New Beginnings

I’ve been ruminating a lot on cycles lately.

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.

Last day in the “old” job. I did not take a first day in the “new” job photo. Possibly because there was no furniture or stationery in my big empty office for a while there.

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.

A Shot in the Arm

Happy International Nurses’ Day to all those in that noble profession.

I have enormous respect for nurses. From the unconsciously hilarious Michelle who was my intake nurse when I was having my first baby, who was enthusiastically telling me how much she respected me for being a teacher because it was the “worst job in the world” while testing my bodily excretions; to the fabulous midwives who offered practical advice when I was a newbie Mum; to my neighbour who was also my theatre nurse when I went in for an Emergency D & C and who stuck around past her shift to hold my hand and say comforting things when she realised that what they’d pulled out was actually a tumour; to the nurses who looked after me during chemo; to the ex-student who recognised me from Uni and reintroduced herself when caring for my husband in the local ICU; through to my friends, friends’ kids and ex-students who’ve undertaken the training, I am in awe. These folks know how to show compassion while simultaneously eschewing any and all bullshit.

This morning I started my day via an online link-up to a UOW International Nurses’ Day breakfast and symposium. Our VC designate spoke, as did a program director, and both were impressive and inspiring.

And then I had to pop out of the virtual room and head over the bridge into town for a vaccination.

For me–and, based on the numbers, for many Australians–the path to vaccination has not been easy. My husband and I are both categorised as 1B in the “queue,” owing to our diabetes and other myriad conditions. He works in a high school, so he’s around lots of people completely incapable of “social distancing” every day. One kidult works in retail. None of us is working from home any longer. There’s a certain inherent risk.

Now, I will sheepishly admit that am not as gung-ho about vaccines as most well-educated people of my age and research activity. My brother had febrile convulsions after his childhood vaccinations, which made me very wary. Yes, I know it was the ’70s, and I know things have improved, and I know live viruses are rarely used anymore. But that was kind of a traumatic initiation and my personal threshold for trusting medical people is now also somewhat higher than others’ –see the bit above about cancer. That went undiagnosed for five months by a series of (male) ER doctors, until I finally got referred to a specialist who, you know, listened.

So I’ve been listening to a lot of Coronacast and reading a lot of articles shared by a GP friend and colleague, and I absolutely needed to do that in order to get to a place where I was OK with it all. I booked an appointment. And then three days before my appointment, we had that 9pm presser where the PM announced that folks under 50 shouldn’t (and in short order, in fact couldn’t) get the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which is the predominant vaccine in Australia.

The reason? A 48 year old woman with diabetes had developed blood clots and died. As a 48 year old diabetic woman, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to talk anyone around.

The over-50 husband got his first Astra jab, but I had no idea when there’d be a Pfizer jab available. People at work started to get Astra vaccines, and ask me about my (non-existent) one. It was incredibly frustrating to have worked myself into the necessary headspace, only to be told that the wait to proceed was, in practical terms, indefinite.

This week, however, the first big Pfizer-friendly clinic opened in Sydney. And so it was that I booked in to drive myself to and from Homebush, solo. From Nowra. Twice. The few people who knew of this idea thought it was a pretty bad one. And so one helped me find a slot much closer to home.

And so it was that I spent part of my morning on International Nurses’ Day getting a shot in the arm from a really lovely nurse named Tanya.

Best of all, it’s only three weeks between Pfizer shots, so I don’t have to stay primed for long. And I’ll beat my husband to fully vaccinated status. I win!

Ten Fingers, No Frostbite

One week on, and I am again sitting here cursing the cold as we again have tradies here who “need” all the doors wide open. Despite my complaints, no fingers have actually frozen and broken off in that time.

This week, it’s the tilers. Now this is massive progress and has been the cause of much jubilation in our household. You see, we stopped using the ensuite quite some time ago, because we had leaks into the wall, the floor, the bedroom carpet; and from the shower, the vanity, the drainpipes; and just to make sure we had the whole set of malfunction, the toilet had a busted seal so would randomly start –and almost immediately stop–the flushing process several hundred times a day. And night. In the end I turned the water off to it and we moved out.

So we and the builder were anticipating some massive plumbing rectification works might need to be added to his otherwise reasonable quote.

