Back to school

January 31st, 2014

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted. Life has happened and challenged me in many ways, but I am a better person for having come through the struggles. It has been a time to learn about the person I am and how I see the world. The start of the new year is a good time for me to get back into blogging and re-joining the world.

The first week of school has ended and I feel excited even though my son has left the family nest and is on his unique journey of life. Today I reflect on the first week of the home schooling years. Back to when the box of books and lessons arrived on the door step. We opened the box with curiosity and anticipation. What would the theme of Dan’s learning be this year?

There is no other smell that comes close to that of new books. For me it brings pleasant memories of hours spent in the library, choosing books, checking them out and taking them home where I anxiously waited for the first quiet moment when I could sit and let the words fill my imagination and take me places.

This week, students all over Australia opened books, smelled the freshness of new paper and hopefully are looking forward to the year with anticipation and curiosity as they learn academically, socially, physically and spiritually. For some students, school isn’t greeted with the same enthusiasm. I feel for you. You require a different approach to learning and life, but I believe schools are looking for new and innovative ways to help you, too. To all the students from prep to university and mature aged, grasp hold of these opportunities, learn much, but most of all have fun.

I’d love to hear how your first week of school went. Please leave a message. Thank you.

Home Schooling: In The Beginning

June 26th, 2013

It took me a long time to make up my mind when I was deciding to homeschool my son. I suffered many nights tossing and turning, and when I couldn’t sleep I got out of bed and walked around the house hoping I’d come to my decision so I could go back to bed and sleep. I talked to neighbours, teachers, strangers I met in the street and family. All said, “Why would you want to homeschool? You won’t have any time to yourself. It’s the  only time I get away from my kids. It’s going to take up too much of your time. You’ll be with him twenty-four-seven. What about his socialisation, you can’t cut him off from other children, especially when he’s an only child. He’ll end up a loser.” These comments and more made me feel I was “the loser”.

That last comment was the one that burned me the most and really got my ire rising faster than a tsunami. It was the turning point. Loser eh? The quote on the slate in this post says exactly what was going through my mind. My son wasn’t coping with school life. He was bullied, the classroom was so noisy with rude children he’d become overwhelmed with the noise and have to leave the classroom. Teachers often found him out of the schoolgrounds. He just had to get away. I knew I had to do something because my son wasn’t learning. When I checked his school books, nothing had been written in there for two terms. He was attending a private school. A week later, he was home with me and I was determined he wasn’t going to set foot back in a school unless he wanted to.

Our first year was our hardest as Dan and I adjusted to being home together. Dan was in year seven. My husband ran a business from home, but he was out on jobs most of the time. I ran a business from home, too, so my time was divided between it and the homeschooling and running the house. What I learned about myself and my son during this time was more than I could have imagined.

Lesson number one, we were both individuals. Somehow, because he was my son, I thought he would work the same way I did: head done and just get the job done, also that when I’m focussed the rest of the world doesn’t matter. Dan was different, he was easily distracted by noises, ringing telephones, and people coming and going, so that he just couldn’t settle to the work. We solved this problem by encouraging him to listen to music while he worked. An outstanding result. At the same time, as he was completing his school work, he was able to do two or three things at one time which astounded me. He had two computer screens running several programs while he was listening to music and working.

My mind boggled. I stepped back and thought a moment. How could he be retaining all that he learned while he had all those distractions? The few times I insisted he focus on one thing, I was met with indignant stares and he refused my request. After much coercion from me where I said he would be more prolific and his school work would be finished faster, I got a shock to find his work stalled, and he was lost as though he’d been put in the middle of the jungle and didn’t know which way to turn. My insistence in trying to organise his time failed miserably, so we returned to his way and hey presto, work was completed well before time with top marks. Well, if that was his way of learning, then who am I to change that?

I’m glad I learned this lesson. It made me aware that some of my employees may have had unusual working habits to be efficient. I learned how to get the best out of the people working for me to keep them happy and fulfilled in their work and develop a special relationship with them I may not have done otherwise. During the next few weeks I want to share other lessons I learned from home schooling.

Have you had a similar experience? Please leave a comment for me below.

