Trying to find my Peppermint Crisp

I was making a South African dessert yesterday – a Peppermint Crisp caramel tart. For the uninitiated it consists of a biscuit base topped with caramel, cream and Peppermint Crisp chocolate. Fattening, but beautiful. Anyway, I remembered back to when I was first in NZ and feeling very homesick. We went with a friend to a shop attached to service station that stocked South African products. I bought a Peppermint Crisp and proceeded to scoff the entire thing in the forecourt before getting back in the car. In my chocolate-eating trance I felt safe and loved, even if only for 42 seconds.peppermint crisp

That memory made me realise there is something missing in my life. Something that will give me the same feeling I had at the Shell service station 23 years ago. Something that will pick up the fragments of my shattered spirit and stick them together. Something that will claw back the soul that has been sucked out of me. Something that will ignite the bonfire hiding under a bushel. Something that will nudge the ashes of the phoenix to spark new life.

A new job. That’s what I need. You probably thought I was going to ramble on about needing a man. Ha! The Peppermint Crisp I am craving is a new job.

 

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I paid someone to touch me

Ever heard of a Lomi Lomi massage? I hadn’t until last week when I had one. It was great, so I might make it a habit. It would be good to cultivate some GOOD habits. The thing about it, and what made it so enjoyable, is that the masseuse knew what she was doing. I have had my shoulders massaged at an instant place in the mall with questionable success.

You see, when we leave things up to an expert, we get far better results. When I was on a dating site, I had a few guys claim to be good at massaging. I ever understood that. Why would I get some half-arsed touchy-touchy from a random man when I can pay someone to do a good job?

eye

That is the same with teaching. As high school teachers, we specialise in certain fields – fields that interest us. I qualified as an English and Geography teacher. Over the years I have honed my English teaching skills and become quite passionate when analysing a novel or guiding a student to improve a piece of writing. I have studied my Masters in Creative Writing. I have helped lead English departments. I have been a national marker for senior English exams. I have become the best English teacher I can possibly be.

Why then, in the school I am about to teach, have I not been given any academic English classes? I applied as an English teacher and said that I was okay with having a Religious Education class thrown in – Catholic school, Catholic teacher. However, most of my timetable is teaching Religious Education. I have questioned this decision but been told that my timetable is set.

I do not subscribe to the idiotic belief that any teacher can teach anything, especially if you are going to do a good job. I could probably teach Maths or Physics because I did both of those subjects at high school. Would I do it well? Not likely. Would I evoke passion for the subjects in my students? I doubt it. Would I be happy? Definitely not.

I am trying to lean on my faith and believe that there is a bigger plan at play. That there is a reason why I find myself in this space and place. But right now I’m battling.

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The New Normal

English is a great language.
Because it has more exceptions than rules? ‘Add -ed to make a past tense verb, except for these 1,574 words.’ Um, no, that doesn’t make it great.
Because it has so many words that look the same but sound different? Maybe not that either.
English is great because it is dynamic. It borrows from other languages to build itself and then, just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, it changes on you.

Take Covid-19 for instance. Who would have used the phrases ‘social distancing’, ‘grim milestone’ and ‘the new normal’ a few months ago? Even ‘coronavirus’, which existed in the medical dictionary and possibly some research fields, was not on anyone’s lips. Now there’s probably a baby somewhere who said this as their first word.

My students were writing creatively as a character from John Marsden’s novel,  Tomorrow, When the War Began, where teenagers are struggling to survive against an invasion. Two of my kids had the character reflect on their ‘new normal’ of hiding in the bush. This got me thinking about what MY new normal is.

baking

The old normal

This photo is the old normal – I spent six hours last Sunday baking for my students because I am leaving my current school – again. This is my new normal. Since moving to Australia, I have to look for another job every six months. Hopefully, the school I am moving to next term will be my forever school.

My new normal is not dating, not looking for a man, and telling everyone about it.

My new normal is hot flushes and never knowing what to wear because I sweat in anything slightly wintery and then shiver when the flush passes and my skin is damp, and never having great hair because when beads of perspiration break out on my forehead my cowlick springs into action, and never wearing a watch because having something so tight against my skin heats me up too much.

