Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Praying in the new year

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you can make peace with 2013 and that 2014 is full of God’s good things.

I am having a quiet night at home. I had thought about inviting some people over, but the reality is that my place is very small, there is nothing at all to be seen from it, and I haven’t actually made any new friends as yet in Canberra, so I don’t really know what I had in mind. I do have a lot of old friends here, but, I don't know who's in town and presumably if they were doing something (and many of them have small children so probably not) and wanted me to be there, they’d have asked. But I can’t complain – some time ago I had an invitation to go camping on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, but because I hadn’t even moved then, and had no idea where I might be, and it required a booking and commitment, I thought it best to decline at the time. So I turned down my opportunity for the spectacular.

In the mean time, at the risk of sounding absurdly pious, I actually thought I would take the opportunity to reflect and get some things in order, and I have been writing out some prayer cards. Back when I read A Praying Life by Paul Miller, he suggested the use of prayer cards, and the things is, I actually tried a version of this method some years ago. (Tell me I am not the only person who has tried (and failed at) about 600 different prayer systems.) I have been meaning to revisit this idea since, especially because I still have the cards, so I dug the box out from where it has been going derelict in my bedside cupboard and thought I’d resurrect it. Here are a few pictures of some of the wonders I found inside.

There are some complicated and intense little cards and bits of stuff to be found in there. But now that I am older and wiser I realise that the key to sticking with these things is keeping it simple. I usually get all zealous in a burst of enthusiasm and set the bar way too high for myself, and soon fizzle out with the impossibility of sustaining my own systems.

What Miller suggests is card system like the list below (taken from the book), with a bible verse and a few key areas for prayer written on it (not a list of 56 things because you got on a roll one night and thought you’d cover absolutely everything), and on some of them, like suffering people, are just names. So, that was my new aim.

* 4-10 family cards (one for each person)
* 1-3 people-in-suffering cards
* 1 friends card
* 1 non-Christian card
* 1 church leadership card
* 1 small-group card
* 1 missionary, ministries card
* 1-3 world- or cultural issues card
* 3 work cards
* 1 co-workers card
* 3-5 repentance cards (things I need to repent of)
* 3-5 hope or big-dream cards

Here’s to keeping this going for at least some of 2014.

An update on my nephew

For those who expressed a concern for my sweet little nephew, an update. Things actually didn’t go so well while I was down in Melbourne. My little nephew was basically just vomiting back up everything he was fed when I arrived. And it was heart-breaking to watch my sister spend so long trying to feed him through a tube, then so long holding him upright afterwards in the hope of preventing it all coming back up, but then he would pull a sad little face and it would all come streaming out of his mouth, which was not great given that the goal was for him to gain weight for the surgery. But then they switched formula back to a previous one, and he seemed a lot better, except for the wind that is, and when he started screaming with the pain they remembered why they switched in the first place.

They’d also noticed that they could no longer put him flat on his back to change his nappy because he screamed and went blue and coughed. My sister had taken him to the child health nurse before Christmas who saw this and didn’t seem to think it a problem. But this has been the problem with this baby all along: nobody seems to know what normal is and my sister hasn’t known how much to just take as par for the course with the hole in his heart. But by the 27th my sister thought his breathing was way too fast, so they took him to emergency, and he was admitted to ICU. Then my sister got really upset because it seemed like she should have taken him in earlier, but it’s so hard to know.

Originally they thought he had pneumonia and heart failure, then they decided he didn’t have an infection, it was basically just his heart that was a problem, then his temperature went really high and they decided he did have an infection, then they discovered that he has VRE, which is that superbug that has been on the news, which he must have picked up at an earlier visit. (It was apparently only in the neo-natal ICU unit, where he didn’t go previously, but it seems he has it in his system anyway.) So, he is still in ICU down there, on a drip as they haven’t sorted out his feeding, and his temperature is erratic, but he is doing a little better, and he might just stay there till surgery. And I think my sister is actually a little relieved to have him there where he is on monitors and one-to-one care, rather than dealing with the anxiety of having him at home. Also, because they discourage parents from staying overnight in ICU (as basically there is nowhere to sleep) they have been going home at nights and catching up on all the sleep lost from trying to feed him every three hours (when the feeding took so long that there wasn’t much of a break between feeds).

I feel rather bad for coming home, but I tried to change my ticket and there wasn’t a seat available when I wanted one, then they decided to send my nieces to their cousins in Newcastle, where they were supposed to go for Christmas anyway, and only two people can be in ICU at any time, so there didn’t seem to be a whole lot for me to do. Also we really don’t know how long this might go on for, or when the need might be greater. This is the problem of living at a distance. If we were in the same town, I could be an ongoing support, but as it is I can only go down for concentrated spurts, and you have to decide when. My younger sister was already going down for a few days next week, and my Mum is ready to go if needed, so we shall just see how it goes.

