Tree School Revisited

One from the archives while I try and find my words again..


Trees have a kind of magical power in my life. (Thank you, Enid Blyton!) 

When I look at them, I gain perspective. 

Summer trees aren’t better than winter trees, because it’s not about the number of leaves a tree has, its about the tree itself. 

A tree is tenacious, strong, grounded, life giving. 

It doesn’t become more or less of a tree because of what it’s wearing. 

It doesn’t become more or less of itself, because of what it’s wearing. 

Why do we struggle to learn this lesson from the trees? 

It isn’t about our leaves. 

Worth doesn’t come from your wardrobe. 

When I wear my cobalt blue jumper, I feel great, but it is just a feeling. The jumper isn’t magic. It doesn’t change me. 

Worth certainly doesn’t come from your car or your bank balance or your job title. It doesn’t come from your marital status, or your progeny and how well they behave in a cafe. It doesn’t come from the step count on your Fitbit or the number of projects you’re juggling. 

All of these things have an impact on how we feel about ourselves, but they aren’t who we are. 

Somehow though, we have bought into this lie, that the leaves – our outward appearance, our accomplishments and the badges we wear – mother, wife, healthy person, clever person, caring person, martyr – matter most. 

They don’t. They don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things. Yet it seems they have so much power over us. 

I think we sometimes use these things as a salve for our souls, or props on the set of our lives. 

If I can just wear the right outfit, if my kids behave, if I get that job, if I’m “on track”, if I weigh XX kilos, then I’m okay. Do you ever feel like that? 

Because you’re here reading, I feel like we have some kind of relationship, so I have an invitation for you. 

I invite you to ponder this lesson from the trees. 

Think about the human equivalent of leaves – our clothes, validation through others, work, weight…. what role do they play in your life? What power have you assigned to them? While you’re pondering these things, please practice self-compassion. ❤️

After I sketched this tree yesterday, I got to thinking about my great aunt Adeline, who was a gifted artist. I was thinking about her style of painting and my style, and how different they are. She painted trees, and I sketch them.  They are identifiably trees in both instances, but they aren’t the same. 

We are like that too, you and I. 

We aren’t all the same, but we are all people. 

We all have worth and value. 

That doesn’t depend on the season, or the leaves, it simply is. 

You can’t earn it, you can’t get it from others, and you certainly can’t buy it or wear it. 

You can only realise and embrace it. 

Maybe that’s why the trees say wishawishawisha, because that’s the highest wish you can have for anyone. 

Learn from the trees. And please let me know what you hear them wishing for you. 

With love, 

Annette x 



What’s Your Story?

Image via Unsplash

How many people do you think live under these rooftops? Hundreds? Possibly thousands? More than 10,000 maybe? 

I could look at this photo for ages, studying the buildings and trying to work out the city, country and continent I’m looking at. 

It got me thinking about how many people live side by side, above and below each other, and what each of those people thinks about the lives they’re living. 

How many residents of each building belive that they’re interesting? 

Which building houses those who consider themselves to be doing important work in the world? 

How many are nursing heartache? How many are struggling financially? 

Are there more introverts in particular sections of the city? 

Where is the nearest green space? 

Who harbours a secret desire to move to another city or town? Who has a plan in motion to make that change? 

So. May. Questions. 

SO. Many. Stories. 

Each life I imagine, each home, from the top floor apartments to the basements, from the outskirts of this city to the best and worst areas, each of those people has a story. Each has been through common joys and sorrows, and each has faced completely unique situations. 

Just like you. 

Just like me. 



Everyone has a story. 

Some are keen to tell their stories, some long for just one person to ask them about their day. 

Too many think they’re nobody special. 


As a blogger, you’d think that I would have the “I have interesting stories to share” thing nailed, wouldn’t you? 

Well…. I have a confession; I fallen into the habit of thinking only about my doing rather than my being/thinking/believing as far as blogging goes. 

The doing is pretty repetitive – I go to work, I watch Netflix, I avoid the vacuuming for epic stretches of time, I cook things, I sleep, I buy groceries, repeat. 

That’s not super inspiring stuff, so I made the mistake of thinking I have nothing to blog about. 


The thing is, while I’m working, cooking, watching Netflix, buying groceries and living my life, I’m thinking about big stuff. 

