Friday, January 29, 2010

Two years!

While I was driving home from uni this afternoon -- perhaps the last time I will have driven to this home from that uni -- I realised that my good friend and partner in irreverent church humour, Sze See's birthday was yesterday.

And that makes it exactly two years to the day since I arrived in Sydney to get to work on that Master's.

Oh, the things that have transpired in these two years. They would fill a book. In fact, they've filled a dozen or so.

I've shifted house four (and a half) times.

Survived landladies of every stripe: passive-aggressive, needy-demanding, perky-generous-given-to-watching-Korean-drama-serials-until-dawn.

Worked hard, played harder, laughed, wept, grown, and got closer to understanding the answer to life, the universe and everything. Hint: It isn't 42.

Nearly swallowed a spider, and discovered later that some people have been sick for years after having been bitten by spiders of same species.

Had two concussions, one injury that required stitching, several months of depression, one major dispute with my university, and one nearly fatal run-in with a toy dog. (Nearly fatal for him, not me.)

Walked alongside almost 40 wonderful and courageous clients who had the guts not only to come to therapy in the first place, but to place their trust in someone as green as me.

Pole-danced, walked the beach at dawn, got locked in a cemetery.

Appeared in a short film, part of which involved slow-dancing in the moonlight in 16-degree weather and having to act as though it were a warm spring evening.

Yes, it's been huge. I can't wait to see what fills the next 12 books.

Finished, Part III

Which is to say, finished, full stop.

FINISHED. Done. Completed.

There are no words to express my thanks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The three latest books I've completed

The Bravehearted Gospel, Eric Ludy
What it's about: What do I believe, and where did it come from? Is it all a bunch of misty, unsubstantiated ideas, or as real and tangible as the ground I walk on? I'm more accustomed to reading Eric Ludy's take on relationships than on faith, so this book surprised me a little, but only in a good way.
The bottom line: If there's a feminine side to everything and everyone, as contemporary culture tells us, it follows that there's also a masculine side. Unfortunately, in our eagerness to be PC and inclusive, we've neglected the masculine side of who we are, collectively and as individuals. Ludy asks some sharp questions, and explores the answers, about how we can regain that balance without becoming mustachioed guerilla women and sissyfied metrosexual men.
Read it if: You're sick and tired of hearing the label "Christian" without seeing the Christ behind the label. He lived and died, and lives again, for a gristly as well as a glorious cause. This book reminds us to hang on to both sides of that coin.

Tender Grace, Jackina Stark
What it's about: A widow reclaims her life after spending two years buried in grief. I am a fan of good road-trip stories, and this is a great road-trip story. What's not to love? It's written as a journal, and I love journals; it isn't afraid to face the uglier, no-make-up side of faith, and I'm not afraid to face the uglier, no-make-up side of faith; it's often funny and sad in the same sentence, and I often feel funny and... you see where I'm going here.
The bottom line: Audrey hits the road in search of something that will make life worth living again. She isn't disappointed. Neither am I, each time I take the journey with her.
Read it if: You need a feel-good read, tearful catharsis, or brief descriptions of scattered tourist destinations in the American Southwest. Actually, no, if you read it for that last reason alone you'll feel let down. But don't read it for that last reason alone; trust me, just read it.

A Wedding in December, Anita Shreve
What it's about: A pair of high school sweethearts weds, a considerably long time after high school. Their old gang gathers for the wedding, except for one: he drowned back in those high school days. The book explores life, death and everything that happens in between -- love, guilt, betrayal, hope, forgiveness, fear, illness, fidelity, infidelity and more.
The bottom line: I'm not sure if there is one. The book doesn't conclude with happily ever afters for everyone involved. You get the feeling that loose ends have not been tied up and the story goes on after these pages. That's quite a refreshing difference from novels whose author believes everything must be resolved before your right index finger hits the back cover. However, I find it very hard to feel comfortable in the characters' world where marital infidelity is the norm. Sure, they struggle with it and ask profound questions about whether it's right or wrong, but go on frolicking in it without ever answering those questions. Call me prudish if you want, but it's my blog and I'll state my values if I want to.
Read it if: I don't know how to complete this. I tend to find Shreve's writing dry and in need of tightening. The plot has potential but is largely forgettable. And yet it was engaging enough to finish, so... what shall I say? Read it if you have the time and, like me, you won't have to pay too much for it. (My copy? Only a dollar at the bookshop that gave my mobile phone to a thief. Now there's a story worth telling.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

At last, the day's over

Today hasn't been a great deal of fun.

