A most beautiful moment

It was hard to choose what to talk with you about this week. I could have told you about the drive to Deloraine to check out the town properly for my first ever writing research trip and how it made me feel like a proper writer. And how I drove through a mad and scary hailstorm on the way home and was so grateful for the truck in front of me that gave me tire tracks to aim for.

I could have told you that it was mind-map time again on Sunday afternoon as I reassessed all my projects and what was involved in each of them, and how much time I could give to each. How I’m making my way through my favourite time-management books again to find hints and tips for organising my day – things that I haven’t been able to put into practice before but might be able to now. And, really, just encouragement that I’m doing alright in organising things and that there are limits to what one person can achieve.

But I thought instead I’d share with you the most beautiful thing that happened to me this week. I’ll try to find ways to put into words how I felt.

This wonderful experience took place at the Bishop’s Training Event. The church I go to happens to be Anglican, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Tasmania holds annual training events where we can go and get teaching. This was the first I have gone to and there were about 400 of us there.

Bishops Training Event
I’m in the row just before the red chairs, right down the back.

It was an excellent day. Excellent talks in the morning, and excellent workshops in the afternoon, punctuated by excellent catching up with friends and family and making new friends in the breaks.

But the very best thing about the day for me was the singing.

The music team consisted of three people with microphones, and a keyboard. No bass, no drums, no flashy lights or special effects. The song choices were excellent, some reasonably new songs that we all knew, some very old but familiar hymns with the very old words (the proper words, if you ask me). The point was, nearly everyone knew the songs, and everyone sang.

Standing there, surrounded by the swell of sound from four hundred people all singing together, was the most uplifting, encouraging feeling. I was carried on the sound. I was buoyed by it.

The sound didn’t assault my senses or bash into me. It just bathed me in song, lifted and carried my spirit until it was soaring in the rafters. And that was how I felt, standing in the back. I can’t imagine what it would have been like on stage with all of the sound coming directly towards you.

Now just to be clear, I love a good beat and bass and I had the best time at the Cat Empire concert recently, down in the mosh pit, dancing as hard as a forty-something can, adding 10,000 steps or so to my fitbit. I love it when the sound doesn’t just go in your ears, but you can feel it in your bones. It’s the best fun. But that’s not what Saturday was about.

Saturday’s singing was about being community. Being family. Singing with one voice. Joining together and making something truly beautiful.

Sometimes all you need is a note to start on and the words to sing.

I treasure the memory.

Have you been a part of a big group all singing together like this? Do you have a moment you can remember where music touched your soul?

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A gift to gladden the heart

Gold coast dolphin
This is a dolphin we saw at Sea World on the Gold Coast

There is a joint memory that Moz and I have from our teens of a house that made an incredible impression on us. I’m not sure why we were there, we only went once. I think my parents were visiting the couple who owned it but I’m really not sure why.

But this house.

I mean, I like dolphins and whales, I really do, but this house went way overboard.

The couple had dolphin wedding rings, dolphin salt and pepper shakers, a whale on the table cloth and a dolphin Doona cover. The mirrors were surrounded by dolphins, there was dolphin and whale artwork all over the walls and dolphin and whale sculptures on every surface. There was dolphin-themed stained glass on the windows and the walls were painted blue.

It was overpowering. There was no getting away from whales and dolphins anywhere.

I really like seeing dolphins and whales. I’ve been fortunate to have two whale sightings right here in Hobart over the past twenty years or so. One at Kingston Beach (close to my house, where I walk nearly every day) and one further up the river where a mother whale had taken her calf.

Dolphins, on the other hand, tend to stay away from me. I’ve been on two wilderness cruises where we’ve seen seals and albatross but no dolphins. I’ve cruised down the east coast of Tasmania on a yacht and seen no dolphins at all, though we did see some amazing luminescence in the water. I’ve spent hours on beaches straining my eyes without the sighting of even one fin.

Ok, as I write this I see that I’m the most privileged and spoiled person out there. My life has been filled with fantastic experiences. I’m not complaining at all. And I did see a whole pod of dolphins cavorting in the waves off Bicheno once.

I wonder whether the way I feel about dolphins is due to the rarity of the sightings, and if I’d become bored with them if I saw them more often. I know that after being in the dolphin house I didn’t want to see anything about sea creatures for months.

On the Saturday just past I spent most of the day sitting in front of the fire and reading. I was taking a day off and loving it. In the afternoon I felt like going for a walk and Moz came with me. We walked to the beach and bought a coffee and then I said, ‘What next? Will we walk along the beach?’

