Posted by: LakeIris | July 19, 2011

What gives?

When something new comes into your life…what gives?

With only a finite number of hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a year, when we add something into our routine, we inevitably have to give something else up to compensate.

So what things have been ‘added’ to my life in the past couple years?

  • Weekly Life Transformation Group, along with a commitment to praying and reading my Bible daily
  • Taking a full day each week for a Sabbath
  • More time spent cooking real food, from fresh produce
  • Three couch-to-5k workouts a week, and the occasional yoga podcast
  • Coordinating Easter Camp
  • And for those of you who didn’t catch the facebook update (not that there would be very many of you, if the number of ‘likes’ is any indication) – very recently, a new relationship

In order to make room for these things, what gave?

  • Sleep. Sleep seems to always be the first thing to go – which makes me sad, because truly love my bed, my doona, my sleep-ins
  • When I moved to Croydon a year ago, I reduced my commuting time by over an hour each day
  • I decided I couldn’t commit to doing a musical this year, which involved at least two or three rehearsals a week
  • TV
  • Facebook – I had a self-imposed ban for the first three months of the school year
  • Less work done at home nights and weekends – though this, like sleep, isn’t something I particularly want to be doing less of – because I want to do my job well and find this is difficult to accomplish between 8am and 5pm.
What do I plan/hope I could add in, if possible?

  • Weekly small group Bible study
  • More time to read – books, blogs, novels, magazines, Bible – anything and everything, really
  • Writing in this blog
  • More journaling
  • Driving my car less (which means walking/taking public transportation more)
  • Getting an extra job to pay off my debt more quickly
  • More sleep? (Too much?)
So the question of the moment is – what else is gonna give? If I have to give something up to make room for any or all of these new things, I’ve got some choices to make. But here’s the rub – I can convince myself to give up something I feel adds little or no value to my life (e.g. TV). But once those things are gone, it means I have to give up something good in order to make room for something better. And that’s a much tougher decision.
So what gives? My job? Relationships – with God or with others? Eating well? Exercising? Reading? Writing?

What’s the first thing that gives when you introduce something new into your life?

What do you think you should give up in order to make room for something more important in your life?

What should I considering giving up?

Posted by: LakeIris | July 13, 2011

Living simply – what I’ve been reading

I’ve been jumping around all over the place online tonight, reading about Australian tax deductions and offsets…reconciling all of my bank accounts…finding out about special movie screenings coming up….

But what I want to share with all of you, dear readers, is what I’ve been reading about simplicity, living simply, whatever you’d like to call it.

Here’s where I started, with some very practical suggestions of non-electric appliances:

Four Non-Electric Appliances for Every Kitchen

Then a reread of this post about Shannon and her journey of becoming less dependent on electricity:

How Living Without Electricity is the Means, Not the End

Which lead me to Chandelle’s thoughts on “Diminishing Necessities”

And finally, the most thought-provoking article I’ve read in a LONG time:

Forget Shorter Showers – why personal change does not equal political change

What about you? Do you make an effort to live simply? Do you use any of those other ‘resistance tactics’ Jensen mentions to move toward greater political change?

Posted by: LakeIris | July 4, 2011

Dodging Cameras a.k.a. Life in your 30s

When I read this refreshingly honest post earlier this evening (and when I realized my comments had reached three paragraphs and I still had more to say), I decided to turn it into a post of my own. Have a look at what M had to say on the topic here: Avoiding Mirrors, Dodging Cameras.

I, like M, have a recently developed aversion to photographs of myself. Perhaps it has more to do with being 31, and not the pregnancies, as she supposes. I was surprised a couple of months ago by how few photos of myself from the past year I actually like. (It’s as if the ratio of “wow! I look good” to “hmmm…untag, thank you very much!” has flipped.)

When I take good, hard, objective look at the photos, it’s difficult to pinpoint what it is that looks different. Hair’s not turning gray. No noticeable wrinkles. Skin’s actually pretty good, when the acne’s under control. A little rounder around the chin, but I’ve been this weight before – in fact I was at least a full size larger 19 years ago. Just more…tired, perhaps?

