Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Window to the Past

I love photographs!

A photograph has been described as a 'window to the past'.  What a fitting description.

I love that anytime I wish to relive good memories, I can simply gaze at a photograph.  Instantly I feel like I've been transported back to that moment, that all the time between then and now never existed.

But sometimes a photograph of a happy memory can trigger sadness.  I am looking back in time.  What I know now affects how I see that captured moment. 

Perhaps this is the same for you.  A photo of happiness, laughter and triumph can cause emotional pain.  A photo of two friends laughing together....years later they had a fight and are no longer friends.  A photo of a couple on their wedding day, deeply in love....years later they divorced.  A photo of your grandmother....she has since passed away.  A photo of a sportsperson on the dais receiving their award...years later they were discovered to be a drug cheat.

The present can sour the past.

Each photograph has a story behind it, for better or for worse.

Take this photo, for instance.  It is my current profile picture on Facebook.  A lot of people 'liked' it.  I was surprised.  Not because I don't like the photo...but if only they knew...

This photo was taken on the 10th March 2007.  Duncan and I had been together for two months, and it was the weekend he met my family for the first time.  It was actually a really nice day together.  What this photo doesn't show was the two months of difficulty we'd been going through prior to this day with experiencing opposition to our relationship (read the story here).  I nearly broke up with Duncan the day after this picture was taken because I was so stressed and confused.  This photo shows me enjoying a milkshake.  I'm surprised two months of stress doesn't show on my face.

A photograph tells a story, but not always the full story.  Although the past may hold fond memories, as time goes by those memories can be tarnished.

I will always love photographs.  I have many I treasure.  I will continue to take photos and I will encourage others to do the same.  Even if all they do is sit in an album, it is still lovely to have them there.

Many of my photos hold such good memories.  I hope and pray that will continue to be so.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Diary of an Incubator: Food Laws and Other Divisive Things

You can't have a series like this without a post like this...

I think I've been in 'fight or flight mode' right from when Duncan and I started wedding planning.  That was five years ago.  Back then, I was very naive when I thought people would just come alongside us and support us in the decisions we made.  This post proved how wrong I was.

Ever since then my hackles have been up.  I've been bracing myself for the day we might start a family and then the criticism would increase no end.  I know it's not good to constantly be ready to 'fight back', but that's how I've felt.

I've been quite pleasantly surprised during this pregnancy.  Most people have been very good.  In fact, I'd say 90% have been supportive.  The big opinionated people mostly bothered me BEFORE I was pregnant ("When you have kids you need to do this...").  But ever since we announced a little person was on the way, most of them have shut up.  Most of them.

I think the ranting, the putdowns, and the criticism from mum to mum happens because many of them are terrified they are doing the wrong thing.  If they can convince someone else they need to do it THEIR way, then they feel better about the decisions they've made.  Although a crude book in places, Up the Duff by Kaz Cooke sums it up so well:
When people give you that firm advice - 'You must have a nanny', 'You must always look after the baby yourself', 'Men can't look after babies', 'You must use disposable nappies' - remember it's about them, not you.  They're usually just telling you what THEY did and insisting you do it the same way because it will make them feel better. (page 178)

The first 'divisive' thing I noticed when I became pregnant was the allowed/not allowed list of foods for pregnant women.  There is a lot of unhelpful advice out there, such as You need to eat a balanced diet with lots of vegies otherwise it will be bad for your baby.  Ummm, but what if you're really sick or completely turned off vegies like I was?  I started avoiding the internet because of the guilt trips.  The best advice I received: Sure, try to eat a healthy and balanced diet, but if you're sick, just eat what you can stomach.  Ahhh I love rational people.  There are a lot of crackpots out there who don't seem to know the meaning of the phrase 'extenuating circumstances'.

