Sunday, March 19, 2017

Assorted chocolates

When I was flying home from Germany a month ago, I found myself in the Frankfurt airport with about eight euros in coins. Who wants to lug a big purse full of coins halfway across the earth? Not me -- not when coins can be exchanged for chocolate, and chocolate is available at the airport duty free shop. So I stopped in at the shop. I looked over all the chocolates on offer, in an attempt to maximize the amount of chocolate I could obtain for less than eight euros. In the end, I bought a bag of assorted flavours, not from Germany, or Switzerland, or other countries you think of when you think chocolate and you're hanging out in the Frankfurt airport. The chocolates in my bag were made in Serbia. At a pretty good price. And it was delicious -- enough.

This blog post has a few assorted topics, chosen to maximize value for money. Maybe the post was not made in the same part of the brain where the best, fanciest blog posts come from, but it was made not too far away. And it is delicious -- enough.

Topic 1. Shopping with the child. The child seems to be hardly a child anymore, as he is nearly as tall as I am. And yet, shopping with the child is still not as easy as shopping with a fully functional adult, even one shorter than I am. The child still insists on driving the cart. The cart has funky wheels, causing the child to turn his entire body each time he tries to go around a corner. Then once around the corner, the child is not content to wait while the mother (me) finds the item needed and puts it into the cart. The child instead runs up and down the aisle, narrowly avoiding other shoppers, until the mother says -- again -- that the child needs to stop. Does she have to take the cart away? Seriously, when does the child stop being so ... "helpful"?

Topic 2. The snugness of life. Three weeks have passed since classes started, and I'm feeling a little better. I'm finding some rhythm, some time to prepare for class and research and student meetings and breathing. All my tasks are fitting into the week, although honestly the week fits a little too snugly, like a shoe that's just a little too small. I should have bought the half-size bigger. But at least the rubbing has stopped a bit, and I'm not getting blisters on my heal.

Last Saturday was a turning point. I got up, ate breakfast, looked at the family and the calendar and the task list and realized that I wasn't needed urgently. So I went back to bed, and stayed there until past noon. And it was lovely, except for the mild headache I got, brought about by weird sleep patterns. This Saturday, Tim was away again, so I went shopping with the Child instead of sleeping. See above topic. I was more prepared for this Saturday after last Saturday, though. So all was well.

Topic 3. Church dinner. One of the many reasons life has fit too snugly is that I was in charge of a dinner for somewhere between 20 and 40 women and girls -- it's hard to estimate for a church event how many will really come. I was organizing the way I typically organize: we had a theme and an idea for food and activities, and a committee of people who were taking care of parts of it for me, and tasks I would have to do a few days before, a day before, the day of, etc. But the leader over me was super nervous that it would all fall apart. After many, many messages, her nervousness had transferred to me, and I was sure it would fall apart. Which made it difficult to do those tasks starting a few days before, a day before, the day of.... I would have rather crawled back into bed and stayed there until noon. But I didn't. And my committee came through. And the leader over me realized I was hopeless and pulled a few touches together on her own (thank you, leader). And the dinner happened and was really very lovely as far as dinners go, with around 35 people in attendance. And only two chickens and a box of rice left over.
Everyone kept thanking me for organising such a lovely event. If it had really been just me, though, it would have been a lot less lovely. Thank goodness for committees who care. And thank goodness that is over. Now I don't have to use those organisational skills for a couple more months.

Even though the title of this post is "assorted chocolates", really there were only three flavours in the bag I bought imported from Serbia. So I will end with those three topics. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


I've met a lot of Australians whose favourite season is autumn. Here in Victoria, the weather doesn't seem to be as variable in autumn. It settles down into the 20s centigrade, after a summer of flying way up into the 30s and 40s and then way down into the 10s. The days are slowly getting shorter: we wake up before dawn again. But the afternoons are full of long golden sunshine.

Autumn is here. My semester started last week. I'm teaching one class by obligation, five hours in front of students, and one class by choice, as I'm trying to get notes polished into a book for graduate students. That's three additional hours in front of students, and hopefully three to five hours writing. My calendar has turned a pretty solid orange: the colour of work obligations.

It's a little harder to begin the semester with Tim in California. I also had someone visiting for work last week who wanted to talk about research projects, along with the new teaching obligations, so there ended up not being enough time for everything. It was one of those weeks in which I repeatedly dropped balls at home and at work. But having a weekend helps. The visitor is gone. The bathrooms are clean. The last load of laundry is in the machine. There is food in the fridge and we are ready for another week.

