it’s a lockout…

Even if you’re no longer doing everlastingly fascinating things in Australia, it’s true that life still remains interesting and amusing, by fits and starts. Yesterday, having slept in again and then enjoyed some lunch and catch-up time with a good friend, I came home to take some photographs. Yes, I dropped my purse and keys in the house, grabbed the camera and the phone, and went back outside. After taking a few pics of my mom’s flowers, the new ones hanging in baskets, I went around to the backyard, looking for some shade.DSC_0546We’ve had really warm weather this week, up in the 90’s, and brilliantly blue skies, so I definitely needed the shade if I wanted to take any selfies. Who knew, when my Aussie friends taught me to say it that way, that it would finally catch on back home? When I left for Australia (over three years ago), most people I know were still calling them self-portraits. When I returned, I was calling them selfies and the changeover in name had just occurred in the U.S.DSC_0549Anyway, I took some more pictures of flowers, with both camera and phone, and then went back up front, wanting to get inside and maybe get a drink. Except the door wouldn’t open. No, you can’t accidentally lock yourself out with our front door, so I looked around and… no cars in the driveway but mine. Sigh. Things would have been even “better”, if I had left my phone inside, but no, I had wanted pictures to use for Instagram. I was able to call several people immediately, and try and figure out who locked me out. I never heard a car leave, but my brother had been unable to find me and assumed I was out somewhere… with my keys. DSC_0547But he assured me he’d be back in 15 minutes or less, and I experimented with listening to my music with my phone, without headphones, and blasting it through the carport. Wow, that phone can really crank out the sound! But sweeping pollen out of the carport quickly makes you feel like your lungs are full of dust, so my brother’s arrival was timely. Don’t worry, I did a better job of the carport, later.DSC_0555

DSC_0559And while I go ahead and put some real photos, taken with my camera, into this blog… I hope that this signals to you AND to me that I can get back into my usual style of blogging, which is to look for the interesting side of everyday. Whether it’s around town or in my house, you can find these things. You just have to look.DSC_0561So bear with me, and we’ll see what the summer brings my blog and I…DSC_0567

happy anniversary to me…

Who knew? WordPress just sent me the notification… reminding me that I created this blog THREE WHOLE YEARS AGO. Where in the world did the time go? Technically, that time went from the United States to Australia and back, and now I’ve been back in the U.S. for two years. How about that?

I should come up with some deep thoughts on how this blog has changed me, but I’m afraid I don’t have anything that profound to tell you. I will put some more thought into it over the next week, but for the moment, I have to give a presentation tomorrow and I need my sleep. You understand, I’m sure.

Happy Three Years to me!

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“Six Degrees of Freedom”

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gift from an Aussie friend…

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coffee & friends are wonderful…

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memorial park tiger…

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reflections of fluor-daniel…

a fourth of rain & georgia…

Over ten years ago, a dear friend of mine got married. She was one of my first friends to get married, and of course, I was at the wedding. I think I helped with the punch table, or something of the sort. Unable to access my pictures from that time, I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember what I was wearing. In the intervening ten years, I still have that skirt and I’ve lost the jewelry. It was also right before I chopped off my waist-length hair, if I remember right. I’ve managed that length, twice in my life, and now I’m attempting to reach it again.

According to her kids, now, I not only have the honor of being considered the “Super Nanny from Australia”, but I was present when their parents met. Mind you, I only met him about five minutes before she did! But it doesn’t matter… the girls are enthralled to hear from someone else how I watched the two of them fall for each other, all in one weekend. I watched her having heart palpitations (but no, I couldn’t HEAR your heart beating!), and unable to believe that this was finally happening.DSC_0705

Over the next year or two, I think I visited two or three times. Once or twice before the baby arrived, and once afterwards. Since I always figured it would be “my turn”, sometime soon, then I was interested in learning anything I could about married life and what it’s really like when your first child arrives. She was a darling, that little E, of course. I don’t think I’d ever seen a baby born with a full head of hair, at that point, or one that seemed to be so alert! But maybe that was because I didn’t remember my brothers as babies… who knows?

Then, I moved to Pennsylvania for almost five years, followed by a year in Australia. Whenever I managed to get home for longer than a weekend, I had very little time or interest in straying very far afield. Family time was meant to be soaked up, and driving four hours anywhere (after the 10 hours it took to get home) was not in my game plan.DSC_0674

But though some people like to diss FB, whenever possible, it’s been a wonderful tool for me to keep in touch with my friends, over the years. Even when I couldn’t see a friend in person, I could see pictures of their children, as they arrived and grew up.

