Saturday, December 24, 2011

Love came down:

I still remember the small-girl feeling of deep contentment that would settle low in my stomach during the hazy drive home from the grandparents’ house at the end of Christmas Day. I’d fall half-asleep with a handful of gifts clutched in my lap, my belly full of good things and my memory warmed by the hugs and happy conversation of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. The black of night wrapped around the car like a blanket, and I was already anticipating waking on Boxing Day to an entire day of remembering, playing with new treasures, and eating good leftovers. But a part of me was always scared that I wouldn’t get to see that tomorrow, that all of today’s happiness would be cut short. So before I let myself sleep, I’d wrap my arms around myself and pray, ‘Not tonight please, Jesus.’ (read more)

It's Christmas Eve, and the rest of my family -- including my sister, brother-in-law, and wee baby niece -- are all making their way to their respective beds. For you, I wish peace and joy in the rememberance of the greatest Gift. Love to you.

(I hope I can sleep!)

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Brenda -- they really are awesome!

Un -- the phone convo with you definitely helped inspire me to post -- and to make Scandinavian almond bars!

Cara -- my sister Lauren pointed out a link to the recipe right here. Hope you saw it before the need for them passed!

Lauren -- nail painting? check! :)

Littlebluefishy -- aw, so glad you like the pictures :). And yes, those pencils are so cool! Looking forward to eating some of those almond bars tomorrow. Merry Christmas!

Katie -- and I hope just the same for you -- with pictures!

Hannah -- hooray!!! I'll look forward to checking out your blog. So glad you're in blogland :). xxx

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The goose is getting fat:

My little brother has been counting down to Christmas day for many weeks. My mother and I wore out of ways to explain to him just how far away Christmas actually was, so at the start of November we drew up a countdown calendar with a red bauble for him to colour in each night before bed. It was the perfect way for him to visualise Christmas drawing near. Only eventually he decided that the process was "too slowed down" (his own words) and took to surreptitiously colouring in two or three baubles when no one was looking -- then making the grand announcement that Christmas was so much closer. If only that's how it worked.

Now, however, Christmas really is almost here. In fact, I kind of think it already is here. It's not just the day; it's this whole busy happy bustly jolly season. Tain is loving it, and (though sometimes afflicted with a curious emotional paralysis as well as occasionally being startled by the breach between expectations and actuality), I am too.

Around here, Christmas is happening...

... in the mailbox. It's old-fashioned and it's dying off and it's probably even a little bit dorky, but I just love family Christmas letters and the cards they are tucked into. I didn't write one myself last year, and I missed it a lot. This year, I pushed aside the thought that I'm a grandmother before my time, and wrote my little newsletter (rather in a hurry, and completely forgetting all the funny little-brother anecdotes I was going to include). It felt nice to reconnect with people I love, even if only by proxy and on paper.

Outgoing mail is exciting, but incoming mail is even more so -- perhaps because of the delicious unpredictability of it, and the knowledge that someone, somewhere, has taken time out of their own busy life to send something tangible. This week's mail has brought so many happy connections, including a parcel from a precious blog reader and friend from the days of Whatsoever Magazine. You guys, this lovely lady sent me Penguin paperback pencils, which just made my day! I just want to line them up next to the pretty Penguin novels and stare at their awesome design. Along with the gorgeous box of pencils, there was also a sweet, girly journal and the cutest little birdy card-holder, as well as the much needed reminder to keep calm and write something -- all tied up in a chirpy polka-dot ribbon. I'm tempted to write cheesy things about the package; the generosity and thought so obviously sown into this gift genuinely touched my heart.

... in the kitchen. This year, we get to spread the Christmas dinner preparation between three kitchens -- my mum's, my sister Lauren's, and mine. We all get to be part of the fun, and it makes the job so much more manageable, too. I'm making a potato bake and a black forest trifle, a recipe which has gone through a series of metamorphoses from tiramisu into something quite different. Today, I spent several hot and floury hours baking biscuits for post-Christmas guests. My sister Andrea was whipping up some Scandinavian Almond Bars, and they sounded so good that I totally copied her.

