Category Archives: Family & Friends

Refresh — Regroup — Relaunch

You may have noticed a significant absence of posts for the last three months — and that’s because Mark has been working away like a busy little bee over in the 1400s house. And I’ve been carefully building a base of clients for my writing and editing business.

We took a much-needed weekend escape at the end of February — over to the far western side of Normandy in beachside Brehal. We didn’t do a lot — ate, slept, read, watched movies, and had a few outings in the icy cold weather. But it was a good break and we came back feeling refreshed.

Mark looking out to sea in Brehal, Normandy, France

Mark looking out to sea in Brehal, Normandy, France

A moules (mussels) farm at the seaside in Normandy, France.

A moules (mussels) farm at the seaside in Normandy, France.

On an afternoon drive along the seacoast, we stumbled upon this medieval chateau ruin from the 14th Century in Regneville sur Mer and had a quick walk around. It’s a tiny but very pretty village facing the sea.

The corner of a 14th Century chateau ruin in the seaside village of Regneville sur Mer, Normandy, France.

The corner of a 14th Century chateau ruin in the seaside village of Regneville sur Mer, Normandy, France.

What was meant to be a short hop back over to England for Mark’s parents’ 40th anniversary party ended up being a two week visit instead. It’s always wonderful to visit with them and see all of the other assorted family and friends, but everyone in the house ended up sick as could be with whatever lurghi was hanging around England at the time and I ended up in A&E getting meds for a chest infection when our local GP couldn’t see me. Aarrgghh!

Margaret & Brian Harmes at 40th Anniversary Party

Margaret & Brian Harmes at 40th Anniversary Party

We arrived back in France exactly 4 weeks after our icy cold visit to the seaside in Brehal — and everything here at the farmhouse in Notre Dame de Fresnay had burst into bloom!

View of the Normandy countryside through the bedroom window in Notre Dame de Fresnay.

View of the Normandy countryside through the bedroom window in Notre Dame de Fresnay.

Daffodils beside the old well.

Daffodils beside the old well.

Down by the duck pond.

Down by the duck pond.

We’re preparing to move on from here in three very compressed weeks. But we’re headed to the OTHER large house belonging to the owners of this house — and we’ll be there for 6 weeks whilst Mark does renovation work on it. I’ll send pictures of that project as it progresses.

The REGROUP and RELAUNCH part of the title refers to us regrouping, going over to England for several weeks at the end of June, and trying to decide if we want to settle down or continue to work and travel for awhile longer. That’s a longer stand-alone post about the turbulent social and political factors at play here in Europe right now, so we’ll save that for another time.

I have to be truthful, it’s one of those things that sneaks up on you a bit as you get older — the mental cushion of a home base. And right now our ‘home base’ is a huge storage unit full of our possessions in England — one we refer to far too often when we reach for something and then realise that it’s in the $%^&£@! storage unit!

In the next couple of months, we will be relaunching ourselves away from here. And I have ALSO just relaunched my personal website — but I’ll leave that for a follow-up post.

Back soonish!

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Sometimes You Stop — Simply Stop

When nothing is working, flowing, creating any joy or satisfaction in your life — sometimes it is necessary to stop — simply stop.

The past few years have been a bit like that and it reached a cymbal-crashing crescendo this year. We knew in our bones that we were never going to settle into Australia, our options seemed to be narrowing instead of expanding no matter how we tried to manifest change, and we finally gave in and realised that we needed to sell our JUST renovated Mid-Century house, downsize, and go back to Europe.

Mid-Century dining

Mid-Century dining

Amidst all of that, my darling husband Mark (and yes, he has given me permission to discuss this) began facing the facts about his chronic depression and anxiety and he began treatment. He hasn’t worked at all this past year and it’s been a real juggling act financially. But I don’t actually care about that because the charming sweetie that I met almost 23 years ago is back — well and truly back. Having the gift of time was a blessing and it brought a clarity that may not have arrived if he had been juggling work and 3+ hours per day of commuting. So hooray and then some!

The lovely house sold in 7 weeks, settled 8 weeks after that, and we had a lot of decisions to make about what to sell or donate or keep and ship overseas. None of that was easy, there were moments of frustration, but at the very last minute everything FLEW out the door — from cars to refrigerator to furniture. Hooray again!

On that last night before the movers arrived at 8 AM to put our now-reduced household items into a 20 foot shipping container, we each slept for 45 minutes at most. We stayed up all night long to make SURE that it was all packed and ready — and there was still an overlap in spite of our best plans.

