Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Classes have started

Yes folks, it's that time of year again. Whilst Melbourne Uni students are wreaking havoc around town with various O Week shenanigans, we serious students of the UFT are already hard at work this week, beavering away in lectures and the like. (and to prove how terribly serious I am taking this, my final year, I even went to the library, and borrowed a swag of books today... my first day back! I feel like such a scholar ;-)

This semester, I have a cavalcade of Biblical Studies, with a supervised reading unit on Romans (to finish off the unit from last semester), the Gospel of John, and an OT unit on Suffering and the book of Job.

To be perfectly honest, the reason I enrolled in the latter unit was that I have to do two OT units this year, (one of which will be Genesis in 2nd semester) and Job was the only other option at level 2/3 offered by the UFT this year (there was a Psalms presessional, but it clashed with the last week of my summer CPE unit).

It has been noted, that after the death of my father late last year, followed by caring for dying patients and their families during the summer in my CPE unit, studying the book of Job this semester could be seen as a tad masochistic on my part...

"hmm... let me see... how can I really rub my nose in more suffering, because I haven't experienced nearly enough in the past few months"

With this in mind, I suspect it may be helpful for me to hide sharp objects until after I finish the unit :-)

Tragic but cyooote!

I recently found a rather cute website, after seeing it mentioned in a friend's blog. The site is called icanhascheezburger.com and has various pictures of cats and other furry creatures in cute positions, with witty captions (in the broken English that one would expect a kitteh to speak in).

Wanted to share a couple of very cute, and somewhat scriptural pics from that site here.

funny pictures

... and of course, the true picture of creation (move over michelangelo!)

Humorous Pictures

Cute, eh? There are lots of very clever pics, that had me chuckling quite heartily. Enjoy :-)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Gadget Queen on holidays

As my holiday draws to a close (classes for the new year commence next week) I am making the most of my last couple of days of freedom.

Yesterday, I wombled into Carlton, where I went to a movie at the Nova. The Jane Austen Book Club was a classic chick-flick, and as I settled into my seat, clutching the very last Bailey's Irish Cream flavoured choc-top ice cream (it was indeed my lucky day!) I was ready for a light and fluffy, feel-good movie. I was not disappointed.

After the film, I also had a wander through Borders and chanced upon the latest offering from Kerry Greenwood in her Corinna Chapman series, called Trick or Treat, and so of course snapped it up. Kerry is best known for her 1920s Phryne Fisher murder mystery series, but I personally prefer her Corinna Chapman books (Corinna is a modern day baker of fine breads, and sometime sleuth, based in Melbourne). As I was discussing this with the shop assistant in Borders who served me, she made the comment that "Phryne is who she [Kerry] would like to be, but Corinna is who she really is". (That was deep; I think we had our own private version of the Jane Austen Book Club happening, only with a more local flavour)

I also enjoy reading Kerry's books because (WARNING: Shameless namedropping alert!) I know Kerry and her partner, David the wizard; and many of her characters are based to some degree on people in her circle of friends, and it's kind of fun to recognise various people (as I did today when reading her latest book... she didn't even bother to change the names of the recently-married SJ and her
husband Michael-the-musician).

But, all this aside (and I have been enjoying some luxurious hours reading the book yesterday and today), my most exciting new acquisition occurred today, when I ventured forth to K-Mart and bought myself an iPod shuffle. (and of course, I went for the purple one... appropriately liturgical, as we are currently in the season of Lent)

Now this may sound a bit extravagant, but let me explain... I found myself in possession of a number of Coles-Myer gift cards (a couple redeemed from Flybuys and another similar rewards program, and one given to me as a birthday gift), and after doing some research that showed the usual price of 1GB iPod shuffles (the cheapest of the various iPod options) to be somehwere between $95-100, and so with my gift cards, I would have ended up paying about $10 for the gadget... However, when I went into KMart (with some fear and trepidation, as I have not had good experiences of service in the tech department there in the past) I discovered that the shuffles were on special for only $64... I couldn't believe my luck!

So, being the true consumer that I am... I ended up buying the iPod, and a rather nice top (also reduced 20% this week!) and paid a princely sum of $2 cash over and above the value of my gift cards... so I am feeling rather smug, and pleased with the results of my retail therapy for this week.

