Ten Years!

A decade? Yes, ten years ago today the family landed in Sydney to start our Australian adventure. What was planned to be a 2 to 3 year assignment turned into a long-term commitment with our crew now solid citizens of this great country. Although COVID has put the skids on our exploring the past few years, we aren’t done yet with the adventure and look forward to more fascinating times.

At this point in our lives, Madelyne is enrolled at MacQuarie University, Susan is now the board secretary for Sydney Wildlife Rescue, and I’m still plugging away at consulting (busy as ever!) I’ve logged tons of hours on WebEx, doing virtually what I’ve been doing in person since the year 2000, So in sum, everything seems to have worked out for the best for The Smiths in Oz.

Now heading into Christmas, the Omicron strain of COVID landed in Sydney a few days ago so who knows where we will go next as a nation? But we have each other and that is what makes the holidays special anyway. To all our friends out there, Merry Christmas from the Smiths in Oz!

The Dreaming Artist

Madelyne’s body of work this year has been an experiment in animation.  Although there are many tools out there that allow artists do do some amazing things, she used Photoshop to produce this.  It involved hundreds of different frames to produce each animation sequence.

Her objective was to make it look like a retro PC video game that people used a full decade before she was even born.  But she threw in some classic works of art to help show how an artist can change the world.


Madelyne’s Graduation 2018

She’s done! Graduation is over and only competency exams remain.  Kind of like SAT tests for seniors in high school.  So whilst the big event has come and gone, the big exams are now starting up and to many of the girls it feel like they haven’t actually graduated just yet.

Sue Parrish flew down to spend some time with us and to attend her last granddaughter’s graduation.  It was fun to have her here, and we managed to find alternatives when she ran out of her supply of American coffee down here!

So there you have it.  I set out to globalise my little girl and ensure she got a global perspective, and it would seem she now has obtained that.  She’s talking about going on to “Uni” here in New South Wales but let’s get through the gauntlet of assessment exams first before talking seriously about next steps!

I haven’t been posting here much due to Facebook, but this seemed a good place for me to place a slide show of Madelyne’s graduation activities the past few weeks.  You should be able to access it by clicking here ======>  Graduation 2018

Graduation Day!

September 27, 2018, and Madelyne has as of this morning’s ceremony graduated high school in Australia.  Hurray!  Thinking back to late 2011 when I was worried if she would “fit in” amongst the kids in a foreign land, those concerns evaporated quickly once we got here.  The degree of care provided by the private school she’s been in (Stella Maris) these past 5 1/2 years has been wonderful.  With this milestone, I feel like I’ve achieved my objective of ensuring my daughter got her basic education with a more global view than only the boundaries of the United States.

She tells me she’s already applied to MacQuarie University, so although she’s a few months behind her fiends in the USA that started their freshmen year a month ago, there appears to be no doubt that she will be following that same path.

It has been a pleasure to have Sue Parrish here as well to attend the ceremony with us.  Tonight there will be a mass and following that, an awards ceremony that we will attend.  It’s a pretty big milestone for The Smiths in Oz!

And she’s off!

Off to Japan, that is! This was moments before Madelyne boarded the bus with her fellow representatives from the Northern Beaches Council to travel to the airport. She’s now on the ground in the Tokyo area, starting a 10-day exchange program and living with the family of the young lady we hosted earlier this year.

I couldn’t be prouder of this dynamic young woman!

Our Time With Mana

Meet our exchange student from Odawarra, Japan. Her name is Mana Seito and she's the fourth such visitor we've hosted since coming to Oz. But what a difference this visit seems! Firstly, Mana is 18 years old, and more mature than the previous girls. But so also is our Madelyne, who is now in year #4 of her Japanese studies. For the first time, Susan & I are seeing our daughter actively conversing in Japanese with another person! It's pretty cool to observe. For my part, I'm using "Google Translate" on my mobile phone to get quick phrases in Japanese–but can't come close to the kind of dialogue that Maddie enjoys with Mana. Later this year, the two girls will re-unite in Japan when Maddie travels to Mana's city of Odawarra to spend time with her family. Cultural exchange is alive & well with the Smith family this year!

Happy Anniversary (to me!)

It’s June 15th in the USA, and I’m observing the anniversary that nobody but me (and perhaps a caring HR department) should be aware of.  Seventeen years ago, after taking six months off to enjoy the arrival of my daughter, I re-joined the work force and began my new career as an IT consultant. So much has happened over these years–it’s really been a wild ride that gave me the opportunity to travel the globe and try to give my family the best quality of life possible.  After all these years, I really feel like I accomplished that goal.

I can’t take credit for being self-motivated on this.  Walking away from a 15-year career at IBM seemed like insanity at the time.  IBM had successfully “programmed” me to think that there was no way I’d find a better job than the one they were willing to offer.  The uncertainty of where I would be going and what I would be doing was maddening.  Full credit goes to my wonderful wife Susan and her supportive father, Bill Parrish.  They encouraged me to think outside the box and try to manage the panic I was feeling about not having a definite path forward.  There’s a different mindset for people who take risks versus those that stay on the safe path.  And there were risks!  When I started, if the client didn’t pay TPI’s invoices, I didn’t get paid by TPI.  That was 180 degrees opposite from the security of the regular IBM paycheck.  Back in 2003, when our hospital client in NYC refused to pay for several months we had to borrow money from family just to pay our bills.  And this new job involved a lot more time away from home and family.  But we got through it all and are still plugging along today!

Along with the risks came the rewards.  Financially, I matched my IBM salary in 2000 after working only 5.5 months.  The next year, I tripled my IBM salary and never looked back.  Those were interesting years, working for the small LLC company with the family atmosphere and the willingness to spend big bucks to fly their employees and families to wonderful global conferences to provide the latest company news, do training, and share stories and ideas about how to be better consultants.  I miss that small-group feeling and intimacy that came with it.

The years with ISG after the acquisition and becoming a public company have been very different, obviously.  But really, I’ve continued to do much of the same kinds of things that I did originally with TPI.  Nice to know that certain basic skills in creating and managing contracts haven’t been completely replaced in these modern times.   The salary dipped a bit when ISG took over, but by then I had started to realize that it wasn’t about the size of the paycheck but the quality of life you enjoy along the way.  I’m surprised how long it took me to understand that–I was always the hard-driving capitalist that felt a maximized salary was the true key to happiness.   Taking the family to Australia was a strategic move based not on money or job opportunity, but instead to embark on a cultural adventure that would broaden my daughter’s perspectives and offer Susan and me an adventure in an English-friendly culture.  Just look at how well that has worked in the past 5.5 years!

So Happy 17th Anniversary to me.  I am grateful for the opportunity that ISG gave me to apply my Pennsylvania-bred work ethic (thanks, Dad!) in Australia.  It continues to this day, and it seems that just being true to who you are sometimes works out fine in other countries and cultures!

The Wallaby in the Back Yard

Usually it’s just rabbits down in the Reserve that is just adjacent to our house in Beacon Hill, NSW.  So our dog likes to run down the lane and chase bunnies. Imagine her surprise this morning when we came across a wallaby where there’s normally just a rabbit or two. The chase was on and for some reason the two animals ran in a circle around me before the wallaby finally made it to the exit thru the brush and into the forested area.  Nope Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore!