Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Musings

It's hard to believe we've just chalked up another new year. Doesn't it seem that this last revolution around the sun went amazingly quickly? As always, I like to step back and reflect on the way my life is going and the plans we have for the coming year. I felt a twinge of alarm when I considered the following.

As Logan edges further along the High School continuum, I'll have to help him begin to decide the educational options that are available to him outside the normal public high school choice. They are out there, but it takes time to figure them out. So much time that ferreting it out could easily be a full-time occupation all year.

Blake, my youngest, is keenly getting into reading and basic maths. Helping him through that early literacy/numeracy phase could easily be a full-time occupation all year.

Emma is busy with her interest in arts, upper primary studies and such. Following her interest in these could easily be a full-time occupation all year.

Keeping a ship-shape house is definitely an occupation that could easily take more than a full-time job all year. In fact that one's a beast that could take all you want to pour into it and still never be done. I know several ladies who seem to master this one with poise and grace, but it's always been a hassle for me.

Keeping Apple Leaf Books, our little fiction publishing venture going, could be a full-time occupation all year.

Looking at all this, I groan and think there's no way I can possibly do any of this very well because I'm spreading myself too thin across all of them and not giving any of them my complete, full-time attention. And my first instinct is to throw up my hands and stop doing any of it, because it's a recipe for burn-out. Those ladies who actually work more on top of this outside the home must have super powers. Even ladies with kids in the school system have their work cut out for them. (If my kids had been in the system this year, I would have had one at High School, one at Primary and one at Kindy. I would've been always jumping in & out of the car. Ridiculous!)

But then I remember the advice that's always given to first-time writers. I'm familiar with this because I've come across it in every course or how-to book I've studied on the subject. To those who say, "I want to write a novel but the size of the commitment alarms me," they reply, "You only need to bite off small chunks at a time. If you restrict yourself to as little as one page per day, at the end of the year you'll have a 365 page manuscript." I'm sure it's the same with all the other stuff I've mentioned. Taking small chunks of time each day for helping Logan, Emma and Blake = an education for each of them. I've already proven to myself that finding just a smidgin of time for work on Apple Leaf Books gets stories circulating out there. And I'm sure we all know how quickly a house can be made to appear reasonably clean and tidy when we know that sudden visitors are on the way. But if we do none of this, things fall in a heap very quickly.

This is one of the things I'll try to remember in 2009. The little ways seem useless, but persistance pays. After all, huge, beautiful stalagmites are formed by little drops of water.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Little Boy Shop

Here are a couple of photos I took of Blake and his friend Maggie, when they were posing as Joseph and Mary in a little Christmas play by our church kindy class, The King's Kids. I wasn't sure he'd go along with the plan, being somewhat of a stubborn one and not patient like his brother or anxious to perform like his sister at the same age. But he did agree and the result was sweet. Especially when she sat on a little wooden rocking horse on their journey to Bethlehem, and they ended up with a sweet Baby Jesus doll.
Time is passing. Blake had a pretend friend named "Mr Blooggins" who used to come up in family conversations not all that long ago. Yet when I was putting him to bed a few nights ago, it struck me that Blake had been very quiet on the Mr Blooggins front for quite a long time. I asked Blake what had happened to him, and he got all embarrassed and said, "He's gone away."
Logan and Emma used to have pretend friends with weird names too, and the same thing happened in those cases too. You never realise that a pretend friend has gone for good, until one day you suddenly reflect, "Hey, what's happened?" In this case, it's a little bit sad because Blake's pretend friends are definitely the last pretend friends who'll ever be part of this family.
There are still funny things happening, though. Last night he was arguing with Emma about the proper way to play a game, and it ended with Blake leaving her in a huff. He came to me and said, "I want you to buy another little boy." It dawned on the rest of us that being the youngest, and not being familiar with other pregnant ladies, he was quite serious. So we asked him, "How can we buy another little boy?" After a moment of thought, he said, "We'll go to the little boy shop."
If only it was that easy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Drenching we Needed

We had a lovely rainfall a few days ago; the sort that sets in all day long and keeps us housebound. The perfect start for the summer. At the moment, most of us have forgotten what it's like not to fling a few loads of washing up on the clothesline whenever we feel like it. I got out an umbrella from some deep, dark recess and had a walk. I liked the fresh smell of the good water soaking into the dry earth. And little gullies and ditches which have been powdery-dry were transformed to rivers. I could not believe how one good day of thorough soaking could transform my block. One new river which had been a dry trail the day before even had ducks swimming in it. Local ponds had swollen. Water was pouring downhill with great force, bubbling everywhere. There were smiles from other walkers I greeted and comments that, "The farmers are really going to appreciate this."

But what surprised me even more was the following afternoon, when I asked my daughter to come with me to see all the rivers and ponds that had magically appeared. They'd all disappeared already. The ponds had become wading puddles and that river that the ducks were swimming on had become a slimy foot trail. How thirsty the land must have been! So much for that one decent rainfall.

Makes me think that we can be like dry, parched, thirsty landscapes ourselves, without even knowing it. When I'm wrung-out and exhausted, I sometimes feel that one restful afternoon might replenish me, but that's not necessarily the case. In the same way, one morning of Bible study and devotions won't last us the whole week! And filling up your car with petrol won't get you all the way from Adelaide to Melbourne, however quickly you want to make it. This has reminded me to schedule times for refreshment and contemplation into my agenda.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Camels are Coming

Here's a good way of looking at things when you feel over-worked, under-paid, waiting on something that doesn't seem to be coming or just plain exhausted.

We all know that Jesus was born of Mary in a stable and laid in a manger. At the same time, after years of studying the heavenly bodies, the Magi from the east were following a star, expecting to be led to the Christ Child. When they found Him, they offered the family their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and worshipped Him.

The point of this post is this. Mary and Joseph didn't go around seeking gifts. To all appearances, everything had been going completely haywire for them for some time. The Roman census happened to be decreed at the time when she was almost ready to have her baby. It forced them to embark on a long, tiring journey which I'm sure she must have been well over by the time they arrived. Imagine a long trip by donkey when you're nine months pregnant! Then the town was crowded, they couldn't find anywhere to stay and had to resort to a stable of an inn. Her labour would have been hard, with nobody but Joseph around to support and encourage her. It would have been cold afterwards with nowhere to place the newborn baby but in a feeding manger full of hay. And by modern standards, it wouldn't have been very sanitary, with all those animals and old hay around.

But in spite of their dodgy-looking circumstances, Mary and Joseph were in God's will, exactly where they were supposed to be. And in His timing, He sent them wise men from the east mounted on camels and loaded down with provisions beyond their wildest dreams. The book I was reading went on to say that there's a principle we can rely on here. When we're in the will of God for us, He'll always bring provision to us. We don't have to chase it down and anxiously fret that it'll never reach us, because it'll surely seek us out. We don't have to try to make things happen. God will bring them to us.

Camels will come for each of us if we stay in the will of God. We don't have to fret and worry, trying to figure out what to do to take care of ourselves. We can simply leave it with God, who after all has our best interests at heart and is completely trustworthy. It's a thought that takes all the stress out of the waiting period, when we feel we've done all we can do.

Although I'll no doubt be blogging before Christmas, I wish you all a happy and prosperous festive season.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Subjective "Truths"

I like to walk as my main form of exercise and at the corner of our street is a house with a beautiful lawn and garden. There are bushes trimmed in the shapes of animals and the lawn is soft and springy. Blake, my 4yo son, likes to announce that he's tired and sink right down into their nature strip on his back, looking up at the sky. Sometimes other passers-by stop to grin at him and exchange a few words.

One lady said to me, "Don't these people do a wonderful job of blessing the neighbourhood with this beautiful place? Just looking at it is enough to make you feel happy and calm."

Then just a few days later, a man who we met at that spot remarked, "Have you noticed the water they use on this joint? (Because we're in the middle of water-restrictions here in South Australia) It's appalling and someone really should report them."

There's two different ways of looking at the exact same thing, and I suppose it could really be said that both points of view are true. That's a funny thing, I suppose 'truth' often depends on the person who perceives a thing. Some teachers used to tell my parents that I was too day-dreamy and remote, and I got upset because I knew it was true. Then other, kinder people said that I was relaxing, and refreshing to be around, and I suppose that was true for them. I watched movies and read books that I thought were fantastic, yet they were blasted to pieces by critics in reviews. Yet I persist in thinking that they really were fantastic because I found them so.

