Category Archives: Hotlanta

Sunday Funday

Today is Father’s Day in America, and a great part of the world it turns out when you look at Facebook feeds (see – still a relevant social media tool). Not so in Australia, when Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September. For all the people that didn’t know that already, you’re welcome.

Yesterday the ‘father’ in this house started making some noises about going for ‘brunch’ for Father’s Day.* The mother in the house did some searching on the web about the ‘best brunches in Atlanta’, ‘best breakfast locations in Atlanta’ etc etc. Turns out, surprise, surprise that most of them were booked out and the ones that weren’t were a first come, first serve situation, and about a 45 minute drive. That scenario in our house is fraught with danger; first the driving part ‘are we there yet?’ could be asked as many as 65,000 times in that time period; and three members of our four member family do not like waiting in lines. I envisioned 45 minute drive, arrive frazzled, long line, look in my phone for for ‘next option’, 20 minute drive, arrive frazzled, long line, look for ‘next option’, 15 minute drive – some threats of violence in the enclosed space of the vehicle to anyone who asked ‘are we there yet?’ OR announced ‘I’m hungry’.

The best option was clearly breakfast at home because ‘don’t forget Dad you told us you’d take us to the movies tomorrow, we haven’t been to the movies yet this holidays’. Also, I had just watched the Holderness family Father’s Day video (remember them from Christmas Jammies and Snow Day?) and I was guessing that while traveling to brunch was a nice idea, it probably wasn’t what he really wanted.

So at 8am I arose from my spot in the spare bedroom (I had given up my own bed at around 1.30am due to a scenario involving a nightmare monster squashing 7 year old girls), and dressed in yesterday’s clothing to walk to the local supermarket in the ‘cool’ morning air.

The cooler morning in Hotlanta these days is around 25 degrees celcius or 77 F and 100% humidity, the walk is short but hilly. When I arrived glistening (East Cobb ladies don’t sweat, we glisten) to procure my breakfast needs I discovered many a mother with child in tow doing the same. I even found some of them in the card aisle. Phhhht. I totally had that down, I had downloaded from PINTEREST – yeah, that’s right, a full booklet that my children could use to creatively describe to their Father in words and pictures how much he meant to them.

Only one small problem.

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Not daunted I pressed on. I am sure there is a website for Pinterest fails I can attach this to later.

It's the thought that counts

It’s the thought that counts

Once I returned from my morning walk, across a neighbour’s back yard to avoid the last little crushing hill, I set about making a world class brunch worthy breakfast. There are no photos in case of food critic / cholesterol police but it did feature, poached eggs, organic bacon, breakfast sausage, mushrooms, onions and  grape tomatoes with a square of onion and fetta bread.  There was coffee and orange juice, flowers from our garden and the paper. Not bad I say.

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After a sufficient food coma break for the father and time of course to joyfully read his Dad, World’s best booklet, there were plans made to attend the 2.45pm session of How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Mr 11 was very difficult to get out of the house, he doesn’t like movie theaters, they are cold (bring a long sleeved top – no thanks) and loud (bring some headphones – no thanks). We had to promise this was the ‘last movie he would ever have to go to’  in order to get him off the front step. Miss 7 loves the movies, she loves the popcorn and icee ordering and then forgets that she too finds it a bit loud. I had to sit between them at their request to calm any situation that may arise. All seemed to be going well, I had minimal bumps from elbows, all four held high when pushing hands to ears to dampen the noise. Then a request ‘can you pass me your icee cup – I think I need to barf’ Mr 11. A few minutes later I had the ‘all clear, false alarm’ and I turned attention to Miss 7 who at this point had tears streaming down her face – SPOILER ALERT – I thought because of the death of a character in the film. I started to tell her, it’s OK I cry all the time in movies and when I read books. No such luck, it had been too loud for her so in pushing her fingers into her ears she had scratched the inside of them with her fingernails. The apparent pain from inner ear scratches was causing the tears, that didn’t stop flowing until the movie finished.

Don’t you wish you were having my day? I sure wished I was having one of the perfect father’s day I could see scrolling through my Facebook feed. Smiling kids and dads, lovely meals prepared by OTHER people.

