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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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?
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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?
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!
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.
As always, we are ever so grateful for your joining us on this adventure!
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.”
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!
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!
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.
Thank you so much for joining us on this adventure!
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!
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!
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!
Photo credit for all the beach photos goes to Patrick, the owner of Noosa Horses!
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?!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Well, maybe I should have said discoing into the new year! Now that the holiday’s are over, we are fully embracing summer break. Yes, summer in January still is throwing us off too! Because our Sophie is working as an intern four days a week, we have to focus on our weekends for day trips near Brisbane. This past weekend we made our way up to Redcliffe to see Bee Gees Way! As children of the 70’s and 80’s, we loved going back in time to some of the music of our youth! Bee Gees Way is a multi-media celebration and walkway that honours the world famous pop group. It was tons of fun to visit and read about not only their career but also their family life. We loved reading about their love for one another, their wives and parents! Incredible musicians as well as really good human beings….makes me like them all the more! Here are a few silly pics from our day!
There is so much more to Redcliffe than just Bee Gees Way and we will be heading back up soon! On the drive back home, we drove down through Shorncliffe where Lawson and I stayed on our last night in Brisbane on our recon mission in 2016. We stopped for gelato at Sandgate Waterfront and then took a walk along the bay. On the drive between Redcliffe and Shorncliffe, we experienced a first. It was a random middle of the afternoon breathalizer stop! Ummm….interesting! I confess I didn’t have the guts to snap a photo of Lawson being breatlized (is that a word?) but instead snapped a pic of the car across the street from us.
The following day we ventured up to Samford, another place Lawson and I had visited on our initial Brisbane trip. This time our destination was The Store of Requirement or “the Harry Potter” store as it’s often referred to. If you love Harry Potter, you will want to visit! It was lots of fun!
We found a lovely organic cafe called Canter and Colt to recharge after walking around Samford!
With only 11 more days of summer left before our youngest daughter heads back to school, we are trying to pack in as much as possible! In addition, we are gearing up for another year of leaving our comfort zone. There are some days where I just want to go home and go back to how things were….there is comfort in the old….but there is growth in the new so…..here we go!
One of our friends in describing us to someone who didn’t know us said “When they say they are going to do something, like move to Australia, they actually do it…they don’t just talk about it!” We took this as quite the compliment and we definitely feel responsible to follow through on what we say we are going to do. However, we are aware that there are areas in our life where we still struggle to manifest some of our dreams. 2018 is all about working on that! Yes, this Australian adventure has been a 14 year dream that came true but we are just getting started! There is so much more we each want to accomplish personally, as a family and professionally! There are still fears to face, places to visit, experiences to have and dreams to go for!
2017 was such an overwhelming year! So many amazing accomplishments as well as some incredibly painful experiences – most notably the flash fire for me. When I reflect back on the fire I realize how life can change in an instant. I was so incredibly fortunate! I could have easily lost my eyesight or been permanently disfigured. I try to keep this thought close lest I forget and take for granted this life I have been given. I’m not sure exactly how we pulled off the move after losing me to bed rest and painkillers for such a long period but we did it. We made it to Australia! These past 7 months have been an adventure. For years, we talked about just coming and traveling all around Australia but then decided it would be even more incredible to get the full on experience of living here. While feeling settled seems like something far, far in the future, we are starting to feel some orientation to our new city. We arrived with some clothes, our computers, our sweet pets and a little paperwork. We have acquired a little since we’ve been here but have been fortunate to lease a home where most everything is provided for us! We will share a bit more on our new place in future posts. We have a great house for visitors and are ready!! Who will be our first overseas guest?
We look forward to a 2018 full of color, adventure, friendship and lots of growth! As always, we appreciate your joining us on this adventure!
Merry Christmas from our family! For the first time in twenty six years of marriage, we are not getting Christmas or New Years cards in the post so we thought we would send our love via blog!
This is our first Christmas away from home. Because our life is packed up and in storage in the United States and since we just moved into a new rental this weekend, we kept this Christmas super simple. Just a small artificial tree decorated with Aussie ornaments we found over the past few weeks. Without a chill in the air, it has been quite hard to get into a festive mood. Fortunately, we are able to share this Christmas with two of Sophie’s university friends! Doreen grew up in Hong Kong and Peggy grew up in Taiwan so this was their first Christmas! Getting to share in the wonder of their first Christmas has helped so much with getting in the Christmas spirit!
We began Christmas Eve celebrations with a wonderful meal prepared by Peggy and Doreen! It was a feast of Asian delicacies! A wonderful blend of east and west!
