Tag Archives: Joy

Don’t Cry Out Loud – learn how to hide your feelings

“There’s no need to get emotional” and “Crying won’t solve anything” are both things that have been said to me on various occasions, almost as if “being emotional” is a crime, but, what’s so criminal about being emotional? Why is “being emotional” a bad thing?

In some cultures when there is a grief situation or when somebody dies, people cry openly, in fact there are professional mourners brought in as “wailers”. We western people find this very disturbing. In fact we find open displays of emotion hard to deal with. When we go to something like a funeral where people are upset, the sight of upset people makes us upset.

I have attended, in a professional capacity, where I have played the organ, the funerals of many people that I don’t know, or that I don’t know very well. I have often been quite touched by the emotions displayed by such people that I may not personally know, yet I’ve picked up on the feelings of that person for their mother, for their husband – and sometimes when the grieving person has been overwhelmed, when they have been making a speech or a eulogy and their voice cracks, or they tear up, and everybody is very uncomfortable, but I and many others are sitting in the pews of the church and just willing them to continue on. And you are not wanting them to cry because you do not want them to be upset, but here is the question. Do you not want them to be upset for them, or do you not want them to be upset for you? Because we don’t like to see that, because we don’t deal with it very easily in the Western world. Despite our discomfort, however, crying is actually good for you! Actually, crying releases endorphins. Crying does actually make you feel better.

Little children – babies – have very few ways of reacting. It is said that when you have a small baby and you are a new parent and your baby cries, it is their only way of communicating and you need to go through a list, as a frustrated new parent, of six possible things.baby-boy-crying-photo-420x420-ts-56570356

Is the baby wet, is the baby cold, is the baby hot, is the baby hungry, or is the baby tired? Once you have gone about trouble-shooting all those issues, and you’ve tried to fix them all and the baby is still unhappy, you just simply go through all of them again. Sooner or later, you fix one of those things and eventually the baby will calm down and stop crying. (For the sharp eyed who noticed my “list” only had 5 things, from memory Number 6 to offer Baby was simply “Comfort”).

A small child falls over – they will immediately cry. As a child gets a little older, they tend to learn guile. I remember some years ago sitting with a friend in the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide enjoying a beautiful sunny day, and there was a young boy of about three who was dawdling along not that far behind his parents.Toddler

The child tripped over a rough piece of ground and fell over flat on his face, and I just naturally got up, ready to rescue the child if he was hurt. The boy just actually lay there, on his tummy for a moment, and I was waiting for the wail to come up of the possibly injured child. There was this moment’s hesitation. The kid actually put his head up, looked around for an audience, then saw that his mother had just realised he had fallen a few steps behind, and turned around to look. Only when he saw he had her attention, then did he let out a theatrical yell. And it was nearly comical that it was almost as if, had there not been an audience, he wouldn’t have bothered crying.

When I’m overwhelmed, very unhappy or depressed, I have a number of things that I do to try and keep myself going. Some would call it “self-medicating” I guess. None of them are overly dangerous, but I realise there’s a list of things that I tend to commonly do when I’m in a difficult stage. That I do to try and buck myself up, or assist me to cope, and perhaps they have some medicinal effect, perhaps they just have some psychological effect. But I find that in a period of real stress I tend to do these things:

  • I eat high sugar foods such as doughnuts and frozen coke
  • I drink more coffee – the caffeine hit keeps me going
  • I succumb to “Fast Food” such as Hungry Jacks

More positively (or what may possibly win approval from my ever-patient GP)

  • I take myself out to nice places, such as sitting by the beach, importantly in isolation, so I am alone with my thoughts. And so I can reflect, so I can think. If need be, so I can display emotion, so I can cry and nobody can be concerned or can criticise.
  • I spend time with people who are important to me and I feel I can confide in, that I feel will listen including, as the quiz show used to say: “Phone a friend”.
  • I have been known to just go off to a quiet place, even sit in my car, and have a good, old fashioned howl.

And simply the release of emotion is something which I have found extremely therapeutic and I wonder, if more people did that, if we might have fewer people that are actually resorting to ultimately much more harmful drugs and alcohol overuse.

Yet we are afraid of emotion and, strangely, people are valued and praised for “not being emotional”. Women, especially in the business world, or in positions of power, are almost expected to  be aloof, such as Meryl Streep’s character Miranda Priestly in “the Devil Wears Prada “ (2006)  Meryl Devil wears PradaForty years earlier, 1964’s “My Fair Lady” asked “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

Yet those people are the very people who I find, not so much that they don’t have emotion, but that the emotions I see are coldness, cruelty, lack of feeling, lack of empathy, narcissism, wanting to have their own way, not being interested in other people and valuing right, might and power over the feelings of others. And not seeming to allow themselves to feel passion or joy – if they actually do have those things within them. Not valuing good.

Because emotion isn’t all negative emotion.

If you can’t allow yourself to feel, if you can’t allow yourself to feel at all, yes, you may avoid somewhat the danger of the depths of despair, but you also dull the exhilaration of passion and joy.

Around five years ago, we needed Passports for our children. I attempted to take their photographs myself. They were used to the “say cheese” variety of look, but this time I exhorted them not to smile. My daughter immediately assumed a very glum expression. “Too much” I exclaimed. She tried to look slightly happier, but to still not smile. This proved quite difficult and soon she was giggling, then laughing out loud. Before too long I had the perfect, most natural, happy photograph – although totally unsuitable for the passport regulations. Passport Photo Best

As we discovered, it is not easy to turn on and off one’s emotion or even expression like the proverbial “performing seal”.

Did the song have it right, with the advice “Don’t cry out loud”? As a younger person it was one of my favourite songs and I guess because as a kid and as a consumer and an owner of 100 books by Enid Blyton (inherited from my Mother and my Aunts) I was a bit of a fan of the “run away to the circus” concept, and the notion of “dancing high upon the wire” was something that I always aspired to.

Having the dream, living the dream. And if you failed, you hadn’t failed to try.

And have I failed in my life? Sure. I’ve failed plenty of times. But have I failed to try?

No, I still try, try again. There are plenty of things that I haven’t achieved, and there are plenty of things which I would still like to achieve. But have I completely let go of the possibility of the dream? No. Because the day that I completely let go of “The Dream”, I may as well let go altogether.

And maybe the things that I haven’t achieved…and I don’t want to be a horrible “stage mother” here…what I haven’t achieved for myself, perhaps I can achieve as a parent, by having my kids achieve their potential. But not in some wish-fulfilling “My Dreams” or “My Unfulfilled things” on them, but by helping them achieve their own dreams, and their passions.

So, despite being one of the least sporting people on the planet, but having a skilled son, having him achieve his sporting dreams, as a cricketer,as a hockey player – even if this means I become (much to my amusement) a “Hockey Mum”, that is something which I can work towards.

Having a creative daughter who authors wonderful stories? Who sings delightfully? Who revels in Fandom? Who adores books? These things are her passions. If I can help her follow her passions, I have succeeded as a parent.

But these things are passions, they are dreams, they are emotions. They are not “nothing”. They are not squashing people from being people. They are not having no passion. And we are certainly not celebrating people that do not display emotion.

Does someone who does not display emotion actually not have emotion? It’s actually a very interesting question. I would say that someone who does not display emotion doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have emotion, it more means they have suppressed it that far that it is actually quite unhealthy.

And again: we are scared of emotion, we are scared of people who wear their hearts on their sleeves, because we see them as uncontrollable – we like to control things. And certain people who I’ve had friction with are people who want to control me, and I’m not someone who wants to be controlled. And I admit to reacting to people who want to control me, and I guess I do not show my best side in those instances, and they may not see the best in me.

People who bring out the best in me are those who give me some room to wriggle and some room to grow, and encourage and support me, not people who try to kick me when I’m down, and try and put me in a box and try and stifle any essence which is me.In the Box

And the person that is me is the person that has emotion and passion.

You kill that, and you kill me.

So, “Don’t cry out loud?”? That’s not me.


“Don’t cry out loud” Is that something we should aspire to do? No. I don’t believe that is so.

I think we should all recognise that “scratch I and I’ll bleed” but also “build me up, and I will soar”.

Do not be afraid to cry. Sometimes crying is necessary. Crying is honest.

When I need to cry – let me cry.

When you need to cry, let me be your shoulder.

But also – Stand with me and we’ll be joyful. I will celebrate life with you.

There is always darkness before the dawn.

But the dawn will come.

Beach Dawn




Homeward Bound

To what extent does what you do, define who you are?

Variations on this theme have been swirling around in my head in recent times, and, serendipity being as it is; I seem to have come across this same question in various forms in the lives of others as well. [And it is one to which I will return on another occasion].

But for now, I’ll stick to the “up close and personal” as it were.

As most of you are aware, three weeks ago I resigned from a position I had held for nearly 8 years, in a school I support, working with students I love, which had been fulfilling and positive for the majority of that time. It has been a huge step.

