Monday, June 30, 2008

Jane Austen Confession...

This confession is slightly less serious than the last time I made a confession. I am 37 years old, love romantic literature (as in the genre of romantic literature, not books covered in Fabio...blech!), and I've never...I've never...gulp....I've never read any of Jane Austen's novels.

(Collective gasp goes up from the throngs...or not)

Seriously, I LOVE me some Jane Austen movies. Sense and Sensibility, with Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet, and Alan Rickman is one of my favorites. When Elinor discovers that Edward is, in fact, not married, and collapses into a chair from happiness, I feel her utter joy.

However, having said that, for some reason in all my years of reading hundreds of books, I have neglected to actually read any of her novels. That was taken care of over the past few days. I decided that I needed to read her novels in the order in which she wrote them...not, however, in which they were published. So, since that was the criteria, I started with Northanger Abbey. I absolutely adored it. I think maybe I found myself in the character of Catherine because she was so ordinary. The situations and misunderstandings she found herself in, I could see myself getting into.

Now, since I am officially a part of the Jane Austen fan club (okay, maybe not officially, but whatever), I figured I should change my style of writing to match hers. Let me give an example of a before-reading-Austen sentence and an after-reading-Austen sentence:

Before: She was upset.

After: Her emotional fortitude, having been met with such incomprehensible dissatisfaction, unknown to her before this moment of her being, was severely struck with such unhappiness as to make her countenance unable to give any other indication of her feelings but complete and utter sadness.

On second thought, just trying to come up with that many words for one sentence has made me very tired. I gotta go lay down...

Sense and Sensibility is next on my list...I can't wait!

Friday, June 27, 2008

My Husband Rocks! Friday

Two post day! Wow...I do good to get in one every day...but this is worth it! But before I start, I have to tell you to head on over to The Pink Potpourri to win some pretties! She is such a sweet girl, and I enjoy her daily posts!

Today is Friday, which means that per Katy Lin at The Great Adventure it is My Husband Rocks! Friday! You really ought to check her post out today, along with all the other ladies participating. Her engagement story is so romantic, it brought tears to my eyes. It reminds me of something my sweet husband would do.

However, romance is not the subject today...I don't know, when my husband does what I'm going to post about, I see it as romantic...anyway, My Husband Rocks because right now he is smack dab in the middle of a huge project with our son. I won't say too much about it here, because I plan on posting about the whole thing later, but I'll give a tidbit...

Does it make my hiney cringe to think that my son is handling power tools? Yes, a bit, but knowing that the capable hands of my husband are there to guide him make me know that he is safe. I have to point out, too, the safety goggles, the ear protection, the gloves. My husband doesn't work for the safety industry for nothin'. He is teaching our son such valuable lessons in this project, not the least of which is patience! I giggled the other day when my husband was thinking over the project and mumbled, "What have I gotten myself into?" I know they can do it. I already see the project taking great shape. I also see a promise fulfilled from a father to a son, and that speaks volumes more than words ever could.

The Beauty of Tasmania

There is so much beauty to behold in Tasmania. I cannot begin to convey with words or even pictures the wonder I felt every day for two months. Almost every day God gave me a rainbow to remember that He keeps His promises, even showing me one made from snow. Yes, a snow-reflected rainbow. I'd never seen one before and haven't since. Which brings me to a point I've wanted to make, just have not had the chance. When we in the Northern Hemisphere are having summer, those in the Southern Hemisphere are having winter. Hence, the jackets and sweaters. Some days were colder than others, like the week before my birthday that I played in the snow at Cradle Mountain (where the wallaby got a little too personal).

When I first arrived they told me I had missed the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis), the Southern Hemisphere's version of our Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), by about a week. Determined to see them, I kept my eye on the night skies. I was never privileged to see the Southern Lights, but I remember the night we drove to a couple's house out in a very rural area. It was an extremely clear night, and when I emerged from the car, I gasped in wonder at the magnificence above me. The stars were simply breathtaking. They seemed so close that I almost thought I could reach out and touch them. How can I convey to you the wonder that I felt? My words simply fail me. I had never before beheld something that made me feel the Creator's presence more than I did that night.

Since my words are so inadequate, I thought I'd let some pictures tell their own tales for a change. I'll tell you where they're from, but that's about it. I'm sure if you want to know more about them you'll let me know.

Lake Barrington

Mount Roland, sunset

The Nut at Stanley

Rain forest waterfall

One of my almost daily rainbows

Southeastern coast, close to Port Arthur

Southeastern coast, close to Port Arthur

Church at Port Arthur, Historic Site

Cradle Mountain

Pastoral scene, Mount Roland

One of thousands of joyful faces made over the course of the summer, Mount Roland as backdrop, little wooly friend as companion

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Foot Hurts

I can't imagine why. I was only outside spray painting some things. Well, there might have been this bee. Actually, there was a bee. But he wasn't bothering me. In fact, he was kind of on his last leg, and I felt sorry for him. So I let him be. Bee. Whatever. So I kept on spraying my merry way when one of Bee's buddies evidently thought I was the cause of Bee's demise. Boy, was he wrong. But how do you explain that to a bug with a stinger in his rear? "Excuse me, Mr. Other Bee. I'm sorry for your friend, but I am not at fault. In fact, I allowed your friend to stay in close proximity to me, even though I am deathly afraid of being stung by your kind. So if you wouldn't mind, please stop buzzing me and go see how you might aid your friend."

