Friday, December 31, 2010

GOODBYE 2010

No New Year’s Eve frivolity for me I’m afraid, have long since passed the desire to party on, though I must admit I do like a decent fireworks display. Watching it on the box is one thing, which I can’t even be bothered doing this year, you really have to be there to appreciate it. In a big crowd especially somewhere like Sydney Harbour it’s easy to get caught up in the atmosphere as the noise, the smell, and the oohs and aahs as the sky explodes and lights up carry you along until the seemingly magical stroke of midnight.

Our community celebrated with dinner on the village green for all comers and activities for the kids before retiring to the Chalet Lounge for drinks and nibbles and fireworks watching, but all I could manage after a very long work day was watching the bands strut their stuff at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a movie, then to bed with a book. Bit of a party pooper this year.

It’s been a busy week, a busy month, a long year, a long decade.

Will definitely be in the Land of Nod before the New Year arrives.

Monday, December 27, 2010

FAMILY CHRISTMAS












With the flurry of the Boxing Day sales over where my daughter in law Mel was run off her feet at work, we finally had our chance for the Adams Family Christmas. Seeing as I hadn’t feasted this year it was lovely to get together for a relaxed barbie and salads dinner, exchange gifts, muck around outside when the sun finally came out, watch Zandar’s eyes light up when he ripped open the wrapping paper to find a new truck, and read the Cinderella story to Bella to go with the knitted Cinderella doll made lovingly by a friend. If you’ve ever seen one, they’re 2 dolls in one, Cinderella in her work clothes then you turn her upside down and pull her dress to reveal Cinderella in her ball gown. Quite a work of art.

Had a chuckle hearing of Bella’s acting debut in the Kinder Christmas play. With the kids dressed as shepherds, wise men, animals and angels, she came out accompanied by Joseph carrying a star in the lead role of Mary dressed all in white. Not quite getting the complete picture of the Christmas story yet, she was adamant she was the Princess of all the fairies, and would’ve loved to keep her costume. For her, anything with wings is a fairy, and seeing as she had such an important job she must have been in charge of all the attending angels in the manger. Will have to work on that one!

And so it’s over for another year. I have a shiny new kettle so think I’ll go make a cuppa, put on my new CD, grab my new book, go curl up on the couch and eat some chocolate. Wonderful!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

BUSH CHURCH REFLECTIONS


Seems to me that at this time of the year we have a tendency to reflect on the past twelve months, and especially as Christmas approached to wonder how life became so frantic and complicated and sometimes so stressed, and ponder how we can do things differently as we head into a new year so life can be somewhat more manageable and a lot more enjoyable.

I can understand why so many ordinary Aussies would never darken the doorway of a church building, but for our little community church, and there was only about 20 of us today, this morning’s service headed bush, held in a style in which anyone would have felt comfortable. Bit of singing, simple prayers then we were all invited to go off into the bush for a time on our own to see if we could find something which spoke to us about what this Christmas season has meant to us, or simply where we’re at in our own personal journey.

It was fascinating as people came back to share what they had found how the ordinary things which usually go unnoticed had an impact on us as we took the time to stop, look and listen. For some the magnificence of the surrounding mountains and landscape were a reminder of God’s creative power, a rock found in the ashes of a discarded fire a reminder that as we ‘go through the fire’, as we hang on in hard times, what is solid at the very centre of our being remains solid and is not burnt away.

The changing shapes of the clouds and even the shadows of the clouds moving on the dark green of the mountainside, a reminder of how things constantly change, but also how things are being renewed. A dead stick symbolised one person’s journey of late, but at the same time how the humble dandelion seeds drift off and take root showed how their life had and was still being used in positive ways, and that living one day at a time and seeing what God had in store for each day was a liberating experience.

For me, before we had even been invited to venture into the bush, the gall on a nearby tree caught my attention. It was one of three on this gnarly old acacia tree. A lot of the lower branches were dead, and what was beyond the gall on each branch had also died, but the withered leaves were still there, and the tree itself was still very much alive.

Diseases on plants are usually very obvious, and if not treated end up consuming and killing them. The gall spoke to me of the diseased parts of my own life, but they’re not obvious. They’re those things which we tend to hide, both big and small, things we think or say or do or don’t say and don’t do, which gradually eat away at us and prevent us from growing into what we truly can become. What was great to see though was that there was still life in the old tree, and likewise for us, out of personal setbacks, attacks or tragedies which could consume us if we let them, new life and new hope can still come.

Sharing experiences and stories gave me a new found respect and love for those around me, a great way to spend time with each other and with the creator.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A BLESSED CHRISTMAS


What a joy to lie in bed this morning, savouring the quiet before heading into the day, listening to one of my friendly early morning greeters in the tea tree outside my window. At least he didn’t wake me at 6am like he does sometimes.

And so this special day of the year began with our village Christmas morning service, a very low key family gathering with kids ‘show and tell’ of the gifts they had received, carol singing and an impromptu Australian nativity play where I couldn’t resist stuffing my jacket up my jumper to play Mary, albeit one old enough to be her grandmother. A simple message as stars were distributed told of the star long ago which led the Magi to find Jesus, and how taking home a star can be a constant reminder in the year to come that maybe we can be the means by which someone can be led in the right direction as they also search for Jesus and the life he brings.

A sumptuous afternoon tea with friends, then a trip to Launceston to take an elderly friend to dinner with her relatives, whereupon I whiled away an enjoyable couple of hours on the boardwalk at Seaport, admiring the yachts actually floating in their moorings, as opposed to their daily sitting on the silt at low tide. Fellow walkers out with their dogs or simply enjoying the mild evening or walking off their lunch or dinner or both were more than happy to share Christmas greetings, my picnic tea was more then satisfactory while I read my book, and the beautiful sunset as we returned home topped off what for me had been quite a different Christmas Day to the norm.

Just the right amount of companionship and an even balance of solitude. I spent more time alone this Christmas Day than usual which was intentional, but it certainly wasn’t tinged with loneliness which can be the burden of many who associate Christmas with feeling disconnected, unwanted, and with little prospect for that to change.

As we get to the end of the day and wonder at the wisdom, or lack of it, of having that extra piece of turkey or plum pudding or chocolate, then having the afternoon backyard cricket match on top of it, spare a thought for one of our Aussie icons whose diet today will be no different than on any other, and whose activity level will probably be just as lazy as it always is.



Eucalyptus Christmas

The native born koala lives

inside a eucalyptus.

He sleeps in it at night and then

he eats his bed for breakfast.

His morning tea is eucalypt,

then eucalyptus brunch.

Perhaps he’ll pick some eucalypt

just in time for lunch.

Dinner will be similar,

supper’s eucalyptus,

And then he can look forward to

A Eucalyptus Christmas!

Stephen Axelsen (from An Australian Christmas Collection – Gwenda Hardie)

Friday, December 24, 2010

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS



Some walked, others were on scooters and skateboards or in prams, but have just returned from caroling around our little village, a tradition we do every Christmas Eve. We start small, and as we pass each house, sing carols and bring Christmas greetings our numbers swell as others join us. Despite people already away on holidays we ended up with about 70 in all, plus a few dogs who took great delight in socialising with each other.

For the second year in a row I’ve been crook in the lead up to Christmas and have found it difficult getting into the spirit of things, but there have been moments like tonight which have heartened me and confirmed that the Christmas spirit is still very much alive and well.

It’s funny how you find yourself chatting to complete strangers while browsing or waiting in the long queue at the checkout, people quite content, being patient and not complaining, and even finding store staff being particularly courteous and helpful. Despite all the frenzy of keeping the shelves stacked and attempting to keep some sort of order amongst the chaos of shoppers pulling things every which way, there were four occasions during my shopping spree yesterday where staff went out of their way to help me, even going out the back of the supermarket and searching a pallet for a packet of cocoa of all things as the shelves were stripped bare.

Seeing the carloads of families pull up at Walker Designs in Launceston where my son works, one of the drop off points for the Launceston City Mission, popping gifts down Santa’s chute for less fortunate families, as well as contributing cash to the City Mission’s Christmas Appeal has been nothing short of amazing. With Mrs Claus and the elves greeting those who arrive, their workplace has been inundated since the start of December with so many presents, and along with the ABC’s Giving Tree and other similar appeals, it’s a delight to know those who may have been waking to a bleak Christmas will now have something which will bring not only a little happiness, but a sense of hope as well.

The barriers which are often there when it comes to simply communicating with others tend to relax a little and come down around Christmas, and we are often left wondering why it can’t be like this more often. There really is a lot of goodwill in the community, all we need to do is nurture it so it doesn’t go missing for the rest of the year.

Off to watch Carols by Candlelight, wrap up presents and make Christmas goodies. Merry Christmas one and all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

CELEBRATING THE DREAMERS

Despite the crook back, did my monthly half day shift in the General Store, easier to stand up serving customers than sitting at home, and was rewarded with a rather nice surprise. Who should walk in for a pie and sauce and a few other more nutritious items than Senator Bob Brown and friend. It’s not every day you get to meet someone of note in our little neck of the woods, so it kind of made my day. Very personable guy.

And a little closer to home, we celebrated the graduation of our Certificate IV students in Youth & Community Work (Christian), no mean feat as they pack into six months enough theory and practical work you’d normally find in a two year course. The dreams they shared of making a difference in the communities and workplaces they are going to were an inspiration, but they’re not under any illusions of what they’ll be heading into as they leave the safety of the structure of a training course within a caring community. The practical nature of the course has well and truly grounded them in the reality of what they will be facing as they confront the many and varied situations which bring young people their way from backgrounds of violence, neglect, substance abuse, and family rejection just to name a few.

All would say they feel inadequate in the face of what is to come. Their training has given them some extra skills for sure, but more than that they believe the process of the six months has brought about a growth where they have become more aware of who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their values and dreams, and the fact it’s not their job to fix every problem they face on their own.

There are no easy fixes or magic wands to bring about the change we would love to see in young people’s lives so the pain of the past is replaced with hope and purpose, but to be willing to open their lives to the chaos these young people often bring and work with them towards a more positive outcome, I find nothing short of admirable.

And in the middle of all that, I got to remember my Bob. It would’ve been our 39th wedding anniversary today so I marked the day by cutting the best of the few flowers in my yard for his grave and paying him a visit. He was definitely a dreamer, but not the “off with the pixies” sort. Never one to accept something wasn’t possible, he loved joining with others to put substance to the dreams which could transform people’s lives and see them become a reality.

Not only rewarding, but the stuff of miracles when it all comes together.

Friday, December 17, 2010

DO I HAVE A WHAT?

Had a haircut last week in a salon where you don’t have to make an appointment, so every time you go you end up with a different hairdresser. This time round I had a guy who I’d never seen before, so I had to go through the same old palaver of explaining all I really want is to look like an ageing pixie so I can blow dry my hair in thirty seconds flat to spike it up so it looks like I just stuck my finger in the power point and got an electric shock.

He did a pretty good job considering my obscure description, but the priceless moment for me came when I went to pay. “Do you have a Seniors card?” he asked. Now there’s a question I’ve never been asked before. I know my wrinkles are certainly more permanently etched than they once were, but I wasn’t sure whether to feel insulted or what. I might’ve just turned 60 but that doesn’t necessarily make me feel exactly senior, whatever being senior is supposed to be.

Anyway, there was one benefit, a $2 discount on the haircut once I flashed my brand new little blue card, so I wasn’t going to knock that back. Guess I’ll have to do some research on all the new perks I now qualify for seeing as I’ve joined the ranks of seniors.

I find it interesting that for me I feel as though I reached a certain age in my head and never really went further than that despite the passing of the years, and it takes a good look in the mirror to remind me that that’s not the case. Maybe that’s why I do my hair in 30 seconds and don’t bother wasting time putting on make up. Even worse though is seeing a photo of yourself, especially an unflattering one, to tell you that time is marching on and your days are numbered.

Maybe that’s why there are so many of the ‘Grey Brigade’ constantly on the move touring the country, making sure they get to have their own personal adventures before they’re too old to enjoy it. Good on ‘em, go for it. Don’t think I’ll be following in their tracks, but I’m not ready to grow old gracefully yet, so I certainly hope there’s still some adventures out there for me to discover.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NOT HAPPY JAN!!

Well, if I was a horse someone would probably take me out the back and shoot me to put me out of my misery. After four years of managing my lower back injury without a major incident (which dates back 26 years), I’m in the middle of my third excruciating episode for the year. In May I got a plate out of the cupboard and off it went, in September I leaned down to put the vacuum cleaner together, and on Sunday I was putting on my jeans getting ready to go out with some friends for a pre Christmas lunch which I was really looking forward to.

Doesn’t have to be anything out of the ordinary to set it off, but when it happens I end up on the floor in a heap of screaming agony. Suffice to say the lunch date went ahead without me, and since then I’ve been keeping as mobile as possible to prevent my body from seizing up completely. Doesn't help to lie down and rest, as it ain’t exactly much fun dragging yourself to the loo because you can’t even crawl, so now I’m at the end of day 3 here’s hoping things will start to improve.

An MRI is now on the cards to see if it can tell us anything we don’t already know. Have even found putting in a few hours at work easier than staying home, as there are very few things you can occupy yourself with at home standing up, besides the dishes and flipping around the feather duster. At least at work I can lean on the bench and do some paper shuffling, keep moving, spend five minutes at a time at the computer and feel somewhat useful.

So, I’m off for a soft shoe shuffle round the block before dinner. Bedtime is looking inviting, though the getting out part in the morning is the worst and not the brightest part of the day. Ho hum, the joys of getting older.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

THE YEAR IS UP

The 365 day deadline snuck up on me yesterday while I wasn’t looking. Just read over my first blog entry on Dec 8 last year to see why I embarked on this project, and whether or not I achieved anything.

Well, a Julie Powell I’m not, which was what got me going in the first place (Julie & Julia). No book deal, no movie deal, no magazines or agents tracking me down, no article in the New York Times, or even in the Launceston Examiner for that matter. Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly doing anything or writing anything worthy of such coverage anyway, so there’ll be no claims to fame emanating from my scribblings of the past year.

So, what other writing did I complete besides the blog? 1 children’s story sitting in a folder, 2 half finished children’s stories, a few more paragraphs to a story started about two years ago, rough notes on ideas, that’s probably about it. Not exactly prolific am I? Obvious I’d never make a living from my writing.

So what do we do when we find there’s a monumental gap between wanting to do something and actually doing it? Tendency is usually to give up, it’s too hard. Giving up on the dream is an option, bit depressing though, I could whip myself for being so undisciplined, or put together a structured plan to approach it more systematically, but somehow I don’t think it would make a lot of difference.

When it all comes down to it, I have to have something worthwhile to say in order to be motivated enough to say it. Well, not necessarily worthwhile in the sense of being profound, but something that’s burning a hole in my brain, or my heart for that matter, an issue running round in my head, an idea itching to be scratched, an injustice that’s got me riled, a situation which makes me laugh or cry or scares the hell out of me, all of these and more are grist to the mill.

So, time to pull up the socks and head out once more into the fray. Until a bolt of lightning hits me I’ll keep blogging away.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

'SEEING' THINGS DIFFERENTLY




How did December come around so fast? Definitely don’t have my Christmas head on yet as we had my granddaughter Bella’s 5th birthday to celebrate before my brain could switch into Christmas gift mode. Stinking hot day yesterday for her party, so Bella was keen to get the blow up pool out for some fun after her treasure hunt had us looking for some welcome shade. Idea sounded ok in theory, except for the fact the transformer was in bits which was needed to blow it up. Daddy patched it up, plugged it into the car somewhere, whereupon it flattened the battery before it was looking anything like a blow up pool.

Much huffing and puffing from Daddy, her Grandpa and her uncle resulted in the desired result, so Bella, Zandar and their cousin Cassie had a great splash around once three buckets of hot water were added to the mix to make the icy water a bearable temperature.

Bella is in the habit lately of organizing anyone who will cooperate to be her pupils while she plays Mrs Bailey, her Kinder teacher. In the middle of trying to keep her rowdy students under control as each adult was called on to share their news for the day, someone said “I saw Melanie kissing Glen in the playground” (her Mum & Dad). No discipline, no reprimands from this teacher, just a classic response of “Ooh, isn’t that lovely.” Cracked us up, my highlight of the day.

Wouldn’t it be great if we as adults could “see” with the eyes of a child more often and respond from a completely different perspective. We are so quick to judge or be on the defensive, or move to a position of control rather than come at things with a desire to encourage and see everyone achieve a successful outcome.

In the process of raising our children and teaching them what we believe they need to know, it’s easy to forget that they are often better teachers than we are. If we are prepared to be patient, to stop and listen, they can remind us not only of our childhood, but they can help us rediscover the world as they see it, with all its potential for adventure and spontaneous enjoyment. Kids can be wise little critters.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

IT'S OFFICIAL.......I'M AN OLD BAG!

Well, the big day finally rolled around, I’m 60, aaaaaagh!! How on earth did I manage to make it to such a milestone. A friend surprised me with a jumbo sized badge which cracked me up, and I have worn it with pride today!

Had a definite moment of encouragement when I went to renew my driver’s licence. Noticed I was wearing the exact same shirt as I had worn the last time I renewed my licence, so the lady behind the counter asked if I wanted to use the same photo. Opting for a new photo she showed it to me and reckoned it looked exactly the same, making me feel good that at least I hadn’t visibly aged too much in the few years since the last one.

So, sixty, my goodness, what on earth have I been doing all this time? Have I grown any wiser with age? Probably not, but there are some advantages to growing older besides being eligible for a Seniors Card.

I’ve mellowed, even though I’ve never really had much of a tendency to be anxious. Worry doesn’t change anything, only action does, so whether it’s big stuff or little stuff to be dealt with, progress will only be made as you chip away at it bit by bit.

I don’t rush about feeling like I have to fix everything. It’s one thing to feel the weight of the burden of responsibility when all you see around you are things that need attending to, but I’ve managed to consciously remind myself of what has been achieved. Life will never be perfect and we all live with the ambiguities and tension of things when they’re not as we would like, but if I hold up my end and contribute where I can, the result as we work alongside others can’t help but be a positive movement towards achieving a fruitful outcome.

And being with others is a good thing, being able to offer help as well as feeling free to ask for help, not isolating yourself. Contributing to a sense of community where everyone feels valued. My daily desk calendar thought for today is Love is best found when looking to give it to another, to which I agree wholeheartedly. I visited a friend today whose husband passed away last weekend, and it was as much a blessing to me to spend time with her, as it was for her to receive a card and flowers and the assurance of the love and prayers of our whole community.

Despite the often bleak news we witness on a daily basis, life is still good. No matter what has gone before, each new day is a fresh start, and here’s hoping my sixty year old body will allow me to experience many more.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

PICNIC AT FRANKLIN HOUSE


Franklin House in Launceston is always open for afternoon teas, weddings, parties, anything, but at various times of the year they stage particular events to welcome visitors to the charms offered by this 1838 historic home. Today was their annual Victorian Picnic in the gardens, and with a light cloud cover, conditions were perfect for my outing with friends Bev and Cheryl who were treating me to a special pre birthday lunch. (Bev on the left, Cheryl on the right, me the little piggy in the middle)

To the accompaniment of a group from the Launceston Youth & Community orchestra, we picnickers munched away on either our traditional squire’s or clergyman’s lunch hamper, definitely more than I usually eat in the middle of the day, but very tasty. Children ran around the garden rolling hoops a la Victorian style and playing croquet, though one young guy couldn’t quite get the idea you weren’t supposed to use the mallet like a cricket bat.

Relying on volunteers for the upkeep of the grounds, the garden was a delight, with flower strewn arches leading from one area to another, an infinite variety of real roses with beautiful perfumes, a tasteful combination of colourful garden beds and formal features, and a 180 year old oak tree providing masses of shade. A delightful afternoon, well worth the visit, don’t think I’ll need much dinner.

Franklin House’s next event is just round the corner, Carols and Cake on December 12th from 2 – 4pm.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

ARACHNIDS ON THE MOVE

Just when I thought I had written my last spider blog, what should I confront while doing the vacuuming this morning but a very suspect spider web. It wasn’t there last night, and the last time I had seen a similar one appear overnight, in my kitchen utensils container no less, what crawled out was enough to make sure I was very careful in ferreting this one out.

Not a huge fella, but big enough and mean looking, a nasty piece of work. You know the sort, the ones you can't quite identify, but just by looking at them you know they’re not the sort to mess with. And was he in a nice accessible place? Of course not. He inconveniently decided to take up residence in the recliner chair, in the space between the back of the chair and the back cushion, lots of nice folds of material to crawl up in. So, with vacuum cleaner at the ready I sucked the web out of the way, gingerly pulled the cushion forward and hey presto there he was, pretending to be nice and innocent as if he had every right to be there, so in one fell swoop the big sucker did its job and he disappeared to the innards of the machine.

Not one to be satisfied that was the end of the ordeal, I thought it best to empty the bag once I’d finished vacuuming, for some spiders show remarkable resilience, and because I hadn’t actually squashed him I wasn’t sure if he’d actually choke to death in his dusty trap. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be an issue, but what I hadn’t mentioned was that before I started vacuuming I put a colour through my hair. I knew thirty minutes was all I needed to zoom from one end of the house to the other, but with this added task I was wondering what hair shade I would end up with.

So, there I was out in the back yard in my tatty old dressing gown, hair all gooed up and a towel round my shoulders, emptying the bag of its contents and going through it with a stick half expecting him to crawl out coughing and spluttering, but in typical fashion I couldn’t find the blighter.

Now, I didn’t think he could have had the strength or wherewithal to hang on to the inside of the tube, but I wasn’t taking that thing back inside if he was still in there. Took the bendy bit off the end to find there was a bunch of stuff clogging up the end of the tube so I thought I had him now. Was very brave and pulled it out with my fingers, very fast mind you, but still no spider. Out came the broom next, shoved the handle up the tube, up the bendy tube, took the head off the tube, no matter where I looked, he wasn’t appearing.

