All posts tagged: Claire van Ryn

Christmas for Ordinary Folk

It’s Christmas tomorrow. I hope you will find time to mull over the message secreted at the heart of this time. Some of us have heard the Christmas story so many times that it has lost its lustre. That line might describe me a few days ago. I was reading through the nativity sequence – virgin falls pregnant, travels to Bethlehem, gives birth to Jesus in a stable, shepherds and wise men come to see him – and realised that we rarely give Joseph much thought. Mary gets her fair share of accolades, and there’s a glitter and mystery around the wise men. Jesus is the main character, and rightly so. But Joseph tends to stay in the shadows, his role often downplayed or skimmed over, forgotten. I mean, think how many artists have depicted the virgin and child, Joseph strangely absent. It’s easy to overlook the fact that these famous Christmas characters were everyday people. Mary and Joseph were ordinary folk chosen for an extraordinary purpose: to raise Jesus like their own child, and first child …

Give to the Poor and Lend to the Lord

We put the Christmas tree up a little late this year. So much going on, and we wanted to do it properly. So, last Friday night, before the wee one went to bed, we played carols, poured ourselves a gin and tonic and set about adorning the tree with tinsel, baubles and lights. When it was done, the tree laden with festive colour, we switched on the lights and stepped back to admire the result. Meanwhile, Master Nearly-Two stepped forward and tried to blow out all those twinkling little lights that so resembled candles! And we laughed till our sides hurt. I love the spirit of Christmas, those moments of love, joy and peace. They are achievable, believe it or not, when we allow ourselves time to soak in the reason behind our traditions. In one of the recent Feast magazines, Hobart foodie Matthew Evans said, “All of us need a wake-up call to get back in touch; to give for giving’s sake; to invite and be invited; to host and be hosted. To feed and be fed.” To …

Miscarriage.

My heart has felt the weight of a great something lately; let’s call it a stone. A stone pressing down with immense weight and pressure on my lifesource so that every other piece of me has felt languid, heavy. I have lain awake at night, listening to its beat while thought and breath synchronised in a slow pas de deux. You see, I lost my baby. I was 12 weeks pregnant when my miscarriage happened, about six weeks ago. It’s still raw. Why would I write about something so personal, you ask? Not for your sympathy. No. Rather, because I have learnt that miscarriage is a common sadness (about one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage), one that many women carry in silence, on their own. Let’s not do that. I didn’t meet my baby, didn’t know his or her personality, likes and dislikes, quirks and habits. I just knew there was life within me, life brimming with potential. Yet the grief has been deep and painful and suffocating. A mother’s love for her child is full-blown …

Legacy of a Legend: Bryce Courtenay

Australia lost a man of determination and character when Bryce Courtenay died, aged 79, about 10 days ago. I was saddened to hear of his death, but looking into his life and achievements, you couldn’t wallow for long. This was a life to be celebrated. Something like one in every three Australians have one of Courtenay’s 21 books in their homes. He sold more than 20 million copies of his novels – and he only put pen to paper in his 50s. Courtenay’s strategic approach to writing – churning a new book out every six months, on average – demonstrated an enormous self-discipline that stretched beyond the page. He ran more than 40 marathons, mostly aged 50-plus. When I heard of his death I was immediately reminded of an interview I had with the man they are calling a “latter-day Charles Dickens”. I was a smidge nervous about interviewing such a well-known author, so my questions were ready, voice recorder and notepad at hand. What I wasn’t prepared for was when I had exhausted my questions (with enough material …

The Supermarket Optimist

To the guy who stands at the entry to my local supermarket and hands out shopping baskets, always with a smile and a cheery greeting, I salute you! Yes, you’re paid to do it. But I’d hazard a guess that you’re not paid to smile infectiously, to say your “hello” and your “welcome” with such gusto and goodwill. As the lady at the checkout scanned my groceries – peanut butter, cat food, cream, flour, chocolate (just one block) – I watched him grin and hand baskets with unwavering happiness. “He’s always so cheerful,” I said out loud. “I know,” the checkout lady said, without needing to ask who I was talking about. “And you know, I’ve never heard him say a bad word.” I think we all know someone like my super(market)man. In fact, a friend comes to mind immediately. She’s been known to turn on the sun during some pretty dark times. It’s not that she’s happy all the time, just that she is always searching for the positives and she chooses to focus her …

