Tag Archives: Christianity

Ten Songs To Farewell 2022 & Bring Hope for 2022.

Wandering round the blogging traps lately, the last two years have taken their toll and there’s no real confidence that things are going to be any better in the New Year. We’re on a journey of uncertainty, and looking into more of a snow globe scenario than into a crystal ball. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all hopeless. Or, that the last two years have been all bad, and covid hasn’t been a blessing – as well as a curse. That there hasn’t been joy. Indeed, as pollution cut back, our natural world even improved .

However, so many are cut off from those we love, and that is truly hard. So many of our young people, have had the rug pulled out from beneath them. My kids are caught up in that, and their friends.

It’s important to acknowledge these struggles. Not just keep going without allowing ourselves to grieve, withdraw, rethink. It’s perhaps a harder route, but we’ll be stronger and wiser for it – and a much better friend.

Anyway, these songs start off with a bit of a good riddance to 2021, and bring some hope and encouragement for the New Year.

So, here goes, and please let me know if you have any suggestions:

1) Let It Go – Frozen

2) I’m Still Standing Elton John

3) Standing With You – Guy Sebastian

4) The Prayer By Andrea Bocelli performed by Guy Sebastian and Bella Taylor-Smith

5) You Raise Me Up

6) The Beatles – With A Little Help From My Friends

7) Bruno Mars – You Can Count On Me

8) Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

9) Louis Armstrong – When You Wish Upon A Star.

10) Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World

So, as we continue to grapple with the puzzle that’s life on Earth, I’ll not only wish you and yours the conventional “New Year”. I’ll also pray that God’s richest blessings will be with you, and if your hearts are hurting, weary or confused (which is certainly where I put myself right now), that you will experience His peace which surpasses our understanding, and has the power to renew even when all seems lost.

Love and blessings,

Rowena and family

PS: One more:

Guy Sebastian – Climb Every Mountain

A Different but Happy, Blessed Christmas 2021.

Last year, our Christmas shrank from thirty to six, and this year it was down to four humans, and the three dogs were very much appreciated, even if they were plotting a grand ham heist as I carved it up on the bench.

It wasn’t sad, or disappointing. It was just the sensible thing to do. Moreover, our teenagers have been out and about a lot lately so it was good to spend time with them and have a family meal. There could well be a time round the corner where it could just be down to Geoff and myself home alone for Christmas once the kids move out. Yet, I couldn’t see that happening. I’d be opening up our home.

Our Church cancelled all services this year. They were only having Christmas Eve services anyway, and with covid going through the roof around here, they cancelled Christmas Eve as well and didn’t have a plan B. The call was made afternoon. However, we had dinner with some friends from Church and communion. I ended up doing a bit of a Church hop on Christmas Eve st5arting out at St Mary’s Cathedral (Catholic) to St Andrew’s (Anglican) both in Sydney and then hopping over to Westminster Abbey. None of these services were “me” but they were meaningful and quite beautiful. Indeed, those voices of the young boys sound quite ethereal and potentially rather reminiscent of our heavenly hosts. I don’t know. Perhaps, they could be more of a baritone.

Meanwhile, I headed out with our daughter after dinner driving round to check out the local Christmas lights. You have to love people who make over the top look lacklustre in whatever it is they undertake. We found this house that looked like a one stop carnival. It wasn’t a big house, but there were so many little nooks and crannies packed with dazzling Christmas scenes, a model train layout and even a snow machine. I felt like a born again five year old standing there taking it all it and it really energized my spirits on what was shaping up as a lacklustre Christmas (especially at this point our kitchen table was piled sky-high in Christmas cards, wrapping paper and everyone’s laziness.)

What most of you would probably notice about our Christmas, however, was the scorching heat. It was 30 degrees celsius by lunchtime and I’m sure you could’ve fried an egg out there. A few friends are looking a bit red and fried in photos today. We didn’t get to the beach, even though it’s just down the road. I was too busy with cleaning up the house, cooking and cleaning up and just wanted to fall into a chair and relax. Ditto for today. My dad’s always been one to lock the doors and bar the windows on Boxing Day.

Have you ever considered how much time, effort and money goes into Christmas? As parents, it can feel rather overwhelmed not to mention crippling especially when the kids are younger and you’re having to provide two sets of presents. Have you even wondered why? After all, Jesus was born in a very humble manger in Bethlehem and anything but Westminster Abbey. Scrooge gets a bit of bad press about being all bah humbug about Christmas, but have we one too much the other way spending buckets of money, especially when so many don’t even believe in the reason for the season?

