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.

When Roadmaps are Ridiculous …

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!

HSC Time … or is it?

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.

More details here

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.

#UOWgrad2021

Congratulations, Jamie. We love you, we miss you, and we’re very proud.

If you need help with getting organised for the HSC, you can contact me on https://www.kimberleymcmahoncoleman.com or send me an email via kmcmahon_coleman@hotmail.com

Long time, no type …

Yes, I know. It’s been a few weeks.

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!

Fingers crossed …

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.

UOW-Shoalhaven. Photo: Chris Hadley

And then there’s yesterday’s Barnaby Joyce news.

Post-Turtle

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.

We got the band back together!

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.

On Not Travelling

**Content warning: Suicidality, bushfires

Today was the worst Coronavirus day on record in Victoria. Again. The NSW Premier announced tougher border restrictions (anyone coming in from Vic now has to go into supervised hotel quarantine at their own expense), and the QLD Premier announced tougher border restrictions heading North, as well. Apparently the whole of NSW is now a “hot spot.” Which is kind of darkly humorous, because while places like Bunnings and Maccas are masking up, the State government is still taking a “meh … if you feel like it … you can” approach to face coverings.

Now, I had no intentions of taking a wee trip at all, but with one best mate in Vancouver, two in Vic, and one in Tassie, as well as elderly and frequently hospitalised in-laws in Queensland, the thought of not being able to pull some cash from the Emergency Fund and get myself to a place of usefulness should I need to, is not at all pleasant.

Apart from not physically being able to travel, I’m also “not travelling well” at the moment. This morning we had a very long meeting of all the folks who have been awarded Global Challenges funding relating the the rolling crises on the South Coast, and began to figure out how the researchers and regional campuses will work together on these projects. Now, this is generally a very good thing, and it’s very exciting to hear people who really care trying to make a positive difference to our people and communities. But lots of talk about being careful not to re-traumatise community members impacted by the bushfires can be a little re-traumatising in and of itself, if you were in fact one of the community members impacted.

This coalesced with a couple of other thing with which I sometimes struggle- and here’s where the content warning really kicks in, so if you need to protect yourself, please do a better job than I unwittingly have the last few days.

So a while back I got a revise and resubmit on a pop culture/disability paper where I got “Reviewer 2ed”–and one of their criticisms was that I argued that multi-(mental illness) diagnosis households are rare onscreen. And so they cited Please Like Me as also having one. So I dutifully over-compensated and watched the series in its entirety. And it does, for quite a small fraction of time, have two housemates who met as in-patients in a private facility. Rose is played by Debra Lawrance (known to many Australians as the second Pippa from Home and Away) and Netflix breakout star Hannah Gadsby plays her roomie, also named Hannah. And (Spoiler Alert – in case you’re like me and haven’t yet seen it, and are, like me, silly enough to watch it without first Googling it) despite the character of Rose having multiple suicide attempts as a major part of her narrative, I was blindsided when her son found her body in one of the very final episodes.

I watched it yesterday.

Suicide onscreen upsets me enormously and my family are all very aware of how much it unsettles me, and why. They are also aware that I am more sensitive at two distinct times of the year: around Australia Day, and right around now. And sometimes we forget why I’m grumpy and unsettled and then look at the calendar and realise. You see, today would have been my better-than-best friend’s 48th birthday, and he died at his own hand in late January when we were both 23.

The “better than best” is an old in-joke of ours. It started when I went to Japan on student exchange, back in 1990. You see, I’m so old that back when I went on student exchange, we had to communicate by mail. And people who’d been through the experience before us would always warn that you’d have a very special letter-writing friend, and it wouldn’t be your “best” friend. And so it was that my “best” friend wrote like twice the whole year I was away, but this very quiet guy who used to hang with our group sometimes and whom I sat next to in roll call, surprised and delighted me by writing hilarious and detailed letters at least once a fortnight. I still have them. His name was Jamie, and he’s the reason our daughter is named Jamie.

I still miss him terribly, and I worry about sharing the story. I try to be careful to only tell my bit, and not encroach on the grief of his family (who have been absolutely wonderful to both our Jamie and her brother alike). But today, as always, he is very much loved and remembered. And I’m going to try show myself some kindness and compassion over the next day or two — the way he did.