Baptism by Fire & Lessons in Life’s Virtues

Holy moly, what is going on here?!  I have decided that this month is my baptism by fire to learn how to deal with living far away from family.  As happens for most people, when I am thinking about a lost loved one, missing family, and focused on too many little distractions, I don’t sleep as well.  Wednesday last week I woke up unsure how I would feel on my morning jog.  I ended up really enjoying myself and running 7k, my farthest yet and felt very proud of myself and very good afterwards.  I think this is true for a lot of people as well, but when I am stressed or sad, the endorphins from exercise just give me a great boost and I usually enjoy a workout better than on a typical day.  But then after I got home I had an intestinal issue.  I blew it off, thinking it was either related to a long (for me!) run or my sensitive stomach in response to life stresses. 

We headed down to the Coast to meet up with our dear friends and what a special time that was!  My eyes just welled up at seeing our first familiar faces from home after seven months, this week of all weeks.  It was so wonderful to feel that comfortable again.  Drew and their daughter recognized each other and became inseparable for three days, which was beautiful to watch as well.  That day their mother hosted a bbq for area family and friends who wanted to catch up while they were in town.  It was a nice day, but I noticed I felt not only a bit down, but also very sore from the run, and a bit off in the belly.  That afternoon I tried to rest and experienced more intestinal issues.  Wise woman that I am, I ignored them and that evening enjoyed a tequila drink for the first time down under (not quite a margarita, but pretty close!).

Now back in Colorado, we spent many weekends away from home, up in the mountains, on camping trips, little vacations, etc.  Since arriving here, however, we have not gone anywhere, other than two nights in the past months spent at friends’ houses and have discovered that now our kids do NOT sleep well away from home.  On this, our first real little vacation, we thankfully realized at least that it is just the FIRST night of a vacation that is rough.

Still, the next morning, I felt better, and our two families enjoyed a really nice day together.  It was great beach weather, and as we were all playing in the sand and water and basking in the sunshine, I detached myself from the situation and took in what a beautiful thing was happening.   Our two families have enjoyed many fun weekends in the Colorado Mountains and here we all were frolicking on the beach in Australia together.  I also again felt the powerful soothing and connecting qualities of water.  My uncle lived on the water in Florida, and I again could feel his presence and that of all of my family, felt that we were all together, connected by the waves and air.  So much so that when my friend asked for about the third time if I would try her surfboard, I seized on the adventurous, happy presence of my uncle and the beauty of the water and agreed!  What?!  I have NEVER been interested in trying to surf in any way, shape or form.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actually surf, but I did lie on the board on my belly while she held it steady and then let go to let the waves carry me in.  It was actually fun!  Now do I want to learn how to surf for real? No, of course, not—way too scary. 

 It was great to be around people that day where I could talk freely about all my family and share some memories.  My girlfriend and I got to head out shopping that afternoon and just had the nicest time chatting.  It was really eye-opening for me.  I have heard from a few people that when you make a move like this, even though you start to make great friends, it is never quite the same as friends from home, because no one knows you or understands anything about that previous life and home.  It was very special to be able to learn more about her life here in Australia and know her now on both levels, and vice versa, something not many people in either of our lives will be able to do.  It also made me realize that when I met her, I was not the best person to be understanding of the changes she was experiencing.  It would be great now to be able to be back home, and meet someone new to the U.S. and be able to ‘help’ them through that and know what they must be experiencing, but I never could do that before this experience.  Or maybe I’ll be local/native enough here one day to be able to offer that help to a newcomer. 

Well that night, I drank too much of the pink bubbly wine I have discovered here that I like a bit too much—not smart, Kathleen!  My intestines were NOT happy with me at all on Friday, but thankfully I now had friends around to help with the kids and commiserate with while Steve was at work.  It was a very rainy day, as was Saturday, and they had great indoor ideas to keep the kids entertained both days, so we still had fun. 

Except on Saturday morning, they left!  What a tease!  For a couple brief days I had the thrill of having my one of my closest girlfriends by my side to lean on, laugh with and confide in, and then they were gone!  However, as Drew excitedly talks about now, we got to see them at ‘Baba’s house’ and in June we get to see them at ‘Nana’s house’!  How cool is that?

Saturday, I felt worse if that is possible.  I have never experienced a stomach bug last more than a day or so, and now a massive headache had started (Aussies love to use the word massive and I have decided I do, too!  It is a great word.).  We had a good family day and I was very thankful for my sweet husband who really stepped up with the boys.

