Our beloved Dalai

Today, our beautiful 16 year old Tibetan Terrier Dalia had a stroke and joined her brother Deano in heaven.  Our 16 year old daughter Eve was home with the dogs while Lawson and I had run to the farmers market when Dalai had her stroke.  Eve did an amazing job of maintaining her composure while caring for Dalai as best she could while we rushed home.  We then rushed to the nearest emergency vet but there was no hope for recovery.  They gave us time to say goodbye, to be with her till the very end.  We were sobbing.  The vet was crying.  We are numb and already miss her so much!  I can’t even believe I am writing this.  Just this morning she barked at me to get up and get out of bed.  She walked down two flights of steps this morning.  She ate her food with gusto this morning.  She was running around the house life crazy just a day or so ago.  Life can change in an instant.

We were so fortunate to find Dalai in 2002.  She (and her brother Deano) came into our life while we were waiting to bring our daughter Eve home from India.  India had shut down adoptions (even for those of us who had met all the qualifications and who had our baby waiting for us) for a period of time.  We were a mess because we had no idea how long we would have to wait and we desperately needed babies to love on…..enter little puppies Dalai and Deano!  Deano and Dalai were such wonderful diversions.  All of the cute baby Dalai pictures are in storage in the United States because photos weren’t digital back then.  Here are a few photos we do have digital copies of the two of them together!
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From the very beginning, Dalai was headstrong and opinionated!  She has always been the alpha dog in our family!  She ran the show when it was just her and Deano and then later when we inherited Dani and brought little puppy Felix home!  Dalai was always great about expressing her opinions to us.  We always knew when it was 8 am and 5 pm because Dalai would remind us it was time for her to eat.  During her time in quarantine entering Australia from the USA, she lost her voice because she barked so much trying to let those at the quarantine center know how unhappy she was with the circumstances!  Dalai was such a great teacher to us.  Some found Dalai aloof but we learned to meet her where she was.  Deano and Felix, our boy Tibetan Terriers, were/are huge love bugs but Dalai was the kind of girl who wants to be in the room with you but doesn’t need to be touching you all the time.   In fact, she needed space.  When she did come give you love, it felt so special!  She was really a daddy’s girl but she loved the rest of us too!
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Eve and Dalai
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We named Dalai after the Dalai Llama in part because of the Tibet connection and partly because she seemed to just be so settled in herself.  Our boy dogs are/have been a little neurotic and nervous…not Dalai!  Self assured, calm, assertive at times, chilled at other times….always so grounded.  It sounds silly but there have been times that Lawson and I wish we could just put Dalai in charge of things because she seemed more mature than either of us!  What ever are we going to do without her?
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Dalai was such a strong little girl.  She was a fierce little spirit in a small package!  She was too small for her breeder to show and maybe because of her small size she had tons of issues with her ears for a very long time before we finally had her ear canal removed.  She bounced back from the surgery with no problem and was still able to hear us (although she was selective in her hearing).  She lived in 6 different cities and 2 countries.  She took countless roadtrips between Alabama and Atlanta and Florida and Atlanta and Little Rock and Florida and finally a cross country trip with her siblings in a minivan!  She lost her beloved companion Deano at the age of 12.  She accepted Dani and Felix into our unit.  She even welcomed Karo cat into our family.  She helped love on me as I was recovering from my burns and she has helped us both grieve losing our parents.  She survived quarantine and at our last vet visit she looked to be beating cancer  She was such an amazing little spirit!
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Among Dalai’s favorite things were greenies (one every morning or we heard about it), Buddha hedgehog chew toys, food, walks, playing with her brother, sleeping (especially half on/half off the bed) and having her family at her beck and call!
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Dalai half on half off bed
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Our hearts are completely broken but we are so grateful for every moment we have had with our Dalai Baba.  Tibetan Terriers are called “little people” for their human like qualities.  Dalai was a beautiful example of that!   We are officially sick of death and its constant presence in our life.  If there is any good that comes from this all too frequent guest in our life, it is a reminder to love with your heart wide open!  Dalai did that!  Dalai helped us be better human beings just by being herself.  I hope we are that for others in some small way,.  Hug your puppy or kitty or kiddo or parent or partner a little tighter today!  I’m off to cry myself to sleep…or so I hope.  Here’s what our daughter Eve wrote as a tribute to our sweet girl.  We will miss you our beautiful Dalai!  Thank you for loving us so well!
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Sydney

Recently, we made a very brief (less than 24 hours) trip to Sydney. The particulars of the trip involved us driving rather than flying which was a big frustration as the roads between Brisbane and Sydney were not what we would ever have anticipated between two of Australia’s biggest cities nor did we have the time to explore places along the way.  We had planned to return to Sydney in December for a portion of the girls summer break but that is not looking very likely at this point in time so I will share what we did see, let the pictures do most of the talking and dream of taking the girls back some day.