QUT Helping Humanity

June 4th, 2013

Our future is in safe hands! Last week, I travelled by train to Brisbane for a meeting. Catching trains is a fun way to refill my creative well. I talk with many people and it’s interesting to hear their perspective on life. Although this trip was different. On the way home, I decided to sit quietly and eavesdrop on interesting conversations happening around me.

Two young people sat in the seats in front of me. They wore navy blue uniforms with silver safety stripes and Qld University of Technology and some other words I couldn’t read monogrammed on their shirts. These young people spoke confidently about what they had learned that day; how they related to the other students; what knowledge they gained and how they might put that learning into practice in the future. They were paramedics in training: enthusiastic and keen to share ideas and discuss differing points of view.

We often hear some people saying our young people are wasting their lives or they don’t have respect for their teachers or other adults. Yesterday, those young people reassured me they do care, not because they’re hopeful of being employed in a high-paying job, or because the role has status, but because they truly believe, in their lifetime, they will be able to make a difference to people’s lives and the world we live in.

For those people who seem to be losing their way, I hope, in time, you will be able to overcome the challenges in your life, find out who you are, and take hold of the opportunities in a positive way that may change your life forever.

Thanks QUT and all other learning institutions for inspiring young Australians to be all they can be to make our world a better place.

Lest We Forget…

April 25th, 2013

I write this post with tears in my eyes. I woke up early this morning thinking about Anzac Day and the mothers of the young soldiers who left Australia in November, 1914 to fight half way around the world. My chest tightened with fear and sadness as I put myself in the mother’s shoes visualising my twenty-one year old son leaving for foreign shores to fight an unseen enemy. I can’t describe the pain and anguish that clenched my heart so hard I could hardly breathe. The women didn’t know how long their men would be away for, or if they would ever see them again.

Some mothers lost two, three or more sons as well as their husband. The pain must have been indescribable. It is often said that time heals, but I’m sure the ache is carried in these mother’s hearts until they die. Likewise, the men and women who came back with the memories and/or injuries of the events shared with their mates who didn’t make it would leave a perpetual agony inside them for those lives lost. I’m sure they wish it had been them who had died instead of their mates. The soldiers march today with memories and, I’m sure, feeling the presence of their mates beside them while they pray for future generations that they will be spared the pain that war brought to them.

What impresses me about the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought in the early part of last century was their eagerness to serve the mother country, Great Britain. They held an allegiance in their hearts that spurred them on to want to protect. Their efforts have given us the freedom we enjoy today.

Thank you men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and to all those who have returned, I honour you. You live with the memories of war every day. That can’t be easy. To all our soldiers who’ve served on foreign land since Gallipoli and are serving today, I salute you, too, for your willingness to serve and protect lives throughout the world. Please know that your courage and work inspires others. Anzac Day is your day to accept, without reservation, the admiration and respect of our community . Thank you for the priceless gift of yourself to Australia and New Zealand.

Lest we forget…

 

 

The Long Road to Reading and Arithmetic

March 21st, 2013

Hello, I’m a Pyjama Angel. I want to tell you about The Pyjama Foundation and the fabulous work it does with foster children.

This is an official poster of The Pyjama Foundation. The purpose is to raise awareness of the difficulties experienced by foster children and how this impacts their learning. This Sunday, 24th March, The Pyjama Foundation is conducting its major fund raising event for the year in Queensland with The Long Road event. This event involves non-competitive walk events throughout Queensland and Sydney. If you want to be part of this worthwhile event register here today: http://thepyjamafoundation.com/downloads/reg-long-road-home.pdf 

It’s going to be a fun event. I’ll be attending the Gold Coast event bright and early on Sunday morning walking and chatting with other participants.

The Pyjama Foundation assists children in foster/statutory care. These children often come from traumatic backgrounds and have a hard time trying to understand and where they fit in the world. The Pyjama Foundation has started a literacy and numeracy program for the children. For one hour per week, a Pyjama Angel visits the child to help them with reading and/or their arithmetic. Apart from being a mother, it is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every week I sit with my special child and I help them with their reading. There is much sharing about our day and what we are interested in, and then we read and play games or make up our own wacky stories. To share with a young mind is beneficial to their and my own creativity and it’s my way of giving back to my community. These children desperately need to be able to read and understand basic numeracy, like every other child, but it is their circumstances that make this road more diffcult for them.

