March 26th, 2004
On this day thirteen years ago my life changed forever.
That sounds a little dramatic, but it’s true. For the previous 35 years – in another life – I had been a primary (elementary) school teacher. Eight of those years I enjoyed being a teacher librarian; I loved buying books and using the school’s money and not mine. I loved the relationship I had with the students in my classes over the years. I still keep contact with many of them, either on Facebook or in the town where I live. It’s great to see them developing as adults and to see their own children growing up.
What happened to change my life?
On that momentous day in March 2004, I clearly remember hearing a voice inside my head saying, ‘You’ve left your classroom for the last time.’ Now, I must clarify that I am a Christian and believe that God ‘speaks’ to us in many ways, but my experience of His audible voice has been very infrequent. I can really only recall one other occasion. During the first few months of 2004, I had been seriously struggling with illness. Teaching became an almost impossible struggle. On this day, March 26th, I had endured a meeting arranged for me with a counsellor. It was not easy acknowledging that I needed some serious help.
The voice was right. That was my last day of teaching in a primary school. I was granted some sick-leave by my doctor – I had plenty in reserve – and took several months off while I recovered. The process was long and emotional; I won’t bore you with the details. I didn’t want to give up a calling to teach, something I loved doing but a task which had become so hard in the face of my illness.
As my health improved, I was able to consult my financial planner. She looked at my situation with great compassion and understanding, just as my doctor and counsellor had done. She asked whether I would rather teach for a few more years to build up my superannuation, or cut loose and get better. ‘Do you want the extra money, or do you want your health?’
It was a no-brainer, really. especially when she told me that to teach for several more years as I had planned would only increase my super payout by a few dollars per week – $15 was the figure, I think.
I resigned forthwith.
And that’s when my life changed forever.
Life after teaching
For many months I struggled with coming to terms with my sudden retirement. It took me a long time to adjust to not fronting up at school every morning. It took me a while to get over my illness. One thing is certain: during the winter months that year, when the rain was pouring down outside, and the wind was howling around our home, and I was reading a good book in front of our fire, I did NOT miss venturing out to supervise the children during after-school bus duty. I didn’t miss it at all.
Over the subsequent years, I have experienced many wonderful times. Some of this has related to travel. I have been free to enjoy the delights of Thailand, Nepal (see the photo above of Ama Dablam, just a few miles from Everest), enigmatic Ethiopia, mesmerising Morocco and scintillating Spain. My wife and I have also travelled extensively in Australia in that time. We are planning more travel in the coming years. I have written about many of my adventures on my travel site called Trevor’s Travels.
After I had recovered sufficiently from my ill-health, I set about establishing my second career as a writer. I had always been a writer, but my writing was confined to weekends and school holiday periods. In the 1990s I actually published six books; two teacher curriculum books with four accompanying student workbooks, all of them sadly now out of print.
On my son’s encouragement, I started writing three blogs, this one you are now reading, plus Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels. I would love it if you visited them and left some comments. Both sites feature hundreds of photos of Australian birds and scenery shots of places we have visited. In total, with these three sites and two other sites I write for, I have published nearly 5000 articles since retiring. I feel tired just typing that!
During my retirement, I have also written several – as yet unpublished – novels and picture book texts, along with dozens of articles, short stories and poems. (Click on the sidebar to read some of my poems and stories.) Nearly 100 of these stories and poems have been published in a range of newspapers, journals and magazines.
Not content with just writing all of these blog posts, novels, stories and poems, a few years ago I also completed my degree. I now have a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. You can read about that process here. This has led to some lecturing and speaking at conferences. What I learned during this course has equipped me to tackle some earlier novels I wrote back in the 1990s. I am now in the process of rewriting them. Stayed tuned; I hope to publish these very soon.
On occasions, people ask me if I ever miss teaching. It’s a very valid question, especially in the light of a lifetime – 35 years – in the classroom. The short answer is ‘no’. I do not miss the long hours of preparation, marking and professional reading required. I do not miss the unending staff meetings and the politics of the staff-room. I do not miss the parents who make life hard for teachers to do their job; thankfully I experienced very few of them.
I do miss the children. I do miss seeing children develop their skills, especially children like Jennifer. She astounded me with the progress she made under my care and guidance.
I do miss building relationships with children and seeing them go on successfully in life. I actually keep a list of successful former students, following their careers.
And above all, I miss the fact that they all used to laugh at my ‘dad jokes’. Now my longsuffering wife is generally my only audience, though my 8-year-old grandson thinks I am hilarious.