The irony is that, in many ways, I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a long time, maybe ever. I’ve made significant changes to what I eat and my immune system has improved dramatically. Granted, my exercise routine leaves something to be desired, but I’ve been making progress in that area these past couple months, too.

I have to agree with M, that’s about as far as I’m willing to go to change the way I look. Eating fresh, organic, whole foods? Sure thing. Exercise? Absolutely – I never feel better about the way I look than right after a workout – love those endorphins. But ‘diets’, surgery, botox? Not a chance.

So I think for me, it’s about coming to terms with the fact that I may, after all, be starting to look my age. I’d imagined myself as someone who would age gracefully, embracing the gifts that each year brings. Seeing each wrinkle as evidence of all the laughter and smiles I’ve had – each gray hair a recognition of an obstacle or challenge I’d made it through.

But here’s the reality: I don’t feel like I’ve experienced some of the key things I feel I ‘should’ get to while a young woman. (And yes, as I type this, I recall Lloyd saying just two days ago that his definition of ‘young’ is under 40, so perhaps it’s not all slipping away as quickly as it feels.) I haven’t been the radiant bride. Or the glowing mother-to-be.

I think the part of me that’s not happy with the recent photographs is the part of me that’s starting to acknowledge that neither of those is guaranteed to happen. Something I prefer to avoid thinking about, which is much easier to do when I can pretend I still look/feel/am in my mid-20s and have all the time in the world.

Posted by: LakeIris | September 22, 2010

My Evening with Market Research

I had a surprising and interesting evening. Yesterday I was asked if I would be willing to participate in a group discussion for market research related to private health insurance. Since tonight was one of my few free nights these holidays and since I’d get paid for participating, I agreed.

My first impression was that getting paid $90 to sit in a room and talk about my opinions is perhaps one of the best jobs for me ever. At the end of our two hours together…I still do. If anyone knows how I can make this into a little side career, please let me know.
Let me start by describing the people that made up our little community for the evening: myself, a middle-aged gentleman from South Africa, a lawyer from London (sounded remarkably like Jude Law), a lovely young woman from India, a Welsh woman who had just moved to Australia from NZ two months ago, a friendly guy from Italy and an adventure-seeking German (who has had five biking accidents in as many years!)
In some ways, such incredibly different backgrounds (e.g. my experience with private health insurance in America makes me think that the system here is more efficient and the insurance more affordable. Most of the others felt quite differently.)
In other ways, we had much in common. We are all in Australia on a temporary business visa (subclass 457) which means we are all highly skilled and/or working in a field for which there is a shortage of workers in Australia.
The conversation was enlightening. Some common themes came up over and over again – the uncertainty and anxiety related to the visa application process. The confusion over moving to a new country with a foreign health care system. Feeling we’d been steamrolled into joining the biggest insurance company because for all we could tell, it was the only option.
Yet interestingly enough…it’s not. There are at least four or five other companies that offer comparable products, geared toward ‘overseas visitors.’ And the company with which we all have health insurance has four levels of coverage from which to choose. We spent most of the two hours complaining about our lack of choice – for what company we can buy from and what levels of coverage there are available. But the choices are there. And I’m starting to wonder…have they been there all along?
So now I’m thinking back to when I first moved here and applied for health insurance. Perhaps the options really weren’t available back then. Or perhaps I’m reinventing history and I only think that I tried to shop around and couldn’t find any other companies that offered a similar product. Maybe I was so distracted by everything else going on in those few months (boxes arriving in a cargo crate, interviewing for teaching jobs, applying for my visa, looking for a house, etc.) that I just went with the easiest option.
Regardless, there are now lots of options (whether there were before or not) and I’m aware of them. And already I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to compare them all. I’m reminded of a magazine article I read a few years ago that looked into the phenomenon of choice. It can be very stressful for a person to have no options. But it can also be incredibly stressful to have a great many options and have to choose among them.
I suppose I’ve just transitioned from one extreme to the other.
Posted by: LakeIris | December 8, 2009