We arrived in Darling Harbour early afternoon and our hotel was really great about letting us check in early!  We would highly recommend the hotel we stayed at (the Ovolo) and the location if you have limited time in Sydney.  It was an easy walk to the ferry stop so once we were settled in we quickly made our way to the ferry so we could see the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House from the water during the day  We got super lucky that it was a perfectly crisp and sunny winters day!
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Our hotel in Sydney…
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Darling Harbor Ferry Stop...
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Ferry ride to the Opera House stop…
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It really is hard to put into words how extraordinary this piece of architecture is..  We have always been moved by photographs of the Opera House but to see it in person was next level.  It truly took our breath away!  It is hard to believe there was so much controversy over it’s construction.  I think it shows how shortsighted politicians can be when it comes to art, architecture, and beauty.  Can you imagine Sydney without the Opera House?
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From the Opera House, we walked through the city a bit to get back to our hotel.  It was a slightly further walk than we realized but also gave us a chance to see what we might someday want to come back and check out!  I don’t have photos but driving into the northern suburbs of Sydney felt like driving into a neighborhood in our former city of Atlanta, GA.  It is probably not fair to say on such a short visit but I felt like I was back in the US more than I have at any point in time this past year and it was really nice!  Some days I really miss home…certain things about home anyway!
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sydney animal sculpture
We were thrilled to find out upon checking into our hotel that Vivid was going on in the evenings in Sydney!  We booked spaces on one of the boats taking people out into the harbor for the evening show.  Again, it did not disappoint.  It was crowded for sure but nothing could dull the experience of the lightshow. It is said that Vivid is best experienced on both boat and by foot so someday we hope to be able to do just that!  It is impossible to capture how very cool Vivd is with an iphone camera but hopefully this will give you a taste and inspire you to come visit!
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opera house vivid green leaf
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And, my very favorite…
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The drive from Brisbane to Sydney is no longer than the regular trips we used to make in a single day from Florida to Arkansas in the States but  the roads here were unknown and the driving more stressful so we stopped for the night both ways to break the trip up a bit.  On the drive down it rained heavily much of the day.which made it seem much longer than it really was. We spent the night on the way down in Newcastle, NSW and would really like to go back and explore it a bit more one of these days.  It had history and it felt like it is in a bit of a renaissance phase as well.
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On the drive back home we went up the north beaches to see Manly Beach and a place called Pittswater that Lawson had read a lot about as it is a popular sailing community.  It was a cold, overcast day so the photos are a bit meh but the beauty still comes through.  We stopped for the night in the coastal town of Port Macquarie on the trip back home.

Manly Beach…
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bondhi beach swimmer
Pittswater...
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pittswater sailing
The trip seemed extra long  because a huge portion was two lane roads and there was road work with the speed changing constantly between 30 to 80 to 110 kilometers per hour and signs everywhere that your speed was being monitored.  We were stressed out, worrying constantly that we might have missed a speed change sign.  It was the most I have driven in one shot since we have been here so it was good practice.  In spite of the two lanes, we passed some lovely sugar cane fields and caught this lovely rainbow on the way down to Sydney!
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rainbow over sugar cane fields nsw

As always, thanks for joining us (somewhere over the rainbow) on this expat adventure!  We hope our journey is inspiring you to come visit us and this beautiful country!