Once the men had left and the house was clean and ready for the new owners, we took the train from Ballarat down to Melbourne and checked into a pre-booked apartment by the sea in our old neighbourhood — the beachside suburb of St. Kilda. Something told me that we would need a few days of decompression before we got onto a long-haul flight across the world — and that was more accurate than I could have imagined. I was shattered and on the verge of being seriously ill. But we slept and ate and walked in short bursts until I was just about back to normal after 5 days.

Sunday in St. Kilda

Sunday in St. Kilda

On Melbourne Cup Day, we headed for the airport HOURS ahead of time and eventually got onto our 25 hour flight towards London. By the time we arrived, we had been awake for over 40 hours!

Again, I knew that we would be two zombies when we arrived at Heathrow at lunch time on the 2nd of November, so I booked us a hotel nearby and we checked in and slept, slept, slept. The next day we headed to Mark’s parents’ house on the east coast of England. That’s where we are now — still resting, still recovering after 10 days, getting ready to leave here on Sunday.

We’ve slowly and carefully picked a new car, bought insurance, reopened accounts, sorted out the banking, purchased proper winter clothing, and done mundane things whilst being spoiled rotten by Mark’s darling family. We are feeling very blessed.

The new car...

The new car…

We’ve arrived about 5 weeks before Christmas and it is rather cheerful to shop for winter coats and shoes in gaily decorated malls — especially when the temperatures outside do actually feel Christmas-y!

christmasreindeeratroyals

These aren’t new ideas, but when life becomes overwhelming — sometimes you just HAVE to stop.

We HAD to stop fighting the fact that nothing was coming together in Australia and it was no longer a good fit for either of us. We had to stop avoiding the fact that Mark HAD to get himself back to a happy and healthy state with therapy. We HAD to have those necessary hotel breaks in Melbourne and London or these two over-50 (and then some in my own case!) folks would have been in a state of total collapse. We HAD to stop thinking we’d bounce back after 2-3 days here in England and be ‘right as rain’ in no time. Um — no — it’s taking a lot longer nowadays!

You’ll notice that I have hardly posted for the last 3 and 1/2 years compared to the stream of information and photography prior to that. Australia wasn’t our cup of tea on so many levels — and I’ll leave it at that.

I have a book to finish and it might be a few weeks until I get back into the groove of posting a few times a month — but keep watching this spot. There are NEW things on the horizon!

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Sunny Shiny Sydney Beaches on Mother’s Day

It’s not the kind of Mother’s Day celebrations I would have ever thought about, but apparently one of the ‘things to do’ on Mother’s Day in Sydney, Australia is to take your mother to the beach to celebrate if it’s a nice day. And Coogee Beach was a perfect example of the packed-with-people spots. The ‘Pram Brigade’ of young parents pushing children in strollers was certainly out in force!

The skies were gorgeously blue, the winds were ever-so-slightly brisk, and the temperatures were warmer than the norm. So it was a perfect day for a walk along the boardwalks and footpaths at the seaside with a hearty cafe lunch as a reward.

 

Danger sign on the clifftop walk to Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia

Danger sign on the clifftop walk to Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia


 
Boardwalk along a section of Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia

Boardwalk along a section of Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia


 
Every single bench facing the ocean was filled on Mother's Day at Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia

Every single bench or seat facing the ocean was filled on Mother’s Day at Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia


 

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Family Time in the USA

It’s been an amazingly busy three weeks here in the USA and we are winding down to our last few days with more than a tinge of wistfulness. My sisters, Karen and Cindy, flew up to Washington State from California to come and visit with us while we were at my son Chris’s house.

The line-up below is as follows — my youngest sister Cindy, my next-youngest sister Karen, yours truly, my son Chris, and his darling wife Diane.

 

Family time in Tacoma, Washington with Cindy Hatton, Karen Heilbronner, Deborah Harmes, Chris Fowler, & Diane Fowler

Family time in Tacoma, Washington with Cindy Hatton, Karen Heilbronner, Deborah Harmes, Chris Fowler, & Diane Fowler


 

On Friday afternoon we all went to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. Here are some random pictures from that wonderful family-oriented museum.

 

My son Chris and his youngest son Ryan

My son Chris and his youngest son Ryan


 
My sister Karen Heilbronner helping my grandson Ian with an exhibit

My sister Karen Heilbronner helping my grandson Ian with an exhibit


 
My sisters Karen Heilbronner and Cindy Hatton helping my grandson Ryan with an exhibit

My sisters Karen Heilbronner and Cindy Hatton helping my grandson Ryan with an exhibit


 
Ryan working with magnets and iron shavings

Ryan working with magnets and iron shavings


 
Mark and Diane after a wee visit to the gift shop

Mark and Diane after a wee visit to the gift shop


 

Stay tuned for another post with more images of this marvelous museum in Seattle!