I think the Biblical advice to take people's words lightly is wise. Don't worry when people criticise you or your work, because they are really only voicing their OWN opinion! It took awhile for me to learn this and sometimes I still forget. On the other hand, when others heap praise on us and tell us how great we are, we ought to take this lightly too, for the same reason. If we let this sort of thing get too deeply into our heads, it'll hit all the harder when the other sort of feedback comes, as it always will. I think the very best thing we can do is carry on faithfully doing what we are sure is our calling without letting people's words affect us much at all. Then we are probably in the best position for God to use our input.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Signs and symbols

Last week when I was walking across the road to our city Christian bookshop with a box of books beneath each arm, a gorgeous white dove strutted right in front of me. And when I'd dropped them off and left, another lady was leaving too and she said, "Look at that, don't you think we could take him as some sort of sign?" And I'd love to think that's true, because I love receiving unexpected little gifts from above like that. The white dove has always been a symbol for the Holy Spirit and for peace. So I'd love to think he was God's way of telling me that everything with the books and my family is going to go fine and I can relax and be at peace about it all. After all, I've been to that store many, many times and never seen a white dove before.

When I got home and mentioned it to my husband, I asked, "Do you think he could have been a sign?" and he replied, "Yeah, a sign that someone's car might get bird poop over it." But knowing him as well as I do, that's the sort of reply I expected from him.

Years ago, in May 1994, I was driving with my sister, her husband and their 2 little boys when I noticed that 3 large, fluffy clouds in the sky were shaped like letters and spelled the word SON as clearly as any writing I'd ever seen. They were all the same size, perfectly white and even and perfectly spaced. I pointed it out to the others and we all oohed and aahed over it. Then, the following morning I discovered that I was pregnant! I'd genuinely had no idea the day before. I had no children at the time but had suffered a couple of early miscarriages, so I was sensitive, frightened about the whole thing. That word in the sky helped me through those dodgy early stages and in February 1995, my first baby was born and he was a son.

I think signs are like this. They don't necessarily occur when you're looking out for them but come out of the blue to spur us on and remind us that we really are inscribed on the palm of God's hand and He hasn't forgotten our circumstances.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A bit snowed-under

I've been pretty flat-out and exhausted all last week. I've been busy with a number of different tasks and at the same time, have been having this vertigo, light-headed type of thing. If I look up from the computer fast, or turn my head quickly, things begin to swim. It's led to a panic-attack sort of situation where I start feeling really spaced out when I have to get out and talk to people. I've just started tipping a bit of olive oil into my ears in case it's all ear related.

Anyway, let me give you a sample of a day last week to show what things have been like. I woke up one morning and remembered that I had a few boxes of books to get ready for freight and a couple of parcels to post. I figured out that I should have that done by about 10.30. But as soon as I started I realised that we had no packing tape so dd and I drove into the shops to get some. Then back home, I started writing the addresses on the boxes with my black marker, just to find that it was running out of ink. There was nothing for it but to get back in the car, to go back to the shops for another one. And this time we thought of other things we needed, such as dish detergent.

By the time I'd got everything together and looked up the addresses I needed from the computer, the telephone rang and it was a lady who'd been given my number and wanted to ask about homeschooling. As she has 3 little ones who she's just on the verge of removing from their school, I was happy to chat, but it lasted for about half an hour, as these talks sometimes do. After the call, I found I had to pause to do a few home-related, tidying up sort of chores. But I got to the Post Office with the parcels as quickly as I could. While I waited in line I glanced up at the clock and saw that it was almost 3.00. I found that quite depressing. There are only a certain number of days allotted to each of us and I hate the thought of frittering them away and not getting as much done as I'd hoped.

While talking it over later with dh, he said that he thinks it always takes longer to do simple tasks when you're working from home. But the depressing thing is that all that days (and others like it) I felt as if I was rushing like the wind.

Reminds me of a day on a holiday to Mount Gambier, when I briefly left Andrew and the kids to hike up from our caravan park for a glance at the Blue Lake. And when I did, the ripping, cobalt blue expanse appeared so serene and shimmering, I realised that I'd been rushed off my feet without even knowing it. The Lake was an example of God's time while I was trying to live an accelerated life and that was on holiday. How many times does that happen to us? We have cortisol and adrenaline and who knows how many other stress hormones surging through us, but we call it every day life. I guess the theme of this catch-up post is that I want to learn to pace myself to use God's time instead of the accelerated time that seems so normal but wears me down so much.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"The Risky Way Home" is now available

We've had a busy week, with Emma's birthday and then the brand new books being delivered here the following day. Andrew's been busy getting our website set up for easy purchasing. He found he could no longer use the old web programme he used to use, because it only runs on Windows XP instead of Vista, which we now have. But he found another programme which allows Pay Pal to be set up.

It isn't quite as handy as the first programme we had, because it only allows us to use either Australian or US currency but not both. To my way of thinking, that's an annoying limitation, but he carefully figured out the currency differences to let our international customers know approximately how much they'll be spending. It turned out to be a bit of a headache but I really wanted to get it up and running and make it easy for everyone.

So to all my great international blogging buddies who would like one, when you purchase the book via Pay Pal on our website, it'll still automatically convert your currency to Aussie dollars as it did before. You get into it via my web site on the toolbar as you did before. And you'll see the page for international customers right down the bottom. We'll be here ready to get books in the post straight away, as always. And I know I've left enough time to get them across in time for Christmas. For those readers of this blog who don't know, this is a contemporary romance/suspense for women readers. Please refer to my website for more details.

Blessings to everyone,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Emma's Birthday

Emma turned 10 on Tuesday. She'd been looking forward to her birthday for weeks and weeks. It a fun age because it seems such a transition between little girl and pre-adolescent/young lady. The range of gifts she requested shows this as much as anything. The pair of singing Barbie dolls from "Barbie and the Diamond Castle" was on her list along with a hair straightener.

In the end, we didn't get her Alexa and Liana, the Barbie dolls because they're $48 dollars each. Paying $96 for two Barbies is something we couldn't bring ourselves to do. We did give her the hair straightener along with a DVD of her favourite movie, "Enchanted", a painting game for her Nintendo DS and a couple of T-shirts. Logan bought her a Beanie kids and she got plenty of cash given to her by relatives.
We took her ice-skating in the day. It was a very hot day up in the high 30s, so it was nice to be in the ice rink. I hadn't been skating myself so it was good to discover my skating legs again. Although I try to do a lot of walking to keep fit, I think it's a great thing to try other exercises from time to time, to use other muscles. Swimming at the beach is good, and ice-skating is definitely a good work-out for the legs. You can do several laps of the rink without getting puffed out, but at the end your legs ache as if they've run a marathon. We had the whole rink to ourselves for most of the time, as the school term hasn't finished yet.

Now for a quick update on those guinea pigs. Andrew did finally end up making a new hutch. We got those two introduced to each other with a sheet of chicken wire between separate little compartments. They started off by rubbing noses, and now they run around together on the grass down the bottom and seem to get along famously. Bamboo, the big fellow, did try to establish ground rules by making a chirruping noise deep in his chest which we discovered to be an establishing of who is boss. I'm pleased and surprised by how reasonably quickly they've taken to each other.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Who are our senior citizens, anyway?

I was thinking what treasures the older generation are. In the matter of just another decade or so, most of them will have passed away and that will be the end of the pre-computer generation. That's actually a a scary thought. As far as I can remember my parents have always been pretty much the same but sometimes gems from their past come up.

My Dad, who was born in 1932, can remember when he had to wear a little medallion with his blood type on it around his neck, when he was a schoolboy. And he can remember being frightened and having nightmares that Hitler was going come and march his Nazi army down the city streets of Adelaide. He can remember street peddlers selling rabbits (to cook), blocks of ice, and pots and pans.

A few weeks ago we found a few photos of my Mum at her 21st birthday. The year was 1957 and she looked like one of the girls from "Happy Days." (OK, now I guess the younger generation would say that I'm showing my age too. "What's 'Happy Days'?") She can remember having to save ration tickets for the most basic grocery items when she was a girl. And one of her favourite afternoon snacks was bread and dripping. My Nanna used to scrape the cold old fat from the bottom of the frying pan and save it to spread on sandwiches. Mum says that sometimes there were mouse footprints on it but Nanna would simply skim the top off with a knife and give the kids what was underneath. To those, like me, who might shudder at that, what a different world it was back fifty years ago.

Yet already I've noticed that our own generation already is 'the oldies' to the youner generation. Was it different in the 1970s and 80s when many of us grew up? You bet it was. Not all that long ago, my sister hired, 'Return to Gilligan's Island' from Blockbuster, to show our kids the sort of comedy we used to love. After a short time of watching the Skipper swipe Gilligan over the head with his hat, and Ginger mooching around the island in her glittery ball dresses, and Mr & Mrs Howell waving their bank notes around, our kids were bored. "This is corny and stupid! How could you have enjoyed this?" We had no answer except that we were products of our time.