Yeah. That didn't happen. This insane Other Bee started buzzing all around me like he was mad and I was the cause of it. So I did my best dance moves (otherwise known as flailing of arms and legs) to try to rid myself of him. He wasn't so easily swayed, so he returned, even madder than before. So, what'd I do? I very calmly said, "Mr. Other Bee, I asked you nicely...." Yeah. That didn't happen either. I promptly dropped my spray painted thingie and split, so fast my left foot came flying out of my flip-flop. Now, lest you think this was some graceful run, I do have to paint the real picture. After my foot left its home, I lost my balance, reliving Atlanta all over again in the time left after my life flashed before my eyes. I fell. I mean I felllllllllllll. No, that's not quite accurate. I was in the act of falling, thinking I would surely land on the grass between the driveway and the patio...then thinking I would surely land on the was like I was in a video game, watching things fly past my head when I know I was supposed to actually land on them...then I wondering how much farther I could fall when FINALLY I smacked into the side of the house. Fully upright, I might add. So, technically, I did not fall. But I did hurt my foot.

Trying to come up with a solution for this not to happen again, I have decided to put some of these around outside, you know, just in case I ever decide to come near a dying bee again. Oh, wait, these didn't help last time...

Oh, least this time it was the other foot.
Editor's note: I cannot stop giggling. I have thought about this all day long, and while telling my husband about it the exact same words that described my Atlanta fall kept coming to mind..."When am I gonna land?" I am just too graceful for my own good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Busy Week (Last)

I mentioned that my week was really busy in a post or two ago. Now that I have time to fill you in, I'll give you a glimpse of all the fun stuff I did Wednesday and Thursday. It all started Wednesday, which happened to be my Dad's birthday. My sister and nephew came up to take Daddy and my step-mom out to lunch, which was nice.

That evening the boys spent the night in the living room since the Kiddo's bed is only a twin. After showers, teeth brushing, etc, I walked into the living room to see this...

I love to see the boys reading together. What's that, you ask? What are they so studiously reading? Well, let's see...

That would be Batman on the left, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on the right. Guess whose child is reading Batman. While my nephew reads cultured literature, my son is content with a flying bat person thingie. That's not really fair. He had just finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the night before they came. Why he then chose that particular book is beyond me. He does read far beyond his years or grade, and for that, I am so thankful.

Back to the busyness...Thursday my Mom came up and all of us went to Olive Garden for lunch. So I got to not only visit a while with my sister, but got to eat lunch with my entire family over the course of the two days.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...oh, wait, I don't live on a ranch...anyway, we found out Tuesday that Kiddo had a make-up game of a make-up game scheduled for the same night that I had committed to something else. I was so torn. Should I back out of my previous commitment, even though we'd had it scheduled for over two months? Or should I go and miss my son's last baseball game of the year? My Sweet and I finally decided that I should do what I had committed to, then high-tail it over to my son's game. So that's what I did. What was my commitment? Well, it involved going here...

And listening to this youth band...

Before standing around doing this...

What in the world are we doing? Well, here's a hint. Can you see what's in front of us?

That would be a microphone. And see the umpires and the baseball players with their caps over their hearts? We're singing the National Anthem at the Memphis Redbirds Game! Our church had been asked to provide a band for the hour before the game as well as an ensemble to sing the Anthem. How cool is that? I'm the last one in red facing the camera. My sweet friend, Carolyn, is signing in front of us. It was really cool. What was even cooler was when we were done, this happened...

Can you see the ump at the far right turning around? That's because he was saying "Nicely done, ladies." Wow. It was so neat to be there. The thing is, that was the second time we'd gotten to do that in the past couple of years. What a privilege.

So,who else was that singing?

Mrs. Virginia, Denise, Stacy, Kim, Tricia, Me, Carolyn

And next time I have a picture made...remind me not to stand next to Carolyn with her tanned skinny self. My complexion rivals the White Witch next to her.

As soon as we finished singing, I was off to another game. On the way, I saw this...

Along with this...

Although the game I was headed to was on a slightly smaller scale than the one at which I had been ...

If you can keep a secret, I'm much more at home at this one.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Flora and Fauna of Tasmania

I said that to my small group last night and my husband said, "The who and the what?" Flora means the plants of an area or region, and fauna means the animals of an area or region. As in, the flora and fauna of Mississippi include kudzu and possums.

Spending two months in one place, more or less, gave me the awesome opportunity to see the wildlife as well as the plant life in Tasmania. Of course, on the car trip from Launceston to Sheffield I expected to see kangaroos hopping all over the place. Uh, yeah. They don't do that. Well, I'm sure they could, given the right circumstances. But as I looked out my window I wondered if I would get to see the animals made so famous by the Land Down Under. It wouldn't take me long before I was introduced to some of them.

