Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Hope*

I know I am not alone in wondering about the meaning behind the plethora of natural disasters occurring around the world at the moment. What with the unfolding tragedy of earthquake followed by tsunami, followed by nuclear threat in Japan; the devastating earthquake in Christchurch; the visit from Cyclone Yasi in North Queensland; Floods in Brisbane and rural Queensland; flood waters that have not receded 6 weeks after the initial event in Victoria; the ten years of drought in parts of Australia that preceded these flooding events .... and on and on it goes.

I thought to myself - Where's the hope?

It can become increasingly difficult to think hopefully about the future when confronted daily by the seeming hopelessness of these situations. It has me thinking about the people affected by these disasters, how do they hold onto hope? Sometimes I find it difficult enough to find the hope in my life and I have not been personally affected by any of these disasters - except as a citizen of the world who feels empathy for the pain of my fellow citizens.

It is far easier to collapse into hopelessness than it is to continue to find hope for the future. I know this from my own experiences and I believe the act of living each day is an act of hope, and this is what I can do ... look for hope in the extraordinary ordinariness of everyday life, in the beauty of nature, the comfort of friends and family, the unconditional love of pets...

Like the beauty of this spider web on my back deck the other day. Amazingly skillful isn't it?

The Great Barrier reef with it's crystal clear waters...

The Melbourne skyline against the trees...

the perfection of a single red rose...

Maybe having hope is what we can do to help our fellow sisters and brothers in times of need.

While these tragedies are unfathomable to me, I have used them to remind myself that life is a gift and I have an obligation to do my best with it. While my life has not been without its trials, I have been blessed and I try and remember this every day, by being tolerant of others, accepting of difference and being open to learning and sharing.

I hope
For more love, joy and laughter
I hope
We'll have more than we'll ever need
I hope
We'll have more happy ever afters
I hope
We can all live more fearlessly
And we can lose all the pain and misery
I hope, I hope
*I Hope - Dixie Chicks

Monday, March 14, 2011

Picture This*

 This morning - on a lovely sunny public holiday - we headed out for a ride ...

and a visit to some of our friends at the zoo

Frolicking seals

such grace and beauty. A lovely place for a sit

Little penguin having an afternoon snooze

Seagulls from below

the family at play

little brother Ongaard

big sister Mali

cute little meerkats at play

All I want is a room with a view
A sight worth seeing a vision of you
All I want is a room with a view, oooooh 
*Picture This - Blondie

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Believe*

There are times when we question the meaning to our lives
Do we understand our purpose, is it more than meets the eye
Is our future really just an open door
We all want to know what we're searching for

As I gaze into the heavens, I'll tell you what I see
Stars that shine forever, they shine for you and me
Do you wonder if we're all part of a plan
let me share with you the things I understand

I Believe that I'm a shining star
I believe the dream that's in my heart
even when hope seems to fade away
I believe that I can find a way

I believe my best is yet to come
I believe in love for everyone 
When the night ahead seems cold and dark
I can use the vision in my heart 
*I Believe - Susie Davies-Splitter and Phil Splitter

I love this song written by some friends of mine, I love to play and sing it, and it helps me realise that life is bigger than just me and my tiny little contribution. It helps me to keep picking myself up.

Picture of a rare sunrise seen by ME.

After the other day during my time of contemplation, I decided the way forward was to get on with some study. I remembered something I read - when in doubt, forward motion. I felt this was something that would give me a sense of having achieved something in a relatively short time.

In beginning my exploration of ontology (what exists, or can be said to exist), I realised, it is really about what I believe - informed by my reading of course.

I am looking at evaluation, and really want to know how to evaluate process. The process for me is much more interesting than the outcome but it is not fully addressed through current evaluation methods and tools. The journey is more important than the destination. How do we evaluate the journey in therapy, or community arts?

What I want to know, therefore, is: 

How can we effectively evaluate Community Music Therapy/Community Cultural Development?

So I began by thinking about what I believed from my own experience, and allowed this to inform the beginnings of my literature search. I believe that qualitative methods of evaluation are far superior for finding out what it is I want to know, than quantitative methods of evaluation.

My experience of working with questionnaires and quantitative data, has led me to believe this cannot effectively measure individual or group responses of the journey undertaken. I am in no way saying that quantitative evaluation is not useful, of course it is. It is a type of evaluation that is understood by funding bodies which is definitely a consideration when thinking about innovation.

Apart from anything else, qualitative evaluation suits ME best. I realised that, in effect, what I have been doing over the past few years while learning to live with CFS, is qualitative evaluation, and more particularly, participatory action research.

I have been trying different ways of managing and when they work, building on them, and when they don't, working out why not, then trying something new.  I am an action research project in progress!

Dusk on NYE 2010 from the park near my house looking at the city of Melbourne by ME.

One of the most important things that I have learned is to stop and smell the roses. Oh yeah that old chestnut, but for me it has become a really important part of learning to live with this disease. I have learned that just because I have a goal, does not mean that I have to complete what is needed all in one go. I have a couple of personal examples that illustrate this.

1. I really wanted to start my PhD last year, and so I did in March last year. I threw myself into it guns blazing. Two months later, I had to take a leave of absence because it was too much. I had over committed. I was still adjusting to a new job that I had begun the September before, and adding the study, just pushed me too far. So I took the rest of last year off study, and concentrated on work, rehab and fun.

2. The next example is much more mundane, but I learned an equally important lesson. There are certain days of the week that I cook dinner. My usual routine was get home from work and immediately begin preparing dinner, followed by the dishes and falling in a heap! I have learned that taking 20 minutes or so when I get home, to sit and do nothing, means I will have lots more energy for the rest of the evening, which means that I am more fun to be around, that I can engage in conversations with my beautiful partner, and be more present.

So my own ongoing participatory action research project is part of what informs my beliefs and in turn my study. I should also add that I have plenty of years of working in community settings, in many different roles with experience in evaluation of music therapy and community projects. These also inform my study, but my own experiences are the most relevant and illustrative for me at this time. There may be other stories for other times.

Mostly at this time, I believe I can do anything, as long as I take my time and honour the process.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Kissing Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain)*

This week, it has felt like there has been a bit of falling down the mountain, and more specifically the kissing dirt part!

Do you ever feel like life is just about getting back up all the time? That all you ever do is keep dusting yourself off and starting again? Well this last little while has felt a bit like that for me.

This beautiful picture was taken by me on a trip to New Zealand in 2006 near Franz Josef Glacier

The house has been sold, so we are on the move in a few months; work is all bureaucracy and no respect and caring for those that we are there to work with; my health has been up and down despite religiously using all my rehab tools; study has not been progressing smoothly and it seems everytime we begin to get a little ahead financially, something breaks down or needs attention (this week it is both the car and coffee machine - and believe me the coffee machine is a much worse prospect to live without!!!) 

Aside from all this, I did something yesterday that I swore to myself I would never do. You know those funniest video shows when the adult gets on the pogo stick, or the skateboard, or the trampoline ... and you just know it's going to end in tears? Well imagine cool aunt on my 5 yr old nephews' scooter, crack in the concrete ... the rest as they say ... could have won me $$$ on funniest home videos if someone was filming!!!! (Yes I am nursing some grazed and bruised knees, but having a good laugh at myself and the irony of it all, not nursing a bruised ego as well.)

The funniest bit was my nephew, after I fell said "what the hell"! Yes even he knew I had just ended all the fun for everyone!

I think it is against my nature to stay down when I fall, but fighting is harder sometimes than others. If I knew how not to get back up all the time, I might give it a go, then maybe then the kissing dirt would be more pleasant, who knows.

Falling down the mountain
End up kissing dirt
Look a little closer
Sometimes it wouldn't hurt
*Kissing Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain) - INXS
Suggested by Curlypops