I've already told my kids about chunky telephones with cords and proper dials, huge vinyl records in the music shops, being able to stretch out in the back of the car at night without having to wear seatbelts, running around the district with bare feet and not worrying about stepping on needles and syringes. I can remember during heatwaves, when we knew that anyone who drove with all their windows up must have air conditioning in their cars. I can remember when "Wet Ones" was a brand new invention that my mum loved to keep our hands fresh in the car. I remember when we'd only just heard of lasagne, and thought we'd have to try this delicious looking Italian meal. I can remember when my brother and his friends were crazy about being able to communicate with others on their CB radios. And when TV tennis used to be the sort you'd play with two sticks and a little dot. My dad was one of the first in our circle of friends to buy a video recorder in the early '80s, and it was a Beta, the sort that was like an old-fashioned tape-recorder.

And during my High School days, we all had to research class projects with the "World Book" encyclopaedias in the school library because the internet was a thing of the future. If the project was on Shakespeare for example, I'd always find others hogging the 'S' encyclopaedia, so I'd have to be inventive and try 'E' for Elizabethan Theatre instead. Is that old fashioned? The way the kids laugh when I tell them, I'd have to say yes.

So I'm afraid that maybe our generation are not all that young anymore either, and have priceless memories too, to impart to the younger one. We should remember as many stories as we can because the mundane details of one generation is bound to become entertaining folklore to the next.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Guinea Pigs

Here's the newest addition to our family with Blake. But first some background.
Here's the young guinea pig we got from friends at the end of July. He is now a very large fellow. His name is Bamboo. I think Emma called him that because she thinks he's the colour of bamboo and she just likes the sound of it. He's a skitterish, standoffish sort of guinea pig who hates being picked up.

And one day last week, Emma's friend who gave her Bamboo phoned and offered us a new baby one to be a companion for him. He turned out to be the tiniest, cutest little 3-week old darling with silky, striped hair. We couldn't think of a name to start off with. Because of his stripes, we thought of Harlequin, Humbug (the boiled sweet sort, of course), Triple Deck (after triple deck Cadbury chocolate bars, with dark, milk and white chocolate), or Joseph (after the coat of many colours that Joseph wore.) None of them seemed to be quite right but we've settled on Creme Brulee.

He's the perfect little snuggly, carting around sort of guinea pig but we have one problem. When we tried to introduce him to his 'companion', Bamboo was very aggressive towards him. He bared his teeth and made weird noises. Logan logged onto a website that translates guinea pig noises into English. Bamboo's comments to Creme Brulee turned out to be "GO AWAY!" By Bamboo's tone, I think there were probably a few extra nasty comments thrown in there too. Worst of all, he started getting really mean and twitchy with us too, and scratched poor Emma with his claws. We can understand that he's had the hutch to himself for so long, he's become territorial about it. But because of their size difference, we don't dare put CB in with him. Bamboo would finish him off in no time flat.

So Emma made a temporary little living area for him in a plastic storage box and that's the way it currently stands. We now have two guinea pigs living in separate apartments. The kids have talked their dad into agreeing to make another hutch with a partition in between to help them get used to each other, but he hasn't had time yet. And Emma's trying to talk me into buying a new baby guinea pig to go with CB, so at least somebody will have a friend. She feels sad for him because he was willing enough to be friendly to Bamboo. But I haven't agreed to anything yet.

We'll see how we go. Has anyone else had this sort of dilemma?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Books and Titles

My new book will be ready for delivery approximately November 12th. Last week I got an attack of nerves when I went to visit my parents. They saw the cover for the first time and didn't think much of it. Dad thinks it looks more like a war novel and also that the cover is fairly sombre. Mum, who has proof-read the M/S for me, said she would've preferred to have seen a pretty girl on the front. So when I went home I studied the image carefully (even though it's a bit late at this stage) and thought, "Help, what if they're right? What if people pick this up expecting to find a combat novel and get romance instead?"

I wondered whether we should have asked Andrew, our cover designer, to put some flowers or lace along with the barbed wire. We'd already got him to make several changes on the title size, name size, little comment and the way the writing went up the spine. I think he was glad when it was all over. As he's a very blokey sort of guy, and I guess you know what I mean, I had to laugh at the thought of asking him to include flowers or lace at the very last minute, but I would never dare actually do it. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he actually came to throttle us! And I'm not sure if I'd blame him.

The next thing I did was re-read the comments on this blog about the cover that you ladies left. That boosted my spirits a lot. My dh even reminded me, "You blog friends liked it." I e-mailed the design to my sister and nephews to have a final look at, and they promptly phoned back and told me that in their opinion, it's by far the best cover design I've ever had. Better than the Quenarden ones. My sister said, "Anyone who expects a war story and reads the blurb on the back will twig that it's got romance in it. And if the don't read the blurb, they deserve what they get."

I let Andrew, my husband, have the last word. He thinks it's got lots of interesting tricks with light to appeal to a wide range of readers. And he reminded me that even though the book has a romance thread through it, it also has excitement and suspense, and that's the element we're highlighting on the cover. The weird thing about me is that I can understand all the comments people have made, and sort of agree with everyone.

I know how important it is to have an initial package that is really appealing to readers. My own kids, who claim to be open-minded and not easily swayed, have made a snap judgment about one of the favourite books of my youth. This is "Children of the New Forest" by Captain Marryat. Our copy unfortunately has a front cover picture of two old-fashioned girls kneeling on the green grass, patting a dog, which is pretty misleading if you know what the story is about.

I've told Logan several times, "You ought to read it! I loved this when I was thirteen! It's an exciting story about the English Civil War. There are battles between the Cavaliers and Roundheads almost every turn of the page. The heroes are really tough, heroic guys." But all to no avail. He insists that he won't be caught anywhere near a book with girls patting dogs on the front with the title "Children of the New Forest." Despite what I say, it has the connotations of a sweet, domestic little tale.

I can only hope that my cover will appeal to a wide range.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hardly Worth Sleeping

A few nights ago, I had one of those weird, vivid dreams that is like an aerobic work-out. I'd woken up in the night, gone to get a drink of water and settled back into bed thinking, "I still have a few good hours for sleep."

Next thing I knew, I was on the Freeway in my car, driving through the next suburb, and I was completely exhausted. My eyes kept automatically shutting behind the wheel and I had to jam them open every few seconds. My head swam with fatigue. I recall deciding to pull over and park, thinking I'd surely cause an accident if I didn't. But I knew I couldn't stay there for long because I had some urgent appointment I needed to get to, because people were waiting for me. My final thought was, "Oh boy, I wish I was lying down in my comfortable bed, under my nice, warm covers." Then I woke up and discovered that I actually was lying in my comfortable bed under my nice warm covers. I hate that sort of dream! Surely it's a waste of a sleep when you wake up feeling more exhausted than when you lay down.

My oldest son had trouble falling asleep a few nights ago, so my solution was plenty of exercise. There's a great steep hill near our place. I could call it "Roller-Coaster Hill" in a positive mood and "Cardiac Hill" in a negative one. I got him hiking up it, and it was pretty good for me too. It was quite funny because Emma heard me talking about Logan's insomnia, didn't know what it was and assumed that it might be some yucky disease or condition that she didn't want to catch.

I've suffered from the same thing myself in the past, and find it helpful to turn to Dale Carnegie's chapter, "How to keep from worrying about insomnia" in "How to stop worrying and start living." His advice comes down to five things.

1) If you can't sleep, get up and work or read until you feel sleepy.
2) Remember that nobody was ever killed by lack of sleep. Worrying about insomnia usually causes far more damage than sleeplessness.
3) Try prayer.
4) Relax your body.
5) Exercise. Get yourself so physically tired that you can't stay awake.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sparring with Windmills

A few nights ago, my son Logan was walking around grumbling and frowning because he had a bit of a toothache and he hates going to the dentist. I managed to get him in for an appointment the very following day because somebody else had cancelled. It was for 4.30 and all day long, he was moping and groaning. "She always finds something with my teeth! She's filled some and pulled some, this time she'll probably say most of them need to come out and the few that are left need braces." Although he wasn't serious about this, he still managed to talk himself into a real state of nerves. I could understand him, because last year he needed six baby eye-teeth pulled. The new ones had grown so high in his gums, the old ones were showing no signs of getting loose. But although that was over and done with, he was still expecting the worst. By the time we were sitting in the waiting room, I could just about feel anxiety waves radiating from him.