One morning not long after I arrived in Sheffield I awoke to a cacophony of noise very close to Heather's home. I found Heather and asked her what in the world that was, and she informed me that it was a
kookaburra, and they did that most every morning. As much as I tried, I never got a good picture of a kookaburra. I either was too far away or didn't have my camera. One day I was visiting someone and suddenly a plump bird plopped down in the tree just outside the glass door of the living room. It was the elusive kookaburra, and I hadn't brought my camera for some unknown reason. The nice lady I was visiting offered to take a picture with her camera and send me the photo, but I never received it. Oh, well, that's what the 'net is for. Make sure you listen to the sound it makes, too.

On to pictures I do have. I called this post the "Flora" yada, yada, yada, but I really only have one picture of actual "flora." But it's a good one. The flora, not the picture. This is a Wattle Tree. It is widespread in Australia and one type of Wattle is the floral emblem of Australia.

Now to the "fauna." One of the major highlights of the summer was the trip to Trowunna Wildlife Park at Mole Creek. They pride themselves on Tasmanian Devil conservation, even more now than when I was there. There is a contagious cancer the Devils are contracting and it is killing thousands of Devils. It hurts my heart to think these little unique creatures may go the way of the Tasmanian Tiger.

Okay, off that depressing thought. I know what you're thinking. Or at least what you did think when I mentioned Tasmanian Devils. This is what you thought...

Go ahead, admit it. It's okay. Not many people know what a real Tasmanian Devil looks like, much less sounds like. And believe me, you don't forget what it really sounds like when you hear it.

It's amazing to think that such an awful sound can come from such a cute animal. Okay, maybe not so cute, but still. It is considered the "cleanup crew" of the Tasmanian bush. It eats roadkill, and how. I watched it eat every bit of pieces of meat...fur, bones, everything. I hope you're not eating as you're reading this. But they really are very needed animals in Tasmania.

Okay, on to "cuter" animals. These little dudes that Stephanie and I are holding are wombats. They are so cute, but I had never even heard of wombats before my trip.

We then moved on to the Kangaroo area. These are Gray Kangaroos, and some even had little joeys peeping out from their pouches. Too, too cute.

Here are some wallabies. These were not at the wildlife park, but this was a good spot to put them in. Notice the brown mud on my knees. That's because I fell halfway down the hill trying to feed the wallabies at Cradle Mountain. never ends.

Do you see how close that wallaby is to my face? He was seriously wanting my carrot sticks, and he was scaring me! He kept getting closer and closer until I had to throw the whole bag away to get him off of me.

Okay, back to the wildlife park. This is the one I had been waiting for. My entire life. No, really! Now, koalas are no longer living in Tasmania, having been hunted to extinction on the island in the 19th century, so this is one non-Tasmanian-native. If you look closely you can see the baby attached to the momma koala. I was about to die from the cuteness.

I don't even know how to introduce this next picture. My face is lit up with so much joy, I'm sure my face hurt after this day was over. I had always, always wanted to hold a real, live, koala. I got my wish.

I've had people ask me if this is a real koala. Uh, yes. Why would I hold a fake one? Oh, wait, I do later on. But that's another post.

If I had to choose one picture to capture my summer, this would be it. Pretty fitting, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Popeye should be so lucky

See this?

It's a spinach leaf. Nothing really great about it. Oh, sure, it's really good for you. Really. Good. For. You. But just sitting there in my hand it's just plain; it's just...there. But then, you put it and a jillion of its friends in this salad with this dressing and it becomes...spinach heaven.

Note: no slurping of salad bowls was committed during the writing of this post. Honest.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Aussie Language Survival Guide

As I was rummaging around my stash of Australian memorabilia, I found a little yellow pamphlet with the above title. As I've mentioned before, some words and phrases that mean one thing in the States mean something totally different in Australia. I thought you'd like to see some of the different meanings.

American = Australian
or, We say = They say
biscuit = scone
cookie = biscuit (or bickie)
food = tucker
french fries = hot chips
chicken = chook
kool-aid = cordial
breakfast = breckie (they say breakfast, but they abbreviate as many words as they can)
supper = tea
late night snack = supper
cup of coffee, tea, etc. = cuppa
bell pepper = capsicum
ketchup = tomato sauce
tomato sauce = tomato puree
jello = jelly
jelly = conserve
candy = lolly
spaghetti = bolognese
shrimp = prawn
carry out (like fast food) = take away ( I remember in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, we went to McDonald's - the first time I'd eaten fast food in WEEKS...this college girl was having withdrawals! - and the girl taking my order said "Dine in or take away?" and it caught me off guard...I just stood there looking like the clueless American tourist that I was, until I finally answered her)
and finally,
vegemite = it defies's a spread, and it looks, smells, and tastes N.A.S.T.Y. Of course, I don't like raw tomatoes either.