While I recognise that, for many reasons, the time had come for me to move on, actually NOT being intrinsically involved with a place and a group of people, which has been such a major part of my life is something very difficult for me to reconcile. I looked at my son the other day and it sunk in, that he is now eleven and we moved to the Gold Coast when he was three. I have been part of that one workplace, and it part of me, for the majority of his life.

My husband had the view, and expressed it on a number of occasions that  “the school pays you for three days a week and you work for them for seven” which was largely true. Because, for the first many years we were short-staffed in our department and essentially three part-time people ran it as a team, with many additional hours of work in our own time. Because, if we had not done so, we could not possibly have achieved the growth and success which we did. But the important thing is that we did so largely willingly and cheerfully, and it was always for the students and the school and the joy of the music making. Sometimes the sheer enjoyment of it made it all worthwhile. It was never “All About Me”. I didn’t do it for the Greater Glory Of Kylie.

And I think the people close to me, the people who mattered, understood that. Although of course I received satisfaction from what was achieved and certainly from being part of the students’ lives, and building them up and inspiring them to achieve something approximating what they were capable of.

So, a fortnight ago now, Term 4 started, and all the students and staff went back to school, but it isn’t “my school” and “my job” any longer. So this reality wouldn’t be too stark and smack me in the face on a daily basis, I decided to be proactive and create for myself, as Diana, Princess of Wales once famously said, some “Time and Space”.

So, I saw my kids off to school, and got on a plane.

The last two weeks I have explored being “Gainfully Unemployed” down in Victoria, taking respite from my life, based at the home of my beautiful cousin. It really was the best thing I could have done, because it removed me from my normal environment, while still having me surrounded by family. But also providing genuine quiet and reflection time, because the household where I stayed all went off to work early, leaving me in what must be one of the world’s quietest homes, with the only sounds an unevenly ticking clock and the occasional snore from an elderly diminutive dog.

Without giving it too much conscious thought I then took a weekend side trip to Ararat, 200km West of Melbourne, the Regional town where I previously lived for 5 years. This was either an extremely good or a very bad idea, as from the first minute I arrived, Ararat people embraced me as if they had seen me the previous week, rather than 8 years before.

p1070416One by one, friendships were picked up and even some quite personal things confided (for example I heard the sad tale of some departed horses in the first half hour). Now, far from being depressing, I actually felt quite honoured, that after this length of time, my girlfriend would still feel the strength of connection to share things of importance to her.

And so it continued over the time I was there. All the adults seemed identical to when I had seen them last, although the children were a jolt…. While logically I realise that my daughter’s friends I had last seen aged 6 would now also be 14, in my minds eye they remained frozen as youngsters. I was unprepared for the parade of beautiful teenagers and young women all now able to look me in the eye.

Why potentially “a very bad idea?” Well, it struck me that I felt considerably more “at home” in Ararat, a place I had left for the Gold Coast 8 years before, than in many ways I feel in the place that IS now home, and has been for that intervening time. That I had more friends there (and had kept in contact with many) than I had in Queensland. And, what hit me hardest, was that my Ararat connections were quite broad.

Even amongst those who I met up with last weekend were: Members of the Ararat City Band (in which I once played the Trombone badly), delightful Local Doctor and his wife, Semi-retired couple who had been James’ carers and their daughter, a number from the Mothers of Pre-schoolers Group (from when James was a Baby), Former Workmates, and Church folk…and I didn’t make a point of chasing down everyone I knew. (In fact, I had forgotten how long it takes to do something in Ararat like pop out for a paper, because you spontaneously RUN INTO people you know – and this happened despite 8 years away!)

In contrast, up on the Gold Coast, I realised that everybody I count as a friend is either connected with the church congregation (and most are more acquaintances than friends) or the link is with the school.

And it’s not “My School” any more.

So I’ve had a lot of well meaning people ask, “What are you going to do next”.

And my genuine answer is: “I honestly have no idea”.

I know I need to stop. To re-focus. To take stock.

To rediscover –

To what extent do I define who I am by what I do?

Because I do define myself as a Musician.

But to what extent has the Musician become buried under layers of teacher and parent over the last dozen years? (And I count my time in Ararat amongst that).

And, although I seem to have some skills in teaching music, I have never pretended to be the most skilled Strings teacher in the world. But what I hope I have brought to my work is a sense of desire, of passion, of “You can do it” of Inspiration to my students. Even if they have lacked in technique or theory or practise skills or drilling in scales. All of which some teachers may have insisted they study to a greater extent than I largely have. But my first priority has been, in recent years, to help the students “Catch the fire” of music, to be motivated, to want to do it, to “join the revolution”. Knowing the fingering for E flat minor can come later, in my book.

So, what next?

I usually try to avoid “Naming names” in Serendipity but as I once devoted an entire Blog entry to my teenage “Bestie” Margie [“Old Friends”] I trust she’ll indulge and forgive me for dropping her in it once again.

The Blonde Violinist who is NOT “the Pastor’s wife”

As perfect timing would have it, the exact day I flew into Melbourne to escape from my life, Margie also got on a plane in her current home base of Perth, also heading to Melbourne. She is contracted by Opera Victoria for the orchestra of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” which is currently in Rehearsal, the massive undertaking of which will eventually be performed at the Arts Centre, Melbourne between 21 November and 16 December 2016.

Margie and I are only two months apart in age, both blonde, and were very much contemporaries in our younger days, learning violin from the same teachers and participating in Adelaide’s Secondary Schools Orchestra, State and National Music Camps and the Australian Youth Orchestra together. Our first official “Paid gig” was the same – second violin in the State Opera of South Australia’s production of “Don Giovanni”. I well remember how amazing it was, after years and hundreds of hours as School and Uni students rehearsing in orchestras on a “voluntary “ basis to be handed an envelope containing a pay cheque (and they were proper cheques in those days) for that first “Three Hour Call”.

Not long afterwards our paths diverged, as Margie took on professional work with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, then later Tasmanian, Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras amongst much other high-level performing.

As I had been doing some teaching, I returned to Uni and took a further year to complete a Graduate Diploma in Education (which proved over the years to be a smart move).

Subsequently, I did a variety of “Stuff” including, yes, some pretty cool music-making in Cambridge and other British locations, but later quite a bit of “this and that” as we moved frequently due to my husband’s Pastoring and I worked in retail, and administration, and did periods of nothing much, and eventually produced two beautiful children.

All the while Margie has been the dazzling performer, and I guess she has always been, for me, somewhat of my personal benchmark of “How it could have been” or my own “Sliding Doors” movie plot. Because I believe that I had, at least at one stage, the potential to be the same type of professional musician (maybe not of quite the same calibre), had I chosen to pursue that life course.

But the important point is, that I did not choose the lifestyle. I also recognised early on, that with my Husband’s vocation as a Pastor, it was never going to work if I had to have the dazzling career, which needed to always come first.

Imagine the scenario. Pastor gets called out at midnight to dying Parishioner in hospital. Me: “Sorry dear, you’ll need to mind the kids, I have to be at the Opera House”.

But this has been a choice on my part.

And so, I have come to realise, the music-making, teaching, planning, brain-storming, organising, all of those things that I have undertaken in the last however many years, have been me finding situations where I have found a way to use whatever skills and talents I may possess in a positive way.

And it has dawned on me, unfortunately this past week or so in a rather crash-bang-wallop sort of way, was that the reason I was so happy at my only-just-categorised-as-previous job for the first half-dozen years was that I found a niche where I could use those gifts. And, ironically, the fact that the Instrumental Music Department was short-staffed for a school of its size, that much of the time it was all-hands-to-the-pump, that I pursued much outside of my unwritten job description, ironically these were the very things on which I thrived.

And during those years we achieved much, much, more than, by rights, should have been possible. But we did so, with our hearts in the right place, and verve and passion, and if necessary dragging those kids up by the bootstraps, to prove to them just what they could achieve.

We worked tirelessly to build programmes up. For example, in the case of Strings, I started with only two girls who played cello reluctantly, to this year having 20 Cellists enrolled, so we could successfully make a case to employ a Specialist Teacher, having a full day’s available teaching load. And that (the employment of a Cellist Specialist Colleague) has been a marvellous boost for the school and the students.

Back in 2009, I took only 9 proficient students to the Gold Coast Eisteddfod, the oldest aged 12, mainly violins. Recently we took a full String Orchestra of 46 Students.


Finally, staffing has been expanded to get closer to what is really required for a school the size that it is. But there is still much more to be done. The phrase “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” has been uttered a few times. Those “giants” toiled long and hard to put in place what is there to this point.

But there is no time for complacency because there are now more “hands”. We achieved what we did with a lot of hard work. And if we didn’t know exactly how to do something, we learnt. And perhaps we didn’t always get it right. But we gave it out best effort. And I think we can be proud of what we achieved. Now it is up to others to carry on and respect, not betray, that legacy.

Returning, however, to my original question.

To what extent does what you do define who you are?

To what extent does what I do define who I am?

Is a teacher without anyone to teach still a teacher?

Is a performer who does not perform still a performer?

Granted, if you have children, you are always a parent, but once your children grow and walk and talk and dress themselves, your hands-on role diminishes.