So, I tried hard not to completely lose it saying goodbye to him in ICU (and wasn’t entirely successful) hoping to God it wouldn’t be the last time I saw him. We are hoping and praying that he can get well enough (and gain enough weight) for the surgery to fix the hole, and from there on it will all improve.

(I did have some fun taking me nieces out to a few things. Well, sort of. They got a MYER voucher for Christmas and wanted to use it, so I was mad enough to say I’d take them into the city on Boxing Day to the sales. Seriously. There was such a long queue just to get up the escalators, being manned by no less than three suited men saying things like “no pushing in”, that we were led off to walk up the fire escape. Never in my life have I seen so many people in a department store that big that there were long queues for escalators and people were walking the fire exits. It was insane. My nieces aren’t quite old enough to appreciate the culinary delights that Melbourne has to offer so I took them into the Lindt café, where it was relatively peaceful and we could sit down for a while. Then we discovered a shop called Minotaur “pop culture specialists” where they went crazy over all the Manga things and what not. The shop was full of teenagers and men approaching middle age walking around with head phones on. The appeal of that stuff is lost on me and I felt a little “out of touch”. Why don’t kids these days watch Anne of Green Gables?

Another day I was ready to take them to see a movie, when my sister decided to take my nephew to the hospital, so while I waiting for them to come out of the movie I wandered a few shops, and actually managed to use my own MYER vouchers on some new sunglasses (I couldn’t bear the thought of trying on Boxing Day), then I started getting texts from the hospital with the bad news. So the next day I took them to the hospital and then on the way home thought we’d try Brighton Beach. This was very pleasant until some of those extreme winds some of you may have seen on the cricket came along and whipped sand up till it stung and everyone on the beach fled like a swarm.

Anyway, I am getting good at borrowing strange cars (my brother-in-laws old second car is hideous to drive) to find my way around strange cities and pretending I know what I am doing. Last time I was down there I actually missed the right freeway exit coming home from the hospital, in peak hour, in the rain, then the GPS wouldn’t work, but you know, we survived and we made it home eventually.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger

I can’t really say why it took me so long to actually read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Perhaps it had something to do with phrases like “most tragic of fates” and “most terrifying of enemies” on the back cover, and the way they filled me with an emotional dread.

But I have now finished it and can say it’s a wonderful book.

It’s a little bit Marilynne Robinson, with it’s empathy and grace towards the sinning, a little bit To Kill a Mocking Bird, with a trial portraying how the public can be swayed on questions of justice and a character as much to be admired as Atticus Finch, a little bit Tim Winton, with it’s extra-ordinary happenings over which we are told to “make of it what you will”, and if I had read any Westerns I’d mention one of those too.

Like Robinson, Enger is very much a Christian, and this is very much a book about faith. But it’s not forced on the reader, rather it’s held out with a stunning attraction in the figure of Jeremiah Land. Neither is the book simplistic in it’s treatment of the stumbling and fallen and it’s representation of a complex ethical dilemma. Here are a couple of excerpts that might serve to prove my point:
You can embark on new and steeper versions of your old sins, you know, and cry tears while doing it that are genuine as any.

I began to weep ... weeping seems to accompany repentance most times. No wonder. Could you reach deep in yourself to locate that organ containing delusions about your general size in the world—could you lay hold of this and dredge it from your chest and look it over in daylight—well, it’s no wonder people would rather not.

One thing I wasn’t waiting for was a miracle.

I don’t like to admit it. Shouldn’t that be the last thing you release: the hope that the Lord God, touched in His heart by your particular impasse among all others, will reach down and do that work none else can accomplish ...? ....I puzzled it through, concluding that God, feeling overworked on our behalf, had given us ... a parting gift ... Was it unjust? I’d have thought so once, and not long ago. But these activities—whining about what’s fair, begging forgiveness, hoping for a miracle—these demand energy, and that was gone from me.

You know how it is – you grow up with a story all your life, it can transmute into something you neither question nor particularly value. It's why we have such bad luck learning from mistakes.
I could go on. But all I will do is recommend it as a piece of modern fiction that is worth the time it takes to read it, and as a chap called Andrew Roe, from the San Francisco Chronicle, has said on the front cover, “serves as a reminder of why we read fiction to begin with” (and this a good review).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas! - again

This year I have a special treat. A carol, brought to you by Tamworth High School, from sometime last century. They actually used to give this air time right before the news on the local TV station.

In case it isn't obvious, I'm the one with the fuzzy hair, third from the right in the back row, who stars in the first close-up (I've used up some of my 15 seconds of fame). It's so spectacular, you need a count down to prepare yourself.

I believe this came about because a little group of us decided to sing carols in the local nursing homes, and we got our photo in the Northern Daily Leader, and then the TV station picked it up and asked our school to come out and record carols. So we were totally famous.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas ...

Merry Christmas one and all.

Apologies, this year well and truly went out with a whimper.