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It’s been a while

So, it really has been a while.  I originally wrote the post below a couple of weeks ago just to get my thoughts on paper not at all planning on posting it.  Then this past week happened.  The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain hit me hard.  They were both inspirations in living a life and having work they loved.  Lawson and I had just listened to an interview of Kate and Andy Spade about building their business together.  I don’t own a single Kate Spade bag but her story inspires me.  While we will probably never know the particulars of why they felt like this was the choice they needed to make, what is clear is that depression does not discriminate based on economics, career or anything else.  Lawson has often said he feels like I inherited the Kelley melancholy.  I think part of what he means by that is that I inherited a deep sensitivity, particularly around injustice,  that can sometimes trip me up.  I can barely get on Facebook these days without it unsettling me.  The language that is used to describe other human beings with a different viewpoint than one’s own has become dehumanizing,  Whether you like Trumps politics or not, I think it is fair to say that how he speaks to and about other human beings is not something we have ever before tolerated in a president and that is trickling down to the rest of society.  Civility and decency are on the decline.  For those of us who are empaths and who are highly sensitive, I can tell you this has a profound impact..  I can only imagine for those who feel desperate.  I share this much personal information because it is more important than where we visited in Australia this week (even though we got a very brief first taste of Sydney and boy was she brilliant)..  That is cool, maybe even inspiring for those who want an expat experience but what’s really important is that we can be vulnerable emotionally.  Our blog’s readership is mostly just our friends as a way to stay connected and a few fellow expats so being vulnerable here is slightly easier.  With the suicide rate increasing dramatically in the US in the past 20 years it seems all the more important to dialogue about it, to bring it out of the shadows.  There have been lots of posts since the news broke this week about depression.  Some have been helpful, some not as much  It is wonderful to offer a sofa as a safe place for someone but only if they really feel safe on the offered sofa.  If I feel judged, and many of us as parents, as one example, feel judged by what we are or are not doing, then I don’t feel safe and would not sit on that couch even if I was struggling  Words matter.  Kindness matters.  I particularly like this quote by Anthony Bourdain which encourages us to open our minds and attempt to step in another’s shoes and by so doing we can’t help but become more compassionate.  My parents prioritized travel as a way for me to learn and grow and I will be forever grateful for that!  It’s not just travel though that allows us to expand our minds.  New foods, music, books, listening with an open mind to another perspective…so many options to allow us to step into another person’s shoes!

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Now, to the original post which i thought was too much personal information originally – Ha!  It is fairly easy to write a post after a new adventure discovering some great place or event in Australia but more challenging to write about the ongoing adventure that is our expat life in Australia.  Don’t get me wrong – it is an adventure; it’s just sometimes more of an adventure than I signed up for.  I recently read a post on the brilliant blog Wait but Why by Tim Urban about there being two kinds of people (with a large continuum between these two ends of the spectrum of course) – cooks and chefs.  Well, I am a cook who follows a detailed recipe and Lawson is a chef who invents his own recipes!  This, of course, is part of what drew us to each other!  He is magnificent except when _______ (you know what I mean because you too are probably a cook or a chef who can fill in that blank for your partner).  For me and Lawson the fill in the blank often has to do with risk taking or lack there of and I bet you can guess which of us is which!  We simply have different thresholds for risk taking.  The thing is, right about a year ago I took what I believe to be a massive risk and moved to Australia.  I get that this isn’t a risk for just everyone but take my word for it when I say that it is for a cook.  As the one year anniversary comes near, my anxiety (because I am a cook who also experiences anxiety) has sky rocketed.  This adventure has been amazing but I am missing some things that help me feel grounded, namely a home to nest in and my own stuff to nest with.  I seriously miscalculated how difficult this would be for me.  Strangers are coming and going from my house in Florida which is now a vacation rental and all my things are in storage units.  I kept telling myself it would be freeing and to just treat this like a long adventure but a year in I am struggling.  The selling of my childhood home in April plus reaching the year mark seem to be taking a toll…and that is why I haven’t felt like blogging.  We have three more years on our visa and then we can file for permanent residency and by then our youngest daughter will have finished high school and our oldest will have graduated university.  We can then more easily split our time between Australia and the US which is our ultimate goal.  Three years seems like a long time from right here, right now even though I know it will pass in the blink of an eye!  A year in, things have not unfolded as we expected in many ways but others have unfolded beautifully.  Our girls are happier in school than they have ever been which is wonderful!  While we miss living at the beach, we love having access to all that living in a city can offer plus we can still be at the beach in less than an hour.  We love having affordable health care.  On my really hard, missing home days, I have to say having good health care at an affordable price is an important reminder of things we love about Australia!  Learning to navigate another culture with our children has not disappointed either.  It’s not always easy but we have always wanted to have this experience as a family and it has been a wonderful bonding experience.  Learning to drive on the left hand side of the road has been ridiculously hard which is somewhat embarrassing to admit but there it is!  While so much is similar to America, lots of things are different – very different!  And, sometimes taking a big risk into a world so incredibly different than the one you are used to can leave you anxious (well, if you are a cook it can anyway) and when that happens blogging doesn’t really flow!
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Yesterday, we went to a presentation of the musical South Pacific by the Queensland Musical Theatre.  This musical has special significance to me personally as it was one of the few albums my parents had while I was growing up and although it was totally warped from my parents storing it in the attic, it is one of the prized possessions I saved of theirs!  My dad served in WW 2 in Europe, not the South Pacific but it still makes me think of him and hearing my mom sing these songs around the house!  One of the songs, I had forgotten however was You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.  The lyrics seem incredibly applicable to our world today
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You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of those who are different than you is the general theme.  Do you know there are people who have been afraid, not approved of our family?  Yep!  Uniformity of skin color in a family matters to lots of people still.  This is the stuff that can derail me.  And, worse when I have shared this with others they question the experiences we have had..  This is not safety.  Let’s be gentle with one another.  Let’s listen to another’s story, especially if they seem to be in pain.  Let’s not judge one another quite so harshly.

