Go mbeannai Dia duit.

About Me

My photo
Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The first time I sang in the church choir; two hundred people changed their religion. ~ Fred Allen

Sometime around mid~night last night Star & I lurched through our own door, exhausted but too wired to sleep.

Alison prides herself on training singers who can perform to a high standard on extremely short notice ~ trust me, the notice was short.  Queensland Library is hosting the Queensland Cultural Centre’s Torres Strait Islands : A Celebration ~ & the choir needed some extra voices.  This is quite simply an amazing thing on so many levels.  Firstly, & most obviously to me, everything is in another language & the pronounciation is important!  The elders came along to check we got it right. ☺ Secondly, & less obviously because things don't work this way in our culture, the songs have a deep spiritual dimension & need to be treated with great respect. Thirdly, & least obviously of all to me, the choir direction works in a very fluid way, far more so than would happen in the West.

I had gone armed with a good book & was hopeful of being allowed to tuck away in a quiet corner out of the way somewhere where I could listen & watch unobtrusively.  Alison is very good to me, understanding the logistics of island living make a difference to us & I can't just toddle home like all the other parents do.  So I tagged along at the tail of the extras, Alison's singers from a variety of choirs, ostensibly responsible for Alison's junior singers ~ who, quite frankly, are all much clueier than I am! Mmm. To find, shock, horror, gasp, a sheaf of music shoved in my hand & that I was squished in amongst all the singers.

OK, I'm happy to show willing, you know ~ & I had been asked if I would like to sing.  I normally turn this sort of thing down, firstly because much as I love my music, I can't sing; not really.  Secondly , I don't see why either the choir or the long suffering public should be subjected to the strange sounds I produce. I can, however, open & close my mouth convincingly like a goldfish.  I slid well to the back & tucked in beside a strong singer in the soprano section, figuring, incorrectly as it turned out, the sopranos would sing the melody.  Nope, that part went to the altos, so I drifted across & tucked in behind a horrified Star, who is only willing to sing with me if we are not in a public venue!

I had a strong singer on my left & a line of lovely, helpful & really BIG voices on my right.  The vibration thrummed through the floor [concret!] & up my spine.  Unbelievable!  I was totally charmed. The sound revebrated in the small rehearsal space & echoded in the dim recesses of my brain.  Magnificant sound!

Seriously people, if anyone is in Brissie about 5pm on Saturday & can catch this it will be totally worth it.  The music is wonderful!  Ruth Ghee is conducting some of her own work ~ so, so beautiful~ & Luke Captain is also working with this choir, including the traditional Monki ene Totol. Star thinks Monki is super cool! This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about a little known aspect of Queensland culture & tradition & I do feel so privileged to be able to take part in it.  After all, it is always waay more fun to participate than to simply observe!  Thank you, Alison.  Thank you, Torres Straits.  Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

‘Queensland is notoriously huge: most parts of it are still unknown, except to the people who live in them’. ~ Nettie Palmer

You will all be absolutely delighted to know Star & I are spending today in Brisbane. And Saturday.

The girl is singing. I do not know what I am going to do. It is raining, a persistant mizzling drizzle. I may need a week to recover. Wish us luck.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Computers are like air conditioners. They work fine until you start opening windows. ~ Anon

One of the things Dearest promised me if his little business ever made any money was a new computer. Well, it has ~ & he did. If it was up to me I would not have splurged on a computer.  Seriously.  Think of all the books I could have bought with that sort of money! However it wasn't up to me.  Not really.

See in this house there has been this on~going conversation which starts: When Liddy goes... uh~huh.  I do not know about other familes.  I do not know about other mother's & daughters but in this house the female brigade is a tight, tight unit. Firstly we are vastly outnumbered.  Even the cats are male. Secondly, for safety reasons we have usually travelled as a pack.  Thirdly, all that togetherness means we know each other pretty well ~ & we're pretty tolerant of each other's differences.  When things stuff up, it is each other we rely on.  A major ocean & 2 continents is not going to change that according to Dearest & he has been most insistant that we have something in place to address the issue ~ like skype. 

My old computer does not have skype.  My old computer is not only geriatric, it has geriatric issues: incontinence, memory lapses, it forgets what it is & what it is meant to do & lately it has been threatening to die at any tick of the clock.  So when the sales came up Dearest went into action.  This is always scary.  Dearest dearly loves to bargain ~ which I just find incredibly, deeply embarrassing.  If you saw him in action you'd know why but he is incredibly effective so I leave him too it.  The problem is he negotiates for what I don't want. Uh~hmmm...

So we all got dragged to the mainland last Friday; Liddy for technical support, Star for aesthetic import, me to say um, that's not what I want ~ which I did.  I know.  I should just have been grateful, right?  But I know me well enough to know that new computer would have sat there untouched while I grappled with old faithful if I disliked the new.  I am fussy about things like graphics.

So there we were, my poor bewildered Dearest who doesn't have a computer bone in his body trying to figure out what was wrong with the beautifully cheap computer he'd picked out just for me, & the girls silently begging me not to be a woos & go for the computer we all knew was the better deal, if considerably more expensive.  Dearest has lived with us a long time.  He twigged something was wrong & I gave him 2 to consider: my first choice & a second.  As it turned out he liked my first. He renegotiated ~ rather sucessfully!

I never read the instructions first.  No~one in this house does.  We fiddle ~ & when it stuffs up we consult with each other ~ or in the case of computers, Liddy.  And now I have skype, with inbuilt camera, & when I happened to mention this to the QLD OM rep, they were delighted. It is, it seems, a smart way to keep in contact ~ & they are big on their people getting as much home support as possible.  One of the pluses for Liddy has always been the amount of home support she has.

I rather did Liddy's head in by decorating my computer with fairies & planets; Star, naturally, was charmed. But seriously, computers are a whole 'nother world, aren't they!
Back up my hard drive?  How do I put it in reverse? 
Daft cricket. They slog your good balls and get out to your bad ones. ~ Matthew HoggardThe lad has been in the wars.  Mothers of sons experience these heart plummeting, gut wrenching, stomach, plunging moments far more often than other mothers; that moment when the boy walks through the door with one side of his face swelling, a black eye gloriously rainbow coloured already, egg sized lumps protruding through the hair & a limb hanging at a strange angle or, in Dino's case, craddled protectively.  And they call cricket a *gentleman's game*!