Advent and Great Expectations

Pregnancy.It’s been on my mind a lot lately.Why?Well, in the span of less than 12 months, friends Liz, Krysta, Neatz, Jill, Janelle, Michelle, Hannah, Trish, Beth, Amanda and Victoria have all been or are pregnant. And I’ve heard about three more in the past two days. We’ve even had two pregnancies on staff at my school this year, three if you count Matt’s Kate.Some had their babies in the past couple months, many are due in the next six weeks, and Krysta, my best friend in Melbourne is due two days after I leave for Michigan next week.

And it’s Advent.The last few weeks I’ve had rich discussions about Mary and Elizabeth’s stories as told in the book of Luke.About how long Elizabeth had waited and longed to be pregnant.How Zechariah’s response to the news indicates they’d pretty much given up hope a long time ago.How in the world’s eyes, in Jewish culture, her barrenness was one of the worst possible tragedies.How in the world’s eyes, Mary’s situation was equally tragic.Unmarried and pregnant, she could expect to be an outcast, her reputation ruined forever.

But not through God’s eyes. God’s plan was for Elizabeth to have a child who would ‘be called prophet of the Most High.’ And even more incredibly, God planned for Mary to have the child who would ‘be called the Son of the Most High.’

All of this pregnancy, longing, excitement, anticipation and preparation.But the part that sticks with me most is Mary’s response to Gabriel’s news.Not a disbelieving “How can I be sure of this?” like Zechariah.But “How can this happen?” Yes, a rather practical “So, how’s this going to work, exactly?”“I’m the Lord’s servant, may it be as you have said.”

I think we can say with a high degree of certainty that Mary’s life did not turn out as she expected.

In Isaiah 54, the prophet is comparing to Israel as a barren woman, much like Elizabeth.

“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.

In the midst of tragedy, barrenness, the Lord says, Sing!Cheer!Go crazy with hysterical joy!It might make you ask, “Why?”The answer comes.I’ve got something for you that is even greater than all the children any one Jewish mother could ever bring into the world.Life may not be what you hoped.But I’ve got some news for you that is going to overwhelm your barrenness, your shame.

Advent is a time of waiting.A time of longing.Your life may not be what you hoped.It might bear little resemblance to what you’d envisioned. This is certainly true of me.And when I am told, reminded or encouraged to trust in God, I may try, but somewhat grudgingly.I may be willing to admit that since God is God, he should be Lord of my life, but sometimes I have a very hard time accepting that what God has planned for my life is not just better ‘because he’s God, that’s why.’No, it’s beyond my wildest dreams better.It’s, “you’re part of something much, much bigger than you can comprehend” better.

Trust me.Over and over again, God whispers this into our ears.Trust me.I’m your loving Father.Trust me.I will bring you back.Trust me.I will have compassion on you.Trust me.My unfailing love will never be shaken.Trust me.

During these last couple weeks of Advent, take some time to consider what you may be expecting…longing for…waiting for…and offer them to God whose power will overwhelm them.Because it is the same for us as for Mary.God has also chosen us to bring Christ to the world.May we learn to trust this as Mary did.

I’ll never have the power to control the land, or conquer half the world or claim the sun;

I’ll never be the kind who simply waves her hand and has a million people do the things I wish I’d done.

But in the eyes of heaven, my place is assured.I carry with me heaven’s grand design.

“Gloria! Gloria!” I will sing the name of the Lord, and He will make me shine.

And I will be like Mother Mary with a blessing in my soul, and I will give the world my eyes so they can see.

And I will be like Mother Mary with a blessing in my soul, and the future of the world inside of me.

And I will be like Mother Mary with the power in my veins to believe in all the things I’ve yet to be!

And I will be like Mother Mary and I’ll suffer any pains…for the future of the world, inside of me.

