Start small, but START

Green background with the words A Quiet Life in white.

This week I have published episode 100 of my podcast, A Quiet Life. This is a milestone worth celebrating! But even though 100 episodes sounds like a lot, it has been accomplished over a few years, just a little at a time.

Just like anything worthwhile.

As Bishop Desmond Tutu once said, “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” As you go on taking bite after bite, eventually you’ll get that whole elephant down.

In 2018, I decided I wanted to make a podcast. I had listened to a lot of them, and I thought about what kind of podcast I preferred and decided to make an interview format podcast. I’d heard some pretty inspirational people speak at various events and I wanted to give them a platform (yes, a very small platform, but it was something). I wanted to do my own little bit to get some stories heard.

So that’s how I started – I contacted people I knew with interesting stories, the elderly lady who visited people in prison, the friend who had climbed Mt Everest, the chaplain from a local hospital, a friend who had just discovered she was autistic, and so on. I interviewed them, doing the best I could with sound quality, and I put the interviews online.

After a while, I found I was struggling with inviting people for interviews, and I was struggling to get excited about the questions I was asking. So I paused for a while and re-evaluated.

And then a new opportunity was offered to me – I could meet up with Scottie, the breakfast announcer at our local community Christian radio station and have a chat with him once a fortnight. A regular segment on the radio. 

So I started the podcast up again, and this time I chose to base it on something I could talk about indefinitely. I love to share the things I’ve learned that have helped me to live a quieter, more peaceful, more organised life. Things like time management and productivity, things that have helped me with my anxiety, and helped me find my calling in life. Things that I hope will help you too.

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year. Episode by episode, and blog by blog, I have kept going, doing what I could until we got to this milestone. One hundred episodes.

I was listening to a Q&A podcast with Phil Vischer (of VeggieTales fame) the other day. He was asked what his advice was to people wanting to become creatives like him. His advice? Just do it. Just start creating. You can make a movie on your phone, you can, like me, start by recording on your computer and get a podcast up and running, you can sit down and write a page each day in a novel. The important thing is to do it. Just do it. 

It’s not just creativity that this applies to either. If you want to save money, don’t wait to have a thousand spare dollars sitting in your account. Put a little away at the beginning of each pay period and you’ll be amazed at how it adds up over time.

If you want to get fit, don’t wait to feel all energetic and then try to run 5 km all at once. Start with a little walk, just a little further than feels comfortable. Keep doing that, and you’ll get there (unless, of course, there’s an underlying illness problem, but you know what I mean).

If you want a tidy house, start by picking up one thing that doesn’t belong where it is, and putting it away.

(I’d like to add that pivoting is not bad either, just like I did in the middle of my podcast. A change of direction is not synonymous with failure.)

It’s been an interesting journey and I’m excited to see where it goes from here. I hope to expand into more public speaking, more workshops (online and in-person) and yes, another book or two. But I know that each of those things will come about little by little.

It’s easy to look at the tiny amount you are doing and discard it as too small, too insignificant to make any difference. But you don’t know where your project will lead. However, we all know, for sure, that if you don’t take the first step, you won’t go anywhere. Let me encourage you today to start. Start small. Take one step. Whether you end up as a celebrity or you just achieve something you never thought you could, it’s totally worthwhile.

Please share with me your own success stories, or let me know the project you’re going to start on. You can email me at, find me on Facebook at Ruth Amos Author, or on twitter @aquietlifeblog. And please share this with anyone you know who needs encouragement to start today.

P.S. Here’s a little extra encouragement: A whole tree!

The Great Milk Palava

Child drinking a full glass of milk
Nothing like a nice glass of milk
Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

This week we’re doing something slightly different. I was reminded of this story when searching through old blog posts, so I thought I’d take it out, polish it up, and share it with you again.

The story takes place in 2015 when I worked at the university of Tasmania. I worked in the chemistry department, but three times a week I would traipse up the hill, over the road, past the agricultural sciences building (holding zoology, botany and microbiology) and further up the steep slope to the old medical sciences building (OMSB) where medicine used to be taught (yes, I know, the name ‘old medical sciences’ is like ‘turn left at the new roundabout where the big tree used to be’) . 

I worked for the Foundation Studies Program (FSP), teaching chemistry to international students as part of the English Language Centre (ELC). The base of the ELC was not in the OMSB (acronyms galore) but it was on the next hill over, in a place called Hytten Hall.

My story starts with an email, sent to all ELC staff, asking  for someone to please pick up their milk from agricultural sciences, as the new milk delivery truck could not turn around at OMSB (due to the tiny carpark) and could only deliver the milk to the stop further down the hill. (I am very sad now, because as I write this post, I cannot find the original email.)

This email about the milk was a big surprise to me. The staff get milk delivered? Doesn’t happen in the chemistry department. It’s a luxury that I am denied, and these people aren’t even bothering to pick it up? It’s a two minute walk down the hill, people! Pick up your milk!

Anyway, it looked like the people weren’t listening:

Good morning

Another email about the milk, so I apologise.

I have just had a call from our milk suppliers that the milk delivered on Mondays hasn’t been collected by the Wednesday for the last couple of weeks and they have said that collection is sporadic.

Could somebody please get back to me to confirm who usually collects it on the Monday? I’d like to make sure it is in fact our staff collecting it and perhaps consider another method for the order. I also am aware that there are teachers who teach later in the week who would miss out if I were to cancel the order over there and have it delivered here instead. But that would mean somebody coming over to Hytten Hall. Currently the order is 1 full cream and 1 lite.

Several points here: is someone from another department picking up our milk?! That would not be good. Milk rustling in the zoology department! Call the milk police!

Then, point two: it’s important for everyone to know what the order is. Perhaps we have only picked up the full cream milk, not the lite milk. And one what? 1 litre of milk? 1 two litre bottle? It’s all too confusing! Perhaps the milk is not picked up because it’s too confusing!

And as for the Hytten Hall suggestion – no chance! If they can’t get down to zoology, there’s no way someone could walk down the bush path through the jack-jumper infested bbq area and then back up to Hytten Hall. Not going to happen.

A staff member responds:

I can only answer for myself but as a casual and not being present on Wednesday, I cannot collect it.  

I suggest that we order in long life milk once a semester to be delivered to our floor. Office works for example could do this with the photocopy paper, or we could order from Coles or Woolworths.  The milk could be stored in the staff room. There is often no milk here on the rare occasions that I want one at break on Thursday.

best wishes

Now here’s a problem solver. We could use long-life milk. There wouldn’t be a weekly issue then, just a once a semester delivery. There are even stores that do this – stores that have trucks that can make it to the OMSB. Let’s do that. Then the poor girl could have her cuppa tea on Thursday after her teaching.

But there’s a complication, and the reason for the tardiness may be discovered in the following email:


Between Foundation Studies staff and the other people working on Level 3 we usually manage to get hold of a carton of milk each week from else where in the building (OMSB).

 I know that Level 1 still have a crate of milk delivered here (OMSB) each week (mixture of full cream and lite). They must have a different supplier.

I suggest we use the same supplier as Level 1 and have 1 carton of full cream and 1 carton of lite milk delivered with them and then we can just pick it up from the foyer as we did before.


It is not the staff’s fault! The truck should be able to go to the OMSB – another truck does. And it gives both full cream and light milk. The supplier is just slack. 

And as the staff can go and raid the supply from level 1, there is no need to traipse down and back up the hill. Now that the lift is working, you can get milk without putting in much effort at all. (There is no mention of whether the level 1 staff are happy to lose their milk to level 3 staff. We may never know their true feelings – I don’t think they have the email address list).

Our secretary responds:

Good afternoon

I have just cancelled the milk order for FSP. We will be placing an order for long life milk capsules, which was something we were considering earlier this morning.

I believe there is still some milk at the Ag. Science building, if somebody would like to collect it for this week?

