Friday, September 29, 2006

predictive text is a wonderful thing

Today I had lunch with Jenny, a friend from Tassie (part of the Tassie invasion I think I mentioned earlier). In the course of our conversation, she mentioned an exchange she had had with the friend she was staying with in the lead up to her visit.

She told me that ever since he had moved from Hobart to Melbourne, this friend had been nagging her to come and stay with him when she was in town, so she finally got to do it. During the negotiations about dates, arrangements etc, she said she thought she should be polite and ask him about how he was going, and what life was like for him, since she hadn't seen him for some time.

This exchange was happening via SMS between their mobile phones, and the response she got back from him was along the lines of:

Things are generally going ok, except that all of Melbourne is currently in the grip of gay fever.

When Jenny received this message, she was somewhat puzzled. What could it mean? Had Sydney relinquished the Mardi Gras to Melbourne? Surely not! (and anyway, it's the wrong time of year for Mardi Gras). Was it some bizarrely obscure reference to the grand final? So she texted him back to ask what he meant. Next thing, her phone rang, and it was said friend killing himself laughing on the other end.

"When I sent that SMS I was a bit tired, and didn't check it properly... I meant to say HAY fever".

They both nearly wet themselves laughing so hard at the rather amusing mistake (and needless to say, they have both gotten considerable mileage out of it ever since :-)

Ahh... ya really gotta love predictive text on mobile phone messaging :-)

And now I am off to take some Telfast, because like Jenny's friend, I am also currently in the grip of gay fever :-)

UCA Synod meeting 1

From last Sunday evening till Wed afternoon, I attended the meeting of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, held at the Bundoora Campus of La Trobe University.

It was great to catch up with various friends, from Tassie, and other parts of Victoria, but more than this, it was good just to be the church together.

There were numerous items of business discussed, the ex-Moderator, Sue Gormann, gave a rip roaring "Ex-Moderator's Address" (most of the details of the decisions made and text of significant addresses can be found on the Synod website).

One item that was quite significant for me, was the plight of our rural congregations. There is a desperate shortage of ordained ministers in many rural areas, a problem which is exacerbated by the fact that there are fewer new candidates coming through the Theological College, and many of the current candidates tend to be older, and have partners in relatively senior jobs, and so need to be located in ministry placements that can also take into account the career needs of ministers' partners, and schooling needs of children. Sadly, this rules out rural and remote placements for many ministers, even the newbies.

After attending the Rural Ministry Conference earlier this year, I was awakened to the needs and possibilities of rural ministry. It was great to meet the people, hear their stories, and get some idea of what life is like for them. In many places where there aren't ordained ministers, the church's ministry is undertaken by lay ministry teams. However, according to one rural minister, this lay ministry team structure is not really working. This isn't because of any lack of skill or commitment on the part of the lay leaders, but the fact that they also have employment, families and other commitments, and so tend to run themselves ragged also taking on leadership roles in the church.

Another person from a rural congregation emphasised to me the importance of having a well-trained, ordained minister who is an 'outsider' to the community. He said that someone from outside can get alongside the people in the community where they are ministering, and get to understand the things the people are experiencing, but being an outsider can help the ministers to be a better advocate for the people they serve, as they can speak out for justice, or cry for assistance (esp in these times of terrible drought) without being accused of self-interest.

Last summer there were some very serious bushfires around Stawell, in the Grampians. Almost a year later, things are still not looking up for the people in that area. Many of them are farmers, and lost almost their entire livelihood in the fires. This season, many borrowed money so they could buy seed to plant crops. Because of the terrible drought, there is not enough water to keep the wheat healthy... last week, there were three days of savage winds, which almost completely wiped out the wheat crop in the Grampians (because of the dry conditions, the roots were fairly shallow, and the wind just decimated the crop). In the Goulburn Valley, there was a big frost last week, which wiped out much of the fruit crops. And so it goes on. Livestock has to be sold off (usually for poor return) because there is no grass, and no water to grow feed lots for them, as some farmers did last year.

But in all of this, the church goes on. In Stawell, the minister there is amazed at the spirit shown by members of her congregation, who, despite losing everything, are keen to keep going, and look for hope and healing in it all.

When I hear stories like this, and realise that as a single person, I have no encumbrances of children or partner, and so am free to go wherever God sends me once I complete my training, I can't help but think it would be irresponsible of me not to seriously consider seeking a rural placement when I exit theological college. As much as I have always been a 'city girl', I have to take seriously the possibility of becoming a rural minister.

