Because balloon antlers are fashionable…honest…

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Oh man, what a crazy week it’s been! I didn’t sleep after coming home from Guides last Monday, and when my alarm went off on Tuesday morning I was feeling very pathetic and miserable. I just couldn’t get moving and felt pretty ill. I knew that the last two classes days before going to Germany are important for our final assignment for this module though so I managed to get out the door – though very late. Lucky for me, the 8.30 train to Glasgow was running just as late as me so I ended up being to class just in the nick of time. Phew! I was however, very grateful for a lift home in my friend’s car to our Soul Surfer gathering – the thought of repeating the subway-train-bus journey back home wasn’t an encouraging thought.

By Thursday I was full of the cold. I had Friday off to do uni work and to go to a meeting about the workloaad for Germany. Saturday I had promised to volunteer as a Steward at the Alpha Scotland vision day being held at our church. It was an early start, but lovely to see some old friends – including my pastor and his wife from my Aberdeen days (and two of their sons I babysat sometimes when I was a student. They introduced me to Star Wars). I did however get SOAKED trying to get home – I really miss having a car. Pilates got cancelled for the third day in a row. 

Finally on Sunday, we got there. And my friend came with  a flashdrive full of photographs from the Baden-Powell Award party we had for two of our ‘graduated’ Guides taken by her husband. The photo above included…

Now, I’m feeling much better, though still a little scabby and sneezy. There’s a lot happening on the Landlord duty front. A friend of our family was buried today having lost a battle with an extremely rare form of cancer a couple of weeks ago. We just had the CEO of Girlguiding UK visiting our Guides (more of that on The Girlguiding Life soon). I have my last uni class tomorrow. I head to Germany this coming weekend and I’m trying not to freak out about it.

Oh, and I still need to finish the reading for my class tomorrow. And it’s almost Midnight. 

Deep breath.

Phew.

I can do this. 

:)

What the kids need to know…

Ok. Confession. I got an iPad for uni and I started taking it into work because our office computer is decrepit. I was working over lunch, and switched from my work e-mail to twitter and saw a link to the latest Kid President video on SoulPancake. This time of year is the busiest for people coming for counselling after termination and miscarriage, and it does get you feeling kinda blue. This video just gave me a little bit of hope and lifted my spirits…

Last week my friend came to visit my Senior Section to tell them about a charitable organisation she volunteers with. And she brought with her one Jambino* . He spent half the meeting chewing on my finger and an ice cold flannel (teething is rubbish) and the other half asleep with his face smooshed against me. The first night I met him and held him last summer I had him semi-awake lying flat on my lap and I told him everything that he needed to learn about. You know…important stuff like Jesus, being a Hearts fan, knowing Gibbs’ rules and how his father is totally wrong about Starbucks brownies. Oh, and cartwheeling on beaches…

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Welcome to the world Miles (and PS to Kid President Robby Novak, I don’t know about being an uncle, but I know that being an Auntie totally rocks!!)

*don’t worry, it’s another one of my nicknames! he has a real name that suits him well that his parents put on his birth certificate. Jambino means ‘wee jambo in the making’ in the Laura Anne baby name dictionary and is only used for blogging purposes. Just like Miss Sweetroot, Elastaboy, Mr Teapot, Mini Kahuna and Princess Monkey. And bump yet to be nicknamed…

Halfway through January already…

The next crazy quarter has begun. I went back to work and Senior Section last week, and it wasn’t the best start to the year ever. Knowing that university classes and Guides joined the timetable this week, I spent Sunday in preparation. Making sure all the laundry was done (though I stupidly forgot to do my bedsheets – doh!). Making a big pot of chilli and a loaf of chocolate banana teabread both to be divided into lunch-sized portions and frozen. By bedtime I had a raised temperature and a nasty headache which I figured was no big deal until I got up on Monday morning and realised that I was seeing dots and feeling sick and dizzy. Right back to bed I went (after phoning work and taking some paracetamol) and I didn’t wake up until 1 p.m. – thankfully feeling a good deal better.

