Cruising the Whitsundays

 

 

IMG_7592

Last week, Dan and some of his friends from Yellow Bridge boarded the P & O cruise ship, the Aria, and headed up to the Whitsunday Islands for a four night cruise. The Whitsundays are a group of islands 900km north of Brisbane in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. They are a very popular tourist attraction, with white sandy beaches, blue tropical waters and offer a range of activities for tourists.

It is not always easy for people with disabilities to go away for a holiday with their friends, so this was a very exciting opportunity. Yellow Bridge, Dan’s main service provider, organised the trip, which made it a lot easier. Dan has been on plenty of family holidays, but this was the first time he had been away on a holiday with his friends. And the first time on a cruise!

IMG_7573

 

 Taking a cruise with your friends sounds like such a simple thing that most people just take for granted, however for people with disabilities it takes a lot of organisation. Dan requires support and supervision 24/7. He cannot go anywhere unaccompanied. This is where the NDIS has made a huge difference to the lives of people with disabilities. Prior to the NDIS, family members, especially parents, have fulfilled the role of full-time carer, taking their child here and there, and providing the assistance for daily activities. But there comes a time in a young man’s life when it is no longer appropriate to be always accompanied by your mum. So with the help of Dan’s NDIS funding, he was able to go on the cruise with the assistance of a support worker.

I wasn’t worried about Dan going on the cruise. He had been away on school camps before and they had always gone fine. But as parents, there is a whole lot of little things about our child and their routine that support workers don’t know – hygiene routines, dietary information, managing spending money, anxieties or phobias… Most of the time these things are not written down. It’s all in our heads. But it is this kind of information that needs to be passed onto the support worker.  To avoid a verbal info dump, I prepared a two page document with all the information the support worker needs to assist Dan. This is actually a very important thing for all parents who have an adult child with a disability to do. Especially if your child is non-verbal, like Dan. One day we won’t be here and nobody will be able to retrieve the information stored in our heads.

IMG_7511

 

In the lead up to the trip, we had talked a lot with Dan about his “holiday on a boat” so by the time the day came, he knew what was happening: bus, then boat. He was very excited to pack his bag and couldn’t wait to get going. Fortunately Yellow Bridge had organised a bus from Toowoomba down to the port, and Dan couldn’t wait to get on the bus. Too excited to even worry about saying bye to mum!

It was very quiet at home. Dan loves to sing and annoy his sister, Bec. You don’t realise all the little things you do, the support you provide, how your whole daily routine revolves around your family member with a disability. It gave a little taste as to how life might be when Dan moves into some kind of supported accommodation in the future.

 

The Time of His Life

Yellow Bridge staff kept us notified about how the cruise was going and I received a few photos from his support worker and knew that things were going great. They dressed up for the theme nights – the P & O White Party, the Anchors Away Sailaway Party and the Gatsby Party. They played Bingo, went to the theatre shows, went swimming in the pool, and had plenty to eat. One day they visited Airlie Beach where the support workers helped Dan choose an appropriate gift for Mum. When I picked him up at the end of the week, they told me that Dan had the time of his life. He danced and he danced and he danced and he danced. And at home on the weekend…he slept.

IMG_7588

Dan is not able to tell us much about his cruise but we can see how much fun he had by the photos and videos taken on his iPad by both him and the support worker. All the photos above were taken by Dan. It is so great to see Dan doing the kinds of things that other young men his age are doing and we look forward to Dan having more holiday adventures in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Book Snap Sunday – Bliss

IMG_2272

This week’s book snap is Peter Carey’s debut novel, Bliss, first published in 1981 and winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Carey is one of my favourite Australian authors, and while Bliss is proving to be an interesting read, it is probably not for every reader. Awaking after heart surgery, Harry Joy, is convinced he is in Hell. Suddenly he can see his family and the world the way they really are and it is a startling shock. For Harry, there is a clear definition between life before surgery, where it seems he was living in a state of ignorant bliss, and life after, where all has been revealed. And he is not happy. It will be interesting to see how things turn out for Harry.

In keeping with the idea of bliss, the book is photographed with some of the things that give me a sense of bliss – nature, good books and a glass of red.

