Saturday, 31 May 2014

Cross cultural mourning

This will be a long post, but I need to recap the last few days, just to process it myself, so writing it down helps.

I flew back to KL on Thursday night. Thankfully the flight wasn't full at all and I could move away from the two little wriggly boys I had been seated next to, and could sleep at least a little bit. I caught a taxi to the funeral parlour, where the first of three services was being held for my grandmother, Lee Ah Yin, who we called Mama. I got there after the service was done and people were sitting around, eating (there's always food).

The funeral parlour is an old, pretty run down and frankly quite depressing complex. There were Buddhists having a vigil in the front parlour, and my family's wake in the back parlour. The body was laid out in the coffin, surrounded by dozens of flower arrangements sent by people all over the world, business colleagues and friends and family. Mama looked the most glamorous I'd ever seen, in her brocade blouse, and all made up. It was so strange to see her so still.

The next day I went into the city with dad while he went to work for a few hours, and wandered around the fabric shops in Little India (and bought some fabric of course). In the evening I met up with my cousins and a couple of people from my aunt's church to practise the songs for that night's service (Because he lives, In the sweet by and by, Amazing grace and How great thou art - it was an old songbook and those were the only ones we all knew (or could fake)). Just quietly, my cousins and I made a pretty good band, with Chi Ming on cajon, Ken on guitar, Jon and I singing. I was glad I could serve the family and God in this way.

Dad led the service. My cousin Vanessa and I read the Bible (John 14:1-7 and Romans 8:38-39). The pastor gave a rambly kind of sermon, but the thing I liked was how he talked about how our hearts are troubled when we are uncertain about things, but we do not need to be troubled about what comes after this life - we have certainty about where we're going if we know Jesus. 

After the message my aunts Christina and Honey got up and shared a few things, and Honey talked about how Mama became a Christian. She had been baptised in 2011 after her dementia had already started taking hold, so I had always wondered how much she knew about what she was saying. But Honey said that she had actually become a Christian in 2005 on a church retreat that Honey had sent her on to Cameron Highlands, and this was before her mind had gone. It brought a reassurance about her last years, that even though she couldn't remember who her family was, her faith was simple and childlike and real. Her character had certainly changed in the last several years; she was no longer the fierce, stern woman she had always been, but seemed much softer.

After the service there was plenty of food, but I didn't feel much like eating. I went and patted the cat that hung around the area, waiting for scraps. There was a lot of sitting around while people ate and talked. Felt kind of weird to be sitting in a room with a coffin in it, eating and drinking. I ate a lot of kueh lapis...kind of the only comfort food I felt like (it doesn't taste as pink as it looks).

We were back again first thing in the morning for the small family service. We sang some more (What a friend we have in Jesus and Because he lives (again)). We read the same passages as the night before and the pastor said similar things.

Then the coffin was put in the hearse (really just a van), and everyone walked slowly behind it, to the crematorium next door. Ken played guitar and Chi Ming and I sang In the sweet by and by and How great is our God as we walked. It was very hot.

Then yet another message from the pastor, and we all took a flower and laid it on the coffin. Unlike Australia, where there is usually a curtain or at least some doors that close on the coffin, at this place you just stand around and watch the coffin go into the actual furnace.

We went out for yum cha at this surreally empty mall (it was still quite early in the day). We had so much food, and it was delicious. My cousins and I sat together; even though we're all in our late 20s and 30s, we will always be at the kids' table, being clowns.

So then it was time to go and collect the ashes. In four hours. So fast. I assumed that we would just go pick up an urn. But no, that's not the Chinese way. This next bit might be a bit morbid sounding, but it is how they do it here. And I actually found it quite fascinating, when I stepped back and observed it. It completely demystifies the whole process of death and dying.

Back at the crematorium, there was a table with two metal boxes on it. In one box there were the remains of the coffin. In the other box were Mama's bones. Beside the boxes was a piece of newspaper with pieces of bone the attendants had separated; these were fragments of skull, set aside because they were the most special pieces.

Each family member had to select some bones with chopsticks and put them in the urn, then pieces of skull. The attendant ground down the contents of the urn with a stick (that was pretty much the sort of thing they muddle mojitos with), then he went and ground the remaining bones into ash in a machine, and the family poured the ash into the urn together. Of course everyone photographed the entire process.

