Tuesday, April 29, 2008

parenting and such

Being that I'm sick and feeling like crapola I've been renting some movies and chilling on the couch with my fluffy red blanket and chocolate ice cream. I picked out this movie Suburban Girl based solely on the fact that it's based on two of the short stories from the book, The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank who I happened to hear talk on a panel at last year's ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) conference. The cover looks a little cheesy, but I was actually really impressed and surprised by the movie. It was smart and witty and surprising and quirky. It stars Alec Baldwin and Sarah Michelle Gellar and to be honest I've never seen her act but she was quite good in it. The guy at the video store told me his brother told him it was good, whatever that was worth. He seemed to think that odd, since it's sort of seems like a chick flick but it makes sense because it is, and it isn't at the same time. I think that the movie must reflect the quality of Banks' book, which to be honest I haven't read but it's on my list. I just liked her personality at the panel. She was funny and strong, sort of a tomboy but also NYC-ish. Anyway watching the movie moved the book up on my list of books I want to read.

I also just watched Dan in Real Life with the kids and when his 3 girls are all mad at him, well that's like how I feel sometimes! Sam was interrupting me when I was on the phone earlier and so I had to cut my phone call short and discipline him, basically tell him he could not go back outside. He so wanted to play with his friends, which I understand because I've been gone and all his friends are outside playing. But I was like, look you know the rules, you do not interrupt me on the phone. And especially when he does it repeatedly! I told him to wait 5 minutes, and he just couldn't do it. So, then he stands forlorn like at the front door staring out the window at his friends playing for like 20 minutes!!! And I'm like "SAM, stop standing there looking all forlorn." And then he starts asking me if he can go outside, though he knows he can't. And I'm like "NO! You can't! I said no and that's that." But so then he's all, "there's nothing to do." So I asked him to come watch the movie with me and though he complained and thought it was boring (at first) he did. Then he starts telling me the way the dad gets made fun of and feels left out, that's how he feels. But he's down all because I won't let him go outside and play with his friends, and he can't get his way. I said no, that is how I feel - all the kids are "mad" at the single parent! Steve Carrell was great in this movie. He did a really good job.

It's kinda funny because one day Savie will say how she gets along with her parents unlike most of her other friends, and I felt pretty good about that when she said that the other day. Then another day she'll say how I don't "get her" (um, well she said this tonight) and how different we are. I told her really we are soooo much alike that she just doesn't get that yet. She thinks daddy gets her and he just listens and gets her weirdness. I said well, you have to talk to me more. She said well you don't like the books I like or like to talk about the things I want to talk about. So I said well tell me about the books you're reading. So then we wrastled a little and she acted goofy and I said that Daisy the stuffed bear loved me more than her (an ongoing joke) and then I hugged her goodnight. Though she's probably still up reading! But anyway, teenagers and kids can be confusing! I just hope I don't mess them up for life.

Monday, April 28, 2008

hey jude

I'm sick - sore throat. It sucks. I feel like crap. I'm going to get a movie, have some hot tea and honey and curl up with my blankie! But this is just too cute and I had to share!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I am happy

"First time that I saw your eyes, Boy you looked right through me. mmm mmm. Play it cool but I knew you knew..." - Fergie, Clumsy

I don’t know why, but I’m just feeling inner joy and peace today. Excitement even. Yea! Funny thing, after all my questioning and inner struggles I tried doing that thing that someone anonymously commented about what I should try:

"Make a deliberate effort to force the thoughts out of your mind and leave the mind empty. Contact your spirit and allow the voice of God, His Spirit, to speak. There is no need to translate, interpret, or adjust. Your spirit is you at the deepest level, the truest form of you, and the organ and mechanism through which God inserts Himself into your being. Questionings dissipate and peace remains along with the knowledge(the I know of the I know, the deepest possible knowing) of God's desire and God's purpose. It's not earth shattering, just solid and sure. Then, trust in what God has "said" and trust Him to work it out. Pray when, in your spirit, you sense an obstacle, but don't take it back from Him and don't attempt to master plan the Master's Plan just because you've learned to hear."

So I laid down on my bedroom floor and closed my eyes and just tried to clear my mind and think of God and listen. I first tried sitting but it wasn’t too comfy so I laid down, on the floor next to my bed just meditating on love; ie God is love. I didn’t really hear any answers. I hadn’t exactly asked any questions. I just cleared my mind and listened and tried to clear my mind of all the rubble. Then I fell asleep. On the floor.