 

Book Bingo 2020: A Classic I’ve Never Read

book-bingo-2020-clean copy

This year I am joining in once again with the Book Bingo Reading Challenge hosted by Theresa, Mrs B and Ashleigh (The Book Muse). It’s been simplified this year with just 12 squares, one for each month of the year, and a range of themes which could be easily applied to both fiction and non-fiction. The Bingo card is a very pretty and sparkly pink, purple and blue, that is perfect for celebrating the beginning of the 2020’s.

I  quite enjoy reading the classics but I had not read The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James despite having seen the movie starring Nicole Kidman. I usually prefer to read the book before I see the film, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.  First published in 1881, The Portrait of a Lady, revolves around Isabel Archer, a young American woman, who has come to England to travel, to experience life in Europe and get to know the relatives she never knew. Isabel is bright, confident and determined to experience life while preserving her independence and liberty.

However, after inheriting a large fortune on the death of her uncle, Isabel becomes caught in the machinations of two people: one a supposed friend, Madame Merle; the other, Mr Osmond, the man who becomes her husband. Tragically Isabel finds her freedom, independence and spirit cruelly crushed in a restrictive and oppressive marriage.

Independence is a theme throughout the novel. At a time when marriage was seen as the ultimate ambition and career for a woman, and usually a material necessity, Isabel’s inheritance grants her financial independence. But what does it mean to be independent? This question is raised quite early in the book.

…is it used in a moral or in a financial sense? Does it mean that they have been left well off, or that they wish to be under no obligations? Or does it simply mean that they are fond of their own way?

According to the Macquarie Dictionary, independent can mean all of that and more, including….

 not influenced by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself 

Isabel prides herself on being completely independent in her decision making. Even as she recognises the role that her friend, Madame Merle, played in her marriage, Isabel clings to her belief that she has acted independently.

It was impossible to pretend that she had not acted with her eyes open; if ever a girl was a free-agent, she had been…the sole source of her mistake had been within herself…she had looked, and considered, and chosen.

Is it possible to be a free agent? Can we really act or choose completely independently, without any sense of obligation or influence? Growing up we are exposed to the influences, both implicit and explicit, of our family, our society, our education, the media, and the world around us. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we are the sum of a complex mix of inherent tendencies, experience and influence. Even when we think we are making an independent decision, there’s a whole lot of previous experience and influence that unconsciously guides us in the way that we think and act.    

The most tragic part of Isabel’s story though is not only her stubbornness in believing she must accept her fate but that she cannot bring herself to admit she made a mistake.

“I don’t know whether I am too proud. But I can’t publish my mistake. I don’t think that’s decent. I would much rather die.”

Does Isabel remain trapped in a miserable marriage or does she reclaim her independence and liberty?

IMG_2271

 

 

International Year of Plant Health

wheat-1117267_640

Image by Hans Braxmeier – Pixabay

Over the last 60 years the UN has highlighted a range of issues for international attention, beginning with World Refugee Year in 1969/1960. Since then we have had International Years for issues such as  Human Rights (1968), the welfare of Children (1979), Peace (1986) and the Eradication of Poverty (1996).  For some of these issues, such as peace and poverty, we clearly have a lot more work to do. The purpose of the International Years, though, has been more about highlighting, promoting and developing awareness about these issues rather than actually achieving a solution – that is a never-ending work in progress.

As a keen gardener and nature lover I was intrigued to discover that 2020 is the IYPH_Web_Button_Vertical_210x210px_ENInternational Year of Plant Health. Gardeners and farmers know that there are a lot of factors that can affect a plant’s health, from pests and diseases to soil health and weather conditions. It can be quite frustrating to discover fruit fly in your tomatoes or black spot on your roses, but globally, pests and diseases can have a far more serious impact on people’s health and well-being.

The UN sees the International Year of Plant Health as a

once in a lifetime opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.”

As such, the main focus will be on the strategies and practices that “control and prevent pests, weeds and disease causing organisms” from spreading into other areas, and on the role that human activity, such as international trade, has in the spread of pests and diseases in the first place.

Plant Health in Our Own Backyard

It might seem that there is little we can do about plant health and the spread of pests and diseases globally, but plant health is a local problem too. Our natural environment has already been severely impacted by the introduction of rabbits, foxes and cane toads, as well as numerous plant species that now grow wild. Add to that a severe drought and the current bushfires, it leaves an environment under great stress. The ground is bone dry. Trees are dying. Water sources have dried up.

