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?

If you never want to miss one of my blogs, you can sign up to my newsletter at www.ruthamos.com.au or you can sign up on WordPress and you will get the blog direct to your email inbox. At www.ruthamos.com.au you will also get my latest news, information about my books, and soon (I hope) a brand new podcast! Stay tuned.

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Thank you to friends near and far

Sometimes in our lives we need to feel the closeness of friends and family. This is one of those times. My Grandmother passed away on Sunday night at the ripe old age of nearly 100 and an anchor is gone from our lives.

But like the rest of the world, we don’t live in a tight knit community where our family is right around the corner. Some of us were there, together, when Granny passed, but some of us were far away.

The thing is that technology brought us all together anyway. Our phones and social media meant that wherever we were we could connect with each other and grieve together.

Many of us got together today to celebrate Granny’s life. But those who just couldn’t be there will still be able to see a recording of the service, and we’ll share photos and videos of our time together too.

Our family has had a group chat on Facebook for years now. It was set up so that we could keep  everyone linked in to news about Granny when she was unwell but it has grown to mean so much more than that. All our news has been shared as it has happened. And not just news. Hilarious child quotes and photographs. Puns and Dad jokes. The Family Chat has it all. We have grown closer as a family and gained so much.

Several members of the family have shared just how comforting it has been to have the support of our friends through this time. Again, and I don’t want this to be an ad for Facebook necessarily, but that’s the social media I use, and my Facebook friends have been such a blessing.

One little status update gets responses of hearts and tears in the emoticons, and comments sharing love and memories listed long underneath. It means so much to me. It really does.

It’s not only friends far away either. Meeting with friends in the supermarket and getting hugs. Or the gorgeous person who saw me lunching with my brother and paid our bill for us. Or the good friend who stepped up to be there for me today, just in case she was needed. It’s a blessing to be a part of this community.

Sometimes when you are putting thoughts out into the void on a blog like this you can forget that the people who are reading your thoughts are people too. I just listened to a podcast where a blogger said that she was travelling and a reader said to her, ‘You’re near me. Come and drop in for coffee.’ And she did. How cool was that? A relationship built over the internet and confirmed in person. So great.

You all are my friends. I am so encouraged to see when people have read my blog, and I love to read the comments you post. I love that technology brings us together. What I share here is from my heart to yours and I hope you can feel that.

I may not have a lot of money but I am rich, so wealthy in the friendships that surround me. I want to thank you all for being a part of my life and for the richness and comfort you bring to me.

That’s all really, dear readers, dear friends. Thank you.

The strongest woman in my life

Granny's hand

In just over a month my Grandmother turns 100. It’s not going to be one of those birthday parties where the news reporters come around and the birthday girl gives a chirpy interview about what she did that made her live so long, in fact we’re not completely sure that she’ll make it to the line, but she’s held on this long by force of will so if it’s important to her to turn 100 I’m pretty sure she’ll do it.

Granny is one of the strongest people I know. She’s been an amazing influence on my life and I’m so grateful for her.

One of the stories told by the family is about when Granny decided she wanted to learn to drive. She didn’t ask anyone permission, she learned in secret, and presented Grandad with the fait accompli by stating that she was going to pick up one of the children from kindergarten.

Not that she drove particularly well, but that independence was incredibly important to her and very difficult to give up as she aged.

Granny had five children. Two planned children (David and Gill), then my Dad (John) was the first ‘accident’. Wendy came along by accident quite a bit later and Lil came to keep Wendy company. When I asked Granny how many children she thought was a good number she said ‘two’. Hilarious. She was not the ‘earth mother’ type but she was totally devoted to her family.

Granny and Grandad emigrated to Australia when Dad was 3. They lived in very cramped quarters with Granny’s brother for a while and then got their own housing department house at Warrane, where they started by furnishing the house with packing boxes until they could afford something better. They really started life here with nothing.

It must have been the Warrane house that I stayed in as a baby when my own parents went overseas for a while. I feel like Granny and I have a special bond because of that. But I’m pretty sure that every single one of Granny’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren feel like they have a special bond with her. She’s good like that.

One of my earliest memories (quite a bit later than babyhood) is of staying overnight in the Warrane house. I remember that if we put our dressing gowns at the foot of the bed and went to sleep, we would find a lollipop in the pocket as we awoke. Nothing like bribery to get your grandchildren to go to sleep quickly!

Granny taught Sunday School at St Phillips and I remember working the bar at the local RSL for one of my casual jobs during high school where my trainer remembered Granny very well from her Sunday School classes. Granny had made quite an impression. She didn’t care about where people were from. She cared about people. She was out to share God with everyone.

Granny looked after her ailing mother for years, and shortly after her mother passed away, Grandad also passed away. While preaching. At the church I attend now. It’s a great story. But Granny was not impressed.

