Sorry if I offend you, but…

I like to avoid commenting on religion, because I respect your right to think differently to me. I don’t want to trample on your sensibilities by disparaging your belief system. This is a blog about my life, my writing, other people’s writing, books and things like that. If you want to worship the Great Pumpkin – even if I think you’re totally misled and doomed to an eternity of disappointment because of it – that’s entirely up to you. It’s a matter of respect: I respect your right to be wrong and I hope you will respect mine. I make no bones about my faith and am usually unashamed of being a Christian. However, lately, on occasions, I find myself whispering that fact rather than boldly pronouncing it to the world. There’s so much miserable, weird and ridiculous garbage proclaimed and done under the banner “Christian” that I’m more than embarrassed, I’m mortified. I don’t understand how people can claim they follow Jesus and think that he’ll be pleased with their hateful behaviour. In America, the land of the free, the “one nation under God”, a Christian pastor recently said that gay people should be put in an enclosure, surrounded by an electric fence and then be left to “die out”. What the hell? (There are also people who think I can’t be a believer if I say, “hell”.) In that same country we find Christians holding up signs that say, “God hates fags”. No, he doesn’t. He loves them. He said we should love our neighbours as ourselves. He even said we should love our enemies. In fact, he expects me to find a way to love those hateful dingbats, too. I’m working on it, but I reckon I’ll need divine help to do it. Right now I just want to smack them. I don’t want to get into an argument about what is or isn’t a sin. I don’t want to debate who is or who isn’t going to get into heaven. That’s God’s business. I’m not saying that everything’s acceptable and it doesn’t matter how we behave. But, I do think that if it’s a choice between the gay person who is being victimized and the “righteous” person doing the victimization, the good Lord is going to be on the victim’s side. Well, I’ve broken my cardinal rule: avoid religion and politics. But, then again, I’ve never been a big fan of religion. I’m not keen on rules and regulations designed to organise my life in a way which will conform it with what other people think will please God, but which really just makes them feel secure in their own righteousness. I am a huge fan of Jesus. If, dear follower of the Great Pumpkin, I have offended you by this little post, I’m sorry. If you want to start Christian-bashing as a result of what I’ve written I beg you, in the name of Love, please don’t. There’s already enough hatred in this world. After all, it’s not just Christians who can be judgemental, self-righteous and just plain nasty. Sadly, it’s part of the human condition. Christians, if you think I’ve wandered off the straight and narrow, please pray for me but love me anyway. Then, if you’re entirely without sin, go ahead and cast the first stone. I won’t promise not to duck. 🙂...

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“Life-changers”?

