Good Intentions

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Every semester I swear that I will be better organised and plan it all out. (it never happens)

I swear that I will start early and not leave things to the last minute. (yeah, so much for that idea)

I even print out the very useful planning templates from the university and put them on the pinup board that has been painted for that very purpose. (at least it looked nice)

And still life turns out like this …

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Despite all the promises and beginning of semester resolutions, the last few weeks have been a mad sprint to the finish as I suddenly realised how many words I yet had to write before a series of fast looming due dates.

So I’ve been reading, reading, reading….and writing, writing, writing….

And at the end of that, I felt very much like this….

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So I promised myself that the next day I would just chill out.

I didn’t want to look at a screen.

I didn’t want to read a single word, let alone write one.

Just for one day.

One day stretched into a whole week.

I couldn’t even muster the energy to read for fun, and as someone who thinks that life without reading would be like living without breathing, well, that is so bad in so many ways.

But eventually life has returned to normal. I have finished agonising over what I should have written in that essay and didn’t and I’m slowly getting back to all the things that I pushed aside until… well, after.

It’s been hard getting the mojo back but I don’t think you can force these things. Sometimes we need to be kind to ourselves, follow our own schedule for a while and take time out to do the things that bring us joy.

And next semester I swear I will plan. I will actually fill in those templates. I will start early.  I will be better organised. (yeah, right)

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April Reading Update

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April turned out to be quite a busy month, with Easter, ANZAC Day, and an Australian history essay to get done somewhere in between.  So the reading was a little steady, however I did manage to read …

  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan 
  • Eden by Candice Fox
  • Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

… and ticked off two more boxes for Book Bingo.

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  • Novella (less than 150 pages) – Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
  • Crime – Eden by Candice Fox

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington was both a reread and part of an Australian history assignment. It tells the story of three young Aboriginal girls who are taken from their home in the Pilbara region of Western Australia to a settlement far away from their family. Molly, the oldest girl and Doris Pilkington’s mother, decides they’re not staying and so begins their long journey back home, following the rabbit-proof fence.

 It is 1931 and the child removal policy is in full swing. The child removal policy was at best misguided and at worst rooted in prejudiced and racist ideology. Indigenous children were separated from their families in an attempt to destroy the link with their culture and assimilate them into white society. They are the Stolen Generations. Sadly Doris was also separated from her mother Molly for many years. She says that writing the book helped her to reconnect with her family and culture, and heal the pain and trauma of the loss of her family, culture and identity. 

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence belongs to a genre of writing often known as Aboriginal Life Writing and I think it is helpful to understand a bit about Aboriginal Life Writing when reading Pilkington or any other texts from this genre. Aboriginal Life Writing is often different from the usual kind of memoirs or autobiographies that are written in the western tradition. Storytelling is a very important tradition in Indigenous culture and Aboriginal Life Writing continues that tradition. But it also serves as a mechanism for healing the pain and trauma of dispossession, for reconnecting Indigenous people with their history and culture, for teaching non-Indigenous readers about Aboriginal culture and their own history, and for promoting the necessity of reconciliation for all of us.

 In 1992, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, said….

[Reconciliation] begins, I think, with that act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. (Attwood 2001, p. 201)

It is shocking to think that here we are almost 30 years later, and still little seems to have changed. Racism, inequity, poor health and shorter life expectancy plus numerous other social issues continue, but the capacity for Indigenous writers such as Pilkington to extend forgiveness and compassion is deeply humbling. In an interview with Anne Brewster, Doris explained how her involvement in the reconciliation process revealed her own need to forgive, saying

“…how can I expect them to say sorry to me, when I don’t have any forgiveness and compassion for them? ” (Brewster 2005, p. 145)

 Forgiveness. Compassion. Repentance. Respect. Dignity. Consideration. Equality. 

These are the building blocks of a kind, just and ethical society.

I live in hope. 

Happy Reading

 

Attwood, Bain 2001, ‘”Learning about the truth” The stolen generations narrative’ in B Attwood and F Magowan (eds) Telling Stories: Indigenous history and memory in Australia and New Zealand, Allen & Unwin: Crows Nest, NSW, pp. 183-212

Brewster, Anne 2005, ‘The Stolen Generations: Rites of Passage: Doris Pilkington interviewed by Anne Brewster’, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol 41, No. 1, pp143-159

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.

