Friday, 1 March 2019

The institution of the Catholic Church

This week, George Pell went to jail.
George Pell, Australia's most prominent Catholic who once had the third highest power in the Catholic Church was convicted of sexually abusing two choirboys when he was Archbishop of Melbourne in the 90s. He was also the Archbishop of Sydney.
While we all knew that he had been convicted last December, it was only this week that this conviction was made public after the suppression order was lifted.

This week, I also learned that Theodore McCarrick has been defrocked following being found guilty of crimes including sexual abuse of minors.
Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington DC, once my home for 5.5years.

I have attended masses that have been celebrated by both men.
During those times, I found myself so lucky and blessed to be in their presence.

Most of you would know that I still attend church quite regularly.
I will even admit to loving going to mass.
Probably not as often as I should be attending (sorry Mum) but nonetheless church for me is a time for being quiet, reflection and telling my God that He is still in control.

While the church has been a regular part of my life, given that I am filipino, I have first hand experience of God's kindness, mercy and will. Hence I continue to value my religion.

However, over the past years, I have started to question the institution that I supposedly belong to.  I remember during one mass when we prayed for those who are afflicted and displaced but at the same time the newsletter was encouraging the congregation to vote NO to same sex marriage. Seriously?

I have started to question the authenticity of the church leaders preaching about the sanctity of marriage when they do not have first hand experience to speak from.

I have started to question the authenticity of the homily focussing on lives that we should be leading. Does this mean that if we aren't on the same path, our lives are not good enough?

Now, this.
Two of the Catholic Church's supposedly most blessed leaders both convicted of awful awful crimes.

I am not sure how to move forward.
I want to continue to instill faith, love, hope and acceptance in my children.
I want them to believe that there is a higher being than them.
That is important to me.

It is so hard when the institution that is supposed to be supporting my faith and religion is letting me down.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas Eve Traditions

Today Team Stentiford started a new Christmas eve tradition.

When the children were born, we were living in Fairlight which was a few hundred metres from the Manly Sea Life Aquarium. Since Noah's very second Christmas (his very first was spent in the UK), Tim has taken Noah, then subsequently both children to the Aquarium every single Christmas eve. It has been a Stentiford Christmas eve tradition.

The Aquarium closed its doors in January of this year. When Noah found out about the Aquarium closing, he actually wondered we would do on Christmas eve. His sadness was actually quoted in the Manly Daily's story regarding the Aquarium's closure (without us knowing we were quoted) as we shared his sentiments in the local paper's facebook page.

For at least since Eliza was born, if not since Noah, Tim has spoken about getting a kayak. Due to other priorities, his desire for a kayak has always taken a back seat.

Until this year!

A few weeks ago, Tim finally bought us (supposedly) a family present which we finally picked up on the weekend and today Tim and the kids took it out for a spin.

In true Stentiford fashion, there was much argument as who was going to sit where and who was going to paddle. I wonder if the paddle was exactly the way Tim imagined it to be.

It was mine as I got a bit of peace and quiet giving me time to write this blog.

Needless to say, today we start a new Christmas eve tradition.

Join us next time?

Merry Christmas everyone.

Here is wishing that Santa finds each of us and warms our hearts with all of our desires.


Monday, 17 December 2018

When Dad speaks....

My Dad passed away a year ago tomorrow.
How fast does time fly?
This time last year, we were all saying our goodbyes to him.
I still count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to have said a proper goodbye.
One last hug. One last I love you.
For him.
For me.
No one warned me before my Dad passed how much life really changes.
I don't mean the every day stuff where he is no longer around for me to speak with to get some advice or how we now book for 10 people for family outings instead of 11.
There are no more updates from doctors appointments or which horse he would tip to win the Melbourne Cup.

No one warned me how family dynamics change when one parent dies.

Mum, Dad, my brother Chad and myself.

For those that know my family, they would know that one of my Mum's favourite pastime is to chat. She thrives on telling stories. She thrives on connecting with people.
She thrives on talking about her family, holidays and her bargains.
She can sit next to a complete stranger and can easily find common ground with them.
She is a talker.

As the perfect Yin to my Mum's Yang, my Dad said very little.
He was a man of very few words, often frustrating.
However when he spoke, one listened.

My Dad kept my Mum grounded.
While he encouraged and loved Mum for being herself, there were many times when he imparted that silence is golden.
For the most part, when Dad spoke, Mum listened.

When Dad passed, it became Mum, my brother Chad and myself.

A triangle instead of the even square.

Three pointy ends.

Over the course of the year, each of us have learned to manage our new shape.
As Mum learned to find her new norm which now include driving, managing her house and garden and managing technology, each of us have been bent out of shape.

While we aim for equilateral, more often than not, our family dynamics would be described more as isosceles or scalene.