But when I crawled into bed at about 1:30am, I got a text message. And then we talked by phone, for about an hour. Which at $3.50/minute on my cell phone is going to cost a small fortune but oh well. (I have a calling card to call Australia, but it results in an annoying delay between talking and hearing one another). This is the first I’d heard from him by phone since he’d been out at sea, so it was really comforting and nice to talk and I felt sooooo much better (for the first days after I got home we talked every day, then he went back out to sea). And I’m very, very excited to be going back in just over a week!!!! So very excited. So much.

I was reading something on Dr. Phil’s website (don’t even ask how/why I ended up there – believe me, it’s NOT the typical kind of thing I browse) about relationships and it said something about allowing yourself to be your “authentic self” in a relationship and that if you’re not, then you’re doomed to failure. Well I don’t normally worry about being my authentic self because I pretty much am authentically who I am, but what I realized is that I had this worry, I’m not proud of this, but I worried about what others might think about him and whether he’d fit into my life and that kind of thing… but that’s me worrying about what others think, which I’ve always maintained is stupid. So why was I doing it?

The reality is my authentic self has this attraction for this person that is very mutual. And then after we started cruising out to sea the very first hour or two, I went into his skipper’s cabin (the wheelhouse) and he just had this huge grin, like he was expecting my visit.

So we just got to know each other more and better on the trip and that is that. And we basically shared so much about our lives with one another in a totally natural way, slowly unraveling, unfolding, revealing layers of the onion. We share many similar issues from our pasts, and have common values and well he’s just so interesting and different and witty and cool and um, Australian, and just the perfect level of forwardness for me. He pissed me off one time, and I cried another time. I fell asleep when he was telling me something important from his heart– ha! Oops. But the whole experience and meeting between us was all just very special. And I resisted much of it (the feelings, I think) for nearly the whole trip, I guess I was in denial.

And he is a Christian, which is a huge huge huge thing for me. It’s really hard for me to find people (guys) who are Christians and sort of more liberal in their thinking, laid back, scientific-minded, and all that. I tend to have more in common with and be friends with more non-Christians than Christians, but have been really always wanting to meet a Christian guy who is on my wavelength. And the vision he has for the future is very much along the lines as what I want to do, which is very serendipitous and also weird. I mean he’s got his own plans and dreams, but they fit right into what I want to be doing with my life too. Can’t you just see us as the next Steve and Terri Irwin? :0) Except I told him I've got to be in charge. I've got to be the Stevo. And he said no he's got to be in charge. heh heh.

So to be honest, I know it’s easy for anything to fall apart and not work out. I mean, here we are 9 million miles apart (or something like that…), halfway across the great huge planet. I have to stay in Houston for my kids, because my parents moved apart from one another and I had to jet back and forth between them since I was about 2 years old and I swore I’d never do that to my kids. I had to choose between parents, and I don’t ever want to do that to my kids. I want them to be raised with both of us right here in their lives. It’s very much an internal struggle because I feel like I’ve found something very special – and though there’s much time ahead to see what will happen and maybe it’s all just illusory and not real anyway (you never know) but if this is the real deal then what the heck? Must I give up a chance at love for the sake of my kids? Is that the kind of sacrifice God is asking me to make? Can he move here? Can we share time between Australia and here? So many questions that are all so far in the future but the questions one must ask as a single mom are simply different than those by a typical single person, because well, why open my heart if I know it’s doomed from the start?

I asked M if he wants to move to Australia, but no dice. I’ve started feeding my kids Vegemite in the hopes they’ll turn into little Aussies. ;) Something, someway will work out. Or it won’t. Time will tell. We’re going to have to take this one day by day. So that’s that. And I can’t wait to see him again!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

facebook and myspace

I don't think I've linked to my public Myspace and Facebook pages so if you're so inclined check em out.


I envy those souls who don't question every little aspect of life, and who just go with the flow. I'm not one of those people. I have questions about everything, EVERYTHING from the way the universe works to the way my mind and emotions work to the what is really real about what people say and what reality even is. It can drive one to madness at times... It's really the skeptic's worldview to some extent, though I believe in God which throws a monkeywrench in that whole equation.

Some people I know trust others immediately and then allow themselves to be disappointed, and they say it's worth it, in what you gain from the trust that you extend to that person. I am generally that way in that I don't judge others or try not to and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt for sure. But it also depends on what is at stake. If I'm risking something of my life or my heart I can't just put that trust out there 100% all at once. I think that partly this came from the relationship experience I had a few years back, but I think it's wise. I've said since then that I don't think I'll ever allow myself to just completely give myself emotionally over to another person, or to fall head over heels. Whatever happens in my life and with my heart it's going to happen slowly. Maybe there's a little cynicism in there, I don't know.