 

Sidecar Racing in Stanthorpe

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Classic Sidecar Racing in the Netherlands

Just mention the word “sidecar” and I immediately think of the “Two Fat Ladies“- that iconic cooking show from the 90’s. So when Paul suggested last year that we go to see some sidecar racing, I couldn’t think of anything I would like less. One of Paul’s farmer mates from out west is a sidecar racer and he was going to be competing at the Carnell Classic in Stanthorpe. After being bribed with the promise of wine tasting I agreed to give it a go.

Stanthorpe is located in south east Queensland, about 237km south of Toowoomba, in a region known as the Granite Belt. It is a very beautiful area, known for its biennial Apple and Grape Festival and as a producer of some very fine wines. There are over 50 wineries in the Stanthorpe area and it has quickly become my favourite wine region in Queensland.

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Storm King Dam, Stanthorpe, QLD

We first visited Stanthorpe in September 2010 when we camped at Storm King Dam on the outskirts of Stanthorpe for about a week. September is usually a good time to go camping. It’s Spring – not too cold, but not too hot. But this was Stanthorpe. Possibly one of the coldest places in Queensland and it was absolutely freezing. Despite the weather, we did have a good time. At least I did. I love wine tasting. It’s fun to taste new wines and chat to the winemakers. Sadly, Bec doesn’t agree. She thinks it’s very boring, but we did do a few fun things for Dan and Bec as well.

The Granite Belt Maze is a great place for kids, big and small. There are a number of different maze adventures which involve collecting clues to solve a puzzle. They also have a mini golf course and a child size chess game. When we were there in 2010, the maze was a traditional hedge maze, but unfortunately in the Queensland floods of 2011, the maze was flooded and the trees died. A traditional tree maze takes a long time to grow, so they were forced to replace it with a timber maze. It’s still fun to do but not quite as challenging as the old one.

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The Granite Belt Maze before and after the QLD floods

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Well,  the sidecar racing turned out to be far more interesting than I expected. The side car was not much more than a platform on the left side of the bike. The passenger sat on the platform, leaning out over the back of the bike or over the sidecar as the bike went round the corners. Definitely not for the faint hearted! I couldn’t quite believe it at first when I saw them hanging out over the sidecar, almost touching the track. It was actually quite exciting.

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Sidecar Racing at Carnell Raceway, Stanthorpe, QLD

The sidecar racing was part of a motor bike competition called the Carnell Classic which features classic bikes, some as old as 70-80 years. It was amazing that they were still going and some of the riders seemed to be almost as old! It is a relaxed, semi-competitive event which gives bike lovers a chance to have some fun out on the track in a safe environment. Well, reasonably safe. The ambulance was on hand for any spills.

I ended up enjoying the racing so much that I told Paul I’d be happy to go again. In an amazing coincidence, just after our first experience of sidecar racing there was an interesting article about sidecar racing on the ABC which you can read about here. This year, when Paul suggested going to Stanthorpe again for the sidecar racing I was rearing to go.  So just a few weeks ago we headed down to Stanthorpe for some more sidecar racing and wine tasting (of course!).

Dan really enjoyed the racing. He loves anything with wheels. Sometimes when we’re driving around town you’ll see his head do a quick turn as he has noticed something interesting – a sports car, a Harley Davidson or just a shiny new truck. At the races Dan sat in his folding chair with his arm up in the air, just like the flag man, shouting out “GO GO GO” as the bikes zoomed off of the starting grid.

Who knows, maybe sidecar racing might become a regular event for us. Apparently later in the year, there is a sidecar event for those who are serious racers. Paul’s mate says those guys are really mad racers which just sounds like another reason to visit Stanthorpe again.

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Autism: To Have or To Be

 

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Here in Australia April is the middle month of Autumn. The weather is cooling down and the deciduous leaves are starting to change colour. April is also home to World Autism Day, Autism Awareness Week and Autism Awareness Month. It might seem a little funny to have one day or one week or a whole month to be “aware” of autism. For people with autism and their families, autism is an ongoing reality for the other 364 days, 51 weeks or 11 months of the year. We are just not “aware” of autism, we live and breathe it. Of course, it is good to increase awareness about autism, but what people with autism need more than just awareness is understanding – understanding that autism is not a condition to be cured but a way of being. 

