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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I feel a bit redundant

Last Thursday my youngest son turned 18 and became an adult. All of a sudden I have no children any more, only adult children. It’s a strange feeling.

I don’t feel any older than I did the week before last and I certainly don’t feel old enough to have adult children. But there you go. These things sneak up on you and pounce when you are least prepared.

Not that I wasn’t prepared. The way my son counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until his birthday would have left anyone prepared. I guess what I wasn’t prepared for is that I’m no longer required in the same way as I used to be.

Oh, I still put a roof over their heads and make sure they are fed and their clothes are clean. But I’m not needed as a chauffeur or a guardian or even a companion any more. They turn 18, get their driver’s licence and the right to enter licensed venues and off they go. My job description has changed. Mind you, it might have just improved, I’m not sure yet. I will have to see how it goes and let you know later.

It was easier when my eldest two sons turned 18. With the first I had my other two sons to look after, then the middle one became an adult, but I still had my youngest, now… well, there’s no one left in line! And no, I have absolutely no desire to be a grandparent just yet.

Anyway, to celebrate we went to Melbourne’s Crown Casino complex for dinner followed by a wander through the Casino itself. There was me, my three sons and my eldest son’s girlfriend. It was very satisfying to have my family all together in one place for a change. The meal was good, although the champagne could have been colder, and I think that overall more money was won than lost on the games. I didn’t play any of the games; they don’t interest me that much. But it was fun watching. And it was fun people watching. There are some weird types that frequent the Casino!

I left early. The others stayed for a bit longer, although my youngest son only made it home at 2am! He is definitely enjoying his new independence.

So, my new challenge is to embrace the loss of some of my parental responsibilities and move on. There’s a whole new phase of life out there waiting for me. In the meantime I’ll concentrate on getting my youngest son through to the end of his last year of school.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My world of distance education

I haven’t disappeared. I’m still here and, more often than not, typing frantically on the keyboard, except I’m not typing my blog. I’ve been spending most of my spare time trying to complete a 2000 word assignment that’s due on Friday. It’s done now – apart from a final grammar and spelling check, so I can once again concentrate on my blog.

At the end of this year I will be three and a half years through a BA Communications. I still can’t quite believe I signed up for something that would take six years to complete! I have the attention span of a gnat and normally boredom would strike within the first six months. I won’t lie. There have been times that I’ve seriously thought of tossing it in. I have been known to scream at the computer. But so far I’ve managed to stick to it.

I never wanted to go to University after high school. Twelve years of education was more than enough for me. For twenty years I kept the same attitude. Then twenty years ago my then manager suggested I get some official qualifications. So I applied for and was accepted into a postgraduate course. I still find it amazing that I got a postgraduate diploma before I got an undergraduate degree.

So I discovered the world of distance education. It suits me perfectly. I can study at whatever hour of the day or night, in my pjs sipping a coffee or a glass of wine. I can watch TV while I’m studying, or cook the evening meal while listening to a recorded lecture. If I want to join in the online message board for each subject I can. If I want to ignore some of the idiotic postings I do. Distance education has been perfectly tailored for me.

I love researching. I could spend all day either on the Internet or with my nose in a book looking up facts. I do get led astray though and find myself looking up the most weird and wonderful things that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject I’m studying. But I’m enjoying the research and writing assignments, while tedious and difficult to start, aren’t that bad once I get into them.

I’m doing well at it too. My grades are good; my lecturers give me useful comments on my assignments. I have to admit I can’t remember a thing about the subjects once I’ve completed them – maybe that’s not such a good thing. I suck at exams, but I make sure to do my best on the assignments and they pull me through. At high school I did much better at exams, but my brain was younger then and I could retain more information for longer. Nowadays I have to check my facts, then recheck them and then recheck them again, and that’s just to write another sentence! It’s the same when I try out new recipes. I’m forever going back to the recipe to check what the next step or ingredient is.

With just over two and a half years to go I’m already planning what my next step in the fascinating world of education will be. I’m leaning toward a Masters in Creative Writing, but I’d also like to learn a language. I think I’d also like to learn to teach English as a second language. There is just so much information out there; I just want to jump in the middle and roll in it, absorbing what I can. So if I go missing now and again, I’m probably churning out another assignment or trying to study for an exam.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Forms, forms and more forms!

At the moment I seem to be inundated with forms to complete and send off. There are insurance forms for my youngest son’s injured shoulder, forms to apply for Medicare cards for my two youngest sons so they can go to the doctor without me, forms to apply for a casual tutoring job I’m interested in and a form to complete if I want to enter a local competition. Oh and an electronic form I have to help my son complete so he can put in his preferences for any tertiary courses he might want to do next year.

I never thought life would be this complicated! Too many people want too much information from me! No wonder many of today’s youth refuse to take on responsibility, preferring to simply enjoy life. I would do the same if I had known back in my younger days what I know now.

People from my parents’ generation complain the youth of today are always on the go and never take time to relax. Well, I bet they are far too busy filling out forms to take the time to relax.

Gathering information seems to be a highlight of businesses and organisations these days. Information about clients and, even more importantly, potential clients is extremely valuable. Once they have your details businesses and organisations can market their products to you more efficiently, or produce products that better meet your needs, or predict which products and services you are most likely to need.

Sometimes requiring forms to be completed can be a stalling technique and one that I use myself at work. It is easier to ask prospective clients to fill in a form and submit it than it is to deal with them directly at the time they contact you.

What I can’t understand is why, in today’s technological age, I’m still required to fill in paper forms and submit them by post? Why can’t I just log on to the relevant website, type in my details and hit “send”? This, by the way, is exactly what happens at my work if I ask potential clients to fill in forms. What’s with the truckloads of trees cut down in order to allow us to fill in paper forms?