But ugh, it wasn’t how I wanted to start the week.

I started a new course at university on Tuesday, learning about Educational Models for Community learning and development. It was like two worlds collided for me – counselling and education as we were given big pieces of paper to reflect on our ‘learning journeys’ with the barriers and facilitators to our learning along the way.

I’m terrible at drawing, but it was nice that I finally got to use ALL the contents of my pencil case from my Paperchase “I’m a student again” shopping spree back in September. All three of my recycled pencils got used. My pencil sharpener and the eraser. And the mini highlighter pens.

Yes. I’m easily pleased!

This is the course I’ve most been looking forward to, as it is all totally new to me and I’m intrigued to learn more about educational theories, models and practice.

Germany is edging closer too – my paper is due in on Monday (eek) and it’s less than a month until we leave. It’s come around super fast and I’ll admit I’m starting to get super nervous for the plane ride. I got myself into a right state the last time I had to fly and I already often feel like an idiot amongst my super intelligent, worldly experienced classmates quite a lot of the time (even though they are all so lovely!).

Now it is time for a work meeting. I’m typing this as I eat my tea in the office! So long for now…let me know how life is going (mine is going to be work, uni and guiding for a while again).

It’s a strange thing this life…

I’m not sure how we got 6 days into January already.

I spent the first 4 days of the new year with my older brothers. It’s the first time in a long time we’ve spent more than 2 days together at one time. For four days, we existed in our family bubble. And then all of a sudden it was time to get ready for going back to normal life. Going to the supermarket to get ‘normal’ food. Doing laundry. Finding work bags. Checking and replying to e-mails amongst the screeds of spam. Realising how much I didn’t get done during the holiday period.

And how many friends I still hadn’t seen.

I was reflecting after being at the beach with the Soul Surfers crew yesterday on the strange life I lead. Believing in God, but avoiding church. Being a Christian yet being deeply immersed in social issues that are polarising politically. Being known as the person that ‘knows everyone’ but rarely seeing people in person.

I find myself challenged as I head into this new year, working out my beliefs and values. Being drawn to gain understanding of different belief systems and practices. Examining myself to recognise my prejudices.

On the simple side, I think of all the tasks I have a responsibility to complete but haven’t yet. Research papers, travel insurance documents, lease agreements, keys, programmes to plan, reading lists to be conquered…it is exhausting to contemplate. And as this day ends, I realise all I can do is to take one day at a time. Get as much done as I have the energy to do. Rest. Replenish. And start over again a-new tomorrow.

Deep breath.

…and sleep. (Ok, read a book or watch something for a bit then sleep). :)

Courage over fear…

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At the beginning of this year, I said that my ‘word’ for 2013 would be more of a phrase. Courage over fear. We’re now almost at the end of 2013. This year has been such a blur, and as we head into Christmas week I cannot believe it has been 2 years since we got the call that my friend had been found dead on Christmas Eve.

Perhaps it was the Olympics, perhaps it was realising that whether I like it or not, as a Girlguiding leader I am a role model for the girls I work with – for good or for ill! I just remember looking out the bucket list, and looking at my wall. As I gazed at the wise words from two of my favourite authors, I realised that I need to start applying the wisdom rather than just acknowledging it.

I have not failed this year.

There are things I hoped to do that I didn’t get done – my ALQ is yet to be completed and I never got my Open College Network coursework all handed in.

But I did start coming up with ideas for a children’s story based on my two reindeer who never went back into the box with all the Christmas decorations and sat on my chest of drawers all year instead. I applied for a dream job with British Gymnastics. I didn’t get it, but I went for it without regrets. I worked up the courage to do a spacehop for charity and was overwhelmed with the support I got. I got people collecting Active Kids vouchers for our Guide unit and friends were kind enough to post me vouchers from as far away as Northern Ireland to help us. I investigated universities and finally took the plunge of submitting an application, even allowing a few friends to know I was applying despite my fears of rejection. I gave a guy my number when he asked me out after we got chatting on the bus one day. I did ring my friend Kathy in a panic almost straight away after, because I have pretty tight boundaries now when it comes to guys given my history until I know that they know they are in the ‘friend zone’. I handed in a pieces of work I knew I hadn’t had time to do my best on instead of simply quitting my degree. I applied to go to a winter school in Germany. I went on long road trips with people I don’t know very well yet. I went rock climbing – twice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things that I considered doing and didn’t because of being unsure or not having the time or money to do it. But as I look back, I realise that I have come farther this year than I have since being in Australia 6 years ago.

