Tag Archives: birthdays

O mein Papa, Happy Birthday

“Deep in my heart I miss him so today”  from the sentimental song ” O mein Papa” seems the perfect line to  hum on this 8th day of May; this day which would have been my father’s 98th birthday.

On May 8th someone in the family would have made him his favourite roast chicken dinner, just as he did for us  on so many special occasions. And we would have drunk to his health with cider and champagne.  My siblings and I may still do the latter, via Skype, but the family meal will have to wait until we gather again.

Dad preparing stuffing for a roast chicken dinner; in my kitchen about a decade ago. The cherries were for snacking not stuffing!

Although, today, my thoughts are  mainly focused on my father,  I am also thinking of other  important events  associated with 8 May, such as VE Day  and World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.

For my father’s birthday in 2014  I wrote about the Red Cross and its significance in our lives. Read on if you would like to know more of that story.

The Importance of May 8th

“Today, 8 May, is the birthday of  Henry Dunant , founder of the Red Cross and joint  recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

Today, also, marks World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which since 1948 has been celebrated internationally on Henry Dunant’s birthday.

Another celebration that takes place every year on 8 May is my father’s birthday. 🙂

Although the idea for the Red Cross arose  in 1859 and was formalised in 1863, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was only established in 1919, in the aftermath of World War 1.  So the IFRC  was almost as brand new as my father when he arrived into the world in 1920.

In the  Christchurch Press, for the day of my father’s birth, there is an item which mentions the Red Cross Society in the US, providing hostess houses for the 3709 war brides of the American Expeditionary Force. The newspaper also has articles about ongoing peace and treaty negotiations and on war graves decisions, as well as the influenza outbreaks which were, once again, causing concern in New Zealand.  In 1920 the world may have been nominally at peace but the First World War was still very much a presence in everyday lives.  Yet there would, undoubtedly, have been an expectation that babies born after ‘the war to end all wars’ would live their lives in peace.

I am sure, my grandmother, holding her new-born baby, that day in May, did not  imagine that a couple of decades hence her boy would be in uniform.

 

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb (Street Photography)

Nor would she imagine that, by the 1980s, her son would be working, in his post retirement years, for the Fiji Red Cross.

 

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

That’s the trouble with kids; you never know where they’ll end up or how they’ll turn out, but I think my grandmother would say she raised a good lad. 😉

Happy Birthday Dad. Happy Birthday Red Cross.

© silkannthreades "

Postscript

If you link to the original post you will find comments from two bloggers who have since passed away. I miss them, too: Christine

and Catherine from Seeking Susan.

And for those of you who are interested in the military connections in this post, you may like to visit our wonderful  New Zealand Online War Memorial  Cenotaph where I have been putting together my father’s online memorial.  My father served both in New Zealand and the Solomons.   He was with radar Unit 53, Cape Astrolabe, on Malaita, one of the most isolated RNZAF detachments in the Pacific.

 

Have I read you dry? Join me in a toast to mein Papa. Cheers!

From my desk ~ Gandhi Jayanti

Today is a day for birthdays ~ my son’s; Anne-Christine’s; and Mahatma Gandhi’s. To celebrate, I am re-posting an article I wrote on this day four years ago. The original post and comments can be found here .  Enjoy.

In my garden there are native and exotic plants, long plants and short plants;

Choisya

Choisya

plants that are standard and non-standard; and some that are self-fertile and some that require cross-pollination. I have plants that are variegated, plants that are colourful

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

and plants that are plain. There are weeds, and refugees from other gardens, and some uninvited guests. Each plant has a unique history, a story to tell, and most contain, in their gene pool, the essence/quintessence of some far off land and ancient culture. There is no homogeneity in my garden, except at that most basic level of planthood; that  fundamental point, whatever it is, that makes them living, breathing plants and not living, breathing animals. Yet, despite the variety and complexity of my garden inhabitants, I find that, if I provide them with water and food and treat them equally with politeness and respect, mixed in with a little song and a few sweet nothings, they thrive. Yes,  even with the most basic of provisions, they thrive.  They don’t fight or squabble, put each other down, rip each other apart for competitive advantage or napalm each other.  They are a miracle of good neighbourliness and co-operative, companionable living, willing and eager to share their environment with birds and bees, wild life,  and humans, too.

The multi-dimensional, multi-cultural and peaceful nature of my garden, reminds me that this time, thirty-five years ago, I was preparing to start the Michaelmas Term at Oxford University. I was a  young seedling transplanted from a small island in the Pacific to one of the most wonderful cities in the world. I was about to flourish, and enjoy one of the best years of my life, within the nurturing environment of the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme.

