Thursday, May 21, 2009

Prayer Request - Smoking

Hi Everyone

I am doing really, really badly on the stopping smoking front. I have, so far, managed not to buy a packet but I go up to people on the street for one every few hours. This, I know, is not good enough. I feel terrible.

My stress levels are also through the roof. I had to leave class an hour early today because I was stressed and couldn't concentrate. Luckily I am well ahead with my work so the main damage is to my pride.

I really, really want to give up but it is much tougher than I imagined. I need your help!

Pray please. Give suggestions. Pray again.

Thanks guys

Amber

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yay - Amber and Jessie are moving out!



Hi Everyone

Yes it's true - I got the flat and I can have my beautiful cat Jessie with me. I am so excited and nervous. As it is permanent housing (no lease - you can only be kicked out for bad behaviour etc) this is a tremendous relief for me and a real answer to prayer.

I move in 1-2 weeks which I know will be hectic and stressful. Please pray that I get through it well.

I am also now going to try and give up smoking as I promised God I would try if I got the place. This will also be good for me in terms of my physical health. I will start off on nicotine replacement therapy so I don't get too grumpy and then gradually wean off it.

Anyway thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers. They worked!

God Bless

Amber

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Housing Possibility



Hi Everyone

Thanks so much for your support and prayers over what has been a very tough week for me.

Anyway yesterday I went to see my case manager and she said that Mental Health Services had put my name down for a designated Mental Health Unit. I am the only one who they put forward to get it so it seems to be a real possibility.

The next step is to see whether Housing Management will approve me going in. My Case Manager is fairly positive that they will but, just in case, please, please pray that they do.

Also please pray that I can take my beautiful cat Jessie with me.

I went yesterday to see the unit and it is lovely. They are painting it. It is larger than my current unit and closer to amenities.

I will know next week so stay tuned.

God Bless

Amber

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hospital and Respite



Hi Everyone

On Sunday night the voices came back with a vengeance. I spent all day in bed trying to fight them off - they wouldn't go and I was exhausted. I then spent Monday in bed and it just got worse. On Monday night I rang a friend and asked her to take me to hospital.

I was very, very sick but they had no beds in the psychiatric ward. I stayed overnight in the emergency department. The psychiatrist came in the morning and said there were still no beds so they gave me a sedative. I went to sleep and then the doctor said, because I went to sleep, that I could go home.

I didn't feel that going home was a good option so I rang my Case Manager and asked if I could go to Respite. Respite is a 'step down' from the hospital for people who are a bit unwell but can cope a little bit. They have nurses and a cook and cleaner but no doctors and you can go out if you want to.

I feel very settled in Respite but I have to go home tomorrow and am really scared about that. Please, please pray for me that I will cope and/or Respite will let me have a few more days.

God Bless

Amber

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers Day - An Interview with my Mother



Hi Everyone

As it is Mothers Day here today here is a picture of, and an interview with, my mother. Hope you enjoy reading.

What were your thoughts and feelings when you had your first child (which was me)?

Joy and fear. Joy because I was a 'little miracle' and then fear because she and my father had no idea what to do. She said they used to hold a mirror up to my face to make sure I was still breathing. At that time there were no books etc on how to be a parent and they relied on observation and experience. They were both very responsible and did their best but there wasn't much support. My father's parents were in Hobart, they were in Launceston and my mother's parents were in Elliott (country Tasmania in the North West). They hadn't been in Launceston long and didn't have many friends there. My mother relied a lot on the child health clinics.

How was this similar or different to the births of your other three children?

In Melbourne (where my brother was born) they had a lot of friends aqnd neighbours through babysitting, my father's work and tennis. Also a reference book on childrearing 'Dr Spock' had come out which was helpful.

With my two much younger sisters from mum's second marriage things were a lot easier as she had already reared two children and had more confidence and less worry. She found their milestones interesting but not frightening.

What values or ethics have you tried to instill in your children?

These were predominantly Christian values such as honesty, integrity, loyalty, not stealing, keeping promises, work for things, save up to buy things and set goals. My mother was also keen on keeping family traditions at times such as Easter, Christmas and Birthdays. She also valued routines. One familiar one for me was 'Toilet, teeth and bed.' She also sang when it was bath time.

What challenges have you faced as a parent?

My mother said her greatest challenge was her hatred of both of her former husbands. In my father's case she said she tried not to poison us against our father but often found this difficult.

In my stepfather's case she told the children exactly what had happened and stated that they couldn't see their father for their own protection. She said some people disagreed with this approach but his early death meant that a full confrontation was avoided.

To what do you attribute the academic successes of your children?

Mum stated that this was a result of both her 'genetic brilliance', fostering an environment of learning at home and working with teachers rather than against them. She read to all her children from when they were babies, played the piano and sang, had many 'dress up' costumes available and encouraged 'discovery tours' of the garden and nearby parks etc. She stated that she did not expect 100% from teachers and, if there were gaps in our learning, rather than blaming the teacher she would work with them and support them so the gaps would close.

What have been your proudest moments as a mother?

She said that I, at four, would not go further than I was allowed despite peer pressure to do so. I returned, sobbing, stating that I had stood my ground. She felt that showed I was strong minded and ethical.

She also remembers the academic prowess - my brother's state Maths prize, my bursary and my two sisters getting dux of the school.

She said that Kathy Cameron, a teacher at my old school Hellyer College, told her I was the most brilliant English student she had ever taught.

Mum is also pleased with the integrity of all her children who she thinks of as 'good people' and the recent generosity of my brother who paid for my sister and I to go to Melbourne.

What do you think you have done well as a parent?

She said she had tried to listen to her children. She had provided a good learning environment although she found we were a little more difficult in our adolescence. She also felt she had managed well on a limited budget and we were able to participate in sport, travel and music and ate healthy meals. She said that she always put the children's needs first and, often, her wardrobe suffered as a result.

What would be your advice to first time mothers?

Stop working and spend more time with the children. Follow your instincts. Be encouraging. Don't spoil them with too much money.

The End

Hope you have all enjoyed the interview. Please continue to pray for my housing situation.

God Bless

Amber

Saturday, May 9, 2009

An allergic reaction

Hi Everyone

It's been sooo long and I've missed you all. Thanks heaps to those who dropped by even when I was out of credit.

I had almost recovered recovered from my nasty voices yesterday and went to my doctor for a routine flu vaccination. I have these every year so I just went in, the nurse jabbed me in the arm and then I left.

I was at the Polytechnic (where I study) and I went to the toilet. I noticed that my neck was red raw and I felt a little dizzy. I asked the receptionist if I could ring my doctor and she said yes.

The doctor told me to come in right away which scared me so I went into prayer overload. Eg "Please God let me be Ok. Don't let me die" etc etc.

The doctor gave me an anti inflammatory medication and some chocolate to keep my sugar levels up. My pulse was up to about 140 and my blood pressure was really high too. I was scared.

Thankfully everything was OK in the end and I left the surgery and was told to go to bed for the rest of the day which I did.

Anyway I am OK now - physically and mentally. Please continue to pray for my housing situation.

Also coming up tomorrow is my special ''Mothers Day" Interview with my very own mother.

God Bless

Amber

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Out of credit

Hi Everyone

Just a quick note to say that I am out of internet credit so won't be able to post or comment much for the next few days.

Keep up the prayer please - still experiencing symptoms but they are getting better.

Will be back on board on Saturday.

May God Bless you all

Amber

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Album of Opinions - Now it's My Turn

Hi Everyone

I am slowly recovering from my psychotic episode over the weekend. Still very tired but have been able to go to classes as normal. A big, huge thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.

Anyway - today's post includes my answers to the Album of Opinions questions - hope you enjoy reading them.

The Noblest Aim in Life
To love God, others and myself.

The characters you admire most in real life.
My friend Megan and my grandmother Bronwen.

Who do you consider the greatest living politician?
Kevin Rudd (Australian Prime Minister)

What political questions are you chiefly interested in?
Mental health reform. Improving the quality of life of Australian Aboriginal people.

The greatest artists and musicians?
Van Gogh and Salvador Dali. Bono from U2

Your favourite characters in fiction?
Lucy from the Narnia series and, recently, Bella from Twilight

The time of year you like most?
Summer

The authors you admire most?
CS Lewis, TS Eliot, Shakespeare

A brief definition of love.
There are different types of love. The best of them is when you consider the other person's needs before your own.