There are a lot of things I’m afraid of still. But I remember that courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the bravery in facing fears.

Next year I hope to do my best in Germany and not be too afraid of me getting ill or others getting ill. I hope to use my time out of uni wisely. I hope to get my ALQ finished. I hope to get a new kitchen in my flat and to start saving for a car. I hope to meet up with Rebecca and Holly in York. I hope to catch up with friends like Nicola and Sinead that I didn’t get to see in person this year. I would like to go visit my friend while she is studying in Paris. I would love to do some more rock climbing. I would love to do a dance class. I would love to try and learn some more sign language. I would like to help grow Girlguiding. And I’d like to see more films (I am gutted that Kill Your Darlings is not showing in any of the Edinburgh cinemas now).

I lost two grandparents this year and two close family friends – all to cancer.

That, and remembering that the boy I spent my first formative years with who I said I would marry when we grew up has already been gone from this earth for two years…reminds me that I need to keep pushing to do all I can to make the world a better place. To enjoy life as much as I can. I don’t know when my time will be up, nor when any of my loved ones could be taken.

So here’s to 2014 when it comes, and making the rest of our lives, the best of our lives!

2013 in review…

What, for you, was the high point of 2013? Were there any other highlights?

For me, the high point of 2013 was my April trip to London. I loved seeing Matilda, I loved seeing Miss Sweetroot’s responses to her first time in the city, I loved being with such great friends and a special memory was made watching the Sunset from the London Eye.

Other highlights include Soul Surfer Road Trips to Polzeath, Aberdeen and Cardiff and watching two of the Guides getting awarded their Baden Powell. And getting accepted to do my postgraduate qualification at Glasgow uni!

What, for you, was the low point of 2013?

2013 has been the year of the Grim Reaper. Two grandparents, two uncles, one of my Mum’s best friends and my childhood friend’s Mum.

Plus Feb-April being ill with flu, my café spill and some weird sinus/viral infection thing was just a bit rubbish.

Tell me some things you learned this year.

I learned how to use moodle. And I learned how much I hate moodle too! I learned the art of nagging to get things done in girlguiding. I was reminded how passionate I am about learning over teaching, education in general and how education will always be more of a passion than counselling ever will be.

Who would be your “person of 2013″? It could be someone you know or a famous person who’s inspired you.

Back in November, my friend asked the leader of Christian Surfers International for his one bit of wisdom he would share. It was this: think about who’s kingdom you are trying to build. The main reason being that it takes jealousy, competition and pride out of the playing field.

Amen to that.

What was the best film you saw this year?

I’ve seen very few films this year, but probably Les Miserables.

And what was the worst?

Thor 2.

Or Lincoln – does it count if we switched it off half an hour in because we were so bored watching it?

What was the best book you read?

I can’t pick between How the Girl Guides Won the War and The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

What was the best thing you saw on TV?

I was not impressed with how NCIS ended last season….DUCKY!!!!!! (and if you are in America, Australia or you have fancy TV in the UK – yes, we’re only on Season 9 and you’re all on Season 10 and 11).

And of course…How I Met Your Mother.

What, for you, was the sporting highlight of 2013?

The European Artistic Gymnastics Championships. If anyone thought that London 2012 was a fluke, think again. Our lads took home a lot of medals…and then Kristian Thomas and Max Whitlock followed it up by bringing home a couple more from Worlds later in the year. Happy British Gymnastics fan here!

What was the best album or song you heard in 2013? What song did you play most?

Back in May, my friend Judith and I ended up wandering round a branch of Fopp in London’s West End. They had a tune playing and I loved it so I asked what it was they were playing. I ended up bringing home Sam Amidon’s Bright Sunny South album home with me to Edinburgh.

