A Day Off

Last week I took four days off. It was a retreat, a holiday, a time with no ‘shoulds’. It was wonderful. I went to a little town called Dover, rented a studio apartment with a view over the bay. The weather was misty, wet, cold, sunny, windy, rainy, all the things. It’s spring here, that’s the weather you get.

I wanted this time to be useful and restful. I tried to stay off the socials, I read novels and non-fiction books, I played my bass guitar, and I went for walks and runs. And I also watched TV and played Candy Crush and just sat on the couch and stared at the water. (And for those wondering, Moz came down and joined me for one of the four nights and spent the rest of the time doing fun stuff like four-wheel driving and helping out at church.)

The two non-fiction books I read were:

Space Maker – how to unplug, unwind and think clearly in the digital age, by Daniel Sih

And 

Sacred Rhythms – arranging our lives for spiritual transformation, by Ruth Haley Barton

And one thing those books had in common was an encouragement to explore a weekly Sabbath.

You know I love the idea of a day off each week. I know that just having one day a week where I stop trying to control the amount of work I’m doing, stop trying to get on top of my to do list and just trust God that he can keep the world running without my help, that day is essential to my wellbeing.

But reading these books encouraged me to take the whole thing further. Now, I don’t know fully where I stand on this yet but I’m feeling challenged to go even deeper into what ‘a day off’ means.

Both authors encouraged their readers to really think about what ‘work’ is. Because it looks different for each of us. For some, gardening is life-giving; for others it’s a chore. The Sih family don’t cook on a Sabbath, the Haley Bartons cook food that they find special and enjoy eating. 

Ruth Haley Barton works from a home office like I do. She says that at times she has had to close the door and not even go into her office on a Sabbath. Daniel Sih avoids email, the internet, texting, and writing, and talking about global events. 

For Daniel Sih, writing on his to do list is too much like work, so that activity is banned on the Sabbath. Ruth Haley Barton also encourages us to take a break from anything that causes worry and stress, and in that list she includes to-do lists as well as budgets, taxes, wedding planning and major decision making. 

Maybe we could just ban the word ‘covid’ on a Sabbath and see how restful that is?

Both of them agreed that having a break from screens or phones is important, though Daniel says that now that his kids are older, the ban is ‘more nuanced’. I feel like having the ability to contact my family or be contacted by them is really high on my priority list. But I also worry a bit that I am just addicted to the screen and all the apps contained therein. I’m thinking on it.

Ruth Haley Barton suggests that we don’t buy or sell anything on the Sabbath. That we take a break from our constant consumerism. Daniel says that rest might involve ‘eating at a café’, which of course requires buying things.

In terms of what goes on the list of things to do on a Sabbath, both of them are in favour of restful pursuits such as sleeping in, reading a book, riding bikes, getting out as a family to do an activity such as bushwalking or staying in to play a board game. It’s a day for rest, for community, and also for spiritual practice. That might mean going to church, though for me, church is often a work-related place. It might mean just taking a few minutes to read scripture and meditate on it through the day.

The major thing they had in common was the idea that this one day – 24 hours – is set aside for rest. And that we should not take this lightly, but instead prepare ourselves, write lists of what we consider work and what we consider rest and play, make sure we’ve done all we need to do beforehand so that the day is not chipped into by urgent tasks, and definitely do this once a week, one day out of seven, and preferably the same day each week so that we know it’s coming and we can look forward to it.

I am, as I said, still working through this. And I’m encouraged by both authors that this is a very counter-cultural discipline and therefore it’s difficult to do. But I feel encouraged that my Sabbath-taking needs to enter a new phase and I’m looking forward to the days of rest that will be ahead.

Where do you stand when it comes to a day of rest? Do you have Sabbath traditions? Or do you find it just too hard? Let me know by emailing ruth@ruthamos.com.au, or tweeting me @aquietlifeblog or find me on Facebook. I’d also love to hear from you if you have a topic you’d like me to talk about. Just let me know!

