Thursday, August 18, 2011

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

I am sitting cozy by the window in Paul's hospital room. The sky looks angry and the rain has been pounding the tin roof off and on all day. Rain on a tin roof- the stuff of life, man. Can't beat that relaxing sound. Today I feel like curling up under a big blanket with a good movie, or talking for hours over some hot coffee. It just so happens there is nothing on my schedule today but that very thing.

I've had a growth spurt this past six days, I think.

When I was a kid my family would take road trips every Summer. The weary hours before pulling into a hotel for the night were spent squirming in the back seat with Adrienne, trying to get comfortable, fighting for space and sleep. Her elbow was always jamming into my rib, my foot was always too close to her face; we'd end up all tangled and agitated until finally mom would step in. Mom had a way of arranging our little seven year old bodies just so- I never understood how she'd do it. But sure enough, we'd finally lay comfortably across the back seat of the van and fall asleep.

I've been trying to memorize Proverbs 31 recently. It's one of my favorite biblical passages. I just find it so inspiring- it is a new life goal of mine, to be a Proverbs 31 woman. I've been focused on the Proverb this week in particular. I feel like I'm covering new ground; I feel a bit stretched and challenged and a little forced to be an adult. It is a scary, invigorating and effective way to learn.

Things at the hospital have gone relatively smoothly this week. Paul's recovering with remarkable speed, and they say he can go home tomorrow! The only real difficult time we had was last night. The same exact thing happened last October when Paul had lung surgery. He has a reaction to the morphine after some time, which is what happened last night. He got anxious, said he felt unlike himself, that he was having nightmares even though he was sitting awake, that the room's walls were closing in on him. It was unsettling for me- I didn't know what to do except to assure him that the walls were staying in place, and that didn't seem to help much. I kept calling the nurses who were preoccupied with other patients. It was getting late and visiting hours were almost over. I couldn't leave him in that state, and it didn't look like I could spend the night. I felt so overwhelmed and helpless. I was tired. I was sick of being at the hospital. I was aware that I was only twenty two and felt all together in over my head. All I wanted was my mom, really. I needed a hug, I needed someone to come and fix everything.

A Proverbs 31 woman is clothed in strength. I took a deep breath and channeled everything in me that was... proverbian? Paul tossed and turned in bed unable to lay still. "Can you come arrange my pillows the way you do?" he asked. I hurried to his bedside, happy to be given a task, to feel in control of something, to be contributing. To my amazement, he laid his head down on his newly arranged pillows, grinned a contented grin and fell asleep.

What a relief. I sat back in my chair and felt so so great. I don't think I've felt truly needed in my life until this week. What a nice feeling :) It is so clear to me that coming here was a good decision. It's been wonderful being able to help and to show my love.

I called my mom this afternoon and told her yesterday's saga and how much I missed her. She is at the beach where we always take Hanson family vacations, and missing her mother too. It is all apart of growing up, I suppose, for my mom and for me. It is a good thing, I think, to need someone. It's also a good thing to be needed. Everyone is all about independence, and doing it on their own. There's a place for that too, but sometimes you just need to call your mom. Or have your pillows arranged :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Successful Operation

For those of you who want the facts upfront in five sentences or less (Dad), Paul is doing really well :) The surgery went off without a hitch, and Paul is mostly pain free and comfortable in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for another few hours before he'll be moved to private room. The staff has been wonderful and attentive, and we are ready to get this recovery process started!

For those of you who like every detail (Mom), here is how it all went down.

Monday morning Paul went into surgery at about 8am. By 10am, Paul's parents and I were waiting in the hospital for him, and an hour later he arrived. Paul was awake, which surprised me, and in a ton of pain. It was hard to watch. He had about 20 tubes coming in and out of anywhere and everywhere. I am glad there are doctor shows on TV. I imagine scenes in ICUs would come as much more a shock if it weren't for them. Paul appeared emotional when he saw us, but it was clear he couldn't cry because it would hurt too badly. He was wincing and told the doctor his pain was a 9 out of 10. That was hard too- Paul's not one to whine or exaggerate at all, so I knew how much pain he must have been in. His parents kissed his forehead and I whispered prayers in his ear. The doctors were pumping morphine in him, but said it would take a bit for the meds to start kicking in. I started to feel a little dizzy, so I sat down. Just like that, my vision tunneled. Aw, crap, I thought. I wanted to warn the nurses I was about to faint, but my body refused.