I wonder why women haven’t become so bloody sick of misogyny that we are rioting in the streets. 

I ponder how living in a society that centres whiteness has blinded me to my privilege. 

I grapple with caring deeply about things I know are unjust. 

Lately, I’ve added thinking about secure housing as I age, what I want my funeral to be like and wanting to spend more time creating to my ruminations.


Everyone has a story to tell, even me. 

Hopefully I can find my way back to my stories. 


What’s your story? 



Annette xx


Dear Mr Potato Head

Dear Mr Potato Head, 

The sun rises, dances across the sky then dips behind clouds, sinking into the ocean, over and over and over again. 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow. 

Endlessly, or so we hope.


You can’t seize anything from the seasons. 

No matter how many back room deals you do. 

No matter how many times you count and recount the numbers. 

No matter how many lies you tell, or tweets you tweet, or insults you hurl. 

You can smile and knife everyone in your party, it doesn’t make you powerful. 

You can lock children up, puffing yourself up and lording it over the vulnerable. 

You can talk up your “accomplishments”, they’re still nothing. 

Cruelty isn’t a badge of honour, it’s a scarlet letter.

That’s not power. 

You are not powerful. 

You never will be, no matter the office you claim. 

Oh you want it, you claw after it. 

You jostle and threaten and bully. 

Your hunger is palpable, and pathetic. 

It’s pitiful stuff.

It might promote you, temporarily, to a position of power. 

But it doesn’t make you powerful…

power isn’t yours for the taking. 

It was never yours. 

But you are too small and hollow to realise it. 

You fool. 

You sad, cruel, empty-chested fool. 


Can you dance across the sky and rise again? Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow? 


You can’t seize anything from the seasons. 







Viva La Difference

Like a lot of people, in the past week or so I’ve watched Nanette on Netflix. 

Ostensibly it’s a stand-up comedy gig by “Our” Hannah Gadsby (we Aussies love to claim our successes), but it is SO much more than that… I urge you to watch it if you haven’t yet, and to re-watch and share it with friends if you have. 

The lines that struck me most (on my first viewing) have been rolling around in my brain for days. Words that Hannah no doubt honed in draft after draft, and has performed around the world.

I wonder if the thing that struck me landed with others in a big way. These words aren’t from one of her jokes, beautifully, tensely crafted though they were. 

What struck me most came towards the end of her performance. 

Hannah was talking about being different, about some of her experiences of being, and being responded to as, a lesbian, and the vitriol and violence that she’s endured. And she said this: 

Boom. Four words. 

Difference is a teacher. 

She is so right. 

When I think about my life, and the people who have taught me the most, the common trait they share is their difference – from me, and from each other. 

I’ve been taught by enthusiastic life guards, school teachers, artists, relatives, strangers, authors, musicians, work colleagues, fictional characters, “mummy bloggers”, crafters, librarians and comedians. 

I’ve been taught by Americans, South Africans, Brits, dead Jewish poets, television talk show hosts, and athletes. 

Women have taught me. Men have taught me. 

Creative souls have taught me. Conservatives and radicals too.  

Straight and gay people have taught me. Addicts and abstainers have schooled me in life.

The life guard didn’t teach me to swim, he taught me about acceptance and joy. He was one of my youth group leaders. Thanks Ayman/Eamon (hey it’s been 35+ years), the night I met you genuinely changed my life. 

The South Africans taught me about injustice and reconciliation, dealing with deep heart issues and coming into the light. 

My uncle and aunt, Trevor and Lea, taught me, as a child, that being different wasn’t something to fear, but something to embrace, even to strive for. 

Lessons big and small have come from the unlikeliest of teachers. Some I didn’t recognise, I’m sure. 

Difference is a teacher. 

In a world drowning in Instagram feeds that are nothing but the regurgitation, sorry, reposts, of other people’s soulless, whoops, stylishly curated photos of blush pink and copper Kmart crap and flat lays of books never read and blankets that have never had crumbs shaken from them after a movie night – lord I’m breaking every rule of sentence length known to man – difference is a blessed relief. 

Difference is our teacher, and it’s our gift. 

It is a gift I need to reclaim. 

I am different, therefore according to Our Hannah, I am a teacher. 

And I feel different from other people, so I am also a student. 

I have something to offer, and something to learn. Many somethings. 

Blogging is pretty hard going when you feel like you’ve got nothing to offer. Lately, I’ve struggled heaps with this feeling, so blogging has dwindled off into “nothing new to read here” territory. It’s bummed me out. Majorly. 

I’m a 50 year old with a part-time administrative job and a heart condition.

I’m a single, introverted, medicated, West Wing loving, weekend hermit kinda gal. 

And I’m a teacher. Hannah says so. 

I’m an adoptee, a refugee from Christian fundamentalism, a deliberately barren, mistrustful of authority, convention mocking, short haired, library card carrying liberal (the small L is essential!).  

I’m a teacher, and I’ve lost my lesson plan. 

I’m a student who can’t find her class schedule. 

But I wrote this blog post. I hope someone reads it. 

What do you have to offer? To learn? 

Have you seen my lesson plan or class schedule? 


Not quite Nanette, 

Annette x 


Annette: a retrospective (1968 – 2018)

When I opened my laptop today, I had no idea that I’d be writing my 200th blog post. I like the symmetry of a ‘milestone’ post being the first in Annette: a retrospective (1968 – 2018).


Self portrait in dappled light, 2018


I can’t believe that I’ve written 199 other posts here, sent each of them out into the ether… and they’ve all been responded to in one way or another. That’s something… and it seems fortuitous timing to start this retrospective at this stage in my blog’s lifespan.

Here’s the gist of it: I turn 50 in 15 days. Half a century on this little blue ball in space. That’s kinda cool.

In the course of those 50 years, life has served me a smorgasbord of experiences. Some wonderful, some mediocre, some long forgotten, some painful… nothing unique about that, right? We all share the same joys and burdens in that respect.

What I’ve been pondering, as my blog slowly atrophies and loses readership and engagement, is that while I might *feel* like my life is boring and I’ve got nothing much to say, that’s not actually true.

I might not be having a magnificent adventure or be in the midst of a deeply life altering season right this minute (or I could be but I just don’t know it yet), but I’ve had them, and they’ve shaped the person I am.

Really, I’m a baby valley; apt given that my middle name is Dale. The seasons of life have changed me, I’m worn smooth in some places, and there’s definitely sediment and settling happening! I’m made up of layers. I am an archaeological dig, waiting to happen.

What I’d like to embark on next is the blogging equivalent of a non-exhaustive, on-the-fly retrospective of Annette. Not a highlights reel. Nope. If you want pretty, curated and sterile, head over to Instagram and follow someone you’ll never know anything about except that they can create an on-trend flatlay.

What I’m hoping for is that as I think about my life and the things that have shaped me, I might find 14 more things to write about that are interesting, thought provoking, revealing and perhaps contain some of the kernels of what it is that make me who I am. It’s the ultimate blogging exercise –  a series all about me – huzzah for narcissism!

The thing is, I don’t think it will be that, and if it is, I apologise in advance. Yet, even if it is does turn out to be what women particularly have been told is the ultimate self-indulgence (thinking not of how we can first be of service to others is the ultimate lady crime, right?), really is that such a bad thing?

If I write 15 posts about knowing myself, about how I got to be the person I think I am today, and within those ‘mirror, mirror, on the wall…’ ramblings, there’s something transferrable or that makes one person reading this blog feel like they’re not alone in their own valley, then fuck it, I’m going to write like my story is the most important story in the world. Just for a fortnight.

To kick things off, here’s a list of 15 Annette factoids which may or may not come up over the next two weeks:

  1. I love colour.
  2. I am a shouty driver.
  3. Home is my favourite place in the world.
  4. I’m not inclined to be a follower. Not anymore.
  5. I do not have a passport, see item 3.
  6. Ambition and I are not well-acquainted.
  7. I love hugs.
  8. I taught myself to be compassionate.
  9. Going to youth group, at my local church, shaped me profoundly.
  10. I have no childhood memories of ever dreaming of getting married.
  11. I like my face. It doesn’t need to be dressed up for anyone.
  12. Once I believed I was irreversibly broken; I was wrong. See item 8.
  13. I am adopted. See item 8 again.
  14. Words are my gateway to the world.
  15. My words are worth reading.

I invite you to join me as I wander through the past 50 years. Maybe you’ll recognise some milestones and markers along the way. Perhaps as I ponder my past, it will light the way into the future. Let’s find out together.

With love,

Annette x


Recently, I wrote about receiving a sign, and about yielding. You can catch up on that post here.


What I’ve realised since then is that though I may be willing to acknowledge the sign in the sky, and though I feel broadly clued in to what the sign points to, I am well and truly stuck as far as my desire to do the work of yielding to it. 

There are boulders in the way, I rolled some of them there. I’m good at that. It’s a protection mechanism. A lifelong habit. 

Yielding is hard work. 

Hard. Hard. Hard. Yukky, uncomfortable, revealing, vulnerability making work. Ugh. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE in the opposite direction kind of work! 

Too big, and too hard for me right now. 

The way I’m wired is deliciously contradictory, because I find myself wanting to simultaneously gather myself up in a protective embrace, and whisper words of encouragement to my heart (gentle voice #1), as well as wanting to viciously berate myself, shame myself, and ridicule my inability to just yield and get the fuck on with things (harsh voice #2). 

So I search for balance, and it is deeply uncomfortable at times. I know that I *could* be doing more to get myself unstuck, but I also know that if I push myself because of voice #2, the harsh taskmaster that still occasionally pipes up and causes me grief, the whole damn house of cards (not really, but it’s a great metaphor) will come tumbling down.

So, I yield, for now, to being unyielding.

I breathe.

I strain my being to listen to voice #1 as she offers me compassion and patience.

And in that way, I yield more deeply, ever so incrementally. I yield to compassion towards myself. Again.

In this place, where the movement towards choosing to yield is imperceptibly slow, and sometimes just a dream, I must find my light. I must stand resolutely in it. I must, must, must continue to look up. I must resist voice #2, actively. 


I may never stop learning this primal lesson, these first tiny steps, the initial dance of, I see you sign, and I read you, but I will go NO further… knowing that eventually I will most likely yield a little more, allow a little more of the light I stand in to permeate my inner world, because I want to live purposefully. I want to know myself more deeply. I want to be increasingly free. I do. 

I just wanted to tell someone that. 


I am unyielding, but I am not dead yet. 

I am unfinished, and though I may not have the courage to do the work today, or tomorrow, I can celebrate all that’s behind me, all the lessons, all the victories, and I know how very far I’ve come. 

Here I am. 


Chin up. Head tilted back. Standing in my light.  


Are you standing in yours? 




Annette x 




Reading The Signs

Hey, Hi, Hello! 

Have you ever felt like your love of Instagram sent you a sign? 

I think my obsession with the sky and clouds and sharing photos I can tag #lookup sent me a sign a few days ago. 

I was leaving a big, busy shopping centre on Saturday afternoon, and it was a relief to get out of the stuffy, squishy, zombie shopper crush and into the fresh air. 

As I walked to my car, I enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my face, and the sky was all flirty and hey look at me, not that it needs to be, I’m always looking! 

Don’t be insecure sky, I see you.  

I snapped a few shots, without paying much attention, and when I looked at them later on, here’s what I saw. 

A sign in the sky. Literally. Quite nicely composed too. 

I’ve decided to pay attention to this sign. 

To give way, to yield. 

I’m not sure exactly what the sign means, but I feel like it’s good life advice, even in a non-specific way. 

Give way. 


Pause. Look around. 

Be open. 

When you come to a give way sign, you might turn right, or left, or go straight ahead, but you need to yield first. 

Look around. 

Pay attention. 

Okay, I can do that. 


It’s hard sometimes to acknowledge things that are going on internally. I’ve had to make lots of changes to my life this year, and some of that has triggered a few subterranean tremors. I feel some shifting, a few issues perhaps wanting to come up for air, to be recognised, and perhaps reconciled. That’s not a comfortable place to find myself. 

So, in that spirit, I see you sign. I hear you. I welcome you. 

Giving way. 


I’ll try. 


How do you tune in when your camera, your kids, a snippet of conversation, or even a book recommendation, feels like a sign? 

I’d love to hear your tune-in tips. 


I’m yielding, and I plan on enjoying the view while I do. 

Look up, friends, look up; you never know what you might see. 


Don’t forget to hit me up with your tune-in tips please.


Annette x