(and of course, the reason why I am posting this blog entry so late is because I spent most of the evening fiddling around downloading iTunes to my computer, and loading a whole pile of music onto the iPod.)

One of the interesting (and only slightly disconcerting) features of the iPod Shuffle is that you can set it to play tracks in a random order (obvious from the name "Shuffle", really), so as I type this, I have listened to a series of tracks from Handel's Messiah, The Idea of North, Carmina Burana, James Blunt, Brahms' German Requiem and Tommy Emmanuel, just to name a few... (and I just had a rather surreal moment, hearing the recitative from Messiah: "There were shepherds abiding in the field ... and suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying..." "Billy's leaving today...." (first line of James Blunt The Prodigal Son)... and I bet you thought the angels were going to say "Glory to God!" :-)

Hmm... I can certainly understand why people get addicted to these things, the sound quality is quite good, and who would ever have thought that 17+ hours of music could fit into such a tiny item (honestly, it's about the size of a large postage stamp, and clips onto your clothes). But I think I might turn the shuffle feature off... after all, I am a creature of habit, and am not keen on the unknown... I like to know what's coming up next :-)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Well, call me gobsmacked

Today I received my confirmation of enrolment for 2008 from the UFT, which also included my final result from the one unit from second semester last year that I actually completed (I withdrew from the other three units, and have enrolled in supervised reading units this semester to cover two of those topics. The third I just let go, as I didn't need it for my ordination requirements.)

For the one unit I completed, after submitting what I considered to be a very rushed, "quick and dirty" final essay (worth 50% of the unit mark), I ended up with an overall Distinction (78%) for the unit. I know I received very good marks for the other two pieces of work I submitted earlier in the semester, but was expecting a fairly ordinary mark for this essay (as I really didn't think it was particularly insightful or deep), and thought at best, I might get an overall Credit, but it seems I did better than anticipated...

Wow... I am gobsmacked (but kind of pleased, too :-)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Am I becoming a grumpy old woman?

This morning I travelled down to the Mornington Peninsula to lead a worship service at Mt Martha.

This was my second visit to this very friendly congregation, and the service went well, and I received lots of very positive feedback from members of the congregation, which was nice.

I decided to take the scenic route home, driving up the coast along the Esplanade, and then the Nepean Highway, which with today's glorious weather was a delightful trip. The view out over the water was just stunning. I thought I would take my time, and stop somewhere along the way to have lunch and read the paper.

I stopped in the main drag of a town just south of Edithvale, and got myself a paper, and entered what looked like a nice little cafe to have lunch. After initially asking the waitress whether the establishment had an 'order at the counter' system or table service, she assured me that if I sat down, I would be served.

So, I sat down, and got out my paper and started reading... Time passed. No sign of said waitress or any kind of menu heading in my direction. I eventually managed to attract her attention as she scurried past after clearing a table, to ask for a menu. After I had perused the menu and made my choice, I then spent an interminable amount of time looking wistfully at the waitress, with menu in hand, each time she walked past me (and my table was very close to the counter, so this happened often).

Eventually she took my order, and I settled down to read again. The food was reasonably prompt in arriving once I had ordered, but it was nothing to write home about. Given that it wasn't outrageously expensive, I actually didn't mind this, but went away feeling like I had eaten, without really enjoying the experience.

However, once I received my meal (a fisherman's basket with chips and salad), I again needed to crash tackle one of the staff to ask for salt and pepper (to their credit, the meal was not already covered in salt, but the chips were a little on the soft and pale side, rather than the golden and crispy side, so they really needed salt to make them palatable).

The biggest gastronomic disappointment, however, was the iced coffee. Seeing as how it was quite a warm day, I thought an iced coffee would go down very nicely indeed. Unfortunately, the only thing 'iced' about it was the big lump of ice cream sitting at the top (underneath the mountain of whipped cream), and the actual milky coffee tasted almost warm... no luscious icy cold milk here...

As I said, rather a disappointment.

Am I becoming a grumpy old woman to think it was unreasonable that I had to ask for a menu, and later had to ask for salt and pepper, and almost had to crash tackle the waitress to attract her attention so I could order?