... in the neighbourhood. There are lights in the streets and carols playing in the supermarkets, and the gospel is more tangible and more present for many people than at any other time in their year. There is commercialism, yes, and cash, and clamour, too, but there is also Christ. Without Him, there wouldn't be any of this.

I'm grateful there's a Saviour, and that He knows what it's like to be human.

* * * * *


Un -- :)

Laura Elizabeth -- uh, you nailed it! I have grown to love the Professor and realised Laurie wasn't right for Jo, but Laurie and Amy? I still haven't grown quite used to that! (I'm glad you rewatched; it's a beautiful movie).

Carla and Alastair -- yes! Christmas sparkles foreverrrr!

Lauren -- thankee :)

Samantha R -- thank you! xx

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Project 52: twenty-eight

-- sparkle.

* * * * *


Laura Elizabeth -- you are not alone. Other people found it hard to tell what the picture was actually of. It was a fun discovery on a rainy day!

Joy -- hooray! I'm so glad you've enjoyed the blog. It'll be fun to keep in touch with one another this way.

Mothercare -- thanks :)

Jessica -- thank you!

Un -- Cheers :)

Samantha R -- aw, thanks!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Project 52: twenty-seven

-- reflections (click for larger).

* * * * *


Samantha R -- sometimes I wonder if people will get tired of me posting Abby pictures, but she's just so cute I can't help sharing!

Mothercare -- over the mysteries of the female mind, there is drawn a veil best left undisturbed.

Bek Axe -- OH NO! You had a similar experience?? Awkward pre-teen hugs of condolence for you!

Lauren -- you know me too well. :)

Staish -- now I really want to write a book (or a script) titled My Devastating Real Life. Holiday project!!

Katie -- most of my life seems to end up in stories somehow, so maybe one day... :D

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holy rollers:

I don't even know why (it was the early nineties, okay?), but for some reason my youth group was meeting at the roller rink that Friday night. I was maybe fourteen -- old enough to suspect I was bad at rollerskating, young enough not to care that much.

I've never been good at wheels, or at sports in general. Gracious, I've never been good at having feet. Nevertheless, I strapped on the skates and juddered out on the massive rink and into the hordes of teenagers.

It was all happy-awkward-lack-of-coordination-amongst-the-masses at first. I can't even remember seeing anyone I know. Then the disco lights flared up and the music started pumping, and suddenly everyone was skating wildly around the circumference of the rink. I was swept up into the whirlpool and dragged along far faster than my capabilities should have allowed. Then came the most terrifying part -- when the horn blared and the lights flashed, we were all supposed to change direction and start skating the opposite way.

Well hardly. Once I was zooming along like that, there was no stopping me and absolutely no changing direction. But of course, the tide turned anyway, and soon it was just a wave of teenagers rolling towards me. I put out my hands in a desperate, useless attempt to grab hold of something... and instead collided head-on with a random guy -- a random guy. You will remember I was about fourteen years old.

Well then I was falling, falling to the ground and about to be trampled by roller demons, but I somehow found myself on my knees, clutching at his shirt like my life depended on it (apparenly it did), just hanging on. And he was staring down, his eyes huge, looking at me as though I was E.T. or something. Meanwhile, everyone else just kept rolling on by.

If my life was a movie, he would've laughed and I would've been all clumsily goofy and adorable, and we'd probably have three kids by now. But it was real life -- my devastating real life -- and we did not fall in love. In fact, I hardly remember anything about him except his shirt (my lifeline), his terrified look -- and of course I remember that my teen spirit died a little bit that day.

* * * * *


Brenda -- you're so right that the best books move with us as we grow and change. As CS Lewis said, 'a children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.

Bethany -- she's definitely proud of her little grin -- she's started posing for photos!