I'll spare you the photos of the bones themselves, but this is my dad (in black) and his siblings in the last stage.

Afterwards I got in the car and said to dad, "well that was weird." And he said, "what was?"

The whole trip has been an eye opener in terms of cross cultural experience, made weirder by the fact that this is half my culture and yet I am so unfamiliar with it.

It has been a strange time of catching up with family, of remembering my grandmother, of trying to bond with my young half siblings, of eating. Dad and Janice have kindly put me up, but my dad and all the kids are unwell and I'm starting to feel a bit headachy myself...I'm hoping it's just tiredness and I'm not getting their colds!

Me and Ethan

Celine, me and Ethan...somehow I didn't manage to get a pic with Matthew!

Tomorrow morning I get back on a plane and go back to Australia and straight back to work on Monday. I'm exhausted. I'm not really emotional, just tired and dazed and a bit spun out from everything that I've been a part of these last few days. I wonder if it will hit me later. Hopefully the plane is not full again and I will be able to sleep the day away.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


Mama died tonight.

I'm glad that her children all made it to KL in time to say goodbye (uncle from UK, aunt from Australia). I'm sitting here alone with the cat, feeling sad.

BLG: Wednesday

114. the brilliant green of freshly made pesto (made with basil from our garden)

115. wearing the TalulaMei pendant that Nerea made me, reading her note and thinking "yes! My big hearted adventure! That's still waiting for me!"

116. talking to mum in the UK for five minutes, even though I didn't have much to say

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

BLG: Tuesday

110: flowers on my desk at work when I arrived

111: hugs from girls at growth group

112: God's forgiveness

113. people who care

Monday, 26 May 2014


Nick, my dad, mama and me in July 2011

I wasn't feeling so crash hot today and slept really badly last night so decided I needed a sick day from work. I slept most of the morning away and woke to a flurry of whatsapp messages on my phone from various members of my family and photos of my grandmother in a hospital bed. It seems that she had a heart attack and is bleeding in four places in the brain. She is in a coma and unlikely to recover, according to the doctors (and what I can piece together from all the family's messages), though my aunt believes she can still hear them talking to her.

I've been a bit dazed all afternoon, with updates popping up on my phone every so often. It's hard to know how to feel. I feel terribly sad for mama and sorry for the family all waiting in the hospital (my dad, aunt, uncle, cousins, with more family travelling in from Australia and the UK).

She is my last living grandparent. She has been a complicated and sometimes difficult person to get on with for as long as I've known her, but the family has always been loyal to her. She has had dementia for the last few years and the last time I saw her (last year) she had no idea who I was. She has been in full time care for the last little while after a fall at home when she broke her hip (I only found out about that last week).

It feels weird that I was so close by last week when I was in Singapore, yet didn't go to KL to see her. Yet the last time I saw her was so sad. Gin said not to fret about not having visited because she wouldn't have recognised me and it would have just tainted my memory of her, which is right. But it still feels odd.

Sunday, 25 May 2014


After talking to Lauren (hi Lauren!) at dinner tonight, I realised there are a lot of you reading out there but if it wasn't for stats I wouldn't know, because people don't always comment. I mean, I guess you don't want every single reader to comment because that would just be a whole bunch of extra noise. And from my own reading experience, mostly you can't be bothered commenting, and sometimes you comment on Facebook or twitter and sometimes you might read a thing and go, "heh" or "aw" but that's not enough of a reason to write a comment, and if only there was a way you could just click something as an expression of solidarity or recognition.

I bring you the Blogger reactions feature. Now you can just tick a box!

When it came to working out what to label the reactions, it was a bit harder. What would be a catch all for every kind of post I might conceivably write? Jelssie did it best with the 'that's so true!' checkbox at the bottom of their posts, but I couldn't redo that. I thought about 'like', 'not like' and 'ambivalent', but then thought I would probably overthink the reactions and wonder whether the person who ticked 'not like' was not liking the post, not liking the writing style, not liking's just so undefined.

So I went with a variation on 'like'. If you've got more to say you can leave a comment, okay? Deal.