Yes, my new normal is not normal at all. I’m going to have to start using the phrase ‘new abnormal’ to convince myself that these things will pass, and so that I can start looking for the ‘normal’ light at the end of this tunnel.

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I should do more!

There is so much happening in our world right now that is crazy and confusing. I can’t do anything to change anything. If I had followed the research path earlier in life, I may well have been one of the angels working on a cure. If I had been born in South America with political aspirations, I may well have been a president who cared about the people. If I had stayed in South Africa, I may well have altered my career path to bootlegging. None of these is the case.

The Serenity Prayer asks for courage to change the things I can – that is what I need to focus on. And that involves doing more than I am right now. You would suppose that lying in bed typing a blog on my laptop is a start. But it isn’t. In fact it’s the opposite. What I need to do more of is exercise.UNKNOWN_MEDALLION_-_POSSIBLY_AADAC_or_NA_b_-_Flickr_-_woody1778a

I have taken to doing yoga sporadically. The intention is there, and the mat is rolled up in the corner of my room. A beautiful friend of mine has started teaching yoga classes and I attended some at her place prior to the world shutting down. I’m not very supple. One pose that made me feel very old was lying on my stomach and reaching back to grab my feet – dhanurasana. The closest I got to getting this right was working on the steep bank in my garden and finding myself slipping into the ‘fall-dahn-on-ur-asana’ pose.

I wonder if a lack of energy is the problem. I think that energy begets energy, so if I start (maybe by getting out of bed now) it should give me the energy to continue. I briefly thought of needing extrinsic motivation like my old nemesis – dating. But then I slapped myself silly and the feeling passed. I think of things visually – in my mind I see a crusty old scab that has formed over the suppurating sore of old dating habits. I don’t feel much like picking at that scab right now.

I think I’ll go eat some breakfast and draw up a programme. Right after I have a nap.

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The right brand of Christianity

I don’t know if you’ve ever stopped and thought about what brand of Christianity you are all about. I hadn’t until I moved to Australia.mde

I have been a Catholic most of my life. I say ‘most’ because I worshiped at a Presbyterian church for many years and then came back to my roots. I don’t see a problem with bouncing between churches because it’s all the same God and Christian is Christian. Two things have happened recently that have made me aware that not everything thinks the way I do. Who would have thought?

Yesterday I had two lovely ladies come to my door with pamphlets and an I-pad to share their views on what I should believe. Even though I told them I am Catholic and have just come from church, they still tried to question my beliefs and gave me a booklet. They said they would come back next week to try again. I’m going to hide.

The other thing was an interview I had at a school. Although they asked me about my teaching style, the main thing they wanted to know was about my faith journey. Journey? I felt inadequate. Saying I have been a Christian all my life sounded like a cop out. I explained that I don’t have a moment when I saw the light. I believe simply because I have no choice – it’s part of who I am. I didn’t get the job.

When I was over in England and Paris earlier this year, I visited many cathedrals. None of them had security screening to keep Catholics out. Or sniffer dogs to detect Methodists. Or signs saying, ‘Waving of hands in worship forbidden.’ What were they thinking, treating all brands as equal?

I wonder who’s going to tell God to be more judgey with how everyone is allowed to worship? I’m sure my visitors from yesterday will volunteer.

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Doing the best we can

We go through life doing the best we can with the talents we have. When a parent dies, we are reminded that we are gifted this existence for a limited period of time and we wonder if we should be doing more. We reflect on our talents and abilities and try see bits of the parent in us. We spend time looking back on moments we spent together – talking to others, flipping through photo albums, and find it hard to comprehend that they will never look that way again. Or any way again. It’s really important that we look at old photos so we remember them in happier, healthier times. I don’t want to remember my dad as the figure wasting away in a shitty South African hospital with no pillow or blanket.

I asked my students to attempt to write a paragraph using an extended metaphor. Some of them looked at me like I had spoken Croatian. I said they could use the analogy that our lives are like roller coasters – ups and downs, blah blah. One boy sort of the got the idea when he wrote that ‘when you get too old, you’ll have to get off.’ Ain’t that the truth!oldage.jpg

This year has been one of many changes for me. I moved countries. I taught at one school for a term – which was amazing. Then moved to another school and had to get to know people all over again. And learn new names! Do you know how hard that is at my age? But I do the best I can. I’ve just bought a house. And then my dad passed away. That presented another issue involving a NZ passport and needing a visa that would take five days, which precluded my attendance at the funeral.