Cramps. Nausea. Headache. Muscle soreness. Constant hunger. Difficulty eating. No appetite. What a wonderful combination it isn't.

I'll read this tomorrow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Click. Clack. Crunch.

Repeat that a few hundred times and you have what I feel on a daily basis. Each time I open my jaw, whether to eat, yawn, breathe, speak or sing, I get a variation of the three sounds above combined. And if they sound atrocious, they feel worse.

Over the years I'd got used to what my doctor says could either be a congenital weakness in my jaw, or the effect of countless small physical traumas that have built on each other and resulted in what I now have. I think that was the problem, getting used to it.

Patience and tolerance are commonly seen as good values to cultivate. But in some cases, I think, I should have been less patient. Less tolerant. Less permissive of small annoyances causing me discomfort. Because if I had put my foot down and sought medical care for this as a teenager, I don't think I would now be a breath away from ripping through the walls from the discomfort and constant dull pain.

Nonetheless, I am giving thanks as I write for the healing that I know will come. I'm not sure how -- my doctor uttered some not-so-sunny possibilities that included the words "surgery" and "replacement" but also, we're leaving the door wide open for other methods -- but I know it will.

It's easy to come to the end of a rough patch and say "I knew all along that things would be OK." To me, that isn't faith, it's cliche, and if there's one thing that annoys me more than a bad jaw...

So I'm going to sit here, while my jaw is in its present very imperfect state, and declare that "I know that it's going to be fine." That one day soon I'm going to wake up in the morning, yawn and stretch without getting the sound effects of a pachinko machine loading up. I can believe that I will completely overcome my present trying circumstances and not feel like an utter loony, because I know whom it is I'm relying upon. Not a bunch of flaky New Age affirmations or a vague, misty idea out of a book, but my faithful God who's seen me through many storms in the past.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

What would you die for?

Please. Humour me and give it some thought.

What would you die for?

It's easy to toss off an answer just because it's the "right", socially responsible one. You know, things such as "someone I love" or "justice" or "world peace".

If I were you, I'd go for that last one very sparingly unless in the running for a beauty pageant while working as an undercover agent.

Even easier to do the classic deflect-with-humour manoeuvre and say "shoes". Although, actually, I think that may not be a joke to some.

Why the need to answer this question, you might wonder.

Because, as MercyMe puts it...

"My life has never been this clear
Now I know the reason why I'm here
You never know why you're alive
Until you know what you would die for." ('I Would Die For You')

It took years of living for the wrong answer, becoming completely depleted as a result.

But finally, I can say I know. And so I know. And I pray that every moment of my life would attest to that knowing.

What would you die for?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Literary liberty

For the next few weeks, at least, I finally have free time.

Oh, the joyous prospect of being able to read something without flagging every other page with a bright-coloured sticky note.

Even more joyous, the freedom to forget what I've just read if I want to. On the positive side, the freedom to remember whatever I want without worrying that it will steal space that was needed for remembering assessed topics.

And the freedom to read as quickly as I want, without the risk of intellectual indigestion (usual symptoms: headache and a sudden loss of character recognition) from trying to summarise as I read.

Or the freedom to read as slowly as I want, savouring every word without regard for impending deadlines.

The freedom to read anything I want, simply because I want to and not because if I don't, I won't have any theory to back up my practice and my clients will end up even worse off for having come to see me.

Perhaps the greatest of this little cluster of freedoms: the freedom to not have a strong opinion on everything I read, expressed in 1,500 words, double spaced in 12pt Times Roman.

It's good to be free.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained...

... and unrestrained people are no fun. All haphazard and impetuous and prone to eating more corn chips than is good for them. (I have no idea who I'm talking about. Honest.) So bring on the vision.

I'm still not the type to make new year's resolutions. But new year's plans are a different thing entirely. In case you needed help, here. I thought the questions were detailed enough to be useful, concise enough not to require a 300-page notebook for the answers. Have fun!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The last leg

I go back to work at my placement tomorrow.

Just 22 hours remaining, and I can hand in my log book and really, truly, finally be eligible for graduation.

Twenty-two hours.

Compared with the 178 I have already completed, it seems 22 should be a snap. But that isn't how I feel at all. I don't seem very enthusiastic about going back tomorrow. I don't feel wise, or compassionate, or empathic, or any of the other things appropriate to a counsellor.

To be honest, I'm having a bit of a Ferdinand moment. I'd rather be sniffing flowers alone in a meadow than appear where I'm "meant" to be, in the arena fighting. I think I have battle fatigue from my rather heavy client and content load.

But I know I'm going to get through this rocky, uphill last leg, because I know that whatever it is I'm meant to be doing in 2010, resitting my Supervision module isn't part of it. Just as long as I continue to see each of these hours as valuable and purposeful, rather than a tiresome chore, I'll make it.

See you on the other side.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Last week of the year

There were live animals at church on Christmas Eve.

Also present: Camels and donkey, but nobody wants a flash-induced camel stampede through a church, so no pictures of Humpy.

But in the spirit of camelhood, I have to add some humphs to the party.

Like humph, I can't upload any more pictures. Something to do with my very bad Internet service (ask me which ISP and I will gladly tell you so that you don't make the same mistake I did. I only won't post it here because they seem to have taken all that money they would have spent on upgrading their infrastructure to improve service, and poured it all into forming a very strong legal department. It isn't so much that I'm afraid of retribution -- me, afraid? -- as that I prefer spending my days off reading or at the beach to preparing for a lawsuit).

Maybe someday you'll get to see pictures of the other things, such as:

Braised lamb shanks in curry at dinner with my cousins the next night. Wonderfully delicious, and as they melted in my mouth I tried not to think about the woolly little waggly-tailed darlings at the Christmas Eve service.

Plum crumble, my solution to having a bucketful of fruit that's too sour to eat straight up.

A batch of strange little yoghurt-almond-meal-olive-oil-blueberry cupcake/muffin hybrids.

And an even stranger tiny pancake, my way around having one last tiny dollop of cake batter and nothing in which to bake it.

Dinner with my cousins from Perth, in honour of Christmas, New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year, his birthday, her birthday, my birthday (for two years), their marriage, their first anniversary, Moon Festival, Winter Solstice, Labour Day, I-don't-have-to-read-any-more-thick-books-with-big-words day and any other celebration we missed celebrating in the two years since we last saw each other.

There was a lot to celebrate. We celebrate by eating. Thus, the only logical resolution was: we ate a lot.

And there was ice-cream after.

On New Year's Eve, there was another batch of cupcakes, hazelnut this time.

And, since it was a special occasion, they got frosted.

I still maintain that only people who don't know what goes into frosting eat frosting.

There was a ten-hour picnic at Cremorne to get the best view for fireworks. My cupcakes are going places now! This time, they had a prime spot with the Harbour Bridge in the background.

The cupcakes stayed longer than I did, though. I wasn't built for ten-hour picnics, especially during the Great Headache Week of 2009.

Fortunately, I am blessed to live but a five-minute relaxed stroll from an opportune spot for viewing New Year's Eve fireworks.

Not the best place for a picnic involving garlic prawn pasta and more lamb shanks (all of which I missed because I left before dinnertime), but if fireworks is what you want, you won't be disappointed.

And, because this is not the sort of place people camp overnight to secure, it was un-crowded enough for me to score a spot on the brick wall for my camera. Who needs a tripod? I don't know if the brick wall folds up easily into a compact foot-long package for car boot storage, though.

So I got some decent shots of the fireworks going off.

Also of what my camera would have seen as it fell backwards while trying to capture the fireworks.

And five minutes after it was over, I was nice and snug in my cosy little home overlooking the street packed to bursting with double-parked cars, while hapless drivers began to inch their way back home for hours to come.

Happy new year.
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