I have a long history of fainting spells. I've seen heaps of doctors, and have been diagnosed with vasovagal syncope, or as they have nicknamed it- skinny white girl syndrome. There's nothing horribly wrong with me, it's just something to be dealt with. There's also nothing I can really do to avoid it. I just stay aware- sit down whenever I feel even slightly dizzy. I pass out every 6 months or so. What used to be scary is now just annoying, the worst part being where I try to explain to a circle of freaked out witnesses why I'm fine and that yes, I've eaten breakfast.

I came to with an oxygen mask on my face and a nurse saying he was going to prick my finger to test my blood sugar. I have never passed out around medical people before. Oy. I pulled my hand away from him with as much force as I could muster (I am terrified of needles!) and explained my condition. I looked over at Paul who was looking lots better. "Way to steal my thunder," he joked. It was good to see him coming back around to his normal self.

I spent the rest of the day by Paul's side. I broke the visiting hour rules which seem to tick a few nurses off, but oh well. I am so so so happy to be able to be here with him. Paul was the happiest of campers all day long. He was very chatty and sweet. He probably told me 15 times how glad we has to have me with him. He kept telling me how much fun he was having, haha. The drugs were definitely doing their job. At one point a nurse came to check Paul's eyes with a flashlight, but he opened his mouth instead. I just couldn't stop laughing about that. We watched a lot of sports and a lot of Seinfeld (Paul's favorites). By 8pm we were both sleepy and visiting hours were over. I was asleep in my bed by 9:15.

Paul had a very restless nights sleep, and not doing quite as well today. I think getting out of the ICU will do him a lot of good. The noise in that ward makes sleeping difficult. I am here today again, and will be here for the next 5 or 6 days.

Everyone has been so supportive, down here in Oz as well as in the States. I am feeling just so grateful for that.

Love to you all :) Your prayers are felt.

Love Abby

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Photos We've Aaall Been Waiting For

Lauren and I just finished the premiere of Australia's Next Top Model which was essentially the same as America's Next Top Model only every contestant is white.

Okay! Here are the photos!
My new room!

Next, here is Paul in front of his new car! His eyes are shut.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Abby behind the wheel!!

The highlight of my week has been drinking drip coffee from the comfort of my house. Does that make it a lame week? Or just really great coffee.

This week has definitely had it's up and it's downs.

The up's:
The presents Paul got me (said coffee maker and also a much needed Aussie hair dryer. Mine was making scary smoke smells.).
We spent a lovely evening with Paul's friends Jake and Amy losing over and over at the card game President (called King here. Prime Minister, man.). We played probably twenty five hands. My boyfriend is one competitive bloke, as well as a good sport which comes in handy when we're being slaughtered.
Paul's dad works for an airline who hosted a trivia night to raise money for cancer research. Trivia nights are a big thing here. It's just what it sounds like- you make teams of 2-10 people. The team who answers the most questions right wins a prize. I had more fun than I expected to- it was SUCH a blast. Our team came in second place, but hey.
Paul and I went on a small hike on some northern Sydney beaches. Might as well get in all the activity we can before the big surgery, right? Sydney is beautiful beautiful beautiful. Apparently it's ranked in the top 5 best cities in the world, and I can think of 100 reasons why.
Bachelorette finale! Totally picked JP from day one.

The down's:

The surgery looms over us, and to boot, creates quite the time crunch. The past week and a half we've been going going going non stop. At least that's how it's felt. Moving across the world on two weeks notice leaves LOTS to been done. Who knew. We've been holding things together, but I in particular have defo had my moments. Leaving my family, moving house, starting a new job, making new friends, learning to drive, preparing for this surgery- these are all things I know how to do. Doing them all at once can be a bit tricky. I am lucky girl to have so much support from home, from Paul and from Jesus. How do people do life without these things??

I started my new job last Friday! It's in a warehouse for a bookstore called Koorong. The job is all manual and quite boring, unloading boxes, stickering books, packing boxes etc. The pros to it are my amazing boss (I have never had such a great boss in my life), the friendly staff and the fact that I can listen to my ipod all day :) I haven't worked too much yet- my boss was nice enough to give me time off to be in the hospital with Paul.