Permission to say no

Did you ever have those times in school when you really didn’t want to do the Physical Education activity for the day? Where you knew that it was going to be awful and that you were going to get a ball smashed into your head, or drown in the pool, or something awful like that. And then, just by luck, you got a sore throat and a sniffy nose, and if you screwed your eyes tightly enough you had a headache and you went to your parents and said, ‘I’m sick, can you write me a note?’ And then they wrote that amazing note of wonder:

Please excuse Ruth from today’s activity, she is not well enough to attend.

And then you got to go to the library instead and read? And the whole day was saved?

Or was that just me?

I know I got sick way too much when I was a kid. I think it was the way my introvert self coped when I was starting to feel peopled-out. 

As an adult I have realised that getting sick is a very bad way of coping. There are better ways.

But there have still been times when I’ve caught myself thinking, ‘I wish someone would get me out of this commitment. I wish that my parents could write me a note saying I didn’t have to come.’

Moz was getting ready to go to work the other day. He put his jacket on and then checked all the pockets to make sure he had all the things – watch, phone, wallet, keys, pen – you know, all the things. As he patted his jacket, it made a crinkly noise. 

‘What’s that?’

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He unfolded it and showed it to me. It was a note that simply said, ‘No.’

A green piece of paper with the word 'No.' written on it.
Moz’s permission slip

Our pastor Pete had given it to him. It was a permission slip. Permission to say, ‘No.’

I love it.

For some commitments we feel like we need to have a Really Good ReasonTM not to do things. That our own reasons are not good enough and that we need some authority to step in and tell us we don’t have to go.

Sometimes, we can feel so overwhelmed that the thought of being hit by a car and having to go to hospital is appealing, because at least then we could sit still for a while.

If this is you, I’d like to write you a permission slip. My permission slip simply says, ‘No.’

You can tell people, ‘no’ and not give a reason.

You can say ‘no’ and not even have a ‘good enough’ reason in your own mind.

Sometimes, ‘no’ is a very reasonable response on its own.

Now, this doesn’t apply to everyone. And the problem I have here is that if you’re thinking, ‘I wish this applied to me, but it clearly doesn’t.’ Then chances are that it does apply to you. And if you’re thinking, ‘Oooo excellent, I’ll take that,’ then maybe you’re the person who needs to stretch yourself just a little bit more.

You’re going to have to be sensible here.

But, seriously, if you’re in the place where sitting in a hospital bed seems more appealing than what you need to do in the next week, I’d suggest that a little bit of saying ‘no’ is in order. 

Give it a go.

Find out that the world will still spin without you.

You have my permission to rest.

If you’ve found this helpful, please feel free to share it with a friend. And if you want to hear me talk more on this subject then my podcast is just the place for you!

If you would like to read more, in My Year of Saying No, I tell the story of my own saying no journey, what I learned about saying no, saying yes, and bringing peace to my life.

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 www.ruthamos.com.au  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 Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Can we have it all?

out of officeYou know, we can’t do it all. Not all of the time. None of us can.

Sorry to start the post with such a strong pronouncement, but I’m hoping it’s not too much of a shock for you.

I think that each of us wants to have every area of our lives sorted out beautifully all the time. Each of us is striving for:

  • Good family relationships
  • A satisfying career
  • A healthy body
  • A vibrant spiritual life
  • An exciting social calendar
  • And the ability to eat unlimited amounts of chocolate

But it’s just not possible to be there in that paradise at all times. No, not even that last point.

Not even if you quit your job and start your own business from home. Even then it’s impossible to have all of it, all of the time.

There is no silver bullet. And believe me, I’ve spent a fair bit of time searching for one.

This week’s podcast interview is with Professor Matt King, and I asked him about his work-life balance. I know that in academia, the pressure to work long hours is intense. And Matt is trying to balance that with a young family and some ministry opportunities as well.

He said something really wise.