“Christmas Lullaby” from Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown

Posted by: LakeIris | March 22, 2009

I wish I could blink my eyes

Robin: It’s just every year at the holidays I feel homesick. So far every year I’ve had a reason to stay: a boyfriend, a job…or something. But this year for the first time, I don’t.

Marshall: Yes, you do!

Robin: What?

Marshall: We all love you. If you ever moved back to Canada, we would hop on a plane, we would track you down and we would bring you back right here where you’re supposed to be. It’s not New York without Robin Scherbatsky.

Robin: Thanks. I just miss it there sometimes. I wish I could blink my eyes and be back in Canada for an hour, you know?

How I Met Your Mother episode “Little Minnesota”

A few tears were shed when I saw this on TV last week. Especially when it so closely followed a conversation I had with friend Christie last Sunday about “home.” Lately I’ve been wondering and praying about some of the following questions…..

  • Is home where the heart is? Or is where you hang your hat?
  • How much of where we feel at home has to do with the people there?
  • Can you have more than one home? If so, are you destined to always feel a little bit homeless, regardless of where you are?
  • How closely entwined are the ideas of “family” and “home”? Are they just two words for the same concept?
  • In the musical “Beauty and the Beast” Belle sings, “I’ve found home…you’re my home…stay with me.” In the Bible, we’re told that we leave our parents when we marry and start a new home/family with our husband or wife. So what does that mean for those of us who are single adults? Who constitutes our family? Are we just in some state of limbo?
  • In this morning’s sermon, we looked at one of Jesus’ promises in the Gospel of John: that we are invited to abide/dwell/live/make our home in GOD. God offers himself as a home to those who love Jesus.

Sometimes the homesickness hits like a huge wave. Yes, at the holidays, but also at other, somewhat random, times. On the first day that felt truly “fall-like” this autumn – all I wanted to do was go to an apple orchard, drink cider and eat doughnuts. On Valentine’s Day, I pictured the kids in my class eating conversation hearts, making paperbag “mailboxes” and exchanging valentines – none of which happen here.

Yet I am really enjoying my second year of teaching at Good Shepherd. At the moment, I have a really hard time picturing working anywhere else. I’ve settled into a new apartment with a new roommate and (although it’s perhaps too soon to tell), we’re getting along really well. I love that only 9 weeks into the school year, we get two weeks of holidays. (12 days and counting!)

So where IS my home? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. But I do know that sometimes I wish I could just blink my eyes….

Posted by: LakeIris | February 5, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

Many of you have already read this via Facebook, but I figured I spent enough time working on this list, I’d add it here for the rest of you.

1. I was an extra in ‘Kalamazoo’ the movie. It stars Mayim Bialik (you know, “Blossom”?) I stood next to her for an entire scene. I still haven’t seen the movie – maybe I should check Amazon.com and see if I can order it.

2. Thoroughly Modern Millie was one of my favorite movies growing up. The stage role is probably top on my list of roles I’d like to play some day.

3. About five years ago, I went to an open audition for modeling/talent agent – can’t remember the song I sang, but I was one of about a dozen (out of hundreds) selected to go to national convention with agents from New York and LA. In the end, I decided I couldn’t afford to go.

4. I played a principal role in many a church musical during my ‘tween’ years. I was usually cast as a boy, since there were few guys who wanted the roles, and I was more of an alto.

5. I never worked as a camp counselor for financial reasons. It’s one of the few things I’d change about my life if I could.

6. My favorite church service is the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. Christmas Eve is a close second.

7. I’ve played in two handbell choirs, sung in five church choirs, performed liturgical dance, acted in church dramas and musicals, served as worship assistant, reader, sang with a worship band and have recorded music with two different congregations.

8. I have contributed backup vocals to two Hard Taco songs – and tap dancing to one.

9. I pick up accents very quickly, and with little or no conscious thought applied. Most people I meet here assume I’m Australian until I mention otherwise. But there’s no trace of the Aussie after about 1 minute of talking to American friends or family…and watching American TV or movies also makes it disappear temporarily.