Unsurprisingly the most played song on my iTunes is ‘My Old Friend’.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

I am looking forward to going to Germany with some of my coursemates from university to do the Lifelong Learning winter school. I’m hoping to meet up with friends from around the UK. And I hope to do lots more fun things with the Guides and Senior Section! :)

Washed out…

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Hello Winter Blues. You have finally hit me.

Though this year, I suspect you’ve been helped along with a whole lot more stress heaped on top than usual.

I had a fantastic but exhausting weekend in Cardiff – one third of the weekend spent in a car with some fellow Soul Surfers. :)

But I have come home to a pile of things to do and e-mails telling me of even more.

All I want to do is to lie on a beach in warm sunshine, to paddle the warm ocean and drink ginger beer ice cream floats, eat fresh mango and maybe some french toast with maple syrup and banana.

Instead I need to read, write and analyse.

Choose worktops, ovens and cupboard doors.

Post adverts to find tenants.

Organise end of term activities and inform parents.

Do research.

Buy travel insurance.

Work out if I can continue sponsoring my Compassion children after March 2014.

Do my job.

I have some amazing friends praying for me just now (thank you), and I know that all that needs to be done, will be done. But I am feeling washed out (and I look how I feel).

And apparently it is snowing in Inverness. :(

Blogember: Day 7 – a day in the life…


Playing some catch up…

What does a day in the life of Miss Brunette Koala look like? Well it depends on the day…here’s a wee taster of two regular examples…

6.46 a.m. – alarm goes off usually about an hour after I’ve finally got back to sleep and I hit the snooze button or I don’t physically have the ability move to reach for my phone to do so and the song continues playing for a good 5 full minutes…

7.15 a.m. – usually getting my lunch and snacks together. This involves heating up soup or chilli on the hob and decanted into a thermos flask. Packed in my bag with be the flask, a packet of crisps, some nuts, dried fruit, an Innocent kids smoothie and some kind of sweet treat I’ve made in a batch, frozen and defrosted.

7.45 a.m. – frantically run for the bus

8.11 a.m. – arrive at station and pray there’s not a big queue for tickets, obtain ticket from machine then make mad dash to train platform.

8.20 a.m. – I’m on a train to Glasgow…(Hopefully!)

9.10 a.m. – Go straight to subway, buy ticket (from often grouchy subway staff). If I have time and I’m feeling a bit rubbish and my classes aren’t at the Education building, I may stop in a great wee shop on Great Western Road to get a peppermint tea to take away and have some chatty banter with the owner.

9.45 a.m. – We start to gather, share stuff we’re stressing over/panicking about/don’t understand/can’t find before class begins.

12 p.m. – We’re off to lunch and see if we can get our booth at the Postgraduate Club!

2 p.m. – Return for our afternoon class

4 p.m. – Schools out, and I’ll either go to pub with classmates, or I’ll be in the library searching for things, printing papers to read for next week’s classes or picking up books I’ve requested. Sometimes I’ll stay to work on an assignment.

5.30-8.30 p.m. - At some point during these hours I’ll get a train back to Edinburgh doing the subway-train-bus in reverse.

6.45-8 p.m. – If I’m not feeling ill and have got back in time, I’ll jump in car to head to Soul Surfer’s weekly food and bible study or I’ll be heading to work for a meeting with counselling team or trustees.

9.30-11.30 p.m. – Arrive back home. Collapse in heap, get into pyjamas and watch QI/Big Bang Theory to help switch my brain off before falling asleep around 1.30 a.m.

OR my day will look like this:

8.30 a.m. – alarm sings at me and I realise I can’t ignore if it’s a hair washing day…

9.45-10.15 a.m. - leave the house to get bus into town

10.30-11 a.m. – Start work day

sometime before 1 p.m. (hopefully) – dash to the bagel café, have chatty banter with whichever members of staff are on that day, dash back and hope that no clients call in a crisis while I’m eating my lunch.

