I love Christmas! It is my favourite time of the year....but I'm not really sure why. If I stop to think about Christmas and compare my expectations to the reality...there seems to be this huge gap between my imagination, memories and expectations of the event. Christmas is wrapped up like a gift in my mind where I can carefully and delicately open layers of bright shiny paper to reveal a Christmas treasure.
As I untie the ribbon on the first layer, childhood memories appear like 3D images captured in time...me hanging my favourite glass bauble on the Tree...it is white and pink and shaped like an icicle. I carefully and lovingly hang my delicate ornament on the tree...year after year... until I see it crash to the floor and splinter into a million glass fragments. I grieved over that ornament, and still all these years later I can still recall the simple pleasure I had in hanging it on the tree. Our tree is pine and the scent of pine refreshes and cleanses our home. We would fill a bucket with wet sand and my Dad would lift the tree and place it in...then my brother and I would wrap the bucket with Christmas paper and tinsel.
I see my Dad with his cheeky grin and flushed cheeks switch on the multi-coloured lights and then...get out his trumpet. He was a beautiful trumpeter and every year at Christmas, out came the trumpet and he would play, filling our home, and street, with his music. I loved watching my Dad play his trumpet, it seemed to take him to his happy place.
The first layer is done and now it is time for me to unwrap a little further. I hear laughter and squeals and then I see my brother and sisters and cousins with water pistols all running around the yard and through the house with water flying everywhere! Suddenly my Dad and cousin Doug take it up a notch with buckets and then the hose as they.hide around corners catching us unawares.
What is it about Christmas that teases out old memories and wraps them up in a sweet golden hue? These memories defy time and space...they are my own personal Tardis!
As a child, Christmas to me was magic! I would go to bed and in the morning there would be presents from a magical being called Santa. On Christmas Eve night, my brother, sisters and I would place our Santa bags at the end of our beds and try desperately to stay awake to catch Santa as he placed gifts in our bags. We always left out fruit cake and milk, and in the morning it was magically gone! I loved it! As a child, the stressors that surround adults at Christmas, were in a far away land that I would never visit. As a child, there were no empty spaces around the Christmas table...as time had not caught up with us then.
I unwrap another layer of tinsel covered paper and I see my children repeat my childhood rituals with the same excitement and joy. The careful placing of their Santa bags at the end of their beds and the desperate attempts to stay awake...to see if Santa is real...
Even then, those many years ago, when my children were small, there were spaces in the world, empty spaces where loved people should have been. Time was catching up and my childhood was gone. I can see a space where my brother should have been, and one for my Grandfather and my Father. There were Aunty and Uncle spaces and then my Grandmother's space. And now...too many spaces...but still the joy and wonder of Christmas catches me unawares and I am lost in beauty and imagination.
Christmas is warm. It is carols by candlelight. It is walking on warm Summer nights to look at the Christmas lights and watch people smiling for no particular reason. Christmas is my memories and the echoes of times long past. It is helping my Grandmother to chop fruit for the Christmas cake and eating Christmas pudding and hoping to be the person who gets the silver sixpence (she kept her sixpences long after we had changed to metric). It is spending time with my Sydney cousins in Terrigal and getting sunburned at the beach...all these memories make me smile and I am so thankful for them.
Christmas does play tricks with my mind...expectations are not the reality...there is a huge gap between my imagination, memories and expectations of the event. And, when I stop to think about this...I believe it is because my treacherous mind wants to give me a holiday! A gentle space to remember people and places and laughter and music. A space to re-believe that the world is good and that there will be Peace on Earth...one day...
' At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him'
The other day as I was walking through my local Shopping Mall, I stopped to notice the people! I know that this sounds strange..but there I was surrounded by a Mall full of people moving, shopping, walking aimlessly, and eating. And...there was me...just another one of these people moving, shopping, walking aimlessly and thankfully...not eating!
For a few endless seconds...the world suddenly turned very surreal. Almost like I was the only still point in an endless sea of moving feet, arms, legs and mouths...who were all these people? What were they feeling? As I stood and watched, I knew that I would never know...and to be truthful...did I really want to know?
Have you ever noticed how alone each person really is? Surrounded by humanity and yet still alone?
As my gaze narrowed, my eyes happened to take note of tables of people chatting over coffee and cake. Some tables were quite animated, others more subdued, and still others where the coffee drinkers were just sharing the same space, looking bored...
I was still in this surreal world where the seconds felt like they were being dragged through molasses, yet my focus grew sharper and more acute. I could see faces smiling, hands gesturing and eyes looking lively or dim. I noticed that the tables of girl friends sharing coffee were animated, active and noisy, while the mixed couples or mixed friends looked interested in what the others were saying...some smiling...others intensely engaged with the conversation.