Un -- I think about the upcoming visit every day!

Rebecca Simon -- squishable babies are the most fun! Ooh, keep us posted about dates and locations when you come up here. Would be so nice to catch up -- and meet your wee one!

Lauren -- thanks for sharing her with us :). (and you are definitely like Beth)

Cara -- congratulations on your wee nephew's toothy! It gives them such an extra swoosh of cuteness :).

Bloss -- ooh, so lovely to get a comment from you! <3 You are like Beth -- plus you have the grace of Meg, too. And yes, Professor Bhaer definitely makes oranges into something truly romantic. " Our lives, the works of His hands..." So true. I'm glad He's there. Growing up would be awfully tricky without him.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Daybook #12

Outside my window it's been rainy and grey and wet and green and... so not summery. Dare I admit that I've been loving it?

I have been listening to not so much. I wonder why?

I have been wearing... here I confess: pyjamas. Yes, today I took a sickie and wore pyjamas.

I am thankful that school is over for the year; that a scary thing didn't eventuate; for little people.

I am pondering the idea of making a living from art, whether it's even possible in the current financial climate, and how scary it is to dive back into worlds you've been absent from.

I am reading, finally, the first of the delicious Penguin paperbacks I won. You will hear more about this.

I am creating plans for the new year, a Christmas newsletter, and a stream of half-ideas which I hope find their way to Somewhere Useful.

I am looking forward to spending time with my babies! After Christmas both my sisters and all my nieces and nephews will be here in the one place with me, my parents, and my little brother. We we we we so excited!

A picture-thought I'm sharing is her Toothy Highness, Abby Victoria. Look at her cheeks! Look at her biceps! Look at her pearlies!

* * * * *

Meg ;) -- <3 <3 <3

BushMaid -- I'm glad you enjoyed them :).

Katie -- keep me posted on whether Nancy Drew stands the test of time! Sometimes I'm scared to approach books I loved in childhood because occasionally they don't impact me the same way, or I discover they're not brilliant like I thought they were. Now I want to re-read Anne of Green Gables. I've only read it, oh, about fifteen times. But it's been a few years...

Laura Elizabeth -- once I've seen the movie of something, I usually find it impossible to make myself read the book. I'm reading a book at the moment and we have the movie nearby, but I'm resisting the urge because if I watch that movie, I WILL NOT finish the book. It's terrible! Ah, I'm glad you're going to watch Little Women again. Maybe you, too, will become more reconciled to the professor this time round.

Staish -- your blog comments always sound so creative and poetic, and occasionally I don't know how to reply. I love you!

Emily -- I like that! Sometimes I feel like Jo is the every-girl, which can sometimes make her seem like the nothing-girl. It's nice to know there are girls who've identified better with others of the March sisters. PS. I'm so glad you dropped by to leave a comment! x

Rebecca Simon -- :')

Carla -- thank you, sweet one! I loved the Christmas mail you sent! xx

Rach da Axe -- Growing up isn't always easy, but it is good. xx

Bethany -- we will both love and resonate with Jo forever, I am sure.

Eweight -- it's definitely that time of the year. I hope you get the chance to rewatch and enjoy. xx

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Little Women, and growing up.

When I think of Christmas movies, Little Women is one of the first that comes to mind. I know it's not strictly a Christmas film, but many of its major moments are nestled within Christmas celebrations; also, there is snow and carols and wintryness, all of which lends to the Christmas feel, even if it isn't a strictly antipodean interpretation of the season.

I watched it again on Monday afternoon with my mum and little brother, and I was amazed by how much power this film has to pull me back into my childhood. It's like a massive rush of memories. Not only can I quote virtually every line, but I recall all the thoughts and feelings and emotions this film and the book (which I have read at least a dozen times) have ever evoked.

