Sunday, July 29, 2007

a rude awakening

Four am last Thursday night, Frank and I were rudely awakened from our sleep by the sound of a tornado rushing towards us. Or at least it was what I think a tornado might sound like, since I've never been on the same continent as a tornado, leave alone seen or heard one.

So, a loud wooshing noise dragged us from our dreams (I hate being woken mid dream. I've developed the art of putting them on hold and returning to them after the disturbance, though that wasn't possible on this occasion) and left us sitting bolt upright, hearts drumming a tattoo of fear.

The whole thing kind of reminded me of Super Grover... is it a bird, is it a plane? No! It's Super Grover!

Is it a tornado? Is it a bus that's lost it's brakes? No! It's a.... white Ford Falcon that's come to a halt right in front of our house.

Thankfully Frank is not such a fraidy cat as me! I lay in bed, absolutely still, fear reducing my breathing to short gasps, fists clenched. Frank got up to investigate. (Don't open the door Frank, they might come and get you! Please stand back from the window, they might see you!)

There was slamming of car doors, swearing, more slamming of car doors.

Just when I decided that I was calling the police if this didn't stop - hey presto, the police turned up!

I should at this point explain the area we live in. It's not too unpleasant, close to the centre of town, a blend of nice places and hovels. Don't even get me started on the neighbour four doors down... we're talking hovel with a capital H! Of course, our house is one of the nice ones, but over our back fence? It's housing commission (government subsidised housing). And some not so nice people live there. Some nice people live there too, but I mostly think about the not so nice people and am a little afraid and disgusted. (I know, I shouldn't discriminate in this way. Shame Cecily, shame)

So when a strange car pulls up outside our house at 4 am and people slam the car doors and swear loudly - I'm thinking they're up to no good. And I'm scared. Police turning up is a good thing!

Well, to cut a long (and not that exciting) story short, the swearing continued, another police van turned up, one man was thrown in the back of it, and the door slamming continued until common sense prevailed and they all gave up.

I know all this because trusty Frank stood at the window and relayed the information to me. Meanwhile I lay tense and still in bed.

Finally the sound of silence returned to our street. And in the morning we found this installed out the front...

What? How on earth did they manage to drive that anywhere?! No wonder the noise woke us in the night.

I don't think the car was stolen (that was my first thought)... I think they were just very, very bad drivers. Maybe drunk, maybe drugged. Who knows at 4 am. (Come on Cecily - give them some credit! Maybe they were leaving for an early job as a milk delivery man! And they were so tired they crashed)

Whatever. Today someone came and took the car away, and all that's left to remind us of our exciting late night entertainment is a couple of bleary eyes!

Life in quiet Tasmania, hey!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

note to self

When the dentist says 'be careful with eating until the numbness wears off', he isn't just referring to avoiding very hot or very cold food and beverages. He means 'don't eat anything'.

Full stop.

No matter what you might think, the superb strength displayed in holding your mouth open for a dizzying length of time is admirable but not worthy of a sweet treat. Pretense at calmness and bravery in the face of anxiety is to be commended. But not rewarded with sugar. Attempts to fall asleep as the drill drilled and the suction sucked are noteworthy... but should not be repaid with chocolate-coated, raspberry-flavoured licorice. (Don't even think about the nasty food colourings in that one!)

Because when your mouth is numb, you can't feel anything. Not anything! Not your gums, not your teeth, and certainly not your lips.

Which might explain why your lip started bleeding as you chomped rather clumsily through both it and the chocolate-coated, raspberry-flavoured licorice. The painlessness of the lump and bruise cannot hide the sad truth that you suffered a self inflicted injury because of your foolish misinterpretation of the dentists instructions. While he thought you were sensible because you were donned in a nurse's uniform you have shown yourself to be rather silly.

Next time - heed the words of the dentist and don't eat anything!

(Four hours later and I still have a numb lip. But I didn't feel any of the drilling! Marvellous!)


windy city

Warning: This post discusses bodily functions in a very nurse like manner (ie professional, detached, as if discussing the weather). Do not proceed further if you have any kind of polite sensibilities. You will be offended, and I will not be liable, as this warning absolves me of any responsibility.

I've been thinking about wind quite a bit lately. Not the wind that blows icicles across the Southern Ocean or chills from the snow capped mountains - wind from the back passage (as surgeons sometimes delightfully describe it). Farting.

Everyone does it. On average fourteen times a day. (I must ask - how do you compare to the average? I dare you to count!)

