Sunday, July 21, 2013

Finding Home

Hello All (or Few),

When I last left off, I was newly married and still buzzing about our wedding and honeymoon.  Nine months on, I'm nearly out of the newlywed phase of our marriage and though the buzz of the wedding has faded a bit, whenever I think about that weekend or see pictures, I can't help but smile because it truly was one of the best times of my life and we were so blessed to have so many people from Australia and the U.S. there to celebrate with us.

I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by!  I feel like a lot has happened and like not a lot has changed...(I feel like anyone reading this probably knows me and so this rundown will be old news so skip ahead if you'd like to)

-At Christmas, we adopted two rescue dogs- Diggie and Kona.  They are a lot of hard work and generally pains in our asses, but I love having them.  They bring a lot of joy to our lives and make our house feel like home and like MOTH and I have started a real, little family.

 Bruno now named Diggie.
Kona's name was Jazzy.  Here she is with the wonderful lady who rescued her.

-MOTH celebrated his 30th in March.  We rented a beach house for the weekend and all of our friends stayed over with us.

-We are both still at our same jobs.  I got a (temporary?) promotion (still waiting on the raise portion of it, though, so essentially doing more work and have more responsibility for same, meagre pay).  In talks with my boss now whether I like the role and want to stay in it or whether I want to go back to more student services involvement.  She is away for three weeks starting today so I am in charge of the office.  My sister called me a dictator and I think Little D the Dictator has a nice ring to it!  The commute is killing me still and a lot of the time on the weekend I feel like I just want to hang at home to recover from the week.  We are thinking that we will move a bit closer to the city at Christmas time when our current lease is up.

-In about 2.5 months we are headed to South Africa to visit my sister and do some travelling with my parents and some of their friends from their neighborhood.  I can not wait to go!  I've been wanting to go back to Africa for 11 years now, ever since I left Kenya after a graduation trip I took there with my family and a bunch of family friends.  We are spending a few nights in Cape Town and are going to see the area where Nae and her boyfriend, PB&J, live, go to the top of Table Mountain and out to Robben Island, and visit the penguins.  We are then going to drive through the wine country to Mossel Bay where we will stay a few nights with PB&J's parents and hopefully shark dive and visit Cango Wildlife Ranch where we will be able to pet cheetahs and tigers (obviously not native) and ride ostriches.  From there we will go to J-Bay, a world famous surf spot, for the night and then head to Port Elizabeth where we will make our way by boat up a river to a private game reserve and we will be on safari for 4 days there.  Following that, we will fly to Jo-burg for a night for a morning flight to Zimbabwe where we hope to do a walk with lions and where we will visit Victoria Falls.  Typing that out, I get even more excited as it sounds like such an incredible adventure and I'm so lucky to be experiencing it soon.  We have no idea what to do with the dogs, though, so that is causing a bit of stress.  MOTH's parents aren't really dog people.  They said they'd take the dogs, but they wouldn't walk them and with us being away for 16 days, I don't think that's right.  His brother can't take them either because his yard does not have a fence.  The place we boarded them at for the weekend of MOTH's birthday is great but is $50 a calendar day per dog so we'd be looking at $1800 for them to stay there (I can do math-we'd have to drop them off the day before we leave and wouldn't get home in time to pick them up before the place closes the day we land in Sydney so they'd be there for 18 calendar days).  We are hoping one of his cousins will come through and want to house sit for us.  We'd pay them a decent amount, but still save considerably from the $1800 for the boarding place.  At the end of the day, though, we will spend that money if need be because they will get fed twice a day, get walked twice a day, and live in a nice area with other dogs to play with.

-Because we have not taken any leave since we got back from the wedding and because I was only allowed to take 2 weeks off for the South Africa trip (against Aussie law, but I won't get in to all that here) we will have a decent amount of leave accrued for next year.  We are hoping to go to Oahu/Kauai/one other island for my 30th at the end of February and beginning of March and then go back to CA to celebrate my Mom's 60th at the end of June/beginning of July.  I can't wait to get back to CA and can't believe that trip is still nearly a year away.

