By Lynn Elder Grey clouds form a leaden sky Above the black cattle grazing below. Tree trunks are blackened By the dampness they absorb From heavy downpours Released from above. Dimming daylight alternates Between the various shades Of white, grey and black. Birds and pets alike match The colour scheme of the day.
Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 5 years ago.
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.
This just popped up in my notifications and although I knew this blogging journey began in 2017 it still took me by surprise to see it has been five years. It coincided with my move from the city back to my country origins to begin a new life with my husband on 25 acres. Some things have worked out as expected and others have had their challenges, but looking back and given what has expired with the COVID-19 Pandemic, we made the right decision for us. My blog started out as more of a journal in words and pictures but now it is time to expand my horizons and stretch my creative self more than ever. There have been some sad goodbyes and happy moments to relish but through it all there has been a divine hand on my life. May my faith not waiver as we embrace another year of uncertainty but discover how precious life is and all that we have to be grateful for. Happy blogging one and all!
By Lynn Elder – A short story
She moved a hairbrush through her little one’s tangled strands of long auburn hair. Strains of the Wiggles could be heard from the television in the adjoining room as they jumped about singing “Hot Potato.” It reminded Sarah of the holiday concert she took her twins Annabel and Chloe to last Christmas. There was a red, a blue, a purple and a yellow Wiggle. Times had changed, though, with the arrival of a female Wiggle who donned the yellow skivvy.
The Smith family had survived another Christmas yesterday with the extended family present. Every year there was trepidation as to what the day would bring. Peace and joy to the world were not the first words to spring to mind. Her in-laws were not essentially bad people, but Sarah struggled to find anything in common with Fred and Myrtle. They held extreme conservative political views that did not align with their environmentally minded daughter-in-law.
Buying Christmas presents was not an easy task either, and Sarah’s husband Brett was happy to offload the task to her. It was not something she relished because, in previous years, the response to her gift selections was lukewarm, to say the least.
Sarah braved the crowded shopping centre a week earlier as the dutiful wife she was, searching for appropriate gifts. One positive was the elegant gift wrapping that the shops provided, sparing her from another job in an otherwise busy time of year.
Christmas Day arrived with the in-laws on the front step. As was the custom, the grandchildren insisted that they open their presents before the big, cooked lunch. Sarah thought to herself, let us get this part of the day done with. Brett welcomed his parents with big hugs while the twins tugged at his jumper, urging him to hurry up. Soon they were all settled into the sofas facing the brightly decorated pine tree surrounded by presents. The girls squealed with delight on opening their gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. They were still young enough to enjoy playing dress-ups with their Barbie dolls. Then it was like the game pass the parcel as the various wrapped gifts were handed around.
Fred ripped the paper as he opened his present, which revealed a book about vintage trains. Sarah held her breath as she waited for his reaction. Thankfully, he was gracious enough to say he had almost bought a copy for himself recently. One down. One more to go. The sausage-shaped present was in the hands of Myrtle now. She was more delicate in undoing the pretty wrapping paper and the curly ribbon. A long skinny item fell onto her lap being a posh-looking umbrella. Myrtle exclaimed, “Oh, what a lovely but useful present. Living in Melbourne, you never know when it may rain.” She opened it to display the impressionist art of Renoir. Arty but practical, Sarah thought to herself. The reaction was better than hoped for. The gift-giving ritual was now completed. Lunch was still an hour away, so the adults stood up and stretched as the twins played with their new toys.
Fred surprised Sarah when he picked up the blue guitar leaning against the wall in the living room. Brett had bought it for her last Christmas. Unfortunately, looking after two lively twin daughters and running a business from home, learning to play the guitar was not a priority. Chloe and Annabel were distracted enough to urge Grandpa to play a tune. Sarah imagined him playing something akin to a call to arms for fellow comrades. She did not even know he could play a musical instrument. Imagine her astonishment when the girls’ favourite Wiggles’ tune, “Hot Potato”, was played. Before anyone could protest, all the adults were up and dancing with the twins. Sarah and Brett exchanged a hug and a kiss with her husband, shouting over the music, “Best Christmas yet!.”