The scenery you admire most?
Secluded beaches with pure white sand.

Your idea of happiness
To be completely rid of mental illness.

Your favourite motto or proverb
A good name is better than riches (from Proverbs in the Bible)

The wrongs you would redress.
Third world debt should be abolished so developing countries can actually develop.

Reforms you would advocate
More funding and early intervention for serious mental illnesses

Your favourite recreation or hobby
Reading, writing and theatre (directing and acting)

The true place of woman in society
This is a tricky one. Some women prefer to be at home and others prefer to work. I think the 'place' should be what is considered to be the best outcome for the husband, wife and children. Single women can really do what they want.

Your favourite topic of study
Writing

Your chief ambition
To be a published author and support myself totally by writing.

The Christian name you like best
Jessica and Joshua

Your ideas on the subject of marriage.
Marriage can be wonderful if both partners make an effort to love the other and put the other's needs above their own needs. Also we need to choose our partners well and not just on our hormones.

The qualities you respect most in men and women?
Honesty, openness, kindness, gentleness, generosity and humour.

Your favourite flowers, birds and beasts
Carnations, white cockatoo, cat.

The End

Hey - maybe now it's your go! God Bless

Amber

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Woman of No Importance - A play by Oscar Wilde



Hi Everyone

On Friday night to confuse the voices a bit I went to see 'A Woman of No Importance' by Oscar Wilde.

The play was full of nasty, superficial characters and witty one liners.

Basically a young middle class man, Gerald Arbuthnot, finds himself accepted into aristocratic society and offered the post of secretary to the sleazy Lord Illingworth. He also falls in love with their rich American guest Hester Worsley.

Word is sent to Gerald's mother, Mrs Rachel Arbuthnot, to come to see her son and celebrate his good fortune.

It turns out, however, that Lord Illingworth is Gerald's father and his mother hates him for leaving her to bring up Gerald alone.

Eventually the only 'nice' characters - Rachel, Gerald and Hester decide to go to America to get away from the rest of them.

The play is filled with some wonderful one liners including - "Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them." Also "Men always want to be a woman's first love - women like to be a man's last romance."

I thoroughly enjoyed the play and it distracted me nicely from those awful voices.

God Bless

Amber

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hearing Voices - Please God not this again!

Hi Everyone

My worst fear is happening all over again. The voices are back.

I was totally fine in the morning but at lunch time they hit.

This is what they are saying - they start off with a list of all the bad, stupid etc things I did when I was a teacher, then they say 'you were a crap teacher and you are therefore a crap person and you deserve to die'. They end up telling me to kill myself.

I have been arguing with them all afternoon. I am saying to them that God has saved me and that therefore I deserve to live. And that I am retraining and won't be going near a classroom again. That all the stupid things I did have been forgiven by God Himself.

I am exhausted by all this arguing. I have been to the doctor and the counsellor. They both told me to go to hospital if I get worse.

I don't want to go to hospital! I have spent months building up a positive lifestyle and working hard at my studies. A break in hospital could ruin all that.

Please, please pray for me that these voices will go away.

Thank you

Amber

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thank God it wasn't cancer



Hi Everyone

Today was a very emotional day for me. My beautiful cat Jessie (pictured) has had lumps under her chin for over a month now. They hadn't cleared up with medication and she had begun to scratch at them. I was told it could be cancer.

I went to my classes as normal but, at the back of my mind, there was this fear. As the day progressed it grew worse. Luckily it was a really full day so I didn't have enough time to have a full blown panic attack but I was getting close - my heart was beating fast and I had to control my breathing. And, of course, I prayed. Not just once, oh no, I prayed every few minutes.

My friend Tony took Jessie and I to the vet. Once there I was ushered into the consultation room. I was there, alone with Jessie, for about ten minutes. I prayed and did deep breathing exercises the whole time.

The vet, a young Chinese woman, was very sympathetic. She cuddled Jessie to calm her down and looked at the lumps. She said she would show Jessie to the skin specialist. I was alone in the room - more prayer and breathing.

When she re-entered with Jessie in her arms she said "I've got good news." The good news is that Jessie has cat acne which can be treated with antibiotics and a shampoo. I felt my body go limp. Thank you God!

I came home expecting to cuddle up to Jessie in celebration. But she wasn't having that. She sprinted out the door and hid in the bushes. I had to chase her for over an hour!

Jessie is now inside and calm and well.

Thank you to everyone who prayed.

God Bless

Amber

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Album of Opinions Revisited


Hi Everyone

As many of you know before my grandmother died last year she left me a book that recorded the opinions of the relatives and friends of my great great grandmother and grandfather. These are really interesting. I am including, today, the full set of opinions of my great great grandmother Emily Wragg. I am also making up a new Album of Opinions and would love it if you could answer these same questions and either email it to me or include it in a comment.

Anyway here it goes - Emily Wragg's opinions

The noblest aim in life
Usefulness
The Greatest wonders of the world
Electricity and steam
The characters you most admire in real life
Kind husband and loving children
Who do you consider the greatest living politician?
Bad is the best right now
What political questions are you chiefly interested in?
Marriage with a deceased wife's sister - I don't like it.
The greatest artists and musicians
Too many to mention
Your favourite characters in fiction.
John Halifay
The time of year you like best
Summer
The authors you admire most
Walter Scott, Pope
A Brief Definition of love
A state of impermanence but beautiful while it lasts
The scenery you admire most
Woodland, beach and agricultural
Your idea of happiness
Quiet time with a dear relative or friend
Your favourite motto or proverb
"Whatevery thy hand guideth to do, do it with thy might."
The wrongs you would redress
All
Reforms you would advocate
Religious instruction in schools and the better management of children.
Your favourite recreation or hobby
Reading and needlework - no hobby
The true place of woman in society
House or at a friend's
Your favourite topic of study
It has been music
Your chief ambition
To be worthy of a good name
The Christian name you like be
Herbert Lucy
Your ideas on the subject of marriage
A state of happiness if both parties are loving
The qualities you respect most in men and women?
Men - generosity and courage
Women - modesty and sincerity
Your favourite flowers, birds and beasts
Roses, Talking Birds, Dogs

Name Emily M Wragg
Date June 25th 1885

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The System (our play) - Scene 2

Hi Everyone

Today my friend Heather and I finished the first draft of our play. We did a 'reading' and we both thought it was better than we had expected sooo...I decided to test whether you like it or not. I am doing scene 2 because scene 1 is a poem which Heather will write - scene 2 is where the action starts. The play would be rated 'M' is it had a rating because of adult themes, nudity and course language. If you're offended by any of these things don't say I haven't warned you. It is based in the psychiatric ward. Happy Reading!

Scene 2 - The Smoking Area

Light comes on and Chrissie enters. She lights up her smoke from the 'cigarette lighter pole' and then sits down next to a dazed Will.

Chrissie: I wish they'd give my lighter back.
Will: You will not believe the day I've just had.
Chrissie: You were gone for a while...what did you get up to?
Will: It's David.
Chrissie: What? What happened?
Will: I don't believe it...he, he's dead.
Chrissie: That's not funny Will.
Will: I'm not joking, he's dead.
Chrissie: Dead...DEAD...Dead?
(Chrissie moves to the bench opposite Will and cries. Jude and Sara enter).
Sara (to Jude): You're going to hell Jude! There's no such thing as purgatory.
Jude: How do you know that? Are you God?
Sara: I'm more dangerous than God so you better watch out!
Jude: You can't touch me. I am God!
Sara: Whatever...What's up with her?
Will: She's upset.
Sara: Now what?
Will: David's dead.
Jude: Where is he? I'll bring him back to life.
Sara: He died before I could fuck him.

Chrissie cries louder.

Will: Haven't you got any feelings?
Sara: For him I do, not for her.
Jude: I think you're going to hell.
Sara: This is hell baby.
Jude: Where is he? I'll heal him.
Chrissie: WILL EVERYBODY JUST SHUT UP!

The nurses Karen and Jen enter. Jen walks over to Chrissie, holds her and pats her back. Karen clears her throat loudly.

Karen: Let's have a bit of quiet please.
Chrissie (Between sobs): He's dead...he's dead.