Miss and the Grinch- photo updated for another year.

However, quite aside from honouring Christ’s birth, Christmas Day provides that day once a year for families to draw together and reconnect- especially those big extended families of aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and multiple generations. That’s our usual Christmas and I love it. Would never trade it in, but at the same time, I am grateful that we’ve had a few Christmases at home with the kids. It would never have happened without covid. It also made me much more appreciative of all the work my aunt and family do each year as hosts.

What did you get up to for Christmas? I’d love to hear from you.

Love and blessings,

Rowena

Responding To Tasmania’s Jumping Castle Tragedy.

Many of you would have heard about the freakish, tragic accident in Devonport, Tasmania where so far six children died when a jumping castle was swept 10 metres into the air by a fierce, rogue gust of wind.

Map of Tasmania. Devonport is on the North Coast roughly in the middle.

Although we live on the Australian “mainland” (as Tasmanians call it), for us it’s still quite personal. My husband is Tasmanian, and in particular, from Northern Tasmania. While Geoff was born and raised in Scottsdale on the North-East, his dad came from Penguin which is just over 30 kilometres away from Devonport and Geoff has families spread right throughout these parts. Indeed, numerous branches of his family arrived in Tasmania in the 1830s, and let’s just say there was no TV back then. Many of his ancestors had massive familes, and there was one guy in particular who really clocked the numbers up. He had 24 kids with two wives. So, you can appreciate how his family tree has been very prolific and spread something like a weed. I stir him about being related to anyone with old time family ties in Northern Tasmania, and I’m yet to be proven wrong, although it’s only been a small sample size.

Our two rogue children on our son’s last day in Year 6. The photos went downhill from here.

So, like everyone else we were shocked and heartbroken by this freakish tragedy, but we had the added concern of whether we had family involved and it took awhile for them to release the names of the children. So, while we were one of the families pulling up at the school not knowing whether our child was affected or not, we were connected. Indeed, so many people are. Moreover, quite a number of my friends have kids making the transition from year 6 which is the end of our primary school system here, and into year 7 next year, which is the start of high school. So they’re really feeling it too.

At the end of their last day at school, the school children form a tunnel through the playground and the Year six’s run through, and I took this close-up of their hands.

For awhile there, we didn’t know the names of the children who had passed away. So, far they’re not familiar. However, but one grandfather looked familiar and would’ve fitted in well at Geoff’s sister’s place for Christmas. Moreover, there’s definitely a sense of Geoff and his family genetically belonging to this community. There’s a noticeable “look”. Being an island, Tassie is a close-knit community, but it’s also had its internal divides too. There’s traditionally been a very strong divide between North and South, and to a lesser extent the West Coast as well. Like most island communities, Tasmania is isolated and they refer to the refer of Australia as “the mainland”. One of Tasmania’s other claims to fame is that it often gets left off the map, although during covid having a moat was rather advantageous and I think some politician down there talked about having a moat and a drawbridge, and not being afraid to use it back in the early days of covid.

So, for this to happen in a place like Devonport, it’s monumental. With an estimated population of 25,747 in the 2020, it’s not a village. However, with a web of established families and networks, it’s a particularly close community – especially now.

Sharing a bit about Devonport with you isn’t going to help any of these families, but it helps me feel closer. It helps us feel closer to a community where we have indeterminate connections. A close friend of ours, who is married to Geoff’s best man, is a school counsellor at a nearby school, and was at Hillcrest School on Friday providing counselling for families and children – such a tough job but she’s put years into her training and really strives to develop strategies for connecting with children, and in particular children who are doing it tough for a whole swag of reasons. I’m not her mum, but I am proud of her and so grateful she was there. However, as we move into school holidays and Christmas, there needs to be a changing of the guard as school staff go on holidays. They will need support for the long haul.

This was awhile ago now, but it’s one of my favourite dance photos of her.

Meanwhile, tonight we did what we do at the close of every year. We went to my daughter’s end of year dance concert. With all the stunning and thought-provoking dancing, it always makes me reflective, and when I see the younger ones dance, I also remember our daughter’s progression through all the grades to where she is now about to embark into the senior teens. I wasn’t being morbid. I wasn’t teary or sad. However, it certainly hammered home what it would mean if it happened here, and a sense of what the families at Hillcrest School are going through, and the students. Six of their precious friends are gone and for some it’s going to be very lonely going back to school next year. You hope they were all someone’s bestie, and know there are now six huge, and very painful holes in the playground, as well as at home. Holes they will never be filled, but I pray there will be some kind of healing. That maybe being in this together, they can help each other muddle through, and as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

They are in my prayers.