I read an article recently about how much we celebrate busy-ness, and how we compete with family and friends to sound the most stressed out. And how it isn't healthy. So I've been trying to mentally put a little more positive spin on my busy-ness. Sure the calendar is solid orange, but I chose those orange things. No, I can't do everything. But the things I'm doing are things that are fun and cool and make me happy.


But yeah, it will be a little rough settling into the new semester.

Monday, February 27, 2017

When Tim is home

When Tim is home, and I move the garbage can out from under the sink into the kitchen, I can come back a little while later and it will be empty and clean.

When Tim is away and I move the garbage can out from under the sink into the kitchen, a few hours later the kitchen smells like garbage. Oh. I have to take that out.

When Tim is home, the junk mail automatically gets filtered and shredded.

When Tim is away, the mail builds up in the box.

When Tim is home, he meets Jonathan on Mondays on the other side of town with a big bag full of skates and a snack, just before lessons. And hauls another big bag away immediately after.

When Tim is away, Jonathan hauls two big bags up the hill to school, then onto the bus and train, and off to skating lessons on his own. I show up to help haul at the very end.

When Tim is home, everybody gets two kisses at bedtime and gives two.

When Tim is away, I only get one and I only give one.

When Tim is home, a hot dinner awaits my return on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

When Tim is away, we pull out cold bread and leftovers those nights.

When Tim is home, the cupboards and the fridge magically fill up with food. We're never low on milk, and the fruit bowl has at least enough apples to make it through tomorrow night.

When Tim is away, we ration fruit. Don't eat the last apple or you don't get one for lunch tomorrow. I have to stop at Oakleigh on my way home on the train to pick up about twenty pounds of fruit. And then haul them up to our apartment in time to turn around and catch the end of the skating lesson. Tired.

When Tim is home, I go to bed on time.

When Tim is away ... it's late.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


I spent ten days in Germany in February at a workshop. The venue was near the city where old friends live, so I was able to stop by and spend a weekend with Jorg and Anja before the workshop.

The weather was beautiful in Melbourne just before I left.

And also beautiful, but very different in Germany.

The workshop was held at a re-purposed palace.

With the ruins of an old castle on the hill.

It was a lovely journey. I spent time with old friends in a beautiful setting, made new contacts for work and discovered new and interesting projects and ideas for research.

And to add a little balance, the trip required a 14 hour flight to Dubai, followed by a seven hour flight to Frankfurt, followed by three hours on the train and then a taxi. And that was just the transit time, not the check-in time and wait time and layover time. My winter wardrobe was not quite sufficient, especially the shoes, for the wet and the mud and the slippery. I spent most of the week tired, although I did ok with the jet lag. I didn't get home until 1:00am Sunday and then had to meet a colleague for work at 8:30am Monday.

But all the good and all the bad has passed. The photos from the trip are lovely.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

First day of school

The summer holidays have ended. Jonathan went back to school -- year eight -- on Wednesday. Here he is the first day.

And here he is with his dad. He is getting really really tall. 98% percentile for his age, said the coach from his recent skating camp. Really tall.

And off on public transit on his own.

Later that day, needing to stretch my legs, I took a walk around campus, and found a large flock of corella cockatoos over by the main campus water feature.

And a pair of long beaked corellas, too.
The bird pictures really don't have to do anything with this post, or the topic at hand. I just saw the pictures and wanted to show you how lovely campus can be, on the side by the water feature, and how lovely birds are here. But you already knew that I have a thing for Australian birds.

And so back to the topic at hand, near the beginning of every school year, I realise I could be significantly more productive and efficient if I just organised my office a little better.

Trip to OfficeWorks.
Twelve whiteboard markers, one pale blue binder, and a large stack of paper later, I am ready for a very productive beginning of my own school year. Luckily I still have a couple of weeks before that happens.

Plain old boring life

The last time I wrote, I said that my next post would be about plain old boring life again. So I've been hanging around waiting for plain old boring so that I could write my next post. And it hasn't happened.

The week after my parents left, some crazy guy drove a car into a pedestrian zone in my neighborhood, killing six people, including a baby and a nine year old child. I was at work when I heard about it, 50 minutes away from home. And then I realized that Jonathan was supposed to be taking a tram down that very street, on his own, at that very time, coming back from skating camp. So I took a few deep breaths, trying not to panic, and sent a query text to Tim. And fifteen minutes later I knew that my family was ok. Both home, both safe, both ok.

