Monday, October 10, 2011

Wonderful - Day 9: We thank Thee Oh God for a prophet

Today Mum and I drove home from Uncle Dougs house. It took several hours, but I really enjoyed it. The company was wonderful (I so much enjoy spending time with Mum, talking about anything and everything - she's sort of my rock here on earth, my mum), and the weather was beautiful, and the scenery for most of the trip was just soo beautiful (we loved whatever river it was that the road followed along for much of the way. Bridges, farmlands, sun dancing on the water, tall gum tree forests. Mum and I kept pointing things out to each other). And for most of the drive - since it was Sunday, and since in Australia it was conference weekend - we listened to General Conference. I love General Conference, and I always look forward to it! And this October conference was no exception. I loved Elder Scott's Talk on the Power of Scriptures, and Sister Thompson's talk on Personal Revelation and Testimony; Presiden't Packers talk, Counsel to Youth was excellent, and Elder Cook's talk It's Better to Look Up has become a favourite (I've decided to adopt his 'Look up, Step up, Cheer up' as my motto. I'm pretty good at the 'step up' bit, but often fall short with the other two, so I appreciated that counsel). I loved Elder Ballard's talk The Importance of a Name, and if someone doesnt' stop me soon, I'll probably go on to list every talk, lol!

My favourite though, really, was President Monson's talk in the Sunday morning Session, Stand in Holy Places. What a wonderful message he gave, and with such love and wisdom. I tell you, there is no doubt in my mind that he is a prophet of God. And there is no doubt in my mind that I am incredibly blessed to live in a time where I can here prophets speak so reguarly, and with such inspired and diving messages. It all rests with me now, to take their messages and find was to apply them and build on them. I have been so blessed to hear and see so many of our apostles and prophets over the years (sometimes in person, and often via satelite) and I count each and every one of these experiences as wonderful highlights of the last 30 years.

Did you have a favourite talk from conference?!!

xo Tammy

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wonderful - Day 8: heritage

Tonight's post comes from the iPhone, so it will be short! Lol :) but I've spent the afternoon with uncle Doug, and it has been such a pleasure to hear and learn more about his life. I've especially enjoyed hearing about his mother (my great grandmother) Kathleen Mary Fitzgerald (how's that for a good solid Irish name? Lol). She had a very difficult life in many ways, and with a lot of hardship, but she sounds like a very kind and gentle woman with a sense if fun. Doug says she was very popular, because she was an accomplished pianist with a beautiful singing voice.

One story was about a time she was riding the train from Adelaide to Darwin, and for some reason (he can't remember if the train broke down or if it was flooded up ahead), but either way, the train (and everyone on it) was stuck there in the middle of Australia, for two days! Anyway, it was soon discovered that she could play and sing, AND it turned out that there was a piano in one of the luggage cars, so a bunch of fellows on the train unloaded the piano out onto the ground right there by the railway track and the train (in the middle of no where!), and as Doug puts it, she 'practically played for two days and two nights straight, while everyone enjoyed a non-stop singalong :)

She played everything, from all the great wartime classics (like 'it's a long way to tipararee'), well loved 'pop songs' of the era, like 'somewhere over the rainbow' and of course all the old Irish songs (like 'take me home Kathleen').

How wonderful that they had her and a piano onboard to keep the all so cheerful and entertained. And how wonderful for me to be part of such a wonderful family, with such a lovely heritage. Hearing stories like these aren't just fun because they're great stories, but they're also fun because they help me realize that I'm part of a chain of wonderful people. I start to understand more about who I am, and why I am the way I am. And it makes me want to live the kind of life that future generations could draw strength from.

So that's pretty cool, really ;)

xo Tammy

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wonderful - Day 7: Today, today!