When we went in, the dentist tried her best to work out why the tooh had been hurting. She tapped it and scraped it and put cold stuff on it, but it looked OK. So she took an X-ray of it, and after peering at it, asked him if he'd had a cold. He had been going around with a snuffling, hay-fevery, thick head sort of thing a few days before, so she showed us on the X-ray how his sinuses were playing up with the nerves and roots of his teeth. "In a few more days, it shouldn't be giving you any more trouble at all."

So Logan left the clinic trying to appear all nonchalent, as if he hadn't been worried at all. And I warned him not to ever let himself get the way I used to be (and still am if I don't take care). I was the sort of person who'd always assume the worst case scenario must be true until it was completely ruled out. If I read a medical article, I was sure to discover I had heaps of the symptoms. And if Andrew and the kids were late coming back from somewhere, I'd imagine all sorts of road carnage or other disasters. I've found part of the solution is to have a good laugh at myself and treat this sort of thinking as a bit of a joke. And I remembered the classic old story of Don Quixote, wasting so much time and energy trying to attack something he perceived as a huge threat, but turned out to be nothing but a group of windmills. Although everyone has a giggle at poor old Don Quixote and that story, I have to see we're not always that much brighter. I've certainly fought my share of windmills in my past, and cringe to think of how much fun I could have been having instead of wasting the time I spent worrying.

It helps to find the good in each situation too. In this case of the dentist, I was able to use a special voucher we'd received in the post. Our new government has decided tha teenagers should be especially targeted for preventative dental surgery, so earlier in the year, we received a teenage dental voucher entitling Logan to have a free $150 worth of treatment. At last I was able to use it to cover this check-up and X-ray. And next year we'll get another one. Family dental care usually hits us in the wallet worst of all, but this time all I needed to do was sign a Medicare claim form. And they start coming when kids turn 11, so after another year, Emma will be eligible too. All I can say is "Thank you, Mr Rudd." It's pretty good when you can actually benefit from something the government is doing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quiet Heroism

I heard a good true story over the weekend from a friend who's a teacher. She works at a school where there's a really happy, full-on home-economics teacher in her early 60s. Earlier this year, that lady had an unexpected serious heart attack from which she was extremely lucky to ever recover.

So during her convalescence, the home-ec teacher began to wonder just what it was that God had saved for her. She began to imagine that maybe she ought to show her appreciation in some tangible way, such as joining a mission, helping in third world countries or becoming involved in some huge charity, but she couldn't work out what it ought to be. And as some of these things are such big commitments, she knew she'd find it hard to come up with the necessary finances. So she prayed the issue through, trusting that if God wanted to give her a new lease on life, He'd certainly find some way of letting her know what it ought to be.

It happened that on the very week she prayed, several students, both past and current, mentioned to her that her input had positively impacted their lives in various ways. And as result of all these coincidences, she decided with certainty that she was simply supposed to be continuing with the very thing that she'd been doing for over twenty years. Sometimes we make it so hard for ourselves by downplaying our roles in life, trying to figure out something to do that we would deem more worthwhile than what we're already doing. But the fact is that we are already exactly where we need to be, doing the acts of quiet, nameless heroism that are making an impact whether or not we acknowledge them.

It reminds me of another true story I heard, about a guy who wanted to positively impact the world but he was too overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the world's problems to think that anything he could do would do any good. A friend of his mentioned that he'd been helping out serving soup at a homeless shelter and asked if he'd be interested in helping too. The guy really wanted to, but it seemed so futile. He asked his friend, 'How do you keep up your spirits when the lines of hungry people just keep growing?' The reply was, 'I have to confess that the reason I do this is because it keeps my spirits up. I know I can't solve the problem of world hunger but I know that every plate of food I prepare is going to somebody who really needs it and that makes me feel alive, more like the man I want to be.'

We see lots of gloom and doom on the news each night, but the world is full of quiet heroes who just get on with their jobs and make the world a better place.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Risky Way Home

These are the back and front covers of my new book, "The Risky Way Home." After lots and lots of preparation, it is just about ready to run off the press. So exciting. I can't begin to describe all the steps so I won't try. What do you think of it?
In case it's hard to read the back blurb, because I reduced it fairly small, this is what is says.
"Had Casey Miller known the peril that awaited her she might have turned down her dream job offer.
Things are definitely not as they seem and her personal judgments are turned upside down as she finds herself drawn into a story of terror and revenge that began twenty years earlier. All the while her heart is torn between two men; suave, polished Eric and calm, reclusive Piers.
This riveting novel will have readers unravelling mysteries with Casey and rejoicing in the choices she makes as she finally discovers the home of her heart."
Also, Andrew's been working on a new website design for me, to include the contemporary novels. Parts are still under construction but it's basically up and running if you'd like to click on the side icon in my blog and check it out. The new website even has a link to my blog, which is a good thing to have.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Double Thank-you

I found a good book in the second hand shop that was published in 1959. It's by a man called David Dunn about his hobby of "giving himself away", so I suppose you could say he was one of the pioneers of the Random Acts of Kindness movement. One of his chapters is actually not about giving but receiving. In fact, receiving graciously from others may be one of the finest forms of giving that many haven't properly mastered. I've noticed in my own life that some people are more "fun" to give to than others. There was a quote by Leigh Hunt who said, "To receive a present handsomely and in the right spirit, even when you have none to return, is to give one in return."

David Dunn mentioned his great idea of the "double thank-you" or "second thanks." The first thanks occurs when a person receives a gift and they thank the giver as an automatic etiquette response. Well, everyone does that. Aren't we all instructed to "Say Thank-you" from the time we're old enough to string two words together? This doesn't necessarily mean that the recipient even liked the present. It takes more of a skillful sort of receiver to give the Second Thanks, which is simply mentioning to the person down the track, how handy, beautiful or interesting you are still finding his gift.

David Dunn had this story to say. "Recently I had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of a second thanks. Four years ago I gave one of my nephews a metallurgical handbook as a birthday present, for which he thanked me appropriately at the time. Recently I received a letter from him saying that he'd changed his job, and that in his new work he had occasion to refer almost daily to the handbook I'd given him. He wanted me to know how useful my gift was proving. This note made so favourable an impression on me that I now have my eye peeled for other books to send this appreciative young man."

It makes such a lot of sense but people so often don't do it! Have you ever found yourself thinking, "I wonder if So-&-So liked the whatchamacallit I gave him?" This whole concept made an impression on me and I decided to make an effort to give the second thanks as often as I can. It's easy to give the first thanks but takes a bit of polish and finesse to give the second thanks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Brief Sea Change

When my husband turned 40 back in June, his parents, brother and sisters all put in to give us a couple of nights away at a Bed & Breakfast while they looked after the kids. We were free to take it at any time so we decided to wait until the pleasant weather of early spring. And as Andrew was the birthday boy, he got to choose the location. He decided he'd like to go to a beach-side Bed & Breakfast, so last week-end we dropped the 3 kids off with his parents and set off to Port Elliot, on our South Aussie coast by the Southern Ocean.

It was the first time we've been away by ourselves without at least one of the kids since February 1994, which was a year before Logan, our 13yo was born. We did get to go on a lovely flight and stay in Hobart for 2 nights in 2004 while my sister looked after Logan and Emma, but as Blake was still only 7 months old, he came with us, of course.
We did lots of good, rugged coastal walks along cliffs. I was thinking about the kids and took these photos of danger signs, thinking they'd be amused. Some of the pictures are so descriptive, you really don't need to be literate to get the benefit of them. Maybe it's true that a picture speaks a thousand words.

Why write, "KEEP AWAY FROM THE EDGE OF THE CLIFFS" for example, when this sign does the job so much more effectively?

And then there's this one!
I hate to say I missed a wonderful photo opportunity when we were hiking up the Bluff in Victor Harbor. It was very steep, and I thought, "We already have plenty of good coastal photos so I'll leave the camera in the car." But on the way back down we came across a very bold echidna out in the open. He was quite content to keep grubbing about while we walked within about half a foot of him! Andrew even ventured to reach out and touch his needles, and he curled up quickly into a little ball. Still makes me want to kick myself when I think of how I missed showing the kids and putting a photo of him on this blog.
All I can say is that if I ever come across another nonchalent wild echidna I'll definitely take his photo, but as it's the first time it's ever happened to me, I don't fancy my chances. Oh well, we live and learn.

I got a few other nature photos; mostly sea birds like this shag.

This fellow is a Pacific Gull. He very kindly posed for me.

These are just common coastal seagulls, the type who screech and flock around anyone who they see has any food. In my teens I used to live near one of the beaches of Adelaide and there were always plenty. We don't get any at all up in the Adelaide Hills, so whenever I'm by the coast and see some, it brings back memories of my past. I wondered if they're anything like the American seagulls I read about.