One ball to the elbow [not broken, thankfully] two to the head.  Um....You'd think he'd give it away, wouldn't you, but no.

Marlow decided he needed a guardian angel just to eat his breakfast.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The fire from Heaven...

Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter2:5

You can know things for a long time then suddenly the Holy Spirit illuminates something & you go, Wow!  How did I miss that? It happens to me a lot when the old mind starts drifting.

All my life I have heard how we are a temple for the Holy Spirit & I took it pretty much for granted ~ as you do when you don't stop & think about what it is you're being told.  Gotta wonder how that happens when I had no idea about the Jewish temple, it's structure or purpose, & it was years before the penny dropped that I couldn't just transpose the word *church* for temple & that, in fact, they are not the same thing at all. Like everyone else I work from what I know, which means I often work retrospectively.

Now there is a whole morass of symbolism surrounding the temple to do with the inner & outer courts & the Holy of Holies & I did eventually get around to studying that but Dino has had me sitting in the car workday mornings waiting on his boat [which has been arriving later & later] & while we wait we listen to Chuck Swindoll.  What Chuck has been preaching on has been what the Israelites were doing in the desert for 40 years when it is an 11 day journey! And suddenly a whole series of symbols starting slamming me in the face: Wham! Wham! Wham! All the lights went on & the whole house lit up.  Nothing to do with the point Chuck was actually making but the Lord sure wanted to make sure I got His point.

If I asked you to give me a symbol for the Holy Spirit, &  you were even nominally acquainted with scripture, I'm likely to get one of the following: The dove [beloved symbol of the charismatics], water, which we use in baptism, or oil, which is used for anointing.  Occasionally someone might mention fire.  Fire!

Now here's the thing.  Moses has dragged the Israelites out of Egypt because, according to him, that's what God has told him to do.  I bet you even back then there was some way of waggling your fingers to indicate someone wasn't quite right in the head because hearing voices no~one else can hear isn't considered quite normal & the Israelites were all for getting Moses between themselves & God. 

We all know this story, don't we. God says: I'm going to be with you.  I'll go before you as a pillar of cloud by day & as a pillar of fire by night.  The Israelites built a special tent, which was to house the ark of the covenant, & God's shekinah, his glory, his presence, could be seen abiding in that place.  It abided there until Solomon built the temple when the ark was placed in the Holy of Holies & God shifted house, so to speak. You can read about it in first Kings because as God's presence descended to fill the Holiest of Holies the priests could no longer stand to minister.  In the temple an eternal flame burnt to remind the people that God's presence dwelt there. When the temple was destroyed God's shekinah departed.  It did not return even when the temple was rebuilt & the people mourned the loss of the glory that was Solomon's temple.

Yet here's the thing ~ & it's enough to have me fall on my face with wonder at the grace & mercy of the Lord God. In Haggai, after the rebuilding of the temple, Haggai prophesies,
" The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house!" says the Lord Almighty ~ & He wasn't talking about the 2nd temple! 

Come forward to Pentecost & tell me what was seen.  I will never leave you or forsake you, starts to take on a whole new meaning.  I will baptise you with water & with fire... You see it there at Pentecost.  The tongues of flame come down & anoint the heads of the saints, a visible reminder that we are now the temple of the Lord & His dwelling place is in us & his shekinah fills us. 

The first temple had a veil that hid the Holy of Holies.  That was rent at Calvary.  We are the priest of our temple & Christ is our High Priest & we are free to enter into the Holy of Holies & come face to face with God because Christ has made that possible. 

And that same fire purifies, cleanses, burns away the dross because in Christ we are new beings.  The old has passed away, the new has come.  The evidence should be in transformed lives because we no longer belong to this world.  Remember the Holy of Holies was lined with pure gold & you know gold is refined when the face of the maker is reflected in it. So it is with us.  As the fire of the spirit cleanses, purifies & burns away our dross more & more Christ should shine forth in us  ~ & that is meant to be a very visible difference! As it was in the wilderness for the Israelites, so too for us.  The visible presence of the Lord abides in His people that we might be a witness & a rebuke unto the world.  Shame on us if this is not so.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. ~Scott Adams

Our experience of the arts is slightly different to most people's.  For one thing we see it from the inside out more often than we see it from the outside in. This does not impress Star, who likes to have her cake & eat it too. 

Luckily for me I like rehearsals.  I like watching how something is pulled together from nothing.  I enjoy the process of fine tuning to make the spectacular fizz from a lot of glitz & hot air.  I understand the process of building a performance piece by piece & I'm rarely bored. 

Star is a singer so singing is what we experience most of but the singing is often tied in with dance or acting things & it is incredibly hard work, mostly keeping peculiar hours.

So this week we had 2 performances: le fete de la musique & Vocal Manoeuvres Vocal Magnificence ~ which is Alison's company showpiece.  She usually does one of these each year.  This pulls the entire company together in full performance mode, usually sees industry people come for a squizz, & helps everyone in the company get to know each other.  This is great for removing a lot of the awe younger performers hold for more senior performers because everyone has started on the bottom & they can see what hard work will get you. 

 I love these performances.  For one thing these are really high pressure performances because it's *friends* & family.  The families are getting to see what they are paying for; the friends are often industry people~ performers like the ten tenors, members of the Con, or producers etc & the standard is really, really high.  I've seen public performances that are less angst ridden!

Everyone who has read here has heard me whinge ad nasauem about the amount of travelling associated with Star's music:  Boats, cars, peak hour traffic, late nights, obscure venues, Parking ~ or the lack of it ~ Green Room traumas, food & coffee ~ or the abysmal lack of caffeine ~ & the seating!  The seating.  The combination means Dearest, who broke his back, had never seen Star perform ~ until yesterday.  Yesterday I knew the venue had good seating, was within reasonable travelling distance & the performance would be so worth it so I dragged the poor man off his island rock to dance the arty~farty. I can't say Star was overly enthusiastic, especially as somewhere in the audience we had also tucked away her supervising teacher from D.E.