But I now have two weeks leave, and am looking forward to a break from work and going back and forth to Sydney. I actually left it way too late to buy a plane ticket to Queensland this year, as I didn’t really know what was happening (with my nephew potentially needing surgery and all), and so then I contemplated staying here for Christmas, as it would be nice to have Christmas in my own place and town and not have to travel elsewhere one year, but the reality is, even if I could find somewhere to go for Christmas lunch there is still Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and all those other days that I would just be hanging around by myself, and it probably would get lonely and I’d end up feeling blue, so I am now getting on another sodding bus soon and going back to Melbourne. I imagine there I will do a lot of helping, as my nephew has been back into hospital twice, and is now being fed through a tube, and is just generally wearing everybody out and scaring the life out of them with his struggles. But it will be good to be there again.

So, hope you all have a joyful time celebrating our Saviour’s birth, and a rest as well.

Till next time, Ali

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday - The Runners

I don't mention running on this blog very often, probably because for a long time now it's just been part of my life, like cleaning my teeth. But I do like to run. Maybe it's a mix of like and need.

Having recently moved I've had to find a new route in a new city. I don't take electronic things with me running, so it has to be straightforward enough in the beginning that I can remember where I am going, till I find my way around (and I don't want to have to think too much about where I am going), and I've been temporarily lost a couple of times here in Canberra through not taking enough notice of a map before I set out. That and streets here are so long, so deceptively long. Just going to the end of my street, around the bend and down to the end of that street is 2.5 km already. But I have now found a route that I think is roughly about 8 km and takes a little under 45 mins. That's about the distance I like for regular running. And I can cut a bit off it if it's just not a good morning, because there are still some days when I get out of bed and I just don't have it.

(It's been a long time since I bothered measuring or timing these things, but I used to be able to run 5 min kilometres relatively easy. Who really knows now. Back in school I could do the 1500 m in under 5 mins, which was good for a teenage girl back then, but I don't compete in anything much these days. It's just maintenance. The truth is, I think I am (or rather was perhaps) naturally more of a sprinter. I have the quads and calves for speed rather than distance and my legs are too heavy to drag around for the very long distances (that is my excuse for having never tried a marathon anyway).)

But running is good for me, physically and mentally. And I like it to be outdoors, even in inclement weather. It's when I process things - though sometimes I need to "change the tape" and stop thinking about the same thing over and over like I'm putting one foot in front of the other - and get some air and vitamin D and all that.

So, when I saw a link to short film on twitter (via Ben Myers, via here) about runners, I watched it. The idea was that people might open up more to strangers while running. The result is fascinating.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday fun

Here is another of these lists of things introverts love. I suspect it's mainly introverts that read this blog in any case (not enough dopamine inducements here for the extraverts), so let us indulge and enjoy.

I laughed, especially when I came to No 5 and No 19 (yes!), but most especially when I got to No 10 (though not in reference to bed time).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tolkien and the long defeat

I have gone and drowned in the internet. My feedly dam burst some time ago, then I saw on social media articles around CS Lewis's anniversary floating by that I had in mind to read, then link after link on Nelson Mandela that beckoned me into the tide, and I haven't kept up with any of it. But as I was closing down my email just now I glimpsed the one from Bloglovin (why I get emails from there still I don't know as I don't use it) and within it a post with the title Tolkien and the Long Defeat. How could I resist? I have posted on Tolkien on the long defeat before myself, and I like it.You might too, and can read it here.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Lo, how a rose

I thought I posted this after it appeared in the Art House America blog last year, but perhaps I didn’t and it was just that Cath and I read and discussed it. Either way, it is worth posting again. It is a most beautiful and beautifully written post by Lanier Ivester describing how she moved (or perhaps was moved) through her anger at God, in the approach to Christmas, over her ongoing infertility. (And I think single people, who have never had the opportunity to have children, are allowed to experience the grief of childlessness that infertile married folks experience.)

And here is a version of the carol that I love from Sting (from his album If On A Winter's Night, which I also love, though it be perhaps a wee bit Catholic). Needless to say, there are going to be crochet roses on my Christmas tree also.

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them;
and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.

Isaiah 35:1

Monday, December 02, 2013

Christmas decorating

You will just have to indulge me here, because I have actually decorated a "real" Christmas tree this year, so I thought I'd show you. It's fun. I didn't really want to buy a plastic tree that had to be stored in a big box somewhere till next year, and had in mind a little twiggy something to hang my few paltry decorations on. Then one day last week, on my way down to the letterbox, I came upon this branch under a big old pine tree in the driveway, and I decided it had potential. Perhaps I am nuts. But here it is. 

I only have a handful of scrappy old decorations, mostly cast offs from my Mum, but I have plans to make some more in future (after searching all over Canberra in search of some 5 ply red yarn I ordered some online). I liked the crocheted words, which I found after Christmas one year in Koorong for about 50 cents, and I like the hand-painted ball around the back that I bought at the Made Fair Markets we used to run at my church in Sydney, and of course I like my crocheted star from last year. So, this is the tree by day.