As we rolled back into the garage the father and I decided that we hadn’t seen a non-animated film at the movies together for over 11 years. We estimate it could be 11 more before we do.

Upon entry to the house everyone scattered for quiet time, golf  on tv for dad, building on the Kroger in her minecraft game for Miss 7 ( because every minecraft world needs a supermarket right?) and Mr 11 back with headphones and YouTube videos.  Peace at last.

Happy Father’s Day!

*before the apostrophe police who quite rightly keep a close eye on me and my many grammatical errors jump in, the interwebs told me that US law adopted the term Father’s day with the apostrophe right there.

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Snowmaggedon – Tales from the ‘hood

The snow event-  pretty if at home

The snow event- pretty if at home

If you don’t know about our little ‘snow event’ in the ATL  (formerly known as Hotlanta-  new name pending)  you must be living under a rock. Or not residing  in America, although I know it has hit the news internationally as several Aussie friends have posted screen shots from the local news to my Facebook wall.

There will be many stories written,  because there are so many to tell. It was  almost the perfect clusterf#ck*.

Picture this

Atlanta a city of endless suburban sprawl, 6 million residents, no public transport system to suburbia, no winterization of roads or cars (because it NEVER** snows) , sends EVERYONE – schools, businesses and government employees, home the same 30 minute time slot on a road system that already has one of the worst reputations in the country, experiences snow that drops 2-3 inches everywhere in below freezing conditions and pretty much turns immediately to ice on the roadways.

The result – mayhem, that included too many car accidents to count, children stranded overnight on school busses and in schools, people sheltering in service stations, supermarkets, cars and homes of friends and strangers, commutes of up to 18 hours and many abandoned vehicles, giving the producers of the Walking Dead and anyone planning on filming the next post apocalyptic movie some free perfectly staged shots.

When the lady slammed into the back of my car after failing to stop on ice that was barely there, a mere 20 minutes after it had started snowing and 200 metres from home (after I had taken a cheeky trip to the supermarket less than a mile away to stock up for Snowpocalypse) I called my husband perched in his office watching car accidents happen out the window and told him to not come home. Stay in the office overnight, we didn’t need two damaged cars, or worse.

It was then that our neighbourhood sprang into action. Our ‘hood that I often make fun of for it’s Home Owners Association rules and regulations, welcome cookies and being more manicured than Wisteria Lane amongst other things is really a genuine caring community that dived head first into assistance mode.

There are many amazing stories from all over Atlanta, these are a few from our ‘hood.

At least 20 people stopped to offer assistance to the young lady and myself who were perched in our cars precariously close to the neighborhood entrance. After being able to get off the main road, her car was unable to be driven – cue neighbours walking down the hill and pushing her car deep into our ‘hood for safety purposes.

Gee, you’ve got a lot of friends she said.

Just a lot of super friendly, helpful neighbours I replied.

One of the car pushers insisted on waiting with me, until the Police had established due to a State of Emergency they wouldn’t be coming and we had concluded Insurance company reporting and other formalities. Thank you again Adam.

Just a little bit later when it became clear the hill outside our enclave was becoming impassable they went out by foot to help push cars and offer assistance to weary drivers deciding it was too late, dark and icy to get home.

Other’s with 4×4’s were heading out into the night to rescue those abandoning cars and bringing them home over the icy roads.

Our neighbourhood clubhouse, generally the location of birthday parties, book

Food arriving by the minute at the clubhouse

Food arriving by the minute at the clubhouse

club and Bunko nights was thrown open to keep stranded motorists warm, dry and safe.  There was a constant stream of people arriving with sleeping bags, blankets, food, drinks and toiletries to make those inside comfortable for the duration.

When it appeared there may be excess people to couches they just started taking them to their houses – total strangers, come on over. It was happening all over Atlanta, quite amazing.

The next morning people were quickly out to the road to find anyone newly stuck or who may have arrived later and direct them inside for bathroom relief, steaming coffee and breakfast casseroles.***

One woman had high heels on and didn’t want to leave the car for fear of slipping on the ice. No problem, the guy hiked home and took a pair of his wife’s flats back to the car and escorted her safely down the hill. S is now down a pair of shoes but to a great cause!

