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!

Happy Seventeen, Mads!

From last week on Saturday when we observed Madelyne’s birthday. Still have this old denim shirt from our Knoxville days but the sentiment remains forever for me. Happy seventeenth, Mads!

Madelyne at Bundenon, NSW

Mads just got back from a 3-day retreat with her Year 11 arts classmates. Bundenon is well south of Sydney, even farther than Berry where Susan & I went during Australia Day in 2016. They stayed nearby the home of a renowned artist, Arthur Boyd, in Australia for 2 nights.  Look up “Bundenon Trust” on the Internet and you’ll see their program for artists. She brought back some nice drawings from her experience!

Another hard step…

We picked up Ziva two weeks ago today and I am continually stunned each day by her progress. She has about 80% usage of her back left leg and probably about 50%-60% usage of her back right leg. The left one “auto-corrects” like the veterinarian wants it to but the right one still hasn’t fully connected back to the brain. That will come with time Dr. Stephanie claims…everything comes with time and once again, waiting.

Two weeks ago, we were also stunned by the grand total of Ziva’s medical bill at the emergency hospital. The amount, you ask? Well, for about 5 days in ICU and another 3 in hospital, CT Scan with myelogram (spinal cord dying,) emergency spinal surgery and numerous other much needed expenses to get her back to where she is today, the grand total comes to $13,401.05AUD. And she hasn’t even started physiotherapy… We luckily have pet insurance which has paid for some of the costs but as usual…never all of the costs.

For two weeks, I have wrestled with creating a GoFundMe account to ask friends…well, YOU, for help. It feels odd, it feels weird, it feels…like I’m doing something wrong. I tried to explain it to my friend Amy in that I’M usually the one helping others. I’M not used to ASKING for help. But this very unexpected situation, especially at this time of year, has thrown us for a loop. As I continue to to pay for unforeseen costs such as a $200 extra large wire kennel to keep her contained, a $125 full body harness that helps keep her back legs supported while she walks, another $180 for medication to help her with her continued confinement, I’m wondering what physiotherapy will cost and how long Ziva will need it. Will her right paw continue to flip under not righting itself correctly and will physiotherapy help this? I don’t know the answers to these questions right now. But the wondering has helped me “push the button” on the GoFundMe account.

So here is the link to our GoFundMe page: GoFundMe: Ziva’s IVDD Medical Fund Feel free to share it with friends who know Ziva or who tend to help others “just because.” I truly appreciate any and all help anyone is able to provide. If your only way to help is to share it on your FaceBook page then good on ya! Every kind of help is welcome and we are thankful!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and amazing holiday season.

Merry Christmas, from the Smiths!