So, in the end, I had to assume he was actually curled up in all that dust, but just to make sure even though I’m 99.99% positive I sucked him up, I gave the chair a generous serving of surface spray, just in case it happened to be a she instead of a he and there were some eggs laid in there.

Hair ended up ok, but it looks like I’m still on the hit list, only hope this summer isn’t going to be as bad as the last.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

THE COUNTDOWN IS ON

Feels like not so long ago Spring had only just arrived with all its unpredictability weather wise, but already it is on its way out and the end of the year is just around the corner. The prospect (or is it dread) of Christmas shopping is looming, and the feeling of not wanting to go near the shops festooned with Christmas fare is with me yet again. After last year’s disaster of doing it all in two days as I got the flu, here’s hoping I can be somewhat more organised this year. Completed the first step just in time, did the tax return which rewarded me with the refund within a week, so at least I have something with which to start planning the shopping list.

Fortunately there are other things of more immediate importance marking the fast approaching end of the year, like exams. Not mine thank goodness, done enough of those in my time, but a friend and I have the annual task of supervising Year 11 and 12 student exams for the local school. Amazing how long three hours can feel when you have to sit still and be quiet and not distract the oh so studious ones suffering writer’s cramp in their efforts to extract all that information from their brains and get it down on paper.

We take the opportunity while they’re doing the exam to read the exam paper, and for some subjects I’m eternally grateful I’m not a student any more, but today was Modern World History. Covering all manner of world conflicts and revolutions since the start of the twentieth century, there was an abundance of material to have a field day in the three essays required.

I was fascinated how the majority of my own reading matter has been set amid these conflicts, portraying the human stories within the context of war, oppression and terrorism. The seeming disbelief of the horror one group of people can inflict on another, the mixture of bewilderment and fear, the gravitation of some towards ignoring the suffering of others in order to simply survive while others pull out all stops to care for others amid the chaos around them, the struggles of displaced peoples as they flee their homelands and are transplanted into new countries and new cultures totally foreign to them.

The issues which emanate as they attempt to assimilate while maintaining their own identity and integrity, as well as the issues arising from the responses or reactions of those around them, are all collateral damage of war. Whether refugees have a hope of moving beyond their nightmares and creating a new sense of home depends largely on whether there is a welcoming spirit of acceptance and support, or a sense of reluctance wanting to distance itself from the supposed imposition of a new culture on to their own.

With so many displaced persons dotted all over the planet, the feelings are often those reflected in the book I’ve just finished, Bone China by Roma Tearne, where one by one the children of a Sri Lankan family leave behind the turmoil in their country for what they hope will be a better life in England. Despite having physical safety and new opportunities, what they unfortunately discover over time is that they gradually lose their sense of identity, feeling like they no longer belong to the culture from which they came, or to the one where they are now.

History was what made you what you are. History was what made you feel at ease with yourself. History gave you a solidity, a certainty, in everything you did.

I’d hate to think that if I was a stranger in a strange land, I would have to live out the rest of my days feeling like I belonged nowhere.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

HERE CHOOKY CHOOKY

Dangle a Shmacko in front of a dog and you’ll have a friend for life. Try to take it away it away from him and you’ll make an arch enemy. Finding out what goes on inside the heads of our furry and feathered friends with regards to their eating habits is not always straightforward. Take the humble chook for instance.

Never having had chooks of my own, I find it valuable to have friends nearby with chooks who can benefit from my food scraps. I haven’t exactly always been particularly partial to these clucking, pecking egg producers, having had a couple of run ins with rampaging roosters over the years determined to display their dominant macho psyches while keeping me away from their private harem.

What I have noticed though, and it reminded me of my observations of the eating habits of sparrows in the back yard (March 5th), is that like various species in the animal kingdom, chooks will eat anything put in front of them, but there is some sort of system and an obvious preference about how they go about it. Usually all they get from me are vegetable peelings, bit of leftover rice or pasta, furry things from the bottom of the fridge, a bread crust or two, but I had a bit more than usual the other day after having visitors the night before.

Into their pen went the bag full of scraps, and along with it what they obviously considered a real delicacy…..pizza. Everything else was ignored while each chook descended on the pizza scraps, retreating to a space within the enclosure to devour their find ready to fend off in no uncertain terms any poacher encroaching on his or her ground. Only after each morsel was successfully defended and consumed did anything else get a look in.

Besides wondering about the junk food cravings of chooks, made me think about our own tactics when we’re presented with something irresistible, whether we can see beyond the initial urge to have something all to ourselves, whether the primal urges can give way to awareness of the needs of others. It may be easy to defend and justify our position, but the easy way might not always be the most helpful.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I SEE YOU, YOU SEE ME, HOW CAN I SEE ME?

It’s been a long week, have lost more than a few hours sleep in the middle of the night thinking of Nev and praying for him, trusting all will be well, and fortunately things are looking up a few days down the track. Nev was brought out of the coma, none the wiser about what had happened, had no memory of falling which I understand is quite common for traumatic accidents and head injuries, but will remain in hospital while all his injuries are assessed and treated.

So, with the lack of sleep I was wondering whether I was looking a bit older than my years when a customer in the General Store where I was working this morning commented when my friend Cheryl was talking to me “Oh, is this your daughter?” to which we both cracked up, seeing as she is only five years younger than me. Wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or an insult to either of us, think it was more that he wasn’t really that observant, was quite a funny moment.

It’s interesting in those moments to wonder what other people are seeing when they look at you. We spend much of our lives projecting ourselves in such a way that we will be thought of favourably, that we will come across as halfway decent and competent, but we never really know how we’re seen. We don’t have the luxury of living inside someone else’s skin, to look out through their eyes, to experience the emotions and responses our behaviour has on others, to see ourselves as we are seen.

One of my all time favourite books is Mister God this is Anna by Fynn, the true story of 5 year old Anna who was found on the streets of London in the 1930’s, and how she viewed the world in the light of her relationship with Mister God. I recently found a second hand copy of Anna’s Book, also by Fynn which includes much of her own writing, complete with spelling mistakes (quote below has correct spelling to make it easier to read).

For Anna, every life experience and everything around her was useful in her pursuit to understand ‘what it was all about,’ and this whole idea of seeing yourself became quite obvious to her. It was one thing to think about a person, where it’s all in your head, but another thing entirely to love them, where what’s on the inside is brought to life in outward action.

When it all comes out of my head….Mummy goes inside me and I go inside Mummy. If I don’t go inside Mummy, how can I look at me, because I look the wrong way. So when I love Mummy then I go inside her and look out of her eyes and see me and see how much Mummy loves me…

If someone loves you they let you come inside. But if they don’t love you, they don’t. Well, Mister God is like that too. He lets you come inside and see yourself, but you got to let Mister God come in too, because he wants to look out to see himself. You see, if…Mister God doesn’t look out of people’s eyes, how does he know what people think of him?

Wrap your brain round that one. If you want your brain stretched, your thinking challenged and your heart stirred, I can’t recommend Mister God this is Anna highly enough.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

HANG IN THERE BRO

Not feeling much like writing. My brother in law Nev is currently under sedation at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne following a 4 metre fall from scaffolding while working yesterday. He was conscious after the event, but in a pretty bad way, was airlifted to the Alfred and put in an induced coma.

After 24 hours, not a lot has changed. He has broken ribs, a fractured skull, some bleeding round the brain, will be in intensive care for several days as his progress is monitored. For the rest of the family, especially his wife and children, the waiting is the worst part.

As the one who usually comes to everyone else’s rescue and lends a hand doing whatever, he’s now the one who will be on the receiving end, which won’t sit comfortably with him.

Spare a prayer for him, it’d be appreciated.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

ONLY JUST MADE IT

I knew there was something I had planned to do last weekend, and it wasn’t until I picked up the outgoing mail from the office yesterday to post on my way home that I remembered. Do you ever get those ‘on the tip of your tongue’ moments, only they’re on the tip of your brain, those things just on the periphery of your thinking which were very clear in your head at some point or other, but have sadly gone missing at the moment you need to recall them or actually do them.

For me, the writing on the envelope was the writing on the wall and brought it back to me in one fell swoop. A letter addressed to the tax office reminded me I’d intended to put aside some time on the weekend to prepare my tax return, seeing as this is the final week to get it in on time.

What could I have possibly found to do of more importance than my tax that suppressed the memory of needing to face such a vital task? Bit of gardening, out for a coffee with friends on Saturday arvo, relaxing evening, church on Sunday, load of washing, bit of paperwork, curl up in the recliner to watch a movie. Hmm, easy to see how the importance of these things far outweighed the need to do my tax.

So, what was I doing last night? My tax obviously. Was quite proud of myself, located and downloaded the 2010 version of e-tax without calling for help from anyone, filled the whole thing out after compiling all the data from my records, sent it to the ATO and still had the kettle on for a cuppa by midnight, and in the middle of it all even managed to find time to watch the IT Crowd and RPA.

Admittedly, my tax return is a fairly uncomplicated thing, like me, and I’m often amused how procrastination can mess with my head. I have one job at work which I loathe, and the longer I put it off the bigger it looms as it takes on proportions far greater than it deserves. It’s like a mountain so steep I know I can’t conquer it, so I try to skirt my way round the edges, hoping it will somehow go away if I ignore it long enough. Doesn’t work though, and we’ve all found it’s usually as we face just one bit of the mountain, take one step to chip away at it, that the task begins to look a little more manageable.

There are those who ‘never put off till tomorrow what you can do today,’ and others who ‘never do today what you can put off till tomorrow,’ but in the end we all run out of ‘putting off’ time for whatever it is we’re neglecting. Almost forgetting to do my tax isn’t anything of earth shattering importance, but I wonder what other things of lasting value I’ve relegated to the too hard basket I need to attend to.

Ticking items off the To Do list is one thing, and doing that can bring a real sense of relief and achievement, but it’s usually the ‘people’ stuff where we can come unstuck. Spending time with our children, telling someone we love them, setting aside time to heal a broken relationship, going out of our way to support someone who’s struggling, these and many more take time and effort and in some cases a lot of courage. Even as I write, I’m challenged and confronted, for I can be lazy when it comes to making the sacrifices necessary to see someone else become more of who they’re destined to be.

But I’m optimistic. All mountains have a way to the top. You just have to find the right path.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO......WHAT?

I always thought it was to those who wait. Not according to Holden’s latest TV ad though. Their line “good things come to those who want” took me back in a flash to the 1987 movie Wall St and Michael Douglas’ line as the character Gordon Gekko promoting with great relish “greed is good”. Twenty three years later Douglas has returned as Gekko in Wall St – Money Never Sleeps, which I must admit I haven’t seen yet so I don’t know whether Gekko is as greedy as ever or whether he has realised there is more to life than chasing the almighty dollar.

Whether you’re a Baby Boomer like me or part of Generation X, Y or Z or whatever, I find the incessant emphasis on me, me, me more than a little tiresome. The belief that our cravings have to be satisfied now rather than later, which is obviously the point of advertising anyway, strikes at the heart of so many people’s insurmountable financial burdens, where huge mortgages, multiple credit cards maxed out to the limit, and living beyond their means brings them to the point of unavoidable crisis.