12 Days of Christmas writing prompt: Using the following random words, write a Christmas, summer, or holiday themed story. Potato, Guitar, Book, Umbrella, Hair brush
Prompt provided by author Melissa Gijsbers.
by Lynn Elder
“For Christmas I wanted…,” “Where is it?” “I hate you all!.”
A mop of wayward blonde curls was tossed hither and thither as the little girl stomped her feet in anger. The angelic demeanour of an hour ago was but a distant memory for her parents now.
Sipping on a Yule-tide mulled glass of wine, the older woman winched as she remembered her behaviour from so many years ago. It was like she was born into the wrong family because no one understood her passion and took her seriously. She smiled while surveying the unwrapped gifts beneath the Christmas tree. Now, she was able to tick off her wish list.
One painting easel.
Half a dozen paintbrushes to suit different strokes and mediums.
A collection of acrylic and oil paints.
Blank canvases of assorted sizes.
Sketchbooks for forays into the countryside.
A tin of watercolour pencils.
A box of pastels.
A giant workbook.
A large coffee-table sized book about Renaissance painters.
She turned around at the sound of her daughter’s voice.
“Oh, Mum, Dad and I and my brothers hope we didn’t forget anything on your wish list.”
Her mother responded joyfully, “ I have everything I need now for my painting trip to Italy in July. Thank you so much, my darling.”
- Day 1 – The 12 Days of Christmas Writing Prompt. Prompt provided by author and writer Melissa Gijsbers.
By Lynn Elder
To stay or leave? I am torn. My heart and mind are at odds. What is the chance one whispers, of fire reaching us here. The radio crackles. Emergency announcement. "If you have not already left, it is now too late to leave." Decision made.
This poem was included in a collection of poems published in 2021 as High Country Poets highlighting the works of local poets from Mansfield in North East Victoria, Australia. Proceeds from sales of the book go to the Mansfield Secondary College Welfare Fund.
It is quite surreal this current situation. I am sitting at home safe and well but with an overwhelming knowledge that not all is well in the world. The sun comes up and goes down. The birds sing without a care and the autumn breeze is gentle on my face. I am blessed to live in a rural area where no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed and free to roam about my property and nearby town (for the time being!). However, the endless number of event cancellations and the empty shelves in our local supermarkets tells a different story. But I am determined to distract myself with other thoughts. My home is full of special memories, books and objects that give me great joy.
The other day I found an op shop buy for $2 to add to my vinyl collection. Opera may not be everyone’s cup of tea but Australia’s late Dame Joan Sutherland was without a doubt one of the world’s most gifted singers we have known. I regret that I never had the opportunity to see her perform live. Over the years I have watched many of her performances on the television. It is still on my bucket list to attend an opera at the Sydney Opera House. The vinyl may crackle but the soaring voice of Joan Sutherland gives me such joy. I found a performance from Tosca to share below.
Whatever gives you pleasure – whether it be music, words, pictures or film – enjoy the gift of creativity as a way to escape the onslaught of media coverage during this crisis. Let me know what small things give you joy? I’m sure others would love to know.
Change. We all have to accept change at some point in our lives. Whether it is positive or negative change we are experiencing, the disruption brings upheaval or discomfort to some of us. The term disruptive technology seems to be in common use today but what is disruptive innovation?
This is a new term for me. But it has been around since the 1990s when Professor Clayton Christensen came up with the description of the “process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors”.
It helps to explain why large successful companies such as Kodak and Nortel disappeared from the business landscape. They failed to see the challenges coming from others who could create a demand for their products even if they were still in the early days of development. I remember the arrival of word processors in the news room; clunky, slow and much larger than the traditional typewriter. But they were here to stay.
In the mid-1980s many old journos were still clinging to their faithful Remingtons. When I entered journalism, I was a dab hand at typing and took on the challenge of a new technology which allowed us to fix our mistakes without retyping a new piece of paper each time or endure hard copy that was brandishing lots of sub-editors red ink!
Computers were part of our working life as journalists and had not taken over our personal lives at this stage. One could enjoy a quiet ale at the local drinking hole without the constant interruption of phone calls, text messages and emails. That pub is now a just a fond memory of another time.