Can you tell I'm still a bit jet lagged?

PS yes I've just realised that this feature is only as meaningful to me as stats are because it won't tell me who actually ticked the box, and it doesn't show up on the mobile template, but I'm leaving it there now because I've written a whole post on it and, you know, stuff.

PPS. okay I've gotten rid of it. Sigh.

BLG: post holiday

104. safe travel

105. meeting kind people

106. experiencing beautiful spaces that I wouldn't have been able to afford through the generosity of both my parents

107. seeing the joyous creativity and love of God in the underwater world I glimpsed at the aquarium

108. being able to have a holiday, time away from routine

109. the adoration of my little feline friend, who is very grateful to be home with her human

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Travel diary Friday: aquarium day

On Friday I farewelled dad at the unholidaylike hour of 5:30am, and went back to sleep while he flew home to KL. I had a most civilised checkout time of 1pm, so I ordered blueberry pancakes for breakfast and lazed around, listening to John Mayer and reading.

I thought I should probably venture out, but the soundproofing is so good in the room, and I hadn't looked out the window so I didn't realise it was absolutely bucketing down in only the way Singapore can (it makes the most intense rainstorm in Sydney feel like a drizzle by comparison). So I, er, got a bit damp.

After changing into dry clothes I met up with Poh Teng, one of dad's colleagues, for lunch. She is a lovely, friendly and very helpful woman and her husband works at Resort World Sentosa (where we were staying and where the theme parks are), so we got a big discount on tickets into the S.E.A. Aquarium. It was an incredible experience; sitting in front of the giant viewing window for about half an hour watching the divers feeding the creatures felt like I was sitting on the bottom of the ocean. I just wanted to get in the water. It was wonderful.

After a coffee I headed off to the airport. The plane trip home was uneventful, except for me having an emotional meltdown for no reason after watching The secret life of Walter Mitty and Her. No idea what happened there; both movies put me in a slightly melancholy mood (though I enjoyed both), and saying goodbye to mum and dad, and being tired, and being premenstrual and...yeah that's a few reasons. I was just surprised that I just started crying and couldn't stop. Thankfully it was after lights out and my seat mate had an eye mask on. The crew saw me come out of the bathroom with red eyes and face and were very kind; they made me some hot lemon and honey to drink and said I could come back and talk to them if I needed to. I was very impressed all around with Singapore Airlines actually - the plane, the food, the staff, everything.

We landed at 6am and I was so happy to have Kel and Huff meet me. It's so nice to have a smiling face waiting for you at the end of the walkway! We grabbed a coffee and nutella doughnut for breakfast and then I pretty much crashed. Oh first I picked up the cat from the cat hotel and she has been extremely affectionate and cuddly all day while I zoned in and out of consciousness.

So it's just me and her for the next few weeks while mum is in the UK. The extra special treat is I get to sleep in mum's super comfy bed and my bedroom can be my work room instead of my Bec Cave. Hurrah!

So so so grateful for the time away and all the lovely things that happened!

Travel diary Thursday: spa heaven

We had one more night in the Goodwood Park Hotel, then headed over to Sentosa. Sentosa is a little island off the bottom of the mainland that was used by the British as a military fort in WW2. When we lived in Singapore, you got there by cable car to see a museum and a monorail and not much else. Now it has had a bridge built out to it, and is home to a massive resort with a whole bunch of hotels, restaurants, Universal Studios (we went there last year), the SEA Aquarium and a casino.

We were booked in to the Hard Rock Hotel, which was very different to the colonial, restrained, neutral palette of the first hotel; it took me a while to get used to it because it was so over the top in comparison. The room was all purple and black and chrome and mirrored surfaces. They did have a much more comfortable bed though. And photos of Jimi Hendrix on the walls.

even the lifts are blingy
They didn't give us a twin room, so dad said I could have the bed and he took the couch. He went off to a business meeting in the city and I wandered down to ESPA for my booking. I had wanted to get a massage while I was on holidays and done some research - I guess I was looking at the places linked to hotels so they are always going to be more expensive, but whoa. Pampering is serious business in Singapore. Anyway, I found ESPA had a Mother's Day package, but they didn't say you actually had to be a mother to book it and although still expensive, it came with a meal, a free gift, and was cheaper than just booking a massage on its own.