Rest in peace dear sweethearts,

Love,

Rowena

A View to Eternity – A Letter From The Bride – 9th September, 2001.

Last Thursday, Geoff and I celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary. Well, being in lockdown, “celebrated” might be exaggerating just a tad, especially as Geoff kept getting called into work. However, we had dinner with the kids, zoomed my Mum and Dad and then had a zoom with some friends. These were current friends who weren’t there on the big day, and we’re still to get in touch with our Chief Bridesmaid and Best Man. I don’t know what happened to the weekend. Oh yes I do. Geoff was working.

Anyway, I decided to share a letter I wrote which was printed up in our Order of Service. It turned out to be a good idea, as I was half an hour late.

The Letter

Geoff and I would like to thank you for attending our wedding and being part of our special day! I decided include this letter in the order of service to personalise the service and to share our thoughts, feelings and wedding experience with you. We also wanted to have a solid reminder of our priorities when we first entered into marriage to keep us on track for the future.

Geoff and I met on New Year’s Eve, 1998 when our mutual friend, Emma Longstaff, invited us to watch the fireworks over Sydney Harbour. Meeting Geoff was one of those frozen moments in time. Not because I thought I’d met my future husband but rather he is one of those few people you meet in life that somehow calms the storm within. Geoff gave me some very sound advice that night – look for friendship and stop trying to find a relationship. It lasted a few days, however, some New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken! After an all night conversation in my parents’ driveway, exchanging a few emails and a trip to the zoo, the rest as they say, is history.

Geoff and I not long after we’d met photographed in his Austin Healy Sprite…not as romantic as it looks!

The last couple of months have been hectic as we have bought our first home, started a business and have been planning the wedding. It could have been very easy to get wrapped up in all the preparations and smothered by the trimmings: finding the dress, arranging the engagement party, designing the wedding invitations, choosing the florist, the flowers, the reception, the cake… With all these details to sort out, the preparations for the service almost became the wedding itself and it was a battle to remain focused on what really mattered – our love and commitment to each other and how we were going to spend eternity together.

For so many of those around us, our marriage seemed a foregone conclusion. The inevitable destiny of two people who are in love. Rather than rushing down the express lane, Geoff and I have taken our time in approaching a future together. There is a time for everything and this is our time…not a moment too soon and not a moment too late. This is the perfect wedding – knowing we are marrying the right person at the right time and knowing we have laid the groundwork for the journey ahead – not having the right flowers!

In the midst of planning the wedding, I have also been establishing our new garden. Establishing our garden provides a good analogy for our preparation for marriage. When we bought the house, there were only two trees and compared to the garden I’d grown up with in Pymble, the place looked pretty bare, lacking in warmth and imagination. Before we’d even moved in, we had bought packets of bulbs to establish our Garden of Eden only to discover we had sandy soil that wasn’t unsuitable. Not to be discouraged, I dug vast trenches through the grass, ploughing in cow manure, soil and compost to prepare the ground. I continued watering the dirt throughout the winter months, plucking out the weeds and bits of grass, wondering whether those bulbs would ever see the light of day! It didn’t help either when the local nurseries had daffodils in flower while mine were still lying dormant. Night after night, I checked the garden with my torch until finally, row by row, the bulbs started to shoot.

Meeting Geoff didn’t happen overnight either and it took time for us to get to know each other well enough to make this commitment. Unlike flowers, though, you can’t just put a relationship in a hot house pumped full of fertiliser to accelerate the process and expect it to survive long term. You need to do the groundwork. It is only by sowing the seeds, fertilising the soil, pruning the branches and pulling out the weeds that a marriage can last. And for that extra special garden – making sure there is always something in flower through every change of season and every type of weather! Geoff and I are committed, with God’s strength and your support, to have a bountiful and enduring relationship.

You will notice several pots of flowers here in the Church instead of the customary floral arrangements. These started out as a way of financing more plants for our garden, however, once I put more thought into it, they came to represent a number of things for us. I liked the idea that these plants would be flowering every year on our wedding day to remind us of our special day. I also appreciated the promise of hope that they offered. Just like the tall poppies, there are so many forces at work to cut down a marriage and Geoff and I are determined to grow together with our branches entwined yet nurturing separate root systems to establish a healthy relationship. I also felt like a flower cut down in its prime when I got sick a few years ago and am thankful for the personal growth I have experienced during my recovery.