sweater = jumper
ladies undies = knickers
swimsuit = bathers
undershirt = singlet
tennis shoes = sand shoes

Various other non-related but very interesting at least to me words:
apartment = flat
friend = cobber, digger, mate
napkin = serviette
diaper = nappy
elevator = lift
flashlight = torch
American football = gridiron
Australian football = footy (and heaven help you if you get in the way of them watching it! Of course, I wouldn't know this from experience)
gasoline = petrol
t.v. = telly
hood of a car = bonnet
trunk of a car = boot
drunk = feeling under the weather
extremely tired = knocked up (remember the phrase Elizabeth teased me with?)
way to go! = good on ya!
how are you? = how ya goin'?
don't worry = no worries
truly, really = fair dinkum
are you all right? = are you right?
check out the possibilities = sus it out
Australia(n) = Oz, Aussie
Tasmania = Tassie
busy = flat out
really busy = flat out like a lizard drinking (my personal favorite)

Now, there were a couple of times that I either messed up or nearly messed up. The times I nearly messed up were times I might have almost said "blood" with a "y" attached to it, as in: I screamed b----y murder when I saw that huge spider! Or even, "He has a b----y nose." That word is EXTREMELY rude, which is why I'm not spelling it out. I'm hoping Ruth and her family will read this one of these days! And I scream b----y murder all the time. Or at least when I see a huge spider.

Then there was the time that I did mess up. What do you say when you really haven't done anything all day long, just sort of this or that? Well, I say piddled. As in, I piddled around the house. In fact, when posed the question of "Heather, what did you do all day by yourself?" answer: "Oh, just piddled around the house."

You know where this is going. "Piddle" in Australia does NOT mean "doing nothing of interest." It means peeing. Yes, I told them I peed all over the house. Of course, they (meaning Stephen M, and probably Grant M and Ruth M, as well as Keith) thought that was the funniest thing they had ever heard and laughed all the way into town, with me in the back seat wishing a hole would open up in the floor board and put me out of my misery. I quickly apologized and said that I was tired and wasn't paying attention to my vocabulary, blah, blah, blah. They still laughed at me.

I can't say that word now without thinking about that faux pas and smile just a little. Of course, when I'm thinking about Tassie I can't help but smile, even if it's a memory I'd just as soon forget.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Husband Rocks! Friday

I hate that I have not posted in the past couple of days...we have been busy as bees (what's left of them...) this week. I'll post about the busyness later. However, today is Friday and this post is another installment of My Husband Rocks! If you haven't been introduced to this fun idea, head on over to Katy Lin's place and read all about it. This was a wonderful idea.

Alright, back to it...This week My husband rocks because he is passionate about what he does, both in the workplace and in ministry.

My Sweet works in the safety industry, and his position is that of trainer. He trains all the new hires on everything there is to know about the company's products, and he works with his manager and other department co-workers in ongoing training for all employees when updates have to be made, new products are about to be introduced, etc. What is there to be passionate about with this? Well, he loves to teach people to where they understand not only about the products, but why their products are needed to keep people safe. When the new hires are done with their training, they have a full understanding of why the company is an important part of keeping industrial workers safe. My Sweet takes this role of his very seriously. Every time we pass by a job site or whatever and he sees an OSHA violation, he is quick to say "They need a blahdy blah blah to blahdy blah for that blah blah!" Of course, this goes right over my head, but I'm so proud of him for knowing what he knows, and for what he does to prevent injuries to countless people.

He is not only passionate about what he earns a paycheck for, but also about what he is called to do. He is our church's sound tech, and no matter what he feels like (most recently a sprained ankle, but also back pain from a bulging disc, even migraines) he is up at the crack of dawn on Sunday mornings before most everyone else, preparing for the band, the singers, the pastor, and any "oh by the way"s that come his way. He is most passionate about this area of his life. Mixing the sound to the best of his ability is what God has called him to right now, and just like his job at work, he takes his role very seriously.

I benefit from his drive to make things right. First, I get to put food on our table! While I may say that jokingly, I really mean it. Because he is passionate about his job, he is well respected at work. I don't have to worry about his job stability. (Not that God couldn't take it away, as He has in years past, and I realize that HE is where my security lies, not in my husband's job...but that's another post!) I also benefit from his passion to make the sound right at church, not only as an attender of the worship services, but also as an active participant in our creative arts ministry right alongside him.

Thank you, My Sweet, for everything you do. You make life a good place to be.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My favorite family

I stayed with so many wonderful families while I was in Tasmania, but my favorite family was one that I never stayed with more than a night or two. Because I want to keep some degree of anonymity with the people I talk about, I won't divulge their complete last name, but I will call them the M family.

The M's consisted of Alan and Rhonda, the parents (Rhonda has been mentioned a couple of times); John, the oldest; Ruth; Stephen; Grant; Elizabeth, the baby. They were a hard working family that made Keith and me feel so at home that for me it made the separation from my family at home so much easier. Here is my favorite picture of all of them together, sent to me by Ruth after I had returned home.

