Things I Liked In May

Each month I do a post covering ‘things I liked’ – from articles to videos to tv shows to books to anything in between. May is my birthday month so I’m extra happy to share this list with you. Here’s my list of what I liked in May. What have you liked this month?

33 Things to Do and Undo When Simplifying Your Wardrobe

Maybe the best thing I have read about minimalist wardrobes and decision making. This list is straightforward and simple. Just like I want my wardrobe to be.

Debunking The Myth Of Lady Jane Grey

This was fascinating – it tracks the development of the common image of the ‘Nine Days Queen’ – Jane as a weak and helpless victim and her mother as a domineering and awful manipulator. Even if you don’t know much about Jane Grey, you should read this article – there’s a lot of interesting stuff in there.

Uprooted

I read Uprooted, by Naomi Novik recently. It came highly recommended from a friend, and I absolutely loved it. It was the first fiction/fantasy book I have read in a long time that I simultaneously didn’t want to finish and couldn’t put down. I can’t emphasis enough how interesting and clever this story is – it hits all the conventions of the fantasy genre while still being fresh and new and surprising. Read it! (Link to a more indepth review is above).

Writing Retreat

I went on a writing retreat a few weeks ago, and it was the best. Mick and Kamina from We Write You have done up a ‘how to’ guide for your own retreat!

Historic Royal Palaces Podcasts

The Historic Royal Palaces Society are responsible for the upkeep of a number of palaces and castles in Britain. They also do a lot of work producing media to educate people about these buildings, their history and the people who lived there. I recently discovered their podcasts. They are very easy, interesting, informative listening – especially if you’re a history nerd like me!

The Intersection of Minimalism and Luxury

Been thinking a lot about why I like minimalism – and this article helped to resolve a few things. I like living simply where I can, where it makes things less stressful and less cluttered, but that doesn’t mean always denying myself things. It means being thoughtful and deliberate about what is important to me, what is truly most valuable to me, and using my resources on those things instead. For me, it’s not necessarily fancy airport lounge upgrades; but there are things I want to spend money on, and living simply might make those things more possible in the future.

What Reign Got Right

There is a show called Reign, which is ending it’s fourth and final season soon. It’s a loosely historical trashy Gothic drama romance (it’s a thing, okay) and while it has many, many absurd moments, characters, costumes and plotlines, it does get some things right. Namely, it’s portrayal of women. I don’t agree with everything in the above article, but it mostly hits on why Reign has such devoted fans. Also because Megan Follows is flawless as Catherine de Medici and is the real hero of the show.

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The real hero. Will do anything for her family and France (in that order unfortunately).
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Still not clear on why Mary likes wearing headbands and beads in her hair in this alternative historical reality…but I don’t judge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the ANOVA – a blog on education

This blog is a highly analytical and slightly cynical commentary on education. This post is my favourite – the Official Dogma of Education. Here’s a great excerpt:

10. Our educational policy succeeds when it improves the academic performance of all students, and when individual students rise above and leave their peers behind. The tensions between these goals are to remain unexamined.

But where is the green sheep? Old maps put the art in cartography

Beautiful and informative maps of Australia.

Sorry 

I say sorry too much. Way too much. So much it is annoying (sorry). Someone made a video about all the times they didn’t need to say sorry and I related a little too much.

House-sitting

Recently I house-sat for some friends. I took care of a 5 month old pupper named Potato and worked on my assignment. It was almost like a holiday. A really productive holiday. Here’s five ways to make the most of house-sitting and have yourself a mini-retreat.

1. Buy nice food

Plan to cook a new recipe or an old favourite. Or just buy snacks you like. Mix it up, shop differently and enjoy the change in routine. If you’re really needing a change, trying eating vegan or vegetarian while you’re away from home.

2. Explore a new local area

Take the dog for a walk. Or just go for a walk. See what you can find without using Google Maps. Enjoy new scenery.

3. Plan a nice outing

You might want to use Google Maps for this part. Find a nearby cafe, restaurant, theatre, art gallery, bar or anything that you wouldn’t normally be close to. Plan an outing there, alone or with friends. Pretend to be a local and live it up.

