On Realising How Awful I Look. 

A day with family, holding a brand new baby, can make you see things from a new perspective.

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I spent most of today with family, welcoming my new great-nephew to the family. It was a day full of love, laughter and baby cuddles… and lots of photos. 

Holding my beautiful baby boy made me overflow with all sort of love. Seeing my 86 year old dad holding him made us all more than a little emotional. Another picture of four generations – my dad, my brother, a niece and a baby boy – is a wonderful blessing that many families don’t see. 

I have also observed multiple times today how awful I look. That has been my first reaction to every photo I am in. 

In addition to chronic pain and depression, too many months of anguish, stress and anxiety have taken their toll. I have cried every day for at least 250 days. I have feared and I have despaired. And it shows. 

BUT I have also survived. It doesn’t really matter how crapful I end up looking. I’m stronger than everything that has tried and still tries to bring me down.

My heart and soul have bled onto pages and screens, but my words have touched, encouraged and inspired people on the way. My writing have been praised, and my books have won awards. 

So when you look at me or see pictures and think I don’t look so great, you just remember that I’ve earned it.

Perfect!

Yesterday, a very lovely friend of mine announced a new relationship status. She’s met a fantastic guy, and he thinks she’s fantastic, and they’re both deliriously happy.

The announcement that she is in a relationship appeared on FaceSpace, accompanied by some photographs that just resonated with joy, and with her saying that “He is my perfection”.  Some of her friends were quite sceptical about this expression, and got a bit “older brotherly” about it, but I understood what she meant.

She doesn’t believe he’s perfect. She doesn’t think they will never have problems or disagreements. Based on what I’ve seen, they’re both actually quite sensible and thoughtful about how they’ve approached their new relationship.

What she does believe is that he’s a perfect guy for her.
In terms of faith, world view, priorities, interests and personalities, they’re an excellent match.  And it really does seem that they’ve both just been waiting and praying  for someone exactly like the other to arrive in their lives.
We should never forget that it’s entirely possible to be perfect for someone without actually being perfect.

 

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It’s lovely to see a friend you care about really enjoying their relationship and feeling like they’ve been blessed beyond belief. It’s fantastic to see his friends and family expressing the same happiness that we’re all expressing for her.

I feel really privileged  to be included in her happiness, as a friend and confidante.  I look forward to getting to know him and seeing them grow together.

And if she wants to call him her perfect guy, I say she should be able to. She should know.

Right on.

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This was proven yet again yesterday when an old lady did something wonderful just by doing the right thing.

Her actions turned tears so smiles and disappointment to happiness, and restored a young woman’s faith in humanity in a most profound way.

In this world, it seems our focus is so easily drawn to the horrible things that people do to one another and the tragic events that occur.  A simple act of good faith can be enough to change that focus to something positive, and to encourage one person to pay it forward.

What if we all were determined to change our focus from the negative to the positive?
What if we all responded to hatefulness with grace and forgiveness?
What if we all worked so that evil was overcome with good?

It’s worth a try. And the best thing is, we can start with one person, or one family, or one community at a time.  Who knows what might grow from that?

I’m in. Are you?

“Going home!”

Last night,  my father-in-law was transferred from the specialist hospital in Melbourne to our regional hospital because he is no longer critical. For someone who the doctors weren’t convinced would survive his injuries until ten days ago, he has come a very, very long way.

When I called in to visit him after work tonight, some of the family were still there. It was nice to see Mum looking so much more relaxed, and everyone happier now that Dad is improving and responding more frequently. I’ve heard from others that Dad has tried to say a few words, but sometimes they didn’t know what he was trying to say, but I haven’t been there when it happened, until tonight.

As I was about to leave, I said “Night Dad, I’m going home.” He turned his head and looked directly at me, raised his eyebrows and said, “Going home!”  His words were slurred the way a man talks after seventeen beers, but definite. He had responded directly and verbally to me.

There are no words for that feeling. I had tears. I wanted to sing, I wanted to cheer, and I wanted to hug everyone in the room. I knew they were all feeling it, too. I didn’t really know what to do, so I just smiled and said to him, “Yes, I’m going home. I’ll come back and see you tomorrow after work.” He looked pretty happy with that, so I smiled and squeezed his hand.

After being part of this family for 25 years, and working side by side on the farm with him for 15 of them, it’s wonderful to know that he still knows who I am, and that I’m still special to him. Even more wonderful is that we still have our beloved Dad whom we have very nearly lost twice to accidental head injuries after a fall.

Maybe we won’t have to cancel Christmas this year after all.

The reasons I love my job.

I really love some of the people I work with.  I need both hands to count the awesome people that I consider to be my friends as well as my workmates.  I don’t need to name them. They know who they are.

There is a lot to be said for knowing that there is always someone who you can always turn to for advice, a shoulder, or a laugh.
It’s refreshing to know that when someone smiles at you, they mean it.
When they ask if you are doing OK, you can be honest because they actually want to know.
I can tell them when I’m struggling, and I can share my joys and victories with them.
They see humour in the things that make me laugh, and they will cry with me, or for me, on those days when that is really my only option.
They know, too, that I will do the same for them. It’s really great to know that I can make the difference in their day that they make in mine.

