From Fire to Flood

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Sometimes it doesn’t take too long for things to turn around. 

At New Year, barely six weeks ago, we were struggling to muster any enthusiasm to welcome in a new year. Instead we were watching our country burn. Coupled with a crippling drought, we were looking to the skies, wondering when it would rain again and how much rain would it take to douse bush fires raging out of control. 

And then the heavens opened. Since mid January we have recorded just over 275mm (approx 11 inches) of rain. Our heaviest fall was about 5 inches within 3 hours. The rainwater tanks are full and overflowing. The barren soil has turned into thick, sticky mud. Even the short walk out to the rain gauge every morning is enough to add an extra layer to our footwear. So I needed to get a pair of these….

New Boots – Version 2

The rain has been most welcome and it is quite amazing to see how quickly a carpet of lush green has appeared. I would say grass, except that it is probably mostly weeds. At least it is green!

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Our front paddock

But now we are facing another disaster at the opposite end of the spectrum – flood. In New South Wales it has been reported that Sydney has had its heaviest rains in 30 years. In January people were being evacuated for fire; now they are being evacuated for flood. Just weeks ago we were watching images of raging flames, billowing smoke and blackened earth. Now we are watching flash flooding, cars crushed by falling trees and people rescued from flooded waterways.

But there is a silver lining. The announcement that two big bushfires have now been extinguished is cause for jubilation and a huge sigh of relief. These bushfires were so big, they were called mega-blazes. They were so big, they were thought to be too big to even put out. But after 74 days, 500,000 hectares and 312 homes, the Currowan bushfire has been declared finally out. The problem though is that bush fire ravaged areas are more prone to flood and the torrential rain is washing ash and debris into water supplies.

Closer to home, there have been emergency alerts issued for towns west of Toowoomba at risk of flooding. Despite the possibility of flood damage, some people feel this is a cost they are willing to bear, if it brings an end to the drought. Dams are being refilled, dry ground is being saturated and lush green grass is appearing. But as the Board of Meteorology (BOM) notes, the rainfall has been patchy and there are still areas that are missing out. Towns like Stanthorpe are still having to truck water in. There is a while to go before we can be sure that the drought has been broken, if at all.

From bushfires in SA to floods in QLD 

Growing up in Adelaide bushfires were a frequent event in the Adelaide Hills during our hot dry summers. We could stand on our front porch and see the red glow in the hills. But flood was only something I experienced via the television screen. That changed in December 2010 when we were living in a small town west of Toowoomba.

2010 had been a wet year. The months from September to November had been the wettest Spring since the year 1900. December 2010 was the wettest on record. Overall it had been Australia’s 3rd wettest year since records had been kept. The ground was already super saturated. As the water made its way down the rivers and creeks, water backed up, banks burst and towns were flooded.

Our small town was flooded twice. It was a slow flood, in that we knew it was coming. We knew the water was making its way down the creeks and rivers. There were all sorts of predictions about how high the water may get and whether it would beat previous records. We watched the water levels rise on the BOM site and we prepared as best as we could.

Fortunately our house was on higher ground, so while the water flooded into our front yard and under our house, it never reached our floorboards. Others were not so fortunate. Some businesses and homes were swamped with water and some people did lose everything.

 Crowds gathered in the the town centre to look upon flooded roads. Some took to canoes, paddling down streets we were driving down just a few days earlier. There was a sense of camaraderie as our town was cut off in every direction. There was nowhere for us to go and nobody else could get in, at least not by road. In the local supermarket you could stand at one end and look through all the empty shelves to the other side. The fruit and veggie section was reduced to potatoes and lemons, and milk was rationed.  You don’t realise how much you value basics like milk and bread, until there is none to be had. Our local baker had to have supplies flown in by helicopter so that he could get baking again.

A friend took Paul up for a flight over the town and surrounding areas. Water everywhere. Once familiar landmarks and roads are completely covered with water, it is hard to tell where you are and what you are looking at. 

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Chinchilla flood – Version 2

The Queensland floods of 2010-2011 led to 75% of council areas across the state being declared disaster zones. 90 towns were affected. Thousands of people were evacuated, 33 people lost their lives and the damage bill totalled over $2 billion.