The Fourth of July weekend was approaching, when I realized that if I took that Friday off, I could get a long weekend to finally go visit my friend in Georgia. It had been almost 8 years since we’d seen each other, but we still longed to catch up in person. The time and money issue always seemed to get in the way, but finally, I scraped the wherewithal to decide to go, and then actually get there.DSC_0681

As you already know, it rained for most of the trip to Georgia, most of my time there, and most of the trip back. So, I waded through puddles to the house, and was immediately hugged by a 5 year old that I had never met. But they already knew who I was, because they’d read about me on my blog, when I was in Australia. I think reading about real Aussie kids was fascinating for them.

Without going into a huge amount of detail, I will say that my friends and I have both changed, over the years, but that doesn’t pull us apart, it just makes life more interesting when we get together. When I last saw them, they had a newborn daughter, and were facing life as almost-newlyweds and as new parents. I was single then, as I am now, but I still didn’t know what to do with my life. I was probably running my own cleaning business, at the time, and trying to figure out how to make a profit.DSC_0715

Since then, they’ve been married over ten years, have three beautiful children, and their house is a little bigger than last time. The baby E is now the eldest, with a flair for style and matching clothes. She was my mainstay, when I helped make barbecue sauce for a chicken dinner, or put together a pavlova for dessert, because I didn’t know where to find anything, in the kitchen. I’m still single, as I said, but instead of being a nanny, housekeeping manager, or business owner, I’m about to go back to college. What will be in store for me, next time I visit them?DSC_0676

While I’m including some photos from my visit, I should tell you that it took me about 2-3 days for me to even get my camera out. Some of you think that I travel with it attached to my arm, but that really isn’t true. I really have to be “in the mode” to get started, and even with several kids running around, I was just enjoying the ability to relax and not do anything important. I had started a book on the morning of July 4th, got hooked, and HAD to finish it while I was in Georgia, so that’s what I spent my spare time doing.DSC_0688

DSC_0678I found myself talking about Australia more than I have anywhere, since arriving home. They had read my blog, some, but not all of it, and had plenty of questions to ask me. It was very strange, after a year of spending time with people that never asked me about it, aside from “So, how was Australia?”. That general of a question will shut me down, completely. If all you want to hear is “Great!”, then I’ll give you what you want. You have to try harder, if you want to get more out of me.DSC_0692

Of course, the girls had to show off their crafting skills, and before two days were out, I had two door hangers to take home with me. Luckily, my new bedroom has two doors in it, so I can hang one on each side of the room, to enjoy my memories of E and the middle M.DSC_0746

DSC_0747After quite a few discussions about Aussie food and favorite things about Australia (that is a very hard thing to answer, find a favorite thing or experience from there), M decided to make an Aussie-style meal on Saturday. We went to the grocery store, and searched for patty pans to make meat pies, and eventually found them in the freezer section, with the dough already in the pans. For some reason, Publix didn’t have aluminum patty pans to buy, by themselves. M figured she would just make the top crusts, herself.DSC_0748

As we prepared for dinner, E helped me work on dessert. We had to start first, because we needed the pavlova to be out of the oven before the meat pies could go in. It was interesting to work off of the laptop, one page set to MY blog page with my pav recipe, and another page set to a recipe for Aussie meat pies. I now know that I can make them at home, too, so my Aussie friends will have to send me their favorite meat pie recipes.  : )DSC_0694

I still haven’t achieved that crispy outer crust on the pavlova, but the marshmallow-y inside is still perfect. Don’t worry, I’ll get it eventually. After the whipped topping was done, the little A got into the fun, licking the beater. He’s a charmer, that’s for sure. I unashamedly licked the spatula, after scraping the bowl to put some of it in my friend’s coffee. She had a Keurig, so I admit to drinking LOTS of coffee while I was there, experimenting with all the Kahlua, Macadamia Nut, and other delicious flavors.DSC_0696

The meat pies came out, smelling wonderful, and to my surprise, the asparagus was delicious, as well. I’ve always thought it was rather bland. The whole meal tasted amazing, and the dessert was a hit, except for the middle M, because she wasn’t a fan of the texture. There were enough meat pies left over that they could have them for lunch, or even breakfast, if they wanted.DSC_0700

On Sunday morning, I got up and went to church with my friends, and before we went out to lunch, we had a photo shoot in the front yard. The girls really enjoyed making faces for the camera, and then we brought the little guy out to join in. What child doesn’t enjoy making faces, even if they can only stick their tongue out at you? He’d figured out how to do “fishy lips”, so he wasn’t being totally left behind.DSC_0721