Some of the greatest joys in my working life come from knowing who those people are and sharing part of my life with them. I am thankful for each one of them every day. To be honest, those people are often the difference between me actually being happy to go to work or not.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my job. I love working with my students and seeing them grow in confidence and knowledge. I thrive on classroom interaction and banter.  I have positive  student-teacher relationships with most, although not all, of my students. They know I do my absolute best for them.
When I am teaching, I know I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.

There are times, though, when being at work and functioning properly is a really tough challenge.  Some days are just plain, hard work both emotionally and physically.
I hate it that I’m so weak and vulnerable. I hate it that my body lets me down. I hate it when my students see a glimpse of my pain or my inability to cope with it.
I hate the guilt that goes with all of that.

One of my greatest fears is that someone will decide I’m not up to it anymore, or I’m not good enough, or that I’m too broken to keep on teaching.
So I suck it up, put my sassy pants on, and keep going. I choose to invest my time and energy into my students and my friends. The days are much more rewarding and enjoyable that way.
A long walk up to the staff room doesn’t happen any more often than absolutely necessary, and that’s OK.
I’m not isolated because I am blessed to share an office with some of my friends. Others make a point of catching up with me through the day or by email or instant message.
It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself with friends like mine.

I really do love some of the people I work with.
Others… not so much.

Silent Night by Alana Conway at Carols by Candlelight, Melbourne 2013

Christmas Eve was busy in our household.
We started with a family dinner which included the festive crackers that we would normally have on Christmas Day, as different members of our family were going different ways to be with other family the following day.
We had food to prepare for the big family lunch that we were planning to attend. We had presents to put under the tree.
We had to get Little Miss Chatterbox into bed and asleep, so that we could organise Santa’s visit in peace. Once that happened, we could start putting out the Santa presents for the family.
Before that, however, we chose to indulge in something that has long been a Christmas tradition in my family. We gathered around the TV, with only artificial candles to light the room, and watched the Carols By Candlelight being broadcast from the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne.
Carols By Candlelight has become an Australian tradition. Singers and TV celebrities perform Christmas songs for a live audience, who are welcome to sing along, dance, and enjoy the show. There’s a fantastic choir, another choir full of children, and a magnificent orchestra. It really is fabulous viewing.
Of course, there’s a bit of commercial promotion for the companies that sponsor the production. Once you get past that, you can relax and really start to get into the spirit of Christmas.
Last night, watching and singing along was a welcome break in an incredibly busy day and night.
Among the fun, tinsel, and standard carols, there were a few standout performances.
The performance by Alana Conway of “Silent Night” was my favourite. It was simple and beautiful, and absolutely took my breath away.
It also reminded me, in all my hustle and bustle, of the simplicity of the message of Christmas – on a silent night, with nobody “important” taking any notice, Jesus was born to a simple peasant girl. He came as the Messiah to bring life, healing and grace to a world that was broken by sin.
Please don’t be offended by that statement – I do realise that some people might be. 
I’m not here to push my faith onto you or to insist you believe as I do.  I’m just reflecting on my experiences last night and how they affected me in terms of my attitude and my perspective.

This gentle reminder really changed my perspective and feelings about what I still had to do that night. Every gift I gave was a reminder of the gift that God gave us on that silent night in Bethlehem. Every song I sang along with was a reminder of God’s love and grace. Every message to a friend was a reminder of the blessing they have been to me. Every gift placed under the tree brought anticipation of the response of the recipient. Everything was full of joy, even though I was exhausted.

It doesn’t take much to remind us of the important things in life. I’m so glad of the reminder that was delivered so breathtakingly last night.

I hope the video blesses you the way it blessed me.
I hope for some of the peace, joy and reflection of Christmas to be yours today and always.

What Mothers’ Day means to this “childless” woman.

Happy Mothers’ Day – to all mothers of beautiful children, children in heaven, furbabies, step-children, borrowed children, otherwise acquired children…

And to those like me whose babies were only in their hopes, wishes and dreams… I hope today is an opportunity for love rather than bitterness, positive rather than negative, happiness in our blessings rather than misery because of what never came to be.

I truly believe that life is what we make of it. If one chooses to be bitter and negative, that’s all they will have. If one chooses to be positive and look for opportunities to live, smile, laugh, feel and share, the whole world opens up for them.

My life has been so blessed because of the beautiful children I have been allowed to share, borrow, and help to raise. My family and friends have been so generous in this regard. Each of those kids is “mine” in a very special way, and I hold them in my heart and thank God for them every time I think of them.

Some are grown into amazing adults – some are married, some have their own children whom I am also allowed to share, some have gone on to forge the career they dreamed of. Some have just started to move into adult life, finding their feet and making their own way as they pursue their dreams. Some are still young enough for me to hug and discuss what’s happening at school or with their friends. Some are still babies; what an amazing blessing to be still be cuddling and loving “my” babies and seeing them grow, learn, wonder and return the love that is lavished upon them.

I will never try to tell you that being unable to have my own children was not heartbreakingly painful. However, that’s not what I want to focus on here. On this Mothers Day, I want people to know that I have grown and learned my way through that, and that I have been richly and deeply blessed by “my” children and by the wonderful families who share them with me. 

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