Timing is Everything

HDU_TimingIsEverything“I haven’t posted a blog in weeks,” I said as he sat down at the kitchen table.

“I know.”

“I don’t know what to say.” My words lingered in the air waiting for his reply.  With a hint of resignation in his voice and as he pushed himself up from the table to stand, he agreed with another, “I know.”

“If I say what’s really going on, people will worry.”

“I know.”

“What should I share?” I asked because not everything gets told in this blog.   We only ever share the basics.  Reality would be too much, too bare, too human.

“I don’t know,” he admitted with a sigh.

“Me either,” I replied, giving in to this business of not knowing what to say and when.  That’s why I haven’t blogged for a month because I didn’t want to lie but I didn’t want to tell the truth either.

Status Update

Will the Hooks make it to Australia isn’t really the question anymore.  Will Hook make it another year is probably more accurate.

That second question circles us constantly now.  Certainly, it questions us tonight or I should say this morning/afternoon because that conversation above didn’t happen today but last week.   That conversation happened because of the continuing weight loss followed by a continuing decline of hemoglobin in Hook’s system.  That conversation happened after Hook’s unexpected blood transfusion two weeks ago followed by the really unexpected second transfusion yesterday or two days ago depending on how accurate you want to be because I started writing this at 10:30 at night in St. David’s emergency room.  Then it was 4:30 in the morning when they wheeled Hook up to his hospital room but now it’s almost 1pm central standard time the next day or today, Saturday, April 13th 2013.

Before the second transfusion, we’d had a disagreement over whether Hook should continue with chemo treatments anymore.

“You won’t have to worry about dying from cancer because you’ll drop dead long before then from malnutrition.  Something is WRONG and we need to find out what it is and we need to STOP these chemo treatments until we know what’s wrong.” My shrill voice rose to meet the hysteria that had been hiding behind all those lingering questions in my mind.  Is he going to make it? Why is he declining?  What are we not doing right?

But back to the emergency room which turned into an overnight hospital stay and my contact lenses that dried out over four hours ago are stuck to dry eyeballs and my brain’s not functioning so great so it’s hard for me to know if I’m making any sense.

  • A blood clot has formed in Hook’s left leg and he’s been admitted so the clot can be thinned and dissolved with a non-invasive, minor procedure.  We’d noticed some swelling last night and it was our good fortune that Hook’s oncologist was the on-call doctor.   His oncologist, who only two days ago impressed upon Hook the necessity of calling him for even the slightest changes in his body, recommended the emergency room right away.
  • Things look okay so far.  Timing is everything.   If we had waited until this morning to call, who knows what would have happened.  Or, if it hadn’t been his oncologist’s on-call weekend and instead we’d gotten another doctor who didn’t know Hook’s history, we probably wouldn’t have been recommended to go to the emergency room.  Timing is everything.

I could have begun this blog with the announcement that Hook was back in the hospital but I needed to ease you into it, because I don’t want you to worry and because timing is everything.

I’ll post again tomorrow with what I know.

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Where In Australia – Part II


I’m on a quest this morning.    Actually, I’m back on a quest, a re-quest.  Ha!  I’m also on a coffee high so if this blog sounds like I’m bouncing off the walls, it’s just the caffeine working its way into my fingers!

Okay, the quest.

Before Hook’s and my sabbatical detour into no-where-near-Australia took place, we’d been in the process of collecting stories about Australia and Perth.  After we’d answered the questions How Did You Choose Australia and Where in Australia, we were on a mission to collect as much information from people who had stories and recommendations for “must see” places in Australia.  Editor’s Note:  Hook wasn’t really on the mission with me.  He mostly just rolled his eyes at things that I said “we” were doing.

Your Favorite Places to Visit in Australia?

I need your stories.  If you’ve ever been to Perth or any other place in Australia and you’d recommend we visit, would you tell us your story?   Or, if you’ve never been to Australia but you’ve heard from multiple sources about a particular city or tourist spot, we’d love to hear about that, too.  (If you’ve always wanted to go to Australia but haven’t had the opportunity yet, tell us where and what you’d do.)  We want to hear from everyone or so says the caffeine in my bloodstream.

Note:  If you’d rather I didn’t share your recommendations in a future blog post, please be sure to let me know.   Most people love to share their experiences but they do not necessarily want to see it in writing on a blog and I totally get that.   This isn’t Hard Copy so your anonymity is safe with us.

