from exercise classes in the gym.

Unfortunately, I’m the one who chose this location, which I may never live down.

Still, we had a good time. From Arden St we only had to cross the road to be at the beach. I followed my Heart Foundation program and went for a walk 2 mornings in a row, and was up and dressing the third when I heard rain bucketing down and thought better of it.

Worth getting out of bed for

We had lovely meals where ever we went: be it at the Coogee Bay Hotel or the Tropicana for lunch, or evening meals at Jack Horner’s, the RSL and La Spiaggia. The latter came about because Tony announced he felt like mussels, and I googled best mussels in Coogee. La Spiaggia was one of the eateries below the apartment. Despite not having booked, they found us a seat outside and the waiter was polite and attentive. We noticed at least two tables of Italians eating there, which we took as a good sign, and we weren’t disappointed. Tony has been ranking mussels up and down the NSW coast for some years now, and apparently these were “right up there.” I had a grilled seafood plate and was impressed.

The meal ended a bit hurriedly when Tony realised it was almost kick-off time for his fave football team, but we did have time to stop at a bottle-o.

Footy, wine, and dreaming

In addition to eating Italian food and remembering our visit to Italy a couple of years back, we took advantage of the timing to go to the Royal Hall of Industries and check out the “Monet and Friends” exhibition. In true Sydney fashion, when we hopped in the cab and I confidently told the driver our destination, he replied, “where’s that?” That makes 100% of Sydney cabbies who’ve asked me for directions despite the fact that I opted for a cab because I’m not from Sydney and didn’t really know where I was going.

(We did not have the same issues with the Uber driver on the way back).

Now I had not much clue as to who Monet was until we visited L’Orangerie in Paris, which was my favourite museum/art gallery (the Louvre was overwhelming; the Musee d’Orsay we spent so long lining up to enter that we didn’t have enough time inside!)

With Monet’s Water Lilies in L’Orangerie on our Wedding Anniversary in 2019.

But we loved everything about the exhibition, and regretted not learning about his inspiring gardens in Giverney sooner. That’s become a bucket list item.

The first room of the exhibition was more or less a traditional art gallery set-up, with info and art and timelines on the walls. There was a large installation though that allows you to “walk through” a water lilies painting and stand on his Japanese bridge. A nice older lady offered to take a photo for us, and then we headed into the second room, which was the immersive experience.

It was really cool to see everyone from small children to the elderly engaging with the projections and the quotations and the whole experience was a bit breath-taking.

Picture Perfect

In the apartment I scribbled a bit, and planned a bit, and over the course of the three days we agreed on where our next holidays might be. We started to form some plans for an overseas adventure, but during the course of the evening our esteemed PM did a Clayton’s-halt of the Astra Zeneca vaccine that I was due to received a couple of days later, and it immediately became evident that this decision, while inarguably the correct one, was also going to significantly slow Australia’s roll. So our dreams have a layer of watching brief, right now.

Here’s a hint about our scheming …

I blinked and now it’s December …

In some ways, not much has changed since I last blogged. My oven, for example, is still dodgy.

In other ways, lots has changed. A manager of one of the campuses I oversee has retired, under the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme offered by the Uni as a response to the fiscal emergency we’re facing as a result of COVID. Others have also left, and there are further redundancies coming early next year. And my boss is leaving to take up options outside of academia. So the sense of impending mass and ugly change hangs heavy around the place, and off-colour jokes about The Hunger Games abound.

On the home front, we’ve got the Christmas lights up with only minimal mutterings about other family members and weight-pulling.

At work, had a bit of a red letter day on Monday when my PhD student submitted her thesis.

As for the book project: well, I’m behind, but the contributors’ chapters are filtering through, so that’s nice motivation and a bit exciting to see the stack of papers grow steadily more book-like.

Gratuitous sexy vampire shot

In the current maelstrom, celebrating these sorts of wins is difficult. But I think maybe that partaking in Christmas traditions and trying to be suitably “festive” is one of the few things we can do to avoid succumbing to the 2020 malaise more fully.

At least, I hope so.

It’s A Small World

One of the first signs that things were bad on the COVID-front, for me, was the news that Disneyland was closing. And it has now been closed for months.

I’ve written before about how I love Disneyland, despite an awareness of how Disney changes/whitewashes history, as well as significant discomfort with unreconstructed gender roles in the Princess films (although there does seem to be some progress in more recent iterations). My current visit count is Tokyo Disneyland (twice), Paris Disneyland, Disneyland Resort/California Adventure (five times, I think?) and Disney World. During various trips to the US and Canada, I’ve learned that I can cope with jetlag relatively well if I land on the West Coast, but if I head straight over to the East Coast, my body just can’t cope. At all. So my last couple of trips, we’ve flown to LA and stayed in Anaheim a few days to recover before heading off to see our family on the other side of the country.