Long life milk has been ordered. The whole situation has been neatly resolved. Or has it?


I’m not sure whether you have already proceeded with the new milk order, but I just wanted to mention that I think Erika meant for us to order cartons rather than capsules of UHT; I’m quite concerned about the waste generated by capsules and how this reflects the university’s commitment to being sustainable…

If it isn’t too late, I would really like to echo Michael’s suggestion that we incorporate our milk order into the SLIMS/SM order for level 1 – I’m not sure how many others would agree with me but I personally would prefer to not be drinking UHT milk on a regular basis.

I know that this isn’t an easy situation for you either so I do appreciate your help.

Nope, not resolved. 

This difficult situation remains ongoing. It’s a hard situation for everybody. We may need counselling – at least the secretary probably will. I wonder if her job description includes the arduous task of herding cats. 

UHT milk is not good, capsules are not sustainable and we are never going to get this situation sorted out. I am wondering how much paperwork will be required to order milk with a different department – it would be crossing departmental budget lines. I’m sure that comes under the heading of ‘impossible’. I am also wondering how much milk these people need? How regularly do they drink the milk? Is this a meal replacement, protein shake kind of situation? 

Some answers were forthcoming in a much more formal email:

Good morning everyone

Further to my email in relation to the milk order dated Monday, 18 May – the reason we are ordering the UHT milk is because the milk was not being collected from the drop off point and therefore going to waste.   The UHT capsules are recyclable which will mean you will be compliant with the universities sustainability commitment.  We chose the capsules over the cartons as the capsules can be used per drink without having to open a carton and it going to waste if not used.

The milk supplier advised that they deliver milk to all the departments at UTAS (except to the restaurants).  They also advised that they do not deliver milk to the OMSB any longer.  All orders for SLIMS ceased at the beginning of the year and the only deliveries that are being made in that vicinity are to Agricultural/Plant Science and to Zoology and they are very large orders. Perhaps somebody who is located  within the OMSB is collecting their milk and bringing it back to the building from this drop off point. If you would like the milk order to be reinstated and to go with the other deliveries, then it would mean going over to the other building and collecting it again.  We should not rely on other department’s staff to collect our milk for us.  

Please advise if you would like the milk delivery reinstated.   Could you also confirm who will collect the milk each Monday morning  – we can trial this for 1 month and if the milk is not being collected each week then the capsules will be the only option.

This appears to be the simplest and most sensible solution.

And so it does. Simple, sensible, and, in my opinion, this email has a slight ’slap on the wrist’ tone to it. Which had the desired effect:


I am happy to go with the capsules.

We’re not even going to try for a month to pick up our milk from Ag Science. We will just make do with capsules. Seeing as they are sustainable and all. However, there was a little hiccup even now: 


you will need to institute a recycling bin system in our area as we do not currently have one.

best wishes

And even this little problem was overcome in time:

All you will need is a box with a plastic bag in it, that’s what we do over here and the cleaners empty it. Maybe write on it that it’s for recycling only.

So that was that. The Great Milk Palava was sorted. All over. Almost.

One final email came just a little too late:

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you; I was waiting to hear back from my husband, who works for Student Systems (formerly SLIMS) on Level 1 of the OMSB. Here are the contact details for Betta, who deliver their milk to the OMSB.

Betta misses out on the milk delivery. Capsules it is. 

And for me? I continued to use the little carton of milk that I bought myself from the corner store and kept cool in the tiny camping fridge I kept in my office.


So that was a bit of fun. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, you might enjoy the murder mysteries I have written that are set in the university environment. You can find the Deadly Miss series at

We will go back to talking about organised and peaceful living next time. Chat to you then.

What we did on our holiday

I’m back! Did you miss me? I hope not, I went to a lot of trouble to schedule blog posts and podcasts so that you wouldn’t.

But I have had a wonderful holiday. Two weeks of unscheduled work-free bliss. Well, almost work-free. Nothing in this world is perfect. But it has been incredibly refreshing and joyous.