Anyway, that's the general update.  I didn't add it to the list above because it is still in the conceptual phase, but we are moving back to California.  This probably won't be for about two years and there are a million things we need to do and figure out before then (ex. me file my US taxes for the time I've been here, save lots of money, figure out whether to have a baby here or there, etc., etc.) but we are at least starting to think about these things.  I'm not sure that MOTH is ready now nor am I sure that he will ever be ready but he can see how down I am here so he is willing to take the plunge for me.

I've been in Australia just shy of 8.5 years now and I am ready to move home.  And that's the thing, for me, California is home, has always been home, and will always be home.  While I think Australia/NSW is great; I still feel like the odd man out here.  The lifestyle on the Central Coast is very different from the lifestyle I grew up with.  For a while, in my early 20s, I wanted to escape that, to experience something other than living behind the "Orange Curtain", but then my parents moved out of Orange County and up to Santa Cruz and I think I saw some of the best that California has to offer there and when MOTH and I visit them now I think to myself, "Yep, this is it."  I envy people who can make home anywhere they happen to be.  I have tried that, but for me home is where the people I love live.  And yes, I do love MOTH with most of my heart, but the other parts belong to my Mom and Dad and to my sister and to the family friends who felt like actual family growing up and I miss them and I don't like that MOTH feels like he has to make up for their absence.  It's not fair to him, but I don't think it's fair to me either to continue to live in Australia indefinitely.

I will look fondly back on my time in Australia when I get to California, I'm sure.  It might be a "grass is always greener" scenario and I'll miss Australia and want to come back or MOTH might hate living in the States after a bit so we may just end up in Australia still.  But I/we won't know that until we give it a go and move there and give ourselves time to settle in.  I have met some amazing people here and have made some lifelong friendships.  I came here with that goal of creating and maintaining healthy friendships and relationships and I am happy that I have accomplished this.  I also wanted a big adventure and for part of my time here, I feel like I did have one, but now, what was once adventure has become everyday life so I'm ready for the next chapter and for a new adventure to begin.

Until next time, whenever that may be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This is the First Day of My Life Part 2 and Other Updates

After nearly 6 weeks of being back in California, MOTH and I fly out for Aus again on Thursday.  I know for some expats coming to the States is a jarring experience and they can't wait to get back to their new home country.  Not so for me- the pull of California grows stronger every time I come back.  Nae and her boyfriend PB&J leave today for 30 fun hours of flying to South Africa- it makes our "long haul" trip back to Australia seem puny in comparison!

A minor technicality:  MOTH and I are actually not legally married yet.  That was a fun surprise to read in the mail last week!  There was a problem in how the marriage license was filled out and we got a letter last week letting us know it had been rejected.  We are so pissed at our wedding coordinator for not looking the form over before turning it in because she had said to us a few times that she would handle the paperwork after we stressed to her that our officiant, my godfather, had never performed a wedding before.  Consequently, when I went to get my new drivers license yesterday, I wasn't able to update to my married name so I am still Dana Old Last Name whereas I was hoping to be Dana Old Last Name New Last Name (no hyphen).

Oh, and by the way, I don't know about this whole being married thing anyway.  It seems so serious!  And referring to MOTH as my husband makes me want to throw up.  We have a family friend who is in her early 20s and she said she couldn't wait to call her husband her husband, but for me, I think I'd prefer to call MOTH my Boyfriend Who I Married.  I'm all for being with the guy forever and ever, amen, but I just hate the more serious title.  I never used "fiance" unless I thought I could get a deal or a freebie out of saying it and I don't want to now have to start using the word husband.

Obviously I really love MOTH and I really want to be married to him but I think this is all coming to the surface because MOTH is staring 30 square in the face and I'm not long behind him and I'm starting to worry about getting old and all the responsibility that comes with that. So being married is actually great but what being married means in relation to what stage I am at in life is pretty fucking terrifying. I can't be the only one who has felt that way, right?