As I shifted my gaze from table to table, I noticed (what I thought to be) the married couples or long time partners sharing their coffee...there was little to no conversation, no eye contact, no leaning in towards the other person to hear what they were saying...Have you ever noticed that?
I remember when I was in my twenties we would go to restaurants or coffee shops and play, Spot the Married Couple. It was always easy...they were the tables where there was very little conversation, or where one or both were reading the newspaper, or where two people just sat and shared a space yet looked totally alone. Have you ever noticed that?
Is it because they have run out of things to say? Is it because they have said too much? Or is it because they know each other as well as anyone can know another person, and so there is now no need for words? I will never know.
Have you ever noticed faces...I mean really noticed? Not just a pretty face in the crowd...I mean the face of a stranger whose lines and eyes and expression is so arresting...that their story, the one locked deep inside them, is screaming to be told? Have you ever noticed someone like that?
As I stood and time started to shift me out of the surreal and back into the flow of life...I realised that what I caught a glimpse of was a small facet of our human condition...of my human condition...life is movement and stasis...it is relationship and isolation...it is connecting and loving when you can...it is activity and boredom...it is a smile at a stranger...and it is always accepting that we can never truly be known by another human being.
This is not a bad thing...it just is.
I am thankful at those times for my faith...where I know that I can always be truly known by God.
Don't worry...I am not a morbid person...I was just fascinated by my moment when time seemed to stand still in a busy shopping mall...and I noticed.
Connect with your Inner Child: Recent Studies Reveal that adults can improve their working memory through revisiting their favourite childhood games and passtimes.
When I was a child I thought like a child...when I was a child I played like a child. Now I am an adult I forgot to be a child.
However, those echoes of childhood still haunt our memories....
Do you remember your favourite games as a child? Can you still feel the thrill of climbing the tallest tree and just sitting in the branches for ages and ages? Perhaps you loved to ride your bike for miles and miles and not get back home till tea time. Or did you go to the river and catch tadpoles and dragonflies? I can still feel the sweltering Summer days down by the River while my brother and I caught tadpoles and watched them swimming in our jars filled with brown river water.
Do you remember the backyard swing made with some rope and an old tyre wheel where you could swing and sing for hours and hours? Perhaps playing cricket with the kids in your street was your daily Summer holiday ritual. I remember playing French Cricket every evening and can still hear the laughter and the fights as someone yells, "you're out!"
As a child I felt so free! Free to run through paddocks and chase rainbows feeling my legs moving strong and fast as I jumped over cow pats and pot holes. Where has this wonderful child gone?
Researcher Ross Alloway says that, 'Climbing a tree and balancing on a beam hone ‘proprioceptive’ skills – the brain’s ability to sense where the legs, arms, hands and feet are in space without looking. The brain also has to cope with fast-changing information, such as a creaky branches and wobbly beams... This research suggests that by doing activities that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies.' Alloway's study found that adults can boost their working memory by 50% when they play their childhood games like climbing trees, running barefoot and crawling as opposed to doing exercise such as yoga.
Sounds like fun to me!
So what am I waiting for? Not only will I improve my working memory, fitness, health and overall enjoyment of life...I will be showing my own children that there is a world beyond gaming devices and it can be found right out their front door!
What are your memories of playing outside as a child? Do you want to recapture that child and have some healthy fun?! Leave a comment and share...
Ross G. Alloway and Tracy Packiam Alloway (2015) THE WORKING MEMORY BENEFITS OF PROPRIOCEPTIVELY DEMANDING TRAINING: A PILOT STUDY, . Perceptual and Motor Skills: Volume 120, Issue , pp. 766-775.
Echoes of Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" in the Australian Defence Force's search for a new generation of officers..
I remember back in the 90's when a co-worker introduced me to the novels of Orson Scott Card and Ender's Game. This novel was beautifully written with vivid imagery and characters that elicited an emotional response from the reader. I think what struck me the most with this novel, and this is what has made it so memorable for me, was the thematic use of the destruction of innocence and using the cleverness of children to turn them into strategic thinkers through the use of simulated games. As I read, the undertone of violence became more and more disturbing, especially as the reader gradually became aware that what the children were doing, was no longer a game. The protagonist, Ender, finally destroyed an entire race of beings whilst thinking that it was a simulated strategic game. When he realised the truth, it almost broke him.
There has been a lot of conflicting research into the desensitisation to violence through repeated exposure to violence and an increase in aggressive behaviour. However, violence is not the topic in this post...it is how the use of games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, has caught the attention of Australian Defence Force and their means of recruitment. The ADF places advertisements on sites that review popular first-person games and promote the "adventure of life in the military"(Courier Mail, Call of Duty: Real-Life Diggers, 24 Mar 2015). Of course this seems logical, and intuitively, is a reasonable place to advertise or promote a career in the Military.