If we all do it, many times a day why are we embarrassed about this? Why do we try to hide it? Pretend we don't do it in public? (I'm ignoring the jocks who think it's hilarious to pass wind at close quarters) Or is that just women? We don't want it to be known that we engage in this kind of activity? Come on people, even the Queen farts! She must - 14 times a day remember!

Now here is my dilemma. We all do it, but we all feel socially restrained and try and hide it in public. (I'm remembering a hilarious nurse fart story, but maybe later...) Let's get personal. I do it, but I try and hide it in public.

Winter is making me concerned about how hidden my farts really are!

Consider this. On a cold, cold morning, as you breathe through your mouth, you see the steam of your breathe. As a car drives past, the warm exhaust fumes form a visible cloud as they escape the exhaust pipe. Hot air is visible when the atmosphere is cold.

Does this mean my farts are visible, trailing out behind me as I walk to work? (We all do it! No sniggering!)

My work trousers are thin. Tasmania is cold in winter, but not freezing, so I don't need a full length coat to scurry from one place to another... are my farts visible to those who pass by me? Does the warm air escape the trousers and turn to steam as easily as the cold air whips through them?

Scary thought. I'm working at reducing my fart average to two... just in case.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

green tea toothpaste

I've been to Armidale and back, but it feels like I've been to hell and back.

Oh, OK. Maybe that's too dramatic... but there's no escaping the intensity.

This was my second trip to Armidale for residential school. Both journeys have been quite surreal.

I jump on the plane, land in Sydney, hire a car, hold myself tensely as I drive through a busy, unfamiliar city to Newcastle where I reconnect with a family I hardly know now. After late night conversations spent attempting to recapture our commonality, I slide behind the wheel and drive six hours into country New South Wales. There the magpies woo me as I tumble backwards to a time when my family was together. Mother, father, sister, brothers. It wasn't always happy, but we were together.

In class I slide further into the depths of what once was. Trauma, violence, grief, loss - the topics of a counselling course. The subjects of a lifetime. And so I sink still more into the past, trawling through the detritus of what was. Of what might have been. Of what never will be.

On the final day of school I start ascending to the surface. The deconstructed pieces of my soul slide slowly back into place before I slip behind the wheel once more and drive back the way I came. Back to the family I know a little better now. Back to the busy city. Back to the plane that takes me homeward. Back to Frank.

As I step out into the wintery sunshine that glints and glistens on the snow capped mountains I break through the surface of the past and gulp in the air of the present as Frank pulls me back from where I've been.

Drained, but in one piece. Bruised, but not destroyed. Glancing over my shoulder at the hazy skid marks of a road trip that wrung me dry.

Nothing much is clear about the last few days. It's all a murky memory. Except for the green tea toothpaste. A relic from last year's trip to China. ("Try this green tea toothpaste Cecily, it's interesting!" So interesting I left it untouched in the vanity cabinet drawer until the tube of Macleans Extreme Clean was discovered split in it's box as I scrambled with last minute packing) It's acridic taste curled my tongue and etched itself onto my brain. Perhaps forever.

So Armidale? Res school? Oh yes, I remember. That's when I journeyed back in time and into myself. When I sampled that awful green tea toothpaste. Yes, I remember Armidale.

What a trip!

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

five years of love

On this day five years ago, Frank and I went on our first ever date. It was a rather awkward affair in which I attended his house for a brief viewing of Jag before we timidly headed out to see Minority Report. I remember loving the movie but hoping there would be no rude scenes as I did not want to sit through that embarrassment with a strange man beside me.

Ah, so much water under the bridge since that night, but back then we were both just testing the waters. I was fairly intent on heading overseas to tell the world of Jesus. Frank, apparently having never expected me to say yes, was convinced we'd never make it past the first date. How wrong we both were. How delightfully wrong!

Not that getting together was the simplest thing that ever happened. It took us a whole month to organise that first date.

He phoned me one Sunday evening to 'run a few things by me', but my flat at bible college was fill of giggling girls, so he decided to phone back later. We held our first conversation to the back drop of several girls quietly staking out my bedroom in order to hear exactly what 'running a few things by me' might mean. Of course it meant 'How old are you?' and 'Where do you see yourself heading?'... asked far more discretely than that of course, but I got the gist and went into shock. I had absolutely no idea where this call came from!

My strongest recollection of the whole affair is the trembling that overcame me for the next few days. And journalling into the deep of night. I was heading overseas! I was following God to the ends of the earth. And suddenly this. this. this man was asking me out?! And he was fifteen years older than me to boot, so he was Serious about the asking.