Karen takes notes on her clipboard and Chrissie stops crying. Nicky runs in brandishing a note. He doesn't notice Chrissie's state.

Nicky: Flash for cash again. I've got $20 for smokes. David left me a note.
Karen: Give me that.

Chrissie grabs the note and reads aloud.

Chrissie: Here's your $20 back. Thanks mate. Goodbye.

Chrissie slumps back down with Jen.

Nicky: Do you girls want to make it a three some?

Chrissie slaps Nicky's face. Nicky walks off grinning. Dr Boloum enters holding a fancy black clipboard.

Chrissie (to Dr Boloum): What happened to David?
Dr Boloum: The circumstances aren't clear and I'm not free to comment at this stage.
Will: Oh for God's sake I saw the whole thing. He ran in front of a bus.
Jude: Why did he do a thing like that?
Will: He thought he saw his mother's murderer or something.

Karen claps her hands.

Karen: Jen, you look after Chrissie. The smoking area is now closed.

End of Scene 2

Please also remember to keep praying for my housing situation and the health of my beautiful cat Jessie.

God Bless you all

Amber

Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANZAC Day



Hi Everyone

Today it is ANZAC Day in Australia. For those of you from other countries ANZAC stands for "Australia and New Zealand Army Corps" and it is the day we remember our soldiers who suffered and/or died in war, especially World War One. Australians, for some reason unknown to me, specifically think of the bravery of our soldiers in Gallipoli. Gallipoli was a big mess up by the British and Australian lives were lost because of their poor tactics.

Today I forgot it was ANZAC Day. I got up early to do the grocery shopping. All the shops were shut except McDonalds. I ate at McDonalds then went back to the supermarket. Still closed. There were other people milling around outside the entrance. No one seemed to know what was going on. I went back to McDonalds and there learned the truth. The shops would open at midday. The morning was for ANZAC Day.

I am always unsure what I should feel when ANZAC Day comes around. My father's family are Quakers, and therefore pacificists and I have been deeply influenced by their beliefs. My grandfather on my mother's side didn't go to war, I think because he was needed to farm the land and provide food. My maternal grandmother's brother - Uncle Bill - went to the second World War and was taken prisoner by the Japanese. He didn't talk about it at all until shortly before his death and even then not to me.

So what I'm getting around to saying is that I don't know what war is like or how I feel about it. I have never been affected enough by war to really experience its ramifications and my imagination isn't good enough (or gory enough) to imagine them.

I can appreciate that many young men gave up so much because they loved our nation and I can understand how much they must have suffered. But only intellectually. I don't know it.

On the other hand I can also appreciate what pacificists say - war is awful and should be avoided at all costs. Although I have never seen how terrible war is it doesn't take a genuis to know that it's not a good thing.

So there you have it - my confused response to ANZAC Day.

A reminder to please keep me in your prayers regarding my housing situation.

God Bless

Amber

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Twilight - the Book



Hi Everyone

My apologies for being absent from the blogging world for a little while. Upon returning to Hobart I was seized with incredible tiredness and it was all I could do to get to my classes.

Now for the subject at hand - Twilight. Let me tell you that before Twilight I hated vampire tales, was sick to death of teenage love stories (after being a teacher for five years they get to you) and had no idea that the two together would be so compelling.

The book is wonderfully written and the romantic/sexual tension is really wonderfully done.

I also related to the heroine - Bella Swan. Bella is clumsy (like me), smart (hopefully like me), has low self-esteem (like me) and has no idea how she comes across to other people (like me).

I imagined I was Bella and I found myself falling in love with a vampire. Believe me I've never done that before!

Edward's character is done really well. I could really see his struggle with his growing love for Bella and his knowledge that being a vampire would, well, sort of complicate things a little.

The book also has a lot of twists and turns - Bella's life is at risk three, yes three, times. Usually I would just think that that was totally unrealistic and stop reading. But it's hard, very hard, to stop reading Twilight.

I did read somewhere that some Christian groups dislike Twilight. I am unsure why. If you're one of them please tell me why.

As a Christian reader I really related to it. Edward's struggle with his 'inner monster' is very like my own struggle with sin. It was done very, very well. Also his totally unconditional love for Bella is very like God's love for us.

Bella, likewise, is willing to risk her life to save both her own and Edward's families.

Apparently some people hate Twilight - I really thought I'd be one of them but I have already made arrangements to purchase the other books from a girl in my course who has them and hates their presence.

On a different note (ie end of book review note) please pray for me regarding my cat's health and my impending eviction.

God Bless

Amber

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Inspirational People - Tracey



Hi Everyone

I want to share with you some stuff about one of the most inspirational and supportive people I have ever met (drumroll) - the wonderful Tracey!

I first met Tracey in 2000. I was not a Christian but had gone to her church out of curiosity with my friends Amy and Jen. Amy, Jen, Tracey and I went to a pub after church.

My first impression of Tracey was that she was funny, creative and down to earth. Sometimes first impressions can be realistic.

Tracey became a Christian in 2000 (before I met her) because of her flatmates Nick (now a church elder) and Mikey (now a pastor). The house she lived in was near the church and a lot of the church members would pop in after church. She also especially remembers Paul Chew (now an Anglican minister).

After becoming a Christian Tracey "Felt like everything made sense."

Tracey's leadership abilities were obvious and after a year of intense spiritual growth in 2000 she commenced a Ministry Apprentiship in 2001 at the University. She said that although this was a steep learning curve for her she didn't want to waste any more time.

At the end of 2002 I had my breakdown. My friends Amy and Jen called Tracey and we met up. Tracey took me through a Bible study about depression and supported me with weekly meetings.

Tracey also taught me how to have better social skills so I could explain to people what was going on and what they could do to help. This was invaluable as most people had no idea what was happening or how they could help.

Tracey encouraged me to develop my intellectual reasoning also so that I was not making decisions purely with my emotions.

When I met Tracey she was finishing off a Bachelor of Arts. In 2004 Tracey moved to Melbourne to go to Bible College. I did not want her to go. I didn't think I'd cope without her and, to a large extent, I didn't.

Tracey has now completed her Graduate Diploma in Bible and Ministry and she still hasn't come back to Hobart! Come on Tracey we need you!

Anyway Tracey is currently studying for a Graduate Diploma in Counselling. She will be an awesome counsellor. She is due to finish this at the end of 2010. After that she will consider a range of options including a school chaplain, church counsellor or University Ministry.

She also currently works as a legal receptionist. She says she doesn't love this job but it has been good for her.

If you want to find out more about Tracey her blog address is http://www.tracex-trace.blogspot.com. She doesn't update it often but it is always fun when she does.

God Bless

Amber

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Zoo and other animals


Hi Everyone
As you can tell today I went to the zoo. The first exhibit was the mercats (pictured - the ones that are not lions or kangaroos). I like mercats because they are cute and really energetic. Most of the animals were asleep or resting but the little mercats were running around. We were in time to see them fed.
I was really wanting to see the 'Big Cats' - the lions in particular. I love lions. Of course in real life they would be terrifying. African people I know hate them. But, to me, they are just sooo beautiful and majestic.
And, of course, we had a big kangaroo exhibit. Even though I have seen heaps of kangaroo exhibits I still like them. This one was chasing people for food and rubbing up against people for pats. I patted it a bit but it was more interested in the little kids.
We had a rest at the hotel for a couple of hours and then went out for tea. Today we went to a Greek restaurant called Dion, which is apparently the name for the house of Zeus. We had pita bread and five dips for entree then I had mediterranean chicken. Oh it was so lush. A little tangy and sooo tender.
After that we went to the only comedian in the show I have seen live before - Judith Lucy. The last time I saw her (in Hobart about 15 years ago) it was all feminist jokes. Not this time! This time it was about turning 40 (two and a half years for me so I did understand). Like me Judith Lucy is single and has no kids and doesn't drive a car. I could really relate but it was perhaps a bit two close to home to be outrageously funny.
The next act was Stephen K Amos. He was just great. A black comedian originally from England he just poked fun at everyone and everything. He played the race card a little bit but also commented on just everything and anything.
In between the two acts I lost my temper completely at the bar. I even scared myself. People were pushing in and shoving me and the bar tenders closed the bar just as I was about to order. I just felt it was unjust and I could feel this rage welling up. Thank God for Stephen K Amos otherwise I might have screamed.
Please pray that I will not be overwhelmed by anything like that again.
God Bless you all
Amber




Thursday, April 16, 2009

A blast from the past (and more comedy)





Hi Everyone

It is a little well known fact that I lived in Melbourne until I was 9 years old. I identify as being a Tasmanian but Melbourne also holds a special place in my heart.