This is okay as these days, this is how independent Mum has become:
  • She is now hooning around Hornsby, proudly telling us that it now only takes her one go to reverse out of her driveway!
  • She has quickly become Mrs Fixit, embarking on a few project upgrades around her house with the help of paid handymen.
  • She has a weekly routine down pat, between seeing her friends,  staying with her sister and staying with either myself or at my brothers.
  • She has been to Manila twice with another trip booked for early next year.
Mum is living her life to the fullest, exactly what my Dad said to her during his final days.

To this date, when Dad speaks, Mum listens.

Happy 1st year in heaven Pa.
Be confident that while you are physically no longer here with us, your soul and spirit lives in us.

We love and miss you.
Rest in peace.

Eliza bringing Lolo ice cream and a snowflake!

Words of Remembrance for Lolo

My Dad was given 70 years here on earth.
He made the most of it.
He was a husband to my Mum, Pa/Dad to Chad, Bambi, Tim and myself, Lolo to his grandchildren, a brother to his siblings, he was Dong, Eddie, Ed, Eduardo to many different people.

While my Dad played different roles at different times to different people, he always had two roles that were constant in his life, and that he enjoyed. An athlete and a teacher.

From a young age, I had many people tell me what an athlete my Dad is.
Did you know that your Dad used to play varsity basketball?
Did you know that your Dad bowls with Paeng Nepumoceno, a brilliant bowler from the Philippines?
Do you know how much I enjoy playing tennis with your Dad?
Do you know how much I looked forward to playing golf with your Dad?

My Dad loved sport. Not only was he a natural athlete, he also spent a lot of time throwing himself in every sport he took on. He would not only spend hours practicing his serve, his swing or his putt, but he would also spend hours reading up on the sport, trying to master the theory.  Our house was always filled with his trophies. 

My Dad was heartbroken when he had to stop playing his regular twice a week game of golf. His dialysis could not provide him with the strength he needed to continue playing his 18 holes.  However, he never stopped swinging his club inside the house. He continued to practice, looking forward to the next time he could play again. He used his love for sport as his incentive to get better every time we would hit a hurdle with his health.  

Life is how you make it!
Money is not everything
Speak what is in your heart and you will find peace
Be happy. Enjoy life.

Once again, from a very young age, I have been hearing my Dad say these words. As a teenager, and a young adult, I saw these phrases of words as “lectures”.  Today, I see them as words of wisdom.

My mum, grandparents, who have passed on, aunts and uncles will tell you that my Dad was not a perfect man. He was stubborn. He was hard headed. He did what he wanted.

While my Dad made many mistakes, I look at the life he lead and see that it’s a life lived well. Many people love him. Many people speak fondly of him. Many people care for him. These past few days very clearly show that.

How did he manage to do that?
The words that he had been saying to me have been the same wisdom he has been practicing.  He speaks these words from experience.

He did and learned many things in the 70 years he was given. He has passed on his learnings to those he loves.

My Dad is a teacher. A life teacher who spoke with much experience and credibility.

So family and friends, I urge you to learn from some of his words.  Here is a man who managed to be happy, enjoy life, speaking the truth but at the same time we can confidently say that he is now sitting with God, ready to take on what Heaven has in store for him.

Forever in our hearts Pa. 

Friday, 16 March 2018

Can we bring our own casket?

My Dad’s funeral was the first ever funeral I have had to arrange.

When I was living in America, I was working in event catering with our headquarters next to a church. At one stage, I was nicknamed the ambulance chaser of memorial services as a big part of the business I brought in was from memorial services. That was as far as my funeral arrangements experience goes.

We had not even engaged a funeral director to help us out when Dad passed away. While our family started talking about this sensitive subject, we never got as far as taking any action. All we knew was that Dad was leaving the decision making to Mum, as per his words 'It's time for Mama to be making decisions and Mama will be the one visiting me'.

While my brother and I knew that Mum will be making the decisions, it was up to us to run the logistics to provide her with her choices. My brother told me about his colleague whose Dad passed away early last year, and all the research he had done which he passed on to us. An absolute Godsend. The research was thorough and provided a number of avenues and caveats that we needed to keep in mind, as we started to navigate unchartered territories.

In the brain-dump synopsis, it mentioned purchasing the casket ourselves from a well known members-only warehouse. I was floored. My brother, being a member of this warehouse confirmed that they in fact sell them but it is one of those things that you walk past and don't really pay attention to, unless you finally need to.

Not your average supermarket

It also recommended going to the manufacturer to see what the casket actually looked like, rather than the partial box displayed in the warehouse. So the morning of Dad's passing, we went to a casket manufacturer.

