Saturday, 22 February 2014

Be the Change 2014 - MDG3 (or: Why is Lisa going to India anyway?)

This time next week I will be on a plane, heading towards Mumbai for my first International Girl Guide trip. I'm then travelling to Pune, where one of the four (and about to be five) Girl Guide World Centres is located. The Indian World Centre is called Sangam, a name which means 'coming together', and its mission is to help foster Girl Guide international friendship by introducing Guides to India, and by Guides forming new friendships through shared experiences.

I am visiting Sangam for a particular event, which is called Be the Change, with a focus on Millennium Development Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. You can learn more about the Goals on the UN's MDG website. During my time away I'll be working with other Guides to help advocate for change in our own home countries and will visit Sangam's community partners to see what they are doing to support the aim of MDG3. I'll also be learning about Indian culture and getting to know other Guides from around the world. On my return I'll be visiting Girl Guide units around my Region to help pass on what I have learnt on my journey.

Why go all that way though?

About six months ago I started looking into International Guiding because my friend Annie has been overseas with Guides a number of times for different events. The prices to India are reasonable expense for me because we are much closer to Sangam than the other World Centres, and cost did pay a part in my decision. Furthermore MDG3 is something I feel passionate about, and helping girls reach their potential or discover that they can do so much with their lives is really important.

I have also said growing up that I wasn't interested in going to India. To me it seemed very far away and I didn't know much about India other than the start of The Secret Garden (when all Mary Lennox's family gets wiped out from cholera) and that India had a cricket team. It wasn't really until I had my first meal at Beyond India that I realised that not only was Indian food delicious, they had a vibrant and exciting culture.

I've been overseas three times now, and this trip will make it my fourth. When I was still at school, and then university, travelling internationally had never been important to me because a) I never had the money for it and b) very few people I knew went overseas, other than on school exchanges trips. Since leaving school I've had the opportunity to visit places within Australia I never knew existed (I'd never even heard of Kadina, where I live now, until I went to Bible College), and seeing beyond what you know really does help shape you into a well rounded and balanced person.

My Guides are excited about my trip, and I can't wait to come back and tell them all about it. I have been a Guide since I was six, and though I had a fourteen year break, I'm of the firm belief that once you're a Guide you are always a Guide. My country's organisation Girl Guide Australia provide some wonderful opportunities for youth and adult members to serve their own Guiding communities and beyond.

I'm so blessed and fortunate to be able to make this trip. Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement. I'll be back soon xx

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Rachel's Tears: A book review 13 years in the making.

About thirteenish years ago I read a book named Rachel's Tears. It changed my life.

Rachel Joy Scott was a Christian teenager and a student at Columbine High School, where she was fatally wounded during a massacre. Released a year after her death, the book tells the tale of a teenager who was martyred for her faith. The book suggests that Rachel predicted her own death, as she knew she would die at a young age, and also appeared to have further insights into the tragedy, including drawing a picture of a Columbine rose with 13 tear drops coming, as if honouring the victims,

The greatest impact this book had on me was the way Rachel lived her life. Although her parents (Beth and Darrell) and quick to remind us that she was not a saint, and she would laugh at the notion, Rachel seemed to make many good choices about her life. She used her school work to share her faith, was inclusive of all groups at Columbine and made positive choices like not drinking, giving up smoking and not pursuing a relationship because she was concerned abut purity. Rachel had an incredibly busy life, working at Subway, studying at school, Drama Club and being heavily involved in church and her youth group Breakaway.

Rachel, like many young people her age, wrote in her journals, scribed many letters to friends and drew pictures about her faith. She wrote notes to encourage those struggling in their Christian walk. Some of her writing seems almost prophetic, however it isn't a lot disimilar to writings of teenagers. Obviously, on reflection of her death, many of these scrawled notes seemed to mean a great deal to a lot of people. As a teenager I was highly impressed, however I was much more interested in how Rachel 'walked her talk'. If anything I wanted to be more like Rachel rather than Jesus - not a great thing, but in many ways she was someone I could identify with. This book contains a lot about works and faith in action, but I'm not entirely sure it points to the Lifemaker as much as it could.