We went to a local Mexican place to eat, and I wished a certain cousin of mine could be there to enjoy the queso cheese, as she loves it so much. But meanwhile, it was fun to watch the kids eat it, and get it all over their faces. And we finished out with a dessert that I’ve forgotten the name of, but which is mostly whipped cream. Just think, if you have the right “chips” at home, some whipped cream and sprinkles could turn this into an easy, but fun dessert for the kids! I suppose you could do it with graham crackers, or something of the sort?DSC_0728

I had driven my car to the restaurant, so after hugs all around, I hit the road. It was wonderful to get to know the children, in person, and see how they were like and yet not like their parents. What fun to discover their personalities, and wonder what genes they inherited, and how many generations back?DSC_0732

You’ve already heard about my trip back from Georgia, so I won’t go into it. I can happily say that my car has been completely bug-free for well over a week, and I hope none of you ever experience what I did. But I hope that I will be able to visit my friends more often, now that I’m permanently in the South. Perhaps next summer, as I’ll be very busy during the school year.DSC_0739

I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day weekend, too, wherever you happened to spend it, and whether the sun shone or not!DSC_0742

once upon a time…

Once upon a time, a young woman spent a wonderful year in Australia, working as a nanny and looking after five little girls. Before she went there, she considered the possibility of being able to travel for years and years, visiting several different countries, and taking care of children. She loved children, you see, and as she was still single (and therefore, childless), nannying seemed to be a wondrous idea. Unfortunately, she was past the cut-off age for work & holiday visas, in most countries, so Australia would be her only overseas gig.

Instead, when she returned home, she thought that she thought that she would soak up being with her family and friends again, and then find another nanny job in the United States. There were plenty of states that she still wanted to visit, and what better way to get to see them than moving there for a year at a time? During her first summer back in the U.S., she packed up her car and drove to Minnesota.

It wasn’t meant to be. She learned a lot from that trip, but two weeks later, she drove (the two day trip) home. Admittedly, she was a little down, after this “failure”. Why had it happened? Was she NOT supposed to go, or did the Lord want her to learn something from that short trip?

She began to apply for jobs again, but just like before she left for Australia, she wasn’t finding anything very high on the pay scale or any higher on the job “quality” ladder. Once, she had been a business owner  and house cleaner, and then a full-time manager of housekeeping for a camp. Now, she was ready to step up and work at the desk in a hotel (in business clothes, instead of scruffy t-shirts and shorts), or something that had nothing to do with cleaning. But with the problematic economy and a limited resume, she wasn’t finding anything.

Fortunately, she still had some good credit with a local company that she had worked with before, and was hired almost immediately. This took her to working as a cashier, at Clemson University. The pay wasn’t high, but the location was a definite improvement on her food service experience in the same company. Every week, she told herself that she would find something better, and this job would hold her over until then.

The weeks went by, and something strange happened. She began to find that she actually enjoyed her job. Not because of the job itself, because cashiering doesn’t call for too much skill, but because of the students and professors. Especially, the graduate students, who were closer to her age. As she also had a college professor for a father AND grandfather, and graduate students had practically lived in her home when she was growing up, she began to feel right at home with them.

But still, she knew that it wasn’t easy to make friends with people, in her position. When students only speak to you for a few minutes every day, they don’t really see you as a person, and potential friend. She wasn’t sure how to cross the line to becoming friends with them, either guys or girls. She didn’t have a lot of local friends, having lived away from Clemson for several years, so she was trying to figure out how to make some.

As she began to persist in learning the students’ names, they began to see her as a person worthy of friendship, and call her by name, in return. And as each friendship developed, she found herself less and less inclined to look for another job, though she knew she needed to. She needed to earn more, but this company was not the right place to do it. But abandoning her new acquaintances, before they really became friends… that was a hard choice to make.

Did I mention that she wrote a blog? I know, you’re stunned. At about this time, she was paying more attention to her photography skills, and began to take more pictures of flowers and buildings, instead of children (as when she was a nanny). Especially, buildings on the Clemson University campus.

This caused her to take an interest in Clemson that she had never had before, not even when her dad taught there, or when she had attended one semester there. Just like when you get a new house (or car), clean it, and place your things just so, making it your own… her wandering photography tours of Clemson were making their mark. Clemson (the city) was already home, and now the University was getting there.