We saw this pet rock. Nothing like getting the shot of the echidna of course, but I still thought it was quite cute. How could anyone resist a request like this. So I obliged....

....and this is what we saw.

Now that we're back, we settled back into normal routine pretty well straight away. It probably takes more than three days and two nights for a proper sea change, but it was a wonderful break from routine just the same. (I wonder if they'll do the same thing when I turn 40).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My lesson on perspective

This one's going back five years but I never forgot it.

When Logan was still at school, there were plenty of other class mothers who were the professional type. They were alway on the run, wearing fancy tailored suits or official looking uniforms. I often felt a bit in awe of them and part of me wished that I had some sort of career identity too. And I often imagined that they must be sort of scornful of me and the other SAHMs. There was nothing I'd rather do than be at home looking after my house and family, yet I still felt intimidated by the way I imagined the 'professional' mums must be looking at me.

One of Logan's friend's mothers was a dental technician who worked in the clinic which services all of the school children in our district. Whenever any us took our kids in, we were bound to see her there in her crisp white uniform, either using the drills or giving advice about teeth cleaning. She was one of the ones I just a little in awe of and envious of.

Anyway, in 2003, just when I'd decided to begin homeschooling, Logan had been invited around to play with her son for the first and only time. When I went to drop him off, I had a chat with his friend's mother. We both mentioned the shortcomings we perceived in the school system and I told her of the decision we'd made to homeschool Logan, let Emma finish her year at kindy which she enjoyed and homeschool her too. And what she said to me nearly bowled me over.

It went something like this. "I wish with all my heart that I had the nerve to do something like that, and I really admire you but I'd never take the plunge. I know that you write books so you could manage homeschooling in a snap but I don't feel that clever and confident. All I can do is mix a filling. Big deal. All I can do is watch and admire people like you, because I see several homeschooled kids in the clinic and I take my hat off to their parents."

Well, needless to say I drove off with my head in a whirl. And all this time later I think that's probably been one of the significant conversations of my life. Whenever it occurs to me that people must look down on me for being 'just' a stay-at-home-mum, I remember, "No, that's not necessarily true." And whenver I sum a person up as having absolutely everything going for them and plenty of confidence, I remember, "That's not necessarily true, either." You just never know, do you?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Protection Psalm

I've had rather a sad week. Firstly, an old friend of ours died suddenly of a heart-attack, aged 49. His son used to be one of Logan's best friends when Logan was still at school and his wife was my walking partner and a very good friend. I've been to visit them and the funeral is tomorrow morning. Apart from being so upset for them, I've been feeling melancholy as I've remembered old times. Also, I heard that a friend's friend, aged 39, rolled her car and was killed just one kilometre from her home while her one year son in the back seat had only minor head injuries. And just last night as I was driving to my Bible Study group, one of the roads near our home had been cordoned off by the police. When I arrived I found out that somebody had only just been killed there. As I heard somebody say, also life is a very strong force, at times like this we see it is also extremely frail.

Incidents such as these seem to indicate that there is not much we can do to control our own destinies but I think there is one vital thing; the most important thing of all. We can trust the Person who does know what is going to become of us and holds our future in His hands.

I read an interesting story about Psalm 91 which has some bearing on all of this. It's always been one of my favourite Psalms and I learned that it is actually known as "The Soldier's Psalm." In World War One, the soldiers of the 91st Battalion decided to recite the 91st Psalm daily, because they were the 91st Battalion. This Battalion engaged in three of the War's bloodiest battles, yet although other units suffered up to 90% casualties, the 91st Battalion did not suffer a single combat related death. It would seem that when we are faithful enough to take God at His Word, He quickly shows us that He able and willing to keep His promises.

The writer said that we ought to plead God's shield daily in these uncertain times. We can confidently claim His rest, protection, safety, confidence and complete freedom from fear. I'm going to make a habit of praying it out loud as a covering for my family, not to twist God's arm as nobody can ever do, but to know that I am doing all I can do and all that He asks of me.

I'll just write down this version of it from the New Living Translation.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him.
For He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armour and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.
If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet.
The Lord says, "I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my Name. When they call on me I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On "Being the Change you want to see"

While searching internet sites, I came across this inscription on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abbey in 1100 AD. I thought it was very interesting in the light of what Mahatma Gandhi said several centuries later! How times never change! Here it is.

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But it too seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but also they would have none of it.

And now as I lie on my deathbed I suddenly realise: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement I would then have been able to change my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Olympic Wrap-Up

Well, it's all over for another 4 years. Those two weeks seem to fly. We've had the TV going pretty frequently over here but consider it an exceptional occasion. As usual, we were quite happy with the results.

Our swimming team did us proud again. A couple of our girls were outstanding, winning gold. The guys on our team were a little let down by ONLY winning silver on their main events. Perhaps we felt the loss of Ian Thorpe, who retired early, but people like Eamon Sullivan and Grant Hackett were fantastic anyway. It makes me think of something that I mentioned on this blog once before. Out of the 3 people standing on the podium, figure out the person who tends to get most depressed and need most counselling. It's not the bronze medallist, who is generally glad just to have won an Olympic medal, but the silver medallist, who regrets having been so close to the gold and just missing out. But I think the two fellows I mentioned realise that being second best in the world at their events is a momentous achievement anyway.

Having said all this, every other swimmer of every nation was overshadowed by Michael Phelps anyway. Wow, that guy is a powerhouse, a machine, and we all started backing him over here too, just to see if he could break that record of earning most golds at any single games.

I love it when surprising victories occur, such as our gold winning high-diver, Matthew Mitchum, who won his event on the very last day. I learned something from his story, too. Apparently two years ago, this young man decided his was getting disenchanted with diving and was on the verge of quitting. He stuck it out just for the sake of all that he'd already put into it and now he's made history.

I always find myself touched whenever I see a medal presentation, regardless of the nationality of the winner. There's something about hearing national anthems belted out that moistens the eyes. I know I'm an ignorant Aussie, but the only lyrics of "The Star Spangled Banner" I know are "Say can you see by the dawn's early light." I might look them up because I'm interested, it's such a stirring tune. I do know all the words to my own anthem, of course, but there was a time when that wasn't the case. When we used to sing "Advance Australia Fair" at Primary School, I'd never quite remember this line:- "In history's page, let every stage advance Australia, fair." Some of my friends, who knew even less, asked me and I said, "I think it's "For heaven's sake, let every state advance Australia fair." It fitted the tune so that was good enough for us.

So it's all over and I guess we'll start looking forward to London, 2012. Did you realise, the Olympic Games and the leap year happen in the same year? I figured that out during Athens 2004, the year my son Blake was born. Although he was overdue and wasn't born until March 26th, I was optimistic enough in late February to wonder if he might born on February 29th. Andrew and I were making a few jokes about how, if that happened, every three years we'd be able to tell him, "No party, it's not your birthday this year."

On that note I think I'll stop typing as I've already done a few deviations from the subject of the Olympics.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Funny things happen

I know one of the most rewarding parts of home education is the humorous conversation we'd miss if our offspring were at school .

I was reading to the kids from a book with a character named "Stewie" and had to explain to Emma that it was almost certainly short for "Stewart."

She commented, "Stewie must eat lots of stews," and I gave an obligatory "ha ha."

Emma grumbled, "That wasn't a proper laugh. I'll bet if Logan made that joke, you'd be almost rolling on the floor laughing." Her older brother is the quiet type outside the house but he has an acerbic wit and a knack of being a natural comedian. Just recently, she is beginning to wonder why she finds it hard going to get the same response.

And Logan quirked an eyebrow and said, "Emma, come on, you have to admit, my jokes have a bit more class than 'Stewie eats lots of stews.'" And although it might not seem that funny, just the way he said it made me begin to laugh. He has the facial expressions to go with his comments. And when I started laughing, Emma began to get really mad and said, "See, I told you!"

She's really trying to figure out what makes a joke funny lately. Both she and Logan love stories I tell them about my Dad, their grandfather, while I was growing up. For example, once we were out at a flash restaurant for a celebration and Dad went to the toilet, leaving a tiny inch of wine at the bottom of his glass. While he was gone, a waiter came over and re-filled the glass to the top. Of course Dad didn't realise this. When he returned he decided to polish off his last bit of wine. Without even glancing at his glass, he tilted his head and flicked it back with a neat jerk of his wrist, ending up with a full glass of wine splashed all over his face.