Abandoned vehicles on the road outside the 'hood

Abandoned vehicles on the hill outside the ‘hood

I was out taking photos and an acquaintance was walking past checking on her husband’s car. We had just heard one of our neighbours, with three under 5 and a husband away was nearly out of formula for her baby, she offered as it was on her way, to go and check if the supermarket was open and buy the formula (if not much left) and put it behind the counter or bring it back. For someone she didn’t even know.

Sometime mid afternoon my husband arrived home from a night on the office floor, no couches there either, and transitioned directly into a snowball fight with the kids.

Spot the snowball

Spot the snowball

Later that day the same neighbour, now with a fed baby, accidentally locked herself out of the house while stepping out to check on her bigger boys and their snow activities. Cue operation house break. I now know a local B&E team that includes an antipodean 7 year old who can make the climb in the window if you need. Doing her heritage proud declared another cheeky bystander. (I do have a photo but I don’t want to give away the identities or the point of entry)

The day was winding down and we just had one guest left at the clubhouse who was waiting for her husband to pick her up. She told us his name was Leonardo Di Caprio. We felt it was unlikely there was more than one around. Further investigation  discovered that while she had been taking shelter with us during the day, she wasn’t really sure where she was from or where she should be going. Earlier conversations had been put down to extreme tiredness and disorientation from being overnight in her car. A group of ladies stayed with her for a little while and attempted to calmly get some more information that could lead us to calling someone who would be missing her. Sadly, we were unable to so we called for professional assistance and the excellent first responder teams arrived and took her to at least overnight safety in hospital.  I have been wondering about her all day. I hope she and her family have been reunited.

The end result of such an action packed 36 hour period  can surely only be a wine party at someone’s house, so when the Bus Mother’s WhatsApp group buzzed with such an invitation that included hot chocolate for the under 21’s we were quick to accept. About 10 bottles of wine, several bottles of beer later it was time for bed which I gratefully crawled into.

I was just having a warm and fuzzy feeling about our caring and sharing neighbourhood when they went and cancelled school again tomorrow.  Safety first I guess…….

*technical term for when many things go wrong at once

**never being once every two to three years where anything hits the ground and sticks

***so much more on the American love of casseroles later

Swim Team

Don’t do it!

Do it!

It’s awful, you will be SOOOO glad when its over!

It’s great, they will be soooo much better at it by the time its over!

Everyone gets a ribbon, no matter where they come!

The excessive exclamation marks are warranted because everyone I discussed it with had a strong opinion and they were all heartfelt.

I may have mentioned 77 days of summer vacation already. While Phineas and Ferb thought ‘their generation’ was the one deciding how to spend it, I can assure them that their parents also had to get out their thinking caps, their wallets and more cleverly their calendars – in about January.

Failing that, those of us that are less organised, not heading elsewhere for three months, new to the extremely lengthy summer holiday season for school age peoples of the USA, or ALL of the above, need to scramble to take the scraps of what’s left activity wise or enter those that accept enrollments when the ground has thawed and there are birds singing in the trees.

Swim team was one such activity. As an Aussie girl who wanted to see the swimming tradition passed to the next generation it seemed a great fit. Six weeks of 45mins a day per age group. Why couldn’t it go on all holidays I wondered? Why only six weeks?  Sounds great on paper, until the information that they train not all the same time but in a consecutive fashion. Read the fine print Nikki. Sadly too  late to fix the three and a half year age gap between Ms 6 (aka WASYO) and Mr 10.

Poolside daily 8.30-11am gets you these tan lines

Poolside daily 8.30-11am gets you these tan lines

Then there were the Swim Meets. A once a week reminder of the reason we were all there – a six hour extravaganza where all kids regardless of their abilities get the opportunity to swim a lap or two or four of our or another neighbhourhood pool with their parents and coaches cheering them onto victory – or just lap completion, whatever worked better for them. The theory is beautiful, the reality hot, humid, filled with volunteering pitfalls and swim parents* aplenty.