This is the album that my parents used to listen to!  I especially remember my mom’s rendition of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”!  My mom was the optimist in our home and was always singing!  She would never have washed my dad outta her hair though!
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Our next blog will be coming soon with lots of photos of our day in Sydney and will be extra light on the emotional stuff!  Here’s to a more gentle week ahead for us all!  As always, thanks for your friendship and for following us on this journey!

 

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Mum’s Day Weekend

Happy Mum’s Day to all!  This is our first Mum’s Day in Australia and it didn’t disappoint!  I am especially thankful that we were all able to spend the day together!  Our 16 year old Dalai dog was diagnosed with malignant melanoma a few weeks ago so every day with her is special….we never know how many special holidays we have so we celebrate them all!  The dogs gave me a special gift this year from The Dog Mum!  Aren’t these shirts awesome?!  I love them!
Dog Mum

me and felix dog mum

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The weekend actually started with attending our first event at the Brisbane Powerhouse.  It was called A Quiet Faith by award-winning documentary theatre maker David Williams.  It was an interesting window into and an immersive experience into Australia and faith.  The immersive nature of it had us talking and processing long after we left the theatre.  I wanted to attend because of the title – A Quite Faith – and how it made me think of my dad whom I admired so very much.  He had such a profound impact on so many people but in a very quiet way.  As I have grown older, I have grown quieter and more contemplative in my own journey not because my faith is less but because it has hopefully deepened.  I am less interested in spending time with people who are always talking about what they believe and spending more with people who inspire me in how they live their lives!  It’s funny because the other day Lawson and I were at a cafe having a conversation and we were seated right next to a gentleman for probably 30 minutes when he leaned over and asked if we were Canadian or American.  We, of course, answered American and he said “I thought so at first but you aren’t as loud as most Americans”!  No, we weren’t insulted because we kinda knew what he was getting at.  Part of being an expat is getting to view your home country from a distance and well, there’s a lot of yelling going on in America right now when you view it from a distance.   I wonder what would happen if we got a little quieter and listened a little more?

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A Quiet Faith
Saturday night brought an extra special event to Brisbane – Chat 10 Looks 3 Live!  Lawson discovered the Chat 10 podcast about two years ago when we first began thinking that this Aussie adventure might actually happen.  Knowing we needed to be able to understand the Aussie accent meant listening to lots of Australian podcasts, radio and watching lots of Australian tv shows!  Chat 10 with Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb was by far our favorite podcast!  They discuss what they are reading, watching, cooking and listening to on their podcast.  Both Crabb  and Sales are journalists with ABC News here in Australia.  Part of the live show last night featured Leigh’s recent interview with former FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton and a funny story by Annabel on accidentally drinking Hillary Clinton’s water while MCing an event earlier in the week where former Secretary of State Clinton was the guest speaker.  It was so strange to be in the audience listening to people talk about American politicians and not be in America.  It was nice to hear from their perspective what it was like to interact with these two leaders.  There was a neutrality that we have lost in the US.  Lawson and I are like so many Americans – disgusted by the lot of our pollie”s (Australian for politicians….just learned that one recently) – we had to fight our own propensity for an eye roll when Clinton or Comey was mentioned.  We actually learned quite a bit more about them last night than we have by watching news coverage from back home.  Of course, this was not the best part of the evening but certainly a part two American expats in the audience were extra interested in.   When we got to Australia last year we joined the local Chat 10 book club here in Brisbane.  It is filled with interesting people and we have read some Australian authors we would never have been exposed to in the US!  So much coolness from one podcast!

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A couple of treats we picked up at the podcast last night!  We would have stayed to have our book autographed but….

Chat 10 Loot
Mum’s Day began bright and early with a club volleyball game for our daughter Eve and her team the Brisbane Bears!