Tonight's post is coming to you from Ballina. That's right, Ballina. Turns out that mum's weekend suddenly freed up yesterday, and since we've been planning to take a road trip to see (great)Uncle Doug for almost a year now, she proposed an impromptu weekend trip. With so much going on, I unfortunately couldn't take any time off work, but at 5:30pm this afternoon, I shut the computer, threw some things in an overnight bag and was out the door by 5:45pm to head over and pick up mum. (We left Dad trying not to look tooo excited about the prospect of watching his football DVDs on the couch all night :)

It's an 8 hour drive to Kempsey in NSW where Doug and Ella live, so we did 2 hours tonight (hence the stop in Ballina), then we'll do six hours tomorrow morning and spend the afternoon/evening and Sunday morning with Doug and Ella (we're hoping to transcribe a bunch of the fabulous life stories that Doug has bursting out of his head), and then we'll drive home Sunday afternoon/evening. It's a lot of driving! But Dad kindly burned all of the conference sessions onto CD for us (old school, I know, but I can't figure out how to get it onto my iphone), and we're really looking forward to listening to them.

So here's what's wonderful about my life for today's post: How amazing is it that we get to live in a time and place where we can MAKE a round trip journey like this in just a weekend? I know people moan about crime, and disease and global warming. But I love living 'now' (even if I do kind of yearn for the music and fashions of the 30s and 40s, which were awesome. Though with the depresssion and the world war, I guess it's not really a fair trade. But I digress....)

I'm grateful for cars, airconditioning, medicines and doctors who know more than medievel doctors did (I read a book recently about life in London in the 1,400s - and if I'd gotten sick back then, I think I'd rather have died in my freezing little mud hut than risk the 'skill' of a doctor with very strange notions!). I'm grateful for computures, and the internet, and google and wikipedia. I love Emails and blogs. I love airoplains and movies and phones, and music that can be enjoyed even when it's not being performed live. I love that my iphone always knows exactly where I am, and that the flashing blue dot can direct me to wherever I need to go (you rock, iphone!). I think it's wonderful that we books are everywhere, and that in today's world you can instantly know about things that are happening on the other side of the world. I love that within a day or two I could be on the otherside of the world!

You know, if I had no financial committments and a bundle of money sitting the bank...

But still!

xo Tammy

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wonderful - Day 6: "I haven't lost my mind; I have a tape back-up somewhere!"

I actually don't know exactly what I'll blog about tonight... Oh dear. I should probably have figured this out before I sat down to write! Today was exhausting, and I'm absolutely brain-dead. I was at work, thinking, typing, talking, phoning, calculating, directing, and emailing at a frenetic warp-speed pace from 6:30am this morning until 9:00pm this evening, and I'm totally and completely spent. At least all of todays' huge deadlines have been met, which (if I do say so myself) is pretty impressive really! If you'd all just known how much there was to do! Mind you, tomorrow comes with it's own huge set of deadlines. So I'm thinking of just being in denial and refusing to go to bed tonight so that it won't be tomorrow. And on the upside, I'm so behind on EFY stuff at the moment, so staying up all night might work really well - think of the things I could get done!

Anyway, back to the task at hand: today is NOT going to be the day you hear about how 'wonderful' by job is! lol :)

On the way home, I was trying to think about something wonderful to blog about, but I really couldn't come up with anything! There's plenty of wonderful things IN my life, I just couldn't focus on anything long enough to decide on something.

Finally I thought - "Grrr! I can't even think! My brain is all used up!" Which led me to think "hmmm... My brain. I'm grateful I have a good brain that usually works.... maybe I'll blog about that... it's ironic though, to blog about having a good brain when you can't think straight... yeah, but you can't think straight because you used it all up today... yeah, but lucky you had the kind of brain that was able to direct those three jobs in post production and write those 4 big proposals today! That was a mammoth effort (go me!) and you're lucky your brain was up to it!... Yeah, but now it's all deflated! Wait! Am I have a conversation with myself again?! So sad!"

When I sat down to write this post, I thought "maybe I'll just find a funny quote about brains, and then that can be my post and I won't have to think of anything to write!' (which I thought was a bit of a brainwave). Of course then I started coming across quotes about insanity, and they sounded more fitting really. Here are some of my favourites:

“Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most”
-Mark Twain

Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked. ~Oliver W. Holmes, Sr

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you. ~Rita Mae Brown

Might we not say to the confused voices which sometimes arise from the depths of our being: "Ladies, be so kind as to speak only four at a time?" ~Madame Swetchine

Classic, right?! Also loved the one I put in title of this post... which is extra funny if you were at work with me today! Sadly, none of you were. (new low: Not only am I talking to myself, but now I'm also having in-jokes with myself!)