Heres the thing about swim meets – there are about 650** children from age 5-18 (most in the lower age groups) and their parents and coaches all packed onto the pool deck of a neighbourhood pool.  These pools are not Olympic swim meet certified, they are not designed for this kind of activity. Most of these kids / tweens and teens swim between three and six races EACH between 6pm and 10pm on a weeknight in summer.***

What the pool deck looks like during a swim meet - this one an 'away' meet when the away team gets the sunny side of the pool, lucky!

What the pool deck looks like during a swim meet – this one an ‘away’ meet when the away team gets the sunny side of the pool, lucky!

In summertime the temperature in Georgia peaks between 5-7pm. Just so you know, it is impossible to look any kind of reasonable at a swim meet and that’s before you start your three hour shift managing the 6 and under ‘bullpen’. The bullpen manager is responsible for ensuring that not one of the sugar fueled swimmers, did I mention the concession stand ‘Oh, they’re swimming they can have some treats’ (I’m guilty too),  leaves the proscribed location for the duration of the event, and gets the relevant swimmers to their relevant heats in reasonable time before they swim.

Before the first meet someone told me not to wear a dress or skirt, it was good advice – all the sweat ran straight into my shorts so at least I looked like I had an accident in my pants as opposed to it all running down my legs and looking like something else. Not kidding. I was not alone, every other volunteer parent, same thing. Someone should have tipped me off to wear a sweat band too. I am thinking of getting some printed for next year, or my head shaved, or both.****

Six weeks, five swim meets – six really if you count the washed out one that had to be continued after we waited for one hour and ten minutes in the pouring rain because you have to be out of the water for 30 minutes after each incidence of thunder.

We made it and we have the many many ribbons and one 9 & 10 Boys most improved medal to prove it. Yay us!

Swim team booty!

Swim team booty!

I also have the perfect crowd control item for my kids – if they misbehave I threaten to wear my ‘swim team pin’ (its a badge to me) in a public place, it came in my swim team photo pack, I had no idea but it works a charm.

Behaviour control badge

Behaviour control badge

See y’all next year, maybe….

* As part of my ongoing identification of new opportunities for reality television shows in the US – which there are MANY, I am currently working on a proposal for ‘Swim parents’. Please treat this accordingly as a copyright notice. My idea, thanks.

**OK its probably really only 100 but it FEELS like many many more

*** Even thought the swim meet starts at 6pm you have to be there by 4.30pm to enable warm ups, volunteer job distribution and ‘sugaring up’ of the kids in advance of the 6pm kick off.

**** Someone obviously had tipped my husband off as he was out of town for five of the six events – out of town completely.

Summertime

Summertime and the living is easy hot, humid and one very long school holiday break – or vacation as they say here in Hotlanta, USA.

There’s a 104 days of Summer Vacation,
And school comes along just to end it.
So the annual problem for our generation,
Is finding a good way to spend it.

So starts the Phineas and Ferb song that rattles around my head as I panic about the weeks ahead and how to fill them.

Thankfully there are not quite 104 days ONLY 77 phew.

Like maybe …
Building a rocket,
or fighting a mummy,
or climbing up the Eiffel Tower.

Discovering something that doesn’t exist,
or giving a monkey a shower.
Surfing tidal waves,
Creating nanobots,
Or locating Frankenstein’s brain.

Finding a dodo bird,
Painting a continent,
Or driving our sister insane.

In our house we only need one brother to drive one sister insane or the other way around as the case may be.

Come August 7th, which frankly although I may enjoy the first few weeks of the school holidays, I will be willing to arrive quickly with various fibres of my being, I will have a fifth grader and a first grader returning for their second American school year experience.

Between today and August 7th when they depart at 7.24am on the yellow school bus to resume their scholastic activities, they shall be known as a ‘rising 5th grader’ and a ‘rising 1st grader’. I only hope they rise to the occasion and get along for the intervening weeks.

Today is of course a whole lot more exciting if this is it – finito – you are done with the school years that the government and generally your parents think you should undertake for a basic level of educational instruction.  You will be a High School Graduate and good on you for all those years of undertaking learning with various levels of enthusiasm.