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From there, we headed to a showing of Mamma Mia that was also a sing along….such fun!  They had all the lyrics displayed at the bottom of the screen so we didn’t miss a word to any of the songs!  Even though we have seen the movie multiple times and the play as well, there is something about being given permission to belt it out  in a theatre that makes it all the more fun!
Mama Mia singalong
“Mamma mia, here I go again  My my, how can I resist you?  Mamma mia, does it show again  My my, does it show how much I’ve missed you.”

mama mia dancing queen sing along
“You are the dancing queen ….You can dance  You can jive  Having the time of your life  Ooh, see that girl  Watch that scene Dig in the dancing queen!”
mothers day gift package
We headed home to feast on Lawson’s black bean burgers – one of my favorite dishes and my sweet family showered me with lots of Mum love!  I only wish my mum and Lawson’s mum were here with us to celebrate!

love you Mum

Mothers Day gifts

Mum's Day card Sophie

Mum's Day card Eve
We hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well!  As always, thanks for sharing this adventure with us!

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Straddie for the day

Yesterday, our house was buzzing before 5 am as we prepared to spend our Saturday on Stradbroke Island (or Straddie as they call it here.).  The trip to Straddie requires a bit of planning as there is an almost hour long ferry ride to and from the island.  In addition, the entrance and exit for the ferry ride is in Cleveland a 45 minute drive from our house.  All our packing occurred the night before except some of our picnic dishes that had to be prepped early that morning. We were able to leave on schedule so we arrived right on time for our ferry.  The efficiency of the ferry terminal was impressive.  We pulled up to the gate with all our paperwork at the ready only to be greeted with “Hello Kelley’s” no paperwork required!  Ours was one of the first ferries of the day over to the island.and it was quite a pleasant ride.
straddie ferry
ferry ride to straddie april 2018
Once on the island, we headed to the Island Fruit Barn Cafe for a little nourishment!  It was the first cool morning we have had this autumn (yep, April is autumn here not spring….still so weird) so a little breakfast chai was in order!
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Afterwards, we began our driving exploration of the island.  We headed to Amity Point to check it out!  It was the perfect place to take your 4 wheel drive vehicle….if only we had one!
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We found some beautiful beaches there and met some new friends!  Actually, we kept a nice, comfortable distance from these enormous kangaroos.  These two male kangaroos really looked like guards ready to give us a quick punch should we try to enter.



We headed from Amity Point over to Point Lookout where we enjoyed spectacular views and then walked along the beach and watched the surfers!

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We had packed all our beach gear thinking we would be sitting out on the beach, reading and romping in the waves but the cool, rainy weather forced us to focus more on exploring the multitude of walking paths available on the island.  The change of plans was really quite good though as we realized our visits to Straddie would be much more about enjoying nature!  Think we will save sitting out on the beach for the Sunny and Gold Coast beaches!  We headed to Straddie’s pride and joy the North Gorge Walk and boy did it not disappoint!  During whale migration this is the spot to watch the whales!  We plan on making the trip back for this in a couple of months. The views were simply breathtaking!  This 1.2 km walk is truly spectacular and if you come visit us it will be one of our recommended places to visit while you are here.  There is a deeply spiritual quality to this island that we really loved.

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After our picnic, we had a few minutes to spare before catching the ferry back to the mainland.  We just happened upon the store Made on Minijerribah featuring textiles and ceramics.  We were immediately taken with the beautiful designs!  Delvene Cockatoo-Collins is the artist.  She is a storyteller as her pieces express the stories of her family, her ancestors.  Delvene is also the official designer of the medals awarded at the 2018 Commonwealth Games which have just ended.    Migaloo, the well known white humpback whale here in Australia, is a key inspiration for her pieces and was incorporated into the Commonwealth Games medals.  Our time talking with Delvene was cut short by our need to catch the ferry but she shared this inspiration with us and we wanted to share a couple of her quotes that we sourced from the Commonwealth Games website.  “What I saw that day was that Migaloo brought joy to all the people there on the beach waiting for him.  So, I thought, he’s reaching a broad range of people and my design would be another way of sharing joy.  The image of Migaloo on the commemorative medal, I see is a way to bring joy to every athlete who will receive one.”  How beautiful is that?
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We were lucky enough to be able to purchase a couple of pieces of Delvene’s work – a whale runner for our table, a lovely ceramic pendant and bookmark!  Come visit us and we will make a stop by Made on Minjeribah when we visit Straddie and you too can take a piece of joy home with you too!
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A long holiday weekend