Or was he? It was trickier than that. Of course! No, Frank didn't just phone me up and ask me out. He left me hanging, trembling, anxious to know if 'How old are you' might progress to something more. I shivered for a week, overcome by the sense that this was something Big, before a little letter appeared amongst all the other mail on the college dining room table.

"I've heard Minority Report is in the same genre as the Matrix. If I asked you out, what would you say?"

I wrote back a postcard with only "I'd say maybe" written on it.

The next letter from Frank formally asked me to join him... he couldn't resist my 'deliciously tantalising response'.

And so, five years ago tonight, we mustered up all our courage and started out on the journey of growing together. It's been a hard, convoluted road at times, but after three years we got engaged (yes, that's two years ago tonight but that story will have to wait until next year!) and in two days we mark our eighteen month wedding anniversary (I know, I know... get over it and stop counting!). Not bad considering we didn't really intend for any of this to happen!

And how did we celebrate? I packed my bags to head to Armidale for another residential school. Exciting huh?! I did buy some yummy mini berry cheesecakes. Delicious. And the best bit was sharing them.

I love you Frank.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

spare me the propaganda

New post at pulp mill chatter...


blogging just might be good for you...

My stress levels have taken a hike in the last couple of days and I'm putting it down to recommencing study. It could also have to do with a trip to Newcastle this weekend during which I hope to avoid seeing one particular person. Actually two people.

But let's say I'm stressed because of study - altogether more easy to deal with and certainly true. I don't know how I'm ever going to complete four assignments, all over 2000 words, in two months, and that's without the readings!

It's providential then, that in the midst of all my stress (breathe Cecily, breathe) my very first reading* is about the physiological effects of stress. Actually - it's scary more than providential. Hormones that mediate the stress response also promote high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and abdominal fat stores.

I need to find a way to control my stress. Fast. (And while I'm at it do you think I could kick that adrenalin addiction too?!)

Fortunately the reading goes on to report on successful stress management techniques... coping skills, exercise, relaxation, meditation, mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy. And emotional expression with others, such as laughing, crying, singing, friendships and creative expression such as art and writing...

Did you catch that? Writing?

That means (are you thinking what I'm thinking?)... blogging reduces stress!

Perfect. Now I won't have to stop blogging while I'm studying. I'll need to write to ease my tension.

*Bambling, M. 2006. "Mind, body and heart: Psychotherapy and the relationship between mental and physical health" in Psychotherapy in Australia. 12(2); 52-59.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

pulp mill propaganda

All is not well in the fight against the pulp mill.

New post at pulp mill chatter.


a small victory

Last night I managed to beat the voices in my head.

Not that I'm going mad or anything, but I do participate in constant conversation within my deepest heart.

"Cecily, you need to keep a spotless house, you must be a perfect worship leader, it's essential that you cook delicious meals every night, you are a failure because you don't pray enough, and above all, always be nice."

"Come on Cecily! That's impossible! You can't do all that and remain sane!"

"Did I make any reference to any of this being optional? You are required to live up to these standards or you are not a worthy person. And I forgot to say you should also maintain a good relationship with all your family, and any breakdown of communication is most likely your fault. And now that you've started blogging relationships, you'd better keep them up too."

"The pressure, the pressure. How can I survive? I'm going under!"

"Going under?! You are so soft. Down through history people have survived much greater difficulties than these. Look at so and so - they faithfully attend church, run a business, volunteer in multiple organisations, and contribute to the world at large. Stop being a melodramatic, attention seeking, Generation Xer who wallows in over analysis instead of just living. All that time you spend saying 'I'm too busy' could be channelled into actually doing some of the things you're too busy to do and you'd be a far greater success."

"Who said everything is about success? Stop comparing - you know comparisons are futile. We're all on our own journey, learning our own lessons. I can no more be so and so than I can be the Queen! And is it really wallowing in over analysis to take stock of my life and recognise I'm too busy?... That I should be listening to the quiet voice that whispers 'slow down' into the midst of my frenetic activity? Isn't it a sign of strength that I can put a halt to the ridiculous craziness of thinking every spare minute is intended for use? Couldn't I be considered wise if I take time out from the schedule of doing to simply be. Do you think that might be possible Cecily?"

If you think you've heard all this before... well you have. It's a recurring theme of my blog - a recurring theme of my life in fact! I realise I'm too busy, chop a few things out of the timetable, find I have too much room to move and can't cope with the space, so add a few extra commitments to the list... I'm beginning to suspect I'm an adrenalin junkie. I don't bungee jump, I have considered jumping from a plane with a handkerchief tied to my back but decided against it in view of the cost risk, but when I don't have too much on my plate... it just doesn't feel right. And it never takes long to fill the plate up again.