My husband is organised and can shop and cook and iron and taxi the children around. Which he has demonstrated very capably this fortnight while I have been absent.

So, then.

If I don’t teach, If I don’t perform, if my kids are pretty well independent, if my house is cleaned by somebody else, if it not strictly necessary for me to cook and shop and iron…

Then, am I really needed?

Okay, do not panic here…I am not reaching for the vodka bottle (although people in Melbourne did seem to place a glass of wine into my hand on a regular basis – I wasn’t sure if that suggested a certain look on my face but I’m told its “A Victorian thing”)…

Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile reflection that even after two weeks away and having taken quite a lot of personal strides, I’m still pretty vulnerable and not out of the woods yet.

Proving, as if there was really any doubt, that I have left something that was not “Just a job” to me. And perhaps demonstrating a poor life balance beforehand. But one that might prove more difficult to rebalance than for some. Because it’s not like your Bank branch closes and you transfer to doing the same work the next week in another bank branch. I invested a lot, perhaps too much, in that school. Now I am reaping the “reward” of that… because leaving it has left a much bigger void than it might have for somebody else.

In a way I feel “homeless”. I have been a guest of extremely generous relatives and friends in Victoria, but I know I basically went to “escape” and I can’t hide forever. I felt scarily at home in Ararat despite not having being there for 8 years and so embraced by people there, I felt I could walk back in as if I had never been away.

In contrast, although the Gold Coast is “Home” I don’t feel as if I have very much to “Come Home” to. Even the majority of my Gold Coast friends are connected with the School, although there are significant people who, although the initial link was through the school, did some time ago cross that invisible line from acquaintances to friends.

It was, [and is], for me, still a pretty stark picture.

For someone who realises she needs a purpose in life.

All of this weighed pretty heavily on my heart while in Melbourne. Then two significant things occurred to help focus my thinking.

One wise friend counselled: Take time. Do things which make you feel better. Sit on a beach. Drink Coffee. Eat Ice-cream. But don’t take too long. Then pick yourself up. “Fake it ‘til you make it”

“Go where you are needed”.

The evening of the same day I had this conversation; I received a message from a musician friend telling me of a vacancy for one day a week’s String Teaching in a local school. She wanted to know whether I would be interested before putting me in contact with the school. This was no ordinary vacancy, however – it had come about in the most tragic of circumstances.

A family had been on vacation, in the recent September School holidays in New Zealand. They had been involved in an horrific car accident. The woman was seriously injured, her 9 year daughter injured also, but not so badly. But distressingly her husband and two sons, aged 12 and 14 all died.

It was this lady, a violist in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, who had been teaching part-time in a local school. Still in hospital in New Zealand, she is unable to return and complete the year. The school thought that at this late stage they would be unlikely to find somebody suitable to take on her students.

So here I was. Having vowed I needed a break. That I was not ready. I was out of energy. That I needed time before I committed myself to anything. That I was, in a sense, grieving.

I realised very quickly that this teacher, this wife and mother, was suffering the worst grief imaginable. And her students needed a teacher under very difficult circumstances.

“Go where you are needed”.

Up on the 34th floor of an apartment block in Southbank, Central Melbourne, I gained some further insight into “How the other half lives” – with the knowledge that a number of my former orchestral contemporaries are currently rehearsing Wagner’s Ring Cycle around the corner.

Much as I could grow accustomed to this (some more of that “But for the Grace of God go I”), as I sipped my “G and T” on the balcony with Margie, one of my best friends, I was reminded of a home and three very important people in Queensland where I ultimately belong.

Two very special young blondes and one loving, faithful husband.

Yesterday I flew home.


Today I started my part-time, (possibly temporary) new teaching role.

And, ironically, despite having taught on and off for many years, I have worked for the State Government System in South Australia and in London, in Private Music Schools, in Local State Schools and Catholic Colleges in Victoria and, most recently, for schools aligned with the (more Pentecostal) Australian Christian Churches. But I have never worked for the Lutherans.

Until now.

Despite I am a “Born and Bred” Lutheran.


So, in the strangest way, in this sense too, I have “Come Home”.

It’s only a small first step, but more is sure to follow.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 says: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

Nothin’ is really wrong, Feelin’ like I don’t belong

It is no secret that I have have struggled to be happy these past months.

It worries me, because I am not this person.

Sure I have my moments, but I usually manage to to turn around and see the brighter side of life, to find the underlying positives, even joy. I went back and read some of my previous “Serendipity” Blog entries the other day, and was quite taken with the apparent wisdom of my own previous thoughts and advice (to whoever reads it), not so long ago. I’m not sure I could have written something like “Make me a channel of your peace” or “Joyful Joyful” with such optimism in recent times.

One colleague observed last month: “I don’t remember ever seeing you so unhappy, my friend. Even on a bad day you still laughed”

Another friend gave me a lot of food for thought. Suggested I needed to change focus from what was troubling me, and look for other, perhaps greener pastures. Different horizons. Including this advice:

“Do what you enjoy doing”

So I made a list. Here goes:

“DO WHAT YOU ENJOY DOING” (in no particular order)

  • Playing Music
  • Making Music
  • Planning
  • Plotting
  • Brainstorming
  • Writing
  • Making things happen
  • Making the impossible, possible
  • Giving service to God in time and talents
  • Making other people happy
  • Solving the problems of the world
  • Being a friend, loving others
  • Spending time/communicating with those I feel an affinity with
  • Sharing Knowledge
  • Sharing Experience
  • Teaching my children and other people’s children that they can do anything, be anything if they set their hearts on it and work towards it
  •  Never giving up

When I read back my list I realised a central problem.

“Here’s the thing” (as they say in America). A lot of my list is bound up with, at its best complexion, what I have done within my school role, at certain junctures.

But, in fairness, and importantly, it hasn’t been a constant the whole 7+ years I have been at the school.

A staff member friend there last year described me as “Being Relational” …. not one of my terms, but she observed that I worked best achieving things in combination with others.

And looking back, certain combinations of people and circumstance have made for more or less activity and achievement at certain times. For example, the first and second year I was at the school, three of us in combination fired up all the planning.

Then, on top of the usual range of school things, we did 5 Aged Care concerts and established a Monthly series of performances in the School Library called “Munch with Music” complete with chocolate biscuits.

At the end of one year we threw together a 90-piece choir and took them to a local Shopping Mall on the Wednesday of the last week of school for a Christmas Carols Competition.  (We simply said – who wants to come and sing? If you do good, we’ll buy you an ice-cream). So we had a NINETY voice “scratch” choir – combination of Upper Primary and High – at a time when there were no official High School Choirs at the school. The Shopping Centre Judges said we were the best of all the school choirs (and the only ones who brought their own Electric Piano and String Quartet), and awarded us a cash prize. We went to the Food Court on the way to the bus back and bought 90 soft serves at McDonalds. It was a blast. Kids talked about it for years afterwards. That is what we do this for.

.Choir cp

In the years since, there has been much growth and success. I’ve challenged and pushed my own Strings kids in various directions – from teaching them the famous “Albinoni Adagio” note by note, to having a great time with the theme to “Game of Thrones” with Electric Violins and Percussion (while carefully calling it by the title of the piece – “Ice and Fire”, so as not to affront anyone wary of the “R” rating of the series). Recently I have started a brand new program at our second campus where I am teaching an entire Year 4 class. In the first few lessons I convinced them that reading music was easy and gave them a history lesson about Guido de Arezzo. We are having a lot of fun together.

Amongst my file of Choral Music stamped “Please Return to Marryatville High School” (Oops) is a faded photocopy of “Rainy Days and Mondays”. Funnily enough, I like Mondays, probably because for many years, Monday has been my day off, but otherwise the song’s sentiment speaks pretty well with my feelings these past 6 months.

“Rainy Days And Mondays”
Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hangin’ around
Nothing to do but frown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.

What I’ve got they used to call the blues
Nothin’ is really wrong
Feelin’ like I don’t belong
Walkin’ around
Some kind of lonely clown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down. 

That there has been just enough change that nothing seems to fit. And that I don’t feel like I belong so much anymore.

Yet, we have some wonderful new people. New music staff teaching Voice, Woodwind, Piano, Brass, Cello, Percussion, Guitar. All with skills and talents and experience and knowledge and musicality to bring and share.

So the question is, where is my place in all this? Do I just take my proverbial Bat and Ball and go home? Or do I step back and try to give it time and try to see if there is a place where I might fit?

Another of my favourite pieces of literature is “Desiderata” (Latin: “desired things”), a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” [Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”]

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Finally, the school semester is at an end and and we have three weeks of holidays. Three weeks to step back and reflect. And reflecting I have done.

I have decided I am so fed up with it all, so fed up with being unhappy, and so fed up with being this miserable person that I don’t want to be. I need to try and regain some equilibrium. The issues I have had this year have taken on far too significant a place in my life. It reminds me of a senior lady I know who sadly suffers with “macular degeneration” who describes having a “blind spot” in the middle of her vision, and only seeing clearly around the edges. Certain problems have become front and centre of my vision and it has gone on for far too long. I have taken steps to try to solve some of these issues, and will continue to attempt resolution through “proper channels” as far as this is possible.