This disruptive innovation got me thinking as far back as the time when the printing press was invented. Imagine how the working classes were kept ignorant by denying them access to books and other reading matter. The Bible is a classic example. If one wanted to know the teachings of Jesus, it was preached from the pulpit from a hand-illustrated and written manuscript. Imagine the joy when people could actually hold a copy of the Bible in their own hands and not have to rely on the clergy of the day to communicate the gospel.
Today the media is undergoing the biggest shakeup in its history. For more than 100 years, newspapers were part of our daily routine. The rise of the citizen journalist, now possible through the wonders of social media and blogs such as these, have challenged the status quo. Journalists are busy adapting to this disruptive innovation and trying to add something meaningful to an overcrowded information deluge.
Disruptive disruption looks like it is here to stay so watch this space!
Words, pictures, voices and actions can be woven into storytelling in all its different forms. It can be an oral history passed down by Indigenous Australians, a Shakespearean tragedy, a rousing Italian opera, tall tales shared by good mates, moving pictures on the screen both big and small, or found in the pages of a book. Whatever means is used to tell a story, there is a purpose behind the telling.
For writers or at least for me, the narrative is the holy grail of storytelling. As children we often heard or read the words, “Once upon a time…” that would lead us into the world of princes and princesses, fairies and elves, wicked step-mothers and ugly sisters. There was usually the elements of good and evil, a sense of injustice and redemption, followed by a happy ending to the fairy tale. Without being aware of the morals being espoused by such tales, our attitudes and morals were shaped by such storytelling. Being able to communicate through narrative is part of our human nature.
When we grow up, we learn not all stories have a happy ending and we need to find ways to make sense of the impact of events on our own lives and the world around us. I recall being fascinated by Aboriginal rock art images in Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory. The stick-like figures drawn by Indigenous people thousands of years ago showed swollen joints of individuals. I found out later this is was a result of poisoning from the uranium in the ground. Other rock art depicts many images from the Dreamtime including the Rainbow Serpent. These stories are passed down from generation to generation.
The power of story-telling in much more recent times, is the first-hand accounts of individuals who have endured horrors beyond comprehension. But there is healing in telling such stories for those involved and a challenge to the rest of us not to forget. During my recent visit to East Timor, my travel group had the privilege of visiting the Chega Museum in Dili. The word Chega loosely translated from Portuguese means, “No more, stop, enough!”. Chega was also the title of a report compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor Leste. It is a powerful and emotional journey as one tours this former Indonesian prison, the site of many atrocities against the East Timorese and learn of the inhumane treatment of individuals and their families beyond its walls during the invasions. The trauma experienced has left deep scars but the personal stories told are part of the healing and a message to us that we must never permit this to happen again. But the museum is also a place of hope and peace – where visitors can leave positive messages.
The power of one’s own story can have an impact across the generations and across the world if we preserve the narrative and ensure that those “Once upon a time..” stories have a happier ending.
There is the old saying , “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. I’m sure the same applies to all the Jills out there and anyone who believes fun and play is only for children should have another think. In this fast-paced world of social engagement and think tanks only a few key strokes or finger taps away, maybe it’s time to review our approach to more productive work spaces by adding a bit of fun in the mix.
Push back the office chair and turn off the computer, for some down time and a good ol’ fashion belly laugh. Type laughter workshops into your search engine and there is a surprisingly a large number to choose from. The main focus seems to be to help workers de-stress and in the process create a more productive workplace. It also encourages more positive brainstorming and ideas generation. For some of us letting our inner child loose is outside our comfort zone.
In my experience some of the activities organised in certain workplaces reflects the age group of the team leader in some cases. Call centre employment involves being tied to a phone in one place for a shift and can be repetitious. To break the monotony activities would range from hula dancing competitions, trying to catch money in a wind machine or just going to “Maccas” for team meetings. As much as I appreciated the break from the usual drill, I’m not sure it increased my productivity or brainstorming capacity.