I recently posted on Facebook a picture with a motto that tickled my fancy. It said: Books are dangerous. The best ones should be labeled: This could change your life. I forget who said it – Helen something-or-other – but going by the spelling it must have been an American. (US spelling = one l, UK and AUS spelling = 2 ls; labelled). Since then I’ve been mulling over the question: What books would I put on my list of “life-changers”? It’s not as easy as it first appears. Just because I loved a certain book, does that mean it had a life-changing impact on me? Then again, it’s most likely that every book I’ve ever read has influenced me in some fashion and therefore I could say that they have all changed my life. Ah, philosophical questions: the bane of an over-active mind trying to get to sleep in the wee small hours. I decided I’d make a little list of books that have made an impact and therefore still float around in my subconscious as: books I can’t forget. The fact that I remember them, especially the ones from my childhood and teen years, means that they are significant tomes. After all, I’m a person who has trouble remembering my own phone number! Before I get down to the nitty-gritty, please keep in mind that in my life I have read a myriad of books. I exhausted the children’s library in my capital city when I was 10 and had to get an older sister to borrow books from the adult library for me. When I was little I was so desperate to read that, when I ran out of books, I began to work my way through the dictionary. (Comes in handy when I play scrabble.) What I’m trying to say is that I have most probably read your favourite and, what’s more, thoroughly enjoyed it, so don’t be offended if it’s not listed here. I’ve merely chosen the few that floated to the top of my memory, first. 1. The Narnia series: C.S.Lewis. I never looked at another wardrobe in quite the same way. I’d already read Alice in Wonderland, so I was aware of the magical possibility of “other worlds” but unlike Alice, this story was believable. It made sense. It was “real”. Alice was, to be polite, odd. 2. Many collections of folk and fairy tales from around the world. It’d take too much space to list them all, but of course they include the Brothers Grimm, Larousse’s Greek Mythology, Sinbad, Persian tales, Icelandic sagas etc etc. For a few years, in late primary school and early high school, I was obsessed with reading these stories. I found that many cultures from all parts of the globe, told the same kinds of stories, wrapped up in different clothing to allow for cultural differences. This gave me much to ponder about the “family of man”. 3. Gone With the Wind: Margaret Mitchell. Read it when I was 12. Took me three days. Engrossing story with the most annoying heroine I’d ever met. What did those men see in her?! Why did she obsess over wimpy Ashley, when she had such a winner in Rhett? Of course, the real story was the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves. (Hooray for Abe Lincoln!) What a saga! 4. The Old Man and the Sea: Hemingway. It was required reading when I was in high school and I approached it with a liberal dose of apathy. It wasn’t the sort of book I’d have chosen for myself. After all, it was just about an old man who goes fishing. Big fat whoop. But, the story, the rhythm of the words, the difference in style, sucked me in. This Hemingway bloke didn’t just write stories, he hand-crafted them! It awoke in me a deep desire to be a writer, too. 5. The Wall: John Hershey. The story of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto in W.W.II. I read it in my late teens, while I was living in America for a year as a foreign student. It’s the first book that made me sob as I read. I knew about man’s inhumanity to man (after all, I’d read Gone With the Wind) but this took it to another level. It made me so mad I wanted to SMACK someone! 6. The Dragons of Pern series: Anne McCaffrey. At last, a kindred spirit who obviously, like me, thought that dragons had been given a bad reputation and deserved to have their side of the story told. I’m beginning to regret starting this, there’s just so many: Wuthering Heights, Wilbur Smith’s Courtney family saga, everything by Terry Pratchett, Haley’s Roots, King’s The Shining and...

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Mother’s Day

Just out of interest, I “Googled” Mother’s Day and talk about an education! I knew that Mother’s Day, as celebrated in Australia, was begun in the USA in the early 1900s (1912), so I thought that the day was probably only celebrated in countries that had strong cultural ties with America: the UK, Australia, New Zealand…perhaps Canada… I had no idea that practically the whole world has some sort of Mother’s Day. Long before Mrs Whatshername (in 1912) kick-started the modern version, there was the Christian day of “Mothering Sunday”, which celebrated the day Jesus was taken by his parents to be presented at the Temple. (Don’t ask me; I have no idea why that’s called “Mothering Day” and not “Temple Presentation Day”.) In many Catholic countries the day coincides with Virgin Mary day. In Bolivia the day is celebrated on the date of a battle in which many women participated and were killed by the Spanish army. (Don’t get offended, Spanish people, I’m not having a go at you.) In some Muslim countries the day is celebrated on the birthday of Mohammed’s daughter, Fatima. The Hindu religion had a holiday to celebrate womanhood, long before Europeans turned up and introduced them to the Western version. It’s relatively new in China, but they say it fits well with their tradition of honouring their elders. The South Koreans just have one day: Parents’ Day. For some of us it’s a day to give our mothers presents, cards dripping with sentimentality to say “we love you heaps, Ma” and, just to add to their long-suffering, let the little kids bring them undercooked eggs and crumby toast for breakfast in bed. In Germany, in Hitler’s day, it became a political tool to encourage German women to have lots of healthy future soldiers to give to their nation. There was even a medal for women who had more than 8 children. (Personally, If I had more than 8 children, I’d want a whole lot more than an inane medal!) Some people have had terrible experiences at the hand of mentally disturbed, alcoholic or drug-addicted, or sociopathic mothers. It’s not such a happy day for them. Some people never knew their mother and are haunted by an unquenched longing for the unknown. Some women will never be mothers, and this day is a painful reminder of that fact. Some people’s mothers have died (like mine) and this day brings bittersweet feelings: sweet memories of our loved one and sadness that we won’t see them again this side of heaven. Some countries don’t have Mother’s Day but, instead, celebrate “International Women’s Day”. I like that idea. It is more inclusive (single and/or childless women would no longer feel left out) and it would be a good way to encourage people to respect and cherish women, as equal partners in the journey of life. On the other hand, I really enjoy spending time with my children and grandchildren. I love to read the sloppy cards, dripping with sentimentality. I like getting presents (who doesn’t). Best of all, it’s so nice to feel appreciated; that’s the very best part of the day. Mothers, you have the most important job in the world: you nurture and shape another human being. That’s an awesome thing. Well done, you! I wish you all a happy Temple Presentation-the Virgin Mary mother of Jesus-Fatima’s birthday-Hindu womanhood-Bolivian Battle-parenting-Mothering Sunday-Mother’s Day. 🙂...

