Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Buying books

I buy books online most of the time now.

I think I’ve just heard hundreds of bookshop-loving browsers click over to the next blog. 


And I tend to use Book Depository a lot.  But I also buy from Better World Books.  They do sell new books, but their main business is in selling second-hand books online thereby saving them from landfill. They also donate to literacy projects around the world.  Like the Book Depository, they offer free shipping worldwide. But because they have second-hand books, you can sometimes get what you want at a cheaper price if you don’t mind a pre-loved copy.  And they are my first stop for hunting out-of-print books.  I’ve used them for comic books, Christian books, kids’ books, text books and on and on. They were really useful when we were tracking down audio books on cassette for my grandmother-in-law last year.  Worth a look if you're in the market for some books.

Politically correct

A year or two ago, I read a book by Madeleine Witham called Ella. It tells the story of her daughter, Ella, who has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. This very rare condition causes significant intellectual and physical symptoms. I greatly admire Madeleine’s courage, endurance, and her deep love for both her daughters. The book also departs from Ella’s story from time to time to talk more broadly of community attitudes and approaches to families and people with disabilities. Following the book, I found Madeleine had a blog called “Love Ella”.

It was reading her blog that taught me the difference between a “disabled person” and a “person with a disability”. I’ve always been a bit sceptical of politically correct language. The language surrounding people with a disability seems to have changed more than once since I was a girl and I gave up trying to work out what we all ought to be saying now. Some terms like “spastic” and “retarded” have been so misused as terms of spite that their medical meanings have almost been erased from normal conversation. But surely, I thought, there’s no real difference to “disabled person” and “person with a disability”?

I was wrong. And it does matter.

A “person with is a disability” acknowledges that the person we are talking about is first and foremost a person. They might also have disabilities that require special attention and assistance. But they are still a person – their personhood is not impaired or dismantled or disabled or not working. And the difference that makes is actually no small thing. It is profound. It’s something that as a follower of Jesus I’m particularly drawn to affirm. A person with a disability is made in the image of God. They are suffering from the fact that this world is no longer what it was meant to be. But they are of the same essence as me – born in the image of God. And when I say “person with a disability”, I remind myself that I’m taking about a person before I go on to talk of anything else.

Madeleine’s blog is no longer active, and more’s the pity. But since then I’ve become a regular reader of thinking of starting a blog. Alison is married with three children, one of whom has multiple disabilities. I really have no idea what it’s like to juggle all the things that a mum in that situation has to do on a daily basis. I need to be looking around for ways to support people who have those kinds of extra responsibilities. I’m pretty ashamed that it took me so long to learn the difference between calling someone a “disabled person” and calling someone a “person with a disability”. But I’m glad I do now.

The book Ella can be ordered online, found in large bookstores or borrowed from your local library. Alison’s blog is called thinkingofstartingablog.


Ever seen those cool word clouds that look like messy subway art? Here’s a website that allows you to generate your own from absolutely any text you want and save them as a jpeg for printing or sharing.  Here’s one I did with the words of Amazing Grace.

And this one is the passage in Galatians about the fruits of the Spirit.

So many possibilities!  Enjoy.


We own four of the Seeds Family Worship CDs, with plans to buy the next two.  They are memory verses set to music.  The first five CDs use the NIV text but in the latest album they’ve swapped over to the ESV. The verses are not “dumbed down” or truncated – it is just the standard text as it would read if you flipped your Bible open to that passage. The music is great – really well-produced and very easy for adults to listen to over and over.  The songs sound like real songs and not like a jingle cobbled together to fit an awkward set of words.  Every time we’ve got a new CD, I have found it really encouraging for myself – never mind the children.  But it’s also had a fantastic impact on our kids.  As we play them in the car over and over, we had some really wonderful Bible conversations as the kids ask me to explain a phrase or a word that they are singing.  And there’s been a lot of elbowing and excited glances when we’ve been sitting in church and they’ve recognized a passage being read from a song they’ve heard in the car.  I'd say good for ages 2 to 102.

But I haven’t told you the best bit yet.

Every CD is a double packet. Two for one, peoples!  There are two identical CDs included and the packet rips in half so you can keep one and share one with another family.  How good is that?!

They are available from their website or download from itunes.

**UPDATE** There was some trouble ordering these CDs from their website.  All is well now!  Order away! 

Seeds of Courage

Seeds of Faith

Seeds of Praise

Seeds of Purpose

Power of Encouragement

Seeds of Character

Here’s one of my favourites – Do not be anxious

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A tale of two kitties

This is cat #1.