Did you know that Good Friday is quite a big deal in Australia?  It is one of three days (Christmas and Anzac Day are the others) during the year when most businesses are closed.  There were more things open on Easter than on Good Friday.  Who knew?  We began our Easter weekend with the traditional hot cross buns!  These sweet buns filled with raisins and marked on top with a cross are historically served on Good Friday in Australia and many other Commonwealth countries!  They were yummy!
hot cross buns
On Saturday, the Queen’s baton relay for the 2018 Commonwealth Games came through our neighborhood park here in New Farm!  The relay started at Buckingham Palace then traveled to 18 different countries in Africa then 14 countries in the Caribbean then 6 countries in the Americas then 10 countries in Europe then 7 countries in Asia and finally 14 countries in Oceana!  The baton will reach the Gold Coast on April 4th where they will read the Queen’s message and the Commonwealth Games will begin!  Pretty cool to get to see!
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On Sunday, we decided to visit one of the landmark churches in Brisbane, Albert St. Uniting Church in King George Square, to celebrate Easter.  The present church building was opened in 1889 but the history dates back to the first Methodist congregation in 1847.  The building is Victorian Gothic Revival Style and is quite beautiful.  We don’t have Uniting Churches in the United States so this was an opportunity for us to experience and learn about it.  As we understand it, the Uniting Church came into being in 1977 when the Congregational Union, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches of Australia joined together.  It was a lovely service although just different enough to reinforce that feeling of being what some days feels like a million miles from home.



Upon leaving the Easter service, we headed just across King George Square to an art installation just in front of city hall called one million stars.  This art installation and its  handwoven stars are meant to promote peace, light and hope in the world!  How beautiful is that?  And, on Easter!

As always, thanks for joining us on this journey!  We hope you had a beautiful Easter and that peace, light and hope fill your day today!!  Thank you for bringing light to our life!

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Death and Taxes

You know the Benjamin Franklin quote “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”?  Yeah, these past two months have been dominated by these two things.  We spoke of death in our last post and I will just say my sweet husband is navigating the grief of losing his mom very thoughtfully.  He is taking his time, allowing the grief process to unfold.  Taxes, on the other hand, are not so gracefully navigated.  This is our first tax year as expats.  It wouldn’t be that complicated except we turned our stateside home into a beach holiday rental which means it is now a business.  Again, not too complicated except for the fact that we spent 4 years renovating and adding on to our home.  We never really thought this expat adventure would happen.  We talked about it and dreamed about it but thought we had missed the window to make it happen.  Since we never really planned on our home being anything other than our home, our renovation receipts, etc. were all clumped together in a big huge wad that has needed untangling.  Untangling all of this from a distance has been challenging and has brought it’s own kind of homesickness as we remember every little piece of the renovation process of a home we love.  Today, we finally got the last of the information to our accountant back in the States.  Hallelujah!
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For the third time, we have a contract on my parents home.  This time, however, it looks like it may really go through.  As much as I know I must let go, the loss of my childhood home is enormous.  I have written before about this so won’t say more than this is another form of grief.  Home is my thing.  It has been my career in a multitude of different ways from helping others through feng shui and organizing to home renovator to creating home with my own family.  Home shapes us in the most powerful of ways!  She’s just a simple ranch house but oh how my childhood home was filled to the brim with so much love!  Where’s a kleenex?
2108 Brookhill Rd (1)
Our youngest daughter, Eve, has been busy with volleyball and choir during this first term of school.  Our oldest, Sophie. has been juggling an internship (that is transitioning into a proper paid contract position next week) with university studies.  We are all still adjusting to new school systems.  Schools are different and as wonderful as the opportunity is, it is still a lot to get used to.  As the first term of year 10 and uni wind down for our girls, we are prepping for some fun day trips over the next couple of weeks.in our quest to explore more of our city and things close to us.  It’s funny because what we want to do is be in constant Aussie exploration mode but that is not really possible when you have life things like school, pets, work, etc….So we, explore when we can and are so looking forward to this break!

The past two weeks have brought confirmation dates of three sets of friends coming to visit this year!  Yippee!!  It all begins on July 4 then August then November!  We are so incredibly happy that friends are making the long trip Down Under!  It is a long way from home and flights are not inexpensive but it is totally worth it!  Don’t you want to come?  And, come while we are in this renovated Queenslander so you can enjoy this view!  We have only begun to explore all this wonderful country has to offer but what we have seen has been fabulous!
window view 1 Abbott
flowers at our open window
Our youngest daughter is a social butterfly!  She always has been!  She is a full on extrovert so it seems every weekend there is a birthday party to attend.  This past weekend had us traveling about 30 minutes south of our home to Manly, QLD.  While Eve did the party thing, we explored the town and relaxed by the water with all the sailboats.   I have already posted this on social media but as we were walking down the street in Manly we heard Sweet Home Alabama being covered by a local band.  Queue some serious homesickness!  This, a few days after my parents home had gone under contract!  The other slightly cool thing from our time there was as we were relaxing on a bench by the water we hear someone say “Hello you two”!  What?  We don’t know anyone.  We look up to find our doctor’s receptionist looking at us.  It was actually so nice to see a face we are slightly familiar with.  It isn’t home yet but still oh so nice!   I will wrap up this post with a few of the photos from our time there.