I got a pedicure two days ago and then yesterday a massage. All these emotions come flooding out of me, and it's hard to know whether it's my own manufactured fears and questions or whether it's intuition or reality. Or hell, just PMS for that matter. I really wish sometimes I had a simpler mind that thought about things less! Just watch, I'll get in a car accident and end up in a coma or something because I said that... I've been having some bizarre dreams lately. Then again I've been sleeping a lot. Sleeping is so amazing. I could sleep all day! Then again, I have a crapload of work to do, so I really can't.

On another note I thought my toe was healing and I was walking without much of a limp and I even did power yoga one day. Well now it's getting worse, and hurting, and it's swollen, and I'm limping again. This really stinks because I'm leaving in a week for Australia and I want it to be fully healed!! Back to work on an article on ringtails, those cute ferret-like relatives of raccoons.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp
Dogg Lake, Yosemite National Park

I'm back from girls night out, which was fun as always. This is just a fly by the seat of my pants blog so bear with me. I just have been thinking about dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction with certain aspects of life. It seem I've always been a certain level of dissatisfaction with something or another. I am always looking at the unraveling hem and trying to fix it - whether in my own life or what in my career or my kids or whatever. I see things as glass half full but at the same time am always working to fill up the empty half - or quarter or whatever. So I've been wondering whether in a certain situation I'm going to create a need I didn't feel before, and then have it taken away, and then I'll end up dissatisfied. Am I creating or putting myself in a situation where I'm doomed to become dissatisfied? Is that wise? Or am I not trusting enough in the providence of the universe, of God to provide love and fill a need that we all have, even when we (I) like to hide behind the mask of independence and "I am an island"?

I see so many women (or men for that matter) get in relationships quickly after a divorce or relationship breakup. I've been solo for over 5 years now. I had one relationship for about 4 months in there. I like my life this way for the most part. I like raising my kids and working on my career and spending time with my friends. It's been my philosophy that "It takes a damn good man to be better than no man at all" and so far I haven't met anyone that fits the bill (am I too demanding? ha! Have to be, I think - too many unhappy married couples and I ain't gonna be one of those - don't want to be!). There's something to be said for making your own money, not having anyone to negotiate or argue with about financial or other decisions, and all that jazz. (Luckily my ex and I have pretty much the same philosophy about our kids so there are not parenting disagreements). There are certainly some things I miss being solo, but, well I won't go into details.

So I wonder though whether getting into a new relationship is something I really want to do, especially when it's distance and could be destined for creating longing or more dissatisfaction in a part of my life where I'm generally pretty satisfied (or not worrying about a buried need, at least). Sometimes having something there for a while, and then having to go without, fills this space you didn't know was there and then if you take it back away and then all of a sudden you miss what you didn't realize you longed for in the deep recesses of your heart and soul. So is it better to go on as always, ignoring that part of oneself, or to become vulnerable and create this vacuum that will necessarily be empty in a long distance relationship? I have a lot to think about. Insight and comments are much appreciated, even if anonymous!!

silly videos

Two silly videos we did in Australia - me, Jenny, Rin... in Brisbane having fun!!! Mostly I like listening to the laughter! :)

Speaking of video, I am putting together a video clip of me for a wildlife TV show host gig, which is my absolute dream job. I've been leaning in the direction of documentary work for a year or so now. I keep saying that I want to work in documentaries, that I want to be the next Croc Hunter, that I think we need more women in front of the camera who are cool with picking up spiders and snakes and who think those things are cool. So... we'll see what happens. It's a long shot but I'm going for it!

Monday, April 21, 2008

proud of the kids

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
-- Anais Nin

That is one of my favorite quotes, and it's today's quote on my calendar. I first read it on Alanis Morrissette's website, actually (have reading Anais Nin on my to-do list), and I turned to it now just when deciding whether to go back to Australia, so soon. I want to spend some time, and just see.

Driving home just a few minutes ago from errands, the sun was this beautiful glowing melon-colored ball of light-- just beautiful on the backdrop of ugly suburbia. I have felt out of place here in this Texas suburban culture for some time now. I don't fit into Texas, nor the cookie cutter homes, nor the lifestyles of the soccer moms that live here, nor my church really (though I agree with its theology for the most part and I love my pastor). I feel really at peace in Australia. I love it there (whether it loves me is another story - ha!) I have made some wonderful friends here in Houston though, mostly over the past couple years, people who also break the mold and who think and live and love differently. But I've been saying that I wanted to live in Australia for, oh about the last 17 years. Well mostly the last 2 since I went there again in 2006 but even before then I did want to return. I have 5 years left here with the kids and then who knows, but I know I'll be outta Texas faster than greased lightning. And who knows what will happen in the next few years. God has His way of working things out. I prayed for some answers and got some pretty clear ones (involving a platypus...and other things) and things just feel right in my heart.