4. Try different routines

Outside of your normal setting, try doing things a little differently. Try eating breakfast before your morning shower. Try showering at a different time of day. Or take a bath. Use this opportunity to experiment with how you do things – you may find it works better. Or you may just appreciate your normal routine even more.

5. Work hard at a project

This one is more optional. I had an assignment to do, so I worked really hard at being productive which I was house-sitting, planning in my breaks with nice outings and Potato walks. But if you have an ongoing project you never have time for, this could be a chance to make serious progress. Writing a story? Sorting out photos on your laptop? Finishing a drawing or art project? Whatever it is, a change of environment might help more than you realize.

Here’s a few more pictures of the pupper I looked after; thanks for letting me hang out with you Potato!

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Animals Abound: What Dogs Would The Characters From Friends Be?

Lucas and I had a conversation about what type of dog each character of Friends would be. Then this post happened. You’re welcome. 

Ross – Greyhound

Takes themselves way too seriously. Causes divided opinions. 

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Monica – German Shepherd

Hard working and loyal. A little intense sometimes. 

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Chandler –  Irish Setter

A bit ridiculous, but knows it. 

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Phoebe – Labradoodle

Adorable. Scruffy but has a big heart. 

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Joey – Dachshund

Loves food. Has no concept that anyone could be laughing at them, ever. 

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Rachel – Afghan Hound

Very pretty. A little confused how it got here.

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This Is How It Feels

Some days, it’s like there’s white noise all around the inside of my brain.

It’s like there’s a static noise in my head. For anything to get into my head and make sense, it has to penetrate this fog of noise. For anything to come out of my head and to be useful and coherent, it has to travel all the way through that white cloud that’s blurring the world and making everything hard.

Some days it’s like my thoughts get stuck on loop.

I keep repeating the same (usually untrue or unhelpful) concept or idea or set of words – anything really – over and over in my head, because I can’t shake the hold it has on me. I can’t redirect my thoughts. When I try my brain sabotages me and I end up back where I started, fixated on the same idea I was trying to escape.

Some days I have to sing all the words to hymns I know to drown out the chaos.

I’m scared to hear where my thoughts are going and I can’t convince my brain to think about productive or useful things – so I sing ‘How Deep The Father’s Love For Us’ or ‘Come O Come Emmanuel’ until I don’t want to think the bad thoughts anymore.

Some days I can only articulate my thoughts in the written word.

So I write and write and write and write until there are no more words. The important thing isn’t that people read what I have said; it is that I have found words for what I am feeling.

Some days, all this or some of this happens and I can function anyway. I can be polite and social or at least not catatonic. Other days I am blank eyed and mute, unable to form coherent thoughts or follow complex arguments.

Some days my rocky mental health makes me run from people, run from deep emotional connection and hide from the world, isolated and alone. Other days it makes me cling to the people who make me feel safe, who understand the mess inside me and just take each day with me as it comes.

Some days I get sad for no reason. There’s no one thing wrong – it’s just that I have depression, and sometimes my mood is illogical or unstable. Sometimes I get sad. Sometimes I get very very sad. Then sometimes, it will go away again.

I’m not trying to shift blame or excuse my actions – I’m trying to explain. Things aren’t easy at the moment and this is how it feels. Getting through a work shift or focusing for an hour to work on an assignment take a huge amount of energy and effort. Little things can unbalance and upset my day, can derail my thoughts and leave me wobbly.

This is how it feels, at least right now. If I had more words, more insights, I would share them. If I had more answers, I would share those too. But I don’t. This is all I have right now. The reality of my lived experience. The sadness I carry and the fears I hold.

I’m hoping one day it won’t feel like this, at least not so much. I’m hoping for a good day, then another good day, and then eventually some good days in a row until suddenly I can’t remember the last bad day.

That’s all I’ve got right now.

10 Moments from Austria That Stayed With Me

My transcript from my time in Austria at the University of Graz arrived this week, which apart from being exciting in that I can claim credit, has also made me miss my winter adventures in Graz and Vienna. The weather in Brisbane is dropping, but it won’t be a winter with snow and frost and scarfs and gloves (for example, right now Brisbane is a whole 17 degrees).

