Category Archives: Australia

What a difference

A year ago we were in Australia, celebrating Simon’s mum’s birthday. She was in hospital (Australians leave out the “the” between “in” and “hospital” so it seems only right to do it here) and we stood around her bed, singing quietly with our kids and Sandra, Joel and Jacob. Slices of chocolate cake were handed out, the sweetness welcome in the midst of all that was bittersweet.

It was her last birthday here on earth and now she gets the joy of celebrating in heaven with her husband and son who welcomed her there in July. What a difference a year makes, right? That’s what they say. But what a difference a person makes.

The Dorothy I knew was quiet and unassuming but she knew her mind and she stood her ground when it mattered – often much to her children’s chagrin. She raised a pack of strong-willed, opinionated and loyal children (much like herself), teaching them, by example, how to make their way in the world on their own terms. I’m so glad those terms led Simon to me here in the States, and so thankful she was able to let him spread his wings to come here and stay (I don’t know that I could do the same for my own two boys – but we are, after all, two different people and God equips us with what we need for our own lives).

While it’s hard to get to know someone from thousands of miles and an ocean away, but it’s not hard to love them, especially when they raised your husband. I’m lucky to have spent the time with her that I did and so blessed that my boys remember their last visit with her – they talk about her often with some much love in their voices. I am a better person for knowing her as I did, a better wife for loving her son and a better parent for witnessing her quiet, warm smile as she watched her family around her. We don’t get to celebrate together this year, I know she is having a blessed day where she is. Happy birthday, Dorothy.



Simon comes home tonight. We are thrilled!

Thank you to everyone who helped make the last three weeks fly by – we are ever grateful and blessed. You have lightened our burden with your acts of kindness, words of comfort and prayers lifted up.


You know what happens when you make plans…

I know there is a saying about making plans and how God laughs at them, or something… but really, I think that paints God to be rather cruel, or at least having a mean sense of humor like your wacky uncle who laughs when you stub your toe or run into a screen door (note: so I’ve heard, I have/had good uncles who were and are nothing but nice to me; also, not the point). But there is some truth in the sentiment of the saying… that ultimately it’s useless to make plans with the thought that 100% these things (that you’ve planned) will happen (how you’ve planned them, or at all). Also, there’s truth in the saying, “Expect the unexpected.” If you had told me a week ago that in one week’s time, my husband would be heading back to Australia, I might have believed you, but I certainly would have been adamant that it wasn’t our plan, that it was highly unexpected. But things happen and until certain things happen, you really can’t know how you’ll feel in the moment, how you’ll react or what you’ll need to do.

My dear mother-in-law passed away yesterday (technically today since Australia is 14 hours ahead of us so the 4th of July will hold a different meaning for our family). She had finally had enough of everything and was ready to be done with this earthly life. We are so glad she is done with the pain and suffering of this world and reunited with her family – especially her husband and son – in heaven. And logically, it all makes sense to know she’s better off but it takes time to know that emotionally and to not be sad (when the numbness wears off). I was reading another blog post recently (this one here*) talking about divorce and the grieving process and how everyone grieves differently and though the post was in the context of divorce, it’s true for all grief – no matter what kind. Grief is sneaky and will take you by surprise on day one or day one hundred. Our grief and sadness is still so new, and still so unfelt from half a world away. It doesn’t seem like a reality to know that she is gone, that my husband has lost his mother and my children their grandmother. It doesn’t seem like reality to know that my husband is currently sitting in an airport waiting to board his flight to Australia [especially when you consider he won’t arrive there until 6 p.m. Thursday night (our time)] while I am back at home with the kids tucked into bed. You wish, in cases like this, that you could just close your eyes and be where you needed to be without the hassle and stomping along of time.

We had not planned on Simon going back for his mother’s funeral, that was why we had gone as a family in January. It was important to spend time with her when she was living, to soak up that time and hold it close to us. My kids will remember her now and have those memories of playing Yahtzee on the iPad and singing happy birthday to her in the hospital. Liam said to me yesterday, “I’m going to miss Grandma Dorothy but she’s in heaven now with her husband and she’s in my heart.” And that makes it okay.

Despite what we had planned, when it became clear this weekend that she wasn’t going to make it much longer, we knew that Simon had to go, felt it was the right thing to do. He hadn’t gone back for his dad’s or his brother’s funeral but this  closure is acutely needed. If the shoe were on the other foot and I was in Australia when my mom died, there’s no way I wouldn’t fly home for the funeral, so I completely get the need to be there for his siblings and for himself for closure. She’s his mom.