She would tell you that it’s the blog’s fault, really. On some days, she would think about random topics, trying to think about what else to write about. And one day… she had a blog post idea. But she never wrote it. It would have been a fascinating post, I’m sure, but the reality was so much better. I’ll tell you about it, in a few minutes.

With the beginning of the New Year, some of her acquaintances truly became friends. And during one online conversation, she discovered that Clemson University was hiring for a job. A job that was in the same department as most of her friends. If she had never made friends at her workplace, with the students, she never would have heard about it. Because when it was finally listed online, the listing was only there for a week, and you had to be ready for it.

Her friend had thought she would be interested in this job, for herself. As thrilled as she was by this placing of confidence, she knew that she couldn’t take it. Are you wondering why? I’m still coming to that aforementioned, non-existent blog post. Instead, she told her mother about this job opening, and encouraged her to apply for it. Her mother was so much more qualified, and it was about time she worked for a place that would appreciate her that much more!

When her mother applied for it, she was certain that her mom would get the job, though no one else was certain. And then… she did get it! Why had she been so certain? It didn’t really make sense, did it?

But then again… she (the daughter, not the mother) had gone through a long process of not finding employment, after coming home from Australia, and then developing an interest in an uninteresting job. An occupation that was made interesting because of the people. And if she had never gotten to know those students, she never would have helped her mom find her new position. She marveled at how the Lord must have had that plan in place, when she returned from Australia, but of course, she didn’t know about it!

Many people were excited for her mother, after she was hired for the new position, and encouraged her daughter that “they’d find one for her, too!”. She didn’t say anything about how she could have applied for that same opportunity, but that she knew it wasn’t the right one. The Lord had other plans for her, and she’d known it for a long time.

You see, once upon a time, she thought about how much she liked to read, and especially how she read a lot of history books. And because she was always working or taking photographs on the Clemson campus, she began to think about (for a blog post), what she would major in, if she ever decided to go back to college. She had hated college, the first time, and hadn’t had any subject that she enjoyed enough to keep her there. And she knew that you did NOT need a degree to succeed in life.

But while she was thinking about this imaginary blog post… it finally hit her. If she wanted to, she COULD go back to college. She loved to read non-fiction, everything from the subject of the Founding Fathers, the writing of the Constitution, and the forming of the United States, to the Civil War and the Cold War. She spent most of her spare time reading these subjects, for fun… why wouldn’t she enjoy getting a degree in history?

She did her research on getting a history major, and what jobs can result from that type of degree. She applied to Clemson, and was accepted. She jumped through every hoop they held out for her, and they moved those hoops around a LOT, for returning students! She wrote appeals letters for several committees, and scrambled to find out what information they had forgotten to tell her. And at the moment, she is still in the final stages of getting financial aid, and waiting to register for classes (because returning students can’t register until late July).

Think about it. Over a year ago, the Lord knew that she would NOT get a job outside of Clemson, but stay there, making friends. He knew that she would begin to like the campus and the people, and that her friendships would help her mother find new employment. He knew that her reading, blogging, and photography would eventually lead her to reconsider school.

He knew this, while she was crying over her “failure” in Minnesota. Was it a failure, though, if the Lord had His hand on the situation? He knew this while she was worn out by mono, and unable to even think about finding another job. He knew it, when she was unable to afford to travel anywhere, but slowly was becoming accustomed to staying in Clemson. He always KNEW where she would go, and what He had planned for her!

~

And now that you know, I might as well switch tenses to finish the tale. Barring any problems with financial aid, I will be starting undergraduate classes, in about six weeks. I may still be a little worried about the issue of funds, but I sincerely believe that the Lord’s been leading me this whole way, all this time. So, if that is true, then money should not be a worry. He has it under control.

I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers, as I am quite nervous about starting school. I don’t have fond memories of my lone semester at Clemson, and even if it was because I was immature and overwhelmed, the memories can spring up and swamp me, at times. Also, I was serious when I said that I had to jump through hoops, as a returning student. Every time I turn around, I’ve missed some important information, or they forgot to tell me that I need to sign another paper, or write another letter to someone.

Please pray that all the necessary paperwork will come together. That even if I’m nervous, I won’t be overly worried and/or terrified. Panic attacks are NOT welcome. And please, please pray that I’m not having a mono relapse (or that I will get over it soon), because I really want to have the energy to pay attention and even enjoy what I’m doing and learning.

