Timing…

Sometimes I think God likes to tease us in the form of tiny, timely coincidences… Today is one of those coincidences.

Exactly one year ago today, I sent Kara a picture of a Virgin Australia banner that I snapped at LAX, accompanied with a prodding text about visiting Australia—a follow up to one of our Villa Life deck night chats…

Foreshadowing much?

Today, 365 days later, I’m sitting on a Virgin Australia Boeing 737, and Kara’s in the row across from me typing away. The setting Australian sun is beaming through her window in such a way that I can really only see her silhouette. God, you are good.

Fulfilled

I spent my last days in Australia with my beloved Noller boys. Sick as I was, it was special to know that I can still hang my hat at 53 Boyce Street. That house and those people have a timely, coincidental place in this whole growth and grace thing, come to think of it..

So, 4.5 years ago, I spent the better part of my post-college Australia trip with my Noller cousins. In hindsight, it’s where I began to fall in love with a boy back home. He sent me mail all the way to 53 Boyce St. Yep. Snail mail. The start of real, hard, true love.

Then one rainy December night a few years later, the boy from back home and I had dinner with my Noller cousins in Seattle. It was the night that everything changed. The theoretical ‘end’ of that real, hard, true love.

Math’s never been my thing, but if I have my numbers right, it’s been 365 days since that foreshadowing Virgin Australia photo was snapped. It’s been 15 months and one day since that boy broke my heart. And it’s been six weeks to the day since I left home for this little growth and grace journey. I can’t really believe any of it… But here is what I do believe 365 days // 15 months + 1 day // six weeks into it all:

  • I still think about said boy every.single.day. Maybe that makes me pathetic. At the least, admitting so makes me honest. I still miss car-dancing to T-Swift with my best friend, I still miss making him dinner and I still miss holding his hand. I know, I know…. ‘time’ heals all…that’s what they all tell me… Maybe it will. It hasn’t yet.
  • But there’s a big time change from my seat in 5D on this Boing 737 to home. Time feels different here. I feel more in control of it, even though to the untrained eye it might seem the exact opposite. At home I’m on such a schedule—letting time manage my every move. Workout, work, social obligations, meal prep, precious bedtime. We don’t even have time to think about time, let alone manage it. But time here isn’t really a thing at all. Half the time I have no idea what day it even is. Like I pledged in the beginning, I just wanted to create some time and space for my heart to heal out here in the world. Now that I’ve crossed the international date-line, and certainly am a few continents worth of space away, I’m hoping God will tease me a little with shimmers of healing. Maybe shimmers become beams, pretty as the ones streaming in on this 737 right now.
  • Perspective is real. It’s complicated. But it’s real. One of my new favorite authors, Shauna Niequest talks about how comparing pain [[or joys]] is sort of a futile, exhausting, often self-depravating and dismissive exercise. In the same breath, I think perspective does help reel me back in to what’s important to me [[and unimportant]]. A balance to strike, for sure, but I think my six weeks abroad have brought good perspective. I have a good, beautiful life. Painful as it feels at times, [[and rightfully so, Shauna would encourage]], I am supremely blessed. Getting away from the comforts, joys and people that make home ‘home,’ reinforces that for sure.

I suppose if I put on my reflection cap, it might seem that my three biggest takeaways indicate that I am indeed growing and indeed still needing every ounce of grace. I’m not there yet. I don’t even quite know if / how ‘there’ works or what it looks like, but that time and space and perspective are stirring my heart makes me think something must be working…

Keep on, keepin on, God. I’m ready for ya.

…And if the Nollers are any indication of my life pendulum, I should be on the upswing after a week at 53 Boyce St.

Onward and upward

Thicker than water

What a lyrical weekend our trip to the Hunter Valley proved to be. Cousin Julie and her lovely Sean brought us to…wait for it….wine country. And it cements the fact that ‘blood is thicker than water.’ There may be a whole flippin ton of water that separates Julie and me in a normal day, but that Temme blood is thick as a good Port. She gets me.