After dinner, we made our way to St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in downtown Brisbane for Christmas Eve services. St John’s is a mixture of French and English Victorian Gothic Revival styles and is home to 12 bells which were ringing as we made our way into the church. It has the largest stone roof cathedral in Australia! The service was a festival of readings and Christmas carols. On a humorous note, we were the Americans in the back row furiously fanning ourselves with our programs. While outside a nice breeze rustled through the trees, inside the church was a bit like a sauna in spite of all the doors being wide open. As I looked around the packed church, it was clear others were prepared for the heat with their lovely decorative fans! So this is Christmas Down Under!
“Fear not, glad tidings of great joy I bring you and all humankind”!
On the ride home, we caught one of the Christmas buses! There are a few of these buses around Brisbane that the drivers decorate to help celebrate the holiday’s. This was our first Christmas bus to catch this December and the perfect night to catch it!
We awoke this morning to our tradition of stockings first! Watching Doreen and Peggy open their stockings from Santa was a delight!
Then it was on to Christmas cinnamon rolls from Miettes Fine Breads and Pastries in Graceville which is near the Queensland Tennis Centre home of the Brisbane International Tennis Championships coming up in January. It is hard from the photo to tell exactly how massive these rolls are!
And, then there are the games that await us…all with an Aussie theme! And, of course our traditional holiday meal later in the day once things cool down a bit (will we ever get used to the heat for Christmas?)!
The fur babies love having a full house to celebrate Christmas! They wanted to be right in the thick of things while gifts were being opened!
Felix was our Christmas present three years ago and remains the best gift ever!!!!!
Karo kitty and our old girl Dalai tired out of the celebrating pretty quickly! Too much eggnog! Just kidding!
One of my favorite lines from a hymn last evening was “All glory be to God on high, and to the world be peace; goodwill henceforth from heaven to earth begin and never cease.” During a time of so much upheaval, may peace on earth truly remain a hope within all our hearts!
We leave you with our wishes for a very Merry Christmas to you all! And, with a little Aussie Christmas flavor!!
You know you are way behind with your blog when friends who aren’t on social media begin sending you emails asking if you are okay! It has been an incredibly busy couple of months and trying to figure out where to begin the catch up has been daunting! I really wanted to begin where I left off which was with the incredible experience at 90 Monkey’s yoga teacher training with Amy Ippoliti on the Sunshine Coast, but I think I will instead begin with where we are this week and over time reflect back on some of the incredible events from the last two months.
Our girls are now both officially on summer break!!! Yahoo! We are a little bit turned upside down with summer beginning in December though. How can it be summer and almost Christmas?, My Facebook and Instagram news feeds are full of friends wearing sweaters and boots yet our store windows here are full of cute sundresses! People are planning their Christmas Day barbecues! As has happened often over the past six months, just when we start feeling like we are sort of assimilating into a new culture something happens and we realize ‘nope, we are Americans in Australia’. We ran across this sign on a walk the other day and it epitomizes things seeming familiar but still scratching our heads which is how our life as expats seems some days! STOP or GO? It’s like we just don’t quite understand how things work yet!
This week’s episode (in addition to the Christmas in summer thing) came in the form of an automated speeding ticket for going 3 miles over the speed limit – THREE MILES PER HOUR! I drive like a little old lady and I still think this is excessive. As Americans, we think 5 miles over is totally acceptable and if you live in Atlanta, GA you know that if you aren’t going at least 10 miles over you will be run over going down I-400! Clearly we have a lot to learn and many adjustments in our thinking to make! Our other reality check moment came as we began gathering quotes for the bond cleaning of our rental house as we are moving to a new house a couple of days before Christmas. We were in sticker shock with quotes of $1,200 for a bond clean. Since I have mad cleaning skills we decided to undertake this ourselves. Wish us luck!
Sophie has recently been accepted to internships with two start ups doing technical writing. We are thrilled for her but it will also mean we won’t have quite as much time during summer break to explore all together as a family. We had one day this week to explore together so we made our way to the Brisbane Botanical Gardens at Mt Coot-tha. It was beautiful! Lawson and I have decided we will be using these gardens as one of our “outdoor offices” once things cool down a bit!
We also had the opportunity to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Queensland Art Gallery recently! It was such fun!
As we head into this crazy week of prepping for a house move and getting ready for Christmas, we are determined to stay chilled and try to not get so behind in our blogging ever again! As always, thanks for joining us on this journey and for all the kind messages and emails checking on us! Have a wonderful last week before Christmas!