Re-surfacing

It's been ages since I've really blogged. I've missed it. I never really intended to take a break but there's been lots happening.

  • I spent the six weeks with my sister. 
  • A friend flew back with me to spend a couple of weeks here. 
  • One of my younger brothers left for a (supposed to be) permanent move to Brazil so I stayed up with my family to see him off. 
  • I got back to my very empty pantry after two months away with four days to get organised for hosting my entire Aussie-based family for Christmas!!! I don't advise that, by the way. :P 
  • I played tour guide for our American friend. 
  • I played catch-up at work.
  • I went camping with my family for a week after Christmas (and actually liked it!).

Now I'm home. 🙂 I'm going to try to get back into the swing of blogging and hopefully get a bit more of a rhythm going again!

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More Observations on America

Further ramblings as they come to mind…

  • Continuing on the restroom/toilet theme touched on in my last post, all home and many public bathrooms/restrooms have a plunger sitting by their toilet–which just goes to show that the Australian design is much more efficient because plungers are almost non-existent over here. If I built a house over there, I’d be trying to import an Aussie toilet! 😀
  • Public hand sanitiser units are everywhere you turn but sanitary disposal in female restrooms consists of a small rectangle metal container attached to the cubicle wall and lined with a paper or plastic bag…go figure!!! (I thought that was disgusting.)
  • Their big Christian bookstore is like a Christian store with a book section while ours is a Christian bookstore with additional stock on the side. However, “book” isn’t in their title while the slogan for ours makes it clear that books are the focus. I like Mardel to visit (and for their awesome sale racks–I got heaps of books for $1 and $2.50) but I like Koorong for ‘home’. Plus, ours has a built-in cafe–great to use as a meeting point to catch up with friends. 🙂

  • Speaking of cafes, visiting America has made me realise how much of a “cafe culture” Australia has. It’s really hard to put the difference into words but my sister noticed it too. A lot of socialising centres around meeting for coffee (or more broadly, “a cuppa”). While this does happen in America, in comparison, it takes a huge backseat to just eating out.This is true inside the home and outside the home. I wasn’t ever offered a coffee (forget “cuppa” since the word’s not in their vocabulary–or tea, seeing as they don’t drink it hot, particularly in the South) upon arriving at somebody’s house. They just don’t do that. Whereas in Australia, everything occurs over or around a cuppa and it’s one of the first things that’s done in most homes when somebody comes to visit.
  • Further on the cafe/coffee theme, you pretty much have to go to the likes of Starbucks to get anything other than what we would call a long black or flat white. They do have McCafe but it pretty much amounts to an extra menu board or two with half the selection we Australians think is standard–and forget the bakery options!!! Over here, almost anywhere that sells coffee (restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, you name it) will offer you at least half a dozen options, including cappucinos and lattes. Over there, restaurants etc have percolated coffee and that’s it. Some places (eg, Mardel and motels) offer free percolated coffee (even flavoured) which is cool–until you realise there’s no milk!!!!!! They’re big into either creamer (often powdered, gag) or nothing.

A Slew of Observations

This is a random set of observations about America. Some are from this trip; some are from my last. They may not all be true outside Texas or in the northern states.

Things I Like:

  • In-Sink Disposal
  • Peanut Butter-filled pretzels
  • Cheap food prices and all the bonuses like free refills and extra bread/rolls on demand
  • Insanely-low-priced clearance racks of clothes (think $1 or $3 or $7)
  • Dark Chocolate M&Ms
  • Starbucks Java Chip Frappucino ice cream (in the supermarket!)
  • Most motels seem to include a free full breakfast and free wireless internet is very common

Things I Dislike:

  • Public restroom cubicles–often the doors are high off the ground and there's huge gaps between the door and the frame…might as well leave them off altogether!
  • Toilets–imagine sitting on a full bucket of water and you've got the idea.
  • A lot of American chocolate
  • Most of their bread–it's nearly all sweet and they have no idea what multi-grain bread is!!
  • Everything is really spread out over town. Wal*Mart, Target, K-Mart, etc, are not part of the mall–they're individual buildings in totally different areas of town. It takes a lot more running around to get things done.

Just Different:

  • At a supermarket the other night, some guy left his 'truck' running with nobody in it while he went inside!!
  • Aerosol deodorants are close to non-existent here, particularly for women. There was maybe 2 brands with 1-2 scents and that's it. You're left with stick or roll-on. Oh, and the cans were the huge size, too. Weird.
  • If you use your credit card, they don't even check your signature (you usually sign on an electronic pad that they can't even see). One time out of fifty, they might ask to see ID. At Starbucks, you don't even sign at the drive-thru–they just swipe your card and that's it!! It would be soooo simple to use a total stranger's card…no wonder identity fraud is such a big deal!!
  • They have drive-thru banks, pharmacies and Starbucks.
  • America is definitely better in customer service (other than airlines) but Australia is definitely more professional when it comes to point-of-sale–the two countries should share ideas. 🙂

Anyway, that's all for now. I know there's more but I keep forgetting them so I'll start another running list!