Moz suggested we just stand at the rail and stare out at the water for a while.

And while I was staring something caught my eye. Now, last time this had happened it was a seal enjoying the water and waving his flippers in the sunshine.

But this time … this time it was a dolphin.

I’ve been going to Kingston Beach for forty years on and off and this is the first dolphin I’ve ever seen there. And it was beautiful. It came quite close so we could see it clearly and then it swam away.

Kingston beach dolphin
This is me, and you can see the fin out there in the water. I promise it’s there!

Then a very light shower of rain passed over us, and all that meant was that where the dolphin had been there was now a complete rainbow over the water. The scene would have fit perfectly into the dolphin house art work, but this time it was real.

It totally made my day and I’m so glad we took a few minutes to stand and stare.

I guess there’s not much of a point to my little story, except for the encouragement to take the time to enjoy days off and to enjoy nature. That sometimes when you just stand and stare for a while you will receive a gift to gladden your heart.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

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Graduation

Graduation 2018 August

Here we are, PhD graduates, their supervisors, the Dean, and me. The Dean is the only one not still wearing his finery.

Saturday I ate a protein-rich breakfast of bacon and eggs. I dressed with care in my nice black suit with a blue jumper underneath for warmth. I thought long and hard about which earrings to wear and decided on the plain pearls. I packed my academic robes and floppy hat in a suit bag and hung it in the back of the mini. I packed my bulging handbag in the boot of the mini and only took on me what I could fit in my pockets – a phone, a credit card, and the car keys.

I was a bit nervous, but not much. This wasn’t my special day, after all. I graduated with my PhD in 2010 but at present I am allowed by the uni to dress up in my glad rags and join the lecturers on stage to celebrate other’s graduations.

At the multi-storey carpark I met with another well-dressed woman holding a suit bag. We saluted each other with the bags and walked to the Federation Concert Hall together. We knew each other more from email contact than from sight.

She asked which area I was from.

‘Chemistry,’ I replied, ‘well, I was from Chemistry.’

Then I told her what I was doing now, and that if she needed an editor to look at her student manuscripts she now knew where to come. (I really need to invest in some business cards for such an occasion.)

In the robing room I met and mingled with long-standing friends. It was fun to catch up, good to see my colleagues again. Especially when we were there for such a celebration. We got dressed up, adjusted each others hoods, checked the tassels on the floppy hats. The only real awkwardness came when we had to pair up to walk in the academic procession. I found myself paired in a group of three and that just doesn’t work, but hey, we’re all adults. We worked it out.

And then it was time to put on our best pompous faces and make our way through the foyer of the Grand Chancellor Hotel to the concert hall where graduation was being held.

I must admit I was a bit rebellious. I was supposed to sit on the end of a row of five but I just wandered further and sat in the back row with my ex-boss. That caused a little bit of panic when the people didn’t think there were enough chairs for us all. But they got over it. And I bet they felt pretty silly when everyone sat down and they saw the empty seat in the middle of the row.

I wasn’t the worst behaved person on stage. One of the academics stood up and took a photo with his phone when his student crossed the stage. That was a little unprofessional. But a lot of fun.

We had six PhD students graduating on Saturday. Six from Chemistry, among the 50-ish PhDs in total for that particular ceremony. (I am not totally sure of my numbers because I foolishly left my program behind.) Out of the six Chemistry graduates, five were present to dress up in their floppy hats and walk the stage. It was so great to be there and celebrate with them.

The PhD is a long journey, long and fraught with many a danger. But they made it, and Saturday was a day for pure celebration of a milestone reached. I was so glad to be there to celebrate with them and their families.

I was also super-glad to see a couple of special students reach the milestone of a bachelor’s degree. They were students I had worked with in their very first chemistry classes. Students that had become friends over the course of their studies. I never know when these people are graduating (we’re not that close friends) but I was thrilled to see them walk the stage.

After all the pomp was finished we mingled over sausage rolls and party pies (we didn’t make it in time for any sushi) and took many photos and gave many hugs. I repeated, ‘congratulations’ over and over again, but I meant it every time. The hall was crowded and loud, but full of love, joy, and a sense of satisfaction. There is something important about attending the ceremony and giving yourself closure.

I love the pomp and ceremony of a graduation ceremony. It speaks to something deep in my English heritage. It reminds me of my heroes – Tolkien, Lewis, Sayers. I know all the pomp is unnecessary, but for me it’s a great way to celebrate the gaining of an important milestone and I congratulate again all my friends who had their special day on Saturday.