But nothing could have prepared us for the 10th of January 2011, when a wall of water swept through the city centre of Toowoomba. Cars were swept away and 4 people lost their lives. We watched the footage on our television screen, stunned. We had actually planned to be in Toowoomba on that day but changed our plans when rain was forecast.  By the time the water reached the small town of Grantham, it was estimated to be 7-8 metres. The water that hit Grantham that day has been described as an inland tsunami. 9 people died. A year later, 3 people were still missing, presumed to be dead. It was a devastating event that still lives in our memories today. 

Flood waters eventually subside and that’s when the clean up and recovery begins. It’s amazing the way a community pulls together in a crisis. People just rock up, willing and able to give a hand. By the thousands. In January 2011 over 50,000 volunteers registered to help with the clean up, and that’s not counting the thousands who just turned up anyway. Our Prime Minister at the time, Julia Gillard, said:

“…right across Queensland today people have got up, they’ve marched out their homes and they’ve gone to find people to help. It’s a tremendous spirit of volunteering right across Queensland.”

We saw this same Aussie spirit during the recent bushfires and I expect we will see it again during this flood crisis and every crisis that we will face together in the future. Drought, flood, fire, cyclone – we experience them all in our country, but it is the courage of our emergency workers and the generosity of strangers, that instil in us a sense of hope of what we can be when we stand together, whatever comes our way.

 

Australia Day

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Today is January 26. Australia Day.

According to the Australia Day website, “Australia Day, 26 January, is the day to reflect on what it means to be Australian, to celebrate contemporary Australia and acknowledge our history.”

This National Day is also controversial. It marks the day, Jan 26, 1788, when the British arrived to colonise a land already occupied by Australia’s First Peoples for at least 60,000 years. So the celebration of Australia Day, on the date of the British arrival, is a painful reminder of what came next. Some call it Invasion Day. Others call it a Day of Mourning. There are mixed feelings about whether we should be celebrating, what it is that we are celebrating and whether we should change the date.

 In his book titled, Australia Day, Stan Grant explores what it means to be Australian, to be a nation and the questions surrounding the celebration of Australia Day. Grant argues that a nation is more than a flag or a set of laws, but instead is a process of becoming, “that whatever our differences there is a collective will to live together.”  

Being Australian means something to us. It gives us a sense of who we are and where we belong. Grant identifies five aspects that form the basis of identity: home, family, race, history and nation, but also cautions that “there is a darker side to identity, a stifling conformity; an us and them.”  

When I was at school we didn’t learn much about the Indigenous people of our nation at all. It is only in recent years that the truth of first contact is becoming more widely known. We have a dark history.  First Contact was bloody and violent, as Aboriginal people were hunted down, shot on sight, poisoned and herded off cliffs, rounded up and restricted on Aboriginal reserves, denied human and citizenship rights. It is a shameful period of our history and the consequences are still evident today.

It has led me to wonder whether it would be a good idea to change the date. After all, if Australia Day is meant to be a celebration for all Australians, how can we continue to celebrate a date which causes such pain to our Indigenous People. For the sake of others, could we not change the date?

However Grant suggests that there are other questions we need to consider too and fears that “moving the date would only hand it to those who would reclaim it as a day of white pride.”  As Grant points out, racism is deeply embedded in our society. We still have a long way to go to achieve reconciliation between black and white Australians. We have a long way to go to improve health, education and life expectancy for many Indigenous Australians. 

Perhaps Grant is right, that  prematurely changing the date might just sweep the past and our current issues under the carpet. Is it the date that needs to be changed or the nature of the celebration itself? Grant believes “a future Australia Day will still likely be a day of protest, a day of sadness, and a day of joy and thanks. We are all of those things.”

Perhaps one day we will change the date. In the mean time there is a lot of work to do in recognising and respecting Aboriginal culture, being honest in coming to terms with the past, and working together to create an Australia where all are included and valued and can share equally in our future. 

Australia Day is a book that I would highly recommend for all Australians to read.

 

The Silence of 2020

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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Giving Way to Emergency Services

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You see some interesting things walking around the city streets. Discarded shopping trolleys. Motorists running red lights. Pedestrians pummelling the button to make the pedestrian light change sooner. (It doesn’t work!) But occasionally you see something that really makes your blood boil.