Am I turning into the kind of person who will specify: "must be a place with good restaurant service" in my ministerial profile under "where are you prepared/not prepared to be placed?"

Or is it just, that after such a great morning, it would have been nice to have had an equally pleasant and enjoyable dining experience on my way home? Maybe next time I visit that congregation, I should stop for lunch farther south, and not worry that it may only be 11:30 and not really late enough for lunch.

I guess you live and learn... but that's one cafe I don't think I'll be going back to.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Just call me a gadabout!

There must be something about being on holidays, as I have had my mind firmly on looking ahead to plan my future holidays!

First, I booked my flights for a visit to Hobart in the mid-semester break over Easter, and now today, I booked airfares to go to Perth in July, so I can revisit New Norcia. I spent a week in New Norcia last July as part of a study unit on Benedictine Prayer and Hospitality, and fell in love with the place.

I became a "Friend of New Norcia" and also befriended one of the monks, who was recognised as a novice (the technical term is to be "clothed" as a novice) during my visit there last year, and is due to make his simple profession on July 11, the Feast of St Benedict. Since I have been dying to get back to New Norcia, I figured this celebration would be as good an excuse to get over there as anything, so I sproinged into action and booked the flights.

The way various things have worked out, I will be attending a retreat the weekend prior to the 11th July, and hopefully staying in New Norcia for almost a fortnight, which will certainly give me another great, in depth taste of life in the monastery, which I loved so much last time.

On my last visit, it felt like I was only just getting the hang of the rhythm of the prayer cycle and daily offices after a week, so being there a little longer this time round will be great :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Going out with a bang, not a whimper

Last night I worked my final shift at Peter Mac Cancer Centre.

On the last day of my official CPE unit, I took in a goodbye card and box of chocolates for the staff on the ward where I had been working, and then proceeded to do a Dame Nellie, and kept coming back after the farewell, for a few casual shifts.

Well, this time it's final. I have handed in my hospital ID and pager, and said my final farewells to the staff of the Pastoral Care Dept. And to mark the auspicious occasion of my final shift, I was treated to a rather busy night.

Firstly, my usual hospital round was quite busy, and by the time I had visited all the patients referred to me by the nursing staff, it was after 7:30. On a normal shift, the ward round would be well and truly finished, with reports written and stats entered by then, ready to head home at 8pm, to be on call for the rest of the night. But such an easy ride was not to be.

After an exhausting round, spending time with a number of patients coming to terms with
the shock of new diagnoses and adjusting to the reality that they had cancer, I headed back to the department, made a coffee, heated up my dinner and started writing my handover report for the next day.

When about halfway through the report, an emergency code was sounded over the PA, and I had to trek back to the ward to attend. During the next two hours I spent a chunk of time providing support to the other patients in the room, whilst the medical team were working on the patient who was the subject of the emergency, and then the patient's partner arrived, after being called into the hospital. I ended up spending almost an hour with her, providing support as she articulated some of her fears for her husband.

Even though, during the course of my time at Peter Mac, I have provided support to a number of families in similar situations, where a patient might be dying or in medical crisis, I still have trouble knowing what to say to someone when they look at me with such fear and desolation in their eyes as this woman had last night. I can't remember much of what I said to her, but would like to think that my calm, gentle presence was helpful to her in facing that difficult time.

When considering last night, the irony was not lost on me that I seem to have finished how I started, with an emergency (I also had an emergency code on my very first evening/on-call shift in the first week of my CPE unit), so there's a kind of symmetry about it really (and to be honest, when the code was called, I wasn't really surprised. I think I was kind of expecting it). Fortunately, though, on this occasion, the patient was still alive the next day, which has to be a good thing.

Important Health Warning:

Do not swallow chewing gum!

This pic was sent to me in an email by my friend Ange, and I just had to share it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hobart here I come!

I've been thinking for a while now that it would be nice to get back to Hobart for a visit. It seems that on my last couple of trips to the South Island, I have only managed to get as far south as Launceston or Poatina, so it's high time to make it 'home' to catch up with some Hobart folk.