Sunday cleared up, but I didn’t and sadly had to miss the 5k on the Coast that I had signed up for.  My goal had been to do that race, an 8k in the city of Brisbane on Mother’s Day, and then my 10k big goal the end of May.  I’m not sure that schedule is going to work out for me.  Worst of all that day, my little Zach started to cough.  That night was a tough one.  Drew wet the bed again and when I got up to change sheets, my head would pound so hard I could barely continue. 

I hated to ask Steve to miss work Monday to take me to the doctor, but I knew I couldn’t drive with my head like that, and my body would not keep the Panadol (Aussie Tylenol—90% sure that I’m correct on that) in.  I just have a long lasting bug, but Zach’s cough got worse, so Steve helped us both, and then he caught my bug—poor guy.  Monday night I was up a lot with Zach.  His cough made him puke again (more sheets—and this pile of laundry descends upon us when we now own the fewest sheets and towels we ever have and no clothes dryer—-ay yi yi!) and the little guy had a miserable night. 

I tell ya, Drew loves to cuddle when he’s sick, but Zach, that kid would climb into the womb again if he could.  I laid hostage in his toddler bed half the night, because the humidifier was going in his room, and he wrapped his arms so tightly around my neck and through my hair and laid his face right on top of mine and just hacked and spluttered away.  I kept thinking how disgusting this was, but yet a strangely, beautiful and tender moment all at once. 

On Tuesday, I sucked it up and made an appearance at work.  They’ve got to love me—-I have missed three days in my first month of two day per week work—what commitment!  They are amazingly understanding—it really makes things easier to not have the fear of wrath at my job on top of everything else.   Steve stayed home but thought he was functional enough to take care of Zach; now that really is commitment.  I got home and Zach sounded awful and felt like he was on fire.  Steve seemed out of it, and I left Drew with Steve and took Zach to the doctor. The doctor called it tonsillitis caused by strep bacteria, which I have figured out is how they say ‘strep throat’ in this country.  It actually makes more sense.  He got him on antibiotics and worriedly told me we would likely have a rough night and may end up in the hospital because his tonsils were so inflamed they were significantly blocking his airway.   Trying to fight back tears, I got in the car and headed home.  It was dark now, just after 5:00, and as I was pulling up to a turn lane at a stop light, someone honked at me.  I guess I had entered the turn lane a bit late and this car had been trying to speed around me.  At the next light, the car pulled up next to me, and the female driving, who looked to be about 18 leaned out her window and shouted “Learn how to drive.”  I just gave a sad smile and mouthed back “I’m trying.”  Well how can a person hold the tears back after that?! 

Another learning experience from this move:  I feel I have typically been very intolerant, impatient, and judgmental of people’s shortcomings, particularly, the ones I perceive them to have on the road.  I hope this has helped me learn to be better about that.  If someone is going slow or cuts you off or makes a turn at the last minute—-you just don’t know—-you don’t know their story, what kind of day they’ve had, where they’re from, how much sleep they’ve gotten, how worried they are about their sick kid in the back seat, and how they are not used to driving at night in this town, in this country, on this side of the road.  I hope this move can teach me more of those virtues I would like to have.

On a side note—in this country, kids learn to drive a bit later than in the U.S., although I am not sure yet of the exact age.  They also have a big L sticker displayed prominently on their car while they have their learner’s permits, and then for two years, a big P, to show their license is still provisional.  I like that idea.  It may cause the kids some embarrassment, but it should give adults the knowledge to be patient with them, and a bit more courteous.   Again, maybe a freedom issue?  Less freedom, less privacy, but possibly better for the society as a whole…???

The doctor asked me to bring Zach back in this morning, so my boys and I went, me running on fumes after staring at Zach breathe all night, and now he is back on the croup medication in addition to the antibiotic.  But this afternoon I think we turned the corner.  I actually had a relatively decent day with my boys, got our filthy bathroom cleaned and made a dent in that pile of laundry.  It was a good day for moral support as well, connecting with lovely family and friends, both here and there.  Can you believe our 80-year-old widowed neighbour came over to see if we needed anything from the store?!  I am so touched and feel so blessed to have a neighbour concerned about how we are doing each day; I cannot even express how much that means.  And you know what? She moved here 50 years ago from England, when she was 30, and stayed home raising six kids.  She knows. 

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