Sunday, December 26, 2010

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas . . .

View from our home - storm's a comin'!
Merry Christmas!  It's summer here in Oz, and WE HAVE COMPANY!  (Ok.  I'm trying not to get over-excited, but we don't get a lot of visitors to this hemisphere. . . )  Shon's parents, Dave and Debbie are here to visit.  We are ecstatic (and not just because they brought American food!)  They arrived on Wednesday, two days later than planned, thanks to delayed flights.  We whisked them off on a road trip to Bundaberg, just hours after they arrived. 
Boogie boarding Rainbow Beach - the surf was rough and I'm still finding sand. . . 

We stayed in a beach house on Rainbow Beach for two days, and drove up to Bundaberg, to the Mon Repos Turtle Sanctuary, to watch sea turtles lay their eggs at night.  It was amazing.  It was a busy night in the turtle rookery.  By 8 o'clock, there had been 6.  There had only been 2 turtles the entire night before.  Our turtle was a 200 lb, young 30 year old female, laying her second clutch in her first breeding season.  (Sea turtles don't reach sexual maturity until they are 30, and as far as we can tell, they live to be about 80.)   We very quietly (no electronics or lights) watched her dig a hole with her back flippers, lay 100 ping pong balls-like eggs, fill in the whole, tamp it down with her body, and crawl back to the water.  The whole process took about an hour.  It was amazing.  We were able to take photos for 30 seconds after she laid her eggs.
Turtle laying eggs.  Ranger in background.

The turtle in the background.

She was in pretty good shape, though she had barnacles and marks on her shell where crocodiles tried to get a nibble.  Another turtle that was laying eggs near by hadn't been so lucky, and only had 3 flippers, most likely from a shark attack.  The rangers gave her a hand digging her hole.   It was amazing, and the whole family learned a lot about this endangered species.  We would love to come back in 8 weeks and watch the eggs hatch.
The kids and Grandparents.

This has been a very rainy summer, and we are having a rainy Christmas as well.  That didn't stop us from swimming and having a barbecue Christmas day.  My favorite part of Christmas was our Skype marathon.  I could almost taste my mother's cooking, and I sang along with my sisters in our annual sing along (though that was a joke - I was 1.5 seconds behind everyone.)  We love our family.  Skype is good.  :-)

From the words of "An Aussie Night Before Christmas:" 

Happy Christmas to all and goodonya mate!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without the Messiah, so when I heard about the Uniting Methodist Church's "Sing It Yourself Messiah," I joined some friends and sang.  I love Handel.  It was great fun - except for one miserable chorus that I had never heard before.  I've sung the Messiah many times and heard it even more times, so I don't know how I missed "Chorus No 37 - The Lord Gave the Word."  Apparently, I am not the only one who missed this painful gem.  During the rehearsal, the director kept saying "Don't worry about the semiquavers."  To say it was weak would be an understatement.

Semiquaver.  Now there is a musical term I'd never heard.  Later, I asked Jill sitting next to me, "What's a semiquaver?"  She looked at me like I was crazy, and said "it's one of these little notes here with the two flags."  I just had to stare at her.  Are you joking me?  "You call sixteenth notes semiquavers?"  Wow.  I've studied music since I was knee high to a grasshopper.  How did I miss that?   I'm astonished.  Apparently, this is the terminology used in the British system of music.  Most of the world uses it.  A quarter note is a crotchet, and a whole note is a semibreve.  Just for the record, a sixty-fourth note is called a hemidemisemiquaver.  Astonished.
This church had beautiful acoustics. 

Speaking of the Messiah, I love flash mob choirs.  Wouldn't it be fun to be in one - to just stroll through a busy train station and suddenly burst into song, with a dozen other people.  I love this one.  It's perfect to get into the spirit of Christmas.  You can tell which people in the video know it's traditional to stand for the Hallelujah chorus.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I love U2

I love you, too.

But I also love U2.

Shon and I have had a long tradition of sitting in the cheep seats.  When we were dating, we went to a Jazz game and sat on folding chairs behind the back row.  The night we became engaged, we went to Les Miserables, and sat on the back row.  It was the same for Wicked.  When we lived in New Orleans, I would go to the Orpheum and watch the New Orleans Symphony rehearsal - $4 tickets and you get to know the conductor too.  Next week we will be going to see the Nutcracker, and sitting near the back.  When we heard U2 was adding a Brisbane show to their 360 tour, we splurged and got the better seats.