All weekend she’s laughed, calling herself a ‘nana’ because she likes to sip wine on the porch rather than get sloshed at a pub…cook a healthy herb-glazed chicken and salad in our rented kitchen, rather than go out for fried food…cozy up in bed at a reasonable hour rather than pretend to be an 18 year old who doesn’t need sleep [[I was not said 18 year old, but still]]…lay out on the grass at a country music festival rather than squish up against the stage to dance faces off with aforementioned 18 year olds…If Julie is a nana, then I am a nana too. I think I’ve always been a nana. Good company, that Temme blood. No wonder our actual Nanas live to be 100+ years old…they’ve been practicing for a century afterall.

So, if you aspire to live to be 100+ years old…here is how to practice being a nana when you’re 26 [[27?]]:

  1. Arrange for a private wine tasting at your favorite winery and let Emma teach you all about beautiful local wine making, but then reassure you that it’s all rubbish at the end of the day, cause your palate likes what it likes. Let her pour you a dozen+ sips and leave with a case.
  2. Grab a picnic blanket, head to a country music fest and find space in the grass to sprawl out. When the rains pass and the sun sets and darkness falls, lay back on the blanket and watch the stars [[both shooting and still]] and listen to real artists sing about real life. It feels real good. You’ll smile in the dark, and not for anyone but yourself and God. How real.
  3. Roll out of bed at 7am, lace up your Nikes and go for a run. Not just any run though, go run in the vineyards and let yourself stop to smile so hard at the kangaroos that jump out in front of you and startle your stride. Take pictures of them basking in the sun at the end of the vines and let it sink in that even though you’re in wine country, you’re a million miles from home. Let that smile sink deep down to your soul, and then run the hills.
  4. Rent colorful cruiser bikes with the fashionable baskets, ditch the helmets so you can feel the wind whip your hair around and pedal through the vineyards. Most nana’s would recommend sunscreen, but I quite like the feeling of the warm sun on tingly skin, made better by a cool breeze and a fire in your quads. The uphill burn is made sweet by the downhill tear, with an estate in view…It will all just make you feel like a kid again…a kid motivated by wine anyway.
  5. Drink wine. Drink lots of good, red, wine. Moreso, drink in the bliss of having a glass in hand, surrounded by good people, rich conversation and a beautiful view of the valley with the roos lounging under the olive trees. Drink it all in. All day. Do this day on repeat as often as possible.

Nana-practicing in the Hunter Valley was a soul-filling kind of weekend. Funny though, now that we’re back in Manly Beach, I think I might have found my favorite inspiration to be a truly good nana someday…just follow the Granger Rules:

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If I can live to be 100 years old, living out these rules that Julie and Sean and their two lovely little kiddos model, then I think it could be worth the wrinkles.

Cheers to fine wine, thick blood and good rules.

Hunter Valley

Wish you were here…from New Zealand

That’s it. It’s official. I’m in love with New Zealand. Five years since my last trip to the South Island and I can still confidently report that it is truly one of my favorite little pockets of land in the entire world. It’s just stunning. And it feels so, so good.

In these moments of pure awe, I keep asking myself ‘who, do you wish was here right now?’ Sometimes it makes me think deep, like who appreciates beautiful architecture, or who might need a laugh at this good people watching perch?….but sometimes it’s easy. This was an easy one. Landed in Christchurch, stepped off the plane and into our little Getz rental car and headed south. Easy. Done. Jori, I wish you were here.

jori

Jori loves beautiful more than anyone I know. She hikes and bikes and loves to be outside. This girl does PNW life right. And that’s how I know we should go in on a vacation home in Queenstown together. One day, Jori. One day.