From left: Grant, Stephen, Alan, Rhonda, John, Ruth, Elizabeth

Alan, who has since gone to live with Jesus, was a typical Tasmanian. He was rugged and spoke his mind. But as rough as his exterior was, he had a soft a point. He relished persecuting me to no end. Rhonda was as complementary to him as Gae was to Ken. She was soft spoken and very sweet and always took up for me when one of the men would start their teasing.

John, the oldest, loved to torture me as well. One night we had a "Slave Auction" to raise money for the youth group, and John "bought" me...the reason he wanted me as a slave was so that I could carry something...dead possums.

There is a practice in the "bush" (our term would be woods) of Tasmania of hunting treed possums. Now, our possums (okay, okay, for you purists out there, Opossums), look absolutely nothing like Australian possums. While ours are ugly gray with nasty looking tails and crossed eyes, Australian possums are actually quite cute. That's sort of beside the point...anyway, John knew that I was squeamish and did NOT want to carry a bunch of dead animals, so he was "kind" enough to let me just tag along with him, Grant, Stephen, and Keith on a hunt, and he carried the dead ones in a canvas bag. Ugh. Gross doesn't even begin to describe the evening. *shudders* He only treated me like that because I was an honorary sister. Whatever.

Ruth was the youth director at the church and one of the first people I met. She and I clicked immediately, and we are still friends, calling each other at Christmas and occasional birthdays (however, she does most of the calling...I'm a horrible friend). She came to visit me a few years after I came home, and we had the best time, going to Graceland (my first time, too) and downtown Memphis. She and Rod got married several years ago and now have two sons who she home neat is that? Her oldest son and my son are a couple years apart, and have become pen pals of sorts. My kiddo is as bad at sending letters as his mother is at phone calls! I treasure the friendship we have, however long distance it may be. Email is a wonderful thing.

Stephen was the farmer of the family. He loved his family's animals and as far as I know, is still working the same land that was his family's land while I was there. The first time I saw Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, he reminded me so much of Stephen. Stephen also had a great sense of humor, too. I think that if you were a child of Alan, you pretty much had to have one!

Grant and I connected more than any other person in Tasmania, girl or guy. He was (and still is) an artist, with an artist's deep soul. Grant was such a deep thinker sometimes I wondered if he was really an old, wise man in a young man's body. He and his friend Rod (now Ruth's husband) came to visit me after Ruth returned home. We had a great time touring Memphis, once again travelling to Graceland (against my better judgement...once was enough for me) and downtown, even taking them on a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi. He just recently got married and is now living in England.

Elizabeth, the baby of the family, was so sweet. She would cuddle in my lap (quite a feat since she was as tall as I was, and at only 13! She enjoyed teasing me as much as John did, but maybe not quite as harshly. Even though Australians speak the same language as we do, some of our words and phrases do NOT match. She found out about one phrase that here in the States is extremely rude, but one that, for Aussies, innocently means "very tired." She would always take a dig at me from that point on by repeating that phrase every time she saw me.

As much time as I spent with them, I felt as if I had become their American family member. I miss them still today, 17 years later. My hope is to be able to visit them again one day. The precious thing about them, though, is that even if I don't get to see them again on this earth, I will see them again in heaven. That makes the separation okay...for now.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Or, as The Nester says, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." Just like my little blinkie button says over there. Reading this phrase over and over has helped me overcome my fear of failing to make things in my home beautiful. It doesn't have to be perfect! Make it my own form of beautiful! I have gained courage to start working on things I have wanted to for years, knowing that imperfections only make it more "mine." For that, I will always be grateful to Nester.

Here's my imperfectly beautiful piece. The fabric is from an old (I mean ancient...from 1970!) mattress that had been in my Mimmie and Grandaddy's home for years before I somehow acquired it. We really needed to get rid of the mattress and box spring, as it was just not serviceable anymore as a bed. But the thought of getting rid of it made me so sad that it stayed propped up against the wall in the guest room, preventing anyone, including non-guests, from entering the room.

Reading The Nester and Kimba has helped me come up with new ways to decorate my home, to make it my own. With this frame of mind, I came up with the idea to cut off the fabric covering the mattress set and re-purpose it. The fabric is not all that pretty, and it's definitely not designer, but to me it is beautiful because of where it came from.

As to what I'm going to do with it, I have a couple of ideas so far. As soon as I can get some fringe to hot glue (okay, since I got my sewing machine to work, I may sew it) on, some of this fabric is going to cover a pillow. My sister told me I had better be making one for her, too. Another way I'm going to use it is to take a picture of these robin eggs and place it in this frame with the fabric peeking out from behind it. No, it won't be professional. No, it won't be perfect. But it WILL be beautiful. In my eyes, at least!

Every time I'll see that frame or pillow, I will not only be reminded of my beautiful-if-imperfect grandparents and the memories of their home, I'll also be reminded that in my home, perfection only keeps my heart in bondage, unable to let its creativity out! THANK YOU, NESTER!

