22 June 2014

21 : Technology Distraction - Something Blue

The Age of Diverted Attention

It makes me very sad to witness how the latest technology gadgets, particularly our smart phones, have crept into daily routine and distract us from the life going on around us. I intentionally put my phone in my bag and don't look at it, unless there is a very good reason to, whilst my kids are involved in sporting activities. I do this on purpose because I don't want to be distracted by a device that connects me to a world of cyberspace, that quite frankly can wait. I pay a lot of money for these activities and the whole point of involving your children in them is for them to learn and achieve at a sporting activity. I enjoy watching them do this and I don't want to miss those magical moments of success for my kids. When they look up to see if I'm watching I want them to see that I am and that I care.

Today at our usual Sunday morning swimming lessons for Master 8 and Master 5 I couldn't help but notice the inactivity surrounding me.  Kids were dutifully swimming in the pool for their lessons whilst the majority of the parents were captivated by their phones; aimlessly scrolling in zombie like fashion, heads down, blinkers on. Some had younger siblings bouncing around them vying for attention, but to no avail. Parents were much more interested in transporting themselves into cyberspace. There were even several holding their babies awkwardly just so they could simultaneously scroll through their phones.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the technology in my smart phone. The reason I got it was I was sick of everyone around me being totally absorbed in their phones and I felt I was missing out. Having Google a couple of finger clicks away is fantastic to search for any information or to settle an argument. Being able to transfer money as you are in the checkout line so you can afford your shopping, brilliant. However, there surely has to be a time and place for this kind of technology. Surely a 30 minute swimming lesson is a time you can put down your phone and live without it whilst you watch your children achieving and learning.  

I have always loved watching families interact with each other, I do enjoy watching the baby class at swimming because their adults are in the water with them and enjoying learning with them.  It is a lovely thing to watch and I enjoyed it when I did it with my children. Unfortunately, these days when we are out and about with the family, at playgrounds, cafe's, museums, zoos and the like; witnessing the techno distraction is pitiful.

The complaint often made about technology gadgets is against the younger generation who are constantly stuck on social media without speaking to each other in person. Well it's about time we look at our own generation and lift our own heads and take a look at what is going on around us. I'm not against social media, I think it is a fantastic medium to communicate; in fact, in better ways than we ever have in the past. We can communicate online with friends and family throughout the world, I really don't believe that this can be seen as a negative. 

If the younger generation communicate better through social media than face to face then so be it, it is their prerogative to do so. I do suspect that their generation will actually foresee many of these social problems in the future and revert back to face to face communication, and learn to put away their devices as it will become socially in-acceptable for certain activities. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking. I am very aware that the younger generation are particularly environmentally conscious and motivated to make changes for the better, so I do have much hope for our future that will be in their hands.

I know I am guilty of being distracted and not paying attention to the things that matter, but I am conscious of this and I try and improve my own behaviour. I think the saddest part for me is when I see this behaviour in others I fear that they don't actually notice that their ignorance of their own children's success may lead to poor relationships in the future. 

It is a constant struggle to maintain the balance in our fast paced rhythm of modern life, but surely we can put away technology for, at the very least, 30 minutes once a week. I know I can.

19 June 2014

21 : Study - Something Borrowed

Adult Learning

Studying again is a good way to help prevent a decaying mind, however, it certainly isn't quite as easy at it used to be. It would have been a little more convenient for me to have been this interested in learning back when I had more things, such as: time, less responsibilities, a mind that agreed to work before midday as well as after midnight and once again time! Trouble is when you do have all those things you don't appreciate it and when you have the time to study it becomes just another mundane part of life you wish away. A benefit of learning when you are well and truly an adult, and it is your choice, is that you can actually enjoy what you are learning.  After all, lets face it, being time poor probably actually helps with organisation and motivation.

I'm sure there are plenty of younger people in universities and colleges around the world taking full advantage of their opportunities to learn. However, there are also many that do not appreciate the chances they have been given or even really know why they are studying in the first place. I am studying again simply because I have the choice to do so and I am interested in learning new things. I must admit I have questioned my motives, more than once, when bogged down with all the readings and deadlines, not to mention paying for the course itself. These issues can be a little trickier to justify.

After completing one semester and one introductory psychology subject I'm feeling pretty satisfied with my efforts so far. However, I need to complete two introductory psychology subjects before I'm eligible, along with my first degree, to enroll in a post graduate diploma. I'm really glad I made the decision to return to study and I hope that I can maintain my motivation and dedication to learning. Of course success and results will make a difference. I had previously become quite used to being a high achiever as a mature aged student, therefore, it is a little humbling to start a new discipline and have to start again from the very beginning.