I was thinking about Hobart this morning, as I had coffee with my faculty advisor, and he told me of his recent trip down there, and then tonight I had an email from a friend in my home congregation at Sandy Bay, so as 'there's no time like the present', I jumped on the net and booked a trip down there for the mid-semester break. (Gotta love Virgin's Velocity program, I was able to redeem points to pay for the flights, so that I only paid the taxes, amounting to a total of about $90 for the return trip :-)

So, Hobartians, you can expect me in your vicinity from Saturday 15th March until Friday 21st March.

Those of you who are liturgically aware will realise that this means I will have the best of both worlds, in being able to enjoy Palm/Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in Hobart, worshipping at Sandy Bay, and Easter Day itself back in Melbourne, worshipping at Brunswick.

Woo-hoo! Can't wait! :-)

Friday, February 08, 2008

What kind of wine am I?

You Are Chardonnay

Fresh, spirited, and classic - you have many facets to your personality.
You can be sweet and light. Or deep and complex.
You have a little bit of something to offer everyone... no wonder you're so popular.
Approachable and never smug, you are easy to get to know (and love!).

Deep down you are: Dependable and modest

Your partying style: Understated and polite

Your company is enjoyed best with: Cold or wild meat
What Kind of Wine Are You?

There must be some kind of irony to life, as Chardonnay is probably the only variety of wine that I don't like at all, and refuse to drink. But I guess I can handle being seen as sweet and light :-)

Office of censorship look out

Your Life is Rated PG-13

Your life isn't totally scandalous, but you definitely don't shy away from adult themes!
What is Your Life Rated?

Hmm... I'm sure many of my friends would never believe this... but I really was honest... truly...

Colour schemes

Your Blog Should Be Blue

Your blog is a peaceful, calming force in the blogosphere.
You tend to avoid conflict - you're more likely to share than rant.
From your social causes to cute pet photos, your life is a (mostly) open book.
What Color Should Your Blog or Journal Be?

Thanks to Sarah for pointing to this... I think there has been far too little frivolous stuff on my blog in recent times... time to make up for it! :-)

(but how do I tell people I would rather leave my blog the colour it is? I like purple/pink/burgundy tones)


I am currently (finally!) officially on holidays, and how sweet it is! With most of the hangover of 2007 now taken care of, I am able to turn my attention to the coming year, with excitement, anticipation, and a lot more energy than I have been able to muster for some time.

Family stuff

As I reported earlier, Mum and I had a good time together when she came to Melbourne for Christmas and New Year, and of course, our excursion to the Boxing Day Test remains the highlight of her time here.

Mum returned to Sydney in early January, and has been going well since then, gradually continuing the job of sorting through things and the huge task of getting rid of all the junk in the garage (Dad was a real bower bird, and had a ridiculously massive collection of all manner of tools, gadgets, timber and various bits and pieces, that “might come in handy one day” - no points for guessing which genes I inherited here! :-). So, with the help of the neighbours and hiring a HUGE rubbish skip, Mum managed to get rid of most of the debris from the garage and workshop, and has been working on other little projects since then, like repainting and decorating the front bedroom and moving back in there, after she and Dad moved into the middle bedroom a few years ago, so the tube from his oxygen concentrator could reach out to the back deck.

Australia Day was Mum & Dad’s wedding anniversary, and after celebrating their 50th anniversary together last year, I expected that this year would be pretty hard for Mum to be on her own. The lovely Kay and John from next door made sure that she was not left alone at all (even for a minute, it seems) as they planned an action-packed day full of special adventures (starting at 6:00am with a trip to Parramatta Park for some hot air balloon watching). I managed to catch up with Mum by phone between the breakfast at McDonalds (after the balloon watching), and the BBQ lunch next door, and as usual, we had a good cry together over the phone.

It’s very comforting for me to know that Mum is being so well cared for by her great next-door neighbours on both sides, as well as other friends and family in Sydney and beyond. I’m looking forward to seeing her again in April (Dad's birthday is April 4), as I think that will be a hard time for us both, but it will be good to have the deliberate ritual of the scattering of Dad’s ashes to help with the ongoing activity of processing our grief and moving forward.