I joke about it, but it was quite serious, Granny did not cope and had a mental breakdown. Of course, I didn’t know about it, I was still very young at this stage, but the breakdown changed Granny’s life. She started to limit herself. She stopped going out so much, stopped seeing most of her friends, and totally dedicated her life to her family.

I remember going to visit and staying overnight in the end bedroom, the sewing room. In the bedroom and in the hallway were bookshelves and my love of Gorgette Heyer was built from those books. Granny taught me to sew and she taught me to knit. I do neither of those well, but what I know I learned from Granny. She sewed all her own clothes and she was one of those knitters that can do it without thinking, while carrying on a conversation. She knitted for all of us and I also remember later in her life that she knitted a plethora of baby blankets and little hats and jackets for a local charity.

We moved away to Canberra for a few years and when we’d come back for holidays we would do two things: visit Nanny for afternoon tea, and visit Granny for dinner. We weren’t really home until those were complete. My younger sister knew that Nanny had the tic tacs but Granny had the lollies. The end of every visit to Granny would involve her going to the pantry and pulling out a jar of Columbines or Fantails and allowing each person ‘just one’.

When we moved back to Hobart every Monday would involve a roast dinner at Granny’s place. How she got her potatoes that crispy on the outside and fluffy inside I will never know. I’ve tried to replicate it, believe me.

We would start by heading to her West Hobart home straight from school. Granny would let us watch afternoon TV – something we never did at home. Our memories of Captain Planet and Round the Twist are solely due to her largesse. Or we’d sit at the organ in the corner with headphones on and bash away – no-one could hear the music except the child with the headphones, but everyone could hear the clicking of the keys and the pounding of the foot pedals. We were all given a small glass of sherry before the meal, then we would squeeze ourselves around the table in her tiny kitchen, sitting on chairs and small stools. Once Moz and I were an item he would come too making seven around the table. The roast consumed, we would finish with peaches and ice-cream and ice magic. My sister would have the peaches separate from the ice-cream. Either consecutively or in separate bowls. I also have a memory of my brother accidentally throwing beetroot at me across a snow white table cloth. It must have been a lunch visit with buttered bread (cut into quarters), salad, and spam. Yes, spam. And meat paste too. All things I only ate at Granny’s.

We ate properly with the proper accoutrements. Even when we were staying over and eating dinner in front of the TV we would eat off tray tables and use linen napkins and have a bread and butter plate on the side of our dinner plate. While Nanny would watch Wheel of Fortune over dinner, Granny would watch Sale of the Century. It really separated them in my mind.

Granny’s kitchen wasn’t flash, and after dinner us children or our parents would squeeze around the tiny corner sink and wash up the dishes by hand.

As far as I can remember I was the first grandchild to get married. Granny gave me her grandmother’s wedding ring to use as my own. A blessing I don’t feel I deserve.

Granny revelled in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All five of her children had married and had two or three kids of their own, and many of us grandchildren produced offspring as well. Each baby that came along gave her a new lease of life.

Life wasn’t all wonderful though. We all had a great shock when Wendy saved two children from drowning and she herself died in the process. She gave her life for others all through her life and she gave her life at the end. Granny told me she wasn’t supposed to outlive her children. She was devastated. But very proud to go to Government House for the awarding of a posthumous bravery medal.

There were other struggles too. I won’t go into them all here.

I remember having Granny for a meal at our house. She and Lil came over and we had made a tuna casserole with pasta. Oh dear, I should have stuck to roasts. Lil told me afterwards that Granny didn’t eat pasta – I guess while it was a staple for us, it was a foreign food to her. Not that she was a stranger to strange food – during the war she had eaten whale meat. She told me it looked like steak but tasted like fish. I really don’t need to experience that for myself.

And making a cup of tea for Granny was also scary. The tea had to be served in a cup and saucer, with exactly the right amount of milk. And while we were allowed to put the sugar in, the stirring was for Granny to do. If we didn’t do it right she would send it back and we would have to start again.

As Granny grew older her world shrank until it was completely contained in her West Hobart house, and the mental illness flared again. All of the children and grandchildren would visit whenever we could but we could often hear her talking, no, arguing with herself as we let ourselves in, and while we chose to laugh and love, we knew something would have to be done. Granny had not seen a doctor in thirty years, and no dentists either. She just wouldn’t go. She must have been in a lot of pain but she didn’t let that show to us. She just kept going. Her will power was amazing. She was existing on cups of tea and sweet biscuits. All the meals that were made for her by family were stored in her chest freezer and never eaten.

It had to end of course. And it ended in style. My Dad, and Lil, and the mental health authorities, and the ambulance, and the police were required to get her out of the house and into hospital for treatment. But once she was getting the right medication and had moved into a lovely nursing home her life got significantly better. She had people to talk to again, things to keep her occupied, concerts and dinners and of course the beloved family came and visited.

