The right brand of Christianity

I don’t know if you’ve ever stopped and thought about what brand of Christianity you are all about. I hadn’t until I moved to Australia.mde

I have been a Catholic most of my life. I say ‘most’ because I worshiped at a Presbyterian church for many years and then came back to my roots. I don’t see a problem with bouncing between churches because it’s all the same God and Christian is Christian. Two things have happened recently that have made me aware that not everything thinks the way I do. Who would have thought?

Yesterday I had two lovely ladies come to my door with pamphlets and an I-pad to share their views on what I should believe. Even though I told them I am Catholic and have just come from church, they still tried to question my beliefs and gave me a booklet. They said they would come back next week to try again. I’m going to hide.

The other thing was an interview I had at a school. Although they asked me about my teaching style, the main thing they wanted to know was about my faith journey. Journey? I felt inadequate. Saying I have been a Christian all my life sounded like a cop out. I explained that I don’t have a moment when I saw the light. I believe simply because I have no choice – it’s part of who I am. I didn’t get the job.

When I was over in England and Paris earlier this year, I visited many cathedrals. None of them had security screening to keep Catholics out. Or sniffer dogs to detect Methodists. Or signs saying, ‘Waving of hands in worship forbidden.’ What were they thinking, treating all brands as equal?

I wonder who’s going to tell God to be more judgey with how everyone is allowed to worship? I’m sure my visitors from yesterday will volunteer.

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Doing the best we can

We go through life doing the best we can with the talents we have. When a parent dies, we are reminded that we are gifted this existence for a limited period of time and we wonder if we should be doing more. We reflect on our talents and abilities and try see bits of the parent in us. We spend time looking back on moments we spent together – talking to others, flipping through photo albums, and find it hard to comprehend that they will never look that way again. Or any way again. It’s really important that we look at old photos so we remember them in happier, healthier times. I don’t want to remember my dad as the figure wasting away in a shitty South African hospital with no pillow or blanket.

I asked my students to attempt to write a paragraph using an extended metaphor. Some of them looked at me like I had spoken Croatian. I said they could use the analogy that our lives are like roller coasters – ups and downs, blah blah. One boy sort of the got the idea when he wrote that ‘when you get too old, you’ll have to get off.’ Ain’t that the truth!oldage.jpg

This year has been one of many changes for me. I moved countries. I taught at one school for a term – which was amazing. Then moved to another school and had to get to know people all over again. And learn new names! Do you know how hard that is at my age? But I do the best I can. I’ve just bought a house. And then my dad passed away. That presented another issue involving a NZ passport and needing a visa that would take five days, which precluded my attendance at the funeral.

Through all of this, I have lost my writing mojo. Whenever I sit down to write anything, there are no words. This made it extra difficult when my siblings asked me to write something about Dad to be read at his funeral. How could I write a poem with no words? I sat for hours, spraying words on one page after another. Finally, I wrote something. A fledgling poem. Perhaps a spark of writing life battling to rise up out of the creative ashes.

It might not be a literary masterpiece. But I did the best I could.

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Fully assembled

The best two words in the universe – fully assembled. Having moved countries again, I have bought new furniture. The trend these days is for tables, TV cabinets, queen size beds and outdoor furniture to come in a ‘flat pack’. That means you have to wrestle with ginormous cardboard boxes and massive plastic bags, before trying to bully a flimsy allen key and a teaspoon (because, let’s face it, who buys a screwdriver?) into moulding bits of wood, plastic and iron into semi-decent functional bits.

Then something arrives with those two words on it – fully assembled – and your heart sings. Okay, it was a mattress. And I would have been ever so annoyed, and hugely confused, if that needed assembling. Imagine – instead of saying ‘Tools needed – screwdriver, allen key, rubber mallet’ it would say ‘Tools needed – industrial sewing machine’.

Well, I had help with all the assembling and the place is furnished. And I survived. And my arthritic fingers survived. Barely. A lesser person might have dragged some of the cardboard boxes into the passage and made a fort to hide in.

words

But this got me thinking. What if our lives could come fully assembled? What if we had a job already and didn’t have to get up at 6 every morning and sit by the phone in case a school rang? What if we could just buy a house with the money we emigrated with, rather than having to rent?

Then we wouldn’t have to feel like the only pieces of our lives we have in the plastic bags are the big ones, while the smaller ones have fallen out in transit. Maybe we’ll find them in the bottom of the cardboard box. And we’ll be able to piece ourselves back together.

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The Ringing of the Bell

It’s been a while since I’ve written and I hope this little note finds you well. I have been a bit busy over the past few months. I have sold my house, given away my possessions, traveled to England and France, and moved to Australia. I think I can be forgiven for being remiss in blogging. I plan to let you know bits about my trip, but not today. Today is dedicated to bells.

From the time we start school, our lives are run by the bell. The bell tells you when to eat, when to play, when to go home. These are the bells most school children look forward to. Of course, there are bells to indicate learning time, but perhaps those are not looked on as favourably. Unless you’re a teacher. One that has just emigrated. And is looking for work.

At the moment, I spend my life looking forward to two bells. The first is the ringing of my phone early in the morning. The second is a school bell that lets me know my life has meaning. As a relief teacher, my day consists of getting up at 6 and getting ready for a day of teaching that may or may not materialise. I take my phone into the shower. It’s next to me when I’m cooking breakfast. It’s on the bed while I’m getting dressed. I even take it into the toilet. Just in case it rings.

It rang on Friday. I was so excited I think I didn’t even give the caller the chance to finish her sentence. All I heard was ‘a day’s work’ and I said yes. Because this was the ninth consecutive school day since the start of term that I had been all dressed up with nowhere to go, I wasn’t as ready as I should have been and I only had 20 minutes to dry my hair and throw on a dress. I grabbed everything I needed and headed out into fairly heavy traffic. By ‘fairly heavy’ I don’t mean Auckland traffic. I mean traffic that stopped me driving at the 70kph speed limit.

That was when I heard another ringing. The kind I didn’t want to hear. A warning bell. As I turned into the road, my car started ringing (beeping actually, but for the sake of this blog’s continuity we’ll say it was ringing). My heart sank. Here I was trying my best to get to school on time and something was wrong with my engine. I turned the radio off and the sound stopped. For twelve seconds. It started again. And stopped again. There was no pattern to its stopping and starting. I didn’t know whether to try and ignore it or to pull over and investigate. With my knowledge of cars ‘investigation’ means giving someone a call.seatbelt

As I pulled onto the motorway, the sound changed from ding – ding – ding to dingdingding. Really loudly. I had no choice. I had to pull off the road. I was going to have to ring roadside rescue to, well, rescue me. And I was going to have to ring the school and let them down on the one and only teaching day I had been given. I was slightly upset. I might even have sworn. Then I noticed the ‘passenger seatbelt’ light was on. My handbag was on the front seat and my car decided it was a passenger. All that fuss because of some make up and a water bottle!

Did I put my bag on the floor? Heck no I didn’t. I reached over and grabbed the seatbelt, clipped it in and made it to school before that bell started ringing.

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Your weather forecast for today

If ever I have thought of believing in pathetic fallacy, today is the day. The crazy morning we have had so far has seen rain, strong wind, warmth, heavy rain, sunshine, cold, calmness – and it’s only 8.30. But that exactly mirrors the emotional turmoil inhabiting my body. I cry at the drop of a hat. Actually, I cry before the hat has even started moving. Who am I kidding… I cry just thinking abou- Hang on, just getting a tissue.

You see, I am packing up my house and moving to Australia. My kids have grown up and flown the coop, and I have sisters across the ditch. I am single (and not for lack of trying, as you well know!) I have been unsettled for a few years and this feels like the right move for me. I have decided to take just 10 boxes. I don’t need to take my furniture – it’s cheap enough to replace over there and I don’t have any antiques that are worth keeping. I don’t need to take pots and dishes – they are also cheap enough to replace. I don’t need to take my car. Wait. My car. I NEED TO SELL MY CAR!!