~

I will be very busy, over the next four years, so my blog posts may become much more infrequent, and the subject matter of both word and photo may change (again). But please hang in there, because I truly enjoy blogging, and do not intend to give it up. Perhaps you will even come to enjoy my rambling about life as a 30-something college student. At least, I hope you will!  : )

i’m back, with buckets…

The rain continues to pour down. Will it ever stop again? I know, I know, the forecast says partially cloudy or something, so it pours down in gallons, half the time, and then the sun peeks out to tantalize us. The back and front yards of lots of homes look like a cross between a jungle and a lake. Does that make it a swamp, yet? Depends on the lay of the land, I suppose.

Of course, if we lived near a river, we’d be having some major flooding, I suppose, like when I was in Emerald. We have a lot of lakes, but they were so low, before all this rain started, that they’re just now getting full. I think the lake property owners have a little ways to go before they’re at flood levels.

You may have guessed I was away. I took my laptop, too, but never felt like getting it out. Too busy visiting with friends, or just goofing off and reading a book. You’ll have to wait a little longer, for me to catch you up on my crazy trip home and my fun with aforementioned friends.

Meanwhile, I was so wound up from my drive home that blogging was the last thing on my mind. For now, I just need to get to bed early, so I can be rested and somewhat awake, when I head to work in the morning. Yep, it’s back to the daily swing of things, but I’m actually looking forward to it. I feel like I haven’t seen some of my friends in forever, though it’s only been since last… Wednesday. No customers came into my workplace on the Fourth of July (imagine that!), and my manager’s manager finally let us close the cafe.

I hope you had a marvelous Independence Day, wherever you are in the United States, and I hope that everyone else had a great week.

Now, if we could only send the rain out west, where they’re having drought and forest fires! They need it much more than we do, at this point!

i’m behind again…

Too many photos, too little time? Is it really that I don’t have enough time? I don’t feel like I’m doing that much, but let’s think that over again. I found out a week or so ago that a grad student friend’s wife was expecting and… I think her due date was yesterday. So, in addition to raiding my mom’s baby bootie stash (I don’t know how to knit, yet, so I can’t make them myself), I’ve been working on crocheting a baby blanket. I’m not posting pictures yet, because I haven’t had time.DSC_0176

DSC_0177As many of you already know, you can’t type on your computer and crochet at the same time. Nor can you read. Yes, some FB friends recommended that I listen to audio books, and I did dig up my Audible account, and find I had a few credits to my name. So, I’ve started listening to Brian Jacques’ Doomwyte, which I’ve read before. But if there’s one audio book series I like, that would be the unabridged Redwall books. Jacques narrated them himself, with a full cast to do all the voices. Of course, it makes all the bad guys creepier, and the descriptions of the Doomwyte cave even creepier than it ever was when I read it.DSC_0178

DSC_0180So, suddenly I’ve realized that I have a lot of photos piling up, from a visit to the Botanical Gardens, wandering around in my own yard, pictures of my bedroom before we started stripping the wallpaper, and a number of other things. But if I throw my weekend into catching up on photos and writing, I’ll never finish that blanket! And I haven’t heard if the baby arrived yet…DSC_0184

DSC_0188My preference is to watch movies while crocheting, though, which I find much more entertaining than just listening to an audio book. The crocheting just flies by. But I feel like a lazy bum, sitting on the couch all the time! I haven’t watched this many movies since… well, since Imogen and I had our movie binge, in Australia. No, I didn’t start watching any Austen or Gaskell movies yet. Instead, I’ve been watching my way through The Hobbit (with my family), Bedknobs and Broomsticks, While You Were Sleeping, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Tangled. If I can talk my brother into watching The Hunger Games with me, I’ll watch that again, too. DSC_0189

DSC_0191Also, I should have lots of time, because I haven’t gone to the gym much in the last week. I’ve been pretty tired, despite not working enough to make me so, and my foot has been bothering me. But I avoid going back to the doctor for it, and hope that the lack of energy isn’t from having a mono relapse. I don’t think it is. Even if I did HAVE a mono relapse, it’s nothing like what I’ve heard other people go through with it. But it keeps me from having enough energy to do what I want to do, and I feel like I’m doing little enough, as it is!DSC_0198

DSC_0201And so, all this rambling is to tell you that I’m really trying to accomplish something with my last week or so (finish a beautiful baby blanket!), while I’ll go ahead and share some pictures of the most recent flowers that have come up in our yard. They’ve survived, despite the beating that has been administered by all the rain… but I think these were taken before the worst of the storms AND the heat. DSC_0206

DSC_0208Last week, it was in the 90’s, all week. This week, it’s “cooled off”, staying in the 80’s. Practically a cold front, you know. And it’s only getting started! This is only June. July and August are just waiting to knock us flat… or send us running for cover, in the air-conditioning of our homes. The humidity is here to stay, as well. If it were just a dry heat, we could handle it. But no, this is the South, and humidity comes with the heat, no ifs, ands, or buts. DSC_0210

DSC_0213I hope you enjoy the brightness of these lovely flowers, and I’ll attempt to catch up on my latest, bit by bit. After the blanket is done!DSC_0214

DSC_0215P.S. Please note that NONE of these photos have been adjusted. No photoshopping at all. Those colors really were that brilliant, in the bright summer sunshine!DSC_0218

country by country, what draws you in?

