Monthly Archives: January 2014

Traveling in Style

When did I become a little old lady when it comes to travel? We are about to go off on an 8 day adventure in New Zealand and I have been obsessing on what and how to pack. I don’t want to travel with too much stuff and I don’t want to buy more along the way. 

I am perplexed on what to pack as I can’t get a handle on the weather or the variety of activities we have planned. Overall I know that it will be cooler in New Zealand than in Melbourne, but temperature range is 77’ to 47’. Our activities will include: hiking, swimming, hot-tubbing, an overnight cruise, a dinner cruise, touring and of course wandering. Where is a packing list? Why is this so hard for me?

Some of you might not realize it, but I am the woman who drove across the country with three friends looking for and finding the Rainbow Family Gathering in 1979. We stayed for 4 or 5 days at the encampment and then I hitchhiked to Taos, New Mexico with a friend. Along the way we spent the night at a truck stop, sleeping under an 18 wheeler—really, I did! So how did I become so damn fussy when it comes to traveling now?

Fast forward to 2014, and I want to make sure I have what I need. I now travel with vitamins and umbrellas and extra contact lenses. I remember boiling my lenses in 1979 over campfires. Now I will pack hiking boots, walking shoes and nice sandals. Then I had flip-flops and mostly went barefoot. Along with our rental car, we have reserved a GPS, back then we stopped along the way and asked for directions at rest stops. We now have hotel reservations knowing where we will sleep on which nights.

This is definitely a different kind of traveling experience: less spontaneous, but much more comfortable. This way we know we are going to see the sights we want to see and meet up with the people we want to meet. On this trip we are staying with distant relatives of David and seeing two long-time La Leche League International friends of Heidi.

We will spend two days and a night cruising on the New Zealand fjords, have dinner on Lake Wakatipu at Walter Peak, relax in a hot tub overlooking the Shotover River Canyon, and explore the albatross and penguins of Dunedin. And then back to Melbourne for more Aussie adventures.

So while the face and flavor of my traveling style has changed a lot in the last 35 years, I am who I am and this is the way I now roll!

 

Yours,

Heidi

 

 

 



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Helicopter Parenting

Well it finally happened, my daughter has now experienced a stressful events while being a world away from me. And as a ‘mama-bear’ kind of parent, it was maddening to pick up the phone and hear my child hysterically crying on the other end and know that there is nothing that I can do about it.

Some might accuse me of being a helicopter parent—hovering around my kids, trying to make their lives better, but that really doesn’t describe my mothering style. There have been times when I stepped in to help and other times that I sat back to watch them navigate their way through life’s challenges and opportunities. Sometimes I have received criticism for my timing of each, but it really isn’t up to others to decide.

Now, my protective instinct kicks in when my children are threatened. Oh how I related to the movie The Blind Side: I could watch it over and over again, much to my family’s chagrin. Threaten my kids and you will have to face me front and center. Once when I was 8 months pregnant with our daughter, a relative slapped our son when he wasn’t listening to this man’s directions. Note to anyone reading this: Never slap someone else’s kid unless you are saving them from hurting themselves or others. Certainly don’t hit a child for playing with a plastic knife and a cheap plastic throw-away table cloth. My relationship with that relative has never been the same since even though this happened over 18 years ago.

So with a strong protective instinct, what I call the mama-bear hormone, you might think that I constantly step in and rescue my kids when they go through difficult times. But you would be wrong. During my parenting tenure, I have consciously chosen when to step in and when to step back.

One example from 2008: our family moved back to northern California after living in St. Louis for 9 years. Our daughter was entering the 8th grade and we chose our new home based on which highschool we wanted her to attend. I figured that the feeder junior highschool would also be top-notch, but that was not the case.

I was prepared for the move to be hard for her, even under the best of circumstances 8th grade can be stressful, but I wasn’t prepared for the major source of the problems to be the principal and guidance counselor at her school.

After one semester, it was apparent that she was not flourishing in her new school. The principal told me that I was responsible because I had made the mistake of moving her between her 7th and 8th grade years—not helpful feedback at all. By the time the principal made that comment to me, our daughter had been in that school for four months and the principal still wouldn’t pronounce her name correctly.

After consulting with the principal at her previous school and much soul searching, we decided to move her to the other junior highschool in town. This was not an easy decision, nor was it made lightly, but it was a great choice for our daughter.

I was surprised by the variety of reactions from other parents in the community. Many came out of the woodwork to tell me how much they admired us for moving our daughter and that they had had similar problems with the same principal too. But others thought we were ‘rescuing’ out daughter in ways that were damaging. We were accused of being helicopter parents with all the negative connotations.

Their line of reasoning was that when she was older she would have to cope with bad bosses and difficult colleagues. But the fact is I want my daughter to know that she can change her circumstances when she is unhappy. I never want her stuck in a bad job, with a bad boss or in a bad marriage or in a dead-end life. I want her to know that she always has options. And rather than leaving her in an environment that was slowly pulling her down and tearing her apart, I wanted her to learn how to take charge of her life. I figured this situation was ripe for me to teach her how.

