Friday, August 31, 2007

Just a bit wonky

After I wrote the last blog post, we ate our dinner in the darkness of the backyard, under a full moon and the myriad of sparkling stars, which were slipped a little differently in the sky than I’m used to. As we ate, a dark shadow began nipping at the bottom of the moon.

I bent over the telescope, my dinner bowl in one hand, the other hand nudging the scope to follow the moon’s slow arch. The shadow bit deeper into the bright orb. Through the telescope’s magnification, the moon looked like a glowing ball that had been dipped into a puddle of ink. As the evening wore on, the shadow filled the moon, until at last the whole thing turned a dusky red. When I stepped back into the house, the edge of the ball was once again tinging a brilliant cream.

Last night we had a different sort of adventure. Norm was out of town with business, and I was washing up the dinner dishes as Chrissy finished a shower. Suddenly I heard not just a thump, but a whole series of huge thumps and bangs. I rushed for the bathroom and hollered through the door, “Did you fall?” A slight whimper answered me. “Can I come in?” I pushed open the door and found Chrissy sprawled on the floor in her pajamas, a dazed look splashed across her face.

Thankfully she was all right, though her back was jarred, and a large bruise has spread across her arm from her frantic attempts to keep her weight off her back as she slipped on the mat and fell. For some reason I was reminded of my days as an assistant figure skating teacher as I helped her up, showing her the easiest way to find her feet again.

Today Norm was back from his trip, and had the afternoon off work. Chrissy was feeling well enough to go out, so we went for a wander around Richmond Lagoon and then the Nepean River. I was glad Norm was there to push the wheelchair, because my back is still crying from getting used to pushing it on paved ground, and this was grass or gravel half the time.

(Norm says it's fashionable to take pics at a wonky angle like this. ;-) )

The sun sparkled merrily on the water, and birds swam and waddled about, looking for food and chatting to us and each other. As I spotted a couple of particularly large water birds, I asked, “What are those black swan-like things?”

“They are black swans.” Norm laughed.

Which would be why they looked rather like black swans. (What can I say? I’m used to white swans.) We even saw a pair with a family of fluffy grey signets.

Here's me infront of a wattle tree--they have tiny fluffy yellow blooms. The sun was rather bright in my eyes, so pardon my squint.

(Wattle it be)

On the way home, we stopped at Koorong, a large Christian bookstore that I hear about often on the FW message boards. A bit further down the road from there, we passed some military acreage. I was tickled pink to spot dozens of grey kangaroos grazing in the fields. One of them even jumped about a little for me.

Tomorrow we’re going to a Koala Park where I actually get to HOLD some koalas!!

P.S. Haha, check out a silly “Are you a Crazy-Creative Writer?” test I made for the fun of it:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wheeling Around

We’re settling into a bit of a routine. Chrissy has her meds at 7:30 AM, so I serve eggs of some sort for breakfast. Then I do some cleaning or ironing and wash up the dishes. After lunch we often both lay down for a nap. We play around on FaithWriters off and on, and do a bit of writing in the afternoons.

Yesterday we got the wheelchair they’ve rented for a month, so today I drove the two of us to the post office and then to the mall. I find that I adjust quite quickly to driving on the other side of the road. Chrissy was so happy to get out of the house on a weekday. We got a drink and I had a couple of donuts. We went out to an outside balcony and sat in the sun to drink and eat our snack.

The wheelchair is heavier than I would have thought, so I have to be careful when getting it out of the back of the car. There are quite a few slopes in the mall, so my back was happy to have only a short outing. Haha, once the isle to get out of the checkout counter wasn’t wide enough for the chair and as I tried to get it back out, we got stuck. There wasn’t enough room to go forward or backward. Finally the man in the queue behind us had to actually lift up the back wheels of the chair and move it to a different angle so we could get out.