New Zealand is home to some of the best hiking, biking and outside-doing on the planet. We zoomed our little Getz to Dunedin and then Milford Sound…that’s where the ‘feels good’ set in. The last hour of our drive to the lodge took us through winding turns that felt like a PNW pass met the Swiss Alps…all close enough to the windshield it seemed touchable.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound…Kara got it right…it’s magical. Maybe that’s why I thought of Jori so much…never have I seen such magically majestic things work together so seamlessly and impressively to create an even more magically majestic thing….beautiful mountains crash straight into the beautiful Tasman Sea. It’s even more beautiful to do the Fjordlands by boat on a morning cruise with a hot cuppa’ in hand. What a powerful way to start a day…

We used all that housed up power to hike up Key Summit, just a bit out of Milford Sound. And that was magical too…

Jori, you would love Queenstown. I L O V E Queenstown. It’s like Chelan meets German ski town, on steroids. It’s this quaint little adventure-junky-packed town situated right on top of a beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains. The shops are full of famous New Zealand merino sweaters, the Ferg Burger lane is full to the brim with salivating travelers and paragliders hang in the sky taking in the sweet, pure air and ‘sweet as’ view. Seriously, can you imagine a more perfect place?

One afternoon in Queenstown, Kara and I hired bikes, stuffed a bottle of wine and two leftover coffee cups in our bags and headed to the lake-front trail. We rode with no agenda. We stopped to sip wine and sit on a dock and talk about God and life and our awe of this place. If Jori were there, I imagine we would have taken a few more Insta-worthy pics and reminisce on PNW weekends. An agenda-less afternoon well spent.

Jori, you would have loved wine day. We loved wine day even more after a slight morning hiccup. We pulled in to AJ Hacketts bungey jumping [[throwback to when Kristen and I jumped off that infamous bridge, the home to the first commercial bungy site in the world]] for a coffee and an adrenaline-stoked-people-watching-sesh. Lil Getz locked us out of the car though, which annoyed the living daylights out of me [[$150 call-out for a car jacker is near enough to cardiac arrest an umemployed backpacker]], but it resulted in one of the funniest sights I’ve ever seen. Yall, we saunter back to the car, even more ready for a 10am Pinot Noir than when we arrived, to see half a dozen people have gathered around Getz. It seems that our locked-out episode was more entertaining than the line of people jumping off bridges in the background. Locals and tourists alike had every inch of window space covered, peering into the windows to help guide the effort. I was hot to trot, but found myself giggling over how entertaining it turned out to be. An unplanned lesson in civility, kindness and making lemonade, in hindsight.

Getz lockout

Back to wine day. It was utterly perfect. Stunning estates, beautiful Pinot Noirs and Sauv Blancs. We planned to hit half a dozen on our way to Wanaka but that’s the beautiful thing about this type of traveling…we didn’t achieve such plan when three forty-something-San Fran-Iron Man-guys distracted us for the rest of the afternoon. We sat out at an old converted church turned cellar door with a view of the mountains and a paddock full of sheep swapping stories with these guys-turned friends. A few bottles of Rose and cheese platters later and the whole afternoon disappeared. We couldn’t have planned it better.

Yep, Jori, you would have loved every minute. I wish we were a threesome for this week, except for the night we had to sleep in the Getz [[you wouldn’t have fit]] and except for the time we had to put on every piece of clothing we owned to get even CLOSE to our 7kg / pp weight limit for our flight back to Sydney. At 4am, it was an exhausted giggle fest trying to work out what we could shove into what pocket and how many layers we could possibly put on…Yeah that mess is for the birds and I don’t know that they would have allowed even one more tiny giggling, desperate American gal on the plane without emptying our wallets for the umpteenth time.

Other than that, you were fondly thought of and sorely missed, sweet-as-girl!

good.

 

 

 

#SoThisOneTime at the Kentucky Derby…

You know those friends and family and strangers, even, who stand by you and lend you shoulders for crying on, ears for soaking up the whinging, grace for your sour words and pathetic puffiness, and hope for your tomorrow…I have a lot of those people, no doubt. But for the sake of this one time, let me tell you bout this one gal..