I was waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green (and NOT pummelling the button!) when I heard the unmistakeable sound of an ambulance siren. As soon as I heard it, I started looking around – where is it? And then, there it is, coming down Herries Street, siren roaring, lights flashing.

To my utter disbelief, I watch as cars continue through the traffic lights while the ambulance sits, waiting to cross the intersection and be on its way.

Un-believable!

It wasn’t just one vehicle or two, but quite a few that crossed the intersection in full view of an ambulance with blaring siren and flashing lights. Fortunately, some drivers actually had the sense and consideration to stop, be patient and let it through. I could not believe it.

Sadly, it is not the first time I have seen this happen and I expect it won’t be the last, but it is certainly quite appalling.

I don’t know where that ambulance was going but I am pretty certain it was going to somebody’s loved one, somewhere.

One day, an ambulance might be coming to your loved one.

It might even be coming to you.

It’s pretty simple really. It’s called the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If that ambulance had been coming for my loved one – I would want people to give way.

If it was coming for me – I would want people to give way.

Fortunately I have seen plenty of occasions when people have stopped and given way. I have even seen motorists mount a traffic island in an attempt to make way for an ambulance. It cheers the heart to know that there are people who stop to think about others.

When you hear the siren, when you see the flashing lights…It doesn’t matter if the traffic light is green. It doesn’t matter if it is your turn to go.

You stop.

You give way.

And if you need to and can, move out of the way.

The same goes for other emergency vehicles, like the Fire and Emergency service.

This is what it means to show respect for each other.

This is what it means to live in community.

Carnival of Flowers – Celebrating 70 Years

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It’s the first weekend of the September School Holidays, the flowers are out in full bloom and the local parks and gardens are crowded with visitors and tour buses. It must be Carnival time.

The Carnival of Flowers is Toowoomba’s premiere event of the year, a festival that celebrates flowers, local wine and food, and Australian music. It is one of the longest running Australian events, garnering a number of tourism awards and this year it celebrates 70 years, so it will be a very special celebration indeed. For months gardeners have been hard at work in the local parks to prepare the floral displays, and despite the exceedingly dry conditions of the drought, they have done a fabulous job. The floral displays are just beautiful.

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The very first Carnival was held in 1950 and attracted a crowd of around 50,000 to see a three mile procession led by a team of bullocks. Following the hardship of World War Two, the Carnival was envisioned as an event that would encourage economic activity and promote Toowoomba’s reputation as the Garden City. Sadly, I don’t think bullocks are a feature of the Carnival parade anymore, but Toowoomba businesses and community groups put in many hours of hard work to prepare their floats and costumes and put on a spectacular display of colour, music and all things floral. Last year Dan was in the parade on the Yellow Bridge float and he will be again this year, although this time they are just walking the route so I hope they have someone fit and fast to keep up with him!

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Every year the Carnival seems to get bigger and bigger with a variety of events and activities over ten days to keep people of all ages entertained. In keeping with the 70th celebrations there will be 70 different experiences this year for visitors. The Food and Wine Festival has become a popular addition to the Carnival, providing opportunities for visitors to sample Queensland wares while enjoying some iconic Australian entertainment, like John Farnham, Dragon and Bjorn Again. Other events include:

  •  Gardening Competition for Local Gardeners
  •  Photography Competition 
  • Garden Tours
  • Steam Train Rides
  • Talking Pub Tour
  • Carnival Memorabilia Display

We will be heading into the city centre today for the parade but we will be taking advantage of the free shuttle bus service rather than fight the crowds to find a parking spot. We can hop on the bus a short distance from where we live and it takes us into town to Queens Park, the hub of the Carnival. Here visitors can enjoy all the usual carnival entertainment such as amusement rides and side show alley. The Carnival also runs a Park Shuttle service that takes visitors between the three main garden displays at Picnic Point, Queens Park and Laurel Bank Park. Last year the Carnival attracted a crowd of over 255,000 so the shuttle bus is an excellent idea.

From humble beginnings the Carnival of Flowers has grown into a spectacular event that showcases the Toowoomba region, cementing its reputation as the Garden City and providing inspiration for all the novice gardeners among us. If you are planning a trip to Queensland, keep the Carnival of Flowers in mind.

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Carnival of Flowers 1950 – 2019

 

National Bookshop Day 2019

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Across Australia today, readers and book lovers are celebrating the wonderful contribution that the local bookshop makes to communities big and small. It is a magical experience to enter a store specifically designed for the promotion and selling of books. Meandering slowly past rows and rows of shelves stacked with books, their colourful spines facing outward, exposing titles printed in bold black or embossed in sparkling metallic, we look for a new friend to take home. Will it be from the new release display at the front of the store, or the science fiction and fantasy section that has been promoted to the middle, or my favourite, the classics section hidden in the back corner.

In a regional city like Toowoomba, as well as the big cities that dot our coasts, we can often take our local bookshops for granted. We can choose from the big chains like QBD or Dymocks, the occasional independent book store, as well as the book sections located in department stores. However, for many book lovers in rural Australia there is no local bookshop.

Bookshops Need Booklovers

Before Toowoomba, we lived in a small country town out west. For most of that time, there was no local bookshop. However, I do remember the delight when an independent book store opened in the Main Street. It was an exciting event to have our very own bookshop, designated purely to books and so it was greeted with great enthusiasm by the local book lovers. It was thrilling to walk through the doors, browse the books on the shelves, enjoy the quiet or relax in the comfortable book reading furniture. Sadly, it was not to last. Independent bookshops never lasted more than a few months in our town. A rural bookshop needs more than just a handful of book lovers to be viable.

It’s hard for bookstores to be a viable concern in a rural town. Rural residents are often less well off. Books are a luxury they may not be able to afford, especially now when many rural areas are in the grip of severe drought. With a smaller population, there is simply not enough avid readers to support a book store. There is also less access to book related events, like writers festivals or author events, to encourage and promote reading as a worthwhile leisure activity. And rural towns often have a different culture, one focused more on more physical activities like sport. Quiet activities, like reading, are often not as highly valued.

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There were other options for buying books of course. The local newsagent stocked a small range of books, and our one department store in town also stocked a small selection of books, but not always what I liked to read. Often I had to wait for a trip to a larger town or regional city for the opportunity to visit an actual book store and on these occasions, our to-do-list was so jam packed with appointments and essential purchases that there was little time for browsing through a book store.

We did of course have a very good library. It provided a welcoming environment for browsing the shelves, enjoying some quiet reading time and sampling unfamiliar writers. But I never understood why there were no classics. What is a library without Austen or Bronte or Shakespeare? Surely I was not the only reader who loved the classics?

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Fortunately for rural book lovers, we live in the technological age. With limited access to a physical book store we are forced to turn to the online market place. It’s never quite the same as a real bookstore though. We cannot pick the books off the shelf, feel the embossed print, smell the paper, or read the first page. Online book stores are good if you know what you are looking for, but they hold so many titles it’s time-consuming to browse in the way that you can in a real bookstore. On the other hand, there is the anticipation and excitement of the arrival of a package in the post. After all, somebody has to keep Australia Post going!

So whether your local book shop is a physical store devoted to books, a couple of shelves in a department store or a well visited bookmark in your internet browser,  celebrate the joy that books bring to our lives and spare a thought for those living in rural communities where the local bookshop is often just a beautiful dream.

Happy Reading!

Lifeline Bookfest 2019

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Every year thousands of booklovers across Australia count down the days to their local Lifeline Bookfest. For Toowoomba booklovers this is usually the first weekend in March. Early on the Saturday morning a long of line vehicles can be seen crawling down Glenvale Road towards the entry gates of the Toowoomba Showgrounds. Inside the main pavilion sit rows and rows of boxes filled with books just waiting to find a new home. Like many other booklovers, we’ve been looking forward to this day so much it’s been highlighted on the calendar. 

Lifeline is an Australian charity organisation which provides a range of counselling and support services for children, youth and families as well as emergency relief. It was founded in 1963 by Reverend Dr. Sir Alan Walker. Concerned about the often devastating impact of loneliness, isolation and anxiety, he began a crisis line to provide critical support for people in need. Today Lifeline has around 40 centres across Australia, employing around 1,000 staff and attracting 11,000 volunteers who donate their time. The Lifeline book sales help to raise funds to continue this vital service.