Before we left, I had a lovely surprise. The doorbell rang and a man handed me a box. It had my name on it! Turns out it was an “We miss you” teddy bear gift from my family. It’s so silky soft and cute.
Chrissy’s little Pomeranian dog, Tammy, has been quite wound up lately. She’s a tiny bit jealous of me and will try to push between me and Chrissy sometimes, LOL! Tammy does like me, though, and sometimes we play fight with my foot. But I got tired of sacrificing my toes and asked for a doggie toy for her, haha. So Norm came home last night with a bright pink smiley face with a tongue and pink rope pigtails. Tammy loves it and we all had a good tug of war fight last night with lots of growls and giggles and chuckles.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A wee bit o' lollies

Yes, I know this blog title is mixing Scots and Aussie expressions--read on and you’ll see why. ;-)

This morning (it’s Sunday here), we went to a church that has a Deaf ministry. Because American Sign Language (ASL) and Australian Sign Language (Auslan) are each languages completely different from English and from each other, it was a bit of a challenge to communicate with the Deaf at that church. However, I learned the Auslan manual alphabet and a few signs before I came, and many of them knew a little of ASL fingerspelling, so we managed to communicate with only a little trouble. Australian and American Deaf culture seems very similar--I felt very comfortable chatting with them.

Those who don’t have an interest in signing, pardon me while I ramble for a minute--feel free to skip over the next two paragraphs. ;-)

I find the two-handed Auslan manual alphabet quite awkward, but I learned it pretty quickly. Of course, being able to do the alphabet in order and actually using it to spell or read a word are totally different things, but I actually did okay. Just a few of ASL and Auslan signs are the same, and quite a few are the same or similar sign but completely different meanings (which can be a bit confusing).

The two interpreters at the church were volunteer interpreters who didn’t have interpreting training. They did a lovely job. I found it interesting, but not surprising, that it seemed they were using the equivalent phenomenon to a mix of what we call Pidgin Sign Language and Signed Exact English-- which is ASL (or in this case Auslan) signs being used in an English grammatical structure. It’s a common contact language used by hearing or non-native signers who are not yet fluent in ASL.

The church was having a special celebration this morning--it was the twentieth anniversary of an American couple’s Aussie ministry in that church. At one point they set off a huge explosion of streamers. There was a Deaf and Blind lady who has a dog guide, and they actually had to take them out of the sanctuary before they could set off the streamers. I guess legally there can’t be any animals nearby when they set it off.

The guest speaker was from Scotland and he had a wonderful very strong accent. His sermon was on how all Christians are champions and we must never give up. We can’t be “to’l plonkers”, that is, losers, hehe.

After church we picked up Chrissy and went to the outdoors Heritage Market and wondered around the shops of homemade products and little knickknacks. This lovely water wheel is there, so we paused for a pic by it.

There were a number of musicians scattered around, and we stopped to watch and chat with an Aborigine, playing a didgeridoo. It makes a fascinating sound! A didgeridoo is the long wooden pipe with a bulb shape at the end, like you can see in the photo. The musician actually can breath in through his nose at the same time as he’s blowing on the didgeridoo, meaning he can play an unbroken stream of music.

The name of the instrument is an onomatopoeia. The traditional song played by has a melody that sounds like “didgeridoo.” He did all sorts of sounds with it, even telling stories with sound effects. He would tell us what the story was about, and then use hand motions with one hand while he played a melody with sound effects like a truck rumbling by, a horn, police siren, or animal sounds.

There is an Asian Noodle shop in the market that serves gluten free noodle dishes (Chrissy is a celiac). It was delicious! I got a egg noodles with chicken and vegetables, with a light hint of peanut sauce and coconut milk. The servings were huge and I barely made a dent in mine. Will have plenty leftover for lunch tomorrow! Norm was a “guts” and ate all his. ;-)

But best of all, lol, we found a lolly shop. Those who know me, tease me about how much candy I eat, so I had to get a pic in front of it. (I eat so much candy is that it’s one snack I can have without it making me sick--that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! LOL!)
After we got home, Chrissy had a rest as she was quite worn out from walking, and was hurting a lot. Tomorrow we’re renting a wheelchair for a few months, so that will make going out easier on her. While she was resting, Norm took me for a short driving lesson so I could get used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road. It actually wasn’t too hard, and I adjusted quickly. Chrissy has a small car, so that helped. Now I’ll be able to take us places if we need to go out while Norm is out of town or at work.

