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Around here lately

Anne Waddoups

"The light is nostalgic about mornings past and optimistic about mornings to come"
Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety

That about sums up how I'm feeling, too.

Sam turned 16 a couple of weeks ago. He celebrated with a movie night with a bunch of friends (Guardians of the Galaxy), requested homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches for his dessert and a family birthday dinner at Jamie (Oliver)'s Italian.  The rest of us celebrated the fact that we so thoroughly lucked out in the son/brother department: curious, funny, deep, stubborn, good, bright, compassionate, socks-and-shoes-off-and-on-the-floor, hardworking Sam is a boon and blessing for our family. 

Maddy proposed that we get a punching bag and gloves, thinking it would be a great way to work off the stress of her IB studying, tests, and deadlines. We've been holding FFC (family fight club) a couple of nights a week, trading off turns with the gloves and mitts. She's right--it's very cathartic. (I know, I just broke the first rule of fight club. Oops.)

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with that bay behind the table. Comfy chairs? Right now it's kind of our boxing ring/dance floor, ha!

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with that bay behind the table. Comfy chairs? Right now it's kind of our boxing ring/dance floor, ha!

There's a lot of homework going on around here as the kids are midway through their third term of the school year. Maddy's life is particularly filled with studying and deadlines as she zooms toward the IB testing in November. The International Baccalaureate program has a lot of positives but it is definitely rigorous and demanding! Because of how the Australian schools marking systems are set up, Maddy won't have a GPA when she applies to universities in the US; instead she will submit her IB scores, which are mostly comprised of the test scores she receives from comprehensive exams at the end of this year, covering two years' worth of content. 

Like the AP system in the US, she can also use her IB results to receive university credit (depending on the score, of course). Here's a little bit more about the IB system if you're curious. Basically, it's like taking AP classes in every subject + writing a thesis from original research + completing three service/community projects + completing a theory of knowledge/philosophy project to demonstrate critical thinking. 

All the Year 12 girls get rugby shirts as part of the school's tradition. Maddy chose to just embrace the way everyone loves to invoke our name (and they usually think they're the first one to ever think of it, ha!)

All the Year 12 girls get rugby shirts as part of the school's tradition. Maddy chose to just embrace the way everyone loves to invoke our name (and they usually think they're the first one to ever think of it, ha!)

This month Maddy's FB feed is filled with all of her high school friends' FB posts about leaving for college, their new dorms and roommates. This would have been Maddy's life right now, too, if we hadn't snatched her off to Australia two years ago where the class of '14 graduates in November rather than June. Instead she has another five months of school to go and will start university a year behind her US cohort. Secretly (or not so secretly) we're glad to have her around for this bonus Maddy time but I know it's not easy for her to see everyone else moving on with their exciting new lives and opportunities. But she's a good sport.

As with most things in life, though, there are tradeoffs. Maddy just found out yesterday that she was chosen for the UN Youth Australia delegation to the Middle East, one of 10 students selected from Australia. She went through rounds of essays and interviews and was delighted to be chosen. They'll head to Dubai, Amman, Petra, and Jerusalem in January where they'll participate in workshops and consultations with UN bodies, international NGOs, Australian and foreign government projects, and community organisations who are all working to build peace and understanding in the Middle East. At the end of the trip the delegation will volunteer at Hand in Hand, a Jewish-Arab integrated, bilingual school in Jerusalem that works to bring together members of the community from different walks of life and fosters peace on a grassroots level. As you can imagine, Maddy's thrilled. It's the light at the end of the IB tunnel for her. As you can also imagine, I am equal parts excited and nervous for her, my protective mothering activated by all the news of violence and unrest in the region. Shhh, mother bear. It'll be fine.

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

Anne Waddoups

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? (Psalms 137:1-4)

. . .

I first stumbled upon these verses when I was 19 and far away from home for the stretch of a six-month semester abroad in London. It was actually in my humanities textbook, not in the Bible itself, where I first discovered these words but I immediately turned to Psalms and marked them in my scriptures, that brown leather quad I still use. Those words felt like my own.

I hadn't been taken captive to London, though. It was my fiercest desire to explore the world; studying in London felt like a dream wrested into reality. And yet the nostalgia--for home, familiarity, and for people who knew and understood me--seeped in. More than that, I felt vulnerable and unsure of my song in that new, strange land. Was it even worth singing? Did it matter? (I learned: Yes it was. Yes it did.)