On another note, I have to brag about my daughter - she got 1st place in all 3 events she participated in at the regional PSIA (Private School Interscholastic Association) competition a few weeks back!! That would be writing, spelling and dictionary skills. Sam also placed 3rd place in spelling! So Savannah will participate in the State competition at TCU May 3 weekend. I was in LA en route to Australia during the regional competition and she called me and was beaming!!

I'm so proud of her. Both of the kiddos are just super smart and doing so well. They've been in private school all their lives, and Matt and I are debating putting them in public next year. While I absolutely love their school for so many reasons (from academics to outdoor education to service learning to a positive spiritual religious education with tolerance taught plus strong science/evolution taught) the main thing is that they've just had the same middle school teachers for several years now. As wonderful as they are, I feel they need to have their horizons expanded by being taught by different people. The question is whether to change schools this year, when they'd both go to middle school 1 year together, or wait until Savie is in high school the following year. Decisions, decisions...

I can't believe school is almost out. The reason I'm going to Australia now is because the kids will be out of school May 22 and I'll be home watching them. I want to get up to the Daintree, maybe do some more diving. Who knows. We'll see.

it's official...

I am going back to Australia in 2 weeks. I just booked the flights. Call me crazy, but... you only live once. <3

Sunday, April 20, 2008

favorite memories

In no particular order some of my favorite memories from the trip:

1. The very first dive at Osprey Reef where I saw whitetip reef sharks resting on the sea floor, colorful tropical fish swimming around, coral reef above and below, and I distinctly felt like I was swimming in the "Sharks 3-D IMAX" movie.

2. Hanging out with Rin and Jenny at Jenny's place with the kids and laughing and talking and just having an awesome time.

3. Reading my kids' school classes comments to my shark blog gave me a huge smile.

4. Seeing the bigeye thresher shark!

5. Giving a talk on being a science writer to the current SFS Center for Rainforest Studies outside of Yungaburra, and walking through that lush, ferny, jungly place again. It was an amazing feeling to be there again!!

6. Hanging out in Port Douglas with Cat before the trip. I love that town!

7. The drive up to Port Douglas with Dean talking about science, faith, sharks, etc. The serendipity of randomly meeting him & Richard at the Pro Dive pool in Cairns before the trip!

8. Watching for platypus and seeing one in Yungaburra with Sean

9. Hanging out with Sean, Tony and Nicole after the dive trip at T&Ns place.

10. Sean.

So... I've been seriously thinking about going back to Australia in a couple weeks... That timing would allow me to go before the kids get out of school because then I'll be home watching them full time and won't be able to go anywhere. What do you think? Should I do it? I thought about taking the kids to Australia for part of the summer but that would be expensive plus methinks I might wait until next summer and see how things go...

I feel so content and at peace in Australia, like I belong there. I feel like a square peg in a round hole whenever I'm here in my suburban Houston home. I love the laid back tropical nature of things over there. There are so many things I want to experience and see over there. I have a plane ticket ready to be booked but am wavering. Too soon? How does one decide? I have such a strange mix of cautiousness and throwing caution to the wind. I know there's only one chance at this thing called life, and I like to be surprised by it. Surprised by joy. Surprised by grace. So easy to is to hide and not risk. I know from experience that such connections are rare. I'm not sure of the future but I know it will involve amazing things, no matter what happens.

I am loving this saying, "My life is perfect in every way." I say it anytime I start to feel insecurity or worry. And it's true - I love my life! I've been feeling so content lately or was when I was traveling. Wonder if that's Australia or just being away from all the "stuff" of being home? On this trip unlike most I was working and writing straight through and had daily deadlines and still felt great, content, happy... so it's not deadlines per se that bother me apparently. Decisions, decisions...

Friday, April 18, 2008

pics from the coral sea

This shark diving expedition in the Coral Sea is covered in far more detail on the Discovery Channel Expedition Shark blog I reported, but here are some of my personal photos along with a few from others that complement my personal version of the trip.
Sunset over the Coral Sea, first night out.