Boats Manly boats 3 manly
IMG_5457 flowers, boats, homes Manly
Boats 2 Manly
As always, we are ever so grateful for your joining us on this adventure!

 

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Rough start

When we started the blogging process, we decided we wanted to post not just about the fun part of the expat experience but also about the challenges..  Some of you know from Facebook or Instagram that our 2018 has gotten off to a rough start.  On January 31, Lawson’s mom passed away.  He was scheduled to fly home to see her just a week later.  Among the hardest parts of the expat experience is experiencing the death of a loved one from a distance.  This is the second death of someone dear to us since we have been in Australia.  Lawson spoke on the phone with his mom every day and it just so happened that on January 31, he was running a little later than usual and he spoke with her around 9 pm her time.  He was able to say goodnight to her.  She passed away around 3am that next morning.  If you have lost a parent, you have some understanding of the pain my beloved is in.  Unfortunately, that pain was compounded by the fact that his siblings planned the visitation/funeral for that weekend even after Lawson had asked for the following weekend.  We were unable to get him a flight that would get him there in time.  The grief and lack of closure has been incredibly difficult for Lawson.  It has taken some time to be able to write this in a blog post.  How do you put words to things that don’t make sense?  We are still at a loss for words other than to say we humans can be incredibly cruel to one another.  The death of a loved one often reveals the best and worst of who we are.

Since Lawson didn’t have the opportunity to speak at her funeral like I did at my parents, I asked Lawson to tell me what he would like for people to know about his mom.  Here is what he said: “She always had such a good attitude even when things were difficult.  She was an eternal optimist!  She had a really sharp mind and loved talking with me about my travels around the world.  At, 87 she really took to Facebook and it brought her so much joy to connect with people through that medium this past year.  She loved being on this adventure with us.  I called her everyday and she would answer “G’Day Mate” and we would have a laugh. She was very much here with us, always asking questions about our day to day life here Down Under.  She loved me and accepted me just as I am.”
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Grief and stress often impact our bodies in unexpected ways.  In Lawson’s case, he has been experiencing some serious stomach issues over the past couple of months.  It is hard to see your strong husband who has always had a strong constitution struggle.  All is well with his blood work but he is not back to his normal self.  Again, grief, betrayal and extreme stress can impact us physically even when we think we are handling things fairly well.  Not feeling well when you are in a new country can be scary.  In spite of this, our experience navigating the medical system here has been extremely positive so far.  The doctors have been excellent and even though we are required to have private health insurance, the cost of health care here in Australia is a fraction of the cost of what it is in the US.

On a far happier note, our youngest daughter turned 16 in early February!  Her birthday was just a few days after Lawson lost his mom so it could have been a heavy birthday but Eve is a ray of sunshine and lifted everyone’s spirits with her joyful embrace of sweet 16!  We are so lucky to be hers!
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A couple of days after her birthday, Lawson and I headed to the States to take care of some business matters  It was not the first trip home we had envisioned.  It was a terribly stressful couple of weeks of trying to take care of business with Lawson feeling quite unwell.  Lawson already had a ticket to go back to Arkansas to visit his mom before her death and he thought about keeping that flight but ultimately decided it would only add more stress and pain.  The sheer number of things we had left undone was staggering and then there were all the things to fix with the house.  The conversion of one’s primary home to holiday rental management is a tough one.  You have to detach in a way that is quite hard for us.  After spending four years bringing this home back to life and adding on to her already existing beauty, letting go has been challenging.  We love that others are getting to experience her beauty and unique character but sometimes you just miss home!
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While we are extremely grateful to be experiencing this adventure with our girls and sweet animals, it is hard to not have a home of our own here in Australia.  We are unencumbered but also a bit ungrounded.  Being expats is a gift but also full of new challenges.  So much of this adventure is learning to navigate a new culture, being open to the wonderful new ways of looking at the world.  That is the fun part.  Facing painful life events from a distance is doubly challenging..  We are learning as we go, leaning on one another for support!  It is an amazing opportunity for us to grow as a family and as individuals.  It in no way diminishes the pain of the loss but we do feel like our parents are here in spirit on this adventure with us.  We feel their love, their presence.  One of Lawson’s favorite poets is Rumi and he says it here so well.
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Thank you so much for joining us on this adventure!