Otherwise I need to take a deep breath and say to myself:SuckItPricess_SilverPurple


(Which I saw printed on a “hoodie” jacket in a shop yesterday and was tempted to buy it, but figured I could not “get away” with wearing it, lest I offend too many people).


I also realised I need to practice the words of the Serenity prayer further:


Especially the “Accept the things I Cannot Change” part.

I’ve been more than usually reflective and, in the words of the song, what has been bugging me, feeling downright miserable when “Nothin’ is really wrong”. Although I can identify specific recent matters, the consequences on my well-being have been far-reaching. Finally, I think I have realised one central issue. It is that I desperately miss former Boss Lindsay and colleague Claire. Most importantly as people in my life, but then also the close team approach we had to working together, where I was part of everything, included and valued.

What I have recognised is that, as in many aspects of life, the changes in my workplace situation involves aspects of loss, and loss invokes grief. And quite often grief in one situation triggers reaction to grief in situations past, especially where that grief was possibly unresolved.

I have cried more these past few months than in a L-O-N-G time. In contrast, I prided myself that I, the openly emotional one in my “family of origin” managed to hold it together over my Mum’s death in October 2011. I volunteered to read the lengthy Obituary in a packed church, as the last thing I felt I could do for her. Despite my cousin insisting on being “backup”, she stayed in the pew, and I got through the whole thing without wavering.

I didn’t cry for my Mum for a whole year.

So, having been so teary in recent times  over much more minor things does seem irrational and almost unfair. But perhaps I am in some strange way balancing the scales. And I have now been grieving and mourning also for more important things, too, that I “should” have done in times past (although I strongly dislike the word “should”).

And things are looking brighter.

Within this period of time there was one real beacon of light. Our beautiful daughter Cassandra confirmed the vows made on her behalf at her baptism 14 years ago.

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11th August, 2002. With three “Fairy Godmothers” Stacey, Helen and Miriam.




I only realised, actually, when the occasion of her Confirmation was one week beforehand because my husband assumed that, when he said that it was on “Trinity Sunday” that I knew when that was! Despite the short notice, I tried to make it a bit of special occasion and it was lovely that two of her Godmothers were able to attend, as well as a good friend who had played the organ at her baptism (who then played the last Confirmation hymn with me). We also sang the same setting of the same psalm which had been used on her baptism day. I also managed to rustle up lunch afterwards at a local Surf club overlooking the water, including folk who had some important positive impact on Cassie’s life.


The confirmation day was indeed very healing for me, and also did remind me, that perhaps it has been a mistake to have so much of my “things that make me happy” list centred on a workplace, and people within it.

And that in the same way I gathered up Cassie’s Godmother Miriam and her family (and other special guests Helen and Deon), for that Sunday, I need to make more effort to spend time with such people.

The problem is that other significant people in my life are scattered by geography, or time, or separated by death, and the more I dwell on what has, or who has, made me happy in the past, the more I end up focusing on what I have lost or grieve for, rather than counting my blessings now. Which isn’t helping much.

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My Grandmother Myrtle and her twin brothers Cyril and Frank.

One last thought.

I’m told my “Passion” for what I do “can be misinterpreted” by some or “can overwhelm people”

Why would this be? Because passion really is not valued?

I guess because being ordinary is easier. Is less threatening.

Is it so bad to be a passionate person? To want more? To want to embrace something outside of the mundane, the everyday? To not just go through the motions of life? To live, to love, to be loved? To be wanted? To be needed? To contribute something more, to create, to achieve, to inspire?

Perhaps so.

Well, I might be officially middle-aged, but I’m not ready to give up just yet.

So now I need some new plans, new directions.

Any suggestions?

[Just threw this in because this is my Blog Number 42]

The Pearl of Great Value

I guess most people have favourite quotes and poems and posters which adorn their walls, some faded copies from years ago.  A favourite of Music Teachers is one which is entitled “This is why I teach Music”:


and lists a number of “nots” before concluding:

But so you will be human, so you will recognise beauty, so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world”.

They are pretty profound words, aren’t they? If we consider my field of Instrumental Music, it is an optional activity conducted, in our case, up at the top of the High school, by a collection of completely part-time staff. Fitted in around an otherwise crowded school curriculum. With no curriculum time allocated to it at all – rather, the program runs by withdrawing the students from other classes, with Bands/Ensembles taking place before school, after school and in break times. And we are by no means unique – this is quite a common pattern in Australian schools.

Yet…. “an infinite beyond this world”?

Last week finally saw the long-awaited visit of Dr. Quinton Morris, Professor of Violin from Seattle University, to the school where I teach, as part of his BREAKTHROUGH World Tour. (Finally! exclaims anyone who knows me, as I have been negotiating with him and his agents since October 2014, and God knows how much I have wittered on about him and his potential tour, which has been a long time in the planning). The Mum of one of my students asked me recently how this had come to fruition. My answer…”a combination of Coincidence, Determination, and Persistence”.

Well, after all those months, years, of emails, phone calls, Skype conversations, finally the day came when Dr. Morris and I were to meet in person. The arrangement was that I would meet him at his accommodation and take him and his pianist Ashley Hribar (they had not worked together for a few years) to a quiet local place to rehearse. I had with me (by agreement) two talented students who were to receive some coaching on their violin concertos while also at the rehearsal venue.

I left the girls in the car and approached the door of the motel. The concierge seemed pretty inept with his computer trying to find the room number, so I peeked through the glass entrance doors myself. Two familiar looking figures were sitting on the lounges. I went in and one stood up, grinned broadly, stepped forward, enquired “Kylie?” and enveloped me in a warm hug of greeting. I grinned. This was going to be fine. This Professor was not going to stand on too much ceremony.

The taller, serious looking one, I instead offered a handshake, and soon we were all piling into my car, off to the rehearsal venue and chatting like old friends. It didn’t hurt that I discovered that Ashley, Quinton’s pianist, shared a number of common people in my hometown  Adelaide, and we had also attended the same High School. What a small word is Music.

After tutoring the two students and their own private rehearsal together, I dropped the two professionals back to their motel.

So far, so good. What lovely, engaging, people. But the next day, I figured, would be the killer.

So, Thursday dawned. And it certainly was “A killer”

My actual day started like this:

I was at school before 7.30am. I subcontracted moving Music Stands to Bandmaster Eddie and Junior Band Members including my son James. I organised the original sheet music. I began photocopying the Music booklets for the Students.  (I shouldn’t have left this to the last day, but I wanted it done carefully, and a certain way including the page turns, and stupidly I thought it would take less time than it did, but then of course I was missing a vital page, ran out of paper and jammed the copier….). Met Quinton and Ashley 8.30am. Got them settled for their sound-check and rehearsal. Met and settled students from our school. Met and settled students from other schools. Met and introduced Staff from other schools. Kept all the visitors supervised and calm until Quinton and Ashley had completed their rehearsal. Got all Kids organised. Helped with initial tuning of instruments.

[The Students were officially registered and badged by another staff member, which was good, and Morning Tea administered by a Departmental Member, which was also good, but then these staff returned to their regular duties at the other end of the school]

Supervised 50 students running around, while coordinating the three Strings Specialists I had invited from other schools, and Quinton and Ashley (from Overseas and Interstate). Instructed all the visiting Staff on the intricacies of the plan for the day in the midst of this. Abandoned them all for the initial Q and A session while I went to fix the photocopier and complete the assembly of the music booklets necessary for the first orchestra session.

Moved the piano on the stage. Set up the stage with chairs and music stands. Marshalled the students on to the stage. Organised seating positions. Introduced personnel. Handed out the Hot-off-the –press Booklets. Commenced Orchestra Rehearsal.

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And that only gets us to 11.00am.

Although I started the day with optimism, the Sheet Music Booklet hold-up flustered me, so I was basically on catch-up until 11.00am. After morning tea I essentially left Quinton in charge of the 50 kids, and  I was worried that everyone would be looking for me. I abandoned my admin. task half-done, and returned to the auditorium, but I need not have been concerned. He had them “eating out of his hand”. The introductory session – which I had envisaged simply as a quick “hello” took nearly an hour, as he held them spell-bound, and had many a student on the microphone drawing out their own thoughts in front of their peers.

I had to smile as this Professor from 12,000 kilometres away elicited practise tips from our youngest Orchestra member, 9-year old Amy, who suggested that dedicated practise might inspire a shopping trip with treats from Mum. And the visiting Strings teachers were nodding in silent thanks as he extolled the virtues of using a Metronome – not only owning one but actually using it – to keep the beat and “Keep yourself honest”. Being reassured that he and the other visiting staff had everything in hand, I took a deep breath, and concentrated on finishing off what needed to be done.

So, by the time the kids were tuned up and played their first note at 11.00am, I could finally relax and focus on what we were there for – the Music, and the Musicianship of this man who had come half way across the world to share himself with us –   Dr. Quinton Morris.

He has been everything I had hoped for, and more.