We had front row seats & I have heard this repetoire so often I could sing it myself if I had any ear at all, which I do not, but as I told Alison, sitting in rehearsals year after year may not have done much for my singing but it has completely changed the way I hear music!  I hear subtelties I never used to, I hear individual voices ~ & I know when there's a screw~up!  As some of this was also sung on Tuesday & much of it was a capella it made for an interesting comparison!

So what did they sing?  Well AVAE [Star's ensemble] has been working on Medieval stuff for most of this year & a lot of sacred music: The Swan; the Nightingal; Jesu, Bleibet Meine Freude [yes, they do a lot of foreign language stuff], Bist Du Beir MirAdoramus Te....Exuadi Australis, the senior group, has a fantastic repetoire with things like Sicut Cervus; Rockin' Jerusalem, Didn't my Lord Deliver Daniel?  The Glee singers incorporate dance so the two hours were packed to the ceiling with great entertainment & Dearest came away well satisfied with how his money is being spent.  He loved the whole programme & was delighted to be able to pick out his daughter's voice rock solidly holding her part!  For once Star's ADD was on hold & she was completely focused! Dearest keeps wanting to talk about something else he remembers & enjoyed so I guess next time it won't be so hard to talk him into coming along!

Dearest headed home but Star & I went from the frying pan into the fire & headed out to Liddy's soccer game.  Different coaches & the team was like a completely different team: aggressive, focused, united.  They won 5~0.  Liddy not only scored but most of the goals came off her crosses so she had a really great game.  All in all both my girls had a great day ~ which always makes for a happy mummy, doesn't it?  So how was your weekend?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reading Between the Lines.

I've been thinking ~ I know!  So dangerous!  Anyway I've been thinking because I find it so odd that people seem to find certain books dangerous or something & I have been wondering [as Professor Sumner Miller so aptly put it ~ remember him? My brother wanted to be him] Why is it so?

I have reached a conclusion ~ that may or may not be correct.  See I own several very literal thinkers.  They drive me bonkers.  You ask them what a book is about & they will give you a synopsis of the plot.  At least one will begin at the beginning & list every event until he reaches the end.  [Um, yeah, but what was the book about?  I just told you!]  Circular conversation going nowhere fast.

Then a very dear & godly man confessed to me that Revelation made no sense to him at all.  Nor did the prophets, the psalms [the psalms?!], the gospel of John & it occurred to me [ok, I'm slow, you know] that he too was a literal thinker & did not do well with metaphor, simile & symbolism whereas I, who do not do well with the literal, sail through the morass of symbolism, metaphor & simile with the greatest of ease.  By nature & training I assume there is more to the text than meets the eye.

Everything, & I do mean everything, is read on at least 2 levels: the obvious &  ~ the not so obvious.  It is a habit I suspect began very young.  I know I wrote my first poem at about age 7 or 8 because I needed one for a Brownie badge & even then I was aware words could be used to manipulate ideas, paint pictures, say the unsayable. A child of the cold war I discovered Yevgeny Evtushenko's Baby Yar ~ such beautiful, beautiful language~ Dostoevsky, then T.S. Eliot & Helene Hanff.  Without reading anything else at all, reading either Hanff or Eliot will give you a nodding acquaintance with every writer who even nominally influenced English literature!  And you certainly will be in trouble if you try reading Eliot literally!

I have tutored a lot of kids in English over the years & heard more times than I care, But why doesn't poetry ever say what it means?!  It does!  Always.  It uses symbol, metaphor & simile & once you understand that there are no difficulties at all.  Those are the keys that unlock the mysteries.  We teach our children to look for these things when we read Shakespeare, or Donne, Dante, or Jane Eyre but even really bad writers use these things: they are the tools of a writer's trade ~ which means that all literature can be read on multiple levels.  It may not be what the writer meant;  It may not be what the writer intended ~ but it can certainly be read on multiple levels.  It is not conscious ~ & I should probably be hard put with some texts to explain how that works; I only know it does. 

I also have a very solid Christian world view.  Can you see how this starts to work?  Whatever the writer meant or intended that is filtered through the prism of Christianity & strangely transmuted.  It is why I can read something like A Clockwork Orange, say it is absolutely brilliant, deeply disturbing, completely worthwhile because it is read & interpreted through my understanding of Judeo~Christian ethics.

There are things I can't read ~ not because I consider the books themselves to be bad, or even evil, but because as a visual learner I know there are certain images that will lodge in my subconscious & give me nightmares & so I avoid those things.  I cannot say how they will affect someone else. 

My opinion is that it is the bland, the ho~hum, the indifferent that may be religiously or politically correct but unchallenging that is dangerous & I am sooo tired of bland Christian literature!  It is that literature that lulls people into a morass of complacency & complacency is fatal!  Don't believe me?  Read your bible.  Here God confronts people in the midst of their passions.  Take just one example, a man after God's own heart, whose household was torn apart by incest, rape, fratricide, rebellion, murder, adultery....hardly a pretty picture of David.  The Israelites spent 40 years paddling about in the wilderness instead of an 11 day journey because they were willing to settle for complacency rather than tackle the difficult issues & deal with them.  If we want to run a marathon we train for it.  If we want to compete physically we build muscle & stamina.  Why do we somehow think it is different with the Arts or the Spirit? 

You can only build muscle by pitting your strength again an opposing force.  Christians have begun addressing this issue with the sciences & there are many very good websites around to help those of us who are scientifically inept understand the arguments involved.  There are very few people addressing the problems Christians have with the Arts but the principle remains the same.  If we refuse to address the issues & simply walk away we cede a whole area of life to the devil.  How foolish is that?   Better by far to look at the problems & work out how best to address them because there is nothing more foolish than someone who has never read a work tell someone who has that it is wrong, bad, evil or whatever else.  It really is the height of stupidity.   It destroys our witness.  Others write us off as ignorant fools.  In order to argue effectively, point by point, you must at least know the work in question, have read it, listened to it, analysed it.  Which means providing ourselves & our children with the tools to do this.  Herein ends Ganeida's rant.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Musical Brisbane

Musicians paint their pictures on silence. ~ Leopold Stokowski

 Brisbane ~ the place I love to hate.  We were in there for the Fete de la Musique just before the traffic started building up & the buses hurtled under the library overpass in a constant yellow stream.  Liddy actually took pity on me & drove us in, training back out to her bible study & cadging a lift home while Star & I battled with the confusion that is Brisbane.  The problem, of course, is that nothing, & I do mean nothing, is sign posted properly.  Who'd ever guess Knowledge Walk was inside the building!  None of AVAE.  We all congregated outside,  only deciding that just maybe this was not so bright moments before the kids were due to perform.
 Liddy had parked under QPAC, always a good option, & Star & I had plenty of time to find the first venue.  AVAE is a really small group: 2 seconds, 2 thirds, & a bunch of sopranos.  Star sings seconds or thirds, depending on the song & the first performance was superb if the venue, the lighting & the acoustics were less than wonderful.  Alison is a very kinesthetic conductor & great fun from the back or the front!