Anyway today my brother, my sister and I went back to Surrey Hills where we used to live. My sister wasn't born (she is only 16) when we were there but it jogged some memories for my brother and I.

Before the school was a park with pine trees that were very tall. When my brother was about 4 or 5 he climbed nearly to the top. My mum, who is terrified of heights, had to climb up after him. It was a real life cliff hanger moment. Anyway pictured is my brother standing against one of the pine trees.

Our school, Canterbury Primary School, was up the road. My brother and I are pictured at the school. I remember the school being very traditional which bored me. I would sit and stare out the window. The teachers assumed I couldn't do the work and put me in a remedial class. Well my mother wasn't having that. She stormed up to the school and told them I was smart. I then got extension work which was more fun. It was during these extension classes that I found my true book-love The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Apart from that we had some glorious food today. We met my uncle Tim for lunch and went to an Italian restaurant called 'Calabrien' in North Carlton. I had a seafood and avocado pizza which was just delicious. At tea time we went to China town to a restaurant called 'Dahu Peking Duck Restaurant'. I had steamed dumplings, green tea, prawn crackers and a beautiful dish made of beancurd, pork and chillis. Unusual taste but I loved it.

We saw two comedians tonight, both women - Fiona O'Loughlin and Nina Conti. Fiona I had heard of before because she is from Alice Springs and I used to live there. I just loved her for some reason. She mainly talked about her husband and kids but it was just sooo funny. Two of her kids came on stage too.

Nina Conti was more sophisticated. She is a ventriloquist and puppeteer as well as a comedian. She had rather a complex theme - centred around how her puppet was the 'missing link' in the evolutionary trail. Then the puppet said well actually he wasn't real so maybe she was delusional and depressed. I know it probably sounds like a better show but there was something about Fiona.

Tomorrow we go to the zoo which I'm excited about because we don't have one in Tasmania. Also we get to see a feminist comedian I've seen before.

God Bless you all

Amber

A very busy day



Hi Everyone
As you can tell from the pictures yesterday I went to the Melbourne Aquarium. We don't have one in Hobart so it is a bit of a treat. The shark pictured is the only Grey Nurse shark alive in the whole state of Victoria. The other picture is the King Penguins. They were really big to me as here we only get the little penguins.
We went on a glass bottom boat and the sharks and other fish swam under us. That was really cool.
I got to have about an hour with my sister shopping and I bought a new handbag for ten dollars and a really nice black dress for fifteen dollars.
We went to a restaurant called Portland Lane for dinner and I got to have my favourite dessert - sticky date pudding in butterscotch sauce. It was wonderful.
We saw three acts at the comedy festival and I think three is a bit much. I was exhausted.
The first one was 16 different acts. The best two out of that was a guy who put tape on his mouth and just mimed everything and a guy who dressed up as a nine year old boy and talked about moving his grandmother into a home.
We then saw a woman called Denise Scott. I didn't like her at first but she got better as the day wore on. She talked a lot about her husband and children and made fun of them.
The last act was Arj Barker. He was probably the best but I was soooo tired by the time I saw him I couldn't take it all in. He started off with a send up of the whole 'breathe out' negativity stuff on a screen. He then did a whole heap of political and religious stuff.
Please pray that I keep my stress levels under control and am able to be assertive about my need for rest.
God Bless
Amber

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?





Hi Everyone


As most of you know today was the day when I travelled to Melbourne. Pictured is the plane we went on. It is a very small plane and seats about thirty people. It was a bit squashed inside.


I am a bit scared of flying and prayed all the time that we would arrive safely. We had very little turbulance which was good.


We then had to get on two different buses to find our hotel. The hotel is nice - four stars - and has a TV with Austar and a pool. I forgot to bring my bathers though.


We went to a lovely Indian restaurant called Balti for dinner. I had beef korma which was just exquisite.


There were many frustrations. I am not very fit and I walk slowly. Also we kept getting lost despite having a map. Sometimes it got so bad I just wanted to go back home. I'm not used to having so many things jammed into a day.


Anyway we went to the Comedy Festival after dinner. The picture above shows me outside the theatre.

The first act was Dave Hughes. He was quite funny - lots of blokey Aussie humour with some topical stuff. He also talked quite a lot about relationships and his wife which I thought was quite sweet.

The second act, Wil Anderson, was much, much better. He commented on mainly topical stuff -our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the global financial crisis, drugs, the Victorian bushfires, religion and gay marriage. He was, like a lot of comedians, a bit anti Christian but he was very, very funny. I laughed nearly the whole way through.

Anyway I need to sign off now so I can get up early to go to the Acquarium.

God Bless

Amber





Monday, April 13, 2009

A Traditional Easter Sunday - with eggs!



Hi Everyone

My family is very traditional about Easter, especially my brother.

We were all up by 8 am to give eggs and other chocolates to one another. Pictured is what I received.

We then had a breakfast of savoury toast together. The savoury toast was mixed with mum's special chutney which I love.

My brother hid a whole heap of eggs in the garden and we had to hunt for them. This was fun. Even though I do it every Easter it was still fun. I found lots of eggs.

One of my friends from primary school (she is the person I've known the longest apart from family) came around and we had a great catch up. She was pleased I was feeling a lot better and I was pleased she had a house and a job.

The evening meal was wonderful. Mum and I started off with a seafood cocktail. After that was a roast dinner of turkey, chicken and vegetables, including cauliflower cheese which is one of my favourites.

I said grace at the table. This was hard as I know my family do not share my faith. I stumbled a bit but I thanked God for His love and forgiveness.

Tomorrow we go to Melbourne for the Comedy Festival which is really exciting for me. This break has been just what I needed.

God Bless you all

Amber

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Resurrection Sunday - My near death experience

Hi Everyone

As today is the day we celebrate Jesus' resurrection I thought it might be interesting for you to read about my first experience with God.

I was 15 years old and I had glandular fever. I had taken weeks and weeks off school and just lay in bed feeling terrible. To top it all off the glandular fever was making my asthma worse. I would take my asthma sprays and they would only provide the smallest possible relief.

Anyway one day I was especially sick. I thought I was going to die. My mother went to work but called my aunt to check on me. I couldn't walk and was coughing up blood.

My aunt took me to the hospital where they took me into one of the urgent emergency rooms immediately. They put me on an oxygen mask and they were just putting in a drip when I felt the room go starry, then grey, then black.

I went down a white tunnel which was full of love and brightness. The further up the tunnel I went, the brighter the white light was.

After some distance I heard the most beautiful voice. It said ''It is not your time to die. You must go back. There is something you must do."

I opened my eyes. I was in hospital attached to a drip and an oxygen mask. I was admitted to hospital for several weeks.

I didn't tell anyone of my spiritual experience until much, much later - when I was in my twenties. But I pondered it in my heart and it is one of the reasons I sought out Jesus and the church.

I still don't know what the thing is that I must do - I must wait patiently for an answer.

This memory comforts me and reminds me (like in Psalm 23) - "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death you are with me."

God Bless you all


Amber

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Shack - Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity


Hi Everyone
I just finished reading The Shack. It was a gripping read - well written, lots of action and emotion and, of course, a lot of spiritual information.
I will only tell a little of the story because I want you all to read it.
Basically a family goes camping and, while there, their youngest daughter is kidnapped and brutally murdered. The father, like most of us when tragedy strikes, got angry at God.
He receives a letter from God to go back to the shack where the murder of his daughter took place.
What follows then is the story of his burgeoning relationship with God.
What I liked the most is that it taught, in an interesting way, that God is a God of love, of relationship and of forgiveness. God wants our good and He is good.
It's often hard for me to realize this when my own life has often been so negative. This was the same for the guy in the story. I also relate to Jesus more than I relate to God the Father or the Holy Spirit. This was the same for the main character, Mack, as well.
I would encourage everyone to give this book a go - even if you are not a Christian, or you are but don't believe God can speak so personally. Just pick up this book and see what you make of it. It is truly intriguing.
God Bless you all and have a Fabulous Easter Sunday Tomorrow.
Amber

Friday, April 10, 2009

A bus ride and a game of cards

Hi Everyone


Happy Good Friday! Today, thank God, was a much better day. Although I didn't feel particularly spiritual, and I didn''t meditate on Jesus' atoning sacrifice, I was a little more relaxed.