As with all things American I am finding this requires special celebratory activities. Not the least of which is widespread acknowledgement of your achievement of graduation by your micro community, the set of streets you live in, known in these parts as your neighbourhood.

I present to you the Class of 2013 High School graduates as seen on every street corner of our corner of East Cobb.*

Big community -all those babysitters heading off to college

Big community -all those babysitters heading off to college

Floodlit for the night time driving crowd

Floodlit for the night time driving crowd

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Clever - listing high school and college grads on the same banner

Clever – listing high school and college grads on the same banner

Did Steven's parents forget to send in his name or just wanted to go big?

Did Steven’s parents forget to send in his name or just wanted to go big?

Some recycling for next year here and then an individual wall poster for the basement

Some recycling for next year here and then an individual wall poster for the basement

Simple - clever! Enviro friendly

Simple – clever, enviro friendly

Mixing it up

Mixing it up – different high schools and college grads

Questions

Is this America wide or just our little corner?

What happens if you don’t get into College – lots of focus seems to be on where to next? Don’t you wish just one said
Bar tending and surfing for a year
with accompanying picture of a long board or is that just me?

With the exception of a couple of clever recyclers, what happens to these banners after they are used? Do they get cut up and shared by all?

But you just can’t help get caught up in it all. As I left on my walk/run this morning I came across my neighbour decking her home with balloons to celebrate her high schooler’s graduation. Decorations in the colour of the college you will attend is apparently traditional. It was hard not to feel pleased and excited for her and all those thousands of dollars of college education coming her way.**

Georgia bulldog to be

Georgia bulldog to be

Then I went past our own school on my loop, car park was overflowing due to the Grade 5 graduation going on inside –

Reminder - not even a full day....

Reminder – not even a full day….

Last year of elementary school round these parts

Last year of elementary school round these parts

I guess I have 12 months to find out where to buy car crayons

See next photo

Speaks for itself

Speaks for itself

I guess I have 12 months to find out where to buy car crayons.

* These photos were taken from the road on my run this morning (except the night shot – taken on my walk Monday night to the supermarket) on main roads, I didn’t jump a fence, step in a garden or leave the footpath to take any of these.

** I asked her if I could take a photo to record the moment and she was happy for me to do so.

Spring!

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When we visited Atlanta for our ‘look see’ visit, we came in January. Winter. It couldn’t have been more grim, grey skies, trees with no leaves, brown grass (sleeping over the winter months it turns out), freezing temperatures,  especially as we had come from the warm Durban sun. 30 degrees celsius to 30 degrees fahrenheit in a day. It was the worst possible time to visit and the best possible time, we saw it at its worst, it could only get better.

When we arrived to live here it was mid Summer – hot, steamy, green, flowers, lots of leaves on all the trees. It was very pretty and it was the best time to arrive. As the weather turned to what I call Autumn I got a good understanding of why the North Americans call it Fall. The leaves fell and fell and fell – and fell. The leaf blowers were out in full force for many weeks and we spent more than one weekend in our garden raking and stuffing bags full of them.

The winter was grim, for more than one reason, grey, sometimes wet, grey, always cold, grey and overall dreary.  To be fair it’s the first place we’ve lived that has had a ‘real’ kind of winter, with apologies to those still snowed in further north. Sydney, Hong Kong and Durban have the season in name – but the weather is borderline and mild in comparison to the winter we have just experienced.

I am a self diagnosed SAD sufferer. I crave sunshine and light. My favourite rooms in our house have huge windows and allow lots of light and sunshine in when it exists. If a day has sunshine it can change my mood completely. I feel happier, more optimistic, almost the same way I feel after a strenuous exercise session – the endorphins seem to appear without effort. I LOVE sunshine. Durban will always be a special place for me, given it has an average of 320 days of sunshine a year. Atlanta apparently has 180 days of the same stuff, I have felt the loss of those 140 days these last eight months.

I must have posted 3,453 complaints on facebook, twitter and Instagram about the awfully chilly winter and how it never seemed to end. Those in the know told me – wait for the Spring, its beautiful and the sun will return.

I suppose its true, you can’t appreciate the Spring if you don’t have the Winter.