Our recent move has provided an opportunity to establish a garden and care for the exisiting flora. Our new place, affectionately called The Last Stop, has plenty of open space and some native wildlife. We have a pair of resident blue wrens, who have been very curious about the new humans that have moved in. I have encountered a lizard enjoying the morning sun and a kangaroo taking advantage of a shady tree. And there is plenty of other birdlife too. 

Version 2

Our Blue Wren – photo taken by Bec

Sadly, the drought has had an impact. There is almost no grass and some of the trees have died. As water restrictions increase, gardeners are forced to make some tough decisions. What do we save? As some of our remaining trees are natives, their health is important for the local wildlife. It takes a long time to grow a mature tree, so keeping the remaining trees alive has become our top priority. We are fortunate in that we have the additional resources of rainwater tanks and a bore, but we still need to use them wisely and sustainably.

With some carefully targeted watering, new life is returning. The leaves on the trees and bushes look a bit brighter and some are starting to flower. And as a bonus, plants that we thought were dead have sprung to life. We’ve had to do a bit of tough pruning as well, to encourage new growth, but with a little patience and some TLC, our efforts are bearing fruit. And we’ve noticed a bit of extra bird activity!

South fenceline – Version 2

On the far left is a dry-looking bush that I thought was probably dead.

Version 2

Same bush today. Just needed some TLC.

Hopefully this drought will break soon and conditions will become more favourable for planting some new trees and shrubs, especially ones that will encourage birds and butterflies. We love taking food from the garden to the table, so a veggie patch and fruit trees is also high on the agenda. We might not be able to do much about the weather, but enriching the soil, nurturing our plants and taking care of pests and diseases in the most organic and sustainable way possible are just little steps we can take to improve plant health in our little corner of the world.

If you would like to know a bit more about the International Year of Plant Health, here are some links to get you started. 

IPPC and the International Year of Plant Health 

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, International Year of Plant Health 2020

 

 

 

 

 

#Book Snap Sunday – The Portrait of a Lady

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

I was deliberating about whether to post a book snap today. Our hearts and minds have been so consumed and overwhelmed by what is happening in our nation. Watching our country burn, towns wiped off the map, swathes of bush land burned, the devastating loss of flora and fauna, and the heartbreaking loss of homes and human life, leaves us feeling stunned. We feel helpless. Our hearts ache for those who have lost everything and the logistics of rebuilding communities on such a scale is beyond our comprehension. For those of us not threatened by fire, our daily tasks and holiday activities pale in significance to the very real danger and devastation that our fellow Australians have faced from the beginning of this bush fire season in September, are still facing at this moment and will continue to face over the coming weeks. 

We admire the courage of our firefighters and volunteers, the defence forces and the reserves who have now been called up for service. The label of hero sits uncomfortably on their shoulders. For them, they are just ordinary people doing what had to be done. In my mind that is the real definition of a hero. True heroes don’t have super powers. They are just ordinary people, like you and me, but when a crisis hits, their true courage and strength rises to the fore. They do what needs to be done.

We can’t all be fire fighters. We can’t all serve in the armed forces. We can’t all provide physical support and skills at the coal face. So what can we do?

We can donate our money to organisations who are best placed to deliver emergency relief to those who need it. The Salvation Army, the Red Cross and State Fire Services are just a few.

We can keep abreast of the changing conditions, the successes and the tragedies from reliable media sources. We might not be able to be there physically, but knowing what people are experiencing, we can be there emotionally and spiritually.

We can reach out with our words – words of support and encouragement, words that convey our heart felt emotion, words that highlight the courage and resilience of the locals and the generosity of people near and far, words that keep us connected.

Words connect us to each other. They take us to foreign places. They depict the lives of people past and present, near and far, familiar and unknown. They express ideas that challenge and promote reflection. And I am often amazed at the way whatever I may be reading at a given time, has relevance for what is happening in my life or in the world at large.