I woke up at 4 am and cleaned the house (so my land lady doesn't have cause to kick me out even earlier than July), spent quality time with my cat and packed.

At 10 am my friend Kate arrived to take me to the bus stop. She and my pastor Dan are also arranging a roster to give food and medication to my beautiful cat Jessie. Thanks Kate and Dan. I am so relieved.

I then got on the bus and proceeded to read a very good book. I won't tell you what it was because I intend reviewing it once I've finished. Stay tuned!

Half way through the bus journey an eleven year old girl sat next to me. She was surprisingly honest and perceptive. She told me she was reading Shakespearean plays in her spare time and could calm her dad down when he was angry.

My mother, brother and sister met me at the bus stop. I had some hot cross buns then mum made a dinner of fish, flat bread and salad.

After dinner we played one of our families favourite card games. It is called '500'. My brother said it is only known in Australia. You play in pairs and you win tricks by going a suit. You are dealt ten cards and you call out how many you think you will win eg six hearts. Six is the lowest you can go.

I was surprised to realise how loud my family are. My mum told me she has a hearing impediment and I think my brother and sister are just used to talking loudly so she can hear them.

The card game was fun and I feel much better now. Thanks to all who prayed.

Please pray that my holidays continue to be relaxing and enjoyable.

God Bless

Amber

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Another crap day

Hi Everyone

Today I found out that the people who were going to look after my cat while I'm away won't be here to be able to do it.

I rang my Pastor and he's going to organise something I think.

I'm feeling pretty terrible - headaches, anxiety, depression - not a good omen for the start of my holidays.

Tomorrow I go to Burnie to spend Easter with my family and then on Tuesday I go to Melbourne for the comedy festival.

I hope these things cheer me up. It's only about 5 pm and I have had enough of today so I'm going to bed.

Please, please pray for me.

God Bless

Amber

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'm a Spiritual Director

Hi Everyone

I'm still stressing (and needing prayer) about my housing situation but I thought I'd post about something else today.

Yesterday one of my friends met with me to discuss how I could be her 'spiritual director'. I was honoured to be chosen. As she doesn't want to be named publicly I will call her Theresa.

Theresa grew up in a difficult home where drugs, sex and violence were common occurrences. Since becoming a Christian a few years she has totally changed her lifestyle and is now studying to be able to help other people do the same thing. I described her, in some of my autobiographical writing, as 'fiercely intelligent' and she liked that description.

There were five areas we discussed
  1. Bible reading
  2. Prayer
  3. Corporate or church involvement
  4. Meditation
  5. Christian growth and lifestyle

In terms of Bible study she has received a prophecy that she will be like the Biblical prophet Jeremiah. She aims to read Jeremiah soon but is finding it difficult. She loves the law books and the New Testament letters as she likes structure. She is sick of the simplicity of daily readers. Recently she has been reading the Psalms. At first she didn't like the Psalms because she thought it was just everyone crying out for help but now she is getting more out of them. She reads the Bible every few days and is comfortable with that. Previously she was anxious that she was not doing enough.

Regarding Prayer she also likes a structured approach. She often 'hears' God speak to her personally but stopped hearing from Him in this way for about six months. This got to her. A woman at her church told her that "God had turned his back on her." She thought that this was because she was putting other things and other people before God in an idolatrous way. Last week she repented of this and confessed her failings to God. Last Sunday she heard again from God personally.

In terms of Meditation she has been struck by the Bible verse: "Be still and know that I am God." She read an article on meditation and was inspired. She finds, however, that the guidelines are too loose for her structured mindset. Her mind goes off on tangents instead of sticking to the thing she has chosen to meditate on.

Theresa has had many problems with her Church or corporate body in the last few years. Now, however, she is feeling really good about her involvement there. About a year ago she felt she was excluded and she pushed really hard to be included. She realised that some of this was caused by her own negative thinking so she moderated her self talk and ceased mind reading. She is now more involved in church activities. However, she thinks that trying so hard at being included has pushed Jesus out of the picture a little. She desires to focus more on Him and focus on people only secondarily.

Lastly Theresa has been through intense Christian Growth. She has turned away from the sins of her family and structured her values on Christ. Because she has been so successful in doing this she is, and she admits it, a little arrogant. She realises that it is OK to be confident in her changed lifestyle and her success despite the odds but she needs to balance this with humility and reliance on Christ. She is also becoming more adept socially. She finds socialising draining but realises it is necessary to get on in the world.

I hope you have liked reading about my friend Theresa. Please pray for her and for me that I will encourage and rebuke her lovingly.

God Bless

Amber

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oh no - an eviction is looming!

Hi Everyone

I'm almost too depressed to write this but I feel quite supported by my fellow bloggers so I thought I would. It will, however, probably be shorter than my usual posts.

Today I had a fairly good day (writing class, my studies and coffee with a friend) until I got home.

There was an envelope pushed under my door. I immediately felt something was up.

I tore it open and read it. It said that I have until the end of July to find alternative accommodation as a relative of my land lady will be moving into the flat then.

End of July, you may think, that's ages. It might be for some people but not for me. I can not get a house with a private land lord or agency as, during the period that my mental illness was acute, I was always in trouble for a messy house and debts.

I, therefore, have to go through the public system or live with someone I know. I see my case manager tomorrow and hopefully she will be able to assist me.

Right now I feel so depressed I almost don't want to go on living.

For those that pray please, please, please pray for me in this situation.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog and encouraging me.

God Bless you all

Amber

Monday, April 6, 2009

I go to the doctor

Hi Everyone

Today I went to the doctor. Because...I was physically sick twice in March and I still feel pretty run down and, of course, because I am feeling very stressed and depressed. I have even had my menstrual period twice in four weeks which I think is probably due to stress.

My doctor is really lovely. She is thorough, kind and patient. She did a physical examination and then quizzed me a little about my lifestyle and psychological state.

In the end she told me to:

  1. Keep doing my studies because it distracts me from my problems and, besides, I'm good at it.
  2. Take a multivitamin every day
  3. Get lots of rest
  4. Don't exercise or overdo activities
  5. Go to the Melbourne comedy festival as planned because humour is healing
  6. Take valium when needed
  7. Stay out of hospital if at all possible

She said I suffered from a post viral syndrome with depression and anxiety (which are pre existing).

Tomorrow I go to the psychiatrist for my monthly check up and blood test.

Please continue to pray for my physical and mental health and for my beautiful cat.

God Bless

Amber

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Chinese King Lear



Hi Everyone

I'm still depressed but finding ways to distract myself.

Yesterday I went to a Chinese version of King Lear. King Lear (as you can tell from my email address) is one of my favourite Shakespearean plays.

The story is: The ageing King Lear wants to divide his kingdom up between his three daughters - Goneril, Reagan and Cordelia. To get their share they have to tell him how much they love him.

Goneril and Reagan describe their 'love' eloquently whereas Cordelia is simple and plain. In a rage King Lear disowns Cordelia.

Lear realises he has made the wrong decision as Goneril and Reagan betray him and he is left to roam the streets, gradually going mad. He realises he needs to find Cordelia.

A lot of twists and turns and then, like most Shakespearean tragedies, nearly everyone dies.

This production, though, was very Chinese. It took me some time to get used to the clanging and jerking sounds of a traditional Chinese orchestra.

I did love the dancing, though, which verged on martial arts.

One man (Wu Hsing-kuo) played all the parts and he did it brilliantly. I particularly liked the opening scenes where Lear walks around, half mad, looking for Cordelia.

Also Cordelia came across as gentle and sweet, as opposed to her more confident, manipulative sisters. I think this is the right interpretation. Cordelia loves her father but it is not in her nature to be so flowery in her feelings.

All in all a wonderful distraction from my depressed mood.