Here’s a link to a few more pictures:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Birds and tumblers and giggles

Today we went out to Chrissy’s favorite place. It’s a lovely walk along Hawkesbury River. I saw a number of birds that are very colorful and pretty, plus a cute sparrow just like the ones we have at home. ;-) We stopped at Gloria Jeans--a coffee house chain. I had a some hot chocolate. It’s a bit different than US hot chocolate--less rich and less sweet. It was very nice, though. I also discovered that what we in the US call a barbeque, they call a webber, and they often call bikes "push bikes".

After lunch Norm and I went to a small circus that has stopped nearby. The animal acts weren’t very exciting, and the animals weren’t very enthusiastic except for one monkey who thoroughly enjoyed his flips and handstands. However, the people’s acts were great. One of my favorites was a sort of Three Stooges type tumbling act. It was also a lot of fun when a six of the gymnasts’ young girls and toddlers came out and did a few tricks.

Chrissy had a rather hard evening--very painful. But she took one of her higher pain killers and now she’s quite giggly, lol.

Tonight Norm and Chrissy’s son, Ken, joined us for dinner and we ate outside with a fire in the outside wood burning fireplace. We made a late birthday cake for me, and then, apparently in Siggee tradition, Norm and Ken sang a very low, off-key rendition of happy birthday while Chrissy and I giggled.

Now Chrissy and I are sitting side by side, working on our laptops and chatting, hehe.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sparrow's Flight

Tuesday the 21st, 10:35 PM Pacific time

I sit here at the boarding gate in California, tired of waiting already. The flight’s been delayed an hour. Then of course, is more sitting--14 hours of it. I feel like I ought to be doing jumping jacks or something now, while I have the chance. ;-)

The waiting area is filled with a lovely mix of accents, strong Australian, a faint hint of Australian, Pacific non-accent, or various other countries. A few rows over, a mother with a lovely Aussie accent is reading aloud to her daughter. I’m tempted to move where I can hear better, to help polish up my poor attempt at the accent. LOL.

I can’t get internet access at this airport except by paying for it, so I’ll probably add to this a few times before I actually post it.

Oh, they just said they are beginning boarding. Maybe it won’t be that late leaving after all!

Wednesday the 22nd, 10:55 AM Pacific Time

We crossed the Date Line some time back, so it’s really Thursday the 23rd, 3:55 AM where I am. This plane has three lines of two seats. I’m in a small area with only three rows, and one little TV for each row. The larger section behind me has one large-screen TV for the whole area. Even with my food allergies, I was able to eat at least a little of what was served so far for all the meals, so thanks to those who prayed for that.

We’re blessed because the plane is almost empty. The flight attendants encouraged everyone to spread out, so almost every person has a whole three-chair section to himself. It’s not as comfortable as one might think to lay down across them, as they are rather lumpy and the folded-away armrests are rather hard against the back.

Every seat has a pillow and blanket, so that means I have three little pillows (plus my own wrap-around-the-neck one) and three blankets to help make things a little more comfy. Of course, every time we hit turbulence and the fasten seatbelt sign comes on, those of us who are laying down have to sit up and buckle in and try to fall back asleep in some other position. But I did manage to sleep off and on for about five hours.

I think we have about two and a half hours left of flight (and only a few minutes left on my laptop battery). We have yet to catch up to the sun, and it’s hard to even spot the stars. Somehow, no matter what seat I pick online, I always manage to be right over the wings, hehe. It seems to be my fate. For a while I thought we were passing through a lightning storm. I felt rather foolish when I realized that the flashes were only the wing light reflecting off a think bank of clouds. All I can see out my window at the moment is the pale white of the wing, illuminated by the steady flashing of the white wing light, and an occasional cloud drifting by. Perhaps we’ll catch up to the sun in time for me to get a glimpse of Sydney as we land.

Thursday the 23rd, 2:20 PM Sydney Time

I’ve arrived in Sydney! It took me a while to go through customs because of the long line, but I didn’t have any trouble. They took away a trail mix because it had dried fruit in it, but they let me keep my other food and the wooden and shell gifts I had.