We then moved on to St John's cathedral ~ for which I had scrounged all the loose change in the house to bus across the river ~ & then we walked...& walked...& walked!  On city streets!

St John's is a really lovely church.  Gorgeous stone arches towering over the alter, wide spacious areas that felt alarmingly empty & a huge marble font by the front door that we are assuming held holy water though as Star remarked there didn't seem anything particularly holy about it.  There were things floating in the water & there was a plug; with a chain!  She couldn't get over that.  Practical, I'm sure but it rather spoilt the mood.

Beautiful acoustics & the ensemble did really well ~ though Star had a complete brain fart during their second song, musing abstractedly that she really should learn to conduct only to find she had lost her place in the song & was wildly off key.  Only 2 of them so she threw her partner & the 2 of them were mouthing convincingly as Alison motioned for more sound from her seconds! Ah well, it really wasn't noticeable & as Star quipped, & really that girl can be sharp as a tack when she puts her mind to it, it only took AVAE two songs to show how awesome they are: the senior choir needed 5!  Ouch.
The music was terrific ~& we get to hear it again on Saturday for Alison's showpiece concert.  Friends & family only.  We are so privileged!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Where we're at.

Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need to know of hell.  ~Emily Dickinson

If this blog is the inside of my brain I fear I may be responsible for all Star's ADD qualities after all.  Grasshopper mind & all over the place.

For those following along on the Liddy journey: Liddy now has nearly 100% support promised.  This is phenomenal.  Most missionaries are under supported so a real work of the Lord as Liddy's church has refused to offer financial support.  As Dearest said right at the beginning, All it requires is 25 people pledging $20 a month ~ & that is exactly how it has happened!

I know those of you who signed up for the newsletter etc get updates ~ first newsletter in the works now.  Once she passed the 80% commitment mark OM committed to sending her.  She opened her money tin  & found she had enough for her air fare so things are rolling along & the Lord is being more than faithful though as always He has a tendency to have us on tenterhooks until the last seconds! 

Also as always, prayer is needed.  Most obviously that Lid gets her passport & air fare sorted without problems but she is also committed to 2 short term mission outreaches before her departure in August ~ both over QLD's school holiday period.  One is a camp for troubled teens.  The other is a week on the Gold Coast outreaching to the Muslim community.

There is also an ongoing problem with Lid's church.  I can't say too much but Liddy would really like to resolve this quickly because she needs to be completely focused on getting ready for Chile & not distracted by unnecessary dramas.

I know so many of you have been praying & I thank the Lord for His gracious hand upon us because I know many of you have been following along on this journey for years, over several crashed blogs, the initial acceptance & disappointment when it all fell through, & the waiting & growing of the last 12 months.  I know you know the journey.  I know the Lord put all those of you who are supporting us prayerfully in place years before we arrived at this moment in time & I am so grateful.  Many of you have become dear friends, people I have met & chatted with, people I have e~mailed & skyped.  We hold differences in theology, belong to diverse denominations ~ or no denomination at all~ but you have expressed your opinions with courtesy & respect & been faithful to uphold us in prayer.  Some of you have never said a dickey~boo, just quietly done it & though I may not know who you are, the Lord does.

Now comes the hardest bit ~ the letting go.  Please especially remember Star.  My giddy, ditzy little Star would never admit it but she is going to miss her sister terribly, especially at first while we all adjust to the change in our lives. 

Oh, & spare a stray though for Star & I tomorrow evening as we negotiate Brisbane streets in peak hour traffic.  Oh how I hate thee, Brisbane; let me count the ways... Um, yeah.  Still the music will be good.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weekend soccer.

When does a mother stop being a mother?  My bet would be never.  So why is it considered strange I'm the only parent to ever turn up to Liddy's games?  Star sings; Liddy plays football.  I go to concerts & stand on sidlines privately wondering [because we don't want to set a bad example now, do we?] if the ref needs to borrow my glasses.

So soccer is what I did Saturday, for a lack~lustre game.  Liddy picked me up & we chatted about nothing important all the way into Runcorn.  I sat in the sunshine & shivered as the wind slithered through the gaps & cheered when my girl put in those lovely crosses the way she does & asked her where my goal was [no pressure, girlie, but that is why I come to watch] & congratulated the rest of the team .

Ten weeks & counting down.  Why would I not go to watch? She will still be playing in Chile but I won't be there to see.  It will be down to skype ~ if the connection doesn't drop out.  Everything in her life I will  know second hand. Only so much time is vouschafed any parent ~ & it goes all too fast.  I am numbering the days because there are all too few of them left.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Talking Teen Titles.

Mama, Mama, put me to bed
I won't make it home, I'm already half~dead.
I met an invalid, & fell for his art
He showed me his smile, & went straight for my heart. ~Delirium~ Lauren Oliver Chapter 7.

Once upon a time, in the long ago, I worked as a children's librarian.  It was one of the better jobs I've held ~ & if I didn't actually have to become a librarian to do it I'd probably be doing it still but librarianship, like so much else, has got very high tech & complicated & about things other than good books.  Councils like to see a return for their money& let's face it; I'm a literary snob.   Rows & rows of Mills & Boone don't do it for me & it is really hard to smile politely when you are wondering inside how the heck people can read that trash?