When we assembled the student orchestra on stage, they were quickly into rehearsing without fuss (which is rare) and he was soon drawing out tiny details, like which part of the bow to use in the Cello rhythms. Suddenly they were playing with panache and finesse (even though the piece was “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay, not Mozart.)

Concert Workshop 160505 31

The day continued through, with the students alternating between whole–orchestra rehearsals and sectionals (smaller groups) with the visiting teachers until 2.30pm. Then about half of the kids stayed (we handed them over to our Youth leaders for a few hours), food was served at 5.30pm, then the day’s culmination – the BREAKTHROUGH concert commenced at 7pm.

It was only through God’s guiding hand and providence that there were no disasters.

These we did have, of the minor variety –broken violin strings and forgotten books and jammed photocopiers, literally kept me running around, and begging favours from my Admin. friends at the front end of the school where we were situated.

The Evening performance came across very well in both halves. The students sat in the audience in the first section and listened and soaked in Quinton and his pianist Ashley’s exquisite playing, and Quinton talking and presenting. The students played themselves extremely well in the second half. A standout was the Vivaldi Double Violin Concerto with King’s Year 7 student Lauren as one soloist, partnering Quinton himself as the other, taken at a cracking pace. Incredible on little more than an hour’s intensive rehearsal.

During the first half, I had the rare experience of actually sitting in the audience with friends, as I was not needed to supervise students (as I usually do). I was simply exhausted from all the planning and preparations, plus being on my feet all day. I needed to will myself to concentrate and make sure I fully took in what, after all, was the purpose of the exercise.

As I sat and listened, and allowed myself to be immersed in the beauty of Quinton and Ashley’s playing, for some reason I just kept thinking of the Biblical parable of “The Pearl of Great Value” (the man who sold everything he had, to purchase the perfect pearl) and it weighed on my mind.

That this concept encapsulated my whole issue over bringing this man (Dr. Morris) to town, and my fight for his visit to go ahead.

The project had such a long “lead time”, (coming up for two years) that, in the meantime, our local staff and structure has changed, and some who were enthusiastic about the plans and were working on them with me initially, are no longer part of the Music Department. And under the new structure, the current staff have different priorities, and it has been my strong suspicion that others (in the current setup) couldn’t really see the value in his visit, and may well have cancelled it, had not commitments been made and contracts signed. I have long suspected that some staff saw it as “Kylie’s pet project” and to some extent went along with it to humour me.

Indeed, part way through the very busy Thursday of the Student Workshop, as I hurried around, three ladies, school staff members, were standing together on our main walkway underneath, as it happened, a poster of Dr. Morris.

Poster Walkway

One asked me how it was all going, prefacing her friendly enquiry with the observation “Your Man’s here, isn’t he?”

“My Man” ?

And, what overwhelmed me at the end of Thursday evening’s performance, was that, in this man, Dr. Quinton Morris, in what he had inspired our kids to do in just a few hours, our King’s Kids – Gold Coast Kids – here we had a “Pearl of Great Value” and some could see it, some, it seemed, could not.

I had parents come up to me at the concert’s Interval, brimming over with how incredible it was to have a musician of such stature at our school. One Mum (her boy plays 3rd violin, so, although keen, is one of the lesser experienced) had come to pick her child up at 2.30pm to take him home for a rest, then come back in the evening, and he said: “No Mum, please leave me here and just come back yourself, I don’t want to miss one minute of this day”. This same Mum emailed me a few days later to say that her son was so inspired he had been playing his violin non-stop all weekend.

My own 13-year-old daughter (who also plays violin) said she had a wonderful day, that Dr. Morris had been inspiring, and funny, and exciting. That her only complaint was that her back hurt because she rarely sat still for that long.

On Friday, Quinton used as the central theme of the Staff Development day: VALUE.

Well, he could not have chosen a topic which spoke more to me, professionally and personally, currently, than that (especially with my previous reflection just the night before) …

At one stage he asked all participants to take paper and pen and look within themselves, and write a few notes.

So then, each person in turn was asked to share their thoughts with the group regarding VALUE – do we feel valued? How do we show each other we are valued? How do our students know that they are valued? Is what we are doing of value?

Quinton’s secondary issue was how teaching and all forms of education (and life in general) had become increasingly complex.

How we are all bowed down in layers of side issues and what he chose to call ‘fluff’. But if we really wanted to be successful we needed to return to the “Harvard Method” of two words:

Plan … Execute.

Yes, just these two. Plan…Execute.

Again, I couldn’t help thinking of all of the ‘fluff’ for me in so many facets of my life over these past months. All my various worries and anxieties and issues which have kept me “oh so busy” while the “main path” has been diverted from, many many times.

Perfectionist that I am, it was also easy to think of all the things I would have done differently for this very project. With different people. Under different circumstances.

And how that the school auditorium should, by rights, have been full to the brim of people sharing this music and artistic expertise, to be part of this inspiration, and to see how fired up the students were. I suggested this to Dr. Morris himself.

He turned on me…

“Who are you disappointed for?” he demanded. “Is this all about YOU?”.

I was a bit taken aback. I agreed it was not.

“Is it all about me?” he continued. I didn’t answer that one.

“Well”, he said. “Don’t be offended for me. I am not offended. I gave up being offended years ago. Three people in an audience or Carnegie Hall – it’s all the same to me”.

Carnegie Hall

“Who did we do it for?” (I liked the term “we” …) he again demanded.

“We did it for the kids” I answered.

“Well, did they get anything out of it” he asked? I readily admitted that they certainly did.

“Well, then, we achieved our objectives” he stated firmly.

Here Endeth the “Pep Talk” from the Professor. What a special man.

Taking this on board, I concluded that Dr. Morris’s residency did indeed fulfil the vision and goals and aims I (and my original collaborators) originally had for it, which was to benefit the students.

  • to expose them to high level musicians
  • to give them the chance to work with, to be inspired by, to be excited by a person of Dr. Morris’ musical calibre
  • to take them, even for a few hours, or a day, out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, and to give them a glimpse of what they are capable of.


Concert Workshop 160505 44

Matthew 13:45-46 says:

45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

And you may also recognise these words by Stephen Grellet, a prominent French-born American Quaker missionary:

 I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

Quinton Morris: Thank you for passing through our corner of the world.

You have touched our young people. You have touched my colleagues. Most of all you have touched me.

You are indeed a Pearl of Great Value.


Author’s Note: Express permission has been sought from, and given by, parents of featured students in these images for the photographs to be included.

Photo Credits: Mal Rawlings.


Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing, Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing




  • the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way e.g. “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”
  • In general, serendipity is the act of finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it.
Claytons: which has become an Australian expression for something not quite as good as it first appears.

Apologies first up, that this current effort is a bit of a “Clayton’s Blog” (in honour of the non-alcoholic spirit advertised in Australia in the 1980’s as “The drink you have when you’re not having a drink”)

Today is the first birthday of this Blog “Serendipity”. My initial instalment “Let’s start at the very beginning” was published on April 4th, 2015.

From the encouraging comments received there, I was prompted to continue on, and this little site has take on an astonishing life. “WordPress” keeps statistics of “Views” “Visitors”, number of Blog Posts (this is Number 40), and countries the “viewers” emanate from.

To date, there have been a total of 3295 “views” of my efforts in 32 different countries. The majority have been in Australia (2109), the United States and the United Kingdom but the list includes: Denmark, South Africa, Czech Republic, Mexico, Sweden, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Papua New Guinea, the Dominican Republic and Panama! That’s simply astounding! The world is surely becoming a smaller place.

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“Views” of Serendipity by country in 2015 – statistics compiled by WordPress.

I’ve always loved to write and indeed seriously contemplated a University course in Journalism, right down to attending the Orientation days at the College in Adelaide where it was taught. I fancied myself as being a Music Critic –attending concerts and events and writing them up for the papers. However, that ambition was thwarted when, investigating the available tertiary course, I discovered it was necessary to take a specialty subject or two, but almost everything was on offer EXCEPT music. This put me off the idea, so I instead signed up for a Bachelor of Music Degree after all.

However, my interest in the written word has always remained …indeed from teenage times onwards I have expressed myself privately in writing – keeping journals and notebooks to work through typical, I guess, teenage issues. In my 20’s, living on the other side of the world, most writing was correspondence, largely with my Mum who was the most faithful letter-writer. As a trained stenographer her efforts were largely typewritten and it’s amazing how may words she could fit on an aerogram.

Round Tuit

Dozens, even hundreds of her offerings have been preserved and are boxed up in our garage. When my elder sister and I cleaned out our childhood home after Mum’s death a few years ago, something I retained was the “other end” of that correspondence – Mum had kept all of mine and my husband’s letters to her stretching back years. Eventually I will marry them up –one of those “get a round tuit” jobs, probably waiting for my eventual retirement or when my kids are grown.

The genesis of “Serendipity” as a Blog came from the encouragement of a friend, who I suspect had heard once too often me bleat about my “issues,” especially my long-running struggles to reconcile what I felt to be my basic personality type and all too real flaws, with the fact that I was viewed as “the Pastor’s Wife” with all the preconceptions and stereotypes that came with that. And this simply because of the individual who I had married.