I guess it was pretty timely then, when while on our honeymoon, MOTH and I met a couple who was celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary and they gave us some advice- they have 3 kids and 4 grandkids and they said the key to it all is to never get old, just keep having fun and acting young and you will be.  And I think they are on to something because about two weeks before our wedding, my parents celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary and I think part of the reason they've made it last for so long is that they follow that couple's advice, too, and haven't let themselves get old: just two days ago, we all went to the annual Bridge School Benefit and my parents totally rocked out to Jack White and Guns N Roses! I hope we're that cool at 60.

So to recap for the too long, didn't read crowd:  I'm unofficially married and afraid of getting old, but I've been told that as long as I don't act old I won't be old.  Here are some recent pictures to prove that I probably won't have any trouble with that:

 The Scorpion Bowl at my Bachelorette Party. LC asked them to make it extra strong for me and boy did I feel it the next day.  I couldn't even get any of my wedding related chores done and only really recovered in time for the Rehearsal Dinner!

 I wore wedges for the ceremony but after that I slipped in to some Cons to dance the night away in!

MOTH and I stayed at a cabin just down the street from my parents' place for a few nights after the wedding.  On our last morning, my family came to pick us up and we played in the kids play area for awhile. Here's a picture of me and my Dad having some fun!

Monday, October 15, 2012

This Is the First Day of My Life

On September 29th, after a 2 and a half year engagement, we finally did it!  We just got back from our honeymoon in Mexico yesterday and I now have about a week left with my sister before she and her boyfriend head back to South Africa and MOTH and I have 10 days left with my parents.  I will try and update more soon, but for now here is a sneak peek of the day:

Monday, July 2, 2012

This Winter is Lasting Forever, At Least for Tonight

Brrrrr!  Man oh man has it gotten chilly down here within the past few weeks!  It makes for a refreshing time standing on the train platform at 6:45 each morning.  Even after 7.5 years here, it still seems crazy to be this cold in July.  Everyone from back home is posting about beach days and their 4th of July plans and it makes me crazy jealous, but life around here is going well.

MOTH and I have been having some fairly mellow weekends.  We have become obsessed with this tv show, Sons of Anarchy.  We got through the first two seasons in two weekends so I told him we needed to take a break from it or we'd be all caught up to season 5, the current one, in no time.  We now have said we'll watch one season in July, one in August, then save one for the honeymoon in October. Have you guys seen this show?  It's about a fictional motorcycle club in Northern California.  I love the characters and the plotlines are always super intense.  My sister said she's been hooked on it since the beginning but I don't remember ever hearing about it before.  Anyway, it's one I'd definitely recommend.

We're lucky because our little house has a combustion stove heater and we've got a firewood connection by way of Steve's great uncle so nights when we are home early enough and on weekends we get it going and it makes the house so warm and cozy.  We pull out camping mattresses and eat dinner and watch Sons on my laptop in front of it.  I was home sick today from work-had the worst headache all weekend and thought I was getting a cold-and MOTH will be home early so I'm hoping he'll get the fire going for us because my nose is freezing right now.

We're back to eating low carb through the week as it's the only thing that really seems to help us shed the weight.  Dieting through winter sucks as all I want to do is eat comfort food!  But hopefully it'll pay off with a couple less pounds on the both of us in time for the wedding at the end of September.  If anyone has any low carb sites to recommend or any recipes to share, I'd appreciate it!

Friday was the 3 month to go mark....eeeee!!!  We're both really nervous but comfortable enough to say that to each other and we're both really, really excited.  The budget is a hot mess.  It's about 3x more than I had originally hoped to spend, BUT we can afford it, nothing is going on credit or anything.  It's just we were hoping to keep things low key and cheap.  The day will still be low key and no one will be able to tell we spent as much as we have because it's all going in to boring infrastructure type stuff...bringing in fancy portapotties, heating, lighting, hiring a shuttle since there's no parking, etc, etc.  Oh well, on the day I think we'll feel it was all worth it to have a really fun party with a lot of the people who mean the world to us.

We've sent out the invites over the past two weeks and it's been super exciting to get RSVPs back already.  So far there's only been yeses and I can't wait to get the full picture of who can make it and who can't. It's been a good mixture of people who have responded- my old surf coach and his wife, an old family friend, a neighbor, a bridesmaid, some people who live within 20 minutes drive of the venue, some who will have to drive 6 hours, some who will have to fly 15.  Let me tell you, there is probably nothing more flattering in life than having these wonderful people willing to give their time and their money to come share our special day with us.