Norm met me at the airport with balloons, and took me the scenic route home so I could see the harbor and a couple of Sydney bridges. It's so funny--my avatar is a picture of me looking down, so Norm said he looked for a girl in a pink shirt who was looking down. Sure enough, I was! I got a kick out of that story, because both Deb and Scott from FW thought I was shy because of my avatar. LOL!

Today we’ve just chatted and had a lovely quiet day. Chrissy is in quite a lot of pain today--aggravated from traveling to the doctor appointments yesterday, probably. But good news! The surgery has finally been scheduled for her back, and they’ll only do one surgery, instead of two like they’ve talked about. The surgery isn’t until October, but at least a date is firm.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Australia, here I come!

Two weeks ago I had no idea that I’d be packing right now. I’m packing for a month-long trip to Australia, no less! That’s right--I’m going to Australia! It’s all happened so fast it’s hard to believe. I have a FaithWriter friend who has a severe back injury. I--and my whole family, really--have gotten quite close to her and chat over IM and the phone quite regularly. Anyway, she’s waiting for surgery (which keeps getting postponed thanks to the government-run health care) and doesn’t have much mobility, plus is in a lot of pain.

So just a few days before the FW conference, she invited me to come there. That sent my head into a tizzy! But in-between organizing for the conference, I figured out that it would work with my schedule, got my visa and plane tickets (thankfully I already had my passport) and my parents’ blessing, and here I am with my bags almost packed!

Though I’m not going under the most wonderful of circumstances, I’m very much looking forward to spending time with “Aunty” Chrissy and to seeing Australia! I have a few other FaithWriter friends in the area, so am planning to get a little visiting and sightseeing done on the weekends. This will be the furthest away from home I’ve been, and the longest time away by myself, so it will be quite an adventure.

I’m leaving August 21st and getting back on September 16th--one week before my college starts up again. I fly to California and have a pretty long layover there, then have a straight flight--over 14 hours--to Sydney. Ug. I’m praying that my back won’t bother me too much, and that food won’t be a problem. Because of my food allergies, I have no way of knowing if I’ll be able to eat the meals the airline provides, and I have to be careful bringing my own food into another country.

The time difference makes the flights rather amusing. On the way there, I leave on what is the 21st here in America, and arrive on what is the 23rd in Australia--seemingly a three-day flight. On the way back, I arrive here seemingly a mere five hours after I left there. LOL! Once one of my cousins “lost” her birthday on a flight to Indonesia.

I’ll be journaling regularly here on my blog, so be sure to check back or sign up on the Blogarithm (little box to the right) to receive an email notification when I post.

I’m getting on the plane and chasing the sun in less than 24 hours! I’d love your prayers both for myself, and for Chrissy. Thank you! I’m off to the land Down Under!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Midsummer's Daydream Come True--FaithWriters Conference

Wow, what an awesome week! Most of you know I've been busy all year planning and coordinating the First FaithWriters Writing Conference. It was last weekend in Detroit and was so awesome! Those who went described it as a family reunion because so many of us have close relationships on the FW message boards--this was the first time we'd met in person. I thought there would be a bit of adjustment needed, as I connected the physical person with the cyber person I knew, but I was wrong. The connection was instant. One man described it by saying that we've gotten to know each other's souls, and the body is just the package of it.

All Friday night and Saturday I was sooo busy. Seemed like I could get about three sentences exchanged with any one person before someone else was calling for me! I was the MC as well as coordinator, and at least one person described me as "pretty much just a blur" as I rushed around. LOL! I must say, it was rather fun being famous for a weekend, though. ;-)

It's hard to believe it's all over. Things went so smoothly, especially considering it was our first conference. Even Sally Stuart, our special guest speaker who speaks at many conferences, commented on how special it was.

It's a good thing I love all the coordinating work though, because it's starting all over! :-) Next year's conference will be in Tennessee on August 8th and 9th. We're working on inviting speakers and finding the exact location, now.

To read a full account of the conference, check it out here.

After the conference, my friend Deb from Australia, one of the other conference coordinators, came home with my family for a few days. It was so special to get to spend that extra time with her, and helped lessen the loneliness of leaving all our FW friends. I loved getting to show her around my beloved Pacific Northwest!