God Bless

Amber

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jessie goes to the vet


Hi Everyone
Yesterday I took Jessie to the vet because she has a scabby growth under her chin.
I thought it was probably a cyst.
The vet said there were 3 possibilities - 1) it is just an infection and will clear up with anti biotics and anti inflammatories. She gave me both of these to give to Jessie. 2) It is a cyst and 3) it is cancer.
I am very worried about possibility 3. So worried that I took valium yesterday so I could sleep off my emotions.
I have only had Jessie for a few months and she has fast become my best friend. The thought of losing her cuts deep.
Please pray for me an Jessie about this - that Jessie will recover and that I can deal with my emotions a bit better.
God Bless
Amber

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fool's Day


Hi Everyone
Did anyone 'get' you for April Fool's Day? My brother 'got' me by telling me our planned trip to Melbourne after Easter to go to the Melbourne Comedy Festival had been cancelled. I bought it hook, line and sinker.
A couple of young women in my class told their mothers they were getting married. One even said she was pregnant. I think, at these times of the year, I am just a bit too nice.
The sort of comedy I enjoy is the sort produced by Christian writer Adrian Plass. Adrian Plass came to my attention in the late 1980's with his book The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass. Here was a Christian writer sending himself up - believe me that's a rarity.
Plass is funny, humble and a good writer. I have read nearly all of his books and I never fail to be amused and entertained. He is like a breath of fresh air into the mass of Christian literature.
His latest offering Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation is no exception. It is an alphabeticised guide to Christianity. Short pieces which is good for my current scatty concentration span.
I will share my two favourite excerpts, with a little commentary for those who aren't familiar with the Christian subculture.
"Doctrine the things that I believe, not to be confused with heresy, which is the things other people believe."
Each church has its particular doctrinal slant. In my case I go to a Presbyterian church. Their slant, if you like, is predestination. They are inclined to, in layman's terms, focus on 'God directing everything' rather than humans having personal choice.
My father's family are Quakers. Their doctrinal slant is peace. They do not believe in war or violent conflict for any reason. They emphasise verses like 'Blessed are the peacemakers' etc.
The church where I became a Christian is a Pentecostal church. They emphasise spiritual gifts or supernatural gifts such as prophecy and speaking in tongues.
These slants are, I think, quite fine but, unfortunately, they have led to accusations of 'heresy' and outbreaks of hatred and conflict. This, really, goes against the teachings of Jesus.
If we can laugh at these things we will, hopefully, both minimise and appreciate these differences.
Now for the second quote: "Old Testament The part of the Christian Bible containing the Scriptures of the Hebrews. Must, of course, be regarded as inerrant, infallible and a guide to daily living. That is whuy modern churches regularly take their disobedient teenagers out and stone them..."
Yeah, it does say in the Bible that parents can have their kids stoned for unrelenting disobedience. Nowdays the stoning would be murder and child abuse and the offending parent would be jailed for a very long time. Really makes you think doesn't it? How times change.
In Australia now parents aren't even allowed to hit their children, although many do. How do you think modern Christians should deal with these sorts of passages? Any ideas would be welcome. I'm sure I don't know the answer.
The fact that this is humourous underlines, I think, that know one knows what to do with these sorts of passages.
Anyway happy April Fool's Day.
God Bless
Amber

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Me? Make up?

Hi Everyone


For part of my assessment on Monday we are required to be 'professionally dressed'. Well, luckily, my stepmother bought me a wonderful dress at Christmas but, what to do about make up?


I never wear make up. I don't know what to do with make up. The last time I wore it, in my memory, was in 2002 when I was teaching.


My friend Edwina suggested I go to the Body Shop where they give you a free make over as long as you purchase from them. I liked that idea, and it was doubly appealing as I know the Body Shop is a very ethical company.


So this afternoon along I went. I am still a little feverish and so I was sweating which meant they had to put on about four layers of foundation.


Anyway, to cut a long story short, this picture is the result. I was pleasantly surprised. I actually looked better than usual! And I felt good too. There is something about the whole make over thing that makes you feel pampered.


Now I don't suppose I will immediately change to wearing make up every day but I will try and get a lot of practice in between now and the end of the year. I want to feel comfortable with make up before I get a job because there will be so many things to adjust to when I actually get a job I think it's a good idea to adjust to this now.


God Bless


Amber









Bullying

Hi Everyone

Yesterday I was well enough to go to school - praise God and thanks to all those who prayed. Sometimes I could actually feel the prayer and God's love and peace.

Anyway yesterday we had a guest speaker at our class who spoke about bullying. The statistics are awful - nearly everyone either gets bullied or is in a school or workplace where it happens.

In our class two people walked out - one had been bullied at school, the other in the workplace.

I must admit I was very lucky at school. There was a bit of bitching and teasing but nothing I could call bullying. The same could be said of the workplace really - there was one teacher who picked on all younger staff (including me) but, in the end, a lot of the staff stood up against it and he was transferred.

All this changed, however, when I became mentally ill. I was no longer normal. I was different. Difficult to understand. Hard to relate to. Scary.

Some of my friends left me because they couldn't cope. I appreciated their honesty but it was hard to lose them.

A lot of my acquaintances just stopped talking to me. They would walk straight past me. This was especially the case with the people I knew in the theatre. All in all the only theatre people who stood by me were Christians.

This is called 'covert' bullying - ie they don't actually do something active they just isolate you from the community you had once belonged to. And it hurts, it hurts really bad.

I still go to theatrical events because I love the theatre but every time I go I have to grit my teeth against this coldness, this stigma. I wonder what they say about me but I guess I'll never know.

But it has taught me one thing - always include people, even if they are difficult to understand etc, after all that's what Jesus did.

God Bless you all

Amber

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Physical Illness

Hi Everyone

I am just getting over a really horrible physical illness which started suddenly on Sunday afternoon.

I had a really awful fever and heart palpitations. I was scared I was going to die and became quite anxious. I asked people to pray and took some valium to settle my anxiety.

All of the rest of Sunday I sat on my bed with the fan next to me, in my underwear with a moist towel. I also took some paracetomal.

The next day I was still weak and feverish so I stayed home from school. Today I am a little better but I'm weak so I decided to take another day off.

I feel a bit depressed which always happens when I get sick physically.

For all those reading please pray that I return to school tomorrow and don't get worse physically or mentally.

Thanks and God Bless

Amber

Saturday, March 21, 2009

In the Psychiatric Ward

Hi Everyone

I decided, this week, that I would write about some of my past experience with mental illness.

This excerpt is from my first admission to the Royal Hobart Hospital due to mental illness. I have changed the name of the male character to protect his identity but all other events and characters are true.

Anyway - here it is. Let me know what you think.

Amber


Psych Ward RHH - First Admission

It was just after Easter 2003. I had thoughts coming thick and fast. They were saying to me: "Why don't you jst kill yourself?" I didn't think they were my thoughts but I felt, somehow, that I should obey them. I was struggling to hold on.

The hospital loomed large in my mind as a place of refuge.

The other occupants of the house, Kaffy the cat and Sharyn the flatmate, had had enough of my madness. "I'm desperate to move out," Sharyn said "I no longer feel emotionally safe with you." Kaffy just ran away.

The hospital beckoned me. In the waiting room I told the nurse I was losing control. "You'd better admit me," I said earnestly "I fear I'll kill myself if you don't." Thankfully they did. I really feel that they saved my life.

Once I was in the psychiatric ward I was surprised at how normal most of the patients seemed to be. A few seemed strange, a couple decidedly evil, but most seemed to be 'just like me'. I felt I was in a place where I was finally understood.

A man by the name of Sam, particularly, was someone who I related to very well. "I'm afraid I'm mad," I told him at our first meeting. He smiled and said "Welcome to the family." I felt such relief. There were other people in the world who were crazy just like me.

Sam was tall, dark and handsome. It wasn't quite love at first sight. More like fascination at first sight.

He was an artist. I have always had a thing for artists because I love pretty things but lack the technical skills to produce them.

Sam was intrigued by my faith. Shortly after our first meeting he drew me a beautiful picture with a rainbow on the top. On the bottom were three hills with a cross standing on the middle hill.

My visitors were few and far between. I was too scared to tell most of my friends where I was. This seemed to me particularly wise given Sharyn's reaction. I am, however, grateful to Tracey, Kate and Megan for their visits.