I didn’t make it to the PhD celebration parties that were held on Saturday afternoon and night. If you want to find out why, there’s a great book you can read that will explain it all (wink, wink). This post is my small and introverted way of saying again a huge congratulations to my friends who graduated on Saturday (and to my special friend who graduated Friday as well).

Grace for the moment

It’s been a big (but good) couple of weeks.

Scratch that, it’s been a big (but good) couple of months.

In case you haven’t managed to follow all of this as it happened, the crazy all started straight after Easter with a trip to Canberra for Jess’ graduation, then we had our Vanuatu visit, which seemed to flow straight into the first book launch, which was followed less than a week later by the second book launch. Then I had a few weeks of finishing up at uni, packing up my office and being given lovely farewell lunches, and then I was off to Los Angeles for a week. I brought my sister back with me from LA and we’ve been doing family things for the last week or so. It’s been pretty hectic.

In fact, by last weekend it was starting to feel like Christmas. On Saturday we had a big wider family lunch together at my Uncle’s house (my great aunt, and aunts and uncles, and cousins and second cousins), and on Sunday we all went to church (Mum and Dad and my brother and sister and me) and afterwards came back to our place for lunch and collapsed in a heap. That’s what Christmas feels like to me – family and church and exhaustion and good food. I think we ticked all the boxes. The weather wasn’t quite warm enough, and we were missing some important family members, but all the rest was right.

I’ve enjoyed all the fun things we’ve done. I really have. It’s been so great to catch up with people and meet new people and have excellent conversations. The trips overseas were amazing, and the book launches were a dream come true. But there have been aspects of the last few months that have been challenging for me as well.

On the plane over to LA I was listening to The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, narrated by John Cleese. It is absolutely brilliant (of course). If you don’t know what this book is, it’s a series of letters from the demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood giving instruction on how to get a patient (that is a person) safely into hell. It’s sort of Christian instruction from the opposite point of view. Very clever. And Cleese shows his brilliance in narration too.

One thing from the book that stuck in my mind was the phrase ‘grace for the moment’. Screwtape was telling Wormwood that he needed to keep his patient’s mind focused either on things he had messed up in the past, or things that he was worried about in the future. That ‘our Enemy’ (that is, God) had promised grace for the moment, and that if the patient could keep living in the future or the past then he wouldn’t be able to access the grace that God had promised for the now.

It’s so true, isn’t it? If we are focusing on now, living in the moment, depending on God for the energy only for now, then it is so much easier than trying to access grace for things that may never happen.

And if we look into the future too much, there is a great variety of possibilities, many different ways that things can go wrong, many eventualities to worry about. But only one of these possibilities can happen in this trouser leg of time and we only need to face that one possibility as and when it happens.

So that has been my experience over these last few, very full, weeks. God has given me grace for each moment and I have come through rejoicing and grateful.

I don’t want to promise too much, but things seem to have slowed down a bit now. I’m starting to get the washing under control, and to clean up the mess that happened when my uni office was moved into my home office, and to go for walks and cook my own dinner instead of relying on easy meals and takeaway.

And I have plenty of wonderful memories to look back on.

The Adventures Continue

Amaro's picture
This is Caleb, Jessamy, Amaro, Me, and Moz. Isn’t it gorgeous!

Today’s gorgeous picture was drawn by our friend Amaro who is just about to turn six. She and her mum Jessamy stayed with us for a couple of nights (just as I got back from LA) before heading off to Townsville. Their adventure is much bigger than mine and I pray that it all goes smoothly for them.

Amaro drew the picture of everyone in the house. The boys have pink trousers on and I have to say that it’s a pretty accurate representation of Caleb’s hair (on the left).

I’ve been home for a few days now and it’s taken me a little while to figure out what is going on in my head. In fact, I’m proud of figuring it out this early, but then I knew it was coming so maybe it’s taken me too long.

The thing is, I am now officially an entrepreneur. I no longer work for the university, not even two days a week. I am a small business owner. I work for myself.

The whole day is mine. The whole week is mine. I don’t have to go into uni anymore. I can organise the all my time as it suits me.

But that means there is no structure. No fixed appointments. No urgency to get things done today because tomorrow is taken up by work.

And it is easy to let things go. To get lazy. To convince myself that I am tired today and that it would be better to start on that job (whatever it is) tomorrow. To tell myself that I don’t feel like writing this morning and I’ll do it later.

Or to get stuck. To wonder whether I should work on the paid editing rather than the writing because it is paid work and therefore more important. Or whether I should work on the writing rather than the editing because it’s my body of work and therefore more important. And then to do neither of those things because it’s all so confusing that I don’t know where to start.