Memories and reflections are a funny thing. They change over time – the things that stand out from my trip studying overseas are not the same things I would have drawn attention to at the time, or even in the weeks immediately afterwards.

So here’s 10 moments from Austria I remember vividly.

  1. Walking around the corner in Vienna and seeing Hofburg Palace before me and literally laughing out loud in delight.
  2. Wandering through the backstreets behind St Stephen’s Cathedral and encountering a ruined chapel and a surprise English bookstore.
  3. Walking into souvenir stores because they were warm and I was freezing.
  4. Not being able to speak in the Art History (Kunsthistorisches) Museum because I was in awe of the building and the art.
  5. Travelling with a group of Australian students and having intense constant interaction with them for three weeks.
  6. Walking up the Schlossberg (a mountain with a ruined castle on top of it), seeing the ground covered in snow and the texture of it underfoot.
  7. Stepping off the bus at Hallstatt and understanding why it had been called ‘the prettiest place on earth.’
  8. Walking past a dog park with bare trees and muddy dogs and stopping to pat them.
  9. Waiting for the tram to university one morning and having a ‘oh my gosh I’m studying in Austria’ moment. Also seeing a dog riding the tram for half price.
  10. Walking through Graz on my last day of class, with a clear blue sky and beautifully coloured houses, and knowing my adventure was almost at an end.

If you want to read more detailed accounts of my adventures, there are three posts up at the AIMOverseas blog (Week 1, Week 2, Week 3) and you can read my writing about it here on my own blog. (About Vienna, About The Course I Did, About Chance B, About Steinhof and About What I Learnt Travelling).

Out Of Control

I like to be in control.

I like to feel I am on top of a situation. I like to know all the relevant information and to feel I can make an informed decision. Then, I like to know that I have the ability to follow through on the decision. I like to know I can implement the plan without too much fuss or stress.

This works sometimes. I can control my schedule, my exercise, my eating, my spending and how I use my energy. I actually get joy out of discipline, out of control and measured responses, out of patience and necessary self-denial.

But I can’t control everything. The idea of someone having power and influence over me, the authority to direct my life and make choices for me, can be scary. I have quit things or said no to things because I fear it will take over too much of my life, or force me into certain paths of decisions. Sometimes that’s a healthy fear. Sometimes it’s not.

Self-control. I can control myself (most of the time). But there’s often things in my life outside of my control. When I have a chest infection, I can’t exercise the way I want to. When I eat dinner with friends or family, I eat what has been prepared and served. When my university changed the structure of my degree, it extended my time at uni for an extra six months. All outside of my control.

Though these are things I want to control, it doesn’t always work out that way. When we try to control other people, we quickly learn we can’t. Sometimes, people simply have different priorities and focuses than we do. No one is in the wrong or the right – we just want different things.

There are many things in my life that not only are out of my control, but should be out of my control. I am learning that it is not always good to be in control. My life is not my own. I am not the one pulling the strings or writing the script.

I easily forget that I am not God. I am not the one who is in charge and it is not my responsibility to ensure the world is run right. My idea of how the world should be run is not always right and even if it was, I have no authority to change things – not the kind of power God has.

Even my own life does not belong to me, but rather, I have given it to Jesus. Christians say that phrase often and easily – give your life to Jesus – but it is a heavy, serious thing. I have given control of my life to someone else. I have given up autonomy. I have submitted to a good God who knows more and knows better than I do.

I have acknowledged that when I try to control and manipulate things, people get hurt and the world is worse. I have accepted that I do not know best. You would think this would make giving up my life easier – but it doesn’t. It is the most difficult thing I have ever done. It is the process of daily denying myself autonomy and submitting to Jesus instead.

What does this look like? It means choosing kindness when I would rather be cruel. It means prioritizing relationships and people when I want to hide away. It means choosing to be generous with my money when I’d rather spend it on myself. It means that in all my decisions, I consider God’s glory and his will as the first priority, before my own wants and desires.

Because even though I struggle with wanting to be in control, I am learning: I can trust God with all these things. I can hand over these worries, these fears and the situations in my life that I don’t like and I can trust that God is good and is in control of all things.