Amongst other things I did the cataloguing ~ which sounds impressive but is really simple though initially I was only doing fiction & anyone who knows their ABCs can catalogue fiction.  One hardly needs a NASA degree to put things in alphabetical order.  At the time our Children's Librarian had just done her YA fiction buy & my job was to skim read all the new titles, write a short synopsis for the catalogue card & catalogue the book.  In my months there I cleared the shelves ~ & moved on to non fiction though only a general cataloguing because non~fiction is a very specific science.

As a writer I like to write for the YA market & this is why: far more than adults, teenagers are prepared to grapple with & think about difficult issues.  Yes, a huge generalisation but on the whole adults are settled in their ways of thinking in ways young adults are not.  They are still exploring different ways to be & what that means, so the YA  market is one of the hardest markets to write for as well as being one of the most rewarding.  And like any market it has its fair share of absolute trash.

However the difficult thing I think for many parents is negotiating the sometimes treacherous waters of the YA genre which does tend to deal with issues of violence, suicide, isolation, & anti~social behaviours.  I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing & the reason for that is quite simple: Very few of the books hold negative behaviours up as an example to be followed.  Rather like the bible really.  Lets face it, a good many bible stories are cautionary tales: Samson; David: Saul; Esau....long, long list of people who really blew it one way or another. So it is with much in YA fiction.

Secondly, one of the more interesting devices many authors use is to take a classic or two & "rewrite" it for the teen market.  My example is the book my household is reading just now: Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  This was lent to Liddy, who agreed to lend it to Star & was snavelled by moi! I read faster than Star so will beat her to the end. 

Now there are things that will put this book on the no go list for some Christians.  There is some bad language, not much & carefully used but it is there.  The protagonists do some things that taken out of context are just wrong: lying, disobedience, rebellion.  There is some sexual exploration ~ nothing graphic & nothing I found offensive but it is there.  Just so you know.

That said I find this to be a really excellent book & have not objected to my girls reading it.  Liddy is 22; Star not quite 16. Why?  Firstly it is very well written.  Secondly anyone at all who has read Romeo & Juliet or Orwell's 1984 will immediately draw the parallels with Delirium.  I sense echos of other works as well but as these are works I haven't read I can't really comment.  The scene is a futuristic society in which people have a mandatory operation at 18 that cures them of the *disease* of love. Naturally the main character, Lena, falls in love just before her operation is scheduled & her changing perceptions of right & wrong & who gets to choose & whether anyone has the right to choose for another person are the underlying dynamics of the novel. 

This is a theme exceptionally well explored, for those who remember it, in A Clockwork Orange[Not recommended unless you can handle being deeply distressed & disturbed]  It is also, perhaps surprisingly, a biblical concept.  God gave man free will, the ability to choose one's actions, one's allegiances, one's attitude & there is a strong mandate against witchcraft, for example, precisely because it interferes with people's free will & their ability to make uncoerced choices. 

Delirium is not a particularly original novel.  As I have noted it draws rather obviously on other works ~ works that many teens will not have read & thus it serves as an introduction to some of classical literature.  It raises the question of civil disobedience.  At what point is it right & just for an individual to defy their government?  Their guardians?  At what point is free expression outright anarchy? 

I happen to think these are questions worth asking, ideas worth exploring ~ more & more so as we move further into the end times & our governments strive to impose more & more regulations on their populations, dumb people down through inferior education, control them economically.  There is a point at which life is meaningless if it is an endless round of safety.  People are funny that way.  Being safe is not mandatory.  People will risk their lives to climb Everest, stand at the Poles, walk on the moon ~ & there is a point at which every parent hopes their child will display the courage of their convictions.  It is through literature our children can explore safely what it means when your world turns topsy~turvy & the choices you are called to make are no longer black & white but every shade of grey there is.  This is where they ask: What do I think?  How would I act?  What would I choose? 

Liddy, who is a very B&W thinker, very literal, found Delirium sad & hated the ending.  I think Star, who is none of those things, will appreciate it.  For me it was predictable & obvious from page one ~ but then I have read both the sources this book draws on! lol 

I find it unfortunate that when it comes to literature Christians too often seem to work from a premise of fear rather than from one of courage.  No, I am not advocating access to every trashy novel in the shops, but there are many excellent books around that explore difficult topics & I never noticed that God flinches from ugly truths.  He faces them head on & deals with them.  So should we ~ & we need to teach our children to do the same.  As our children grow I have noticed that often the very things we sought to protect them from are the things God throws in their face to help them grow & so I look at literature as opportunities to grow, to explore, to discuss within relative safety.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When is a cat not a cat?

"Wake me when whatever terrible thing is about to happen happens, or if it appears I might get wet." Mogget

I came across Mogget by default.  It was one of those times every obsessive reader comes upon; I had nothing to read!  I hadn't had anything to read for a very long time.  I was getting slightly desperate then idly browsing the news agent's stand I came across a fantasy novel I hadn't seen before.  The novel was Garth Nix's Sabriel.

Now Nix is likely to be the sort of author to have certain Christians throw up their hands in horror because his protagonist [Sabriel] is a necromancer & her job is to lay the dead to rest.  In the process she walks among the dead & the undead & the river of death & she uses magic to do it.  At her side is Mogget. 

Generally speaking I'm not a fan of talking animals.  Mogget is different.  He is sly & witty & generally gives pithy advice along with the sort of running commentary no~one needs when they are in a tight spot.  He is a huge amount of fun.

There are certain things that make fantasy stand out for me.  Foremost is originality.  Tolkien began this whole mythological craze that waaaay too many authors have followed without Tolkien's very in depth & intelligent understanding of mythos.  I am over the elves & the hobbits & the trolls & the ogres, ok. 

Nix is an Aussie & wisely he avoided the trolls & the fairies.  Instead he gives us a divided world.  On one side of the fence [& there is indeed a very literal fence] there is the prosaic world of Ancelsteirre; on the other the undead are wrecking the sort of havoc that is likely to destroy both worlds.

Like Garner, Nix has an excellent *sense of place*.  There is a gritty realism to his descriptions that bring his descriptions vividly to life & he anchors them firmly in the everyday.  There is the bored guard on border patrol & the tourist bus getting in the way when a war is about to erupt & the very specific use & description of the bells an Abhorsen wears....& then there is Mogget, one of the most beautifully contrived characters in children's fiction.  He is a very catty cat, beautifully portrayed: complex, irritating, opinionated, both brave & cowardly ~ & of course more than he first appears.