At the very lowest that I’ve ever been—we’re talking down 30 pounds in 3 weeks, no eating or drinking or speaking, no caring about Christmas or spending time with my family….only sleeping or wish I was sleeping kind of low—one of those faces popped up in my inbox with an email that still gives me chills…

“Anne,” she wrote…”We love you to the moon and back.. Please use this [[referring to a Southwest giftcard]] whenever you feel the need to get away. Visit home, a friend or even us!!”

It was at that moment, that I knew without a doubt two certain things. 1) Kristen Kull knew me better than I knew myself in that moment of despair. And 2) I was going to the Kentucky Derby.

Months later, I’m greeted at the Louisville Airport by two baby ‘hair-pane’ lovin towheads and the hostess with the mostest.

THE Kentucky Derby

As our itinerary noted; we did it all, that one time. We did Kentucky Derby better than anyone may have ever done it before us. Not because we got our nails done to match our dresses, picked out the perfect hats, went to a Jocktails party where jockeys past and present brought me bourbon after bourbon. It wasn’t the best because we sat in the Turf Club for Oaks and then did a twofer, hitting up the box seats for Derby Day, where mint juleps went down as easy as money at the betting windows. It wasn’t even the best because I danced with the man of the hour [[next time you see Mark Kull, ask him for video proof. It’s fairly epic]], saw Joey Fatone in a blinding pink coat and see-through white pants, or because I puffed my first and only cigar at Churchill Downs, for the sake of a good story.

The sun shining on what I can only describe now as a spectacle to rival the Easter Bunny marrying the Vineyard Vines Whale had me smiling, really, truly smiling the entire time.

I don’t think it was the best for any one of those reasons; rather, I think that Derby was special for what it stood for. It might have been my first peek at growth and grace, now that I think about it. It was certainly a lesson in genuine generosity; pure, permanent love; and a selfless commitment to friendship and family. It was, and will always remain, one of the most beautiful gestures I’ve ever known.

Fast forward to departure day…I’m sitting on a plane, heading off into the unknown..feeling a little scared, a little sad, a little ‘what am I doing?’ when I remembered Kristen Kull’s package that had arrived a week prior with strict instructions to ‘OPEN FROM THE HAIR-PANE ONLY.’ I pulled out another note…

My sweetest Annie,

 I’ve been thinking about this moment…for several months now. I’ve been thinking and praying about what I want you to read, know and feel, but more importantly, what it is that God wants you to read, know and feel.

…I hope you always remember this moment and the moment when you get back on the plane to return home and how differently you feel. I wanted you to have something simple, yet pretty…Something to remind you of this journey every time you look at it no matter how long it’s been because after all, you will be changed – changed for the better with a clearer mind…When I found this necklace titled “Circle of Life” it seemed so fitting in so many ways. A circle for: going around the world, there’s no beginning or end…When I look at it I picture God’s arms wrapped around you for protection and comfort.

I also prayed for the perfect verse for you. As soon as I read Ezekiel 36:26 I knew it was meant for you.

“”I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.””

love where you are in every moment of every day, love God (praise Him) and above all else, love yourself.

***

Gifts aren’t my love language–experiences are–Kristen Kull gives me reassurance and comfort and confidence to go, do, dream–she perfectly gives experiences of a  lifetime.

I’m not even sure how to end this story, except that from the depths of my soul, I wanna grow up to be a Kristen Kull and from the depths of my soul, I hope you all have a Kristen Kull to make so many #SoThisOneTimes with.

kd9

Feels like home to me

Good luck getting that song out of your head…I hummed it silently for the duration of our all-too-short stay in Melbourne…but really, what a refreshing few days in a city that I’ve never been to, but that strangely felt familiar. Perhaps it wasn’t because of the city itself [[they still drive on the opposite side of the road, have adorable accents and cafes too cute for words]], but more because of how we spent our time in said city.

Katie, ‘Amazing Katie,’ as the American cousins have formally dubbed her, and her equally amazing mate, Gary, truly made us feel right at home. We read and cooked and worked out in a real gym [[!!!]] and did laundry and talked about our dreams and guilty pleasures and had friends over and did Tuesday night at a food truck and a local watering hole and explored the city by foot….

and….we did wine country…and it was amazing too.

The thing about wine country is that it really doesn’t matter where in the world you are, as long as your palate and mind are open to new grape varietals, the people you’ve trekked with were well chosen, the sun is shining and there’s cheese to be paired.

Yarra Valley

Yarra Valley is one of the great wine regions of Australia, where Chardonnays [[still not my fave..not even in Chardonnay land]] and Pinot Noirs take the cake, so you know it was dang near top of Kara’s and my list of things to do while in Melbourne. What better way to recoup from a great road trip, than indulging in a few tastings, afterall?

Indulge we did and at home we felt. Cheers to amazing people, amazing reds and a home away from home.

Drivin free and feelin great

I feel like every soul in the world must love the feeling of a full tank of gas, windows down, sunglasses on and shoes off, favorite tunes blaring as you cruise toward the beach. Every soul that I’d want to know, anyway. It’s just one of those feelings that screams freedom. Yall know how I feel about freedom.

We picked up our cross-over on the south side of Melbourne on a Friday morning and took off on what I’d soon realize was one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring drives of my life. The Great Ocean Road’s name is as appropriate as they come.

DSC_0076

Not two hours outside of this sprawling metropolis we turned right [[but kept to the left side of the double lines]] and just kept driving.

At every bend in the road was another ‘holy *#^%, look at that view’…Great Ocean Road

Another sleepy beach town with organic cafes and sleek surf shops…

Great Ocean Road

Another hair-pin-turned jaunt through the rain forest; another canopy of gum trees that send eucalyptus aroma swirling through the car; another scenic overlook that you can’t pass up, cause it very well may be better than the last…

Great Ocean Road

Another surfer’s paradise where you could sit and watch the salty blondes paddle out and hitch a wave on repeat…

DSC_0005Another traffic jam of Asian tourist pulled over on the side of the road, cameras out to capture a momma and baby Koala hangin out in the tree across the road [[ok fine, that only happened once, but it was pretty cool]]…

Great Ocean Road Another flock of cockatoos that make their living by stealing food from unsuspecting tourists [[that only happened once too, but it was no doubt, a highlight of my trip..I’m still giggling…Unsuspecting tourist, Kara, is not..she says the cockatoo bites hard]].

DSC_0098We just spent an entire day with our jaws in our laps as we leisurely made our way toward the grand finale.

After a quick hostel workout and a cribbage match over our Thai dinner, we woke up ready to hit the open ocean road again. Destination:  The 12 Apostles.

Because a picture’s worth a thousand words, this:

Two days, 1 tank of gas and a whole lot of pretty later, we made it back to our Melbourne pad feelin pretty free and pretty great.

Great Ocean Road

Sense vs. nonsense

I think Kara and I agree that Cairns agreed with us and vice versa. A box full of favorite memories of our trek so far.

Karen and Gavin, our amazing hosts, rolled out a rain forest haven for us backpackin gals. We showed up to an empty villa with a view ready to be oogled, a pool ready to be dunked in, beds ready to be slept in and an OCD-gal’s dream kitchen ready to be cooked in. We missed K&G for the first 4 days or so, but they graciously allowed us to make ourselves at home….and so we did.

From snorkeling the Reef; to a Cape Trib and Daintree day trip with our favorite tour guide / Dutchman / photographer, turned friend; to a lazy day on Fitzroy Island; to sinking our hands back in to clean cooking and eating, we kept busy and lazy at the same time. Oh, dichotomies.

The part I love most about doing Oz is that I get to do it with family. We get to ask unabashed questions and dig in to politics and pick up on local secrets and cook ‘thank you’ meals like we’d do at home. Sure, we sneak in the ‘must-dos’ as any visitor would, but doing it with a local lean makes it feel more real, more sensible.

Sensible.

What a concept.

Nonsense.

What a blood-boiling infuriation.

Here’s where I’ve landed on some Cairns-inspired sense vs. nonsense:

  • Sourcing, cooking and eating whole, local foods–makes sense and feels good. Gavin’s panko-crusted fish [caught and cleaned with his own two hands, right in his own backyard] is the most mouthwatering flaky white fish I’ve ever tasted. Doused with fresh mango / avo guac and a cabbage slaw, with a side of roast pumpkin, pine nut, feta salad. Yeah, go on and call it sensible palate heaven.
  • Preferences. Nonsense. Utter nonsense. That I can run for office in Queensland against Kara and Gavin, but Kara can have a side deal with Gavin to collect all of the votes he earns to count as her own is ABSOLUTE nonsense [[I’m sure you political junkies could point out equivalent neuroses in our American system as well]]. The things you learn over panko-crusted fish tacos.
  • Free community fitness classes down at the lagoon. Sensible. Smart. Hilariously entertaining, given that the class we watched was Aqua Zumba. But seriously, can you imagine all the local fitness clubs in downtown DC putting on free community yoga classes and pilates and dance classes on the Mall, for anyone and everyone who wants to join in? Move. Get healthy. Do it as a tourist or a local. Do it to feel rich and not get rich. Riotously sensible demonstration in CBD Cairns. We should jump on that bandwagon.
  • Media. Should be absolutely sensible, right? Should just be facts on facts on facts. But I’m learning that as in any country, media has more often than not, turned into a nonsense money-making business rather than an objective community storytelling service. It makes my public relations grounded spirit sad. Can’t we just tell honest stories as they truly unfolded, rather than splicing and dicing sound bites or covering atrocious behavior that rewards nonsense? We opted not to pay for cable back in our Woodinville Villa this year, but catching some news with the cousins and recanting stories of deplorable media behavior just reminded me how transactional our global culture’s become. Yuck. Big, huge yuck.
  • Then there’s nature, which we saw from both sides of the sense spectrum. We got to be at one with nature in so many ways this last week. We snorkeled with fish and just quietly observed their daily behavior, careful not to touch the coral and damage the thousand-year-old-Natural-Wonder. We saw a cassowary crossing the road through the juicy, thick Daintree Rain Forest. But then, at the top of ‘Killer Hill’ in Karen’s neighborhood, nature’s been corrupted by human hands. They’ve literally ushered in a pest by sourcing cane toads [a natural predator for some animal population they wanted to bring into balance], but unnaturally created a breeding frenzy for what’s now become a new nuisance. Just hundreds of cane toads scurrying from your foot before it squishes its guts. Nature’s a weird one that swings both ways, I think.

It was all just a glaring reminder at how seeing and observing and doing first-hand is truly the best way to learn—the best way to fuel an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Cairns, I just love you. You made me think. You made me do. You made me relax but aspire. You made my hair look a hot mess, my skin sweat beads like never before and nearly gave Kara a heat stroke. But you’re one hotbed of beautiful views.

Karen hugged me goodbye at the airport this morning and fared me well with a ‘you’ll be back; so we’ll see you later.’

Yes, I’ll be back, Karen. That just makes sense.

Second thoughts on water…

I still love water. I’ve seen and submerged in a lot of it during our stay in Cairns, and it’s utterly beautiful. But I’ve been consumed with thinking ‘how can something so beautiful and so natural cause such pain and chaos?’

Crock warning signs everywhere, vinegar on every beach corner and stinger-suits galore…as beautiful as this Australian ocean is, it’s absolutely a poisonous devil’s playground.

Then there was Will. And now there’s Travis. And I’m just agonizing over the dichotomies of life right now….

  • Water is beautiful and calming and so peaceful, but those tides can churn, waters can become rough and perilous, and yesterday’s glassy blanket of blue can close chapters long before the story should be over….before it barely even began.
  • Wine can fill my soul, but it can shred my body when my overindulgence wins out.
  • Trust is good and right. It’s the easy path for me, choosing to give the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes that can bite you in the ass too. Sometimes it bites you in the ass that now has no shorts, cause your favorite pair’s been swiped by a fellow backpacker. A petty example, but an example nonetheless.
  • Love is beautiful too. I believe in it. I see it around me, I feel it. But it broke me. It broke me so hard, that I’m not quite sure that I’ll ever be able to buff out as radiant a shine as there once was.
  • How can growth and grace, two words that feel like they should sing in constant harmony, require and cause so much chaos? How can the balance feel so hard at times? How can two beautiful things work against each other, but need each other at the same time?

These dichotomies consume me…Is it a ‘too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing’ scenario? Is it God’s way of telling us to settle, trust Him, wait for Him to figuratively turn water into wine in our lives and always, always love him? I don’t know what it is. I don’t think anyone does. It’s impossible to work out how such good things can cause such bad things…how bad things happen to such good people.

I can’t quiet this internal dialogue. Not today and probably not tomorrow either, so I suppose in the meantime I’ll just send so much love, all the love I can muster, to those good people who loved Will and Travis. And trust that when we sip on a glass of wine with our toes dangling off the dock in the cool water, we’ll feel the love coming right back to us.

Wish you were here from the Great Barrier Reef

So we took more than a few moments to relax [trash TV indulgences jncluded] in Hervey Bay…necessary moments I keep reminding myself, for travel endurance sake. Anyway, an ad came on TV that read ‘wish you were here’ and it got me thinking… Who exactly do I wish was right here with me right now? I didn’t think about it long enough to answer my own subconscious question… But today I did. And it was obvious from the moment we boarded our little sail boat, built in the 1950s, down at the marina in Cairns, Australia.

Mr.McCoy likely doesn’t know how often I think of him. But he is responsible for imparting some pretty important learnings on me…

The way he holds hands with Mrs. McCoy is a love I adore and one that I wish for all of my people. His giggle is infectious. And he made me my first Old Fashioned on the deck of his beautiful boat as we topped off a day at Greers Ferry one salty summer night years ago. To this day, that is my favorite drink. To this day, the Old Fashioneds that Mr. McCoy makes me on his boat are the best serve to be had in the country [[I’ve come close to proving it ]]. To this day, I cannot sip on one without thinking about sweet Mr.Mccoy.

old fashioneds

His daughter is one of my most long-lived best friends. But when I’m back at ‘home’ in Arkansas, Mr. McCoy treats me as his very own…and for a moment I really am Bcoy’s sister. Oh I’m smiling.

And when I fly home for a weekend and they’ve booked me a day out on the lake…once everyone is settled in and are happily sipping a drink and floating on rafts soaking up those southern rays, Mr. McCoy slides on his flippers and face mask and quietly slips off to explore the lakes bottom.

When I win the lottery, I will bring that sweet man to visit Doug, from Key West, who will scoop us up at the Cairns marina in his old refurbished sail boat, called the Falla,. Doug will drive us 90 minutes off shore to the outer reef where we’ll spend a day snorkeling one of Gods great natural wonders. It will be one of those ‘I don’t think we’re in Greer’s Ferry Lake anymore, Todo’ moments.

The Great Barrier Reef

We will perfectly replicate today [[except our GoPro will have a full battery…omg #fail]] floating through the teal blue water spotting erradescant everything. We will find the incessant Barramundi the size of Layton, clams the size of smart cars and brilliantly colored parrot fish the size of my leg.

Yes. That's a Barramundi
Yes. That’s a Barramundi

We’ll listen to the tinkering sound of millions of fish, big and small, stunning and strange, all in their own unique way, feed on the coral, and then watch as they spit out the yucky bits. We will ooh and ahh over coral–every kind of coral you could ever imagine and then LOTS that you never could have imagined–coral that Nat Geo doesn’t even do justice until you see it for yourself. We will lather sunscreen time and time again, but still hope for a tan, feast on a lunch of salad and deli meats, make friends with an intimate crowd of fellow snorkelers from France and Germany and Colorado. We will take photos of us jumping into the water from the sails ladder 15 feet up.

The Great Barrier Reef

Then when we see a shark… A real big shark, it’ll scare the piss out of us enough to send us hauling butt back to the boat where they’ll serve us cheese and fresh fruit and wine from a coffee mug  [[which we’ll appropriately swap for some bourbon and bitters]] as we cruise back to shore.

The Great Barrier Reef

If that day is anything like today, I think Mr. McCoy might move to Cairns.

It was an incredible second trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, and all I can think about now that we’re pulling in to the dock is, Mr. McCoy, I wish you were here.

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Generosity abounds in Brisbane

While I’m intent on being mindfully present during this journey—not living in the past or the future—just sitting here and being here in the now, it’s painfully clear that I cannot wait to ‘pay it forward.’

It always amazes me how no time and no distance can distance those who really matter in life—you know, those friends and family who you can just slide right back into giggles and easy conversation. Those kinds are special. It’s probably one of my favorite life treasures—those kinds of people. They’re gems. And I’m swimming in those gems here in Oz.

We arrived in Brisbane on a sunny morning, where Jodi and Liz greeted us with those giggles and easy convos I find so simple and lovely. We sipped coffee on the top of Mount Kootha.

Mt Kootha

We catamaraned around the Brisbane River, walked around South Bank and caught up on the ins and outs of the Aussie / American rellies.

Then more rellie gems showed up at Rowan and Lynda’s for one of those ‘we only get together for a big family BBQ when an American Temme is in town.’ That people will just drop their plans, pitch in on a feast and spend a Friday night sipping Cab and swapping stories with two backpacking gals on the patio just warms my heart.

The parrots woke us bright and early, inspiring a quick 5k to the local Target—sounds so normal, so American, yeah? Except that flying foxes draped our pathway, our Target run was to collect various electronic adapters and breakfast was accompanied by one of those fancy flat whites that only a Truss home can whip up like it’s a simple brew. That, and our afternoon was filled with snapping selfies with old grey kangaroos and snuggling the eucalyptus-dazed koalas.

Lone Pine Sanctuary

Lone Pine Sanctuary

Lone Pine Sanctuary

We trekked out again the next day [no idea what day of the week that actually would have been…not a clue] to see the Natural Bridge where we likely could have spent the rest of the morning just sitting and watching that pretty waterfall crash into the cave below.

Cave

Lucky we didn’t though, as we also sauntered around the markets, snagged a few pies and watched surfers on the Gold Coast for the rest of the afternoon. Ohh, thank you for that indulgence—yall know I love sitting on the water. Just so ‘ahhh.’

As if that wasn’t enough, Jodi and Liz drove us up [or over or down??] to the lovely Hervey Bay where Kara and I spent a lavishly relaxing few days at Lyn and Warren’s sleek condo on the beach. Hot-tubbing on the deck overlooking the coast, riding our bikes along the windy boardwalk through town, getting caught in several pre-Cyclone Marcia storms, soaking up a different type of villa life, thanks to the Deputy PM and lots of home cooking could only be topped by a visit to Fraser Island.

Fraser Island was and remains one of my favorite places on the planet. As the largest island in the world made entirely of sand [with a lush rain forest populating the inner island]…

rainforest …a recognized beach highway [slash airport—yes, tiny prop planes, but planes nonetheless take tourists up for the birds-eye view of this World Heritage Site, using the packed sand as their runway]…it just is one of those places that you know God spent a little extra time with.

Fraser Island

Steve, our jolly tour-guide navigated us through the island in a big 4WD truck. Kara lucked out with the front seat, otherwise her birthday trip would have been a lot less glamorous and lot more vomit-y.

Fraser Island

I think these pics speak for themselves…not even a need to caption…this is just Fraser Island. And it makes me happy. I loved that we could celebrate a great 28 for my sweet Kare in this beautiful place.

Lots of pictures, lots of beach-time and relaxation, lots of beautiful.

The most beautiful was the generosity though…yes, I loved the real-time moments. But oh I cannot wait to pay it back to these precious, generous gems.