Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Who Me, Christian?


Okay, here's the weird thing: I had no problems talking about God or discussing (beating to death - you choose the verb!) religious ideals when I was still hopelessly lost and searching for Him/them.

December 26, 2105 - A walk through down town Dayboro

And now that I've joined a church - which by the way is part of the Australian Christian Churches (Assemblies of God) not the Church of Christ like I said earlier which, although they exist, is just something I made up quickly to get on with writing - well, maybe you can tell by my obfuscation in this sentence, but I am a little embarrassed.

I mean, reading the Tao, the Bhagavat Gita, the Torah, the Koran, Tarot cards (all of which I have either done or at least attempted to do!): eccentric.  Studying the Bible (which I am doing now): lame. Middle eastern and Romani gypsy dancing?  Crunchy.  Singing and dancing in church?  Weird.
Turning to incense and oils and natural medicine and yoga and meditation (which I still do): kooky. Speaking in tongues (which I have attempted, more on that later!):  REALLY out there!

What? This old thing?!

I had no trouble hanging Ganesha on my wall and calling Shiva our household god or putting up a wall hanging about the meaning of the Hindu word 'Namaste', but hanging up a picture of Jesus or keeping the Bible out when company was coming over took a little longer.

Jesus, by the way, hangs out between two sayings by the Dalai Lama:

 "Love and kindness are always appropriate" and

 "In the history of the world, it has already been proven that the human will is more powerful than the gun."

Jesus and the Dalai Lama get along really well up there on my wall.

Ian, Andrew, Matthew 29/12/15 pre Star Wars

And I hope I haven't just put that last part in so that secular people will still think I'm cool.

The fact is this church kinda snuck up on us.  When we attended the outdoor children's nativity service last December 14, 2014, we THOUGHT we were attending a combined Dayboro churches event and that it would be fairly safe.  Then Pastor Gary didn't yell at us and call us sinners (like the Hip Hop Christmas at Potters House 2011), or talk about US involvement in Israel (like the Uniting Church in Kallangur 2013 which also had Jesus dying on the cross and made Ian cry so much I had to take him outside), or have a barefoot pastor and people running around with a Jesus flag (Vineyard 2012 which was actually quite nice but a bit out there for us, especially Damon!), or simply bore us to death (sorry Catholics Petrie, 2010 but we just didn't feel the enthusiasm).

Star Wars rocked (and put Ian to sleep!)  Happy B'day Dad.

Gary just spoke really positively and then invited everyone to go out for coffee.

Every week after was like a positive affirmation in personal growth.

By the time we noticed that Gary was mumbling things in a funny language, well, it just didn't seem like such a big deal anymore.

Weird lights on Mount Pleasant, December 31, 2015

And three months ago (right after my parents were here), when a visiting preacher asked who would like to accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour, I thought, well that sounds great and raised my hand.  I mean, who wouldn't want a personal saviour, right?!

What I didn't fully understand until later, is that this might actually make me a born- again Christian. Although I haven't jumped into the plastic blow up pool out on the front lawn of the school hall yet.

And later that night - yes, I actually went to church TWICE IN ONE DAY because I wanted to!  (Did I mention my parents had just been here visiting?!)  Oh, later that night the preacher called on the Holy Spirit (who I always wondered about as a kid, who was that and why wasn't he mentioned more often?) to help us speak in tongues.

Hold on to your hats.

I fell silent.

December 26, 2015

Yup.  Me.  With everyone babbling and singing around me and a whole load of laying on of hands and praying, all I really wanted to do was stand still and listen.  (That and I kept coming up with words I had learned when I went to all those bas mitzvahs in middle school: I don't know that Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam counts as speaking in tongues, more like speaking Hebrew!)

But that's okay.  There are lots of other gifts of the Holy Spirit (which the Catholics apparently also believe in; why leave out like the coolest part?!): knowledge and wisdom and teaching and missions and service.  Although I can't claim to have any of those either.

I'm just happier now.  And more hopeful.

Reality versus 'Romani fiction!'