Emma says, "Mum, Papa must've been funnier when you were growing up than he is now. Because when we visit him, he usually just likes to watch the sport on TV." But I tell her, "The thing is, he used to be just the same when he was middle-aged. He used to love sitting around watching sport then, too." The key with humorous moments is that they're like looking for a 4-leaf clover. When you search for them they're elusive but when you're just going about your day, that's when they occur. And if you want to get a collection of good family jokes you just need to remember them.

As Doctor Seuss said in "Old Fish, New Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," from there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Envy and Jealousy

I'll tell you what I've learned re: the above subject since we started our homeschooling journey about five years ago.

It started around May 2003 when Logan, my eldest, was very unhappy in school. I yearned to begin homeschooling but wasn't certain I'd have what it takes. I started by contacting a few friends who were homeschoolers, and the more I found out about their lifestyles, the more I found a wistful sort of envy welling up in me. Their leisurely paced days, close-knit bonds with every family member in the home, freedom to have late nights out on weeknights and then sleep in the following morning, the interesting sounding, wide ranging curriculum that seemed available to them; it all appealed to me more than I could express. Well, those who've been reading my blog know what happened, of course. After five years, we've been doing it for quite awhile and even get the occasional phone call from families who are just starting out and want to make enquiries. It's a grand life and I wouldn't change it.

Yet I have to admit that some days a tiny spark of the old envy pops up very briefly for the opposite reason. This is usually when we've finished a long week with messes, bickering and Blake's energy level being stifled on rainy winter days. My envy sparks up when I hear remarks from other friends and family who are doing the traditional schooling thing. Remarks such as, "I know I can really get a lot of work done between 8.30 and 3.30 so I thank God for that quiet time," or, "I know I'll be able to give the house a thorough tidy up on Monday when I have nobody underfoot," or, "I thought I'd meet a friend at a coffee shop for a leisurely talk after I've done the school drop-off." A couple of young mothers I know are actually ticking off the weeks and months until their last pre-schoolers are off with their siblings, giving them much needed "free time." That's when I snap out of it and remember the trauma that having a school aged child really used to be. It was really horrible for all of us. Then I have a bit of a laugh at myself and human nature in general, which always sees greener grass on the other side of the fence, even when you've been grazing on both sides.

Our memories are still too fresh for us to ever return to traditional institutional schooling, although as Logan gets older we'd consider home-based, on-line courses for him, and later for his sister and brother. I find it really helps on those not-so-perky days to remind myself, "This is what we want to do! This is actually fun!" And it will be over all too soon, just as the past five years have flown.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Those Crosses

Some of the aspects of writing and getting my latest book out have been annoying this last little while. I'm only going to use this first paragraph to summarise them all so here it comes. There's the loneliness, the expense, the misunderstandings with production people (which I might write about another time), the difficulty in sales, a certain lack of recognition and feedback, the constant re-writing, the time-consumingness of it all and the occasional reluctance to sit down and get on with it. And there are so many millions of other people out there who are writing excellent books, which begs the question does it even matter if I don't add to the glut? Without going on at length about any one of those, they've been enough to make me seriously consider whether it's worth going on with. A few times over these past few weeks I've thought I might throw it all in and say it's all too hard.

But then I remembered the great things about it. The fun of the creative side, the characters, the feedback that does come my way and the possibility of influencing and inspiring others. If there's anything that really makes me feel as if I'm doing what I should be doing, it'd have to be writing. And I remembered that when we don't do what we truly believe God has planned for us to do, then it's a sin of omission. There's too much good about it to consider giving up after all.

Sometimes, as Christians, we talk about 'bearing our Cross' and then when we have crosses to bear we just want to be rid of them. I know people who associate 'bearing our crosses' with standing up for our Christian beliefs in the face of persecution and even martyrdom. I think it covers this and even more. When Jesus spoke of cross-bearing in the gospels, he seemed to cover the inevitable annoyances that come with living your normal life and doing what you believe God wants you to do. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take his cross daily and follow me," he said in Luke 9: 23. "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" he added in Luke 14: 27. So all of that annoying stuff I mentioned in my first paragraph in regards to writing Christian fiction is simply part of what Jesus warned about, and a very small part I might add. If we want to pursue any dream we simply can't escape the inevitable frustrations that are bound to come with it. I think Jesus said this about crosses not to make us feel gloomy but to encourage us to simply remember what He said and deal with them.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Has anyone missed me?

I honestly didn't intend to make my break so long but we've also had some unforeseen computer hassles. For awhile we were having real trouble with our internet connection. That was a pain in the neck, particularly because we didn't know if we were missing important emails, but all is well now. And then for a few weeks, I found I had a bit of what I can only call "blogger's block" during which I could hardly think of anything I thought worth saying. But now I'm back and will update with what we've been doing.

Blake and his naughty antics have been taking up a lot of my energy. He's our youngest, at 4 years old. Just lately he's been a real challenge. His older brother and sister, although they had their naughty moments, never used to throw such enormous tantrums and never dreamed of doing some of the things that he's been doing. For starters, my in-laws popped in one day when Blake didn't feel like seeing them. So he decided to flop on the floor and scream so loudly that none of us could hear anything that anyone was saying. I hauled him into his bedroom for some 'time out' but when I returned to our visitors, he started bashing and thumping the walls with anything he could lay his hands on. (Daddy, by the way, wasn't home for any of this. Although these hissy-fits appear totally spontaneous, Blake seems to choose his moments well.)

My mil suggested that he wasn't 'normal'. Perhaps we need to totally eliminate all possible chemicals and sweet foods from his diet, she thought. He might have some sensitivity to particular 'triggers'. I thought this sounded reasonable. However, when we thought about it, I wondered if it was really true. Many of those children I've heard of seem angry and uncontrollable at all times, or perhaps more consistently than he does. And Blake can be very docile and sweet when it suits him, with a very long concentration span. On the flip side of this long concentration span, he can keep his tantrums, crying fits and sulks going for far far longer than the other two ever used to. No, it seems to be plain bad temper. My older kids even said that he'd make a perfect case for "Super Nanny" and I think they were only half joking.

Another of his tricks has been to open the front door (because he's just worked out how to unlock it, drag over a chair and slide off the chain too), dash outside and race up the footpath as fast as he can. And he runs like an Olympic sprinter. Logan, Emma and I have really had to puff and pant chasing him down. But he grins and giggles. This one seems to be his little joke. Now that he can open all restraints on the door, I don't like it much. I've been trying to impress on him that running away could be dangerous.

I told some friends at our fortnightly Bible study that if Andrew and I had decided to call it quits with two children, we'd probably think we were quite good parents! I got quite a lot of encouraging feedback. Some of the children of others, who are now grown older, used to be very similar to Blake, they tell me. I was very relieved because these kids are now polite, well behaved members of the community.

So for now, we're just getting through this stage with him and trying to be consistent. If it's Emma's turn in the front seat, I'll just let Blake do his block in the back rather than caving in and letting him sit in the front for the sake of peace and quiet. Because that might be one of the factors that has turned him into a menace at times. In the past, I've often heard Logan tell Emma, "Let Blake have the biggest piece (or whatever) because he makes the biggest fuss if he doesn't get it." Definitely worth putting up with loud tantrums from him at this current time rather than having a complete obnoxious young man in the future. We're trying to explain each situation he objects to calmly and then not reinforce his behaviour with too much attention. But if these power struggles are what he's capable of, I feel sorry for the little girl he'll end up marrying. We'll have to persevere with lots of prayer and trust that he'll break through his 'nice person' barrier one day too.

Having said all this, he's very cute and smiley. Nobody sweeter when he's in a happy mood. I guess that's another of his weapons.

Another thing that's happened is that we've got a baby guinea pig. Emma found out that some friends of hers had a little male, Red American guinea pig (I think that's what they said he is) to give away, and she pleaded for him. So Andrew built a good sized hutch and we now have Bamboo as a new member of the family. I don't really know why she called him that but she wouldn't consider any other name. What's surprised me is that I've taken such a liking to him myself. Some readers of my blog may know of my extreme aversion to mice and rats. Yet this little rodent, who I admits looks very rat-like except for his wider nose and lack of a hairless tail, is charming!

I'll also mention that last night we watched the Olympic Games opening ceremony and it was so magnificent, I'm still thinking about it. Beijing put on a flawless show! Emma, who currently has a fascination with anything Chinese, and has watched the "Mulan" movies over and over, was spellbound. I love opening ceremonies. They're almost breathtaking enough to wait four years for. We're very interested in the Games in our family. One of Emma's little friends told her, "I don't know what all the fuss is all about" and Logan's opinion when he heard that was very gruff and sharp.