The other thing about fantasy, & one of the reasons I have always liked it so much, is that it invariably has the protagonist standing for what is good & right against the odds & that is one of the hardest lessons anyone anywhere has to learn.  There may be no reward, there may be no success but one does what is right & what is needed simply because it is right & needed.  They are incredibly moral books & in this Nix is no different.  His Sabriel is old enough to be trained, but young enough to still need guidance, to doubt herself, to be unsure & afraid ~ & yet she must take on a burden & do what is right with no promise that she will succeed.

There are other books in this series & I have read them all but none is as good as this first one.  Nix has another series, The Keys to the Kingdom, for younger readers but again, in my view, they are nowhere near as good as Sabriel.  There is a great clarity of vision, a tautness of plot & writing & a joy de vere that gives Sabriel a certain sparkle that is lacking in Nix's other work.  And then there is Mogget.  This book is worth reading for Mogget alone!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mazes, sandpits & deflected targets.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world ~ John le Carre.

Many years ago I first read The Spy who Came in from the Cold. Far, far better than anything Flemming ever did.  The aftertaste has never left me ~ which is what a good book should do for you.  Love it or hate it there should be that lingering aftertaste.

And the way my mind does, I was thinking about that book recently, about the hard, dirty, grittiness of it & the disillusioned, nihilistic world of Alex Leamas & how like certain aspects of the Christian walk that experience is.  Never say I don't make odd associations, but there it is.

I'm not necessarily the brightest spark in the tinder box.  I invariably have too many irons in my fire & my head in the clouds.  As  a consequence I invariably miss the obvious ~ & I don't just sort of miss it; I miss it by miles & miles & miles.

The log hit bottom yesterday.  With a resounding clang. Duh! Many thanks for those prayers people because I finally saw light ~ which is the difference between having all that wonderful head knowledge & the lived experience.  I think I now have the picture ~ not that I like it much but I get it.  We have been here before, this place where I spit the dummie & have a massive tantie, take back my bucket & spade & refuse to play, cross my arms in a huff 'n'puff & stick out my bottom lip ~ go on; laugh away.  We've all been there.  Because God is far more interested in my character development than I am.  Frankly, I couldn't give a rat's...Give me a good book & I can rather successfully bury myself any day.  Meanwhile God has been patiently trying to pry me out because character development is the name of the game.  I do not like this game.  I do not want to play.  It is painful & it hurts.  It is humiliating & embarrassing.  It is plain exhausting ~ & for the present there are no compensations, no rewards, no successes. *sigh*

If I had stopped & thought clearly even for a second I should have seen the pattern: Calling; wilderness; confirmation. Moses, Joseph, David.  Over & over again. I can't even say I loath the wilderness experience, once I understand that's where I am.  There is a wonderful lack of responsibility because there is no call on the ministry or gifting.  Everything goes on hold ~ & therein lies my greatest danger.  I simply abnegate all responsibility.  How God must groan when He has to deal with me.  I've been told I deflect rather well.

When my children were really little I used to tell them the most wonderful story: We're going on a Bear Hunt which has a refrain that goes: We can't go over it, we can't go under it; Oh, no, we have to go through it! Um, yeah.  What fun!


I want long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty

Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen

Knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braided

Powered, flowered and confettied

Bangled, tangled, spangled and spahettied

Flow it, show it

Long as God can grow it,  hair.....

We start with a tuft & end up bald ~ or if you're white blond as I was for so many years, you just look bald.  Start dark, go blond & red & end up a dirty ratty brown until the salt & pepper streaks take over & you start praying for the soft & pure white of old age. Hair.

Women of a certain age no longer have hair; they have a *style* ~ & they keep it cropped short & immaculate though thankfully the *blue rinse* has gone out of fashion.  Not me. I had to fight for my long hair. 

My father disliked long hair on a woman & to please him my mother always kept hers short & immaculate ~ but my mother has hair that behaves itself.  It has waves & body & it grows in the shape it is cut & stays that way!  My brother got hair like my mother & so wasted on a man.  I got the other lot's hair, the fine, silky, fly~away stuff that is straighter than a ruler; the stuff that has a flat follicle that means it doesn't matter what the hairdresser does to it, it is never going to hold a perm for longer than an hour or two.  No body.  It falls from the crown in a dubious halo, wafting airily on every breeze like fine web & in desperation my mother kept it cropped shorter than my brothers'.  No other little girl I ever knew growing up was made to wear her hair that way.  They had plaits & bobs, pig~tails & pony~tails.  They had pretty ribbons & bobbles, clips & clasps & fancy combs; headbands & scarves, & barrettes, bobby pins [kirby grips?] with stars on the ends.  I had the shorter than short basin cut.

About grade one or two I started agitating for change.  I wanted hair.  Lots of it.  As much as I could get.  I was tired of constantly being mistaken for a boy.  As things turned out hair down to my waist didn't change much that way.  I was long & lanky & completely minus any curves & in the 60s & 70s it wasn't only girls who had long flowing hair down to their waists.

My mother, in desperation, would put my hair up in curlers ~ those ugly spiky things that dug into the scalp, but her best efforts, after the first radiant flush, quickly wilted to a limp & bedraggled crow's nest.

I flirted with a *style* round about grade 10/11.  It was a disaster & I promptly began growing my hair back again.  I chopped it off completely when the twins arrived.  It was too impractical & I didn't have time to look after it properly but I missed it.  I didn't like all the time I had to spend in the hairdressers or the money it cost & it never looked nice except for about a week just before it was due to be cut again. I hate hairdressers.  They are a migraine waiting to happen.

Eventually I got tired of the whole circus, tired of constant trips to the hairdressers, constantly needing to find that $20 for something I didn't much like anyway & gradually trips to the hairdressers grew further & further apart until one day I realised that my hair was growing out , long enough indeed for me to realise I'd already started growing it again.  Besides I like the weight of hair flowing down my back.  I like the way it shakes loose from the twist I usually keep it in so it's out of my way.  I like that my man likes it long & flowing & that my girls, when little, liked to play with it.  Star would brush it for hours.  I like how a plait bobbing down my back amuses the cats.   I like long hair on little girls.  It is pretty & feminine but the wheel always turns full circle.  My girls have opted for something in between, neither ultra short nor super long, Liddy from choice, Star because, well, it's just easier for what she does but she has visions of something short & radical & dyed strangely violent colours.