4 p.m. – will text my Mum to see if she has car with her…

5.30-6 p.m. – if Mum is at work, she’ll usually drive by on her way home and pick me up from my work (which isn’t too far from mine). If she’s not, I’ll leave to get the bus…

6.30/6.50 p.m. – arrive home and switch on TV so How I Met Your Mother is on while I cook and eat my tea, gather stuff for Guides, throw on my Girlguiding leader hoodie over whatever I’m wearing and head to church hall

7.15 p.m. – Arrive at church hall and get ready for meeting

7.30 p.m. – Hall is filled with hyper chatty pre-teen/teen girls. Inevitably several will realise that they forgot they needed to bring something for what they had planned in their group to do this week.

9.00 p.m. – Ask what feels like a million times ‘Now you definitely know what you’ve planned next week, and what you need to bring to do that?‘ and they’ll say ‘Yes‘ or have frantic discussion as they’ve already forgotten their conversation with fellow guides from 10 minutes previously.

9.15 p.m. – Inevitable leaders chat about concerns, plans, things we need to do or situations to keep an eye on, stuff going on at home/work while we lock everything up, which will be continued in the car park despite the fact we’re all freezing cold.

9.30-9.45 p.m. – Arrive home – get bag ready for next day as much as I can, pyjamas, social media catch up…

Midnight – Attempt to sleep, discover brain is still too buzzed and awake so watch QI/Big Bang Theory until falling asleep! :)

And there we go…that’s the usual days in the life of me!

Stumbling through a second week of postgrad life…

20131004-215132.jpgThis was my position  by Tuesday night this week after a loonngg couple of days. Sprawled on the sofa watching How I Met Your Mother. To summarise the 2 days of uni they included having to climb over a pile of mud and stones created by a digger, my hair getting stuck in a hedge while walking to the bus stop, my water flask unscrewing itself and leaking all over my jacket and soaking through my bag (and its contents – including a bunch of reading I’d printed less than 2 hours before for uni), forgetting my breakfast, having only cheese & crackers for lunch, insane queues for train tickets at Haymarket and having my change thrown back at me by SPT staff, and half our entire class (plus our 2 lecturers)  being locked out of the building our class was in.

I was also reading this BBC magazine article and thinking…yep…I too am pretty appalled by students’ inability to keep a bathroom clean. I can only assume that small little boys sneak into the girls toilets every day, and one of my coursemates laughed as she heard me rant out loud from the next cubicle ‘Why can’t people pee in the toilet instead of all over the seat? I mean at least clean it up after if you do!!!‘ while popping into use the facilities after lunch. But seriously? The girls of Glasgow University are giving my honorary nephews (age 3 and 5) a run for their money on the toilet etiquette front!! It gave me flashbacks to halls, and remember our amazing cleaner on the S Floor, Pat. We loved Pat. She even had a fanpage on Facebook and so many Aberdeen alumni remember her fondly from their own S Floor days.

The week was made more hectic by being on week 2 of not getting my pay cheque (I finally got it signed today…), my Mum having surgery and having both Guides and Senior Section. Oh, and because of my late ‘Library Class’ I didn’t get home on Tuesday in time to go to smallgroup because they were in the 24/7 Prayer Room meaning no food (and trust me, after forgetting my breakfast and only having cheese & crackers for lunch I needed a meal by 8 p.m. which is when I walked through the door).

It’s crazy, but I finish my first course next week. My final class will be on Tuesday and then I have to start work on my 4,000 word assessment essay. Help. I do not feel ready. I’m still getting my head around trying to find things and understand what they are saying…I’m no expert in Community Development yet! Certainly not enough to write an essay. We’ve only been in 2 weeks!

So really I should be reading Paolo Friere right now, not writing a post for my blog while I have QI on in the background.

But I did finish an essay for my college course today…so I deserve a break, right? ;)

 

 

First week over…

So I’m at the end of the first week of my new schedule. I’m not going to lie – it was TOUGH GOING. Although I know people have much more insane schedules, please remember I’ve been in part-time work and though I’ve filled the rest of the time pretty easily, I’ve always been able to make it to my body clock (which doesn’t do mornings).