Surreal cannot even begin to describe how I felt when we walked into the building. We immediately walked into rows and rows of special boxes ready to be delivered. It was here that we met another Godsend who took his time to show us the options available to us. Here we learned that caskets can range from about $500 to thousands of dollars. When I shared with him my idea of Rent-A-Casket, he informed us that by law, everyone needs to be placed in a casket whether they are to be buried or cremated. He also warned us that not all funeral directors like for their clients to purchase their own casket as it obviously cuts out a part of their business. We needed to be clear with the funeral director that we had every intention of doing a BYO.  Finally, this Godsend provided clarity on the main difference between Macquarie Park Crematorium and Cemetery and Northern Suburbs, the two places we were already considering for Dad's cremation and final interment.

That afternoon, my brother and I were due to meet with a funeral director in Dulwich Hill. Following Godsend 2's advise, I rang to ask my question. Surprise, surprise, it was a flat out no, their insurance cannot cover the casket and they could not guarantee the workmanship. Jeez, we were only going to use it for a couple of hours, days at most. Godsend 2 was indeed correct.

We rang up a couple of other directors including one that Godsend 2 had referred.  Yes, no problems to a BYO coffin and a director can come to my brother's house that afternoon to meet with us as he lived in the next suburb. Nothing like making it easy and saving us a drive out.

We decided to meet with 2 different directors. One that afternoon, the other the following morning. We would make our decision by lunch time Tuesday given the funeral was on Friday.

The process we undertook was a complete eye opener. I remember being candid with funeral director 1 when he started going through the motions of asking us personal family details he needed for the hospital to release Dad to him, and for the death certificate. We wanted to get 2 quotes that included bringing our own casket, working directly with their florist as well as organising all the mass resources ourselves.

Funeral director 2 came the following morning and we started going through the motions again. Before he got too far with his spiel, we asked him to provide his quote. It was not too long until my brother and I could see that his totals were going to be at least doubled what funeral director 1 quoted. I was eyeballing my brother, willing him to say something. Maybe we completely forgot to let funeral director 2 know that we were sourcing 2 quotes. Finally my brother interrupted his number crunching, telling him that we met with another director the day before who had provided a quote almost half what he had so far written.

What floored us was that funeral director 2 quickly turned around to say 'No problems,  I can match what they have quoted'. He then asked what the amounts were so we showed him the quote. Lo and behold, he managed to match it. We asked him how he could do that and he said that he has different business models at different price ranges. Huh? He further told us that many clients do not have the capacity to negotiate during this very vulnerable time. It made the decision easy for us. 

Clearly, business is business, in life and in death.

Smiling from above    
Labour of love
Adding colour to the casket

Thursday, 22 February 2018


Five years ago, when I turned the big four-oh, I wrote a piece about the 40 things I learned through my 30s. 

As I turn forty-five today, or in my mind, 36, I wanted to rehash what I wrote as I think that each of these points continue to be relevant to carry me through my next milestone - the golden decade!

To pay homage to my slight OCD-ness, I have added another five points at the end of my list.

Cake made with love by Tim, Noah and Eliza

Team Stentiford

So yesterday, I turned the big four - oh! Yikes! It seemed as if was just yesterday when I flew to the UK from DC to celebrate my 30th birthday with my brother as I did not want to be alone on my milestone birthday. My life has certainly changed in the last decade - and for the best.

I spent most of my 30's waiting...waiting to meet the man for me, waiting to have my own children, waiting to find inner peace. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be blessed so abundantly.

So as I turn a new decade, I want to share 40 things that I have learned in the last decade. It has been a massive learning experience for me as I transitioned from being completely selfish to someone who barely has time for herself these days (thank God for a husband who is very good at taking care of me).

I would like to think that my story is still being written, my picture is still being painted and the puzzles are still being put together.

I can only look forward to what the next decade has in store.

1. Life is how you make it! (Thanks Dad!!!)
2. Be grateful for what you have
3. Never compare
4. All in God's time
5. Children will drive you to drinking
6. Happy wife = happy life
7. Pray for a partner who makes you a better person
8. Its all about timing!
9. Never judge - you never know what goes on behind closed doors
10. Prayers work
11. I will never be a size 8 -the sooner I accepted my body size, the sooner I became at peace with myself
12. Housework will never end
13. Marriage is a verb
14. Parenthood is like riding a roller coaster ride
15. Children can bring you so much life but also suck the life out of you
16.  Food and lifestyle choices do impact your body
17. Appreciate your parents -  they are/were trying to do their best
18. Traveling opens the mind
19. Pick your battles
20. Social media is here to stay
21. Why worry about things you have no control of (Thanks Lolo Maneng!!!)
22. Take care of your teeth - especially when you are young
23. The best gifts my parents gave me - Love, Support and Opportunities
24.  Does it really matter?
25.  Happiness really is a choice
26.  Know your body shape and find your style
27. Everything has a cost
28. Sometimes the cheapest option is not the best
29. Find a good hairdresser
30. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture
31. Grab opportunities
32. Listen to your intuition
33. Let go of your sense of entitlement
34. Pray for others
35. Try to be the best wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, niece, cousin etc. possible
36. Read washing labels, especially on dresses
37. Be happy for others - what comes around, goes around
38. You will never need everything you pack when going away
39. Ask for help, the world will never fail to surprise
40. Believe in someone/something greater than you
41. Teach your children to be proud of their heritage - they will be proud of it one day
42. Never underestimate a child's comprehension or ability
43. Reality tv fries your brains, but can be so addictive
44. Peace and quiet are worth its weight in gold
45. Family is everything

My 40th Birthday Card

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Cause and effect!