He said, ‘I’d prefer for some parts of my career to be diminished than to just respond to the pressures of being more, more, and more. … At the moment, my personal research is taking a hit. … It’s about priorities.’

So there’s a difficult path for each of us to walk. Which thing do we compromise on right now? Which thing do we concentrate on? What is the aspect of our life that needs special attention, and what needs to be dropped lower on the list for the time being?

Perfection will come, but not until the next life. For this life we are stuck in an imperfect, fallen world and that means making some hard decisions.

I think I may be worse at this than a lot of people. I love being needed. I love it when someone sends me a text and says, ‘Can you help out?’ Whether it’s ministry or editing or just being there for a friend, I love to help out in a crisis. But this means that my schedule fills quickly, that my life gets too full, and that I run out of time for myself, for my family, for my spiritual growth. I need to continue to learn that sometimes it is important to say no.

As I write this, I am frantically working on getting all my jobs finished so that I can take two weeks of holidays next week. I haven’t had a proper holiday for a long time, so I’m really looking forward to it. And I’m intending to book this type of holiday into my schedule regularly, even if that does mean saying no to some editing jobs, or saying no to some ministry opportunities. It’s not easy, but it’s very, very important.

How do you set your priorities? Do you feel the pressure of being ‘more, more, and more’? How do you deal with it? Do you take holidays?

 

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 www.ruthamos.com.au  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 Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Getting my priorities right

Today’s blog is going to be short, I reckon. I don’t have time to fit much into it. I don’t have a lot of time to do anything today, actually. I was a little stressed about that this morning but I’ve decided to change my mind.

You see, Moz is on holidays, so we left the alarm off and had a nice slow wakening rather than the ‘keep an eye on the time and jump out of bed’ one that we normally have.

Which meant that after my normal morning routine I was running about an hour later than usual and starting to panic that I wasn’t going to get enough done today.

I usually start my work day by writing in my journal. It gets my thoughts sorted out before I try to write anything that anyone else will be reading. And I started by journal today by saying what a lovely morning it had been, and how excited I am to be getting my daughter Jess from the airport (she’ll be here for a short and sweet four day stay), and then I wrote, ‘But I find I’m stressed.’

Why was I stressed? I was stressed because I had a long list of things that I could be doing. A long list of tasks that are necessary for moving my different businesses forward. And what with taking it easy this morning, and picking up Jess at lunch time, and so on, I was not going to make it through my list of tasks.

But then I realised I needed to reframe and reprioritise.

Today is not a day for churning through work tasks. I have a lot I could be doing, but even this blog is not something I have to do. I don’t think any of you will die if the blog gets released one day later than I planned. In fact, I could leave the blog, not write it at all, and nothing dreadful would happen. It’s good to remember that occasionally.

Today is a day for concentrating on my family. For enjoying the rest that comes with school holidays. For giving Jess a big hug at the airport and making the most of having her with us for a very short time. For going out to lunch as a family because we can. And for watching Dr Who together tonight (we’ll be late because Caleb will be at uni until 8pm so no spoilers, please!!)

Sometimes it is important to focus on work, to strive to get through the jobs and to put your pleasures on hold for a while. Sometimes the day needs to be prioritised the other way around. It’s part of the rhythm of life, the seesaw of living.

We are leaving in an hour or so to pick up our daughter Jess from the airport  and today will be a family day. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. The tasks will wait.

I hope that whatever your day holds you also will know what to prioritise and what to let go.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find 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 my writing and the creation of my podcast (coming soon, I promise) then you can head over to Patreon and support me for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Holiday Adventures

I know I promised you lots of adventures. I guess I promised them to myself. And I’ve had them, sort of.

Today was a big one. The dentist.

I had gone to the uni today to mark exams. I told myself that once I had marked them all I would reward myself with a nice lunch at a cafe somewhere. The idea was to get to uni at 11 (after morning tea with my mum – not after sleeping in) and then work until around 1pm and go to lunch. But it didn’t quite work.