As I get back into work again, I thought I’d tell you one of the things that we did on our holiday.

We went tulip hunting.

OK, so Moz and I see this differently.

I tell people, ‘We went up to Wynyard to see the tulips.’

He says to people, ‘We went up to Wynyard to have some time away, and while we were there we saw the tulips.’

It’s similar, but different. I really wanted to see those tulips. For a long time I’ve seen other people’s pictures, or seen them advertised. We’ve been to Wynyard at the wrong time and driven past the fields and tried to imagine them full of colour. But I haven’t been able to go and see them because when I worked at university, this time of year was always flat out.

But this year I was on holidays and when I realised that the tulips were in bloom, I organised for the two of us to travel up to Wynyard (about five hours from home) and go to see the tulip farm on Table Cape.

I tried not to get my hopes up. I thought this experience might have been over-advertised. I expected the flowers to be lovely and colourful, but not anything super awesome or overwhelming.

But they were awesome. They were beautiful.

There is something about standing in a field surrounded by colour, by bright colour, by natural colour, by nature’s beauty. There is nothing like it.

I took a billion photos and so did Moz and I’m only bombarding you with a few of them. They don’t capture the feeling. I guess you have to actually be there. They remind me of the feelings I had though.

More colourFields of colour

Walking through the fields of colour was joyous, it was refreshing, it was delightful.

The good book says, ‘See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.’ So true.

Annette Young, in our podcast interview this week, talks about being in nature and how God spoke to her through it. For her, the Overland Track and Wine Glass Bay were the places where God blew her mind and made himself real to her. Those places have a different kind of beauty to the highly tended beauty of the tulips, but both kinds are refreshing in their own way.

I think it’s so important to get out into nature and listen to what it’s telling us. And I’m glad I got the chance to do that this holidays.

Do you make a priority of getting out into nature? What lessons has nature given you? Where is your favourite part of creation? Let us know in the comments.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

A Little Holiday


No deep wisdom today, just a short summary of the holiday that Moz and I took last weekend. It was a great holiday, but it wasn’t quite long enough.

Last Friday night, Moz and I took a trip to Dover. We drove down after he had finished work for the day. We arrived in the dark, found a nice little pizza place to have dinner, and worked out how to let ourselves into the studio room we’d booked online. It was a bit of an adventure, doing it all in the dark.

We went for a walk in the cold clear evening. The stars were brilliant. Just gorgeous. Moz saw a shooting star. I just enjoyed the still ones 🙂

We walked past the sailing club where they were having some sort of celebration. A couple of live bands – one rock band, one more jazzy. We appreciated the sound of the music and the friendly chatting, the sight of the people (including a couple of kids) taking a break outside, silhouetted against the light pouring out.

In the morning we walked again to find some food and hot drinks for breakfast. The only place open was a bakery that made gorgeous sour-dough bread. The locals came in and bought freshly-baked chicken pies for breakfast.

Then we bought a few groceries and continued south to Cockle Creek – the furthest south you can get by car. And then we kept going, a lovely bushwalk along the beaches and through the bush to Fisherman’s Point where there is a red-brick ruin and some odd plants too – fuchsias and lilies that had been planted there a hundred years ago or more.

We had ourselves a picnic lunch by the water accompanied by little wrens, and then drove back to the nearest café (an hour away) for a hot drink and a read of our books, and then on to find some friends in Franklin for a delicious seafood chowder dinner, and a fun game of Dixit.

No computers, no thinking, no decisions except, ‘Do you want to eat now, or later?’ No phone coverage for much of the day. Instead, blue sky, good exercise, great conversation, reading, musing – just being.

It was a wonderful holiday. When we got home we felt a little bit less like elastic that has been pulled too tight for too long, a little more like human beings with a little bit of love to give to others.

It wasn’t long enough, of course. So we’re going away this weekend to do it all again in another little town.

We are learning to take the time we need to refill our wells. Before we get completely dry.