I have always admired Granny’s great strength. Even when she was pushing hard against something that would do her good I would be just so proud of the strong woman that she was and is. She knew what was important to her and she stood up for those things. She loved her family with her whole life. Every part of her. She shared everything that she had. Her food, her house, her books, her space, her wisdom, her knowledge, all that she had she gave away.

Granny loves Jesus. She has tried to live according to his example. She knows where she’s going. And he will stand to welcome her with a ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

I only hope that I hold to her example however long my life will be.

Edit: My beloved Granny passed away 12 hours after I wrote this. I was privileged to be there as she passed and I look forward to seeing her in heaven.

 

End of Year Weirdness

teddy bear christmas

I just realised why it feels so weird.

I know that everyone says that they don’t feel Christmassy and all every year, but I was definitely feeling something different about the end of the year this year, and just now it hit me what it is.

Both my children have finished school. This is the first year in 18 years that I haven’t had an ‘end of school’ routine with a child. I haven’t had any final assemblies, any prizes or awards, any end of year activity days.

And yes, Moz is still a teacher, and would normally attend all these things, giving me some sense of normalcy, but this year he got hit with the horrible cold thing – the one that ends with the everlasting hacking cough (apparently) – and wasn’t able to attend any of the end of year things for his school at all.

And while I’ve finished up work for the year, I’ve been doing that slowly and in pieces for a few weeks now. There was no big last-day marker.

So this year the end of the year has come in a dropwise, petering out, unmarked fashion.

And it feels weird.

But in another way, it’s been really nice. We’ve taken it slow. Our tree isn’t up yet (the picture is from 2013) and I’m not worried about it.

Tonight the kids both come home – Jess from Canberra, and Caleb from a four-day road trip – and tonight we will start to celebrate Christmas and end-of-year-ness together. I’m really looking forward to it.

With two adult children we’re starting a new set of traditions.

I have a friend who has moved to a small mining town in Western Australia. This will be her second Christmas ever without her wider family around. She also needs to start a new set of traditions. And I think she’s feeling a little weird too.

Then there’s my friend whose father-in-law passed away just last night, and things have changed for that family too.

We have such high expectations for the Christmas period. We build them year by year. We can do it all ourselves but we’re given unhelpful help from Christmas movies, TV shows, advertising, and all the marketing guff that goes on.

For some people this time of year is incredibly hard as they battle loneliness, addictions, and so on. But even for those of us blessed with happy families and first-world wealth the changes that each year brings can shock us and hurt us as we approach a milestone like Christmas Day.

I find it helpful to go back to the foundations. For me, the foundation of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. That is enough for a huge celebration no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

The second foundation stone for me is the celebration of family. My own husband and children, my parents and siblings, my in-laws, and my church family. No matter what the day brings I have so much to be grateful for.

I hope that you can find something to be grateful for this Christmas, even if you celebrate through tears.

Lots of love,

Ruth

What are you saying “yes” to?

Rocks in a jar

Life is full of possibilities.

If you read any self-help book, any blog on entrepreneurship, any cornflakes packet, you will see that you have to trim down those possibilities. You cannot do everything. You cannot have it all. At least, not all at once.

And it’s hard work to figure out what to say yes to. At least it was for me.

I tend to think that other people’s ideas are better than mine, that they’ve thought it through more, that they know what’s going on more than I do.

So when someone asks me to do something, I tend to say yes.

But doing what everyone else tells you to do is exhausting. You just cannot fit it all in. At some point, some decisions have to be made. And as you are the only one living your specific life with your specific burdens and challenges and your specific energy levels, you are the one that needs to make the decisions about what your life holds.

You know the analogy with the jar and the rocks, pebbles, sand, and water? I have always had trouble with that analogy. Putting sharp, angry rocks in a glass jar? What happens if you push too hard and the jar breaks? It took me a while to get past that but I saw a video the other day with some ping-pong balls instead of the rocks, beads instead of the pebbles, and then sand, and then beer. And that helped.

So, just in case you are one of the three people in the western world who have not heard this analogy, this is how it works:

The jar is your life. The ping-pong balls are the big things in your life. You need to put the ping-pong balls in first: family, friends, health care, time with God. The beads are the slightly smaller but still important things: your job, house, car, looking after those. The sand is everything else. The small stuff: surfing Facebook, watching TV, that sort of stuff. The beer is just to remind you that even if your life is full, you can still have a beer with friends (I’m not so sure about that last part, I’ve definitely had times where life was so full that a beer with friends would have pushed me over the edge, but maybe that’s just me).

It took me a while to understand something about this whole example (and I may be the only one who has trouble with this) but the thing is not to just state that the important things are ping-pong balls, but to schedule time to allow these ping-pong ball things to happen. Not to just say to yourself, “family is one of my top priorities” but to actually map out in your calendar that four nights a week you are not doing anything other than spending time with your family, that Saturday afternoon is for a family car trip, and that Sunday all the family will be going to church and eating lunch together afterwards. Schedule time for the important things first, then put in time for the less important things, and let the sand take care of itself.