And oh my goodness. It was seriously the best spa and massage I have ever experienced (not that I've been to that many spas, and certainly not the top end ones). Just walking in, everything was calming and quiet. The staff were courteous and discreet. I sat down to fill out my client card, drank some cold lemongrass tea and then was given a tour of the facilities - well stocked showers and dressing rooms, a quiet tea room with a huge picture window, an onsen bath, a hot and cold outdoor bath surrounded by perfect tropical gardens, a wet sauna with crystals (!), a dry sauna with a beautiful view of the gardens. I happily wandered from bath to bath, sauna to sauna for about an hour, delighting in the sense of total relaxation and nowhere to be. Being the middle of the week, it was pretty quiet so I only had to share the facilities with two giggly Chinese women, and I managed to avoid them mostly.

This is from the ESPA website - I don't have a white bikini, but this was pretty much me
Selina the therapist came and got me from the tea room. She took me up to the treatment rooms, completely separate to the spa facilities but with the same dark wood floors and pale walls. Unlike most massage places I've been, where the therapist has hardly any room to move around the table, this room was spacious.

Selina asked me how I wanted to feel at the end of the massage, then gave me a choice of two oil blends based on my answer. She filled a bowl of steaming water and added the same oil blend to it, and placed it under my face as I lay on the table. The massage was just perfect; perfect pressure, she attended to the areas I had mentioned as being sore, I felt totally mentally and physically calm by the end of it.

If and when I ever open my own massage practice, I want it to echo this kind of idea, aesthetically (just on a smaller, ever so slightly less expensive scale).

Then it was time for my complimentary meal at the Tangerine restaurant, which prides itself on extremely healthy food to match with the whole wellness aesthetic of the spa. The restaurant was surrounded by Japanese style gardens, and I was the only one there (until a gay couple arrived and carried on between themselves because they hadn't realised it was a healthy restaurant...I caught them outside later having cigarettes). The food was sensational. Light and delicious and perfectly balanced.

Then back to the room to meet dad, and we went off to meet his colleagues and watch X Men: Days of Future Past together. Loved it! A study in brown leather jackets and gorgeous men.

Travel diary Wednesday: changeover

The second day of a holiday can be less exciting than the first. You're a bit more tired, and if you walked around the whole day like we did on day one, you have massive blisters (or at least very sore feet) and you don't feel like doing much (I had blisters on the balls of my feet that were the size of my big toe. Owie.). 

Many people still think of Singapore as a good shopping destination, but it's not vastly cheaper than Australia anymore (also thanks, internet!), and we learned a long time ago that even thinking about clothes in Asia as larger Western women is just an exercise in defeat. Mum's not interested in looking at tech stuff and neither of us cares about luxury goods. So we decided not to bother with the malls.

Without any real plan (and after a false start when we caught a cab to Clarke Quay and then realised that nothing really opens there until the afternoon and it's all restaurants and bars anyway) we decided to catch the SIA hop-on hop-off bus, which does a loop around the major tourist areas. It was a good way to get an overview of the city, and to be able to go "oh yeah, I remember that place!" Mum marvelled that she had ever been able to drive around, or cope with the heat when we lived there.

ah, nostalgia

Street art in Little India

Not much of old Singapore left these days, just shophouses here and there
We did get off the bus at Little India, but mum was starting to feel unwell, so we didn't explore. We had been keen to go to a good hawker centre for food but settled for a noisy basement food court for reasonable chicken rice. And of course, going where the locals go it is vastly cheaper than any tourist-aimed version of the same dish (about AU$3.80 for a satisfying serve of chicken, rice, vegies, soup).

Back at the hotel, while mum rested and repacked, I wandered across the road to the duty free shop just for a look. More cosmetics and luxury goods. I tried on a $400 pair of Prada glasses that I had pinned on Pinterest a while ago, and managed to get a snap before the saleswoman zoomed over. It was so weird, this three storey glossy shop, divided into mini boutiques for each brand and with no one in them except a multitude of well-groomed staff.