On Friday, I gave a geography lesson. I haven’t done any review of the geography of Africa in quite some time, but when asked, I think I did pretty well. A co-worker was asking me if Libya was in the Middle East. Rather than laugh, I remembered that I was always better at geography than most of my classmates. There’s a certain grad student who’s from Libya, and comes by the cafe regularly, so this is why my fellow employee was curious.

Before I got my Kindle out to double-check, I was able to tell him that Libya was in northern Africa, either the country next to Egypt, or one more over. I couldn’t quite remember. I was pleased to find I was just about right, Libya being on the western side Egypt (while it’s Algeria and Tunisia that are to the west of Libya) . I was also asked about the location of Lebanon, but I knew exactly where that was, right next to Israel. Apparently, another student had been talking to him, and he found out they were from Lebanon, but wasn’t sure where that was.

From there, he wanted to know a little more about Libya, and I didn’t know much. And then I remembered that Benghazi is there. He was aware of what happened in Benghazi, to our ambassador, so this gave him some information he could really connect with. Again, I find it interesting that several of my co-workers will come to me for news and information, whether it’s local or international. They seem to be aware that I keep up with current events, and I do my best to fill them in on anything they want to know.

The day after the Boston Marathon bombing, as soon as I got to work, I used my Kindle to get back online, and continued to check updates. I was not expecting to be immediately surrounded by my co-workers, wanting to know what was the latest news. Sure, one news channel was on the tv, but it seemed to be looping the same stuff, and was no help. But without even realizing that I was reading the news, as they spoke to me, they knew I would be able to tell them all I could. At the time, the first bits of information were coming in about the Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston manhunt.

I was actually thinking about this, while looking at my blog stats page. In one day, it is so fascinating to find that I received views from not only the U.S., Canada, and Australia, but also Slovenia, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Singapore, Algeria, the U.K, and South Africa. What is it that draws people, from country after country? Of course, it could be only one person, per country, who looked up a picture, and never read the post. But doesn’t it make you curious who they are, what they’re interested in, and why they come to you for stories and information?

Of course, when you’re checking your stats page, you can get an idea of what blog posts people are looking at, and you become even more curious over who’s reading the Australia posts and who’s checking out the ones you wrote in the last month. Is it the kitten pictures? The travel photos and explanations? Or maybe you just write things a little more clearly, and interestingly, for someone who has never been to the U.S. or Australia.

I managed to connect these slight threads of thought, because as I wonder why my co-workers look to me for information, or what it is about me that draws them in, the same relates to my writing. You want to think you’re just utterly fascinating, but that’s being a little too… well, less than humble. You want to think that you can tell them things that no one else will. Or that you have a perspective that no one else ever looks at.

To think about it from the other side, what draws you to other people or other bloggers? What makes you want to talk to them or ask them questions? What do they know or how do they speak, that draws you to them? Is it their personality or just their fascinating array of knowledge? I don’t have answer, as I’m just rambling over a few ideas here. But I thought I would go ahead and share, anyway.

Even if you pretend no one’s listening, people still see you and hear you. Are you saying anything worthwhile? What will you be remembered for?

what isn’t here & why they were there…

I was doing it again. I only had one or two items to pick up at Ingles, and since I was in a not-so-familiar grocery store, I began to wander. Sure enough, I ended up in the ethnic food section, searching for familiarity. You may find that odd, since my year overseas was spent in Australia. But consider, I found jars of buttered chicken in the Indian section and sweet chili sauce in the Thai section. How many times did I buy coconut milk, pappadums, and other ingredients for dinner?

Admittedly, there’s a tiny confused section of my brain which expects that if I stare at the shelves long enough, a shelf will appear that’s labeled “Esther, Imogen, Amy, and Claire all cooked these.”. Of course, it’ll come with a list of recipes. I’ll finally figure out why I liked Aussie barbecue sauce when I was there, but hate the American kind. Maybe it’s just because I like it on pizza. Of course, when I had it on homemade pizza, I would combine it with tomato sauce (NOT ketchup), and then add all my own meaty toppings. But NOT capsicums (peppers), either fresh or the ones preserved in olive oil. I did try them, once or twice, and just can’t handle them.