Anyway! In summary: I love that I have a brain that usually works. I love to use it to think about things, and write about things, and read and talk about things. And I'm grateful that it's only this useless when the occassional crazy-busy-five-projects-due-at-once day mixes with the not-so-occassional hormonally-blamed-lack-of-abilty-to-think-straight day!

I'm really glad those days don't collide too often :)

xo Tammy

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wonderful - Day 5: Aunty Tammy

Can't even begin to tell you how much I love these four (almost five) wonderful wonderful children. Being an Aunty is one of the absolute joys of my life :)

“Only an Aunt can give hugs like a mother, can keep secrets like a sister, and share love like a friend.”
~ Spanish Proverb

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wonderful - Day 4: At home or abroad

I've spent 9 years of my life living overseas. Four of them were spent in Papua New Guinea as a little girl, and five were spent in the United States as a BYU student. I probably have more vivid memories of my time in the USA than of my time in PNG (it was so long ago now!), but I have treasured memories from both periods and I'm so grateful for those experiences. They taught me a lot and gave me a greater understanding of the world we live in. I'm very aware, for example, that I live a life of unimaginable luxury compared to so many other people on earth. And having seen first hand as a little girl what everyday life is like in a third world country, I've always felt a deep since of gratitude for what I have and a desire to share where I can.

I've also loved the traveling I've been so lucky to do, and the wonderful things I've seen. But - and this will sound cliched - no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still love to call Australia home. I'm more grateful than I can possibly express to have been born here. They call it the lucky country - and I'd have to agree. The older I get, the more I start to realize just how much it means to me to be an Aussie.

I really love the Dorothea Mackeller poem 'My Country', it feels familiar, and as I read it I can almost smell, taste, hear and feel the landscapes. It stirs my blood and leaves me standing just a little taller :) These are a couple of my favourite stanzas:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold -
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

xo Tammy

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wonderful - Day 3: If it's between laughing and crying, you might as well laugh

In about September/October of grade eleven, we had the semi-formal. When you're IN grade eleven, that's a really big deal. It's a lot like the formal (aka Prom) that you have in grade 12, but just a tiny bit less fancy: basically, your parents drive you, rather then hiring limos to drive you. Otherwise it's pretty much the same as the formal.

I remember being excited about the semi (unlike my formal - but that's another story!), and mum sewed me the most beautiful outfit. It was a long, full, gorgeous black skirt, and a really pretty midnight blue, fitted silk top. And depending where you were standing in the light and how you moved, the colours in the top all seemed to change. I really liked it :)

I'm pretty sure I was sewn into it on the night though - because we were running really late! (I'll interject here quickly and assure Mum that I know it was my fault we were running so late, since I never made decisions about what I wanted until the very last minute, lol!). I seem to remember that my date was actually in the living room waiting, and mum and I were rushing frantically around in her bathroom to finish my hair and makeup. I had really long (gorgeous, full, dark, not-full-of-grey) hair back then, and we'd decided to wear it out and curly with a dimonti slide I think. Once that was done, it was just my makeup that needed doing.

I don't remember clearly exactly how what happened next happened, but one minute we were shaking the liquid foundation bottle (with a finger over the top), and the next minute, I inexplicably had liquid foundation ALL OVER ME! All over my hair, sitting perfectly over both shoulders, and all over the front of my beautiful midnight blue top. In my memory, at that moment, time just hung for a moment, as we both just stared in horror at my reflection in the mirror. Our eyes widened, our eyebrows rose, and our jaws dropped.

And then, mum suddenly started laughing. And I don't just mean a giggle. It was one of those 'I have never laughed so hard in my life' kind of laughs. I started shreiking and wailing and panicking and getting into hysterics (naturally!), and that just seemed to make mum laugh even harder. I actually remember mum dropping to the floor of the bathroom and sitting there, holding her sides as she laughed! And everytime she'd look up at me, a whole new round of laughter would start up.