Megan came every day. She wasn't scared of madness as both her parents had their problems. I remember two of her visits particularly.

The first one I remember was when she brought in the entire Narnia series for me to read. That showed real insight. I had lost my ability to concentrate on adult books. Reading had been so much a part of my identity that I felt I had lost my personality somehow.

Even the Bible with its short, sharp prose that cuts to the bone swam before my eyes. I had regressed, intellectually at least, to childhood and, in my childhood Narnia was important.

On the second visit Megan met Sam. He was manic. Ideas jumbled out of his mouth, jumped around a bit and mishmashed into a poetic hyper-reality. I was fascinated. Megan wasn't.

"Lovely guy," she said "But he's mad."

I ignored her. I was in a new reality. It's weird but when you go into the psych. ward you accept strange things as being normal. No one talks much about normal things. They talk about their suicide attempts, their psychosis, their depression. And that world, that world of the mentally ill, to me, at that time, seemed the only thing that was real.

When I was a child, for instance, I was warned about strangers with lollies and educated about sex and drugs.

I was never warned about mental illness. I was never educated about it. When it happened to me I was so desperate for someone to explain it, someone to commiserate with that I latched on to Sam. He was the first person who seemed to offer real understanding.

Sam, however, was an angry young man. But that, I'm afraid, is another story.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Guest post by Jessie the Cat



Hi Everyone

My name is Jessie and, as you can see, I am a very good looking female cat. As I am desexed all you male cats can look but not touch.

On January 15 2009 Amber became my human. I chose her because she cuddled me a lot when she came to the cat centre and because she didn't mind me hissing at all the other cats so I could have her all too myself. I am a jealous cat!

For the last two months I have been training Amber in how to meet my needs. She's doing OK but I don't get enough 'outside' time. Today I managed to escape and I went under the house - Amber can't get into the 'under the house bit' because it's too small. Yay! I came out with lots of cobwebs on my beautiful face though. Then I went to the big park next door and Amber came and got me.

Food is good here though. Today Amber gave me some leftover stew. It was very yummy. I purred as I ate it. I also got my usual canned food and some dry food. I am getting used to the dry food now. At first I refused to eat it.

I also like the computer. As you can see sitting on the laptop case is one of my favourite places. I also like walking on the keyboard. Amber doesn't like me doing that though.

I have met some of Amber's friends. My favourites were Heather and Kerri but they were all OK. None of them were cruel to me.

The best thing about Amber is she's very affectionate. I get lots of cuddles and pats. I like that usually. And I get to snuggle up on the bed at night time. I sit on Amber's side and purr.

So, life is good, but would be better if I got more 'outside time'.

Thank you for reading my post. I know it's good and I'm beautiful.

Jessie

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bus Drivers and the Five Principles of Customer Service

Hi Everyone

I want to have a whinge and apply what I am learning at the Polytechnic at the same time.

Anyway at the moment we have been learning about the 'Five Principles of Customer Service'. These are: Value for Money, Reliability, Quality, Environment/Atmosphere and Expertise/Knowledge.

Value for money is about getting competitive and realistic prices, special deals and discounts etc. The Metro Bus service has realistic prices but there are never any deals or discounts, or any way they reward long term customers.

Reliability is about timeliness, following up enquiries and complaints and having products in stock when advertised. I think the bus service usually runs on time and has the required stock but they always rush through enquiries and complaints as if the customer was an irritation rather than the reason they are in a job.

Quality is for products and customer service. Let's deal with products first. The bus should be a good quality bus that gets people where they want to be on time without undue fuss. This is not the case with Metro. So many of their buses are faulty. Yesterday the ticket validator ate my ticket.

Quality customer service means striving to exceed customer's need, providing high level service and individual attention. Metro really stuffs up on this. As stated previously they rush customers through, fail to listen properly, are often curd or downright rude and seem to resent anyone with a question. They are also discriminatory - they do not wait for the aged or disabled to settle before taking off, they often yell at Africans and Asians with language difficulties and they treat all high school students as if they are troublemakers. I've actually been shocked at just how bad all this is!

The Atmosphere/Environment part has three sub-parts - the physical environment, the staff
and advertising/promotion. Let's deal with the physical environment first. The buses are OK but could be better. Some are a bit too old and many have used bus tickets etc lying around.

The main problem in this category is the staff. They are often not very well groomed. Their shirts and hair is messy even though they are in uniform. They are also often rude, arrogant and unfriendly.

Promotional material is great - I love bus ads! What a pity the service doesn't live up to its advertising.

The last category Knowledge/Expertise is in two sections - Knowledge of internal services/procedures and knowledge of equipment. Metro continually falls short of expectations in their knowledge of their own services. The drivers don't know any routes/bus stops except their own and if people dare to ask for assistance the reply is often very curt.

They are a little better with driving the bus, navigating etc but they still occasionally miss stops etc.

Overall this is not good enough! If it gets any worse I will make a formal complaint.

God Bless you all and pray for me to forgive bus drivers from the very depth of my heart.

Amber

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Memory of Simon Turner


Hi Everyone

Today marks the second anniversary of the death of my friend Simon Turner.

I met Simon several times in the psychiatric ward of the Royal Hobart Hospital about six years ago and we became friends.

Simon has been one of the nicest and most thoughtful people I have ever met in my life. He was gentle, intelligent, wise, kind and interesting.

He was also a very sincere Catholic and we had many thought provoking theological discussions. These were often challenging but never disagreeable. Simon had the unique gift of being loving in disagreements.

Like me Simon suffered from a combination of depression and schizophrenia. He said, several times, that he wanted to die. He would not, however, due to his spiritual beliefs, commit suicide. He told me that he wanted God to take his life so he could be with Jesus.

There is no doubt in my mind that Simon went to be with Jesus. He is now, no doubt, happier than he ever was on earth. But for me, and for many of his friends and family, his life was a tragic loss. '

I don't think Simon ever realised how important he was to so many people. People loved him and, even now, I miss him. I miss his little quirks like asking my cat for her opinion when he thought I'd made a bad decision, finding out where the idea of purgatory came from (it's in the apocrapha) and, most of all, his willingness to drop everything to help out a friend.

I was devastated by Simon's death and even now there is a 'Simon shaped hole' in me. Luckily I told Simon how much he meant to me before he died. This is important as many others didn't and were, therefore, guilty.

If you know someone wonderful let them know - they could die tomorrow.

Lastly I will end with the following Bible quote from Philippians. The Apostle Paul (who wrote it) wasn't mentally ill but the desire for eternal bliss echoes clearly the way Simon spoke about death and the afterlife.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain...I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." Philippians 1:21, 23-4.

God Bless you all

Amber

Monday, March 9, 2009

Like Wow - I've co-written a play

Hi Everyone

Yesterday my friend Heather and I finished the first draft of our play.

The play doesn't have a title as yet - if anyone can think of one please let me know.

It is a black comedy set in the psych ward.

It starts with the death of a patient who had been let out on leave.

The rest of the play details the responses of staff and patients to his death.

The play opens with the dead person's friend, Will, reciting a poem about the incident.

We then move onto the 'smoking area' of the ward where Will informs the other patients of David's death.

Chrissie, who was in love with David, is distraught and goes psychotic. Jude wants to raise him from the dead. Sara is disappointed she didn't get to have sex with him before he died. And Nicky, lastly, has seen many such deaths.

The doctor, Dr Woo, reacts in an agorant manner. The more experienced nurse, Karen, is concerned about the ripple effect of such an incident. And the inexperienced nurse, Jen, tries to be sympathetic to the patients but is met with aggression and distrust.

The play is, like all first drafts, a bit rough and patchy and needs work. It was fun doing it though and I hope we can hone it to perfection.

This is the first time I've co-authored anything and its been great fun.

God Bless

Amber

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Hi Everyone

Yesterday I went to see this year's Academy Award Winner 'Slumdog Millionaire'.

'Slumdog Millionaire' follows the life of Jamal. Jamal and his brother Salim lose their mother in Hindu-Muslim riots and are forced to live on the dumps.

There they meet Latika, the girl who Jamal will fall in love with.

The three of them are picked up by a musician and they feel their life is going up - until Salim works out that anyone who can sing will be blinded to earn extra money begging.