It’s time to roll out a list of what I hope to do in the coming years:
- Many more blog posts here on this site, and the other sites I mentioned above.
- Continue on a wide-ranging reading programme, something all writers should do.
- Rewrite and publish as eBooks my novels, collections of stories and poems.
- Publish as eBooks several non-fiction books as spin-offs from my blogs.
- Write more novels; I have ideas for at least six more. Coming up with ideas is easy; writing the books is hard.
- Continue to travel here in Australia as health and finances allow.
Mmm… looks like I have a busy time ahead.
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In my saner moments, I really appreciate life’s little blessings. And a mulberry tree.
Let me explain.
Life can be tough at times and, like many people, I’ve had a few tough moments. Still, when I compare my life to that of many others, I’ve got it really easy. Sure, I may have a few serious health issues – like diabetes, for example, a condition which is a beast to manage and keep on top of. I have also had a few aches and pains in recent years, and arthritis is becoming my daily burden. Still, this goes with the territory of advancing years. I try not to regret the passing of time; reaching my age is a privilege denied many. Sadly, too many people die well before my age, and I am still going strong. For now.
We live in a peaceful country with a relatively stable government (with all its faults). When I see the television news and watch what is happening in other countries, I realise what a blessing it is to live in Australia. When I go travelling like I did recently to visit my son and family in Sydney, I experience what a blessing it is to live in this beautiful country of ours. Just being able to travel freely, unhindered, without any hassles is a great blessing. The wonderful scenery is an added bonus.
Then when I spend a few weeks living with my grandchildren, I once again realise the blessings that come from the little things in life. Like when my five-year-old grand-daughter leans over and hugs me, telling me that she loves me. Or when my eight-year-old grandson meets me at the bus-stop with a huge grin and begins relating the events of his day at school. These are precious moments and truly a great blessing.
“But what about the mulberry tree?” I hear you ask.
My son is not a gardener. Despite that, he and his family have a magnificent old mulberry tree in their back yard. Right next to the kids’ trampoline. At the moment it is loaded with fruit. Delicious fruit. Yummy, good for your tummy fruit. Sweet, dribble down your chin kind of fruit. And while I have spent many happy hours watching the children do all kinds of gymnastic tricks on the trampoline, I have been drawn magnetically towards the tree for a morning or afternoon snack. Another of life’s little blessings.
And it’s no use denying having eaten the fruit. The evidence is quite plain to see on my fingers. Talk about being literally caught red-handed. Memories of my childhood have come flooding back too. I remember climbing up my uncle’s huge mulberry tree to eat, and to collect the fruit. My cousins and I would come down from the tree, fingers, hands and arms stained and clothes in need of a good soaking. What blessings there are in such memories.
PS: for the health and nutritional benefits of mulberries click here.
Hi there, readers.
Are you still there, waiting on my every word?
Mmm… maybe not.
It has been a long time since my last post here. Goodness – was it really April the last time I wrote anything here? How time flies when life gets in the way. Life has certainly thrown a few obstacles in my way over recent months which accounts, in part, for my lack of posting here.
Way back in April we had four weeks holiday with our son and his family in Sydney. This visit was timed to coincide with the school holidays. Our grandchildren are ages 8 and 5 and we love spending quality time with them, especially during the school breaks when their parents are otherwise occupied. It’s an exhausting pleasure, but we delight in it every day we are with them. Being a grandparent can be challenging, but it is wonderful. I keep reminding myself that it is a privilege and blessing denied far too many.
Terrible storm creates firewood
On returning home to South Australia we had an extremely busy and exhausting few months. First of all, we had a terrible storm which flattened many of the trees on our property. I spent many hours cleaning up the mess left behind. A wonderful by-product of all that chain-sawing will be felt during winter next year. All that extra firewood will keep us cosy and warm.
A wet, wet, wet winter
On top of all that work, we had the wettest winter for many years. We live on a rural property of five acres. The grass kept growing and growing and growing. We live in a moderate bushfire risk region, so I am conscious of keeping the grass under control.That means many hours of brush cutting and mowing on the ride-on mower. We used to have some four-legged “lawn mowers”, but sheep need constant care. I hated seeing them get fly-blown, and a dog attack some years ago left me devastated.
