Life is good. Normalcy is good. We are truly blessed. Today I find myself grateful for our many blessings and for having courage. I completed a 14k (8.6 Mile) race today, the longest distance I’ve ever run. Not only did I complete it, but I ran the whole way on a hilly course and finished in 1 hour, 21 minutes and 45 seconds, faster than I would have thought possible for me. I experimented with jogging here and there over the years, typically when I would work a summer in a national park and that was my only way to exercise other than my day off hikes and camping trips. But when I would move back home, I would always go back to my gym routine.
When we moved here, Steve and I both started as our only way to get a short break from the kids in that initial month. I started by walking for the bulk of the time and jogging for 5-10 minutes and gradually built up. I have since become completely addicted and I credit jogging a great deal with helping me through this new venture. I firmly believe that it is not only physical exercise but also beneficial to my mind and spirit. That time alone, outside, centers me in ways not many other things can.
Today, I am proud of myself! I am proud that I picked up that habit instead of a more destructive one in helping me deal with such a major life change. (Don’t get me wrong—not every coping mechanism I have employed has been healthy and I have done things in my life overall that I am definitely not proud of—but I’m choosing not to focus on those today!) I am proud of myself for keeping at it, rolling out of bed on dark, cold mornings consistently to do something good for me, that I knew would help the way I felt that day, even when it didn’t feel good to get out of bed after a less-than-perfect night’s sleep. I am proud of myself for asking my husband for extended time away on weekend mornings to run longer distances (and I am grateful to him for his unwavering support) and allowing myself to take that time just for me, away from my family and not feeling guilty about it. I am proud that I knew I was taking care of myself and I deserved it.
I feel proud and strong today! It’s funny—I got choked up and teary a couple times during the race for no apparent reason. It’s because I was thinking of my sweet boys getting up early and on their way into the city to cheer me on at the finish line. Seeing their smiling faces made the experience SO much sweeter for me! I was thinking of my Dad, on American Father’s Day, and what an incredibly wonderful father he has been. I was thinking of all of my family in the U.S. and how much love I have for them. I was thinking of all of the friends I have, truly across the globe and how much support and love they show to me, how much I cherish them. All of that choked me up and also inspired me, fueled me. I felt so energized, as if I could move mountains—truly feeling the love. When I climbed that last hill, under sunny Brisbane skies on a picture perfect morning, a huge grin spread across my face and it didn’t change at all the last two kilometers, until I was well past the finish line. I just cherished the moment, the accomplishment, the abundance of blessings I have in my life and I felt FULL of joy—what an incredible rush! Gotta love that runner’s high!
Tonight as I was making my dear friend’s hummus recipe and slicing the fresh beets I had just cooked myself (two things I’ve learned in the last two years that I now do regularly), it hit me just how much I have learned and accomplished since we moved here. I have grown so much and I would not change it for the world. I am a lucky and blessed woman and today, I am taking the time to truly feel the gratitude and pride.
Ok, enough of the cheesey pats on my own back! In other interesting experiences over the past month or so: Drew had his first Field Day this past Friday, what is known here as a Sports Carnival or Junior Sports Day (another unfortunately misleading word—a carnival with no rides!). It was a super cute day. The kids here throughout the school are split into three “sports houses” that remain in place throughout their time at that school, so each house is made up of a mixture of all the grades. I have heard siblings are put into the same houses as well. At his school at least, the houses are given Aboriginal names for different animals, so he is in the Ngurum (pronounced Nurum) or Emu House and wears green.
When the morning started, all the kids went to sit under tents in their house color and then they paraded around the field waving at us (called the oval here, not sure why—it seemed like a standard rectangular playing field, but I could be mistaken) while pop music blared from speakers and we all cheered for them. Then they split into groups and rotated around the field for the next hour or so playing different games. There was a parachute game, egg and spoon races, potato sack races, etc. Then everyone broke for morning tea! They took all the kids back to their classroom for an hour to eat and rest I guess—we didn’t see them.
Then they went back to their tents and started doing chants to cheer on their own house and smack talk the other houses. Next, everyone watched as they split up to do running races. They started with the Prep kids and would line up about 6 of the boys and have them run about 100 meters to a finish line where they awarded the first three kids with corresponding ribbons and everyone else with a sticker. They kept going through the classes, racing the Prep girls next, then the first graders, and so on, until every kid had done one race. The kicker for me was that they used a starting gun! Holy moly, what happened to a regular coach’s whistle?! I guess I must have been the only American there, because I was the only one who freaked out when I heard a gunshot and almost ran for cover (this reminds me of an odd story I will share momentarily). Except Zach, who kept saying, “Mommy, why is that man being naughty?” It was hard to explain why he was allowed to shoot a gun!
They ended the day by splitting up into each house and the kids in Prep in each house did a relay race, back and forth along the 100 meter or so stretch (I can’t measure in meters, so who knows how long it was! Saying that just sounds good!), then the first graders, etc. They then made closing remarks through a bullhorn that I couldn’t understand (same with the opening remarks) and they announce the house who won the overall day. And then all the kids went back to their classrooms for lunch. Except we could sign them out and take them home early, which is what I did. It was such a different experience than how I remember Field Day and lots of fun! I like the house idea.
The odd thing I have realized though is that I don’t know how accurate my memory of school experiences is. I can’t figure out if this all feels so new and different because I am the new parent of a school-aged child, or because all of this is happening in another country, likely a mixture of both. Would it have felt more recognizable to me in the U.S.? He likely would have gone to a public school, which would probably have been very different anyway from my Catholic school experience. It leaves me pondering…..
We also recently took the boys to Movie World, the Australian equivalent of Universal Studios. It was a fun day and I thought it was very well done. Seems Movie World and Sea World are quite equivalent to U.S. versions, only on a smaller scale, except that I don’t remember Sea World having rides.
Also, Steve and I had our first overnight away from the boys since July 2011! It was last week and we went to a picturesque little beach town. We didn’t see much of the town because it was a rainy weekend and we were there mostly when it was dark and being lazy when it was light before heading back. But we had such a great time! We indulged like we don’t normally and just truly enjoyed some continuous togetherness. It was like getting to see my best friend again after an absence and easily reconnecting. The icing on the cake was that the boys did so well staying at our friends’ house, sleeping well and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Our friends didn’t seem too put off by them either. We are so grateful to them and blessed to have met lovely friends here!
I’ll end with the odd gun story experience I had recently. Someone was asking me what it felt like to be in the U.S., where people can carry guns all the time and often have guns on them, and how would I know when to be scared of seeing a gun. It was compared to here where no one is allowed guns, so they would automatically be scared when they saw one. I assured the person that Americans would freak if they saw a gun in public, that I never have and don’t know what I would do if I did. The funny thing was that she just didn’t believe me and we just went around and around saying the same thing, her fervently believing that everyone I knew or saw walks around with guns and we wouldn’t know when someone was likely to start a shooting spree and be worried. Nothing I could say about my own actual experience could alter her perception in the slightest. It was a very odd conversation.
Therefore, I found it doubly odd that I was the only one scared at Sports Day when I heard a gunshot! Quite ironic!