A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Getting ready for church

There's a lot of talk death in our world.
It's not as if it's never happened before but we've sent off a couple of famous actors in the past week and then there's the horrors from the Middle East that don't seem to be going away any time soon.

When I was growing up in a neo-Confucian, syncretistic, inconsistently superstitious South Asian context, we were forbidden from even using the word death. Apparently the mere use of the word would hasten its arrival.

But I'm getting ready to be with fellow Christians tomorrow and we'll be talking about death again... a good death... the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. We won't just talk about it, we'll sing about it too.

If it weren't for the death of Jesus, not only would death would be really, really depressing, so would life. 

Only the death and resurrection of the Son of God can bring life to people dead in their sin.

That's why I need to go to church on Sunday... to remind myself of this truth and to celebrate it with others.

"Is it true, mum?"

When we decided drive the 13 year old to her new high school this year, I was dreading the entire exercise. It would be the most boring 40 minutes of my life.
Then I started playing music in the car... all kinds of music not just "Let it Go", by the way... the 40 minute drive round didn't feel quite as monotonous. It didn't improve other people's driving but at least it made the whole gig more tolerable.

As a bonus I rediscovered some old favourites and some 80s stuff that I grew up with which was loads of fun.

I think it was when I was playing a series of tearjerkery love songs that the 7 year old said to me, "Is it true, mum?"
Well, that took me by surprise. My brain quickly kicked into deep analysis mode... Is she asking me an ontological question? Or did she wants some facts?
So I asked her, "What do you mean by 'true'?"
Apparently she wanted to know if the content was reflective of real life situations which I thought was interesting. When I was a school kid listening to soppy songs, that question never occurred to me. I think I didn't even think about the lyrics all that much... they were sort of there... to give people something to do with the music other than humming it.

She posed that same question again when we were listening to a Simon and Garfunkel song, "He was my Brother".
Halliday would say that she was exercising the heuristic linguistic function in her language development.

It's a good question though. I'm glad she asked it... it's nice to know the kids do think about things and use their brains at least some of the time.

Or at least when food isn't involved.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why I read Pride and Prejudice once a year

To say that I love reading would be akin to me saying that I breathe. Reading is, in many ways, the air that I breathe.
I often tell people tell that Pride and Prejudice is my favourite book of all time and I read at least once a year. I liken it to an old friend and a comfortable pair of pyjamas that you slip on because you know what to expect and it can be relied upon to deliver every single time.

Pride and Prejudice has been adapted numerous times and has become the template for romantic comedies and melodramas all around the world. Clearly the storyline resonates universally. Even the great PD James has written her own P&P fan fiction, which was in my opinion,a  rather disappointing effort considering the calibre of the author involved.

However, the romantic story of flawed first impressions isn't what draws me to this novel over and over again. For me, Jane Austen is, first and foremost, a master of irony and understatement. And P& P is a very funny read no matter how many times I've read it.

P&P puts things into perspective for me because once in a while I need to be reminded of what good writing is really like and how high the bar has been set for me.

Jargon Makers

The husband and I had an interesting but succinct conversation about academics and bureaucrats yesterday. We're both convinced that they're all cut from the same cloth. Birds of a feather etc... that sort of thing. Their impulse to invent new jargon is probably only exceeded by their need to reinvent the wheel with annoying regularity. Having had not just a taste but a gutful of both in recent days, I find it terrifying that these people rule the world... that they are responsible for public policy and apparently... occasionally, the execution of it. Often I wonder if the obfuscation is a deliberate thing that they do to... you know.. control the conversation.

Why this rant? Well, I'm a part-time university student again. Yup... need I say more? A part-time postgraduate student to be more precise. The student thing started last year and I've been limping along with that bit of baggage since then.

Maybe I'm a simpleton but my question is: Why ramble on for 5 pages when you can do it one paragraph...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Meandering through traffic

Being a mum in modern day Australia means that a large part of the beast known as "mummy duties" is wading through traffic. Chauffeuring children here, there and everywhere is par for the course. While I would hesitate to call myself a professional driver, it does feel that the car has become a second marriage or a second job... dropping the kids off at school and then heading off to work afterwards. I don't think I've driven this much in my twenty plus years of  being behind the wheel as I have the last four months.

Hence, I've discovered traffic lights in a new and fresh way. And there's a probably metaphor somewhere in that about the obstacles life puts in one's way. I reckon there's a conspiracy afoot to keep me in my place, to remind me that I'm subject to THE system and that there really is a BIG BROTHER pushing buttons in some dark bureaucratic tower deliberately frustrating my efforts getting from A to B.

Well, I'm sure there's no conspiracy (I'm not important enough) but life doesn't always turn out the way one wants to. At times I respond well... philosophically anyway, shrug my shoulders and mutter "c'est la vie"... on other occasions... not so much.

I took on study last year on the assumption that if I cut back on work I would be able to manage life with the help of my husband. The reality is that things haven't exactly worked out as planned with both of us having health issues of varying degrees of severity. Sometimes I am angry with how things have turned out and other times I feel helpless in the face of uncontrollable circumstances. Clearly I haven't managed my expectations realistically. A human response no doubt but not one that I'm proud of.

I'm on the road from A to B. I know I haven't reached B yet. As I think about the route I often take to my daughter's school, I see that there are numerous lights ahead. Red or green... things will go my way some of the time and on other occasions it's a waiting game.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rethinking the iPad

People at work have an absurd idea that I'm this all-knowing iPad guru so they come to me with all kinds of iPad questions expecting that I actually have the answer. Worst still, they come to me for a consult when they want to buy one. I keep thinking that one day I will be exposed as the fraud that I am but so far so good.

(It's a bit like sin methinks when you think you're not such a bad person because compared to some other people I'm actually not that bad. In fact, some may even think I'm nice... But they don't know me as I know me or as God knows me.... but I digress..).