Then it was time for the parental changeover. Mum and I had delicious xiao long bao and noodles at the airport, then she headed off to Manchester and dad flew in from KL. We were all going to have a coffee together but dad's plane was delayed, so it really was a bit of a tag team effort. So good to spend time with each parent, though the flavour of the holiday was very different with each one.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

BLG: holiday mode

99. smiling at a little Indian girl on the MRT and her beaming broadly back at me

100. space and quiet and a perfectly appointed hotel room

101. having the energy to get where we needed to go

102. slipping into water that is the perfect temperature compared to the outside air

103. having parents who love me and who, despite being divorced, get along with each other

Travel diary: Do what you feel like day

It sounds weird, but one of the great things about travelling with mum is we have a similar energy threshold - she gets tired because of her knees and I get tired because I do. So it's good because you both need to have little rests throughout the day and you don't care much for ticking things off on an itinerary.

Another good thing is we have similar interests and we decided not to do anything we didn't feel like doing. If we wanted to laze around the hotel all day, that was perfectly fine (well if you're paying for it you may as well enjoy it, right?). Though lovely as it is, we didn't just stay in our room for the whole if we would!

We started today with a rather expensive but delicious hotel buffet breakfast, one of the better ones I've had actually. Side note: one thing that I like about hotel breakfasts (in Asia anyway) is they always seem to have pink guava juice. I would never buy it at home but I really like it on holidays. So there you go.

We then took a leisurely stroll up Scotts Road and Orchard Road. The shops are insanely swish on Orchard Road, and there are multiples of high end shops like Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc, almost opposite one another (because heaven knows you wouldn't want to have to cross the road to buy your luxury goods). The buildings are massive, shiny temples of consumerism. It's quite staggering.

We only really went in to Tangs department store, again because it had been somewhere we used to go when we lived here. I think it's much ritzier than it used to be, but then everything seems to be around here. Or maybe I didn't pay as much attention to the ritziness when I was a kid. It was just what it was. Anyway, we wandered through the beautiful makeup section and I wish Elsie had been with us, she would have loved it.

After what was a fairly leisurely stroll up and back again, we were hot and bothered so it was time to hit the pool. It's nice being here mid-week as it's pretty quiet around the pool; there was only one other person there for most of the time we were there. After a deliciously refreshing dip I fell asleep in the sun reading Danielle LaPorte's the Desire Map (incidentally, I feel quite conspicuous toting around a book with a bright pinky purple cover and 'desire' in huge type on the front. But I'm enjoying it, and I probably need to get over the idea that anyone else is even looking).

Our timing was all out and we had missed lunch, and, well, it was afternoon tea time. How could we resist high tea?

After a nap we headed back out and caught the fast and efficient MRT to Gardens by the Bay, a sprawling place with various themed zones (eg Chinese garden, Indian garden, etc) two cooled domes (one growing flowers from all over the world and the other called 'Cloud forest', showcasing rainforest and high altitude plants) and the supertrees, which are gorgeous structures that collect energy in their solar panels and made me feel like we were in Avatar or something.

(Those are part of the supertrees on the right and the Marina Bay Sands complex in the background - that zeppelin-looking thing on the top has restaurants and an infinity pool. From the ground, it is impressively large and a little scary actually.)

Dinner was at Satay by the Bay, a hawker centre within the gardens. We had satay and popiah and lots of fresh orange juice. We were seriously flagging by this point. We ended up doing a lot of walking, but I was proud of us that we didn't give in and catch a taxi back to the hotel but managed on the train and walking.

Then Ben and Jerry's in the hotel room and turning in to read and blog and just be quiet. This holiday thing is pretty rad! I should do it more often...

(PS If you want to see more photos of the gardens, check out my Flickr photostream)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Travel diary: Up and away!

I love travelling. Maybe it's partly because I have been doing it since birth, with family living in another country and moving overseas during primary school.

I like good airports. I like getting on planes. I love the rush of the takeoff. The squished into your seat bit is less enjoyable, but the plane we were on yesterday (a Singapore Airlines A380) was pretty comfortable, the food was actually tasty, the cabin crew were really polite and efficient, and there was lots to watch (I was remembering what it was like when there was only one screen up the front of the cabin (or worse, a couple of TV screens mounted above the aisles), and the entire cabin had to watch the same thing at the same time. That wasn't so fun.).