Me doing a giant stride entry on my 1st dive in the Coral Sea. Photo Courtesy Sanjayan.
Richard Fitzpatrick wrangles a whitetip reef shark while Mike deGruy is ready to help- bringing it on board the Undersea Explorer after catching it undersea with "shark rodeo" - lassoing it with a rope. All in the name of research of course!

The Undersea Explorer and the dinghy used for some of the research.
Sanjayan, Richard and Mike get cozy with a whitetip reef shark in the kiddie pool.

Richard and Mike get a hold of a whitetip reef shark on board the Undersea Explorer which they're about to implant a radio tracking device in.
Richard, Dean & Sanjayan work on whitetip reef shark.

Richard adjusting the hose on a whitetip reef shark on board the Undersea Explorer. The hose keeps water flowing over its gills. A grey reef shark being worked on. You can see the incision on its abdomen where Richard implanted a radio tracking device - aka "pinger" and sewed it up.

The beautiful Coral Sea.
Cat Gennaro and I on the second day aboard the Undersea Explorer. Photo courtesy John Rumney.
Mike deGruy and JR Rumney with a coconut rattle, which have been used for milennia to attract sharks.
Expedition Shark producer Mark Ferns catches up on work.
Mike deGruy and Celine Cousteau, presenters on Expedition Shark, hang out on the lower deck.
Me, Mark Ferns and George Evatt (underwater videographer). Photo courtesy John Rumney.
Undersea Explorer Engineer Brendon Robinson caught in the act... eating! :)

Topside cameraman for Expedition Shark Athol Foster.

Me Scuba diving. Photo Courtesy John Rumney.
Checking out a whitetip reef shark in the kiddie pool on board the Undersea Explorer. Photo courtesy John Rumney.

Dean Miller, Richard's research assistant and videographer, dresses up in some of the boat's "gear" while Cat looks on.

A chambered nautilus they caught in traps, and released again after marking for research purposes. John "JR" Rumney, Gabriel (dive instructor) and Tony (chef) hanging in the lower deck where everyone eats and works.

Sanjayan, Expedition Shark presenter and The Nature Conservancy lead scientist, showing the "reef cam" they place down at about 30 meters every day, then pick back up later in the afternoon. It's placed at a "cleaning station" where sharks and rays literally line up to get their parasites cleaned off their skin by cleaner wrasse fish.

Sean came with me to visit Warrawee, aka the Center for Rainforest Studies where I gave a guest lecture to the current students. It was so amazing to be back at this place that I spent time at in 1990 and that truly changed my life both personally and professionally. I love this Australian rainforest with all its tree ferns, vines, lianas, lush jungliness... and brush turkeys and pademelons hanging about. Me jungle woman! Sean knows a lot of the edible plants and so was teaching me about that. What is it with me knowing people who love edible plants and like to live on the land?!!! (I read a humorous essay on NPRs All Things Considered called "Married to Mowgli" about Matt who was/is very into edible wild things and once fed our kids maggots, erm carpenter ant larvae...).

On another note... I ran into the chair and think I broke my friggin toe. Hurts like sh%^ and I can't walk on it - or my foot. Or pretty much at all. OUCH! Its getting worse. I don’t want to pay a crapload of $ for a dr to wrap it and stick a popsicle stick on it… so should I do it myself? The thing that sucks is now I can’t run or do yoga and I totally must have gained 5 lbs on that boat …. they feed you soooo well!!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

at peace

Just back on land from one of the most incredible trips of my life. I loved absolutely everything about it. Of course, you can read all about it on the Discovery Channel Expedition Shark blog (& 1 more post still to be posted there...) but here are some more personal reflections. I couldn't have asked for a more amazing group of people to spend the last 10 days with. Each one of them in their own way unique, kind, generous, funny, brave, inspiring. I hope to keep in touch with them! I know for sure I've met some who will be friends for life.

I'll post some of my photos here when I get home. I am going to the SFS Center for Rainforest Studies on the Atherton Tableland, inland from Cairns in a bit. I'm giving a talk as an alumni about being a science writer, returning for the 1st time since I studied there in 1990. It was a very personally and professionally life transforming time in my life and will be really wonderful to go back there.

I fly home on the 17th, Australia time, and that means returning also on the 17th since we're a day ahead here. You know I absolutely love this town, Port Douglas. I love Australia. I really want to live here! I have at least 5 years before I can, I'm in Houston til the kids go to college, but I really would love to live here.