There are some very special people with us here in spirit today. Geoff’s parents have passed away. Fortunately, I was able to get to know his mother, Margaret, and were able to spend Christmas together. Geoff’s mother embroidered the ring cushion. Geoff’s brother, Terry, has also passed away and we have received much love and support from his widow, Gaye. We would also like to remember my grandmother, Mama Haebich who passed away a year ago. Mama loved Geoff and we spent some special times with her and Papa and Anna. Mama always seemed to get teary in Church and I have one of her special lace hankies with me today. We have also included the 23rd Psalm in the service today in her memory. I would also like to remember my grandfather, Papa Curtin who would wholeheartedly approve of me joining a family of stirrers.

Just so you don’t think planning the wedding was all work and no play, we have enjoyed our engagement and preparing the wedding. One of the highlights was Geoff’s Valentine’s Day proposal. Instead of proposing straight away or giving me my intended gift, Geoff wrapped up an electric sander for his car and presented it to me as my Valentine’s present. The look on my face, he says, was priceless! Another magic moment was finding my engagement ring. It has white and yellow gold meeting from opposite directions twisting together around a beautiful, perfect diamond, symbolising our marriage. There was also trying on the wedding dresses with Mum and Lisa and seeing myself transformed into the glowing bride. The wedding has also been an excuse for catching up with family and friends. And not to forget the Father of the Bride. I think Dad was the only one who was surprised when we announced our engagement. Or was that denial? He enjoyed his medicine though…watching both versions of the film Father of the Bride. Given that Dad looks like Basil Faulty and anything was possible, the movies seemed like good insurance!

Once again, we thank you for sharing our special day!

Love and God Bless,

Rowena and Geoff

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

Weekend Coffee Share 17th November, 2020.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you and what’s going on in your neck of the woods? While you’re thinking about that, let me offer you something to drink and perhaps a Lime & Coconut Biscuit, because there’s nothing left of the Key Lime Pie I made last week.

After a cool and wet start to our Summer, the sun and heat returned with a vengeance today. It was so hot, and perhaps the best indication of the sudden heat wave was how our dog Rosie suddenly shed her undercoat today. She’s not even a long-haired dog. However, a message went to her brain today, which said something along the lines of “Dump fur now” and it’s been coming out all day by the handful. The house is littered with black clouds.

The big excitement this weekend was heading to the beach after Church for some water baptisms. I’ve never been to a baptism at the beach before and I wondered how it would go on a crowded Sunday with all and sundry around. However, we went down the beach a bit and one of the guys got the guitar out and we sort of blended in. Well, that is if you ignore a few of us who were wading out into the water in our good clothes. We forgot to take hats, sunscreen a change of clothes and got sunburnt. Welcome to Summer.

Well, I’m going to keep this short and I’ll try to get back tomorrow and write a bit more. I need to get to bed. Goodnight!

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share: https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/

Best wishes,

Rowena

H- Heidelberg…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 8 of the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Today, we’re flying from Geraldton in Western Australia, back across to Europe and touching down in Heidelberg, Germany where I live for around 6 months back in 1992 while backpacking through Europe.

Heidelberg Castle Door

Knocking on the door of Heidelberg Castle. 

I first arrived in Heidelberg about a week after I arrived in Europe. There was a rail and garbage strike in Germany at the time, and it was difficult to get around. So, when it came to leaving Cologne, my friend decided to head to Budapest while I came to Heidelberg.

At this point, I was incredibly homesick and I remember locking my backpack in the lockers at Heidelberg Railway Station and bursting into tears. I wanted to go home. As you may recall, I’d had my wallet stolen in Amsterdam at the Orange festival and I’d lost my passport in Cologne.  I was missing a very close friend back in Sydney, who was one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. It was one of those friendships which hovered along the very brink between friendship and romance with a bubbling intensity all of its own. Being on a pretty tight budget, I was trying not to call him, but oh me of little self-control buckled when I spotted a phone booth outside the station. Standing there with a handful of German Marks, I poured the coins through the slot and those few precious minutes  were gone in a flash and my emotions were churning around like a washing machine. I wanted to go home, but I’d had a big farewell party before I left, and wasn’t due back for a year. So, I had to tough it out, or I’d have major egg on face.