My philosophy is that life is too short to settle. Maybe this comes from having had cancer and being the wife of cancer survivor, or maybe it is even deeper than that. Regardless of the source, I knew that at 13 she was too young to take control of her life, but as her mother I could model it. So I stepped in and had her change schools in the middle of the year, teaching her that she can change her circumstances, change her life and ultimately change herself.

Now fast forward five years later to her first year at university. So many things are different from her 8th grade experience. She is in an environment in which she is thriving after having chosen a school with a program that she loves. She is making friends and learning how to create a life for herself on the other side of the country. But last November we got the call.

The phone rang at 11 pm at night and on the other end of the call was our daughter very upset. Tears, frustration, helplessness all pouring through the phone lines across the country. It turns out that she had lost her keys while in New York for Thanksgiving and had just arrived back at school, during the holiday weekend with no keys to get into her building, her room, the cafeteria and the practice rooms to get ready for exams—one of the reasons for going back to school early.

And really there was nothing we could do about it. Of course we tried to list options for her, but these were mostly for us as she is a level headed young woman who can figure herself out of most jams. She didn’t need or want to hear ideas from us, she just wanted to vent. I am pretty sure that we didn’t let her rant and rave the way she wanted, but I know that we didn’t step in and try to rescue her. Any rescuing had to be done by and for herself. And that is exactly what she did.

Now I can’t take full credit for knowing to step back. I was warned that this call would happen someday and I was warned that women like me, with the mama-bear hormone, would want to rescue their child. Or at least be unglued with them during the call. So when it happened I am proud to say that I didn’t freak out with or for her; I didn’t become unglued thinking of my baby locked out of her dorm, or room or the cafeteria. After we hung up, my husband and I talked and then we went back to the movie we were watching.

So here is your warning, when the call comes to you (and know that it will come someday), my advice is to let your kids rant and rave. Let them vent and share their upset and frustration. Be a great listening ear. And then hang up and let them solve it for themselves. Don’t get unglued with or for them. It won’t help them and it certainly won’t help you.

How did I get prepared for this call? Well I learned what to expect from watching this funny and yet poignant video on YouTube that comes from the 2012 “Listen to Your Mother” event in San Francisco:.



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Jet lag: it is an adventure

Been here for five days so far and am finally just starting to feel more at home. There is a lot to adjust to living in another country, some of it good some of it more of a challenge. Jet lag has been a struggle but I am finally beginning to feel more like myself. The trip over here is long. I mean really long. This was the longest single flight I had even been on and it went on for wheat felt like forever. Even after reading, watching movies and sleeping there were still many more hours on the flight before landing.

I thought I was prepared for a long flight, having spent many days in transit in my life. I remember when we were first married we ‘moved’ to Vienna, Austria for the year and in those days it took a whole day of travel on three different flights: Washington, DC to JFK, JFK to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Vienna. We made the flight back and forth at least 6 times that year and each time I was either pregnant or traveling with an infant. That jet lag was bone crushing. This time it was different, not better, but not worse, just different. It helps not to be pregnant or nursing a baby the whole time, but I am 20+ years older.

Within 24 hours of landing in Melbourne I was able to attend a yoga class and within 48 hours I had a chiropractic adjustment. Both helped enormously, but the bottom line is that it takes time to feel at home in a new place in a new country. Things are different and that can be disorienting.

But there are some things that have helped: being able to watch the Australian Open during the day as I adjust without having to get up in the middle of the night has been a treat. And yesterday we spent the day at the open, which was a lot of fun.

Another help to my adjustment is that we rented a nice apartment in the Melbourne Central Business District that is light and bright. It took a few days to get things set up here, but it is starting to fall into place. Click here for some photos of our home for the next five months.

 

 



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Exploring Fitzroy, a Melbourne neighborhood

Still jet lagged, but slowly starting to feel human. Saturday, David and I met a friend of his from law school who lives here now but is moving to London next week. We wandered through two fun and funky neighborhoods: Fitzroy and Collingwood. Here are just some shots of things that caught my eye.

Typical look of Fitzroy, a once edgy neighborhood that is becoming gentrified.

Photo of Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

A place to get fanciful eyebrows…

Photo of Fitzroy Shop Play Brow Bar

The view looking up is also interesting.

Photo of Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Small sampling of the interesting graffiti.

Photo of Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

 

Photo of Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Fun spoon chandelier in an ice cream shop.

Photo of Fitzroy Melbourne Australia

Whimsical statue in Fitzroy.

Photo of Fitzroy Melbourne Australia



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

On my way to the land down under

Australia Flight

I am on the plane heading off to what feels like the great unknown. A five month sabbatical without very little responsibilities and requirements is delicious on the one hand but also disorienting on the other hand. In fact I have been slightly dizzy the last three or four weeks planning, packing and getting out of town.