Summer CPE

I know I have already waxed lyrical about how much I loved the experience of the CPE placement at Peter Mac Cancer Centre. Rather than going over ground I’ve already covered, or telling more stories about my adventures, I thought I would share in a few points some of the things I loved about CPE, and some of the things I learned during the unit.

Things I LOVED:

* The Pastoral Care Dept at Peter Mac is the most affirming workplace I have ever experienced. There is a very strong culture of mutual care and support for each other, so that the pastoral care that is provided by the department to the patients and other staff around the hospital is like an outflowing of that care and relationship within the department.

* The CPE group can make or break the whole CPE experience, and I was fortunate to have worked with an amazing group of people. We were all so different from each other, but rather than detracting from the experience, this diversity was a great gift and really enhanced my experience of CPE.

* Supervision- every week I had a whole hour of my supervisor’s undivided attention, where I got to talk about things that were important to me. What a luxury! (It was a bit like my own personal therapy session J ) David was a very insightful supervisor, who didn’t let me avoid facing any of the hard things that I needed to face, but did so in a gentle way that made me feel like I always had a safety net, even when I was taking great risks. I learned a lot about pastoral ministry from his advice and example.


* I have come to realise that being a pastoral carer is more about who I am than what I do. This has been a great revelation, and has encouraged me to look more closely at who I am, and where my faith inhabits my humanity, and how my faith and spirituality are expressed in the everyday, unconscious parts of me being me, without trying to be a ‘super ministry worker’, and that this is more than enough.

* As a pastoral carer, I bring a gift to those I minister to. The shape, size, colour, wrapping of that gift may be different, depending on the needs and situation of the individual I am ministering to, but the one thing that never changes is the value of that gift. I have learnt that the gift I offer is something of great value. The value of the gift I offer (and also my own value as a pastoral carer) is inherent, and is not dependent on whether or not the recipient takes up the gift or values it themselves. The realisation of this made me much bolder (and I think, effective) when I approached patients to offer them pastoral care.

* Many of the pastoral encounters I had at Peter Mac helped me to recognise that although God is already present in all places and situations, there is a sense in which I, as a pastoral carer (and minister of Christ), bring Christ with me into the pastoral encounter. So even in situations where I might feel that I haven’t done very much, by seeing that God is present in the room, in my consistent presence and empathy, God is there and that’s enough.

* I also learnt that I am a damn good pastoral carer; and I need to be bold in claiming my strengths in this area. My own recent and raw experience of grief seemed to give me an edge, that enabled me to express empathy and give of myself to those I was ministering to, providing a safe environment for them to open up and explore their own experiences of pain and grief too.

OK, so I lied. I will share some adventures:

Over the course of the 11 weeks, there were 7 patients I had pastoral contact with who died. Two of these were in the context of emergency codes being called, and the patients died suddenly and unexpectedly in the presence of family members, and I was present to provide pastoral support at the time. Some of the other members of my CPE group commented that I seemed to have had more than my fair share of patients dying, especially in the emergency situation, and my response was to say that perhaps this was the case because it was necessary. The reality of facing the death of patients and the grief of their loved ones was my greatest fear in undertaking CPE so soon after the death of my own father. In a strange way, I think God allowed me to experience the death and grief of so many patients because I needed to face that fear, and prove to myself that I could overcome it, and still perform the role of a compassionate pastoral carer in those situations without letting my own personal stuff get in the way. My ability to rise to this challenge and do some of my best pastoral work under such circumstances felt like a bit of a triumph for which I was grateful to God and those around me who supported me as I learned this lesson.

I am also glad to have been offered some extra paid shifts working at Peter Mac during the fortnight between the end of my CPE course and the commencement of the next course. In working my first paid shift, it felt kind of funny to not have other things to do in addition to seeing patients (like writing up case studies, preparing a report or presentation for the group etc). About an hour before handover on that afternoon, I was in the position where I had seen all the patients on the wards I was allocated who needed or wanted to be visited, and thought, “What can I do?” there were no reports to write, and entering my stats wouldn’t take that long. I ended up wandering into the hospital chapel, and spend a half hour or so in silence, gently recalling to my mind all the patients and staff I had interacted with during the day, and lifting them all up to God’s care. The chapel at Peter Mac (soon to be renamed “Place of Peace”) is a surprisingly busy place, and as I sat for a half hour or so, a few people came and went, some in silence, and some having quiet conversations in the welcoming space.
It was quite refreshing to be able to round off a day of pastoral ministry in this way, before heading back to the department for handover. (and even more refreshing that when I told the acting Head of Dept that I had spent the past half hour sitting in the chapel, her response was, “Good”). I’m really going to miss that place when I do finally finish up there.