 

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This year was the 39th Lifeline Bookfest held in Toowoomba and according to the local paper, it was going to be even bigger than before. There were seven shipping containers filled with books and volunteers worked throughout the week to have everything ready for 8am Saturday morning. The books are organised into a variety of categories including sci fi & fantasy, crime & thrillers, fiction, non-fiction and children’s. And it’s not just books. Pre-loved magazines and toys are on sale too.

Seasoned book-festers usually come prepared. Some bring shopping carts or wheeled suitcases. Some come with a list of desired titles. Others are just content to take home an armful of new books. We didn’t have a formal list of titles that we were looking for, but we did have a few things in mind. Bec was after some Star Wars novels and I was on the look-out for Australian, literary and award-winner titles, plus anything that might be on The List – the 1001 list, that is.

One of the cool things about the Bookfest is that you can hire a shopping trolley for $2. Do you know how many books you can fit in a shopping trolley? Quite a lot.  We weren’t the only ones with a shopping trolley, but we did get a few strange looks because our shopping trolley was pretty full. It also attracted a few comments, all good fun of course, about how much we read and how long the trolley load of books would last. A few weeks one person asked.  

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We were pretty happy with what we managed to find. Bec found some Star Wars books and some Kathy Reichs. I found some Anne Rice, Margaret Atwood, Richard Flanagan and the first ten books of Sookie Stackhouse – just to name a few. The Bookfest is always a bit of a lottery. You never know what treasures you might find. So yes, we did buy a trolley load of books but we also helped to raise money for a very worthy cause. The Toowoomba sale raised $75,000 for Lifeline, while the Bookfest held in Brisbane in January raised $1.4 million. That’s some serious money raised out of second-hand books.  

The only trouble now is to find some space on the bookshelves and more time to read.

 

2019: Looking Forward

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Another year has come and gone. I don’t know where 2018 went. It seems like I had just settled into 2018, remembering to write an 8 instead of a 7, and suddenly it’s the end of the year. How did that happen? The older we get, the faster the years seem to zoom past. It really doesn’t seem quite fair, somehow. But as they say, time waits for no one. As we watch 2018 disappear in the rear vision mirror,  2019 roars into view. What will this new year bring? Will some pleasant surprises come our way? Will unexpected challenges throw a curve ball into our plans? Perhaps you have already started to make some New Year resolutions.

  I am not really one for making New Year resolutions. Despite our best of intentions, very few of us actually manage to keep our New Year resolutions. It’s so easy to get carried away by the buzz of the New Year moment, gazing optimistically into the future through a merry alcohol infused haze and make rash resolutions with almost no forethought and maybe even less foresight.  Resolutions tend to be all or nothing. You either keep them, or you don’t. There’s often no middle ground. When we fail to keep our resolutions – and you can bet that we will, because after all, we’re human – our failure can be compounded with feelings of resignation, hopelessness or even depression. It’s a win or lose situation, and most of the time, we will lose. We get tired or busy or distracted, and before you know it, our good intentions have hit the dust. It’s all over, red rover.

I think goal setting is a much better way of initiating change in our lives, especially change that is important for our health and well being. When we set a goal, we are setting a target to aim for. It’s not something we can achieve overnight, but something that can be achieved slowly, over the course of time. Slow change is often easier to implement and maintain in the long run. Sometimes there will be setbacks. Sometimes it might feel like one step forward and three steps backwards or vice versa, but on the whole, as we look back, hopefully we will see how far we have come.

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Setting goals requires a bit of forethought.  Resolutions often fail because we haven’t thought about why these things are an issue, why we have failed to keep them in the past, what motivates us to change and what are the likely challenges we will face. When we set goals, these are the very questions we need to ask ourselves so that we can map out a plan to strive for our goal. This is where we get down to the nitty-gritty of how we will achieve our goal.