I don’t begrudge anyone going out and buying a Holden, far from it. Holden’s intention could have simply been that if you want something good, get a Holden instead of a Ford, maybe that was their idea. Maybe the ‘waiting’ was inherent in their thinking, that if you dream of owning your particular model of General Motors merchandise long enough, it will eventually be yours. Maybe it was simply, here’s a new model, therefore you have to want it. Whatever was behind their choice of the phrase, it certainly grated on me.

What’s so bad about waiting anyway? What makes us think we need instant gratification? Do we really need to pursue the relentless accumulation of stuff as if it’s our birthright? Whatever level of income we’re on, there does come a point when enough is enough, even if we do think we need that extra gadget, gizmo, accessory, or upgrade of the current model of whatever.

As opposed to the Holden TV ad ending of "you can never have too much of a good thing," I prefer to quote a line from the movie Sabrina

“More isn’t necessarily better, sometimes more is just more.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

PATTERNS ALL AROUND ME





















Working with numbers a great deal of the time, I take pleasure in patterns which pop up occasionally. I woke up in the early hours this morning, rolled over and discovered it was 4:44am, and adding a whole pile of figures on

the calculator today the total came to $2323.23. Maybe small things please small minds, but I like those moments. Have lost count of how many times I’ve glanced at the clock and it’s been 9:11, which is quite bizarre, but it helps remind me of the tragedy of that day, remember the lives lost and spare a thought and prayer for the families of those who were killed.


I’ve enjoyed crosswords and all number of word puzzles since I was a kid, playing with words and rearranging letters in Scrabble and Boggle and suchlike to find the best combinations, looking intently at the letters to unravel the multitude of possibilities that can come out of the jumble and be put in order.

There are some patterns though which I’ve managed to avoid most of my life, mainly sewing ones and knitting ones. I wasn’t great at either, and I think it had something to do with the fact there was really only one way of doing the thing. The pattern is there, you follow it to the letter, and you end up with something pretty much like the picture, but maybe my attention span was too short. It’s obvious you need a pattern to follow to get the desired result, but there was something too rigid about it which didn’t appeal to me.

But it’s probably in nature where patterns surround us in such abundance, that I find most satisfaction. The humble daisy with its petals perfectly formed around its centre, a fern frond, shells, a spider’s web, river pebbles, a single leaf or feather, all have their own unique beauty. There are patterns which have a degree of symmetry, then there are others equally pleasing if not more so, for their irregularity. I never get tired of looking at the countless textures and colours of bark, running my hand over their surface, or being fascinated by the variety of clouds which herald all kinds of weather.

We come to rely on the pattern of some things, expecting a certain similarity, a predictability. It fits in with our idea of the order of things, how things should be, and it’s probably the same with patterns of behaviour too. Our daily observations produce a store of information about those we live and work with, we get to know their habits and personalities, so if someone does something we perceive to be out of character, irregular or unpredictable, our little personal cosmos can go into a spin. We can feel threatened, distressed or simply disappointed that what we thought could be relied upon, is no longer there.

Living with ambiguities is simply part of life. People can be unpredictable, life is messy, we’re all complex creatures, and none of us knows what tomorrow might bring. Despite our circumstances not always being within our control, what we can choose is how we respond in the moment.

I can face each new day with a sense of foreboding or a sense of hope. I’d like to think I can keep my heart open as well as my eyes, so I don’t miss the gifts often right in front of me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

NOT QUITE THE 'BURNIE TEN'

Woke up to a leaden sky and relative calm after another overnight gusty wind, but no snow on our side of the mountain this morning. Today was Burnie Ten day, and with all my good intentions a couple of months ago of participating in the annual 10km race dashed by doing my back in, I decided to stage my own version and do the Poatina Ten all by myself. Heading out with great gusto at lunchtime into a cool breeze but beautiful sunshine, I had to make a diversion on lap 3 back home to peel off some layers, and continued merrily on my way.

The arthritis in my hips and feet kicked in on lap 4, but I valiantly soldiered on, determined to make it all the way to the end. With a circuit of the village measuring roughly 1.25km, the goal was to complete 8 laps, and as the most I usually do in one hit is two and half laps it was going to be interesting to see how long it was going to take me.

Picking up a stone and depositing it on a marker at the end of each lap as I knew I’d probably lose count of which lap I was up to, the distance to the end decreased as the time ticked away. On lap 7 the sun disappeared and rain started falling, not that I minded, it was quite refreshing, and by lap 8 the sun was out again.

By the time I arrived home, albeit rather pleased with myself, every arthritic part of my body was burning, so not sure if I’ve done my fitness regime a favour or not. Liam Adams from Melbourne (with that surname he must be related somehow) took line honours in the real Burnie Ten in just under 30 minutes, while Sydney runner Lara Tamsett celebrated her third win in a row in the women’s section in just under 34 minutes. And how long did it take me? Mind you, I was walking, but my little escapade took me 2 hours. I’ll have to check out tomorrow’s results in the paper to see if anyone took longer than me, though I doubt there’ll be many, if any at all.

But I did it. With a bare minimum of preparation, I actually completed something I set out to do, and with that comes a certain satisfaction. So many of our dreams and goals have a habit of falling by the wayside over the years as we seemingly become more sensible and responsible. The flicker of hope or passion, idealism or determination which instigated an idea can so easily be lost in the reality of facing what’s right in front of us each day.

It doesn’t hurt to pick up one of those goals now and again and stretch ourselves to see if it can be reached. They say each journey starts with a single step, so if my 12,500 steps today can set me off in the right direction, that has to be a good thing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW

Thought it was spring didn’t we, had even stopped lighting the fire every night, but coming home late last night to yet another freezing gale force wind which kept me awake as the tea tree scratched incessantly on my bedroom window, I thought the mountain might be capped with snow by morning.