Diving was sharks was one of the most incredible things I've ever done. And I've done a lot of things and seen a lot of places. I hadn't gone diving since 1992... but I felt completely natural in the water, diving, and completely safe and at peace with the sharks and in that watery realm. I did a refresher in Cairns and then did 3 dives on Agincort Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef, before leaving for Osprey Reef - if you read the Expedition Shark blog you'll know it's an isolated seamount reef in the middle of the Coral Sea halfway to Papua New Guinea. But diving with whitetip reef sharks, silvertip sharks, and grey reef sharks swimming all around... and seeing a big-eye thresher, tiger shark and the kaleidoscope of colors of the coral reef fish, corals, sea cucumbers, anemones, octopus, nautilus, corals of many variety... that was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Wow. I can't wait to go diving again.

We had really rough seas on the way back. Unlike the trip out, this time I learned my lesson and took seasick tablets, so I felt a bit better but you really can't do anything when the boat is rocking like mad, crashing against the waves. I had all these ideas of writing my book chapter while on the boat, but.... well that just didn't happen. However I did have some great conversations that can become a part of some of that.

Here are the radio interviews I did with Discovery Channel Earth Live:

  • Interview one with Wendee Holtcamp -It was a rough ride out to Osprey Reef, but well worth the effort.
  • Interview with photographer Cat Gennaro - How do you capture a shark on camera? Cat, expedition photographer, explains.
  • Interview two with Wendee - It's Shark Central at Osprey Reef - the perfect place to capture sharks for radio ID tag implantation. Wendee was in the thick of this "shark rodeo" and describes what happened.
  • Interview three with Wendee- Seems like only yesterday that Wendee arrived at Osprey reef looking a little green from her 20-hour boat ride. But time flies and Wendee, Cat, the scientists and filmmakers are calling it a wrap.
I think the links go to the same place but then you have to click at the 1-2-3-4 buttons on the bottom (or "Next").

Ciao for now. xoxo

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Expedition Shark blog is live!

The Discovery Channel Expedition Shark blog is live now- my 1st post is now on, so check it out and post comments! http://blogs.discovery.com/expedition_shark/

I'm at sea now, and we'll lose internet/email coverage witin the hour so signing off now... hope I'll be back! :)

Friday, April 04, 2008

the great barrier reef

It's about 815pm Aussie time, and it's been another bonzai day. Right now I'm sitting in the coolest internet cafe called re*hab and it's got the best coffee and its a really cool hip little place. I think I need to open an Australian coffee shop in America! I'm having an affogatto which is a shot of espresso over ice cream - and i have a bit of mocha on it. Yummo.

I went Scuba diving on the Silversonic out on the Great Barrier Reef today. I did 3 dives so now I'm an old pro. ;) I feel confident enough to go diving with the sharks... It took about an hour to get out to our first dive site, and leaving Port Douglas you could see all the tropical hills silhouetted against the ocean and it was very beautiful, with a few scattered clouds and the ocean all silvery blue with the morning light.

The first dive was at "Barra Bombie" - translation "Barramundi Bombie" and a bombie is a round-shaped coral site. I dove with the certified divers and when we were going for our first dive of the day they were just like "ok jump" - and it was like 4 feet below. You use what's called the giant stride entry where you just take a giant step into the ocean but it's not right under your feet. And the crew were like "go go go" to everyone one after another... and I was like, I feel a bit nervous... but I just went... and it was fine. My mask was not fitting too great but I just focused on getting comfortable with the diving and seeing what I could see. The coolest thing was seeing a whole stretch of the sandy bottom with all these garden eels poking their heads out of holes in the sand. Wow! It was soooo cool. Also saw a couple of blue-spotted stingrays at that site.

After the first dive my right finger was numb & I was like, dude I've got the bends! ha! I was kidding but then after the second dive at Turtle Bay (a "drift dive" with a big coral wall) BOTH my hands were completely numb - and white! I realized I was just cold. Which was weird because the water temp is 27 degrees C - which is quite warm. The other group of 4 divers saw 3 reef sharks but I didn't see any & was bummed. The diving was really neat, but the reef isn't as colorful and bejeweled as I remember from the early 1990s. I don't know if that is my incorrect memories, or because it has been degraded... it looked similar to the reef I snorkeled at in the Whitsunday Islands with the kids in 2006 though.

Anyway our last dive was at Turtle Bay. No turtles though... The cool things I saw: lionfish and leafy scorpionfish, a blue tang (aka "Dory" in Finding Nemo), clownfish and anemones (aka "Nemo" in Finding Nemo), unicorn fish, parrotfish, triggerfish. On the 2nd dive I got to hold this 3-foot long pineapple sea cucumber which was soooo cool. It's little tube feet stuck onto my hand. There were several sea cucumber species and I just think they're gorgeous. Isn't it weird what we find interesting? Someone else may find sea cucumbers totally boring but I think they're amazing.