So this week I have started reading The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. The book snap was inspired by the opening scene, where three men are enjoying afternoon tea. There’s no bush fire nor does it contain any environmental themes. It is the story of Isabel Archer, a young American woman in England, and her desire for independence and freedom. It is the first time I have read the book, although I have seen the film starring Nicole Kidman, pictured on the cover of my edition, so I kind of know how the story goes. Isabel’s fierce desire to preserve her independence and liberty is quite admirable. We all desire independence and liberty. But as I am reading about Isabel’s  pursuit of independence, I am also watching the valiant efforts of fire fighters to protect life and property. It led me to reflect on how much our independence and liberty is inexplicably intertwined with dependence upon others. 

There is nothing like a crisis to show how much we depend upon each other. Australians are quite used to fighting bush fires at a local level, but the intensity, ferocity and sheer scale of these fires have escalated the disaster to international proportions. We cannot fight these fires on our own. We need help and the international community has responded with overwhelming generosity sending firefighters and donating desperately needed funds. Thank you so much! And when others are in need, we respond in kind. This is how a living, breathing, interdependent community works. We respect each other’s right to independence and liberty and fight to preserve it, and we graciously recognise we need each other and pledge to be there for each other.

Will Isabel Archer find this delicate balance between independence and dependence? Will she find true respect and happiness?

Keep Safe and Take Care

 

 

 

 

 

The Silence of 2020

IMG_2028

Crows Nest National Park – photo taken by Dan

This morning I woke to 2020 and noticed the silence. Nothing too unusual about that. We live on the outskirts of Toowoomba where there is open space across the road and no neighbours right on our fences. Last night was New Years Eve so the revellers are probably still asleep. But then I remembered the silence of last night.

It has been some time since I actually saw the New Year in. I am getting a little old for partying all night. But even when I have been tucked up in bed, I am usually still woken at the strike of midnight by happy cheers and a rousing chorus of Happy New Year.

new-years-eve-1953253_640-2

Not this year. I didn’t hear a thing. Now it might be that my neighbours are the quiet unpartying type too. Or perhaps I am getting a little hard of hearing. However even though my neighbours are not right on my doorstep, I do hear them occasionally during the day. Especially the children. Not last night.

For the beginning of a new year and a new decade, the mood here is somewhat subdued. Sombre. Bush fires have been ravaging our nation on a scale many have labelled apocalyptic. Scorched earth, blazing red skies, homes and towns reduced to rubble. Over 1000 homes have been lost. The death toll is approaching 20 and expected to rise. Emergency services are stretched to the limit. And the fires continue to burn.

Our hearts are torn. A new year is a time for celebrating. A new decade even more. How can we celebrate when fellow Australians have lost everything? How can we cheer when their New Year is filled with tragedy, despair and uncertainty? With the bushfire season in full swing, the beginning of 2020 looks bleak.

sprout-1147803_640

 

Yet amongst the smoke, ash and rubble there is hope. The courage and selflessness of our fire fighters, putting their lives on the line to save others, are an inspiration to us all.  The volunteers who tirelessly provide meals, supplies and behind the scenes support show how we can pull together in a crisis. And in time, we will see a blackened earth renewed with new growth and communities rebuild. From the ashes of tragedy, our spirit will rise to demonstrate the courage and true grit that lies beneath our skin.

There is no doubt that there are big challenges ahead and the future may be clouded with uncertainty, but there are things that we can hold onto for a brighter new year.

That we are stronger when we stand together.

That joy can be found in the little things.

And that there is always hope.

May your 2020 be filled with hope, courage and joy

 

happy-new-year-4682825_640

 

 

Book Bingo Challenge Completed!

20181124_140447 copy

A few days before Christmas I wrote that I had completed my Goodreads challenge for the year and was just four boxes short of completing my Book Bingo card. It was a big ask – 4 books in 10 days, with Christmas in between. But as of 3.25pm this afternoon, it has been achieved. And in addition, I have added an extra five books to my Goodreads challenge, making it a nice round 70 books for the year. So the last 4 squares were…

  • Book set on the Australian Coast: Bluebottle by Belinda Castles
  • Book set in the Australian Mountains: Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale
  • Author with same initials as me: That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott
  • Non Fiction book about an event: Australia Day by Stan Grant

I have really enjoyed doing the Book Bingo challenge even if it was a race to the finish and I am looking forward to Book Bingo 2020 with a very pretty card but less squares. This time I hope to keep on track and remember to post on the 2nd Saturday of every month. Here’s a look at next year’s card.

book-bingo-2020-clean

Until next year…

Happy Reading!