Words can Build you Up and Words can Tear you Down

 We all know that words matter. Kind words can build somebody up and cruel words can tear someone down. In these days of political correctness, it can be confusing to know which words to use. Should we say “a person with autism” or “an autistic person”? There are strong feelings on both sides of this argument. Some people might insist that we should take a person-centred approach and say “a person with autism.” There is merit in this view. It puts the focus on the person and not on whatever condition or disability the person may or may not have. It is respectful, polite, positive.  

On the other hand, some people with autism are now proudly claiming the word autistic as a central part of their identity. They see their autism as a way of being, as core to who they are as a person. Their autism doesn’t just suddenly appear in certain situations or in the presence of others. It’s always there – every second of the day. They think, process, communicate, act and live autistically. For them, there is no other authentic way of being. 

I use both ways of speaking about Dan. Sometimes I say Dan has autism. Other times I say Dan is autistic. In the early days, I probably tended to lean towards using “a person with autism.” But the more I have learnt about autism and the more I have come to understand the way Dan ticks, the more I see autism as being central to who Dan is. 

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Dan’s autism is not an additional extra. It’s not like a layer of icing on a cake. You can’t lick it off and just have the cake. I cannot separate Dan from his autism and nor would I want to. He isn’t a young man who just happens to have autism, but one for whom autism is as natural as the blood flowing through his veins.  It has always been there. It will always be there.

Dan perceives the world in a uniquely autistic way. He relates to and communicates with others in a uniquely autistic way. He processes information and responds to stimuli, people and events in a uniquely autistic way. There is no other way for Dan to be. It’s different. Even entertaining at times. Sometimes it’s mind-boggling. It’s autistic. 

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Sometimes we forget that Dan is autistic. I know that sounds a little strange given how much autism is a part of our lives. But Dan’s way of being is so naturally “Dan”, we know no other way. Perhaps the truth is that in accepting Dan for who he is, for learning his language and accommodating his way of being, we are no longer a family with autism but an autistic family.   

I think the choice of terminology comes down to personal preference. I personally don’t mind whether people call Dan a person with autism or an autistic person, as long as they recognise and accept the essentially autistic nature of his being. Perhaps one day Dan will be able to tell us which one he prefers. 

Words do matter but the right for people on the spectrum to choose the words to describe themselves as a person also matters. The least we can do is respect their choice. Having or being – it’s still autism.

March Reading Update

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March has come and gone and I cannot believe that it is April already. Where has the time gone? March turned out to be a very busy month. Since late February I have been back into the study mode and that puts a big dent in my reading progress. This semester I am studying Ethics and Australian History, so there is a fair bit of heavy reading.

Last time I talked about how I like to read different types of books at different times of the day. I study during the day while Dan is at Yellow Bridge. It’s a bit hard to study when he is around – he gets rather vocal and it’s difficult to concentrate. So during the day, when I feel fresher and more alert (supposedly!) I have been reading about Utilitarianism, Deontology, Consequentialism, Human Rights, Indigenous History and the Frontier wars. Yeah, some really big words there! By the time evening comes around I’m feeling rather brain dead. I’m looking for some fun, laughter and escapism. Hence, there’s been a lot of Rick Riordan this month.

I knew this would happen once study rolled around again but that’s the rhythm of life. Reading for fun, like other things, has to fit around the ebb and flow of life. Luckily semester break is just around the corner so April may look a little better. But here’s what I managed to read during March…

  • The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
  • Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
  • The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
  • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
  • Elizabeth Costello by JM Coetzee
  • The Secret War: A true history of Queensland’s Native Police by Jonathan Richards

The Secret War is a non-fiction book I read for an Australian History tutorial presentation. It’s about the Frontier Wars in Queensland and particularly the role that the Queensland Native Police had in the dispossession of Aboriginal people.

“In Queensland, the Native Police played a major role in the dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land, the almost complete destruction of Aboriginal law, and the disintegration of Aboriginal families.” (Richards, 2008, p. 5)

I thought it was an excellent read. It is certainly a shocking and shameful part of Australia’s history. It’s uncomfortable facing the dark side of our human nature. Our capacity for cruelty, violence and inhumanity often seem to know no bounds. But we are also capable of so much more – honesty, compassion, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. True reconciliation requires us to acknowledge the past so that we can create a better future – a future that is based on equity, understanding, inclusion and belonging.  