And this is the tree in the window by night, just to make sure you see all it's facets. :) The words show up nicely here.

I do have a few other random ornaments in my newly christened "Christmas Box". Some Babushkas that my Aunt sent one year, which, again, my Mum decided she didn't want anymore.

Some carolling people I bought years ago in Sweden (originally given to my Mum, who decided she didn't want them anymore either).

Some sweet little people I bought in Austria years ago also.

Some other folks I found in Vinnies one time.

A hand painted glass bauble that I bought one year when I was going to St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney. It has the Christmas story painted around it, and is a bit too precious to hang on my twiggy branch this year.

Some cardinal birds on a candle-holder that Mum didn't want anymore. I love this and I snatched it up. It might be absurd, as we have neither cardinals nor snow here, but red birds in winter, and cardinals in particular, have become a kind of symbol of hope in my mind. It all started with the poem Red Bird by Mary Oliver, and the song From This One Place, by Sara Groves. To me the idea, or the metaphor, goes with the story of Christmas, when Christ came as the hope of the world, a light shining in a dark place.

And I thought I would stuff these little hand-knitted finger puppets I bought in Berrima and turn them into Christmas decorations. Because why not. I don't see why Little Red Riding Hood can't hang on my tree, and I like sheep and alpacas.

I have a few more random things, like the whole herd of white felted reindeers I bought for $1 each in MYER after Christmas last year, but this will be all for now.

One about prayer

I still don’t seem to be on top of this head cold (the nose blowing! - where does all the goop come from? – you’d think I’d hadn’t blown my nose for 20 years), and felt inexplicably overwhelmed with weariness on both Saturday on Sunday afternoon, leading to a couch snooze. But the good news is that I went on a weekend frenzy, mostly online, and am done with Christmas shopping.

I am still reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller (and I have no idea how far through it I am, because that is how it is when you're reading on a Kindle), and being challenged by it. I don’t spend half as much time praying for others as I could and should, and one of the big things I have learnt is that there are times I should spend less time and energy trying to talk to other people about whatever I happen to want to talk about (even though I am a big conflict avoider in the first place), and more time talking to God about it.

To that end I found this little diagram helpful, for those times when there is a problem and I haven’t bothered praying about it, or have given up praying about it. And so I cheat and take a photo.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Didn't we have a lovely time

The day we went to B …". Except there was no "we" (that might have been lovelier, but c'est la vie), and it was to Bungendore that I went. But I did have a very pleasant day. I considered opening a bottle of cider, and I did indeed sing a few of my favourite songs as the wheels went round (if you have no idea what I am on about, listen here). 

I have been on a quest for "old things", and was told Bungendore was the place to go, so I decided to take a little trip. It's a very quaint little old town in the country. I didn't take much effort with these pictures, and it being the middle of the day it wasn't ideal and I could hardly see through the viewfinder, or discern anything on the playback screen, so this is what I got, but you will get the idea. Apparently Braidwood, a bit further on, is a town that is entirely heritage listed, but I will save that for another day.

There were homewares shops ...

At which I liked the plants in baking tins on the ladder.

Antique shops ...

I thought this motel was hilariously retro in the middle of it all. Apparently it has been used in a lot of films and catalogue shoots (said the guy who saw me talking pictures and came out for a chat).

I didn't actually buy anything, except three clay roses for $2 each, for some unknown reason, but I now know what kind of things one might find in Bungendore. 

Friday, November 29, 2013


Let's do another personality test! I saw a Book Week Scotland Personality Test on Facebook, and how could I resist that combination? - Scotland (home of my ancestors), books and personality.

However, I was a little dismayed when, given I was supposed to be a literary figure, I came out as someone I had never before heard of. Here is my result:

You are Emma Morley from One Day
You, and people like you, are often artistic and great counsellors to friends and family. With deep intuition, like Emma, you can often forgive others’ behaviour because, somehow, you deeply empathise with the motivations and inner turmoil behind them.

Even though you can appear aloof, bland and stubborn on your bad days you are as warm as you are complex. Your friends hold you close to their hearts and understand your dislike of conflict. With great creativity, given independence, you can excel at jobs to which you commit yourself.

So I googled this and read about the film One Day on Wikipedia, with even greater dismay. It sounds like nonsense. I got confused just reading it and trying to keep up with the relationship starts and stops. Perhaps the book is better? I do quite like the sound of Emma Morley, but isn't that just the thing? We feel a sympathy for people like ourselves.

What stood out to me in the above blurb is the line about I can "often forgive others' behaviour because, somehow, you deeply empathise with the motivations and inner turmoil behind them". Is that how you explain it? I think this is indeed true of myself. At times I totally overdo my inner explanations of why so and so did such and such and invent all sorts of reasons for why they didn't really mean to. But I am self-aware enough to know that this trait very often looks, to others and even at times to myself, like being a pushover, who keeps going back for more destructive treatment. There are times when I storm (on the inside of course) and wonder why a certain person treats me poorly. Then I realise it's because I keep forgiving them for treating me poorly and sparing them from any consequences of treating me poorly. And then I want to stamp my foot and be "tougher". But of course I don't. And I do then I remind myself that grace is always uneven, and love is uneven, and that I can dispense grace even when I know full well that people have been unkind, because I have received grace, knowing full well I don't deserve it.