Cat and I ate dinner at salsa which is a restaurant here in Port Douglas and it was really good. And now I'm tired and we have a day tomorrow in town before the Undersea Explorer hits the high seas. We leave about 5pm. I have no idea whether I'll get email out there or not so if not you can check my adventures at the Discovery Channel Shark Week blog - I wrote my first entry "Fear" and it should be online soon. I feel like I'm still rocking back and forth on a boat... I'm sure I'll feel that way for many days ahead.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

i love my job!

Today I flew to the tropical north Queensland city of Cairns, where I caught a cab to Pro Dive and did a Scuba refresher in the pool there. It all went brilliantly - the diving gear and using the equipment felt all very natural.

Funny thing, after I finished and changed back in my clothes, I saw these 2 guys in the pool and I was like, man that guy looks like Richard Fitzpatrick who is the shark scientist who will be aboard the Undersea Explorer - the boat being chartered for the Expedition Shark documentary. He's the lead scientist in the doco. I introduced myself and sure enough it was him. So instead of getting my charter bus I rode with the other guy Dean Miller (who is a marine biologist and cameraman who works with Richard) up to Port Douglas - about an hour north of Cairns. I love serendipity!

And my hotel is AMAZING! When Ifirst saw it, I was like, man this is the life! It's warm and humid up here as opposed to the totally un-humid climate in Brisbane but it's still just warm and tropical and delicious. We drove past sugar cane fields, and there are lots of hilly mountains covered in tropical trees and palms on one side of the road, and the aquamarine ocean on the other side (though it's a bit stirred up by wind at the moment). We even saw a wallaby! This is my first time in far north Queensland since I was in college so it's bringing back lots of good memories.

Anyway I'm trying to get the computer all set up to upload photos for Discovery so hopefully it will work. I met up with Cat Gennaro, the underwater photographer, in Port D and we're gonna grab some Thai food. Tomorrow we're going out diving at Agincort Reef on the Great Barrier Reef. Can't wait! Gotta jet.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

another brilliant day

Rin Jenny and I having a great time catching up today! :)

Today was another brilliant day. This morn I shouted Jenny to breakfast (I'm already speaking Australian! That means I treated her) at The Coffee Club which is a yummy restaurant with amazing coffee down on the waterfront here in Redcliffe. We then walked down to the beach and went to a couple shops before coming back and then right as we got home, Rin arrived with her 2 kids Raku and Hagan. Jenny Rin & I worked at Griffith Uni back when I lived here in 1991 and were working together on wildlife research at Wivenhoe Dam. Rin came to visit us from Toowoomba (I love the names of Australian cities!) and we all three just sat around and laughed and talked all day while the kids swam. Weather was beautiful and perfect again!

Rin took a hilarious video of us talking about how to pronounce the word "barf." I am writing down all the funny Australian phrases and terms I've heard in the past 2 days, and Indie said "You guys say barf don't you?" and I said yes (remember Aussies do not pronounce their rs so it sounds like "boff" and then I tried to get them to pronounce it with the r sound and it was just the funniest thing. ;) I'll post the video on here if I can when Rin sends it! It was awesome spending time with them and I leave tomorrow to Cairns where I'm doing a dive refresher course in the morning. Here are some pics from the day followed by some Aussie lingo - which will give you a good idea of some of our hilarious conversations!

Indie and Brooke, two of Jenny's girls, outside the ice cream shop yesterday.
Rin and her 2 kids Raku and Hagan.
Jenny smiling and laughing! :)
Chloe just home from school
Raku, Rin and I being goofballs today!
Jenny and Don and baby (ie bubby in "Australian") Abigail :)

Aussie lingo
(all of which came up in actual conversations we've had! And remember that since they don't pronounce the "r" you have to say "shock-a" for shocker and "ripp-a" for ripper etc)