Book Bingo for March

I only ticked off one book for this month – oh well. January and February were pretty good months so I guess it’s okay to have a slow month now and then.

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Book with a Red Cover: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Hopefully it won’t be another whole month before I see you here again. In the mean time…

Happy Reading

 

February Reading Update

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February turned out to be a stellar month for reading although I don’t expect that pace to continue. I tend to have a few books on the go at any one time. It can take a bit of juggling, but I like to read certain types of books at different times of the day. Books of a more serious nature I like to read during the day, when my mind is fresher and I can take notes for future reference.  Books that I read for pure escapism and fun, I tend to at night, in bed. The idea of reading something fun but not too demanding at night, is to help me sleep. It doesn’t always work out, though. Especially when you get to those exciting parts and you can’t bear to put the book down. Or when you’ve got only a few chapters to go, so you might as well finish it.

February’s list below is a bit longer than January – 10 books! But with my nose back to the books (study, that is), I expect the reading pace to drop off. I’ll still be reading of course, it will just be Ethics and Australian History. So, the list… 

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

A well-loved Australian classic. This is a reread and probably my most favourite Winton. After personal tragedy, the Pickles family and the Lamb family relocate to Perth where they end up sharing a house on Cloud Street. I really like the way Winton captures the everyday life of ordinary people, their ups and their downs, showing how two very different families can eventually come together to be one.

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser

An interesting book, this one. It took me a little while to get into but it explores themes of migration, travel and the role of the internet in changing the way we relate to each other. The internet gives us the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world from the comfort of our computer desk and the nature of modern life often means we are constantly on the move, flitting through life, meeting and leaving people. But where do we call home?

The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd

Loosely based on the real historical characters of Mary and Charles Lamb, Ackroyd explores literary forgery, the obsession with Shakespeare and the sad story of Mary Lamb. Scarred by small pox, restricted by social conventions and incarcerated in mental asylums following the murder of her mother, Mary didn’t have an easy life. It was an enjoyable read, quite funny in parts, as well as being a bit saucy too.

Shroud by John Banville

I didn’t realise that Shroud is book 2 of the Cleave Trilogy, although I had no trouble reading it as a stand alone. The title initially suggested a death shroud to me, but  foreign translations on Goodreads had  “imposter” in the title. Anyway, the main character, Axel Vander, does travel to Turin… the Shroud of Turin…so possible forgery… It explores themes of identity, who we are, who we try to be and how we are always wanting to be somebody else. It’s not an easy read, as the narrative wanders a bit and is interspersed with sojourns into the soul and mind, but it was thought provoking.

The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

A memoir by Australian writer Maxine Beneba Clarke, this book portrays the racism she experienced growing up in Australia and continues to experience even now. Of African heritage, Maxine experienced racial abuse that was nothing short of abhorrent. The racial abuse was bad enough, but the fact that adults stood by, in silence, is even worse. I would call this my best read of the year so far.  A highly recommended read.

and I also read …

  • The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
  • The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
  • The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
  • The Serpents Shadow by Rick Riordan
  • The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Yes, there’s quite a bit of Rick Riordan. That’s what I’ve been reading at night. If you’ve ever read Rick Riordan, you’ll know that probably wasn’t a good idea. Why am I reading so much Rick Riordan? Well, Bec is a great fan of Rick Riordan and has read just about all the books. When Bec first started branching into YA, I would read the books as well. Partly so that I could keep tabs on the content, but also because it meant we could talk about the books together. And it’s something we continue to do and enjoy to this day.

Right from the start, I have enjoyed reading YA. I know that sometimes there is a bit of a thing going around about adults reading YA, which I really don’t understand at all.         As C. S. Lewis says:

No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally and often far more worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.

As far as I am concerned, a good book is a good book is a good book. If children’s books and YA are not considered good enough for adults to read, then why do we consider them good enough for children and young people to read. Surely in those critical years of growth and development, we should be giving them the best books possible. Sheree from Keeping Up with the Penguins has a great post about this topic which you can read here.

So I’ve been churning through the Rick Riordan books. I actually started last year but only picked it up again in February. My goal is to read them all over the coming months. I’m just loving them. They’re fun. I love his sense of humour – seriously, laugh out loud. And I get to learn about Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology at the same time.   