Ok, so this is a helpful place to start, but for me I still had difficulty with it – what are my ping-pong balls? What exactly are the important things?

I started on this saying no journey because of two things: I was sick and tired of always feeling sick and tired, and I had decided I wanted to make time to write. I needed to clear my schedule so that I could exercise, and make and eat healthy food, and rest, and I needed to clear my schedule so that I could follow my dream and write a book.

Now, cutting down my TV viewing, and my social media time was a good start. (Notice I didn’t say cutting out, just cutting down – some relaxation is important). But it wasn’t enough.

If I kept saying yes to party-plan parties, all the church activities, dinner with everyone, social events, work opportunities and so on, I would have neither the time nor the energy to write anything. I needed some way to divine what belonged in the ‘important’ category.

I made a mind-map. You can tell how serious this is by the fact that I made a mind-map. I hate them. Lists are my thing. But I tried a few lists and they didn’t quite work, so the mind-map seemed the way to go this time.

The segments of my mind-map were: Family, church, work, health, and writing. In each one of those segments I included the things I thought were important. My feeling was that if something didn’t fit into one of those segments then it was sand.

Here’s a new thing that I learned. In the Family section along with the cooking, washing, budgeting and shopping, I also included ‘emotional energy for my family’s needs’ and ‘Saturday adventures’. I realised that I needed to put down-time in the ping-pong ball section if I was to live the life I wanted.

The other thing for me was defining the writing as a section on its own. As its own collection of ping-pong balls.

Writing is my dream, and it is my ‘thing’. It took me a long time to figure that out. Just so as you know, I’m in my mid-forties now, and I think I may have finally found the thing I love to do. I have tried many different hobbies – art, craft, exercise, maths, science, music, dance – none of them filled the gap in my life the way that writing has done. I’m hopeful now that I have found the passion of my life.

I read this amazing book called The Art of Slow Writing Louise De Salvo that described the lives and loves of many different authors throughout history. As I read it I found that I related to oh, just about every category. I remember telling my friend that I wanted to write a book, but doesn’t everyone? She said no, not everyone wants to write a book, and that maybe I should give it a try.

So I did give it a try, and I enjoyed it immensely. I enjoy the process and I enjoy the outcome.

However, in my mind my writing can be less important that any other important thing that anyone else would want me to do. You see I don’t know that I am ever going to be a successful author. In order to become a writer, I need time to practice. Time to write books that will never be seen by another human being. Time to fail. Time to learn the craft. And I have had difficulty allowing myself that time because my (maybe never seen or used by another human being) stuff just didn’t seem as important as anyone else’s (already out there and doing good) stuff.

I needed to change that. To change my mindset.

I’ve found some books really helpful to me in letting me know that it was ok to follow my dream. One is The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeuerst. She does a wonderful job of explaining that there is a job that only you can do, and that you should spend your time doing it. That it is right to say no to some opportunities if it stops you from doing the one thing that you should be doing.

Jon Acuff in his book Quitter says that if you figure out what your dream is, then you will spend less time doing the things you like, and more doing the things you love. I really like the idea of filling my life with things I love, things that I am meant to do. The idea of me giving to the world a gift that only I can give, living a life with meaning and purpose.

When you have that shining orb in front of you, that reason for living, then it is easier to throw off those things that ‘hinder and so easily entangle’ and to ‘run with perseverance the race set before you’. To run my own race. To reach my own goal. To give the thing I give the best. To live my best life. For all of that, I needed to learn to say no. Otherwise I am like a ‘wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind’ insecure, unsure, exhausted, and going nowhere.

The good book says, “each of you should carry your own load”. God has given you a load to carry. He has made you “to do good works which He planned beforehand for you to do”. It’s worth asking Him what he made you to do, thinking it through, finding out what your special shiny ping-pong ball is.

So, step one towards saying no: figure out what you’re saying yes to. Know your dream. Write your vision statement.

I have learned that dreams and goals are different. Where a goal is a short term, achievable stepping stone towards your dream,  your dream, according to Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is a big, unachievable, shining city on a hill that you are moving towards. A dream gives you purpose. Jenny Baxter agrees. She says in her blog Treasuring Mothers that your dream needs to be big enough that you can’t achieve it on your own. You need a dream that is big enough that you are dependent on God to come through for you to make it happen. Your dream is your hope and purpose – the thing God put you on the earth to accomplish.

That’s the thing that will allow you to say no, and help you figure out when to say yes. Cherish your dream, value it, invest in it, give it your all. And make sure that you don’t let all the sand eat away the time that belongs to the ping-pong ball of your dream.

Have you found out what your shiny ping-pong ball is? Do you agree that knowing what to say yes to is the first step to saying no? Have any of you lovely readers ever tried applying the ping-pong ball method to your lives?  How did it go?