A few weeks ago Damon asked if I had been having bad dreams.  And I said, yeah, I had been driving demons out of people, but I hadn't really been scared because I knew I could do it.  Why, had I finally been speaking in tongues in my sleep?

Uh no.  But I had been reciting the Our Father and the Hail Mary at rapid- fire pace.  (Which, by the way, also works to ward off vampires, zombies, werewolves, ghosts and most anything monster-like in any of my dreams.)

Honestly, I haven't really changed all that much.

I've just finally met a group of people who are encouraging me to be who I always was on the
inside.




Friday, December 25, 2015

An Australian Christmas: Part Two

Christmas Tree 2015

Happy faces at Christmas


Engine's getting hot,
We dodge the kangaroos,
(No, there aren't kangaroos ALL over the place in the Australian suburbs.  And no, we aren't all that good at dodging them sometimes either.)

Ian gets some present- unwrapping support from Ryan.
Ryan's gift and Daddy's hat!


The swaggie climbs aboard -
He is welcome too.
A swaggie is an itinerant ranch hand with a bedroll or swag.  Don't have many of those in the Brissy suburbs either.  But there are some rather ratty looking young guys with long hair that I mentally apologise to as I pass by them with my kids in the car.  Maybe they aren't on drugs and maybe they aren't dangerous but I have promised my husband I will not take that risk ever since I stopped and got out of the car on Route 1 in Connecticut to help a man who had fallen out of his wheelchair and everyone else was just passing by.

Looks like I won't be the only one snapping pictures soon! (Although I can't be the only one who thinks that face belongs IN FRONT of the camera!0
Have we told you about the rocks?!
Look Meka - Air Hogs!


All the family's there, 
Sitting by the pool,
Christmas Day the Aussie way, 
By the barbeque.


Ian  lost amongst his pressies.
Hey!  Everyone else is getting toys and I am trying to look happy about this!
No words.

And that, mates, is how it's done!

Ian engineered the cars to jump OVER the ring of fire.  (Note the green truck UNDER the ramp to give it more height.)
And Dad gets to fix everyone else's toys.


As I post these photos, I think back about what we are worshipping at Christmas.  And it isn't the toys.  It is the joy and the magic.  And I think Jesus would have been okay with that!




Thursday, December 24, 2015

An Australian Christmas: Part One

Time to translate an Australian Christmas classic into English

Santa in shorts!
Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden ute.
Kicking up the dust,
Esky in the boot.

Who needs a sleigh?!

Kelpie by my side,
Singing Christmas songs.
It's summertime and I am
In my singlet, shorts and thongs.


Santa arrives in a firetruck.


Dashing through the bush
Running out to Westfield Shopping Centre at the last minute.

In a rusty Holden ute.
Holden is to Australia what Ford is to the USA and a ute is a pickup truck.
(Note: this does not translate into anything comparable anywhere in Europe!)

Aidan, Matthew and Liam at Little Athletics Christmas party.  Who needs snow?!


Kicking up the dust,
What dust?  It's usually raining at Christmas-time!

Esky in the boot.
An esky is an igloo in the USA or a cooler anywhere else. 
(Note: these are usually not needed in Europe in December.  Just put your beer out on the balcony!)
(Note to Americans;  a boot is the trunk if a car.)

Christmas carols in Dayboro.


Kelpie by my side.
A kelpie is an Australian cattle dog.  But it's probably a pit bull.

Singing Christmas songs.
Or AC/DC and Olivia Newton John.

Matthew plays Jingle Bells at Swaggie's Christmas in Dayboro


It's summertime and I am 
In my singlet, shorts and thongs.
A singlet is a called a wife-beater in the USA.  (Watch COPS and you'll figure out why.)  For Europeans, it is the undershirt you wear under your suit and tie.  You wouldn't answer the door in it, but the rest of the world isn't so kind.

Really.  Don't miss the snow at all!