Imagine our excitement when the main cause of the issues turned out to be just a small missing bit of waterproofing at the site of the leak, no bigger than a twenty cent piece! And when the drain problem turned out to be silt and gunk that had built up – much of it, apparently, from the last time we unexpectedly had to rectify waterproofing problems in there, just after we moved in thirteen years ago. Because obviously, shoving it into a pipe that is required for drainage makes more sense than sweeping it up and binning it.

(Well, I was excited. My husband is mostly cranky at the dudes from last time. Since I can’t even remember their names, I figure that ship has well and truly sailed).

So the upshot of this is that everything is progressing faster than expected, and the tilers did the floor yesterday and are moving onto the walls today. This is about a week ahead of schedule. Which is good, because I’m just beginning to struggle with the juggle.

Our tilers are what you might call “traditional” tradies. I’ve been having flashbacks to when my dad used to bring people in to “help” on our ever-changing and ever-growing family home. Think playing the radio from the car, lots of smoko breaks, beanies and flannos. Which is fine most of the time, but sometimes challenging when you’re working from home just on the other side of the open door.

For example, I’m having no problems listen to Outkast second hand while typing this. Yesterday’s Dua Lipa while trying to take notes from an academic journal article, however, was a bit trickier. And Zoom calls with the Boss while tiles are being cut are very interesting indeed.

Subtle background noise

I am sure I can deal with it for a few more hours. I’m hopeful the tiling will be done today. The floors are dry enough for them to walk on, so it’s all systems go. And the builder says he’s not coming back until Friday to start the reinstall, which gives me an opportunity tomorrow to sneak in some painting before the fittings go in.

We have a floor! Which looks exactly like our old floor, because in addition to not actually waterproofing 100% of the floor last time, dudes miscalculated the number of tiles required, so we had another ten plus sq m in the laundry cupboard. Surprise!

These days, my idea of bliss is being able to put a painting platform right up against a wall, rather than trying to suspend myself over the top of a toilet or perch atop a vanity.

It’s the little things.

50/50 of 2020

Today I’m celebrating that 2020 is half over. It’s been an accursed year, starting with bushfires, and traversing coronavirus, race-based violence overseas and closer to home, an international recession, and massive challenges in the higher education sector. And here in Australia we’ve only just passed midwinter, so the weather feels as bleak as the nightly news. It makes it hard to want to get out of bed and do the voluntary stuff that you know makes you feel better–going for a walk, writing. So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. “WordPress Wednesday” time is blocked out on my calendar each week. And each week, I move it down, around, and eventually delete it in favour of other projects.

This is life in the time or corona. Plans are not things that are easily followed. Every Facebook memory reminds you of happy times, travelling and visiting people. Incidentally, this time of year is usually PopCAANZ season, so there are a lot of (academic) travel memories at the moment!

Since I last posted, a few things have happened. I spoke to the local St John’s Ambulance division about working with patients on the Autism spectrum. Which I probably should have written about on our autism blog. I’ve been working from home, and working on the home, and stressing over looming changes in the higher education sector, which might have been good fodder for this blog, a la my previous post that included musings on painting and productivity. And the book Ros and I have been working on for ages went through its final corrections and was published, which we’ll no doubt soon mention over on our shared blog.

Gratuitous Plug

Which prompted me to reconsider the messiness of my writing life, such as it is, up until now.

Earlier in the year I was visiting friends in Victoria (back when we could do that without fear of being quarantined or fined). I was chatting with a tech-savvy teen and wishing I could somehow link all the blogs, without having to move them. And we came to the conclusion that it might not be as big a deal as it felt in my Gen-X mind.

So this week, I ponied up and set up a new website, which will serve as a launch pad for all three blogs, as well as housing an online shop where you can purchase any of my publications, as well as Ros’ first book. (I’ve been “fostering” her copies since she up and left the country!)

It kind of feels like turning over a new leaf for the new financial year.

Here’s to a less messy second half of the year. We could all use the restart.

End of Autumn

So Winter has officially  started this week in the Southern Hemisphere –with some force, I might add–and this week also marks the end of the Autumn semester at UOW. Side note — it really is the end of “Autumn Semester,” because from 2020 we are apparently retiring the term and going with the more numerical “Semester 1” and “Semester 2.”