As I think over this grocery store issue of mine, I am reminded that as of April 23, I will have been back in the US for one year, and May 3 will be the two year anniversary for when I arrived in Australia. Lots of anniversaries are packed into April and May, for both Australia and my blog. It has really been that long since I returned to American soil, just as it’s really been THAT long since I went to AUS. Did it go by fast? I’m no longer sure.

Because I’ve had this post on my mind, I drove by McDonald’s, today, and I was thinking that it will never be Maccas to me. The Maccas of Australia was one place I would go in order to read a book, drink a mocha, and veg out while reading a book. Usually while munching on a scone or some other form of dessert. I love coffee shops over here, too, but they’re just not the same. I’m pretty sure ours have a lot more sugar, but since I never worked in a coffee shop overseas, I really don’t know what makes the difference.

Hearing from an Aussie friend of mine reminded me of how much I miss our outings to Bogey’s, and left me with a craving for potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. And a mocha, with an Aussie marshmallow on the side. A craving that can’t be satisfied, because even in Australia, I never had potato wedges that were as good as those served at Bogey’s in Emerald. Sure, maybe I’ll be able to find some over here, eventually, and buy myself sweet chili sauce from the Thai food section… but it still isn’t the same.

I haven’t only been thinking about food. Honest. But if you’ve been reading my blog lately, I’ve been thinking about the idea of friendship and how we go about making friends, especially when we’re outside of our comfort zone. It makes you think about the friendships that you had to work for and fight for, as well as the ones you fell into by accident, which seemed to be tailored just for you.

Some might say that it was a coincidence that I met the group of friends that I did, while in Australia. But was it really? You could say that I had two small groups of friends, from two different churches, that occasionally combined into a big group. We mixed and moved around, if you will. From the very start, I was drawn into their circles and welcomed, having common ground to stand on. As I recall, only one of them moved away, while I was still living there, because he wanted to go to Bible school.

And then, during this last year, they began to scatter. A large family of my friends moved to Tasmania. Another friend moved to Brisbane (capital of Queensland). One got married and moved to Sydney. I’m not sure when it happened, but another somehow got herself to Victoria (another Aussie state). And yet another is getting ready to move back to the “big smoke”… which after some digging, I found also referred to Brisbane.

I believe that it was part of the Lord’s plan that I go to Australia and meet these amazing people, and that He had the right ones waiting for me in Emerald. I do not think it was just a coincidence that they were all in Emerald, for that time. Their friendships have enriched my life and changed me, and I will always be thankful for them. And now that some of them have moved on (geographically), I will have a lot more places to travel, when I get back Down Under, eventually!

Maybe I should be talking more about my last year in the U.S., now that I’m remembering the one year anniversary since I returned. But I’ll be here for a long while yet, and you’ve been listening to me yak about America for a year now, so I don’t think I need to go over it. Maybe sometime this summer, I’ll have more to say about this past year in America, and its effect on me. But until I figure it out for myself, I don’t have anything to tell you.

To all my friends and readers, thank you again for sticking with me, no matter what country I happen to be in. I plan to keep writing for a long time, so I’ll keep searching for the little stories that make up the great big story which is my sometimes-interesting life. Have a wonderful week!

domain change…

Well, I may gripe about photos, occasionally, but I still need storage space to load them onto my blog! While checking on a few things, I found that I was almost out of space, and needed an upgrade. And while comparing prices and details, I decided I would be better off getting a Value Bundle that included a free domain change. Or whatever you call it.

For those who speak normal English, instead of the geek/techie variety, my website is now registered to singlikenooneslistening.com. Of course, if you type in the old address, it will still re-route to my blog. But it’s true that my blog address is already a bit long, so it’ll be nice for you to NOT have to type “wordpress” into the address anymore.

A small detail, nothing much has changed, really. I just did a mental happy dance at seeing my very domain, just mine, not wordpress’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love WP, but now my blog belongs to me. Just me.

Have a happy day!

words before photos…

You’ve heard this complaint before, but my photos sometimes get in my way. I am a writer first, and a photographer… somewhere about fifth. Ok, maybe it’s third or fourth, by now. My photos have come a long way since I was a teenager. And then, they’ve probably come just as far, in the last two years alone.

But like I said, I’m a writer first. If I’ve never written a book, how was I a writer, before I started this blog? Well, I’m not even talking about the stories I’ve started, over the years, and never finished. I’m talking about the art of letter-writing. Have you heard of it?