This is cat #2.

You can see our problem.  They are not all that different.  One is ours and one is our next-door neighbours’.  Our cat is a nearly 17-year-old grouch.  Their cat is a friendly kitten not quite a year old.  Our cat lives at our house.  And their cat…lives at our house.
“Sparkles”, as next-door’s kitten likes to be called, came over to our house after most of her family headed overseas about two months ago to visit family.  Left behind was the head of the house, whose desire to babysit the cat seems to leave a bit to be desired.  About a day after the wife and kids left, Sparkles appeared at our back door.  We tried taking her back but the husband works odd hours and would come home after we’d gone to bed and be gone before we got up.  In desperation, we left a couple of notes tucked into his screen door.  The first one, my husband told me, was too polite.  He didn’t come to get the cat.  I waited a few days and then, in the second note, I was more direct and he finally came to retrieve his cat.  Half an hour later, she was back and he’d gone out for the evening.

I tried to be hard.  I tried not to notice the sad eyes and pathetic meows.  On the third or fourth day we could tell she was really, really hungry.  Our kids dropped a small piece of bread they were eating outside and she feverishly gobbled it up.  She sat on my window sill over my kitchen sink and cried.  I gave in and bought kitten food.  I figured I couldn’t watch her starve to death on my window sill. It was either feed her or give her to the pound.  At least I know next door’s kids adore her and it will be easy to return her once they get home.  I hope.  It’s nearing the end of their holiday and we’re looking forward to their return.
In the meantime, once we got over the grouchiness that comes with looking after someone else’s animal when you don’t really want to, we’ve been having quite a bit of fun with Sparkles.  We don’t let our children pick our cat up very often because she’s so old and not up to rough play.  Sparkles, on the other hand, loves to be picked up and purrs most agreeably on children’s laps in the sunshine.

There have also been some amusing moments when the cats have been mixed up. They are quite easy to tell apart when you look at them properly.  But if you are in a hurry, and see a grey cat out of the corner of your eye, it’s easy to misjudge.  Sparkles is very keen to be inside our house now that winter has arrived.  But there’s no way I’m having her inside.  We’ve put a box in the pergola and she sleeps in there.   If a door is left open at any point, Sparkles will dash in.  I’ve managed to pass our cat eating quietly out of her bowl only to whirl around a minute later when I realize it is not our cat!  Once I found Sparkles strutting across the top of our kitchen table and another time I had to shoo her out of our linen cupboard.  She’s fast and she’s determined.
So here’s hoping there are no flight delays for neighbours on their way home.

Poker Night

I’m looking forward to Saturday night. It’s Poker Night. 

Didn’t take me for a poker fan? Well, I’m not.  It’s just what we call it.  Sometime, maybe a year or more ago, three friends discovered we were all carrying a little secret: a love of playing board and card games.  Bring out your Pictionary and your Scrabble!  Dust off your Boggle and your Balderdash!  I’m your gal. Trouble was, we were all married to partners who held that there is a good reason why they are called “bored” games.  So each of us had quietly decided that we’d just have to wait until our kids were old enough to play with us.
Then one day, it slipped out in conversation.  One of us – and now it’s all so wrapped in the mists of time that no one can remember who – reluctantly confessed to enjoying board games.  And the other two were nearly giddy with excitement!  We hastily arranged a date to play Dutch Blitz and Poker Night was born.

Since then we’ve had some others play with us from time to time.  But us three remain the steady ones.  About once a month, on a weekend night, we gather and we play.  Usually there’s chocolate or ice cream involved.  There are long pauses – long pauses - in the games while we chew the fat.  I usually lose.  We laugh a lot.  And we call it Poker Night because “board games night” sounds so geeky and we are trying to look cool.  We never play poker.  I don’t think any of us know how.
The time before last, we played Canasta.  I lost every game quite valiantly. And in the middle of it, I looked up at us four around the table.  For a moment I couldn’t work out how I’d gotten there: to be in my 30s, playing canasta on a Saturday night with such excellent women. It’s what I’d like to still be doing in 30 more years’ time. The conversation swirled around me and the game went on as I took in the wonder of the moment.  I just felt so thankful to be there.  I felt like I'd found my people.

Say what?!