But, this is partly the reason for my interest in ideas like "we teach others how to treat us", because, while forgiveness and grace and love are the things, there are sometimes better ways for relationships to work than with dynamics so uneven they are dysfunctional, or one person looking like a "pushover", which ultimately isn't good for anyone.

Anyway, like they say at the end of one of these tests, "life is not always easy for the INFJ" (the above blurb does sound a lot like an INFJ - I can't escape!), what with all this wretched introspection. The rest of you can just go and have fun doing the test.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hiraeth - that homesick longing in another language

Blogger has not been functioning very well for me here at work this week, and I don't actually bring my laptop to Sydney with me, but today I have another word, an old Welsh word, to add my collection of words untranslatable directly into English that speak of this mix of longing, homesickness, nostalgia ... (see Sehnsucht, Unheimlichkeit, Tesknota and Saudade).

 Picture from here.

The fact that so many languages have a word for something similar to this, which has about it the scent of a longing for Eden, is the thing.
Hiraeth /hɪəraɪ̯θ/ is a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. The University of Wales, Lampeter attempts to define it as homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past. From Wikipedia.
I found this little abstract from a project on Hiraeth, Saudade and the Concept of Longing, that writes thus:
The Welsh word hiraeth has no equivalent in English. It often translates as “homesickness,” but the actual concept is far more complex. It incorporates an aspect of impossibility: the pining for a home, a person, a figure, even a national history that may never have actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to experience a deep sense of incompleteness tinged with longing. The only living language with an exact equivalent is Portuguese, through the term saudade, which refers to an impossible longing for the unattainable. Other languages, however, hold terms that come close in meaning: dor in Romanian, Wehmut in German, kaiho in Finnish. In some cases, the term refers to issues of national history and identity.
That is all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The poetry of departures

I came upon this poem by Philip Larkin that amuses me. It captures so well the way I myself feel torn at times between the itch to pack it all in and sail into the sunset after bold and grand adventures, and the love of home, where I do like being with my specially-chosen junk and books ... And how sometimes just knowing that we could is enough. (Pardoning a little crassness in the middle.)

Poetry of Departures
~by Philip Larkin

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve 
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
Its specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said

He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you bastard;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me stay
Sober and industrious.
But I'd go today,

Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo'c'sle
Stubbly with goodness, if
It weren't so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life
Reprehensibly perfect.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A thing or two

I feel like I spent days of last week just executing logistics of transporting myself and my things.

(My colleague who commutes to Sydney, and who is responsible for this lark, had a week of leave, so I was left to find my own way, which made the whole thing seem that much crazier. So on Tuesday morning I walked out early, very early, and hopped on a bus I had discovered near my house down to the main bus station in Canberra, got the bus to Sydney, walked from Central Station to work. Getting up at 5.30 am and walking through the doors at work at 11.00 am is not the most efficient thing I have ever done, but it did work. (There didn’t seem much point in me driving my own car, since I don’t have all the magic car-parking arrangements my colleague has and would have nowhere to leave my car throughout the day.) Then I walked to and from work for a couple of days, leaving and rotating portions of my stuff at work so I didn’t have to carry it unnecessarily back and forth. On Thursday morning I had a meeting in at the Attorney-General’s Department, to discuss a product I work on (when it’s unusual for me to have off-site meetings), so I went straight into the city, taking my gear with me. Then it was back to work, then back down to Central Station later for the bus, then on to the next bus and finally home. Thus I felt like I spent days just getting myself about making sure I had the right belongings with me.)

I’ve since come down with a rotten head cold, which is no very great surprise after the last few weeks, but hopefully I can bounce back, so I can do it all again.

On the bus I have been reading A Praying Life, by Paul Miller, on the Kindle, when I wasn’t snoozing. There is much goodness in it. You can read about it here, here, and here. It’s not quite so easy to flag and re-find the good stuff on the Kindle, but hopefully I can post a thing or two when I get myself back together.

In the meantime, I have taken a few moments to sit on the couch and make a little something to put in with my Mum’s birthday present. Christmas is coming alarmingly fast. This little stocking is made from the same yarns I used in the rug I made for her. She has committed sacrilege and abandoned traditional Christmas colours for these ones, but it's her tree and her house, so I let her do it and suffer to go along. The pattern is here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I and my rose - a poem

These are some roses my Aunt had placed in a jar for me when I arrived at my new home. They actually match in so nicely, and look so cheery, that I now feel like I need an endless supply.