It’s been another good month for Book Bingo – another 3 boxes ticked off. But again, I don’t expect this rate to continue. At some point all the easy boxes will be ticked off and I will be challenged to step outside my usual fare to tick off the last boxes, which of course, is the whole point of a reading challenge. This is how the card is looking so far….

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  • Prize Winning Book – Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser
  • Themes of Fantasy – The last Olympian by Rick Riordan
  • Written by Australian Man – Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Well, that wraps up the reading for February. And yes, it is still called an update for want of a better title. Perhaps I will come up with something more interesting by next time.

Happy Reading!

Wear Red for Valentines

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Happy Valentines Day.

A day for all things red and heart-shaped. A day for celebrating the mystery of love in all its shapes and forms. A day for flowers and chocolates, hugs and kisses, and walks down memory lane.

Hearts are amazing things. They flip at the sight of the beloved. They pour out in times of hardship and suffering. They race like crazy at the top of the hill. And in the busyness of our daily lives, our heart sits in the background, beating, pumping blood around our bodies, keeping us breathing, active, living. We don’t even need to think about it. It just keeps on working. Until one day it doesn’t.

Wear Red Day

Today is also Wear Red Day. It’s a day for remembering those who have died from heart disease and those who devote their lives to research, such as Heart Research Australia.  Wear Red Day is a cause that is close to our hearts. Sadly, we are intimately acquainted with heart disease.

When Dan and Bec were very young, only 6 and 4 years old, their Dad, Rob, died suddenly of a heart attack. One evening Bec said goodnight to her Dad and it was the last time she saw him alive. The next morning, Rob got up early to go swimming. He never came home. He was 39.

Having a desk job, Rob was concerned about his health and fitness, so had started swimming a few laps early in the morning at the local pool. While he was at the pool, he experienced pains in his chest and took himself up to the hospital. When the hospital called me, they reassured me that he looked fine and to just come when I could. There was no hurry.

It was Dan’s first week at school. After doing the morning routine, dropping Dan off at school and Bec off at a friend’s house, I went up to the hospital. Rob was sitting up, talking to the nurses and we chatted. They were waiting on some further results and then the doctor was going to discuss whether further treatment or lifestyle changes would be required. We never got that far.

I sat…waiting, wondering, praying

One minute Rob was fine. The next minute he had a fatal heart attack. It happened right in front of my eyes. At the time, I don’t think I quite understood what was happening which was probably a blessing in disguise. It was only much later that I realised I had watched him die. The nurse called for assistance, medical staff rushed in and I was ushered out of the room. I sat by myself in the waiting room. Waiting. Wondering. Praying.

Finally the doctor comes out and says he is sorry. There was nothing they could do. They were unable to revive Rob.

What happened next is somewhat blurred. I know that friends immediately dropped everything to be by my side. I know that my family, who all lived interstate, dropped everything to travel to QLD. I know that during that day I made numerous calls to people to tell them what had happened. And at some point I had to tell my four year old daughter that her Daddy wasn’t coming home.

We didn’t know that Rob had a heart condition.  There was a blockage in one of the arteries. Tests had shown that he had had a mild heart attack. Even the doctors admitted that Rob did not look like a man who was about to have a fatal heart attack. There is no blame to be cast. He was in the right place at the right time. If only we had known.

It turned our lives upside down

I lost my partner, my best friend, my soul mate. Dan and Bec lost their Dad. Family members lost a son, a brother, an uncle. I don’t know what Dan remembers or feels about it. He can’t tell me but he still recognises Rob’s photo and calls him Dad.

For Bec, it has been devastating. People who knew Rob, say Bec looks so much like him. And she does. She is like him in so many ways, even in ways she could never have possibly known. Bec is Rob all over again. And so her loss runs deep.

It is a lifelong loss and despite what people may say, it does not get better with time. Special days come and go – Christmas, Father’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Graduations – they are always bittersweet because he is not here. 

Hearts do heal but they are never the same. Our hearts are scarred with the pain of loss and grief. Life does go on, but we carry our loss with us wherever we go. And every year, when that day comes around again, we feel it in our bodies and in our souls. Even before we are conscious of the approaching date,  we feel it  – the heavy heart, the sadness, and then we remember – that day is here again.