In recognition of the seriousness of the needs for ministry in rural areas, the Synod approved a recommendation for the Moderator to call a summit, to get together the key players from the rural presbyteries, the theological college, placements committee etc, to talk about strategies to address this issue.

I hope they come up with some creative solutions.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cheer, cheer the red and the white!

After a Stunning defeat of the Fremantle Dockers last night, the Swannies have pushed forward into next weekend's Grand Final! For the second year in a row! Yay team! (my mother is very proud).

So the Grand Final will now be an all bird affair, with the Swans defending their premiership against either the Crows or the Eagles... either way, the feathers will certainly fly! :-)

I haven't yet called Mum to see how she is coping with the great news of the Swannie's win last night, but I imagine she will be looking something like this picture, which was taken of her during the finals last year.

Cheer, cheer the red and the white,
Honour the name by day and by night,
Lift that noble banner high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky
Whether the odds be great or small,
Swans will go in and win overall
While her loyal sons are marching
Onwards to victory

Friday, September 22, 2006

Avoidance, displacement, call it what you will

One of the things I remember from all of my previous incarnations as a student is how clean and tidy my house/bedroom tend to be when I have exams or assignment deadlines coming up.

Some things never change.

I am currently on a 'mid semester break'. I have two essays due in the first week back, and a third due the following week. Right now I should be head down, bum up working on my Mark essay (due on the Monday of the first week back), so that I can then start work on my Theological Issues essay (due on the Friday of that week), and then get stuck into my Ruth essay (due the Wed of the following week, although this deadline is elastic, and could stretch to the following week).

But what am I doing? Sitting here writing in my blog. And what did I spend an hour or so doing yesterday? Cleaning up my front courtyard ... sweeping up all the fallen leaves, twigs, bits of bark and other crap that has fallen from the trees into my yard, making the path to my door rather 'crunchy'. (And of course because last night we had high winds, which have continued throughout today, the yard now looks as if I never did anything to it, as there are heaps more leaves, twigs and crunchy bits everywhere.)

And I haven't really made a lot of progress on my Mark essay.

Tomorrow night, I have some friends coming for dinner, so that will require me to do at least a cursory tidy up of the living room, so that my flat looks presentable for visitors... although I have decided on a roast for dinner, so that will be fairly easy and won't require a huge amount of preparation time.

What is it about things we have to do that create such a mental block to actually doing them? I love to write, and can churn out thousands of reasonably articulate words on just about any topic without a great deal of effort... but when it comes to writing an essay or assignment for my studies, no matter how much I enjoy the subject, or how much I am excited by the essay topic, it is such a hard slog to discipline myself to sit down, and actually write the damn thing.

Of course, once I get over that barrier, I then have trouble limiting myself to the word limit (at this stage most of my essays have a max 2000 word limit). Most of you familiar with my writing will recognise that I'm just starting to warm up after 2000 words... so I find it devillishly difficult to express all I want to say in so few words.

A friend of mine (another ministry candidate, who tends to average High Distinction grades, thus leaving me behind a bit academically) was opining recently that he seems to have the opposite problem to me when it comes to writing essays. He writes very concisely and deliberately, and the words don't flow easily, so he finds it very hard to wring out all the words needed to achieve the word limit. Maybe I need to read some of his past essays (esp the ones that get really high grades) to see how he manages to be so concise, and maybe learn from his strategies and techniques.

But saying that isn't getting my current essay written... I think I need to get back into it... but will just make a quick coffee first :-)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A letter from Bethany

Today I received a letter from Bethany (aged 10... or maybe 11 now... she's probably had a birthday since the last time I saw her).

It was a lovely surprise to receive a colourful and artistic letter with lots of cool stickers all over it, and lots of hugs and kisses from Bethany amid the news from her and her family.

It made me smile.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Arrrrrr, me hearties

Today is international Talk Like a Pirate Day

(of course you knew that, didn't you? :-)

For a bit of diversion:

My pirate name is:
Dirty Mary Rackham
You're the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of you, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Cool, huh? :-)
(and just ignore the fact that the text above is a bit skewy... something to do with the dodgy code from the piratequiz site, and I'm not an HTML guru, so you'll just have to be a tough little pirate and deal with it...)


Monday, September 18, 2006

Cluck, cluck cluck!