Thick as two short planks (stupid/dense)
Happy as Larry (happy)
Buckley's or none (chance in hell)
As full as a goog (egg)
Down in the mouth (complaining)
Gobsmacked (astounded)
That's a shocker (bad performance)
Barry Crocker (a shocker)
Having a perv
(there are 2 versions of this - there's a pervy-perv, and a non-pervy perv which is just a look at any old thing. We were talking about me having a look at a cute guys bum - I was having a perv).
gluggy (sticky)
silly sausage (silly person)
Bob's your uncle (aka "she'll be right" aka everything's ok)
nick off or rack off (go away)
quick sticks (hurry up)
Blimey (aka crikey)
nutter (crazy person)
Hooroo (bye)
unpacking your trunk (picking your nose)
Who let Fluffy off the leash? (who farted)
don't argue the toss (don't argue)
gets himself in a fluster
littlies (little kids)
woodies (wood ducks)
maggies (magpies)
cozzies aka bathers aka togs (swim suit)
pokies (poker machine/slot machine)
tallies (tall beer)
stubbies (small beer)
don't go the raw prawn with me (don't b.s. me)
toothy pegs (teeth)
ripper (fantastic)
dob (tell)
chuck up (barf)
cack (laugh)
cacked myself (laughed yourself silly)
carked it (broken)
toy boy (when a man is younger than the woman)
thrown a spanner in the works (messed it up aka "buggered it up")
in a tick (in a minute)
guts for garters (in deep doo doo)
bit me a beauty (gave a good bite)
Bank Johnny (works at a bank)
3/4 length pants (capris)
squib (runt aka small person)
a long time between drinks (you'll have to guess this one but it applies to me - ha!)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

a vegemite sandwich

I'm at my friend Jenny's house in Brisbane and it's been the perfect day. We have just been sitting around in the most gorgeous weather you can imagine - like 75-80 with no humidity, perfectly warm and a slight breeze, sunshiney and just amazing. And we've been catching up and laughing and sitting outside just enjoying one another's company. She has 4 girls, and two of them are home. Last time I was here with my kids in August 2006, one was in her tummy. So a friend's son was over here playing with the 3-year old and for lunch Jenny asked Alex what he wanted for lunch.

"A vegemite sandwich," he said. "With lettuce. And toe-mah-toe."

Sooo cute! And of course I'm thinking of the "vegemite sandwich" line in the old Men at Work song. Vegemite is purely disgusting, in my book!

I arrived here at 7am after an uneventful flight which was about half empty - so that meant I had 3 seats to stretch out and sleep in. I took a shuttle over to Jenny's and we've been hanging out. Her older girls are just getting home from school, and we're going to go get ice cream on the waterfront in a minute. They live in the suburb of Redcliffe and when Savannah first saw this place, she immediately said "I want to live here." Even though afterwards we went all over Australia, she still loved this place best. And Jenny thinks it's a wonderful place too. It is!

I had a great time in L.A. too. My friend Paige and Jenny both are such inspiring moms. Paige has 3 kids and 2 stepkids and both of them speak to their kids so calmly and it just blows me away. I need to plant that image in my mind. I'm sort of like a third of the time calm and a third of the time umm... not. ;) A third of the time a goofball. So that's me... and I have a new mantra which I got from my friend Kate at my Thursday coffee group: My Life is Perfect in Every Way.

Try it - it works amazingly well! Whenever a thought comes into my mind that I'm stressed or worried about something, or if I want something or wish for something I just say "My Life is Perfect in Every Way." It takes the mind off of worry or pining or anything but focusing on the present moment, and manifesting peace and joy!

In LA, Paige and I had a peaceful Saturday hanging out at her house, then on Sunday we attended the West Angeles Cathedral where a friend of mine had sung in the choir. It was really cool - I love the soul in the music. Then we went to Malibu to meet Dana, another friend, and went up to Topanga Canyon to watch the sun go down over the hills with the Pacific Ocean in view down the cliff. Wow! Then I went to the airport. One of the amazing things I love about my life is how often I get to visit my friends, who live all over the world, and who I never would be able to see if I didn't have this traveling bohemian adventurous life. My life is perfect in every way! I do love it.

One thing I'm totally stoked about is that after the shark diving trip is over, I'm going to visit the place that literally transformed my life: Warrawee aka the School for Field Studies Center for Rainforest Studies on Queensland's Atherton Tableland, which is about 1 hour inland from the city of Cairns. I did a 3-month study abroad program there when I was a junior in college and fell in love with wildlife ecology, with science, with research. It changed my life in other ways as well, of a personal nature - it was a very life-changing time. I loved Australia so much then that I didn't want to return home - so I didn't. I stayed in Australia traveling and working for another 2 months and that is where I met Jenny as well as my friend Karine who is coming to visit and hang out with us here tomorrow.

So after my shark diving trip, I am going to return to Warrawee and give a talk to the current students about my career as a writer and how the experience influenced me. It will be so cool to see how it's changed, and to experience it all again. I do love my life and all the amazing people I am blessed to know, and get to visit and all the warmth and love and generosity and kindness I experience. It makes the few harsh things I hear so irrelevant and petty as to be like mosquito bites. Usually anyway!