This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42

If you would like to hear more about my writing journey as it comes to the pointy end with my first novel (a cosy mystery), please drop me a line on rijamos@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my newsletter list. The newsletters are more writing focussed – what I’m doing with my writing, and what I’m reading myself. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jumping to say ‘yes’

Demands

Here’s another thing about me – I’m a pretty obedient person.

When my daughter Jess was younger she used to boss me around.

“Mum, I need a drink,” she’d say, as toddlers do.

“Yes, sure.” I’d groan, getting up from my extremely comfortable position on the couch or shutting down what I was working on and fulfilling her request immediately.

My husband Moz would tell me that I was supposed to be the parent, telling her what to do, and that when a three year old tells you to jump, you shouldn’t ask “how high?” on the way up. But obedience has always been my first response to an order and it probably always will be.

I needed to learn to put a filter in between that response and the requests of others.

I listened to a podcast interview last week with Jocelyn K Glei. It was talking about email anxiety and how to deal with your inbox. She mentioned an interesting concept. She said that some people are ‘guessers’ and others are ‘askers’.

Now, when askers need something, they ask for it. If they are visiting from another city and want to spend a month sleeping in your spare room, they ask. If they want someone to photograph their wedding, they ask. Implicit in the request is the confidence that you can say no at any time. They just throw the question to you, and expect you to say no if the task is too hard or not convenient at the moment.

However, guessers are not built like that. Guessers try to figure out if you are the best and most reasonable person to ask. They’ve tried to take everything into account, and they only ask if they think you’ll say yes.

Both of these personality types are fine. The problem is when an asker asks something of a guesser. Then the guesser feels very guilty about saying no to the request and often ends up doing something they really don’t want to do because they assume that it would be dreadful if they didn’t. They assume that they are the only one who can fulfil the request and that all other options have been tried.

You can guess what type of person I am.

I found the idea really freeing. The idea that I may not even be expected to answer all requests with a yes. That the asker might be just as happy for me to say no.

People don’t even need to ask me sometimes – I obey the call of technology without thinking.

When my phone rings I jump to answer it. Moz gets frustrated with me, especially at meal times.

“Just leave it,” he says, “you can ring back.”

Which is quite true, but leaving a ringing phone is incredibly difficult for me.

I’ve even answered the phone while sitting on the toilet. But only once. Never again. Believe me, it’s not a good idea.

I spent a long time trying to work out why I have this compulsion to answer every phone call. I think I’ve figured it out.

I only make a phone call when there is no other option. If I can text, I will text. If the conversation requires more words than are easy to text I will use messenger on my computer so that I can easily touch type. I only ring someone when I need an answer right now. Almost every phone call I make has a sense of urgency.

I need to remember that other people don’t work like that. Jess, for example, prefers to call than text. She will only text when there is no other option.

People are different in the way they approach these things, and this means that I don’t need to jump to answer whenever my phone rings. I need to prioritise.

I like to help people out. I like to answer their phone calls. I like to be able to solve their problems and give them a hand. But I cannot do that for every request that ends up in my email inbox. I can’t spend quality time with my family if I’m talking on the phone. I can’t fill up my life with everyone else’s priorities and put my own priorities on the bottom of the list.

I am not expected to fulfil every single request that is put to me and neither are you. I think that most people actually expect you to decide whether what they have asked is what you want/worth your time/necessary and to make a decision accordingly.

Total, instant, joyful obedience is only due to God and no one else.

How about you? Are you an asker, or a guesser? Are you able to leave your phone when it rings? How likely are you to respond with a yes when someone asks something of you?

This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42

No Bridezilla here

DH has spent most of today washing, cleaning, and polishing my little Mini (Verdi) and his bigger Audi (Wombat) to within an inch of their lives. You see, tomorrow we are going to be the wedding cars for our friends’ wedding and we are pretty excited. Yes, the bride is going to try to squeeze her beautiful gown into the Mini. We’ll put all the bridesmaids into Wombat. Then after the service the bride and groom will travel in Wombat and we’ll work out the rest later. As my lovely MIL says ‘We’ll come to that bridge when we cross it.’

A couple of weeks ago there was another wedding in our church. Both the brides (tomorrow’s and last fortnight’s) have known each other since they were tiny (if not since birth) and have grown up together in the church. Both met their men around the same time and both decided to get married at approximately the same time.

This could have been a recipe for disaster, but it wasn’t. The two brides have worked together on timing – making sure one is back from her honeymoon before the other has her wedding. Making sure the first wedding was first because the second bride is moving to Western Australia immediately after her wedding.

They are bridesmaids for each other and I heard Bride no. 1 talk about how she was going to look out especially for Bride no. 2 this week and give her extra support. Bride no. 2 has talked about how grateful she is to have been part of a wedding already and therefore she knows what sort of timing things need – things like hair and makeup, for example.