It has been interesting to hear peoples’ reactions to our upcoming “walkabout” in Australia. The most common question was, “Are you excited?” This is a complicated question for me to respond to. Of course I am excited, but it has not been the top feeling when thinking our trip abroad. It has mostly been exhausting.  For the last six months I have been planning: where to store away personal items that we aren’t taking, what to take for five months over two seasons and trips to mountains and tropics, figuring out renting our home and then where to live while in Melbourne, where we are based.

Storing away our personal items was a six month process. We ended up with two large locking metal cabinets in the garage filled with clothing and other personal items and boxes in my husband’s office at work and one of our walk-in closets secured with a lock.

My ‘excitement’ was tempered by all the packing up and packing away. We rented our home out to two Norwegian men who are in a management program at Stanford. They found us through the same site that we used to find a place in Melbourne: SabbaticalHomes.com. They are a rental matchmaking site available to anyone looking for a rental anywhere in the world.

Dealing with our cars and mail was much more complicated. And because it is tax time in the states it became even more important that this work out well. Up until a month ago we thought we had a beat on two different companies that specialize in what we needed, but like so many start-ups in the Valley both turned out to be too good to be true. One went out of business and the other never sent us their contract—not a good sign or business practice!

In the end it all came together wonderfully. At one point we thought were going to just leave the cars idle the whole time, our mechanic assuring us that at most we might have to replace the batteries when we return. Right before I left our son decided to use my car as his second car, one down, one to go. And then 48 hours before I left we learned that someone we have known for years was looking for a car for five months. From the time I heard about her situation to the time she drove away in my husband’s car it was about two hours. The mail piece came together even easier. I asked a neighbor and she agreed to collect, scan and send the real mail while recycling the junk. Bingo!

All that was left for me to do was to actually pack. Now I know that I don’t travel light for short trip, but to pack for five months, two seasons, trips to mountains and tropics was a real challenge. Thank goodness United allowed me three bags up to 70 lbs each. While I didn’t end up using all 210 lbs., I did pack three suitcases and two carry-on bags fully. Actually I packed them several times, removing items I realized that I could do without and then finding new ones to go in instead. Some of the items I am bringing are not going to make it back with us, so I hope to travel home lighter, but that remains to be seen. And the best part of all that packing is that I found two pieces of jewelry that I thought I had lost forever.  Real bonus as one was a bracelet from my grandmother.

So here I sit, it is the middle of the night on either Tuesday or Wednesday–I am very time challenged under the best of circumstances and this whole date line, time ahead thing has me baffled—on a plane heading off to the land down under for a five month adventure. Seeing the map of the Pacific Ocean with the plane on its way to Australia it finally hit me: yes I am NOW excited!

Yours,

Heidi



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

Bon Voyage Party

In getting ready for our 5 month sojourn in Melbourne, Australia, we were pleasantly surprised by a clever going away party last weekend. When we were invited, we thought it was just going to be a dinner party in which we could say our good byes to some of our friends, but it was much more than that!

We got there and were greeted with appetizers with Australian flag napkins served by a friend who had found a local Australian store and bought vegemite. She had done research on how to prepare it and then made some delicious hors d’oeuvres.

During the dinner we were regaled with our host’s clever limericks written in honor of our leaving. My favorite two were:

There once was a couple named Sloss

For a sabbatical destination were at a loss.

Not wanting to blunder,

They Decided upon down-under,

Now they’re brewing up barbeque sauce.

 

Heidi will counsel the Aussies,

About being their own bosses.

She will dazzle them with knowledge,

Perhaps teach in their college.

And tell them how to avoid commercial losses.

                                                                                                                                                            Also during dinner another friend had us all play a game using Australian expressions. I learned a lot, for instance did you know if someone in Australia says to you to “belt up,” they are asking you in an angry way to stop talking.  Or that “Bob’s yer uncle” means that everything will be all right as in, “ Just add extra water and Bob’s yer uncle.” Or if someone calls you “fair dinkum” it means you are really genuine or authentic.

Dessert was a Pavlova Dessert. This is a visually beautiful meringue in the shape of a tutu, named to commemorate the visit of the Russian Ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova’s visit to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920’s. Both countries claim credit for the dessert and I can see why, it was yummy!

After dinner two friends acted out a skit that they wrote for us called “Lost in Translation.” It was a fictionalized encounter between an Aussie and my husband about our move to Melbourne. It was clever and fun and pulled in all sorts of Australian expressions! Then we were each handed shiny kazoos and given the words to Waltzing Matilda as we sang or hummed out way through the song.

For a finale, another couple organized a game of Australian Charades. We broke into teams of men versus the women and all of the answers/phrases had to be something Australian. In coming up with ideas we thought we were being so smart, but it turns out to be a little easier if you know the answer has to be Australian. It also turns out that my husband is excellent at charades—who knew!

During the evening our friends who had been to Australia shared their travel stories and tips on where to go and what to do. I have to say that in 24 year marriage we have moved 7 or 8 times and had good-by parties before, but never one so well organized or clever with a theme! Not only was it fun, but more importantly it helped me to finally get in the mood to be excited about being there.



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!