In other exciting news, Paul bought a car! It's his first car, so I made sure to take the classic "first car" photo (see above). We like it a whole lot so far. I've been riding shot gun until yesterday when I drove for the first time. It didn't go very well. I actually almost hit a woman walking behind me (first gear is in the top right corner of the clutch right next to reverse), almost pulled out in front of another car (left side means look right, Abby) almost stalled, I ALMOST DIED, OKAY?! Not really :) I did get honked at. I did cry... but in the end Paul and I exited the car in one piece. Well, two pieces. You get it.
I was so overwhelmed and on edge. We had the idea to first get me used to the left side of the car and street in an automatic before taking on the stick, which is what we spent today doing.
Driving around in Paul's sisters automatic was loads easier, but still scary. Everyone told me that driving would come naturally, but it just hasn't. I recite the rules to myself in my head- tight left turns, wide right turns, which helps. I gravitate towards the side of the road because to me, it looks like I'm headed straight for the oncoming traffic. Scaaary! Paul is patient though, and little by little I am getting the hang of things.

I am determined to get it by Sunday, which is when Paul goes to the hospital. I am done with crying. Sometimes you need to suck it up and put on your game face.

That's all I have to say for now, but I will end this post with a few specific requests on all you prayer warriors :)
More than Paul's health, please be praying for his spirit. He gets really frustrated and restless when he's sick. You can imagine that for an active guy, a month in bed will be difficult, especially following such a hard time with the same thing this past Winter. He has a positive attitude, and is keeping his head up, but sometimes the silver lining can be awfully hard to see.
But also pray for his health! :D
For me, pray that I learn to drive soon and fast. This is really important. I want Paul to go into surgery knowing I will be okay (I want to know that too!) and a big part of being independent is driving. I need to take care of Paul and I need to take care of me. Please pray I have the strength to do that and the confidence to stay on my side of the street when I car is headed straight for my seat! Ah!

I miss you!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just a Regular Arvo (that's Australian for afternoon, mate!)

Right now it is 1pm and about 73 degrees outside. This is Winter like I've never experienced it. The week and a half before I came Oz was cold and rainy (incidentally, Maryland was about 105 degrees, so I suppose I lucked out on both ends by being in mild and wonderful Colorado.) Apparently, I bring the sunshine cuz it's been nothing but b-e-a-utiful since my arrival ;D jokes. The sun is so hot here, that the mornings and evenings when it's not up are very chilly. Coat weather. In the shade, the temp seems to drop like 10 degrees. Weather talk is boring, I know, but I do find this interesting. I guess I've never lived this close to the equator.

I say all this to tell you how pumped I am to be living in Matt and Lauren Leeds' home now :) The Leeds home has massive windows everywhere that let in heaps of sunlight, and therefore heat! I am sitting in a Tshirt and shorts writing this, and it feels great. I really despise the sweaters or "jumpers" I've been wearing.

Matt and Paul have been best friends since childhood, so I'd heard a lot about he and his wife, Lauren, before I came down last Summer. (Note 1- the whole Summer/ Winter thing is confusing to write about. I can't even promise that I'll stick with one perspective in writing this, seeing as how I've already referred to August as both in this one entry. Note 2- I am paranoid to mess up my grammar (he and his? him and his?) in my blog. I know I'm an English major but...)
The Leeds' were as lovely as Paul told me they would be, and we became good friends. I am now living with them for three weeks or so, until I can work out some sort of permanent residency. Paul is still living at his parents house, and probably will be until his surgery on the 14th. Then he'll move... well, somewhere else. With such short notice, there are still lots of details to work out. So far I think we've been doing really well though :)

I looove living with Matt and Lauren! They are both school teachers, Lauren working literally across the street. You can see her classroom from her bedroom window- how funny is that. They have a new puppy that is quite hyper, however shockingly quiet, which is nice. I am starting to feel so at home in their house- they are such welcoming people. Plus they have one of those MASSIVE mac computers and a dvd collection the size of... a bathtub. That's an odd comparison, but accurate. Haha. Lauren is actually American herself. She moved from CA to Sydney when she was 12, so she has a very mixed accent. I don't find myself picking up anyones accent but hers, probably because it is similar to mine, only Australianized. She pronounces her er's like I do, but her vowels are all Aussie. I am going to stop talking about this now as I'm sure the only one who really cares about this stuff is my linguistically aware sister, Adrienne. ;)