Other industries are busy with everyday business and little thought is given to creating some play element into a working day. That is not to say, employees’ well being is not highly regarded by businesses and other organisations; many organise some form of social or physical activities for staff and volunteers.
What we are talking about here, is introducing some playfulness into the work environment that engages individuals and triggers creativity in a fun and useful way. Let’s face it many of us are like big kids when we get to play with something new or innovative. There must be a reason why tools such as computers, smart phones and televisions designed to help us do our work or educate us, become playthings as well!
But the importance of play in our childhood and the role it plays in our adult lives should not be under estimated. Lack of fun and games as a youngster robs one of the ability to dream of big things in the future. Some Brits bringing joy into the life of children in a refugee camp are featured in a BBC Three video, Amazing Humans: Making children smile again through the simple act of creative play using music, art, dance and more.
Play researcher and psychiatrist, Dr Stuart Brown, with the National Institute of Play in the US, is a strong advocate of the benefits of play in childhood and how that makes us much happier and smarter adults. He believes if we maintain this sense of playfulness into our adult years, it will keep us smarter at any age. Reflecting on this topic makes me realise that we all need a sense of joy in our personal and working lives, but we need to learn how as a child.
You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato
The world is driven by the pursuit and use of technology-based activities and applications that dictate our working day and leisure time that was unthinkable even 20 years ago. But this rapid social change comes at a price it seems. For all the back slapping and kudos that technological innovations receive, there is a huge disconnect between rich and poor Australians, with the “haves” and “have-nots” denoting the digital divide.
The national Homelessness Week which finishes today (7th to 13th August) has prompted commentary regarding a ‘digital divide’ that has deepened significantly and the failure of disadvantaged groups and individuals being able to access the internet and on-line services. This formed part of the findings from an inclusion index completed by RMIT researchers in partnership with Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology, Telstra and Roy Morgan Research. Three key areas of focus were; online access, affordability and digital ability (Nott 2017).
Although there has been marked improvement in ”digital inclusion” in recent years those on lower incomes with reduced education and employment opportunities, and Indigenous Australians and people with a disability are being left behind (Nott 2017). For the many different welfare agencies that support disadvantaged families and individuals, the strain of other household bills, makes internet access out of reach for many that are struggling financially.
My own experience working in this sector has seen it first hand where a mobile phone is the only means of communication for clients especially for those without secure housing and who are much more transient; this technology still requires access to power sources, money for pre-paid credit and are expensive to replace if stolen or damaged. The digital divide gapes even wider when one is trying to communicate with government departments such as Centrelink and are left on hold on a phone call or forced to log-on.
Thankfully, there are organisations who recognise the need for greater participation by all Australians within the digital space. Not-for-profit Infoxchange has just established a new alliance with support from various organisations including Australia Post, Google and Telstra to address this issue (Nott 2017)
Another positive initiative by Infoxchange was the development of the Ask Izzy app which connects homeless people throughout Australia with appropriate services and charities. According to new data collected by Ask Izzy, demand for shelter doesn’t cease at sundown with the majority of online requests occurring between 12am and 3am looking for accommodation options. Research conducted by University of Sydney found around 80% of homeless people own a smartphone but lack access to power points to charge their phones (Rooney 2017).
To overcome this problem a fundraising campaign to provide battery recharge cards has been launched to coincide with Homelessness Week by Ask Izzy. This worthwhile cause is asking the public to donate $15 to buy Ask Izzy Power Card for those who need to access the more than 350,000 services nationally ranging from food, health advice, warm bedding or a place to sleep available through the smartphone app (Tann 2017).
While we still have a long to go to solve the multi-layered issues surrounding homelessness, an innovative app like Ask Izzy, is a positive step in reducing the “digital divide”.