The fact is, none of the time is mine. It was given to me by God. And though I am no longer working for a business, I am not working for myself either. I am working for God.

Now is the time to put into practice all the wonderful time-management processes that I have been reading about for the past years. I can now figure out when my most creative time is, when it is better for me to do editing, when I need to work on the business side of things.

There is plenty to do. I just need to schedule it in. I need to get started. Try things. See if they work, and adjust if they don’t.

And not feel overwhelmed by the hugeness of having my dream come true.

I am so grateful for this opportunity and I am NOT going to let it pass me by.

I have a novel to finish, editing work to complete for customers, blogs to write, and plenty to learn.

It’s exciting times, folks! Bring it on!

 

P.S. I thought you might like to know that my tooth has been fixed with a filling and you really can’t tell that it was chipped at all. And my arm is feeling much better and nearly all the bruising from the fall has gone. I’m over the jetlag too and I’m borrowing Moz’s old phone until my new one comes in the mail.

I’m very much enjoying having my sister visit us here in Tasmania, and my brother is coming today as well for some proper family time. Life is good. Busy, but good.

Back to winter

Guy in Lyft: How are you?

Me: I’m hot. I’m heading back to Australia today so I’m wearing my warm clothes.

GIL: Is it cold in Australia?

Me: Yes, it’s winter in Australia, it’s going to be freezing.

GIL: Oh, I’m sorry, I’m an arts major, I have no idea about these science things.

Hilarious.

I’ve had other conversations where people have asked me what the weather is like in Australia. I find that a difficult question to answer – Australia is a big place with all the kinds of weather you could want. I think I usually manage to get that across.

The Lyft driver and I went on to talk about how he’s an illustrator and wants to work in comics but that he needs to work on his writing skills. It was a very cool conversation and I pointed him to some podcasts that I am pretty sure he will forget but I hope he remembers.

It is one of the fun things here that everyone you meet is either a part of, or trying to be a part of the entertainment industry. The lady who runs the café near us is a writer, the driver is an illustrator, and so on. I’m sure that not everybody is part of the industry but it sure has felt like it.

I decided to visit the little church near me this morning – Silverlake Community Church. They were great people. Sometimes the little churches are the best. I felt right at home there. Morning tea after the service was coffee (and decaf) with vanilla creamer (too sweet) and some apple pie (yum). The blessing talked about going home rejoicing, which I thought was appropriate.

So now we’re working, Cath and I, and cleaning her house, and getting ready to go. The cats are aware now that something is happening and they are hiding in the bathroom. They are clever, are cats. But they will be ok.

The next post should be from Australia. See you then.

Nearly Over

brunch
Here we are at brunch. The cafe staff were awesome too. Go to Friends and Family if you’re ever in East Hollywood.

This morning we had a brunch, a ladies brunch. It was so nice. Catherine’s friends are great. I remember when Catherine invited me to this brunch as a Facebook event. I was so excited to be able to go to one of her events. And I was right to be excited. We had such a lovely time together, and ate such good food.

Catherine’s friends are also very international. Just to give you some idea, at the brunch this morning we had two Italian-Americans, a French-Polish lady (and her son), an Israeli, a lady from Norway, a lady from Latvia, and us two Aussies at breakfast. And also a short visit from a New Zealander but we kicked him out (grin).

It’s been a much quieter day today. After the brunch I went back to my place and got some work done. Catherine is frantically getting everything together before she comes back to Australia with me. So I’m staying out of her way a bit. I remember what it felt like finishing up at home before coming here.

Tonight we went out for Thai food. It was amazing! Hobart needs to up its Thai game I think.

After dinner we went for a walk around the beautiful streets here in East Hollywood. There are some absolutely gorgeous houses and gardens. It was so great to walk and chat. Now we’re relaxing with some TV.

One more day to go. This time tomorrow we’ll be on a plane.

Events and Triumphs

I am living in hipster-ville. The airbnb where I am staying specifically states on the website that it provides breakfast. And there are all sorts of cereals in boxes on top of the fridge. But when I tried to make myself a cuppa, there was no milk. There was coconut creamer (whatever that is) but no milk.

There is also no coffee here. Well, there is Turkish coffee, but that’s not going to help me, I looked at the instructions and it was pretty complex. I get the feeling that this is very special coffee and if you can build an outside fire and make the whole thing in a clay pot then that would be better, really. There’s heaps and heaps of herbal tea.