I remember where I was when I started reading Little Women that first time, and I also remember who I was. I remember recognising my graceful sister Andrea in Meg, my sweet sister Lauren in Beth. My brother Nick -- though he never liked the comparison -- was definitely Amy, hilarious and quirky and confident and impetuous (and a little dissatisfied with his nose). I remember feeling that first spark of kinship with Jo, wanting to be great and do great things but being hampered by an abundance of flaws. We share so many of the same dreams, Jo and I, and so many of the same failings -- even down to the too-large hands and a hatred of posh parties. Of course, I never turned down the proposal of a creative, handsome neighbour who was once my best friend. But I'll forgive Jo that.

Actually, from that point on, the film version of Little Women always broke my heart a little. As a teenager, I wanted to stop the movie halfway through, at the Christmas scene when Father comes home from the war and though you know John Brooke is going to steal Meg away, he hasn't actually done it yet. I wanted it to stop before Laurie and Jo become something more than best friends and then (just as quickly) something infinitely less. I wanted it to stop before Beth dies and Laurie becomes a ratbag with horrible facial hair and Jo realises that she doesn't fit in anywhere and she probably never will. The second half always seemed to me to be too sober, too sad.

This time, however, I found my heart resonating more with that second half of the film. Suddenly it seemed to me to be incredibly honest. Yes, my childhood and teen years were very much like the early half of Little Women -- full of adventures and creativity and small sorrows and large joys -- but being a grown-up is so much more like the second half. People change and friendships dissolve. Life turns out differently than you expected.

You know, I always resented Professor Bhaer because he wasn't Laurie. This time round, I realised Professor Bhaer was right for Jo at the right time. She could have married Laurie and, though she refused to believe so, they could have actually been happy together. After all, she did love him; she just didn't understand that there are all different kinds of love, and she was looking for something in words she'd recognise, words she'd write herself to make the perfect happy ending. I think it took her several more years of life and learning to realise that love is not as simple as the fairytales make out, and yet in other ways it's simpler. Professor Bhaer wasn't the second choice; he was Jo's first choice, made once she knew how to recognise real love.

I used to think that the first half of Little Women is all joy, and the second half is all sorrow and a mature sort of resignation to dreams unfulfilled. Yet the second half of Little Women is the portion where the dreams actually do come true. Meg becomes the little wife and mother she was always in training for. Amy travels to Europe and marries the rich fellow she once imagined. And Jo's story and her heart both find a safe haven. But in amongst all the dreams-come-true are the dreams shattered; grief walks with the dreams, hand in hand.

This time, I finally understood that. Being a kid was super; life was chock full of joy. Being an adult is different. There is just as much joy, but it's of a deeper kind -- and it's woven in with the sorrow, too.

Sometimes you just have to look harder to see.

* * * * *


Laura Elizabeth -- you rescued my post from a commentless death, bravo! I'm so glad you're loving the celebrations this year. I'm a big fan of celebrationishness. Tell your dad the blogging world is waiting with hald breath.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Project 52: twenty-six

-- hello, Christmas!

* * * * *


Katie -- I usually run from discussing anything slightly controversial on my blog, but it's a great exercise for articulating passionate topics while trying to steer clear of purely emotive arguments. And as you said, it feels more practical than signing an email petition.

Lauren -- haha! I'd be tongue-tied if ever I came face to face with a PM (current or former). Remember George Fitzgarden? ;)

Laura Elizabeth -- anxiously awaiting hair pictures and updates!! How does it feel to be so hair-light? PS. From what I know, they changed the title to Good Christian Belles in the US, but we Australians are obviously more edgy ;).

Marie -- :)

Rebecca Simon -- that's the frustrating thing, isn't it? Those who rant and rave and basically throw public tantrums don't do anything for their cause, but people who graciously defend their point of view definitely deserve respect.

Daniel S -- thanks for your comment; was good to hear from you! I am still searching to find the middle ground on the choice argument. On the one hand, I think it is impossible to demand that people live according to Christian morality when they don't worship or respect the God who crafted that morality (for example, if Australia somehow became a Muslim state, Christians would resent being compelled to follow Islamic law). However, I have heard just as compelling argument that if we truly love people, then we will only desire the best for them, and if we are Christians, we obviously believe that best is God's standard for society and family.