A lot of the time this means my life will not look like what I might have envisioned. But that is okay. I believe God has a better vision for my life than I do, because he values my eternal safety over my here and now safety.

It does not mean my life will be easier or ‘better’ by human standards. In many ways, it will be harder. But that is okay. God does not want an easy or unchallenging life for me. Rather, he wants life to shape me to be more like him.

How do I know that God has the best intentions for me though? How can I trust him? How can I believe all this pain and sacrifice is worth it? Well, a God who was willing to give up his life for me must be trustworthy. A God who loves when he has right to hate must be merciful. A God who keeps his promises will keep me safe.

I can rely on God. In fact, I must rely on him. I don’t have the power to control things. But God does. I can rest safe in the knowledge that he is in control and he is good.

Please Practice What You Teach

I’m a university student. I’m halfway through my fourth year of university class, tutorials, and of course – lectures.

I’ve had some amazing lecturers and tutors over the last few years. People who are passionate about learning, about helping us become the best teachers we can be. They want to inspire us with their passion, and teach us all the things we need to know to help students learn – and to help students love learning. To those lecturers and tutors, I want to say thank you.

However. There are the times where I am struggling through lectures and enduring through tutorials. There are the times when the person up the front of the room is speaking about ‘best practice’ for teaching – yet is reading off a PowerPoint slide. There are the times when the juxtaposition of the situation makes me want to either laugh out loud or cry in frustration.

Dear Education lecturer, teacher of teaching, please won’t you practice what you teach? I know you know how to engage a classroom, how to make content interesting and activities useful. I know you believe that each learner is unique and that a good lesson has multiple ways of engaging a range of learning types. I know you would be horrified if you walked in my classroom in five years and saw worksheets and PowerPoint slides and students copying off the board. So why do you continue with these methods that we know don’t work?

Is it because we’re adult students? I’m sure you know that doesn’t mean that knowing comes easily to us. In fact, it means there’s a whole cloud of other priorities that compete for our attention. Then throw into the mix that Education degrees have a higher than usual percentage of mature age students, and there’s even more barriers being thrown up. Changing classrooms, new technologies, bad associations with learning and teachers, preconceived notions from previous professions – plus, it’s possible your students have just been out of the practice of learning for a very long time.

Please, lecturer, won’t you listen to my plea? I know it will take more effort, more time. Good teaching always does. But just as you expect the best from us, could you also expect the best FOR us? Could you make your lectures interesting, dynamic, with examples that connect with us and clear explanations that help us? Rather than so much time devoted to complicated assessment pieces we’re not sure even you understand, could you focus on helping us see the value of the information you are presenting, with motivations beyond the end of semester exam?

Maybe I am an idealist – well, I know I am. But I feel these classes could be so much better. We as students could be so much better – but only if you show us how to be. Please, dear lecturer – lead by example. Be the teacher you want us to emulate. Won’t you please practice what you teach?

Things I Liked In April

Each month I do a post covering ‘things I liked’ – from articles to videos to tv shows to books to anything in between. April has been a bit of an upside down crazy month for me, so my list is not as extensive as it has been previously. But here’s my list of what I liked in April. What have you liked this month?

New Doctor Who 

Doctor Who season 10 has aired it’s first three episodes. I’m hesitant to comment on the overall quality of the season yet, but I am just enjoying watching something so familiar yet new. I like Bill, our new companion, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to Peter Capaldi as the Doctor yet. I have Opinions about the storytelling and themes but I’ll probably write a whole thing about that later on.

Break The Twitch

A site for all your minimalist needs. Lots of helpful thoughts on living simply and changing your habits of buying, spending and eating more than you really need.

Friends

My friend has written a post about deliberately cultivating friendships. I like her post and I like my friends who are intentional about doing things together. My weekly writing group just had a writing retreat, and it was refreshing, relaxing and totally achievable without too much stress.

Using Social Media Differently 

I’ve deactivated my Facebook, and don’t think I will be returning. I’ve also changed how I am using Instagram – I now have an account for my blog, searchingforgrace_blog and a separate account called animals_abound where I will be taking and posting pictures of all the animals. All of them.