My husband has laughed, sometimes long and hard, at some of the family sayings I brought into our marriage.  What I thought were everyday turns of phrase turned out to be unique to my childhood and stemmed from the combination of idioms passed down by my parents who came from small towns in WA and SA.  And in turn, I’ve heard some of the lines from my husband’s childhood with three brothers so often that I tend to forget it wasn’t my childhood.  So let me share some of the colourful sayings that my children will take with them when they leave home.
Round the corner for a big packet of Weeties! This one I inherited from my mother.  We often said it when turning any kind of corner.  My husband found this nonsensical utterance very amusing and was sure it was something my mother’s family had simply made up.  But in desperation to clear my family name, I googled long and hard and found that there was a children’s radio show in Perth in the early days of radio in Western Australia that was sponsored by Weeties.  There was a live contest each week and, as each child finished their turn at the mic, the announcer would say, “And round the corner you go for a big packet of Weeties!”  Weeties were the sponsor and I think every contestant went home with a packet even if they didn’t win.

Don’t just say!  This one comes from husband’s family and was used if an argument was supposedly settled but someone piped up with, “BUT I was just saying…”  I think it was probably a parent who first said in exasperation, “Don’t just say!” It stuck and was used by everyone in the family in the end.  Now my husband and I say it in jest to one another if we catch ourselves starting a sentence with “I was just saying”.
We go for firsties! Again, from my husband’s family.  For use when someone has chosen something and tries to change their mind.  Best used by an older brother who has outwitted a younger brother into choosing the poorer of two options.  There were no second chances.

Let’s never let it get messy again. This is one my husband and I say whenever we have a major clean up.  If the shed has finally been put in perfect order, or the walk-in-wardrobe conquered, we’ll pull an earnest face and say, “And now let’s never let it get messy again!” and then laugh with gusto.
Better than a smack in the face with a wet fish.  Inherited from my mother and useful for so many situations.  I used to think everyone said this but now when I say it in shops or the like I get strange looks.  Am I the only one who still uses this charming turn of phrase? May be it’s time to retire this one.

So have you inherited any odd sayings from your family?  Do share!

The assassin

I love watching NCIS. Very much. And sometimes, after my husband and I have watched a couple of episodes on DVD, I’ll comment as we head to bed that I would like to be Ziva.
For those of you who haven’t experienced the joy that is NCIS, Ziva David is an Israeli-born operative who now works for the Navy Criminal Investigative Service.  The NCIS spends much of their time investigating the deaths of Navy personnel (“we’ve got a dead petty officer” is said pretty often) and this seems to allow them to also engage in fighting terrorists, drug-cartels, serial killers and doing the occasional bit of super-spy work and espionage. Why do they get to do all this instead of leaving it to the FBI or CIA?  I’m glad you asked.  It is clear to all viewers that they are by far the superior investigators and the other guys will only botch key evidence or fail to grasp the full importance of certain clues.  It’s just better if the other guys get out of the way and leave it to Gibbs and his team.

Anyway, back to Ziva.

Apart from the moral question of whether I should really want to be a skilled Israeli assassin, there are a few other things that stand in the way of my goal of being just like Ziva.  Not so much her extraordinary fitness level, superior skill in hand-to-hand combat or great hair.  It’s more like the facts that I get easily spooked in the dark, have never handled a gun and don’t like tight spaces.  But I think my main problem is that I’m rubbish at subterfuge.

I don’t mean that I can’t lie, pretend to like someone I don’t, or be a hypocrite.  Sadly, those things I can do well enough.  No, I mean the kind of subterfuge that’s required for things like buying birthday presents for your spouse and then not letting on that you went to a certain hardware shop and bought a certain power-tool.  Firstly, once I’ve bought a great present, I desperately want to tell them how clever I was to think of it and yet there are still 3.5 weeks to go and I have to hold my tongue.  Or, even if I have the self-control aspect down, I am well known for stupidly bringing it up in conversation.  “Do you think we could put more shelves up in the bathroom?  I saw some on special when I went to Mitre 10 today.”  Oops.

So Ziva, I ain’t.

Which is why this blog is a problem.  My plan was that I would start the blog and not say anything to anyone about it until I had a few posts down and felt like I knew what I was doing and wasn’t embarrassing myself.  But Ben and Caroline managed to find me in less than half a day!  And the number of times in half a day I absentmindedly almost said something about “my blog” in conversation was ridiculous.

I'm going to try to keep quiet just a little bit longer. Just until this doesn't seem so scary. It's what Ziva would do.  Or maybe Tony ... but that's a post for another day.  Now I'm off to buy a long black trench coat and some dark glasses.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A beginning

This ole world
is winding down
and I'm just passing through
on my way to a better place.