Stories About Perth

A colleague of Hook’s spent part of a summer in Perth awhile back and came over to the house one evening to take us through a slide show of photos he’d taken.  This was about two months before we were originally set to depart for the down under.  It was the first time we’d seen photos that hadn’t come off the web and weren’t edited to appear better than they really were.  Hook and I felt like we were seeing Perth in the raw and we loved it.  (Thanks Bill!).  Then I met a guy at a networking event last year who had lived in Perth for a short while about 12 years ago.  He had specific recommendations of places to visit in Perth except neither he nor I had pen and paper on us so all of the details of what he told me that evening have flown out of my memory banks.  I remember the company this guy worked for but I don’t think I can dial them up and say, Hey, is there a guy who works there that lived in Australia like 12 years ago and loved a place called Perth?  Actually, that sounds like the kind of Lucy thing I’d do so please save me from myself.   Tell us your Australia stories.  And to those Aussies who are reading:  you know better than anyone the hidden gems, so please share!

Psst … types of sharing to avoid:

  • People who visited, lived, or moved to Australia and didn’t/don’t like it:  I met a guy who had visited Perth for a week and hated it.  He kept asking me, “Why do you want to go there?”  I really had to resist the urge to slap him.  Hard.   Don’t be this guy.
  • People with shorteimers:  A friend of a friend, upon hearing the news that Hook and I were moving to Australia for a sabbatical, told us that she’d lived in Perth for a year as a student.  But, she couldn’t recall any specific details of the city, what to see, suggestions of places to visit inside Perth.  I wasn’t sure who to feel bad for — her or me.  Me because I wasn’t receiving any helpful information or her because she couldn’t remember an entire year of her life.  She did give me a good piece of advice, though:  Travel as much as possible within the country.   She said it was her greatest regret not to go outside of Perth. (This helpful advice redeemed her shorteimers.)

I can’t believe I haven’t thought to ask this of all of you before.  Oh, wait, that’s right.  I was busy losing my mind.

An Update For The Dr. Hook Fans

It’s a day to day thing.  Some days are better than others.  Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back but at least we always gain a step.   Today he feels good enough to take a short trip to Boomerang’s, the Australian pie place here in Austin that I mentioned in my last post.   It’s drizzling outside this morning but we’re not going to let that keep us away from our first Australia Day Party.   Oh, and if you happen to click on that Boomerang’s link to their Facebook page, feel free to check out my new Hook The Talent, Inc., Facebook company page, too, and Like the sh*t out of it for me, okay?   🙂    (It’s the coffee!!!!)

G’day mates!

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From Funk to Super: The Hook-Australian Update

The Olympics came and went, August came and went and now, if I’m not careful, September will come and go, too.

My lackadaisical attitude hit right after my last blog posting.  I’d been in a bit of a funk, the kind where you have all these different directions you could go but none of them are completely where you want to go.  Instead of going anywhere, you decide to go nowhere.  You come to a dead stop like slamming on the brakes in the middle of the road even though there’s no car in front of you.

Some of you know what I mean.

August required some Brothers Johnson to help me get the funk outta my face.  Snoop Dog wouldn’t do.   And to help this process along, I did what any self-respecting, mature woman of 47 would do:  I ran away from home.

Running Away From Home

When I was 14 years old, my father, Lou, took a stand against my late night talks on the phone with my then boyfriend.   Remember the kitchen wall phone with the long, winding cord that you could twirl around your fingers as you talked?  I would sit on the steps leading down to the basement with the door between the kitchen and the basement partially closed so I could giggle in private.  Exercising his patriarchal rights, Lou took away my phone privileges.  In an act of teenage defiance, I hopped a bus from Saginaw to Flint. 45 miles away, learning the hard way that $10 dollars doesn’t go very far when you have to buy a $4.50 bus ticket.  I was gone for what felt like an entire week but was really only three days.  I chose Flint because I had a friend who lived there and it felt brave to my 14-year old self.

Flint, Michael Moore’s Flint of Roger & Me, is not a place people run to but away from.  No one runs to Saginaw either but at least Saginaw had one thing going for it – it wasn’t Flint.  I was taking a stand (so was Lou), fed up (so was Lou), and I meant to take drastic measures (again, Lou).

Running away from home when you’re 14 is eye-opening.   Running away when you’re 47 is just another charge on the credit card in San Antonio which is where I ran to.   My tastes and my friends have changed, but my lifelong desire not to be stifled has not.

I sent a text to Hook the next day just in case he hadn’t realized I wasn’t there anymore.   Poor Lou agonized over my absence.   Hook probably didn’t notice until I didn’t show up for dinner … the next day.

After getting our lives back in order, Hook’s and mine, I realized that I hadn’t taken a break.  Oh sure, we’d spent weeks and half weeks on and off in Port Aransas but that was more for Hook’s decompression.  Beach or no beach, I still worked doing my virtual recruiting and career coaching.