Here's a little video I took with my iphone.  The sound quality is awful because of the volume - as much from the crowd as from the band!

We had no idea how good those "seats" would be!  I say "seats" because we were in the standing area.  Robert and his son Ethan took Bryce and went early while I picked up Shon from work (and calmly looked for missing tickets!)  The early bird gets . . . the awesome spot in the exclusive "red zone," inside the circular walkway, 20 feet from the stage!  We were close enough to make eye contact with Bono.  We could have jumped up and touched him when he crossed over the moving bridge (thought I'm sure Mr. Big Security Guard would have stopped us.)

I'm amazed that after 30 + years as a band, U2 are still running strong.  They are all amazing entertainers, and Bono has been married to the same woman for 30 years - which makes him classy, in addition to a great musician.  (Jon Bon Jovi is classy for the same reason.)   I'm happy that Bryce got to go to his first concert with his parents, and a friend.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Runners Low

You always hear about "runner's high", but not much about "runners low:"  that nagging feeling you get Saturday mornings at 5:30, that won't let you sleep in;  that there is something else you should be doing.

It has been 3 weeks since my last run.

I've always had a little pain in my right leg.  It was mild, then moderate, then a couple weeks ago, I went for a run, and got about 200 m before throwing in the towel and limping home.

I went to the doctor last week.  She told me to stop running.  Probably for good.  I spent the day mourning my immortality, and trying to face the fact that I may be a swimmer-only for the rest of my exercise existence.  From the moment I started running, I knew I wouldn't last forever.  When I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, I asked the doctor what I should do for exercise to which she replied "well, you won't be running any marathons." I guess I took it as a bit of a challenge. . .   The way I see it - I'm going to be a hunched over old lady anyway, I might as well get that way because I actually did something.  So, I started running.  Surprisingly, I think it actually helped in my case - my increased circulation and muscle tone prevented me from "freezing."  And ok, I got a good deal of pain relief from endorphins (yes, I'm self-medicating.)  So, I have a hard time taking "No" for an answer.  Call me crazy, but I'm not ready to quit yet.

I went to a physiotherapist (that's a "physical therapist," Americans.)  After putting me in the iron maiden, and other methods of torture, he said "no, that's not arthritis - you've probably got a tear on the tendon that attaches your hamstring to your hip process."  Yep.  I blew a hammie.  This is actually good news - it's fixable.  Right now, my choices are 1) surgery, or 2) do lots of physio and then perhaps run slow the rest of my life.  Right now, I just want to be able to walk without limping.

I think I can handle slow.  Maybe.


I love Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday.  There is nothing materialistic - just a group of friends and family getting together to give thanks and eat.  And it is purely American. 
Thanksgiving this year was AWESOME.  We had two of our favorite American families over - twenty people in all.  If you don't remember, last year I had quite the dilemma in finding ingredients.  Refresh your memory here.  This year, I knew what to expect.  It was a great day with friends and food.  Emily and Sarah were the little artists who made the turkey place cards.  (Thanks for the idea, Family Fun magazine.)

Thanksgiving in Australia involves a few differences in tradition.  First, we ate dinner al fresco.  Second, between the meal and the pie, the kids swam.  (Third, the turkey had really long legs - I swear someone slipped me a young emu instead!)

While the kids swam and the men played life guard/dishwasher, the ladies and I did what we do best (besides cook) - we talked.  

Did I mention that Becky (there on the love seat) had a baby 5 days before Thanksgiving! What a trooper to give up her nap to make rolls and come eat turkey.  Becky is awesome . . . it's a long story.  Ok, if you insist, I'll tell you:

Becky and I grew up in Idaho, a mile (2k) apart from each other.  We were in the same ward at church.  We took lessons from the same piano teachers.  We both came from large families and happen to be the second oldest with an older sister named Kim (my older sister being one of her best friends.)  We have the same accent.  Now she happens to live around the corner.  In Australia. We have been leading parallel lives.  Like us, this is their second international assignment.  We also have children roughly the same ages.  (I have 5, she had 5 until last week - now she's got me beat with 6.  You go girl.)  I feel at home with Becky.  That makes her awesome.