Firstly, I arrived at uni at 1130, chatted with a friend, wrote an email, and then got started on the exams. About half-way through another friend dropped in for a chat. And yes, there was also the usual procrastination happening.

A student who I had helped out with something tiny earlier in the year dropped in with packets of chocolate to say thank you. So undeserved. But I can’t say no to chocolate so I was using liquorice logs to keep me going and I kept powering through.

I made it to the end of the pile, I checked that I had added all the marks up correctly and I took the pile to the computer to input the marks into a spreadsheet. And looked at the time.

It was 2:15pm.

Now believe it or not, my dental appointment was for 2:30pm. Yes, I know. Tooth-hurty. And I’m not making that up. At least it was easy to remember.

I had fifteen minutes to get from uni to Kingston to get my teeth looked at.

My Phd supervisor has been known to say that it is a thirteen minute drive. I was praying that was true today. And it was. Possibly even ten minutes. I got there with time (a little) time to spare. And I didn’t break the limit (by more than two or three km/h).

The dentist took a couple of x-rays and told me there was some tartar under the gum in a couple of places that he would have to remove ‘by feel’. Right. Sounded painful to me.

It was painful, but apparently what they used to do was cut the gum open so they could see the tartar, and then remove it. That sounds a whole lot more painful. I’ll stick with what I have, thanks.

I hate the cleaning. I guess most people do. I haven’t met anyone yet who enjoys having their teeth scraped with a spinning whatever it is. I am wondering if they choose six-monthly checkups because they worked with some psychologists who said that six months was about the right amount of time to allow us to forget the intensity of the pain.

Anyway, I won’t complain too much. I didn’t need any fillings, or caps, or root-canal surgery. So I guess as dentist visits go it wasn’t too bad.

My other exciting adventures this holidays have included a check up at the doctor and taking the car in to get the brakes fixed – an ongoing saga as the lock-nut for the mini had been lost and they couldn’t get the wheels off.

I’ve also had some more exciting and interesting adventures. I’ve attended a panel on self-publishing, a writing workshop on characterisation, and a seminar by a couple of female professors telling us about their journey in academia. Tonight I’m heading to a seminar about cleaning up clandestine drug labs.

Mostly I’ve been focussing on my novel. I’ve been using the time to write, polish, and get the book ready for some outside input. And yesterday I posted, uploaded, and shared-on-a-usb key my novel to my various beta readers.

Talk about scary!

But it’s out there now, and I’m shaking in my boots and waiting for the feedback. Together I am sure we can make it into a beautiful thing.

I have one week and one day of holidays to go. I have three coffees with friends booked in, one book club, one body corporate meeting, leading church, and the car’s brakes. There will also be time to read in front of the fire, go for walks along the beach, and I may even start writing the next novel.

Happy Holidays!

If you enjoyed this post and 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. I’ll still be writing posts on this blog but 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.

reward
My reward for finishing my novel. Yum.

replacing lock nut
We took off the lock-nuts and replaced them with normal nuts. By ‘we’ I mean him. I stood around and took pictures.

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!

Train conversation, overheard.

We sat in front of a lovely family on the train from Canberra to Sydney. Two little girls and their father, travelling up from Jindabyne (if I remember rightly) via Canberra. Somewhere they visit regularly. Somewhere they enjoy because they were planning a trip back down pretty soon.

They were super prepared for the four hour trip. They had packed food, play dough, movies (with lots of pink in them), and brand new puzzle game books. And Dad was fantastic, treating his girls with respect, chatting with them, joining in on their games. He also had a fair bit of sarcasm in his makeup, but that made the conversation all the more fun to listen to.

At one stage I remember Dad saying ‘This is quite a strange trip, isn’t it? The train is running on time, and the pies are actually hot!’ I was really glad the train was running on time, seeing as we had to catch a flight and we didn’t have vast quantities of time to make the connection. I’d been praying about that for weeks, so maybe God was just being gracious. We enjoyed hot sausage rolls as well. DS had found that if you bought a hot sausage roll, you could use it to soften the butter so that it could be easily spread on the cold banana bread.