 

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The beach+horses = fun

As summer break winds down for our girls, we decided one last adventure was in order.  Riding horses on the beach in Noosa has been on our list of adventures to try.  As we were researching places to stay along the Sunshine Coast we found a new urban community named Seaside.  What?  For those of you who don’t know, we have a home that is a 5 minute walk from Seaside, FL (one of the original new urban communities) in the US.  I visited Seaside, Florida in the very early days while I was still a student.  I went home and told my parents they should buy a home there.  Usually my parents were way smarter than me but on this occasion, I wish they would have listened to me!  Seaside has gone up in value in a massive way since those early days!  Anyway, Seaside was one of the first places I took Lawson when we first got married.  I remember vividly sitting on the beach and us dreaming of someday living there!  In 2013, we moved to the beautiful beaches of 30a and spent our days enjoying Seaside.   We found a modern home (actually it was the home of one of Seasides architects)  that was in need of much love so we purchased and renovated it.  It is now in holiday rental management while we are on this adventure!  On the Seaside Australia website, they talk about Seaside, Florida being a sister city and how they were influenced by them.  It was an interesting experience to stay there.  We loved the dog friendly beaches and there were lots of people out and about in the shared spaces.  The building standards were completely different and the original vision had been altered from when they began according to one of the residents we spoke with but there were still lots of new urban touches.  Having lived in a new urban community in Atlanta, Georgia as well, there are aspects of new urbanism that will always resonate with us.  We would do it again in a heartbeat if it was the right community!
Seaside AU sign
Beach Seaside AU
Seaside AU yoga
Seaside AU walkway  flower seaside au
On Friday, we drove north of Seaside to Noosa.  We took a ferry across to Noosa North Shores.  Along the way, these wonderful signs reminded us to not drive too fast!  Sophie actually saw a koala hanging out in a tree right beside the road as we drove along!
koala roo sign
Lawson did a lot of research on which of the horse rides along the beach was the right one for us. Noosa Horses was the obvious choice to us!  We can’t say enough good things about Patrick and Bob!  In addition to their knowledge and love for horses, they were fun guides!  While we have experienced horses on the beach in Florida, this was the first time we have been able to actually go into the water with them!  So awesome!
Susan:girls noosa horse sign
Photo credit for all the beach photos goes to Patrick, the owner of Noosa Horses!
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Lawson surf horses
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Other than being a little sore from our 2 hours in the saddle, it was a fabulous experience!  Who is going to visit us so we can do this again soon?!
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Ahh, to be 21 again!

It’s been a big week for our family! Our oldest, Sophie, turned 21 yesterday! What is so impossible about this is that she was this baby just the other day!
sophie baby b:w  sophie baby white baptism
And, we were 21 not that long ago either.  Ok, just kidding!  Many years ago we created a contract with Sophie that culminated when she reached 21.  She has honored the terms of that contract and we are super proud of her.  Our hope is that moving forward she will use the things that were parameters during these years as tools moving forward in her decision making!  What an accomplishment!

We started the celebrating with smoothies (where we got our happy on) and pedicures!  Pedicures are not something we do very often so it was lots of fun!
Put your happy on cup
birthday pedicure 2  birthday pedicure
Eve being the amazing little sis she is, made Sophie a strawberry cake from scratch!  Our youngest has mad baking skills!  After an wonderful birthday lunch at home and dinner with her girlfriends, we all got to enjoy Eve’s delicious creation!  21 is off to a great start for our girl!
Eve making cake  Eve and her cake for Soph
21st birthday with streamers  Eve Doreen and
family cake 21st  Sophie 21st pat table
Sophie 21st blowing out candles Sophie and Felix
21st 4 girls
As our oldest makes yet another big step forward into adulthood, we are hopeful for our world.  She represents optimism.  She doesn’t see skin color or ethnicity….she doesn’t see difference.  She is strong, opinionated and driven.  She is honest and will tell it like it is.  She is kind and loyal but doesn’t put up with nonsense.  She has a strong work ethic and is a born leader.  She has a depth spiritually but a bit of a potty mouth – okay so I’m still Mum in this regard.  There is so much that makes me optimistic about our future, about her future.  Sophie’s birthday always falls around Martin Luther King Day so we are always thinking of his influence on the world we live in this time of year.  It is a great week to have a birthday!  We have always been moved by his I have a Dream speech!   Here’s to our 21 year old and all the other 21 year olds who are going to push us closer to that dream!
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