That, despite over 20 years of this, something still didn’t sit right with me. That I felt to some extent unworthy of any perceived special position that some seemed to think I had. But, on the other hand, how it also amused me when people who had known me for some time –  but didn’t know my husband – would find out what he does and laugh: “You? A Pastor’s wife? Really?”

Anyway, eventually this one friend said “Kylie, did you know he was going to be a Minister when you first met him?” I had to admit that I knew he was studying Theology “from the off”. “So you knew he would end up being a Pastor?” Well, yes. “Well then you knew what you were getting yourself into, so you ONLY HAVE YOURSELF TO BLAME!”.

OK, I had to admit she had a point.

She followed this up by asking: loveiswedding6“So, how did you get yourself into this in the first place?”

On reflection, it was, of course, because I “played the man, not the ball” as they say in sport. Like many bright young things in love, I didn’t look too much further than my nose and glossed over what might be the day to day hurdles and frustrations and strictures. I didn’t really choose the life. Or train for a role (Never have). I was simply a girl in love who wanted to take life further with this young man from the other side of the world. Who only saw the promise and the adventure.

So my friend encouraged me to write about it.

Hence “Serendipity”.

And, do you know, writing this blog has been such a blessing to me.  It has made me focus on how blessed I really am. How much good I have experienced in my life. The opportunities I have had.  The wonderful people I have met and experiences I have had.

Yes, it started out as an attempt to explain “How I got into this in the first place”, a reasonably detailed autobiographical account of events which happened 20 plus years ago. (And I do intend to return to this historical walk).

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Wonderful former colleagues Claire and Lindsay

But then, one week, I diverted into something I was thinking about on that particular day, next I wanted to honour my beautiful friend and colleague Claire on her Baptism day, and I thought to myself… “It’s my Blog so I can make my own rules”.  Since then, I have covered many topics and surprised myself in a number of ways.


One, which has been an ongoing revelation to me, is that although my basic premise (I am simply an ordinary person, not defined by the person I married), is that I have more of a Christian perspective on many things in life than I had realised. I have often found myself dropping in “Bible Bits”, progressing to occasionally traditional prayers and hymns.

I was concerned at once stage that this might alienate readers who are not themselves Christian, as my “Facebook Friends”, many of whom kindly keep up with my Blog, come from many different walks of life and a range of backgrounds. But I hope not to have upset too many, and I have been heartened by those who have commented that they have appreciated or learnt something from a Christian perspective.

I don’t intend to preach, although I have amazed myself how “preachy” I have become sometimes (I was thanked for my “Easter Sermon” recently). I think it is probably more that I am passionate about certain things, and I tend to get firmly on my Soapbox.

Serendipity has sometimes become a confessional, and I know at times I have quite passionately expressed my feelings about difficulties, events and personal relationships which have caused me ongoing angst. Occasionally, I have wondered if I have put too much “out there” but the honesty has done me some good, I feel.

And I have been upheld, supported, encouraged and humbled by the many thoughts shared and much feedback, both expressed as online comments or privately or in person especially at those times when I have been down or struggled or have been doing it tough.


I have been honoured when I have managed to touch someone else, when I have discovered that my words have struck a chord with another, have been timely or helpful or thoughtful or in some way assisted a reader in their own life.

Thank you to all of you who have been there for me when I have needed it, or given something of yourselves in sympathy or empathy when things have not been going so well. I have been encouraged and uplifted when others have shared their own experiences in support and solidarity.

Thank you to those who have featured in my stories, either by allowing me to include photographs, or by name, or – while not specifically named- those who have been part of something of importance. You know who you are.

Equally, I hope my year of Blogging has not been all doom and gloom – I have tried to also share joy as well as sorrow. Thank you to all who have shared joy with me and added wonder and delight and positivity to my life.

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Blessed to have two such beautiful children and to live in a wonderful place on Earth

This is not my Swan song – I intend to continue to write – but I just wanted to pause for a moment and count my blessings – those blessings largely being people – each and very one of you who read, and think, and contribute, and have become in some way an even more important part of my life through sharing this journey with me.



You are my angels.

Thank you.

You’ve got to give a little, take a little

Recently a number of people dear to me seem to have been struggling with one thing or another. Yet these people are those who are always giving to others, of their time, effort, wisdom, skills. They are used to being the strong ones, to being the ones others lean upon.

But what happens when they are ill, or down, or struggling, or upset, or grieving? Who cares for the carer?

A few years ago when my children were small we lived in a country town, Ararat, in Western Victoria. At the time the whole area was drought-declared and there were strict water restrictions. Residents were encouraged to collect run-off from their morning shower in a bucket, and use this to wash the car. And then only the windows, mirrors and number pates were to be cleaned. No sprinklers or hoses on lawns were permitted, so all the grass died back to a dusty barren brown until the occasional rain shower.

The only way of watering plants was by watering can or bucket. Not even hand-held hoses were allowed.

WC 3

The children and I tried valiantly to keep our garden alive. We had certain plants that we favoured and others that we ignored. It truly was a case of “survival of the fittest”. Those watering cans, big and small, were soon emptied onto the favoured blooms and then came the repeated trips back and forth to the tap. The biggest bugbear was the need to continually fill up the watering cans and containers so that the life-giving water could be very quickly used again.WC 2

Each of us in our daily lives is like one of those watering cans. We give out. Give out of our time, our energy, and our skills. We favour certain “plants” in our lives. Perhaps those that we planted ourselves and so especially want to nurture. Perhaps the sickest and frail which have the least chance of survival left to their own devices, without special care and attention.WC 1

There comes a time in the lives of many when our “Watering Cans” are empty, or have frequently been “running on empty”.

Every drop of our water has been devoted to:

  • The business to which we gave our all, but which still did not succeed.
  • The elderly frail parents who require constant effort and attention, day 
after day.
  • The small children who still don’t sleep through the night.
  • The marriages and relationships that need nurturing, but we are too exhausted by the business (and the busy-ness) of our lives that we have no time, no energy to give to the people we love.

You see, we cannot continually “run on empty”. It is necessary to trudge those watering cans back to the tap and refill them. But many of us just give out continuously. Often it is a difficult thing to learn and accept that we need to receive back from life too. We should not feel guilty about doing and participating in things and activities that “top up” those watering cans. Even if that topping up simply enables us to give out some more.

All of us need, indeed we deserve, a happy, healthy, balanced, fulfilled life.

So, what is a life “Fulfilled”?
 The “Oxford Dictionary” defines the word “fulfil”:

  • Achieve or realise (something desired, promised, or predicted): “He wouldn’t be able to fulfil his ambition to visit Naples”
  • (fulfil oneself) Gain happiness or satisfaction by achieving one’s potential: “Arts grants go to young people who say they wish to fulfil themselves”.

Alternatively, the definition offered by online dictionary “Vocabulary.com” resonates with me beautifully:

“The verb fulfil means to fill a need or want. To fulfil yourself personally means to follow your inner passion, like flute-playing, no matter who thinks it’s silly.”

A fulfilled, balanced life needs to be made up of a number of components. We need to work towards happiness and fulfilment (and yes, set goals) in a variety of areas.

“8 Key Areas of Life” are detailed as:

  1. Relationships and Family (Socialisation)
  2. Relaxation
  3. Recreation
  4. Health and Wellbeing
  5. Personal Growth, Knowledge, 
Education (Intellectual Pursuits)
  6. Spiritual
  7. Wealth and Finances
  8. Work (Career?)

Experts say, for a Balanced Lifestyle, we should include at least some of each of these 8 areas, although the priority, proportion and emphasis will vary from person to person.

Relationships and Family (Socialisation):

Each of us needs to have social contact on a regular basis with people we enjoy spending time with and who can be a support system for us.

And this, importantly, must include FRIENDS as well as family. Many people think that, as they have a close family, that is surely enough, but not so. A Grandmother for example may dearly love her teenage Grandson but also worry about him and his risk-taking behavior, including too many late nights and frequent Skateboard accidents. Family connections are most times a mix of opposites: love and concern, rights and responsibilities. Whereas true friendships are largely weighted towards giving positive energy.

There is a growing area of neuroscience proving that social bonding sharpens brain function. It also extends life, according to a recent Australian Study, which followed 1500 older people for 10 years. It found that those who had a large network of friends outlived those with the fewest friends by 22 per cent. [Reference: http://seniorliving.about.com/od/lifetransitionsaging/a/longevity.htm]

My Grandmother, Muriel, exemplified this. Widowed in her early 50’s, she and her 3 close female friends Maudie, Marge and Jean were inseparable. The trio became essentially additional relatives to all us kids as they attended my cousins’ sporting events, our music performances and various family functions. The four ladies roared around in my Grandma’s car “The Red Terror” and met weekly for Lawn Bowls and Bridge Card Games as well as other activities. At one stage a gentleman from the Bowling Club took an interest in Grandma and various family members encouraged her to “Go for it”. She famously retorted, “I’d rather have a Cuppa Tea!”

Myrt and friends
Marge, Jean, Maudie…and Grandma Muriel (right).

In the last few years of her life all this changed. The eldest of her close friends, Jean, moved into Aged Care some distance away. Her closest friend Margie died. Maudie became more frail and relocated to live with her son. Grandma started turning up unannounced at our place for no particular reason, just stating, “I’m sick of my own company”. She gradually became unwell herself and spent the last year of her life in Nursing Care, although doctors could not diagnose any specific illness. We believe the loss of the “Gang of Four” had contributed to this marvellous, capable matriarch of the whole family simply losing her zest for life.

Certainly, the amount of time we spend socialising varies with each of us, but on the average, experts recommend “one or two activities per week”. Such experts also suggest “If we are in a “couple” relationship it is important that we engage in independent socialisation, i.e. coffee with a girlfriend, or golf with the fellows, so as not to become overly dependent on our partner. It is also important in a couple relationship to spend regular fun time away from the children so that we have time to develop and strengthen the relationship”.

Those of us with young children and without nearby family and support systems choke on our coffee at such “advice” and see such frequency as a forlorn hope.

However, it is important to make the effort and at least TRY.


Relaxing the muscles and quietening the mind are important stress management techniques. Various techniques are available including yoga, meditation and deep muscle relaxation. Making a daily time for relaxation is vital to allow our bodies to re-charge. The important part is being able to learn to relax your body and turn off your thoughts. Sleep is critical (remember, in warfare, Sleep Deprivation is used as a form of Torture) but sometimes good sleep is elusive, due to shift work, travel, or care of aged relatives or young children.

However, it is important to try to have some Rest (not necessarily sleep) as part of your daily routine. This sage advice, taken and always remembered, was given to me by a caring healthcare worker when I was struggling with a three-year-old and a newborn.

Here I am with a week-old baby, too much make-up and a Glazed Expression.

WC 4


If we look at the word recreation, we can see that it is made up of re/create/ion. Many people think that “Relaxation” and “Recreation” are the same but they are not. Ten years ago I attended a marvelous group: MOP’s (Mothers of Preschoolers) that had, as part of its focus, that the babies and young children were cared for out of sight while the Mums bonded together over coffee, but they also insisted on “Craft Time”. Personally I found it a bit twee, but the organisation insisted it was important: the process of creating something, of completing something tangible, they decreed was extremely valuable, as stressed people, [Mums of preschoolers in particular] often found this lacking elsewhere in their lives.

Recreation does not need to be craft. Recreation includes leisure activities that help us feel rejuvenated. Pottery, woodworking, dressmaking, knitting and crossword puzzles are just a few suggestions. Gardening, for those with a green thumb, is also “recreational” as a difference “Before” and “After” can be observed – a specific achievement.

Although I have no evident talent in craft or gardening, Birthday Cakes are my thing. Fortunately, I only have two children with one birthday each a year!

One of the things I love most is their unwavering blind faith (especially when younger) and absolute confidence that Mum can do anything.

There are many examples, but here are just two:

“A Rainbow with Fairies and Unicorns?” – “No Problem”

WC 6

“For my cake, please Mummy, would you make a Green Dragon with Purple Spikes?” “Of Course”

WC 7

OK, I agree. That’s a bit excessive for an object with such a short life span. But look at this little face. Priceless.

wc 8

Of course the important aspect to realise when accepting these types of projects is that you aren’t really decorating a cake, or blowing up balloons, or painting the letterbox in stripes …you are, in reality undertaking the much more important mission of:

“Creating Memories for your Children”

Health and Wellbeing (Physical):

The physical side of a balanced life style involved several aspects: proper nutrition, which includes three healthy meals a day and watching our caffeine and alcohol intake. The “fight/flight” response of the body to stress is intended to end in physical activity. It is important that we engage in a regular type of physical activity such as swimming, walking or jogging to use up the adrenalin that might otherwise harm our bodies. (Admittedly I am pretty bad at following through on this one)

Personal Growth, Knowledge and Education (Intellectual):

Our minds need to be stimulated so that we have a variety of focus and do not become involved only with our stresses and ourselves. It is important to continue to learn throughout our lives. Intellectual stimulation can take many forms – reading the paper, attending courses and lively discussions are all good. People of all ages and stages of life are capable of learning new skills – it is not true the old proverb that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. In Australia, the “University of the 3rd Age” where Retirees take short and long courses in Computing, Languages, Workshop skills and a myriad of other fields are flourishing.


Looking at the spiritual side of our life does not mean that we all have to attend Church. For some, regular attendance at Church is in fact appropriate. A spiritual activity, though, can be as simple as taking a walk and appreciating the natural beauty of the area. It is valid to periodically examine our beliefs and values. We need to be able to look beyond ourselves and appreciate the world around us in a meaningful way. The other night here, we noticed the sky glowing red at night and the whole family dashed out onto the front lawn to look. “Has somebody remembered a CAMERA?” demanded my daughter. We have taught her well.

.wc 9

Wealth and Finances

It is important to have sufficient finances to live, to have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food in our bellies. In the western world we expect a reasonable standard of living. Our aim should be to be able to live comfortably from our earnings and savings, not worrying every day about bills, but still keeping a clear picture of the difference between our true “Needs” and “Wants”.

The old adage is that “Money does not buy happiness” and sadly for many this is the case. Stories abound of lottery winners around the world finding, sadly, winning a truck-load of money on the lottery, any lottery, comes with a heap of baggage. Daydreams of a millionaire lifestyle seem to have a habit of turning sour, as isolation, paranoia; drugs, crime, poverty and prison await those who fail to adjust.

Career and Purpose (Work):

Last but not least “work”. You may say, “work is a stress for me!”. The word “work” basically means that we all need to engage in activity that we have a sense of satisfaction having completed.

Near the end of the film “Pretty Woman”, Edward (Richard Gere) has come to a new realisation about his work:

Edward: You know what I used to love when I was a kid, Phil?

Phil (Stuckey): What?

Edward: Blocks. Building blocks. Erector sets.

Phil (impatient and exasperated): What’s the point?

Edward: We don’t build anything Phil. We don’t make anything.

Phil: We make money, Edward!

“We make money…”

If our work is in fact too stressful we need to look at either changing our attitude to it or changing our job.

Now, my friends, it’s YOUR TURN!

Look back at those 8 areas and apply them to your life, and how you foresee your “better” or “perfect” life being in 5 years’ time or 10 years’ time.

It is important to realise we cannot give equal time to each area, and that sometimes priorities change. The aim is to have SOME component of these as a regular part of your life. The proportions of each will also vary from person to person.

If you assess that your life contains very little – or none – 
of one of these key areas and a large
 proportion of another, you may need to think 
again about your current priorities, even your future ones.

“All Work and No Play makes Jack a dull boy” is a proverb which may resonate with your past or present situation.

However, to some extent the opposite can also be true. Will whiling away endless days lying by the pool, idyllic as it may seem for some, truly give you the Fulfilment you need?

How full is the Watering Can of your Life?

wc 10


Time for a Cool Change

One of the myriad of “Light bulb” jokes goes something like this. Q: How many Psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? A: Only one. But the light bulb really has to WANT to CHANGE.

This time of year it seems every magazine, lightweight newspaper edition and certainly online articles and Facebook feeds are filled with “New Year, New You” articles. Suggestions on making New Year’s Resolutions. What they should be. How to keep them. Why people don’t keep them. And then advice on how to go about keeping the resolutions that statistics show you probably won’t keep anyway.


New Year’s Resolutions typically do not work; in fact, only about 8% of those who make a resolution are successful (however, those who write down their resolutions are ten times more likely to keep them than those who don’t).  Still, this daunting statistic doesn’t stop us from taking stock of our lives and thinking about what we want for the future. It’s a new year, it’s practically impossible NOT to look back and think about what could be different going forward.

The most commonly made resolutions tend to be:

  • Lose weight
  • Eat more healthily
  • Exercise and get fit
  • Quit smoking
  • Quit/cut down on alcohol
  • Spend less and save more

We basically end up with a list of all the ways we feel inadequate, and the things we’ve failed to do. Not to mention New Year (and the associated resolutions) immediately follows end of year and Christmas parties, and pleasant holidays which invariably include over-indulging in unhealthy but extremely tasty foodstuffs. Changes in routine and perhaps additional time spent with family can leave us feeling emotionally exhausted, along with the building stress for many at the thought of returning to work and an inbox overflowing with emails. (Fortunately for us Aussie teachers who are blessed with long summer holidays, these thoughts can be banished for a few weeks yet).

My goals

There are various little sayings or mantras which are supposed to help here, especially with the first two. My Mum used to have a brilliant large poster depicting a table filled to the brim with tempting looking foodstuffs – cakes, donuts, pizza, you name it. Next to this excess was a woman holding a long filled French stick to her mouth, which she was looking at hungrily. She was a large lady. The caption read “Once on the lips, Forever on the hips”. I haven’t seen such a poster for 30 years now. I suspect that in today’s politically-correct world it would be construed as “fat-shaming” (although we didn’t have the frequently demeaning “Biggest Loser” TV “Reality” shows back then).