We might break our goal down into a series of steps. This is something I learnt when Dan was very young and we were trying to help him learn basic skills for school and life. If necessary, we can even break down each step into mini-steps – baby steps. Baby steps are so much easier to achieve than giant leaps. And if we get to the end of the year and we haven’t quite met the goal, you know what, it doesn’t matter. The goal is still there. We can see the progress we’ve made. We can just keep going. Besides, sometimes the journey towards the goal can end up being just as important as actually reaching the goal.

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During this last week my inbox has been flooded with posts reviewing the year, celebrating achievements and setting challenges for the next year. And it seems I’m not alone in preferring to think in terms of setting achievable goals rather than making rash resolutions. Beth at Life…Take 2 and Itinerary Planner at Travel Itineraries, just to mention two, also talk about goals rather than resolutions. Funny how we can be on the same page and thinking the same thing at the same time.

Our goals don’t just have to be about achieving things like weight loss or increased fitness or career promotions. While these are all worthy goals, as we head into the new year we might also like to think about more family and community focused goals, like having more family time, showing kindness to strangers and patience to shop assistants, respect to our colleagues and forgiveness to family. Life isn’t always about being faster, stronger, higher but also about being kinder, friendlier, happier….

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2018 has been a year of ups and downs. We lost a dear friend to cancer on Easter Sunday and a family member passed away suddenly barely two months ago. We have had to deal with the stress of moving house and transition to university life. But there has also been the joy of Dan’s life growing to include new opportunities and the satisfaction of achieving numerous small goals.

Standing on the eve of 2019, we continue to look forward to whatever joys and challenges the new year will bring. As we set our goals for the next 12 months, we hope that 2019 is kind to you and that you experience the love, joy and hope of life in abundance.

Happy New Year!

A Sticker for the Ow

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One of the challenges of Dan’s autism is his high pain threshold. We often don’t know that something is wrong until it is very wrong. Recently Dan went to bed one evening  perfectly fine, but the next morning he could barely hobble to the kitchen table to have breakfast.

What’s wrong? Why are you limping?

Ow.

Show me Ow.

Dan rubbed his left thigh and sure enough, there seemed to be a red mark, although he is unable to tell us how it happened. Without witnessing an accident or injury, we often never know how the bruises come about. But we do know that when Dan says “Ow”, it means it really hurts.

Autism and a high pain threshold often go hand in hand. In his book, The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Tony Attwood notes that people on the spectrum often do not “show distress in response to levels of pain that others would consider unbearable” and this can often result “in frequent trips to the local casualty department.”

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Yes, hospital emergency departments are something we have had experience with over the years, for both detected and undetected injuries and illnesses. Dan has a tendency for hitting his head and has the scars to prove it. It’s amazing how much blood can pour out of a body part that appears quite bony, but at least this kind of injury doesn’t go unnoticed.

Dan received his first scar at the age of two, just prior to the birth of his sister, Bec. We were shopping for a new single bed for Dan and as we wandered around the furniture store, he tripped over a rug, flew through the air and collided with a bed. Needless to say, we didn’t buy that one. A few years later, Dan was kneeling on a chair at the kitchen table, when…bang! His chin hit the table. Blood streamed down his chest. Off to the hospital again and another scar.

The most recent emergency trip was just a few years ago. Dan was riding his bike around our property and ran smack into the loader. Dan had his hat on, so the brim hid the bottom edge of the loader bucket and, as Dan prefers to look at his shadow while he is riding, he probably wasn’t looking where he was going either. At least this time he let the nurse put in a few stitches. That was a first.

Infections though, are a different story. Tony Attwood highlights how ear infections and tooth aches can often go undetected until they’ve reached a very serious level. Dan had a lot of ear infections when he was young, but he never complained and rarely cried, so it wasn’t until we noticed him pulling on his ear that we knew something was wrong. It was often quite difficult trying to make medical staff understand the reality of life with a non-verbal child who has a high pain threshold.

 

Our most recent injury started with the limp, but then it got worse. Apart from the limp, Dan seemed okay. Then we noticed he looked a little pale. And before we knew it, up came his breakfast. Great – a tummy wog. At least this time I managed to get him to direct it into a bucket – that is a first and a really big step forward for Dan. Usually he just gets so distressed, well, it just goes everywhere. But we weren’t done yet.

