Football

Don’t fall off your chair, I’m writing in my “travel blog”.  Well, it started off as a travel blog but since I’ve now been living in America for nearly four years, I guess it’s just my blog.

Fall has come to Texas – the weather has chilled and the light has changed.  I always love the twinkle of Autumn sunlight and the way the day changes in a moment from morning to afternoon.  I have the day off so I have Gilmore Girls playing in the background and I’m drinking coffee from the vintage mug I bought at Cracker Barrel.

But the reason I’m writing today is to share my experience at the USAFL Nationals Tournament in Austin a few weeks ago.  With the nationals in Austin this year, it gave me a perfect opportunity to attend without a hefty travel bill.  The weekend was filled with wonderful camaraderie, good sportsmanship (except for one team – I’m looking at you Sacramento Suns), patriotism (Australian, American and Canadian) and, of course, being in America, flags and national anthems :). At the final party for the winning team (Austin), listening to the speeches of both Americans and Australians, I was struck by the perfection of their combination.  The Australians’ laid-back, rough, straight up style is perfectly complemented by the sensitivity and innocence of the Americans.  I can see why, as nations and people, we like each other and seek each other out so much.

Warm fuzzies, Australia and America ❤

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Meetings

Tonight I met Elizabeth Gilbert, author or Eat Pray Love and I’m ashamed to admit I was more than a little star struck.  Being an actor, working in the public eye and meeting my fair share of celebrities, I don’t normally get star struck or go out of my way to meet famous people.  But tonight I drove an hour in the rain through terrible traffic to hear Liz Gilbert speak and have her sign my copy of Eat Pray Love and her new book The Signature of All Things.

I was the first person to have my booked signed and it was such an emotional moment for me to meet the woman whose writing had not only given me hope that I could be happy but possibly saved my life.  It was through her book that I had the determination to practice Siddha yoga, to pray for a miracle and to have the courage to leave Perth in search of happiness here in America.  So the moment I handed her my book with the picture of Gurumai and my Qantas boarding pass as bookmarks and explained (while fumbling, stuttering and not being able to think because I have such a huge girl crush) was quite tear filled.  She was gracious and lovely and gave me a hug.

Later I snuck back into the reception to try and speak to her again (ok, maybe that was a little weird but she is SO AMAZING….hopefully she doesn’t think I’m a stalker).  She asked me how it was going since I came over here and I now realize I haven’t been fully authentic about my experience lately.  The depression and negativity have returned.  I’ve found myself brooding and nasty again.  Of course, I didn’t want to tell her that so I just mumbled something about being in love with a wonderful man and she said, “Happy happy”.

But the truth is I’m not happy.  Well, happier than I was in Australia but not as happy as I have been.  I don’t know if it’s because I tried to come off the Prozac or because I need to be doing something new every six months (and my six months of newness on my acting career in Dallas is up).  So, my depression has returned.  The newness of Dallas has worn off, the newness of Tim has worn off and the newness of acting in Dallas has worn off.  What should I do now?  Elizabeth Gilbert says that happiness is hard won.  What do I have to do for my happiness now?

I got to ask her if she still practices Siddha yoga and the answer she gave was perfect.  She said her creativity, her writing is her spiritual devotion.  There are so many similarities between creativity and spirituality and that she took a vow of devotion to writing.  That’s kind of where I’m at.  After so many years of devoted spiritual practice, my acting is now my devotion.  And I think that’s why I turned down the opportunity to go to the ashram.  My ashram is here, in the casting offices of Dallas.Image

Arizona

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Tim and I spent eight days with his family in Arizona over Christmas.  I must admit I was more than a little worried about going as his family hadn’t exactly accepted or welcomed me last year when we met in Princeton for Christmas.  Actually, I was FREAKING out but, as usual, things weren’t as bad as I feared they would be.