Of course in spite of myself, I started laughing a little bit too (not too much though - I mean, I was covered in foundation!). And as Mum finally finished laughing and stood up to 'fix things', I remember her explaining to me (as I demanded to know WHAT could possibly be so funny!) that sometimes things just go so terribly wrong that there's really nothing you can do but laugh (she might not have used those exact words, but that's the gist of what I remember).

Dad was duly summoned and dispatched with a message for my date that he'd better make himself comfortable. The top had to come off, be hand washed and then 'hair drier' dried, and my hair had to be washed out as best as we could in the sink and then re-dried and curled. It took a while, but there was no other way around it.

I remember having a good time with mum that night, and that in the end, it all worked out just fine (my date may not have the same memory, but he's not the one writing this blog).

I have often thought of that night over the last several years - especially when things go terribly wrong! I'm really grateful that laughter was mum's first response. I often remember it when I find my eyes widening, my eyebrows rising, and my jaw dropping, and it's a lesson that has served me well on more occassions than I can count.

Because when it's between laughing and crying, you might as well laugh. In any event, you'll have a better time cleaning up a mess! :)

xo Tammy

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wonderful - Day 2: Testimony

I read the Book of Mormon - all by myself - when I was seven years old. I suspect it may have been Mum who first planted the idea in my head, but I eagerly took the challenge on: I wanted to read the Book of Mormon before I turned eight so that I could know for myself that the church was true, and have a strong testimony before I was baptized.

What kind of kid does that?! I'm in awe, sometimes, of the strength I seem to have been born with. I certainly don't have as much of that strength these days, but as I child, I had oodles of it. By the time I was 10, I think I'd filled 8 or 9 journals (with mostly unintersting tidbits about what I'd had for breakfast, and what friends I'd played with), but I wrote without missing a day for several years because I'd learned about the Prophet Wilford Woodruff and his personal committment to recording his day in his journal before going to bed each night. I can clearly remember, around the age of 11 or 12, really carefully examining my character and my faults and setting little goals to help myself improve: "I will be kind to everyone for 30 days" or "I will do 3 acts of service every day for the next 3 weeks", writing them down on cards and ticking of my progress each day. I even set (and accomplished) a goal to read the Old and New Testiments and the Doctrine and Covenants before my 12th birthday. I loved to learn and discuss the gospel with my (patient and wonderful) parents, and I had so many amazing experiences with prayer as a little girl - I knew I had a Heavenly Father, and that He was there ready to talk, everytime I bowed my head to discuss something with Him.

Looking back, it seems a bit of a wonder that I wasn't translated! lol :)

It's hard sometimes, remembering the innocent, committed, humble and completely obedient heart that I had back then - because I'm much more crumpled,spritually slow, proud and disobedient now! But life has it's ups and downs, and I've come to understand and appreciate that. In some ways I'm worse than I was, and in other ways, I'm much better because I have greater levels of the understanding and experience that comes with 'growing up'.

Today was Fast and Testimony Sunday, and I was looking forward all morning to sacrament meeting. I was feeling hungery for the strength that comes as we listen to other people's testimonies, and it really was a wonderful meeting. Two testimonies in particular stood out: the first was a fellow who said that he never feels that he 'knows' the things that other people talk about 'knowing' in their testimonies. But he believed lots of things, and he worked hard at that becuase it made him happy, and brought him peace. I know that believing is easier for some people than it is for others, and I really admired his 'decision to believe' even though it didn't seem to be a naturally easy thing for him to do. A second fellow spoke about the fact that he has always known that God is his Father, that Jesus Christ is his Saviour, and that the church is true. He said he'd had his ups and downs, and that he often is saddened by his seeming lack of ability to actually 'do' what he 'knows', but that he nonetheless has never been able to bury, or deny, or shake off that absolute knowledge.

I realize that I'm a lot like that second fellow. I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated and angry with myself over my millions of shortcomings, because I 'know' better! But the positive flipside of that, is just how gloriously wonderful it is to 'know' better at all! There are so many wonderful spiritual gifts that Heavenly Father gives his children, and I have taken for granted (for most of my life) the gift of Testimony that I was blessed with. I remember in Seminary deciding to 'pray to know' if the Book of Mormon was true. I spent quite a bit of time at it, and was hoping and waiting for a real 'lightening bolt' experience, before I realized that the Spirit was there (in my minds eye he was actually rolling his eyes at me), trying to point out that I already absolutely knew that it was true, so the question was a tad ridiculous!