For one academic year, I , along with several dozen others, from all curves of the world, lived and laughed and learned…. and, yes ,sometimes, drank too much and, sometimes, loved unwisely, and sometimes, cried.  We were a microcosm of the world; we were all faiths, all cultures, all social and political classes, all sizes and shapes and ages, and, as you can see from the photo, all hairstyles 🙂

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin (and I am very difficult to find in this photo)

Our common ground was in our education and our human-ness. We were nourished and cared for by the University, our daily needs provided for, and most of us were generously supported by that most British of  British institutions,   the British Council.  And, for  that, one, much too short, year, we were, despite our differences, the embodiment of good and peaceful co-existence; the way our world could be.

This post is written today in honour of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who was born on October 2nd, 1869.  Today is a national holiday in India. Worldwide, it is the UN International Day of Non-Violence.

http://www.un.org/en/events/nonviolenceday/index.shtml

to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak click here

Blossom in Peace

Blossom in Peace

For a good read on ‘things British Council’ and the mess of war and displacement, try Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivia_Manning

Michaelmas 

is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and also denotes the first term of the academic year.

© silkannthreades

It’s me time

Just a quick post to let you know that I will be away quite a lot from my blog (and your blogs) for the next  6 weeks.

I will be preoccupied with family matters, visiting, and being visited.  It’s also my 60th birthday towards the end of March. I am not planning a big celebration, or even a small one, but I am planning some ‘me’ time.

This is not of me, but a painting made for me. I am very fond of it, and it somehow sits well with my upcoming birthday and my proposed time for myself.

Growing Younger Each Day

Growing Younger Each Day

Be back soonish.

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

Thoughts on Palm Sunday , or how I didn’t become a chaplain.

http://www.gardendesign.com/ideas/art-botany-les-fleurs-animes  The Pansy from J J Grandeville's The Flowers Personified 1847

The Pansy  from J J Grandville’s The Flowers Personified 1847

In my mid-forties, when I was brimming with confidence, and, yes, hubris, I contemplated a career as a chaplain; specifically a workplace/industrial chaplain. With this aim in my mind, I enrolled in a few courses to learn some basic counseling and communication skills.

The outcome of one such course, Basic Preaching Skills, was the opportunity to deliver a Reflection at our church at our first Palm Sunday service of the 21st Century.  I was very touched by the love and support of the congregation for my endeavours, but I am thankful that, later on,  the employers of chaplains were less supportive, and sensibly turned me away.

With Palm Sunday, tomorrow, I have been remembering my brief stand at the pulpit, so many years ago,  and thinking how my faith has changed. In my  own Palm Sunday terms, I suspect I have fallen off the untamed colt/donkey.

Here’s an extract from my Reflection, which, as some of you may surmise, is based on a poor understanding of theology and an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible.  The Reflection is titled Wild Rides.

“From babyhood in Bethlehem, onward to manhood in Jerusalem, God has given his people a leader, a healer, a companion in humanity, doubt and faith. This man has gathered, ON THE WAY, fame, friends and followers, and the requisite enemies, too. He is Jesus in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Elijah… he’s the Son of Man who could be King. But on Palm Sunday, there is a pause, a change of pace, between the restoration of Bartimaeus’ sight and the whirlwind that follows the triumphal entry to Jerusalem; …….  Jesus, the man of humility, outspoken critic of pomp and ceremony, pauses, lifts his feet off the ground, and takes a ride. He IS the WAY.

In Mark’s description of Palm Sunday, we see a Jesus who momentarily stops directing and healing and preaching, who allows himself to be; to be adulated, to be carried forward, to be King. This creates a challenge….but the challenge is not so much to the owner of the colt, or to the Roman and religious authorities. It’s a challenge to us.

The challenge, I believe, is to be; to be like Jesus and accept God’s gracious offer of a ride into a faith that will move mountains. God loves us for the faith of our comfort zone, a faith that is scheduled and timetabled, that will take us through the week, through 40 days, or 40 years, if necessary; but on Palm Sunday we see God offering a deeper faith of infinite implications and dimensions, and unbounded journeys.

Jesus is the Way. Through him, through Palm Sunday, we know we can accept God’s offer of a faith that moves mountains. God doesn’t offer crowd control, or silent, unchurned stomachs, or freedom from screaming. But, if we accept what, undoubtedly, will be the wildest ride of our lives, God’s underpinning hand of steadfast love will not let us fall. …….”

Hmmm….well, as I said, I do seem to have come unseated from my ride in recent years  but I haven’t been trampled, yet. Which means that, despite my doubts,  I still find great comfort in prayers offered by friends, by our Minister, and members of our church. And, in various past crises related to hospitalization, I have valued, beyond measure, the support and calm guidance/prayer of hospital chaplains.