If you don’t have the time to walk this Sunday, perhaps you would like to help this organisation achieve their financial goals by giving a donation. Thank you. These children need these basic skills to ensure they have a future.

Summer 2013

March 20th, 2013

I thought I’d share some photos of my favourite place where I walk regularly: Burleigh Heads. The weather has been rough this summer, so much that I haven’t been in the surf. Not only have the wild storms washed a lot of the beach away, but the water is now brown from the silt that has filtered down from the Nerang and Tweed Rivers. At first glance the eroded beaches are devastating, and the rough seas make surfing and swimming conditions dangerous. This photo taken from the headland near Burleigh Hill was the most tranquil I’d seen all summer. The photo was taken just before the sun set. You can see the gold sunlight touching the tips of the waves. It was a great place to meditate.

 

 This photo shows some of the erosion of the beach at Burleigh Heads. Because of the protective Burleigh Hill this area wasn’t as badly affected by the recent rough seas, however Surfers Paradise and other parts of the Gold Coast experienced major beach erosion with up to three metres and more washed away. The beaches are slowly recovering and the council is working hard to repair the devastation so that we have lots of sand again for our Easter tourists.

The cyclones wreak havoc along our coastline during the summer, however within a few months of normal conditions our beaches will return to their former beauty. There are a lot of similarities between how nature repairs the land and how people’s hearts and minds are repaired after they have been through a storm. In time peace will come again. The important thing to remember is that there are lessons to be learned from the difficulties we experience. We often come back stronger and better equipped than before for the new challenges that are ahead of us.

How about you, are you battling a storm at the moment? I’m encouraging you to accept the storm and work with it, for in time it too will pass.

Our Vulnerability

March 1st, 2013

John F. Kennedy said in a speech on June 28, 1963: The supreme reality of our time is . . . the vulnerability of our planet.

With a meteorite crashing to earth a couple of weeks ago, I began to think about Kennedy’s wisdom. When I saw the footage on TV of the flaming meteorite falling to earth, I was mesmerised and frightened that it might hit a densely populated area and thousands of people would die. This fireball was a fragment of what could be out there in space waiting to collide with this planet in the future. What if it was bigger? What if the other meteorite that passed earth by 27,000 kilometres collided?

Our planet is vulnerable. The human race and all the other life forms inhabiting this planet is susceptible to outside forces. If a gigantic meteoroid was heading straight for our planet, I’m sure NASA and all the countries of the world would come together to do all in their power to intercept or divert it.

Referring back to John F. Kennedy’s speech: are meteorites the only threat to our planet or is it something more than that? People may not be meteorites, but the impact people have on the earth’s resources is a threat to life. What I’m talking about is the amount of rubbish that is clogging up the streams and oceans.

I’ve just finished reading Jessica Watson’s, “True Spirit”. I was dismayed to read, while she was sailing around the world on Ella’s Pink Lady, she saw plastic junk and other debris floating in the water. Where does all this junk go? Do the sea creatures eat it; is it washed up on the beaches of all the continents of this world; does it float forever on the high seas accumulating  as one big mass; or sink to the ocean floor suffocating the life that inhabits down there? Whatever happens to the garbage is unacceptable and we must reduce  the amount we use. It is almost fifty years since John F. Kennedy made that statement. A timely reminder for us all to be aware of the impact each of us have on our fragile earth.

Clean Up Astralia Day is on Sunday, 3rd March. I’m hoping we’ll remember to think about the amount of electricity we burn, the rubbish we put in our bins; and the amount of water we use, so that we and our planet don’t die a long, slow and agonizing death.

Thank you to all the people involved in Clean Up Australia Day 2013.

For You…

February 18th, 2013

 

 Readers are awesome!!!

Thank you for buying my books.

 

Without readers I have no one to write for, and that prompts me to ask,’what am I writing for?’; and ‘for whom am I writing?’

I write to entertain and to encourage my readers they aren’t alone with their thoughts and ideas, that life gets in the way and the journey can sometimes feel insurmountable. At the end of a story, I hope my readers feel satisfied they have had a good read and are entertained for the few hours they’ve spent between the pages in my imaginary world.

I’d like to know if I’m achieving this for you, and what you would like to see in my books in the future. So don’t be shy! I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Good Writing Habits

February 1st, 2013

I’ve often been asked by many aspiring writers about my writing habits. It’s as if by finding out about my daily writing routine they will be validated in some way regarding their own habits. If they’re not yet published it’s as if they try my routine then they will surely be published.