The whole registry thing is really throwing us.  I've always thought doing the whole scanner gun thing that you see in movies looks fun but most people here do wishing wells where they straight up ask for money.  It's just a different cultural thing and I've told my friends here that that would go over like a lead balloon in the States, although in our situation money really would be easiest.  Because wishing wells are so popular here, no home stores or department stores have really set up registry systems and because we will have limit luggage space, we can't exactly register for a bunch of stuff back in California.  We finally found that a large department store called David Jones does do registries, but the system is a bit clunky- our guests can check our list and then they email DJ's their top 3 gift preferences (wtf?  I guess it doesn't get updated daily so their first pick might've already been bought) and then someone will email them back to tell them what gift they can buy and then they email back their credit card details.  And for the luxury of having this clunky system, they also have to pay $14 for registry upkeep and shipping and whatnot I guess.  I hope, if people want to give us a gift, they skip the hassle of this system and give us money as we will then go buy homegoods with them or put it towards our trip to visit Nae in South Africa next year, but Mom says some people just really, really like to give tangible gifts.  We'll be pleased with anything we do get.

Work has slowed down and gone in to this kind of groove that I'm getting the hang of.  In other words, I didn't sink!  Now that I'm in the groove though, it's nearly time for the whole process to start again and for us to start gearing up for the next intake of students.  Luckily this next semester will only be 70 students from two different schools as compared to the 160 students from 8 different programs we had in this round.  Because I know what to expect as far as work flow leading up to the next groups' arrivals, I feel much better prepared to handle it.  I think I'm doing a decent job and I like the women I work with.  Tomorrow I have my 3 month review and I think it will go well.  I have a list of things I feel I could've improved on from the last intake and a list of things I think I did well in.

With all that being said, MOTH is now home and it's time for me to warm my fingers and toes in front of the fire.  Good night!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Wake Up Exhausted, It's Not Morning

So no posts for a month and a half from me.  The first three weeks of that time I was probably just lazy or didn't have much to say but then we had this planning meeting at work and I don't think I've had a lunch break since that day.  I've been going in early or staying back late or both most days.  Some days I've been in at 8am and not left til 7 or 8pm and with a nearly two hour commute on either side of my day I've just been dead on my feet.  I thought at the start of the job when I wasn't getting home until 715 that I didn't have a life, but for the past few weeks I've been home at 9 and I walk in the door, have a Lean Cuisine, take a shower, and pass out.

This craziness should pass in about a week and a half and then it'll go back to "normal"-aka 12.5 hour days instead of 14-15 hour days.  We have about 150 students who have arrived or who are arriving shortly and all the work that goes in to getting them here and settled is incredible.  Tomorrow (Saturday) I'm up at 5am to drive to Sydney and go on an all day field trip to Featherdale Wildlife Park and the Blue Mountains.  It should be fun, but it's a long day.  The people I work with are all nice and helpful and have made me feel comfortable. I feel bad any time I make a mistake because even though we aren't saving lives, they are taken pretty seriously and with my long days and lack of sleep and stress, I've been making a few of them.  I hate that!  I like to be the best at whatever I do.

Last week, LC got married and I was in her wedding.  When I was at my old job, I had originally planned to take the Friday off and do wedding prep stuff with her.  With all the kids arriving right now, I told her I couldn't take the day off.  Because I had worked so long on the other days last week, I thought for sure I'd be able to take off by 4-4:30 and spend her last night as a single girl with her, but just as I was hoping to leave a bunch of work got dumped on my desk.  I couldn't help it, I went outside and cried.  I called her and explained the situation and she understood (good friend) but I felt like such a bad bridesmaid.  I don't mind working back or coming in early most days because I know stuff needs to get done, but that day I had just had enough.  I ended up being at work until 7 and then when I got to the our home train station our car battery was dead so I didn't get home until 10:30 that night.

Trying to plan a wedding and taking on this new job is hard.  There has been no wedding planning.  In 4 days, we will be 4 months out from the wedding-I should be planning.  I'm not sure this was the right time in my life to take this job.  I had this feeling in my gut that it wasn't the right time, but I didn't want to disappoint my parents. At 28, I still want to be their good, responsible kid.  I chide MOTH for being the same way, but at the end of the day, letting them down kills me.  The job is fine and I'll like it lots more when it calms down a bit, that's not what I'm saying, but the timing of it is off.  I guess it's sink or swim time and I'm doggy paddling my hardest.  The rescue ship is in sight and I'm sure I'll be fine.

This probably reads like a drunk person wrote it and I'm sorry if my thoughts have jumped around from this to that or if I haven't really explained myself coherently or in detail.  I'm too tired to be writing at the moment, but I wanted to update the blog so you knew what had been going on.  It probably sounds like I'm having a big whinge, which I kindof am, but I'm just still trying to adjust to this new lifestyle.  We talk to the kids at orientation about culture shock and I've gone through Aussie culture shock here plenty of times and reverse culture shock when I go back to California and I guess this is a version of culture shock- commuter lifestyle culture shock.  Hey, only 15,000 more train rides until retirement!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Don't Let Your Inhibitions Guide Your Way (Update)

I started reading back through the blog last night and it was a lot of fun.  There were things from last year and the year before that I had completely forgotten about and reading about them again made me laugh and smile.  One of the posts I came across was my 30 before 30 list.  When I posted, I had 4.5 years to complete the list, now I have less than 2.  I just wanted to post to let you guys know how I'm tracking.

1. Get married. (I'm engaged so well on my way to this one-September 2012)

2. Find steady employment.

3. Lose weight, I won't specify a number, but it's intimidating.  I started Weight Watchers this past Monday, hopefully that does the trick.

4. Travel to South Africa.  We were hoping to do this next year, but it might have to wait another 6 months-year since we now may have plans to travel to CA next summer instead (see below in travel to Julian goal)

5. Finally travel to Melbourne.

6. Finally travel to the Gold Coast.

7. Visit 2 new states in the U.S.

8. Paddle an Outrigger Canoe.  We did Stand Up Paddleboarding in Kauai last year which was pretty similar and Super awesome.

9. Save enough money for a down payment on a house. Maybe after the wedding?

10. Buy starter and learn how to make really good San Francisco style sourdough bread.  I researched this and didn't find anyone in Australia that had the starter, but I should look again, as this place near wear sells San Francisco sourdough.  I bought my first loaf this week and MOTH and I are hooked, it truly is SF sourdough!

11. Learn how to make my own barbeque sauce.

12. Attempt to make mozzarella cheese at home.

13. See a movie at a drive in theater.

14. Keep this blog going for at least another 2 years.

15. Do the majority of my shopping at farmers markets and try and eat more locally grown foods and foods that are actually in season for where I live. Only eat chicken that has been ethically raised.    I did this for a long time, but our farmers market is really expensive and doesn't have a whole lot of product, plus there isn't a ton of organic produce and a lot of the produce is already bagged and looks like the sellers went to the grocery store the night before, bought the stuff, and then were trying to pass it off as locally grown.  We do only buy organic chicken and milk these days and as much organic produce as we can.

16. Go on a long bike ride along the CA coast.

17. Buy a beach cruiser.  MOTH got me one for Christmas 2011

18. Go camping more often. Camp in the mountains near Julian again, like we used to every Memorial Day Weekend growing up.  I camped twice last year, that's gotta count as more, right? From zero to two?

19. Plant a fruit and vegetable garden, maintain, and harvest it.   Have done this, or attempted to do this, the last two years.  We've planted, we've maintained- there hasn't been a whole lot to plant as our soil wasn't very good at the last place we lived at and we had a super wet summer that killed everything off just as they should have been fruiting.

20. Get a dog (or 3, plus a cat, some chickens, a goat, and one of those little teacup pigs).  We were so close to this one, but with our commute, I don't think it's fair to leave a dog here by itself for 13 hours a day.

21. Read Michael Pollan's 4 books: In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemna (I'm halfway through this one), Food Rules and the Botany of Desire.