OH! JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY!
CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRALIA ON A SCORCHING SUMMER'S DAY, HEY!
JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, CHRISTMAS TIME IS BEAUT!
(Because Australians see no need to finish the really long words.)
OH WHAT FUN IT IS TO RIDE IN A RUSTY HOLDEN UTE.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 in Review - On God, Found Dayboro


When Tracy told me she'd read my blog recently, I felt a stab of shame.  Not because I haven't written all year, but because of what I HAD been writing before I stopped.  Oh dear, this written record of my inner struggles is how new people I meet are getting to know me!  As if I'm not perfectly capable of scaring them off in person!

They ALL look like angels at Christmas-time!

What I remember of 2014 is anger and fear.  I was not in a good place - physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I'm afraid to look back at what I was writing.  Two blogs I had to remove because they were hurtful.  I wasn't funny.  I was bitter, nasty and sarcastic.

Now the question is whether a happier me will actually be boring and proselytising.  

Hold on a moment while I go look that up and see if it means what I think it does!


God Aidan (and Captain Matthew and his warriors) backed up by brother Ian.

Nope.  To try to convert to one's particular religion or sect of a religion.  Definitely not what I had in mind.  Although we HAVE joined the Church of Christ this year.

Now the question is whether a happier me will actually be boring and moralizing?  Or if I need to haul out a thesaurus.  And if I should be spelling that with an s or a z.  Still pronounced zee in my head, not zed.  So that I think I will stick with it.

The other question is whether my wandering attention span is a sign of attention-deficit-disorder or a stroke of brilliance.

Tayah and Andrew narrate the story behind Christmas.

Ahem!  Attention!  Over here!  To think , write or speak about matters of right and wrong, often in a self-righteous or tedious way.

Who ME?!

Romans 5:3-4 on adversity:  "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..."

I don't know about that, Romans.  I bitched and moaned through my sufferings.  My suffering produced hypothyroidism, anemia, adrenal fatigue and bitterness.  


Dayna watches over the angels!

Did I endure?  Certainly not in a sense of fortitude; the ability to endure with patience.  I am NOT patient. I am whining and snivelling and demanding.

But I am still here.  And I DO have character.  Or AM a character.  But I am tired of getting up off the sofa to check the dictionary. 

Scratch a warrior, find a lover!

What I do have - for 2016 and for good - is hope.  I have no doubt that Dayboro, Australia is the haven I have been searching for.  Heads up Penn Vet - turns out I was looking farther east than Africa!  

So yes, Gary,  I have finally opened my gift.

"BA RUM PUM PUM PUM," boys, "BA RUM PUM PUM PUM!"

In the words of my four boys:  "I have these gifts for you.  They're up in my bum."

If God really IS anything like Aidan (who portrayed Him in our Christmas nativity skit this past Sunday), 2016 will be filled with madness and mayhem.  But also lots of hugs and love.

Turns out God uses a toilet paper roll covered in tin foil to view the earth!

Oh, and have I mentioned the rocks?!

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2015 FROM THE CONNORS!!!












Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Motherhood.....

Before I had children,  during the rare moments when I even bothered to contemplate motherhood, I knew that I would be a good mother.  I also knew that I would have exceptional children because I would raise them well.  And that I wanted to become a mother to show my children the best of what the world has to offer.

I even thought I would terminate a pregnancy if the child were shown to be seriously mentally handicapped because I was so sure that my gifts of motherhood would be sharing superior intellectual pursuits.  (I also assumed God wouldn't really give me a less than perfect child anyway.)

Hah!



Okay, I worried when Matthew - the twin with the fetal heart murmur - had a 1 in 8 chance of Down Syndrome.  But it was more about how hard it would be to deal with.  I never thought about termination.  And when the results for Ian showed high possibility as well, I was the one who explained to the technician that the risks were actually lower than the risks for my age at the time and that it was lower than Matthew's determined risk had been and that, after three miscarriages, I didn't care what my child might or might not have, I wanted that child.

As for sharing superior intellectual pursuits.  I've told you about the rock collecting, right?  And Ian's exceptional ability to mimic automatic weapons.

The child I have learned the most from is the one who DOES have a diagnosed disability.  Her disability is mild, barely noticeable, something I have intentionally not mentioned to her trainer.  It is more about not easily fitting into the mold, about being different, about refusing to be what other people expect. 