Yes, I still miss my family in Idaho - especially at Christmas time, but being with friends who are in the same boat we are makes it fun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One down . . .

We've been in Australia for one year officially.

It's been a long year.  It's been a good year, but it's been very long.  It was one endless summer.  After two summers in a row, I was anxious for winter.  It never really came.

Last week I was cleaning out my junk drawer and came across a Raddison Hotel pad of paper.  Some time during our packing up, I scribbled a list.  Since I'm feeling a bit home sick (Thanksgiving always does that to me), I'll share it with you.  Here it is:

Things I Will Miss About New Mexico

10.  The sky.  It is really blue.  I wonder if it is all of the orange sandstone - contrasting colors, and all.

9.  The smell.  The high desert smells so good.  When we moved from Houston, the first thing I noticed was the smell when it rained - juniper and cedar, with a touch of pinon.  Really, there needs to be a scented candle called "mesa after rain."  The best smell of all, however, is the roasting chilis in the Wal-mart parking lot.  (You can buy green chilis by the box in New Mexico, and they will roast them for you over a giant propane burner - it smells SO good.)  I'll miss watching sweet Navajo grandmothers at Walmart, with their skirts and tennis shoes, long braid down their back, and turquoise jewelry.

8.  My Garden.  I miss my garden.  I have a thing for oddly colored fruits and veggies.  My philosophy is, why grow something I can buy in the grocery store?!  So, our raspberries were yellow, Potatoes were purple, and tomatoes were yellow, along with the usual varieties, of course.  I miss watching my garden grow.  It never failed to surprise me - I would stick the seeds in the ground, turn on the sprinklers, and two weeks later, there is life!

7.  The drive to Twin Falls.   I can't believe I actually put this in.  In the 3 years that we lived in NM we drove to Idaho at least quarterly.  That's a dozen 12-hour each way trips.  Some times it was the longest 12 hours of my life (think crying toddler and icy roads.)  Once we discovered books on CD, things went a little faster.  (We listened to the entire Harry Potter series, and all of the Eragon books, plus many others.)  I knew the road like the back of my hand.  Southern Utah is full of interesting shapes.  The kids named the rocks we saw on the way:  Birthday Cake Rock, Snowman Rock, Turtle Rock, Foot Rock.  The journey was measured in bathroom breaks:  Monticello, Moab, Price, Salt Lake (the Robinsons!), Tremonton, Snowville, almost there - you can wait . . .  fine we'll stop in Burley.  Finally, Twin Falls.

6. Watching the sun rise.   I love the view from my front porch - especially when the neighbor's RV was gone for the summer!  One advantage of a desert is an un-obstructed view of the sunrise and sunset.

5.  Running Pinon Mesa.  I never thought I would say this, but I really miss running long Saturdays at Pinon Mesa.  It was a trail run through a high desert.  BYO water!

4.  My Piano.  I miss the way the sound would fill up the whole house.   I have a lovely piano here, but it's just not the same as my old one.

3.  Caliente. (That's the name of the community choir.)  I loved singing with these fabulous singers.  It was a ball.  I miss them, and I miss the music.  Music is my drug of choice.  I'm suffering from withdrawal.  I'm feeling particularly left out now that they are planning a musical tour of Greece.  Without me.

2.  My friends.  I miss my book group.  I miss the ladies I ran with.  I miss running and talking at the same time.  I miss birthday lunches at Si Senor.  

1.  Shon.  I miss having my husband come home at 4:30.  Wow.  That was nice.  He's cute.  And he does dishes.  (Sorry ladies, he's mine.)

Things I miss, that I didn't know I would miss:

Graham Crackers
Green chilis
Reece's Peanut Butter Cups
School lunches
School buses
Soccer Practice
Inexpensive piano lessons
Inexpensive anything!
wider traffic lanes

A few things I don't miss:

My fingers cracking and bleeding because it is so dry.  (Super glue was my only successful solution.)

Crime.  Believe it or not, I think I'm actually safer running in a big city than I was in NM.

School clothes.  We wear uniforms here.  I LOVE it.  We can wear the same clothes twice and no one cares.  No one has to decide what to wear in the morning.

Whew, I feel better now that I have that off my chest.