The internet only arrived at our house when I was about fifteen (1995), and my older brother started college. We somehow wired his school e-mail to come to our house, and then I was able to write short e-mails to my one cousin who also had e-mail. It was the DOS screen type, black screen and white letters, and you could only write a letter as long as the screen, no scrolling down. If you had more to write, you had to start a new letter, and heaven forbid anyone pick up the telephone. If they picked up the phone, you lost your e-mail, unable to copy and paste it again. Had to start over, completely. Oh, the wails that ensued, when someone touched that phone.

I’m talking about even further back, though, when I actually wrote letters to my friends. You see, even though I had friends in school, my closest friends were always my cousins, who lived in faraway states like Michigan and Massachusetts. Long-distance telephone calls were expensive and nearly unheard of for kids my age, so letters were the only option. And didn’t we keep the mailman busy!

In high school, I learned how to type, and for only getting half a semester in the subject, I learned quickly. The class ended before I could get very good with numbers, but aside from that, I’ve always been able to type almost 100 wpm. In fact, that’s almost as fast as I can think.

When you’re maintaining close friendships through letters and long e-mails, you don’t have someone there with you, telling you when to stop. You go through their letters, make sure you address every topic, in detail, because who knows when they will have time to reply, and you want them to respond in kind. I lived for my letters, over the years.

What does this have to do with being a writer? Well, here on my blog, my aim is usually to tell a story, whether I use pictures or words. What are you doing, when you write letters to close friends, if not telling them the daily story of your life? You’re trying to make them see, hear, and almost touch what you are living through. And when it’s between close friends, you are being honest, and not even avoiding the harsh details of your life.

Eventually, my letter-writing translated into e-mail and Facebook form. When I went to Indonesia in 1999 (or somewhere around there), I wrote e-mails to my mom (and forwarded to several other people), every day, so she would know what my time there was like. Those letters were also forwarded to my own e-mail, so I still have the descriptions from that month, full of as much detail as I could squeeze in. I also took a large number of photos, and they’re in a box somewhere, waiting to be transferred to CD. Someday.

When I went to Ireland, for a two-week mission trip, in 1999, I didn’t have computer access. So, I used the method that I continue to use when I can’t write regular e-mails, I keep an old-fashioned journal. Nowadays, I write them in shorthand, but then, I wrote them in detail. Every night, I documented our day, so that I would be able to type it up and immortalize it, afterwards. And since I was afraid my camera might get stolen, I took a handful of disposable cameras with me, to capture what Ireland and London (we were there for a day) looked like. Those pictures are in a box somewhere, too.

Some of these journals were typed up, afterwards, and sent to people in letter form. Others were posted in Notes, on Facebook. This was long before my blog ever existed, but I still wanted my friends and family to know what these places were really like, and what adventures I had.

The most recent version of the journal-to-blog posts would be from my cruise to the Bahamas, and my week in Sydney. After writing a shorthand version of my days on the cruise ship, I condensed it into a short blog post, some time after I began my blog. Probably when I was feeling jealous of my Aussie friend’s cruise in the Pacific, to Vanuatu, and islands like that. My week in Sydney, of course, was journaled straight onto my computer, with my photos all pre-edited, just waiting for me to get back to Emerald, and an internet connection. It was basically blogging without access to a blog.

Every time I have written up a trip or an experience, you’ll find mentions of me using my camera, but that was never the most important thing. You can look at an album of photos and have no idea what you’re looking at, or what funny little incidences happened with each. I have always wanted to have people see the adventure from my WORDS, and then fill in the blanks with the pictures, afterwards.

Which brings me back to my original complaint, which I probably shouldn’t be complaining about. I still love to take photos, but occasionally, I take so many of them, that I feel required to catch up on posts full of photos, when I really want to do something that’s much more writing-oriented. It ends up feeling like the photos forced my hand, whereas I want the writing to force the photos. Or something like that.

But I’m trying to catch up. A friend wished me a happy weekend, and hoped that I would get out and take some photos. I said, “Noooo, I have too many of them, I need to catch up.”, which probably sounded slightly odd to her. But it makes sense to me. And with my latest post about Tillman Hall, I feel that I’m finally catching up with some of my previous pictures, with my post on Sirrine Hall to follow, soon after.

When that’s done, I can go back to letting the words take me where they will… and the photos will follow, as a side dish. A more pleasing side dish than they ever were, when I was a teenager, but still, not the main course for this blog.