A quick explainer about how I have family in the US: about a million years ago when I was a teenager, I went on student exchange to Japan through an organisation called AFS (hence the first Tokyo Disney trip – number one on my Disney Bingo card). Then when my kids were little (as in infants/toddlers), I got re-involved in the organisation as a way to meet people in my new home of Nowra. And on three separate occasions, I was asked to support some incoming students. The first of these was my daughter Ellyn. I didn’t see Ellyn again until we went to the US on a dance trip. She flew across the country to see us, and must have decided we were OK, because she came out to visit and stayed with us not long afterwards.

Reunited. One of my all-time favourite photos, I have this one hanging on a wall in our home.
The days before Zoom – ten years ago, possibly to the day if Facebook memories are to be believed.

The last couple of trips where I enacted the Anaheim plan were with my son to see Ellyn marry David, and later, with my daughter to meet their daughter, Emma. I had hoped to get over there this year to meet her newest addition, wee Carter, but that has been delayed indefinitely.

One of the coolest of the many cool things about Ellyn is that she comes as part of a package deal with her large and loving family. We’ve hung out with her parents, siblings, in-laws and niblings in various locales across the States. Her sister-in-law, Erynn, and I used to joke that the universe might implode if we were ever in the same place, because we share so many interests (I am happy to report that it did not). She’s interested in popular culture and special education, so has actually read a lot of my stuff. Voluntarily.

So when Erynn put out the call via social media for some help to keep the Disney magic alive, of course I offered to assist.

The network of global parks has meant that for a great many years, the most famous earworm of them all, Small World, has played somewhere every hour of every day. So with the parks closed, we decided a network of people playing it in their homes would just have to do, for now. I picked a time that was early evening here, to save our Stateside folks from being up at a most inhumane hour.

Every night during the evening news, my phone plays the song.

Suffice to say, my family are very much looking forward to the parks’ scheduled reopenings over the next week or two.

Small World DLR Xmas Overlay, November 2017

‘Tis the Season

As we near the end of the year, people often cheerfully ask me if things are winding down. In truth, I am not sure I’ve ever been more wound up!

Last week we had Graduation celebrations for our students in the Southern Highlands, Batemans Bay and Bega. And because the week wasn’t busy enough, Shoalhaven hosted a two-day event for Indigenous students. And, just to add to the degree of difficulty, the massive Currowan fire between the Shoalhaven and Batemans Bay closed pretty much every road into the area, and put celebrations in jeopardy.

Image result for currowan fire image
Not the best driving conditions for graduands or staff …

The week started off in Moss Vale, which was pretty smokey, as you can see in the pictures.

with Ros

The guest speaker who gave the Occasional Address was none other than my friend and long-time collaborator, Dr Roslyn Weaver. Ros’ parents still live in Moss Vale and we all have a lovely catch-up when she makes her annual pilgrimage home each December. She’s currently using her research and writing skills while working in Vancouver. A UOW alumn and former tutor at the campus, she was a great choice to congratulate the students and inspire them that the skills and confidence acquired during their studies are very transferable. There is one graduate, however, we don’t want to go anywhere any time soon! Erin Acton is our Admin Assistant at UOW-Southern Highlands, who graduated with her BA.

with Sammi and Erin
With Regional Outreach Officer Sammi, and Erin. We did not consciously co-ordinate; we are just that sympatico. #teamregional

I then spent two days with Indigenous students from the Shoalhaven. They undertook art and dance classes on campus, and then we all went on a Bush Tucker walk at Booderee the next day. I learned so much on that one hour walk!

Graduations at Bega and Batemans Bay also went off without a hitch. We even made front page news in Bega!

For at least a week beforehand, there were many urgent communiques about whether or not the celebrations in Batemans Bay might not be able to proceed. We created Plans B & C, which we thankfully didn’t need. In true enterprising regional style, however, I later discovered that the eight graduands who live north of the Princes Highway closure had developed their own Plan B, costing out a charter boat!

skipper
What could go wrong?

 

 

Since then, I have pretty much been in recovery mode, frantically trying to finish off a whole bunch of work stuff before I start my annual leave this afternoon. We have had HSC results and ATARs released; we are waiting on information about some very cool incentives to study at regional campuses–watch this space if you are thinking about studying at UOW-Shoalhaven, UOW-Southern Highlands, UOW-Bega or UOW-Batemans Bay from next year–there are some new scholarships in the pipeline. We had two finalists in the University’s Pod Decorating competition, an Info night at Shoalhaven Campus, and there are more info sessions and drop-in days to come.

bushfire sun
Bushfire sunset over UOW-Shoalhaven Info night.

Away from work, things are also busy. In addition to the usual festive activities and ever-increasing to-do lists that abound at this time of year, our eldest is turning 21 on December 21. We are in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave and half the country is on fire, so we’ve been hastily shifting her vision of a cute outdoor grazing platter and glasses of Pimms to something which still has those elements but hopefully without our guests contracting heatstroke and salmonella. (This may also feature lots of Zooper Doopers).

Jamie
CanĀ  confirm she will be looking way more glamorous than me on Saturday … Zooper Doopers notwithstanding.

So from our regional team and my regional family, our very best wishes to you and yours for the holiday season. Stay safe, stay hydrated, and most of all:

festive-black-banner-merry-christmas-greetings-vector-16840710