Nott, George (2017) Digital divide deepening according to inclusion index, Computer World, 4 August, 2017 https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/print/625673/digital-divide-deepening-according-inclusion-index/
Rooney, Kieran (2017) Most people without homes have phones but lack power points, The Observer, 8 August 2017. https://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/most-people-without-homes-have-smart-phones-but-la/3209877/
Tann, Phil (2017) Ask Izzy lets you give some warmth to the homeless this winter, Ausdroid, 8 August 2017. http://ausdroid.net/2017/08/08/ask-izzy-lets-give-warmth-winter/
Innovation is another one of those terms that gets tossed around frequently, but do we really take the time to think more deeply about what it means? We all strive to be more innovative; whether it is to make a difference in the world or come up with a product or a service for a ready-made market. This week I received my regular cosmetics’ brochure and there were at least six or more new beauty products all boasting innovations. From the small to the big things, innovation can cover a multitude of uses. We are also told there is a difference between being creative and innovative.
It is easy to become enraptured by the ‘big guns’ such as Tesla with its driverless electric cars or Virgin with plans for holiday space trips to Mars; and neglect the quiet achievers. Innovation surrounds us everywhere and we probably take many inventions and other activities for granted.
I have just finished watching the final episode of the SBS TV series Michael Mosley: Queen Victoria’s Slums (2017) which involved families and individuals living the life that their ancestors did as slum dwellers in London’s East End during her reign. The reality of life for the poorest of the poor becomes evident very quickly. One has to admire the ingenuity and survival skills living in the slums required. The final show moved onto the new age following the death of Queen Victoria, and the attempts to introduce welfare reform. Among these was a mass clearance of slums. While some people remained at the bottom of the rung others managed to work their way outside of the slums for a better life. Due to exposure in local newspapers with photographs and stories highlighting the dire circumstances of many individuals living in poverty, there was a more acute awareness among those with the power to change things.
With the rise of trade unions for better conditions and pay for working men, the women’s right to vote movement, and cooperatives which supported families, innovations were coming to the fore as part of a more progressive society. One example, the cooperative store provided a range of quality goods at competitive prices to consumers as well as social support. There were free first-time outings to the countryside away from the squalid city conditions for cooperative members and their children.
While poverty has not been eradicated with many disadvantaged groups still struggling today, the introduction of social security payments and subsidised medical treatment offers safety nets for those who need financial assistance in Australia. Innovative thinking was behind welfare reform but as we face different challenges and changing needs of the population, innovation is required again to avoid entrenched poverty becoming the norm.
How often do we feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem because we try to take on the whole thing in one go. I am reminded of the analogy how does one eat an elephant; one bite at a time. In week 5 we are being pushed to dive into our tool box to start the process of problem solving which does require some creativity and innovation.
I am learning that solutions are not always flashes of inspiration or even a light bulb moment. Even those that are regarded as geniuses did not arrive at that point without a process beforehand. Application and pure sweat are usually involved as well.
So how does one approach problem solving? Adam Savage of Myth Busters TV fame provides a useful framework in a talk he gave in 2010 in California to tackle this dilemma his way. I regard myself as being more creative in literature than anything to do with science or maths. But Savage makes the point that we possess existing skills that can be utilised in a different discipline or area of endeavour. His skills as a sculptor and the knowledge he gained from doing his art were applied to a new role as a film producer. As he says even painters need to adopt some problem-solving steps to complete a great work of art.
Savage has come up with some useful steps that myself or others could apply. To start with ask what is the problem I am solving and most importantly what is the problem. Once you are clear about that, think about the big picture. Am I solving a single problem or is it part of something else? Find out how much time I have to complete the task and what deadline pressures are involved. Time and resources needed tend to go hand-in-hand. And of course what budget is allowed is vital. Location can be another significant problem especially if it involves working in certain climatic conditions. Other considerations can be an awareness of the team’s morale and a realistic audit of my own skills and whether outside help is required. Taking this step by step approach makes good sense because as a broad check list one can eliminate any issues or barriers before starting the physical work.
I am learning that there are various ways to approach problem solving. There is a current TV ad for Skoda cars which uses the line “you don’t have to be famous to be brilliant”. Many innovations we take for granted were most likely created by ordinary people who were willing to step up to the mark. There also needs to be a passion and a willingness to learn as much as you can about the problem you want to solve. Along the way, I am collecting new ideas and concepts, including TRIZ, a 40-principles matrix that offers another approach. What ever problem I encounter, the key is to plan the solution using the various tools available beforehand. I may not be famous but maybe I could aim for brilliance!