I watched the Lego Movie - how is it possible for such a silly idea to be so perfect? - started American Hustle but found it far too depressing (I didn't want to spend any longer with those unpleasant people), laughed out loud at repeats of Miranda, loved Tangled and can't decide whether I prefer it or Frozen, so I watched the first hour of that again as we descended in to Singapore. I also listened to Lorde and read and enjoyed the ribbon of sunset that seemed to go on forever as we headed north west.

I realised I was quite energised when we got off the plane in Singapore. Mum was wiped out, and I had expected to be, but I was taking it all in. A country that I loved growing up in and yet is almost unrecognisable to me. 

We are staying at the Goodwood Park Hotel because this trip is kind of mum's semi-retirement celebration and she decided she wanted to stay somewhere absolutely lovely. I remembered coming here for high tea when we lived in Singapore, my first high tea fancy playing ladies experience, I think. Mum said last night part of it was also that this hotel was one of the few things she remembered that she could rely on to still be here - everything changes so fast in Singapore. She hasn't been here for 20 years, but even in the year or so since I've been here, things move on at a rapid pace (and last year we were basically at Sentosa and didn't see any of the rest of the island).

And the travel fairies were on our side, because we got upgraded without even asking (not that I ever ask, unless there's a major problem) - to a junior suite! We have two bathrooms! And a sitting room! This is so great.

And now I am starving and we are going to go and enjoy an expensive breakfast. Semi retirement celebration, hurrah!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Trees are trending!

This is excellent for many reasons: 
  1. It's upbeat and cheerful
  2. It has Bert...and Grover!
  3. It has Zachary Levi (and I had no idea he could sing so well - imagine Chuck the Musical!)
  4. It's far less pretentious and guilt-inducing than that other video going round about looking up from your screens (sorry to those who liked it, I just couldn't even get through it)

So don't feel guilty or like it's your fault that you're not married because you looked at social media instead of at some random who walked past you. But enjoy a sunny day outside from time to time. You might just burst into song and meet some Muppets (and if you don't, that's okay too!).

PS. I really miss Chuck.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

BLG: Sunday

95. having a quiet moment in the hammock chair with my cat on my lap, listening to the variety of beautiful birdsong you can hear in my backyard

96. remembering how precious my church family is

97. singing Be thou my vision and really meaning it

98. Serving a wise and loving God who 
... heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
(Psalms 147:3)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

BLG: friends

91. Fire and marshmallows

92. that a 5 year old and a 3 year old are so excited to come over and hang out at our house that the 3 year old dubbed it Bec Jee Day

93. (finally) watching Frozen, and the number of adults present being greater than the number of children present

94. having a loom bracelet especially made for me by the 5 year old (with a little help from his mum) while we watched the movie

Friday, 16 May 2014

Facebook can be good for something!

I just went to check my bank balance, one day after payday, and was disheartened at how quickly it had drained. My system is that I move all my money the day after payday to where it needs to go - repayments, a separate account that all my bills get autopaid out of, donations to church - and then whatever is left is what I have to use for the rest of the month. And that's not a whole lot.

Almost as soon as I had that grumbling thought, I looked at Facebook and there in the middle of the screen were those familiar words:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
An instant, gentle and loving reminder (and a reason why I like to follow Christians and some Christian orgs because getting reminders like that in the midst of self-obsessed social media can be very helpful! (this post was from Lightstock)). The rest of the quote that was on the screen was an equally soothing balm:
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:1-4
doesn't this look like somewhere you'd like to be?

I am not in the darkest valley at the moment by any means, but I need to be reminded, over and over, that with God beside me, guiding me through this world, I lack nothing in any area of life.

In all the budget hoo-ha this week, it was easy to get distracted by all the woe and negative talk and not knowing who (if anyone) to listen to. The ABC news interviewed three different families about their situations and what the budget changes would mean to them. Two families were worried, but another family on a combined income of $250,000 said they weren't concerned and parrotted the "everyone has to do their bit" line. I grumbled to mum, "well, it's easy enough for them, they earn $250,000 a year".

And yet what am I complaining about?! It's easy enough for me compared to most of the rest of the world! I live a very good life. I have more than just a roof over my head; I have a lovely home. I have the means to do just about anything I want to. Yes there are bills and I am paying off debts (mortgage, credit cards) but I am even going on a short holiday next week and looking forward to it. I am so, so rich.

And infinitely more than all of that, the Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

BLG: Thursday

87. watching a glossy bird outside my window swing on a wire, then dive into the camellia hedge for a feed

88. the childlike glee I still get from sitting in the car at an automatic car wash

89. the big fat cheese of a moon hanging low in the sky, so different from the cool pearl of the other night

90. a night of crochet and comfort, sitting with mum and the cat, watching Offspring and Call the midwife and crying (I don't think the cat cried; TV doesn't move her as it does us)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

BLG: Wednesday

84. finishing listening to Ann Voskamp's book, which started me off on this list o' gratitude
85. newness and gleaming red and stainless steel and the delight of design and perfectly browned toast to boot

86. ghostly lit carriages of a train slicing the dark in half as they glide along

"In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." 
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

BLG: Tuesday

81. the glowing pearl of the moon hanging low in the sky as I drove home
82. having the courage to post an introduction to myself and links to my blog on the BHB2014 Facebook group and getting lots of positive comments from friendly people (though everyone's so supportive, it wasn't really that scary)
83. getting a card from someone who mum had given one of my bags to saying how much she liked it

Monday, 12 May 2014

BLG: through a spider's web

Some days the gratitude is harder to express. It doesn't seem like there's anything extraordinary in the work, in sitting at the desk, under the fluorescent lights. It doesn't seem miraculous to be sitting in traffic, or driving that same route again. It doesn't seem so, when just having a job and an office and a car and a home to go to are all enormous miracles in themselves.

Despite my best intentions, I've felt a cloud settling around me, slowly descending since lunch time. I can see it, and I can see it for what it is, frustration, sadness and self-pity. I try to crochet or sew or do something with my hands to shake it, but it's still there, making my movements slow and my efforts unsatisfying. Actually it's like a spider web. It's like the web of Shelob from the Two Towers, everywhere and enveloping.

But I keep moving forward, even if the movements are hardly perceptible.

73. I make bircher muesli for tomorrow morning, because tomorrow will be better and I will feel like eating and I will enjoy every cold, fresh, sweet bite and anticipation is a wonderful thing
74. I sew the straps onto a bag even though I don't feel like it, because the colours do please me and when next I sit down at my sewing table I will decide I like it
75. I watch Parks and Recreation because Leslie Knope's unbridled optimism and goofiness make me smile

So there. I didn't have to look that hard. There are lots of things to be grateful for.

76. the satisfaction of finishing a draft of SU News and being proud of it
77. having Netflix (I love Netflix) and being able to binge watch favourite TV shows
78. Dr Seuss's Oh the places you'll go and Kellie for sharing her love of it with me

79. remembering I'm going to be in Singapore next week, and how I love to travel
80. knowing that God is patient and he sees my struggles and flailings and loves me through it all

Sunday, 11 May 2014

BLG: Sunday

68. my mum, and the deep friendship that we have
69. thinking about all the things I could be doing, then choosing to lie on the couch with the afternoon sun streaming in, curl up under a blanket and drift off to sleep
70. laughing with and chatting to Georgia over dinner after church
71. my sewing skills, and how they have improved so much in the last six months
72. the crack of sugar when you bite into a curl of kurtosh

Saturday, 10 May 2014

BHB unconference part 2: keywords

Seriously, there was so much good stuff said on the weekend it's hard to distil into any sort of form that makes sense! This long post might be a bit hard to digest out of context.

So rather than a thorough roundup of the weekend's content, take these notes as kind of an eavesdropping on things that I found interesting - maybe something in here will be helpful for you too!

on authenticity / honesty

Fabian Dattner: "Don't compromise your values, what you know in your heart of hearts is important to you."

Danielle LaPorte: "Why would you want to distort who you are in any way to appeal to a different audience?"

Beci Orpin talked about always staying true to who she is, no matter what kind of creative work she's doing. She's different, she breaks rules, she's flexible. But she's always herself.