They are mature enough to have their weddings reflect their own unique personalities without even the slightest hint of competition with each other. Bride no. 1 has had a bridal shower tea with gifts of kitchenware and this awesome game where we had six pots of different kinds of tea and we had to guess which tea was what. Bride no. 2 had a bridal shower picnic in the Botanic Gardens where she wore a veil and sash and we gave her photos and written memories so that she didn’t have to pack boxes of stuff into the ute that’s taking her to WA. Both brides were delighted with the parties (except for the part where the attention was placed on them).

These two lovely humble women are starting their married lives in what I consider the right way. The weddings are a reflection of who they (and their grooms) are, not a competition as to who can make the day the flashiest. They are still doing the dress, the flowers, the service and the reception, the cake, the speeches and the dancing, but they are doing it their own way as a celebration, and as part of a community, and it’s something I enter into wholeheartedly.

So I pray for them, long life and happiness. I pray that they can face the challenges of life with a commitment to their other half that goes way beyond signing a piece of paper. I pray that their wedding day will be a milestone in a journey that lasts the rest of their lives. And I thank God for the example of selfless celebration that these two brides are.Wedding cars

Micromanaging

You know the situation. There’s a job that needs doing. You have a picture in your head about how it should be done but you don’t want to do it yourself. So you give it to someone else and they do it ALL WRONG.

This is what happened to me yesterday. I’ll tell you the story.

I am a member of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. The RACI is 100 years old this year so we’re trying to do all kinds of interesting things to celebrate and our Chair has come up with a great idea – 100 reactions in 100 days (here’s our first one: RACI 100 Reactions in 100 Days #1). The idea is that we (we being chemists all over Australia) create small YouTube videos describing a reaction of some sort. We need 100 of these videos so we are reaching out to all sorts of people to have a go. Starting with us here in Tasmania, and that means me.

Now, DS has made some really fun YouTube videos on a whim. They are called Caleb “Cooks” and I encourage you to look them up if you want a laugh. So I said that I could provide a video and I decided that DS should be the actual person to do this.

We don’t actually have a chemistry lab in our house (though believe it or not, I know a family that does) but I knew a cool experiment that can be done with red cabbage and various household chemicals (vinegar, bicarb, dishwashing detergent – they are all chemicals). So I suggested (strongly) to DS that he do that experiment and do a video for me. He was happy to comply.

DH and I decided to go out for lunch yesterday and as we left, DS was happily story-boarding his ideas and coming up with a good video of the purple cabbage experiment. He said he’d do the recording while we were gone. I thought that was a great plan.

We had a delightful drive, a delicious seafood lunch at the Inn at Kettering overlooking the yachts in the harbour, a delightful drive back. The weather was gorgeous – sunny but not too hot. We were peaceful and in accord with one another and we felt like we’d had a micro-holiday.

When we got home the scene was slightly different: the house stank of cabbage, the kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it, there were bowls and cups everywhere and there were two more whole red cabbages being put through our Kenwood juicer (one whole cabbage having already received this harrowing treatment).

This is not what I had planned!

When I have performed this experiment I have made the purple cabbage juice by cutting up the cabbage and then pouring hot water over it. DS made the juice by using a juicer which provided a much deeper purple colour.

I would have poured some juice into a few glasses, added the different chemicals, and watched the colour change. I was actually a bit worried that DS’s juice was so strong that there wouldn’t be any colour change at all. I was concerned that he was doing it all wrong and I was severely tempted to step in and change things.

But I held back. I took my books and computer downstairs and I tried not to worry. I could hear the video being made and the first two times DS poured chemicals in to the cabbage water there was no change in colour. I got more worried. I even snuck back upstairs and peaked in through the doorway, ready to give my advice if it was needed.

But the third chemical – vinegar – did what it was supposed to do. The purple cabbage juice changed colour to become pink. I was relieved. I went back downstairs, stopped listening, and left him to it.

I haven’t seen the final video yet. I will post it when it’s done. But I had a chat to DS after he had cleaned up all of the mess in the kitchen and this is what he told me, ‘It felt a bit boring Mum. I looked for other reactions to do but they were all a bit boring too. So I made it big so that it would be more fun.’ And I’m sure it will be. It definitely looked more fun than my idea.

If I had made the video, or made the process my process, then all of the reason for asking DS to do it would have been lost. We would have lost the joy, kept it safe, and kept it boring.

By allowing him full creative control the process was messier, true, but so much more fun. And mess can be cleaned up. And yes, DS did clean the mess up, basically by himself. There are consequences to our actions and we need to deal with that.

I think sometimes we lose a lot of joy in life by trying to retain control over processes that we should leave in other people’s hands.

Take from this what you will.

Here is the link to the finished video:

Celebrations

In the last week I have been part of two major life celebrations.