Friends can also be unhelpful when it comes to food.  Some seem to have developed a kind of 'eating Bible' where they've ruled out foods that even doctors say are ok.  Others said to me, "Oh I just eat everything.  Don't worry about the no processed meats or soft cheese rules.  Here, have some salami and some brie."  Now, what people decide is up to them.  I don't want to push my eating habits onto anyone, and I really, really dislike it when other people do it to me.  I have decided in good conscience with the information available to me what I should and shouldn't eat.  I don't want people pressuring me to eat things which my doctor said it is best not to.  I was so bewildered by all the conflicting opinions that I just asked my obstetrician.  I chose to listen to him.  That's not to say doctors can never be wrong, but I trust him more than I do some crank on the internet.

Next to some mums I feel like a fusspot, but around others I feel like a dirty urchin because I'm not using hand steriliser fifty times per day and have my cat inside.  I had one person tell me I should be finishing work earlier than I plan to (my last day is the 5th December), while someone else told me she played hockey while she was pregnant.

Other 'advice' we've received is that we MUST do Babywise because any other parenting method (i.e. attachment parenting) is bad, bad, BAD.  Again...unhelpful.  We got given a copy of the Babywise book and the first few pages made me want to throw it against the wall in disgust.  Not because of the method it advocates, but because of the way it's written.  It totally criticises and puts down parents who choose any other method.  I might not agree with the parenting methods of some of my friends, but I dislike a book that is so harsh.  I don't think there's any real right or wrong there.

I think that is the problem I have with some of the advice and opinions that have come our way.  It's not that I necessarily disagree with what they're saying...it's their tone that irritates me more than anything.  People who are in my face saying a disputable matter is gospel truth immediately get my back up.

I've had people tell me nothing but negative stuff (which makes me wonder why they had more than one kid),  and people who are slaves to superstition (one person told me that because I was craving pies and chips that my child will grow up to be unhealthy and won't eat their vegetables).  But most people have just been really nice.  I'm trying to focus on them and not the negative nannies.  One lovely young mum at my church encouraged me to enjoy sleeping in while I can, and not to let anyone else make me feel guilty about it.

I'm also trying to make an effort not to instantly assume that because someone is asking my opinion or plans, then it's because they're going to jump down my throat with criticism.  Duncan and I were at a secondhand baby market in Perth and were looking at secondhand prams.  I heard a voice behind me say, "Why are you looking at that one?"  I assumed it was someone about to give me a lecture on how terrible the pram was when I turned around and found myself face-to-face with a pregnant woman about a similar age to myself.  When I saw her face I realised she was as bewildered by the array of choice as we were.  She was clearly not criticising, but wanting some help and reassurance.  We gently explained to her that there is no right or wrong choice, but different people prefer different products because of their lifestyle etc (we were looking at that particular pram because we are on a farm and it was supposed to go well on gravel).  We instantly saw relief flood over her face.

The closer we get to our baby's birth, the more I'm convinced at how many disputable matters there are and that there are no real rights or wrongs.  One thing that works well for one family will not work well for another.  Some of the decisions Duncan and I have made are because our circumstances are very different to some of our friends (we live on a farm, I have a bad back so I can't deal with a massive pram, we don't have a large income like some of our friends so we're getting some secondhand stuff, can't use only cloth nappies because sometimes the electricity (and water) randomly goes out and we can't do any washing etc).

The ladies at GirlTalk wrote a fantastic post quite a few years back called Just A Suggestion.  Here's a quote from it:
And we tend to travel in packs. Wherever we are or wherever we go in life, we find these kindred spirits—women who feel as strongly about our cause as we do—and we become fast friends. Pity the poor woman whose opinion differs from ours, or worse yet, hasn’t formed an opinion. She doesn’t stand a chance against “Super-Lawyer-Women.”

For in the kingdom of God there shouldn’t be the Whole Foods clique and the McDonalds crowd or the La Leche playgroup and the Enfamil playgroup, or the homeschooling moms versus the public-school moms.

There should just be the church. United by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Read the rest here.

Here's to growing a really thick hide for the rest of my life. ;)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Invitation Etiquette

I had to calm down before I could attempt to type this post...