Every time I hear a story of a sudden death of a loving partner and father, no matter the cause, I remember, and it causes a pang in my heart for the family left behind. We know the road that lies ahead. We were not the first and we won’t be the last. Not even the last in our own family.

Only a few months ago, Rob’s older brother, James, passed away suddenly. In circumstances eerily similar to that of Rob’s, a different heart condition, but still, it felt like a case of deja vu. For friends and family gathering at another funeral, the words “we’ve been here before” rang an all too familiar refrain.

 

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So today, wear red. Wear a red shirt. Wear a red hat. Wear red shoes.

If you have lost someone to heart disease – wear red.

If you know someone living with heart disease – wear red.

For all the people in your life who you love dearly – wear red.

Wear red to keep hearts beating. 

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January Reading Update

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One of the pleasures of entering the blogging world is the discovery of so many other bookworms from all corners of the world. No longer do we need to wait for a physical book club meeting to find our next read or hear other readers thoughts about a text. At any time of the day or night we can just jump online and join the conversation.

I am always amazed by the number of books that some readers manage to read each month or each year, but then I remind myself that everybody’s life is different. At the end of the day, or the year for that matter, it’s not about how many books you have read but how much you enjoyed reading, discovering new writers and expanding your own horizons. Sometimes I devour books and sometimes I like to take it slow. And sometimes life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of reading as much as I would like.

After completing last years Goodreads challenge, I set myself some reading goals for this year, including reading for diversity, reading more non-fiction, achieving gender parity, and upping my book target just a fraction. And for something new, I have added a new reading challenge. Teresa Smith, Mrs B’s Book Reviews and The Book Muse run a book bingo challenge.  The beauty of this kind of challenge is that it doesn’t require adding any more books to my reading list. When I have finished a book, I look at the bingo card and see if it fits one of the squares. It will be interesting to see how many squares I get marked off by the end of the year. This is how my card looks so far:

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Novel with 500+ pages: Wild Lavender by Belinda Alexandra

Science Fiction Themes: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Author I’ve Never Read: India – A Million Mutinies Now by V. S. Naipaul

Introducing … end of the month reading updates

Between caring for Dan, studying and other family and life commitments, I don’t really have time to write detailed book reviews of every book that I read. Sometimes it’s just enough to keep up with logging the books on Goodreads and give a rating. But I thought it might be interesting to give a brief monthly update on my reading journey as it progresses through the year. Some months might turn out to be a bit leaner than others but here is what I read during January.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

I have read a few books by Isabel Allende, but I didn’t realise that Daughter of Fortune formed part of a loose trilogy, together with Portrait in Sepia and The House of the Spirits, both of which I have read before. Daughter of Fortune follows the story of Eliza Sommers and Tao Chi’en, from their early life in Chile and China, to the Californian Gold Rush in the late 1840’s. There is a running theme of the expectations and limitations placed upon the lives of women but the cheapness and degradation of young Chinese girls sold into prostitution as Sing-Song Girls was particularly disgraceful.

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

Portrait in Sepia, the next book in the trilogy, picks up the story of Aurora, Eliza’s grand-daughter. Despite the prevailing expectation for young women to become “obedient wives” and “sacrificing mothers”, Aurora is determined to learn the art of photography.   I really enjoy Allende’s stories for the way she brings the history and people of that part of the world to life. Unfortunately I have to now wait for The House of the Spirits to be returned to the library so I can finish off the series.

Wild Lavender by Belinda Alexandra

Belinda Alexandra has been one of my favourite Australian writers for a while. This was another reread, although it is surprising how much of a story one can forget. Set in France, Wild Lavender follows the story of Simone, a young woman who grew up on a Lavender Farm but nurtures a dream of a life on the stage. Love, loss and the occupation of France during World War Two all play a part in Simone’s life as we see her mature from a young country girl to a woman of courage and strength.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Having The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my TBR, I knew Douglas Adams wrote science fiction but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one. Described as “a thumping good detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic”, I laughed out loud all the way through. Needless to say, I can’t wait to read THGttG. 