I used to disdain roses; as too showy, too exotic (in that they are not native to Australia, and people would do better not to fill their gardens with them and be then compelled to spray pesticide everywhere to keep this country's bugs off), too unoriginal. But these days, when I happen upon roses I just embrace them and enjoy. It’s not their fault.

So, I thought I’d share another poem by GA Studdert Kennedy. I am not altogether sure about the last two lines, and have puzzled whether he is switching between talking about the literal rose flower and a metaphorical rose that is Christ himself. The more I read it, the more I find, which is one characteristic of good poem.


There is a world of wonder in this rose;
God made it, and His whole creation grows
To a point of perfect beauty
In this garden plot. He knows
The poet's thrill
On this June morning, as He sees
His Will
To beauty taking form, His word
Made flesh, and dwelling among men.
All mysteries
In this one flower meet
And intertwine,
The universal is concrete
The human and divine,
In one unique and perfect thing, are fused
Into a unity of Love,
This rose as I behold it;
For all things gave it me,
The stars have helped to mould it,
The air, soft moonshine, and the rain,
The meekness of old mother earth,
The many-billowed sea.
The evolution of ten million years,
And all the pain
Of ages, brought it to its birth
And gave it me.
The tears
Of Christ are in it,
And His Blood
Has dyed it red,
I could not see it but for Him
Because He led
Me to the Love of God,
From which all Beauty springs.
I and my rose
Are one.

The Unutterable Beauty
G.A. Studdert-Kennedy, 1883-1929

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Well boo. My sister took my new little nephew to see the paediatrician last Wednesday, and the paediatrician sent him to hospital. He’s showing signs of heart failure, and having difficulties earlier than they might have anticipated. The cardiologist now wants to do surgery next month. It would seem that perhaps the earliest he can have that the better. But he needs to put on some weight first and have his heart rate slow down. So, that is the next thing to pray for.

Meanwhile I am still pottering around trying to unpack in Canberra. I’m at that point where the place just looks like a mess now with random left-over bits scattered about waiting to find their place. I have rented a two-bedroom place here, for less than the price of a studio in Sydney, but it is just as well because there is no garage or shed or linen cupboard and the laundry is in the bathroom, so all the things they might have contained have ended up in the second wardrobe. And it is nice to get some of the furniture that was crammed up in my bedroom previously into a "study". Today I went in search of a washing machine, as when the friends who were going to give me one did a test run on theirs sparks flew out of it, so that option didn’t work. So I am now doing a load of washing, which is a marvel when it’s been a while since you’ve been able to do one.

But for Saturday, here is another temperament-type analysis I stole off facebook. I am occasionally told I look like Cate Blanchett, so this seemed apt for me. Click on it and it should get bigger.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where I have been

Diarising blog posts are perhaps of little interest to all but a few, but let me just fill you in on the last few days. My removalist truck arrived at 7 am last Thursday morning. I was dubious when I saw the size of the truck. I had sent a list of my things to the company, who said they would send the “king” truck, but I had a suspicion this was not the king truck. Consequently it took them four hours to pack it up like Tetris and they finished up holding stuff in while they closed the doors on it. The truck then left, and I ran around madly loading things into my car, then left also, only to get stuck in the M5 over an “incident”, which turned out to be a truck broken down in one lane of the tunnel. Still, I beat the truck to Canberra. I don’t know what they did, but it took them a long time.

My Aunt was already at my new place, where she had placed some welcome “home” roses from a garden in a jar and was busy cleaning out my fridge etc. We unpacked some things and spent a few hours there, but then I went out to their place for the night, because it was too hard to find linen for the bed etc.

Friday morning I left and came back to Sydney for the clean-up of the old place. I spent the afternoon scrubbing the tiles on the balcony, cleaning the wind-out awning we never used but which was dirty anyway, washing down the outside of the sliding doors, cleaning my blinds (which I discovered were dirtier than I realized on the back because I always leave a window open in my room), wiping walls, cleaning out the air-conditioner, the ceiling vents etc. I had left a roll-out camp mattress behind to sleep on back in Sydney, but I must be going soft, or had too much to think about, because, tired as I was, I was still awake at 1 am and then work up at 5.30.So, Saturday I got up and tackled the shower and bathroom, the kitchen, the light fittings and so on. My flatmate didn’t get home till later on the Friday evening, and then her removal came at 7.30 am Saturday morning, and she didn’t return till 12.00pm, so I did the vast majority of the cleaning myself.

Finally I was ready to leave about 1 pm, with nothing left to do but the kitchen bench, and the carpet cleaners were coming at 2pm. So I set off, only to be faced with another “incident” in the M5 tunnel, which involved crawling along and coming to a complete stop several times inside it. Oh how I hate that tunnel! Sydney, you can keep the M5. This just about finished me. I could have just gone to sleep right there in the tunnel. I then made it as far as a road house at Pheasant’s Nest where I was so desperate that I bought coffee out of a machine in the 7 eleven store and a packaged sandwich, because I hadn’t eaten anything since a bread roll I had kept from the day before for breakfast. Then I staggered on to Canberra, with my car just about exploding from all the bits and pieces I had left behind, which I had underestimated.