Another pretty good slogan reads: “Nothing tastes as good as being slim feels”.

In the last week I have had articles pop up suggesting drawing up a “Vision Board”. A friend of mine has one of these pinned up on her kitchen wall. She is approaching 50 and her collage contains positive images – a 50th birthday cake, happy, smiling people, and, yes, a fit slim woman dressed in gym clothes with exercise equipment. All visuals of where my friend would like to be in a certain amount of months’ time. Such vision boards are believed to be a valuable goal-setting tool and an aid in visualisation and meditation by motivational speakers and Personal Development  life coaches.


New Year’s Resolutions and stated intentions to personally “improve” this or that often contain the word Should.

We teach our children what they should and should not do in given situations, generally for their own safety and well-being. Sometimes this is backed up by hard experience for the child – such as when he has been told repeatedly not to touch the hot toaster, does anyway, and ends up with a blistered finger for his trouble. That hopefully will be a lesson leant for next time.

I believe a baby and then child is essentially a blank canvas. Consider that every child learns its native language from hearing what is around him or her – we are not born understanding English or French or Urdu or Cantonese. As we learn to talk we do so by imitating what we hear, and so our mouths and voice boxes learn the contortions necessary for what then becomes our “mother-tongue”. Likewise parents and teachers (bearing in mind I am both) have the most important jobs in the world imparting young ones in our care with knowledge and understanding of the world, both unconsciously, by modelling, and by direct instruction.

One of my favourite childhood books was “The Bike Lesson”, in the Berenstain Bears Series. Bears CoverYoung boy bear receives a bicycle as a gift, and Papa bear tells him he cannot ride it until Papa has taught him all about riding and road safety.

Unfortunately, everything the over-confident father attempts ends in disaster and sometimes injury, however each time the father still tries to turn the example into a lesson by saying “This is what you should not do. So let that be a lesson to you”.

bike lesson 1bike lesson 2

And I have thought of this phrase many times during my life and also now as a parent – yes we can learn by experience what are good things to do, but also hard lessons in what we “Should not do”.

A very famous Bible passage, often read at weddings, contains: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.  (1 Corinthians 13: 11-12)

No longer a child, I learnt some years ago that SHOULD is an EVIL word and conveys external pressure or obligation. [And obligation is one of my “issues”]. We tend to use the word “should” when we talk about unpleasant things which we’d really prefer not to do.

And doesn’t “should” fit nearly into those common resolutions?

  • I should lose weight
  • I should eat more healthily
  • I should exercise and get fit
  • I should quit smoking
  • I should quit/cut down on alcohol
  • I should spend less and save more

But because we don’t do these things, or we have good intentions but fail, we end up feeling more depressed or disappointed than before.

Here’s an exercise for you. Consider a sentence in which you would use the word Should.

  • I should go to the dentist.
  • I should cut down on work
  • I should save more money
  • I should go to church more often
  • I should quit smoking
  • I should go to the gym

And for females:

  • I should have a Pap test.

[You may find your “should” sentence contains something which, if you are really honest, is not your favourite thing in life.]

Now replace the word “should” with “choose not to”

  • I choose not to go to the dentist.
  • I choose not to cut down on work
  • I choose not to save more money
  • I choose not to go to church more often
  • I choose not to quit smoking
  • I choose not to go to the gym
  • I choose not to have a smear test.

Now instead of external obligation, you have taken back choice and power.

That said, choices have consequences. Choosing not to go to the dentist or have a medical test could mean your health deteriorates, giving you further – potentially serious – problems in the future which could be more difficult or costly to address.

However, choosing not to save money could be a valid choice – if you wish to live and enjoy the day-to-day with necessities and perhaps small luxuries, rather than being so frugal that you don’t look after yourself. (A trait quite often seen in elderly people who “go without” even to leave an inheritance to their – often less than needy – offspring).

You might actually really enjoy your work and find it fulfilling, so cutting down is a really the wish of someone else, or a pressure of society.

Quitting smoking might not work for you right now. A friend of mine chooses to smoke as she finds it helps her relax and de-stress, and in her own words “I am a nicer, better person as a smoker”. She has balanced up the health risks but accepts that for her, smoking assists her cope and function well day-to-day. This is someone I admire who has come through enormous adversaries in her life.

My own tenure at the gym was short-lived. I actually enjoyed attending, the “me-time”, the atmosphere, and the feeling of achievement. Unfortunately, however, I injured my already damaged knee fairly early in the piece, and soon my main communication with the gym was emailing them periodically to suspend my membership. When I sporadically re-activated it, other activities and routines crept in and I realised I really wasn’t getting there, but felt  guilty for not doing so, while I continued to pay the membership fees. Eventually I put my membership on permanent hold. I felt as if a load had lifted from my shoulders.

Walk every day

The benefit of disposing of “should” and giving yourself back choice, is that you can indeed make an alternative positive choice.

I choose to go to the dentist, and to have that smear test. It might be uncomfortable, but ultimately won’t kill me, if I keep my eyes closed.  

I choose to save more money. If I set up a direct credit into another bank account it will happen without me thinking about it, and then I can later purchase something special.

I choose to go to church more often than I otherwise might, because my husband is the Pastor and I want to support him, and it shows a good example to my children.

Choices are important and also priorities. This was brought home to me recently by my friend Catherine. Catherine, who I worked with a dozen years ago at Trinder Park Retirement village, may have been a decade younger than me, but she was always the “adultier adult”. Wise beyond her years, level-headed, cool in a tricky situation, but with a warm heart, a wonderful laugh and a keen sense of humour. She would regularly tidy and categorise my desk drawer (a skill I have yet to master), in the certain knowledge that it would soon descend into chaos again, and counsel me frequently to “Play Nice with the Stapler. Kylie”.

We kept in touch in recent times by email, message, and Facebook. I realised a couple of years ago that we hadn’t actually met in person since just before I moved from Brisbane to Western Victoria probably late 2003. Since my return to Queensland 7 years ago, we periodically talked about meeting up in person, but lived just far enough apart for it to be impractical, with conflicting work schedules, children’s needs and so on. This was not unique – there are a number of people who I consider special to me who I have (or had until recently) not seen for 10 years or more –one of the perils of moving around the country and across the world.

For the past few years Catherine has been battling a brain tumour. Despite strenuous and unpleasant chemotherapy , radiotherapy and other treatments, she insisted on working between times, traveling when she was able, and living as full a life as possible.

Sadly, last month Catherine lost her long and determined fight and passed away. In one of many posted tributes, one of her close friends wrote: “To her family and friends, I know she has given you great forever memories that will make you laugh for the rest of your lives! Finally, stop smelling the wrappers Catherine and just eat the damn chocolate”.

In being health-conscious and watching her weight, Catherine had denied herself small pleasures, but ultimately, what good did it do? Chocolate or not, she was taken far too soon. She was 37.

wrappersCatherine’s death gave me pause for a number of reasons, one being something I myself have prioritised in the last year or so. A reminder to hug my children a little closer and remember to reach out to those dear to me that perhaps I haven’t spoken to or connected with for awhile. Because we make the mistake of thinking there will always be time, but that’s not necessarily so… “Tempus Fugit”.

So, am I suggesting that the whole concept of New Years Resolutions and setting goals is futile and we should just give up now? No, not exactly. But in order to change your actions, you first need to change your thinking. Albert Einstein is credited with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Similarly, Henry Ford is quoted as saying: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

You are most likely to make positive changes if you align your goals with your passions and dreams. In middle age we might struggle to elucidate these, so its worthwhile thinking back to what you were passionate about aged perhaps 20. Did you achieve those ambitions and plans, or did life get in the way? Are there any that you can re-ignite?

If you do indeed make plans or set goals for the coming year, make sure they reflect your own choices and priorities, not those of family members and friends or some type of society norm or pressure. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure.

And some goals may be worthy or desirable but are easier talked about than achieved. Losing weight, for example, requires sustained discipline, effort and patience. Because if it was really true that “Nothing tastes as good as being slim feels”, we would not be a nation where 63% of adults are overweight or obese. Not that I am advocating ignoring your health, however it is also true that “a little of what you fancy does you good” and self-care and the odd indulgence can be extremely valuable for the state of mind.


My own aspirations for the coming year incorporate building on the positive changes I have made in recent times.

These include: making the time and effort to connect with people special to me.  Higher focus on family togetherness while my children are still young. Recognising my own skills and attributes and talents and using them to the best of my ability, and to inspire and nurture others. Being braver in asserting what is important to me.

Not settling for second best.

Tambo Picnic

But still attempting to have a ‘kindergentler polity‘. (Thanks to former Prime Minster Tony Abbott for that fabulous phrase). To stress less. And to be realistic about what I can do and control, and recognise that much is outside of my control, and learn to accept that more!.

My New Year’s advice?

Don’t stress so much over the “Shoulds” in life, that you neglect to “eat the damn chocolate”.Musical Resolution