Right now I don't know how to manage this. Everything I'm committed to is important. If I did chop anything out it would be work. Understandably Frank is less than impressed by this and I recognise the need to eat, so I haven't cut out work but neither have I cut out anything else. Instead I'm even more stressed because I can't choose what to let go of! This is not how life should be.

I love going to my spiritual director. (I'm going tomorrow - yippee) She's so nice. Too nice perhaps, but maybe I need her niceness to balance out my nastiness! While I frequently flagellate myself for not reaching my (ridiculous) inner standards, she commends me for the tiniest of achievements. Best of all, she reminds me to aim for the attainable... ignore that insistent voice that says 'you must do everything and be the best at it' and instead choose to hear the whisper that invites me to find freedom from the tyranny of 'musts'. It's OK to not drop all my current commitments... so long as I'm alert for the moments when I need to say 'no'.

And last night I did it! I identified an opportunity to say 'no'... and said it! My spiritual director would be so proud of me! I'm so proud of me - when I put down the whip and stop the flagellating that is!

The big achievement? I decided not to make biscuits for the special morning tea at church today. Big I know, but I had pulled the recipe book out. I'd even started warming the butter. Then I stopped and thought about it and realised that, no, I do not have to vie for super-housewife status by cooking biscuits that would only be lost in a plethora of sweet treats both homemade and bought. So instead of cooking I took a packet of Tim Tams! (Remember the supply of nasty Tim Tams I refuse to eat because of the additives? The kids loved them)

Ah, the freedom!

Admittedly I felt a little ashamed when I handed over the plastic packet. And the voices taunted me ("You really think it's acceptable to bring packet food to a special morning tea?!") and I spent a suitable amount of time explaining to a number of people why I had felt it necessary to resort to manufactured muchies... but I did it! I resisted the urge to slave over a hot stove! I made a move in the right direction.

It's a silly little example, but may it be the first of many moves in the right direction as I set about reclaiming my life!

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

henri nouwen on prayer...

Praying means giving up your false security, no longer looking for arguments which will protect you if you get pushed into a corner, and no longer setting your hope on a couple of lighter moments which you life might still offer. To pray means to stop expecting from God the same small-mindedness which you discover in yourself. To pray is to walk in the full light of God and to say simply, without holding back, 'I am human and you are God.' At that moment, conversion occurs, the restoration of the true relationship. A human being is not someone who once in a while makes a mistake, and God is not someone who now and then forgives. No! Human beings are sinners, and God is love. The conversion experience makes this obvious with stunning simplicity and disarming clarity.

This conversion brings with it the relaxation which lets you breathe again and puts you at rest in the embrace of a forgiving God. The experience results in a calm and simple joy. For then you can say: "I don't know the answer and I can't do this thing, but I don't have to know it and I don't have to be able to do it.' This new knowledge is the liberation which gives you access to everything in creation and leaves you free to play in the garden that lies before you.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

who am I again?

Frank and I are thinking of buying a new car.

Both our cars are twenty or more years old. OK, mine's 18 years old, but 20 sounds more dramatic. Frank's Combie is 32 years old. A new car seems in order, although they both still drive perfectly well, so the need exists in our minds more than in reality.

As an employee of the public health service I get to salary package, legally avoiding tax on a percentage of my income. There aren't many perks in public service, and with the packaging it almost makes economic sense to take out a loan. Any excuse for a new car is plausible and reasonable...

No doubt the biggest influencing factor in the 'will-we-won't-we' debate has been all those beautiful car advertisements. Aren't they wonderful? Lovely sweeping vistas; smooth lines; copious amounts of must-have image... and the sound tracks! How can we resist the urge to buy a new car when every ad evokes exhilarating emotions just by the music.* I'm talking Alex Lloyd's 'You were amazing' for Ford, or this one from Hyundai . And what about this ad from Renault... cute. There are other better examples that I can't locate right now, but obviously ads work. I want a new car. More and more every day.

So this is the story. (And it really has very little to do with buying a car, I've just wanted to write about that for a while, and in the interest of blogging efficiency combining two stories into one seemed beneficial) We are looking at buying some kind of Volkswagon small car (maybe. and that's a big maybe) and I decided to be really clever and request a brochure or three online.

I arrived home from work today to discover an 'Australian Air Express' note advising me to come and collect a package from the airport. I traipsed out of town in my reliable but bomby, windy, rattly, squeaky car and discovered that Volkswagon are so keen to make a sale they didn't use just any ordinary post. Nope - they went all out with Australian Air Express post.