I have spent the past few days at the Nonnies house because Paul's Nonno has been in the hospital undergoing prostate surgery. I'm not sure of all the details (non parlo Italiano), but I do know that he's doing well. Paul has been driving Nonna back and forth from the hospital. What a good grandson. We spent the night there, and before I fell asleep Nonna opened the door with a flashlight (she carries it around at night because it is easier than turning the lights on and off lol), said something in Italian and threw a bag of hot rice on my lap to keep me warm, haha.

I have had a few homesick moments in the past few days. Usually I cry a little, Paul asks "Are you done? I think you have some more to go," and I cry a little more. Then I get over it :) It is hard to move across the world. I don't know that I am particularly cut out for it, actually, but. Here I am. The first few weeks are the hardest part, after that things get great and stay great.

What I love about living in Australia:
- You don't have to add tax to things when you buy them. It's so nice knowing my exact total before i go to pay for something, especially since I'm still getting used to the currency.
- One dollar coins. Loved that about England too. The US needs to get on that.
- They have these amazing kettles that boil tons on water in one minute. I will be giving you one for your birthday. You have no idea what you're living without right now! :D
- No tipping.
- The money is really pretty and waxy, so it doesn't leave that gross carbon smell on your hands.
- You don't get charged to receive a text, only to send one. That just makes sense.
- Everyone hangs clothes out to dry instead of using the dryer to save energy. I can't decide if I like that or not, but I do admire it.
- Matt and Lauren live across the street from shops, including a grocery store which is beyond convenient.
- The birds are so colorful!

What I do not love about living in Australia:
- The birds are so loud.
- The coffee serving size is so small! (my one true qualm with Europe as well.)
- Being homesick
- Finding all new websites (you don't know how many American website's there are.)
- EVERYTHING IS SO EXPENSIVE, but don't worry. Tomorrow I have a trial day at a new job and the starting pay is 21 dollars an hour- can you even believe it.

Well I think that's all for now. I'll tell you next about my new job (!!) and how I managed to learn to drive a stick with my left hand. A bit nervous about that. Til then!


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dunkirk, Baltimore, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Sydney.

Wednesday morning I woke up for the last time in America, got dressed and went out to breakfast with my dad at our favorite place, the Countryside Delhi. Getting breakfast out with my dad is a tradition I will miss a whole lot these next six months. I said goodbye to Mom, Dad and Adi around 3pm that day. My mom hugged me tight and told me that I was doing the right thing. Adrienne stood and waved at me in the security line for about five minutes after we'd said goodbye. I hate saying goodbye to my family. I am embarrassingly prone to homesickness. It something I have to consciously not let dictate my decisions. However, this is certainly not the first time I've left them, and as I rounded the corner into the security check point, I found myself completely void of sadness. I pulled my suitcase down the airport walkways and felt only excitement. I am so proud of that! I feel like I have come a long way since my first three weeks of sobbing in England :)

My flight was as pleasant as a twenty four hour flight can be- I slept for five hours!! (a special thanks to my sleep-asking-prayer-warriors: Devin, Mandy, Caleb, Leslie and Sami. I honestly felt those prayers!) On two of the three flights I had an empty seat next to me, including the LA to Sydney leg. That was unbelievably lucky because there really weren't many seats open on either flight. I curled up into a ball and laid my head down. That extra seat made all the difference.

I also sat across the aisle from a Jay Z look alike who dramatically bobbed his head and conducted with his hands during take off and landing, so that was pretty entertaining.

I stepped off the plane and immediately knew I was in Australia as the signs pointed me to the "toilets" not the restrooms. I don't know why I find that so embarrassing. "Excuse me, where are the restrooms?" "Oh, the toilets?" What if I just want to power my nose? I just can't feel like a lady calling them the toilets. Next I spent an hour getting through customs, where the cutest beagle sniffed my bags. Then FINALLY there was Paul Schiavello. I look for Paul differently when I'm searching a crowd in that I simply skim the tops of everyone's heads- yup, there he is.