And I  value beyond measure all the loving thoughts and good wishes that have come my way in response to my previous post.  I am happy to report I am starting to feel almost as perky as these beautiful pansies, given to me on my birthday. 🙂 ( I am also happy my path led to blogging not chaplaincy, even though I have the utmost admiration for chaplains and the wonderful work they do . 😉 )

Palm Sunday thoughts in the company of birthday pansies.

Palm Sunday thoughts in the company of birthday pansies.

© silkannthreades

Radiating Kindness

My interest in decluttering was flagging.  Alys, at Gardening Nirvana, who is a professional organiser in RL,  offered some timely, kindly advice. “Set a timer, ” she said, “and go all out for 15 minutes or so, and see how much you can get done.”  So I did. Yesterday. Worked like a charm. I raced through a heap of files, containing documents dating back to the 1990s, some of which, ( oh irony of ironies ), related to a storage facility I once used in New York!

Sigh of bliss…. so satisfactory !  to achieve so much in so short a period. And not only did I declutter, but I also discovered, tucked away in a corner of a shelf, a small  Helen Exley giftbook , called Words on Kindness.

It’s the dearest wee book, full of wonderful quotes. Several of them I greeted like old friends. Others were as new, to me, because I had forgotten them completely. Many of them moved me deeply.  The quote I have open before me today is this:

Even as a mother
protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all
living beings;
Radiating kindness
over the entire world.
The Buddha ( c 563 – c 483 B.C. )

A painting, Mother and Child, by Edgar Degas, illustrates the text. I cannot find a link to that painting.  Instead, I have selected this painting by Mary Cassatt who worked closely with, and was influenced by, Degas.

Mary Cassat "Mary Cassatt, 1902, Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window" by Mary Cassatt - [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg

Mary Cassatt “Mary Cassatt, 1902, Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window” by Mary Cassatt – [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg

As I read Words on Kindness, in another part of the world, far, far from me, a champion of mothers and children, a champion of kind words and deeds, was celebrating her 91st birthday. I am referring to the remarkable  Dr Catherine Hamlin, co-founder, with her husband Dr Reg Hamlin, of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.  Dr Catherine, has spent more than half a century living in Ethiopia, serving some of the most marginalised women in the world.

” In the 1950s Catherine and her late husband Reg went to Ethiopia to train midwives, but their attention soon turned to the plight of the fistula sufferers.

Together the Hamlins perfected the modern technique for obstetric fistula surgery and
 have treated more than 40,000 women, more than 90% of them cured.”

– See more at: http://hamlin.org.au/#sthash.QyWleIWz.dpuf

An award winner documentary,  A Walk to Beautiful, was made about the fistula patients, and the life-changing care given at the Fistula Centres in Ethiopia.

 

More about the work of the Fistula Hospital and Dr Hamlin can be seen  here. It is a difficult, even harrowing, video to watch but it is ultimately a testament to the transformational nature of compassion and  radiating kindness.

If I can stop one heart
from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life
the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson (1830 -1886)

Radiating gazania; like kindness it spreads.

Radiating gazania; like kindness it spreads.

© silkannthreades

Saturday Satisfaction

To end the week, as I began it:

Come sit awhile with me,

Come and sit at table

Come sit at table

and celebrate another birthday

Gift of Friendship

Gift of Friendship

for a special friend who lives nearby.

Let’s ” tak a cup o’ kindness yet”* and a tasty treat,

and feel satisfied that we have spent the week as best as we were able.

*Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

 With healing and love and many thanks for keeping me company during this week of daily posts,

Gallivanta

© silkannthreades

Sunday Sentiments

This week, I want to try something new on my blog;  daily posts in the style of my contemplative chap books.

So, beginning with the opening words of my favourite chap book,

Come sit awhile with me…….

 

Come sit awhile with me

Come sit awhile with me

as I send loving birthday wishes to a special friend in England,

 

'the compass round'

‘the compass round’

and remember these words by Robert Frost, “Connections and community – the basis of love – and the product.”*,

and these words, too.

“By countless silken ties of love and thought
To everything the compass round….”
Robert Frost ~The Silken Tent

*from Poem for the Day Two edited by Nicholas Albery

~

With healing and love,

Gallivanta

 

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

The gifts of a lifetime

In my previous post I mentioned Barbara, giver of the Happiness Kit.

Long before the Happiness Kit came into my household, Barbara (and her family ) gave us other gifts: the gift of thoughtful words, like these,

Barbara's Words, School Magazine 1944

Barbara’s  student words about our duty and responsibility to establish a saner world for our children: School Magazine 1944

and the gift of Angela, otherwise known as my sister-in-law. This coming week it will be Angela’s birthday. This post is my birthday  gift to Angela. ~

I write a lot about reading; reading books, in particular.