Salim and Jamal escape but Latika is too slow.

Various other flashbacks show the progression of the lives of the three children until adulthood. Salim shoots the musician but is then taken by a sort of 'mafia man' to do his bidding. Jamal is forced out of the threesome and goes to work in a call centre.

In the present Jamal is one question away from winning $200 000 0000 rupees and is being tortured on suspicion of cheating.

Luckily this film has a happy ending which is always a good thing.

Slumdog Millionaire is an exceptionally interesting film - I was glued to my seat. It gives a great look into the seedy side of India. The personalities of Salim, Jamal and Latika are well developed and acted. The child actors, especially, deserve mention.

This is one of the must see films of the year.

God Bless

Amber

Friday, February 27, 2009

Amber's Update

Hi Everyone


Sorry I haven't been in contact much. I've been quite busy, and also quite tired. Anyway, just so you know, this is an update of how I'm going.


Polytechnic (aka TAFE) I am finding most of my classes stimulating. I like group work the best. Our group is 'Divine Pantomime' and we work really well together.

We have a really bad teacher for our accounting class which I find frustrating. I can do the work so I won't fail but many others can't. Last lesson about ten people walked out of class in despair.

Socially I am getting on fairly well with the other mature age students. There are a couple of younger ones who talk to us and a few that don't. I have become less worried about this.


Jessie (the cat) Jessie is settling in to her new home. She is very affectionate to me but susses visitors out a lot more than Kaffy did.

Jessie would really like to go outside and hopefully I'll have the chicken wire up in about a week so she can.

Jessie coped well with me being away for the conference.


Mental Health Basically I am coping extremely well in terms of my mental health. Occasionally I get a bit stressed or paranoid but I haven't got depressed or psychotic at all since I've been on my new medication (clozapine).

Please pray that I will continue to be healthy mentally.


Physical Health and Exercise Although I am eating more healthily and exercising more regularly my physical health continues to be a problem.

I have vitamin deficiencies, a fast pulse rate and asthma. I really need to give up smoking.

I am also exhausted at the end of each day and need about 10-12 hours sleep.

Please pray for me in this area.


Spirituality/Religion I am attending church and praying regularly but I want to do my personal Bible study each day. On many days I don't get around to it.

Please pray that I will do my daily Bible Study and that I will enjoy it.

I am enjoying serving the church in the position of secretary and I am gradually getting the hang of it.


Cleanliness I have been able to clean at least once a week which is a vast improvement. Pray that I will continue this and gradually move to 2-3 times a week as I get more energy.

Anyway that's all from me for now.

God Bless

Amber


Monday, February 23, 2009

The Body (Church Conference)

Hi Everyone

Last weekend ie the last few days my church had a conference at Orford on the East Coast of Tasmania. The conference title was 'The Body'.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Christian terms 'The Body of Christ' is a symbol of all believers working together to do Christ's work on earth. All Christian's are seen as part of 'The Body' and are told to use their unique gifts to do Christ's work on earth.

Our pastor, Dan Shepheard, did three sermons on the topic. In the first talk he talked about unity, diversity and equality. He read 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31 where it talks about all 'body parts' being indispensible. He emphasised that there are not 'successful' and 'unsuccessful' Christians - all are equal parts of the body.

In his second sermon Dan emphasised that all should use their gifts for the 'common good' and that Christians should celebrate diversity rather than argue and divide over differences.

In the third sermon Dan talked about growing to maturity in Christ. He also made a great point about not disempowering people and doing everything in love. He read from the popular passage in 1 Corinthians 13 about how love is the most necessary of any gifts and if we use our gifts without love we are, at best, achieving nothing and, at worst, sinning.

Dan was supported in his talks by some excellent MCing by Tim Hansard. Tim had obviously worked hard on this role and was equipped with jokes, information and encouragement.

Speaking of encouragement I did an elective on it with Gwyd Jones. He emphasised Ephesians 4:29 which tells us to build each other up with words. The seminar emphasised that people don't open up because they fear rejection. Gwyd emphasised that the gospel trait of putting others before ourselves was necessary for the ministry of encouragement.

We also completed a 'spiritual gifts' survey. I listed my gifts as: reading and writing, evangelism, theatre, administration and analytical thinking. The most popular gifts were reading and cooking.

I had a great time at the conference even though it was tiring. I felt 'part of the Body' even though I am probably a 'weaker part'. Thank you to all who contributed to the conference including those mentioned above and Jake Tuit with the food and the band.

God Bless you all

Amber

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Play about Suicide

Hi Everyone

On Wednesday night I went to see a short play that was being workshopped at the Backspace theatre.

It started off as a comedy. There were three male characters. One was called Garry and it was in his house that the scenes took place. He was funny and sarcastic, and didn't let out a lot of personal information.

His two friends were a serial monogomist who perved on women on the TV and a younger University student.

There were many great jokes - the one that stood out was an elaborate toilet joke. It really captured the essence of male friendship ie lots of jokes, not much personal stuff.

Gradually the 'flat' got messier and Gary got more withdrawn - but it was amidst jokes and sarcasm so I, like a lot of the audience, missed the 'signs'.

The play ended with the two friends discussing Gary's suicide.

I thought this was a sensitive and engaging portrayal of male depression/suicide. Statistically more men commit suicide and more women attempt suicide. I think this is because women are more open about their feelings whereas depression in men often goes unnoticed.

The times that I attempted suicide were mostly spur of the moment but once, on my most serious attempt in Alice Springs, it was planned. Suicide does appear selfish to outsiders, and perhaps it is. But, for me, when I attempted suicide I 1) Thought it was the best alternative to my problems and 2) Was feeling so depressed I couldn't think of other people.

I think the play shows that we need to all look out for friends and family and learn to pick up subtle hints that show someone is not 'all right'. We also need to know who to refer them to. In Tasmania it is the Mental Health Helpline.

God Bless you all

Amber

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day for Singles



"Suffering borne in union with Christ is His suffering, inserted in the great work of Redemption and bearing fruit in it."

Blessed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Hi Everyone

So yesterday was Valentine's Day - the day when we singles are reminded of our singleness. Everywhere I went there were couples smooching and advertisements in shop windows.

I read some blog posts on Valentine's Day for singles where they said to spoil yourself for the day. I took their advice and bought myself some shoes and a hairbrush for under $20. That was nice but it still doesn't make up for the fact that I am not 'qualified' to share the day.

Don't get me wrong I am happy for all those people who have happy relationships and marriages, and who have children. I am pleased for my friends and relatives who have such things.

But I think it is hard to be single. My friend Tracey asked me if I was lonely. I don't think lonely is the right word. I have a beautiful cat and lots of friends. I am always busy socialising. But there is a part of me that yearns for a happy relationship.

I also know that my mental illness prevents me from attracting stable guys. Hopefully now that I am stable that will change but it takes a long time to change people's perceptions.

Lastly I know that Jesus was single. He would have, no doubt, yearned for intimacy. He will understand my dilemma. I can trust Him and pray to Him. As the quote says my sufferings link with His in the great work of redemption. The Apostle Paul says something similar in one of his letters. This means, I think, that my present sufferings are all part of God's great redemptive plan.

God Bless you all and take heart all you fellow singles.

Amber

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Club Funk and the Divine Pantomime

Hi Everyone

Yesterday was my first day of classes at the Polytechnic. We did team work. We were put into teams by drawing out of a hat. After we were in our teams we had to invent a business.

We had to develop a team name, business name, business motto, logo and colour scheme and the type of business. Our team developed all of these whereas the other teams only got about halfway through. Go Club Funk!

Anyway our team name is 'Club Funk' because many of us liked dancing/clubbing and we liked the word 'Funk'. We decided we were a costume and accessories shop for theatre productions. The business is called 'The Divine Pantomime'. The word 'divine' is in rainbow colours and the word 'pantomime' is in black and white. The motto is 'From dreams to reality' and the logo is a black and white pantomime mask with the previous rainbow colours streaming through as lights.

I really enjoyed this exercise and thought our team worked well together. I was able to relate a bit better to the younger members of the group.

However, some of the young girls that were not in my group continue to ignore me during breaks. This is a bit hurtful for me. Please pray that I will remain positive despite this.

God Bless you all

Amber