Not Tooooo Exciting

Many of you keep up with me on Facebook and have a bit of an idea what I've been up to which is a good thing as I'm obviously not finding too much motivation to blog!

Most of the time, we are just around home. School is in progress so that takes up at least the mornings. I am doing school with my 6 year old niece as she is still in the part of the curriculum that requires complete one-on-one attention. I have previously trained for and taught this to two of my siblings and one of our friends so I was quite happy to take it over for Narelle. It is coming along quite nicely.

Last Friday, we all headed to Oklahoma City for the weekend. My BIL had a meeting to attend and I was keen to see yet another state. It is a 4 1/2 hour drive. On the way, we stopped and had lunch with his grandma for a while. Around "supper time", we stopped again to see an old friend (for those of you who have heard of him, it was Arlen). I was really glad to get to see him as it had been eleven years!

While in Oklahoma City, Narelle and I took the kids to the OKC Zoo for the afternoon while Heath was at his meeting. It is a really great zoo–very pretty and very well done–and also very cheap!

Due to not being very familiar with their denomination but mainly because I expected a large group of unknown people, I nearly begged out of going to church on Sunday morning. However, I decided to brave the crowd, pretty much hoping that nobody would talk to me! In a breaktime, a lady came up and started talking to me, quite obviously planning on making conversation. Just as I was wishing I could get away, she asked if I had any children. I had no previous intention of telling her anything (and it was kind of a weird answer) but I just said, "I'm widowed". Turns out she lost her first husband when she was 26!

We didn't talk for a long time–and I don't know her story nor did she ask about mine–but I was very encouraged by her. She prayed for me and of course I cried. She just encouraged me to keep going and to keep being honest with God. The only bit of her story I really know is that she did the whole spiritual thing at first and it wasn't till later down the track that she realised how much bitterness she harboured toward God. So, when I told her that I'd been really angry at God and had spent a lot of time trying to work through it all, she told me it sounded like I was doing the right thing. It sure is nice not having to try to explain what hell on earth is like…she knew already. I definitely saw it as a God-incidence!

On the way home, we stopped at the Wichita Mountains. This was really pretty and we saw wild buffalo and deer and longhorns. If we had have been a couple weeks earlier, we probably would have seen the best of the fall colours and it would have been beautiful.

I have been taking lots of pictures but probably won't blog too many. If you're a regular reader who hasn't already seen my pictures on Facebook, leave me a comment if you would like to see some!

New Adventures

So my sister and her family were over in Australia for three weeks and then I travelled back with them to their home in Texas! I will be staying with them for six weeks while some awesome people look after my house back home. It's really only the second time I've stayed with my Texas family and the first time that I've stayed for any length of time which is quite strange. That had never dawned on me until the last few days. After staying here for a week in July, it almost felt like coming home this time. 🙂

We had a long, drama-filled trip home. The drama was limited to the airport's errors, thankfully, and not sickness or hysterical children! The kids are actually pretty good flyers. I anticipated the plane trips possibly being miserable but they weren't. Dragging them through multiple airports was a little miserable at times but, really, they did pretty well.

On being dragged through multiple airports, let me tell you that a 13 hour flight is nothing. If all I had to do was get on a plane, fly for thirteen hours and get off at my destination, it would be a breeze. Seriously. It's the leg-after-leg-after-leg of connecting flights on either side (or both) of the 13 hour that makes the travelling a nightmare.

And the jetlag afterward…

After getting back to the house around 1:30am, we all slept till about 11:15am the next day. Sounds great, doesn't it? Until we couldn't really sleep last night. 😛 I was awake literally all night. I tried to go to sleep around 11pm and couldn't. Got up and read a book from cover-to-cover. Tried to sleep again (it was 2:30am by this time)–after having the living daylights scared out of me by my oldest niece who saw me walk by her room to the bathroom and decided to hop in my bed and scare me, VERY SUCCESSFULLY. Got up again an hour later and found my niece was also still awake. She climbed in bed with me and we watched a movie on YouTube until 5:30am when we tried to sleep again. Succeeded by 6-6.30 am for about 3 hours. Found out nobody else got much sleep either.

Other than that, though, I'm loving being here. 🙂

Update in Pictures

Lots of cuddles with Australia's cutest (and funniest) kid, my nephew, Caleb (judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into!)…

Kristy & caleb

…during a lovely visit from my brother and his little family!

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A visit to Texas to see the other hilarious niblings…

All kids

…plus my sister and best friend (and other friends)…

Kristy & narly

…and my favourite brother-in-law! 🙂

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