Today, March 20th is the first official day of Spring and the last couple of weeks have tantalised me with many lovely days, more than a few glimpses of sunshine and the most glorious flowering trees everywhere (luckily we are not a pollen suffering household).

I am declaring so far so good as I look out the window at a sunny sky and new growth everywhere – even the grass is changing colour before our eyes.

My eyes will stay closed when looking at the forecast for the rest of the week – rain and cooler weather on the way. I hold on to the fact these days will be less and soon all I will see is flowering trees, more flowers, green grass and sunshine, sunshine, sunshine…..until I start complaining about the heat of summer. After all its called Hotlanta for a reason.

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It’s not all beer and skittles

We had not yet moved into our new house in the ‘hood but were making use daily of the community pool, given the scorching Hotlanta summer and the seemingly endless school holidays. The accents used loudly across the pool by brother and sister made us a stand out and the small community targeted us as the ‘new people’.

Introductions were made and stories shared, friendly folks who oohed and ahhhed at the countries we have lived in, shared their love for all things Aussie (a welcome change to our last country of residence) and admitted to having always wanted to live in another country.

‘But we couldn’t do it, our parents are here, they’re getting older, they could get sick and we wouldn’t take their grandchildren away from them’

Stab, stab, stab.

Unintentional stabbing of course, but it hurts all the same.

A quick chat with any expat will reveal many reasons why they love the life they lead with its swings and roundabouts, ups and downs, opportunities and experiences they and often their third culture kids would never have had if they stayed ‘at home’.

By extension this often also applies to family and friends who visit the expat adventurers in a new and different country, one they may have never been to with no good reason to visit, or just needed an excuse to return to a favourite destination. These are special and cherished times, when the visitors get an insight into the life of their hosts, sharing experiences they may never have otherwise had. We as hosts push the boundaries of our day to day to make sure everyone has a most memorable trip and send them home to sing the gospel and  spread the word to make sure our calendars with penciled in possibilities become concrete conversions into visitors bearing jars of Vegemite and Strawberry Freddos.

There are so many special memories from the visitors we have had in our time away, friends who honeymooned with us in Hong Kong – delaying their trip so we had time to return to our flat from their wedding in the Blue Mountains, my cousin who swore to never live anywhere else but her home town became a regular visitor for ‘the shopping’ and since then has moved twice overseas with her husband and kids. To this day she remains the only person I know who shopped Stanley Markets from opening until closing.

Then there was the travel pack who visited and required a mini van to ferry around. My cousin (of course), her two kids and another of their cousins, her husband, his aunt, her parents and my grandmother, 88 at the time. It was a special day shopping over the border in Shenzhen introducing her to all our regular shopping haunts and telling all the shopkeepers about her very auspicious age. I think we got actual real discounts that day in deference to her age and agility and gracious charm with the locals.

The best man from our wedding and his wife and baby – discovering en route that the baby had inherited his father’s peanut allergy, my brother and his then partner, her terrified of bird flu every time we stepped out of the house, my husband’s sister and brother-in-law came and we popped off for a blissful grown ups only trip to Kota Kinabalu.

My Dad and his wife on more than one occasion – once sailing through the harbour on the Queen Mary and of course my Mum.

South Africa was lighter on the visitors but again my brother and Mum put in appearances. I am pretty sure my brother will never forget the elephant that just wanted to say hello, his first lion spotting or sidling up to the penguins in the Cape for the best photo opportunity.

My mum was the first visitor we had here in the USA, arriving the same day as the container full of boxes. Our first two months in the new house was experienced together. The drama of the pre-school vaccinations and medical checks, the first day of school, the slight changing of WASYO’s accent to move to a short ‘a’ sound and a rolling of the ‘r’s, drop offs and pick ups at a real yellow school bus, weekly drinks on the street corner, WASYO learning to read, Mr 9 saying he quite liked the new school (relief), introducing the local kids to fairy bread at the event where WAFYO became WASYO, she experienced it all at the same time we did. She arrived armed with my childhood set of Winnie the Pooh books and read them to her eldest grandchildren each night before bed, she did jigsaw puzzles with WASYO and talked to Mr 9 about his views on life and video games and became our personal laundry lady – daily collecting the clothes from various baskets around the house and returning them later washed and folded – apparently I have to get used to no ironing (that’s a story for another time).  After proclaiming to get lost in the house on the first few days, as we pulled away last Monday on the way to the airport she said she’d come to like our home. It has been a lonely week since she has left.