Blackheath June 2019.jpg
Leichhardt St, Blackheath – one block from where I grew up. In 1983 we were on the Channel 10 news for playing in the snow like this on the way to school, at this exact location. (Which now makes me wonder what on earth our parents were thinking, sending us to school in conditions like these!). Photo credit: The Blue Mountains Gazette (online).

To mark the (almost)-end of the semester, we’re running various feel-good options at campuses this week. And we’ve been around the traps long enough to know what students like: free food!

free food
No name tags required; all welcome.

It’s been pretty cold up in Moss Vale, so the campus has been supplying students with warming home-made soups all week. Campus Manager Stephen and Admin Assistant Erin have added making hearty soups to their busy schedules this week.

UOW MV

In the Shoalhaven, we went for a winter BBQ, with a special cake to mark the end of some students’ degrees. Big thanks to Heidi and the team at Cafe on Campus for their efforts.

Best of luck to all of our students as they put the final touches to their assignments, and start serious exam preparation. Remember, if you are a UOW student but live near a regional campus (Moss Vale, Nowra, Batemans Bay or Bega), you are welcome to use our facilities and resources when you’re studying. We know that studying at home alone can be both isolating and distracting, but you don’t have to go it alone: utilise the options on your doorstep.

And to my own children: both the above messages apply to you, too.

Just a little bit further, folks!

 

 

 

 

 

University is always an adventure …

It’s the most wonderful time of the (academic) year … O-week! A new batch of students are hitting our campuses, juggling feelings of excitement, trepidation and occasionally, downright confusion.

This year I’m feeling particularly old, since my youngest is among those being “Orientated” at my alma mater (and current employer).  His older sister is also there, busy representing (and recruiting for) the Law Students Society and UOW Cheer. She was snapped by one of the photographers at Tuesday’s festivities.

Jamie at O-week
So casual.

That afternoon, the new enrollee and a couple of his mates headed off to the UOW: Wollongong Pool Party, hosted by UniActive.

pool party
Apparently he’s in there somewhere.

On the regional campuses, we don’t achieve quite this scale. We have had some orientation and “immersion” activities this week, but we won’t get the market stall vibe until “W” (Welcome) Week in a fortnight. Sidenote: if you’re in the Shoalhaven and you’d like to have a stall, let the campus manager know. We are looking to build our community days throughout the year.

Life at my desk is somewhat less exciting than marquees and inflatable floating unicorns, but nevertheless there is still quite a lot going on. In an attempt to get on top of competing book / work / fellowship / strategy deadlines, I’ve enrolled in an online short course that promises to help me organise my academic life. It is one of a series of courses run by Dr Cathy Mazak from the University of Puerto Rico. I’ve also joined her Academic Women’s Writing Collective. This has kept me–well, if not on track, then at least within sight of it. For the past several months, I hop online with other female academics twice a week, we mute our machines and get writing. Lately I’ve been doing a lot more reading and note-taking than actual typing, but I’m hoping to rectify that tomorrow. I also have an Accountability Partner because it’s embarrassing to say out loud to another human: “These were my goals this week and I met none of them,” but I seem to be able to have that interior monologue just fine.

This time last week I was sitting in an all day training session, learning about Advance HE’s academic fellowship program. So while putting the finishing touches to my probation (tenure) application related to this role, I’ll also be completing some quite strenuous writing tasks about educational leadership which will be necessary if I ever want to go for promotion. As crazy as it is to be doing both at the same time, I am hopeful that they will feed into each other.

And so, like many of our undergraduate and postgraduate students, I find myself frantically trying to get organised this week, before semester kicks off in earnest. To all of us: Good Luck. And to all our students, new and returning: a very warm welcome. May it be an adventure.

 

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Featured

Welcome!

This little corner of cyberspace came about after I went on a rather lovely holiday, and had the time and inclination to write about my adventures and share them via social media–which reminded me that I actually like to write.

This is essentially a personal blog, but will have a regional/South Coast (NSW) focus, because that’s where I live and work. I may sometimes link to my two existing academic blogs, Shapeshifters in Popular Culture and Autism Spectrum Disorders in Higher Education, both of which have been hanging in a kind of frozen stasis not  unlike Agent Scully in those pod things (yes, there will be lots of geeky pop culture references), because I’ve been focused on my day job, and writing in order to publish, not perish.

And on that note, opinions are my own.