When I was in Year 10 I reread parts of this book every day as a lazy girl's devotion. It moved me and inspired my faith in a brand new way. For a long time I had been doing it on my own, but now I had a new friend -or at least Rachel's journal's to help sustain me. Of course, this was not enough as a long term solution, and as I have grown somewhat wiser, I have since discovered that things about the novel didn't sit well with me on a spiritual level. All the same, it is well worth the read.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Lisa's Reality Check Weight Loss Checkin: Week 3

Okay, so I haven't written anything for Weeks 1 or 2, but here is what I wrote on my Facebook after I had busted through Week 1:

 Hello world.
It's been a week since I stopped my favourite food consumption of chips, chocolate and bread.
I have been feeling miserable for a long time and recently someone decided to host a one-person intervention on my lifestyle.
I can't make any promises. I'm simply taking everything one day at a time. I have all the answers and the knowledge. I just need to put them into practice. Seriously, do not give me advice, I don't want it or need it.
For those of you have only known me for a year or two, I haven't always been this way. I looked a lot more like this girl in the photo (coz that's me). But for a long time I haven't acknowledge that she doesn't look like me anymore. I've eaten my way happily through my teaching career thinking I was 20 kg lighter. And that's changing as of last Monday. No one is to blame apart from me. No excuses.
Anyway. I'm sorry to everyone I have let down. I have had some amazing trainers, and some people who have stood by me when I least deserved it. I will prove you right. And I'll prove the rest of the world wrong.

But why?
Well, other than hating almost all photos of myself and not recognizing my own reflection, I am also pretty serious about roller derby. I think roller derby should be taken seriously. League bouts should feature in the sports pages of newspapers, not the feature sections. Okay, so lots of derby girls and guys do wear some outrageous things, but everyone is there because they meet skill guidelines, practice as much, or more often, than other "social" clubs and are serious about the sport. My dream is to one day play for the ADRD. I will be a lot better if I am fit and lighter. But because I have mental toughness, stamina and endurance when it comes to fitness, I have thought it is okay to rest on my laurels. Not anymore.

Okay, so usually this is the bit where the person writing the post makes some outrageous claims about how they lost weight. So far I have lost 2.4kg, which isn't bad considering I had two "cheat" days last weekend, instead of a cheat meal. There is a reason I won't talk too much about that: because what I'm doing isn't actually that complicated.

My mantra has been "one day at a time". So keeping that in mind here is what I'm doing:
1. Three square meals a day.
2. My snacks during the day are a very small handful of almonds (about 10).
3. Drinking lots of water.
4. Not eating after 7pm (unless it is dinner).
5. Not eating food I know is bad for me.

Some things people mess up on a lot is reading a book and letting the author decide what is right or wrong for you. Here's the thing: knowing your body is really hard, however I know a lot about what makes me put on weight easily and what doesn't. Sometimes that is hard, because most of my favourite things are bad for me. In other people, those food are good.

In terms of exercise, I've been to the gym a few days a week and have tried to be active in ways I enjoy.There are heaps of things I don't like - walking (however, I did go for a walk on Monday and it wasn't half bad), Step (sore feet) and running (again, sore feet). But I like going on the bike at gym, boxing, Attack classes, weights and skating. Old Lisa (not the Lisa pictured) used to make herself do stuff because it was meant to be "good for her". But mentally this wasn't fair. I don't like 6am starts for Boot Camp, and I hate always being the last one to do laps around the oval. So I'll do stuff I enjoy. It's not that hard.

 Before my wedding and well into last year I tried a whole bunch of different ways to lose weight:
1. Protein shakes
I wish I never met these buggers. Now I think that unless I did an hour of cardio and an hour of high intensity training, I wouldn't touch them. But they are yummy and I used to love them.
2. Food diaries
The only way I have enjoyed doing food diaries is having My Fitness Pal installed on my iPad. It automatically counts calories for you and tells you things like "If every day was like this, you would weigh ___". Go me. I don't like being accountable to trainers or some book because I don't get enough out of it straight away. My Fitness Pal = instant gratification that I did well.
3. Celebrity Slim
I lost about 4-5kg on Celeb Slim shakes, BUT that was only according to the scales. I think it was mostly water. Also they are expensive and only the chocolate ones taste nice.
4. Visiting a naturopath
I was having stress related chest pains and wanted to lose weight so a naturopath put me on the anti-candida diet. I had no energy, could eat a whole bunch of food which wasn't good for me and felt tired and grumpy. When we were in NZ I broke my stupid diet and felt a whole heap better.
5. Personal Trainers
I had an awesome trainer in Port Pirie and I lost about 4kg before my wedding and gained a lot of muscle. But she wasn't fixated on my weigh loss, she really wanted be to be a much fitter and healthier person and she made every session fun. I have had a lot of PT sessions over the last 7 years and other than a few notable exceptions, she really made a difference.
6. Signing up to a gym that is too far away.
Seriously, don't do this ever. Why? You'll hardly ever go and when you do it feels like a chore. I loved my gym in Adelaide, but I never should have kept up my membership once I left. I miss it so much, but it isn't worth the money or the mental energy I was putting in to get there.