So I went shopping to Trader Joe’s and bought a little carton of organic half-and-half milk. No hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. Then I could have a nice cuppa using the decaf coffee I brought from home.

(Ok, I am tying myself in knots here because it’s actually Saturday morning but I’m writing Friday’s blog. I was trying to pretend (or lie?) but I can do it no longer. I didn’t get to writing the blog at all yesterday. But that’s ok. If you remember, I thought life might get a bit hectic and I might not make a daily post. If you’re in Australia you won’t even notice.)

Yesterday’s adventures involved heading to a café to meet one of Catherine’s very good friends. Getting there late, finding that he was going to be later, and then (after a really nice latte) finding that he was at a completely different café so packing up and meeting him there.

The middle part of the day I came back to my digs and relaxed a bit while Catherine frantically did all sorts of things at her place. Then in the evening we went to a Film Fatales event that Catherine had been helping to organise, where female composers, directors, and cinematographers came together to network. It was a great night, very successful. Someone told me that these sort of meets happen twice a week but that they are never ‘this good’. So I think it was a triumph and I’m proud of Cath for pulling it off.

I had a name tag that put me in the composer camp so that led to several of these conversations, ‘so, you’re a composer?’ ‘Um, no.  I’m Catherine’s sister, over from Australia.’ Then we’d have the Australia conversation. I even picked up a couple of business cards and someone promised to read my book.

Today we have a brunch and a party. I’ll keep you posted. Hope you all have a great day today too!

IT Detox?

orchestration
Here are Catherine and Joe, hard at work, while I just watched in wonderment.

I didn’t expect this trip to be an IT detox trip. Not that it’s a complete removal from anything online by any means but I am learning to live without my phone.

The first few days were already a challenge as the phone had been turned to airplane mode and was only going to be used when wifi was available, or in an emergency. I kept pulling it out of my purse or pocket to look something up, or to text someone, and then realising that I couldn’t do that while I was out and about, and would have to wait until I got home, or got to a café where wifi was available. It wasn’t much of an imposition but it was different to my normal.

Now that the phone is completely dead (the screen got smashed when I fell over and doesn’t light up anymore) we’re just hoping that the emergency doesn’t happen and I’m learning to live without the phone at all.

The phone was my camera, my bible, my note book, my audiobooks, my podcasts, and my calendar. Now I have none of these things in my pocket, and only some of them available on my laptop. It’s an adjustment.

It’s good to have these kinds of challenges every now and then, just to remind us what a sci-fi world we live in, and that life can go on without all the luxuries.

In other news, this morning we met with an (or should I say another?) award winning composer and talked orchestration. Well, they did, I listened and learned. It was fascinating what a difference the correct orchestration can make to a composition.

Then we went out for lunch with another friend, travelled to The Valley to drop off another friend, and took me to my new digs (I’m staying in an airbnb, as planned, for the next few nights). Tonight we had a hang out at a rooftop bar, so I had a nanna nap this afternoon. The pace is getting to me 🙂 No, actually it’s been an amazing visit, I’ve met fantastic people, lots of composers and writers, seen so much of the city, and had quality time with my sister.

And now, to bed.

What time is it?

Alfredos coffee
Apologies for the fuzzy photo. This is the very hipster coffee place where we started the day today. Good coffee. Yes, they make good coffee here, in places.

Today has been really delightful. We have gone to a very shiny part of town where Catherine had a really encouraging and exciting business meeting. I did some writing. I only felt a little bit like a toddler who sits on an adjoining table and plays with crayons while the parents talk.

Afterwards we walked along Melrose (I know! Melrose!) and looked at all the shiny shops, and saw some shooting taking place. (Movie shooting. It’s all good.) Big trailers and stuff.

Then we came home, and we were just popping out for lunch when the adventure happened.

I tripped.

Big time.

Face plant.

I’ve scraped my hands and my knee, my chin and my lip, and I’ve chipped my tooth.

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 9.50.29 am

So talented to do that in the very city that is concerned more about looks than any other place in the universe.

The homeless people sitting on the pavement just behind us were quite concerned about me.

I have also destroyed my phone.

So it’s been quite the day.

Right now, I’m sitting on the couch watching Catherine record the work of an amazing vocalist. It’s so fun to get an inside look at what happens in the world of making movies. Mostly the music bit but there’s a chance I might even see some filming this week.

After the recording, the plan is to go out for dinner with another friend and then have a quiet evening. It had better be quiet. I’ve had quite enough adventure for today.

Oh, and the time I fell? Truthfully? It was two-thirty. Tooth-hurty. Geddit? Geddit?