Dearest little sister,

Watching you grow I’ve come to realise some things: a) it is interesting to have little sisters, b) some things never change and c) where the beep did time fly?

Watching you grow, learn to manage and overcome some big obstacles has made me proud as punch and ridiculously grateful to have a little sister like the one that I have.

It’s generally the older siblings to teach the younger ones, and whilst this is the case most times, I have also found that the younger ones can teach the older siblings a thing or two.

Growing up as an only child for half my childhood, one got used to “one-person” games, as well as learning to entertain oneself when bored.

For the other half of my childhood, I learnt when to share and when not to, that younger siblings can often be your best friend (irregardless of age gap), and how to establish a (loving) hierarchy of sibling authority. I also learnt to set up boundaries, and that younger siblings (when bored) can be really annoying when you’re trying to study for exams so you learn quickly methods to annoy one another without getting into trouble.

Yet I also learnt to view life through an energetic, opinionated point of view and through this lens, it taught how to relate theoretical awesome knowledge to young people.

Despite all the arguments, the tricks played on each other, I’m grateful for the friendship and close relationship with my sister. The discussions about Pokémon (what move is good, what Pokémon should I get, what name should I give it), the banter about life and the 10 minute laughing fits are some of the things I cherish most.

Time flies by quickly, siblings shoot up in growth spurts and once when they were shorter than you, they now tower over you (or are at eye level). Treasure the time spent with them because time goes quickly and life is short.

So, to my sister that looks like me but whose personality is so similar yet so different, I love you.

Yours,

Sophia

xx

Reflections: Two Months into Teaching

Tomorrow will mark 35 days of my first (almost full time) teaching gig. To say it has been great is … well, it fails to really describe what it’s like.

I never understood exhaustion until I became a teacher. As a teacher, you’re constantly ‘switched on’; physically, mentally and emotionally. You’re fielding 1001 questions, whilst making sure kids don’t get hurt. Whilst providing extra support or challenges to those who need it. Oh, and problem solving all along the way. I’ve been so exhausted, my feet are dragging and my bones feel like concrete – but the minute I step into the classroom, that all disappears.

Being a teacher, especially a graduate teacher, it’s taught me not to take support networks for granted. Loved ones who rock up with food in their hands to a gathering or a catch up. Friends who just sit and listen to a barrage of nonsensical words of an issue (or two or three) that’s been worrying me. Partners who make you a cup of tea in the mornings. It’s the little things that make you feel not alone as you’re drowning in paperwork, lesson plans and marking.

Working with teenagers who are great one day and grumpy the next has taught me about the diversity and fluidity that are human beings. It’s taught me that rigidity and structure are great support, but it’s nothing without flexibility. It’s no use dragging kids (metaphorically) to get work done if we don’t care for them as well. I was sitting in a workshop and one of the key learnings i took was “allowing different pathways”. Sure we need a structure of a plan to achieve shared outcomes. Yet we all learn differently, and we all walk a different journey. Why not let there be different paths to achieve a shared outcome?

Self-bloody-care. I harp on about this but nothing reinforces the importance of self-care until a rough day in a crazy week as a teacher. You can’t look after and teach people if you’re not looking after yourself. As a friend put it, (paraphrasing here) “you won’t be on your A game if you’re tired from working late and not looking after yourself.”

One thing I’ve noticed is how the more I have to manage behavior, the less I can focus on teaching, and the more my confidence takes a hit and my anxiety/doubts starts to kick in. Am i actually doing the right thing? Are the kids actually learning? Am I liked? Yet like my friend and fellow teacher, Katie said: “We just need to be sure of ourselves. We do know what we are doing and we do it well!”

So, out of all this here’s the one thing I want to take away: Believe in yourself, have faith in your capabilities. You’re stronger, wiser than you know and it’s not being popular amoungst the kids but being there in the classroom everyday with the kids and guiding them.

I can do this.

Yours,

Sophia
xx

Motivation and changing habits.

There are some things in my life that I want to do more often because of the positive impacts it has on me, but I find it hard to motivate myself to actually do it.

Take running as an example. I like running – once I get some great tunes going, I’m all set. I’ve got the gear, i just don’t have motivation.

I’ve never been a sporty person; I was the musical kid at school. Yet the days when dad and I would go cross-country training are some of my favourite memories and I actually enjoyed doing them.

I could go on with other examples, but what really is important is this: sometimes you need to put effort into it to do things that don’t come easy to you. Sometimes you actually need to just do it. Your body may be completely filled with nerves and you may feel ill at ease, most days you’re going to have to fight through that.

Something worth fighting for won’t come easily, but it is worth the effort you put into it and the motivation you get out of it.

Yours,

Sophia x

Dear baking

Today I did something I rarely ever do – I baked for the sake of baking. Not baking for a friends birthday, or for a class, but baking because I wanted to. So with the rain in the background, I decided on baking something I hadn’t done in a long while – an apple crumble.

I could go on a massive tangent about the recipe, and write a long post about its amazingness and how yummy it was, but I won’t. I’ll just share the recipe below, and let you jump on board on the Äppelsmulpaj train.

I grew up in a family that bakes. My maternal grandma bakes ALL the time, and the cellar (especially in holiday seasons) often has cakes resting in the pantry. I think it annoyed and amused (in equal amounts) my grandma whenever the grandkids (and often son) were around because there would be pieces of cake going randomly missing. I inherited Dutch baking recipes from my Oma from she used to bake and inherited her sense of quiet happiness seeing the kids enjoy the baked goods.