22. Smoke pot, but only if it becomes legal in California! (Seriously, how did I get through high school without ever trying it? I'm a good girl is how!)     It didn't get legalized

23. Go on a whale watching trip in Monterey Bay.

24. Visit Julian and my God Parents again.   This should happen next August as one of my godsisters is "pre-engaged" and has said the wedding will happen there then.

25. Go apple and/or berry picking.  Hopefully this can happen when I'm in Julian next August.

26. See Blink 182 in concert.

27. Third time's a charm- finally see Brand New in concert.

So so far I've completed 7 goals, 1 has been knocked out as it's still illegal, plans are in place for, 1 has been knocked out for now since we don't want pets we can't take care of properly, 6 are in the works to happen in the next 12 months or so, and 12 I really need to start thinking about.

Anyone else done one of these lately?  If so, I'd love to see them.  Or if you commented last time that you had started one, I'd love to know how you are tracking.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Now You're Just Somebody That I Used to Know

* I started this post before Christmas and never got around to finishing it until now so sorry if it seems out of the blue. I'm not in the thick of these feelings now, although there is a bit of lingering hurt, I just hated having it sit there incomplete.*

I read this quote in a magazine recently that really resonated with me. In fact, I tore it out of the magazine and now keep it on my car's dashboard as a reminder (or at least I thought I had, I just looked for it to use it here and it looks like it's become a victim of one of MOTH's car clean outs).  Basically its message was that just because you used to be friends, doesn't mean you have to continue to be friends simply because you have known each other a long time.  You should only continue to be friends with people who make a positive contribution to your life.

As I've gotten older, I've stopped being a friend collector.  At this point I feel like a person is either a good friend or they're not. Generally, I don't burn any bridges, I just let people fade into acquaintance (or less) status and I give people lots of chances.  We're all human, we all mess up sometimes and hurt the people we care about; me included, me especially sometimes it feels like.  But at some point, I do reach a breaking point and say "Enough is enough.  You've hurt me or let me down for the last time."

See, until I moved here, I didn't really know what it was like to have good girl friends. Girls who have your back 100%, girls who don't flake out on you, girls who don't gossip (at least not a lot or in a malicious way, because come on, when you are close to someone, you're bound to get on each others' nerves every once in a while and say something in frustration or the heat of the moment). I'm lucky to have found that in the girls I call friends here.  My life is pretty drama free these days, but if I were to need something, I've got a bunch of girls in my corner I know I could call for help.

From the time she was a young teenager, my sister was fortunate enough to always make really deep and awesome friendships with girls. As her life has changed, she doesn't keep in contact with all of those good friends anymore, but while they were in her life they were in her life and ready to go to bat for her and show up for her whenever she needed them. Her girls were her family when we weren't around. I was always jealous of that. Now, I have that on some level with my friends here, too.

My sister is ballsier than I will ever be in a lot of ways.  She, for example, called out someone who was being a fair weather friend.  The person made a request for her and backed it with a "do this for me because we are friends" plea and Nae flat out said to her, "No, we are not.  A friend has your back no matter what.  A friend shows up.  You are only my friend when it's convenient for you.  You are an acquaintance."  Ouch! Surely that must have stung the person a bit, but you know what?  Sometimes being a good friend is calling people on their shit.

Oh man, how I wish I could say that to a few people!  I think half of me would feel so empowered but maybe the other half of me would feel really crappy?  While saying that to her former friend/current acquaintance may have forced some re-evaluation on the acquaintance's part to try and work back towards a friendship, the people I want to say it to, it just wouldn't make a difference to.

And so I do things my way- I bite my tongue, I let myself be hurt and mourn the loss of what were once important friendships, I let my contact with that person fade, and I focus on all the people I DO have in my life that build me up.

Just because we aren't friends now, doesn't mean you weren't an important person in my life at some point.  And just because you've hurt me, doesn't mean I won't still look back fondly on a lot of the memories we made together.  While we aren't friends any more, I certainly don't want to be enemies either and I think biting my tongue and not expressing my hurt and avoiding potentially saying something that I can't take back is the best way to leave it, even if it doesn't bring any closure to things.