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.