But I'm kind of not ok. Sometimes I still have to take a few deep breaths, trying not to panic, letting my family live life fully rather than hunker down in a bunker somewhere with a two year supply of food and ammunition. Part of the job of being a parent is to let a child swallow up a huge portion of your heart, so that your entire happiness is wrapped up in them, and then let them grow up anyway. You can't put them in a bubble suit, steel reinforced, and follow them around every moment of their life. And even if you could, that wouldn't even necessarily keep them safe. Crazy things happen. And there is a whole third of my heart on the line, but I have to just let it go.

And that was only the first week.

The next week we celebrated Australia day, the national holiday, soon after a presidential inauguration in my home country. We stood and sang the Australian national anthem in church. And in my home country, the crazy guy who was now the president spewed out decree after decree about building walls, banning travel, taking away health care from vulnerable people. He didn't care how many people were hurt and how many everyday lives were disrupted. He didn't need a reason, because he was president. And I started thinking about how beautiful everyday life is, and how great it is to be able to just assume that people try to do the right thing, for good reasons. And how much we will lose if we can't assume that. We will have to hunker down in bunkers with a two year supply of food and ammunition just to protect ourselves from our neighbors. I don't want to live in that world.

Deep breath.

Being anxious makes life difficult. It's hard to focus on research, in particular, when you are worried or upset. And if I can't get my research done, I can't justify writing blog posts for fun. So I just don't do anything. Curl in a ball and dream up the floor plan of my bunker.

I hereby resolve to do a little better.

Friday, January 20, 2017

More travel log

Ok. Still going with the travel log here.

Next day of the fabulous holiday, we drove back to Wilson's Prom, and did the 90 minute hike to the top of Mount Bishop. The views were spectacular!
What you don't get from the photos is any sense of temperature. So I will tell you about the temperature. It was hot. And a little muggy. There had been some rain earlier, and the sun was heating all that haze. We were kind of sweaty.

And then we got to the top, and we all took pictures in which we were smiling and acting happy.
But what the selfie doesn't show is that there were dozens of biting flies living up there at the top of the mountain. And they thought that I looked really good. (Because I do, don't I? I look really good there with my gorgeous finger and my hiking hat and the turquoise waters far off in the distance.)

Anyway, the flies thought I looked really good and so they started sampling my flesh and decided that indeed, I tasted really good.

And so that was enough for me. The views were not worth the flies. We trekked back down off the mountain before taking the group photo up at the top. Sorry.

To cool off, we spent the afternoon on Norman beach. This time, I brought along a boogie board.
You have no idea how much I love those things. The waves weren't too huge, but there were large enough waves every now and then to go for a ride. Jonathan tried the boogie board for a while, and he had fun, but he let me have the board back when I asked for it nicely. Then Tim and Jonathan walked up and down the beach, looking at shells. And my parents camped out on the sand, occasionally venturing into the water to get their feet wet. It was lovely. This is the right way to spend January, my friends.

What else? In my travel log, I have not yet said anything about the wildlife we saw, except the birds. We also saw kangaroos and wallabies and Tim and Jonathan saw a wombat. We were hoping to spot an emu, because that could go onto our bird list, and because emus are supposed to live in Wilson's Prom. But no luck.

I have also said very little about driving. I was the only driver on the car. Tim was the designated navigator. For a while, that meant he sat in the front, until my Dad got voted out of the back for being too tall. Tim does ok navigating from the back seat. In any case, the driving was mostly just boring, especially driving home from the adventure.

And then we were home. And this would be a good place to stop, and start again another day with the next adventures, but I've got some momentum, so I'll finish up.

Monday after our return, we took a walking tour of the city centre of Melbourne, and we saw a lot of lovely sights. Like a possum in a tree.

And the Royal Exhibition building, built in the 1880s.
And Parliament House. And the QV market. And laneways. And Skeletor.

Great walking tour. I recommend it.

Tuesday I sent my parents off on the Great Ocean Road on their own. I also recommend that.

Wednesday we somehow ended up taking trains for about five hours. Just to do something different.
My parents sat on the train writing their memoirs.

Then we got off the train and saw ... some mud.
Then we got back on the train and they wrote their memoirs some more.
One last picture: Jonathan in front of his school. Grandma and Grandpa wanted to take a picture of him there.
And that was it! That was all. The parents boarded a plane, and we went back to plain old boring life without them. And that's where we are now.

Next post: something about the plain old boring life, I guess.