The Courier Mail also reports that the Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert said, "gaming sites were actively targeted by recruiters because they attracted people with an interest in complex scenario based computing". Well, this is reasonable and on the surface is a logical surmise as Roberts further goes on to say, "people involved in gaming [are] adept, fast thinkers, very natural with technology and they're used to complexity". All great attributes to have and a valuable skill set. However, he went on to say, "If we can find someone with the right attitude and aptitude, we can train them to do anything".
Robert's comments on the attributes of these first-person gamers reminds me of the rationalisations in the novel Ender's Game. As a teacher, I know that many of these first-person gamers are children sitting in our class rooms from year 5 and up. I don't know whether it is right to be able to "train them to do anything".
What do you think?
I just wanted to post something beautiful and simple. Something to brighten your day...and then I thought about Henri Matisse and his use of bright, bold colour and shapes...and how his colours brighten my day. I hope that they brighten yours as well!
Sometimes...it is better not to say too much.
Sometimes it is better to simply enjoy the beauty to be found in the world around us and to celebrate the creativity of others.
I love the playfulness that Matisse captures in his art and sometimes I think that we have lost our own playfulness...it is hiding inside us...waiting to pounce and take us by surprise! Matisse helps me move toward playfulness.
His art is a smile!
Have a lovely day!
The Camelia in my Garden
A dear friend popped in for a cuppa last Tuesday. It had been at least two years since we last saw each other...but it never seems like that when we meet. You know those few and far between friends that you can just pick up from where you left off and it seems like yesterday? Well she is one of those.
Leah is also an amazing photographer! I mean amazing! As I looked through her work I felt inspired to get my camera out and go to one of those far away exotic places and take the perfectly framed photo with just the right amount of artistic licence to make it prize worthy.
Well...that will never happen...so I found my old point and shoot digital camera that I bought from the Post Office, and walked out my front door, looking for some strange creature or insect or something! Why is it that when I never want to see a spider, I see them everywhere, and when I really want to see one, there are none to be found?
I then spotted my Camelia tree dripping with soft, delicate, shell pink flowers. I love the old fashioned Camelias. There is something so beautiful in their symmetry. So I took two pictures. Only two...because the batteries ran out in my camera and I didn't have anymore AA batteries in the house.
Well here they are! One Camelia two ways! Now I sound like someone off Master Chef...Perhaps I should do deconstructed Camelia two ways..
Anyway...Thank you Leah for showing me the world through the lens of your camera!
Beanies, Knitting and Grandmothers
When I was a small girl growing up in rural NSW, I lived around the corner from my Grandmother. She was a wonderful knitter, and often I would sit beside her as she patiently taught me to knit one, purl one, as I tried to knit a scarf littered with holes. I haven't knitted in years. Too many years to count!
I was in town the other day, looking for ribbon and paper to wrap my soaps, when I saw the wool isle, filled with beautiful yarns and skeins of wool in so many wonderful colours and textures. Standing there, I was transported back to my Grandmother's verandah, sitting beside her while we knitted together, her with a pink cabled jumper for me, and me knitting my multicoloured scarf.
It was at that moment that I decided to take up the challenge and knit a beanie. I knew that I had two boxes of wool and patterns at home tucked away in some forgotten space, and I was determined to resurrect them and give those balls of wool a life and a purpose! No longer to sit in the dark, but to be worn for all the world to see!
I then spotted some beautiful Australian wool dyed in multi-colours...it was beautiful! And...I would get a free pattern book if I bought four skeins of wool! How could I resist?
So, I am now knitting a green beanie...my practise beanie, before I begin to knit with my new multi-coloured wool...and as I knit and listen to the click of my needles and try to remember to count my stitches....I think of my Grandmother and a little girl sitting beside her on a verandah.
Mother's Day had come and gone.
I stood looking at all the flowers. So many flowers. Row upon row of flowers being blown by the wind as it whipped over the top of the hill and tore at my hair. It looked like the remains of a Spring Carnival...only silent...except for the wind.
The flowers were out of place in this landscape...there should be life around flowers.
There is only silence in a grave yard.
I looked out at the row upon row of flowers, discarded by the wind and thought that there were so many mothers under those flowers. So many husbands, daughters and sons must have come to visit their mother on Mother's Day. What did they say? What were they thinking as they carefully bent down and placed their flowers. What can anyone possibly say to such SILENCE.
I thought is this the sum of a person's life? Is this all there is in the end? A silent grave decked out with Spring flowers when we all know that it is Winter.
I stood looking at my future.
In silence I went to their graves. It feels strange to stand over the bones of those you love...I say love because this dreadful thing called death, and the silence of the grave can not sever those bonds.
I greeted each in turn...Father, Brother, Step-father, Aunties, Grandmother, Grandfather...no one answered me...Just the wind.
The day after Mother's day was sunny and windy and cold and silent.