Now, y'all head on over to The Nesting Place and see everyone else's imperfectly beautiful lives!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Host Families

Although Ken and Gae were my pastoral family while I was in Tasmania, I was never privileged to stay with them, as Keith was. I did, however, get to stay with some unforgettable people over the course of the summer, each for two or so weeks at a time.

My first hostess was Heather. Not easy to forget her name. She was a widow whose daughter had just gotten married. I think I filled a void for her...she enjoyed "doing" for me as much as I enjoyed staying with her. She made the best pumpkin soup. Yes, pumpkin soup. More about the plethora of pumpkin later. Heather was the sweetest, most hospitable lady I met while I was in Tasmania. She and I just really clicked. When my weeks with her were up, I begged Ken to let me stay with her the whole summer, because I knew she would get lonely. Ken said that he would if he could, but that other families wanted the "privilege" of keeping me. Whatever. So, to the next home I went, however begrudgingly.

I soon got over myself after I arrived at Dianne and Des's home. While Dianne may have been a bit overbearing, she would do anything for me. And Des was just as easygoing as Ken was. He tried his best to give me an Australian accent, starting with the word "Hi!" but it never happened. Their youngest, Stephen, was at home while I was there and we spent many evenings playing Nintendo. Just like leaving Heather's, I wasn't ready to leave Dianne and Des's place.

Paul and Maxine were next, along with their two kids, Nicole and Trent. Maxine and I were the closest in age of any of the families I stayed with, and we connected very quickly. Paul and I really never talked, because Maxine and I wouldn't let him get a word in edgewise! I will never forget staying with them. I loved playing with the kids and the various animals they had around the house.

One little abandoned lamb stole my heart. Maxine made a little hut for it outside with a crate and some hay. No bigger than a small dog, it scampered and played with the children, and I enjoyed every minute I got to spend with it. One morning as I came in for breakfast, Maxine informed me that the lamb had gotten too cold the night before and wasn't doing very well. She had brought it inside to stay by the wood burning stove. In my mind, I saw the sweet little lamb quietly standing by the fire, getting warm and enjoying the treat of being indoors. When I came into the living room I asked Maxine where he was and she pointed me to the side of the stove. In a basket, wrapped up in blankets to try to give it warmth, was the little lamb. It was as near death as I'd ever seen anything.

Maxine had to go out for the day and I kept the kids, offering to try to feed the lamb every once in a while. Maxine showed me what to do and after she left I got the bottle, picked up the sick lamb and tried to get it to eat. It refused to eat, choking on the milk and bleating pitifully. I tried not to panic, and a little while later tried to feed it again. Again, the poor little thing refused. At this point the kids were realizing the lamb was not getting better, and I was terrified that the lamb would die and I would have to explain it to them. One last time I wanted to try to get the lamb to eat, but when I reached for his little body, it was cold to the touch. He had died, and it took more restraint than I had ever had not to scream "NO!!!" and burst into tears. But for the kid's sake, I kept a brave face and played with the kids, keeping them away from the lamb's body until Maxine could get home. Later that night I wrote a letter to my friend Amy and poured my heart out, crying the whole time.

Even though my saddest memory was at Paul and Maxine's, I still loved them dearly, and, as was my pattern, did not want to leave. This was for the last time, and it tore at my heart to know that my summer would soon be over. I honestly don't remember very much about living at John and Elaine's, with their two daughters Jodie and Tammy. I think it was because I was getting very worked up about leaving. I will say that their home was where I learned the benefit of a hot water bottle at the foot of the bed on a cold winter night! But they were just as hospitable as any of the other families, and I'm sad to say I didn't get to spend more time with them.

From left, front row: Maxine, holding Nicole, Me, Stephen, Elaine; from left, back row: Paul, holding Trent, Heather, Dianne, Des, John.

I will never forget my time at each of these homes. God placed me in just the right spot in just the right time, both for me as well as the families I was privileged to share my summer with.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The People of Sheffield

The beauty of Tasmania is overwhelming. I had no idea a place could be so beautiful. But I quickly learned that the real beauty I would experience over the summer was in the people I met, starting with the pastor of Sheffield Baptist Church, Ken Preece, and his Wife, Gae. From the very beginning I knew I would love them.

Ken, Gae, me, Rhonda, and Dianne at Cradle Mountain...Rhonda and Dianne were also with Ken and Gae when they came to pick Keith and me up from Launceston.

Ken had a great sense of humor. He knew how to make anyone feel at ease around him, which I needed during the entire summer. Every new situation I found myself in, no matter how nervous I was, Ken made me laugh and not take myself too seriously.