I had an SMS from my friend Amy yesterday, raving (as only a proud, first-time Mum could!) about the gorgeousness of her lovely little baby Ezra .... I am still waiting for photos so I can cluck and drool over his cuteness for myself.

In other news, Epa, my next-door neighbour, informed me at church yesterday, that after her scan last week, they now know that the baby she is due to deliver in about a month will be a boy! And there was great rejoicing in the land! Epa and Samasoni already have 3 girls and a boy, and so I think that Samasoni and young Nait are relieved that they will soon be joined by another male, thus almost evening up the gender balance of the family.

So with only a month to go (officially), everything's looking good, and it's all systems go - the baby could really arrive at any time now. I am holding my breath with excited anticipation, waiting for that phone call in the middle of the night from Samasoni, saying, "the baby's coming- get over here to mind the kids, we're off to the hospital!"

Can't wait!!! :-)

The Tassie invasion!

It seems there are quite a few Taswegians making the trip across Bass Strait to visit The Colonies in the next little while.

First, there was my friend Mike, who stayed with me for a few days a fortnight ago. Next weekend, I will be hosting Wendy, another friend (this time from Hobart) who is coming over for the annual meeting of the Synod of Victoria & Tasmania. There will also be a host of other Taswegians around for that meeting too.

Then in the following week, a couple from my church in Hobart (Will and Rosemary) will be in Melb for a few days, en route home from Canberra where they will be visiting their daughter, son-in-law and celebrating the first birthday of a grandchild. After that, another friend (Jenny) will be doing some retail therapy in Melb, on the way home from a conference in Sydney. (these will be catch ups over coffee/meal, as these friends won't be staying at Chez Caro)

Then in November, my good friend Anita will be coming to stay with me for a few days, which will be fun. All of my study commitments, exams, assignments etc will be done for the year by then, so we will be able to have some girly fun together, before I head to Tassie myself for my 8 week summer field education placement.

I think there might even be another visit from Mike (maybe even with his wife Fran this time) before the end of the year, so that would be nice.

I am so grateful for the lovely unit where I live- so convenient and close to College, and the city, and big enough that I can have visitors come and stay, and offer hospitality in that way. I'm loving it! :-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The importance of intimacy

We all need at least one person in our lives who tells us we are amazing on a regular basis. I am blessed to have at least 3-4 such people in my life.

I don't mean this in a vain or sycophantic way, but I think that to have someone who knows me deeply, who has travelled with me when I have been through hard times, who knows my weaknesses and my strengths, and sees my blindspots (the bits that I don't see) and is willing to give me honest, loving (and sometimes brutal) feedback- that is truly a gift from God.

My friend Mike, who lives in Tasmania, is one such person. I have known him since I was about 18 ("only a few years then," I hear some of you say! :-) and he is an incredibly perceptive person. We worked together for a while when I was in Sydney (he was my boss) and we have kept in touch over the years.

Something that I have struggled with over the years has been my self concept, or self esteem (I know... boring... everyone seems to have issues of this kind!), and I remember one conversation I had with Mike a few years ago... I reported to him something that someone else had said to me : a compliment about some aspect of my character... and his response was, "and do you believe that yet?"

I was reminded of this incident recently, when I observed the need for me to say the same kind of thing to someone else. My friend Mike happened to be in town, and staying at my place, so I decided to invite some of my newer Melbourne friends around for a dinner party, so it was a 'new friends meet old' kind of thing.

After the dinner party, Mike made some positive comments to me about one of my new friends, and I reported this positive feedback to said new friend the next day. He seemed kind of embarrassed, and muttered something like "obviously doesn't know me very well".

It occurred to me that this friend may need someone to challenge him with the question: "When people say nice things to/about you, do you actually believe them?"- in the same way that Mike did to me some years ago. (I suspect this may need to be my primary task next time I share a bottle of red with said friend).

As I said before, I feel very blessed to have a number of close friends who I know I can trust, who know me and love me, warts and all. This has helped me immensely in my journey to actually believe that I am a child of God, and loved and lovable.

I think the time has come and God is calling me to be that kind of friend to others, to love them and give them loving feedback and encouragement as they are also on this journey.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

La la LA la, la la LA la, la la laaa laaa laaaaaah

Welcome to LAAA LAAA week.

This week the Melbourne Chorale is singing in 3 performances of Walton's incidental music for the soundtrack of the film of Henry V, as part of an MSO Master Series concert.