Before I finish, I'd like to just point out something I don't often say. I did my Cert III in Fitness back in 2011. I have never studied so hard for something in my academic years. Lots of PTs have trainers. I don't have one yet because a) I have only just started working and b) good trainers are too hard to find. So I guess, what I'm saying is, I'm not giving advice to anyone, other than writing this blog post for my own pleasure. And, also, I know my stuff. Lots of people who train a lot know their stuff too, but I'm qualified to give myself some general advice about nutrition and exercise.

Stay tuned. More coming your way... sometime soonish.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The letter I wish I could send home to parents

I'm not teaching this year. But if I was, this is the letter I would want to send out, however there is a few reasons I couldn't. Firstly, I deliver some home truths - parents don't tend to like that. Secondly, these pieces of advice have words like 'don't and 'no', which modern teaching pedagogy deems as wrong. Thirdly, I spell things out explicitly. And if you're prepared to deal with that, please read on.

Dear Parents,

Hello! I am you child's teacher this year. I am certainly not perfect in any way, shape or form. Please don't believe everything you are told about me - most of it will be true enough. I have good and bad days, just like your child. I have a family, I sometimes lack sleep and I work long hours to run this classroom. In my classroom all students are encouraged to dream big. They are encouraged to be inclusive and positive in the way they speak to each other and to me. Here is some advice I will be giving your child this year.

Let's set some goals.
All my goals are SMART goals - they need be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. I will give students ideas of SMART goals - they might want to write longer stories, more to a different reading level or learn a new times table. And when they have achieved that goal we will celebrate and move on to a new goal. We will do this all year - starting from day one. Please as your child about their goals.

Expect to lose games.
We will play all sorts of games this year. In sport lessons, fitness games or any other competitive activity, you child will lose the game many times. Why? Not due to their lack of ability, but because they are one in a class of 25. Students will be expected to leave am elimination game if they are asked to. They will be expected to show good sportsmanship and cheer for all classmates, not just their friends. Many of these games have little to do with skill and all students will be on an even playing field.

You won't be good at everything and sometimes there will be things you can't do.
Most students will have difficulty grasping new concepts, ideas and concepts. Some students will have an easy time reading, others will have plenty of reasons why it is hard for them personally. One day you child will come home and say something along the lines of "it's not fair that _____ gets out of sport/has extra help/is only pretending they can't read". Yes, that's true. Sometimes it isn't fair that one student will require additional teaching to help them master a task, however this is unavoidable. One day you child will be the person receiving additional help. And that makes it fair.

Make your own choices.
You might know this one as "If so-and-so told you jump off a cliff, would you?" Students are expected to be responsible for their own actions, both positive and negative.

We will be trying new things. That means everyone.
Everyone in this class will try new food, watch new films to celebrate the end of term, study new topics and challenge themselves in different ways - physically and mentally. I expect students to experience new things together. It is okay for them to be a little worried, however if you are concerned please contact me.

Have 5 or more people you can play with.
Having a best friend can be fun, but it is important students have a larger network to play with. 5 people don't have to be "friends", just people they can spend time with at recess and lunch. During this year I will be speaking to students individually about who their 5 people are. The 5 people may change over time and it may include younger or older students.

Don't send toys or anything else you don't want to lose at school with your child.
Our school has plenty of places for students to play and resources for them to use. These include sports equipment, inside play and recreational games. Toys at school can be very distracting and can be misplaced easily. Please do not send these to school.

Label everything. Yes, even underwear and shoes.
Please label every item you send to school. At home your child can easy identify their own items, but in a school situation there are often duplicates of lunchboxes, pens, containers, jumpers and even shoes. And before you ask, yes, most Lost and Found boxes having at least one lost shoe.

Show your manners.
Please, thank you, using people's names and tidying up the space you use is really respectful. Please encourage your child to use manners whenever possible.

We are all different.
Accept that every child in this classroom is different. They all have different needs, interests and backgrounds. Help your student know and identify things they like and dislike. Be explicit. Teach social skills. Let them sit alongside other children who they may not know or like. I am different too. You will know this because you will hear all sorts of things about me before the year ends. Some of it will be true. Most of it will be true enough.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs Birch