Take, for example, Medicare. In order to get their own cards you would think it would be easy enough for my sons to go to a Medicare office, present photo ID and wait while the customer service officer typed a few details into the computer. But no, first they have to fill in a paper form and then they go to a Medicare office with the form and their photo ID and wait while the customer service officer types their details into the computer. Go figure.

But I must go now. I still have those forms to complete…

Monday, September 6, 2010

Melbourne Writers Festival - Part 2

So, last Friday evening I headed into the city to attend two events at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Both were being held at the same venue, with a one hour break between them, so I thought I would head to the bar during the break as I was on my own and didn’t feel like wandering through the city streets at night.

Arriving at the Capitol Theatre a bit early I did a circuit of the foyer before the reality sunk in that there was no bar! There wasn’t even a cafĂ©. There were no refreshments at all. So much for Plan A. Plan B presented itself as a table full of books for sale and I spent my time perusing them.

The first event was an oration on privacy entitled “Privacy, do we need it?” by Frank Moorhouse, the author I had seen the night before. I was eager to hear what he had to say as his writing was very frank and often graphic, and he was seemingly unconcerned with what his family or friends would think. I was to be disappointed. His oration gave the impression of skirting the issues at best and being fairly wishy washy at worst. His speaking had lost the punch of the night before and before the end of it people started leaving. The only thing I liked about his speech was the fact it went overtime, leaving me less time to sit in the foyer looking lost before the next oration.

The second event was an oration given by Noel Pearson, entitled “Nights when I dream of a better world: An argument for the Labor Party to move from the centre left to the radical centre of Australian politics”. Noel Pearson is one of Australia’s best known Aboriginal leaders and activists. He is a lawyer and the founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. He is a fantastic speaker and we, the audience, hung on every word and he received a standing ovation at the end of it. I can tell you right now, if he ever decides to run for Prime Minister or form his own political party, he will have my vote!

One point Pearson made has stuck in my head. He told us that when he and the other people at the Cape York Institute had attempted to define capability, they came up with the equation that “personal responsibility + opportunity = capability”. Think about that for a minute. We don’t often factor in personal responsibility when we are looking at what we are capable of. Too often we look at what others are offering us and forget that we also have the responsibility of helping ourselves. I thought it a noteworthy point!

I’m glad I made the effort to attend the events I did. Every year I tell myself I should go and every year I procrastinate until the Festival is over. I look forward to next year’s program and maybe attending even more events!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Melbourne Writers Festival - Part 1

The Melbourne Writers Festival is nearing the end and this year I was fortunate enough to attend a few events.

My old university had programmed a writer’s talk for alumni, so I thought I’d go and see what it was like. I had only heard of one of the authors and had not read any of their books, but that didn’t deter me. I must admit, driving there I thought I should have been a bit better prepared, maybe googled them at least, but I hadn’t.

I had been an off campus student, so it took me more than a few minutes to navigate myself to a parking spot. The teeny tiny map they had emailed was not a huge help. Likewise I had to ask the way to the Library where the event was being held. But I found it and was pleasantly surprised to see a table full of drinks and nibbles on offer. I had thought I wouldn’t be eating until I got home, so this was definitely a bonus.

While trying to work out the logistics of holding a glass of wine, a serviette and a nibbly bit that I was trying to eat, the lady standing next to me said “hi” and we struck up a conversation. She was very nice and at the end of the event we exchanged business cards, so you never know, I might have found a friend!

It was soon time to take our seats and my new friend and I daringly sat in the middle of the front row. The authors who were talking were Ananda Braxton-Smith, Frank Moorhouse and Jon Watts. Their brief was to talk about their writing process. I had heard of Frank Moorhouse before, but knew nothing of the two others.

Ananda spoke first. She writes novels for 10-14 year olds, set in medieval times. Her way of talking, her stance, the way she flicked her hair, all reminded me of an old school friend and I wondered what she was up to nowadays. Ananda’s process was all enveloping. She would draft her story, then write up storyboards, similar to cinematic processes, and put them out on her floor, shifting them around until she had the right sequence. She would also write poetry about characters in the novel, make collages, invent songs and pretty much become immersed in the work in progress. More about her novels here:

Frank Moorhouse spoke next. He fascinated me from the start. He had been writing for over 40 years and was part of the “Sydney Push”, a left wing, intellectual group which operated from the 1940s to the early 70s and were notorious for rejecting conventional morality and authority. What particularly captivated my interest was just how honest his writing was. He was promoting his memoir and his writing held nothing back; the sexual, the political, the good the bad and the ugly. Some of his essays can be found here: He admitted he’d often had death threats; journalists camped outside his house and had also lost friendships over his writing. I’ve always wanted to be more honest and open about my writing, but have been scared of the consequences, so his daring intrigued me. When I discovered he was giving a lecture on privacy issues the next night, I made up my mind to attend.

The last speaker was Jon Watts who had written a book on environmental issues entitled “When a Billion Chinese Jump”. He was the most amusing of all the speakers and, if he hadn’t written such an enormous book, I might be tempted to read it! You can find a taste of his writing here: His process had centred on procrastination and the determination not to shave until the book was written – and he hates beards! He is an environmental journalist based in Asia and the stories he had to tell were very poignant. He too has received hate mail from environmental sceptics but the evidence he has that we are killing our planet seemed to be pretty overwhelming.

All in all I had a super evening. My brain was stimulated, I found renewed motivation to write and I might have made a friend!

Part two – the next two events I attended – the Moorhouse oration on privacy and the powerful oration given by Noel Pearson, a prominent Australian Aboriginal activist and leader.