I had been on Tim's case for me to work part-time ever since Noah started kindergarten. Working full-time meant that I missed out on a ridiculous amount of opportunities to spend time at Noah's primary school. Missed out on canteen duty, Tim was Noah's parent volunteer for literacy groups every Thursday morning and I always felt guilty about going to work late after attending a school mass or a morning assembly.

Tim and I agreed that we could potentially make it work for when Eliza started kindergarten. So just before Eliza started school, I started the negotiations at work to cut down to 3 days/week. It was not an easy process (and something I want to write about one day) but eventually I got what I wanted.

2017, Noah was in Year 2, Eliza started Kindergarten, and I was a part-timer. Yay! I threw myself in all things school: I volunteered in Eliza's classroom, a class parent for Noah's class, and put my hand up for the Fundraising committee- helping solicit donations for the big event! I was rocking my new gig.

January 2017

It was about early May last year when we started hearing potential Federal Education Funding changes. The Catholic Schools Office (CSO) wrote to us informing us of the Federal Government's proposed new school funding model, the Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017 which was going to change the way Catholic schools were being funded. The CSO alerted us that "regrettably" when the CSO committed to a fee increase of 3-5% in 2016, the CSO did not foresee that the incumbent Government would introduce a new Bill into parliament which would potentially have devastating consequences for the local Catholic schools within the Northern Beaches and the North Shore.

We were encouraged to write to our local MP (who happens to be Tony Abbott - whose children went to Noah and Eliza's school), other MP's, the Education Minister and to the Prime Minister. Online petitions and facebook groups were created to help lobby against the passing of this Bill. The CSO also held a number of parent forums.

We were informed that if the Bill is passed, it is anticipated that school fees would increase by at least 20%.

So between May and June, Tim and I spent a lot of time trying to understand what we were facing. We could not understand why the Broken Bay Diocese, which our school belonged to, was facing this massive hit when the rest of the Catholic schools that belonged in the Sydney or Parramatta Dioceses were not facing similar consequences.

We quickly learned that the CSO had autonomy on the distribution of funds received from the Government.  At times, more funding was given to a needier school. With the new Bill, funding will be distributed based on the socio-economic status (SES) of the individual school. This meant that a schools in our Diocese score a higher SES compared to our friends in the Parramatta Diocese. Higher SES means lower Federal funding resulting in increased school fees. This will mean that the CSO could no longer move funds around.  This also meant that the Bill will not discriminate between the individual families, their earning capacity and their life stories. We all know that just because we live where we live, does not mean we are all C-Suite, Porsche driving, Mortgage free families. Far from it!

Since we loved the school and the community, and the children were happy, we started writing our letters and getting our family and friends to get behind the petition.

Now, I am a very much a realist. I guess it helps me embrace change sooner rather than later. As soon as we had done what we needed to do, I knew that Tim and I started to think about the reality of the situation. Could we manage the increase in fees? Is it worth it? Do I need to go back to full-time work?

It was at this time that we started entertaining moving the children to our local public school.  We considered Forestville Public for Noah back in Kindergarten but since we were out of area,  we received our acceptance confirmation quite late. By that time, we were truly married to attending OLGC. So me being me, I phoned Forestville Public and made enquiries.

Tim and I are not really sure how much the CSO fought to stop the new Bill. While we were informed that our Bishop and the CSO were constantly in Canberra creating dialogue, no confidence was instilled in us. In fact, it was parents of other Catholic schools in the North Shore that were demanding meetings with the Education Minister. The sad truth is that Tim and I felt that the CSO left it all to the parents to fight. We felt that "our hands are tied" card was played.

It was 22nd June when the Senate passed the new Bill. It was shortly after that we met with the school principal of  Forestvile Public.

While the CSO has given a reprieve in substantial fee increases, Tim and I made the decision to move the children before the school year ended. We thought that if there was any chance of moving schools in the future, we would be better off moving them while they were still at Stage 1 of their learning journey.

It is sad to have said goodbye to a wonderful school community, especially when we had not expected nor planned it.  Causes which were out of our hands.  However we are grateful for the options available to us, making the effect to be as positive as possible. And it certainly has been!

Eliza's End of Year Presentation

Noah receives his class 'Aim High' Award