Tim was really keen to show me around all the places Laef used to hang out at Arizona State University but somehow I had developed a sensitivity around family when I got there and didn’t really want to go and visit all of Laef’s memories.  Staying with Tim’s family at Christmas, I was all too aware of the disintegration of my own family after Laef’s death.  The bitter divorce and acrimonious situation that still hasn’t been resolved, five years later.  I found myself feeling sentimental for the first time since Laef died about the times we used to be a complete family.  So much so that I weakened and called the family home back in Perth where I knew I was almost certain to get my Dad.  Not having spoken to him in nearly five years, we had a nice conversation.

So I didn’t voice my reluctance to go to ASU and Tim and I met for dinner with Laef’s ex-girlfriend Melissa in downtown Tempe at Montis La Casa Vieja.  Mel took me through campus, showing me all the places she and Laef hung out and telling the story of their brief romance.  She took me to the fountain near the Pat Tilman memorial where she held a candlelight service for Laef’s friends not long after he died.  It was nice seeing where all that stuff happened but I was glad to leave the scene and pretend my past didn’t exist.

The next day Tim and I started getting into our routine of going to Wholefoods Raintree for a fresh squeezed juice every morning – he got The Great Went and I got a Lotus – and then going to 24Hr Fitness Thunderbird for a gym and sauna (all things recommended by my doctor for recovery from chronic fatigue).

Sunday morning Tim’s sister invited me to service at the local Presbyterian church: http://www.mtviewpres.org/  A lovely service filled with nice people dressed well.  A little awkward running into Tim’s high school girlfriend while I was with his Mum and sister but not too bad.  We all went back for service on Christmas Eve and sang carols outside in the cold by candle light.  It was lovely.

We had some dinners with neighbours and friends of the family – all in all pleasant but at times it felt like I was being grilled and judged!  To be expected though, first time meeting a community.  One of Tim’s neighbours’ son had committed suicide when he was 18 so we had that in common.  She was a wonderful lady.

Tim and I also visited Melissa at her family home and it was joyous to finally meet her family after so many years.  After Laef returned from ASU, Mel came to stay with us in Australia for a couple of years in 2005 so it was wonderful to see her family.  And all her beauty pageant trophies!

On Christmas night, we went to the local Indian reservation to the Talking Stick Resort Casino.  We had some cocktails and the boys played blackjack.  Good times catching up with Tim’s best friend Ryne who will be deploying to Afghanistan again soon.

So I not only survived the week but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It was great to be away from all the poverty and diversity of Texas, Tim’s family were so very kind and welcoming (his Mum even bought organic vegetables for me) and we spent time with cherished friends.  I was sad to come home but I’ve returned with a new vigour and appreciation for my life.  After all, pretty much everything in it these days was made possible by Laef.

This song always reminds me of Laef: Arizona by Kings of Leon

Whoever would’ve thought, all those years ago, when I was playing this song over and over on my iPhone, looking out at the Perth night sky and pining for Laef that I would end up in Arizona for Christmas, with the man I love and his wonderful family.

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Newtown

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It’s 9.30pm and I’m watching the special edition of 20/20 on ABC about the Newtown shooting.  Normally my own experience with trauma prevents me from watching such things – it brings forth too much of my own pain.  But something about this unfolding nightmare has me glued to the TV, watching the drama unfold.  Why is it that I’m able to feel so much compassion for the members of this community?  What draws us all in to watch tragedies like these?

One of the things that has struck me is the sense of community and faith present in this town.  Ever since the Gilmore Girls, I’ve idealised life in a small town in Connecticut.  This beautiful little place called Newtown is probably my ideal place to live.

So many things about this tragedy are profoundly moving – the 29 year old teacher who loaded her 15 first grade students into a 3ft x 4ft bathroom, protecting them to the point of even having the police slide their badges under the door when they came to rescue them.  And another 27 year old who died trying to move her students into the closet, putting herself between the gunman and her first graders.  The calmness and centredness of parents at the scene, collecting their students, footage of a church service held tonight, the way everyone gathers together and becomes their best.

It reminds me of the day my brother died when I said to my friends, “It’s moments like these when you know you’re truly alive.  It’s like everything else just stops and you become so intensely present.  And the way we’re all being so connected to and caring for each other, wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone was like this all the time?”