But finally I made it back to Canberra. My Aunt and Uncle came around and helped unpack and were marvelous (my uncle had me in fits of giggles as he exclaimed over my things - he decided to unpack my books, so he had some fun with that). We ate take-away pizza in the middle of the boxes and chaos and it was actually kind of fun.

This Aunt and Uncle they have been so amazingly kind to me. As I mentioned before, my Uncle fixed me a microwave, then he set up a TV, set-top box and DVD player for me on a cardboard box (the important things - I might even work out what is on TV!), they gave me an old kettle, loaned me a vacuum cleaner, came around on Sunday with a fold-up dining table and so it went on. I might sound like I owned nothing, but the reality is that basically all the furniture and kitchen goods in the last place were mine, except the dining table, the microwave and the kettle (oh and the TV). Also, when we moved in I owned the fridge, the washing machine, and the vacuum, but when they broke down my flatmate replaced them with a fridge she already owned at her parent’s house and a few new things. You go through cycles in flatting when you own the appliances and when you don’t. I was in a not-owing phase, but at least I don’t have to go out and get them all at once right now.

So, I still can’t quite believe I managed to pull the whole thing off and am pleased that it is now over.

It is so nice to have family in a town to help out in the big things (a couple of old friends down there also offered to help also when I told them I was moving, which was kind of them – being someone who doesn’t readily ask people for help it is nice when people offer and you don’t need to).

Monday morning I had to get up at 5.30 am to come back up to Sydney, making it six times travelling that road in eight days, and I was so wrecked yesterday at work I could hardly think straight. Then last night I went and stayed in this strange place in Balmain (that is another story) but hopefully from this point on I can get it all sorted and catch up on some sleep. I’ve also been eating junky bits of stuff here and there and not doing much in the way of actual exercise in the last couple of weeks, because I have been all over the place, so I feel a little blergh and hope to return to some kind of normal soon. I'm also looking forward to reading time on the bus back, which might provide some more interesting fuel for blogging!

Monday, November 04, 2013

The moving story

So, the new plan, which has come about so suddenly I can hardly keep up myself, is this. When I was chatting to my manager about how remotely I could do my job, I did mention the Canberra office. I found out this no longer exists as an office, which most people didn't seem to know. But, he did say, when he was completely unfazed by this idea, that if I wanted to come up from down that way I should go and talk to another girl on my floor who comes up from Canberra. I did happen to know this girl, having met her way back at University, when she was living in college with a good friend from my course, who now also happens to live in Canberra. So, out of curiosity I went to ask her if she actually came up from Canberra, because I didn’t know this. She got all excited about my possibility, and was very convincing and eager, and highly recommended the whole idea, even offering me a lift, such that by the end of the conversation I went away thinking ‘could I really come up to work from Canberra for one day a week?’, which seemed crazy initially ... but the craziness wore off the longer I thought about it.

So, with this sort of in mind, but before the whole caper had been approved through work, I went down to Canberra just for a day of the long weekend to drop a pile of stuff off at my Aunt’s house. I happened to be looking at properties online earlier, a couple were open for inspection, so I looked through two, just to see what you got for your money down there. Later that week I found out I had to be in the office for three days a week, and the whole thing seemed to fall through, because I couldn’t imagine trying to make that work. So, I went back to my new friend at work and told her they weren’t going to let me come in for one day and I couldn’t do the whole thing. So she then says ‘do you want me to see if you can stay where I stay for two nights a week?’ because she stays over up here (she is a team leader so she needs to be in the office more). So, I thought, well, I suppose you can ask (but I did think this set up was even crazier than the first initially too). So she did. So this person she stays with says I can stay there too a couple of nights a week if I want (sounds like a very friendly, easy-going Irish person who lives in Balmain and has spare rooms she is happy to let out rather ad hoc).

So, I ummed and argghed. It was do that, take out a lease on a place here (which I just couldn’t find without paying very large amounts of rent) and continue as is, or I did also think about the Blue Mountains but friends who live up there said to me ‘there is not a lot of intellectual stimulation up here Ali’ (which is perhaps true – great place to visit with your friends, perhaps not such a great place to be by yourself on ordinary weekends), or put my stuff in storage here and sort of drift and think some more (then I was aghast at the price of storage sheds here). So, I thought, well, why not. This way I can move my stuff somewhere etc, and I don’t have to worry about a new job just yet. Sometimes you just have to jump. And I was determined to change something in the next year, even if it killed me.

So, then I discovered that one of the properties I looked through for rent was still available (you have to have inspected them to apply in the ACT), so I just applied for it online, and I got it. I was rather shocked myself really. So, that was only sorted on the Monday, then on the Wednesday I ended up going to Melbourne to be there for the arrival of my nephew. So, it’s kind of crazy. And yesterday I had to drive to Canberra and back to pick up the keys and pay some rent etc. Thus why it is hectic.