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
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Beautiful Bouncy Boys in Washington State

Time for some more family frolics — this time in Washington State. We took a wonderful 3 and 1/2 day trip across the country on an Amtrak train — and I will have some images from that trip in an upcoming post. Now we’re in Lakewood, Washington just south of Tacoma visiting with my son Chris, his wife Diane, and their two little bouncy bundles named Ian (aged 5) and Ryan (aged 3).

All of the boys were out front the other day when it was time for Ian to head off to school. Each boy had some quick chats with Mark and then Chris walked Ian down to the bus and went on board with him. Know why? School buses have safety belts now and he was making certain that Ian was buckled in safely!

Stay tuned for more family frolics in the days ahead. As Mark said the other day, “This certainly is a different kind of travel for us.”

 

Mark and Ian chatting before school

Mark and Ian (age 5) chatting before school


 
3 year old Ryan chatting with Mark on a rare & sunny Washington State day.

3 year old Ryan chatting with Mark on a rare & sunny Washington State day.


 
Chris walking Ian down to the school bus before school.

Chris walking Ian down to the school bus before school.


 
Chris on board the school bus making sure that Ian is buckled into his seatbelt

Chris on board the school bus making sure that Ian is buckled into his seatbelt


 

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Day Out At Walden School in Louisville, Kentucky

We are having the most wonderful time visiting with our family in the USA and a particularly wonderful few hours was spent at the Walden School in Louisville, Kentucky where my grandson Johnny is in the 1st grade.

Just have a peek at these classrooms and tell me if you aren’t envious of the children that get to go to school here! It’s a wonderful and nurturing environment that encourages creativity and individuality instead of expecting each child to ‘conform’ to a methodology that might not suit their specific personality or intellect. I am quite pleased that my daughter Jennifer and her husband John are able to send Johnny to this marvelous private school.

We started our visit to the school with a meal in the lunchroom. Walden School actively encourages parents and grandparents to drop in for lunch on ANY day — not just on specific or pre-defined family days. I’ve been suffering from hideous allergy problems since we arrived in the USA due to pollen that is now ‘foreign’ to my body — so that’s why my face and eyes are so puffy in this group shot below taken in Johnny’s school lunchroom.

 

Mark, Deborah, Johnny, and his mother Jennifer having lunch at the Walden School.

Mark, Deborah, Johnny, and his mother Jennifer having lunch at the Walden School.


 
1st Grade classroom at Walden School.

1st Grade classroom at Walden School.


 
The science classroom for the elementary school. Note the 'treehouse' area in both the main classroom and this science room where students can just get away and have some quiet time.

The science classroom for the elementary school. Note the ‘treehouse’ area in both the main classroom and this science room where students can just get away and have some quiet time.


 
Another section of the science room at Walden School.

Another section of the science room at Walden School.


 
Johnny showing the koi pond filled with live fish to Mark.

Johnny showing the koi pond filled with live fish to Mark.


 
A phrase that seems to encapsulate the Walden approach to their students

A phrase that seems to encapsulate the Walden approach to their students


 
Johnny's diorama showing the cheetah that he sculpted out of clay. His accompanying report gave information about cheetahs.

Johnny’s diorama showing the cheetah that he sculpted out of clay. His accompanying report gave information about cheetahs.


 
Johnny walking back to the classroom after lunch.

Johnny walking back to the classroom after lunch.


 
Jennifer and her little man -- Johnny.

Jennifer and her little man — Johnny.


 

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Frolics With Family — Part 1

Have you wondered where Mark and I have been? We’ve been in Louisville, Kentucky after flying from Europe to Iceland to Canada to the USA. And my daughter Jennifer, her charming husband John, and their darling children have been my focus for the last couple of weeks.

This is a VERY quick post because I am sitting in the train station in Portland, Oregon and I have a wifi signal for the first time in days. The Empire Builder train that we travelled on from Chicago to the West Coast didn’t have active wifi. (sigh!) So I am VERY FAR behind on my posts right now.

Here are some shots of my grandchildren Johnny and Elena — and there will be more in the days ahead. We are headed to Tacoma, Washington in 35 minutes to visit with my son and his wife and their 2 children. What a wonderful whirl of activity we are having!

More soon……………

 
Johnny6YearsOldAtSchool

 

ElenaClimbingOutOfPlaypen
 

 

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
All rights reserved.