Sorting, packing and cleaning
In the midst of all that, we had five trips to Clare in the mid-north of South Australia. Our daughter has been teaching in the local high school there for the last 15 years. We loved visiting her during that time. On this occasion, however, it was to pack up all of her belongings ready for a removalist to take everything away. This took many days of sorting, packing, and cleaning. All of her things are now in storage in a shipping container in our paddock. It will stay there for the next two years while she teaches overseas. She is teaching at an international school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You can read about her adventures on Rose’s Travel Jottings, though she hasn’t updated the site for a while.
So, as you can imagine, writing has taken a back seat over the last six months. I have still managed to write regularly in my personal journal and I have certainly kept up with my reading and planning. Over coming months I hope to announce some wonderful news about my writing. I also plan to add many more posts here on this site, and on my other blog, Trevor’s Birding.
In the meantime – good reading and productive writing.
PS: I am also planning on publishing a regular monthly newsletter. This will contain news and articles not included on this blog. To subscribe, go to below the comments section at the bottom of each post. I’d love to see you subscribe.
Life can get very hectic at times.
That is true for many people, me included. Although I retired from classroom teaching just over 12 years ago, I seem to be as busy as ever. Not only am I trying to establish myself as a blogger and writer, I also have many community responsibilities, especially within the life of the church we attend. Still, it is a lifestyle I have deliberately chosen, so I shouldn’t complain.
At least once, preferably twice annually, my wife and I plan a few weeks into our busy schedule to travel to Sydney to visit and stay with family. Our son and his family live there and we love spending time with our grandchildren, ages 7 and 4. It is during these times that I set aside extra time to spend with family, especially the children. While I am totally dedicated to my life as a writer, I realise that the times spent with the grandchildren are some of the sweetest moments in one’s life.
Both of our grandchildren are at the stage in life where they love cuddles with both sets of grandparents. We try to ‘visit’ frequently via Skype and through telephone calls, but you cannot give a hug or cuddle over the phone or the internet. That is why they love having us visit for an extended time. This time it will be a day short of four weeks. That’s great.
And only a few nights ago I was sitting on the couch watching a video with the children. Both were snuggled up to me. The youngest held my fingers in her little hand. The oldest was leaning against my shoulder. ‘How wonderful is this,’ I thought, smiling inwardly. Sweet moments like this do not come along every day, especially when we live over 1300km away – two days’ hard drive.
While both of our grandchildren struggle from time to time with life’s issues, sometimes resulting in emotional melt-downs, these are far outweighed by the precious moments in each day. These are the sweet moments that should be a part of every child’s life. These are the delightful times of pure joy which should be in everyone’s lives. These are the times when a shared experience, a moment of laughter, a sharing of a song or the relating of the day’s highlight which can bring sheer contentment.
Treasure those moments
These special moments must be shared and treasured.
They can sometimes be so fleeting, so transient.
They are moments denied so many people in this world of ours.
Try to look for life’s wonderful blessings, those precious and sweet moments in life.
Is it really ten years today since I started this site about writing, reading and books?
Today is the tenth anniversary of Trevor’s Writing. Originally, I started blogging because family members wanted to keep up with what we were doing. This very quickly changed as I saw the potential of such a site very early.
Around the same time I started two other sites, Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels. I bit off a little too much, but over the intervening years, I have written over a thousand articles on these sites as well. More recently I have maintained and written many articles on our church site here.
I decided that I would use this site as a platform to share my writing, share my ideas about writing, sharing insights from the books I was reading and bringing to my writing my extensive experiences as a primary school teacher. I had retired only a few months earlier. In retirement, I planned to write as close to full-time as I could manage. It had been a dream of mine throughout my life. Now I had the time.
Over the last ten years I have included the following on this site:
- Poetry, including many haiku
- Short stories – mainly flash fiction up to about 500 words
- Reviews of books and films
- Writing ideas and hints
- Short story starters to help my readers who are writers
- Writing prompts to start the ideas rolling for writers
- Reflections on the writer’s life
- Personal reflections on attempting and achieving my Master of Arts Creative Writing degree
- Outlining the process of writing my novel which was the main component of my MA degree. I actually quoted portions of this site in my thesis paper.
How to access articles on this site
Readers of this site can access the articles in a variety of ways:
- Use the search facility at the top of each page
- Use the cloud of topics in the sidebar
- Click on the Archives button at the top of the page and scan through all the articles (now over 1000 of them)
- Click on one of the items under Contents on the sidebar
- I also post quite a bit on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – click on the buttons near the top of each page to follow me.
What am I planning on this site in the months and years to come? Basically, more of the same. I am also planning to publish a range of eBooks. Stay tuned.