 

DSC_9106

It was at this point that I came across a group of Christians doing street mission work near the train station. They didn’t know me from a bar of soap. However, when they heard that I’d lost my passport and was feeling lost, they invited me to stay for a few days initially until I could get to the Australian Embassy in Frankfurt for a replacement. I ended up staying with them for about a month then, attending their German Church while also going to an American Baptist Church. This is just what I needed and it suited me better to have more of a lived-in experience than to be moving around like a rolling stone for 6-12 months without any roots in the ground.

DSC_9103

y initial room in the attic where I slept in the blue sleeping bag alongside a young woman from Rottweil who spoke a German dialect and no English. Talk about jumping in the deep end, but so worthwhile and incredibly special. 

 

 

Of course, it would’ve been great to have seen more and especially travelled to places like Rome, Greece, Scotland and Ireland, which I’m still hanging out to see. However, it’s much harder to camp out on someone’s floor when you’re older and now I’m married with family commitments. So, it isn’t an experience I could have later in life. Moreover, I’m exceptionally grateful for the love and hospitality I was shown, and the love we continue to share. It was the experience of a lifetime and probably more in tune with being an exchange student than a backpacker.

DSC_9108

In the Altstadt.

Ultimately, I ended up living in Heidelberg for something like 5-6 months all up. While I was there, I took the family’s daughter to school in Kahlsruhe and while she was in school, I worked in a plant nursery or Gartnerei just helping out. My boss asked me once what I wanted to do when I got back to Australia. I mentioned journalism. Well, she didn’t think I was cut out for this more practical work. She said she’d found it much much easier to communicate with the Polish workers across a language barrier than with me. I’d had no experience of outdoor work like this, and these days I’m renowned for my brown fingers. Yes, I’m a plant killer.

DSC_9100

My desk later on down in the cellar. You will notice there are two clocks on the desks with different times. I was so incredibly homesick that I stuck an Australian $5.00 note to the wall and an American friend gave me the photo of the Sydney Opera House which takes such a prominent position on the wall. There’s also my diary with my poetry and reflections of seeing the Mona Lisa on top of my Bible. Such a time capsule. So precious. 

So, as you can see, my experience of Heidelberg was more of a lived experience, living in between the German locals and American Army families there. I used to go to aerobics at the US Military base down the road where they incorporated square dancing, and in true military style called out “Move it! Move it! Move it!” The US Military had shipped America to Heidelberg and some of the troops had their “Yank tanks” shipped out, which dwarfed the local German cars. There was even a Burger King on base. I was trying to improve on my German, but it was quite struggle living in another country and not knowing the language well. I was seriously regretting mucking around during my German lessons at school and not paying more attention. Yet, at the same time, I found a real sense of community and belonging there, which has touched me for life. After all, people matter. I have no doubt that God was holding me in the palm of his hand throughout these travels and keeping me safe, sometimes in spite of myself and I am very grateful that so many people  heard his voice and took such special care of me.

Heidelberg castle by night

Heidelberg Castle By Night. 

Architecturally speaking, Heidelberg is a beautiful city, even by European standards and is best known for it’s castle, the Philosopher’s Walk and Baroque Altstadt. I also had an experience of a different kind in Heidelberg. That was driving along the Autobarn at 240 kph in my friend’s BMW. That was ever so much faster than my bicycle. There are no photos of that experience, but there was a deal of heartbreak down the track, which leads me into German musical classic: I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg.

It was very hard returning to Australia after living in Heidelberg. I came home to Sydney for Christmas and was undecided about heading back. Indeed, I had no idea how it would pan out when I flew out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and touched down in Sydney. After being the only Australian in my communities in Heidelberg, I returned to Sydney feeling culturally dislocated and very torn. However, as I started reconnecting with people back home, the penny dropped. I was Australian and I belonged here. Besides, on top of that, the economic realities of life also hit me smack on the face. While it was okay to scoot off to Europe for a year, my father reminded me of the need to make a living, while pointing out the difficulties of meeting someone overseas and how that would work out. Ouch! It was time for me to get a proper job, and when I had all my family here, I didn’t need to recreate that on the other side of the world.

It’s taken me almost 30 years to write that. Leaving Heidelberg and my friends behind was like ripping velcro apart. However, there are times where that fork in the road isn’t an easy choice and either road is going to involve some pain. It is during these times, that we just have to keep putting one foot after the other and keep walking. Of course, it can be hard to see what God is doing during these times. However, that’s what I love about the  Footprints Poem. That when we feel like we’re alone and can only see one set of footprints, that’s when Jesus is carrying us and sharing our burdens.