So we’ll figure it out, even though it wasn’t planned. Because while we do make our plans and God often knows that things aren’t going to turn out as we’ve thought, He’s not reveling in our dashed hopes and abandoned plans. He’s waiting for us to look to Him for direction and to lean on Him for comfort and He’s got His arms open wide, without a hint of laughter anywhere to be found. He puts friends in our lives who understand and love us in all the important ways. He allows us to feel the blessing of those friendships in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise experienced if our life had gone as planned. It’s going to be a difficult time – here and half way around the world – but not impossible.

*I love the whole post, but this paragraph resonated with me especially:

Except, as with a death, once everything normalizes it doesn’t resemble your life anymore. The plans you’d made, the things you’d thought settled, are blown apart.

If a tree falls on your car and you’re out of the country…

Did it really happen?

Unfortunately, yes, it actually does/did happen. Above is a photo of the back of our house from back when we were in Australia. Something is a wee bit out of place – that would be a third of our tree covering a good bit of our backyard AND the rear end of our Explorer. Doh. [I briefly mentioned this occurrence here, but just for fun, let’s tell the whole story because it has a happy ending.]

That was our back fence under there.The fence has since been replaced. And [spoiler alert] the car has since been totaled.

I woke up at 2 a.m. Australia time to hearing Simon on the phone with our neighbor – middle-of-the-night calls are never good. I can hear him saying something about glass and a vehicle. I’m immediately WIDE awake. This is not good indeed. It apparently rained the day before, then the temps dropped, freezing everything and then snowed. Our tree could not hold up and decided to just lay down and take a rest – nature is stressful. Sadly, our car and fence were in the way when it came down (thankfully it wasn’t our newer minivan or our very new roof). Ron said he’d send us some photos and we told him we’d get one of our friends over to check it out. I called Tracey, who was checking in on our house and had the spare key and asked if she could go to the house and see about getting an auto glass place to come out and replace the back window [if only]. At this time we had no idea of the damage that had happened. We also called our insurance agent and let him know what had happened and gave him Tracey’s number. In the meantime our other neighbor had called my dad (who lives in a different city, with a different last name – strange, but whatever) and let him know a branch had fallen off our tree so my dad called our friends Kara and Andy to have them check it out. Then we had to just let it go because there was not much else we could do from Australia. We did not, however, end up falling back asleep.

Andy made it to the house before everyone else and immediately let everyone know things were not as simple as imagined. The tree was halfway into the street and our car was possibly not driveable (turns out it was – thanks, Kevin, for taking it to the dealership). Andy got to work with his new chainsaw (which he was so happy to use, though I don’t imagine he thought it would be so soon after getting it).

This picture makes me laugh because when our neighbor initially called us, we asked if he would just throw a tarp over the broken window until someone could sort it out. This was when we thought the back window would just need repairing. That blue tarp there seems a bit ineffective, don’t you think? Also I believe Kara (behind what our other neighbor described as a “branch” when she called my dad to alert him) is on the phone with our other friend Tracey, explaining to her that things are a little worse than imagined. Double doh.

Andy made quick work of chopping up the “branch” and Kara said she wishes she had video taped it when the tree rolled off the back of the car because the whole back-end just bound back up unlike anything she had ever seen. I’m sure it was awesome. I’m also quite certain I would have thrown up.

All-in-all, I’d say if something like this is going to happen, it’s probably best to be out of the country and to have awesome friends who take care of everything for you (1,000 points each to Kara, Andy, Tracey and Kevin). Had we been home when it happened I’m sure I’d still be heartsick each time I remembered first seeing the scene. I would have come downstairs first thing in the morning and looked out the back window in disbelief (in actuality, I’m sure Simon would have been up first and shouted at me to come downstairs, but it’s my story). And then we still would have had to call Andy because a) we would have been stuck in our house with the driveway blocked and b) we don’t own a chainsaw.

Since January we’ve been driving my parents’ extra car while they are in Texas but yesterday we ended up buying a new car (see below) because my parents will be back in a couple of weeks and sort of want their car back. We are the owners of a 2008 Taurus (though we quickly say it’s really a Ford Five Hundred, because that’s a much nicer looking car/body than the older Taurus and Taurus’ seem like college girl cars whereas the 500 is a grown up car).


Also pretty fabulous: insurance, in the end with getting the fence and vehicle replaced, we’re only a couple thousand dollars out-of-pocket. Sure, they were unexpected expenses but it could have been so much worse. So be sure and pay your insurance premiums, you’ll be so glad you did when a tree falls on your car.

Missing something?

The above photo was taken in our hotel room in Sydney, because we are nerds. Shown are the Coke bottles we collected during our time in Australia… sadly we were never able to find one with Jack’s name on it. But 3 out of 4 ain’t bad!
And maybe someday they will start selling bottles with names on them here in the States then I can Photoshop a “family” portrait together. Because who doesn’t want that? (Dear Coca-Cola, Could you send me a “Jack” bottle? I’d super appreciate it!)