Back in the sixties they sang about hair.  A whole play about it even.  My mother very nearly went to see it when it came to Sydney.  Brisbane probably banned it.  Hair, the play, had  both nudity & profanity & was really quite bizarre & my mother never did go to see it.   Much later I read the book about the Broadway production & decided that was probably a wise choice. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read. ~ Abraham Lincoln.
I remember my first day of school.  Do you?  I was one of the kids that cried.  That's pretty much how I still feel if you dump me in a crowd of strangers & abandon me there.

I did not like school.  Not that I was unhappy, just bored.  What went on inside my own head was far more intriguing than your average classroom & I'm not a people person.  Not really. Unlike my own children I did not go to school to socialise though  people fascinate me nearly as much as they bewilder me & besides I never did learn that neat trick of keeping pace with my peers. By grade 3 most of the girls were boy mad & I'd just discovered King Arthur ~ an obsession that has yet to wane. No, something far more interesting made school bearable.

The one redeeming fact about school; it had a library.

I do not ever remember learning to read.  I remember flash cards, which even in kindergarten I thought silly, & 30 odd kids obediently chanting their ABCs ~ something I didn't actually learn until I was an adult because I didn't need any ABCs.  I needed, I wanted, Books!  I remember, in odd kaleidoscope fragments, the first time our class was taken to the school library because I couldn't quite believe my eyes.  There were hundreds & hundreds of books ~ or so it seemed to my 5 year old eyes ~ though in reality it can't possibly have been very large, tucked away as it was in a corner of the secretary's office but they told us we were allowed to borrow these books.  Take them home.  Read them comfortably snuggled up on our very own beds.

Libraries were not as common then as they are now.  I don't ever recall being in one until that moment though we owned plenty of books & my mother always read to us at bedtime ~ which probably accounts for the fact that if I wasn't already reading by the time I began school it was near enough as made no difference.

I remember what I took home that day because I was allowed to choose for myself & little girls in the 50's & 60's did not get too many opportunities to choose things for themselves: a Babar the Elephant, A Big Ball of string & Spot has a Bath.  Oh dear. There is no accounting for taste.  I devoured them in one sitting, just as soon as I got home from school, & I was back at that library the very next day to swap them for something else. My mother was, I think, quite pleased.  My father thought I should do my homework first. I did not care.  I had found my escape from a world that was always to overwhelm me though, like most children, I found ways to cope & I had my friends.

Most Australian schools are uniform schools, more so then than now.  Then, as now, I hated the uniformity & that those ugly blue & white checked dresses with skirts bunched round the middle prevented me from doing any of the more interesting activities because "the boys might see our undies!"    At 5 I couldn't have cared less & I doubt the boys would have been interested either but by November in a Sydney summer the thermometer was threatening to have an apoplexy & the playground was seared to a brown & cracking desert baking under a white hot sun.  There was no relief if you stayed in the playground.  Even our drink bottles, dutifully frozen solid the night before, were tepid & undrinkable by lunch time.

I used to slip away, climb the rickety wooden steps to the landing & slip into that tiny library.  There the linoleum was cracked but cool, the windows pushed up as far as they would go to catch an unlikely breeze.  The overhead fan whirred drearily, steadily pushing the warm air around the room & it was inevitably empty.  Even the secretary was in the staff room having lunch & coffee.  I would browse the shelves like a grazing cow, running my small finger past spine after spine, anxiously scanning the titles for one that would catch my attention, greedily pull the chosen book from it's place on the shelf & collapse, turk fashion, where I was & begin to read.

In grade 3 they moved us up to the *Big School*, the upper primary grades, which had, joy of joys, a much larger library with a particularly brilliant librarian who introduced me to the delights of efficient research!.  My only fault to find with her was that she was obsessive about books being read in their correct order ~ something I have yet to learn to do.  Once again the large room was almost empty apart from the librarian & I & there were, indeed, hundreds & hundreds of books to choose from.  It was a mammoth task to steadily work my way through as many titles as possible.

Outside the cicadas skirled a giddy disharmony under a brazen sky.  Balls thumped against melting tarmac. Ropes thwacked the dirt as the girls jumped rope.  A hundred or so small bodies hurtled around their confined space, buzzing like flies in a bottle but I was far away with the Famous Five, the Bobbsy Twins or one of the *Twins* series. In winter my friends pulled their jumpers down over their hands & huddled together eyeing off the boys while the winter wind groped under their skirts & made them shiver but I was warm & snug in the library basking in the gentle heat of an English summer, gazing up to the icy fingertips of the Matterhorn while a boy called Peter pushed a wheelchair over a Swiss cliff, reading the Billabong books that were not on my mother's shelves.

Oh, there was just one other flaw in Mrs Lowden besides thinking books should be read in order.  For some strange reason, when the bell went to signal the end of recess she thought it her duty to chivvy me out of the library & in the general direction of my classroom.  I can't think why.  One can have no better education than the free reign of a well stocked library.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Down amongst the Anger & the Angst.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. ~ Marianne Williamson

A dear friend has been attempting major surgery of the heart on me without benefit of anesthetic ~ as only genuine friends do ~ & I am feeling a little battered to say the least.  My friend has had some wise words to say & after sober reflection I am going to implement the sage advice I did understand & share what I can here.  As my friend pointed out, lacking a church body, the blogosphere is my church & the body of Christ  to me & therefore it is here I should be asking for prayer ~ so you know before we begin.  Now is the time to run if you are so inclined.  Secondly I am going to share because the chances are extraordinarily good that I am not the only one in a similar predicament & while I may never know who those other someones are, by sharing I hope they will not feel so alone & isolated.