Despite my mum being those “bake-from-packets” type of baker (much to the dismay of her mother), I inherited her love of Scandinavian baking. So this morning, I opened up my favourite Nordic Cook Book, flipped it to deserts and found the Äppelsmulpaj recipe.

Once it’s finished, I’ll take the Äppelsmulpaj over to some mates for afternoon tea … because that’s something I’ve grown up with, and something I try to do often.

It’s cultural tradition from where I come from, that if people are over around afternoon tea time, you offer them coffee and cake. If you don’t have cake, then you scramble a platter of biscuits together.

I’ve often asked mum and my grandmas why they put so much effort into afternoon tea and sprinkled amongst the “Because it’s nice to do something like this!” and “It’s what you do!” answers, was the real reason – you do it because you love them. Afternoon tea gatherings are moments of time where we all sat down together, being present in the presence of the people that we love.

Bonding over shared food allows us to break down barriers, share our heritage and culture with others and provides an opportunity to build stronger relationships. Bonding over shared foods, be it afternoon tea or mealtimes, reminds us of our own humanity and for me, that it includes the values of neighbourliness, hospitality and welcoming diversity.

We all need reminders of our common humanity, so bake a cake, put the kettle on and invite friends and family over for afternoon tea.

… just make sure you have a sneaky piece or two before everyone gobbles the Äppelsmulpaj up.

Yours,

Sophia
x

PS: Because I love this recipe for Äppelsmulpaj, I decided to share it with you. The recipe is originally from Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Cook Book.

Orange Minimalist Recipe Card.png

Love, over hate.

This letter has been sitting in my drafts since October 2017. I wrote in the evening after I was verbally harassed because I didn’t give someone my attention as I was walking down some stairs on the way home

It sat in my drafts because I wasn’t sure if I should post it, and had several doubts about it. But I’ve decided to post it because I don’t want to let a single post control my doubts.

So without further ado, here is the letter:

Today, I was yelled at for simply walking downstairs at the train station. Words like “b*tch”, “c*nt” and “I’ll kill you” were lobbed at me. All because I walked down the stairs with earphones in my ears, listening to Paul Kelly.

Did it make me scared? Did it make me feel vulnerable? Yes, it did. It made me assess where I could sit on the train, where I should stand on the station for protection because I did not know if the person would follow through on their threat or whether the person (like I suspected) was all bark, no bite.

Yet what makes me mad, is that this is not a one-off moment, but rather a common occurrence for women. Far too many nights have I walked home in the dark, or walked through Northbridge alone with keys in my hand as a self-defensive measure, being aware of everyone around me.

I don’t get harassed, name-called often to my face, but I know that I am privileged and that for my sisters of colour, it is a common occurrence.

We all need a bit more love in the world, less hate and more acceptance of who we are as humans.

So I didn’t dwell on today’s occurrence for long because I don’t need that negativity. I’m only posting this because I need to see written proof that I’m not at fault, nor should yelling at a person for choosing not to give your their attention be acceptable.

But I wanted to leave these words here – let’s share the love more than the hate. Because we all are important and valued, no matter our gender, sexuality, or background.

Love,
Sophia
X

Why it’s important to listen

Sitting in the back of a car, drinking tea out of my passenger camping mug, I sit reflecting on life, and this guilt that accompanies taking time out to plug off and enjoy life.

I wonder if our lives are consumed by this need to work. That our identities are defined by our work.

I wonder if we’ve lost our natural curiosity for our lives around us. I wonder, that in my teaching, how I can get teenagers and young people to be curious about the world and the people around them.

I wonder if we can get empathetic communication back between all of us, and then I wonder did we ever have empathetic communication?

Then I wonder how do we develop and learn empathetic communication? Then I realise that it’s all about accepting the person as they are, with their life experiences and treating them as a human being.

Because we have a lot to learn from each other and we can make the world a better place by learning from each other.

Yours,

Sophia

x

Holidays + Routines

December rolls around every year, and accompanying December is the process to reflect, and if necessary, change or modify any personal goals. You know, that end of year routine common to many people.

We, humans, are creatures of habit and we seem to really like our routines. Routines let us understand what is coming up and can act as a comparison stick in case anything out of the ordinary arises. Just like in a maths equation, once we know the variables, we can solve the equation. Routines help us figure out the variables.

The lead up to the holidays often means that our routines get interrupted, with all the planning, cooking, that last minute rush to sort out presents and fitting in as many social events before the year ends getting in the way. We are so busy looking out for everyone else, we forget to look after ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, looking after others is an important part of our lives because it builds empathy. It helps us connect with people, and we learn from each other. Yet empathy can’t be developed on an empty tank. One really important part of building empathy is self-awareness, the ability to distinguish between our feelings and thoughts with the feelings and thoughts of others. As such, we need to connect with our own thoughts and feelings, not neglect them.

One thing 2017 has taught me is that it is okay to take a step back from the chaos of life, all the competing pressures in your life and to look after oneself. It is okay to take that 10-minute break enjoying the seaside, or that 10-minute meditation practice or simply to sit down with a cup of tea enjoying the nature around you.

Because in looking after everyone else over the holiday season, we also need to connect with ourselves. So over the next 19 days left in 2017, and in the 12 days up until Christmas, schedule some time with yourself on a daily basis.

Yours,
Sophia
x