Through Ryan, I am meeting amazing young women who have an innate sense of who they are and why they are here.  I am inspired to learn from them and humbled that they feel I have anything to offer them.  Through Ryan, I am entering a world of excellence, where obsession becomes passion and passion becomes talent.  And where she is comfortable just being who she is.

The two young ladies I mention aren't even horsey ladies.  Now that Ryan has Bug, and is able to pursue her passion without limits, she is more comfortable involving herself in other activities as well.  Her soul is at peace and can now expand itself. 

Not that it has to really. 

I always knew I would have exceptional children.

I just never imagined they would be the ones showing me what the world REALLY has to offer!




e.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How DOES My Garden Grow?

But you don't want to hear about me.

The kids are doing great.

Ian.  Two years ago!


Ian, at the age of 3, looks like a 4 to 5 year old.  And has the verbal capacity to clearly explain to other 4 and 5 year olds that he is (and I quote!) "going on four."  Which is only a problem because he is closer to 3 than 4,  has problems sharing and is still in a diaper.  We're not sure whether to be impressed with his intellect or to despair over the toileting issues.  He is not only my only child to teach himself the alphabet as a two year old, and to learn all the letter sounds at three, but the only one who can simulate an automatic weapon firing and name various types of pistols.    He also does a mean hip- hop dance and plays soccer with the eight year olds but won't participate at music time for pre-schoolers and has a tantrum when asked to join organised activities.  I give up.

The twins have started Year 4.  Matthew finally got the (digital) piano he has been asking for and began formal lessons this afternoon.  He is our special kid, kind and sincere.  And most likely on the spectrum but doing really well, despite - or because, of it.

Aidan and Matthew.  Also two years ago.  Imagine them taller!


His twin, Aidan, is the one person in our family who we can without a doubt say is not on the spectrum.  We aren't quite sure what to do with him.  He is a man's man, a bloke, and it kind of scares me.  Although he also likes collecting rocks and got a rock collection for Christmas.  So maybe there is hope for him yet.

Andrew is, and always has been, our wonder child.  He breezed through the Year 7 Engineering Excellence program still hardly applying himself (something which frustrated his teachers) and spent his free time playing handball or soccer instead of joining the science and maths clubs.  His passion remains soccer and I stopped telling him to look for other options - just in case his knee blows when he is 25 - when he told me that engineers could design weapons of mass destruction for the military.  Yes they can dear.  Shut up and practise your shots on goal!

Andrew.  Has since outgrown bike.


Ryan has blossomed.  From being my trouble child, she is now my friend and guide.  She has just started Year 9 at The Brisbane School of Distance Education and is thriving there.  Last year, she received a merit award for English.  She is accountable for her own education and maintained a B average last year.  This year I hope she learns to put some effort in outside of online classroom hours.  She is still dancing with Soul Dance.  And she has Bug.

We bought Bug, a 16 H, chestnut, 5 year old Thoroughbred gelding, last August.  Bug is proof that good things do find you at the right time, but also that you may have to work for them.  Bug is worth way more than we could ever have afforded for Ryan - and when his owner also threw in his bridle, two rugs and offered to deliver him to us on top of it - it really was the universe finding the right family at the right time.

Two years ago.  But horse actually on the bit!

He is SO beautiful!  And trained to a much higher level than we'd ever expected to find in our price range.  Thank you, Bec! 

Bug changed our lives.  He is the reason we moved from Narangba to Dayboro.  And the reason Ryan has learned to work a horse in frame instead of just sit on a horse and ride.  Funny enough, Bug, if you hadn't decided to give us trouble and start rearing just to test our determination, well, then we probably would have tried to save money on training and just ridden you on trails and in pony club.  And by "we" I mean Ryan since no one else in our family has the skills to ride you.