Don't think for a moment that I can cruise through learning new material and get top grades without even trying. I have never been one of those students that whipped together their essay the night before it was due and scored a high distinction with no effort. Instead, I am the sort that realised I am entirely capable of doing well but only when I put in a mammoth effort.  

It had been a total surprise to me the first time I went to uni, at age 30, that I could do well if I applied myself. Go figure, all those high school reports were probably right with their recurring theme: 'does not live up to her potential'. When I first started uni I didn't even realise there was a grade called high distinction, however, once I worked out I could get them if I put enough effort in, it became my own personal challenge.

Completing my first degree was damn hard work, I was studying 100 km away from home, driving a minimum of 15 hours a week in my car to get there and back and working night fill at a supermarket at night to pay for the privilege. Oh yeah, I also had four kids to raise at the time and was spending all my spare time volunteering for the ambulance service! Despite all of this, I didn't hand one assignment up later than its due date and finished my degree scoring in the top 15% of the entire university. Now that was a nice surprise, considering I hadn't actually finished high school. Well that was all over 10 years ago now, unfortunately I haven't felt that motivated for a very long time, until now.

Life has changed again and I have finally settled on a new topic of interest that intrigues me. I'm not entirely sure how far I will take it, or what it will lead to, but I have my suspicions that it will be exactly what I have been looking for. I'm keen to start my second psychology subject in a few weeks, followed by the graduate diploma of psychology where I will be taking on two subjects per semester after that. Finishing just one subject has been hard enough, however, I'm up for the challenge. As long as I am still enjoying learning new things and gaining good results, I'll maintain my enthusiasm.

For anyone else out there that has toyed around with the idea of returning to study as a mature age student, I can highly recommend it. Just don't go into it unprepared and have unrealistic expectations. It's hard to get the brain working again in a scholarly way, and even harder to learn an entirely new discipline. My husband has joined me with studying again and he is trying his hand at something new as well.

The fantastic results my husband has achieved so far has made all his efforts worthwhile. He is finally getting an opportunity to enjoy learning simply for the sake of learning and studying topics he had never dreamed he would get a chance to. I think he will go a long way and realise that he is already an expert in his field. After all, this is where maturity does have an advantage. After living a life already enriched with experience you find yourself in a position where this finally does make a difference, and you can contribute in ways that you had not anticipated.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying a short break from study to work, instead, on finishing off the first draft of a manuscript I have been working on for a couple of years. As much as it is nice to be a part of formal learning it is also fun to still keep my dreams of becoming an author alive and keep writing. So much to do, so little time. I better get back to it...

14 June 2014

21 : Cherry Blossom Tattoo - Something New

Great Friday 13th!

had a very productive Friday 13th, I finished my first psychology exam and got a new tattoo!  I had been wanting to incorporate cherry blossoms in a tattoo for a long time but wasn't settled on how or where.  I had decided I wanted a bracelet look so I could enjoy seeing a coloured tattoo every day, rather than have it hidden away where I didn't get to enjoy it. I had searched through pictures of existing tattoos and looked at natural cherry blossoms and discussed my ideas with the same tattoo artist that designed my kids names and angel on my leg, we eventually settled on the above tattoo. The thing I love about this artist is his work is original and hand drawn, he incorporates your ideas with his vision of how the finished product will look.  It's amazing how a simple line drawing can transform to life through carefully applied layers of shading and colour with dimension, form and beauty.

I absolutely love it. It is exactly what I had wanted but had trouble expressing and visualising, the final product is much better than I had anticipated. I am pretty done with tattoo's for a while I think, this one hurt A LOT and now I'm feeling content and complete. After my last zen inspired tattoo's I couldn't wait to get another and had attempted to pace myself.  I certainly don't want an entire body or even a limb covered in tattoo's, I simply wanted the carefully chosen few that are enriched in personal meaning and beauty. I love the way my existing enso circle and 11:11 tattoo have been incorporated as if as one.

I have appreciated cherry blossoms since I was a child and every time I see them I am reminded how much I love them and how I enjoy their beauty. It's as if a small branch of a cherry blossom tree reached out and wrapped itself around my wrist; a permanent representation of what it means to blossom new life. New buds ready to burst into bloom and eventually break free from the branch and be carried away with the wind making way for new growth and change.  The circle of life continues, a reminder of fragility and beauty; that life is both precious and precarious and to be present in the moment before it so quickly passes.

Hopefully I had equal success with my first psychology exam, I guess I will just have to wait and see ....

08 June 2014

21 : Growing Up - Something Old...