Watching the athletes parade is a very good experience for kids to understand just how many different nations our world contains. Emma badly wanted to see our own team walk in and I told her that she could, but they turned out to be almost last out. I think only China, the hosts, were behind them. She was getting very bleary-eyed and cross as it was getting closer to 1 am. It reminded me of watching our Christmas pageant when the commentators keep saying, "Santa Claus isn't far away." Last night it was, "The Aussies aren't too far now!" and we found out they were 202nd! The rest of us were having fun identifying the world leaders and athletes (especially tennis players) from the other nations.

This has been a particularly long blog post, so I must have a lot to make up for. I'll catch up with others this afternoon and I'm REALLY looking forward to that as I've missed you all. Will keep our eyes on the Games and no doubt share thoughts about them.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Having a bit of a rest

It's winter holiday time and I've been taking a bit of a rest from several things, which turn out to include blogging also. Will soon be back to talk about what's been going on.
Blessings to all,

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How far God's love can take you - Mathematical Proof

Although I don't have a passion for Maths, this email from a friend was stunning enough to make me sit up and take notice. I thought I'd share it. I'd love to see what you others think of this.

What equals 100%?
What does it mean to give MORE than 100%?
We've all been in situations where someone wants us to give over 100%
What equals 100% in life anyway?
This little Math formula might help answer these questions.

If A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z is represented as:-
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

then H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K is
8 + 1 + 18 + 4 + 23 + 15 + 18 + 11 which equals 98%

and K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E is
11 + 14 + 15 + 23 + 12 + 5 + 4 + 7 + 5 which equals 96%

But A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E is
1 + 20 + 20 + 9 + 20 + 21 + 4 + 5 which equals 100%

Then look how far the love of God will take you.
L-O-V-E-O-F-G-O-D is
12 + 15 + 22 + 5 + 15 + 6 + 7 + 15 + 4 which equals 101%

Therefore one can conclude with mathematical certainty that while Hard Work and Knowledge will get you close and Attitude will get you there, it's the Love of God that will put you over the top!

Pretty cool, don't you think?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

We might never know!

We've all had bad colds around here this week. Andrew started it, followed by Blake, Logan and myself. It's one of those woozy types where your head spins and you feel as if you might keel over when you walk. At least, it was that way for me. Our 4yo Blake developed a very chesty cough but didn't seem to lose any energy.

However, I've managed to get a bit of reading done. I found a fascinating passage in a book and I'll quote the author word for word.

"I often think of Abraham Lincoln as he left the Gettysburg battlefield after his address. We think today that Lincoln must have realised that this Gettysburg address would live in men's hearts but how could he possibly have known? After the long, flowery speech of Edward Everett, the orator of the day, which drew thunderous applause from the crowd, Lincoln's simple speech was received in silence. He could not know that his hearers were so moved by his message that applause would have seemed sacrilege. He could not foresee that his words one day would be cast in imperishable bronze and taught to every school child in the land. He could not know - because no-one told him."

The point in this chapter of my book was that we ought all ought to praise and congratulate anybody for anything that we perceive is good, even when we feel shy or think they'd be too great to appreciate it. While I agree wholeheartedly with this, something else struck me about this passage. And that is the fact that can't gauge the impact of our words or actions by the response we receive in the short term!

I thought of other famous people I've read about. Poor old Vincent VanGogh, who never sold a painting in his life! He left them all moulding away in his brother's garage, feeling like an amateur and a hassle for his family all his life. Only after his death was he heralded as a great artistic genius. When I was little, my parents had his painting of the sunflowers hanging in their entrance hall for years. He never even knew the acclaim he'd receive.

And one of my personal heroines, Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, also died young never knowing that her one and only novel would be canonised as one of the great literary masterpieces of the nineteenth century. The novel's reviews that she read while she was still alive were somewhat more critical and dubious than they were the following century. She never knew.

This may all sound bleak and sad, but I actually took it as a very positive thought that cheered me up. It made me think that each of us, plodding about our daily lives and trying to be creative in our own ways, never know how far-reaching our work may be in the future either! Sometimes I get a bit jaded and discouraged by what I perceive as lack of appreciation and impact, as I'm sure many of us probably do. But the thoughts of these famous heroes who lived before us helps me understand that feeling gloomy about how much recognition we're receiving are a complete and utter waste of time. We just have to keep following what we feel God had put in our hearts and forget about how it's being received.

Because we just might never know.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who is this mystery man?

I'm talking about Francis Gay, the man writes the Friendship Books which come out each year. I think they must be sold around the world so most people might know them. The books with the little purple covers entitled, "Friendship Book for (whatever year it is)" Inside there is a thought, quotation, small story or reflection for each day of the year. He lives somewhere in the English countryside and calls his wife the "Lady of the House."

I used to collect Friendship Books in my teens, but sold them at a market several years ago to make space on my shelf. Still, a few filter their way into the house from time to time. At the start of the year, when I saw the 2008 one for sale I started thinking he must surely be getting a bit old. I used to own one for my year of birth, 1969 and he's still churning them out!

But what really fascinated me this week was reading the fly leaf of a 1995 Friendship Book. It said they've been "delighting readers since 1939." He's more than old! He must be ancient! I figured out that if he started writing them when he was 20, because it seems incredible that he would've been any younger, he'd have to be just about 90 now and still on the job. Thinking of something uplifting to say for every single day from 1939 til 2008 is a pretty impressive feat.

I looked him up on internet but couldn't find any articles, or anything at all much about him, so he must also be fairly modest, humble and elusive. Pretty weird when you think about it, that after all this time, not so much as one photograph has been circulated. Surely his inspiration must run dry one day, but I'll be sorry not to them for sale each year.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pretty big prize!

Somebody at our church grew this massive pumpkin in their garden and set up a fundraiser. We were all invited to pay $1.00 to guess its weight and the person with the closest guess would win the pumpkin. With her dad's help, Emma gauged her guess on Blake's weight. It felt a certain number of kilos heavier than him, so she guessed 20 kilos.
As you can guess from the photos, she won the prize. She's very stoked about that, as she's entered a few competitions in the past that she didn't win. The prizes she missed out on would have been vouchers, money and many of the good things from Barbie magazines. But she seems happy with the pumpkin!

We're pleased too, to think of all the lovely pumpkin soups, pies, scones, cakes, tarts and dampers that we can make, yet we're certain this baby is still too big for just one family of five. We've been warned that it's been off the vine for two weeks so we've been phoning friends and relatives and offering chunks.
If anybody has some delicious, simple pumpkin recipes, I'd be delighted to give them a try, as we'll be using it for quite a long time to come. So send them to us via comment or email, please! I'd appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Haven't meant to spend so long not blogging....

but a few things have happened around our place in early June, not the least of which was Andrew's 40th birthday. He was still 22 when I met him and almost 24 when I married him 16 years ago. I can remember a time when 40 sounded sort of long in the tooth to me but now it just sounds like a person who's been round long enough to earn a lot of experience and some sound common sense. One of the funniest cards he had was a little knight dressed in full shining armour on the front. Inside it said, "Welcome to the Middle Ages!"

I can actually remembered his 30th birthday as if it was a lot less than ten years ago, although when I think about it, a lot has happened in that time. We only had Logan and I was about 4 or 5 months pregnant with Emma. Time is a funny thing. A day can sometimes drag like a year yet a decade can feel like a few months.

Anyway, he didn't want a big party so we organised a dinner out at Fasta Pasta with both his side of the family and mine. That was last Saturday.

Now here's what happened yesterday. I kept an appointment that had been longstanding with a skin specialist down in the city. Because I'm a very fair skinned person with a few freckles on my arms and back, a doctor thought it wise to refer me to be checked by a skin specialist. Fair skin and dark hair that attracts the sun, seems to be a possible recipe for problems. But after a long wait in her waiting room, I was given the all clear and she said I probably don't need to see her for another ten years. So that was the good news.

I searched through my pockets and handbag and couldn't find my keys. Only then did I discover that I'd locked them in my car! I took out my mobile phone but had no credit on it to make a call! So I searched through my purse for coins and only had enough for one at a public phone booth in a nearby shopping mall. I tried to call my parents, who were looking after my two youngest kids. They only live about twenty minutes away from the clinic. But nobody answered so I figured they must've all gone out.

I phoned home instead, where Logan, my oldest son, was having a day to himself. I told him what had happened. "Will you call Dad on his mobile and ask him to give me a call?" Although I had no credit on my phone, at least I could receive calls. Andrew was doing a bit of work not all that far away and I thought I could ask him to quickly drive to that clinic and unlock my door with his spare key. But time lapsed and I got no call from Andrew. I guessed Logan must've had trouble getting through to him.