One task that was NOT included in my job description was that of leading music. I about had three strokes and two heart attacks when Ken told me that was one of the things I’d be doing. I sang, sure, but I had never led before. The first time I was asked to lead was a Sunday afternoon in a very tiny church that Ken preached at once a month or so in the rural area around Sheffield. Ken had told me the piano player was a bit hard of hearing, so I might have to speak up. He neglected to explain the fact that she was stone cold deaf. DEAF. I was nervous enough, but when I turned to her and told her what hymn to turn to, she starts playing something totally different. Then, since she couldn’t hear me yelling, yes, YELLING at her that that wasn’t the right one, I had to wave like a maniac for her to stop so I could direct her to the correct song. This happened at least twice, and hoping for some kind of reprieve, I looked at Ken on the front pew. He had the biggest smile on his face, and he was not about to come to my rescue. After church was over with and we were back in his car, he told me he was enjoying it too much to save me. As I was plotting his demise he then said that I had handled the situation beautifully. Whatever. Okay, so I didn’t kill him.

Ken’s wife Gae was the exact opposite of him. Not that she didn’t make me feel welcome or at ease, because she did both, but she did it in a much more subdued way. She was such a gentle, sweet person, but if you messed with someone she loved, watch out. I remember having a really horrible day and crying my eyes out in their living room, and Gae just came over and held my hand while I cried and Ken prayed. So sweet. And she made the best soup I’ve ever tasted. MMMMmmmmm, my mouth waters just thinking about it.

This picture pretty much sums up their personalities. I’m not sure what the body of water is here, but it’s either Bass Strait or the Indian Ocean. Pretty cool, huh? Anyway, I told Ken I wanted a picture of us on the beach just talking. So Gae stands there, looking naturally like she is carrying on a conversation. What is Ken doing? I have no idea. So much for that photo op.

Ken and Gae were just two of the people I was so privileged to meet that summer. Over the next few days, I’ll introduce you to a few more. After that, I’ll show you what I got to see while I was there. Beauty…so much beauty!

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Husband Rocks!

One of the reasons I love blogging is the networking of women who are like-minded. It is so easy for me to get caught up in browsing my favorite blogs, then browsing the blogs of the commenters of those blogs, etc, etc. There are so many godly, creative women out there that I would love to read, but I realize that if I am to keep my perspective (and any clean laundry), I have to limit myself. However, once in a while I find a new gem I can't do without.

Here's my progress today...first, my best friend, Kat, at A Quiet Life; from there, Sarah Mae at Like a Warm Cup of Coffee. Then, from there, I found Katy Lin at The Great Adventure. That's where I found the best Mr. Linky yet. Katy Lin has started "My Husband Rocks" Friday and I love the idea.

So, breaking from my Australian saga for today (much to my cousins' apparent delight!), I am hereby telling the world that My Husband Rocks! You may have seen him around here and not known it was my husband, but he is dB Rocks at Promise Sword.

My husband rocks because he is my hero. Whether it's fixing the van by himself instead of spending a gajillion dollars at the repair shop, or taking our son out for a while when I need a break, or installing my new oven (YAY!), he is just my hero. Not to mention when he comes to save the day when I'm an emotional wreck. He always knows when I'm at my limit, and speaks words of encouragement and love to help me make it through the day. He's come to my rescue countless times in the 13 years we've been married.

With Father's Day this Sunday, I've been thinking a lot about what a hero he is to our son. I just asked Kiddo who his hero was and he answered without hesitation, "You, Daddy, God." Hmm. Not sure I like that order, but still. My husband makes sure he takes time with him one on one every week, whether it's practicing baseball in the yard, playing video games on the couch, or planning a woodworking project. Even when his patience runs thin, he knows how much it means to our Kiddo to spend time with his Daddy. I don't know if I will stay his hero when he's a teenager, but I have a strong suspicion that his Daddy will never lose that honor.

In the coming weeks I'll share more reasons why my husband rocks, and if you'd like to get in on the kudos to your husband, head on over to Katy Lin's place. In the meantime, I'll continue on with my Aussie stories. Don't worry, they won't last forever!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On with the Story...

Let's start at the very beginning...a very good place to start... (in case you haven't started it yet...)

Having completed all the training the International (then called Foreign) Mission Board deemed necessary, my trip was all but upon me. The excitement was a bit shadowed by the realization that I would be away from home for two whole months. I had never been away from my Mom for that long, even during college. I wondered how I would manage the homesickness, not just from my family, but my friends, as well. I was extremely close to my friends, and was very nervous about going through this without any of them to share it with me.

June 9th arrived and I was sent off from Memphis International Airport amidst many tears and hugs. My mother kept telling me not to get eaten by a Tasmanian Devil, and my friends sent me off with sweet notes of encouragement to get me through the long flight.

Long Flight. Flights. My travel itinerary was two pages long there and back. Memphis to Chicago, Chicago to L.A, L.A. to Melbourne, Melbourne to Launceston. It makes me tired just typing it.
I reached L.A. for the "big" flight and waited as the rest of our team trailed in, one by one. We left L.A. at 10:00 p.m on the biggest honkin' airplane I had ever seen. A Boeing 747-400. I don't think they can even fit one of those in the airport at Memphis. Okay, well, maybe it wasn't that big, but I was definitely intimidated by its hugeness.