Moving Onward and Upward

It's a strange thing growing up, you never feel quite done. When you are a kid you look at all the 'oldies' and think they just don't know anything, but it also seems right that they go off to work and pay all the bills. Yet when it's your turn, it somehow doesn't feel so 'right'. It's so cool when you get your first pay packet, for me it was cash in an envelope I had to line up and sign for, very happy! It isn't long before you realise how much physical work you are expected to do for the little money you receive, and become pretty annoyed that just because you are 'younger' you should somehow receive less pay. This part annoyed me for many years. Especially as I became a parent way too early and had to support a growing family with a pitiful wage that I worked full time for. Because I had to live so far from my job-only place we could afford, I would spend a minimum of 12 hours away from home each day just for the privilege!

I'm pleased to say that things have improved somewhat in the financial situation. However, in many ways it truly is only in comparison to how it used to be. Considering we have 8 children between us (only 2 have left home-sort of) we are still in the midst of the financial/poverty grind. We have heaps more stuff, I mean assets, but we also have only just enough money to pay for it all, just. I figured out a long time ago that although we have to be a slave to money in some respects, we certainly don't have to put up with situations that cause you to hate what you do. Life is all about choices and opportunity, you can choose to stay the same or you can take the opportunity to improve your life and your job.

I have been very privileged in my life to have had the opportunity to raise my own six children, three already into adulthood. It's really nice to see all that damn hard work and huge fortune you end up spending actually pay off with well rounded, educated and motivated adult children. Not too many families get the opportunity to have older children and younger children at the same time. Of course personally it means you lose your opportunity to finally do your own things and not have to worry about the daily grind of caring for children. Instead, I'm still taking kids to school, sports, dealing with homework and balancing studying and working to somehow pay for it all. The pay off is you get to appreciate a little more how quickly they will grow and learn to become independent of you, you already know that because you have been through it before.  When you are caught up in the middle of all the constant activity and drama the first time around you forget that this is just another stage of life, one that you need to get through to be able to move to the next. We are all learning together; the children, the teenagers, the adult children and us. All moving forward and experiencing new things all the time, nothing is set in stone, life is flexible and malleable.

I have my memories of my children as babies, as toddlers, as cheeky little kids and then the growing years, right up to the arguments of teenage years. I've done it all, experienced it all, and I'll do it all again and again until they are all grown and off exploring the world. I'm very lucky to have this experience extended over so many years, of course it means that my life has to take a different course than if I had never had any children. It doesn't mean that I don't get a life or experiences of my own. I have had an incredible life, I feel as though I've lived multiple lives all in the one and I'm only 42! I've got so much more to come and I'm excited about that, about the years ahead.

My biggest problem is fitting everything I want to do in my life, there are so many amazing places out there I want to visit and people I'd love to meet. I don't want to spend all of my days stuck in the same house, in the same neighbourhood, in the same job, surrounded by the same people. I want to learn new things, experience new things and new places. I feel I still have so much more to give and enjoy from this amazing world we live in. I'm so over worrying about all the little things, the crap of mundane life and mundane people. There's so much more to life than that, the world is ready to be explored.  

In the meantime, however, I get to enjoy my cozy home, I love where I live, I love the views from my house, I love that my kids are close to their school and their friends and I love that we have a place that we can truly call home. A home surrounded by family photo's of all our experiences, filled with hand picked pieces of furniture that we love, full of life, aquariums, laughter and small and large feet running through the house at all hours.  Although sometimes this can be annoying!

I especially love to walk through my home and enjoy the many, many photo's adorning the walls. I particularly love my baby pictures at the entrance of our home; all my babies lined up together, so many. I remember each and every one of their births and love those memories, they were amazing times but certainly not without the stress and worry that comes along with a new so called bundle of joy. 

Sadly there's one photo that reminds me of our loss, of the hole in my heart that will never quite heal. We still have her picture with the other babies, but it's not a picture of her birth, it's a picture captured when we first saw her on the ultrasound screen. A tiny perfect little human, that we made, a part of us; kicking tiny legs, waving tiny arms, heart beating strongly. Perfect. Within weeks we lost her forever, gone, just like that. Our dreams of her life with us gone. Others may be able to forget that and wipe it from memory, pass it off as one of those things.  For us we couldn't do that, she meant more to us than that, she had already become a part of our family; we gave her the name we had chosen and we put her photo with the others along with an angel to watch over her. She physically left us but has never truly left me, she is with me forever in a way none of the other kids will be. She won't grow up and leave me and move on, she will always be with me in her own special way, I have to learn to be at peace with that. Even still, the ache remains, the emptiness from her physical presence gone from this earth. 

However, I am so lucky to have had my six babies that did make the long journey and survived, one day I hope to enjoy grandchildren. Life will become full circle then and it will be amazing to see these new people existing because I brought my six into the world. I know those six will make a difference in their own ways and contribute to the world in amazing ways. I can't wait to see that and to see what else I have to give and get to experience ...  

Life is good!

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