Losing a loved one suddenly, especially a child or young person, is one of the most tragic things anyone could ever experience and something that nobody should have to go through.  But watching the way the people of Newtown, their first responders, priests and rabbis, seeing the candlelight and prayer vigils being held in Newtown and around the country, I’m struck by two things.  Firstly, how we become extraordinary in the face of overwhelming tragedy, secondly the faith and fellowship of Americans.  Americans have a connection with and empathy for each other that Australians just don’t seem to have.  God bless these beautiful people and may their faith carry them through what will be the worst trauma of their lives.

Of course it brings to mind Australia’s only mass shooting – in Port Arthur, Tasmania.  In 1996 it was the scene of the worst mass murder in Australia’s post-colonial history.  The Port Arthur massacre remains one of the deadliest shootings worldwide committed by a single person, with 35 killed and 23 wounded.  Gun control laws, which had been relatively lenient before the massacre, were reviewed and tightened significantly after the incident.

Mass shootings in the U.S. in 2012: 15

People killed at mass shootings in 2012: 84

US school shootings since Columbine: 40+

Food

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Tim has to be careful what he shows me in the way of DVDs as I have a tendency to get very worked up and passionate about certain things(!).  We just watched Food, INC. and I found myself moved, emotional and wishing I was well enough to go out and make a difference to the terribly corrupt and dysfunctional industrialised food production system we have got ourselves into.  I’ve just signed up for the Food, INC. newsletter and goodness knows I’m already overwhelmed by the number of political, health, food etc advocacy newsletters I’ve signed up for.  But I can’t help it.

As part of the fourth generation of a farming family, I feel very passionate about farming and food.  I’ve witnessed very closely the farmer’s life on our family’s farm and realise now that I’m one of the privileged few lifetime city dwellers who has had an experience with grassroots, mostly pre-industrialised food production.  My great grandfather, John Knapton (The Boss, as he was known on the farm), was born in 1877 in a tiny town called Vasse in south-west Western Australia.  Whilst working for the Greenbushes timber mill in the early 1900s, he saved enough money to buy some farmland (piece by piece) from the government between Balingup and Greenbushes.  He cleared the land by hand and his fence posts, made of irregularly shaped pieces of wood from the trees he cut down are still there today.

I’ve always felt such a strong bond with my relatives on the farm, visiting with them from childhood, through my teens and into my twenties.  I absolutely loved farm life – milking the cows, cutting hay, collecting eggs etc.   And my great aunt and uncle (I called them Nan and Pop) who lived on the farm were wonderful folk.

What I witnessed during the 20 odd years I spent visiting the farm was an incredibly down-home, earthy approach to food and life.  Even now (the farm is still held by a third generation family member but on the market for sale as the only fourth gen. son wanting to take on the family legacy suicided in 2002), my uncle will often kill a sheep or a cow, have it carved up and send bulk meat to his brothers and sisters around the region.  My Nan and Pop used to take a fishing trip to their holiday house on the coast near Busselton every year and bring back enough fish for their two kitchen deep freezers to last them the year.  My Pop tended his vegetable garden in front of the house every day, Nan looked after chickens and collected their eggs and milked the house cow every morning.  They had fruit trees and nut trees and even beautiful camelia trees in the orchard right by the house.  No wonder my Pop live to 97 and Nan died just a few months ago.

I always had the most intensely enjoyable time during my visits to the farm.  Often, as a child, my mother would find me crying on my bed upon my return to my own family “home” in the city.  My brothers and I would always make sure we participated in every possible farm activity – getting up at 5am when it was -6C outside to milk the cows, collecting the eggs and being most excited if we could help out with some of the “real” farm work like backing up the ute to get a bale of hay to deliver to a neighbour.  Maybe it was these earthy, organic-feeling experiences that instilled in me a love of simple, whole, locally sourced foods.  My relatives have told me that the reason The Boss decided to go into farming, with all its hardships, was so that his family would always have food.  And certainly the farm proved an invaluable family asset during the depression and World War II when many of his grown children came back to live at the farm.