It is worth it.

Maybe after this coming weekend I’ll have enough energy to string three brain cells together and tell you something deep and wise. Or maybe I’ll just write another post about how fabulous it was to get away. I hope you’ll excuse my indulgence this week.

A tough day

I have to admit it. Yesterday was a tough day.

Not the first half. The first half was great. Just the last half was tough.

I have to go back a bit for this to make sense (though I’m so tired, I’m not sure that making sense is on the agenda).

On Tuesday I flew to Canberra. I spent the week meeting up with longstanding friends from as far back as grade 6 (lost in the mists of time) and spending time with my lovely daughter Jess. I also managed to do some writing, which was very good, working on the first transcript book for the A Quiet Life podcast.

On Friday, Moz and Caleb joined us and we all prepared for the wedding of good friends on Saturday.  You know, those friends who are almost family. Who are family, really.

The wedding was gorgeous. Mel was a gorgeous bride, Pete a handsome groom, but more than that, the joy that was there in the room was delightful. And the people were so great. It was a fun night. Lots of chatting, lots of dancing, good food, excellent speeches.

Late to bed, not so late to rise, checking out of the motel, heading to brunch with Jess and hearing her news and stories from her recent visit to Panama. All excellent.

Then we hit the airport.

I told Moz and Caleb that I was just going to put headphones in, listen to a podcast or five, and not relate to anyone for a while. I had done the extrovert thing, I had socialised all week, I was ready to stop.

Our plane from Canberra was delayed. When we finally got on the plane I was sat next to a lovely lady from Ireland who loved chatting to me. I listened. She really was a nice person. (After take-off we both read books so I didn’t have to chat the whole way).

Once we got going I had a look at our boarding time for the next flight (from Melbourne to Hobart) and started to get concerned about making it to Melbourne in time. My neighbour was also concerned about making her connecting flight. She was in more trouble than us though, she was heading back to Ireland. She had about an hour to make it to the next terminal and get on the flight. I hope she made it.

We didn’t. Our next plane pulled out of the bay as we pulled in.

We were flying with an airline whose name starts with V and goes well with the name Mary and they were really good to us. Sure, they didn’t hold the flight for us, but they booked us on another one, and they gave us food vouchers that were very generous and exit row seats once we got on the flight.

They just couldn’t get us on a flight until 7.40 pm.

So we waited.

The new flight was delayed as well. By over an hour. And even when we got onto the new plane it was delayed another 10 minutes because something was broken, I’m not sure what. None of the three of us were with-it enough to hear the announcement by that stage.

We got home before midnight. Well past pumpkin time for me though.

So it was a very boring afternoon. Not what we wanted. Not what we planned.

But it could have been so much worse.

The thing is, all three of us decided that there was no point in being angry or upset.

Every time I felt the frustration rising I chose not to allow it to overtake me. I chose to stay calm. To laugh, occasionally (it was a bit of a bitter laugh, but still). To just let the time pass. To be grateful for the food vouchers and the little bit of window shopping distraction. To be grateful that Moz and Caleb were there and that we could chat and play games on our phones and look after each other’s bags so that we could go for the occasional walk (I made my step target by the end of the day). Really to be grateful to be ‘suffering’ from such a completely first-world problem.

We just waited.

Now, I’m not saying that we were full of joy all afternoon either. We did not smile and laugh our way through. We didn’t cheer up the whole airport terminal or stage an impromptu evangelistic event. We just waited.

But the afternoon could have been so much worse if we had chosen to be upset and angry, frustrated and grumpy. We could have snapped at each other, and at the airport staff. We could have cried and whinged when we got the information about the further delay of our already-delayed flight. But instead we chose to help each other through and be as patient as possible. And that means that the memories of the afternoon are pleasant rather than painful.

So that’s my little take home from this one. Sometimes it is better to choose to be happy and grateful. Sometimes just that little choice rebounds on you and makes your day better.

I hope that in the little things you are also able to choose a wise response this week.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a nap.


Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Overcoming a Roadblock

crescent bay 1

Firstly I would like to say thank you for all your kind comments last week. My love language is words of affirmation so your comments on last week’s post, on our anniversary on Wednesday, and for my birthday on Friday mean so much to me. Thank you for filling my love tank.

We didn’t do much to celebrate our wedding anniversary on the actual day. We went out to lunch together, and for supper we shared celebration cakes and churros with our good friends who were also celebrating a recent anniversary.

On Thursday we celebrated by going for a bush walk. We walked to Crescent Bay. It’s not a long walk by any stretch of the imagination but it was a big walk in my mind.

The last time I had attempted this bush walk was about 20 years ago. We had arranged to go for a walk with friends. I was six months pregnant at the time and I had spent my pregnancy so far lying on the couch and eating. I was not fit. I was not energetic. But I had been told that it was an easy walk, fairly flat, and so I was willing to try.

It takes a bit of time to drive to the start of this walk. Google says 1 hour 41 minutes. On Thursday we took our time, I wrote a short story to start off with which made us leave home fairly late in the morning, then we stopped for coffee and chai, stopped to say hello to Caleb at the campsite where he was working (and to pick up Moz’s sunnies), and eventually stopped for lunch at Remarkable Cave where the track begins.

I remember that 20 years ago, by the time we had got to Remarkable Cave I already had a headache and wanted to go home. But I pulled myself out of the car and started walking. There I was, hoping for a walk that would be like a wander along the street. Flat and easy. What I got was something very different.

There are just a few places on this walk where the track is very steep, steep up and steep down. Most of the track, in fairness, is reasonably flat. But there are just a few points where flat is not a description you can use at all. The walk did not meet my expectations and I wasn’t sure I could make it.

So that’s how I ended up in tears in the middle of a bush walk. And that’s how this particular walk loomed large in my memory.

And you know, I wouldn’t say that I’m fit right now either. I wasn’t sure how my body was going to cope. But I was determined to try.

If you’re the type of Tasmanian that goes for walks all the time, or a person that jogs for fun, or even someone who is reasonably fit you are probably laughing at me right now. It took us all of an hour to walk in to Crescent Bay and it took us an hour to walk out. We had a lovely hour at the beach wandering along through the waves. (We did not slide down the sand dunes on a boogie board. I wasn’t going to waste energy climbing up.)

It was not a hard walk.

But in my head it was quite a large thing to overcome. It had sat in my mind for 20 years. That bush walk that had reduced me to tears. That was the walk that others say is easy but I that had found so desperately hard.

I had to go back there and try it again. I needed to know I could. And, yes, I could make it. It wasn’t that hard at all.

It is now a goal of mine for this year to get fit enough to go on the walk again in a year’s time and find it easy. To race along the path like it’s no problem at all. Maybe even to have the energy to go dune sliding once we get there. I know I have been fit enough for this in the past, and I intend to be fit enough in the future.

I wonder if there is something in your mind that is a roadblock like the Crescent Bay walk was for me? It may not be a physical thing. You may have tried to write a story in the past and got stuck and now have trouble picking up a pen. You might want to play an instrument but you remember how embarrassed you felt in music class in high school when you took hold of the clarinet for the first time and made that first really awful squeak. You might want to go to uni but you remember just how hard maths was in grade ten.

There are so many places where we can get stuck. But sometimes it’s just that the timing wasn’t right that first time. Things change. We change. Maybe if you have another run at it, you will find that it isn’t quite so hard now as it used to be. You probably have new tools at your disposal, new skills you’ve learned along the road of life. And that roadblock might now only be the size of a speed hump.

Can I encourage you this year to give it a go? Have another try. See what you can learn from the experience. You might just end up having an experience as lovely as my walk along to Crescent Bay on Thursday. I hope and pray that you do.

We didn’t take enough pictures for you to really appreciate the dunes so I have found a website you can look at that shows you the beauty of the spot much better than my pictures do.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

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 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.