Surprise, surprise, no snow in sight, but as I headed out the door at 10 o’clock I was amazed as white flakes started to fall. Even more puzzling was that the sun was shining. Snow in the village is not a common sight as we’re only at 300m partway up the mountain on the northern side of the Great Western Tiers. We usually only see it as the wind blowing straight off the mountain brings drifts of it across town, but the wind of the night before had blown itself out.

On and off during the day the flakes have come down again, alternating with sleet and hail at one stage, and snow clouds along the top of the mountain most of the day mean there’s probably at least a light cover of snow up there by now. Suffice to say, the fire was lit and I took up my post on the couch after lunch with my cosy blanket and a book.

Despite arriving home in a howling wind last night, two local residents were still out and about and took fright as I drove round the corner heading for my driveway. A mother possum caught in the headlights streaked across the road, only to get confused and go this way and that before retreating back again to shelter under a car, all the time with the precious cargo of her baby clinging on to her back for dear life. It was quite comical, and even with their generous coating of fur I felt for them as they continued their nightly foraging, hoping they would find somewhere cosy to snuggle up before daylight. Only hope it wasn’t in my roof.

As I sign off, the mountain has completely disappeared from view under a snow cloud so I’m expecting there’ll be more than a smattering of white stuff up there by tomorrow morning. Time to head back to the couch.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

TEN TEN TEN HAS A NICE RING TO IT

I couldn’t pass up a date like 10.10.10 without writing something. Such dates only occur for twelve years each century, after 12.12.12 that’s it until the twenty second century. Made me think about what I was doing on Jan 1st 2000, which was 01.01.00 so doesn’t quiet fit the category, but being the first day not only of a new century but a new millennium (except for the purists who maintain the new millennium didn’t start until 01.01.01) when more than a few were suffering the effects of the monumental New Year’s Eve parties and worldwide extravaganzas of the night before, my family was somewhat otherwise preoccupied. My daughter in law Mel suffered a ruptured appendix on New Year's Eve, so we'll certainly never have trouble remembering where we all were at the time.

With probably millions of dollars changing hands in the lead up to the big day, we all managed to survive the Millennium Bug so many had led us to believe would bring the world of computers crashing to its knees. Some of us spent nothing and survived just the same.

Dug out some old diaries to discover if I’d written anything of significance on those dates as the years passed.

01.01.01

Can’t remember. Not because I had a hangover, don’t have that diary.

02.02.02

Was a Saturday, two and a half weeks after my husband Bob’s diagnosis of a brain tumour. The time had passed in a blur of appointments, CT scans, MRI, down to Hobart for a biopsy which was a risky procedure in itself, brain surgeon who deemed the tumour inoperable, oncology specialist, radiation oncologist, and the day before we had been to the Launceston hospital for Bob to be fitted with his ‘mask’ for mapping the precise area to be radiated.

So, on that Saturday, we were having a decent rest in preparation for the long journey that lay ahead.

03.03.03

Bob had his last dose of chemo in January, and blood tests and an MRI during February had meant we had just received the news there was no more treatment available that would improve his condition. While still able Bob wanted to visit our friends who manage Lethborg Funeral Services so he could have some input into his funeral arrangements. An interesting time as we moved into the latter stages of his illness. It’s funny that in the midst of all this happening the things I have in my diary are mostly practical. Pick up prescriptions, renew RACT membership, pay car registration, doctor’s appointment, pick up shower chair.

04.04.04

It was a Sunday, that’s all I know, don’t have that diary. Probably went to church and did some weeding in the afternoon, don’t mind weeding.

05.05.05

Just an ordinary Thursday at work.

06.06.06

Don’t have that diary either.

07.07.07

Gift hunting for son Kris who turns 33 tomorrow. Which actually means this was the 33rd anniversary of going into labour with him. Maybe he should’ve been the one giving me a present!

08.08.08

First day of the Olympics in Beijing, significant date on the Chinese calendar. Busy day in Launceston doing my usual Friday run around of work things before doing the grocery shopping with my granddaughter Bella in mind, seeing as she’ll be having her first sleepover at Nanny Di’s tomorrow without her Mum and Dad who will be in Hobart. It’ll be strange having her all to myself.

09.09.09

Normal Wednesday work day, though I left an hour early to cook and set up ready for the arrival of a dozen visitors as it’s my week to host Community Tea, a weekly event in our village where just about everybody heads out into the night with a casserole or such like under their arm to enjoy each other’s company over a shared meal. With a population around 140, we all know each other at one level, but even in a small community like this it takes time to go beyond pleasantries in order to live and work closely together with shared goals. (See June 26 for a run down on one I prepared earlier!).

10.10.10

And so to today. Had a fairly quiet one after using up most of my energy yesterday mowing, whipper snipping and weeding. Ah, don’t you love Spring. One lovely moment was when a friend from round the corner happened to be passing with a mower as I was about to start on the front yard, and proceeded to mow the entire back yard in half an hour, a project I was contemplating tackling over two days. His gift to me meant I didn’t have to overtax the old back which I’ve been very kind to over the past few weeks. That’s one of the things I find so encouraging about living here, being present in someone else’s thinking to the extent they’ll go out of their way to care for you.

I did make a bit of an effort though, heading out for a brisk 3.5km before a late breakfast. Couple of loads of washing, bit of reading, writing, even a little work related arithmetic, curled up with an even later lunch and watched Remember Me, not a bad movie, poignant ending, worth seeing.

We never know what each day may bring our way, and what we do on any given day may seem quite mundane and of little importance in the grand scheme of things, but one line from the movie sums it up well for me.

Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it - Gandhi