While he was taking it easy, a small pile of books fell onto Dan’s foot. Ow! And it was the same foot that was already limping. It was only later that I discovered he had a sore toe as well.

What’s this? When did this happen?

Ow.

Yes, I can see it is ow.

This is where the sticker comes in. Sticker is Dan’s word for bandaid. Bandaids are wonderful inventions. They can miraculously heal any sore spot. So, while I’m putting the sticker on….what’s this under your foot? Tinea? What next? After a visit to the doctor and the podiatrist, I spent the next week playing tug of war with a sore foot as I vainly attempted to inspect sore spots and apply cream and stickers. Thankfully, the tummy is now settled, the limp has disappeared and we are down to just one sticker on the foot.

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Vigilance is really important if you have a non-verbal autistic child with a high pain threshold. It is so easy to miss something because your child is happy, active and continuously singing. But then again, perhaps vigilance is important for people without a high pain threshold too. We all need someone who can look beyond the “everything is okay” facade and ask the question: are you okay? And sometimes we need to be truthful and say “Ow”. Being vigilant and looking out for each other means we can all live happier and healthier lives.

 

Attwood, Tony 2008 The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Jessica Kinglsey Publishers:London, pp 288-289.

 

 

 

 

Bowling for Cancer

 

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Sporting achievement is not something that I am known for. When the sporting genes were being dished out, I was at the back of the line and by the time I finally got to the front, well… there was nothing left. I don’t mind watching it, but years of compulsory PE lessons taught me that it was best to keep my lack of coordination and general all-round lack of anything even approaching sporting ability…to myself. So when I was invited to be part of a lawn bowls team for a social fundraising day, I was a bit dubious to begin with.  I had never played lawn bowls in my life and I didn’t know a whole lot about it, except that my grandfather used to play and it involved rolling some balls down a green.  But it was a social event and a fundraiser for cancer research, so hey, why not give it a go!

My husband Paul was our team captain and the only player in our team with any real bowls experience. He even has his own set. A couple of friends, who had played an occasional game before, made up the rest of the team.  So essentially, we were a team of hacks, which didn’t really matter as the first team we played against were also mostly a team of hacks. One of the girls was a complete novice – like me, and the two guys reckoned they had a practice session about five years ago. So it was a very entertaining and sociable round. 

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Throughout the afternoon the club was running a competition for touches. A touch occurs when your ball hits the little white ball, called the kitty. I was using Paul’s set of bowls, which were quite biased so I had to aim for the kitty on the green next to us so that the ball would swing in and actually stay on our green, rather than wandering off somewhere else. As it was my first time, I was just concentrating on keeping my ball on the green without going outside the lines or falling into the gutter, and then … I got a touch! And the prize for getting a touch?  

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  XXXX – an Aussie icon! You can’t get better than that! Considering I am not a beer drinker, this is actually quite funny. Paul later accused me of getting rather possessive about my bottle of beer, but considering it was the first time I had ever won anything for a sporting activity, I thought I was quite entitled to be a little possessive about it.

Our second round was against a team who had a little more bowling experience, however we managed to come out on top. And again, it was another enjoyable and sociable round. I was really impressed by the friendliness of everyone. Experienced bowlers were only too happy to give a few pointers and encouragement to those of us who had no idea what we were doing. This is one of the great things about a social day. Anybody can come along, learn a little bit about lawn bowls, have some fun and be part of a community project that is focused on supporting others in need.

After the two rounds we gathered in the club house for the prizes. Being a hack team we didn’t really expect to win anything, but, surprise, surprise  – we won second prize! I’m not quite sure how that happened. It looked like they were just drawing names out of a hat. I certainly don’t think it was on merit, but the fruit platters looked delicious and were very gratefully received.

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The social bowls day turned out to be so popular, they actually had to turn people away, which is a little sad in one way, but quite encouraging in another. Sometimes we can feel quite overwhelmed by all the bad news that flashes across our tv screens, but it is good to have our faith in humanity restored when we see ordinary people leading by example, coming together to have fun, to make connections and to show their support for others.

And as for lawn bowls? Who knows. Perhaps one day I’ll follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and take it up for real. I might even be lucky enough to win another bottle of beer. Cheers!