An unexpected step in a faith journey

So I went to a church conference for women last weekend.

For those of you who know me well, this is a fairly big deal for me. I have been out of a church environment for a long time, and am only just at the point of dipping a trepidatious little toe back in. I am at a point of having almost completely deconstructed my faith, only just starting to figure it out again in a way that makes sense to me. I have been, as Brene Brown says, in the wilderness, where I have been busy working out how I belonged to myself first, before I could take my place in a community of others.

So, yeah – when my beautiful Minister Ellie (also a dear and trusted friend) encouraged me to attend the Uniting Church Women’s Conference along with her, my initial reaction was – um, I don’t think so! But then I thought on it, and the idea kept nibbling at the edges of my mind, and I ended up saying I would go.

I had set the bar low. As long as no one cast any demons out of me or told me I had to submit to my husband, I’d be OK. (You may laugh – only I have had both these experiences at women’s conferences!) Ellie assured me neither of these things would happen (and I’m happy to report she was quite right).

And I can honestly say I really enjoyed it. I’m still processing my experience, but I thought I’d share some reflections.

I found like-minded people

I hung out with a group of women who discussed things like whether there was too much gendered language in the songs and prayers. I joined a group discussion on how faith can inform a non-fundamentalist view of sexuality. And another one on how complementarian theology intersects with domestic violence. I listened as First Nations women passionately talked about how reconciliation can never be divorced from justice. No topics or views were off limits. No one was rebuked for their opinion. No one felt like they had to control the discussion or the outcome. I felt like I could actually say what I thought. I felt like I could breathe.

I didn’t enjoy every single talk

Some of them I hung on every word, other speakers I didn’t connect with. And what was great about that experience was that it was completely OK to say that not every moment resonated, to vote with your feet, to leave a discussion or talk if it wasn’t for you, or you felt you weren’t contributing or learning.

Everyone’s voices were valued

In the official program, there was a thoughtful emphasis on hearing from a diversity of women, from all cultures, backgrounds and abilities, which I deeply appreciated. But then even in the small group discussions, there was a consciousness of ensuring we were thinking about issues from all perspectives. In one group, it was specifically called out that all of us currently participating in the discussion about a particular issue were white, heterosexual women, and how could we make space for the other voices that are often drowned out by our own.

What I appreciate about the Uniting Church is its commitment to unity in the midst of incredible diversity – from congregations which align themselves a more traditional, conservative theology, to the other end of the spectrum where the LGBTQI community are fully affirmed and embraced. It’s not an easy path, but I admire that these women are trying to walk it, and find strength and connection with each other in the midst of it all.

I’m glad I went, and I’m also looking forward to the next stage of this journey.

Love,

Em

 

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New beginnings

I haven’t posted for a while – mostly because I have been ridiculously busy – and then I got sick – but also because after the Jonah Day described here I had a few more. Stuff was going wrong at work, at home, with the kids and cars and even the plumbing – how depressing!

And then – just like Anne Shirley promised – a new day came and the sun came out and all was right with the world once more.

I decided I just couldn’t fit parent teacher interviews into the week, so I emailed the kids’ teachers and got brilliant responses back which were so encouraging. They are all doing great at school. Work calmed down and I decided to get serious about trying to lose my extra winter kilos – and I lost 1.5kg over the past week. I booked in some much-needed leave and decided I am going to host Christmas, which I am really looking forward to. The broken tap got fixed by a very able plumber and I also had an impromptu career counseling session with someone very knowledgeable which was really helpful.

And most importantly – a totally unexpected and very exciting door opened up at work. It’s so lovely how the universe works sometimes.  After feeling like such a failure on my horrible Jonah Day I got a call from a manager in a different division encouraging me to apply for a secondment in her division – much bigger management role, and one I would never have thought I could have applied for, had she not rung. I applied – and got it for a six-month period! I start next February and am really excited – it will be a big challenge, but I’m up for it.

So I am pleased to report that Jonah Days – and indeed, Jonah fortnights – do end eventually.

🙂

Crossroads

You know how there are those people who know exactly what they want to do and what they want out of life?

I’m not one of those people.

Soul Sister has known since she was in primary school that she wanted to be a teacher. So that’s what she became. She is now on a temporary hiatus as she juggles motherhood and her Master’s degree, but once that’s all done she will return to teaching with a passion and enthusiasm that is quite simply, inspiring. She has always known exactly what her purpose in life is.

Picasso is like this too – I have blogged before about how he wants to be a pediatric nurse. And even though he’s just seven, it won’t surprise me at all if that’s exactly what he ends up doing.