And then it seemed like the wind spoke to me, an echo from a distant past and reminded me, "that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8: 38-39
Have you ever found that sometimes when it's just you and your child in the car...it's then that an interesting conversation often occurs?
This happened to me the other day with my 15 year old son. He asked me, "What do you think happiness is mum?".
I paused...for to be honest, I had never really thought about happiness before...not in a meaningful way...
I said that I didn't really know what happiness is...that I think it is different for everyone. I can only tell you what happiness is for me.
Happiness for me is often fleeting and gone so fast that I wonder if it ever arrived!
Happiness comes in little treasures like pearls or semi-precious stones...sometimes out of nowhere when you least expect it. I looked at him and said...always be open to happiness and welcome her visits.
It is different to joy. For me, Joy is always there...joy is something deep in my spirit that is like a well for me to tap into...it is not happiness.
I quoted the words of St Paul when he said, "I think myself happy". Acts26:2
I think myself happy when suddenly I catch a glimpse of my children, old and young, and see the wonder that used to be in their faces when they were small and just discovering the world.
I think myself happy when out of nowhere I see a daffodil or smell the fragrance of Freesias or Daphne on a mellow, sunny day.
I think myself happy when I receive a gentle smile or see my small grandson running and chasing dogs so big that I wonder how he can manage to not get knocked over, or when my grand-daughter holds her arms up to me for a cuddle. I think myself happy.
Happiness is also knowing when you are not happy...confused?
My son sat quietly and listened. Do you understand what I'm saying?
Happiness for me is not a state of being it is a state of mind.
I think that if we are happy all the time, then we wouldn't learn and grow.
We would not be stretched and challenged...we would not be able to recognise happiness when it arrives.
What are your thoughts on the nature of happiness? I would love to read your opinion or experiences of happiness. Write a comment.
For many months I have been praying...
For many months now I have been praying for two young men, unknown to me, who were to face a firing squad in Indonesia. I felt such sadness for their families and friends. My heartfelt cry was Lord Deliver them!
I went to bed the night before their execution, knowing what was going to happen but still hopeful...still praying for a miracle, not only for Andrew and Myuran, but for the others who would stand with them and face a firing squad. I woke early and turned on the radio and heard the grim news. In the stillness of the early morning, slow, silent tears slipped down my face. Tears that no-one else saw for people I never knew. I felt sick. I felt angry. I felt unforgiving.
Sitting with my cup of tea I thought about the lives of these two men. How, stupid choices when they were young defined the next 10 years of their lives and ultimately their deaths. I thought about how one man sitting somewhere in Indonesia had the power of life and death over Andrew and Myuran. How with a nod of his head he could condemn or save! I wondered at the callousness of a man who could not see beyond "saving face", who dug in his heels and would not see that life can be redeemed.
Sitting...I heard the cries and screams from their families break the morning silence and my heart broke. How did the executioners feel? What kind of people could do this? What sort of justice system allows this killing when their cases were still active in Indonesian courts? So many pointless and useless questions surged through my head.
Yes...what they did was wrong. Yes their crime deserved consequences. But isn't 10 years in an Indonesian prison with the sentence of Death hanging over your head enough of a consequence? I think so.
Their lives over the past 10 years had value. Their lives blessed others and helped to give hope when hope seemed far away. The penalty of death was laid down on an Andrew and a Myuran who no longer existed...they had moved on from those young, thoughtless boys into mature caring adults. The sum of their lives was more that the few foolish years that saw them facing the barrel of the executioners' guns.
The Death Penalty signifies that the sum of one's life is no more than the worst moments of a life. It signifies that there is no hope for a human being beyond their mistakes. It defines a person as having no other possibilities except that for which they were condemned. It offers no Grace. There was no grace for these men.
As I sat on that sad morning I heard that Mary Jane Veloso was saved at the eleventh hour. I thanked God for her life and some semblance of Hope was restored. My anger and sadness remained. My stomach churned as my mind conjured images of bullets and bodies and death.
Life will not be the same. How can it be? There are now mothers and grandmothers grieving for the rest of their lives. Brothers and sisters who now have no brothers. A wife without a husband.
A nation without two of its sons.
Yet...there is this still small voice that tells me there is Hope in this world...that there is Grace and Justice and Mercy...that is it ok for me to be angry and sad...but it is not ok for me to hold onto a vengeful anger in my heart....there is too much of that in our world...
Andrew and Myuran died singing Amazing Grace...the least I can do is live it.
"In the still night air of Nusakambangan island, condemned prisoners sang Amazing Grace just after midnight. They also sang Bless the Lord O My Soul before their song was cut off by the crack of gunfire."
Hi! Welcome to my Soapy Conversations about Soap and AllSorts of other Topics! I live in NSW Australia and I am a mother of five, Grandmother of Five and I sponsor seven children through Compassion Australia. I love making soap, reading, teaching English, and being an Advocate for children and women living in poverty.
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