As I collected the package (and this is the crux of the story) I had to write my name and sign for it. Without thinking I wrote my maiden name and signed... before realising what I had done and scribbling it out and scrawling my married name and signature while blithely advising the man at the counter that it didn't matter anyway - I'm still me.

But who is me?

When Frank and I got married I toyed with the idea of keeping my maiden name. Some kind person at church made the decision for me, whisking away my old name tag and replacing it with a tag emblazoned with my married name before I was even headed on the honeymoon. (Do I detect some excitement that Frank and I finally tied the knot?!) They may have been excited. I was less than impressed - not because I don't like Frank's name, because I do. (And by the end of the honeymoon when I returned to discover my spanking new badge, I had decided I would adopt Frank's name because he had looked so genuinely pleased when I told him I was seriously considering it) It's just that I had my other name for 31 years. I was kind of attached. That was who I was!

After 18 months of marriage I'm coming to terms with the loss of my maiden name. I rarely have to think about what I'll call myself, I sign the right signature without pausing to think about how to form the shapes of the letters... my new title is no longer completely foreign on my tongue.

But now I've regressed and signed my maiden name?! How can this be? It doesn't help that I chose to stick with my maiden name at work - the last vestige of the old Cecily. I must have been signing my name there lots lately, because out that maiden name popped tonight without me even thinking.

But I do like being Frank's wife. I really do.

It just takes some getting used to!

* "Songs carry emotional information and some transport us back to a poignant time, place or event in our lives. It's no wonder a corporation would want to hitch a ride on the spell these songs cast and encourage you to buy soft drinks, underwear or automobiles while you're in the trance." Tom Waits

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ok, i admit I have a problem....

75%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2 - Online Dating

But if I'd done this a couple of weeks ago I might have scored 90%. So this is alright. I'm not as addicted as I was!


Sunday, July 01, 2007

hard choices

It's been a busy few days, what, with leading at church, hosting four church people for today's 'mystery lunch'... and all those other every day things that demand time every day of the week. Not hard to see where the last five days have gone!

In the middle of the busyness I've been feeling quite a bit of frustration at my inability to get to those things I really want to do. It's not surprising then that yesterday as I ran around tidying, sweeping, dusting, cooking and cleaning while Frank read a book, I found myself caught up in a PMT fueled moan about my lack of time. I was irritated that Frank had time to enjoy reading and I did not. When do I get time for reading? Almost never.

The more I've thought about this, the more the word 'choices' keeps appearing before my eyes. It all comes down to choices.

Do I have time to read? Well yes, if I made it my number one priority, I would have time to read! Is there time for craft? If I made time for craft, I could most certainly engage in it. Could I fit silence and reflection into my life? If I wanted to be silent and reflect, I would create the necessary space to sit quietly. If I chose to place greater emphasis on these things I would do them ahead of blogging, sudoku, Ugly Betty, random internet surfing... and all the other jobs that must be done.

Ultimately I do have time (24 hours a day to be precise) - but do I have the courage to make the choices that would allow myself the freedom to use that time differently?

It occurs to me that my 'I never have enough time' catchphrase is little more than a poor excuse for a faulty value system. From time to time I have visions of a personal eulogy which says 'she never had time for all she wanted to do'. Then I realise a more accurate assessment of my life would be 'she never made time for all she wanted to do.' And why? Because I value things according to a faulty scale. Busyness is next to godliness; stillness is irrelevant. Productivity is the measure of a person's worth; if there is no meaningful output (and craft doesn't count as meaningful) nothing of value has been achieved. If my soul grew but nothing was ticked off my to-do list, the day is wasted.

And meanwhile I shrivel up inside, my soul starving for attention, crying out to be fed as I willfully stifle its cries with a never ending cycle of tasks that must be achieved.

But must they? Who said cleanliness is next to godliness? Who decreed a shop bought cake is of the devil? When was it decided that only Cecily could complete certain tasks? Is it law that every church activity must be participated in? (For the record, I don't participate in every church activity, but sometimes I am wracked with guilt because I don't) Who prescribed productivity as the greatest measure of a person's worth?

Not God, I'm certain! I don't think he sees much of value in any of those things! So why can't I just let go?

Because of my choices! I measure my own worth against some ridiculous made up standard of super church-serving-home-cooking-house-cleaning-hard-studying-career-woman wifely-ness. And when I find myself not measuring up, I work even harder to meet the mark.

No wonder I have no time for any of life's simple pleasures! That faulty value system gets me every time. I desperately need to take hold of my life instead of letting life take hold of me.

I need to find the courage to make the choices that will allow me the freedom to use my time differently.

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