10. I just saw an episode of Gilmore Girls two days ago that I had NEVER seen before – and didn’t realize I’d missed! “The Perfect Dress” – halfway through season 6. Don’t know what I was doing on January 10, 2006…I remembered to set a VCR for every other episode for seven years.

11. I moved halfway through 7th grade and still remember the humiliation I felt the day a girl pulled the little tag on the back of my shirt and said, ‘fag tag.’ Now that I’m a teacher, I can’t believe THAT’S the worst thing I remember a fellow student ever said or did to me throughout 13 years of public schooling.

12. I was one of 30 students in my school district selected to be in a magnet math, science and computer program. Unfortunately, I cannot claim to be a MSC graduate, because I didn’t take AP physics or whatever the ‘post-calculus’ maths class was my senior year. Instead, I took step aerobics, weight training, mythology and psychology. I know why I didn’t take physics – the only teacher I ever had who I didn’t like. I loved my college physics class. The maths class conflicted with show choir, and I think I figured if I aced college level calculus at 16, I deserved a break my senior year. But I’m still sad that I’m not invited to MSC reunions.

13. Didn’t start drinking coffee until halfway through my masters degree at U of M at 27 years old. Until then HATED anything even coffee flavored. Now I long for a cup every morning, even if I’m well rested.

14. I had my first boyfriend when I was six. He made me red and clear beaded jewelry for Valentine’s Day – a necklace, bracelet AND a ring. Apparently that must have set the bar pretty high, because it was another 21 years before boyfriend #2.

15. I have never been across the Atlantic, but I have flown across the Pacific 11 times. I have also never been to NYC, but that’s partly because I secretly think that if I went, I’d never leave.

16. I was offered 2 teaching jobs in California. I decided to turn them both down (for very different reasons) and packed up and moved to Australia to look for a job here.

17. I am both lactose and fructose intolerant. My housemate is allergic to gluten, red meat and all dairy. We still have a fantastic variety of food in our house, and love to cook and bake. Sincerely!

18. I was 19 when I had my first kiss. One of my best friends had hers about 24 hours before me. They were with the same guy.

19. Things I miss about America: student movie tickets (my U of M ID expires in 2011 – such a waste here), Netflix, TiVo, my KitchenAid mixer, Ben & Jerry’s, really good Mexican food and margaritas, cable TV, autumn leaves, cell phone plans that make sense, well insulated houses, the ELCA (more specifically, Lord of Light), lakes, snow days, spelling words the familiar way, Christmas with my family and in the winter. The list of people I miss would be much, much longer.

20. When I was in first grade, I said I wanted to be a mom, grandma and a teacher when I grew up. From ages 10-16, I wanted to be a CPA. (I loved math, and my great aunt’s late husband had been a CPA. This was the aunt who owned three houses, and I took that as a good sign, financially.) From about 17 – 21, I was all set to be a pediatrician. Instead, I became a youth minister for four years, and now I’m a teacher and love it. So apparently I had a better sense of self at 6 than I did between the ages of 10 and 25.

21. I got shingles my senior year of high school – took a week off so I didn’t give anyone chicken pox. I got mono in the last month of grad school – found out about a week after my best friend’s wedding. No, I didn’t get it from kissing some hot guy at the wedding, although I think that would have made a better story.

22. Things I miss about Australia when I’m not here: iced chocolates, sidewalk cafes, the slang and vernacular I feel funny about using when I’m not here, variety of UHT milk available (especially VitaSoy rice milk), socialized medicine (even if I’m not eligible), The Butterfly Club, tipping for good service (not because it’s expected/required), a school year that coincides with the calendar year (and with four equal terms), morning tea, emphasis on water conservation. The list of people would me much, much longer.

23. I wore contacts for about 14 years. Even though I switched back to glasses about two years ago, I still don’t think of myself as someone who wears glasses. It surprises me when a student draws a picture of me with glasses. The crazy curly hair, well, that I understand.

24. I had three cats as pets growing up. I’m still surprised (and vaguely, strangely disappointed) when I find out one my favorite people is a dog person. Then again, I really like most of my friends’ dogs.