Around the middle of the trip the youngest girl, Charlie, suddenly came up with a fervent question, ‘Are they ultrarares Dad? Dad. Dad, are they ultrarares?’

It took some time to figure out what she was talking about. But the final answer was: shoes. Were her shoes ultra-rare? That’s what she wanted to know.

One of her friends had told her that shoes that had flowers and sparkle-lys and small eyes were rare. Ultra-rare. And she needed to know, were her shoes ultra-rares?

Because as her dad could see, her shoes had ‘flowers and sparkle-lys and small eyes’ (I really don’t know what she meant by small eyes – they were sitting behind us and I didn’t want to turn around to find out). And so they must, they simply MUST be ‘ultrarares, Dad!’

Dad wasn’t sure what to say, other than to whisper to the big sister, Annabelle, could she just say yes, the shoes were ultra-rare, whether she thought it or not.

And then he had a brain wave.

‘I know how to figure this out,’ he said, ‘have you ever seen any shoes that look the same as yours?’

‘No’ said she.

‘Then that settles it. They are rare shoes. They are ultra-rare.’

‘Yes! They are ultrarares!’ she said in triumph, followed quickly by ‘Annabelle’s shoes aren’t ultrarares – see! They don’t have flowers or sparkle-lys they’re not ultrarares. My shoes are ultrarares, but Annabelle’s shoes aren’t.’

And then the conversation could move on from shoes. And everyone (except possibly Annabelle and her boring shoes) was happy.

Such sweet sorrow

We’ve just spent a four day weekend in Canberra, visiting DD on the occasion of her 21st birthday. She’s been living in Canberra for two and a half years now. She is attending the University of Canberra and has done the whole ‘leave home for study’ thing. We have all been learning about the process of letting go, of growing up, of detaching the apron strings.

In the first year of her study, I was working in Sydney on a regular basis, so as well as the car trip that DH and I took to drop her off, I also managed a few weekends on the tail end of Sydney trips where I would catch the bus down on the Friday and back again on Sunday and get back to work again in Tassie on Monday morning. DH has managed a couple of trips up too, just short ones. And of course DD has come down to visit us, at least twice a year. Once for her birthday, once for Christmas. And then the occasional special occasion like a wedding or something that would bring her down again.

It’s so wonderful to have social media and to be able to keep in touch so easily. It’s not at all like when our family moved to Hawaii for a year when I was eleven. The separation then was a real thing. We wrote airmail letters home, flimsy thin pieces of paper that you wrote on in specified sections and then folded the thing and posted it off. No envelope – that would have added to the weight. We also made special long distance phone calls, the delay in the line causing the conversation to sound artificial. Only for super special occasions. Birthdays and Christmas. And we had to take the time difference into account, ringing at strange times of night so that both parties could be at least partially awake.

It’s different with DD and our separation. We can be in touch in so many easy ways. We can email, Facebook chat, message, ring, Skype. The slightest happening is an occasion for another conversation. And then sometimes we don’t speak for weeks as life gets busy.

But we were chatting this year and we realised that DS hadn’t yet had a chance to visit her in Canberra so we decided to come up and visit for a long weekend. DH, DS and I can’t take holidays at the same time due to teaching commitments and the only way we could get more than two days was to do a Thursday through Sunday visit during the school holidays. Fortunately that coincided with DD’s birthday. Almost. Her birthday is Wednesday. We discussed whether to visit the weekend before, or the weekend after. We decided that the weekend before will give her a birthday to look forward to after. The weekend after would leave her with nothing.

This has not been a cheap holiday. Flights and train tickets, accommodation and food and special activities and parties have all added up. I’m not sure how far it’s added up and I’m not sure I want to know. It was worth it. It was so worth it.

We have hung out together with no agenda, we’ve made a puzzle together, we’ve done the tourist thing – Questacon and the War Memorial. We’ve had meals with long time friends, and we’ve met some new friends too. Lots of driving around roundabouts and through bush land between Canberra suburbs. Lots of unhurried conversation ‘not about anything, just talk’.