And then there are people like – me 🙂 Over the years I have wanted to be a…film producer/interior designer/psychologist/writer/lawyer/journalist/architect/archeologist/marine biologist…ah, the list goes on.

Right now I am working in the world of Corporate Affairs in Media, and for a while I felt as though I had found my niche. But…now I’m not so sure. And I can’t help wondering – is it me? Am I the problem? I just don’t seem to be able to settle on an occupation and be satisfied with it for the long term.

I still have dreams of being an author, of going back to Uni and finishing my PhD, of renovating a house and travelling the world. And then I wonder if I am wasting my time on pipe dreams -if there will ever be a career or job I feel is the “right” fit, or if I’ll just do a whole lot of different things throughout my life and be OK with that, even though it won’t really get me anywhere.

So in some ways I feel at a bit of a crossroads. Maybe it has something to do with being 35 and nearly 36 – and feeling ready for a new challenge.

I can’t believe it’s just me – there must be others out there who feel like I do, as though you’re a slightly odd-sized shape that NEARLY fits a few different holes, but just not quite.

I’d love to hear from you if you are out there 🙂

xxx

Farewell 2012

So 2012 is coming to a close.

We will spend tonight farewelling the past year with new and old friends – although I think I’ll skip bringing in the New Year. There’s no way I can stay up till midnight anymore!

When I look back on it, 2012 was a bit of a mixed bag. There were lots of wonderful things – first and foremost, visiting Italy with my best friend, Soul Sister (you can read about our adventures here) finishing my degree, feeling like I did better with the working-mother-guilt complex, bidding farewell to preschool days and starting this blog 🙂

But there were a few hard things too. My grandmother passed away, as did my uncle, a dear friend’s father and my own father’s best friend. So much death and sadness in a small space of time.

And so now 2013 beckons. I’m really looking forward to Little Miss starting school – she’ll love it, and what a wonderful thing to have ALL THREE CHILDREN IN THE ONE PLACE. I think you maybe have to be a working parent to really appreciate the unique wonder that is the single pick-up and drop-off point.

I’m looking forward to writing and reading more, and to maybe rearrange things at work so I can have a better balance between work and home. I want to get fitter and healthier, and spend less money on stuff we don’t really need. I want to spend more time with Souljourneyboy (rather than feeling like we’re just co-parenting room mates) and spend more one-on-one time with the kids. I want to be a better person and engage more in spiritual reflection. In some ways, I don’t have the grand plans that I had in previous years, but that’s OK. I hope 2013 will bring fulfillment and refreshment in a quieter, more subtle way.

So here’s to experiences old and new, and a happy, blessed and fulfilling 2013 for all of you.

 

Life lessons learned through Lego

As I was playing with the kids this weekend I realised how many of life’s lessons can be learned through Lego. For instance…

There’s always a Plan B

There’ll never be enough of the flat three-blocks to go around, we all know that. So what do you do? You find a two-block and a one-block and you make it work. Can’t find the right red six-block? Use a blue. Picasso nearly came unstuck when he couldn’t find the right piece during building a racing car, but I wisely and sagely told him all about Plan B. The result? A cool racing car with a few multi-coloured blocks that add to the charm. And if Plan B doesn’t work – Plan C awaits!

There aren’t enough men to go around

This is a shout-out to all my single girlfriends out there who complain that there are literally NO MEN. There does seem to be a ratio of about 6:1 when it comes to available and attractive and young women and men. Well, nothing causes a Lego fight as surely as an argument over the little Lego men. I try to evenly distribute at the beginning of a Lego session to ensure fairness to all (shame this doesn’t happen on a cosmic scale) but there will inevitably be a fight over the “cool” looking ones as opposed to the Lego men with 70s haircuts (left over from my childhood). And I’m pretty sure the guy with the red necktie is gay.

You can’t have fun without ruining your fingernails

The kids are always impressed with my ability to pull apart the flattest and most stubborn of Lego blocks. The result? Torn, ragged fingernails that rip up your stockings and tear your contact lenses. Luckily, I’ve never been a girl who spends much time or money on her nails. There are so many fun things to do that are not compatible with nail care – gardening, playing with clay or playdough, fingerpainting, playing the piano, to name a few. My advice to Little Miss will always be to forget the nail polish and get your hands dirty.

The good things are sometimes hard to find

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of crap to sift through in this lifetime, and sometimes it feels like the good bits are few and far between. Like the endless supply of mismatched Lego pieces saved from mine and Souljourneyboy’s childhood, which don’t seem to fit anywhere. But then, right at the bottom of the box, you’ll find a tiny walkie talkie or a racing helmet or a flower bush that still has all its flowers. Nice.