All through the stalwart righteousness of my childhood and youth, and then through the spiritually-turbulent(and often less-than-righteous) years of my twenties, I've known that I have have a Father in Heaven, and that he loves me. It's an absolute in my mind, and forms the core, really, of my understanding of the world and the way things work. I've tried to imagine what it would be like not to know that, but I can't really, because I can't even imagine a world where that might not be the case.

Others who may not have the gift of testimony will undoubtably have natural abilities in other areas that I simply don't have, and we all have the opportunity to develop whatever spiritual gifts we put our mind to, but as I look back over the last 30 years, and the things that have made my life 'wonderful', I think my testimony has to be at the very top of that list.

There is a peace and a sense of place and context to my life that I take for granted because I've never known otherwise. But it's been such a blessing to also feel that safety net hanging just under everything I do; knowning that Heavenly Father has it all under control (if I'll just listen and actually 'do' from time to time!)

Pretty wonderful, huh?!

xo Tammy

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Suddenly Thirty

You know that Jennifer Garner movie, where she's at her 13th birthday party one minute, but then she wakes up the next morning to find that she's suddenly 30 years old?! Well no one has recently sprinkled magic dust all over me or anything, but I still kind of feel like maybe that's what's happened to me (Mark Ruffalo has yet to show up, but don't worry, I'm keeping an eye out for him). I swear it was only yesterday that I was 20, yet suddenly here I am, face to face with my 30th birthday. Today's the 1st of October, and this is the month that will force me (pretty unwillingly) into the next decade of my life.

I have been dreading this all year. I knew it was coming (duh!), and I've been having multiple preparatory 'break-downs' over the impending doom that is the 31st of October. Practise makes perfect, and so I'm getting really good at having 'breakdowns'. They leave me feeling depressed on a good day, and panicked and terrified on the bad days (which sounds overly dramatic, but is actually kind of true, lol!). I should clarify that it's actually not the 'getting older' part of this whole thing that bothers me (I don't really mind that part at all), it's the 'reaching my 30th birthday and still not being married with kids' that is leaving me in such a mess. I don't really talk about it much, and I don't like to, because there really isn't much point, but it seems impossible to personally consider myself as anything but a complete and utter failure, not because of what others may or may not think (I'm not too bothered about that), but just because of what I think about it all. I only had one real goal in life, and that was it! So it does feel like I've failed at life. (I'm sure lots of you would say wonderful things to try and make me feel better, and swear that I'm not a failure - which is why I love you all so much :)).

But anyway, that's not the point of this post, that was just to give you some context for this next part: I've been trying to find a different way to look at this birthday thing, and a week or two ago an idea occured to me that I've finally decided to adopt. I have 31 days till 'D-Day', and I'd really (really) like to be feeling a little more positive about things. And as I've tried to be positive, I've been trying to focus more on all of the wonderful things that have happened to me over these 30 years, or the wonderful things I've learnt, or the people I've met, or the experiences I've had. Because in my head and heart, I can't deny that my life so far (depsite it's disapointments and hard times) has been absolutely wonderful. I have so much more than so many people in this world could ever hope to have, and I certianly have more than I could ever hope to deserve. So as a tiny show of gratitude to my Heavenly Father, I'd really like to try and focus on everything I've been blessed with - because the list is so long.

Each day this month, I'm going to post about something wondeful from my life's experiences so far. I'm hesitant to make that kind of commitment because I'm extremely time-poor at the moment (so some of the posts might be really short, lol!), but I actually think it's too important not to do. All this dread and negative focus is having such a bad effect on me, and I don't want to get all bitter just because I'm in my thirties - lol! I'm also really hoping that if I start to feel all grateful and positive, than I'll stop feeling so completely frozen by panic, and will be able to start breathing normally again :)

Please feel free to read along and comment (or even to add 'wonderful' things I'm missing, lol!), and hopefully you'll notice a bit of a more positive, happy, less-tear-inclined Tammy by the end of the month :)

xoxo Tammy