Through Bug we met Robert and through Robert a whole group of enthusiastic horse people who are happy to work with Ryan rather than threatened by and jealous of her enthusiasm and talent.  At Robert's place- where Bug spent much of the month of December - Bug, our big flashy chestnut Thoroughbred, became "that little chestnut" compared to Robert's big, 17 H Warmbloods.  And, although Robert now admits that little chestnut did give him a run for his money, we now have four feet on the ground and a trainer who only lives 7 minutes away by car.  And keeps trying to get Ryan to choose show jumping or eventing over dressage.  Baby steps, aye Robert.  We just got this horse ON the ground!

Well, at least ONE of us is a proper Aussie!
 
Oh dear.  Not only does this sound like one of those Christmas cards I used to spoof (did I tell you about the new house has a media room?!) but I spent more time writing about the horse than about my children.  But for the last few years I have been hiding how hard it has been - financially and work wise and socially and emotionally.  Sure, I complained about Ryan and school, but I wasn't honest about how much we've struggled to understand this place and to find our place within it. 

Only other migrants to Australia - and perhaps especially to Queensland - will understand this.  After four years I can admit that I get angry at the lack of a work ethic and the lack of a value for education and knowledge, that I see around me. (What's really annoying is that, until now, the standard of living here is amazing WITHOUT work and education!) But I can also say that there are Australians - even Queenslanders! - who have the same work ethic and educational standards and life expectations that I have and I am able to surround myself with them instead of trying to understand the others.

I have hidden the struggle, but I've also hidden the successes.  My kids rocked the National Tests - all my kids - and this year we even learned what that triangle on top of the range of scores is for.  The kids that exceed expectations so much for that year level that they don't know where to put them.  Andrew also rocked the International tests in maths and science.  Ryan received a Merit Award for English, which is really nice since the other three tend to be holding down the maths and sciences.

And we also know other families whose kids are equally successful.



We work hard for those successes and we shouldn't have to be ashamed of them.  "Tall poppy syndrome" was supposed to cut down arrogance, but is has become a way to encourage mediocrity.   Why shouldn't my kids do well at school?  Why shouldn't they succeed in their extracurricular activities?  They work hard at them.  Many Dayboro residents - especially those poor souls on our street - know that Ryan rides Bug nearly every morning, before 7 am, at the Showgrounds.  And have seen her doing hills around town - with me on foot.  Matthew plays the piano every day, multiple times a day.  Andrew practises soccer with mates down at the Footy Field.  And Aidan...um Aidan....collects rocks.  Really nice ones too!

And so, yes, thanks for asking.  We've had some struggles.  Way too many struggles in fact and lots of despair.  2014 sucked.  It was probably the worst single year I have ever had.  And that is saying a lot considering what I felt like in Germany. 

All I remember of the bad times is slogging through it and keeping going for the kids, struggling hard so that at least the kids were okay, so that the kids didn't suffer for our bad choices, our rotten luck and/or our personal failings.

So that now, when things are finally looking up, I shouldn't have to apologise for my successes.  I have often felt, in the past year, that I had nothing to show for my life.  I haven't published a book, had a brilliant veterinary career, I don't garden or sew or paint or sing.  What do I do?  What do I contribute to society, what do I create?

You should see her two years later!


I am in the process of creating five productive lives, five positive, happy, healthy, bright, eager and interested human beings. 

And they, in turn, are in the process of creating me!









Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tolstoy, Tarot and Speaking in Tongues

January 2013.
Has it really only been six weeks since the summer holidays began (and ended)?

2014 went by in a haze of exhaustion/depression/anxiety/hypothyroidism/anemia and mental illness.  Not necessarily mine, for once.  What DOES happen when a person whose mental condition requires truth collides with one whose mental condition exists on lies and manipulation?  It is a Stephen King "what if" scenario: Autistic Spectrum Disorder meets Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Thank you to Dee for recognising the second disorder when I described it so that I was able to educate myself and understand at least part of what was happening to me.

One pub, four churches, a butcher, a baker and lots of vintage/retro shops later, Dayboro is the haven I have been searching for. 

Couldn't find it in a bottle; the St. John's Wort only stifled the symptoms.  Giving my red blood cells the iron they were begging for helped some, as did finally giving my metabolism some thyroxine to run on.  And yeah, I am still relying on those B12 injections to keep me running.