I am a good flier. My favorite part is takeoff. It's like a big roller coaster ride. And once we're in the air my brain doesn't really register that there is nothing between me and the ground but 30,000 feet of nothing. So it was on this 13-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean. Well, it was, until we reached the Equator. The passengers were pretty much all asleep, including myself. That is until we hit some major turbulence and I was jarred almost awake. I say almost because I was awake enough to hear the captain say over the intercom: "Flight attendants, please take your seats and fasten your seat belts; we are experiencing very rough turbulence..." I decided right then and there that waking up was not in the best interest of my mental health, and made myself go back to sleep. I figured someone would wake me up before I had to use my seat as a flotation device. I might as well save up my energy.

All was well and we did end up in the beautiful land of Australia. Of course, all we saw at first was the inside of the Melbourne Airport on our way through customs, which ended up being so much easier than I expected. I fully believed there would be tall, broad shouldered women named Helga and Brunhilde waiting to inspect my bags. Such was not the case. All of our luggage was put together and somehow we were able to breeze through.

Our last stop as a group was the beautiful town of Launceston, Tasmania. I tried not to think too hard about the puddle jumper's ability to get us across Bass Strait. Of course, having been on airplanes for a total of 24 hours, I didn't care if I had to go by hot-air balloon to get to my destination.

Launceston is one of the prettiest places I've ever been. Pictures just don't do it justice. By the way, if you go in the Southaven, MS Outback, they have a picture of Launceston in the ladies' bathroom (uh, sorry guys!). The picture below was taken at the hotel we stayed in for our first night in Australia.

The next day we all met at a church to meet each team's hosts. Before we split up team by team we had a group picture made for the Tasmanian Baptist newsletter. Don't you just love my stripes? And Marty and I had both cut our hair. I guess one major life experience wasn't enough for us.
We were divvied up with our hosts and as I sat there listening to Ken, Gae, Dianne, and Rhonda I realized that this was it: I would spend the next two months with these people...I wondered if they would like me, and if I would like them. I didn't have to wait long to find out as we travelled by car (thankfully!) to the tiny town of Sheffield. They fell in love with me, and I fell in love back at them. I had no idea the depth of love I would come to have for these people...

to be continued...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Getting Ready for Oz

If you need to catch up on the first part of the story, here's the beginning.

Now that the selection process was over and I knew I'd be going to Australia for the summer, reality hit and I knew I had some major preparations to make before boarding the plane.

I had never been on a long-term mission project before. I had gone on many one or two week trips, so I wasn't completely green. However, going to a foreign country, even one as American friendly as Australia, required that I have some major training. The Leadership Training Conference that the Mississippi Baptist Student Union holds every year is designed to jump start our learning process. It really helped me by getting me out of my comfort zone; the missionaries prepared for a few days to actually host the conference for the rest of the students who were not going on missions but were still in leadership positions at school.

The long weekend culminated with a commissioning service for all of us (there were a ton of missionaries, but only a handful were going international) that was really special, asking us to wash the feet of those we serve. Not literally, like Jesus washed His disciples' feet, but figuratively serving out of love for the people we would meet. Here's a picture of six of the seven missionaries heading to Australia:

Hugh, Jill, Marty, Rowland, Heathahlee, Keith (and I don't know where Scott is...probably galavanting around somewhere)

(Would you look how long my hair is?) There were seven placements/job descriptions for Mississippi students, with the eighth position being filled by a sweet girl from Canada. Each team consisted of a guy and a girl, and each team had different job descriptions. My partner and I were the team heading to Sheffield, Tasmania for the puppet, drama, etc. work. The guy in front of me in the picture? He was my missions partner. Meaning we would be spending the summer in close proximity. Don't worry. The thought of getting really close couldn't have been farther from either of our minds. We were as different as night and day. (Would you please look how long my hair is? And how non-gray? Oh, to have 20-year old hair again.)

After LTC, we then had to head to Richmond, Virginia to the Missionary Learning Center for another long weekend where we gathered with dozens of other missionaries bound all over the world. The MLC is where missionaries on their way to other countries (as in to live for two years) are trained. The weekend was not a walk in the park. It was very intense and to say that I was a bit intimidated would be a gross understatement. Here is where reality set in. I would be leaving my country. Now, granted, Australia isn't the depths of the Amazon jungle or anything, but still.

At one point we (the 19 of us heading to Australia) had to come up with a play that would portray some of the difficulties we might face. We chose to act out witnessing to someone who doesn't really think he needs God. Thankfully, Marty (the redhead in the picture below) and I were just "campers along the billabong" and didn't have to say anything; we just had to sing "Waltzing Matilda" (or is it Mathilda?) until the play started while sitting around a fake campfire with fake marshmallows (do they even do that in Australia?) on fake sticks made out of pipe cleaners. I still have my fake pipe cleaner marshmallow/stick. See the orange stuff sticking up? Yeah, that's our fire. Pretty dang realistic, don't you think?

After filling our minds with all they possibly could, the International Mission Board gave us their blessing to head out into the world. I knew that was when it would get really tough...

to be continued...