Every author has a different routine. Some write in the early hours of the morning before they go to their day job. Some work into the long dark hours after a full eight hour day or more. Another snatches bits of time when the baby is asleep (this was me when my son was young). Others write during their lunch hour, while waiting in the doctor’s surgery, or sitting on the bus or train on their daily commute. I know of one successful author who only wrote on the weekends because she was a busy teacher all week.

It’s the flexibility and freedom of writing that attracted me to this work. I am definitely not a nine to five worker. When I was in the workforce in my other life, working that nine to five shift, I felt I was in gaol for the whole eight hours. For most of that time I was stuck in a work area where I couldn’t see the outside world. When I started writing full time I made sure there was light and the natural world around me. For variety, I go to the beach or a park or outdoor coffee shop to write. It’s good for my health and it fills my creative well; double benefit.

As to my current routine, I write every day without fail. Week days, eight hours or more, while weekends for only a couple of hours per day. I believe it’s important to keep the writing habit moving. I have this fear that if I miss a day, I may never get back to it. However, every year, I stop writing mid-December and don’t come back until about mid-January. I may make some random notes, but that’s all. This is my down time. Summer makes me come alive. It’s my time to bask in the hot sun for a few minutes then take a cool refreshing swim in the surf. It’s time to absorb the world around me into my heart and spirit and let nature take hold of me for those weeks. It’s also a time to meet new people and make new friends whom I like to connect with in the year ahead.

Writing is my life, and  the more I write I’m finding out more about myself and how I relate to this wonderful planet we live on. Ideas are limitless, they are everywhere I go. As to that writing habit: I just do what feels right for me. I expect you will do what works for you.

Happy writing!

How about you? Do you have regular writing habits or do you have to squeeze time to write out of your busy day?

Ouch…Rejection Hurts

January 24th, 2013

In the beginning of my fiction writing career, I wrote five novels and had them all rejected. My motivation dived and I though I would never pick up a pen again. So how did I keep my motivation going to write that next novel and win that publishing contract?

I knew I wanted to be a writer. Ever since I started reading in year one at school, words had captured my heart and I had to read every day. I loved writing stories and I would get carried away in my own little world. My teachers said I had a vivid imagination and encouraged me to keep writing stories.

The journey to publication has been one of the most difficult adventures of my life. My first five novels were rejected. It hurt and with each subsequent novel I wrote after each rejection, the writing became harder. Once I realised my first five novels were my apprenticeship and that  I had to learn how to write scenes that had a beginning, a middle and an ending; and the ending of the scene, had to hook my reader so that she had to keep reading the next scene and the one after that, until she finished the book, I was on my way to achieving my dream.

I learned how to create characters and how to develop them throughout the story so that they had grown by the end of the story. I learned how to structure my story of where the crucial high and low points of the story occurred. In this apprenticeship there was a lot for me to learn.

So how did I deal with the rejection letters? I gave myself permission to be disappointed and to shed a few tears. Life is about rolling with the good and bad times and being emotionally honest during those times. In the privacy of my own home, the next step was getting mad at the editor for rejecting me, and then mad at myself for being so naiive thinking all I had to do was write a couple of drafts of a book and send it off to a publisher. I was on a steep learning curve. After I nursed the hurt, I asked myself why I was writing and was I prepared to put the extra hard yards into the work?

I write because I feel compelled to write. A day without writing is like cutting off my right hand. I’m useless. I wander around lost and confused. There is nothing else I’d rather be doing than writing. I also write to entertain and to encourage people in their own life’s journey. So, that left me with no alternative than to learn all I could about the writing craft and keep practising until I became published. I am a determined person and I don’t accept defeat easily. I read every book I could get my hands on to learn my craft.

Because of my perseverance I was rewarded with a contract for African Hearts. What a thrill that was, but success came twenty long years after I started writing. I knew I wanted to succeed but I had to get over the pain of rejection first, develop a thick skin and believe that I could do the job. The most important lesson I learned was to keep writing, every spare minute I had every day.

Do you believe you have the perseverance to be a published writer? How have you handled your rejection letters? What motivated you? I’d like to hear your story.