I began to think I'd been a bit silly not to call the RAA Road Assistance crew to come and rescue me in the first place. That would've been much more sensible than wasting my one possible call on poor old Logan, who wasn't really in a position to help. Now I was stuck with no money left and unable to make more phone calls. So I figured the only option left was to begin the walk back to my Mum and Dad's place. Although it was only a twenty minute drive, it was quite a lot longer walking. After some time trekking across the city, I'd actually made it quite a long way when my phone began buzzing. Andrew had finally got Logan's message. I explained my dilemma and he said, "You should've just called the RAA. It's cheaper for them to come than me, anyway." So much for that! But he phoned my parents, who'd taken Emma and Blake for a walk to the shops, and told them what had happened. Dad drove and picked me up on the last leg of my walk. I had a cup of tea with them and finally phoned the RAA. Then Dad dropped me back to the dermatology clinic to wait for them. Then I decided to just spend the waiting time relaxing and enjoying the fresh air.

What a run-around, but at least it was a reasonably crisp and clear early winter day for a walk. Somebody else helped me put it all in perspective. As I started for the RAA, a lady who'd been in the waiting room way back when I was still there came back out of her appointment at last. I told her what had happened to me and she said she'd mixed up her appointment time and had to wait in the clinic for almost four hours!

So whenever you're having one of those days, I guess somebody else is too.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I'm glad they did it!

It's new material for the kids and I'm going over excellent reading matter from my past while I share it with them. We've been reading together parts of two of my favourite old series. One is the "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the other is the "All Creatures Great and Small" series by James Herriot. And whenever I read either of these two authors I'm caught up in the magic they wove. Even though these two authors may seem poles apart, they actually have a lot in common.

Both of these series are autobiographical but written in very entertaining story styles. Both were written when their authors had grown quite old and were looking back over their own lives. They each decided to leave their own legacy in writing and I'm so grateful they did. What a lot of history, geography and even science are tied into these fun, human-interest books. Putting us readers into their own places with their descriptions has to got to be my favourite way to learn.

We've learned a lot about that pioneer time in America when Laura and her family were moving west that's helped us put our own lives in perspective. And we have a real feeling for the late 1930s in Yorkshire when James first became a vet, not to mention noticing the vast progress in technology that's happened in those 70 years. And we've cracked up laughing at some of his hilarious anecdotes. I can't help thinking that if neither of these authors had written, we'd be so much poorer without knowing it.

Of course that started me speculating about the number of people with fascinating stories who think they couldn't possibly record them and don't bother trying. Or the ones who do and then leave them in their cupboards. So I'm sure we are already poorer without knowing it in thousands of ways. Anyone with a knack or passion for writing and recording in an interesting way ought to regard it as a sort of duty to record them because we never know who we'll touch. Even if it's unlikely that we'll become as famous as Laura Ingalls Wilder or James Herriot, doing it just for the love of it and for those who may be touched is a worthwhile enough goal anyway.

I'm beginning to toy with the idea of writing my own grandfather's story this way. I never knew him. He died almost ten years before I was born but I've just recently got to know him through typing my own father's family history. My grandfather (his father) was born in 1892. He had lots of interesting things happen to him. He served in both wars and he was the boxing champion of South Australia for several years. There is lots of information about him, including several funny anecdotes that happened around the country-side and in the ring. Yes, I'm thinking I wouldn't mind writing his story in a sort of novel form when I finish the fictions I'm working on because he's a man I think many would find interesting.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lists of things to be done

I never considered myself much of a list person. I never considered myself a person with a life that's too full, either. I try to take care not to cram it with too much because whenever I do I get easily overwhelmed. But sometimes I wake up with a feeling that there's a surprising lot to be done for a person who just wants to live a simple life homeschooling her family and doing a bit of writing. And it all seems to be urgent. So I started writing it all down on a list to keep track of it. And I discovered to my astonishment that these urgencies are most often quite little things.

Here are some examples.
Buy birthday cards for Andrew's sisters
Answer 3 emails
Remind Emma to write a thank-you note for a bracelet she was given
Tell Andrew we need to renew an account
Pick up Logan's new epipen from the chemist
Organise for carpets to be cleaned before rental inspection
Buy a few groceries
Clean through cupboards
Get car oil changed
Plan a couple of Sunday School classes

I know we all get the idea. I was stressed but I was surprised to notice that I was stressed chiefly with little things. Although they are all little things they quickly multiply if I just leave them whirling through my head. I could make it into a sum. Little thing + little thing + little thing + little thing etc = stress. I'd been inclined to wake up in the morning thinking, 'I've got so much to do.' But they can't all fit into one day. So I started jotting down everything on a master list that I've called WTDTW (What to do this week). Then I itemise each one into WTDT (What to do Today). I try to make sure to include a few boring nasties to spread them out evenly. And I have to say, it has been helping. I've been ticking them off as I go through them and feeling as if I've been getting everything done with not so much running around.

Here's a prime example. I had to visit the local High School to enrol Logan on their books as a homeschooler. It's something our state requires us to do, just to keep track of all school aged students. Logan and his sister have been enrolled on the Primary School roll book as homeschoolers, but the Primary School have notified us that they'll be removing him this year as he's now a highschooler. If they hadn't reminded me I probably wouldn't have given it a thought. So we had to chase up all the people at the High School and fill out a lot of red tape and rub shoulders with all the big, loud senior students in the corridors on our way to the office. That's a perfect example of something that takes time from your day, isn't a pleasant task but really needs to be done. Just a one-off sort of thing, but one-offs keep coming up. (I'll have to go and enrol Blake at the Primary School as a home-schooler next year.) And if I hadn't started my list system and had it there in black-&-white staring at me, I'm sure I wouldn't have got around to it yet. So something as simple as jotting things down is working for me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book stall at homeschool seminar

A few weeks ago I was invited to set up a stall to sell my "Quenarden" books at a homeschool seminar to be run on May 17th. I accepted the opportunity although I was secretly doubtful if I'd sell many. My books hardly ever seem to move at formal venues for reasons which I'll mention soon. Anyway, I'd already donated free copies of my first Quenarden novel, "The Prophecies" which were in the showbags provided for the seminar. So I printed up several copies of my discussion questions in booklet form. (Anyone who's interested could find these questions on my website anyway). But I thought that if I gave away a set of discussion questions with every copy of Book 2 or 3 I sold, homeschoolers might like that.

It was pouring with rain on Friday when Emma and I drove down to the city to set up our space. We're not used to wet weather at the moment and the Freeway was covered with thick fog at 3.30 in the afternoon. Motorists were made to crawl down from the hills into the city at 80kph, which suited me fine. When we managed to find the Adelaide Deaf Centre, which was the venue for the seminar, we had to dash across with heavy boxes full of books getting soaked. We set up the table with our pretty tablecloths and ornate boxes to give what I hoped would be a "Quenarden-ish" sort of effect and then drove home again.

Next morning was still very blustery. I made 2 stops on the way down. I dropped Logan off at my sister's place to spend the day with his cousins, and then Blake off with my parents who live close to the city. Now, to cut a long story short, although I chatted with several browsers and made my voice hoarse, by the end of the day I only made one sale of one book for $15.00! And as I had to pay $13.00 for the hire of the trestle, my profit for the day was only $2! Of course if I remove the cost of petrol making two trips down and back, not to mention a couple of books I bought from other stalls, the venture actually cost me money. Still, as Andrew says, this P.R. sort of thing really needs to be done and we might make more sales out of it in the future.

Although trestle tables groaning with goods and curriculum filled the auditorium, I don't know if any other sellers earned much money either. I'd been looking at those 2 books I finally bought for hours before I actually purchased them. Here's my theory on why I think it's harder to sell at formal venues. There are just too many other sellers doing the same thing. When a huge choice is involved, potential customers decide it's too hard to make decisions and opt to hold on to their money instead.

We read the story of a family of jam and preserve manufacturers who set up 30 samples of every single flavour they produce. At the end of the day, although they'd received many compliments they hardly sold one jar of jam. Next time they only put out two flavours for sample; apricot and strawberry. As a result, sales of all 30 varieties soared and they made record profits! Surely this can't be coincidence. I've made more sales of books at places like my launch, where the only person selling books is me. I guess it's nice to take every opportunity, although I'm now always cynical about how much I'll sell.

Anyway, the day wasn't a total write-off. I did win a raffle door-prize of 3 teenage novels tied up with pretty string along with the free showbag of goods (which included my own Quenarden novel! Just what I needed. Another one of those!) So although I was sort of exhausted and demoralised as far as my own efforts were concerned, life's still grand! Never quitting needs to be one of my mottoes.