How cool is Lego!

25 things about me

I posted a list like this a while ago on my Facebook account, but thought I’d share again. It’s just a list of 25 random things about me…it may or may not be interesting!

1. I love to eat Cadbury milk chocolate and drink full cream milk. Clearly Michelle Bridges does not allow this! But I will look forward to it as a treat once my 12-week stint is done.

2. I am absolutely passionate about books. My favourite store is the book store. You can read about my favourite books here.

3. I love shopping. I don’t really like this about myself, because I am anti-consumerist and don’t believe in unregulated capitalism or materialism, and I am very budget-conscious, but I honestly love to shop.

4. I think I misunderstood God for many years.

5. I often dream about spiders. I frequently wake poor Souljourneyboy up by yelling about spiders in the room.

6. I am mixed race. Half Sri Lankan and half Anglo-Australian.  Sometimes wish I identified more with my Sri Lankan background, and less with my Anglo side.

7. My second toe is longer than my big toe.

8. I love beauty. I love beautiful things: a bunch of flowers, a moonlit night, the ocean, pretty jewellery, the perfect colour green, a throw rug, a photograph or painting, a wonderfully-decorated room, a song, a garden, candles…it doesn’t have to be luxurious or expensive, just beautiful.

9. I am a morning person. I like to get up early and get things done…this is sometimes a source of frustration in my marriage because Souljourneyboy is so very much NOT a morning person 🙂

10. I am constantly surprised by the passion I feel for my children. I never thought maternal love would be so physical, so all-consuming.

11. I have been best friends with Soul Sister for 30 years.

12. I have the most eclectic taste in movies/TV shows of anyone I know. I like drama, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, horror (despite my dislike of blood in real life), murder mystery, thriller, romance, even some westerns. My list of faves is here.

13. Souljourneyboy was the first boy to ever call my house to talk to me…it was on my 15th birthday (I was a late starter).

14. Like Miss Congeniality, I really do want world peace.

15. I have two dreams – I want to be a published author, and I also want to work for the UN. Sometimes I wonder why I want to do both these things so much, when they aren’t really related, but there you go. I just do.

16. I sometimes used to get my Mum to tell me I had to stay home when I was a teenager so I didn’t have to go out with my friends…I liked being at home! Still do, actually.

17. I like writing essays. So this combined with number 16 means I think I am probably a nerd.

18. I love cooking. I love making and sharing delicious food with good friends.

19. Like Jed Bartlett, I am a “lifetime holder of minority opinions”. It always seems that if everyone in the room thinks one way, I’ll almost always think something else. Sometimes this bugs me.

20. If I had to label myself, I think I would be a …Critical Theorist Post-Modern Feminist Christian. Crazy, much?

21. I like to design houses sometimes in my spare time. I am trying to design my perfect house, should I ever win lottery or something, but I haven’t perfected it yet.

22. I frequently have mood swings. Souljourneyboy thinks Sting’s song, “Four Seasons in One Day” was written specifically for me.

23. I frequently lose things.

24. I honestly believe a lot of the problems teenage girls have would be solved if they’d just read the “Anne of Green Gables” series when they were in primary school.

25. When I am reading I completely tune out. Completely. I honestly don’t hear a word anyone is saying. It often drives my family mad.

A day in my crazy life

I thought I’d share what a day in the life of this Working Mum is like…

6:30am: Wake to the sight of Bookworm looking down at me with mournful eyes. Apparently his sore throat is now of gargantuan proportions, and he can’t possibly attend school. Can’t be bothered arguing the point. Luckily Mum already has Little Miss for the day, and can mind Bookworm as well.

6:50am: Picasso upset by thought of catching bus alone. Successfully bribed with a lunch order. Souljourneyboy leaves.

7:29am: Breakfast done, Picasso and I head out the door and into the car. Car won’t start. Mum to the rescue – we drop Picasso to the bus stop, then she takes me to the train station with Little Miss and Bookworm piled in the back wearing their pyjamas. Text Souljourneyboy to tell him car has flat battery, and suggest he call NRMA. He says he will look at it first in the afternoon.

8:30am: At work, all-essential coffee in hand.

9am: Meeting number one. Less than half the people who are supposed to be there turn up, so it’s shorter than usual – happy days.

9:30am: Meeting number two. This one is more interactive; we get to use red markers and butchers paper, which is always fun.