The piece runs for just under an hour, during which we:

* sing words for about 5 mins
* sing laaaa laaaa laaas and aaah aaah aaahs for about 15 mins, and
* sit, trying to look glamorous (and not fall asleep) for about half an hour

All in all, it's been a hard week.. even though the Walton is not exactly rocket science (quite a contrast to the Rachmaninov Vespers which we are rehearsing for a concert in November), but we have had rehearsals on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with performances tonight (Thurs), Friday and Sat nights.

Tonight's performance was broadcast live on ABC Classic FM. (And it's one down, two to go :-)

I think by Sunday I will be ready for a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The gold fish bowl experience

This weekend, the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania is holding its selection conference for ordained ministries. This means that about a dozen or so hopeful applicants (who have already been through a fairly rigorous process of discernment to get to this point) will be facing a selection panel, who together will discern whether there is a calling to the ordained ministries within the Uniting Church for these people.

It's hard to believe that it's a whole year since I went through the same process. For me it was quite a surreal experience. Being the only Tasmanian applicant brought its own interesting aspects to the process, but for all of us applicants it was hard work.

First, on arrival on Friday night, there was an informal 'meet and greet' as all the applicants got to have supper with the members of the panel and chat informally.

Rule no.1 (according to a minster friend of mine) is that NOTHING at Selection Conference is informal or off the record. You can guarantee that the panel members are watching your every move, and may refer to that casual, throw-away comment made over coffee in one of your interviews.

I found it rather disconcerting that I was greeted by a man I had never met before with "Hello, you must be Caro, I recognised you from your photo," and the conversation continued in a rather weighted manner, as it became obvious that he knew just about everything about me (which of course, as a member of the panel, he would, after reading all the paper warfare of my application documents and references etc) and I knew nothing about him. It totally perverted the usual ritual of meeting people for the first time, where both parties usually swap little tidbits about themselves, in a process which gradually moves the level of disclosure from the superficial and 'public domain' to more intimate details of how you think, feel etc. As I said, I found this cutting across the usual social rituals to be rather disconcerting.

Then came a group activity (have I mentioned how much I LOVE group activities -not-?) Hmph.

Then the Saturday was spent in interviews: each applicant had two interviews, with two panel members on each occasion. The first was on the topic of vocation and calling, and the second on academic and personal support issues.

Rule no. 2 (also from the same minister friend) If you are asked at interview what you would do if the selection panel recommends you not be accepted as a candidate, the only right answer is to say: "well, I guess that means you'll see me again next year, as I am so convinced in my sense of calling to this ministry". The important thing is to convey a sense of confidence in one's calling, without being arrogant and treating the process like a fait accompli.

We were also warned that when not participating in formal interviews, all applicants were requested (required) to hang out in the common room, to enable 'informal conversations' with other panel members over coffee (refer Rule no.1).

There was also another group activity on the Saturday (oh joy!)... but these were not just normal group activities... the applicants (there were 7 of us last year) sat in an 'inner circle' of chairs to discuss the task we had to do, whilst the members of the panel all hovered in the background; watching, listening, taking notes... serious goldfish bowl stuff!

At one level the process was quite intimidating (even though all the members of the panel were really nice, and tried to put us at our ease as much as possible), but as one of the current candidates (a few of whom were present at the weekend) said to me, it was pretty awesome to think that all of these people were prayerfully participating in the process of discernment about the next step in my life and ministry. Quite a privilege, really.

One thing about the selection conference weekend that is different this year, is that current candidates have not been asked to be present to chat with applicants and provide some information about what life is like at theological college. And with so many applicants this year, which will presumably mean that the selection panel is also slightly larger than last year, it will probably be less crowded or confusing to the process to not have those extra people (current candidates) around.

So for me, that means that the only way to support the process (and the applicants!) is to be praying for them this weekend (and for the panel members in their deliberations tonight and tomorrow).

May God be with them all!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Something cute for bloggers

I came across this link in Louise's blog, and thought I would do the quiz to see what kind of a blogger I am.

You Are a Life Blogger!

Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary.
If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.

Cute, eh? :-)

Monday, September 04, 2006

... and you wonder why I am a cat person?

I stole this little gem from my friend Louise's blog, (and she in turn received it via email from one of her contacts). It was so good, I had to pass it on.

A pet's thoughts:

7 am - Oh boy! A walk! My favorite!

8 am - Oh boy! Dog food! My favorite!

9 am - Oh boy! The kids! My favorite!

Noon - Oh boy! The yard! My favorite!

2 pm - Oh boy! A car ride! My favorite!

3 pm - Oh boy! The kids! My favorite!

4 pm - Oh boy! Playing ball! My favorite!

6 pm - Oh boy! Welcome home, Mom! My favorite!

7 pm- Oh boy! Welcome home, Dad! My favorite!

8 pm- Oh boy! Dog food! My favorite!

9 pm - Oh boy! Tummy rubs on the couch! My favorite!

11 pm - Oh boy! Sleeping in my people's bed! My favorite!


Day 183 of my captivity. My captors continued to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal.

The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape,and the mild satisfaction I get from clawing the furniture.Tomorrow I may eat another house plant.

Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded - must try this at the top of the stairs.

In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair - must try this on their bed.

Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body in an attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear in their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was.

Hmmmm, not working according to plan. There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the food.

More important, I overheard that my confinement was due to my powers of inducing "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches.

The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird, on the other hand, has got to be an informant and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room, his safety is assured. But I can wait; it is only a matter of time.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I must have died and gone to heaven...

... or so it seemed when I walked into the Gelobar in Lygon St East Brunswick tonight.

My friend Lisa from Canberra was in Melb this week for work, and she rang me to catch up, suggesting we meet at the Gelobar for coffee and/or dinner tonight. Well, that's where we met, but decided we did actually need something savoury before the sweet, so wandered up the road to a rather unremarkable looking Indian restaurant where we had some amazing food (cheap too) before heading back to the Gelobar for ice cream and coffee.

I have to say that my head swam as I looked at not only the incredible range of ice cream and gelati flavours on offer, but also the various cakes, tarts, biscuits and other gorgeous things ... as I said, it was like I had died and gone to heaven (and man! what a way to go! :-)

After Lisa and I had enjoyed some ice cream (I had lemon and blood orange gelati) and coffee, we exited, full and happy, and as I walked out the door, I invoked the words of a famous actor, "I'll be baaaaack!" :-)

Post script: After I had seen Lisa onto her tram to head to her city hotel, I wandered across Lygon St, and found a 24 hour florist, and couldn't resist buying a small bunch of jonquils to brighten up my flat...

*sigh* spring has indeed sprung... and have I mentioned that I am enjoying living in Melbourne? :-)


The play I went to see with Helen last night was called Festen, by David Eldridge (the play was apparently an adaptation from a cult Danish film). The cast was a bit of a who's who... with John Stanton playing the role of the father, Helge, whose 60th birthday celebration formed the backdrop for the play. Julia Blake was his wife. Jason Donovan played Christian, the son, who dropped a bombshell on the evening. Other cast I recognised were Ditch Davey (from Blue Heelers), Kym Gyngell (most infamous for his Col'n Carp'nter character), and there were a few other faces I recognised, but as I was too stingy to buy a program, I can't recall their names.

The play was fairly confronting, both in its content and portrayal -not the least because I think I had exceeded my daily quota of "f*ck"s after the first 5 mins- (although Helen told me that apparently in Danish there are 2 very strong and nassssty swear words that could possibly have been alternated in the original, thus resulting in a slightly less tedious portrayal of anger and violence, but in translating the play to English, the only swear word of adequate potency that would have fit was "f*ck").

The main characters were fantastic (John, Julia and Jase... hey, the three "J"s! :-) and of course Kym Gyngell's character was greatly amusing and beautifully played...

Overall, I enjoyed the play, although I did agree with Helen that in a few places, the writing left a little to be desired, and that as with the overuse of the "F" word, they had also overdone the use of loudness and shouting to portray violence between some of the characters.

It was great to get out to some live theatre again- it seems like ages since I last went to a play- so that was great...

Roll on Melbourne Festival! :-)

Did I mention that I am enjoying living in Melbourne? :-)

I like Melbun!

Last night, I went to see a play at the Arts Centre (more about that later) with my friend Helen.

We met for dinner at Chocolate Buddha (a Japanese restaurant in Federation Square) and as we sat eating, with a spectacular view out of the huge plate glass windows, of the Melbourne skyline: tall buildings, city lights etc... it occurred to me that I really DO like Melbourne.

Maybe it's just that spring has sprung, and the weather is getting milder (so an evening stroll through Fed Square and along St Kilda Rd was quite pleasant), but I have to admit, that as much as I still do adore my beloved Hobart, I DO enjoy the big city feel of Melbourne (and the public transport system is so good- I love the trams! :-)