Within a three-month period, we went from planning a life overseas to planning to save Hook’s life to redesigning what our new, temporary lives would be.   In a bad case situation, it’s the best of circumstances.  No sane person could ask for more and that’s not just a repressed Pollyanna talking.   We really couldn’t ask for things to be better.

But the summer came and went and I missed it somehow and then Hook said something he shouldn’t have said (what husband doesn’t?) so I waited until he left for work one Friday morning, just like I’d waited for Lou to leave that morning back in 1979, and I packed a bag and ran away.

And it felt great.   Just like it had before.  And this time I could drive myself, so there.

I know most women, if presented with the right amount of alcohol in small intervals, would admit to the secret desire to walk onto a train, hop in a car, get on a plane and just go.  No note, no call.   Nothing to anyone.   Ppfft.   Figure it out for yourself.

 And What Does Any of This Have To Do With Being Down Under?

Well everything actually.  One of the allures of Australia, and one of the reasons we are still determined to get there, is that Aussies have this knack for going with the flow.  It’s different than say with the French who pretend to care only about wine and taking it easy but who are closet tight asses and whose weather can really suck.  Or even the Mexicans who claim to live on a mañana schedule in siesta time which feels great initially but the flow still needs to flow at some point and the whole mañana thing eventually gets on your nerves.

We chose Australia because it is on the other side of the world with an 11-hour difference, sometimes 12 depending on how we are monkeying with our clocks.  When Americans are sleeping, Australians are awake.  When we’re working, they’re dreaming.   People in Perth have the Outback in their backyard and they rest against the Indian Ocean.  We here in Austin have some incredible parks and Lady Bird Lake.   I love Austin but there’s just no comparison to the beauty of Australia.

One of the gift books I’d received, Mutant Message Down Under, was written by Marlo Morgan, an American woman who takes a four month walkabout in the Australian Outback.  There was some controversy surrounding the book because the author wrote it as fiction but then later said it was non-fiction but then changed her mind again and said it was fiction.  Fiction schmiction.  That woman did a walkabout and she convinced wellness gurus Og Mandino, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and Wayne Dyer to write praises for her book.  Then Harper Collins turned around and published a million copies.

Here’s what we know:  there was a woman, there was an Outback, she walked.    And I want to walk, too, in the Outback in 2013; we think/hope/are planning.  “We,” remember?  Everything is ‘we’ now.

The Super Hook Update

Hook has passed through six weeks of intravenous chemo and is now onto daily radiation with chemo pills as a chaser.   The radiation with chemo sandwich will continue through the rest of September and the first week of October.   Then his body will take a rest from all the drugs with surgery planned for November.

Hook is doing great, a teensy tiny bit on the tired side, but otherwise great.  Or “Super!” as one of our nurse practitioner/advisors/doctor’s assistants (I have no clue what she is) says to us every, single time we meet.  “Do you feel tired or do you feel super?”

You cannot ask Hook if he feels tired because his automatic answer is, “Tired?  Well, yes, yes I do feel a little tired.”   And then I have to butt in with, “No, he’s not tired.   He sleeps a little more in the morning but his energy is the same.   He’s still swimming and bugging and fishing.”

“Super!”  Our assistant doctor-like person says.   She is who the doctors have us meet with so we’ll feel like we’re meeting with them.  We only actually get to see the doctor every third visit.  Do they really think we can’t tell the difference?  Our person is bubbly but annoying, perky but forgetful, genuinely nice but eternally distracted so much so that I want to punch her in the face before her mouth ever opens to save us both the hassle of conversing.

But I keep my hands to myself, screaming only in my head, when our practitioner/advisor forgets to tell us what we really need to know or says things like, “I just can’t keep all these prescriptions straight.”  And how does she think we do it? Or, she forgets to set up a “very important appointment” that is so important she cannot tell us why it’s important or who it is going to be with.   “It just is.  Trust me.”   Super!

You should have seen Hook’s oncologist and radiologist fist-bumping him after the first set of test results came in.  That’s how excited they were that the chemo was killing off what it was supposed to, and the radiation was not burning a hole in his skin.

The doctors exclude me from their excitement; they do not raise their closed fists to me because we are not on the same team.  I am on a maybe-surgery-won’t-be-necessary team, and they are on a he’s-almost-ready-to-be-cut-open team.   I’d have a little more faith in the process, in the medical system, if it seemed everyone was reading from the same game play.  But we meet and re-meet and discuss and re-discuss and have the same conversations over and over and over again that it takes everything in me not to punch them all in the face and say, SUPER.  But I don’t.  I am antsy but quiet; stoic with a wide-eyed hysterical look which I’m quite certain doesn’t look super.

2013 Australia Plans

Our plans are still on for Oz-land in 2013, so much so that Hook will meet with an academic guest from Curtin University of Technology this month.   The Curtin contact will be in Dallas and a connection to a connection to a connection was made and viola, they will stop in Austin to meet.