Through all of this, I have lost my writing mojo. Whenever I sit down to write anything, there are no words. This made it extra difficult when my siblings asked me to write something about Dad to be read at his funeral. How could I write a poem with no words? I sat for hours, spraying words on one page after another. Finally, I wrote something. A fledgling poem. Perhaps a spark of writing life battling to rise up out of the creative ashes.

It might not be a literary masterpiece. But I did the best I could.

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Fully assembled

The best two words in the universe – fully assembled. Having moved countries again, I have bought new furniture. The trend these days is for tables, TV cabinets, queen size beds and outdoor furniture to come in a ‘flat pack’. That means you have to wrestle with ginormous cardboard boxes and massive plastic bags, before trying to bully a flimsy allen key and a teaspoon (because, let’s face it, who buys a screwdriver?) into moulding bits of wood, plastic and iron into semi-decent functional bits.

Then something arrives with those two words on it – fully assembled – and your heart sings. Okay, it was a mattress. And I would have been ever so annoyed, and hugely confused, if that needed assembling. Imagine – instead of saying ‘Tools needed – screwdriver, allen key, rubber mallet’ it would say ‘Tools needed – industrial sewing machine’.

Well, I had help with all the assembling and the place is furnished. And I survived. And my arthritic fingers survived. Barely. A lesser person might have dragged some of the cardboard boxes into the passage and made a fort to hide in.

words

But this got me thinking. What if our lives could come fully assembled? What if we had a job already and didn’t have to get up at 6 every morning and sit by the phone in case a school rang? What if we could just buy a house with the money we emigrated with, rather than having to rent?

Then we wouldn’t have to feel like the only pieces of our lives we have in the plastic bags are the big ones, while the smaller ones have fallen out in transit. Maybe we’ll find them in the bottom of the cardboard box. And we’ll be able to piece ourselves back together.

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The Ringing of the Bell

It’s been a while since I’ve written and I hope this little note finds you well. I have been a bit busy over the past few months. I have sold my house, given away my possessions, traveled to England and France, and moved to Australia. I think I can be forgiven for being remiss in blogging. I plan to let you know bits about my trip, but not today. Today is dedicated to bells.

From the time we start school, our lives are run by the bell. The bell tells you when to eat, when to play, when to go home. These are the bells most school children look forward to. Of course, there are bells to indicate learning time, but perhaps those are not looked on as favourably. Unless you’re a teacher. One that has just emigrated. And is looking for work.

At the moment, I spend my life looking forward to two bells. The first is the ringing of my phone early in the morning. The second is a school bell that lets me know my life has meaning. As a relief teacher, my day consists of getting up at 6 and getting ready for a day of teaching that may or may not materialise. I take my phone into the shower. It’s next to me when I’m cooking breakfast. It’s on the bed while I’m getting dressed. I even take it into the toilet. Just in case it rings.

It rang on Friday. I was so excited I think I didn’t even give the caller the chance to finish her sentence. All I heard was ‘a day’s work’ and I said yes. Because this was the ninth consecutive school day since the start of term that I had been all dressed up with nowhere to go, I wasn’t as ready as I should have been and I only had 20 minutes to dry my hair and throw on a dress. I grabbed everything I needed and headed out into fairly heavy traffic. By ‘fairly heavy’ I don’t mean Auckland traffic. I mean traffic that stopped me driving at the 70kph speed limit.

That was when I heard another ringing. The kind I didn’t want to hear. A warning bell. As I turned into the road, my car started ringing (beeping actually, but for the sake of this blog’s continuity we’ll say it was ringing). My heart sank. Here I was trying my best to get to school on time and something was wrong with my engine. I turned the radio off and the sound stopped. For twelve seconds. It started again. And stopped again. There was no pattern to its stopping and starting. I didn’t know whether to try and ignore it or to pull over and investigate. With my knowledge of cars ‘investigation’ means giving someone a call.seatbelt

As I pulled onto the motorway, the sound changed from ding – ding – ding to dingdingding. Really loudly. I had no choice. I had to pull off the road. I was going to have to ring roadside rescue to, well, rescue me. And I was going to have to ring the school and let them down on the one and only teaching day I had been given. I was slightly upset. I might even have sworn. Then I noticed the ‘passenger seatbelt’ light was on. My handbag was on the front seat and my car decided it was a passenger. All that fuss because of some make up and a water bottle!