This is where my official reading life began;  Lautoka European School,

My brother; the advance party on the reading path.

My brother, first row, 4th from the left; the advance reading party; my mentor at L.E.S.

a small school, in a small colonial town, on a dot of an island, in the vast Pacific Ocean.  My reading ‘prowess’ was acquired, staid word upon staid word, with the assistance of the utterly dull, ‘what-have-these-people-got-to-do-with-my-life’  Janet and John readers, and a young teacher who, whilst relatively benign most of the time, once had the audacity to strap some of us on the back of our legs for failing to recognise the word of the day on the blackboard ~ “BARK”.  I was offended, and still am to this day! WOOF! 😀

Despite this unfortunate hiccup in my early reading days, my enthusiasm for reading did not falter. I attribute that enthusiasm to the pre-reading skills that were nurtured at home,

Playing with Mother aka reading readiness

Gallivanta playing with Mother aka reading readiness

and at  my mother’s kindergarten, through play and story-time. I don’t remember being read to, but I do remember the books that were read and that I later learned to read by myself. Many of those books remain on my bookshelves.  Here’s a sample:

As I was learning to understand, and love, the written word in Lautoka, about 200kms to  the East, another young girl was already well on the road to reading her way through the world of books.

In May, this year, that young girl, now all grown up as Angela Namoi, was awarded the  Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service to the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books at the  Australian Book Industry Awards.  It was a fitting honour for Angela’s hard work and enormous contribution to children’s literature.  But more than that, it seems to me, the award acknowledges how from the smallest of beginnings, a few, simple written words, be they Janet and John or Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie, come riches far greater than any we can possibly  imagine when, in that magical nanosecond, we first decipher those squiggles on the page before us.

Angela puts it like this in these excerpts from her acceptance speech for the Pixie O’Harris award.

This is a huge honour and something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie by Pixie O’Harris was a favourite children’s book of mine – who’d have thought that I would one day win an award bearing her name.

There are people to thank!……….

My parents are Australian, but I was born and raised in Fiji. My father was a missionary so we had very little money. Although our clothes might have been sewn from old curtains, it’s thanks to my mother’s excellent sense of priorities that our house was always full of books.

Growing up on a small island meant we were exposed to influences from absolutely everywhere. We read books from all over the world and I was always fascinated by the variations in language, and how connected that was to geography.

This has fed my passion for diversity of voice, so I have greatly enjoyed working to ensure the Australian voice is heard LOUD AND CLEAR in the wider world!

My early experiences confirmed the importance of books in a child’s life. The stats are there for everyone to see – broadly, a child who has books in their home is a child who will do better in life. I believe this passionately.

 

To that I would add: Congratulations and Happy Birthday Angela. You are much-loved.

Related but separate: two examples of Australian Children’s Literature

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

and  The Arrival by Shaun Tan

There are many more. Next time you read a children’s book, take a quick look and check its country of origin. You may find you are in the good company of an Australian. 😉

© silkannthreades

 

 

 

The importance of May 8th

Today, 8 May, is the birthday of  Henry Dunant , founder of the Red Cross and joint  recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

Today, also, marks World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which since 1948 has been celebrated internationally on Henry Dunant’s birthday.

Another celebration that takes place every year on 8 May is my father’s birthday. 🙂

Although the idea for the Red Cross arose  in 1859 and was formalised in 1863, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was only established in 1919, in the aftermath of World War 1.  So the IFRC  was almost as brand new as my father when he arrived into the world in 1920.

In the  Christchurch Press, for the day of my father’s birth, there is an item which mentions the Red Cross Society in the US, providing hostess houses for the 3709 war brides of the American Expeditionary Force. The newspaper also has articles about ongoing peace and treaty negotiations and on war graves decisions, as well as the influenza outbreaks which were, once again, causing concern in New Zealand.  In 1920 the world may have been nominally at peace but the First World War was still very much a presence in everyday lives.  Yet there would, undoubtedly, have been an expectation that babies born after ‘the war to end all wars’ would live their lives in peace.

I am sure, my grandmother, holding her new-born baby, that day in May, did not  imagine that a couple of decades hence her boy would be in uniform.

 

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb (Street Photography)

Nor would she imagine that, by the 1980s, her son would be working, in his post retirement years, for the Fiji Red Cross.

 

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

That’s the trouble with kids; you never know where they’ll end up or how they’ll turn out, but I think my grandmother would say she raised a good lad. 😉

Happy Birthday Dad. Happy Birthday Red Cross. You’ve both reached a grand age and I’m glad you have.

Postscript of fun facts: The Red Cross has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize three times ( four, if you include Dunant’s Peace Prize http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/themes/peace/libaek/index.html ).

© silkannthreades