On Saturday I went to a wedding of two lovely young people who are part of our church. They had invited the whole church, whoever wanted to, to come along, so I went. (DH wanted to come too but was stopped by a very inconvenient attack of hay fever.)

The couple getting married were young and beautiful. The bride (of course) was especially gorgeous. Thin, blonde, and radiant, she could have stepped right from the pages of a magazine. The groom was also a dashing young man, and the church was filled with the young and the beautiful, all dressed up to the nines. Now, I’m not that old, and I don’t consider myself to be ugly, but wow – I didn’t hold a candle to all this youth and beauty. But, you know, it was so great to have them all there, supporting their friends as they made their life commitment.

The service started with an announcement that I’ve never heard before.

‘Please, could you turn off your mobile phones’ I’ve heard that bit before, obviously, ‘the bride and groom wish to have all photos during the service taken by the official photographer.’ We weren’t asked to turn off our phones because they might ring, but because they didn’t want us taking photos during the service! That was the new bit. And then came this:

‘And while the bride and groom are happy for you to post to Facebook, please let them post first.’ Brand new. And oh so necessary.

So I’m going to have to make sure they’ve posted before I put this up on my blog, but that’s fine.

Anyway, the wedding was beautiful. It’s just so amazing to see people take the risk, take the plunge, commit to each other for life. And I realised, as they clearly (and a little tearfully) said their vows, that while I love individualised, poetic, beautifully written vows, for me there is something so special about the stock standard Anglican prayer book vows. And the something special is this: I said those vows. DH said those vows. And as I listened to another couple vow to love, cherish, protect, and honour each other for as long as they both should live, I could renew my own vow to my husband too. (It would have been more special if he could have been there, but we can’t have everything).

After the wedding we were all invited to share afternoon tea together, I said hello to people I hadn’t seen for (literally) years and renewed old friendships. I live in a small place and it’s guaranteed that you’ll meet with old friends at this kind of thing.

It was a truly special celebration. An absolutely joyous afternoon.

The other celebration in my week was the celebration of the life of DH’s grandfather. He was 92 and had passed away peacefully at his nursing home with his daughters by his side. We’re so used to having him around, it was hard to say goodbye, and there was so much to celebrate.

Pop had made it easy for us, he had written his own life story, so getting dates and names correct was not the difficult task it sometimes is. And both daughters and several grandchildren, as well as other friends and family, stood in front of the congregation and shared their experience of this outgoing, enthusiastic, energetic man. Even the great-grandchildren got involved – the youngest two stood bravely in front of everyone and sang ‘Down by the station’ as they had been taught to do by Pop.

One of the grandchildren had written her part of the eulogy but there was no way she could read it to us, even through her tears, so her husband read it on her behalf. That led to a fun moment where he told us about the time he was pregnant and Pop came to his rescue. There were a couple of other fun times in the service, particularly when Pop’s poetry was read out. He had so much fun writing his poems, he was quite serious about it, and if rhyming couplets are your thing, then these are the poems for you! But they make pretty hilarious reading.

Once again afterwards we had a morning tea, and then the family went out for lunch. We shared stories and caught up on each other’s lives. I met people who were connected to us through Pop that I probably will never meet again. It was such a joy to meet the pint sized Elsie (Pop’s sister-in-law) who is a tiny woman with a personality as big as a house. “I’m the small one!” she said when we were introduced. And it was good to catch up again with Pop’s elder sister Betty, who is still going strong. One of the great-grandchildren found out that she was the second cousin once removed of one of the teachers in her school. And even though the service was in Launceston, we met Hobart friends there as well.

I love being part of community. A part of a family tree that branches out through parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and down through the children, and grandchildren. A part of a church community that shares each others’ lives, that celebrates together and mourns together, and helps each other through tough times. A part of a friendship group that has been close for over 25 years and that knows each other almost as well as cousins do. And a friendship group that is new and growing as we meet more people that we make a special connection with. I feel connected, established, supported.

Sometimes the community means that you have to put up with irritations, with personalities that you just can’t stand, with little quirks like Pop’s poetry, or with being around people so shiny and beautiful that you have to wear sunglasses. That’s all part of the deal. But I am so grateful for the traditions, the celebrations, the people, that make me who I am and for the reminder of that in the celebrations this past week.

Holiday Adventures

It is the time of the year that we go on adventures. We take a little time out and see where we can travel to. We’ve gone to Vanuatu, once. And to the north of our beautiful state several times.

This year we went to Adelaide. We thought it was time. My brother has lived in Adelaide for 17 years and I’ve only been to visit him once. There are reasons, I’m not just totally slack, but this summer we decided our holiday would be a trip to Adelaide.

We decided it back in November of course. We sat down and said to each other ‘what adventure will we go on this summer?’ This was back when we were still stressed from work and unsure how the summer would play out. ‘Adelaide’ we decided and we contacted my brother. He was not real fussed about which weekend so we booked one in. I decided to go with Friday through Monday and have just a little extra time.