Regardless of what happens next, the choices to be made about visits, before or after operations, when, where, how and who with, all five of us will have that special time in our memories. Two months where she was part of our everyday life. Daily this week more than one resident has said ‘When Mumma was here…’

It is hard to be away from family in another country, especially when every phone call or text message could be news that puts everything on hold while you plot a course home, but if we lived in Australia, an hour and a half away by car it is unlikely we would ever have spent so much time together or that our kids would have kissed their Mumma goodnight every night for two months (except for those two pesky hospital visits).

Life goes on here, next week is my husband’s birthday, the following week my Dad and his wife are visiting, Halloween is shaping up to be bigger than Ben Hur and there’s some marathon in New York on November 4th I’m running in, but family near and far are always top of mind. You take the good with the bad and hope the decisions you make, when you make them, are the right ones and that holds true no matter what country you live in.

The lady in the hot pink shoes

I wrote this for my other blog – but I think the post is just as relevant here as it is there….Cancer is fucked pretty much wherever you find it

She didn’t have the pink shoes when she arrived after six weeks in Europe and Canada with friends and other family, they were purchased on a shopping trip we did to buy new training shoes for me. They were put to use pretty much straight away, gentle circuits of the neighbourhood and its surrounds, greeting the locals, introducing herself and bringing home bits of chit chat from around the place.

Then the pain got worse and the shoes came off for a while, the daily walks being replaced by mornings by the community pool – and laps and laps of walking through the water to keep up the exercise part of her health management regime.

Next there was a hospital visit – the scans showing the American doctors what the Australian doctors already know, there are tumors growing in and around the body and they are causing problems, nasty problems. The one in her muscle that gives the constant leg pain and the others that cause the bloating and ongoing discomfort, pain and worry about what’s going to happen next since the radiation is over and the chemo was stopped due to it doing basically sweet FA*.

Now in a way we know, four weeks after the first hospital visit there was a second one and there were more scans, tubes in noses and a terrible three day hospital stay which at one stage took us all to the darkest places you can go. There were surgeons ruling out surgery, any travel home and Palliative care nurses talking home hospice care set up.

It’s been quite a time at our house recently.

Six and a half years after the diagnosis of Bowel Cancer Stage IV and a week after her release from the second hospital visit on a fluid only diet, lest we wake the beast that is the bowel obstruction, the roller coaster ride continues.

UPS today delivered the scans done in Atlanta, Georgia to her Oncologist in Wollongong, New South Wales and he has called with a plan. The plan involves flying back to Australia in two stages, Atlanta to San Francisco and San Francisco to Sydney, then tests to locate exactly the position of the blockage in the bowel and most likely surgery to bypass. That was one option, the other option was to stay here, do nothing and to use the words of the Oncologist ‘you’ll be dead in six or seven weeks’. Nothing confrontational about that phrasing.

So after that conversation with the oncologist, one with my husband and I followed by a Skype call with my brother, the lady donned her hot pink shoes and took a stroll around the ‘hood. As you do. Keep on, keeping on.

Next Monday I will fly with my Mum to San Francisco, where we will stay overnight, my Aunt will fly from Calgary to meet us and she will take Mum the San Francisco to Sydney leg home. Back to the doctors and medical team that have taken care of her for the last six plus years, to the place we all have to believe is best for her to be.

Then I will board a flight back to Atlanta and wait for news about what comes next. I will keep training for the NYC Marathon in just over five weeks time knowing at least it will fill my days and make me physically tired so I will be able to sleep at night. That’s my plan.

And I will keep telling everyone I know to tell everyone they know to GET TESTED for bowel cancer.

The hot pink shoes go exploring the local waterfall – Roswell, GA.

* sweet Fuck All being an entirely appropriate medical term