I was, as some of you know, raised Anglican, low, not high.  For my American friends I think that equates to Episcopalian. High or low it is a liturgical church.  I do not have issues with the liturgy.  I did have serious issues with a lack of intellectual integrity & mental sinewyness within the church as a teenager & was so disgusted with the trite & shallow answers handed out to me to shut me up I left the church in disgust & it was many years before I ventured back.  Herein lies part of the core problem.  Like C.S. Lewis I initially agreed to the principles of Christian dogma because I was convinced intellectually & while Lewis claims to have been dragged kicking & screaming a protest into the kingdom, I figure I was close on his heels.

Intellectual belief is one thing & once convinced I am rather difficult to shift but of course the Christian life is more than intellectual belief ~ or it should be.  However the church is a little slow to capitalise on this & so, like many others before me, I languished on the fringes of the Christian life, convicted but unable to enter into the abundant life scripture speaks of.  I happily warmed my pew in a variety of different churches over the years, bought a plethora of different books on different aspects of Christian life & acquired an extraordinary amount of intellectual & completely random knowledge about Christianity but my practise of what I believed was haphazard to say the least & ho~humish in the extreme.  Not that I wasn't trying; I just wasn't getting anywhere fast.

And then something happened.  One of those God moments when God looked down at the mess & the muddle, shook His head in disbelief & stretched out His hand.  Dearest was, at the time, Chairman of the island church & thus responsible for filling the pulpit on Sundays.  Twenty~four hours before our Christmas service our designated speaker went down with a nasty & virulent wog.  Trust me; it was panic stations in our  house. 

 Dearest is a highly intelligent man, a prophet & an intercessory prayer warrior but he is also dyslexic & so completely abstract when he expounds on his ideas very few people indeed manage to stay with him.  After 40 years I just tell him bluntly he's making no sense at all but that's not something a well trained congregation is going to do.  We looked at each other.  We knew it was either him or I that was going to speak & we both knew it wasn't going to be him. 

I was not madly impressed, not because I was worried I couldn't do it.  Au contraire.  Nope, it meant I was rustled out of my warm little pew in the back row where I'd been happily day~dreaming through services for years & actually required to do some Christian exercise.  Exercise is so not my thing! However I majored in literature; I minored in drama.  I can write an essay standing on my head & present it with barely knocking knees.  It merely required some research & research is the delight of my heart. It was, in my mind a one~off to cater for an emergency situation.  Unfortunately for me God had other ideas on the matter.

While I bellow like a branded steer racing madly round the coral looking for an escape route God has been patiently trying to develop a gift in me.  For whatever reasons I have been suffering a particular sort of spiritual blindness & have so backed myself into a dark corner the only kind thing to do would be to shoot me & put me out of my misery.  As that does not seem to be a viable option I humbly request prayer that whatever is blocking forward movement would be removed, that the scales will fall from my eyes & that the Lord & I can move forward in this dialogue to the resolution He wishes.

Secondly, as I mentioned in my previous post, our entire household has been suffering a minor but constant illness: coughs & sniffles, scratchy throats, headaches & funny tummies.  There is something going round, or several somethings, & with so many people in the house we do tend to keep anything we get for rather longer than most.  On top of this we have a great many other things on our plate: Liddy is now counting down the weeks & that child really needs to apply for her passport!  Star has concerts; Liddy speaking engagements.  For the next 6~8 weeks I'm just not going to be here very much & I'm already suffering with nerves because at least one of those concerts means driving to the other side of Brisbane in peak hour traffic to where my wonderful but dipsy Star sent me the wrong way down a one way bus lane!!!  So we have shut down our Sunday home gathering. 

I really dislike being without a body of believers.  For one thing it is unscriptual.  For another I know it weakens me.  I ask if those of you who feel so called would pray with us for direction, for Clearness, & for leading as to where the Lord would have us be at this present time & the ways in which we can best serve Him. We have two months before we will even be able to begin to think about committing to anything.  I know what I would do ~ but that does not take into consideration anyone else in this house & my choice would suit no~one else so is not a long term solution.

To all my wonderful sisters in Christ,  thank you in advance for bearing our burdens with us as scripture admonishes us, for your love & concern & your prays. Muchos gratias.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yes, we are still here.  We have all been sick.  We lost one [Liddy, who is house~sitting] & gained one [Theo, down for the fishing comp]; Star has 2 concerts coming up; Dearest is e~baying like mad & my computer, old deprepit & used to my tender ministrations, is about to fold under the pressure.  It is bitterly cold & my migrains are back with a vengeance.  I haven't had the time or the energy to blog properly.  Besides I am irritable & bad~tempered & no fun to play with.  This too shall pass.  A decent night's sleep would work wonders.  Blessings on all. ♥

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Which is loveliest in a rose? Its coy beauty when it's budding, or its splendour when it blows? ~ George BarlowWinter ~ & we have roses.  The long stamens wave wildly in the wind above the waves of asparagus that choke the bed because I don't really like roses.  It is gardenias I like but when my Jossie was about 12 he moved from cacti [yuk!] to carniverous plants [interesting] to roses [hmmm] & Dearest, who is a horticulturalist [so why do I do the gardening?] set him out a rose bed & he grew roses.

Roses are fussy & we have a heavy clay soil.  The kids were sent scrounging the yard for every broken brick they could find to create a suitable drainage base & we bought in piles of rich organic compost soil & spent a fortune on rose bushes.

 Jossie has long since flown the coop & on the southern side of the house we have a sadly bedraggled & neglected rose bed.  I don't like thorny things & roses, particularly the sort worth having because they have a rich, heady scent, have thorns.  The more exotic bushes promptly curled up their toes & carked it under my tender ministrations.  Most of the rest reverted to their uninteresting root stock.  What remains throws long, long tendrils above the clothesline wire & on the ends, where the thorns cluster fiercest deep red buds glisten like jewels. 

Yesterday I gathered handfuls of tightly curled buds & brought them inside  before the wind & the rain shredded them to tatters.  This morning the half~opened buds fill the house with scent.  Tomorrow, full blown, their glory spent, their petals will fall but there are more, hidden & small, growing scretly to scented delight.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Great Excitement!!!

For any interested parties.  The Gothic is being broadcast this weekend.  Here's what I got through:

The Brisbane performance of the Gothic Symphony is being broadcast this Saturday night at 8.00pm EST on 4MBS Classic FM. For those of you out of the radio broadcast area, you can listen via the 4MBS Website at (using the tab in the top right corner of the home page)