In the end, the timing was pretty perfect. Losing Kat (our cat) on the Monday before was a whole lot better than having her put to sleep on the weekend of. And the week after has been a great recovery week – Thursday being a public holiday and the fact that I don’t work Fridays meant that I only had a two day work week.

We had a fabulous weekend in and around Adelaide. We had hired a car and most of Saturday and half of Sunday we went driving through the hills and into the countryside. We saw Murray Bridge and the mouth of the Murray River. We saw salt flats, ads for cow racing (yes! Cow racing!), vineyards, dead fish (heaps of them at the mouth for some reason),  bush and paddocks and lovely towns. And that was just Saturday.

Saturday night took us and my brother and his partner into the city. We had a delicious dinner in a Chinese restaurant and wandered around a bit just looking at the various shops and pubs and places where restaurants and pubs used to be but had now shut down or changed to something else. And the big inflatable bike in the square – bikes were everywhere – the Tour Down Under was happening.

Sunday after a gorgeous brunch with our cousin and her husband, DH and I went for another explore. We visited the National Automobile Museum – that is – DH visited the museum and I found a handy cafe nearby and worked on my novel (yes, it’s still coming along, slowly) and then we wandered around the town. After that, we decided to turn the SatNav off and keep going in the same direction for a while so that we could find a new way home. That’s the exciting thing about the big north island/mainland of Australia – there are many roads, many different ways to get home. There’s only a couple here in Tassie.

So we wandered away, making sure we were going in the right general direction. Our road took us past the Big Rocking Horse which I’d only seen on postcards before. Then we were directed to take a detour along Gorge Rd. It was a beautiful driving road. DH enjoyed himself so much. I tried to not worry about the excess on the hire care and just enjoy the scenery. DH knows what he’s doing, but I like to be sure.

The scenery was incredible, we followed the bottom of a gorge, right along a river, hills rising on both sides. Then we came to Kangaroo Creek Dam and ended up going up to the top of a cliff and then driving right back down again to the river. I’m having trouble remembering specifics, there were crazy rock walls, huge heights, complete u-turns, wildlife parks, all sorts of fun driving experiences and then, suddenly, suburbia. We were back to driving through flat Adelaide and making our way back home. It was a fantastic adventure.

So it was a brilliant weekend, and I haven’t even mentioned the food yet. I put on three kilos or so – my brother and his partner know how to provide! It was all good food, very good food, both bought and the deliciousness that was created and eaten at home. And brilliant conversation too.

The final adventure waited for us as we tried to get back to Hobart. We knew we had a very long wait in Melbourne between flights. It was supposed to be about five hours. We had looked into going to a nearby hotel and paying for lounge and pool access just to get out of the airport space, and we were all ready to do that.

We left for the airport in plenty of time to take the rental car back and be in time for our flight. Everything went super smoothly so we had time to eat a bite of lunch as well. We were sitting at the cafe table watching the departures board. It said to go to the gate and we were just discussing whether we would wait where we were until it said ‘boarding’ or whether we would go and wait in line, when the board changed.

Delayed.

Doom.

No problem, we thought, it’s only delayed half an hour or so, we’ll find something to do. So DH went to the newsagent across the way and bought some cards, and with the help of a counter on his phone we played crib. I won.

We’d had enough sitting by that time so we decided to head to the gate, just for a walk, something to do, and see what we could see.

When we got to the gate we watched planes for a while, and we watched people for a while, and then the dreaded announcement came. Our plane was broken, we would need a new plane, that new plane was coming from the Gold Coast and it had itself been delayed and we wouldn’t be going anywhere until 4pm.

So we cracked out the cards again, and I won, again. DH didn’t want to play anymore after that. (He may just have been tired.) So we read for a bit, and chatted for a bit, and then headed down to our new gate and got on our new plane.

Turns out we only had two hours in Melbourne. So the whole hotel plan will have to wait until next time. But we were so grateful for the time between planes that meant there was absolutely no stress about catching our connecting flight.

At the end of the day se were very ready to get home and get into bed. We were simultaneously tired and refreshed. This was a weekend away that we didn’t even bother dreaming about when we were poor uni students with children. It’s the type of holiday we hope to have more of.

Once we got home we knew that this weekend had marked the end of the summer break. It is now time to get back into work with a vengeance. DH has spent all week doing his online professional development courses and I have, well actually, I haven’t done too much work but I’ve also done a fair bit of pottering around the house. I’ll get back into work with a vengeance next week, I promise!

Thank you, brother dearest, for a wonderful weekend getaway. And sister dear, when you’re rich and famous, you can pay for us to come and have a getaway in LA with you (I know you’re on your way after you won that award for the music for Gold Balls – us poor teachers will never be rich!).

Our next adventure will probably be somewhere exotic… like Ouse. Stay tuned!