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I made it to the Saturday orientation (where I left my food snacks on the kitchen worktop) and fell asleep during the afternoon talk. This did not go unnoticed by one of my coursemates who asked me after ‘Were you asleep? I wasn’t sure whether to poke you or not?’. On Sunday I was at Pout on the Girlguiding stall with one of the Young Leaders, then I came home and made apple & blackberry crumble I was sure I’d be in need of comfort food this week.

I was correct.

I began Monday morning using Phoebe phone to track the bus. Bus in 4 mins. Awesome. That’s plenty of time to get round the corner I thought. I walked into the street to see the bus zooming down the hill. I ran for it – hey I didn’t want to be late for my very first class, did I? – and as the bus pulled away without me on it, I promptly fell over nothing tumbling sideways into a wall and all over the pavement. In front of a sizeable traffic jam and some high school kids.

I limped down to the next bus stop (more bus choices) with skinned hands and blood on my jeans.

Awesome.

Amazingly I somehow made it onto the 8.30 a.m. train and was at the university in plenty time for the 10 a.m. class. I later realised I’d packed a tupperware with some crumble but forgot my spoon. I also spent the day e-mailing the university IT support because my password was only working on some of the university systems.

I went to Guides exhausted that night. The other Assistant Leader and our Young Leader were away, and our Unit Leader was exhausted too. I feel bad that I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been for them. I was home by 9.20 p.m. – a first for sure!!

Tuesday was better. I somehow made it onto the 8.15 a.m. train (that day the bustracker told me 2 mins and I didn’t miss it? Go figure!), and remembered all my food and eating implements! Hurrah! I also now have the subway down and know which sides the exits are and so on to maximise speedy connection travelling. I finally discovered how to print things at the university library. I fell asleep on the train home. I went to smallgroup exhausted but was given the gift of a pile of books my friend used when she was doing the same degree as me a few years ago.

Wednesday was strange, because after spending so much time with my classmates, I was suddenly going back to work and had to get my head into a different gear. Work is lonely at the moment because we are busy and understaffed. I’m doing a lot of lone working which is not good for an extravert!

The next few days, I just prayed for Saturday to come fast so I would have that blessed day when I wouldn’t have to be rudely woken before having enough sleep by my phone alarm.

Sadly though, it was not to be. At 8.30 a.m. not long after I’d rolled back over glad to be able to go back to sleep (I’d been up studying and chatting to a friend into the wee hours) the doorbell rang. And rang. And was banging as I clambered out of bed, pulled on the nearest hoodie and went downstairs to discover a man pointing to my Mum’s car saying “I need you to move the car so I can deliver the digger“.

He then looked at me – taking in my pyjamas, serious bedhead and panda eyes – and went “Oh.” Then I found words  “What digger? We didn’t order a digger?

At this point I go back upstairs to find my phone and swap my pyjamas for jeans, and he goes back to his truck to find his phone to check he’s delivering to the right house.

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Did I mention my mother and stepfather were off touring the Highlands and Islands this week? So of course, I try to call them and their phones are switched off/out of reception. I have no idea what to do and I’m not really awake to engage in coherent logical problem solving thought. In the end, I surmise that my stepfather has probably decided to do the garden landscaping he has mentioned this summer. Needless to say when he returned my message by phoning me cheerfully I was FAR from cheerful. I was seriously grumpy at not being warned of this event. To be fair to them, they did not know that the digger would be delivered before Monday. But still! It would have been nice to know that on Monday someone will be creating havoc in front of our house like…before this weekend.

At least the weekend has been sunny, therefore I’ve been able to do some of my studying outside in the garden.

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And while ordering some textbooks, I purchased this to keep me going through the next crazy weeks.

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So that was my first week. I’m tired. My hair is um…interesting looking. My face hasn’t had a scrap of make up on it all weekend. There are books and papers and bags of guiding stuff everywhere.

And I’ve just realised…I have to do this whole week again starting tomorrow! Oh help! :)