Why It’s All Going to Work Out

Four months ago, when Hook and I received the soap opera-like phone call about his diagnosis from a nurse who couldn’t answer any of our questions, we sat down side-by-side and scrolled through websites together to read what we could about pancreatic cancer, the stages, and the possible outcomes.

My first thought after reading was, Okay. This is going to be okay.  Hook read the same sites and thought, I have six months.

We communicate like all married couples communicate– we don’t– and our initial reactions to the situation were comical:  Hook wanted to update beneficiaries; I wanted to update our plane tickets.

We did update the beneficiaries and we cancelled the plane tickets but only because I didn’t listen to my instinct, and my instinct is this:  The only thing that’s ever going to kill Hook is me.

It’s all super!   And I am keeping the funk outta of our face(s).

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Gaining Everything But Australia

Hook has gained two pounds.  I’ve gained five.   Who gains weight during chemo?   It’s good news of course because Hook had already lost 10 pounds which was one of the red flags that brought us to the Hooks here and now.    But I barely reach 5’4” in height so five pounds on me looks like 10 pounds on my body and 15 on my moon face.

I wished I had titled this blog WTF except we no longer feel that way now that we’ve ridden out the Australia-that-never-happened fiasco.  Good-bye to a chaotic June, a calm July, and hello to a coffee-filled August.

But just for a moment, can I share all the good that has come out of the chaos?

Three Best Responses to Our Candy Situation:
• Srsly, WTF?  (on a card)
• WTF?  (via email)
• That sucks!  (in person)

(Remember, we’re calling the cancer, “candy“.)

Then there was what Hook deemed my stage of “denial” not of the candy but of our move to Australia.  It feels wonderful to laugh about this stuff because it was not funny when I was living it.   In my mind, I was already in Australia, had been there for several months, and I wasn’t able to come to a screeching halt as needed.

How It All Went Down

After we’d received the initial medical diagnosis via phone, we went in for our first visit with the oncologist.   (Everything is “our” and “we” now like we’re pregnant.)

To the oncologist, I said, “We were supposed to be leaving for Australia in July, for a year.  Do you think this will delay us by more than a month?” It wasn’t a question really.  I was trying to influence the obvious by stating what I hoped was a fact (denial).

The oncologist glanced at Hook before he answered, “Probably a little longer.”

I persisted with, “What, like two months, three months?”  I didn’t get an immediate response but saw a knowing look exchange between Hook and the doctor.

“We’ll have to wait and see how things progress, but I would say at least six months.”  The doctor replied to me but his eyes were locked on Hook’s.

These two science brains shared telepathic communique that no doubt relied on a ‘let’s wait and see.’   Hook is a wait-and see person.   Medical doctors are wait-and-see people.  I’m a hurry-the-hell up person.   But it’s not my fault, I swear.   It’s just that I was raised to believe a nap and a glass of water cured everything.

It was the appointment with the surgeon that set me straight. When I started in with my same line of questions, the surgeon replied,

“A month? No. Figure a year.” And just like that, Australia was gone.

Will we still go to Oz?  We hope so; we expect to.   Hook will reapply for a year sabbatical that kicks off in June 2013, a year later than our original plan.   He’s already earned the sabbatical so I’m sure his university will re-approve the dates.  And, we hope Curtin University in Perth is willing to go through the paperwork nightmare of re-submitting for a year visa for two.

Everything, though, depends on how this chemo + radiation + chemo sandwich treatment prepares Hook’s pancreas for removal (not all of the pancreas just part of it.)  Maybe we’ll be lucky and he won’t even need surgery.  That’s just me talking and not the surgeon.  Surgeons love to cut people open with their oncology cheerleaders on the side rooting them on.   Me, I’m not a fan of opening up the body illegally.  If blood is flowing unnaturally, somehow that seems illegal.

Your Advice Please

Q. What do I do with all the Australia paraphernalia I’d been collecting or had been given?

People gave me/us things. My former co-workers presented me with an Australia basket full of goodies when I resigned my position from the university. I cannot give this stuff back especially since half of it was edible – we ate and drank it already. It’s like we had a wedding and then annulled the marriage 30 days later. And all the Australia books I’d received, five in total. I stopped reading them because reading them made me want to ask the surgeon if he couldn’t just cut Hook open right now—today, how about 4 o’clock in our living room?—so we could get on that damn plane.

Q. What do I say to all those professionals I reached out to overseas in preparation for our journey to Oz-land, people that I was trying to build a business relationship with?

They don’t want to hear the personal, medical details of my life or Hook’s life and I don’t want to tell them. I mean, think about it, when someone says the word cancer what feelings do you have? What images do you see in your head?

The Hook Health Update:

– Treatments: It’s going great. Really. Hook’s response to his treatments is on schedule and what his oncologist has wanted. Hook will do one more week of chemo (three already finished) then take a week off before heading into five weeks of radiation and chemo combined. (I keep writing chemo instead of chemo-therapy because it’s a dumb word–therapy of poison.  Who creates this vocabulary anyway?)
– Supplements: What gets taken out of the body must be put back in. My by-the-book husband has embraced this lite version of alternative medicine by revving his immune system up with some heavy vitamin and nutrient supplements. And even though his western medicine oncologist poo-pooed the idea because God forbid we should include something that doesn’t HAVE A RESEARCH PAPER ATTACHED TO IT (I feel some hysteria coming on) Hook still takes the supplements.
– What next? After receiving five weeks of radiation and chemo combined, which will take us into early September, Hook will go back to a chemo only treatment for three to six weeks. All of this is to prepare his body for surgery in October or November – to remove the mass. Nothing is certain and anything is possible. That’s about as specific as I can be.

And I’d Like to Thank …

During our chaotic June, when we were temporarily living in Pflugerville, Hook stood in a friend’s kitchen with barbeque thongs in his hand, watching me sitting on the sofa drinking gin and tonics and giggling my way into oblivion with the host.

He said, “I’m the cancer patient here, and there are two able-bodied women in this house and I’m the one doing the cooking.”   Now that’s just plain funny.

Hook and I would like to say thank you to all of you who didn’t have to help but did, who have very busy lives but stopped for a moment and thought of us, prayed for us, gave us fruit, sent cards, gave us vegetables, got us a discount on something, passed on my name to a business contact, made a connection for us somehow.  I can’t possibly mention everyone before the music cues, but I must highlight:

  • AK & Chuck, aka Angelica and Charles Kelley: The Kelleys are forever destined to live with cats they do not own. The irony is they work hard to have this incredibly clean home free of hair, yet they keep inheriting animals from family or friends (like us).  It was always the plan that they would feline-sit Gatita for our year abroad, but in the midst of our double-move in June, we dumped off our cat with a “We’re not sure when we’ll be back to get her. Soon we hope. Oh, Hook has cancer.” Chuck loved on Gatita and allowed her to hiss and whine at his own cat, Ying, who is like the Kung Fu grasshopper of cats with his bushy white body and almond-shaped, blue eyes. Angelica and Charles had Gatita for a month and when I drove out to Cedar Park to pick her up, she wasn’t all that keen on leaving what she thought was her immaculate, new home. I found out later that Chuck had been sneaking canned food to the little heffer.

  • Kelly Scott: If you’re a single, hot babe who’s into smart guys who own a condo on the water in Port Aransas, you may be able to help us thank Dr. Scott. Kelly’s condo was ours for the asking and ask-away we did. In between chemo treatments, we rushed down to Port A so Hook could de-stress via hours of fishing, and I could pretend our lives were normal again. If I wasn’t going to be kidnapped from my own life, then water and beach were required. It’s not hard to stay positive when you have a view of the beach on a 24×7 basis. And who knows, with Kelly’s new hot bod (he’s training for something), maybe he’ll get down to Texas from his native Canada to enjoy his own condo instead of letting his friends-with-candy always use it.

  • Angela Loeb — career angel: Angela is an angel in disguise. She probably received my initial Good News/Bad News email like 9 o’clock at night and started emailing people at 9:01. (I’d sent out an SOS email before my initial blog.) From all of her e-introductions came a connection with someone that began with one conversation and turned into a long-term freelance recruiting gig as a Director of Executive Recruitment. It just doesn’t occur to Angela not to immediately help someone. In her next life, I’m quite certain she will come back as a cat in ancient Egypt, revered because of her wisdom and grace.

  • Friend of friend, Sandy Bannister, set up a lunch with her friend who was a former pancreatic cancer patient but was now seven years without pancreatic candy even though he’d been diagnosed stage 4 (which Hook is not) and he’d been given six months to “wrap up his affairs.” Sandy’s friend was a walking miracle because he took the management of his health seriously and how could he not since he was also a Ph.D of the sciences. Hook being the intellectual snob that he is would not have been as open to hearing about the use of supplements to combat candy if the advice hadn’t come from another science brain. John is a “survivor” (raise your hand if when you hear the word ‘survivor’ it conjures up freezing in an ocean overnight while holding hands with Leonardo DiCaprio with Celine Dion’s voice singing in the background) and he looks and feels fantastic at 72 years old with the face of a 52-year old. John, not Leonardo.

  • Honorable mentions: Scores of people emailed links to helpful information (please stop now) and I have gone to every single site sent, followed-up on all suggestions, and read every pancreatic candy survivor story. One business friend who’d survived an overnight freeze in the ocean with Leonardo, too, gave me the run down on candy websites and organizations that she’d used and how certain tools had served her needs. Insider candy info is the best. I’m a bit behind on follow-up calls to people who also spent time in the ocean with Leo, but I will call – I promise.

Home offers: Two of Hook’s colleagues offered to let us live in their homes while they were traveling during the summer when we weren’t sure whether to rent a house for a year or try to sponge off people’s good nature for a year. It’s kind of a big deal when someone tells you where a hidden house key can be found so you can enter their home while they’re away. It’s an even bigger deal when you don’t use that key to sneak into their home to see if they’d cleaned the toilets before they left.

So many people sent emails or texts with a caveat – no need to respond, just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you. Some people sent wildly inappropriate jokes that made me burst out laughing. One long-time friend, Beth, survived an overnight ocean date with Leonardo’s hands on her breasts —breast candy—and left a looooong voicemail of all the things she’d wished people wouldn’t have said to her while she was going through treatment. Only a candy survivor gets to say that.

But how is anyone to know what to say?

It feels awkward when I run into someone that I don’t know very well or who doesn’t already know our situation and they say, “Why aren’t you in Australia?” Or worse, when they do know and I know that they know, and they know that I know that they know and manners dictate they say something because it’s personal but not overly personal or I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

Suggestions of Things to Say:

  • “I’m sorry” is good. And I’m sorry, too, for everyone that feels awkward around a sometimes awkward topic. But I’m mostly sorry we didn’t get to hop on a plane to Australia. %$@#* Clearly I have a problem with letting go …

“I just heard” works because you leave it open for me to steer the conversation to what I’m willing to talk about in that moment. I mean, I used to have a life before I was the wife of a candy patient and before healthcare became my entertainment (thank you for that saying Kay Bell).

  • “We’re praying for you” I like this mainly because I believe in the power of prayer. But if you say it, then you really have to pray, and do the whole sign-of-the-cross thing because then you’ll feel like you really prayed. A priest friend once said to me, in response to my declaration that Hook’s religion was nature, “If his religion is nature then he’s closer to God than most of us.” So yes, please pray for my little wasp-man.

Hook is closer to God than he realizes and getting closer by the minute if he doesn’t quit that damn smoking. He is down to two cigarettes a day which means his nicotine addiction is officially gone. It’s the mental addiction we’re still working on.

If none of the above responses fit with your style, try one of these:
• That sucks.
• Damn.
• Man, that bites.
• Let’s go get that drink finally. I’m buying.

As I come out of hibernation and start to re-engage socially, I’d like people to know that it’s okay for us to never talk about Hook’s candy. It’s okay if you never ask about it. Mostly, that’s my preference. I’m even okay with pretending like it’s not happening. Srsly.

(If I sometimes go on and on about it, feel free to backward-walk away and save me from myself.)

I empathize with people who want to know, need to know, care enough to ask so I struggle with sharing what I sometimes don’t feel like talking about with not being able to shut up about it. Like right now, with this blog.

All the Ways We’ll be Even More Prepared for Australia

It’s been my experience that if you can visualize something, you can make it happen. I guess when I visualized Australia I should have also visualized reading a newspaper, dated July 2012, in the harbor in Perth.

  • We’ll have an even deeper knowledge of Perth before we get there. Two years’ worth of initiating contact, introducing oneself, and holding SKYPE calls is even better than only one year.

More time to get all of our stuff online. Remember how I said Hook was still living in the 20th century? You can imagine how interesting it was for us to plan a sabbatical in the first place.

  • Time to read all the books people gave us as going-away gifts. We won’t be able to take all the Australia books but at least they will not go to waste.

I’ll have more time to stalk literary agents before I leave. I attended an agents’ conference the third week in June because I’d paid a non-refundable fee back in December.  Worst timing ever, but a much-needed outlet.  Writing is my avocation and the dream of any writer at one of these conferences is that an agent will discover us and we’ll write a best-selling novel and all will be right with the world. What it’s really like is two half days and one full day of agents on panels telling writers how not to piss them off, how to mind their manners, and how to breathe while writing. I was unprepared for the conference because I was being chased by roaches in our rental home and I hadn’t been writing or reading, only taking notes on what chemo does to the body and hey, where is that box with all the stuff that was in my office? I went, I scored, and I am holding my breath and will continue to hold it for at least 12 weeks because that’s how long it takes for a one-page query to be read so who knows how long it takes for 50 pages of a manuscript to be read.

Dear Lord, since you took away Australia in 2012, could you have that agent call me with a “we’d like to represent you” in 2012. Amen.

So yes, the Hooks are gaining:  gaining weight, laughs, and strength.

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South Center to Hope Street

We appreciate that we have so many people interested in renting our house – really we do — but can I mention how incredibly inconvenient it is to have the house always looking as though we don’t really live there?

There’s how we pretend to live (show house), how we wish we lived (surface clean show house where we hide towels and toss our messes into closets), and how we really live — piles of papers everywhere, books half opened throughout all three bathrooms, Hook’s water glass obsession obvious in the empty glasses found in almost every room in our home.  Our greatest inconvenience though is our struggle via la commode.  In the Hook house, we do our part to conserve water and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Last week we had five male 20-somethings look at the house.  The only thing that saved us from their rental was the indication on the application that there would be a big dog and our requirements forbid any big dogs.   Today, three young female 20-somethings showed up who looked like they’d like nothing better than to spill tequila and rum all over the floors and run up and down the stairs in spiked high heeled shoes that would tear at the Berber carpet all the while being chased by half naked 20-something males.

We had hoped that by putting a high rental price on the house, we could avoid any 20-somethings, but we hadn’t counted on roommate situations.   I wish I would have had the foresight to “accidentally” vomit on the floor this morning, thus turning off the young females altogether.

The location of our home in south Austin, so close to downtown, would be a dream party house to 20-somethings.  We can discriminate against big dogs, but we cannot discriminate based on age and perceived stupidity.

What we would really like, what we keep hoping for is a nice male “couple,” two males who are “partners.”   Or, how about a mid-30s married couple with a husband who has a yard fixation and uses tending-to-the-lawn as a ‘cave’ escape?

We don’t sound very renter friendly, I know, but we’ve been kind to our home, and we’d like that whoever moves into our house to be as kind as we have been to the unblemished hardwood floors, the flowing backyard of green lawn, and the newly painted colorful walls.   We want someone who enjoys weeding out the bed surrounding the Mexican oak tree.   We want a renting miracle.

Enough about what we’re leaving.   Here’s where we’re headed to:  43 Hope Street in Watersman Bay just north of Perth.

Hook had originally set up a one week’s stay at the Drake Apartments in Perth, and for an extra $10 Australian dollars a day, we could have a vehicle with the rental.  Yes, Australia is on the dollar, too, and the exchange is about even.  The difference lies in the high standard of living.  I’ve heard cheeseburgers cost $30.  I’m assuming that is a monster cheeseburger at a really nice restaurant and who wants to eat a burger at a nice restaurant.  Not us.

But then, our academic contact at Curtin University of Technology where Hook will be a visiting professor connected us with a Curtin colleague who has been in the process of moving out of their old house into their newly built home on the same property.  They have a fully-furnished, 3-bedroom, 2-bath home for an unbelievable $400/week.  Fully furnished as in not only furniture but towels and dishes, all the stuff you forget you need to have a functional home.  We said, “good-bye Drake, hello Hope Street.”

I know what you’re thinking.  $400/week — did they use to rent to hookers?   The Australians give all rates by the week instead of by the month.  Who knows why; who cares why.  The cherry-on-top news is that 43 Hope Street is walking distance to a nature preserve  on one side then walking distance to the ocean on the other side.  Walking distance to the ocean!!!!   I may have to walk a couple of blocks to catch a bus that will drop me off at a train station that will take me to the heart of downtown Perth, but I’ll have easy access to the Indian Ocean.

The best news of the day is that the small profit we’ll make on renting out South Center will mean we’ll end up paying less to live in Australia than in Austin.  It doesn’t get much better than that for a year’s sabbatical.

Bring on the college kids so long as they pay the rent on time and do not burn down the house.   The rest we’ll just have to deal with when we return in July 2013.

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I hadn’t even thought about it — immunizations that is — they hadn’t even made the 1,000 Things To Do Before We Get on the Plane to Australia list.

I had a conversation with a business acquaintance yesterday and she asked, “So when do you leave?” and I said, “July 1st,” and she replied, “Oh, you have lots of time!”

Clearly, she has never moved overseas before.   Between leasing out two homes, finding a place for our cat (we have unbelievable friends), finding free storage for our cars (I mean, seriously, good friends), packing up the house, moving my 19th paper century husband into the 21st online century, I have very little time to do much of anything except develop a bald spot, lose sleep, and have a menstrual cycle every two weeks.

My doctor said it was stress.

Speaking of my doctor, the first thought that popped into my brain earlier this week was, “Immunizations!”   As in, oh crap, if we don’t have the right immunizations, they won’t let us on the plane.

I called my doctor and was referred to a great immunization requirement list for any U.S. citizen traveling to another country.  There are a lot of recommendations but no requirements, but since my doctor “strongly recommends” a tetanus shot, I will get a tetanus shot and so will Hook.

After the immunization scare, I decided to give myself two days off.  I admit, I’ve stressed myself into a tizzy what with trying to decide to really use this Australian trip as my writing sabbatical or just to say I’ll be using the trip as my writing sabbatical.    Truth is if I say I’m going to write then I have to write.  It’s not like I don’t have writing projects in the works.  It’s just that what with all the energy I put into wrapping things up at the full-time job, winding down on my virtual work, I haven’t left very much time to getting my writing thoughts back in order.

Immunizations, done.   Organizing my writing thoughts and focusing on one project, next.

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Where In Australia?

Just yesterday I found out that I have an approved work visa for Australia – yes!   So let’s get back to how the Hooks came to choose and answer the “Where in Australia?”

Most folks know that Australia is both a country and a continent (pretend like you knew.)  It’s not as large as the U.S. in land mass or in population, but Oz is pretty darn huge.  If someone said they were moving to the U.S., your first question would be, “That’s great.  Where?”

We chose Western Australia (WA) or I should say Western Australia chose us.  Since neither Hook nor I are big city people, we were actually hoping to land anywhere except Sydney or Melbourne.  Oh, of course, we’ll probably visit Sydney and take in one of the many Sydney wine tours but remember, we need less people and more bugs.

Choosing Perth

In his pre-Rosemary days, Hook lived in Brisbane while he was pursuing his doctorate work.  Since he’d been there before, he knew that his landing spot had to include a tie to a university that would provide him certain privileges, e.g. bug collecting permits, lab space to study specimens, and an intellectual community he could engage with.   And both of us wanted ready access to a full-sized swimming pool, someplace we could frequent daily (one of the many benefits we had both enjoyed while working at St. Edward’s University in Austin.)

Hook threw out inquiries in the western and northern territories.  The first was to Charles Darwin University in the tip of the northern territory.   I was still riding the high of “Australia!” and didn’t know enough about the Darwin area to know that living there for an entire year would have been like living in New Jersey or Seattle or some other city close to water that looks really good on a map but you’d really have to work at enjoying yourself there.

The other quick replies of interest came from the territory of Western Australia (WA).  I’ve since learned that WA also stands for wait awhile in the laid back city of Perth, home to the Western Australian Museum and a large private university, Curtin University of Technology.    Hook settled on Curtin which has a student population close to 48,000 which is even larger than the University of Texas in Austin.  Apparently not everything is bigger in Texas!

The competing university to Curtin is the public university, University of Western Australia (UWA), but Hook had already settled on Curtin when we received word back from UWA.   As it is, Hook will likely store his specimens with the Western Australian Museum which is run by the Australian government.  This means both universities and the museum will have free access to Hook’s contributions which benefits everyone.   Plus, the majority of what Hook collects and researches will stay in Australia because there is a limited supply of bugs that customs will allow him to bring back into the U.S. when we return in 2013.

And that is how we chose Perth, the second best city in the world (Austin, Texas being the first of course).   Perth in Western Australia rests against the Indian Ocean in the southwest corner pocket of the country.   Perth not only looks great on a map, but it is the most idyllic place to have as a home base down under.  Can you imagine yourself in a Perth harbor, sitting inside a café that looks out over the water, your laptop on a table and you, writing your little brains away?   Oh sorry, I was imagining me and not you.

“Babe, we’re going to be spending weeks at a time camping in the Outback.  It’s going to be a little rough.  Are you sure you can handle it?”

Hook is serious when he asks this so I respond likewise.

“Will there be little cabins like we had in the jungle?”  The jungle he took me to on our honeymoon.  The jungle that had cabins with only three walls!

“No.  We’ll only have a tent.”  Hook says and I can tell he’s wondering if I’m kidding.

“Can we bring little cots with us to sleep on?”  I ask because I am most definitely not kidding.


“What about an air mattress?”   I inquire because if there aren’t any cabins and we’re not going to take any cots, where does he think we will sleep?

“Honey, this is the Outback.  We’ll be sleeping on the ground.”   Hook says this with his matter-of-fact voice, his voice of reason, a tone an adult might use with a 6-year old.

“Okay, well, you’ll be spending weeks at a time in the Outback,” I say as I kiss him on the cheek, “I will be in Perth waiting for you.   Please don’t get eaten by anything.”

I’m not kidding about the getting-eaten-by-anything remark.  Hook zones out when he’s collecting.  A party of Australian crocs could  easily sneak up on Hook and half of his leg in their jaws before he realized anything was amiss.

I’m sure I’ll spend a couple of nights in the Outback.  How could I not?   It’s Australia!

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