 I felt those words then and have felt them with every move, both physical ones into new places and figurative ones with each new stage and iteration of our family's development. I feel them now.

Oh, I feel them. We are not captive but we are removed, far removed from the familiar and the familial.

We are blessed here, immensely grateful for the good things this adventure has brought us on many levels, but beneath all that I will admit I have struggled a fair bit to get my footing this time around. But, as with every other new wilderness I've experienced, as I stumble my way through the footholds and handholds eventually appear (though often not where and when I expect) and I stretch to reach them.

And (tentatively, tenaciously) I raise my voice and sing.  Like Dorothy's red shoes, this has really been the answer all along.

Watching: My mom recommended the A&E series Longmire and G and I have been loving it. The characters are well developed and compelling. (That Walt Longmire. Sigh.) It makes me miss the stunning landscapes and distinct sensibilities of the American West, though. We've been watching an episode or two a night and I'll miss that daily dose when we catch up. (Fingers crossed for a Season Four, y'all.)

Reading: I loved The Meaning of Names (see my N&L post about it here). Right now I'm reading Neylan McBaine's How To Be a Twenty-First Century Pioneer Woman and Robert Galbraith's (aka JK Rowling) The Silkworm


Drops of marvelous

Anne Waddoups

Hi there, intrepid readers. (I'm imagining that if you are reading this it's because you've been hanging in there with me for a long time. I love you for that.) It's been a while since I really nestled in here on ye olde Basic Joy but recently I find myself longing for it more and more. I'm emerging from what I can only describe as a long winter's nap that extended for several seasons, a lengthy case of the dark brown doldrums that have had me feeling both adrift and dampened. I'll write more about that another time but suffice it to say that I'm beginning to see the world sparkle again and feel like I've had my inner windows cleaned and my voice re-tuned.

And, oh, I'm in love with blogging again. Still.  I spent last night wandering through many of my favorite spots in the blogging neighborhood, savoring and grinning at the posts of so many exquisite writers I have come to know and love through this medium. This isn't to say I haven't been blogging; I've been staying (relatively) regular in posting over on Nest & Launch with Sarah and I love it there. (Do come see us!) I just want to say I'm back in the game over here, too. And it feels good.

A couple of I'm-back party favors to send you off into your life today:

- First, you might already know that I am such a Maira Kalman fan. Her creative good humor and delight with the world consistently inspire me to abandon the judgy, perfectionist little gremlins that look over my shoulder and lounge in my head making snide comments at my creative attempts. Off with you, sneering gremlins. You're welcome round here no more. More Maira Kalman, please.

Pull up a chair and enjoy a little Maira. It's on the house.

How much do I wish I had been able to see her in that Mizrahi production of Peter & the Wolf last December at the Guggenheim in NYC?! So much. I die.

- This next one I found by clicking a post and falling down the Facebook rabbit hole. It's the mission farewell talk of (I think) the niece of someone G knew on his mission (Hi Kirsti!)  I was terrifically impressed with her thoughts; she's my kind of gal. The first thing I want to do when that happens is share it. I sent it along to Lauren on her mission but maybe you'll love it, too:

The Gospel of Abundance: Home, Church, and Global Siblinghood 

Year 10 Expedition

Anne Waddoups

S's school (and, really, very many of the schools here in Australia) has a terrific outdoor/leadership education component. Each year from Year Five to Ten the students take increasingly rigorous (and increasingly longer-away-from-home) camping expeditions with their class, culminating in Year 10 with a 10-day trek into the bush for some camping, caving, hiking, river crossing, kayaking, rappelling, and a fair dose of team building/leadership exercises. Here's a little glimpse of Sam's expedition this year from back in May, our mid-autumn. If you're watching carefully you can spy him a few times throughout and at one very obvious spot towards the end.

Sunshine Coast

Anne Waddoups

Four days for winter school holidays in Noosa, Sunshine Coast

- Noosa National Park, Coastal Track hike

- Modern cottage in the treetops in Noosa: "The Shack" (Rental info here.)

We had a bit of an adventure when we accidentally hiked onto a secluded nude beach for our picnic lunch (apparently exclusively for very old very tan old hippy men.) Oh well--it was a wildlife preserve, after all. They might've been a bit more forthcoming in the pamphlet, though.

Also: we star gazed, ate good food, hiked a lot, and slept in. G got up and brought us bakery breakfasts in the mornings. We watched the World Cup and Master Chef and read books every evening with the gas fireplace going strong.