India: A Million Mutinies Now by V. S. Naipaul

And now for something completely different, my first non-fiction book for the year. I had not read V. S. Naipaul before but I picked up a couple of his books, including this one, at the Toowoomba Lifeline Bookfest last year. Naipaul was born in Trinidad, however his grandparents were indentured labourers from India. India: A Million Mutinies Now is a kind of travelogue, based on Naipaul’s trip to India in the late 1980’s. It wasn’t necessarily an easy read but I did find it very interesting. I really liked the way Naipaul allows the people he meets to speak for themselves about their histories, their lives and what matters most to them. The role of religion in people’s lives was a strong theme and the chapter about the Sikhs was particularly interesting. I am looking forward to reading some of his fiction.

Well, that wraps it up for my January reading update. I am not totally thrilled with the “reading update” title – it sounds a tad boring to me, so I am open to some suggestions. Let me know if you come up with something better plus whatever you’ve been reading lately. Found any new favourites?

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

An Extrovert in the House

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Do you like time to yourself? Do you like to have time to think through problems or decisions before responding? Do you prefer communicating through writing rather than talking?

If you have answered yes to all of the above, than most likely you are an introvert, just like Bec and I. We like peace and quiet. We like to read. We like to spend time sitting quietly, thinking, reflecting, reading, writing and so on.

Introverts often get a bad rap. We can be accused of being anti-social and of not being a team player. But it’s simply not true. We do enjoy being with people, but we find it just a bit tiring. For us, a little bit of socialising goes a long way.

I really dislike the way the word “loneliness” is attached to introverts. Just because we have a smaller circle of friends and often prefer to do some things on our own, doesn’t mean that we are lonely.  It’s not loneliness, it’s solitude and solitude is very important for introverts. It’s the way we recharge our batteries so that we are ready to cope with the world outside – the very noisy, busy, extroverted world.

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Dan, on the other hand, is the extrovert in the house. He is very social. He loves being  and doing things with people. He absolutely loves his time at Yellow Bridge during the week and his weekend activities with the Boys Group and support workers. At Yellow Bridge Dan is noted for his friendliness and helpfulness. Every morning he goes around and shakes every client’s hand as they arrive. And when someone new arrives, Dan is the first to make them feel welcome.

Dan is also very active. He likes to be out and about doing things. He doesn’t like sitting quietly. I think he finds that very boring, so his week is filled with activities like Gym, swimming, bowling and bushwalking. And when he has respite on the weekends, as soon as the support worker arrives, Dan is out the door raring to go. He doesn’t even have time to say bye to Mum.

Although Dan’s autism does present some challenges, there are some aspects of autism that don’t seem to be a problem for him. Over time Dan has become a lot more flexible and is able to roll with changes in routine and he doesn’t appear to get anxious about things. He always seems to be happy and outgoing, which does make life a lot easier in some ways.

However, one extrovert in the house doesn’t always go so well with two introverts.

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Dan doesn’t like to do things by himself. He finds it very difficult to occupy himself. One of Dan’s favourite activities is Lego and he is very good at following the instructions, finding the right pieces and putting it all together. But he likes to have someone sitting right next to him while he does it. If I set Dan up with some Lego or some other activity like a puzzle or his word book and leave him to do it himself, he will deliberately do it all silly and want me to fix it. Even though the only thing I need to do is turn the pages of the instruction book, he likes me (or somebody else) just to be there. He likes the social aspect of doing an activity together.

Despite being relatively non-verbal, Dan is quite vocal. He loves to sing. Loudly. At any time of the day or night. Continuously. Even though he struggles to string three words together, he can sing a whole song. The words might be a bit difficult to pick up but you can always tell what song he is singing by the tune. At other times, Dan will get fixed on one little phrase which we will hear over and over and over again. For two people who like their peace and quiet, it can get very tiring.

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Now Dan has always loved singing and being active and I had never really thought about him as an extrovert until Bec made the connection just recently. We respect Dan’s needs for social interaction and we really do love that he enjoys music and singing so much, it’s just that sometimes it gets a little too much. Sometimes we just need a break. We need some quiet time to recharge our batteries.

Being a carer is tiring. Supporting Dan in his everyday needs just goes on and on. I know it’s not his fault. It’s just the way he is, but it still gets exhausting. The difference between Dan’s extroversion and our introversion just adds another layer to the everyday challenges of life. It’s tricky trying to balance the differing needs of all family members. That’s why respite is so important. Respite is not just an optional extra for carers; it’s essential for our health and well-being. As much as we love our extrovert in the house, we look forward to the time on our own. Dan gets to go out and have fun. We get peace and quiet. Everybody wins.