But I am excited to do actually be changing something. I felt like my days in Sydney were drawing to an end, and I have family and many old friends in Canberra. My Uncle and Aunt down there used to live down the road from our childhood house in Tamworth, and my Uncle is the one man I can trust and rely on to be there (and yesterday he hitched up his trailer and went to collect a fridge I bought on gumtree – that was his idea – and he is fixing me a microwave etc) and my Aunt would do anything for you (she came around to my new place on Saturday armed with cleaning gear and got to work) – not that I want to go down there and be a nuisance and wear out my welcome, but it will be nice to know that there is somebody there should I need somebody.

Strangely enough, I feel like I would never have even seriously entertained the whole idea were it not for this colleague at work, who has basically made it possible and been incredibly helpful and generous. She is now even giving me a washing machine they have spare. (Seriously, some of the folks I have met though work set the bar very high if we think as Christians we can show Jesus to people simply by “doing good” to others.) So, it’s weird the way that all played out. God seems to have used seemingly casual and random conversations to get me to this point.

Saturday afternoon I was driving down a major four-lane road in Canberra, when a kangaroo decided to hop right across it, lucky to be alive by the time it made it to the other side. I am moving back to the country! It’s a wonder I have been sitting at an office desk in Sydney as long as I have really, given my country roots and wildlife-chasing past. I’m looking forward to seeing the hills in the distance. (But I do  also like the fact that it is within an easy drive of Sydney, should there be things on here that I would like to come to.)

So, there is the story thus far, and if I can just make it to the end of this week ...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday photo

I didn't attempt the Facebook riddle, but here is a giraffe (taken by my sister on Day 6).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I'm going to say I'm busy

I know we’re all supposed to ease up with our carrying on about how busy we are, but at the moment I consider myself busy. Actually, I’m going with hectic, which I consider one step down from frantic.

I have a resurrected plan of sorts, which involves moving next week. I haven’t had the moment to write that down yet. I returned from Melbourne and the baby visit yesterday (spent another night on the bus!), and next week is press date at work, so I have had to hit the ground running there to get huge amounts of material ready for the printers. On the home front I am madly packing my belongings, which at the moment looks like a phenomenal mess. Then there’s a personal matter generating more stress than it all. So, I’m just doing what I can, warding off the meltdown by telling myself I can do this and get there.

Life was feeling rather dull, I was ready for that 'inciting incident', then, as is want to happen, everything came at once.

So, I wanted to post a poem, but have now spent so long reading through poems to find one that I should go and get back to wrapping things in paper. But I shall return when I can.

Friday, October 25, 2013

This afternoon

Introducing baby David

So, here is baby David Alaistair. He is named after my sister's (and thus mine obviously) father and my brother-in-law's father, who are both long departed.

I had to put this photo in, because it's an hilarious face and finger placement from the nurse (after his first bath).

My sister went to the obstetrician on Wednesday, they were concerned that the baby didn't have enough fluid around it, so they decided to induce my sister that day. They broke my sister's waters sometime around 11pm and he arrived at 3:39 am on Thursday. He's super cute, was 2870 grams and 48 cm long, and he's doing well. 

The neonatal cardiologist came around yesterday to the echocardiogram on his heart. He does still have a slight narrowing of the aorta, which they will watch but are not presently concerned about (it seems that if that was going to be a problem, it would already have been a problem), and he does have a "medium-sized" hole in his heart. This is also a "wait and see" scenario for now, as it might shrink as he grows, but if it doesn't and he appears to get breathless during feeding, they might need to intervene. But, all possibilities considered, this is relatively good news, and we are very thankful to God for that. He can leave special care, and probably come home next week, which is great. (I spent yesterday loitering around the special care nursery, with twelve of the littlest littlest people around ... so tiny and sweet.

I got on a bus out of Sydney at 7 pm on Wednesday, which got me in to Melbourne at 6:30 am. That wasn't my best night. I thought I would have the seat to myself but we picked up two extra passengers in Liverpool, one of who was seated next to me and tried to sleep sideways in her chair and crossed her seat boundaries. But it's quite convenient really because I just went from Central in Sydney, and got in to Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, and it cost me $60 (couldn't believe it was so cheap actually) without all that airport palaver. Then I walked around the train station mystified over how and where I could actually get a train ticket, till I asked a cafe guy who sent me to the right place, where they explained this Myki system. Dear State of Victoria, this is a very un-visitor friendly public transport system. I caught a train to Clayton, picked a friendly looking local and got directions to the hospital and was there before 8 am. (Suitcases on wheels are the world's greatest invention, are they not?)

Here's a couple of pictures I Instagrammed. I got sick of trying to do things on my phone yesterday and gave it up. But this is my first cuddle of little David, and when he meet his sisters.

So, thank you for all your prayers! He's such a blessing.