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I confess…

Self-pity is a force that is counter-productive and is the enemy of creativity. I had a bad day, yesterday. It left me feeling down and, I admit it, just a little sorry for myself. Okay, I felt lots sorry for myself. Dang! Now I’m annoyed with myself for using lousy grammar. Damn and blast! I shall start again. Yesterday I had to get up over an hour earlier than usual and it went downhill from there. There is no way I should ever be forced to wake up before the rest of my body is ready. I had to drive over an hour to get to a nine am appointment. You do the maths. After waiting since December 2010 to get into a treatment program (for lymphoedema) at a certain public hospital, I finally snapped. I haven’t been able to buy a compression sleeve for nearly a year and now my fat arm is not only  twice the size of the other, it throbs…a lot. I’d called the hospital and asked, most politely, if they could give me an indication of when I was likely to get treatment. After several more phone calls throughout three weeks of waiting for the “guy who has the password to the computer” to get around to returning my call, and still no answer, I put the phone down and cried. Then, I searched the internet, found a private treatment centre over an hour away and begged for an appointment. I knew it would cost us money we really can’t afford but I’m desperate. They had a cancellation and a week later I set off at the crack of dawn, through thick pea-soup fog, to get some help. I got some therapy, but loads of questions and a promise that they’ll call the guy at the hospital because I should really go there and still no compression sleeve and… Arrggghhh! Why does it have to be so damn hard? So, I sat there in the clinic justifying why I called them for help and I had to list my medications and ailments. I began, still feeling rather chipper. By the end of it I realised my warranty ran out years ago and it’s probably only rust and chewing gum that’s holding me together. I drove home feeling shattered. I began to think about my life and dreams, taking into account that I’m turning mumble mumble this year. (Oh hell, I’m getting old!) Still no book published (the agent is yet to get back to me). I spend most of my time at home working on other people’s books. Don’t get me wrong; I get a great deal of satisfaction doing it, especially when I see the finished product in print, but still… it’s their books not mine. I don’t really do much else. Last night we went to watch our six-year-old granddaughter play her very first game of netball. I pictured one netball court. But no, it was netball kingdom on steroids. Courts full of eager little netballers and their freezing-cold-wrapped-in-parkas-and-blankets-doting families, stretched away into the horizon. Of course, we parked at the wrong end. Of course, I didn’t bring my walking stick. I sat there like a decrepit old granny watching my darling grandie leaping about the court – so young, so fit, so adorable – and I thought to myself: That used to be me. Afterwards, I hobbled back to the car feeling every bit of my age and decrepitude. (The dictionary defines that word as: The crazy state of the body produced by decay or age.) So today, I’m sorry, my mind’s a blank. I can’t think of anything to write my blog about. You’ll just have to wait until next week. I should be well and truly back into the land of blissful denial by then and the creative juices will once more be flowing like a soda...

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