So I'm hardly an iPad expert... but admittedly I do love 'em. At work, I'm the official iPad indoctrinator... it's my job to spread the word and the joy that iPads are the best thing since fried rice... well, maybe not quite...

I've spent a lot of time thinking and reading about iPads in education lately and I'm a bit of a convert to the fact that when properly used, iPads are a great educational tool. There are thousands of apps for things that most people don't even think of but as a learning device, there is a lot of untapped potential to promote literacy. It gets a bit of a bad rep for being a consumer device but actually with some thought, it can be used for creative collaborative multi-modal learning. And I'm not even talking about "education" apps either.

Although I personally love technology, I'm actually old school about education and I used to think of iPads purely as a distraction. However, in recent months as a multimedia device, it can have wide application for the macro skills -- reading, listening, reading and writing. The iPad camera itself can be a brilliant educational tool for creating learning opportunities for producing language and building narrative skills.

Obviously I'm not saying that children can't learn without iPads... of course they can. As long as we keep producing books and teaching them to read, they will. But with iPads, they can create their own books and make their own movies. Digital literacy can help reinforce conventional literacy.

Notice I didn't even mention the word "game" once...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Assignment Posted

Just posted my assignment and feeling a mix of relief and anxiety... if that's even possible. But after doing a bit of trimming and then pasting stuff onto the "official" template, I was ready to click my way to detachment.
I suppose there's always improvements to be made but there's no use hanging on to it at the eleventh hour. Of course I want to do well... who doesn't... but with my kind schedule, I'll be glad not to disgrace myself too much.

I've known for a while that I'm not much good at juggling. Eventually something's got to give and it's usually housework. Goodness knows there's so much to be done and done the day before yesterday.

Work was work... got a few things done and trying to keep my boundaries intact. It's one of those things that can really eat you up alive if you're not careful. Come the end of June I'm sure I'll be ready to have that holiday down the coast.

I'm grateful for a sense of focus that I haven't experienced for a while. It's what's got me through the past week. I'm taking it one day at a time.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter and Crosses

I spent much of the Easter weekend working on my Uni assignment which may or may not be the holiest thing to be doing especially when the weather outside was ridiculously good. But at least that was a form of discipline so it probably added to my sanctification in no small measure.

I've been struggling with the whole working/studying mum shtick since I started Uni mid last year. It's a tough gig and it explains why I've been under the radar all this time. I didn't really want to do another postgraduate degree at this time in my life while working and raising school-aged kids. But then the husband keeps spouting his usual line of "when-is-it-ever-a-good-time".

Yeah... so I'm mad... certifiably.. but jobs in my area are scarce so I have to do what I can to stay in the game.

Work is not the problem although it is absurdly busy at times. Disciplining myself to get things done is. I've lived under the tyranny of the urgent since mid-last year and then I went to Thailand on a short mission trip already exhausted in December. Two days before leaving the country, I was writing reports till eight in the evening.

This Easter I thought a lot about the way I spend my time consuming media (especially via the internet). I had to ask myself the hard question of whether or not my time has been spent to the glory of God. Sadly I've fallen short. I've been wasting my leisure time and making internet media an idol in my life.

At Easter time we are reminded of how Jesus went to the cross to suffer on our behalf, to free us from sin's stranglehold. Similarly, I am reminded in Luke 9:23 that we are to take up our cross daily. To die to self daily and to seek to honour our Lord in all that I do. Dying to self is a concept that is so foreign to our human nature. I am a creature of comfort and to set aside my wants is contrary to every fibre of my being.
But Easter is also about grace. Grace is a power to overcome our foibles and to get through life. Although I sing "Amazing Grace", I don't really believe in its power in the way I live and make my choices. Nonetheless, the God of grace is the same God that raised Jesus from the dead.

I'm a working mother labouring daily in different contexts but I need to see the cross and all it means in my life as I live out the life in grace daily... not just on Easter weekend.

Surviving Traffic in Suburbia

I like living in the suburbs and I like living some distance from the CBD and yet still enjoy easy access to city life without having to battle tooth and nail through peak hour traffic. It's the one thing I haven't missed... sitting on the freeway thirty seconds at a time... starting and stopping... and that sense of relief... when I finally catch a glimpse of the Brisbane River. Yup, I'm glad not to be working in the CBD or in the inner city suburbs for that reason at least.

Over the years I've noticed that our street has become busier -- the traffic is getting so bad that it's hard to even get past our own driveway. School traffic is also something of a nightmare and if I didn't have to pick up two children from two different places, I'd be walking. These days, one has to arrive in the vicinity at least 20 minutes before chaos descends in the otherwise quiet neighbouring streets. It's quite the challenge trying not to kill someone or have an unpleasant encounter with another vehicle. In my less gracious moments I have unkind thoughts about our local school and the number of students they feel obliged to take in.

Daughter #1 started high school this year and we made a decision to send her to a Christian school about twenty minutes away thinking that we would be using the school bus but that didn't pan out so we've become a two car family after almost eighteen years of just managing with one. I don't particularly enjoy driving even after twenty plus years -- it's stressful trying to read the minds of one's fellow drivers and trying to second guess the timing of red lights. So it's at least one hour in the car doing the school drop offs and then heading off to work. Lots of music playing in the car to take the edge off the monotony. We're definitely doing our best to wear out the iPhone jack. Wasn't happy about it initially but I've made peace with the situation. The fact that Daughter #1 is thriving in the new environment probably makes it easier to accept the new arrangement. I'm also thinking that I'll start doing audiobooks again. I finished I, Claudius mainly on car trips to work a couple of years ago.  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has been much more of a challenge rather like an endurance sport. It's very well written but nothing much seems to be happening.