#Book Snap on a Tuesday – That Deadman Dance

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Gumbi Gumbi Gardens, USQ, Toowoomba

I am running a little behind with this week’s Book Snap, but better late than never. That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott won the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2011 and is pictured above in the Gumbi Gumbi Gardens at USQ in Toowoomba. Set in Western Australia, the book’s central focus is Bobby, a young aboriginal boy, during the early years of British colonisation. Bobby is encouraged by his family to develop close relationships with the white strangers so that he can learn things from them.

I was raised to be proud and to be friendly…My family thought we could be friends and share what we had.

Towards the end of his life, though, Bobby reflects on his earlier youthful optimism and the moment when he

…opened his eyes properly. There were no more of his people and no more kangaroo and emu and no more vegetable. After the white man’s big fires and guns and greed there was nothing.

Scott notes that some historians regard the Albany area as the “friendly frontier”, which raises all sorts of questions. What if friendly first contact had not escalated into a war of extermination? What if the British had recognised the sovereignty of Australia’s First People? What if they had been willing to share?

That Deadman Dance is the first book by Kim Scott that I have read and it won’t be the last. Highly recommended.

The Gumbi Gumbi Gardens were established at USQ to help  develop “a better understanding of local Indigenous heritage” (Gumbi Gumbi Gardens, USQ). They are open to the public and provide an excellent educational experience about the role of native plants in Indigenous life.

https://www.usq.edu.au/about-usq/locations/toowoomba/gumbi-gumbi-gardens

#Book Snap Sunday – An American Marriage

IMG_2262

I have been joining in with Sharon from Gum Trees and Galaxies posting a book snap on a Sunday afternoon. After missing a few weeks it is nice to be back with an excellent book by Tayari Jones, although photographing an ebook did provide an interesting challenge. I was introduced to Tayari Jones when I watched her session about her book, An American Marriage, at the Sydney Writers Festival last year via Live and Local at the Toowoomba Empire Theatre.  An American Marriage explores the relationship between Roy and Celestial, whose marriage comes under intense pressure when Roy is wrongfully convicted for a crime he never committed. Although Roy is eventually released, everything from his former life is lost, except for Celestial. On the outside, though, life and people have moved on. There is no going back to his old life. The book highlights the prejudice and injustice of a criminal justice system which disproportionately affects people of colour, but it also raises questions about the true nature of love and marriage. Highly recommended.

Book Bingo Update

20181124_140447 copy

With only 10 days to the end of this reading year I am madly trying to complete the challenges I set for 2019. At the beginning of the year, moving house again couldn’t have been further from my mind and it has been a major disruption in the reading and blogging program. However, since my last reading update at the end of October I have managed to cross off another 5 squares on the Book Bingo card.

  • Themes of Culture: The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  • Themes of Justice: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • Themes of Inequality: The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth
  • Book Set in the Australian Outback: We of the Never-Never by Jeannie Gunn
  • Book Set in an Exotic Location: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

That leaves 4 squares to go and 10 days to the end of 2019. And there is Christmas. Can I do it?

Well, I am halfway through the book set on the Australian Coast. I have the books for the Australian Mountains and an author with the same initials squares. But the non fiction book about an event is causing some difficulty. There are plenty of books about events, but it has to be one I would enjoy reading. So that cuts out sport, politics, military history…and then it depends on how you define “event”, and it can’t be too long if I’m going to read it by the end of New Years Eve. Perhaps I need to browse the USQ library catalogue.

The good news is that I have completed my Goodreads Challenge for 2019. I do like the My 2019 Year in Books on Goodreads – cute graphics and some interesting data about my reading.

  • 65 books…and counting
  • 21, 439 pages
  • shortest book – 61 pages
  • longest book – 848 pages
  • most popular – Pride and Prejudice, read by almost 3 million people!
  • my average rating – 3.9

Hopefully I’ll have some more good news to report in 10 days time.

Until then, Happy Reading!

That’s what I have to do. Right now.