Paul took me to his grandparents (the Nonnies) house because they live in the city. I had a much anticipated bubble bath and one of Nonna's delicious lunches of homemade salami, pasta, salad, cheese, steak, salmon and bread. Can't wait for Christmas at that woman's house. Paul's Nonnies immigrated from Italy some fifty years ago, and don't speak much English. Paul is quite the translator. Nonna looked through every single page of my England scrapbook and commented "beautiful, beautiful." Being around Nonna makes me miss my dear Mom mom.

That afternoon on the way to pick up Paul's sister, Grace, we got a flat tire on a two way street in the city. I was so impressed with Paul's relaxed response to the whole thing, and double impressed as he changed the tire with no problem while dodging oncoming cars. Talk about your man skills. The three of us went by Paul's Uncle Mike's new cafe on the water and had a coffee. I was shocked at how well I was feeling having not slept for forty hours or so (minus those five magical hours on the plane :), and opted to go see some of Paul's friends that night. However, when jetlag hits you in hits you hard and fast. In a matter of fifteen minutes I went from my happy go lucky self to this pitiful sobbing thing, and couldn't tell Paul or myself why. I just sat there in the car crying like a baby, mainly because I just wanted to get in bed all of the sudden, and I didn't know where my toothbrush was in my suitcase, hahaha. It's funny now but I wasn't laughing then. Paul was so understanding, told me I was just really tired, and took me home where I fell asleep for the night at 5:30 pm (3:30am MD time.)

I am so happy to be here in Australia, and to be here with Paul. I am currently blogging at 4:30 am, so I am obviously not quite adapted yet. I did stay awake until eight last night though! I miss you all and hope you're doing well. Another update soon!


Friday, July 29, 2011


Corny, but I once heard in a bible study that we should make all of our life's plans in pencil and then hand God the eraser, and now I will tell you why I am currently living in Sydney, Australia.

I met Paul two years ago after his year studying abroad at the University of Pennsylvania. I was struck by first his height and then his Australian accent, and although I didn't see him for another six months after our initial meeting, I was surprised and delighted to find that he was not a person I could easily forget. Paul fascinated me, and still does. Being in love with Paul has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've ever done. We work hard to make our long long looong distance relationship work, but have found that that extra effort makes our relationship that much greater :) Paul has spent the past six months living in the States which has been so wonderful. However, the US and Australian governments play a definite role in our relationship, and visa rules state that he leave the country every three months. I said goodbye to Paul in late June and he flew back home for what he'd planned to be a month long visit. Two weeks ago Paul called and told me he was on the way to the hospital with a collapsed lung. Ooooh crap.

The doctors were shocked (this same thing happened last October and they performed a surgery to ensure it never happen again) and after they temporarily fixed Paul's lung, they told him that it was only a matter of time before his lung collapsed again. This left the option of another surgery, but they warned Paul how painful it would be, (Paul and I watched a video of the surgery on youtube and probably shouldn't have...) and that the recovery would be long and hard. On top of that, he would be unable to fly for at least three months.

The decision to move down to Australia was big, but easy to make. I considered my options: Stay in America, finish up my last semester at Towson, and graduate while Paul recovered in Australia, or move graduation back another semester, head down to Oz and be with Paul while he is sick. I considered what gave my life happiness on the day to day, and I'll tell you what, it's not Towson University. And with that, I packed up and left home. People have been shocked with my news and told me they could never do this sort of thing, but I know that they probably could. I think that at the end of the day most people would drop anything and go anywhere to be with the person they love when that person's in trouble. To me, it is only natural to have moved down here. My parents have been so supportive- that has meant the world to me.

I am starting up this blog again for a few reasons:
1. I am a writing major, and to be consistently writing is the best thing I can do for myself :)
2. I LOVED blogging in England, and am so glad I did. I reread my blog and am amazed at how much of it I have forgotten!
3. This will save me from giving the same update to 18 people when I call home.
4. I enjoy it so much :) If at the end of this six months my mother is the only one reading this, and I am aware that that's a definite possibility, I won't mind :) Writing for me, is the ultimate form of stress relief and self expression. (thanks for being my number one fan, mama :D)

Here's to another adventure abroad!!