Missy Higgins: What does it mean to be a creative? "To tell the truth in whatever way you can."

"The best way to bring people on board is to live in an authentic way and show them how happy you are [as a result]."

Correne Wilkie (manager for the Cat Empire): "Live an authentic and passionate life and you can change the world in unexpected ways."

Pip Lincolne: Be yourself - approach your community with enthusiasm and kindness. Be sincere.

on clarity

Correne Wilkie: get clear on your vision - the why, what, where and when. Clarify your motive for taking on this creative business. Also, define what success looks like for you; how will you know you've achieved it if you don't know what it looks like?

Kylie Lewis: what is your why? (referencing Simon Sinek) Keep asking why until you cry or get goosebumps. We buy emotionally - it's often not what we sell but what we stand for that appeals to people.

Jo Walker from Frankie Magazine likened people in a newsroom to lazy monkeys and your product/service/idea as a banana. She said to get their attention, "don't just throw bananas"; you've got to mash and mash and mash it up, so that it's easy to eat, and so the monkey wants it. So basically, you've got to be totally clear on what you're selling and why it would work for that magazine's audience, and then tell the story simply ("no weird waffle language").

Danielle LaPorte: instead of striving for external goals that we hope will make us feel a certain way when we achieve them yet almost certainly disappoint (like 'publish a bestseller' or 'make a million dollars'), turn it around and clarify how you want to feel - what do I need to do to feel the way I want to? Use that to inform your decision making.

Being clear about how you want to feel can interrupt the struggle: "this is not how I want to feel", so you make different decisions.

Fabian Dattner: if you're complaining about doing too much stuff, you're not clear about why you're doing what you're doing. Learn to say no - if you're doing too much, stop something!

Cath Nolan: when it comes to contract stuff, asking for what you want necessarily requires you to know what you want!

Paul Mason: in applying for grants or any kind of funding, clarity is so important. You need to be able to communicate your plans and ideas clearly.

Missy Higgins: figure out what makes you happy and make it your first priority at all times - not what others say you should be making you happy.

on connection / relationships

Correne Wilkie: What qualities do you want in the people around you? Respect others working in your sphere; don't see them as competitors, but as your community.

Clare Bowditch: marketing isn't scary, it's just about the relationship you have with the people who are interested in what you do.

Pip Lincolne: be supportive. Share the work and achievements of people you admire. Be collaborative, not competitive. Work with others: open your heart and mind, challenge yourself and invite others in.

Kylie Lewis: as humans we are always looking for connection.

Danielle LaPorte: try to only work with people who resonate with the same values as you do

Fabian Dattner: Work with others - you are not alone! Only a tiny percentage of people can create, initiate and succeed alone. Value people with wildly different skills to your own.

Missy Higgins: "All people need is to feel like they're not alone...simply by telling our stories we're keeping people company."

on self care

Correne Wilkie: self-support is vital. Know your limitations and what you need to be healthy. Eat real food (that doesn't have a barcode and has only one ingredient). Move in whatever way makes you feel good.

Missy Higgins: Look after your body and your mind will thank you. Find your limits and respect your body.

To that end, during the weekend we:
  • ate incredible fresh food that sustained us, rather than giving us sugar highs
  • did mini yoga bits and meditations
  • danced like mad things to Happy when we needed a stretch
  • laughed a lot

on gratitude

Missy Higgins talked about changing her focus to be one of gratitude, and how it completely changed her world.

The multi-passionates panellists were asked the question, "how do you choose what passion to go for?" I can't remember who said it (I think it was Danielle LaPorte), but someone said that you pick whatever generates the most enthusiasm and gratitude, both from you and from the people you're connecting with.

That leads into...

Neighbourhood cat sez "just start!"

on just starting

From the multi-passionates: "Pick something and just start". There's no wrong thing. 

Fabian Dattner: don't panic when there is a lack of clarity, when you hear other peoples' success stories and question whether you can do it. 

Pip Lincolne: be brave. Just start. Take risks, do your thing, speak to your people.

Correne Wilkie: Just take action. "When are you going to start? Now...and now...and now. Do something every day to move forward."