Anonymous -- thanks for pointing out the typo, anon. I fixed it -- just for you.

Harriet Coombe wrote: Just wanted to let you know that the media (of which I am unfortunately a part!) has got the immunisation story wrong. The media has been deliberately omitting the fact that if you are a conscientious objector (and actually sign a form to say you are) you will still get the family tax benefit. This is good to know, Harri! Thanks for sharing this info. I included it here so that others may benefit from your insight.

Meaghan -- I like you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Freedoms, rights, and television shows with naughty words in the title:

Like (I suspect) many Christians, I was annoyed and a bit disgusted when Channel 7 started showing commercials for an upcoming program, Good Christian B*tches. There's not much that isn't offensive about that title or the concept behind the show. However, when I received an email invitation to sign a petition for the program's removal, I declined. My Dad put it most succinctly: "No one has to watch the program. If they find it offensive, they should turn the TV off."

He's right on a number of levels. First, the goal of television networks is not to keep religious groups happy; it is to establish a wide viewership and make money. It shouldn't surprise any of us when networks promote programs they believe will be sensational, juicy, or offensive. What's more, creating hype around a show (whether it's negative or positive) seems only to generate more interest in the program. Think what the disappearance of Charlie Sheen did for the (utterly stupid and degrading) sitcom Two and a Half Men. People who had never watched the show in the past tuned in to see what kind of a job Ashton Kutcher did of replacing the ticking time bomb that is Charlie Sheen.

Secondly, freedom of choice and freedom of speech are key elements of any democratic society. This freedom translates into the freedom to create programs that some may find offensive, as well as the freedom to show these programs. However, it also gives us the freedom not to watch them.

It is when that choice is removed that we should take offense.

Consider the current debates surrounding hot-button topics like abortion and gay marriage. While we may all possess freedom to argue for or fight against constitutional changes, as Christians we should probably stop being shocked when a secular government makes non-Christian choices. The focus of our government at the moment is on individual rights -- like the right of a woman to determine whether she will keep her unborn child or the right of a homosexual couple to marry and receive the same support as a heterosexual couple.

Both of these concepts are areas which Christians have typically taken a stand against, appealing to the government on grounds entrenched firmly in Christian doctrine and ethics. If the government does not subscribe to a similar set of doctrine and ethics, these will likely be pleas falling on deaf ears. However, here is my beef: if the government is going to promote freedom of choice and the rights of individuals, how can they fight for the rights of some groups and inhibit the rights of others? I'm referring in particular to the new move to remove family benefits from parents who have not immunised their kids. Regardless of how you feel about the pros and cons of immunisation, this is a serious blow to the rights and freedoms espoused by democracy. While not outwardly depriving parents of their right to choose immunisation or no, it is, nevertheless, a form of bullying. You may choose option A or B, the government is saying, but if you choose B, we are going to make life more difficult for you.

This is not only undemocractic, but it is illogical. A democratic government cannot fight for the rights of some without upholding the rights of all. Where's the consistency?

* * * * *


Laura Elizabeth -- HAVE YOU CUT YOUR HAIR?? Do not leave me hanging on this!

Samantha R -- welcome back to the world! ;) We've missed you!

Cara -- it was fun, not at all serious. I recommend you check out PluggedIn.Com for any potential problems with the movie; they're always my go-to for appropriateness :). Do let's meet halfway in Italy! I really haven't travelled much (I'm certain New Zealand scarcely counts as "outside Australia").

Lauren -- rasesco!! Sounds like reggae music crossed with baroque; that's my interpretation of what rasesco might mean :).

Katie -- the internet is definitely the place to meet excellent friends :).

Bek Axe -- you would have loved tattooed Twilight guy, I'm sure.
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