Last night, I was furious!  Those who have been reading this blog for a fair while will know how I feel about invitations and people who don't RSVP!  Here's a quick recap:

Get On Your Soapbox #2
Diary of a Wedding Planning Machine: RSVPs

Duncan and I have been organising a joint baby shower for Saturday in Perth.  Since we're BOTH becoming parents, and I'm not really a fan of women-only baby showers where the mum-to-be is 'showered' with negative stories from other mums, we decided we wanted to celebrate our impending parenthood together.  Harvest is only weeks away so we have to have it now, and it had to be relatively easy to organise.  We decided on a casual afternoon tea in a park with men, women and kids.

But since I'm feeling kind of tired and overwhelmed (and work has been crazy with other events to organise), I wanted to keep the numbers down.  Duncan has a large extended family, but as he went through the list, he was pretty ruthless with deciding who he wanted to invite from his side.  This wasn't because we don't like people, but some we hardly keep in contact with.

So, as you can imagine, we were both pretty disappointed last night that a heap of people haven't responded at all!  I've been baking cakes and muffins for the past few weeks and freezing them in advance.  I went to Albany and did a big shop for cool drink, napkins, a few decorations, chips etc.  While it is still going to be a fairly low-fuss affair, that doesn't mean no effort has been required on our (particularly my) behalf.

I am in no way having a go at people who have let us know they can't make it.  That's fine.  They bothered to let us know.  They have other commitments which they planned before and are honouring.  The people I do want to let rip at are the 'mute' types - the ones who you never hear from and you never know if they are going to turn up randomly on the day.  And laziness, disorganisation, and waiting for a better offer to come along is just rude.  (This seems to fit with Karen's post on how people only seem to do things when they 'feel like it'.)

If someone goes to the trouble to invite you to a personal event like a birthday party or wedding, it is the height of bad manners to not reply to the invitation when you've been asked to do so.  The following quote from this site sums it up perfectly:
For hosts who are planning a dinner party, a wedding or a reception, this is important from a practical point of view, because they need to know how many people to count on and how much food and drink to buy. More important, though, is the simple courtesy of responding to someone who was nice enough to invite you, even if it is to say that you regret that you will not be able to attend.

I've had a gutful of it!  Not only do I have to put up with this sort of crap with personal events (I'm seriously wondering whether to bother having a 30th birthday party next year), I have to put up with it at work as well!  We organise events a couple of months in advance and get people who've known the date etc for two months ringing up the day before wanting to know if they can just rock up on the day with 10 friends.  Ummm....NO!

The worst thing is that if you confront people about it, they think YOU'RE the bad guy.  It doesn't matter how gentle or tactful you are - people just give you this crazed look like, Why would I bother to RSVP?  Then they get in a huff and don't talk to you.

Different methods of contacting people don't seem to be working either.  This time I tried posting invitations as I thought, well everyone checks their mail, don't they?  Facebook doesn't work because some people don't check it.  Email doesn't work because some people don't check it.  Telling them personally doesn't work because they forget.  Text messages just get ignored.  Argh!

I'm thinking of blacklisting people as there seem to be a few repeat offenders when it comes to birthday parties etc.  I never hear from them, they never turn up, or they whinge that some person they don't like is going to be there so they're not coming.  I'm over it!

Here's my invitation etiquette:

1. Thou shalt reply to the invitation on time
Seriously, what is some people's problem?  They don't have to work out babysitting, work rosters etc.  They're not ill or due to have a baby.  They just can't be bothered...or want to keep their options open.  The question is simple.  Are you free?  Yes or no?  Then reply and don't delay.  Duncan and I received two invitations in the post last week (a rarity out here).  We looked at them and unfortunately we can't attend either of them.  We rang and texted to regretfully let the hosts know.  Done.  It's not hard.

2. Thou shalt realise it's not all about you
What some people organise for their special occasions does not resonate with me.  I would not have chosen that particular theme/day/time/venue.  Sometimes it's just Duncan and I going and we don't know anyone else except the host.  Sometimes there is someone I don't really get on with there and it is awkward.  Sadly it's no longer about making the effort to celebrate with a friend on their special day...it's about whether the guest thinks they will enjoy the show or not or whether they can be bothered driving there.  If I go to someone else's event, it's not about me.  It's about my friend.  I'm there to help them celebrate.  I'm the one who has to suck it up and deal with it.

3. Thou shalt bring ONLY who is mentioned on the invitation
When I write names on invitations, I make it pretty clear who is invited and who isn't.  For our baby shower, we are inviting kids as well, so I made sure all partners' and kids' names were included on the invitation.  But that doesn't stop people wanting to bring randoms we don't know.  If someone has a new partner I don't know about, that's fine.  Invite them along.  If someone really doesn't know anyone, yes, they can bring a friend.  That's fine.  But when I get people, who DO know others at the party, wanting to bring their housemate who is going to be bored at home alone, or their friend from the gym, it's just not on.  Especially as that person will get bored and my friend will end up leaving early because of them.

4. Thou shalt not rub people's noses in it
One thing I really can't stand is when people hand out invitations publicly (like at church), and people who aren't invited feel like crap.  Even if you didn't really expect to be invited, it's still rude.  Or when people create public events on Facebook for their birthday and everyone talks about it on walls etc, knowing that other people can read it.  That's why I mail, email or create private events on Facebook.

If someone has invited you,
You know what you should do,
A reply is what you should send,
Or else you may lose a friend.

The invitation is just for you,
Not your neighbour and their dog, too.
If the party does not resonate,
Suck it up and celebrate.

What do you think is good invitation etiquette?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Suffering Well

The first time I saw this title I thought, How can anyone 'suffer well'?  Does that mean you need to be stoic while you suffer?

The short answer is no.  That's not what the book is advocating.

This is a book on suffering that I feel is more aimed at Christians than non-Christians.  It does look at the reasons why we suffer in this world, and the various explanations for suffering that exist in the world.  But I feel it's more to encourage Christians to adopt a right view of suffering, rather than look at it as an apologetic question.

When you think of suffering what comes to mind?  My first thought is the impact of living in a fallen world - illness, poverty, inconvenient life circumstances like having no internet or your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere.  This is suffering, but the author of this great little book, Paul Grimmond, encourages Christians to reflect on a different sort of suffering - that is, suffering for following Christ.  That is not to say that the New Testament is not interested in the fact that we still suffer from living in a fallen world, but it is not its main focus.  The NT mostly focuses on preparing Christians for the reality of suffering and be persecuted for following the Lord Jesus (there is no Job or Ecclesiastes in the NT).  We also suffer because the Lord is disciplining us, shaping us to be more like His Son.

My favourite chapter was Chapter 8: The Chapter That Doesn't Quite Belong - an odd title for a chapter that I thought fitted so perfectly.  It explores the fact that Christians also suffer for Christ in a way that ISN'T persecution - it's the sorrow of seeing the world through God's eyes (page 121).  I found this chapter particularly comforting and relevant as I have often grieved over friends and family who are living apart from Christ.  I have felt despair over seeing people make poor choices because, as Christians, we know that true life is found in Christ.  It saddens me when I see Christian brothers and sisters living sinfully.  It's this longing for others' salvation and grief over sin that I was glad to see acknowledged as a form of suffering.

One thing that the book taught me was that I am too surprised by suffering.  I still get outraged at suffering from sickness in this day and age.  I still get indignant when people are rude.  In this period between the fall and the renewed creation, I shouldn't be surprised by suffering.  Jesus made it clear that His followers would suffer as He did.  The Bible never sugarcoats the Christian life.  Suffering is horrible, but it is to be expected.

So, back to my question about what it means to 'suffer well'.  It means that we see suffering how God sees suffering.  How does what we believe about suffering match up with what the Bible says?  We need to interpret suffering in light of the Bible, and not the other way round.  This is confronting and painful, but ultimately God's truth is much more comforting than anything else.  This will equip us to 'suffer well' and be faithful to God by praising Him, doing good and waiting patiently while we suffer.

In order to 'suffer well' we need to have a right view of who God is.  The non-Christian view of suffering is that because suffering exists either God doesn't exist (or why doesn't He stop it?), that He is incapable of stopping it, or that He is not good.  But as we read the Bible, we see that God is not a bully who pulls the wings off flies as Grimmond puts it, but a God who has experienced suffering Himself in the person of Jesus.  He suffered at the hands of His creation who have hated and rebelled against Him.  He can identify with our pain.  He is holy and righteous and loves us dearly.

A great book...and short (only 165 pages).  But don't gobble it up in one sitting.  Read it slowly and reflect.

This book is available from the Matthias Media Australian store here.

There is also a US store here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Get On Your Soapbox #22

This past winter seemed to have been especially shocking for sicknesses.  Not only was I sick with one thing after another, one only had to check Facebook to realise that no-one seemed to be untouched by these lurgies.

What really annoys me when I'm sick (or anytime really) is when people try to analyse why I'm sick.

"You need more fresh air/vitamins/vegetables/organic food/(fill in the blank)."

I hate it when people say, "Oh you're sick AGAIN?" or "You're ALWAYS sick," and then eye me critically as if it MUST be all my fault.

The reason this annoys me so much is that sickness is not always about cause and effect.  Sometimes we don't know why we're sick....we just are.  A person can eat their own organically-grown food their whole life and still die of cancer.  Another person can smoke a pack a day for decades and live long enough to get their telegram from the Queen.

No-one seems to be untouched.  Everyone seem to have been sick this winter - the old, the young, the gym junkies, the overweight, the smokers, the non-smokers...you get my drift.

We should make an effort to take care of our bodies, but sometimes the only explanation for why we are sick is that we live in a fallen world.  We will not cure all illnesses this side of heaven.

When I'm sick, all I want is a sympathetic ear and some practical help - not to be analysed like I must have done something wrong.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Won!

The Christian Blog Carnival competition, that is.

Thanks to everyone who voted for My Prayer For My Church.

I really appreciate it.

If you're a Christian blogger, don't forget the next Christian Blog Carnival is on the 7th November.  I know the blogs I regularly read have heaps of good stuff that could be entered.  The submission form is here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Puffing Billy

We spent our last full day in Melbourne enjoying a ride on the Puffing Billy.


Overall, it was a delightful final child-free holiday.  I doubt I'd be wanting to cram as much into future holidays with offspring in tow (flying interstate with a baby sounds far too daunting right now).  And I think we'd need to exchange the budget inner city hotel for something with a self-contained kitchen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Melbourne Shopping and Eating

It wouldn't be a trip to Melbourne without some shopping. :)

One of the my major missions was to find a dress to wear to a work function Duncan had in September.  Normally I would have just worn something I already had, but, being pregnant, it proved to be a tad more difficult.  I wanted something that wasn't maternity, that I could wear again, that would stretch over the belly (especially since I bought it a month before the event), and didn't make me look like a frump.

After an unsuccessful trip to Bridge Road in Richmond, we hit the DFO at South Wharf.

Ah, success!

I love the pattern!  Something a bit different...

I also bought these shoes (NOT to go with the dress, of course):

This coat is from the Queen Victoria Markets:

I found these earrings at a retro shop called Retrostar Vintage Clothing.  Duncan was bored witless while I was there, so he waited for me outside hehe.  The shop is very expensive and I was excited to hear they are opening a thrift shop in Fitzroy soon.  Too bad we can't afford to come back to Melbourne any time soon.

We HAD to visit our friend, Max Brenner:

Dinner at Southbank:
Duncan posed reluctantly outside this bottle shop:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Please Vote For My Post

I've entered my post My Prayer For My Church in the October edition of the Christian Blog Carnival and now they are having a competition where readers get to vote for their favourite post for the month.

Could you please take a minute of your time to vote for me by going here and typing 'I vote for My Prayer For My Church' (or something similar) in the reply box?

I'd be honoured.

They're going to announce the winner on Monday so please, please vote over the weekend. :)

If you're a Christian blogger, consider entering one of your posts into the next carnival on the 7th November.  It's a great way to get more exposure for your blog.  Go here for more details.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


One thing Duncan and I both really wanted to do while in Melbourne was to go on a tour of the MCG.  Although I'm a proud West Australian, I have to admit that the G IS the home of Aussie Rules Football.



I really enjoyed the tour, but the scary thing was how the tour guide referred to the AFL as a 'religion'.  He said that more people come to the MCG to 'worship' than to church.  That's nothing new, I guess, but it's still sad.
After the tour, we visited the National Sports Museum which is at the MCG.  It was fantastic!  A brilliant display of just about every sport Australia has been involved with, plus a great interactive area for kids and adults alike.  I especially enjoyed looking at the Olympic memorabilia.  A must-see if you're in Melbourne. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I've wanted to visit Williamstown since I found out many of the location scenes for my favourite TV show of all time were shot there.  So Duncan and I headed out there on the ferry for a day of exploring.

How murky does the river look!

Duncan had heard that John Wood lives in Williamstown and can often be seen there having a coffee.  I said, "I wonder if we'll bump into him there."  Duncan just gave me a Yeah, right look.
Well, we got off the ferry and guess who we saw shooting a new TV series with Craig McLachlan.

I was SO EXCITED to find this building which appeared in my favourite TV show! 
Can anyone guess which TV show it's from?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Birthdays and Catchups

The night before we headed off on our holiday to Dalwallinu and Melbourne, we went to our friend Clare's 21st birthday party.  We know Clare from church, and it was great to catch up with others from church there as well as a few ex-Cranbrook people.

Clare's shearing shed was totally transformed for the party, and looked fantastic.  Since I'm planning to have my 30th on the farm next year, it was good to know that sheds can look great if required.
After four lovely days in Dally, catching up with as many people as humanly possible, we headed to Perth and flew out to Melbourne.  The first thing we did upon arriving in the Victorian capital (apart from checking into our hotel) was to go to another birthday party - this time for our friend Jenn at a pub in East Brunswick.
Us with the birthday girl.

With Jenn and her friend Meredith.  Jenn's friends were so lovely.  They went out of their way
to talk to us.

I learnt two things during that evening.  One was that apparently I sound like a South African (last time we were in Melbourne, we were asked if we were English).  I never notice any difference in accent between Australian states.  The other is that Victoria is behind WA when it comes to smoking laws.  It's still legal to smoke outside pubs and cafes in Melbourne.  There were ashtrays on the tables.  Yuck!
The next morning we caught up with our friends Jo and Dan and their three boys at their church which is the oldest church building in Victoria.
Meeting baby Jonah for the first time.  He doesn't look so thrilled to be meeting me haha.

We went out for dinner in Lygon St with Jenn and her housemate and just had to take
a photo of this very cool Diet Coke bottle.


Monday, October 08, 2012

Diary of an Incubator: 25 Weeks

I haven't reached the fat and waddly stage yet, although I can't do everything I used to do either.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Meanwhile....at Cluckingham Palace

Last year I wrote a post called Henpecked about Russell Crowe's sad lack of tail and bum feathers.

Well, I'm pleased to report that there has been a significant improvement in the tail department.  A few months ago, Russell and his eight wives/concubines went through a major moult and looked very scrawny and bald.  During this time, Russell suddenly got his cranky pants on.  Whereas before he just stood there and allowed his girls to peck his bum feathers out, now he was asserting his authority.

The end result of the new assertive Russell Crowe:

Unfortunately his magnificent new tail is hiding a continued lack of bum feathers

That's Mr Crowe to you!  Yes, yes I know I'm a fine-lookin' bird.

When Duncan's parents were visiting a couple of weeks ago, his dad helped us treat the chooks for mites.

After initially struggling, the hens went quietly and had their legs dipped without much fuss:

Russell, on the other hand, was not so keen.  He might be a big boy, but he is quite difficult to catch.  He squawked and flapped and struggled:

Only in the country!  Duncan thought it was suspicious that the hens didn't seem to be laying.  Then he caught this raven stealing eggs:

It now hangs there as a deterrent to its friends who may also be considering some thieving.  It's gross, but it works!  We are now inundated with eggs again.