Drowning the Evil of Child Sexual Abuse

Can I brag about my son? He’s a little legend. Parrot. Clown. Contortionist. Daredevil. Invariably his audience is in giggles at his antics. Nineteen months is such a wonderful age. He has more energy than I know what to do with – if I could plug him in somewhere he’d more than solve Tassie’s electricity woes. But at the end of the day, when his battery is fizzling out and we lay him in his bed, I have the chance to look into those blue dinner-plate eyes. I see his chubby fingers curled around his favourite “blanky”, his cheeks flushed with sleepiness, his teeth neat like dominoes behind his ready smile. “Aaah-men,” he says at the end of our goodnight prayer, followed by “Wuv-yoo”. I can’t tell you what that little utterance means to me, and what feelings of love and joy and protectiveness well up when I am reminded of his vulnerability. It’s for the same reason that I join many others in expressing relief at Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement last week of a royal commission into …

The Enemy is in Your Head

So how did you shape up against the “Average Australian” as described by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week? Average Woman – you are 161.8cm tall, you weigh 71.1kg and your waistline is 87.7cm. Average Man – you are 175.6cm tall, you weigh 85.9kg and your waistline is 97.9cm. If you reckon you didn’t compare your own figures against the above, you’re lying. For some, the stats were an ego boost, for others it was a wee wake-up call to hit the gym with a bit more gusto. For me, it confirmed what I have always known: I’m a shorty. If comparisons inspire you to better yourself – well and good. But the reality for many is that comparisons cultivate feelings of self-deprecation. Test yourself. Do you feel better when you encounter other peoples’ failures? When you see someone you calculate as being somehow ‘better’ than yourself, does it make you feel; a) Intimidated or threatened, b) Small and useless, c) Jealous, or d) Fine. You can acknowledge their ‘better’ qualities and celebrate with them. If you answered …

God Has Not Given Us a Spirit of Fear

Halloween will turn my stomach a little on Wednesday. You know how much I dislike this particular “celebration”. Yes, because it’s the worst kind of borrowed tradition from our American friends, but mainly because it puts fear on a pedestal. But I won’t bore you with my thoughts on this strange show of support for evil: zombies and witches and vampires and devils (I wonder if it would be considered “just a bit of innocent fun” if our kids dressed as drug addicts and hookers… just a thought). So the whole jack-o-lantern, black cat, witchy hat crusade got me thinking about the thing that holds it all together. Fear. And, if you will allow the stretch, fear got me thinking about a family holiday in Cairns back when the extent of my responsibilities was for my cat Tigger and washing up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I was 16. Dad fancies himself as a bit of a daredevil and thought he’d jump 50 metres from a platform with a rope tied to his ankles. There we were at the …

Turning Weakness on its Head

In my (admittedly Gen Y) lifetime, I have never seen Tassie brought so low. A crumbling economy is seeing businesses calling the administrators in domino effect. One after the other after the other… I’m seeing families, their hearts stretched across Bass Strait as He is forced to take work interstate and She stays behind to look after the kids and the home. Once every six weeks they grip each other tightly and wish it could be different. There are men who have worked one job for decades, who have one skill practiced to perfection. These men have been turned out and told to learn a new skill, to pick up what work they can elsewhere. Dignity and pride have taken a beating. Depression and despair are pervading. I see a government floundering under the burden of such a dire economic scene and its response is to deflect attention to social reform. Get the people hot-tempered about gay marriage, euthanasia and surrogacy so that they forget the chilly climate of need in our state.  Particularly chilly for …

I Am Woman (?)

Womanhood to a girl is about as clear as an adolescent’s complexion. From birth, Miss Infant is decked out in pink and purple, sparkles, bows and love-hearts. Tiaras and fairy wings are a fashion accessory like a pair of D&G sunnies and they are encouraged to accept the title of ‘princess’ or ‘fairy’. All the while, Little Miss is watching her mum manage a job, housework, fitness and kids. At school, Miss Teen might learn about the liberation of women, how they fought for the right to vote, fair wages and abolishing discriminatory laws. They might learn about the glass ceiling too and be encouraged to take up any career they like – if it’s a male-dominated sphere, so much the better. Meanwhile, she flicks through magazines showing lean and bronzed female bodies, interviews of the woman clown (she juggles many balls) and headlines about weight, sex, beauty, success and happiness. Miss 20s takes all these conflated ideas of womanhood and translates them into her own self-image. She sees the princess and the fairy, the …