I made the decision to move on September 11. I felt that was a good day to make life-changing resolutions. Since then, I have been sorting, selling, giving, packing and donating. I sold my house within 5 seconds of it being on the market. I met the new owners last night – they are a beautiful young couple who are so excited about buying their first home. It makes my heart happy.passage

I have been in NZ for 21 years. Because I am a participant in life, not just a spectator, I have embraced everything the country has to offer. The people, the food, the culture. I have travelled to almost every corner and seen all the beauty on offer, like I did in South Africa before I came over. Now I will do it all again.

The only problem is the size of Australia. How long do you think it will take for me to see all of it?

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Expect the unexpected

Last Wednesday night I was walking down Queen Street in the middle of Auckland city at 10 o’clock. And no, I wasn’t in a mini and fishnets, trying to supplement my income. I was walking up to Aotea Square with my Raglan Co-op Reusable Bag of groceries.

This was pretty unusual for me. Not the reusable bag, but the fact that I was still awake at 10pm. And in the city. Be that as it may, what was not unusual was the assortment of homeless people either curled up against shop windows or wandering aimlessly. One such man approached me and started telling me how great God is. He didn’t ask for money; he just put his hand on my shoulder and kept repeating, through the gap in his mouth where his front teeth once were, that God does great things for us.

I wished him equal blessings and made my way further up the street to the little Japanese hole-in-the-wall that sells matcha cupcakes. I handed over a $5 note and declined a bag for the sweet treat I was going to devour immediately. When I turned around, my blessing friend was not far from me so I took the few steps to him and gave him my $1.30 change. I then offered him half the cupcake. He told me he didn’t want half, ‘jutht a thmall piethe.’

As I was breaking off a bit, a young man stopped next to us and his eyes lit up. Naturally, I though the also wanted some of the cake. Instead, he asked, ‘Is that marijuana?’ I answered, ‘No, sweetheart, it’s a healthy cupcake.’ He looked fairly disenchanted. I thought it was funny.hand-with-three-coins-vector-clipart

What is not so funny, but equally as unexpected, is my mid-life crisis. It’s not that I thought I could go through life in some Polyanna-like unreality. It’s just that I didn’t realise the crisis would last for four years.

I want to be the glass half full person. The friend who hosts dinners and BBQs. The Energiser bunny who leaps out of bed in the morning because there is so much living to do. I was this person. Then I turned 50.

Now I have this pervading sense of dissatisfaction with my life. I’m restless, listless. Very aware that time is running out. I know that if I’m going to make any life changes – new school, new city, new country – it has to be now. Very aware that time is running out. I don’t know how to stop my churning mind or itching feet, how to get back to finding the joy in the everyday, how to be satisfied with the amazing life I have. How to be at peace.

And I’m spending so much time second-guessing, double-bluffing and self-assessing that I’m driving myself crazy and feeling exhausted. In the amusement park that is our life, I’m still on the carousel but I’ve fallen off the horse.

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10 years is a short time

We all look back and think, ‘Where did the time go?’ I still remember when my son was excited on his first day of school, with his oversized backpack and sandals one size too big. Now I can’t get him out of bed to go to uni. And it seems like just last week that I was sitting on the end of my daughter’s bed, telling her everything was fine. Now she rings me from 600km away to see if I’m okay.

My mum and I were really close. It’s hard to believe it’s thirty years ago she surprised me by flying in from the other side of the country for my graduation. Or twenty years ago she saw me off at the airport when I emigrated. Or ten years ago that she died. But then time has a funny way of letting us hold onto precious things.

mum

This is the poem I wrote for her funeral.

Butterfly Net

When you think of my mother’s passing,
Don’t think of her with regret
But rather as a brave and free spirit
Catching life in a butterfly net.

She spent her life always running,
Knowing life had so much to give;
Not even cancer could crush
Her indomitable spirit to live.

In the magical world that she danced in
Her footprints were laughter and song,
Her shadow was hope for the future
And love for us all kept her strong.

So rather than mourning her dying,
Let’s celebrate the life that she knew.
When we pick up our nets to catch rainbows
She’ll be running along with us too.

 

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