And eventually the time came  to say goodbye. We got to the train with ten minutes to spare but we didn’t know just how much warning we would get for departure and my panic kicked in. We all hugged and got into the train and found our seats and then sat for ten minutes waiting to leave, waving out the window. How much time is enough to say goodbye? How much is too long where you hug and hug and get more maudlin until you’re all on the verge of tears? I think I went the opposite direction this time. Quick hugs and then lots of sitting on the train thinking of wasted minutes where more conversation could have been had.

It was still hard to leave, and tears came to my eyes as we pulled out of the station. DD is in a good place. She has friends, good friends, decent people. She has friends who are almost family. She’s had some hard times and some difficult situations (like when the car kept breaking down) and people in Canberra have come through, gone out of their way in a big way and helped her out. She is happier there than I think she would be at home with us. She’s had to grow up and she has done, she is independent, self-reliant, caring and strong. It’s been good for us all to have her leave home. But saying goodbye is still hard.

How do you say goodbye just enough and not too much? I guess I’m asking, how do you say goodbye without it hurting? Do I even want that? I don’t think so. I prefer to have the relationship that makes it hard than to have an easy and pain free goodbye without the joy of relationship. It’s been a good weekend, it is good to have the pain of a sad goodbye, it is good to have the easy communication while we are apart, and it’s good to know she’s coming down for DS’s 18th birthday in October. That’s not too long to wait.

He restores my soul

I’m just going to have to get better at describing scenery, otherwise how am I going to let you know how absolutely Psalm 23 this holidays is – the still waters and green pastures part, obviously, not the valley of the shadow of death part.

Today, the last Monday of my holidays, I met with a friend for coffee in the morning for a delightful catch up and reconnect. Then this afternoon I had to leave the house because the cleaner (whom I love almost as dearly as I love my family) was coming in to make my house beautiful again and I don’t like to get in her way.

I wanted to go and check out the Hairy Giraffe in Margate but as it turns out that cafe is closed on Mondays (boo) so I drove back along the highway to the Pancake Train. I didn’t feel like eating Pancakes so I ate a chicken pie and salad instead. You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t – maybe you know me well enough) at how much I had to convince myself that it was ok not to eat pancakes if I didn’t want to. Who cares if it is called the Pancake Train. If it sells chicken pies and that’s what I want to eat, then that’s ok.

It must have been good food and good coffee because I managed to write another thousand words in my novel while I was sitting there. Then feeling both virtuous and replete I decided to drive back home the Tinderbox way. It’s just so gorgeous around there.

There were green pastures, for real, with cows and all. And still waters, well, waters with very small waves. I drove down the little road that runs alongside the vineyard down to the river and I parked beside the little playground on the pebble beach. I read the interesting information (Tinderbox is named after a french tinderbox that Mr Fergusson found on the beach there) and wandered along the shore until it looked like I would have to go rock-hopping to get any further. It wasn’t a long walk. It probably didn’t even count as a short walk. But it was a walk beside still waters.

I didn’t feel like getting back into my car yet so I wandered out onto the jetty and stared into the water. I saw a school of fish and then later a single fish swimming beneath my feet. It really didn’t feel like that long since I had done the same thing up at St Helens. But that was the last school holidays. We’ve had almost a full term since then. The thing is, to see fish from a jetty you need to be still. Just be still and wait. It’s a good thing to do to slow yourself down when you’re on holidays.

It’s amazing just how refreshing a little bit of nature is. Just how good it is for the soul to see the green of the grass, the blue of the sky, the olive gum trees, the bare branches of the vineyard in their neat rows, to hear the ripple of the water over the pebbles on the beach, to see the lorikeets fly past in front of the car and the flash of the robin’s red breast as he sits on the fencepost.

It’s been a gorgeous day. A restful and joyful day. A restoration of the soul.