25. I have probably sung more duets than solos in my life, and I will always miss singing with one of my very best childhood friends (an almost-sister, really), Anna. I can’t believe she’s been gone for nearly eight years now; I think her death was the first time I experienced a broken heart.

Posted by: LakeIris | January 26, 2009

Transitions

I’ve never been all that great with change. This may come as a bit of a surprise to those of you who are familiar with my work history (20+ jobs and counting) and/or my apparent fondness for relocation (17 moves since 1997). In fact, those numbers seem to indicate either serious commitment issues or at the very least some level of indecision.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve chosen teaching as a profession. Even when you stay at the same school, you get a new group of students every year.

So whether I like change or not, I should be used to it by now. All those new jobs, all those new homes. I’ve moved halfway around the world. Three times. I’ve survived my first year of teaching – my hardest job by far. Yet here I am, spending my last night at 25 Dorothy Street in Burwood East, ready to finish moving into a new apartment tomorrow…and six days away from the start of my second year of teaching…with that familiar sinking feeling in my stomach.

Dread. Anxiety. Worrying about something I can’t do anything about. I’ve felt it on the night before the first day of every single new school year. (Especially irrational for me. I loved school, was always an excellent student, and with the exception of the second half of 7th grade, had good friends.) I’ve felt it before starting some of the more important new jobs. I felt it for about two months straight last year as I made arrangements to move to Australia to look for my first teaching job.

And it’s back.

Maybe it’s because of my high expectations for my second year of teaching.
Maybe teachers never quite grow out of wondering “will the kids like me?”
Maybe it’s the uncertainty of a new roommate.
Maybe it’s the daunting task of finding new “usuals” – grocery store, gas station, drug store, movie theater, library.
Maybe it’s the extra financial costs: internet installation, new mattress pad, higher rent, etc.
Maybe it’s that my roommate’s parents came down for the weekend to help with the move…and that in all likelihood, my parents won’t ever get a chance to see this place, either.
Maybe it’s the email from my best friend saying, “I hate not having a friend like you — well, YOU to be precise — around. When did we get all grown up and responsible and OCEANS away? It makes me sad. I am sad. 😦 I miss my friend.” Because I miss her, too.
Maybe it’s just always going to be hard to say goodbye to the familiar, even when it is time to move on.

And so I pray for hope. Yes, hope, even if it seems just as irrational as the dread. Hope that within a few weeks I will start to feel at home again. Hope that I will continue to develop the skills necessary to be an effective teacher. Hope that it doesn’t take long before I get back that “I love my job” feeling. Hope that I can focus on all the possibilities of new life this new year may bring.

Posted by: LakeIris | December 13, 2008

Welcome to Tarrnation :-)

I like to start by thanking Beth for the very cheeky blog title. She’s a pretty incredible wordsmith and had lots of ideas, but I just couldn’t stop giggling at her suggestion of “What in Tarrnation is Going On?”

I’ve had several friends (and one notable family member) who have expressed an interest in more regular updates about my life Down Under. So this blog is dedicated to you, Aunt Kathy. I’ve been inspired by the fantastic blogs of some of my friends (Victoria comes to mind) and thought I might be a bit more reliable with this than mass email updates. We’ll see how I go.

Yesterday was the last day of my first year of teaching. I have survived. I have met my new class (or most of them, anyway) and in six weeks, I’ll get a chance to try it all over again. Strange to get a whole new class after a year, and very different from youth ministry.

In the meantime, I’m on holidays. Summer vacation here includes Christmas and New Year’s – so the six weeks will go by very quickly. I’ll be spending a week over Christmas with the Wilson family in Wagga Wagga…my gorgeous friend Erin, her parents and her brother.

It’s been a very busy, stressful, emotional, exhausting month or so, and I thought about writing about everything that’s happened, but then decided that not to blog retroactively. Instead, I’ll just try to keep things up to date with news and anecdotes. Just one thing on my (growing) list of New Year’s Resolutions.

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