I'm still tired a lot of the time.  But now I'm mellow and happy and tired instead of stressed out and anxious and tired. 

And that's a start!
December 2012.  Flat tire in Beerburrum.


Damon and I took the kids to our annual Christmas nativity church service again this year.  Only this time the church didn't tell us that we were sinners for not believing the same way they did, or rant about Israeli and U.S. politics or simply bore us to death.  (Which is what has happened the last three years at the Hip-Hop Christmas Carol, the Uniting Church of Australia and the Catholic Church, respectively.)  This year, Pastor Gary spoke about unwrapping our Gift.  And then we prayed for rain.

Six rain-drenched weeks later, I've mentioned to Gary that we might let God know that we're good on the rain now.   

Six weeks later, I feel as if I am emerging from a life-affirming hibernation.  We've only left Dayboro to go to the amusement parks on the Gold Coast.  And I really don't ever want to leave it at all.

But school started yesterday.  And the old problems are cropping up already, like weeds after six weeks of rain.  (Sorry.  Had to be said!)

December 2012.  Flat tire somewhere else.
 
I can handle the schedule.  Until Saturday at least.  On Saturday, January 31, 2015 Ryan and I have dance practise from 8:30 - 10:00 in Old Petrie Town.  Andrew's soccer sign -ons are at Redcliffe until 12:00.  (The twins have been signed up online for Murrumba Downs or else we would have to do BOTH clubs in one morning.)  The Year 4 class at Kurwongbah is in charge of the Election Day Sausage Sizzle/Bake sale which I should be able to help at from 1:00 -2:00 before helping distribute some fliers for the Greens Party until 4:00 because Damon and I  are due at  Kobble Creek at 5:45pm.  This Saturday.  Which I just realise is going to have to start at 5:00 am because Ryan needs to work Bug before dance class.

The tarot cards I bought on December 12 told me I would be travelling, but I had hoped they meant it spiritually or emotionally.  Or at least meant a trip to the Pacific Islands!

No, Pastor Gary would NOT be happy about the tarot cards.  Although, funny enough, they were the things that pointed me towards going to church.  I also FINALLY read War and Peace around Christmas time.  And The Count of Monte Cristo.  I am now rereading Les Miserables.  Once you get into the writers from the early 1800s, it is really hard to go back to Sci-Fi and Romance!

And yes, all these old dudes believed in a divine purpose for man.

The Abbey, 2013.  What it should be.

I'm still not saying a lot of what I want to.  Damon and I are involved in a court case.  (And I can't even finish THAT sentence the way I really want to!)  And I am trying to stay positive and surround myself only with people who are positive for me. 

Soul Dance.

I have been able to do this for over six weeks but now the year is starting and we have spotted three of the five most offensive culprits in the last two days.  Number one allows her husband to molest her children.  We don't need to see her again.  Number two is just competitive and controlling.  Which is a recipe for disaster if you are trying to deal with me and mine!  The three we have seen lately are just plain competitive and nasty and mean.  And they don't mean well for me or for my children.  Oddly enough, all three are in competition with myself and Ryan.  Why Ryan and I evoke this enmity in people who are less than happy with themselves is a question I need answered.

Indigenous Australian Art Exhibit at Art Museum in Brisbane.  2012


I  have grown enough to know that I don't need to be friends with everyone, that I don't even need to particularly like everyone (beyond in that Namaste, love your neighbour as yourself kind of way), and that I certainly don't care anymore if they don't like me.  This is a HUGE step for me.

Ryan has always felt this way.

The Abbey, 2012.  Familiar friend being kind and making us feel special even before we knew her!


What I'd really like to learn in 2015 - in a year where all of my dreams are being realised - is how to negate that bitter hate when it is directed against me and my family only because we are happy and doing well.

I don't know if I'll find the answer in classical literature any more than I will find it in the tarot cards.  I suspect I may find it in community work and positive prayer.  And I hope that, when I do find it, it speaks to me in a language that I am spiritually aware enough to understand.