Did I put my bag on the floor? Heck no I didn’t. I reached over and grabbed the seatbelt, clipped it in and made it to school before that bell started ringing.

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Your weather forecast for today

If ever I have thought of believing in pathetic fallacy, today is the day. The crazy morning we have had so far has seen rain, strong wind, warmth, heavy rain, sunshine, cold, calmness – and it’s only 8.30. But that exactly mirrors the emotional turmoil inhabiting my body. I cry at the drop of a hat. Actually, I cry before the hat has even started moving. Who am I kidding… I cry just thinking abou- Hang on, just getting a tissue.

You see, I am packing up my house and moving to Australia. My kids have grown up and flown the coop, and I have sisters across the ditch. I am single (and not for lack of trying, as you well know!) I have been unsettled for a few years and this feels like the right move for me. I have decided to take just 10 boxes. I don’t need to take my furniture – it’s cheap enough to replace over there and I don’t have any antiques that are worth keeping. I don’t need to take pots and dishes – they are also cheap enough to replace. I don’t need to take my car. Wait. My car. I NEED TO SELL MY CAR!!

I made the decision to move on September 11. I felt that was a good day to make life-changing resolutions. Since then, I have been sorting, selling, giving, packing and donating. I sold my house within 5 seconds of it being on the market. I met the new owners last night – they are a beautiful young couple who are so excited about buying their first home. It makes my heart happy.passage

I have been in NZ for 21 years. Because I am a participant in life, not just a spectator, I have embraced everything the country has to offer. The people, the food, the culture. I have travelled to almost every corner and seen all the beauty on offer, like I did in South Africa before I came over. Now I will do it all again.

The only problem is the size of Australia. How long do you think it will take for me to see all of it?

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Expect the unexpected

Last Wednesday night I was walking down Queen Street in the middle of Auckland city at 10 o’clock. And no, I wasn’t in a mini and fishnets, trying to supplement my income. I was walking up to Aotea Square with my Raglan Co-op Reusable Bag of groceries.

This was pretty unusual for me. Not the reusable bag, but the fact that I was still awake at 10pm. And in the city. Be that as it may, what was not unusual was the assortment of homeless people either curled up against shop windows or wandering aimlessly. One such man approached me and started telling me how great God is. He didn’t ask for money; he just put his hand on my shoulder and kept repeating, through the gap in his mouth where his front teeth once were, that God does great things for us.

I wished him equal blessings and made my way further up the street to the little Japanese hole-in-the-wall that sells matcha cupcakes. I handed over a $5 note and declined a bag for the sweet treat I was going to devour immediately. When I turned around, my blessing friend was not far from me so I took the few steps to him and gave him my $1.30 change. I then offered him half the cupcake. He told me he didn’t want half, ‘jutht a thmall piethe.’

As I was breaking off a bit, a young man stopped next to us and his eyes lit up. Naturally, I though the also wanted some of the cake. Instead, he asked, ‘Is that marijuana?’ I answered, ‘No, sweetheart, it’s a healthy cupcake.’ He looked fairly disenchanted. I thought it was funny.hand-with-three-coins-vector-clipart

What is not so funny, but equally as unexpected, is my mid-life crisis. It’s not that I thought I could go through life in some Polyanna-like unreality. It’s just that I didn’t realise the crisis would last for four years.

I want to be the glass half full person. The friend who hosts dinners and BBQs. The Energiser bunny who leaps out of bed in the morning because there is so much living to do. I was this person. Then I turned 50.

Now I have this pervading sense of dissatisfaction with my life. I’m restless, listless. Very aware that time is running out. I know that if I’m going to make any life changes – new school, new city, new country – it has to be now. Very aware that time is running out. I don’t know how to stop my churning mind or itching feet, how to get back to finding the joy in the everyday, how to be satisfied with the amazing life I have. How to be at peace.

And I’m spending so much time second-guessing, double-bluffing and self-assessing that I’m driving myself crazy and feeling exhausted. In the amusement park that is our life, I’m still on the carousel but I’ve fallen off the horse.

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