Returning every day to all these places I’ve been during the A-Z Challenge, has actually been a lot more emotionally confronting than I’d expected. I’ve never been good with goodbyes, and that’s what travel is….constantly leaving people, places, memories and even parts of yourself behind, and then moving onto the next place like turning the page of a book and letting go of every page that’s gone before. I can’t do it, which is probably why I’ve been living in the same house now for almost 20 years. That, along with my acute health conditions, which hasn’t stopped me from being a traveller, but have certainly redefined the perimeters of travel.

I probably should’ve expected this. However, my inspiration behind this series was very different. I wanted to post a series of inspirational travel photos to lift our spirits at this unprecedented time where travel of any sort beyond work is not only banned, but most of the planes are also strangely grounded. Moreover, even if we could magically transport overseas across the globe, nowhere would take us in. Well, at least, not without throwing us into deepest darkest quarantine for 14 days. After all, travellers have become the unwitting conduits of this modern plague. However, that doesn’t mean that we should ultimately lose our love of travel or our insatiable zest to explore new places, their people and cultures. No one knows what the world is going to look like when we get to the other side of this pandemic, but the cogs will continue moving forward going somewhere and hopefully we’ll till be going along for the ride.

Have you ever been to Heidelberg? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS- Perhaps, you’d like to read a flash fiction piece I wrote about that phone call to my friend in Australia: Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle – Friday Fictioneers

 

Trials of The Good Samaritan…Friday Fictioneers.

“Trust it to rain on RUOK Day,” murmured Jane from accounts. “If we were meant to feel okay, it would be sunny.”

Ever the Good Samaritan, I invited her out for lunch. However, Sydney’s Martin Place was wet and dreary, only intensifying her despair and my frustration.

“Umbrellas and raincoats protect you from the rain, but nothing can save you from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. ”

It was hopeless. The power of positive thinking sank to the bottom of my chai latte and drowned. No point applying CPR. I gazed heavenward and admitted defeat.

“Lord, she’s all yours”.

……

100 words

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda. Click here for other stories inspired by the prompt.

In Australia, we have a program geared towards improving mental health and preventing suicide called RUOK and every year we have RUOK Day,  which was held just a few weeks ago on the 12th September. However, naturally the idea is to use this question to start a conversation any day of the year.

I’ve been battling with this for awhile, because while it’s all well and good to ask if someone’s okay, you generally know they’re not which is why you’re asking the question. So, when they say no, or they deny what’s going on, what do you do then?

While they might even need professional help, it’s often difficult to get someone into treatment and we as family, friends, work colleagues and even strangers are called in to bridge the gap. It is fundamental to my personal ethics to stop and help someone who is suffering and not be that person who walks away, turns a bling eye. Yet, people who are doing it tough can be difficult to be around…depressing, angry, poor communicators, smelly. So these were some of the issues I wanted to raise through my well-intentioned Good Samaritan who finds it all a bit too hard in the end.

Although the situation doesn’t resolve well in my story, more than likely it takes a number of attempts to get through to someone who is doing it really tough. There’s an ad which encourages people not to give up trying to quit smoking because they’ve already failed before. They say that it takes a few attempts to quit. It’s probably the same with encouraging someone to open up. We need to keep the lines of communication open, have a few people to share the load and do not give up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Je suis Notre Dame…

“To know her, is to love her!”

The Beatles

Thank goodness, this isn’t a eulogy and has become more of an appreciation of our beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. Indeed, these words are the outpourings of a heart which almost broke yesterday, as the blazing orange flames all but consumed her like a savage beast.  Yet, we’re not grieving her death, but are now grateful that she miraculously survived.

Like so many of us who have survived horrendous infernos of this magnitude, Notre Dame is still standing, yet all but destroyed.  I am a survivor myself and know that seemingly bottomless grief. Indeed, I have asked these very same questions myself…How did this happen? What has been lost? What is left? What can be done? I have also known that very same, fierce determination to get back on my feet and overcome like so many survivors. We will rebuild. Yet, it still hurts and the pain feels like it has no end. However, somehow you suddenly reach the other end of the rainbow and your ordeal seems like a bad dream, although the scars remain.