One of the things I’ve noticed about Australian farmers is their fierce independence, ability to tough it out through much adversity (at least my grandmother’s generation and further back – not my generation which is wracked with a phenomenon of male suicide but that’s a subject for another blog post) and a general sense of “nobody’s going to tell me what to do”.  Which, given what I’ve seen in the Food, INC. documentary, makes me wonder how on earth big companies like Monsanto came to dominate farmers and their industry to the point of enslaving them.  It also gives me great hope that these fiercely independent tamers of the land will not accept such intolerable conditions imposed on them by corporate monopolies and will one day soon rise up and revolt.  Fight for their (and our) rights when it comes to the food we produce and eat.

Food, INC. has certainly made me even more appreciative of companies like Wholefoods who pay their workers a living wage and only source healthy food from healthy sources.  Thanks goodness change is happening.

If you want to know more or participate, please visit the Food, INC. documentary website at:

http://www.takepart.com/foodinc

And for one of the most inspiring farmers with integrity, check out Polyface:

http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

Story

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I recently emailed a friend I’d not seen in a long time with an update and thought I’d post it.  Apologies to my friends who’ve heard this story a bijillion times before.

The best thing I ever did was get out of Ferth (Fucken Perth), I had been so unhappy there for so long and I thought it was me. Didn’t realise till I came to the states that a) I was an American trapped in the body of an Australian and b) Perth is a terrible place to be (at least for someone like me).
About September 2011, my American pen pal (who had been very sympathetic over my boyfriend sleeping with his ex and being hideously duplicitous), skyped me for the first time.
Let me give you a lot of background to a very long story…

Ahem …
It all started when my little brother (who was nine years younger than me) went to college on exchange at Arizona State University in 2005. He made a bunch of friends there, including my now boyfriend Tim.
Sadly my brother died in 2008 but all his friends from around the world started a facebook group in his memory. In 2010, my health and relationship were in a really bad way, I was about to get power-heart-destroy-dumped by the biggest love in a long time and on the verge of a breakdown. On Laef’s facebook group one day, I saw this hot looking guy in an American army uniform and added him as a friend in the desperate hope my current boyfriend would actually care. Apparently he did not as he dumped me anyway.

So Tim started writing to me and for a year we kept in constant written contact. He was not like Australian men, I didn’t have to make all the effort and if I stopped writing, he would write me again. We both had various other partners over time and then he deployed to Iraq. I remember logging onto my computer at work every day and being delighted to have an email from my war hero pen pal. Often during that time, I would vaguely think to myself, “wouldn’t it be funny if we end up together, like a movie. But it’ll never happen”
So around Sept 2011, things started to get a bit flirty between me and my pen pal and on 16 Sept (I vividly remember our anniversary), he asked me to Skype. I had never heard his voice before much less seen him on video and the intimacy terrified me.  He had just been words on my computer. I wouldn’t let him video chat me for ages. He thought that was so funny.
At the time, I had just being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, my life had fallen apart and I’d been given a redundancy payout from my job, been paid handsomely for a five year commercial I’d shot and lots more money came in. The miracle I’d been praying for (Eat Pray Love was practically my bible during this time) seemed to have finally arrived and I was OUTA there. I was thinking Byron Bay, India or France and my dear pen pal suggested I come to America. Over the next two months, we had conversations about logistics and relationships. We were both clear we couldn’t do long distance so we had to plan for it to be permanent if it worked. We had all sorts of conversations over Skype about commitment, expectations and what we wanted out of a relationship, of course there were Skype dates and Skype sex(!) and I packed up my life. We fell in love and on 21 November I boarded a Sydney to Dallas direct flight to move to a country I’d never even visited to be with a man I’d never met.
I know sensible, logical people must think I’m crazy but I KNEW in my heart and my soul it was what I needed. And now that I think of it, my parents had lots of American friends and I always loved their company. When I was modeling in Seoul (a heinously depressing place) in my twenties, the Americans on my tour bus to the demarcation zone were so positive and friendly, they made me happier. Americans are very expressive and connected, positive and creating better lives. I felt spiritually and emotionally deprived in Australia where people are repressed, isolating and heartless.

It was also the most sensible, healthy way to start a relationship.  Because the stakes were so high with me moving to the other side of the world, we discussed EVERYTHING and we were both really committed to the long term. No drunken hookups, manipulation or wondering – we both knew where we stood and what we wanted.