Study Stuff

It soon became clear that, even with the very generous extensions offered by the Dean of the UFT, I didn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell of completing all the assignments that were left hanging over my head from unfinished subjects in second semester last year. So, I eventually came to the conclusion that this was the case, and more importantly, it didn’t matter. The worst case scenario would be that I would either fail or withdraw from these units, and have to do an extra semester to catch up on the subjects needed to complete my degree and ordination requirements… and let’s face it, an extra semester at Theological College would hardly be the end of the world.

In fact, I was prompted to remind myself to “be careful what you wish for”, as in first year, I had said to the acting Dean that I was enjoying my experience of College so much, that perhaps in second year, I needed to orchestrate some kind of existential crisis so that I would have to stay in College for an extra semester or so.

However, that won’t turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I managed to work out a solution, involving the juggling of units, changing a planned major in Systematic Theology into a sub-major, and claiming another sub-major in another field (so ending up with one major and two sub-majors instead of my original goal of two majors, both of which are acceptable options in the rules of the B.Theol degree). This also enabled me to take advantage of some credit points I was awarded by the UFT due to previous degree study in an earlier incarnation as a student… so the bottom line is that, I will be able to finish all the requirements of my degree, and ordination requirements at the end of this year, and I only had to hand in one essay to complete one unit from last year, instead of the daunting pile of something like 7 essays which were looming over my head. (I was able to completely withdraw from one unit, and re-enrol in the remaining two as supervised reading units in first semester this year). I am very grateful to various Deans, Principals, Lecturers and other Powers that Be for being so flexible and compassionate in helping me to reach this end solution that works for all of us.

So, at 4:30pm on Monday of this week, I submitted that one essay to the UFT office, and that night celebrated my new “I’m on HOLIDAYS!!!!” status by having a very enjoyable and relaxing dinner with a friend (which also involved a significant amount of red wine, Tasmanian cheese and gourmet chocolate ice cream). The next day I ventured out to see Sweeney Todd at the Nova in Carlton, and got to do the mandatory swoon over Johnny Depp (is there nothing that man cannot do?!), although I would issue a warning to anyone who might be a bit squeamish about blood that this film might not be for you, because even I flinched a couple of times when the ‘demon barber’ did his thing.

I also rewarded myself by buying the DVD of the last two Vicar of Dibley episodes, which I didn’t manage to catch when they aired on TV, so that provided another afternoon of relaxing holiday entertainment.

I’m also enjoying a gradual return to the ‘normal world’, as I start to pick up some of the regular responsibilities that I put on hold during CPE. This week I had a church worship committee meeting and a volunteer shift at the Olive Way (a drop in kind of outreach run by our congregation in Brunswick)… next week is a church council meeting… and it will all gradually pick up steam as we get closer to the start of classes for the year .

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Getting back to normal... whatever THAT is!

I am very conscious of the fact that it's almost a month since my last blog entry, and Beloved Readers, you may have given up on me due to the lack of action on this site.

Well, the good news is that my CPE placement at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre officially finished today. It was an amazing 11 weeks, which seemed to scream past much too rapidly. It wasn't always easy, but I loved every minute of it, and will talk about some of my experiences in more detail later (when it's not so late, if you get my drift)

I now have three weeks until classes start for 2008. During the next fortnight I have a few paid locum shifts at Peter Mac, to help keep the pastoral care happening there until the new group of CPE participants starts, but apart from that am planning to have a bit of a break (who knows, I might even get to a movie at the Nova!)

Well, it's late, and I need to go to bed, but promise to write more soon!

So, gentle readers, rejoice, for the drought will soon be over (and you will be drowned in my verbosity once again! :-)