Personally, Notre Dame has never just been somewhere I went in Paris. Indeed, our connection has always been personal and it wasn’t just about the building either. No doubt, it’s the same for millions around the world and throughout history and we each have our own story to tell. Indeed, in a strange way and no doubt encouraged by Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, she’s almost come to life.  We can almost feel her pulse, her heartbeat and believe she knows and understands us in ways beyond human understanding. Indeed, as I watched those infernal flames blaze with such fury, I could hear her gasping for breath unable to discern whether she wanted to live or to die.

Of course, by now I was also walking through the streets of Paris crying and singing the words of the Hail Mary in solidarity with the people, although I didn’t know the words in French or in English. I didn’t need to. Notre Dame was in my heart. As Notre Dame burned, Paris might have been one of the largest cities in the world, but she was a village once again.

However, who was I kidding? I wasn’t out on the streets with the people of Paris. Rather, I was still stuck here on the other side of the world and couldn’t be there. Of course, it wasn’t quite the same sense of anguish you feel when a loved one is dying and you can’t get back. When you desperately want to hold their hand and say your “I love yous” and goodbyes and miss out. Yet, I still felt the need to vent. Respond. Do something.

So, I did what I could.

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Yesterday, on the way to the Art Gallery of NSW with my daughter, we detoured via Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral to pay our respects to the smouldering remains of Notre Dame and her extended global community. Indeed, I needed to pray and being there was the closest I could get to being near Notre Dame.

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Our daughter sitting on the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral on Tuesday. Not quite the same effect as Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal but there’s promise. 

 

Back when my husband first told me the news, I jumped straight out of bed and switched on the TV expecting some kind of mistake. Yet, there she was right before my very eyes…a blazing, orange inferno. Brutal, cruel and almost evil, she was trapped in the flames with no way out. Yet, the valiant fire fighters of Paris, just like those of New York on 9/11, were there fighting to put out the flames and save her from eternal destruction.

Notre Dame! The name says it all, even for me as an Australian.

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My backpack and I just before I left. 

On the 13th July, 1992 I arrived at Paris’s Gare du Nord with my backpack and I found my way to the Hotel Henri IV in Rue Saint Jacques only five minutes’ walk from Notre Dame. I stayed there with friends for a few weeks, exploring the city of light and romantic turmoil, while Notre Dame stood seemingly unmoved and her bells chimed.

Being immersed in all that history and architectural grandeur, was an incredible experience for a young Australian experiencing Europe for the first time. We had nothing like it. Unfortunately, the City of Love also turned out to be the City of Heartbreak and despair. Indeed, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that so many philosophers, writers and artists have gathered there. I definitely sensed a dark undercurrent to Paris, and perhaps in this context, Notre Dame needed to be the light.

Rowena Notre Dame

My parents met up with me in Paris and we not only went to Notre Dame, my father and I also had our portraits sketched out the front. While I don’t particularly remember the interior, I still remember going inside and experiencing the most incredible sense of peace…the peace which surpasses human understanding. I also remember feeling it was much cooler inside with a distinct temperature drop. Being July, it was boiling hot outside and perhaps it was a few degrees cooler inside the cathedral. I don’t know. However, this combined with the stained glass windows and subdued lighting did create an ambiance.

Yet, quite aside from that, I could really sense the comforting presence of God. Only a few weeks’ beforehand, my mother’s aunt had passed away. She and Mum were particularly close and brought closer still by Mum’s strict upbringing. So, although we’re not Catholic, we lit a candle for her. Lighting that wick, has always been special. However, it’s felt even sacred since the fire. It was such an incredibly poignant moment. I think we also lit a candle for Mum’s younger sister, Lyn, who’d suddenly been ripped away from us at 36 with double pneumonia. Lyn’s death was one of those wounds which never seemed to heal. Lyn was beautiful, vivacious and so young. Naturally, her death rocked everyone who knew her. It didn’t make sense and we just had to get used to living with our grief.

No doubt, over the last 856 years, millions have also had such moments where they’ve been  touched by God’s love and this indescribable peace at Notre Dame. Of course, I know this experience isn’t unique to us, although it certainly felt that way. People have prayed for the living, cried for the dead and wrestled with everything in between and Notre Dame has stood as solid as a rock through the French Revolution, two world wars, and hoards of visitors. Indeed, even that blazing infernal couldn’t destroy her completely, but it’s been too close a call.

Yet, she has also suffered terrible neglect, which has taken its toll. As Victor Hugo wrote in The Hunchback of Notre Dame:

 “(I)t is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer.”

So why was it so difficult to raise the money to restore and maintain this stunning, historic and sacred cathedral, which has always been at the very heart of Paris? It is hard to understand.