As an aside, I was using a lot of the Rori Raye tools for communication and he really led the way.  Rori has been the best thing to happen to my love life and if you want to find out more, go to:

http://www.havetherelationshipyouwant.com/

Her blog can be found at:

http://blog.havetherelationshipyouwant.com/

And it’s been awesome. Tim makes me so happy, he’s the biggest ball of love I’ve ever met and we get along so well and he just wants to please me all the time.  He’s softened me, so much so that, when I came here I didn’t like dogs at all and now I NEED a puppy!! So we’re blissfully happy and I love living in America.

I don’t so much like living in Arlington (35 mins out of Dallas and a bit ghetto) but Tim is applying for colleges to go do his MBA so we may be in Kentucky, Tennessee, Fort Worth or North Carolina next fall. Ultimately I’m an east coast girl and would like to live in Maryland or somewhere close to my favourite places – Connecticut, New York (I LOVE NEW YORK, from my first day there I felt I’d found my home), Princeton, DC etc.

 

Twins

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Talking to my beautiful friend Jess back home in Perth on Skype and seeing her with her 8 month old twin boys (they are so cute!!), it feels like all is right in the world.  Jess was heavily pregnant with the boys when I left Perth so I’ve not met them in person yet, just twice on Skype.  I met Jess herself when she was a young 16 year old model in a fashion parade I was in.  I’ve watched her grow up, get her heart broken, we’ve eaten marshmallows and chocolate fondue, she came over to my house and got into my bed to cuddle me when things were horrible after my brother died, I wept as I watched her walk down the aisle, the perfect princess Grace on her wedding day.

And now I’m here and she’s there, both of us blissfully happy.

On another note, I was listening to KERA public radio today and the lady who wrote the Edible Dallas & Fort Worth Cookbook was sharing about her adventures speaking to local growers, cheese artisans and food makers in the DFW area of Texas.  I was so inspired by all the south western food and things like black and blue lemonade (made with blackberries and blueberries) that I had to order my copy today.  In years to come, when Tim and I have moved on from Texas, we’ll always have those recipes to remind us of the springtime of our love here in Texas.

http://www.ediblecommunities.com/dallasfortworth/

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1402785569/sr=8-1/qid=1348708444/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&qid=1348708444&seller=&sr=8-1

Miracles

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Watching Tim run out the door for his appointment with an executive recruiting agency, seeing him happy as I cheer him on, reminds me of what a miracle it is that I’m here and we’re together.  I’m imagining what his life would be like living here in Arlington alone, with his friends three hours away in Austin.  And I remember that time exactly one year ago when my pen pal became someone I Skyped with as my health and what felt like my life fell apart.  And the universe somehow miraculously gave me everything I needed – hope that coming to a new place to be with a new man would be better, and money – six months’ pay.  In my weakest position (and what I now come to realise as a very vulnerable time for Tim too), I was somehow given the ability to move my whole life to the other side of the world, move to a country I had never even visited to be with a man whom I’d never even met (although I knew him so well after writing and Skyping for over a year).

I look at how happy Tim and I are now, at the wonderful life we share and the future we’re creating and I am so grateful for miracles.

Also, I spent the weekend assisting on a Landmark course and suddenly so much love and sex has just landed on me.  I can’t explain exactly why or how it happened but I came back to Tim after the weekend just so in love with him and our life together.  I’m even feeling needy for him when he’s at work during the day, like I’m hanging out for him to come home and that hasn’t happened since we were first together.  It’s very sweet.

Cooking

As I sit on the toilet upstairs, dappled in the twilight sun, I can hear my beloved Tim downstairs cooking me dinner and it reminds me of another time, another man.  Far off in the distance now.  Oh what anguish I went through over that man.  I wish I could turn back the years, go back and tell myself, sitting on that man’s toilet, in that man’s apartment, that something much better would come along.  If only I could reach back and give myself a hand, let myself know that all the dark and scary times to come would lead me to this.  And love.  And America.  With my beautiful Tim who cooks me dinner.