10:30am: Pack up my desk and head to a company car. I have to drive out to one of our work sites and meet a TV News crew to show them around for a story.

10:35am: Start my long drive. I have a confession to make: navigating large roads fills me with a kind of low-level anxiety. Just the sight of big green sign gets my heart palpitations started; I never seem to understand if I’m meant to turn RIGHT NOW, where the sign is, or at the next turn. I either get it wrong, or I’m one of those annoying people who basically stall, undecided in the middle of the road, while everyone is honking at them. Last week I ended up turning the wrong way into a bus-only lane – yeah, that was fun. And I seem incapable of getting onto freeways the right way! I always end up headed the opposite direction driving for miles at a time. Anyhow I digress – despite a rather stressful drive it’s a miracle that I get to my destination with NO WRONG TURNS.

12pm: My phone rings but I don’t answer as I’m driving and concentrating VERY hard on the roads.

12:15: Arrive at my destination, only to realise that, 1 – the person who rang my phone is the journalist and I need to call her back urgently, and 2 – there is no mobile phone coverage at the work site. I make my way into the admin building and ask to use the landline phone. I quickly call my colleague and ask her to call the journalist as there’s no coverage and I can’t use my mobile. There is a pause, during which it sinks in that I am actually ON A PHONE MAKING A PHONE CALL. My colleague asks, “Why don’t you call her using the phone you’re calling me on?” Yes, indeed, that is another option which makes perfect sense. My colleague hangs up, crying with laughter, while I try and regain a semblance of dignity before calling the journalist myself.

12:45pm: The geotechnical specialist who is going to be interviewed arrives. Quick briefing.

 1pm: Travel to the site for filming with the TV crew. Geotechnical specialist is interviewed, all goes well. Then the journalist tells me she’d like to interview another person to make the story a bit more interesting.

1:25pm: I am the only other person available. Jump in the car for 30-second briefing on everything I could possibly ever need to know about the work site.

1:20pm: Interview proceeds. Fortunately, there is a spare hard hat in the car. And you know what they say – slap on a hard hat and a fluoro vest, and anyone’s a geotechnical engineer.

2:30pm: Filming’s done! I misplace my phone and keys. Keys are found in one of the work utes. Phone is eventually found – apparently I carefully put it inside the upturned hard hat and covered it over with the fluoro vest before putting it all away inside a cupboard. Go figure.

4:15pm: Home again! Nearly went the wrong way at an intersection but just decided to follow the car in front. Luckily they were headed the same way as me. Quickly catch up on emails and phone calls before anyone gets home.

4:45pm: Jump on treadmill for 20 minutes.

5:15pm: Souljourneyboy home with kids after swimming lessons.

5:30pm: Loud and unnecessary argument between Picasso and Bookworm over a piece of paper. Ipad privileges removed and Bookworm sent to room.

5:45pm: Picasso and Little Miss start a game where they run around the house, occasionally stopping and screaming at each other, then laughing their heads off. It’s really loud.

5:55pm: Souljourneyboy and I suddenly remember we sent Bookworm to his room. I tell him he can come out of room. “Do I have to?” he shouts back. Well, no, actually. It was much more pleasant without him glowering at everyone and everything and I am quite happy for him to stay there.

6pm: Souljourneyboy and I discuss the fact we are literally overcome with exhaustion.  Dinner is tuna jaffles and weet-bix, all we can manage.

6:30pm: I read “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” to the kids, as well as a book Picasso got from the library that day. It’s a strange tale about potato people and Bookworm has issues with the plot line.

6:45pm: We remember the car battery is flat. Souljourneyboy goes to have a look. It turns out the car is fine – I had accidentally left it in “drive” instead of “park” while trying to turn it on. My feeling of embarrassment is replaced by relief that we don’t need to spend any money getting it fixed. Still, I kind of wish I hadn’t told everyone at work that my car had broken down.

7:15pm: Wrestle Little Miss into bed. Make lunches for the next day.

7:30pm: Begin the arduous process of getting Bookworm and Picasso into bed. Have to convince Bookworm of the restorative powers of Panadol and a good sleep. Have the usual going-to-bed routine of Picasso and I arguing over who loves the other more (I always win).

8pm: Collapse into bed and look at the TV screen for half an hour. Not sure I actually watch anything. Feel like I should be studying for my upcoming Uni exam but can’t muster the energy.

8:45pm: Sleep….love, love, love that feeling of going to bed early and drifting off to sleep knowing you have a whole glorious 8 hours ahead of you.

So that’s it!