However, as we move forward as a global community, we now have the chance to show her the love we’ve always felt, but haven’t sufficiently expressed. She has given us so much, and now it’s our turn to give back in whatever way we can. For some of us, that will be in words or paint while others have been financially blessed.

Notre Dame needs to be that phoenix rising out of the ashes. We need to see that you can rise up from near total destruction, and start over not only as a building but also as individuals and communities. We can get better. Moreover, we also need to restore Notre Dame for future generations who will also be reaching out for God’s love and the peace which surpasses human understanding in an imperfect and often turbulent world.

Have you been to Notre Dame and would like to share your thoughts? Please leave them in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share…31st December, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s already New Year’s Eve here in Sydney and I’m briefly putting my feet up after leaving the pizza dough to rise and making Chocolate Mouse and Pavlova for dessert. We don’t go out on NYE. It’s not easy to venture into Sydney city for us to view the fireworks in person due to my mobility restrictions, and it’s not the safest time to head into the city either. Moreover, we also have the added complication that at least one of our dogs, Lady, is terrified of fireworks and breaks into a sweat when local fireworks get set off illegally. No doubt, that also happens where you live as well, and you’re also aware of how many pets go missing as a result.

Couple Ocean Beach best

I’m struggling to remember what happened during the last week and I had to confirm with Geoff that today is actually Monday. That’s a common phenomenon in between Christmas and New Year However, I should’ve remembered that there was a minor event called Christmas. How could I forget? Well, I’ll blame the heatwave for that.

We had a family dinner at home on Christmas Eve and headed out to Church for carols intermingled with the traditional Christmas tree manger reenactment.

We spent Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle’s place where we met up with my parents and the extended family. These Christmases fuse tradition and change. Much to my concern, there’s an increasing Melbourne contingent and missing persons from the celebrations. If you’re not aware of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, it’s not quite as intense as it used to be but to have family exodus to Melbourne of all places, is a concern. Need to stem the tide. The highlight for me of this Christmas celebration was taking part in a jam session with my cousins with two on guitar, another on cello while I played my violin. It was a very interesting experience because my cousin was playing chords in a blue grass style and I was trying to listen deep into the music and pick out what became something like a song line to play on my violin and my violin actually sounded like a harmonica which surprised me. I usually play classics on my violin of the likes of Bach so playing blue grass ad lib was quite a change and I was very proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and doing so well. Our son also joined in with the jam on guitar and also took over my violin plucking the Peter Gunn.Monopoly Go to Jail

We received this local fundraiser Monopoly for Christmas from my parents. Playing Monopoly is a good this time of year. I ended up in jail a few times.

After Christmas, we’ve been catching up with friends and we’ve also braved the post-Christmas sales. Not unsurprisingly, I found my way into yet another book shop.  where I bought Cicero’s: How To Be A Friend which was written in 44BC in Latin. I’m almost halfway through and highly recommend it. I also bought Oliver Sacks’: The River of Consciousness. In case you’re not aware, Dr Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who has written quite a few books including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Have you stuck your nose in any great books lately?

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The weather around here has been fairly intense lately. After having three or four storms the week before Christmas including blackouts and hail, we’ve been caught in a heatwave, which has largely forced us underground. Indeed, we’ve been hibernating at home although I did venture to the beach two days ago for a photographic walk. That was a lot of fun, and despite initially thinking I wasn’t going to find much, the light was particularly good the clouds seemed to dance in the setting sun especially for the camera. I was also quite fascinated by the watermarks in the sand. All those wiggly lines of sand along the beach which resemble secret messages.

Well, it’s now 10.00pm  and after watching the 9.00PM fireworks, we’re listening to the NYE entertainment and Ross Wilson has just finished singing Can’t Get No Satisfaction and has moved onto his own hit Eagle Rock. This music is a good distraction from the choking smoke leaking in from the kitchen. Somehow, the hot plate which I swear I didn’t use tonight, ended up on high and the left over pizza has apparently been incinerated and it’s not safe for me to enter the kitchen. Indeed, even the rest of the family is covering their mouths going in there. Hoping the air is going to clear soon so we could put together our NYE dessert  of pavlova, chocolate mouse, fruit and cream. I was even thinking of chopping up some Tim Tams and sprinkling them over the top for a bit of added chocolate crunch.

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions? I’m still working on mine and as you can see by the dessert we’re having tonight, that my sins are continuing to mount.

I’ll be back in the New Year to share a snapshot of the Sydney Fireworks.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena