A time to give thanks!

Tomorrow, in the United States of America, it is Thanksgiving – so, “Happy Thanksgiving” to all my American friends!

Happy-Thanksgiving-2015-clipart-free-download-1

On the fourth Thursday in November Americans gather together to enjoy family, feasting, and football. It really is a big deal. Unless you have visited America during Thanksgiving, you may not appreciate it. It is an important time of year and very much family oriented. In fact it is estimated that 47 million people will travel to make a Thanksgiving dinner! There is also much turkey and pumpkin to be had!

Happy-Thanksgiving-2015-clipart-free-download-4

Australia has no equivalent holiday. But I think I like the Thanksgiving tradition. It is far less commercial most other American holidays, and it’s all about family – just being together and giving thanks for what you have. I really like that idea, not enough people take the time to do this; there should be more of it!

The first Thanksgiving is believed to have occurred in 1691 when the pilgrims in Plymouth (Massachusetts) invited the local native Indians to join the celebration of their first successful harvest. However, the tradition as we now know it wasn’t born until 1863, when President Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day be held each November. If you would like to read more about the history of thanksgiving, click here.

Thanksgiving-parade-images-8Thanksgiving celebrations are big and the biggest has to be the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, held in New York City. This event dates back to 1924 and has been televised since 1952. Millions watch this 3-hour parade and enjoy the spectacle of the elaborately decorated floats as they wind their way through the streets of Manhattan.

 

Thanksgiving generally marks the beginning of the “holiday season” in the USA. It also marks one of the biggest sale events of the year – the black Friday sales, occurring the day after Thanksgiving – and signals the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. This day is generally a holiday for many as well, so a long weekend for most and a good deal of shopping is to be had if you can stand the crowds.

So, putting aside the parades and the sales and getting back to the essence of Thanksgiving, I would like to encourage you to see the blessings in your life and give thanks for what you have; I have much to be grateful for (even though I find many things lacking in my life – it’s still a blessing), I also give thanks for friends, especially those recently found (a benefit of my most recent adventures) and of course, for my family!

I would like to sign off with a prayer – whether you are religious or not (ignore the mention of God, or substitute your own deity if you prefer) – the sentiment is what is most important:

 Prayer of Thanksgiving by Vienna Cobb Anderson

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Long haul air travel.

So, we are now safely in Australia – in Canberra actually, to pick up my car that my parents were babysitting whilst I was away.

However, I was awake at 4am this morning – getting over a long haul flight can be a bit of a drag. I don’t sleep well on airplanes, and I barely slept on our transpacific flight. I was so tired I had a 3-hour nap yesterday afternoon; this possibly partially explains the wake time of 4am!

Flying from DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth, USA) to Sydney, Australia is a looong flight; it is actually the longest non stop flight in the world. It’s roughly 17-hours depending on weather etc., so you have plenty of time on your hands; you can watch a movie or 2 or 3, read a book, do some handicraft, contemplate your life, write your memoirs or just sleep, if you are one of those lucky people who can sleep on a plane. I’ve tried to sleep, but all I do is uncomfortably toss and turn, and never do much more than lightly snooze.

plane_clouds

The clouds out the window

We were lucky enough to fly premium economy (a step up from cattle class, but not quite business class) on the big A380 Airbus with QANTAS. I can recommend it if you can afford it; that extra bit of room is good (although not enough to stretch out sufficiently to sleep properly) and I also found the service to be great.

 

plane_inside

premium economy cabin

Flying is always interesting; particularly international flights. Generally it’s exciting. Have you ever wondered why so many other people are taking the same flight? What’s their story? It’s great people watching (& listening) – well, interesting at least if you can ignore the screaming infant, the loud children, the snoring neighbor, etc.

plane_viewSometimes when flying a window seat is not such a great advantage, particularly if you have to crawl over someone to go and use the bathroom; but sometimes the view can be just wonderful. Our flight departed DFW at 8:10pm and we were scheduled to land in Sydney at 6:05am, so for most of the flight it is total darkness outside, so not much to see.  However, I got to see the night lights of Dallas was we took off, which was a nice goodbye and I did see a little bit of Sydney as we landed – there was quite a bit of cloud at the time and we came in from the south, so we didn’t get that fabulous view of the Barbour, the bridge or the opera house. Disappointed sigh! But during the night I opened the shade on the window and looked out – and what did I see? The glorious view of the southern stars with the Southern Cross sparkling beautifully at me. Wonderment sigh!

Anyway, we are back in the land of Oz and now all I have to do is try to settle back in, readjust and overcome that odd feeling of being a stranger in your own homeland!

Goodbye Texas

It’s time to say goodbye to Texas! And, yes, there will be (& has been) tears. 😥 sads

 

Almost 2 years ago now, my husband was made an offer to work in the USA for 12 months. What an opportunity – we could live in Texas, experience a new culture, do something different for a while and maybe have the odd adventure or two! We have now lived in Texas for 19 months and it has prematurely and abruptly come to an end.

Although this is a very sad turn of events – I think I recognised myself passing through most of the acknowledged stages of grief with anger and depression featuring strongly – I have now moved into acceptance and am trying to move past my sadness and bitterness and appreciate all the wonderful experiences I have had whilst here in the US; things I would not have done otherwise.

It wasn’t easy at the start, but I managed to make a life here and I have meet some amazing people; some will be friends for life!

Living in the North Texas town of Sherman, we have tried to experience as much of Texas (and Texoma) as we could, and also explore further afield when we could. There have been so many wonderful experiences. I was going to list our experiences here – but I now realise that we have done so much, it’s way too much to mention it all.

We have had opportunity to visit quite a few of the local sights and have enjoyed the uniquely Texan experiences of shooting rifles and pistols both at a gun range and on a ranch.

Cate_shooting

Other places we have visited in Texas are Fort Worth (where we saw the longhorn drive),

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Texarkana, San Antonio – the Alamo and it’s wonderful riverwalk,

Riverwalk-view_from-bridgeWichita Falls, and the Texas hill country town of Fredericksburg. I also managed to get to visit Houston.

With Dallas being so close we managed to see most of the major touristy sites. We visited Dealey Plaza and the Book Repository, took a look at Old Red museum, checked out the DMA, enjoyed a visit to the Dallas Aquarium, took in the view from the top of Reunion Tower and enjoyed several visits to the Arboretum (one of my favourite places).

 

arboretum

There is so much to do in Dallas – make sure you visit some time!

We also enjoyed the very unique experience of visiting the Texas State Fair.

BigTex

In addition we also caught a couple of Baseball games at Arlington.

Cate_baseball

Besides Texas though, I have had the privilege of visiting another 13 states! Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa and New York.

Some highlights:

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Statue of Liberty, NY

Statue of Liberty, NY

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – New Mexico

I had no desire to visit the USA before coming here ,but I have a new appreciation of America and it’s people. Texas in particular will always have a place in my heart.  💕💕

I hope I can come back one day!

 

One last visit to the Arboretum 

With our time in Texas rapidly nearing an end, this little wombat took one last wander; I wanted to see the 12 days of Christmas display at the Dallas arboretum, so we took a break from our packing and went for a quick visit.

ArboretumGazebos

I love visiting the arboretum – it has been the one place in Texas that I have visited the most. From now until January 3rd, the Arboretum has a fabulous, exquisite display: the 12 days of Christmas. Each of the 12 days are displayed in a giant gazebo, beautifully displayed and with Christmas carols playing.

Here is the poem and some pictures:

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

ArboretumDay1Gazebo

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Arboretum_Day4_CallingBird

One of the four calling birds

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Arboretum_Day11_pipersOn the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Drummers Drumming
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Merry Christmas to everyone!

And if you get the opportunity – go visit the arboretum in Dallas.

At the moment – the remnants of the pumpkin patch display is still about:

Aboretum_Us_PumpkinPatch

 

Armistice Day – Remembrance Day – Veterans Day

November 11th, in countries all around the world, is recognised as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I (the Great War). The armistice was signed November 11th 1918 at 5:10am between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France; the actual ceasefire commenced at the 11:00am (allowing information to travel to different areas of the Western Front).

So now, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we remember, and recognise the sacrifices of those who did not return home after the Great War.

Many allied nations commemorate Armistice Day in some way.

In the United States, November 11th is recognised as Veterans Day; a day which celebrates not only those who served and died, but all American service men and women, living and deceased.

In Australia November 11th is recognised as Remembrance Day, and now recognises the loss of Australian lives in all wars and conflicts. At 11am, one minutes silence is generally observed.

In many countries the red poppy is a symbol of Armistice Day and is worn by many. The Flanders Poppy is recognised throughout the allied nations as the flower of remembrance and is often worn on Armistice Day. The red poppies were among the first plants that sprouted from the devastation of the battlefields of northern France and Belgium. According to ‘Soldiers’ folklore the poppies were vivid red from having been nurtured in ground drenched with the blood of their comrades’.

The poem below was written by John McCrae in 1915:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thank you to all who have served and those currently serving.

This is a photo of my grandfather who served in the first World War – he was just 20 years old at the time:

grandfather

Lest We Forget!

And the clouds rolled in!

This post has been a little while in coming; the last week and a half has not been easy. It has been a roller coaster of emotions for us. Shock, sadness and anger have been warring with each other – it’s exhausting. So, to try and overcome some of those emotions we thought we would take a road trip – our last one here in the US; it’s time for us to go home, but the decision was one that was imposed upon us with Andrew being made redundant. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you are invited to work in another country and then have the rug pulled out from under you and you are sent packing!

Anyway, back to that road trip. It’s fall here in the US and there are many areas where the leaves changing color are quite a spectacle. One of those places is an area known as the Talimena Scenic Drive (a 50 mile stretch of road from east Oklahoma to west Arkansas). So, we set off to have a look before all the color disappeared.

It didn’t turn out quite as expected however. We encountered quite a bit of cloud, fog and rain. We were advised to drive along the valley road first – so glad we did, at least we saw a little color. Driving became very challenging once we got further up the mountains! These are some photos taken from the car:

Talimena_CarDrive

Talimena_CarView

Talimena_QW_stateParkWe stayed a night at the Queen Wilhemina Lodge (the castle in the clouds), a recently renovated lodge; very popular & I managed to snag the last available room (people had cancelled due to the weather!) – this was the view from our room when we arrived:Talimena_QWL_view

There was a nice fire to sit by, but no reviving drinks to be had – there was no alcohol at the lodge – its situated in a dry county and they are required to wait 12 months before applying for a liquor license – damn!  The weather continued to move in; it got worse and we experienced a severe storm, with lots of rain and a power outage. The next morning it was still very cloudy, but still beautiful, mystical, even!

Talimna_beautyInFog

It eventually cleared enough for us to start our drive back along the mountain ridge. We saw some pretty sights;

Talimena_AutumnColour Talimena_AutumnLeaves_0955

Talimena_AutumnLeaves_0952 Talimena_AutumnColour_0976

it wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, but all in all, it was still another great experience!